Originally called the Eric Pearson Memorial Travel Grant the award was set up in memory of Eric Pearson, who died on June 8, 1977.
Eric Pearson was President of the NSW Teachers Federation from 1974 to 1975. He was also President of the Australian Teachers Federation. He commenced his teaching career in small country schools as a two year trained teacher prior to active service in New Guinea and Borneo during World War 2. He subsequently returned to teaching and further study, and received a PhD from London University. He had a distinguished teaching and lecturing career, and was Head of the Department of Education at Sydney Teachers College.
The first award was made in 1980 to Gus Plater, a teacher-activist from Armidale Association. His study was into "the social impact of microprocessor technology -- its impact on schools and unions". In 2000, Karen Burnet, a teacher at Mosman High School, studied various curriculum issues.
Other topics of study have included devolution of management, school libraries, gay, lesbian and bisexual teachers' and students' issues, privatisation and competition in the UK further education system and the implications of information technology for the NSW Teachers Federation and union structures.