Wednesday, 7 Aug 2019

Research Conference 2019 speaker calls for a national conversation on the future of Australian education

Professor Neil Selwyn’s rousing address brought Research Conference 2019 to a powerful close.

Research Conference 2019 closed in Melbourne on Monday with the annual Karmel Oration, this year delivered by Monash University’s Professor Neil Selwyn.

Professor Selwyn used his speech to call for a national conversation about Australian education – and for teachers to be at the heart of discussions about educational reform.

Professor Selwyn’s address was the culmination of two days of reflection on how best to prepare students for the 21st century. More than 20 sessions featuring teachers, researchers and policymakers from around the world looked at key educational issues in international and local contexts – from the pilot of a new OECD study of social and emotional skills in students in 11 countries to the integration of general capabilities across the curriculum at Melbourne’s Eltham High School.

ACER Chief Executive Professor Geoff Masters AO said the conference had been a great success.

‘Research Conference 2019 showed the vital importance of unpacking expert research for teachers and the education community,’ Professor Masters said. ‘While we often hear references to skills and attributes required for life in the 21st century, it is important to understand the latest international evidence and what this means for schools.’

In her keynote address titled ‘The science behind the art of teaching: Evaluation as inspiration’, Australian Department of Education Secretary Dr Michele Bruniges AM talked about the importance of evidence to education. Assessment data is where quality teaching begins, not ends, Dr Bruniges said, and Australia’s best teachers already use data to evaluate their impact and adapt their practice. Dr Bruniges called for the use of technology and data in a way that helps teachers without placing an additional burden on them.

Adviser to the Scottish Government Learning Directorate and a key figure behind the Scottish National Standardised Assessment (SNSA), David Leng, discussed Scottish education reform, in particular the rapid design and implementation of the SNSA. More than a million assessments have been completed since its inception in 2017.

Other notable presentations included former ACARA CEO Robert Randall on ‘21st century skills: Realising the potential of the Australian Curriculum’, and RMIT Associate Professor Elspeth McKay and Monash University Professor Dragan Gasevich in separate talks on the uses of learning analytics to measure the development of digital literacy skills and 21st century skills respectively. Elsewhere, sessions on the myths and legends of digital literacy, the power of learning space design on 21st century skill acquisition, the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge, and upskilling adults to fully participate in 21st century life sparked conversation among delegates.

Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution Dr Esther Care opened the conference on Sunday 4 August by emphasising the crucial role assessment plays internationally and ACER Chief Executive Professor Geoff Masters AO brought proceedings to a close, following an ‘In conversation’ session with Professor Selwyn.

You can read many presenters’ papers by downloading the Research Conference 2019 Proceedings and Program or register for details of Research Conference 2020 in Sydney, where education’s leading thinkers will gather to discuss how to promote and monitor growth in student learning. ■

Read our stories on Research Conference 2019 presentations in [rd] Research Developments.

A new way to assess social and emotional skills by ACER Deputy CEO (Research) Dr Sue Thomson.

Preparing for a digital future, featuring Monash University Professor Neil Selwyn and ACER Research Director of Assessment and Reporting (Mathematics and Science) Julian Fraillon and Research Fellow Daniel Duckworth.

Literacy and numeracy for the 21st century, featuring former ACARA CEO Robert Randall and ACER Research Director of Assessment and Reporting (Humanities and Social Sciences) Juliette Mendelovits and Senior Research Fellow Dave Tout.

Developing and assessing interpersonal skills, featuring ACER Principal Research Fellow Neville Chiavaroli and Victoria University Research Fellows Esther Doecke and Quentin Maire.