Seminars 2013


Teachers scaffold to create opportunities for student engagement and learning – do they and how can we know?

Presented by Professor Marja Vauras

Faculty of Education, University of Turku, Finland

Scaffolding learning processes which are meaningful, reflective and focused on higher order skills is a challenge for all teachers and educators. Optimal scaffolding presupposes responsible, sensitive and flexible teachers who are able to create a dynamic match between their moment-­‐ to-­‐moment support and the students’ constantly varying participation as well as growth-­‐ promoting opportunities within the students’ zones of proximal development (Vauras, et al., 2013; van de Pol et al., 2010; cf. Vygotsky, 1978). In this presentation I will illustrate how teachers scaffold during a reading comprehension intervention and show real-­‐time co-­‐ ordinations between the teacher’s strategic and motivational scaffolding and the students’ participation. For the purpose of deepening understanding of complex scaffolding, our group (Vauras et al., 2013) adopted a specific dynamic systems analysis, State Space Grids (Hollenstein, 2012) and adapted it to examine interpersonal regulation as well as multimodal provision and take-­‐up of opportunities (cf., Greeno & Gresalfi, 2008; van Geert, 2003).

Marja Vauras is Dean of the Faculty of Education, University Turku in Finland. Her research interests are varied and include reading comprehension; mathematical word problem solving; metacognition, motivation, emotion and social interaction in learning; and educational interventions and learning environments.

This seminar has been generously sponsored by the Teachers Mutual Bank.

Presented 27 November.


Is NAPLAN a high-stakes test? And why does it matter?

Presented by Dr Greg Thompson

School of Education, Murdoch University

Greg ThompsonStandardised testing in Australian schools is not new. However, since the introduction of NAPLAN in 2008, the impact of the tests has become hotly contested in the media and in political forums, particularly in regards to whether NAPLAN is a high-stakes test or not. The purpose of this seminar is to explore the emerging research about NAPLAN to arrive at a conclusion about whether it should be considered ‘high-stakes’.

Dr Greg Thompson is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Murdoch University. His work uses postmodern theories of education to ask questions about ‘commonsense’ notions of schooling. Currently he is researching the impacts that NAPLAN testing is having on Australian school communities. His book Who is the Good High School Student? was published by Cambria Press in 2011. In 2011 he was awarded an Australian Research Council DECRA grant to investigate the effects of NAPLAN on school communities. In 2012 he was the recipient of both the WAIER Early Career Award and the AARE Early Career Researcher Award.

This seminar has been generously sponsored by the Teachers Mutual Bank.

Presented 25 September.


An examination of Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow in Western Australian school leaders’ work and learning

Presented by Dr Neil MacNeill

Principal, Ellenbrook Independent Public School

Neil MacNeillIn many jurisdictions school leaders are being placed under increased accountability and stress, which then affects their ability to address the real issue of education – improving students’ learning. Flow theory, developed by the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, has a high degree of relevance to the issue of the way modern school leaders carry out their roles. A purposive sample of school leaders (N = 8) was interviewed about their Flow experiences, in both in-school and out-of-school situations. The moral dimension of the school leaders’ job was identified by the respondents as the most important facilitator of Flow in both public and private schools, and this may provide the key to improved school leader resilience and motivation.

Dr Neil MacNeill is a school principal, adjunct lecturer at Curtin University [Profile] and chairs the Veterans’ Children’s Education Board in Western Australia. Neil holds a MEdAdmin (U.Qld), MEd (RMIT), PhD and EdD (Curtin). He is widely published in matters of educational leadership and educational change. In Western Australia he was one of the small group working with the Honorable Peter Collier MLC that developed “Empowering School Communities”, which grew into Independent Public Schools.

Click here for Dr Neil McNeil’s PowerPoint slides.

This seminar has been generously sponsored by the Teachers Mutual Bank.

Presented 26 June.


Resisting a ‘back to basics’ agenda: Literacy education and online discussion

Presented by Dr Wendy Cumming-Potvin and Dr Kathy Sanford

Murdoch University, and University of Victoria, British Columbia

Wendy Cumming-PotvinThe global obsession with excellence in literacy is interwoven with government aspirations to tout ‘world-class’ standardised test scores (Alexander, 2011). In parallel, popular media discourses often blame teachers and teacher educators for a so-called ‘literacy crisis’. This reductionist approach contrasts with a post-modern landscape of profound socio-cultural diversity, which requires complexity in teaching, learning and researching literacies (Cumming-Potvin, 2012). Drawing on qualitative research which resists a ‘back-to-basics’ agenda, this presentation focuses on the journey of one pre-service teacher who was afforded online learning opportunities to discuss literacies with postgraduate students, a unit coordinator and other pre-service teachers. Conducted in a West Australian tertiary community, the study draws on Gee (2005, 2011) and The New London Group (1996). Preliminary results suggest that influences of power cannot be dismissed when opening dialogic space characterised by complexity and difference (Blackburn, 2012; Hooks, 1994).

Dr Wendy Cumming-Potvin is a Senior Lecturer at Murdoch University in Western Australia. Specialising in qualitative research, with a focus on new literacies and social justice, Wendy has a strong interest in investigating teacher education and the application of information and communication technologies. As a researcher on an Office for Learning and Teaching project, Wendy is examining engineering education for social justice. Personal website.

Dr Kathy Sanford is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. Her research interests include gender, new literacies and technologies, learning through videogames, e-portfolios, non-formal education, and teacher education. Her most recent research project is entitled ‘Youth civic engagement: Real life learning through virtual games environments’.

This seminar has been generously sponsored by the Teachers Mutual Bank.

Presented 27 March