Babbling Beasts and Where to Find Them

Melanie Hobbs

We tend to think of stories of talking animals as belonging to the realm of children’s literature, however several contemporary writers of literature are experimenting with the animal voice for a variety of purposes; moral, satirical and subversive. By familiarising ourselves with these writers, we are better able to engage students in the analysis and creation of imaginative texts. By reading stories about talking animals and experimenting with animal narrators in their writing, students gain a keen awareness of point of view, voice and perspective; concepts which feature in the upper school English courses. The evolution of the talking animal story also makes for an interesting lesson on the relationship between context and meaning. In this presentation, Melanie will provide an overview of the history of the talking animal story, examples of texts with anthropomorphic narrators, details about her research on the link between canine narrators and themes of death in contemporary writing, as well as practical strategies and resources to use with English classes from Year 7 to 12 (with special emphasis on the Year 11 and 12 ATAR English course).

Melanie Hobbs is a teacher of English who has worked in public schools in the country and metropolitan area for over eight years. She recently completed a Master of Curriculum Studies degree at the University of Western Australia. Melanie currently teaches English at Darling Range Sports College and lives in the Perth Hills area with her husband and their cheeky dog.

Challenges and opportunities in mixed-methods child-centred research: reflections from reading research with children and adolescents

Dr Margaret Merga

What is the point of using mixed methods? What are the risks and benefits of giving children a voice in your research? How can you avoid satisficing in interviews with children? Why is piloting so important? How can we get mixed-methods research past the ire of peer- reviewers?

Margaret will address this diverse range of questions and more in relation to her recent research studies examining current attitudes toward and influences on recreational reading. She will draw on her direct experiences conducting relatively large-scale research with minors that value children’s experiences and opinions, positioning children as knowledgeable social agents, rather than objects to be observed. Margaret will leave time for questioning and discussion, so come prepared to exchange ideas!

Dr Margaret Kristen Merga has conducted a number of research studies examining reading as a social practice across the lifespan. She has published papers reporting on the findings from these mixed-methods studies across a range of international journals and she is strongly committed to research translation so that educators can use her findings as soon as practicable.