Voices from leading thinkers in education

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Featuring viewpoints from Dr. Judy Willis, Keith McDougall, Jenny Luca, Eric Mazur, Dr. Inger Mewburn, Dr. Pip Wright, Sylvia Todd, Kim Sutton and John Hattie. Reflections from Mimma Mason, Antonia Caridi and Claire Sadler.

This year, Pearson Australia introduced 'In Conversation' a monthly series that explores some of the most influential and interesting perspectives in education.

As we approach the end of the year, we revisit the trending topics of 2015 and education thought leaders that featured in In Conversation.

We have also engaged key Pearson team members to share their insights and reflections on the themes discussed this year.


The Science of Learning             


One of the most fascinating topics this year was the Science of Learning, where we explored the intricacies of the human brain to get a better understanding of how neuroscience research can be used to achieve improved learning outcomes.

We spoke to Broadmeadows Primary School Principal Keith McDougall and Global Neuroeducation thought leader Judy Willis to get their perspectives on theoretical and practical applications of neuroplasticity in the classroom.

 Want to read more? Click below:


Reflection by Mimma Mason, Cogmed Manager, Pearson Australia

Mimma Mason





For the past 10 years Mimma has worked in Education and Cognitive Science with Clinicians, Educators, Coaches and Workplace Health professionals to raise awareness of brain health: how to measure brain health and how to improve everyday functional wellness and performance.




As the Cogmed Manager at Pearson I get to see up close what it is that works for a lot of schools in terms of improving learning outcomes. It’s never one program - there is no silver bullet when it comes to improving learning outcomes.

Dr Judy Willis spoke about the promise of neuroplasticity and the power it has to unlock student potential.

“When a student understands that they are not stuck with what they are born with, but can change and improve their thinking and learning skills, they are more likely to be engaged with learning."

In Conversation with Keith McDougall, we found that when teachers at his school understood this guiding principle, the goals for each child shifted, the language at school changed - words like ‘self-regulation’ and ‘persistence’ become part of the vocabulary and key learning goals.

The idea that you can explicitly teach students how to focus better, how to manage their anger or sadness, how to get better at anything with practice - has resulted in this disadvantaged school posting outstanding results in terms of academic achievement.

When teachers understand how we learn, they can be more innovative in the classroom. At Keith’s school, the children check in with their emotions first thing in the morning, and stress is one of the emotions that they ask students to acknowledge.

By having regular conversations around what they are feeling, the students get better at identifying emotions in themselves and others, better at understanding and supporting each other with strategies and better at dealing with the issues.

Judy Willis and Keith McDougall were two of the standout speakers, when they presented at Pearson’s Mind Brain Education Conference this year. Together, they exemplified both the theory and practice of the Science of Learning and sparked many discussions learning outcomes. For those who are interested in exploring the Science of Learning in greater depth, be sure to attend the 2016 conference or join our Science of Learning LinkedIn Group.

The 2016 conference will give you an opportunity to hear from leaders in neuroscience, psychology and education as they share insights on how students learn best.

Follow Mimma Mason on Twitter @MimmaMason



Social media & Personal Learning Networks 


Jenny Luca spoke about the impact of Personal Learning Networks and in particular, social networks such as Twitter on teaching and learning. Her key insights were that through these channels, teachers can more easily (and often in real time) connect, support and learn from each other.

Want to read more? Click below:


Reflection by Antonia Caridi, Services Content Specialist, Pearson Australia 

Antonia Caridi As Services Content Specialist, Antonia develops holistic best practice professional learning programs that meet educators’ needs. Antonia is also responsible for the development of the Pearson National Learning & Teaching Conference program and oversees its management.


In July 2014 I was invited to participate in a project that used social media as a way to connect and network with fellow educators, customers and other stakeholders.

I did not realise then the power of LinkedIn and now Twitter as a means of collaborating, communicating and networking, and perhaps more importantly, as a way of building both my personal brand and the Pearson brand. I now use these channels to share insights and experiences; connecting with those who are passionate about education across the globe and in my current role, finding potential partners and speakers for Pearson Academy events.

In the last 12 months my social media presence has exploded due to avid posting and active engagement in virtual conversations. Social media has amalgamated my passions for learning and teaching, reading and writing and unashamedly giving my opinion. 




Finally, here are my tips for building a strong professional presence online:

  • Do your research around optimal posting times on different forums and in different time zones.
  • Use the right hashtags in Twitter.
  • Be diligent and purposeful in your approach.
  • Be confident, authentic and forthright in your commentary but keep your emotions in check and don’t post anything that you don’t want your grandmother or your boss to read!
  • Follow thought leaders and influencers.

I am amazed at the opportunities that have opened up over the past 12 months. It is exciting, and there is a certain buzz that comes from knowing that others, who could be anywhere in the world, read my posts and want to engage and connect.

Follow Antonia Caridi on Twitter @AntCaridi


Peer to Peer Learning

We interviewed Eric Mazur; Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University who gave us an intriguing look into Peer to Peer Learning - a teaching technique that emphasises creative problem solving and high level thinking.



Eric Mazur holds a strong belief that educators are not assessing things that are really valuable, urging the education community to focus on higher order thinking skills like creativity and also to involve students in the process by reflecting on their own learning.

Want to read more? Click below:


PhD and Research in Australia 

September's In Conversation explored higher education and PhD as we spoke to Dr. Inger Mewburn, writer and curator of popular PhD-focused blog, The Thesis Whisperer and also Director of Research Training at the Australian National University.


Dr Inger Mewburn

Dr. Inger offered up her thoughts on employability for PhD students, challenges that they face and also the necessity of education training for Higher Education academics.

We also heard from Pip Wright, Pearson Australia’s Director of Efficacy and Research as she reflected on her own personal journey obtaining a PhD and making the switch from academia to the private sector.

Want to read more? Click below:


Reflection by Claire Sadler, Higher Education, Pearson Australia 

Claire Sadler Claire Sadler supports tertiary institutions across Australia, working with Vice Chancellors, eLearning Directors and Heads of Schools. 

It’s a very exciting and interesting time to be working in the Higher Education space. With the advent of digital, and the pressure to compete on the international stage; it is becoming increasingly important for Universities to deliver exceptional experiences for students.

This shifting focus has heightened the tension between the need to support academic research (and improved rankings) and the more complex task of understanding and improving learning outcomes for students.

We are partnering with a number of Universities to bridge some of the skills, experiences and even pastoral care gaps they have identified. For example, some universities are running transition courses to help incoming students prepare for life at university, or hone essential skills like literacy and numeracy. Others are investing in online learning with a major point of difference - a vigilant focus on reducing attrition through exceptional student support and experience - David Barnett explains more in a recent interview.

We have also seen some Universities and Lecturers really embrace their primary role as educators through the creation of teaching fellowships and direct student engagement. These provide lecturers with space and permission to prioritise learning outcomes over academic research - however this continues to be a difficult balance for many.

It’s encouraging to see the level of commitment and goodwill amongst the Lecturers, Administrators and Deans we work with. Many of them are keen to shift the conversation away from just rankings, to improving experiences.



The Maker Movement and Education

We interviewed Sylvia Todd, a young maker who uses Youtube to encourage her viewers to explore science and robotics through hands-on projects and activities. She offered up an insightful look at the Maker Movement - a global movement of tinkerers, coders and inventors that is making a huge impact in the education community.

We also spoke to Kim Sutton, a local Australian primary school teacher and advocate of the Maker Movement. Kim shares her own experience incorporating inventing, programming and robotics into her own classroom and the state of the Maker Movement in Australia. 

Want to know more? Click below:



The Politics of Distraction

We concluded In Conversation for 2015 with an illuminating interview with Professor John Hattie, the author of two influential papers to Pearson’s Open Ideas series, ‘What Doesn’t Work in Education: The Politics of Distraction’ and ‘What Works in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise’.




The two part interview delved into these controversial topics, as well as exploring his thoughts on collaboration, impact and expertise in schools. Many of the questions used in this interview were submitted by followers on social media as well as those within the wider education community.

Want to read more? Click the links below:


We will see you in 2016!

From all of us at Pearson, we hope that you’ve enjoyed the topics, personalities and interviews featured in In Conversation this year.

We have big plans for 2016 and would love to get our readers involved. Let us know in the comments what your favourite themes were in 2015 and if there are any other topics that you would like us to explore in the new year. Have a wonderful festive break and we will see you all in 2016!

From the Pearson Australia team.