Education and Social Work Dean’s Lecture Series

The Education and Social Work Dean’s Lecture Series provides an opportunity to hear internationally renowned experts as they contribute to the debates and discussions in education, social work and social policy. The lectures are free and open to the public.

Listen to podcasts of the 2016 program here.


Thursday 10 August - Education Professionals Need a Language for Learning Design

The field of education has seen significant changes in the past several decades resulting from advances in the learning sciences and learning technologies. Collaborative, inquiry-oriented pedagogies are promoted as more aligned with the knowledge creation capacity building needs for 21st century education. Instructions and instructional resources are only one part of the requisite support for this mode of learning. Effective learning requires appropriately designed learning environments (physical, digital and social) and learning experiences to achieve different targeted outcome goals. Advances in learning technologies, pervasive connectedness, the myriad forms of support for user-generation and sharing of content, as well as data analytics and visualization technologies have brought exponential increases in the modes of learning, assessment and feedback. These have brought deep changes to education as a profession.

Education professionals should now include not only those who work directly in schools and educational institutions and education publishers (print and e-learning resources, educational games), but also developers of e-learning platforms, e-assessment methods sources and tools, learning analytics and visualization tools, to name a few. Nancy Law advances the view that there needs to be a learning design pattern language to support the process of learning design, which should be the underpinning common focus for all education professionals. This will be illustrated by ongoing work in the development of a learning design pattern language and an associated platform, the Learning Design Studio, which is part of a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional Project involving HKU, HKUST and MIT in the development of An Open Learning Design, Data Analytics and Visualization Framework for E-learning.

Professor Nancy Law is in Information and Technology Studies Division of the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong.She is the corresponding co-convener for the Science of Learning at the University, and founding honorary director for the Centre for Information Technology in Education (CITE). Her research interests include international comparative studies of technology-enabled learning innovations, models of ICT integration in schools and change leadership, computer supported collaborative learning and the use of expressive and exploratory computer-based learning environments.

Time: 6-7.30pm

Venue: Education LT 351, Education Building, Venue location


Thursday 31 August - Contact and Openness in Adoption

Co-presented with the Institute of Open Adoption Studies, School of Education and Social Work

Join us for a panel discussion to explore the complex issue of contact in the context of open adoption.

The opening address by The Hon. Pru Goward, Minister for Family and Community Services, will highlight reforms underway in NSW to achieve safe, forever families for children in out-of-home care, when family restoration is not possible. Adoption is one of the pathways for those children and requires individuals with capacity, sensitivity, and commitment to raise children through open adoption. Part of this openness is realised through adoption related conversation and exchange of information between adoptees, their adoptive parents and their birth families, to enable a child to understand their biological/familial history and the circumstances of their adoption. Openness usually includes opportunities for adoptees to engage in direct contact with members of their birth families.

International research demonstrates that access to knowledge about their history and the circumstances of their adoption is important for children's ability to form a healthy and positive identity – including their identity as an adopted person. Supporting contact that is in the best interest of children is a pressing consideration for contemporary adoption practices in NSW.


  • Professor Elsbeth Neil, Professor of Social Work, University of East Anglia
    Beth Neil is a Professor of Social Work, Director of Research and Chair of the Research Ethics Committee for the School of Social Work. Her research interests are in the field of adoption including post-adoption contact, birth relatives’ perspectives on adoption, post adoption support, and adoptive parent recruitment.
  • Helmut Ulhmann, Social Entrepreneur
    Adopted as a young child, Helmut Uhlmann is an artist and social entrepreneurwithapassion for creatingandconnecting. He holds a Bachelor of Communication and a Bachelor of Applied Leadership and Critical Thinking and is the founder of Busk for a Cure and Bunk Bed Beats.
  • Lynne Moggach, Executive Specialist Adoption, Barnardos Australia
    Lynne is an Australian social worker who has worked for Barnardos Australia’s Open Adoption program since 1986 as both a practitioner and manager and is currently part of the team conducting unique research into the outcomes of open adoption. Lynne has a strong belief that open adoption must be considered as a permanency option for very vulnerable children who can never safely return home.
  • Philippa Welman, Director Child Safety & Permanency, Department of Family & Community Services
    Pip has worked for FACS in child protection since 1999 as a practitioner and in strategic policy and program design. Pip currently leads a team focused on reforming the child protection and out of home care system in NSW to promote safety, permanency and stability for vulnerable children and families. As an adoptee herself, Pip has a unique perspective on adoption and the importance of openness and identity.

Chaired by: Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright, Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies at the University of Sydney

Time: 6-7.30pm

Venue: CPC Auditorium, Johns Hopkins Drive, The University of Sydney, Venue location



Tuesday 4 April - Addressing the Social and Behavioural Needs of All Students

Professor George Sugai (Center for Behavioral Education and Research Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut) is a world leader in positive behaviour support (PBS), a behaviour management system used to understand what maintains an individual's challenging behaviour, and establishing goals for change. For this presentation he outlines how PBS is just one part of prevention-based multi-tiered systems approach that can be used to support the academic and social behavioural goals of schools.

The emphasis is on school-wide approaches that are linked to classroom behaviour management. Topics include school climate, school discipline, primary prevention, social skills instruction, classroom behaviour management, and cultural diversity. Implications will be related general and special education, school leadership, in-service and pre-service educator preparation.

Book Launch
George Sugai's presentation was followed by the launch of Supporting Social Inclusion for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Dr Cathy Little, lecturer in Special Education, in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work.

8 June - How can schools be relevant in the 21st century? A panel discussion about transforming schools

Schools are facing a potential crisis of relevance. Transformation is no longer an option in teaching and learning - it has become a necessity. Profound changes in the way we work and the challenges of issues such as climate change, poverty, migration and global competitiveness, mean that teaching and learning need to change dramatically to incorporate capacities that will help young people to meet these challenges in life and work.

Yet in a society which is rapidly changing we still see a school system that has structures, approaches and practices from the 19th century that are rapidly becoming irrelevant to the young people they serve.

The challenges that face schools are not simple but there are local, national and international models that may provide some pathways to changing school learning and teaching practices, leadership and governance.

This panel will consider how schools and schooling can benefit from new models and approaches to learning. They will draw on international experience, emergent models (such as the 4Cs) and discuss the role of technology in enabling and potentially impeding learning.

The multiple perspectives of the panel reflect different approaches to school change. They include perspectives from school systems, school leadership, teacher education, schools change consultants and international education leaders.


  • Dr Michael Anderson is Professor of Education in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at University of Sydney and Academic Lead, Interdisciplinarity in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
  • Mrs Robyn Evans is a proud leader, teacher and learner and currently the proud principal of Casula Public School in South West Sydney. As a passionate leader of schools her core business is to ensure every student has access to the richest of learning to enable individuals to achieve their personal best academically, socially, psychologically and emotionally.
  • Dr Miranda Jefferson is Teaching Educator with the Catholic Education Office Parramatta, She is co-founder and innovative practice leader of 4C Transformative Learning and has been involved in leading innovation in schools for over 20 years. She leads programs, initiatives and research in curriculum reform, educational change and school transformation in several schools.
  • Mr Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta. He has been involved in education in both government and non-government sectors for over 40 years as a teacher and school leader.
  • Dr Phil Lambert PSM (panel chair) has extensive experience in education as Assistant Director-General, Regional Director, Sydney and General Manager, Australian Curriculum where he recently led the development of Australia’s first national curriculum.

An op-ed from Professor Michael Anderson who is a co-author of Transforming Schools. Published by Huffington Post. "We need schools that teach capacities that machines will always struggle with like creativity, critical reflection, compassion, collaboration and communication." (Prof. Michael Anderson)