The Educational Publishing Awards of Australia were founded on celebrating innovation and research and this year those principles were put to the test. While educational publishers have deftly accelerated their digital offerings during the pandemic, the future looks set to bring more transformation in the way tertiary publishers, in particular, support educators and learning.
We recently spoke to the Higher Education product and publishing team at McGraw Hill. As winners of the Most Outstanding Tertiary Educational Resource 2020, Matthew Coxhill, Portfolio Manager of Higher Education, confirms that keeping an open mind about how to approach the business of educational publishing will be key in the near future.
The winning resource, Financial Accounting 9th, was deemed comprehensive and relevant by the judges and in our chat we found out more about the textbook’s development and the challenges the team faced bringing it to the market – all before the pandemic reared.
It’s been a big year and universities have been terribly hit. How would you say COVID has most impacted the Tertiary publishing industry?
Apart from a simple loss of revenue due to reduced enrolments, COVID-19 has accelerated trends that were already in place. That is, our industry has had to move to a more digital focus faster than would otherwise have been the case, so we are at a place now that may have taken two to three years to reach. There is also the question of student buying habits and reliance on publisher produced content. This had been in decline, but with the sudden move online traditional sources of content further lost relevance quite suddenly.
What’s been the biggest learning your company has taken on board after this year?
Probably the need to review our fundamental business models and assumptions with a view to how we can best develop and deliver content to the higher education sector. The move to digital is only a part of that. We will become more agile in how we respond to market needs, both student and lecturer.
Given the 2020 we’re experiencing, what is your approach to 2021 and the resources you plan to develop?
An open mind! Let’s not do it the way we always have done.
Your resource Financial Accounting 9th won at the Educational publishing awards this year — and was deemed the most outstanding resource in the tertiary bracket. What do you feel accounts for the win? In terms of the resources’ features, what’s McGraw Hill most proud of with it?
McGraw Hill is most proud of how the resourcebook came together with the content bringing to life material around the Australian Accounting Standards. The author, Craig Deegan, is adept at providing clarity of explanation for students in what is a complex subject and it is this that has led to the book being the leader in its market. We were also able to pull a complex project together in a remarkablyin remarkably short time, meeting the target publication date and allowing use at the start of 2020.
What or who sparked the need for an updated edition?
This text is aimed at 2nd and 3rd year, and post-grad, accounting students and must be relevant to the most recent changes to the IASB Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting and the Australian Accounting Standards. This need for currency drove the need for a new edition, together with newer topics in the discipline such as social responsibility and sustainability.
What was the process of pulling the resource together? How long did it take and how many people were involved? (trying to communicate the value of what you do here!)
A textbook like this involves a significant team. The first steps begin with the publisher commissioning extensive market research, all coordinated in house. Sales and marketing people are invaluable, as they provide names and contact details of lecturers familiar with the book who can provide feedback. After discussion with the author, a business case is put together by the publisher and presented to the company for approval. This includes the justification (market and financial) for moving ahead with the new edition. A Content Developer then works with the author to pull the book together (as well as conducting further reviews to check the changes being made are in line with the market). The manuscript is then turned into a book by a Project Editor, who works with an external designer, editor, permissions editor, typesetter, proof-reader and tech checker at different stages. There is also (these days) a considerable contribution from the digital side of the business, to ensure that the online ancillary material (eg. testbank, PowerPoints, videos) is accurate and working. All up, the process can take around 18 months depending on its complexity.
Were there any challenges in making it or promoting it?
One aspect that had an impact during production was that the permissions landscape is getting more complicated. This meant a more complex process for securing permission to use third party material, as well as more costly. In terms of the market, this is a very competitive space. With our publication date being slightly later than is ideal, our sales and marketing people had to work harder to gain interest from lecturers and to get them to delay decisions until later than normal. We provided an updated bank of Quiz questions to keep adopters on board until the new edition was ready. Having said that, these challenges were overcome effectively, and numerous new adoptions were won. Of course, this paled with the onset of COVID-19 and the challenges it brought.
What’s been the feedback from educators who are using it?
Educators are impressed by the depth of content and the approach. The additional topics have been well-received, as has been the significant digital package, and the author videos, which help to ‘demystify’ some of the content. The sudden move to wholly online delivery earlier in 2020 meant that the digital materials were even more relevant and useful than before. We are also lucky to have a widely known and respected author this work.
Have you received any feedback from student users? Is that information you are able to collect?
Historically we have had anecdotal direct student feedback. Having said that, the author’s aim with this resource package is to speak more directly to the student, explaining the how and why of financial accounting, instead of just the ‘how’. It will be interesting to see if we notice increased student engagement with the publisher.
Perspectives from Australian Indigenous peoples on topics such as the Stolen Generations, the Frontier Wars and racial stereotyping are now available to be experienced in primary school classrooms across the country through a new resource — developed in partnership with Nelson Cengage and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The resource, titled Our Land, Our Stories, features contributions from leading Indigenous writers such as Bruce Pascoe and Lisa Fuller and incorporates stories written by children and their families from communities across Australia. The Australian Publishers Association reached out to Cengage publisher, Simone Calderwood, to learn more about the landmark series, how it was developed and its reception in the classroom.
“Our Land, Our Stories is a whole-school, primary school series that explores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. It includes rare and historically important photographs, artwork and audio-visual resources from AIATSIS’s vast collection. It comprises three sets of resources for lower, middle and upper primary. All components link explicitly to the Australian Curriculum and the Cross-Curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories and more specifically, to Country/Place, Culture and Peoples.
“The series components include: three teacher resource books, nine big books and 45 cards for each stage of lower, middle and upper primary. QR codes are included and these enable both students and educators to watch videos, see photographs and most importantly, hear language that further extends students’ understanding of a specific topic. Each teacher resource book also includes a copy of The Little Red Yellow Black book written by Bruce Pascoe and AIATSIS.
“Our Land, Our Stories was in development for about three and a half years and the idea for the series came about through AIATSIS reaching out to Nelson Cengage as they wanted to have a visible presence in the primary educational space. Nelson Cengage were thrilled to work in partnership with AIATSIS as we knew that this government organisation is the caretaker of an amazing database of significant photographs, artworks and audio visual materials that we could include in the series. We also knew that the partnership with AIATSIS would also lend authenticity to the series as they were involved in every element of its production, checking every work for accuracy and ensuring that the content was culturally appropriate and persons depicted were represented accurately.
“We wanted to create a resource that aligned with the Australian Curriculum but also enabled educators to see how the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures could be applied to every learning area in the Australian Curriculum, not just Humanities and Social Sciences. The intention of the series is to represent the voices of First Nations peoples from all across Australia, from remote, regional and urban areas, to celebrate contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and address prevailing misconceptions.
The resource is aimed at both Indigenous and non-indigenous students – for indigenous students, they can read these books and cards and see themselves reflected in the stories. For non-indigenous students, it is an opportunity for them to read about the importance of Country and cultures to First Nations peoples and to find out about the significant achievements and contributions of many Indigenous people. The teacher’s books empower educators to teach about First Nations peoples, cultures and histories with confidence and throughout the teacher’s books, the various protocols and discussion points are outlined and explored. And we haven’t shied away from those topics at the upper primary level that some educators may wish to explore with students but may not know how to do so – the books and cards look at our history from an Indigenous perspective and explore many sensitive topics.
“The writing process was an interesting one! As the publisher, I really wanted to ensure that we had a vast range of authors from all over Australia as traditionally many resources such as this have tended to focus on stories from peoples from the Northern Territory – but I wanted this series to be broader. For the lower primary big book stories, we commissioned three children and their families to write the stories and these three children come from very different places. Josie and her family are from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and myself and an AIATSIS photographer, spent a week with Josie and her family. We then travelled to a remote area in Western Australia to Yilka Country to hear Orlando’s story and finally we travelled to the Sunshine Coast and spent time with Shae and her community to hear her story.
“I also reached out to a number of different writers around the country and was thrilled that writers such as Bruce Pascoe, Professor Gary Foley, Shelley Ware, Lisa Fuller, Elder Carolyn Briggs, Professor John Maynard. Nayuka Gorrie and so many more were able to contribute to the series.
“Our Land, Our Stories has now been available for about a year and educators have embraced it wholeheartedly and often exclaim that there is nothing like it in the educational marketplace. It has been very successful as educators realise the many ways that it can be used in the classroom and the components can be used from lower to upper primary, even in secondary school classrooms.
“I feel immensely proud to have been part of this series as I truly believe it has the potential to change how people think about our history. It also enables students to understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse, rich and multi-faceted. “The winning of the two EPAA awards was a wonderful acknowledgment of Our Land, Our Stories by the Australian Educational Publishing Industry!”
Educational publishing’s information booklet
Download the booklet here.
Forty-one percent of sales in Australian publishing comes from the educational resources sector and today, a small group of dedicated educational publishers are celebrating the release of a publication that showcases the successes and hard work of these quiet achievers of the book world.
Brendan Bolton, International Business Manager of Cengage and convenor of the Schools Educational Publishers Committee (SEPC) of the Australian Publishers Association says, “The Committee created this booklet to celebrate Australian educational publishing – both its history of partnering with teachers to provide the best for students, and its future at the cutting edge of the publishing industry.”
The SEPC is excited to announce the publication of its new booklet which was made possible by the support of the Copyright Agency.
The publication includes clear statistics detailing the industry’s economic input and social contributions, as well as teacher testimonials regarding quality educational resources. Case studies demonstrate the international recognition Australian educational publishers have – for example, the island of Tuvalu using one Australian phonetics resource for more than 60% of the small country’s teaching population. Another case study highlights the work being done to include Indigenous languages in educational resource development.
The Chief Executive of the Australian Publishers Association Michael Gordon-Smith says, “This little booklet offers a glimpse of the way Australian educational publishers make a difference for Australian teachers and students. Quality learning resources are important for quality education.”
The publication aims to reach teachers to share how the industry works to partner with them, supporting them to bring the Australian curriculum with engaging and relevant material. It also advocates for the value of the sector to decision and policy makers.
The Australian Publishers Association will be distributing physical copies to education departments, curriculum architects and educational institutions across Australia.
If you would like to learn more about the value of educational publisher’s contributions to the Australian educational system, economy and social fabric please be in touch.
Copies can be made available for free to individuals for their own reference or to to pass on. Be in touch with the Australian Publishers Association for more information
Download a digital copy here.
For physical copies of the booklet, please email office (@) publishers.asn.au
If you are interested in learning more about the Schools Education Publishers Committee and the Australian Publishers Association, visit our website, join our mailing list, or consider becoming a member, at publishers.asn.au/.
We spoke with Peter van Noorden, formerly of Oxford University Press, who was recently recognised for his service to the sector at the Educational Publishing Awards of Australia as 2020’s Mike Horsley Award recipient. Peter shared with us how he determines success in a learning resource, how he sees COVID-19 impacting the sector long-term, and what projects are keeping him going at the moment.
Congratulations on being selected as the second Mike Horsley Award recipient. Did you ever work with Professor Mike Horsley? What are your memories of him?
I worked with Mike on the APA Education Committee for many years. He was larger than life and bowled you over with his relentless positivity. He was so passionate about how educational resources could best deliver meaningful pedagogical principles and was working with the efficacy of our resources long before the term was formulated. To be given an award named in his honour is a real privilege.
You started out as a teacher (as many educational publishers and authors do.) Why did you make the shift to publishing?
All I ever wanted to be was an educator; and I have been lucky enough to be able to carve out a career in education – first as a teacher and then as a developer of learning materials.
Right from day one I have had a passion for student engagement. Teaching and learning are much easier and fulfilling if the students are engaged in what they are doing. The biggest compliment I ever received from a student was from a boy who said “Mr Van – that was almost interesting.” Developing engaging educational materials became my passion, and I wrote my first textbook, Living Geography, for Heinemann (now part of Pearson) in just my third year of teaching. In my ten years as a teacher I wrote six Geography and History textbooks, so a progression into educational publishing was natural for me.
How do you measure success in a resource?
For me, a successful educational resource is one where the student is looking at page 73 when they have been asked to go to page 24 – because they are engaged to do so. Really great educational resources like Science Quest (Jacaranda), Maths Plus (OUP) and PM Benchmark (Cengage) also give students confidence through a clear set of steps to follow that help them progress. These resources are still popular after more than 20 years in the market.
What was the sector like when you started making educational products? What were you focusing on when developing your first resources? How did that change over the years?
When I wrote my first textbook in the mid-eighties, colour was just being introduced as a factor to engage students. My complete focus was on student engagement, so my first Geography text had new chapters such as Stereotypes and Endangered Species – not the topics that were traditionally studied in Geography. Engagement has always been the key principle for me in developing new resources, as learning doesn’t begin until a student is engaged to learn. Over the years I’ve learned more about learning pedagogy and better ways to help students progress and gain confidence in what they are doing. I have been very lucky to work with some of the very best researchers, publishers and teachers in this regard. I have been privileged to attend educational conferences all over the world and work with many international publishers. I think Australia has the most sophisticated and engaging educational materials anywhere in the world.
Looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the educational sector, do you see educational publishers having changed forever? If so, in what ways?
COVID-19 has really thrust Educational publishing into the limelight. The value of really great resources is that they assist independent learning. Students have had less access to teachers over the last six months, so learning resources have needed to step up to the plate and provide clear learning paths for students. We know that in each year of school, the most advanced 10 per cent are about five to six years ahead of the least advanced 10 per cent, so educational resources need to find a way to help all students progress. I think ability progression is now the new Everest for governments, schools and educational publishers to conquer for independent learning to make some giant strides forward. The New South Wales Government are making some big moves in this direction.
What have you been working on since finishing up at OUP?
I found out pretty early that my true passion is in developing engaging and meaningful educational resources. Since leaving OUP in 2018 I have been studying educational magazines like How it Works, All About History and National Geographic. Magazines have to instantly call out to the reader to pick them up. I used many of the principles of engagement in magazines to write the new Good Humanities series with Matilda Education with two fabulous classroom practitioners. During COVID-19 lockdown over the last 6 months, I decided to sit down and write a new Science text based on ability progression. I’ve just finished the year 7 text and I’m starting on the year 8 text now. When I’ve perfected it, I’ll see if there is an educational publisher interested in developing it for the market.
What qualities do you see in people who work in educational publishing? Is it a career path you encourage others to walk down?
There are so many pathways for many different talents in educational publishing and so many great people to learn from. There are creative pathways such as writing and design to deliver the most engaging texts. Marketing, editing and software development need technical competence and flair to ensure a connection with the audience. Publishing and sales offer opportunities to connect in person with teachers and lecturers and work with them to develop solutions. Management pathways at many levels give the opportunity to foster the careers of others and develop teamwork and clarity of vision. I have been blessed to work with and learn from so many talented people in my career in educational publishing. The best advice I ever received was from my wonderful boss at Wiley – Peter Donoughue – who said, “Hire the best people and get the hell out of their way!”
We’ve been working on a booklet (soon to be released) that showcases the value of educational publishing in Australia. Given your experience, can you pinpoint the value of Australia’s educational publishing industry?
Educational publishing brings together experts to work with educators to develop engaging material for all students, written specifically for the curriculum and pitched directly at the audience.
Looking back on your career, do you have a highlight?
There were highlights every day I went to work. In the beginning it was all about developing engaging resources that students and teachers would love to use. In my latter years as a manager it was all about encouraging excellence and giving others room to experiment and progress. Now I’m back to resource development and learning all I can about ability progression. I am up early every morning working on new ideas and as passionate as ever to make a difference in student engagement and progress.
When Jane Doyle started teaching online to her kindergarten students in the early days of the pandemic, never did she think it would result in seeing intimate shots of the insides of their noses and throats as they became curious with webcam technology. “I never thought I might need to be an ear, nose and throat specialist!” Educator leadership was never an ambition of Jane’s either, but it came via chance and opportunity at every school she’s worked in across her 33 years in the Catholic primary education sector. Her current leadership role is as Coordinator of Training and Leadership for K-2 at Dominic College, in Glenorchy, Tasmania, where she oversees curriculum implementation and initiatives, resourcing and professional learning for teachers and students.
Jane is one of two award winning teachers speaking at the Educational Publisher Awards this year. She will share learnings as a teacher leader for Kinder to Year 2 educators and her thoughts on where educational publishers could position their offerings for “the new normal.” Below is a quick Q and A with Jane to get you acquainted prior to the EPAA event on 3 September.
Jane, how did things change for you when schools began closing down and transitioning to teaching online?
The biggest change for me was the realisation we needed to send all of our student’s stationery, books, and devices home so that we could continue to learn in the new term. I oversaw this for all of the K-2 classes. The immediate impact of the closing down of the school was a shock for us all because we actually didn’t think it would happen. Packing up our own resources and our classrooms for extra cleaning was surreal and hectic. Our parents were just as affected as we were.
The teaching staff worked onsite for the last four days of term, organising online lessons, timetables, resource packs to be photocopied and mailed home in case we didn’t have enough devices available. Then our thoughts turned to how we would need to recreate our classrooms while working from our homes.
During this time I was supervising the children of Essential workers and helped set up our Teacher Assistants to continue individual speech lessons, small group literacy and numeracy support lessons and ensure access to all of the online lessons.
This also was a time for improving teacher IT skills to ensure they were comfortable and competent in the online forum. Setting up my own learning space at home was not a focus at this point but I quickly realised I would need to do this to ensure I was ready for both of my roles at the beginning of Term 2!
You’ve said your greatest resource is your teachers, can you explain what that means to you?
This is a personal view, but it also correlates with the view of our College leadership. If our students have dynamic, skilled and happy teachers, learning will automatically occur. One of our founders, Don Bosco’s, greatest sayings is one we keep in the forefront of our minds: “It is not enough to love the young; they must know that they are loved.” This influences the way we engage with our students and flows into our approach to teaching and pastoral care at Dominic College.
How did you see your teachers respond to having to teach online all of a sudden? What did they most need from you?
The most important thing I could give my teachers in the lead up to remote learning was the confidence and reassurance that they could do it. We had a two week “holiday break” before the Term started, and I was available to them whenever they needed as I felt that a problem shared, is a problem halved. Most of my team continued to work throughout the holidays to ensure they were ready for the new term.
Towards the end of the first week of term, one of my most experienced team members suggested that we needed to meet for a social occasion. This made me aware that some teachers lived on their own and they were actually on their own while teaching and in downtime. This made me consider their health – mental and physical – and how we could connect to highlight they were not alone and that I was available for them if they needed me.
This became a valuable time because we shared as much as possible – especially resources found through our social platforms and networks.
I also supported them in becoming leaders within our team as well. Some of my team have more experience with online planning and with shortcuts that we could take, so our meetings became a collegiate approach to planning and problem solving when needed.
What aspects and features of teacher and student resources did you find really useful when transitioning to a digital classroom?
Some of the most useful resources needed to be accessible online. We now have an online reading program for Prep (Foundation) to Year Two. We also sourced an overseas Maths program because we were concerned that some of our students were missing out on vital practise time, which occurs naturally in the classroom.
Most of the classroom teachers took home hands-on resources from their classrooms to use in online lessons. We sent home small packs of resources with the children that included handwriting, alphabet and high frequency word charts; 10 frames, counters and dice and number cards; basic cards and resources that we could use for a variety of different games and activities in the home environment.
We already have some online resources for reading in Maths in Year 2 and have had these for several years. We introduced a couple of programs for Prep (Foundation) and Kinder to see if these would work in an online environment.
The main thing that teachers wanted with the activities was the ability for children to work at an instructional level and then at an enjoyment or practise level. The ability to use our online resources for guided reading was important to us but we had varying degrees of success. The main thing that we found useful was the ability to differentiate for our students using the same resource.
What did you find in transitioning to an online teaching that you were missing from resources available to you?
Apart from everyone having the same internet strength and connection! The main thing we found missing was the ability to give feedback straightaway and to examine everything that the students were doing as we normally do in the classroom; we needed to wait until they finished the activity before we could actually give feedback. There was also a large element of parent help in some of the activities and this meant that some work samples were not true indicators of student knowledge and understanding.
Video responses certainly helped but again some leading questions were often used to get the “right” answers. Parental understanding was sometimes different. To cater for this many teachers made videos of the same lesson with the children so the parents and students could watch it again. Some teachers also added extra instructions for the parents and other options for activities. The responses we viewed did not always show true evidence of understanding and needed to be repeated when we returned to face-to-face teaching at school. Many of our online and physical resources did not support the introduction of new learning.
How do you see the classroom changing in the long term, based on what you have learned in the Covid period?
There have been a large number of my teachers saying that they are now able to fully integrate technology in our classrooms because we have individual one-to-one devices for every student from Kinder to Year 10 (that’s nearly 1000 devices). Previously in the Early Years, we had 15 devices for each class, but these could be combined so everybody could have a one-to-one opportunity.
This now also provides an added dimension to our classroom planning and learning opportunities, where technology is can be a part of every lesson. We can continue to have small groups and provide the direct instruction needed. Early Years programs are enhanced because our students’ digital skills have improved. They are now able to create responses to activities instead of just using devices for play or practise.
A really positive result is the increased interaction we now have with our parents. For the first time our parents were tasked with actively “teaching” their children and keeping them engaged and up to date with classroom work.
What suggestions do you have for Australian educational publishers to prepare for the new opportunities in teaching?
The biggest change I foresee for Australian educational publishers is the storage, access 24/7 on each device and the variety available in this format.
It is a much cheaper option for us than buying large numbers of published book sets to use for guided reading, for individual writing, for home reading and for use in all curriculum areas. I think this is an area where publishers can consider focusing on.
Having a range of fiction and nonfiction stories available across all curriculum areas would be advantageous, particularly for the early years. I feel this is something that will be embraced by many teachers in all year levels.
I also think the addition of e-books and picture books based on the varying nationalities and cultures we now have in all Australian schools, would be well supported and a wonderful addition to our classroom libraries. We have many nationalities in our school and one of the greatest things that we can do is offer our children and their family’s opportunities to read in their first language and share these with children in our class.
Our LOTE language is Japanese and we recently purchased a large number of picture books from Japan during our annual visit to our sister school. These help our children learn to read and speak more fluently in Japanese purely for enjoyment and to extend our program from oral language experience to encompass all aspects of language in familiar picture books.
I think having technology as a resource in our classrooms means that there are many different ways that we can use the same book / resource because we can read it alone with a friend or as a whole group; we can listen to it and interact with the story as it is being read to us. I think the most important thing is having an interactive aspect to any of the books that are published in the future because encouraging our children to respond using technology is the best way that we can move forward especially now that we have such amazing technological capacity available to us.
To hear more insights from Jane Doyle, be sure to sign up for the online EPAA ceremony. Learn about the winners when they’re announced as a bonus!
Jane Doyle was recognised as the Australian Teacher of the Year by The Educator in 2018.