Interview with keynote speaker, educator and Principal, Lian Davies

Portrait of Lian DaviesLian Davies is an educator and leader with a passion for global educational systems and strategies focussing on student centred learning. Lian has worked in both Scottish and English schools in the UK, developing her leadership skills while navigating a new country and education system she became an Assistant Principal and Acting Principal in NZ in 2011. Lian moved to become Assistant Principal at Templestowe College in 2016. Continuing to develop an innovative model of education, Lian is now Principal at Whittlesea Secondary College. Lian was the winner of The Educator Rising Star Awards 2018.

Lian is one of two keynote speakers for the Educational Publishing Awards Australia in 2019. She shares her thoughts on educational products below. 

 

What first inspired you to embark on a career in education? Is that what keeps you there today? 

I first considered education when I was studying at university. I became part of a peer mentoring program for students who were in earlier years of our degree course. I realised how much I enjoyed helping others learn as well as how much more I understood the work through teaching it. I signed up for a post graduate teaching course after completing my honours degree and have never looked back. The pleasure of helping young people learn is a strong driver and I love to continue learning myself.

 

You’ve worked in a few countries. What differences have you observed about educational publishing products and purchasing them across these countries (if any)?

I have worked in Scotland, England, New Zealand and Australia. Each has its own educational systems but a common theme is the need for good quality resources to support educators in delivering engaging and challenging learning experiences for students. As the years have gone on what these resources might look like has gradually changed from the standard text book to more interactive materials. Australia and New Zealand have some strong publishers and materials that are used on both sides of the ditch and educators know they can rely on them for quality and supporting students to engage with the curriculum knowledge.

 

You are passionate about student-centred learning. For those who may not know what this is could you please explain it briefly?

Student centred learning is focussed on designing learning experiences that recognise and respond to the individual needs of each student. It is moving away from the previous methods of the teacher being the front and centre and all students following the lead.

Student centred educators and schools are working to understand and support student learning, rather than focusing on how best to teach or how to cover the curriculum.

We aim to actively create opportunities for families and communities to participate as equal partners in their children’s education and empower students to lead their own learning as much as possible.

 

How and where do you see this reflected in Australian learning resources (if at all)? What further knowledge needs to be shared to make learning resources for this model/approach? Or is this being done really well already?

Learning resources are starting to reflect this by providing a variety of media for our learners to engage with. An example would be a text book having a digital version or an audio version. I know a large number of my students who use text to speech software to support them in listening to books whilst studying. I have also seen interactive activities with some digital resources that engage our learners in a way they feel is interesting and stimulating. This shift to multiple media creates opportunities for learners to engage and experience learning differently.

 

Another thing you are dedicated to is about empowering students to take control of their own learning. How do learning resources help students feel empowered? Are resources helping towards this end?

As mentioned above by providing a variety of mixed media resources that students can engage with to suit their needs is a key to empowering our young people. In an age where we are understanding more around neurodiversity we want to be able to provide options for our students to engage with a range of quality materials. Flipped learning is a popular tool and allows young people to research, watch or engage with learning topics before they come into the classroom and explore these ideas further.

 

When it comes to choosing educational resources for your school, what features do you look out for? Why? 

This can be a complex one as it depends on the subjects, the teams who are teaching and using the resources as well as the students themselves. The ability to cover key curriculum areas, whilst not limiting to only that information is often looked at. We want to support our learners to find key information but engage their thinking and learning to relevance in the real world. Engaging them through high quality diagrams, or online pictures often allows them to see things we may not have within the classroom environment. Having links to media they can look at engages our young digital natives into an environment they are familiar with and can learn from quickly.

 

Is there a particular Australian resource that you really value? What aspects of it really work for you, your staff and your students?

As a science educator I always appreciated the resources that considered not only the students with books and ebooks or apps, but also provided support notes for technicians or teachers to help with practical experiments and activities. Some of the resources had clearly spent a great deal of time considering all aspects of the learning outcomes and how to ensure everyone referring to the resources were best equipped to deliver this effectively.

 

Register to hear Lian Davies speak at the Educational Publishing Awards being held in Melbourne on 4 September 2019. 

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