Learning Difficulties Australia



Current and Previous LDA Award Recipients

2019 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award:  Presented to Dr Jennifer BuckinghamDirector of Strategy and Senior Research Fellow at MultiLit.  Jennifer has been active in promoting evidence-based practice, particularly in the area of early reading instruction, and in promoting the value of a Phonics Check for assessing the development of early reading skills and in identifying children who may be at risk of developing reading problems.  She has authored or co-authored a number of significant papers and reports relating to research and practice in early literacy, and founded Five-from-Five, a project providing evidence-based information on effective reading instruction through a website, social and mainstream media, events, and publications.

Bruce Wicking Award: Presented to Steven Capp, the Principal of Bentleigh West Primary School in Melbourne, which has become recognised for its adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, particularly in the area of reading.  Steven has worked across the primary and secondary school sectors as an educational leader for the past 15 years.  He has a Masters of School Leadership from Melbourne University and has worked with schools and across Australia in bridging the gap from research to practice.  He served on the expert advisory panel to the Federal Government for Year 1 Literacy and Numeracy Checks in 2017.

Rosemary Carter Award: Presented to Jan Roberts, a long standing Consultant member of LDA, who has served as President of LDA and as Convenor of the Consultants Committee.  Jan has been an active member of the Consultants Committee and the Consultant network support groups, and has contributed to the ongoing support of Consultant members through professional development and other support activities.

2018 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award – Alison Clarke

Alison Clarke is a speech pathologist from Melbourne who is a passionate advocate for evidence-based practice, and developed the website Spelfabet. Alison helps parents, teachers and others to incorporate an evidence-based approach into high-quality initial instruction and early intervention through the provision of resources and timely advice. Her blog and engaging videos demystify what it means to teach reading, spelling and writing effectively.

Bruce Wicking Award – Ray Boyd

Ray Boyd the principal of West Beechboro Primary, a high performing school in Perth. Through his enduring commitment to teacher-directed instructional practices and evidence-based literacy instruction students, staff at West Beechboro Primary School ensure students are not ‘defined by their post-code.’ Because of Ray’s commitment effective literacy instruction, students who might otherwise have experienced difficulties learning to read achieve success.

Rosemary Carter Award - Fay Tran

Fay Tran is the inaugural recipient of the Rosemary Carter Award. Fay is an outstanding consultant member who has contributed to the field of learning difficulties through her work with students as a Learning Support Teacher at Geelong Grammar and following her retirement as an LDA Consultant providing private tuition. Fay’s commitment to evidence-based practice saw her resist pressures to abandon the phonics approach for the teaching of initial reading in the 80s and 90s, and she was successful in ensuring that direct teaching of phonics was maintained at her school. Fay is the author of Teaching Kids to Read and through her website Learning2Read provides a wealth of information and resources for parents and teachers.

2017 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award – Professor Pamela Snow

Pamela is Professor and Head of the Rural Health School at the Bendigo campus of La Trobe University. She is both a registered psychologist and a Fellow of the Speech Pathology Association of Australia. Pamela earned her Graduate Diploma in Communication Disorders at the Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences, and her PhD at La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Throughout her academic career her focus has been on speech and language difficulties and how these impact on individuals, particularly those at risk, including youth offenders and young people in the state care system.  Her research interests include oral language as an academic and mental health protective factor in childhood and adolescence, as well as the application of evidence in the language-to-literacy transition in the early years of school.

Pamela’s research has been reported in over 120 publications in a wide range of international journals.

Her most recent publication is a book, co-authored with Caroline Bowen, on Making Sense of Interventions for Children with Developmental Disorders:  A Guide for Parents and Professionals. This witty and accessible book provides an invaluable guide for parents and professionals in distinguishing between programs and interventions that are based on research and evidence, as against those that are not.

Pamela has written and co-authored articles for the LDA Bulletin, including:

Snow, P., Castles, A., Wheldall, K. & Coltheart, M. (2017). Why Australia should trial the new phonics screening check. LDA Bulletin, 49(1), 4-5.
Wheldall, K.., Snow, P. & Graham. L. (2017). Explainer: What does the term ‘synthetic phonics’ really mean? LDA Bulletin, 49(1), 6-7.
Snow, P. (2016). Reading is a verb. Literacy is not. LDA Bulletin, 48(2), 8-9.
Snow, P. (2014). Reading Recovery and Cassandra’s curse. LDA Bulletin, 46(3), 19-20.

Pamela plays a leading role within the Australian academic community in identifying and commenting on issues of significance relating to the link between literacy and educational outcomes and the impact of poor literacy skills for young people in the justice and welfare sectors. She draws attention to critical issues relating to effective literacy instruction in schools and the importance of evidence-based practice through her blog the Snow Report, at: http://pamelasnow.blogspot.com.au , and articles published in the Conversation. She has been a member of the Expert Committee set up by the Government to advise on the implementation of the proposed National Phonics Check.

Pamela contributes to the support of students with learning difficulties through her continuing membership on the LDA Council, and through her many publications which address the needs of children and adolescents who have difficulties because of poor language and reading skills.

Bruce Wicking Award – Mr Chris Eveans

Chris Eveans, Principal of Robina State School on the Gold Coast for the past 6 years, has been in education for 38 years. He was Principal at Birkdale South State School in Brisbane for 19 years and has worked at remote indigenous schools in Queensland.

Chris is instrumental in translating education research into the classroom practice, implementing highly effective and acknowledged literacy instruction. Pedagogy at Robina State School is based on explicit instruction using multisensory techniques, integrating the Big 6 of Reading. He takes a whole school approach by inspiring teachers and managing school resources, so evidence based teaching practices are embraced and feature prominently in every classroom. 

Mr Eveans’ continued willingness to gain more knowledge for himself and his staff is demonstrated by inviting teachers from the Queensland Public Education system into his school to learn, observe, and see tangible evidence of the successful application of educational research. He has also shared his knowledge Australia wide through help with the production of the Outside the Square program.

Chris leads by example with a collaborative culture of professional learning, developing a high personal level of expertise in education research and connecting with leading education researchers. He shares knowledge and experience by mentoring schools, writing publications, visiting progressive schools to observe best teaching practice, being a source of inspiration by hosting local and interstate schools, and by presenting seminars – e.g. at the Australian Council of Education Research ACER ‘Excellence in Professional Practice’ conference. He has written articles for the Learning Difficulties Australia Bulletin. Chris works in partnership with professional associations and community groups to host professional development seminars, parent information sessions, and children's workshops at his school.

Chris ensures instruction and intervention are tailored to suit the unique learning needs of each student, so every student has an opportunity to participate on the same basis as their peers. Student learning is supported and scaffolded through differentiated teaching, classroom accommodations, universal design for learning, assistive technology, and the provision of reasonable adjustments. He facilitated the establishment of Robina State School as a pilot ‘dyslexia-friendly’ school and in recognition it became the first school accredited by the Australian Dyslexia Association in 2012. This prototype was endorsed by the Queensland Education Minister, the Hon. John Paul Langbroek, as a model for other schools.

Chris Eveans is a proactive educator and visionary school leader deserving of formal recognition for putting the best interests and welfare of the child first and foremost, and for bringing education research to the classroom so every student at Robina State School has an opportunity to attain their learning potential.

2016 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award - Dr Roslyn Neilson

The recipient of the LDA Mona Tobias Award for 2016 is Dr Roslyn Neilson. Ros, a speech pathologist, has shown great leadership in the area of literacy acquisition over several decades. Her contribution to both research and practice has influenced many thousands of teachers and speech pathologists. She has developed a number of teacher-friendly assessment tools which are used throughout the country and advocates for research-based practice through her training presentations, her papers and articles and her vocal contribution to relevant educational bodies.  Dr Neilson will be presented with her award at the LDA AGM on the 10th September in Melbourne.

Bruce Wicking Award - Lynne Ivicevic

The recipient of the LDA Bruce Wicking Award for 2016 is Lynne Ivicevic. Lynne is a secondary learning support teacher and sessional lecturer at ECU. Her work with students with learning difficulties and other disabilities through her PROPEL Program has enabled many hundreds of students to reach their potential. Lynne’s passion and dedication to those students who, for whatever reason, are struggling makes her a very worthy recipient of this award. Lynne was presented with her award at the LDA AGM on the 10th September in Melbourne.

2015 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award – Emeritus Professor Brian Byrne 

The recipient of the LDA Mona Tobias Award for 2015 was Emeritus Professor Brian Byrne. Brian Byrne has made significant contributions to research on reading development, the acquisition of reading, the education of students with learning difficulties, and to leadership in research translation.  

Click here for the complete 2015 LDA Celebration Awards report.

Tertiary Student Award – Dr Danielle Colenbrander

The 2015 recipient of the LDA Tertiary Student was Dr Danielle Colenbrander. Danielle’s primary research interests are educational psychology, cognitive psychology, and educational assessment.

Click here for the complete 2015 LDA Celebration Awards report.

2014 LDA Awards

Eminent Researcher Award to Emeritus Professor Max Coltheart AM, and the Early Career Award to Dr Tanya Serry.

Special Award 2014 - Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall

Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall, AM, the current Editor of LDA’s Journal the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, will receive a special Award from LDA in recognition of his services to LDA and to LDA publications. Kevin has been Editor of the LDA Journal since 2005, and has also been closely involved with the development of the LDA Bulletin as Editor, co-Editor and adviser. LDA’s publications play an important role in keeping our members informed of current research and evidence-based practice in the field of learning difficulties, and we are indebted to Kevin’s commitment to LDA and to our publications over the past ten years. He will receive his Award at the Award Presentations which will follow the Language, Learning and Literacy professional development session presented by Dr Louisa Moats at the Ibis Hotel in Melbourne on Saturday 21 March.

Mona Tobias Award - Mandy Nayton

LDA is delighted to announce that the recipient of the LDA Mona Tobias Award for 2014 is Mandy Nayton, Executive Director of Dyslexia SPELD Foundation (DSF) in WA. Mandy Nayton has received this award for her outstanding contribution to the field of learning difficulties in Australia. Mandy’s role as Executive Officer of DSF SPELD has enabled her to promote to the community, educators and other professionals evidence‐based approaches to assess and support individuals with learning difficulties both in WA and across Australia.

Tertiary Student Award 2014 - Dr Wendy Moore

The recipient of the LDA Tertiary Student Award for 2014 is Dr Wendy Moore. This Award is in recognition of postgraduate research by a tertiary student which has the potential to make a significant contribution to theory or practice in the learning difficulties area.  Dr Moore’s doctoral thesis, which was accepted in December 2013, was based on research which investigated the effectiveness of competing models of vocabulary instruction, contrasting child-centred/constructivist approaches with alternatives such as explicit instructional techniques. Her findings will be published in the next edition of the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties.

Wendy’s outstanding PhD results make her a very worthy recipient of this award.

2013 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award – Dr Ronda Farkota

The recipient of the LDA Mona Tobias Award for 2013 is Dr Rhonda Farkota, Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Dr Rhonda Farkota has played a significant role in the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices in Australia, particularly in the area of mathematics, over the last twenty years.  She developed and published her Math Mastery series at a time when effective teacher directed instruction was out of favour in Australian schools and teacher education faculties, but turned this around through demonstration of the effectiveness of the Direct Instruction approach in the areas of mathematics and spelling.  The success and widespread use of her Elementary Math Mastery program is evidenced by the repeated reprints of this publication over the period 2000 to 2011. 

Rhonda has been very active in professional development in a wide range of schools, as well as in University departments, and is also sought after internationally for advice and guidance on the implementation of effective teaching practices and support for struggling students.  In Victoria she has worked closely with Independent Schools Victoria in implementing the Math Mastery Program and providing professional development and support for schools undertaking this program.  She is also working closely with a group of schools in far North Queensland on the implementation of evidence-based practice, and was a Keynote Speaker at the recent Thursday Island Deadly Teachers’ Conference, involving the 18 community-based campuses of the Tagai State College, which was formed in 2007 as an amalgamation of the then 17 state schools spread across the various islands in the Torres Strait Region. 

Most recently the University of Sydney has selected the Math Mastery series for inclusion in their Compass Program, which is designed to increase school completion rates and raise school and community expectations and student attainment and aspiration in both primary and secondary schools.  This program is directed specifically at students from low socio-economic and disadvantaged backgrounds, who currently have a relatively low participation rate at tertiary level.  It involves the training of University students as volunteers in tutoring at risk students in literacy and numeracy at selected schools with high proportions of students from low socio-economic and disadvantaged backgrounds who would be at high risk of early school dropout, to provide them with the necessary foundation skills to stay engaged in school and have the opportunity to go on to tertiary education.  Rhonda has been actively involved in the training of the University student volunteers in delivering the Math Mastery program to schools participating in the Compass Program.

Rhonda Farkota is an exceptional teacher and advocate of effective evidence-based practice, who has done much to further the LDA aim of ‘assisting students with learning difficulties through effective teaching practices based on scientific research’.

There were no Awards in the Bruce Wicking and Tertiary Student Award categories in 2013.

2012 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award - Dr Molly de Lemos

Molly de Lemos is a former Research Fellow with the Australian Council for Educational Research, and has been a member of LDA Council since August 2004, taking on the role of Secretary in 2005.  Her research at ACER covered many areas relating to factors associated with educational achievement, including the effects of early education on later achievement, as well as the effects of language background and school factors such as classroom organisation on achievement.  She also worked on the development and norming of various educational and psychological tests, and undertook a government funded study on educational provisions for students with disabilities.  Her interest in the development of reading led to her final publication at ACER, her review of the research literature on the acquisition of literacy, Closing the gap between research and practice: Foundations for the acquisition of literacy, which focused on empirical studies that identified the processes underlying the acquisition of reading and the instructional strategies that are most effective in developing reading skills.  She has been a passionate advocate for effective, evidence-based instruction for all students, and particularly for those with learning difficulties, regardless of apparent causation or 'diagnosis', and was the driving force behind the open letter to Dr Brendan Nelson, the then Minister for Education, from the group of concerned reading scientists that led to the establishment of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (NITL).

During her time on LDA Council Molly has been active in organizing conferences and seminars, editing the LDA Bulletin, and initiating a strong and continuing agenda of PD events for all members, expanding the program to involve teachers and others outside of the LDA core group of Consultants, with the aim of reaching classroom teachers and making them aware of evidence-based best practice, thus leading them toward the implementation of more effective instruction in their classrooms.

Bruce Wicking Award – Maureen Pollard

Maureen Pollard is a literacy consultant, teacher and writer.   After her initial training as an Infant Teacher at Monash University in Frankston and broad experience in classroom teaching in Australia, UK, South Africa and Spain, she lectured at Melbourne University in the Department of Language and Linguistics.  In 1982 while teaching at Rossbourne School, a specialist school for students experiencing difficulties in the regular classroom, she obtained a Diploma of Learning Difficulties followed by a B.Ed in Learning Difficulties from Deakin University in Burwood.  Maureen then established an innovative program at Tintern Girls Grammar School to support children with language and learning difficulties. The staff in this P – 10 program included a psychologist, a speech pathologist, a special education teacher and an integration assistant, and this program became widely recognised as a model for the provision of specialist services to students with learning difficulties within a mainstream school. She also developed a literacy curriculum that was explicit and sequential, and which led to consistently high performance, with Tintern Girls Grammar now ranking as one of the top schools in the Year 3 Australian NAPLAN results for literacy.  It was important that the teaching in the classroom be consistent with the specialist teaching in the support unit.   During her period at Tintern Maureen was granted leave to do further research overseas, at their expense, to continue her ground-breaking work in the development of effective teaching programs.

In 1995 Maureen set up her business Learning Logic and with enormous encouragement from her colleagues, she developed and published a number of programs and resources for teaching literacy, including SoundCheck (2000), a program focusing on sequencing sounds for spelling based on phonemic awareness and phonics, SoundCheck 2 (2004), which extends spelling skills and knowledge. SoundCheck was created and trialled with the children at Tintern Girls Grammar.  Little Learners Love Literacy (2011) is an early literacy program that teaches children to read, write and spell with confidence, using explicit teaching and sequential learning to achieve success.  This program is based on the book Milo’s Birthday Surprise, together with the Teacher Resource book of lesson plans, which focuses on the important skills of phonemic awareness and phonics.  

Maureen regularly presents workshops on literacy learning and teaching for teachers, speech pathologists, literacy co-ordinators, and parents in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, and is a member of the Australian Council of Educational Research Institute which provides research-based professional learning relevant to educators.  She also presents for SPELD, Independent Schools Victoria and LDA, and is a literacy consultant to a number of schools, training the teachers in understanding phonemic awareness and alphabet knowledge as well as leading them in developing a literacy curriculum that is sequential and explicit.

Maureen has devoted a large part of her life to supporting students with learning difficulties and she has done so with enormous enthusiasm.  While working with teachers and students, no matter what the situation, Maureen has always found a creative way of imparting her knowledge in a way that appeals to students.  Her passion is to translate research and theory into practice.

Tertiary Student Award – Jennifer Buckingham

Jennifer’s study, undertaken at the Macquarie University Special Education Centre under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall and Dr Robyn Wheldall (Beaman), was designed to examine the efficacy of a small group literacy intervention designed for young readers who are still struggling after experiencing whole class initial instruction.  This research was commended for its experimental approach in examining the effectiveness of a specific approach designed to assist children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds experiencing difficulties in learning to read in their first years of school.  Such research was seen as important in that it has the potential to influence teaching practice not only in the Australian context but worldwide.

Jennifer’s paper based on this study, authored jointly with her supervisors, has now been accepted for publication in the LDA journal, the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties.

2011 LDA Awards  

Recipients of our LDA Awards for 2011 were Angela Weeks, for the Mona Tobias Award, and Fay Tran, for the Bruce Wicking Award.  There were no applications for the 2011 Tertiary Student Award.

Mona Tobias Award – Angela Weeks

Angela Weeks is the Clinical Director of SPELD SA, a position she has held since 2001.  After graduating as a primary teacher in 1972, she went on to become the Head of Junior School at Walford Anglican School for Girls in Adelaide, from 1985 to 1995, while doing a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Group Work at the University of South Australia.  She went on to do a BA Hons degree in Psychology, with a thesis on the topic Dyslexia: Can Tuition Help?  Following this she joined SPELD SA as a trainee psychologist, and also worked part time as a special education teacher,  before taking on the role of Educational Administrator at SPELD SA in 1997.

As Clinical Director Angela has led and developed the team at SPELD SA in providing effective intervention for children and adults with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, as well as professional development for tutors and teachers. She also developed a referral service linking children to tutors, and has been active in advocating for students with learning difficulties in schools and government.  She has visited schools, organised conferences, produced resources for teachers and students, and conducted research. She regularly liaises with personnel from DECS, contributing to the development of policy and resources for literacy, and developed networks between various professionals involved in intervention for children with learning difficulties, involving many in Professional Development programs.  

The Mona Tobias Award was presented to Angela Weeks in recognition of her significant contribution, leadership, and promotion of services to the education of people with learning difficulties and their families, and also in supporting the professionals who work with students with learning difficulties.

Bruce Wicking Award – Fay Tran

Fay Tran, a LDA Consultant, was Learning Support Teacher at Geelong Grammar from 1984 to 2010.  She is a qualified primary teacher and teacher librarian, and has a Bachelor in Special Education from Flinders University.  In 2010 she published Teaching Kids to Read, based on her experiences in supporting children with learning difficulties at Geelong Grammar.  This was during a period when the whole language approach to the teaching of literacy came to dominate teaching of reading in the primary grades. Fay was one of the few teachers, together with Dick Weigall, a colleague at Geelong Grammar, Life Member of LDA and former Associate Editor of the LDA Journal, resisted pressures to abandon the phonics approach to the teaching of initial reading and was successful in ensuring that direct teaching of phonics was maintained within a modified teaching program, which included elements of both the whole language and the phonics approaches to the teaching of initial reading and early literacy.  As Learning Support Teacher at Geelong Grammar, Fay continued to support children with learning difficulties by applying methods of instruction that research has shown to be effective.  As noted by Peter Westwood in his Foreword to Fay Tran’s book, her approach to teaching reflects a thorough understanding of how children learn, the particular needs of children with learning difficulties, the importance of explicit instruction, practice and the opportunity to apply new learning in achieving mastery, and the need for ongoing monitoring and assessment.  In documenting these strategies in her book, Fay has provided an important resource for teachers and parents, described by one grateful parent as ‘by far the most inspiring, practical and informative book I found.’

The Bruce Wicking Award was presented to Fay Tran in recognition of her commitment to effective teaching practice based on sound evidence, and her willingness to stand up to opposition in support of her principles.

2010 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award – Dr Loraine Hammond

Dr Lorraine Hammond is Senior Lecturer and Co-ordinator of Special Education at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia.  She graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Secondary English) at the Western Australian College of Advanced Education (now Edith Cowan University), and went on to do a Post Graduate Diploma for Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties in London and an MA in Specific Learning Difficulties at Middlesex University in England, completing her PhD at the Edith Cowan University in 2001.  She has supported students with learning difficulties in a variety of roles, both as a classroom teacher and in the Centre for Inclusive Schooling in Perth, prior to moving on to University teaching at graduate and post-graduate level.  She has been active in promoting effective reading instruction and in training teachers to teach phonological awareness and systematic decoding to beginning and struggling readers, and in providing teachers with strategies to support students who have difficulties with reading comprehension, writing and spelling.  She is a regular presenter at Conferences and school professional learning days, has published widely in professional journals, and has taken on leadership roles in a number of professional associations, including AUSPELD, the Dyslexia SPELD Foundation Inc. WA, the Western Australian Secondary Reading Teachers’ Association, and the Specific Learning Difficulties Multidisciplinary Group of WA.  In 2002 she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to investigate effective practices to support individuals with dyslexia.
The Mona Tobias Award was presented to Dr Lorraine Hammond in recognition of her significant contribution to the education of people with learning difficulties through her research, graduate and undergraduate teaching, teacher professional development, and community engagement.

Bruce Wicking Award - Mr Andrew Fildes

Andrew Fildes is the Founder and Chairman of the Andrew Dean Fildes Foundation for Language and Learning Disabilities, a non-profit / tax-exempt organization established in 1996, provides services and support for people throughout Australia with language and learning difficulties.  Programs provided include screening for early identification of language problems, comprehensive assessment of speech, language and literacy skills for diagnostic and teaching purposes, provision of resources and programs to assist children with language-based learning difficulties, education programs for teachers and teacher assistants on the nature, cause, consequences, and treatments for language and learning difficulties, and information and support programs for parents.  Through the programs sponsored by the Andrew Dean Fildes Foundation, Andrew has made a significant contribution to the provision of services to support people with language and learning difficulties.

The Bruce Wicking Award will be presented to Andrew in recognition of the significant contribution he has made through his Foundation to the provision of assessment and treatment services and quality programs which have significantly affected the lives of people with language and learning difficulties and their families.

2009 LDA Awards

Recipients of our LDA Awards for 2009 were the late Dr Ken Rowe, for the Mona Tobias Award, Ms Lyn Henshall, for the Bruce Wicking Award, and Dr Saskia Kohnen, for the Tertiary Student Award.

Mona Tobias Award – Dr Ken Rowe

Following his tragic death in the Marysville fire on 7 February this year, Dr Ken Rowe’s contribution to education and educational research was widely acknowledged by his academic colleagues both nationally and internationally. Recognised as an outstanding leader in education and a prolific researcher, his research covered a range of educational issues including learning difficulties, auditory perception, boys’ education, effective teachers, and evidence-based practice.  He was particularly known for his advocacy for teaching practices to be based on the evidence of rigorous evidence-based research, and as Chair of the 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy he took a strong stand on the adoption of more effective approaches to the teaching of initial reading.
Ken Rowe had an impact on education not only through his research, but also through his ability to communicate the findings of research, and their implications for policy and practice, to the public through the media, and also to politicians and policy makers.  He was widely sought out by the media for his opinion on a range of educational issues, and also consulted by politicians and policy makers, as noted by Dr Brendan Nelson.
Ken Rowe was the Research Director of the Learning Processes and Contexts research area at ACER until his retirement in May 2008.  Prior to this he had worked in the Victorian Department of Education and at the University of Melbourne in the Centre for Applied Educational Research.  His particular contribution to the field of learning difficulties lay in his research in the area of auditory perception, and his advocacy of the adoption of effective teaching practices based on evidence-based research, particularly in the area of the teaching of initial reading.  While Ken Rowe was not the first researcher in Australia to advocate effective teaching of reading, it is probably true to say that he was the most effective in terms of getting this message across to the media and hence to the politicians and policy makers.  When Ken spoke, people listened.  Others may have spoken, but the message was not getting through.
The Mona Tobias Award was accepted by Dr Kathy Rowe, on behalf of her late husband, at the Awards Presentation following the LDA AGM on 7 November, at the Hawthorn Campus of the University of Melbourne.

Bruce Wicking Award – Ms Lyn Henshall

Lyn Henshall currently the Director of Student Wellbeing at St Catherine’s School in Melbourne, was at Tintern Anglican Girls’ Grammar School, where she pioneered the first Language/Learning Disability Unit within a mainstream private school.  She has continued this work at St Catherine’s School where her programs cater for and involve young people with learning difficulties and their families.

Throughout her career Lyn Henshall, psychologist and teacher, has been an outstanding and inspiring leader who translated her vision for children with learning disabilities into practice. She worked tirelessly to develop an understanding in others of the impact of learning disabilities on education and social emotional development, and worked with families to help them understand and work with and for their child with a learning disability.  She recognized the need for curriculum development to ensure differentiation for all students, but particularly those students with a learning disability, and provided staff and leadership team training to ensure the development of effective programs and the establishment of a cohesive and sequential pathway for students with a learning disability.

The Bruce Wicking Award presentation was made at an Awards Presentation following the LDA AGM on 7 November, at the Hawthorn Campus of the University of Melbourne.

Tertiary Student Award – Dr Saskia Kohnen

Dr Saskia Kohnen, a Speech Pathologist, recently completed her PhD focusing on the remediation of spelling disorders in children. Dr Kohnen’s PhD research focused on the treatment of spelling impairments in children and the evaluation of theories of spelling through the results of treatment. This work took a single case study approach which allowed detailed investigation of the nature of the treatment effects and their mechanisms. The research had a particular focus on what predicts whether generalisation will occur, and was the first investigation of these effects for both ‘sight’ (irregularly spelled) words and decoding (spelling rules). The research has both theoretical and practical implications and application. Since the completion of her thesis Dr Kohnen has already published one article based on her PhD study with another in press.  Dr Kohnen has also presented her work at conferences in Australia and overseas. The Tertiary Student Award presentation will be made at an Awards Presentation following the LDA AGM on 7 November, at the Hawthorn Campus of the University of Melbourne, Hawthorn.

2008 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award - Professor Kevin Wheldall

Professor Kevin Wheldall is Professor of Education and Director of the Macquarie University Special Education Centre at Macquarie University in Sydney.  Prior to his appointment at Macquarie University he was Director of the Centre for Child Study at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
Professor Wheldall has made a significant contribution to the field of learning difficulties through his research and publications, particularly in the areas of classroom behaviour management and helping low progress readers.  His MULTILIT program, developed to assist low progress readers, has had a significant impact in improving the performance of students with reading difficulties, particularly those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. This has been successfully implemented in a number of contexts, and is currently being used in a major federally funded program designed to improve the reading and related skills of Aboriginal students in indigenous communities in Cape York. Kevin has also made a significant contribution in informing public debate, particularly on issues relating to evidence-based practice and effective teaching of reading, through his contributions to professional and popular magazines and newspapers, and his opinions as quoted in the media.

Kevin has been a member of LDA Council since 2004, and was President of Council from 2006 to 2007.  He has been Editor of the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities (now the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties) and was the Executive Editor of LDA Publications from 2005 to 2008. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities, and has served on a number of government and community advisory bodies to advise on educational matters. He has received a number of awards in recognition of his research and initiatives in education.  

Bruce Wicking Award - Rossbourne School

Rossbourne School first established in 1967, provides a program to meet the needs of students whose 'abilities and curriculum needs lie between mainstream and special schools'. It started from a 'coaching' business set up by Mabel Ross, a retired teacher who, during her teaching career, spent time in providing after school assistance to students who were struggling with their studies. As the number of students seeking help increased additional staff were employed to assist, and by the early 1960s premises were rented for the 31 children then enrolled in the 'school'. Recognising the need for a school catering for the specific needs of this group of students, a corporation was formed to ensure the continuation of the school, which was named Rossbourne House in honour of Mabel Ross.

The school moved to its current premises in Hawthorn in 1969, and its enrolments have ranged from 80 to 120 over the last 30 years. It has provided a varied program which focuses not only on the basic areas of language, mathematics, general studies and social development but provides a range of activities in other areas, including trade skills, living skills, computing skills, and sport and outdoor activities, as well as the production of an annual musical or concert.

Rossbourne School is what might be called a 'quiet achiever' – a school which is providing an excellent program for students who would struggle in a normal school situation, giving them skills relevant to their future lives in the working world, and developing their social skills and self-confidence. It provides a model of how the needs of students with learning difficulties can be met in a school that caters specifically for their needs, in a sensitive and supportive school environment.
Our congratulations to Principal Linden Hearn and his staff for their contribution to meeting the educational needs of students with learning difficulties.

Tertiary Student Award - Ms Anne Bellert

Anne Bellert, Regional Learning Support Officer, Catholic Education Office, Lismore Diocese, is currently a Ph D candidate at the National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR), at the University of New England. Since qualifying as a primary teacher in 1993 she has worked in various teaching and support teacher roles. Her PhD research is based on the development of an instructional program, the Quick Smart Mathematics Intervention, which has a theoretical base and a practical orientation that has made a salient difference to students’ school lives. In making this Award the Judging Committee noted the particular strengths of the research in terms of its broader application for intervention for students with learning difficulties in a classroom situation, with a specific focus on maths intervention.
The 2008 Tertiary Student Award was presented to Anne at the LDA AGM in Brisbane on 23 August.

2007 LDA Awards

Recipients of our LDA Awards for 2007 were Professor Max Coltheart (NSW) for the Mona Tobias ward and Dr Gary Wooley (Queensland) for the Tertiary Student Award. There were no nominations for the Bruce Wicking Award in 2007.

Mona Tobias Award - Professor Max Coltheart

Professor Max Coltheart, , FASSA, and Director of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, is a most distinguished scholar of international renown in the field of reading and reading difficulties. He is one of only two Australians to be invited to become a Fellow of both the Academy of Sciences in Australia and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. He has served as President of both SPELD in NSW and of AUSPELD, the national organization. In addition to his role as Professor of Psychology and Director of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, he also holds the James Packer Chair of Educational Research and Academic Director of the Children's Hospital Education Research Institute (CHERI) at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney. Max is a member of the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities as well as many other prestigious journals. In company with LDA colleagues, he was instrumental in persuading the then Minister of Education, Dr Brendon Nelson, to initiate the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy. He is the author of 13 books and of over 240 journal articles and book chapters, and was the co-author, with Margot Prior, of the paper Learning to Read in Australia, commissioned and published by the Academy of Social Sciences as the sixth in a series of policy papers designed to encourage public debate on issues of national concern.  He has been a fearless advocate for the best interests of students with dyslexia and related reading difficulties and has been a stern critic of unsubstantiated remedies and supposed cures.

Professor Max Coltheart is one of a group of Australian psychologists who have been undertaking research into reading development based on a cognitive-psychological approach employing an experimental methodology.  At a Symposium on Reading and Developmental Dyslexia, held at the University of Tasmania in February 1996 and attended by leading Australian reading researchers whose research had been funded by the ARC, concerns were expressed by many of the participants that while their research clearly had implications for teaching practice, their studies were having little impact on system-wide approaches to the teaching of reading or teacher understandings of the processes underlying the acquisition of reading. These concerns are as valid today as they were ten years ago, despite continuing efforts by Professor Coltheart and others to bring this research, and its implications for the teaching of reading, to the attention of education authorities responsible for the training of teachers and the implementation of programs for the teaching of reading in our schools.

Tertiary Student Award - Dr Gary Woolley

Dr Gary Woolley, who recently completed his PhD in the area of Cognition, Language and Special Education, is currently a Lecturer in Education in the Faculty of Education at Griffith University, and undertook the studies leading to his PhD degree at Griffith University. The title of his thesis is The development, documentation, and evaluation of a strategy-training program for primary school students with reading comprehension difficulties, and his study focused on the design of training programs for volunteer tutors to assist students with reading comprehension difficulties.  

Dr Woolley's particular professional interests include reading comprehension difficulties, memory, cognition and learning engagement, and he is now investigating the effectiveness of his program with other high-risk populations in the Australian school system namely, older children with autism and children with mild cognitive problems who often find the acquisition of reading a problem.  Gary has written a number of articles and taken part in several research projects in literacy and inclusive education, and was part of a team of five lecturers that recently won a Carrick Institute Citation for Teaching and Learning.  Prior to moving into teacher education, first as a Lecturer in Literacy and Learning Difficulties and Inclusive education at the University of Canberra from 2003 to 2007, and now as a Lecturer in Education in the Faculty of Education at Griffith University, Gary had been teaching for over 30 years, both in mainstream classes and as a learning support teacher.

A paper based on his PhD research entitled A Comprehension Intervention for Children with Reading Comprehension Difficulties was submitted for publication in the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities.

2006 LDA Awards

Mona Tobias Award - Dr Kerry Hempenstall

Dr Kerry Hempenstall, an educational psychologist and senior lecturer in psychology at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), is a leading figure in the field of learning and behavioural difficulties in children, making a major contribution to both theory and practice. Even more importantly, Dr Hempenstall is active in writing for and working with teachers to promote effective instruction for students with learning difficulties in schools, including his articles for the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities. He has built an extensive webpage as a teacher and community resource that receives many hits and has ensured that his articles are accessible via the internet, recognising that not all teachers and parents have access to journals. He has been at the forefront in promoting direct instruction as a teaching technology in Australia, his efforts having been recognised by the Association for Direct Instruction with their Research Award for 2004. Kerry was one of the few people who recognised the importance of direct systematic instruction, particularly for students with learning difficulties, at a time when this was ‘unfashionable’ (politically correct) within the Australian educational establishment.

In addition to undergraduate and post-graduate lecturing, he manages the Educational Psychology division of RMIT Psychology Clinic and provides clinical training for masters and doctoral students in the assessment and remediation of children’s educational problems. He gained his PhD for a thesis on the role of phonemic awareness in reading development.
Dr Hempenstall’s Mona Tobias paper is available here.

Bruce Wicking Award – John Fleming

John Fleming is currently Head of Precinct at Haileybury College Berwick. From 1992 to 2005 John Fleming was at Bellfield Primary School, first as Assistance Principal (1994-1995) and then as Principal (1996 to 2005). During his time as Principal of Bellfield Primary School, John Flemming achieved a remarkable transformation, bringing his school up from one of the lowest performing schools in Victoria to one of highest performing schools.

Bellfield School serves a multi-cultural community in a low socio-economic area in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne, and in 1996 over 85% of the students were well below expected standards in literacy and numeracy. By developing and implementing an effective program of teaching, based on current research and drawing on models on effective programs in both Australia and overseas, John brought about a transformation in the achievement levels of his students. In achieving this goal, John showed initiative and courage, both in recognising the critical importance of explicit instruction and in introducing a program which challenged accepted beliefs and practices. Working in partnership with his staff, he was able to build up staff moral through professional development for each child’s learning, and that a shared vision that recognised all children had to potential to achieve competency in literacy and numeracy.

John Fleming has received number of Awards in recognition of his work at Bellfield Primary School. His 2005 Submission to the National Inquiry of into the Teaching of Literacy

Tertiary Student Award - Elizabeth Twomey

Elizabeth Twomey, a graduate student at the Queensland University of Technology, qualified with a Diploma of Education in 1984 and subsequently did a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Queensland. She worked as a secondary teacher for 10 years before undertaking further studies leading to a Graduate Diploma in Education (Learning Support), and is currently undertaking courses leading to a Graduate Certificate in Education (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and a Master of Learning Innovation.

Elizabeth’s Award winning paper, Linking Learning Theories and Learning Difficulties, looked at teaching practices that are based on learning principles most likely to meet the needs of students with learning difficulties. This paper will be published in a Special Issue of the Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, which includes papers from the 2006 LDA Conference.





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