I’ll be dropping in to two conferences in the winter school holidays this year: CONASTA (Conference of the Australian Science Teachers’ Association), and the Engage, Learn, Behave Summit, both hosted in Brisbane. I hope there’ll be many teachers and pre-service teachers attending these conferences, as they are both fantastic opportunities to learn about and develop new practices, pick up some resources, extend your networks, and feed your love of teaching.

Engage, Learn, Behave Summit (#ngage16)


The 2016 Engage, Learn, Behave Summit will be hosted by the Queensland University of Technology (Gardens Point) on the 28th and 29th of June. The Summit was sold out in 2015. Associate Professor Linda Graham is once more coordinating the Summit, which promises to be very… engaging!

In 2013, a PISA report noting that Australia scored higher than the OECD average on classroom noise and disorder reinvigorated calls for a return to “traditional” teacher-centred styles of teaching and increased power to allow principals to suspend “repeat offenders” (Donnelly, 2013). The following year some commentators advocated bringing back the cane; a call that reverberated around the world (Perlman, 2014).

Now, in 2016, a new ‘School Discipline Party is seeking to run Senate candidates at the upcoming Federal election. Among their policies is an end to grade progression for “lazy” students, confiscation/destruction of students’ mobile phones, cessation of social security payments to parents of disruptive students, CCTV cameras in classrooms, increased exclusion in the form of off-site detention centres, and cancellation of enrolment for “students displaying a notable lack of cooperation or endeavour” once they turn 15 (Duff, 2016).

[The Summit] will feature presentations by international experts in school discipline policy and practice. These experts will examine where and how measures like those listed above have been tried previously, why they failed, and what we can and should do instead. The event is sponsored by QUT’s Faculty of Education, the Queensland Government Department of Education Metropolitan Region, and Springer Publishing.

I’ll be presenting a workshop, too:

The Science of Engagement

Results in PISA show that our year 10 students have a sufficient understanding of science, but do not value or enjoy the study of science (OECD, 2012). How do we engage students in P-10 science so that they enjoy and value science as well as they understand it? In this workshop we will act as change detectives, exploring chemical reactions that are safe and appropriate for the upper primary or lower secondary classroom as a stimulus for discussion about engagement in science. 

Register before 15 May for $250, or after for $300.



The annual CONference of the Australian Science Teachers’ Association (ASTA) – shortened to CONASTA – has been running for more than half a century. This year, the 65th CONASTA is hosted by the Science Teachers’ Association of Queensland, and is taking place at Somerville House and other locations around South Brisbane from 3-6 July.

HEAR FROM an outstanding line-up of Keynote speakers

TAKE PART in a broad program of professional learning workshops for primary and secondary teachers and school science technicians, including laboratory and computer workshops, hands-on activities, seminars and discussions.

VISIT some of Brisbane’s premier science and research facilities.

DEVELOP national networks of like-minded colleagues, including primary and secondary teachers, laboratory technicians, curriculum leaders, representatives from not-for-profit and government organisations, resource providers and other interested guests.

ENJOY social events such as the Happy Hour drinks and cocktail events, breakfasts, dinners and post-conference tours.

I’ll be presenting a workshop at CONASTA on the Wednesday afternoon. I’ll also be attending the conference dinner. Here’s my workshop précis:

Let’s have an argument!

In this workshop, we will argue about a socioscientific issue, and as we argue we will explore techniques for effectively scaffolding student argumentation in science classes. Argumentation develops students’ reasoning and understanding of science and scientific evidence. This workshop will present you with useful strategies and ideas for engaging students in argumentation.

Argumentation can improve students’ use of evidence in decision-making and their critical thinking about how science is reported and portrayed in social and mass media and in politics. Science provides us with the best information for making robust decisions; without it, we are limited by our unconscious cognitive biases. To argue effectively, students must weigh differing forms of evidence to identify which is strongest. Facilitated argument also develops students’ reasoning skills. It is critical that Australian students learn how to use scientific evidence to make personal, social, political decisions for their future, and to do so they must understand the value of scientific evidence.

I hope to see you at one – or both! – of these conferences. Please let me know if you’ll be there.