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successful learning conference 2020

Successful Learning Conference 2020

Enhancing educational outcomes through strength-based initiatives
Please note: With effect from 16 March 2020, all events hosted by The University have been cancelled or deferred until dates that have yet to be determined. This suspension includes the Successful Learning Conference.

In 2020, we will be focusing on implementation of educational practices that are inclusive of students with a range of educational, social and emotional needs.

The conference will engage with research outcomes that examine and demonstrate education practices that can be used with fidelity, and professional wisdom, across differing curriculum areas, and year levels. Specific focus will be given to literacy and numeracy, communication and social competence, Aboriginal and Indigenous education, assessment and decision-making, behaviour and social skills, technology, students’ mental health and trauma-informed practice.

Presentations and workshops will be given by teachers, consultants, community-based personnel and academics, from metropolitan and rural locations in NSW, interstate and overseas.

The conference program will be available for download as soon as the list of feature speakers and workshops is finalised.

Keynote speakers

Keynote speaker Sarah Powell

Associate Professor Sarah R. Powell
Department of Special Education
College of Education, The University of Texas

In this session, we discuss and illustrate five essential and evidence-based components to intensive, small-group mathematics intervention. First, we discuss how to use modelling and practice to help students understand important mathematics concepts and procedures. We review questioning and feedback within explicit instruction. Second, we focus on the use of mathematical language within explicit instruction and why it is necessary to scaffold students' learning of formal mathematical language. Third, we highlight the use of multiple representations to help students understand the meaning of mathematics, reviewing concrete hands-on tools, as well as visual and virtual manipulatives. Fourth, we focus on building fluency in computations, and the importance of building procedural fluency. As part of this section, we will discuss brief fluency activities to use within interventions. Fifth, we describe effective word-problem solving strategies to incorporate within all mathematics interventions. Together, these five essential components form the foundation for an effective intervention platform in mathematics.

Sarah R. Powell is an associate professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr Powell’s research and teaching interests focus on developing and implementing interventions for students experiencing mathematics difficulty. She currently works on grant-funded projects from the Institute of Education Sciences, National Science Foundation, Texas Education Agency, Office of Special Education Programs, and the TLL Temple Foundation. In 2019, Dr Powell was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). She has worked with educators in over 30 states in the US – as well as in Canada, England, Iceland, and Oman – to improve mathematics outcomes for students.

Aaron Lanou

Aaron Lanou
Project Director, ASD Nest Support Project, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, US.

Education and special education can fall into the trap of being overly deficit-focused: teachers and therapists assess and evaluate students to determine their areas of weakness and then shine a spotlight on those weaknesses with services and supports aimed at remediating them — all of which can lead to the view of students as a compilation of problems to fix. In order to support students more meaningfully, and in recognition of the fact that no one builds their life on remediated weaknesses, it is high time for education to shift to a strengths-based approach. While not ignoring challenges, we need to focus on what students can do, the strengths they bring, their interests and what motivates them, and use this lens as the starting point for teaching and supporting them. For students, educators, and parents and families alike, leading with strengths is affirming and effective and ensures that education is accomplishing its goal of equipping students for success beyond the classroom.

Aaron Lanou, is the Director of the ASD Nest Support Project at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He coordinates the services in support of the New York City Department of Education’s ASD Nest Program, an inclusive school model designed for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the NYC public school system. He also develops and leads workshops and seminars, and provides in-school consultation to help teachers support autistic students’ social and academic functioning, and led the development of the ASD Nest middle-school model. Aaron led the ASD Nest expansion to the city of Aarhus, Denmark, including training of educators and administrators in Denmark and New York City. Having taught for 10 years in Western Massachusetts and New York City schools, his areas of interest revolve around developing visual, strengths-focused, universal-designed and targeted strategies, as well as instructional adaptations for academic support and social development. He co-authored, along with Lauren Hough and another colleague, an article for Intervention in School and Clinic, which was about using students’ strengths and interests to support their social, behavioural, and academic needs, as well as multiple articles about ASD Nest strategies for education newsletters.


This is a list of confirmed conference speakers as of February 2020. Please check back for updates.

Word problems? No problem! How to teach students to solve math word problems

In this session we discuss how to help students set up and solve mathematical word problems. Effectively teaching word-problem solving in order to prepare students to encounter mathematics in the real world is the responsibility of all educators. First, we review two ineffective word-problem strategies – teaching students to identify keywords related to operations, and teaching students to solve problems by operation. Then we will highlight why these strategies do not help students in the long term. We will follow this exercise by focusing on two evidence-based word-problem strategies, and discusing the need to teach students to use an attack strategy. Attack strategies help students work through word problems in methodically. Then, we focus on six word-problem schemas prevalent in mathematics across the primary and lower-secondary school grades. We review examples of total, difference, change, equal group, comparison, and ratios/proportions problems, and discuss how to teach students to recognise word problems by schema. By the end of this session, educators will have several evidence-based tools to use when providing effective word-problem instruction.

The power of language: five principles for fair and effective classroom communication

Educator Paula Denton asserts that “language is one of the most powerful tools available to teachers.” This presentation provides examples of the power of considered and thoughtful language use. It can improve students' following of directions, avoid meltdowns, and establish a supportive classroom community. Whether the goal is academic, behavioural, or social, the language educator, as Haim Ginott says, “decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or dehumanised.” Indeed, it is often the educator’s words that lead to compliance or conflict, clarity or confusion. Adapted from Ross Greene’s "Collaborative and Proactive Solutions" and Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication, we will explore five guiding principles of classroom-language use in order to seek cooperation and build relationships with students. Using comics, movement, and multiple examples and non-examples, participants will learn about framing responses positively; finding opportunities to affirm students’ feelings and contributions; saying what is truly meant by being concrete, direct and specific; and avoiding overloading by using too much language: being brief. We will conclude with an exploration of best practices for establishing habits to support participants’ setting and tracking of individual goals for improving their own use of language with students.

Call for papers

Call for papers are now open for workshop presentations. The deadline for first round abstract submission is Friday, 13 March 2020. All proposals will be reviewed within two to four weeks of submission.

Download the submission form (PDF, 141.2KB).


Participants may attend the conference as a stand-alone event or as part of the Educational Studies (Learning Support) Program, which includes five additional workshops held on Thursday evenings (4.30pm to 7.30pm) in July, August and September. Register to attend the conference:


Conference 2 days (Monday 29 & Tuesday 30 June) $495
Conference Day 1 only (Monday 29 June) $275
Conference Day 2 only (Tuesday 30 June)
Educational Studies (Learning Support) Program
Fee includes two-day conference + five late afternoon/evening workshops
Successful Learning Conference Masterclass with Aaron Lanou – "dynamICONs: Visual Supports for Clarifying Communication" (Wednesday 1 July)

Fees and registration (per person/GST inclusive)


Conference 1 day (Monday 29 or Tuesday 30 June)                      
$250 (one-day)  
Conference 2 days (Monday 29 & Tuesday 30 June) $445 (two-day)  

Find out more about the Educational Studies (Learning Support) Program.


Travelling here

There is limited parking available on site at the Epping Club. A request for parking can be sent to Rachel Payne at for consideration. Preference will be given to regional drivers, drivers with an Australian Disability Parking Permit and presenters. Should you be eligible for a car space, your registration number will be required for entry into the car park. Where possible please make all reasonable efforts to car pool.

As parking is limited it is recommended you travel by train to the event where possible. The train station is a 2-3 minute walk from the Epping Club and is located on the T1 North Shore, Northern & Western Line and the CCN Central Coast and Newcastle Line, please see Sydney Trains for timetable information. Lastly, there is all-day unrestricted parking available in the surrounding streets.  The Epping Club recommends Chesterfield Road and Chelmsford Avenue (7-10 minute walk to the venue). It is, however, advisable to arrive early to secure a space. 


NSW Government logo

Completing the Successful Learning Conference will contribute 11 hours of NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) registered PD addressing 1.5.2, 2.5.2, 4.1.2, 4.3.2 and 6.2.2 from the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation in NSW.

Download the conference flyer

Download PDF

Epping Club


Professor David Evans

Academic coordinator/presenter

Rachel Payne

Project coordinator