Monday P2: Writing Australia

One cannot help but be impressed by the sheer volume of writing talent which has emerged in this country in recent decades. Across all styles and genres, all cultural, social, gender and ethnic backgrounds and contexts, there has been an explosion of remarkable writing. And despite hard economic times for creators, under assault from many adversaries, intent on riding roughshod over their economic interests, writing continues to flourish. Whatever the circumstance, creative, professional, research or personal, Australian born or based writers have been extraordinarily prolific and successful.  

Yet on the other side of the coin, when reading media reports of Australian states and territories’ apparently declining or at best static NAPLAN results in the area of writing, and then adding to the mix Australian PISA results, the average person could well be excused for thinking that teachers of English and literacy are failing their students badly. Indeed, on reading reports attributed to individuals such as the head of the OECD’s (PISA) education unit, that Australian schools have ‘a tolerance of failure’, it could be assumed that we are in dire straits.

Clearly, if the success of so many in the creative and professional spaces is any guide, we must be doing some things pretty well somewhere.  And if there is indeed an acceptance of failure at the formative stages of writing development, what needs to be done to redress this deficit way of thinking and performing?

What then is the real situation in Australia today in respect to writing and the teaching of writing? Our panel discussion will explore participants’ views of the current ‘state of play’ in the country’s educational and other institutions/bodies and what is and what should be happening with the teaching of writing at all ages and stages in Australia.

Chairs

Erika Boas

Erika Boas is the current AATE President and an Assistant Principal in charge of Middle School at Ogilvie High School. She has been teaching for 18 years and has led professional learning across Australia and internationally. Erika has a passion for engaging students through inquiry-based pedagogies and she has authored a number of inquiry-based units and sequences. She has co-authored a book for teachers with Professor Jeffrey Wilhelm. titled Inquiring Minds Learn to Read and Write. She has been involved in a number of state and national writing projects, including the writing of units aligned to Australian Curriculum: English and the co-editing of The Artful English Teacher.  She is currently co-authoring a publication on teaching microfiction.

Phil Page

Phil Page is the co-ordinating editor/project manager for the writing of the secondary teaching resources for Copyright Agency Cultural Fund’s Reading Australia program. He has been involved extensively in the initiative from its inception in 2013 through to the present. Additionally, he has co-ordinated a number of secondary English curriculum resourcing programs for AATE, including work for the AITSL teaching standards and ESA’s ‘English for the Australian Curriculum’ project. A retired English teacher and high school principal, he is the current AATE Treasurer.

Panellists

Michael Mohammed Ahmad

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is a writer, editor, teacher and community arts worker. He is the founder and director of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement, which is devoted to empowering culturally and linguistically diverse artists through creative writing.

Mohammed's essays and short stories have appeared in the Sydney Review of Books, The Guardian, Heat,Seizure,The Lifted Brow,The Australian and Coming of Age: Australian Muslim Stories. He is the award-winning author of The Tribe (Giramondo 2014) andThe Lebs (Hachette 2018). Mohammed received his Doctorate of Creative Arts at Western Sydney University in 2017.

Susanne Gannon

Susanne Gannon is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Western Sydney University, NSW. Prior to moving to the tertiary sector, she worked in several states as a secondary English teacher and English curriculum adviser. Amongst her diverse research interests, the teaching of writing and creative writing practices in and out of schools has been a longstanding focus. She has investigated ‘writing place’ within an ARC grant on Place-based pedagogies in rural and urban Australia, conducted case studies in the teaching of writing with high performing schools, conducted a large survey on Teaching writing in the NAPLAN era, she consults with local schools on writing improvement and supervises a number of PhD students interested in the teaching of writing. She is a member of the board of directors of WestWords (Western Sydney’s Literature Development Organisation) and a passionate advocate for the craft of writing.

Rosie Kerin

Rosie Kerin taught English in the middle and senior school years and was a lecturer/researcher at the University of South Australia. She is now a freelance education writer and consultant, who has written extensively for Reading Australia and the e4ac website. Rosie offers regular workshops for teachers of English and is currently facilitating six site-based school improvement programs, with focuses on reading and writing within English and across all learning areas. In 2019, the emphasis in these projects has been on using the ACARA Literacy Progressions to monitor student growth and plan subsequent teaching and interventions.