ACER Conference to showcase that learning happens from birth
The Sector > Quality > Professional development > ACER Conference to showcase that learning happens from birth

ACER Conference to showcase that learning happens from birth

by Freya Lucas

July 31, 2023

As part of the drive to share the most powerful research, practice and innovation on improving the continuity of learning from birth to 12 years of age, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has convened the Research Conference 2023, to be held in Sydney in September. 


Central to the themes of the conference will be to showcase the extreme challenge that early childhood and primary years educators face in supporting learning across the incredibly valuable period of brain development which occurs in the span from birth to 12 years of age. 


Important statistics, such as the fact that 90 per cent of a child’s brain develops in the first five years of life, and that the connections in a three-year-olds brain number around 1,000 trillion, showcase the immense value and potential of this time of life in setting children up with a strong foundation for future learning. 


While on the one hand this period has the potential to support children to begin life with the best possible start, it also has many external vulnerabilities that can impact a child’s development. Brain development in this time can be helped through things like positive relationships and interactions and hindered through things like poor living conditions and toxic stress.  


Children who experience good-quality early childhood programs can close learning gaps on their more advantaged peers, and those children who develop positive dispositions and mental health at school entry achieve better academically at Grade 3.  


Research from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) has shown that children who are assessed as developmentally vulnerable when they start school are more likely to fall behind in literacy and numeracy, and stay behind, and that by the time they begin high school around 20 per cent will be three or more years behind their peers. 


“If you start thinking of learning as a trajectory that starts at birth and then goes through school, then that gives us points to intervene,” said ACER Senior Fellow Dr Dan Cloney. 


Dr Cloney, who is on an advisory panel contributing to the development of a ‘preschool outcomes measure’ in Australia, says early childhood assessment is changing. He will speak at the conference on how the sector can prepare for the future with a common language to describe the impact of early childhood educators’ knowledge and practice on children’s learning. 


He will be joined by a diverse array of speakers who will bring extensive practice, international experience and a breadth of knowledge from recent and current work with the power to inform planning for future impact by policy makers, researchers and educators. 


Professor Sally Brinkman from the University of South Australia will share information about the important distinction and potential alignments of the key drivers of development – health and early childhood education – through a co-ordinated approach, collaboration, common goals and professional development opportunities. 


Dr Jenny Donovan from the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) will share recent work by AERO, including the recently developed practice tools which focus on early childhood learning trajectories. 


Director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health, Sharon Goldfield, will also present on the way in which the early childhood education and care to school “universal learning stack” is an important aspect of creating environments which ensure that children have positive learning and development pathways. 


For information about the conference or how to register, see here. For a longer form version of the information above, please visit the ACER website

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