The JP Das Centre on Developmental and Learning Disabilities hosted its inaugural conference on September 23 at Esther Starkman School in Edmonton. The event provided a unique opportunity for more than 400 local teachers to meet the researchers behind the best practices in teaching reading—and for researchers to hear how their work is informing classroom teaching in elementary and junior high schools.
“This conference was a celebration of a beautiful 10-year partnership between Edmonton Public School Board schools and the J.P. Das Centre, especially the Reading Research Lab,” said George Georgiou, director of the centre and a professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Educational Psychology.
Various public schools around Edmonton, as well as Fort Vermilion and the Black Gold school district, have benefited from Georgiou’s research on early detection, assessment and targeted invention for students with reading challenges in Grades 1 through 3. He said the conference, which featured presentations by literacy experts Dr. Rauno Parrila (Macquarie University, Australia), Dr. Robert Savage (University College London, UK) and Dr. Lesly Wade-Woolley (UAlberta), was a way of thanking educators for their support by providing advice and resources teachers could apply immediately.
“In all of the presentations, the focus was on the teacher, what the research says you as a teacher should be doing in your classroom. We gave them practical suggestions and materials they could use in their classrooms the next day,” Georgiou said.
A personal audience with top reading experts
Georgiou and Savage presented to elementary teachers on morphological awareness and phonological awareness respectively, while junior high teachers heard from Parrila on vocabulary and from Wade-Woolley on teaching English language learners.
“They found it to be very helpful and very valuable,” Georgiou said of the response. He added that the visiting researchers found it gratifying to meet with teachers who knew their work and were proving its efficacy for the benefit of young readers.
“They were amazed by the fact that our teachers knew these practices and have been using them in their classrooms,” Georgiou said. “Dr. Savage developed the ABRACADABRA intervention program, which I’ve been using in my lecture on reading interventions, so many teachers are using it but didn’t know who developed it. And now the person who created that intervention was standing in front of them.”
Given the positive response, Georgiou said he wants to make the conference an annual event, and plans to showcase research and expertise on mathematics and numeracy at the 2020 JP Das Centre Conference.
Feature Image: UAlberta Educational Psychology professor Lesly Wade-Woolley presents to Edmonton-area teachers at the first JP Das Centre Conference (supplied).