DSF Language, Literacy and Learning Conference

The inaugural DSF Language, Literacy and Learning Conference was held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre from Thursday March 30th through to Saturday April 1st, 2017.

Program Area:
Perth, WA
Project Dates:
30 March - 1 April 2017
Year 4 students from Yanchep Beach Primary School perform a story re-tell as part of a demonstration of the Talk for Writing program.


The conference was run by DSF Literacy and Clinical Services (the Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation Western Australia), a centre of excellence providing services in the field of learning difficulties and learning disorders. Over 500 delegates participated in a packed program which included keynote addresses by Australian and international speakers, breakout sessions, workshops and symposia. The response from delegates, speakers and exhibitors to the conference was overwhelmingly positive.

The need for up-to-date high quality professional learning opportunities for teachers and allied health professionals keen to reverse declining literacy and numeracy outcomes in Australia has been well-documented. DSF provides extensive professional support to schools and identified the need to bring international leaders to Australia to share their knowledge and expertise. The conference was one of the first of its kind in Australia. It attracted local and international delegates from a wide variety of backgrounds including teachers, administrators, psychologists, speech pathologists and parents.

Aims & objectives

It is widely recognised that strong oral language skills contribute to academic achievement and are particularly important in the development of literacy skills. Although extensive research has been carried out in the important areas of language, literacy and learning, not many of the findings from the research have found their way into classroom practice. The aim of this project was to provide teachers, administrators and allied health professionals with access to some of the most up-to-date and relevant research in the fields of language development and literacy acquisition, with a particular emphasis on the outlining of practical classroom-based strategies.


The conference involved addresses from six keynote speakers, in addition to eight streams of concurrent sessions. In total, 70 presentations (including keynote addresses, workshops, symposia, breakout sessions and program presentations) were completed by more than 80 presenters over the three days of the conference.

Four highly qualified keynote speakers were sponsored by the Ian Potter Foundation: Professor Kenn Apel, Professor Kate Nation, Professor Pamela Snow and Professor Susan Gathercole. The speakers presented key research findings regarding multiple aspects of learning and literacy to better inform delegates on how best to teach and support the literacy development of all students.

Kenn Apel spoke about the role of orthography and morphology in extending the literacy skills of older students; Kate Nation addressed reading comprehension; Pamela Snow spoke about the link between language and literacy development; and, Susan Gathercole provided information regarding working memory and the effects of poor working memory on learning.


The conference was a resounding success. Most delegates registered for all three days of the conference and the feedback provided by delegates was exceptionally positive. The relevance and importance of all keynote presentations, and the variety of concurrent sessions, were rated highly. Delegates responded to an online feedback form aimed at evaluating the value and relevance of the conference.

The key findings of this evaluation included:

  • 92% of delegates reported that the keynote presentations were relevant and valuable.
  • 89% of delegates stated that the majority of the concurrent sessions were relevant and valuable

When asked to provide an overall ranking of satisfaction with the conference:

  • 95% of delegates gave a ranking of 7 or above on a 10-point scale
  • 33% of delegates gave the conference 10 out of 10.


The 2017 Language, Literacy and Learning Conference provided Australian teachers, principals and allied health professionals with access to carefully chosen professional learning opportunities aimed at improving classroom (or clinical) practice. The knowledge gained by delegates has significant implications for the children and adolescents they work with.

Planning is already underway for the 2019 conference. It is anticipated that we will be able to build on the enormous success of the 2017 conference by bringing a number of highly regarded presenters and exhibitors to Perth who can share their knowledge, skills, programs and resources.

Gemma Boyle, DSF Senior Psychologist

'The 2017 Language, Literacy and Learning Conference has been an exemplar grant. The conference provided a platform for local and international experts to provide highly relevant research directly to teachers and allied health professionals. The clear need in the sector for professional development opportunities such as this is highlighted by the overwhelming response received by the conference organisers.'

Lauren Monaghan, Conference Program Manager


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