This award is designed to recognize significant contributions by eminent researchers in the field of learning difficulties and will be awarded by invitation. The editors of the Journal will approach worthy eminent researchers, inviting them to submit an article. The prize of $500 will be awarded upon receipt from the researcher of a paper appropriate for publication in the Journal.
The recipient of the AJLD Eminent Researcher Award for 2019 is Professor William Tunmer, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University in New Zealand. Professor Tunmer has contributed significantly to research in the area of reading for more than 30 years, and is probably best known for the paper that he co-authored with Philip Gough in 1986 that first proposed the ‘simple view of reading’ (Decoding, Reading, and Reading Disability, Remedial and Special Education, Volume 7, Issue 1, 1986). This paper marked a significant step forward in understanding how children learn to read by differentiating the two basic processes involved in learning to read. These two processes are the acquisition of skills relating to the ability to read the words on the page, or word level reading, and the processes required to understand the meaning of written text, or reading comprehension, which is based on knowledge of word meanings and grammatical structure, as well as a wide vocabulary of known words and background knowledge relating to the texts that are read. More than 30 years on the basic premise of this ‘simple’ view of reading has been confirmed by many research studies, and has provided the basis for the development of effective teaching programs that focus on developing the essential skills that are required for both reading the words on the page and understanding the meaning of written text. This model has been particularly helpful in identifying the source of the reading difficulty in cases where a student has difficulties in learning to read and in indicating the sort of interventions that are most likely to be successful in assisting the student according to the source of their reading difficulty. In England, the simple view of reading provided the conceptual model that led to the introduction of mandatory teaching of phonics and the introduction of the phonics check to assess children’s progress in acquiring the basic skills required for effective reading. His most recent article, authored jointly with Wesley Hoover, focuses on providing an overview of a conceptual framework which is designed to help reading professionals better understand what their students are facing as they learn to read in alphabetic writing systems.
The AJLD Eminent Researcher Award was presented to Professor Kate Nation, Professor in Experimental Psychology and Fellow of St. John’s College at Oxford University in the UK. Professor Nation’s research is concerned with the psychology of language, especially reading and its development. She is interested in how children learn to read words and comprehend text, and more generally, the relationship between spoken language and written language. Alongside her research on typical development, Professor Nation studies language and cognitive processes in children with developmental disorders that impact on language and literacy development, including language impairment, autism and dyslexia.
Anne Castles is Distinguished Professor at Macquarie University, a cognitive scientist, and an expert in development and disorders of reading and language. Anne completed her Honours degree in Psychology at the Australian National University and her PhD at Macquarie University, supervised by another LDA Eminent Researcher, Professor Max Coltheart. For over 20 years she has been contributing important research in this area, sharing this research with the scientific and wider communities.
As well, Anne is a passionate and active advocate for students with learning difficulties and ensuring they are supported by known evidence-based interventions with effective best-practice strategies. She is active in the print and electronic media, using social media effectively to translate and promote key messages from her own research and from other important research undertaken elsewhere.
She undertook teaching and research at the University of Melbourne before returning to Macquarie University. Anne has been recognised with an innovation award for the development of the Motif assessment interface.
In 2010, Anne became the Scientific Director of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science and then Head of the Department of Cognitive Science. In 2011, she became the Deputy Director and Reading Program Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.
Anne has led and contributed to important research projects through ARC grants, published many influential articles and books, supervised and supported postgraduate students, and served on the editorial boards of influential academic journals including Annals of Dyslexia, the Journal of Child Experimental Psychology, and the Scientific Studies of Reading.
Anne is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales and a member of the Steering Committee of the Australian Brain Alliance. Anne has been on the LDA Council since 2009, and has now accepted the position of President of our association. LDA is very privileged to have Anne and her expertise on Council.
Dr Maryanne Wolf was presented with of the LDA 2016 AJLD Eminent Researcher Award, by the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, in September, at the LDA AGM following her Speaking Tour visit to Melbourne, when LDA Members were privileged to hear her acceptance. Professor Maryanne Wolf. Professor Wolf has contributed significantly to reading research over several decades. Her interest in the neurological underpinnings of reading, language and reading difficulties has led to many published papers and books. This theoretical understanding of reading acquisition resulted in the RAVE-O Reading Program, which has assisted thousands of struggling readers.
The 2015 LDA Eminent Researcher Award, presented by the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, was awarded to Emeritus Professor Max Coltheart AM. The magnitude of Professor Coltheart’s distinguished research contributions and career highlights in relation to reading is substantial.
The 2014 LDA Eminent Researcher Award, presented by the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, has been awarded to Dr Louisa Moats, the distinguished United States expert in the field of learning and reading difficulties. Dr Moats is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading advocates for the application of reading research in teacher preparation and classroom instruction.
Dr Moats visited Australia in March 2015 as part of the LDA 50th Anniversary celebrations.
(2014) What teachers don’t know and why they aren’t learning it: addressing the need for content and pedagogy in teacher education. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 19(2), 75-91.
Other significant papers
The 2013 Eminent Researcher Award, presented by the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, was awarded to Professor Margot Prior OA. Margot Prior had a long and distinguished career as a researcher and academic in the field of family and child development for over 30 years. She was a Professorial Fellow in the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Adjunct Professor at La Trobe University.
She was a lecturer, clinician, and researcher at Monash, LaTrobe and Melbourne Universities, and between 1994 and 2002 she was Professor and Director of Psychology at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. She was one of the original leaders of the Australian Temperament Project, a ground-breaking longitudinal study following a large group of Victorians from birth to age 30 years. She was also the Founder of the Victorian Parenting Centre and the Learning Difficulties Centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Her special research focus was on autism spectrum disorders and children with learning and behavioural difficulties, particularly in the areas of language and reading.
Margot published over 250 scientific papers and was a frequent speaker at national and international scientific meetings in her various areas of expertise in child development and clinical psychology. She wrote and/or edited seven books including: Pathways from Infancy to Adolescence; Understanding Learning Difficulties; Hyperactivity: Diagnosis and Management; Learning and Behaviour Problems in Asperger Syndrome; No Time to Lose: The well-being of Australia’s children, and Children of the Lucky Country. She consulted to many national and international agencies, and writes and presents scientific articles for the media. She was co-author with Max Coltheart of the 2007 paper Learning to Read in Australia, a Policy Paper commissioned by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia to encourage public debate on issues of national concern.
It is of some interest to note that in addition to her busy career in research and teaching, Margot was also a professional musician as an oboist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and also performing with the Queensland, Tasmanian and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras and with the ABC and BBC, over the period 1958 to 1980. Indeed, a person of many talents.
Margot was awarded an Order of Australia in 2004 and was the Senior Australian of the year for Victoria in 2006. She has also been awarded the Australian Psychological Society Prize for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology, and in 1996 received the LDA Mona Tobias Award for her contribution to research, teaching, and clinical practice in the areas of behavioural and learning difficulties.
Sadly Margot passed away in 2020.
The first recipient of the AJLD Eminent Researcher Award was Professor Linda Siegel, Professor of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. Professor Siegel has conducted extensive studies of dyslexia and other learning disabilities as well as cognitive and language development, and was awarded the 2010 Canadian Psychological Association Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Lifetime Contributions to Canadian Psychology. She served as President of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children from July 2009 to June 2010.