The challenge of learning differently: Then, now and in the future

Associate Professor John Munro’s Farewell Lecture

The provision of educational opportunity for those who dare to learn differently is an ongoing challenge for teachers, schools and educational policymakers. Over the past 42 years as a lecturer in this area at the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education and its earlier iterations, Associate Professor John Munro has observed a range of responses to this challenge. Whilst some aspects have improved over the last five decades, others have remained remarkably resistant to change.

How well do regular contemporary Australian classrooms respond to and accommodate diversity in learning? In 2015 approximately 5 per cent of Australian primary and secondary students were in ‘segregated’ special schools. As well, more than 33,000 secondary students ‘disengaged’ from regular mainstream provision and joined “non-conventional schooling” programs.

Associate Professor Munro leaves the Graduate School on 30 November 2016. In his farewell presentation, he will reflect on and synthesise his observations from the past five decades and questions the barriers to inclusion and the concept of ‘individual difference’. He will speculate about the missing pieces in the jigsaw and recommend possible directions for enhanced provision in the future and implications for teacher education. Lastly, he will pursue the thesis that improved future educational options require an understanding of the narrative of the past.

Associate Professor Munro coordinates Gifted Education and Exceptional Learning at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. He is a qualified primary and secondary teacher and a psychologist. His teaching and research interests are gifted education, literacy and maths learning, learning difficulties, instructional leadership, school improvement and learning internationally.

He wrote the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) English Curriculum and the Critical and Creative Thinking General Capability for the Australian Curriculum, the Language Disorders Program. He also led the Strengthening Provision for Students with Significant Learning Difficulties (dyslexia) Project, the Early Literacy Pathways Literature Review Project, the Literature Review of Gifted and Talented Education of Children and Young People 2013 and the Expanded Central Gippsland Koori Literacy Project for the Victorian Department of Education. He has been a Chief Investigator leading research projects with a total budget of $1.7 million including Psycholinguistic and Cognitive Influences on Literacy Learning, Literacy Intervention: Extending the Evidence Base for Determining Effective Options, Effective Teaching and Learning Practices Initiative For Students with Learning Difficulties and Improving Children's Language, Literacy and Mental Health: Evaluating the Impact of the Classroom Promotion of Oral Language (CPOL) approach. 

Associate Professor Munro has written six books and over 70 published articles covering the research and application of aspects of exceptional learning. He has also led several successful school improvement projects across Australia and produced a range of teacher resources and professional learning materials for the state and independent school systems. He has provided consultancy to several international education projects including the Aga Khan Academies, the Hong Kong Education Department and the International Baccalaureate.