With the exception of the Publisher of the Year awards, the Educational Publishing Awards Australia (EPAAs) are peer-judged. The judging panel comprises a number of experienced publishing professionals across the Primary, Secondary and Tertiary sectors, and each year they undertake the huge task of evaluating the wealth of print, digital and blended resources submitted to each category. There are three panels, one for each sector, and they judge independently over a three week period. On the final day, the three panels convene to decide on overall winners.
This year, we decided to bring a different perspective into the judging process, and invited three judges from outside the educational publishing industry to join the panel:
- Primary: Lynne Bury worked in education for over 30 years, including classroom teaching as well as team and school leadership roles. She worked with the Victorian Department of Education & Training as a project officer and senior policy officer, and was involved curriculum support and development.
- Secondary: Alistair Harkness left his previous career as a mechanical engineer to become a Secondary school teacher. He currently teaches Physics at Hoppers Crossing Secondary College, VIC.
- Tertiary: Tracy O’Shaughnessy is the Program Director for the Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing at RMIT. She was previously a trade publisher for 20 years, specialising in illustrated publishing.
Now that the judging process is over, the three invited judges took some time to reflect on their experience. All three judges commented that they were not aware of the awards prior to being invited to judge, but they were all impressed by what they learned about the EPAAs through the process.
Alistair: “The EPAAs are a really important means of celebrating the hard work and expertise that publishers provide to support teachers and students in the classroom, as well as giving an opportunity to showcase some of the highest quality resources thereby helping to lift the standard across the industry. I felt honoured to be asked and privileged to be involved in this process, which gave me a good insight into not only the awards themselves, but also the breadth and quality of the education resources that publishers are producing.”
Lynne: “The EPAAs are important for the publishing industry as well as education in general, as they encourage and support publishers to extend and develop themselves. The professional health of any group is enhanced through a respected and valued system of acknowledgment and recognition of application. For educational publishers to keep meeting the future demands of students, and society more broadly, it’s critical that publishers test their skills to remain a relevant and valuable part of education.”
Tracy: “I think the awards are an invaluable part of the educational publishing industry, particularly in these times of great change. They allow space and time to look at and critically assess the innovation and excellence within the industry. It was genuinely a privilege to be among such a committed, smart, highly skilled and professional group. People who are passionate about producing truly excellent resources and who are forward thinking in terms of both print and digital delivery. People who are genuinely looking at ways to improve the resources they produce and to be innovative and be adaptable in these times of change.”
Alistair switched from his career as a mechanical engineer to secondary school teacher because he enjoys being part of the learning process with students, and particularly enjoys increasing student engagement with science. He commented on his experience of selecting resources for senior science students at his school: “The most important factors in a good science resource are: that the resource follows consistent literacy guidelines so that the content is easily accessible for its audience; concepts are developed in a logical order; lots of worked examples are used to demonstrate application of concepts; and lots of questions are provided for student practice.”
From Lynne’s perspective, published educational resources “…provide a crucial support for teachers in their day to day work with students. Quality educational resources provide a strong foundation which teachers can use to meet the needs of the students in their classrooms. Excellent educational resources provide teachers with practical, 21st century resources that will both engage students and prepare them for their future.”
All three judges agreed that having educator judges on the panel was a positive move.
Lynne: “I think it’s important to have independent academic judges to compliment the peer review process. Generally speaking organisations that elect to make use of independent evaluation are able to add an additional perspective and a range of views that may not necessarily have had. I certainly hope that as an educational and independent judge I can share my experience and knowledge as part of the judging process to add value to this group.”
Alistair: “Being involved gave me greater insight into the publishing industry and the range of quality resources available, which is something that I intend on sharing with my colleagues at school in all subject areas. I think this is beneficial for the publishing industry too because it creates another avenue of exposure for their market. Regarding the EPAAs themselves, I hope that I was able to contribute another perspective as someone who implements educational resources on a daily basis.”
Tracy: “Even though I’m not strictly speaking an educator judge, I think it is essential that educators are being asked to participate. Nothing is ever more instructive than getting feedback from someone who has to use your resource and then convince a cohort of students to engage with it and use it too. It is also important that the conversation about the resources includes all key stakeholders, and educators and students are essential.”
In addition, the experience has changed the perception of educational publishing for all three judges.
Alistair: “It has given me a better understanding of the innovative approaches that publishers are taking to better engage students and support teachers. It has also helped me see the challengers faced by publishers and the competitiveness of the industry in which they operate.”
Lynne: “This experience has provided me with an additional level of insight into the themes and directions that are important to educational publishers as they work to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse but critically literate and demanding group of stakeholders.”
Tracy: “As a trade publisher, I was in awe of the complexity of both the books and online resources in the tertiary sector. The sheer volume of components in each resource (both print and online) – hundreds of images which need sourcing, permissions and regular updating; a staggering array of design elements and navigational tools in the print component; content that needs to be accessible and appealing to teachers and students, but appropriately written to comply with learning outcomes from multiple stakeholders; and online resources that need to be relevant and cutting edge with technology that is constantly changing – was quite amazing. And, as is the case throughout publishing, consumers are expecting more, especially in the online space, and this all has to be achieved with reduced budgets and time-frames.”
Thank you to Lynne, Alistair and Tracy for being part of the EPAAs this year, and to all our judges for their time, dedication and professionalism.