Leading Monash early childhood education researcher honoured as Fellow of Academy of Social Sciences of Australia

Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer
Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer

Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer and Director of Monash PlayLab has been elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA), it was announced today.

She was elected in recognition of her distinguished contributions in the field of early childhood education research. Professor Fleer was one of only 37 Australians elected as Fellows of the Academy in 2021.

ASSA brings together more than 700 leading researchers and professions across the full spectrum of the disciplines of the social sciences to recognise and champion research excellence, as well as providing evidence-based advice on policy issues.

Professor Fleer has been a pioneer in her field and has won nearly $10 million in research grants over her career. She is one of only two Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Professors to have been awarded in education, for her work investigating the best way to support STEM learning in young children.

She is also an ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Fellow, a position designed to mentor early career women researchers -- another first in education.

According to Monash Emeritus Professor Richard Gunstone, who nominated her as a Fellow of ASSA, Professor Fleer’s influence cannot be understated.

“She is a leader in the growth of research in early childhood education, both in Australia and around the world and has an outstanding record in mentoring academics into research-active careers,” Professor Richard Gunstone said.

Professor Fleer has also championed the further development and application in early childhood education of cultural-historical theory.

Cultural-historical theory is  a framework to understand learning originally proposed by the Russian social psychologist Lev Vygotsky. In 2008 Professor Fleer was awarded the Vygostky Institute Medal in recognition for her work.

Professor Fleer says she is deeply honoured to be nominated and elected as a Fellow of ASSA and welcomes the opportunity to advocate for the importance of quality early childhood education.

“How we educate our children when they are young not only impacts their lives, but our community. It has a ripple effect across time. We are fostering the next generation of scientists, artists and problem-solvers,” Professor Fleer said.

Professor Fleer founded early childhood education’s first professional research conference and journal in Australia, both of which have now become international entities.

She holds honorary positions at the University of Oxford, Western Norway University and Aarhus University in Denmark.

Professor Fleer joins eight current Monash Education Emeritus Professors who have been elected as Fellows of ASSA: in psychology Ron Taft (1964) and in education Richard Selleck (1978), Richard White (1989), Gilah Leder (2001), Richard Gunstone (2003), John Loughran (2009) and Peter Gronn (2019).