Our team

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Conceptual PlayLab

Our team

Monash team

As a principal investigator, Marilyn is committed to mentoring women in research.

Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer

Principal Investigator School of Educational Psychology and Counselling

Marilyn is Monash's Foundation Chair in Early Childhood Education and Development, and an ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow. Marilyn is an honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Education, University of Oxford, holds a second Professor position in the KINDknow Centre, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and is an honorary professor at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark. She was awarded the 2019 Ashley Goldsworthy Award for Outstanding leadership in university-business collaboration.

Dr Prabhat Rai

Senior Research Fellow

Prabhat completed his PhD from Oxford and comes to us from Ambedkar University, Delhi. Previously he worked as a Senior Fellow (Research) in Bhutan and was an Assistant Professor with Academic Unit of the Central Board of Secondary Education in Delhi. He brings extensive experience in researching communities, early years settings and families.

Dr Anne Suryani

Senior Research Fellow

Anne holds a PhD in Educational Psychology with a Mollie Holman Medal for the best doctoral thesis in education from Monash. She has extensive experience working in a range of government-funded, consultancy and grant-based educational research in the Asia-Pacific Region. She has strong quantitative skills and experience in large-scale survey design and analysis as well as longitudinal and comparative studies. Her current research focuses on preparing future teachers, drawing upon educational psychology and cross-cultural studies to inform these practices. Anne’s research interests include teacher motivation, teacher education, teacher professional development, religious tolerance education, and educational policy.

Dr Sue March

Research Fellow

Sue is an experienced research coordinator. She has worked on four of Professor Fleer’s ARC Discovery projects. She has a PhD in early childhood education. Sue is experienced working with the visual methodologies of Conceptual PlayWorlds and providing technological mentoring and support.

Ebony Hall

Research Officer

Ebony comes to the Conceptual PlayLab with experience in research administration and information management and a background in early childhood education.

Dr Liang Li

Senior Lecturer, Early Childhood Education

Liang's research supports the Maths pillar of the Conceptual PlayLab. Liang takes a cultural-historical perspective to investigate infant-toddlers' education and care, family practices, children's play and pedagogy, children's speech development, science, technology and mathematics in early childhood and primary education settings in China and Australia.

Dr Leigh Disney

Lecturer, Early Years

Leigh's research supports the Maths pillar of the Conceptual PlayLab. Leigh is a mixed methodological researcher who studies early years mathematical learning as well as the impact of digital technology within early years educational settings.

Dr Rebecca Lewis

Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Rebecca comes to the Conceptual PlayLab with a PhD in professional development from a cultural-historical perspective, together with over fifteen years of teaching and leadership experience in the early childhood education field. Using the Conceptual PlayWorld model her focus is supporting educators' role in play to create engaging opportunities for children's participation, learning and development.

Dr Taj Jahora

Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Fatema Taj Johora has joined our team just after her PhD completion from the Faculty of Education, Monash University. She has also completed a Master of Education (Special Education) from Flinders University. She has developed her skills in digital visual methods and cultural-historical methodology. She brought her decade long experience of working in the field of early childhood education and inclusion.

Oriana Ramunno

PhD student/Research Assistant

Oriana Ramunno is a professional storyteller. Oriana brings to the Conceptual PlayLab 19 years of experience as a teacher in various settings; early childhood, early primary and tertiary settings. Her role in the PlayLab involves working with educators and teachers in early childhood and primary settings in the planning and implementation of Conceptual PlayWorlds. Her motivation is driven by her continuing role and research interests in Conceptual PlayWorlds.

Research title: How does a CPW create motivating conditions for the assessment of children's learning and development?

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Gillian O’Connor

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research Title: Examining the Process of Science Concept Formation as Children Transition Across Cultural Age Periods (Infancy-Toddlerhood) .

Monique Parkes

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research title: Exploring Young Children's Theoretical Modelling through Cultural Age Periods in Relation to their Scientific and Design Concept Formation .

Sonya Nedovic

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research Title: Conceptual PlayWorlds for Families: Creating motivating conditions for STEM concept formation across cultural age periods in home settings. .

Yuwen Ma

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research Title: Analysing children’s STEM learning trajectories in Conceptual PlayWorld.

Suxiang Yu

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research Title: Conceptual PlayWorlds in Family Settings: An Educational Experiment for Creating Motivating Conditions for Infants-Toddlers’ STEM Concept Formation.

Ha Dang

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research Title: Preschool children’s spatial reasoning development in home settings –building a foundation for Engineering learning.

Yuejiu Wang

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research Title: How teachers create motivating conditions to support children's STEM learning in a Conceptual PlayWorld.

Kristine Liang

Conceptual PlayLab PhD students

Research title: The educator's role in creating conditions to engage single mothers and non-resident fathers in co-supporting children's social competence.

International affiliates

Dr. Ade Dwi Utami

INDONESIA affiliates

Dr. Ade Dwi Utami is a senior lecturer in the early childhood department, Faculty of Education, Universitas Negeri Jakarta in Indonesia (since 2010-now). She graduated from the Faculty of Education at Monash University, and her doctoral research takes a cultural-historical perspective to investigate play-based learning practices for children’s development in Indonesia. She also researches in the areas of assessment and teacher education. She has published articles and book chapters on early childhood education and doctoral education experiences. Besides working with undergraduate, postgraduate, and graduate research students in the university, she is involved in Indonesian Ministry of Education projects for developing early childhood education programs and works as an assessor in Early Childhood Education National Accreditation Board.

Research Title: Children’s learning and development in an early childhood education setting in Indonesia: A Playworld approach.

Vittoria Barbara

SAMOA affiliates

Vittoria Barbara is an early childhood teacher (MTeach) from Australia, who for the past 4 years lived and worked in Apia, Samoa. During her time in Samoa she set up a network of early childhood educators who were passionate and dedicated to developing culturally responsive play based pedagogies in their preschools. To amplify the power of play in early childhood education and to advocate for play based pedagogical approaches in the early years. Through this network, they worked together to build the quality of early childhood education in Samoa and professional development opportunities for educators in the sector.

Xianyu Meng

CHINA affiliates

Xianyu Meng, PhD, was a PhD candidate affiliated to the Conceptual PlayLab, Monash University, and she was conferred in December 2021. For her PhD project, she investigated how a playworld could support the development of emotion regulation for children living in institutional settings in China. She is currently working as a lecturer of Early Childhood Education in Beijing, China, and is involved in a mathematics Conceptual PlayWorld project with Dr. Liang Li and Dr. Leigh Disney. Her research interests include cultural-historical theory of child development, play and pedagogy, concept development in early childhood, teaching mathematics in early childhood, children’s emotional development, children in institutional care, and education for children with special needs.

Research Title: A cultural-historical study of the development of emotion regulation of children in institutional care in China: A playworld approach.

GREECE: Dr Glykeria Fragkiadaki

Senior Research Fellow

Glykeria is an Assistant Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Prior to this appointment, she held the position of Senior Research Fellow in the Conceptual PlayLab, Monash University. Following a cultural-historical perspective, her research is focused on children’s science/ STEM concept formation during the early years.

University collaborators

UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, UK: Professor Jo-Anne Baird

Director of the Department of Education, University of Oxford

Jo-Anne is an internationally recognised education researcher, with a focus on assessment. Her recent projects include the effect of examination structures, predictability of examinations, marking quality and the definition of examination standards. She is the executive editor of the international research journal Assessment in Education: Principles, policy and practice.

TRINITY COLLEGE, IRELAND: Professor Colette Murphy

Director of STEM Education Research and Communication in the School of Education, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Colette has developed the concept of co-teaching in STEM as part of her research program examining how schools and industry collaborate to enrich the learning experience of primary school children.

Northeast Normal University, China: Professor Zhonglian Yan

Head of the Preschool Education Discipline

Zhonglian Yan, PhD in education, is a professor, doctoral supervisor, and Head of the Preschool Education Discipline at Northeast Normal University in China. He is also the Deputy Director of the Professional Committee of Preschool Education of the China Education Society and a member of the Professional Committee of Basic Preschool Theory of the China Preschool Education Research Association. His research areas include community child services, rural preschool education, early care, and curriculum theory. He has led a number of projects funded by the National Social Science Foundation, the National Education Planning Key Project of the Ministry of Education, and the Jilin Provincial Education Science Planning Key Bidding Project. He has published over 100 articles in both Chinese and international journals, He won the second prize of the National Teaching Achievement Award in Education, the second prize of the Jilin Provincial Social Science Achievement Award and the second prize of the Jilin Provincial Education Science Achievement Award.

South China Normal University, China: Professor Ning Yang

Previous Head of School of Educational Sciences

Ning Yang, Doctor and Professor, School of Educational Sciences, South China Normal University. Distinguished professor and doctoral supervisor of Shandong Normal University. He has published more than 80 papers on philosophy, psychology, pedagogy, and Linguistics as an independent or first author (or corresponding author) in journals in English and Chinese. Presided over and participated in several national, ministerial, and provincial scientific research projects. Deputy director of the Basic Theory Committee of China National Society of Early Childhood Education. Chairman of Guangdong Education Association of Early Childhood Education Committee. Head of Early Childhood Education Discipline Group of the Guangdong Primary and Secondary Teachers’ Continuing Education. The main research interests are the basic theory of children's early childhood education, learning psychology, and teacher education.

PlayLab affiliate

Dr. Tanya Stephenson

PlayLab affiliate

Tanya is the first Kathleen Fitzpatrick ARC Laureate scholarship holder to complete her PhD with the Conceptual PlayLab. Passionate about advancing early childhood STEM education, her doctoral research focused on early childhood teacher professional development, particularly teacher practices to encourage girls in STEM. Currently a Research Officer at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), her research interests include early childhood and school education, STEM education, educational equity, curriculum and policy, educational psychology and teacher professional development.