ECV2020 Keynote Speaker 3

Building a new legacy through the ARC Laureate Fellowship: Conceptual PlayLab Creating new research models for supporting early childhood education research

Marilyn Fleer, Monash University, Australia (
Glykeria Fragkiadaki, Monash University, Australia (
Prabhat Rai, Monash University, Australia (


Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer holds the Foundation Chair of Early Childhood Education and Development at Monash University, Australia. She was awarded the 2018 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship by the Australian Research Council and was a former President of the International Society of Cultural-historical Activity Research (ISCAR). Additionally, she holds the positions of honorary Research Fellow, Department of Education, University of Oxford, second professor position in the KINDKNOW Centre, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and Honorary professor at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark. She was presented with the 2019 Ashley Goldsworthy Award for Outstanding leadership in university-business collaboration.

Dr. Glykeria Fragkiadaki is a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University, Australia. Glykeria’s research aims to gain deeper insight into young children’s concept formation and engagement, learning and development in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The concepts of children’s play, imagination, and creativity in STEM have a critical role in her work. Apart from an academic background at European Universities, Glykeria has extensive teaching experience as an Early Childhood Educator and Director. She has also acted as ΟΜΕΡ’s Patras Local Committee Secretary in Greece. She has also been a tutor to several Professional Development Programs for Early Childhood Educators.

Dr Prabhat Rai holds a senior early childhood position in the Conceptual PlayLab. He has worked extensively with rural and remote communities in the past, leading course development, and recently engaging with playgroups in rural and city communities in Australia. He has an expansive set of leadership experience. As a Felix Scholar his PhD research from the Oxford University, UK and subsequently his research and engagement work as an academic at Ambedkar University Delhi and Ministry of Human Resource Development in India and more recently at Monash University has focused on multi-age teaching and learning models in early and primary years.


Background: The Australian Research Council (ARC) has consistently reported an under representation of women in receiving research awards and the small number of researchers in education who win grants (compared with other disciplines). It is timely to have a discussion about the legacy we have inherited and the intergenerational poverty of research funds in education.

Aim: In this zoom presentation we will showcase how our Conceptual PlayLab in the Faculty of Education at Monash University is disrupting this legacy and building opportunities for supporting research in early childhood education (

Method: We briefly outline the programmatic research we are undertaking and share what we are currently doing in the Conceptual PlayLab as one example of how programmatic research can be set up, scaled up and used as a mentoring tool for the next generation of researchers. We have three pillars of research which each adopt different methods and in the context of COVID-19, have evolved into the development of new digital remote research tools to engage children and their families (Pillar 2), educators and children (Pillar 1), and educators in the contexts of professional development (Pillar 3).

Results and Conclusion: As this session is about our programmatic study and we are in our sedond year in a COVID-19 context, we will not be reporting results, but rather will be showcasing our Conceptual PlayLab model for taking forward large-scale research.

Implications for children: Your teachers are learning about how to make learning fun for you and are helping all children in Australia by what they learn.

Implications for families: Our research will help teachers and children because we hope to find out what is the best way to teach STEM in play-based settings.

Implications for practitioners: By being involved in this research you will learn about a Conceptual PlayWorld and be part of a study of 3000 teachers contributing to finding out how to intentionally teach STEM to infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Funding: Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow scheme

Key words: STEM, COVID-19, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, PlayWorlds, digital

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: