Connecting and reflecting at the Education Focussed Retreat 2021


Published 7 December 2021

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The exciting week of the UNSW’s inaugural Education Festival was kicked off in style when over 100 Education Focussed (EF) academics across multiple disciplines gathered in person and via livestream for an immersive and engaging Education Focussed retreat on Monday 22 November.

The EF retreat is the annual flagship event for UNSW’s EF community, providing connection, reflection and inspiration around education. The one-day event featured in-depth content on all areas of teaching including Pecha Kucha presentations chaired by Professor Richard Buckland, Director of Teaching Practice, posters by 13 Communities of Practice, end-of-year awards and a plethora of networking opportunities.  

The opening session was led by UNSW’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic, Professor Merlin Crossley. Hugh Mackay AO — bestselling author, social psychologist and researcher— delivered the first keynote presentation of the day. Pro Vice-Chancellor, Education & Student Experience, Professor Rorden Wilkinson introduced the second keynote speaker, Associate Professor Jack Wang — the 2020 AAUT Australian University Teacher of the Year. 

Director of Education, Prof. Louise Lutze-Mann reflects:

“Every year we look forward to the diversity of experiences and ideas that are the hallmarks of our EF Retreats, which we were able to incorporate this year into the Education Festival. It was wonderful to be able to come together to celebrate surviving some very challenging times, the innovative ways that education has been delivered and supported in this environment and the ideas that we can continue to use in the future.” 

Having a space and platform where your experience as a teacher can feel attended to and supported can be transformative. For the past three years, the Education Focussed Retreat has been a place for UNSW educators in all career stages, faculties and disciplines, to gather and share their passion for teaching and learning. Across the board, attendees reported a desire for more of this – an intimate, gathering which is collective in spirit and intellectually fulfilling.

Deputy Director of the EF Development Program, Karin Watson adds:

“The community-building aspects of such events — incidental conversations, seeing each other in-person after nearly two years of only being online, small-group catch-ups between sessions — had a profound effect on us. It was a joyful, invigorating and celebratory experience. The shared sentiment was powerful: all of us look forward to doing it again soon.” 

Perhaps the key takeaway from the Retreat is that community matters. Teaching can sometimes be not only solitary but also less effective. Academic work comes to life when we work with others. Retreats like this demonstrate how we can transform pedagogy, produce stronger teaching, and also happier and more engaged academics. 


You can find video recordings of the keynotes and other sessions, presentation slides and other resources from the event on EF Central (staff intranet). You can also subscribe to the EF Bulletin to keep on top of teaching news at UNSW. 

Read about what followed over the subsequent five days as part of the UNSW’s Education Festival here.


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