Leading Professional Conversations
Webinar series hosted by ACEL NSW


Webinar 1 - 8 May 2023
Webinar 2 - 3 August 2023
Webinar 3 - 13 September 2023
4.00 - 5.30pm (Sydney time)

Webinar Cost

Full registration (all 3 webinars):
Non Member - $250
ACEL Member - $190

Per webinar:
Non Member - $95
ACEL Member - $80

Combine and Save
Receive a discount when you combine your registration with a new ACEL membership

Group Rates (3+)

Full registration (all 3 webinars):
Non Member - $150 pp
ACEL Member - $120 pp

Per webinar:

Non Member - $60 pp
ACEL Member - $50 pp

We are delighted to offer you the opportunity to learn and engage with highly regarded speakers to develop your confidence and skills in having conversations that really matter. Conversations are often referred to as difficult, challenging or complex. As a leader how can we have conversations that support the growth and development of self and colleagues, with confidence? ACEL is hosting a 3-part series that aims to support leaders at every stage of their career. These sessions will allow participants to approach and practice challenging conversations using models and scenarios, recognise barriers and effective protocols and reflect on their approach and structure of professional conversations. Our series around professional conversations will provide you with insights, tools and strategies to confidently engage in varied professional conversations, whilst developing an approach to deliberately enhance the development and performance of all teachers.

Neil McDonald

Neil McDonald has over 25 years of school system and leadership experience as a teacher, principal and Assistant Regional Director within the Department of Education. He is currently the CEO of Queensland Education Leadership Institute (QELi), focused on supporting leaders and organisations to establish a strong vision, improve outcomes and lead change in their school or organisation. Under Neil’s leadership QELi works closely with schools and systems to develop and deliver tailored leadership and capability professional development programs for driving collaboration and organisation improvement. Previously, Neil was Executive Director, Organisational Transformation and Capability, in the Department of Education and was instrumental in leading the Departments Teaching and School Leadership Program.

Dr Barbara Watterston

Dr Barbara Watterston is the CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) and has extensive experience in education having held several executive leadership positions across Australia within the education and not-for-profit community sectors. An author, Barbara’s most recent co-authored book Step In, Step Up: Empowering women for the school leadership journey, received a silver medal in the international 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards. Recognised for her contribution to educational leadership and professional learning, her national research report, Insights: Environmental Scan Principal Preparation Programs contributed to five major national recommendations for preparing future school leaders. This has informed her design and delivery of bespoke emerging, principal and system leadership programs. Barbara has a special interest in the links between leadership sustainability, wellbeing, and impact on performance to ensure learning, for all, can thrive.

Dr Frauke Meyer

Dr Frauke Meyer is a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland. She teaches and supervises students in the Master of Educational Leadership program. Frauke’s research is concerned with school improvement, school leadership, and interpersonal leadership practices. An immediate focus are leadership practices that foster school improvement and create equity in outcomes. In her research, she works closely with schools and school leaders prioritising outcomes for schools. Frauke has presented and published her research internationally. Linda and Frauke have published a book on school improvement entitled It’s not rocket science: A guide to the school improvement cycle. It can be purchased in the ACEL book shop.

Dr Linda Bendikson

Dr Linda Bendikson has been involved in educational leadership her whole life, as a principal of a two-teacher school, as a principal of a provincial city school and as a regional manager in the Ministry of Education. Her PhD on the “The Effects of Principal Instructional Leadership on Secondary School Performance” was supervised by Professors Viviane Robinson and John Hattie. Linda spent eight years leading The University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership before heading into private consultancy work in 2019. Her leadership development programs (Leading Teams and Leading Improvement) support teams of leaders to do the real work of improvement. Go to lbschooling for more information.

Dr Jacqui Patuawa

Dr Jacqui Patuawa is a senior education consultant at Evaluation Associates LTD. Prior to this she was the Programme Manager for the Centre for Educational Leadership based at the University of Auckland (UACEL). Within that role she, was the lead facilitator for the delivery of ‘Open to Learning™ Leadership both nationally and internationally, an expert partner for five communities of learning, led induction programs for new principals in Victoria and New South Wales and worked in school alongside leaders focused on school improvement. Jacqui has just been awarded her PhD. The focus of her research was on the quality of conversations between school leaders and teachers and the impact of those conversations on student achievement. Jacqui has more than 25 years of experience in education, over 16 years of these in Leadership positions as both a deputy principal (4 years) and as a highly successful principal in 3 different schools (11+ years). Jacqui has a master’s degree in educational leadership. Previous roles include Director of the First-time Principals’ Programme, a Leadership Adviser and a facilitator at the Principal Development Planning Centre in Wellington. In this role she was also jointly responsible for facilitator training and curriculum review and design. In 2010 she was also Associate Director of the Experienced Principals’ Development Pilot and the Seminars program for UACEL. In 2010 Jacqui was awarded a NEITA / COGNITION award for Excellence in Leadership.

Webinar 1:
Practising professional conversations

Monday 8 May 2023

4.00pm - 5.30pm (Sydney time)

1 Hour and 30 mins

Facilitators - Dr Neil McDonald and Dr Barbara Watterston

Professional conversations are crucial to school improvement and shape the culture of our organisation. We learn socially, we learn from one another. Leaders need to be able to communicate effectively to build capability, ensure goals are achieved and develop learning through reflective conversations and collaboration. Launching the NSW Leading Professional Conversations webinar series, this session will provide participants with a model and opportunity to practice a scenario based conversation with peers. This session is designed to be highly practical and opportunity to build confidence and skills in a safe and supportive environment of fellow leaders.

Webinar 2:
Improving teaching quality and team performance - Leading effective meetings

Thursday 3 August 2023

4.00pm - 5.30pm (Sydney time)

1 Hour and 30 mins

Facilitators - Dr Frauke Meyer and Dr Linda Bendikson
A copy of Drs Meyer and Bendikson's book "It's Not Rocket Science - A Guide to the School Improvement Cycle" can be purchased from the ACEL Book Shop and an introduction can be viewed here.

Discussions around performance and improvement with staff are often daunting for leaders. In this session, Frauke and Linda will talk about the perceived barriers to having these conversations and the typical – mostly ineffective - approaches to them. We will then discuss more effective approaches to working with your teachers and your team to bring about improvement – in teachers, departmental, and school practices, and as a result in student outcomes. Linda will specifically focus on how to lead effective meetings. The session offers time for discussion, reflection, and key take-away practices to improve your leadership.

Webinar 3:
Conversations through the learning lens

Wednesday 13 September 2023

4.00pm - 5.30pm (Sydney time)

1 Hour and 30 mins

Facilitator - Dr Jacqui Patuawa

Every educational leader has been frustrated that their efforts and actions to improve engagement and achievement for all students does not always result in the intended positive outcomes. The complexity of the day-to-day work demands significant resources, capabilities and understanding to adapt to the nuances involved in interpersonal relationships. The quality and rigour of professional conversations can impact the likelihood of improvement goals being reached. Leaders need confidence, skills, and a willingness to learn from others to effectively engage with leaders, teachers, parents and students in ways that are respectful, productive and collaborative. This session will provide participants with insights into how leaders create collaborative problem-solving conversations with teachers that result in improved student achievement. This session invites participants to consider how deliberately approaching conversations through a learning lens will result in improved wellbeing and learning outcomes for both teachers and students.