Penny McKay Memorial Award

Our committee members are reviewing submitted applications, result will be announced on 31/12/2023


The Penny McKay Memorial Award honours Penny’s contribution to research and development in second/additional language education. As a teacher, consultant, researcher, keynote speaker and professional activist, Penny McKay was a leader in language education in Australia and internationally. Working collaboratively with educators and researchers in schools, she pioneered an approach to assessing learners’ development in English as an additional language.Further information can be found on ACTA website.

The Award is jointly offered by the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia (ALAA), the Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA) and the Association for Language Testing and Assessment of Australia and New Zealand (ALTAANZ).

The Award consists of $500 and a certificate, and free conference registration at the next conference of one of the sponsoring organisations. The winner will be offered a slot to present a paper on an aspect of their research at the conference. 

The winner will be formally announced at the AGM of each Association and be presented at their preferred conference. The winner’s name and a 300 word summary of their thesis will be published in each Association’s journal (ALAA – The Australian Review of Applied Linguistics; ACTA – TESOL in Context; ALTAANZ – Language Assessment Matters).

The closing date for this year's applications is 31 October 2023. Please send all submissions to the chair of the selection panel, Prof Chris Davison, by the deadline. Further information and general details on the application process is found below and the application form is attached.  

Eligibility for the award

The Award is awarded annually for a doctoral thesis submitted at an Australian university in the preceding academic year. To be eligible for consideration, the thesis should be focussed on aspects of school-based second/additional language education in Australia, such as language development, curriculum, teaching or assessment. (This requirement includes pre-school settings.) The applicant must be a verified member of ALAA or their State/Territory ACTA affiliate or ALTAANZ.


Electronic copies of the applications for this year's Award are due by midnight on 31 October 2023 to the Chair of the Selection Panel, Prof Chris Davison,

Applications should consist of:

  1. a correctly completed Application Form (See Attachment 1)
  2. the thesis abstract
  3. the Table of Contents from the thesis
  4. one chapter from the thesis that the applicant believes best demonstrates the outstanding qualities of the overall thesis
  5. copies of all examiners’ reports
  6. a statement of support from one of the applicant’s supervisors; this statement should complement (not duplicate) the examiners’ reports, may comment on anything in the examiners’ reports, and may elaborate on relevant matters not covered in examiners’ reports
  7. if the thesis research was not carried out in a school or pre-school setting and/or with (pre)school-age second language learners, a statement (no more than 100 words) explaining how the thesis findings are relevant to school settings and school-age learners
  8. a summary of the thesis outlining the background, methodology, findings and contributions of the study (max. 300 words); this summary will be used to describe the award-winning thesis on the ALAA and ACTA websites and in their respective journals

Applications must contain all of the above otherwise they will be excluded. Applicants will be advised of the outcome of their applications by early 2024.

Evaluation Procedures and Criteria


Applications will be assessed by a panel of three, being the Presidents of ALAA, ACTA and ALTAANZ or a suitable representative as nominated by the President of each Association. The panel will have the option of co-opting a recognised academic expert in the area of second/additional language education.

The Award may not be given in a particular year if the panel judges that none of the applications are at a suitable standard. 

Evaluation Criteria

Each application (Parts 1 – 8 above) will be judged holistically against the following criteria:

  1. the contribution of the thesis to knowledge about second/additional language learning (pre-/)school-aged learners
  2. the innovation and originality of the approach taken by the thesis to its subject matter and/or methodology and/or presentation
  3. the clarity of writing and presentation demonstrated by the thesis.

Further enquiries about the Award may be directed to the Panel Chair, Chris Davison,

Donating to the Award

The Award was established and is maintained from donations from individuals, professional associations and other institutions in Australia and overseas. To donate to the maintenance of this Award, or for further details, please email Chris Davison,

Past winners:

2014 (Joint winners) Susan Creagh (University of Queensland), A Foucauldian and quantitative analysis of NAPLaN, the category 'Language Background Other Than English' and English as a Second Language level/Julia Rothwell (Queensland University of Technology), Let's eat the captain! Thinking, feeling, doing: Intercultural language learning through process drama

2015 Jennifer Alford (Queensland University of Technology), Conceptualisations and enactment of Critical Literacy for senior high school EAL learners in Queensland, Australia: Commitments, constraints and contradictions.

2018 Amanda Hiorth (University of Melbourne), “I want to grow my country”:  Refugee-background Karen students in transitions: Experiences in the move from language school to mainstream schooling,

2020 Kathryn MacFarlane (Monash University), Transformational change for primary years' foreign language programs: Developing oral language skills for spoken interaction in the classroom

2021 Bonita Cabiles (University of Melbourne), Participation and cultural and linguistic diversity: An in-depth qualitative inquiry of an Australian primary classroom

2022 Denise Angelo (Australian National University), Countering misrecognition of Indigenous contact languages and their ecologies


Application form

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