Category Archives: About K-12 International Education News

IOE London Blog: It’s not brains that learn, it’s people

**This post initially appeared on the IOE London Blog, a blog written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), University College London.**

For our penultimate ‘What if…?’ debate before the end of term we took a look at the growing field of educational neuroscience and what it could mean for classroom practice.  The technology for showing the inner-workings of the brain is advancing apace, but just how useful are the findings, at this stage anyway, for educational policy and practice?  Could they actually be unhelpful: accusations of ‘neuro nonsense’ abound.  To help us find our way through the science, we were delighted to be joined by a panel of leading educationalists and neuroscientists: Professor Becky Allen, Director of the IOE’s Centre for Education Improvement Science; Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience at the Open University; Catherine Sebastian, Reader in the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, where she directs the Emotion, Development and Brain Lab; and Michael Thomas, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Birkbeck, from where he directs the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, a collaboration with UCL and IOE.

Our panel identified the various areas in which neuroscience has the potential to inform education policy and practice – including brain health, child and adolescent development, learning processes, typical and atypical development, and socio-emotional skills.  In some cases this will be through offering new insights and trialling new, better targeted interventions; in other cases it will be in prompting new research in adjacent fields such as cognitive psychology.  But perhaps the main message from the discussion was the need for caution – for, on the one hand, humility on the part of neuroscientists as well as those who promote the findings of neuroscience to educators (or certainly a greater willingness to call out misuse or misunderstanding of the science), and, on the other, for scepticism on the part of those on the receiving end of that science.  Contrary to the impression given by some (Brain Gym, learning styles, and so on), there are no silver bullets it seems, just a slow process of edging towards more nuanced understanding of the complexity and dynamism of being a developing human being.  Human nature being what it is, though, we made need to work through quite a few more neuro myths and neuro snake oil products in the process. Once the theories and technologies are out there, the tendency is to use them.

A lot of what we now regard as brain myths didn’t emerge from nowhere – they counted as good science 10 or 20 years ago but are only now seen as oversimplified.  So we need to be on our guard as to what the next myths will be.  Many may well be what teachers are currently basing changes to their practice on, in the cause of evidence-based practice.  In most cases, the best outcome will be that the change in practice doesn’t do any harm.  Teachers will need to weigh up carefully the case for changing their practice.  To help them in that endeavour they arguably need a new profession of translators – neuroscientists themselves do not typically have sufficient knowledge of what is involved in teaching and managing a classroom.

We also need to recognise that the scope for direct translation of neuroscientific findings to the classroom is limited by several factors. Within the brain there are at least seven different systems involved in learning, which are interacting all the time.  Equally, those processes are just one element of learning – they’re joined by factors linked to the syllabus, pedagogy, and school environment, as well as family and societal influences.  Plus, as well as teaching being a skill that’s delivered in the moment, teachers are generally focused on the class as a whole – there’s limited time to focus on how individuals are learning.

Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) – dubbed by some as ‘the most important thing for teachers to know about’ – provided us with a useful case study.  CLT has been around for quite a while, but has taken off recently. The first question this prompts is why do certain theories take off when they do?  In the case of CLT, it has been picked up by prominent voices in the world of education and at the same time offers ready ways in which it can be implemented – steers that fit with lay understanding, and which are unlikely to be harmful (e.g. steers to keep instructions simple, so that they’re not too cognitively demanding).  However, given the difference between subject disciplines, the usefulness of CLT will vary greatly across them. And even here the science is moving on: there is debate within the neuroscientific community as to whether there is a thing that is working memory – instead, there are probably multiple systems involved.  The danger is that what is a useful prompt for teachers to consider becomes an unquestioned fad, or worse, commercialised as a single intervention that ignores complexity, in the process raising expectations about the extent to which performance can be changed.

In the meantime, new theories and technologies to enhance learning continue to emerge from neuroscience.  Spaced learning offers one example.  At the other extreme there are pharmacological interventions such as Ritalin through to transcranial direct current stimulation of the brain.  Many are in their primitive stage, but we’re likely to see more of them, many of which will turn out to be the neuro myths of the future. What we shouldn’t do is let them distract us from attending to the immediate societal factors that impact on our ability to learn.

You can watch or listen to the debate in full here: What if… we were able to say more about how the brain learns?

The new issue of Journal of Educational Change

This week, we turn to the most recent issue of the Journal of Educational Change. In the past, IEN has featured interviews or posts from contributors to the Journal of Educational Change including including Mireille Hubers and Mel Ainscow. In this post, we highlight the 7 articles from the new issue, which was released earlier this month, along with a few related links.

 

The latest issue of the Journal of Educational Change includes articles on:

 

Teacher autonomy in times of standardised lesson plans: The case of a Primary School Language and Mathematics Intervention in South Africa
By Yael Shalem, Francine De Clercq, Carola Steinberg, and Hannchen Koornhof)

A study of the limitations and potential of the use of standardized (scripted) lesson plans, a main component in the Gauteng Primary Language and Mathematics Strategy (GPLMS) being used to promote large-scale changes in instruction in most industrialized province of South Africa (and previously discussed in an interview in IEN with Brahm Fleisch).  The article suggests that teachers can seize “autonomy opportunities” when working with standardized curricula when: (1) materials are of high quality and sufficiently specify appropriate and inappropriate uses; (2) legitimate authority is applied in a morally justified an educationally sound way; and (3) educators can apply appropriate professional and personal knowledge when making decisions.

 

Human elements and the pragmatic approach in the Australian, Scottish and Swedish standards for newly qualified teachers
By Goran Fransson, Andrea Gallant, and Rachel Shanks

A comparative study among newly qualified teachers in Australia, Scotland, and Sweden that aims to explore perceptions of and expectations for new teachers. Results from the study suggest that some countries emphasize pragmatic knowledge in teaching while others emphasize what the authors call contextual professionalism in teaching.

 

Secondary school creativity, teacher practice and STEAM education: An international study
By Anne Harris and Leon R. de Bruin

An international study of work on creativity and STEAM in a sample of secondary schools in Australia, USA, Canada, and Singapore. The study looks at the role of creativity, how it is used and understood in secondary schools (it also includes an appendix with a “Whole School Creativity Audit”).

 

Structural change from physical foundations: The role of the environment in enacting school change
By Pamela Woolner, Ulrike Thomas, and Lucy Tiplady

An article looking at how the physical settings of school can help to initiate, support, and sustain change and improvement efforts Additionally, the paper looks at the links between the physical setting and other aspects of schooling such as organizational structure.

 

 

Development and initial investigation of a self-report measure of teachers’ readiness to implement
By Cara Marcinek Bliss and Shannon Wanless

A discussion of the piloting of a self-report instrument to assess teachers’ readiness to implement evidence-based programs in the U.S.

 

Opening or closing doors for students? Equity and data use in schools
By Amanda Datnow and Vicki Park

An overview of a decade of qualitative research on data use and equity in the US to examine the ways in which data use helps to open or close doors for students (by using data for accountability and/or for continuous improvement; to confirm assumptions and/or to challenge beliefs; to track students or promote flexible grouping). See “Teacher capacity for and beliefs about data-driven decision making” by Datnow and Hubbard for a related international literature review also published in the Journal of Educational Change.

 

Teachers’ agency, efficacy, engagement, and emotional resilience during policy innovation implementation
By Kristen Campbell Wilcox, Hal A. Lawson

A multiple case study on how teachers experience and respond to what the authors call “disruptive innovations” in the U.S. including the Common Core Leanring Standards, data-driven instruction, and teacher performance reviews. The study looks at how teachers adapt to and perform during the implementation of reforms.

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland

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Image courtesy of Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland

In recent weeks, IEN has featured sessions at the American Educational Research Association that discussed the development of educational networks in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Chile as well as work on collective impact in New York City. This week’s post brings that work together by describing the work and impact of the Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS). CNS is an organization working in two neighborhoods in Glasgow to help bring “together people, resources and organisations in a neighbourhood area, so that all of those things can work together towards better lives for the children living there.” The post is drawn from an overview of CNS and a related commentary from Christopher Chapman of the University of Glasgow and his colleagues Carol Tannahill of Glasgow Centre for Population Health and Nicholas Watson of the University of Glasgow.  It’s a follow-up to Chapman’s IEN post from 2016 describing What Works: The Scottish Attainment Challenge, Learning Partnerships, and “Policy Borrowing” on Both Sides of the Atlantic

We know that children who grow up in areas of high social deprivation face challenges and that, unless well supported, they are less likely than their more advantaged peers to be successful in later life.  We also know that many of these communities are working with organisations and agencies to try and tackle the many challenges these children face, but that they often don’t have sufficient resources to produce the outcomes they want to achieve.

If we want to create a new future, the evidence from Europe, America and elsewhere tells us that we are going to have to have to work in different, more creative and more joined-up ways.  We need to develop new approaches that reshape roles and responsibilities and will bring together the many different agencies and organisations that are currently involved in delivering services to and helping children in these areas.

The Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS) provides one example of such a joined-up initiative. CNS is a collaborative approach between the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), Policy Scotland and What Works Scotland (WWS) within the University of Glasgow. The approach is supported by key partners including Glasgow City Council (GCC), Bailie Gifford, Clyde Gateway, Children in Scotland, Save the Children, Virgin Money and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde who are committed to building on current investments.

CNS brings together, builds on and develops ideas generated across a range of area- based initiatives including the Strive Partnership, Harlem Children’s Zone in the United States and Children’s Communities in a number of sites across the UK. Our aim is to take the lessons from these sites, develop evidence-based approaches and apply them within the Scottish context.

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Key to our approach is a locality based strategic focus on joining up efforts across services and sectors to ensure better coordination, integration of local support systems and a coherent set of networks for children and families and the communities in which they live. This approach moves from traditional ways of working that move from disorder and confusion and delivering individual and coordinated impact to deliver collective impact for all

 

The CNS approach to collective impact is based on a shared vision for children and a shared analysis of children’s needs. Through promoting partnership and developing synergy, this place- based approach will tackle the poor outcomes associated with disadvantaged settings and provide an interconnected pipeline of support from pre-birth to employment.

The approach is underpinned by five key evidence-based principles:

 

  1. Common agenda: All members of the collaborative need a shared understanding of the issue and an agreed approach to tacking it.
  2. Shared data and accountability systems: For alignment and accountability purposes, those involved need to have common indicators of success.
  3. Mutually reinforcing agendas and activities: Action needs to co-ordinated to avoid overlap and gaps.
  4. Clear and consistent communication: In order to build relationships and trust, establish common objectives, and build shared purpose and a guiding.
  5. Backbone support organisation: A separate organization is required to provide the administrative, logistical, and coordinating support necessary to create and sustain a successful partnership

 

The Children’s Neighbourhood in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock is an example of a ‘backbone organisation’ (see figure below) that brings together different resources, brokers and facilitates connections and activity.  Dalmarnock and Bridgeton is in the East End of Glasgow and has one of the most concentrated levels of socio-economic disadvantage in Scotland. There is substantial investment and activity in this area by partners from across the City in an attempt to tackle generations of poverty and disadvantage and to improve a wide-range of outcomes for children and young people living in the area.

The Children’s Neighbourhood is now working with a range of these partners to generate a coherent response in services to ensure that all resources are pulling in the same direction. This is, of course, a slow task and so far we have invested our time in building trust and relationships to create the conditions that will promote authentic collaboration and partnership working across the neighbourhood.

As part of this work, we have already started some small projects in this area including breakfast clubs, holiday clubs and other activity beyond the school gate of Dalmarnock Primary School. All of these programmes aim to connect families and communities across the area and provide a coherent, holistic and sustained approach to tackling the attainment gap and reducing health inequalities. Through the development of a coordinated response we will be able to better utilise and unlock the assets, resources, knowledge and intelligence of public sector organisations, national and local third sector and the community.

Children’s Neighbourhoods is not a quick fix, rather a long-term investment in sustainable cultural change. We believe, and the emerging evidence suggests, this is a model that can make a difference to the lives of young people and their families locked in to poverty and can play a significant role in achieving the Scottish Government’s 2030 child poverty targets. CNS is also flexible enough to travel and therefore has the potential for roll-out to other areas, both urban and rural. In CNS we believe we have developed a uniquely Scottish approach to put poverty in its place!

Making public policy work for education: Reflections on the career of Mike Kirst

Michael W. Kirst

This week, John Fensterwald at  Edsource highlights the career and accomplishments of Mike Kirst, who will retire at the end of his fourth term as President of the State Board of Education in California.  The story includes a link to Mike’s recent talk at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association, where Kirst reflected on his career after receiving AERA’s Distinguished Public Service Award.

 

Mike Kirst has had more impact on public policy in education in the United States than almost any other academic I’ve ever met. Given that in another reflection on his career from 2015, Kirst calls himself an “accidental professor”, I could also say that he’s the state policymaker who has had the most positive impact on researchers and academics.  Mike has developed that impact by moving seamlessly between positions in government and academia.  Throughout, he has both pursued research aimed firmly at addressing meaningful problems of educational policy and developed public policies informed both by what researchers have (and have not) learned. Interestingly, both he, and another enormously influential academic in the US, Howard Gardner, grew up in the coal regions of Eastern Pennsylvania.  (Gardner has also reflected on his life and work in a recent interview, and I have written a bit about Gardner’s powerful influence on me in Mind, work, and life: A Festschrift on the Occasion of Howard Gardner’s 70th Birthday).  In the1960’s, Kirst worked in the Federal office of Budget and Management in Washington, D.C. where he helped to develop the budget for the first Title 1 program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (When Kirst and colleagues produce a memo for then President Johnson proposing a budget of 750 million dollars, Johnson sent it back saying “none of these is good enough, I want a billion dollars.”).  In the 1970’s and early 80’s, Kirst served as an Advisor to the California Governor, Jerry Brown, and as a Member and then President of the California State Board of Education.  In 2011, after Jerry Brown became Governor again, Kirst was appointed for another two terms as President of the State Board of Education.  In between, Kirst was a Professor of Education at Stanford Education, authored several books and numerous articles and reports, and co-founded Policy Analysis for California Education.

As EdSource describes some of Kirst’s most recent accomplishments:

Working in tandem, Kirst and Brown reshaped K-12 education in California during the past eight years. The state introduced and oversaw the implementation of new academic standards and assessments in math and English language arts and adopted new standards in science. Through the Local Control Funding Formula, which Brown shepherded through the Legislature in 2013, the state shifted control over budget decisions from the state to school districts and created an equity-based financing system that directs more money to low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

But for me, the final quotes of the EdSource piece highlight how much we can learn from Mike and his honesty, reflectiveness, and ability.  As Mike described it, when he and his colleagues first joined the California government in the 1970’s: “Our view of the state board was we need to get these old guys out of here in Sacramento and we’ll solve these problems.”  But at 78, as he put it “we all come back (35 years later) and we’re a humble bunch of people, proceeding with great humility, plunging into the unknown.”

If only the rest of us could begin our work by building on what Mike has already learned…

Thomas Hatch

**This post initially appeared on thomashatch.org**

Lead the Change with Mireille D. Hubers

Mireille D. Hubers, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the Department of Educational Science, University of Twente, The Netherlands. Her doctoral dissertation explored the ways in which educators build capacity within their school in order to sustain their data use. Mireille’s research focuses on the ways in which schools and organizations can sustain their improvement strategies through individual and organizational learning. She publishes and presents her work regularly. Examples include the 2017 peer-reviewed article “The quest for sustained data use: Developing organizational routines”
and the 2018 book chapter in “Networks for Learning” (Routledge), which contains
practical strategies to achieve sustained school improvement. Currently, Mireille works as a guest editor on a special issue about sustainable educational change. Finally, she conducts practical workshops to support schools and organizations in facing their sustainability challenge.

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Hubers talks about her work in sustainable educational and organizational change. As she puts it:

In the long run, most educational changes are not sustained (Fullan, 2016; Hubers et al., 2017). Therefore, phrases said by researchers and/or designers of interventions like: ‘the intervention will spread like a ripple in a pond’ or ‘the intervention will snowball,’ should be treated with caution. Lessons I learned from my research on this topic include the importance of focus. It is crucial that educators collectively decide on a single change purpose and keep that purpose on their radar for a number of years. Once, I visited a school which tried to implement eight educational changes within one year. For example, they wanted to use data to improve their schooling, improve their assessment strategies, and personalize their students’ learning. Though each of these changes can be of tremendous value to students, trying to implement them all simultaneously will not work. It is better to choose one type of change and really make it work, than to do a lot of things in a superficial manner. However, the difficulty is to make that decision. What is it the school wants to excel at? What are the core values and what educational changes will
not be implemented? Another major lesson learned is that it can never be assumed that knowledge will automatically flow through a professional learning community or a school; this is something that requires explicit attention, focus, and considerable effort.

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently Lead the Change has also interviewed Mel Ainscow and Charlene Tan.

School Networks, Accountability and Improvement in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, and Chile

Last week, IEN described a number of the sessions from this year’s conference of the American Educational Research Association conference. This week’s post draws from a session focusing on educational networks and accountability organized by Melanie Ehren and chaired by Cindy Poortman and Mei Kuin Lai .  Participants included Melanie Ehren and David Godfrey; Martin Brown, Joe O’Hara, and Gerry McNamara; Alvaro González, Carmen Montecinos, Luis Ahumada, and Mauricio Pino; and Christopher Chapman; with comments by James Spillane and Thomas Hatch.  This post draws from the comments Hatch made during the session. Previous posts on IEN from Melanie Ehren and Chris Chapman address related issues of networks, improvement and accountability.

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School networks have taken off around the world:

  • In Northern Ireland, 30 Area Learning Communities bring together voluntary coalitions of “post-primary” schools to develop plans and share practices to address a special area of need
  • In Chile, nearly 500 School Improvement Networks, with an average of 10 schools each, stretch across all 15 regions of the country. Within each network, school administrators such as principals and curriculum coordinators meet on a monthly basis to discuss best practices and ways to make improvements
  • In England, the government has incentivized a variety of school-to-school partnerships including “Multi-Academy Trusts.” Similar to charter school networks in the US, Multi-Academy Trusts are chains of publicly funded independent schools (called “academies”), run by a Board of Directors (called a “Trust”) to increase efficiency and improve performance. As Melanie Ehren and David Godfrey report, “in 2012, there were 312 academy chains in England, with 39% of the academiesbeing part of a chain. By 2015, nearly two thirds of the 4725 academies were in MATs and 517 MATs had 2 to 5 academies, 98 with 615 and 19 MATs with 16 or more or schools (some up to as many as 66 schools), located in different regions across England.”
  • In Scotland, six ‘Regional Improvement Collaboratives’ take responsibility for leading system improvement across Scotland by joining schools and other organizations and public institutions in different regions. The Collaboratives intend to provide a coherent focus and related support for educational improvement efforts.
  • In New York City, the Learning Partners Program brings together almost 200 schools in small groups of three and four to participate in biweekly meetings, monthly intervisitations, and related educational development activities.

 

Fueled by a belief in the power of social networks and social capital, these educational networks reflect the idea that when schools work together with one another or with other agencies, they can share their expertise and support one another’s development, improvement and success more effectively than they can working on their own.  As Santiago Rincón-Gallardo and Michael Fullan report, as yet, there is little evidence that connects school network activities directly to improved student outcomes; but the efforts to study and learn from both the successes and challenges of these networking efforts so far, raise a number of questions that can be addressed to help harness the power of networks for schools.

 

What does networking really involve?
The benefits of networking depend crucially on exactly who is interacting with whom around what and to what end.  In Chile, the networks may depend on head teachers and administrators talking together across schools, but in Scotland they may rely on teachers joining together in inquiry groups.  In either case, those individuals and groups will then need to find ways to share whatever they learned with their colleagues “back home.”

 

What kinds of supports will make networks effective?
Many initiatives in education are based on the hope that someone, somewhere, already has the resources and expertise needed to improve schools.  As A Nation at Risk in the US stated 35 years ago: “It is our conviction that the essential raw materials needed to reform our educational system are waiting to be mobilized through effective leadership.”  Some networking strategies reflect that hope by suggesting that putting people in the same room together will lead to productive learning.  In contrast, as James Spillane, David Cohen, and Donald Peurach argue, concerted efforts and investments need to be made to build the infrastructure that can support educational improvement.  Effective networking, for example, relies on meeting structures and routines, expert facilitators, protocols, and the development of a host of other resources and capabilities.

 

To what extent do networks reduce or increase work and complexity?
Ideally, networking should reduce work and create efficiencies by encouraging individuals and groups to share ideas and distribute responsibilities.  Nonetheless, interacting and collaborating is hard work.  It takes dedicated time and the development of the infrastructure to support networking takes funding, and resources away from other valued pursuits.  As a result, networking strategies done poorly can end up undermining rather than building collective capacity.  As a consequence, successful networking depends on reorganizing and rethinking the use of time and resources – deciding what not to do as well as what to do – not just adding more meetings onto already overloaded schedules.

 

To what extent do networks need to grow informally and “organically” and to what extent can they be induced?
Some of the excitement around social networks grows out of a belief that the informal and voluntary connections and interactions among people provide a particularly powerful and motivating opportunity for learning.  However, many school networks depend at least to some extent on education authorities providing encouragement or establishing requirements for schools to work together. Can networking be both voluntary and required or will required networking result in the kind of “contrived collegiality” that can limit the development of collaboration?

 

How can the collaborative goals and practices of networks mesh with the goals and practices of individually-oriented education systems?
As the participants in the AERA symposium on Networks and Accountability pointed out, the informal, collaborative, non-hierarchical basis of many networks runs counter to the pervasive focus in many education systems on standardized assessments, individual accountability and bureaucratic control.   That leaves those invested in networks to figure out how to carve out spaces and put in place supports that can foster collaboration and promote collective goals and purposes while buffering those efforts from most existing accountability initiatives.

All of these questions point to the considerable work that needs to be done to make educational networks as powerful as many hope they will be.  Though the work seems daunting, it also opens up possibilities for outcomes – engagement, trust, learning, and satisfaction— rarely obtained more easily or effectively than other approaches.

— Thomas Hatch

 

 

Fighting for and Reimagining Public Education: Rounding Up This Year’s AERA Conference

As conference season continues, we’re building on last week’s post about the CIES conference in Mexico City. This week, we’re reflecting on some of the many compelling work from this year’s AERA conference held last week in New York City. The conference’s theme was “the dreams, possibilities, and necessity of public education.” As many of the presenters and panels offered, fighting for public education is possible in looking to change and improve schools and systems. At the same time, presenters pushed at the very meaning of the conference themes, showing the possibility of thinking about public education in new ways; challenging and showing the potential for systems to change; and asking who is part of public education, in what ways.

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DREAMS AND POSSIBILITIES

Opening the conference on Friday afternoon, a range of scholars gathered on a panel about Maxine Greene:

Dreaming in Greene: Reframing Contemporary Educational Policy, Practice, and Research Through Maxine Greene’s Critical Lens

The 2018 Call bears Maxine Greene’s imprint: to tackle threats to public education, to equitable opportunity, and to respect for diversity, justice, and human dignity in all educative endeavors. 
Described in The New York Times obituary as “one of the most important education philosophers of the past 50 years,” Greene enacted a social vision and agency that fuels current fights for social justice. Symposium participants honor what would have been Maxine’s 100th year of life in 2018; further, they detail how Maxine’s work compels us still to “speak out . . . about the lacks that must be repaired, the possibilities to be acted upon in the name of what [we] deem decent, humane, and just” (Greene, 1978, p. 71).

Presenters such as Bill Ayers and Janet Miller engaged in conversation with Gloria Ladson-Billings (who also won AERA’s Division B Lifetime Achievement Award this year) and Michelle Fine to explore the lessons of Maxine Greene and, to use Ayers’ terms, articulate “a fresh and improved three “r’s”—reimagine, resist, rebuild—a project to reimagine schooling from top to bottom, challenging the politics and policies that dominate so much of the educational debates, and leaning toward a possible world, a world that could be but is not yet.”

 

From the Educational Change SIG, from whom we post Lead the Change interviews, several panels and symposia took up the conference theme to show genuine possibilities for systemic change.

The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Educators’ Professional Learning in North America

Connecting to AERA 2018’s theme of “The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education”, this symposium positions equitable access to high-quality professional learning for teachers and school leaders as an integral component of public education in North America. Drawing on findings from a major study of educators’ professional learning in Canada, reviews of the international literature and commentary from experts in the US and abroad, this symposia will present and discuss opportunities and challenges for teachers to experience meaningful and impactful professional learning, with an emphasis on two enabling conditions– resourcing (both human and financial) and teacher federations with strong professional agendas.

 

Andy Hargreaves, colleagues from University of Toronto’s OISE, and other scholars working in Ontario explored the state of and necessary resources for professional learning in North America. The papers all addressed a critical gap in the potential in studying professional learning across Canada and in other countries.

Others gathered for a symposium on “The State and Future of the Out-of-School Time Field”

This symposium serves to highlight five core themes emerging in the out-of-school time (OST) field: positive youth development as a key frame for child and youth engagement and learning both in school and beyond; the role of mentors and authentic contexts in supporting diverse populations, in particular, traditionally underserved and underrepresented children and youth; the need for meaningful professional development of youth-serving professionals; and the rise of social-emotional skills as a vehicle for 21st century learning. Through thought provoking qualitative analysis, the presenters examine how the field has evolved over the past twenty years and where the research agenda might be headed. Together, the papers take a comprehensive stock as to where the OST field is and its future directions.

 

Friend of the blog and SIG chair Helen Janc Malone chaired this panel and co-edited a recently released book on the subject. Presenters here argued for the same dreams and possibilities for public education, but focused on different spaces and partnerships to work toward that goal.

In a thematically related roundtable, researchers gathered to explore the possibilities of “Transforming Schools Through Community-Driven Organizational Thinking”

In one session in particular, Lea Hubbard and Amanda Datnow took up:

the essential question of how school leaders work to introduce teachers to innovations in education. The purpose of this paper is to present findings from a qualitative comparative case study of two U.S. schools that place Design Thinking (DT) an innovative instructional approach to education at the core of their theory of action. This study examines the actions and dispositions of school leaders in supporting DT and discusses implications for educational change. Both principals recognized and communicated the values of DT, established structural supports, and addressed cultural aspects of change. However, their approaches varied in key ways that led to school wide support for DT in one setting, and waning support in another.

 

DIFFERENT CONCEPTIONS OF EDUCATION AND PUBLIC

Other scholars challenged the very ideas and functions of schooling, but with a critical eye equally focused on equity.

The Idea(l) of Deschooling: International and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on a Continuing Debate

This panel, which brings together scholars from Europe and Latin America, will present historical and philosophical perspectives on the notion of deschooling, considered both as idea and ideal. As an idea, it epithomizes the critique of schooling as part of the institutionalization and bureaucratization of education, a critique famously represented by Ivan Illich’s work but that has a longer history in educational thought. As an ideal, it proposes the end of the mediation of teachers and curriculum, which will be replaced by learning networks or systems –usually machinic. The panel wants to explicitly engage with AERA 2018’s main theme, focusing on past and present challenges to schooling and how they have expanded or curtailed the dreams of public education.

In this symposium, historian Daniel Tröhler, philosophers Jan Masschelein and Maarten Simons, and others gathered to debate the notion of deschooling in light of this year’s theme.

 

Words We Never Said

In this interactive symposium, four prominent education studies scholars will present their perspectives and takes on the question, “What are the words that we dare not speak in education?” With an intention to respectfully but intentionally disrupt long-standing assumptions of goals and approaches, this session purposefully prioritizes the perspectives of established scholars from nondominant populations. From our varied positions, we agitate and unsettle taken-for-granteds of the goals of education and the practices of education research.

In this panel, Leigh Patel, Eve Tuck, Michael Dumas, and R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy gathered to challenge traditional understandings of education, schooling, and the possibility of both to achieve the aims the conference presents.

 

Through the range of ideas and work presented at this year’s conference, themes emerged of both the possibilities and problems for public education. A consistent theme, however, could be found in the possibility of using different ways of thinking to engage these issues.