CONFERENCE SPECIAL FEATURED THEME
Innovative Designs for Enhancing Achievements in Schools (IDEAS)
This conference strand consists of a cohesive set of interactive workshops built around authentic school stories. These stories depict a series of individual journeys of self-discovery, reflection, collaboration, collective commitment and supported risk-taking. Together they tell a broader story of school capacity building and sustainability with each school's journey being guided by adherence to 'ways of doing' facilitated by the Innovative Designs for Enhancing Achievements in Schools (IDEAS) process of school improvement.
Each presentation will focus on a unique pedagogical perspective: the power of articulating personal pedagogy; the enduring strength in commitment to a schoolwide pedagogical framework; the 'teacher talk' of explicit literacy teaching practice; the metaphors that bring learning and teaching to life; and the 'metathinking' that synthesises and weaves together the threads of quality learning and teaching practice.
Contextually specific meaning systems matter
30 minute paper presented by Lindy Abawi
Recent doctoral research into the lasting effects of the IDEAS school improvement process produced conclusive findings to show that when a school has generated its own meaning system and 'no blame' culture then continued improvement over the long term is possible.The research was conducted within schools in the Sydney Catholic Education system and Education Queensland schools. Emergent from these findings is an understanding that a contextually created meaning system is a powerful force having a mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationship to school culture. A school with an individual meaning system is a school with a strong cultural identity capable of not only withstanding but thriving in the face of the winds of change.
What also become evident was that to be generative such a culture and meaning system requires leadership consciousness of its presence in order that it might be nurtured to ensure ongoing and sustainable growth. School leadership teams must consciously take note of the language-in-use within the school's classrooms, staffroom/s, offices and community meeting spaces, to note whether these spaces are just physical spaces or places where rational, cognitive and pedagogical connections occur.
The power of articulating personal pedagogy
1 hour workshop presented by Shauna Petersen and Joan Conway
When asked to articulate their personal pedagogy teachers often find this problematic. So much of 'who' and 'what' we are as teachers is a part of our tacit knowledge bank. It is built on prior experiences, our philosophies of life and even elements of our personality types which lie hidden beneath the surface of our daily lives as teachers. As a first step in the IDEAS process, a number of schools have discovered for themselves the power of teachers articulating and sharing their strongly held beliefs about quality pedagogical practices. As Parker Palmer says "knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject" (2007,p3).
This workshop will engage participants in an exploration of personal pedagogy providing insights and discussion points that can be applied within any teaching and learning context. Articulating personal pedagogical principles allows teachers to answer key questions such as: What do I prioritise in the classroom? What do I privilege? Why or why not? Can I justify the decisions that I make to both myself and others?
Creating enduring strength through commitment to schoolwide pedagogy
30 minute presentation by Joan Conway and Lindy Abawi
The term schoolwide pedagogy was once rarely heard and yet has now become a part of most discussions around school improvement. But what does it really mean? Some would say that in their school an authorative school wide approach that develops a shared understanding of effective teaching strategies and a language for learning such as Habits of Mind, Bloom's Taxonomies or the Productive Pedagogies are schoolwide pedagogical frameworks. To some extent they are - but what is often lacking within the implementation of such frameworks is a sense of creation and ownership by the teachers who are asked to use these to improve teaching and learning practice. Teacher adoption can therefore end up being sporadic at best with some teachers paying only lip service to such quality frameworks. Sometimes this occurs over time, especially after the initial drive and enthusiasm has come and gone and the original facilitators have moved on. The energy, passion and vision of the remaining few fade away.
True commitment to a schoolwide pedagogical framework (SWP) is more than an adoption of just one particular approach. In schools that have undertaken the IDEAS process personal pedagogical principles and authoritative pedagogical principles are contextualised by the school community as as whole. Within this session stories from a number of schools, told by the teachers and leaders themselves, are used to demonstrate the enduring strength of commitment possible when a school creates its own SWP.
Metaphors: Powerful imagery bringing learning and teaching to life
30 minute paper presented by Deborah Geoghegan and Lindy Abawi
Utilising metaphor to clarify pedagogical understanding and to anchor teacher beliefs and knowledge to meaningful individualised or contextualised mental pictures has benefit in both pre-service teacher education and school contexts. This paper introduces two perspectives around the power of metaphor to enhance teaching practice. The first perspective shares the stories of metaphors of pre-service educators in their final year of a tertiary teacher education program. These university students utilised metaphor to articulate their aspirational goals as teachers-to-be. The metaphors were valued by students as a means of anchoring their understandings and allow them to deeply reflect on their current practice. The second perspective explores the use of a metaphorical vision in schools which have undertaken the IDEAS process and how the linking of a metaphor to understandings of schoolwide practices create rational, cognitive and pedagogical connections capable of contributing to sustainable school improvement.
The power of metaphor is closely linked to Fullan's concept of 'thinking skinny' which refers to the process of taking the breadth and depth of professional understandings and synthesising these down to their essence. This essence, in the form of metaphor, can be shared, refined, reflected upon and used as a light to guide practice.
Metalanguage: The 'teacher talk' of explicit teaching practice
30 minute paper presented by Shirley O'Neill, Shauna Petersen and Deborah Geoghegan
In recent times, much has been written about what constitutes effective literacy teaching and learning, the power of effective 'teacher talk' and the effect on student learning outcomes. Much has also been written about the power of schoolwide approaches to pedagogy, particularly within the context of a process of school improvement. This paper ties together these two threads through the powerful stories of two primary schools that had undertaken a long term school improvement process called IDEAS.
We examine the evidence of the explicit teaching of literacy and in particular, the 'teacher talk' that occurs, and the way it reflects teachers' shared pedagogical practice and students' engagement thus providing a living, breathing context for the enactment of the schoolwide literacy pedagogy at the classroom level.
Metathinking: The power of schoolwide meaning-making processes
1 hour workshop presented by Joan Conway
Bombarded by demanding, competing and under-developed initiatives and faced with an increasingly complex mix of student needs: does that resonant with you? Then this workshop invites you to engage in conversation and activities that will explore the processes of schoolwide meaning-making where you are not alone. In the words of Albert Einstein, "The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." Could it be that we are finally catching up with what this means? How do we cope? Is it something to do with focusing on contextually-based conceptual and creative thinking?
Although the cliche of 'thinking about thinking' might be too easily dismissed as what teachers intuitively do when they plan for inquiry-based and problem-solving activities, this is not the reality for a group of teachers who have clearly articulated their thinking processes. Materials drawn from a recent research project revealed convincing evidence of how teachers interdependently build capacity for creating schoolwide meaning-making processes.