Today was the first of the two days of the highly touted International Middle Schooling Conference, held in the luxurious confines of the Adelaide Convention Centre on the banks of the River Torrens in the CBD here. It's a very big venue (no wireless internet though, unfortunately) and takes a bit of time to get from one presentation to another. It started with a big keynote start with the Young Australian of the year, Hugh Evans - an incredible speaker who started his own NGO at the age of 20, the Oaktree Foundation. His was an incredible story (read from the links for more) and he was a perfect example to showcase the potential of youth for this conference. I'm feeling a bit conferenced out after the last few weeks so my notes may be a bit sporadic, but here they are for reference's sake.
Yoran Horpaz – Toward a Conceptual Map of Education.
3 big ideologies in education, referred to as meta-ideologies. We are living in a very confused time. He started by taking about “What is Ideology?” Ideology has four points – Utopia, (most emotional part, gives impetus or drive) Diagnosis, (describes the actual world in which we live) Strategy (how to make it happen), collective (who are the social group who will carry out the change.) He used feminism as an example of an ideology. He then talked about the differentiation between Political and Educational Ideology. So, in education Utopia is the image of ideal graduate (student), Diagnosis describes actual disadvantages of student, Strategy has didactics, and the method of teaching and for the Collective is the educational community. Yoram gave an example that the ideal student could be very contextual - his ideal would be Critical Thinker, while ours might be Australian Patriot!! Education serves three masters (or meta-ideologies ) Socialization (adapt the child to society, impart useful behaviours) , Acculturation (convey essence of culture to new generation, mold child in light of cultural values and truths) this is tied to values, maybe critical thinkers, better human beings and Individuation (foster the autonomy and authenticity of each child ; develop child’s unique personality). Freud described newborn children as “barbarians” – taming them is the role of education. Other view is that children are innately good, curious etc. and that education in the socialization model “ruins” them. Third view goes to allowing the child chance to grow as an individual. The formula of Teaching is T (teacher) + I (instruction) + C (content) + S (student) = P (purpose)
Teaching style: S: Sage or the stage; (A) Guide on the side (I) Facilitator and therapist (only teach what students are ready and willing to engage with)
The summary of Yoram’s: The current confusion:- We do Socialization, we talk Acculturation, and we think Individuation.
Footnote: I chose this presentation because Artichoke had quoted Harpaz before in terms of educational theory in either her blog or the comments section here, so I just had to hear this acclaimed academic's perspective. I learnt a lot - it was simple, well explained and didn't deviate beyond what was promised.
Donna Pendergast – Sustaining life long learning and school reform: The importance of efficacy.
She stated by pointing out that this session is actually a follow or session to one she is presenting late. Firstly, she clarified efficiacy ~ measuring the value or worth of something. After the MCEETYA funded UQ project, it was found that little is known of the efficacy of the Middle Years initiatives. A key point is the effective use of research in evidence based planning. So far, evidence around the world is light on in efficacy - lots of descriptive commentaries of “how”. Educational Research is bringing theory and practice together - then quantify the efficacy. Middle school initiatives could go from ”boom to bust.” Steps 1. Increase acceptance and support in the learning community & wider community. 2. Strengthen recommend teacher practices in local contexts. 3. Clarify policy issues as policy drives finding and training. 4. Enhance theoretical of middle schooling practices.
Focus on teacher as researcher - teachers need to have a broader picture because we tend to be self focussed. Research in the Middle Years – 1.Acceptance 2. Effectiveness 3. Sustainability. (Main & Boyer 2005)
Quite a few questions to consider in evaluation. What elements? You can’t measure middle years of schooling? What purpose or reason? School based research stories should be shared. What will we do with evaluation elements? Who are the stakeholders? What resources are available? What tools, techniques and expertise do we need? What indicator? What will the evaluation process be coordinated? How will the information be disseminated?
Donna finished with a school example – more of these stories are needed to maintain efficacy of middle schooling.
Interestingly, the third session of the day was a washout. There was obviously some confusion somewhere because the presenters failed to show!
The second keynote of the day was Michael Carr-Gregg, on Resilience in Middle School Students. I won't rewrite my jottings from this but just my raw notes here anyway. He's a clinical psychologist who also writes for Girlfriend magazine, is an author and appears on Sunrise , the Channel Seven morning television show. Today's teenagers are experiencing the following :- Earlier puberty (shortening of the latency period, high level of vulnerability), 49% divorce rate (parents feeling guilty), Rise of the 2nd family and Decline in social capital (less time at the dinner table, spending less time with each other).
This generation surveyed said the most important person / people in their lives are their friends - online life.
What the Middle School Movement has done well:
· Key reform elements in place
· Genuine partnerships between primary and secondary
Mental health issues affect one in seven adolescents in Australia. Issues of emotional, physical sexual abuse (sometimes by teachers). A fact - 30% of Year Fives have drunk alcohol. Can cause irreversible brain damage. Internet addiction - log onto NetAlert, looking at the dark side of the internet - websites dedicated to eating disorders. 1 in 5 children affected by bullying. Use resource called "Mind Matters". Adolescents need an average of 9.5 hours of sleep per night. Go to www.whygendermatters.com Michael believes that single gender classes in middle school classes will be the norm by ten years (if indeed those sort fo classrooms still exist!) Referred to evidence based research and quoted "Communities That Care" by Hawkins and Catalano.Kids need a charismatic adult in their life. That's where middle school teachers come in.
I went to a couple of other sessions but haven't anything extra to add here. Tomorrow is when our MYLU do their presentation. I think we're ready....