Making sense of ACEL

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Back now for a couple of days after three days in Sydney for ACEL, blog posts about some of the individual sessions below, and trying to make sense of what I heard, and sort through a busy three days of sitting and listening mostly.

There were recurring threads this year: compassion, identity and the bigger picture of teaching beyond scores. And ideas that were ‘contested’, PISA particularly, which I found particularly interesting. Hargreaves (who I was disappointed in) and Harris (who I was impressed by) differed greatly on that one (see my tweet below!)

There was also a big gap at times between the quality of the keynotes and the quality of the break-out sessions, some of which were neither inspirational or particularly practical. It was a lot of sitting, I can’t imagine how students cope with this kind of thing all day, two hour sessions, a break, more hours of sitting. I went for a walk at one stage and rediscovered some favourite Sydney haunts, but it was mostly pretty conventional, passive kind of presenting and receiving.

Interesting too, the gap between the big picture future orientated, no time to waste, let’s transform kinds of presenters, to the attendees locked into specific systems and schools; that’s not the agenda at my school kind of thing.  There was some disquiet among people I talked to about opening the conference with a war story, and about killing people as Australian VC winter Mark Donaldson put leadership into a violent context. Context, that was one of the key words for me; big picture vs life in a school, equity vs excellence, Australia vs the world, transformative vs little picture nervousness. Tragically, the last day commenced with a minute’s silence for yet another school shooting in America, thus bookending the conference with images of violence permeating even an education conference.

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One of my favourites at the NSW Gallery – John Glover’s idyllic view of Tasmania.Processed with VSCOcam with e5 preset
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Every minute counts

Andy Hargreaves
@hargreavesBC

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‘Every minute counts’, began Hargreaves, opening the final day opening keynote, a presentation I was looking forward to a lot. He began with a personal story of his own life and his mother.

Hargreaves argued that the need was well beyond the basics, beyond 21C skills; it was about finding identity, engagement with history and the world.

He reminded us of old things, Delors in 1925 (learning to know, do, be, live together). He talked big picture, of being bold, of a national priority for ‘joy’ in the curriculum (Finland), of knowing where you want to go.

He made a case for PISA, arguing that evidence matters, especially in revealing matters of equity.

He admitted that boldness was harder to measure, and therefore perhaps riskier to go for; how will you know you’ve got there? But you need to try: to be bold and specific.

He argued for professional capital, for collective efficacy, ‘what do we believe we can do together’, not the star system of programs like Teach for America.

It was all bit scattered in the end, and if I hadn’t read his work, I would have thought even a bit shallow, but the key messages were very strong.