Monday, 13 April 2015

Reflections from the World Educational Leaders Summit - Stephen Murgatroyd

Another of the speakers at the conference was Stephen Murgatroyd, who focussed on the challenges faced by schools as we encounter the changing world.

His presentation scanned the various dimensions of change that are swirling around us, identifying: demographic change; global economic change; employment change; technological change; environmental change; changes in the nature of personal identity and community; and the list went on.

In responding to this raft of other challenges, he made the following points (among many others!):

  • Don't be seduced by 'the next big thing', whether it is peddled by vendors or scavenged from top-performing PISA jursdictions or simply because it offers a nice neat solution to the tensions and pressures that we face. We need to learn to live with tension and paradox, because the complexity of schools and their operating environments does not allow for silver bullet solutions.
  • Technology is not the answer; pedagogy is the answer. Great teaching and learning (which may be supported or enabled by technology) has to be the focus of schools, in the pursuit of rich and deep learning outcomes for all.
  • The accountability of schools needs to be reframed as public assurance; what do parents/governing bodies/the public need to know in order to know that the school is doing well. The conversation needs to be shifted away from standardized tests (in our context, NAPLAN) or credential scores (in our context, HSC and ATAR) towards the deeper and more significant outcomes for students. It is legitimate to want this assurance, but the focus of our concerns as a community must be more substantial.
  • Systems do not innovate; innovation is grounded in schools, done by teachers and supported by leaders. 
  • Collaboration is the DNA of the innovation economy. The most common and accessible approach to innovation is 'adopt and adapt'. Cross-boundary learning from fields such as health, business, construction, and technology is rich with possibility. We need to make opportunities to learn from other fields, as well as from our colleagues in other schools and other classrooms.
  • The first law of project work - whether a teacher's professional work or a student's learning activity - is to begin with a problem for which you do not know the answer.

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