The May Education Summits- Talkers and Walkers

April 29, 2018

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Talking the Talk
“…education belongs to, and is about, all of us. That’s why we want all of you – children, young people, parents, teachers, employers, iwi, families and whānau – to have a conversation about building not just a better education system, but the world’s best. Because second-best isn’t good enough for our kids. Or for New Zealand.”
https://conversation.education.govt.nz/

The Education Conversation – Kōrero Mātauranga, which opened 23 Mar and closes 15 June 2018, has so far allowed more than 5,000 New Zealanders have their say about the future of education, some via some face to face discussions, the majority by filling in a “five minute” on line survey.

It is aimed at providing some content for the two education summits, Christchurch (5-6 May) and Auckland (12-13 May). Education Minister Chris Hipkins has described it as “the most popular education consultation in decades”.

Have you had your say? The online survey asks four questions about the future of New Zealand’s education system:

  1. What does a successful student of the future look like to you?
  2. What will they need to know and be able to do?
  3. What things need to be in place to make sure every learner is successful?
  4. If you were the boss of education in New Zealand, what would you do first?

Budgeting 1¼ minutes per question makes this a short answer test, though not a very objective one, for people wanting to have “ a say on the future of New Zealand education… for the next 30 years or more.”

Some would argue that productive change is best brought about best by continuous improvement, at a rate that can be handled by all concerned, not by occasional big bangs. Taking pressure off  fault lines not waiting for large seismic shocks.

Still it’s good to have a reason to engage people in discussions about education. After all, everyone has a view, albeit sometimes outdated or idiosyncratic.

But if it is to be more than a tick-the-box consultation the dialogue needs to be anchored to a sound evidential foundation. Educators and others now have access to a large body of new information about brain function, how humans learn and effective professional development, among other things.

Messages need to be sent and received both ways. We are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. There needs to be appropriate context for the content.

Walking the Talk
“The views shared through the education conversation will be discussed at the Education Summit in May and will then inform the strategies and reviews that are part of the education work programme announced in February.”

Beyond talking the talk it is important to think strategically about how to provide those at the learning interface-especially learners, teachers and parents—with the maps, the guidance, the opportunities and the resources to actually walk the talk.

‘Walking the talk’ matters in the use of evidence for transformative education’ is the title of an invited paper published late last year for the UNESCO Project: ‘Rethinking and repositioning curriculum in the 21st century: A global paradigm shift’.

By Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Ministry of Education, this is a cornucopia of accessible digital resources for underpinning professional development, as well as enhancing lay understanding, including that of politicians.

Vision and Strategy
“…vision and strategy are as much about creating meaning for people as they are about establishing direction.”  Andrew Smith

The challenge for Education Summiteers will be merging perspectives from the lay and professional streams of input. This is not easy. The Share an Idea community consultation process following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, while highly engaging, did not manage to bridge this disconnect and led to artificially raised expectations.

The Christchurch City Council jumped too quickly from a feel good consultation process into “strategic planning” without developing key strands from the public input and articulating visions for the future of the city for further in-depth discussion. The result was a Government takeover via a flawed 100 Days “Blueprint” which stifled community participation and contestable professional input.

The sequence is the secret. A properly crafted vision describes the endpoint and outcomes of the collective journey or collaborative enterprise and contains the criteria for evaluating its satisfactory completion.

A vision should lift our sights, focus our attention and fortify our aspirations. A confusing mishmash of ideas in the guise of consultation can obscure rather than elucidate the shape of key issues.

There are ways to improve the quality of conversational outcomes downstream.

Mobilising Knowledge
“Out of 947 source reviews the New Zealand Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development BES was found to be the most consistent and rigorous. The New Zealand Best Evidence Synthesis has substantively informed this new evidence about what it takes to develop great teaching that makes a difference for student achievement. “…Comprehensive international review

Prof. Toby Greany, keynote speaker at Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August, has a particular interest in policy, both as a process and the ways in which it impacts in education.

Prof. Greany, Professor of Leadership and Innovation at the IOE and Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning, is interested in school systems and how leaders operate within those systems, both as a result of deliberate and unintended policy-driven incentives and of personal agency.

He was one of four contributors to a Comprehensive international review  launched in the UK House of Commons in 2014 on professional learning and development.

He focuses on the intersections between policy, practice and evidence and the ways in which knowledge, expertise and capacity moves around within and between organisations.

His models for knowledge mobilisation, the development and impact of networks and collaboration and his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive change in the months and years after the Summits.

The Future of Education
“Public education belongs to us all. Its future is too important to be left to politicians alone.” The Education Conversation

Perhaps education is too important to involve party politics at all apart from providing a high trust and well resourced environment, with cross-party agreement on key strategic priorities like attracting and retaining quality teachers by valuing them more highly.

This would enable learners, educators, parents, childcare workers and others to walk the talk without the sudden lurches caused by an over politicisation of education issues.

The online question asking people what they would do first if they were “the boss of education” is gratuitous. It invites people to focus on the simplistic and short-term. The challenge for those invited to the Education Summits is to grapple with the complex and long term.

Knowledge and data about education in New Zealand is both widely distributed and aggregated via the Ministry of Education’s Best Evidence Synthesis publications, led by Dr Alton-Lee.

For the education conversation to be truly meaningful it needs to be processed in a coherent way which distils key messages for generating better education policy. But above all, if we are to truly value educators and revalue education, the focus needs to be on resourcing and supporting the walkers more than the talkers by mobilising knowledge and turning it into action.

The role of the Minister of Education and his Ministry in planning and carrying out the Education Summits is co-ordinating, resourcing, supporting and facilitating- more Colonel Hunt than Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

High level performance requires good systems and a continuous flow of oxygen.

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August.