Raging at researchED

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
8 June, 2018

Last year Prince Harry interviewed Obama. The former president told the Prince that to improve things you have to find common ground between people. And that this requires them to encounter each other – not just online but in person.

I know that debate in education can be polarising. Perhaps because of this, and because Kiwis are so polite and friendly, there has been limited debate about educational ideas in New Zealand for some years – regardless the flavour of government. This has its advantages, particularly for the group who dominate the academy (in this case our teacher training institutions). However, it can also create fertile space for sloppy, unevidenced thinking.

Unless we are careful, I believe much of the modern, 21st century learning movement falls into this category.

And so the Initiative partnered with researchED to reignite evidence-based education in New Zealand. On Saturday, over 240 passionate educators, parents, researchers and school trustees gathered at Auckland Grammar School to discuss the evidence on effective education.
Speakers covered (amongst other things) early literacy instruction, the findings from John Hattie’s meta-analyses of education methods, how to improve University Entrance of Maori students in low decile schools, cognitive automaticity in maths, the meaning of knowledge, and the NZ history curriculum.
The festival created a buzz, and excitingly several attendees have since started blogs on which to continue the discussions. One theme that came up time and time again was the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) – a topic we will cover in a future publication.
In the words of the PPTA’s Tom Haig, “there were a lot of people attracted to researchED who probably wouldn’t find themselves at home in the mainstream educational establishment, and as a result there was a bit of (tidily dressed and well enunciated) ‘raging against the machine’."
What greater compliment than to have created a safe space for minority raging. Some speakers and attendees even referred to Saturday’s conference as like finding their spiritual home.
So now, having created a home, the challenge is to continue the open conversations. That way we can hope to build an evidence-based consensus from which to finally debate our values. And I suspect that where values are concerned Obama is right, people must continue to meet and exchange perspectives.
So thank you to everyone who came, from whichever position you favour; and we look forward to seeing you again. 

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