Message from the Branch President, Mathilda Joubert
Creating Cultures of Deep Learning
Am I a curling teacher, leader or parent? This was a question that stopped me in my tracks when I heard James Nottingham speak many years ago and it is still a question that shapes my thinking. James explained that, just like players in the Olympic sport, curling, aim to desperately smooth the ice in front of the gliding curling stone with their brooms, we can become trapped in a cycle of desperately trying to smooth the ice in children’s learning by taking away any obstacles and reducing challenge for them. Whilst this may be well-intentioned, it may lead to a loss of resilience in learners, where they start to avoid challenge. Instead, James advocates that we must hack up the ice in front of learners, purposefully creating cognitive challenge and then teach them how to cope with – and indeed learn to love – challenging learning. James invented the Learning Pit concept to help learners and teachers understand the process and emotions that learners go through when they start “wobbling” when facing challenging learning tasks. Like removing the stabiliser wheels from our children’s bicycles when they are young, it is a necessary step in developing greater independence in learning. James encouraged us to teach learners to embrace the “wobble zone” as a sign of learning, since learning should be about improving, not proving what you can already do. James’ mantra to students is: “Easy is boring; challenging is interesting.”
James has since written numerous books about Challenging Learning and related concepts, including the leadership challenge of creating whole school cultures of deep, challenging learning. I am delighted that James will be travelling to Perth for a one-off ACEL workshop on Leading a Learning Culture on Friday the 21st of October (9am – 3pm). The workshop will explore mental models about challenge, progress and grades, behaviour, and collective efficacy and consider how leaders can build capacity in their school communities to develop deep learn cultures that impacts learning. This event is not to be missed. I introduced James to the network of schools I was working in more than eight years ago. It is still impacting the work, classrooms, and school cultures of those schools today. Further information about this exciting event can be found here.
Another highlight of our ACEL calendar is the annual ACEL National Conference from 28 – 30 September in Sydney. After a few years of Covid disruption, I cannot wait for the opportunity to reconnect with inspired and inspiring educational leaders from across the country. The theme this year is: Inspiring hope; leading our future, and there is a stellar line-up of speakers, including our very own West-Australian Dr Deborah Netolicky as a keynote and several concurrent sessions led by WA educators. I am also particularly excited about the series of Future School case studies this year, challenging us to think deeply about the future of schooling in Australia.
If you are attending the conference, we are hosting a social event for West Australian delegates on the eve of the conference, Tuesday the 27th of September (5.00 – 6.30pm) at the Arthouse Hotel – Graffiti Bar (on level 1), 275 Pitt St, Sydney. Please join us if you are in Sydney on Tuesday evening. And if you haven’t booked a seat for the conference yet, there is still time to jump on board. I still remember when I attended my first ACEL national conference. I couldn’t believe there were so many people around the country “speaking my language”, equally passionate about student learning, teacher learning and building resilient, purpose-driven school cultures. I felt I had met my tribe. You can find further information about the conference here.
We will also hold our next ACEL WA Educational Leadership Book Club during the holiday on Thursday the 6th of October (10am-12pm). This time we will be discussing the book “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again” by Johann Hari. I am really being challenged by this book as I am considering the implications for my own life, for student learning and for the organisational cultures we create in education. Join us in person or connect with us via Zoom for some good conversations and networking with colleagues (even if you haven’t managed to read the book yet since your focus might have been stolen ). Please book your spot or find further information here.
I hope that you will all have a refreshing holiday break and that you will return inspired to continue pursuing cultures of deep, challenging learning, wherever you are.