2009 Conference

The Shifting Thinking Conference, 3-4 November 2009, Wellington (Circa Theatre): A Play in Four Acts

The home base for the Shifting Thinking Conference  was Wellington’s Circa Theatre. Adopting a theatrical metaphor, we decided to construct the Shifting Thinking conference as a Four Act Play.

Act I

Act I was played out pre-conference – on this website. Our team posted blogs, thinking tools, and theory pages which touched on key ideas, issues, and questions for learning and education in the 21st century. We invited readers to become  players in Act I by reading and commenting on these blogs and pages, and joining the shiftingthinking community.

Act II

This was the first day of the conference - Tuesday 3rd November. The theme was 20th century education: certainty, hope and the never-ending goals of education. We used a relatively traditional conference format, with speakers and discussion, interspersed with guided thinking tools . At the end ofAct II we presented participants with a list of five “quizzical quandaries” and asked them to choose which one(s) they were most interested in exploring in groups during Act III…

This day featured four important talks from key experts inside education and outside, inside New Zealand and internationally. Interspersed between these talks there was time for reflection and conversation, grounded by new thinking tools which Jennifer Garvey Berger introduced over the course of the day.  (Read blogpostings about the thinking tools)

The facilitator: Jennifer Garvey-Berger


Introduction to the conference and the key ideas
Thinking tool 1, reflection and conversation





Talk 1:  Michael F D Young. Schooling, curriculum and social justice, 

Michael Young-1Michael Young is Professor of Education at the Institute of Education/London Knowledge Lab, University of London.

His 1971 book, Knowledge and Control, is widely regarded as the beginning what later became known as the ‘new sociology of education’. The papers in this book argued that educational inequalities are produced, not through ‘deficiencies’ in some individuals or groups, but through how schools, and the curriculum in particular, are organised. They made the case that the school curriculum is a selection from all available knowledge, and that it is a selection that, because it reflects the interests of particular social groups, very effectively reproduces social inequalities. This work produced calls for the knowledge(s) of other social groups – indigenous people, women, and working-class people, for example – to be part of the school curriculum. The resulting debates—around the nature and status of knowledge—have divided educationists into two philosophically opposed camps ever since: – those who see education’s purpose as being to bring out everyone’s full potential, and those who want to defend the traditional curriculum and (what they see as) traditional ‘rigour’ and ‘standards’.

In his recent work [1], Michael Young addresses the very difficult questions raised by these debates. What kinds of knowledge really matter? What knowledge (if any) matters to everyone? Is all knowledge ‘cultural’? Are there any universals? How can we know this? How do we decide what knowledge should be in the school curriculum – for everyone? – for some people? Are there new and different answers to these questions in the 21st century?

In his talk to the Shifting Thinking conference, Michael will talk about how and why his ideas about educational inequality, and the role of the school curriculum in producing them, have changed over the 40+ years he has been working in this area. Why did he change his ideas? What did this feel like? What had to be given up for this to happen? How can we achieve a productive way forward?

1. See, for example, Young, M. F. D. (1998). The curriculum of the future: from the ‘new sociology of education’ to a critical theory of learning. London: Routledge Falmer, and Young, M.F.D. (2008). Bringing knowledge back in: From social constructivism to social realism in the sociology of education. London: Routledge.

Young, M. (2009). What are schools for? In: Knowledge, Values and Educational Policy (eds H.Daniels, H.Lauder and J.Porter. London: Routledge.


 Thinking tool 2, reflection and conversation (Jennifer Garvey-Berger)


Talk 2: Cathy Wylie. Fairness and justice in 21st century schools – some lessons from the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms.


Cathy Wylie is Chief Researcher at NZCER. She has been an educational researcher for more than twenty years, publishing and presenting extensively on New Zealand educational policy and its impacts. She has an ongoing interest in the impact of the school self-management policies introduced in New Zealand as part of the 1989 ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ reforms. In an influential 1988 paper “How fair is New Zealand education”, she summarised what was then known about the realities of educational opportunity.

One of the purposes of the 1989 reforms was to improve equality of educational opportunity. The reforms devolved extensive decision-making powers to schools, with the aim of allowing them to develop a curriculum tailored to local needs and to individual student needs. The reforms also allowed parents greater choice between schools, so that, in theory, they could choose schools that best met the needs of their children.

In her talk to the Shifting Thinking conference, Cathy will outline the ‘big ideas’ behind the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms, and the mixed effect on equality of educational opportunity these ideas have had. She will then look at how all this could help us think about the challenges that lie ahead if we are committed to addressing educational inequality in 21st century schools.

Talk 3: Keith Johnston: No longer “them and us.”  It’s all about “us”


Keith Johnston has spent the last 30 years thinking about some of the most complex forces in the world and how to have an impact on them in order to make lasting positive changes.  He also thinks about the ways leaders lead and could be more effective in their roles.  The Chair of the global board of trustees of Oxfam International and a former senior manager for the New Zealand Department of Conservation; Keith now offers strategic advice and coaching to senior leaders in the New Zealand public sector and non-government organisations.  His PhD in leadership development, from the Australian National University, explored the thinking and self-awareness required of environmental managers operating in complex contexts.

It is with his background in these complex and intertwining contexts of the environment, world poverty, and injustice—and his research and practice in helping organisations and individuals shift—that Keith frames his talk for the conference. Looking at future trends in different arenas of our lives, Keith sketches out a compelling image of the complex future our educators need to support and the paradoxes that arise from this.


Thinking tool 3, reflection and conversation  (Jennifer Garvey-Berger)


Talk 4: Education, knowledge, and equality? Shifting our thinking for the 21st century

Jane Gilbert 

Jane Gilbert

Jane Gilbert is a Chief Researcher at NZCER. She has worked in the education sector in New Zealand for nearly thirty years – ten as a secondary school teacher (biology/science), ten as a university teacher/researcher (educational sociology/philosophy and science education), and nine as a full-time educational researcher. She has written two books focusing on how and why schooling in New Zealand needs to be re-thought for the 21st century.[1]

In her talk to the Shifting Thinking conference, Jane will look at the ‘big ideas’ that drove the development of the 20th century schooling system. She will explore how and why some of these ideas are no longer helpful as a foundation for 21st century schooling, looking in particular at ideas about knowledge, social cohesion, and social justice. In the talk Jane will argue that re-designing our schools to build the kind of society we want in the 21st century requires a major shift in the thinking of not only educationists, but all of us with a stake in the future of this country. In part of the talk, Jane will reflect on the rollercoaster process through which she came to have these views. She will look at how her ideas have changed over time—through her work first as a science teacher in multicultural, mid/low decile schools and her discomfort with the ‘science for all’ and ‘taha Mäori’ initiatives of the time, and later, as she began to engage with postmodern political theory and the Knowledge Society literature—and at some of what had to be given up, often reluctantly, and probably incompletely…

[1] Catching the Knowledge Wave?: The Knowledge Society and the future of education in New Zealand (2005), and Disciplining and drafting, or 21st century learning? Rethinking the New Zealand senior school curriculum for the future (2008, with Rachel Bolstad).
Quizzical quandaries

At the end of Act II, Jennifer Garvey Berger distributed this  sheet of quizzical quandaries to conference participants. Each person selected the one(s) they were most interested in focussing on with their learning groups during Act III. (Read a blogposting about what happened in the learning groups)


This was the second day of the conference - Wednesday 4th November. After a surprise play was performed at  our homebase at Circa Theatre, we took conference participants on a journey from 20th century to 21st century ways, through activities in three venues around the Wellington waterfront: Circa Theatre, Te Papa, and Mac’s Brewery Bar. Participants collaborated in learning groups, beginning with the quizzical quandary they had selected at the end of Act II, and decided how they would use their day to explore their ideas in relation to this quandary. They could gain new ideas and inspiration by opting into  a variety of breakout sessions with a variety of guest speakers and facilitators.

8.45 – 9.20 a.m.    An original play was performed to introduce the day. You can experience the play by watching this video or reading the script.

9.20 – 10.10             Everyone joined a learning group and planned their day with a learning coach. Each group had a “quizzical quandary” to discuss, and an array of breakout sessions to choose from. Each group made decisions about how they would use their time, which breakout sessions they would go to, and how they would share their learning with one another through the day.

10.15 – 10.55         Breakout Session One
11.00 – 11.40         Breakout Session Two
11.45 – 12.25         Breakout Session Three or early lunch
12.30  –  1.10         Breakout Session Four or late lunch

1.15 –  2pm            Debriefing within learning groups and planning feedback.  A few  groups collated some of their thinking at the end of the day on paper - here are some examples.

2pm – 2.55pm      Feedback/Discussion/Building New Ideas/Shifting Thinking
3 – 3.20 pm            Afternoon tea
3.20 – 4pm             Wrap up and intro to Act IV

Details for Breakouts Sessions
The breakout sessions were arranged into themed strands. There were four consecutive breakout sessions within each strand – so participants could stick with one strand or mix and match depending on their interests. Some of the strands are described briefly below.

STRAND DESCRIPTION (click headings for more detail)
Keep the conversations going! Here’s how:
Visual MetaphorsIn this strand we explored the representations and realities of education, as well as conceptualising education in the 21st century, through using, responding to, and actively creating visual metaphors.
Future focussed issuesIn this strand guest facilitators unpacked and explored the meaning and implications of the four “future focussed issues” highlighted in the New Zealand Curriculum: Sustainability, enterprise, globalisation, and citizenship.
“Ask the expert”In this strand you could grab a coffee and sit in the Circa lounge to chat with some of our guest speakers from Act II.
Playing with ideasIn this strand we drew on both the published ideas of some key educationalists and each others’ ideas as we attempted to think differently about what school could be like.
Thinking differently about schoolIn this strand we were thinking and talking about changing the focus on our practice in school.
TED talks StrandIn this strand we screened a selection of inspiring TED talks. A facilitator guided the group in a discussion of the ideas explored in each TED talk, and how these relate to education in the 21st century.
Blogger’s café. In this strand, if you BYO laptop, you were able to sit quietly and blog or twitter your thoughts, read content from the shiftingthinking.org website, or peruse some of our recommended readings and favourite Youtube clips. A support person was onsite to help novice bloggers get started, or help you navigate your way around the shiftingthinking.org website.
Ourspace@TePapaThis was your opportunity to turn your thinking upside down as you explored the fluid exhibition space in Te Papa called Our Space.

Speakers and facilitators on Day 2 included:

Speakers and facilitators

Fiona Beals
Rocking from the mighty West Coast, Dr Fiona Beals works as an Education Advisor at Global Focus Aotearoa (formally the Global Education Centre). Fiona completed her PhD in education in 2006 and is now aiming to get a PhD from the streets (which is proving quite hard). Aside from Deschooling Society, Fiona’s favourite texts include Matt Groening’s philosophical cartoon book School is Hell and the 1960′s film Fahrenheit 451.
fiona low photo
Sarah Beresford
Sarah develops visual literacy resources at NZCER, has a background in anthropology and journalism, and completed a Masters in Visual Culture Research in 2008. She is currently developing resources that focus on interpreting visual texts, through deconstruction and critical analysis. Enabling students to access multiple layers of meaning, and to give subjective but logical interpretations, in which students draw both on the text and their prior knowledge and experiences.
Rachel Bolstad
Rachel is a senior researcher at NZCER, avid blogger, and keen participant in web 2.0. Since joining NZCER in 2002 she has undertaken research in a wide range of areas including environmental education/education for sustainability, education for enterprise, school-based curriculum development and innovation, and the role and potential of ICT, multimedia, and e-learning in education. She is enjoying the creative thinking that the shifting thinking conference planning demands!
Read blogs by Rachel
Rachel Bolstad
Ally Bull
Ally is a senior researcher and resource developer at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. She has experience at all levels of primary school, in pre-service and in-service teacher education, as a resource teacher of learning and behaviour, and in distance education. Read blogs by Ally
Ally Bull
Bob Frame
Bob is Principal Scientist (Sustainability and Society) at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research in Lincoln. After training in Scotland as an engineer and research physicist, he lived in China and India working as a manager in international aid, and now, once again, does research. He now works outside formal disciplines with a strong interest in ways to imagine the future.  The South Island holds many attractions for him.
Rose HipkinsRose used to be a science and biology teacher but now she is a chief researcher at the NZCER with specific responsibilities for building links between research and practice. As a proud grandmother, Rose is keen to see real change in education and in ways we look after the natural world. We’ve only got one planet! Thus, understanding and working with the complexity of both natural and social systems has a compelling personal and professional urgency for her. DSC08124
Billy Matheson

Billy trained as an Industrial Designer before working for 8 years in the tertiary education sector. During that time he completed a Masters in Adult Education looking at the role that narrative and identity play in adult learning. Billy is currently working with the Enviroschools Foundation developing a learning network for ‘young changemakers’.
Billy Matheson
Hugh McCrackenHugh is the Web Co-ordinator at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. His current projects include Drupal redevelopments of both the corporate web site, and the NZCER intranet. He will be helping us to use Twitter leading up to and during the conference, sharing some of the potential that it offers.Prior to his time at NZCER Hugh worked as a polytechnic lecturer, developing and delivering online IT courses, with a key interest in Web Design and Web 2 technologies. He is also a self-confessed train-obsessive, an interest which he selflessly shares with his children, family and workmates! hugh-mccracken
Sue McDowallSue McDowall is a senior researcher at NZCER where she works mainly in the areas of literacy and English. Her current projects focus on: literacy in e-learning contexts; literary engagement; and the integration of the key competencies and reading. Prior to her time at NZCER Sue worked as a primary school teacher for eight years. SueMcDowall_small_sharp_1
Lorraine McKay
Lorraine currently works as a Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour and has background experience as a primary teacher, maths advisor and pre-service lecturer. She has particular interest in the relationships that are developed between home and school and how these relationships contribute to decisions made about learning environments that personalize learning.
Diana-Grace Morris
Diana-Grace (dg) is currently the Team Leader for Te Papa Education Te Ipu Kähuirangi
DG loves: learning, change, colour, educational theory, primary teaching, whakatauki, Central Reds, peoples coffee, and sustainability to keep all that going! Her best most exciting project at the moment is developing video conferencing programmes for schools enabling accessibility by distance to Te Papa’s exhibitions, collections, and specialists. Big question at the moment is, what does inquiry based learning look like in a video conference?
Stephanie Pride
Stephanie works in strategic foresight at StratEDGY and has a particular interest in developing tools and processes for people to build their own futures capability. Born in a small Yorkshire mill town where the sun rarely shines, she came to Wellington via Oxford University and has been a committed New Zealander ever since. She has led futuring in a range of organisations and sectors, including establishing a learning network of futures practitioners, and enjoys working in the intersection of research and practice. Most recently, as Chief Advisor at Secondary Futures, she worked with the Education Sector to identify the systems changes needed to deliver 21st century education. She is particularly excited about the potential provided by the future principle in the New Zealand Curriculum to bed futures literacy into the education of every New Zealander.
Stephanie Pride
Josie RobertsJosie is a senior researcher at NZCER and is interested in how formal education systems might greet the possibilities and responsibilities of the 21st century. She has worked in areas such as education for sustainability,education for enterprise, futures thinking, and youth development. Most recently her imagination has been captured by the potential of the future focussed issues in the New Zealand Curriculum—sustainability, citizenship, globalisation, and enterprise. Josie
Perry Rush
Perry Rush is principal of Island Bay School. His was formerly foundation principal of Discovery 1 School in Christchurch and founded Tawa School City Site in Wellington’s CBD. He is a proud dad, keen mountain biker and serious coffee drinker.
Juliet Twist
Juliet is researcher and resource developer at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Her research interests include literacy (including ESOL), curriculum and resource development, assessment, and key competencies.

Act IV

Act IV: carries on beyond 4 November. We hoped to build new connections and new communities of interest to keep developing these ideas on www.shiftingthinking.org. Whether you attended the conference or not – you can be part of Act IV!

2009 Shifting Thinking Conference photos

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Robyn Baker, NZCER Director, opens The Shifting Thinking Conference.

st-conf-pix (4)

Jennifer Garvey-Berger setting the context for shifting thinking: yours, mine, ours.

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A scene from the play that opened Act III – the English teacher about to be invited to “sit down”!

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