April 7, 2008

I attended the 8th annual Graduate Studies in Education Symposium last week at the Queen's Faculty of Education. I figured since I will be starting my M.Ed. program in July, I should participate in something that will warm up my brain and get my hamster thinking and pondering like a university student again.
As I sat waiting for the keynote speaker to begin I pored over the symposium booklet to sort out how I wanted my afternoon to proceed. There were 26 different sessions to choose from, which I thought was pretty impressive. After a good 15 minutes or so I finally narrowed it down to three sessions that caught my interest.
Enter the keynote, Dr. Eva Krugly-Smolska (Queen's) who talked about what we need to think about as we consider education in the global community. She opened with some good questions about how we ought to consider "community" in post-modernity and the paradox that difference is not typically an accepted part of a community, given that commonality is an inherent keystone of community. She threw out the idea that maybe we should strive for a global society as opposed to a global community. This wandered into us imagining communities where we balance the tension between cultural homogeneity and cultural heterogeneity. Hmmm...
My next session was a duel-lecture, beginning with "Satan or Socrates: The perils of excessive pride in pedagogy" by Ph.D. student Theodore Christa (Queen's) and followed by "Patterns of Discourse for Improving Pedalogical Knowledge" by Ph.D. student Chew Lee Teo (OISE). I loved the first session, as he talked about how hubris is responsible for our downfall and that acknowledgement of one's ignorance is the beginning of wisdom. He used Milton's Paradise Lost as his narrative tool to argue that we ought to strive to be humble and reflexive pedagogues. Alas, the second session was mostly graphs and charts, as Ms. Teo talked about coding language of actual teachers she has in a test lab to assess how they build knowledge in the classroom. Ugh!
The next session was a beacon for me, as it is highly relevant to my interests in looking at the definition of quality in higher education. Ph.D. student Meggan Madden (OISE) offered "The OECD's Proposed International Learning Outcomes Assessment for Higher Education". She argued that there has been a major shift in the the view of quality from outcomes to output, something we have seen since the Harris government's focus on "accountability" and the imposition of quantifiable measurements on universities. I totally enjoyed this session and it actually read like my own proposed focus of studies document, although my focus is much more specific. She talked about the impact of rankings, and role the U.S. federal government is trying to play to have a centrally-controlled definition of quality. We had a great chat after, and I was buoyed that what I plan to study and research is not only relevant but needed.
The last session I attended was called "Challenging Contemporary Conceptions of Education and Excellence" by M.Ed. student Heather O'Reilly (Queen's). This was a passionate argument for using the arts to advance social justice in education. I was attracted to her desire to link education to one's democratic citizenship, and the role the arts can and should play in helping one develop critical thinking and critical reflection. Very inspiring!!

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