Bucking the Trend — What Works for Boys

Prince Alfred College crest

14–15 September 2017
Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, South Australia


Download Conference Flyer (pdf)


Conference Workshops

Conference Themes:

  • Bucking the trend - What works for boys?
  • Learning from research
  • Issues in boys’ education
  • Shaping the culture in a boys’ school
  • Leading change in classroom practice
  • Building boys’ self-esteem and confidence
Presentations will also be referenced against the following AiTSL Australian Professional Standards for Teachers:
  • Know students and how they learn
  • Know the content and how to teach it
  • Professional practice
  • Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments
  • Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning

Workshop Session 1: Thursday 14 September, 11:00 AM

WS1A: Searching for the Master: A journey through some of the great boys’ schools of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa
Presenter: James Thorpe

This session will reflect on shaping the culture in a boys’ school by exploring two contexts: Michaelhouse, the Anglican Diocesan College of Natal, South Africa and The King’s School in Sydney. Delegates will look at a series of short video clips reflecting on the unique learning environment and culture each school exhibits. For Michaelhouse, we will focus on the school-wide MHS Spell (war cry) as a microcosm of the unity and camaraderie of the student population and their recent campaign ‘Armour for Life’. Why is this important? As a reflection on student leadership, this highly complex, orchestrated fanfare is a reflection of the school’s culture and the character of the boarding students. How do we create this type of commitment for our schools? Are there some practical, actionable building blocks for us to embed? Is it possible for a new school to adopt these trends as a way to develop a ‘band of brothers’ atmosphere among students, staff, parents and the broader community?

This presentation will focus on the concept of ‘great schools’ and the importance of international relationships in boys’ education. We will compare and contrast the value of student and staff exchange programmes. In particular, we will use the relationship between The King’s School and Michaelhouse as an example of why inter-school friendships are so important for student and teacher learning and in character education. What can Michaelhouse teach us? What can The King’s School teach us?

The session will include a number of observations conducted by James Thorpe between 2012 and 2016, which involved interviewing five CEO/Headmasters across schools in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

WS1B: The Legacy Project, Year 1
Presenters: Ray Swann & Christian Machar

In 2017, Brighton Grammar School in Melbourne, Victoria, introduced a pilot program based on the purpose of developing and improving student leadership and culture in schools. Working with James Kerr, author of the global best-seller ‘Legacy’, you will hear how Kerr’s lessons with business and sporting organisations have been implemented into a framework to help shape the culture of Brighton Grammar.Dr Ray Swann and Mr Christian Machar will provide participants with further insight into building and developing culture in schools. This will include: the program’s purpose; an overview of the framework; the development of rituals to build culture; outcomes of the first year (to date); research tools to measure the success of the program; and the next steps.

WS1C: Innovation in Action
Presenter: Louka Parry

During this session we bring the latest ideas that the participants have for change and using innovation techniques grounded in lean startup and rapid prototyping, create ways to bring their ideas to life. A reality for many educatiors is that while they would like to innovate, they feel busy and overwhelmed by existing change management challenges. The techniques we bring to this session give all participants the skills to quickly and cheaply action strategies in their everyday work. Participants walk out having built their capacity to innovate, not only through an increased understanding and skills but also with an idea that they can practically test back in their schools the following week.

WS1D: Preparing for Career Success: What works for boys?
Presenter: Col McCowan & Monica Magann

Research tells us the characteristics of the ways boys go about career exploration and career decision making and the ways that they adapt and make transitions to and thrive or otherwise in, post-secondary academic environments. This workshop will draw attention to this research and the factors that influence this career exploration and career decision making, particularly for boys. It will explore strategies that can be undertaken at both lower and upper secondary school level to prepare them to successfully address these issues.

Workshops Session 2: Thursday 14 September, 11:45 AM

WS2A: Learning to Lead/Willing to Fail
Presenter: Rohan Powell

Using the unlikely medium of voice, participants discover strategies which help develop resilience, trust, risk-taking and self-esteem. Using failure as a means of achieving success while also managing one’s expectations of self as well as those of others within a boys’ school environment and the broader community.

This session will be fast-paced and involve participants in impromptu voice and choral activities that will see initial fears overcome and self-confidence bolstered.

WS2B: Welfare to Wellbeing; Growing Whole School Culture
Presenter: Mathew White

Growing a positive school culture is a key driver to enhance school engagement. Australia’s sliding results in PISA and TIMMS highlight that our nation’s students are going backward in mathematics, reading, and science. Not as well-known and just as alarming is that PISA also highlights that Australia has recorded the fifth largest decline in school belonging and engagement of all OECD countries from 2003-2012. The cards are stacked significantly against boys and men. Boys education is trapped in a false dilemma. In this hands-on workshop participants will explore evidence-based approaches to develop a plan for how to do an ongoing internal evaluation and understand the basics of some evaluation tools and strategies from positive psychology.

WS2C: Big data – what can it reveal about gender differences in academic achievement?
Presenter: Petra Lietz & Katherine Dix

Emeritus Prof. Dylan Wiliam says “The idea that decisions should be driven by data rather than by hunch, prejudice or guess-work is, to be sure, very attractive.”

Governments, principals, teachers and parents all want answers to questions like, “Are some kinds of teaching and schools more effective than others?”

Using big data (like PISA, PIRLS and NAPLAN), what judgements can be made about gender differences in performance and progress in our schools and to what extent should these inform change in local policy and or practice?

In this session, senior researchers from The Australian Council for Educational Research will share what large datasets reveal about the gender differences in mathematics achievement in schools. The analyses will disentangle the effects of school setting (i.e. co-educational, boys’ schools, girls’ schools) on gains in performance in reading and numeracy between Year 3 and Year 7. In addition, the controlling for the independent effect of socio-economic context (i.e. ICSEA) will shed some light on the question of how equitably changes in performance occur across different school settings.

WS2D: Where to next for proactive, pro-social educators?
Presenter: Peter Waters

Developing a pro-social conversation, including researched data, and building a climate of respect and empathy as a foundation of pro-social behaviour is an achievable objective. By communicating with the students, parents and the school community that we value pro-social behaviour and aspire to embed it within our school community, and hopefully, within the wider community, we may be able to reduce or stop people from harming others or being harmed by others.

The ability to educate the whole person about the importance of understanding and learning to cope with inappropriate conflict such as bullying via realistic, sensible and authentic programmes in our communities, is what drives me to present to others the need to work hard in this most important venture for all stakeholders.

Workshops Session 3: Thursday 14 September, 2:15 PM

WS3A: Snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails versus Sugar and spice and all things nice.
Presenter: Syeda Kashfee Ahmed & Toby Carslake

A review of current literature focussing on the evidence regarding gender differences in school performance.

Researchers from The Australian Council for Educational Research will guide participants through an analysis of what current literature reveals about a number of key questions that boys’ schools face every day. Is there substantial evidence that girls and boys perform differently at school and if so, what are the reasons for this difference?

What are the driving factors for gender differences and do we need gender specific policies for improving the quality of education? Are there already such gender specific policies to improve engagement and/or performance for girls and boys?

WS3B: Embedding innovation in boys’ schools
Presenter: Louka Parry

In this session we introduce practical EC innovation and design thinking rules; low cost, highly effective tools built on sound principles that all audience participants can apply, no matter their role or context. This session is fast paced and will see participants rapidly innovating solutions to challenges that are both distant to the current reality and relevant to current demands. Particiapants will choose a challenge or problem of practice that they want to solve and that is specific to their education context..

WS3C: It’s the teaching, stupid
Presenter: Benjamin Evans

It is well known that during Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign, strategist James Carville produced a sign comprising three words: ‘the economy, stupid’. This was hung at the Democrats’ campaign headquarters.

Humans have a tendency to lose focus and teachers can be distracted by the latest and shiniest piece of kit. It is also important to remember that every academic year starts afresh. There is always an opportunity cost in teaching, and we should look to ensure the greatest effect for our investment of time.

This talk will explore the essentials of teaching; the things we must never lose sight of. We’ll also consider some of the obstacles that litter the path and how to avoid them.

WS3D: The Learning Curve: building student assessment capability
Presenters: Walter Barbieri & Emily FitzSimons

‘Student Assessment Capability’ was branded by Hattie (2011) as the ultimate aim of effective feedback. It is a measure of how well students understand their learning and assessments, and the degree to which they are able to articulate their current progress and the steps required ahead. Assessment capability helps students understand their learning clearly, therefore making their progress visible and helping them build confidence in their own abilities.

The Learning Curve is a digital tool designed and implemented by St Peter’s College to build student assessment capability. Through it, teachers plan curriculum-aligned assessments which display learning outcomes and criteria. Students and parents can explore assessments before they take place, and even engage in self-assessment processes.

This presentation will demonstrate how the classroom assessment environment is being changed through assessment practices and how boys’ self-esteem is being enhanced at the same time. Participants will see a highly visual digital tool that displays complex data in easy-to-understand visual terms.

WS3E: Student Voice, helping shape classroom practice
Presenter: Matt Wadewitz

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn” - Benjamin Franklin.

As educators, we may often perceive ourselves as facilitators of deep learning. But is this truly the case? Every day, in every class, teachers need not only to quantify knowledge acquisition, but also to make qualified judgement about social and emotional development. Whilst many proposals for new or better practices arise out of theory, in the average classroom, modifications of practice and action, more often than not, arise from observation and understanding that an observed practice or action has not yielded the desired result. This workshop will explore the impact of combining students voice, learning environment research, classroom observations and coaching to help shape and ultimately improve educational practice.

Workshops Session 4: Friday 15 September, 11:00 AM

WS4A: Taking on YouTube - Improving Boys’ literacy in Secondary Science
Presenter: Ashleigh Schofield

YouTube has won the war on the “cult of seriousness” in science education, however at what cost? Students struggling with difficult concepts can have them explained simply and beautifully at the click of a button. Reading scientific literature strengthens understanding and increases language proficiency.

This session will address boys’ underperformance in literacy based tasks in secondary science and explore how teachers can bridge the gap between textbook and multimedia. Teachers will be given practical strategies on how to integrate reading and comprehension tasks into their practice, increasing their students’ scientific literacy. YouTube channels such as Tyler Dewitt, Crash Course and Khan Academy have become a crutch in science education. Consequently, pupils are watching more and reading less. This is especially problematic in boys’ education, where an unrelenting literacy gender gap is causing boys to underperform (Pearce, 2008). Science knowledge is more accessible than ever, however pupils are less able to attain and communicate subject expertise.

WS4B: Making the Australian Curriculum Work for Boys
Presenters: Fiona Mueller, Hilary Dixon, & Mark McAndrew

The presentation will look at the structure and nature of the Australian Curriculum and how it can be implemented to suit local requirements. In particular, the three-dimensional nature of the curriculum will be explored. Using aspects of all three dimensions can drive not only differentiation but provide means of engaging boys in deep thinking and making connections in their learning.

Current international trends in curriculum design will be considered alongside the structure and nature of the Australian Curriculum, so that participants will see connections between the AC and international best practice. The workshop will also explore how these international trends may influence a programme of curriculum refinement over time.

WS4C: Engaging with the Science of Learning & Mindfulness to boost Productivity
Presenters: Joshua Basford & Sarah Randall-Smith

How can boys be more productive? How do they manage procrastination and distraction? How can they be more motivated and succeed in subjects they feel they have no interest in/aptitude for?

In order to answer these productivity related questions we help boys connect the dots and understand the links between their productivity and more complex ideas, like sense-of-self, self-esteem, confidence and readiness for learning.

These things are inextricably linked, and in order to be effective productivity coaches, teachers must also be engaged in building boys’ self-efficacy, their understanding of how the brain works, and how they can best engage with the science of learning to boost their productivity.

This session is built around how we can build boys’ productivity by buiilding their self-esteem & confidence. Discussions will be around: What works and what doesn’t when working with boys?; Mindfulness and a positive mindset - how to introduce these concepts to boys; How the research around the brain has changed what we know to be effective when it comes to building egagement.

WS4D: Metacognition and Mindset – You’ll never look at M&M’s the same way again.
Presenter: Deb McKay

Metacognition – More than ‘thinking about thinking.
Mindset – moving beyond the power of ‘yet’.
Using research based in Cognitive Psychology, practical strategies will be presented for unlocking achievable and effective ways to empower the boys you teach, to take control of their learning. Find out how metacognition provides opportunity for improvement and how mindsets are necessary for boys to believe that this improvement truly is possible.

Participate in hands-on, fun tasks to develop your understanding of how these power-packed processes can improve teaching and learning.

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