AEL Volume 38 Issue 4 November 2016
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Fig. 1: The executive

AEL November 2016; 38 (4):
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ACEL Educational Leadership Conference 2016: Leadership with Insight and Innovation – Setting the Learning Agenda

Meg Clarke

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The ACEL 2016 Educational Leadership Conference held September 28–30th, Melbourne, promoted leadership and educational excellence through the theme of Insight and Innovation – Leading the Learning Agenda. The conference was attended by over 1200 educational leaders across the country and further afield from New Zealand, the US, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.

Aasha Murthy, CEO ACEL, introduced the delegates and keynotes to the conference theme, Setting the Learning Agenda: Leadership with Insight and Innovation, and encouraged them not only to engage with the narrative of the speakers and presenters, but to create their own personal narrative, reflecting on ideas shared and how they resonated or connected with their individual educational contexts.

ACEL continues to provide all delegates with quality professional learning through access to international keynote speakers and their world-first research, insights and reflections. Each keynote provided delegates with content to promote thought, discussion and action to improve professional knowledge and practice.

We have identified five key insights that emerged from the presentations and discussions which we have outlined below.

Insight 1 – Thinking beyond the status quo can help us to innovate at classroom, school and system level.
Sugata Mitra, Wendy Kopp and John Hattie encouraged delegates to reflect on what innovation can look like at a classroom, school and system level, and what are the benefits of thinking beyond the status quo.

Insight 2 – Despite what the media and politicians suggest, there are many things working well in our education system.
Jane West (US), Frank Crowther (AUS) and Jim Watterston reflected on the value of teachers and what is currently working well in education.

Insight 3 – We can learn a lot from current research to refine and improve what we do.
John Hattie (AUS), Carol Tomlinson (US) and Brian Caldwell (AUS) challenged us to look at the current or traditional ways of educating and reflect on ways to improve it, at a class, school and system level by engaging with current research.

Insight 4 – Leadership skills are key to promoting educational excellence.
Geoff Gallop (William Walker Oration) challenged us to reflect on what an educated person is, and what this means for educational leaders. Ben Walden (UK) and Daniel Goleman (US) inspired us to reflect on what is needed to be an extraordinary leader, from emotional intelligence to humility to being open to feedback.

Insight 5 – We need to understand the challenges that our students are facing in modern society.
Rosie Batty (AUS) gave us an emotional insight into the challenges many families deal with, and the importance of leaders being aware, supportive and promoting change in attitudes and behaviour. Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, the Federal Minister of Education and Training, shared the importance of communication between leaders and the federal government, and the need to base policy and decisions on evidence and research.

The 50 concurrent sessions provided an opportunity to further develop and reflect-on the narrative each delegate had begun to create, while connecting with case studies and research based on the theme of Insight and Innovation. These sessions also provided delegates with the opportunity to apply the content and narrative to their own leadership context. The sessions presented by 79 experts from all sectors and systems, and from Early Childhood through to Tertiary education contributed to the professional learning at the conference.

A selection of New Voice Scholars presented an opportunity to reflect on current practice and future developments when sharing their views on how to transform education, if they had a metaphorical wand. Ideas were diverse and provoked thought and discussion.

The 2016 National Awards Ceremony and President’s Reception was held on 29th September. Over 200 guests attended to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution each awardee has made to education at a national level. Fifteen New Voice Scholars were recognised for their contribution to education in the areas of Leadership, Research and Indigenous Education. Fourteen ACEL National Fellowships were awarded to national leaders in education. Three National Leadership awards were presented to acknowledge the contribution the awardees have continued to make to education. Laura Searle from Glenelg Primary School was presented the Keith Tronc Award, Professor Anthony Shaddock was awarded the Hedley Beare Award for excellence in educational writing and Professor Patrick Griffin was awarded the Nganakarrawa Award for excellence in educational administration.

The outgoing ACEL President, Dr Jim Watterston was awarded the 2016 Gold Medal in acknowledgement of his contribution and leadership of ACEL during his tenure as president.

The narrative of leadership and educational excellence through insight and innovation connected delegates to each other and to the content, ensuring a quality and relevant professional learning opportunity for all who attended. ACEL look forward to providing delegates at the 2017 National Conference Respect the Past, Lead the Present and Secure the Future – Setting the Learning Agenda, with an opportunity to grow this narrative, while commencing a new one.

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Fig. 2: Outgoing President Dr Jim Watterston

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Fig. 3: Rosie Batty, anti domestic violence advocate