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What’s standing in the way of change in education?

What’s Standing in the Way of Change in Education? – Barriers, recommendations and analysis: www.cea-ace.ca/CalgarySummary

What’s Standing in the Way of Change? – Workshop reflections and videos: www.cea-ace.ca/CalgaryReport

A groundbreaking conference hosted by the Canadian Education Association (CEA)
October 21-22
BMO Centre
Calgary, Alberta



Ron Canuel’s Closing Remarks

Deirdre Bailey’s Story of Change in Education

The History of Our Education System with Dr. Sharon Friesen

CBE Students Identify Barriers to Change in Education


The CEA is not responsible for the content of these presentations.
To access Dr. Charles Fadel’s presentation, click here.
To access Dr. Sharon Friesen’s presentation, click here.

Pre-conference Blogs

Academics. What’s it good for?
Our school system doesn’t need to create kids who are good at school
By Shelley Wright
Moose Jaw, SK

Another Brick in the Wall
What’s standing in the way of change in education?
By Peter Skillen
Manager of Professional Learning, YMCA of Greater Toronto
Toronto, ON

Stop Asking For Permission to Change
It’s our school culture – not bureaucratic hierarchy – that provides the constraints to meaningful change.
By Brian Harrison
Holland Landing, ON

Post-conference Blogs

My Story of Change in Education
Student Voice and Physical Space
By Deirdre Bailey
Calgary, AB

Greystone Teachers Get Fired Up After CEA Calgary Conference
What’s Standing in the Way of Change in Education?
Carolyn Cameron
Spruce Grove, AB

For more about the conference, visit the CEA blog.

Measured against international standards, Canada’s education systems are considered to be among the very best in the world in terms of achieving both high quality and high equity. Despite these stellar results, the actual system-wide implementation of deep and engaging ‘21st Century’ classroom learning environments – that CEA and many other leading education organizations have long called for – remain isolated at best.

There is no shortage of inspirational examples of classroom innovations that thrive despite the system. Best practices emanating from pilot projects, alternative schools, and ‘bright light’ educators are constantly showcased, and yet school – as we know it – remains firmly entrenched as it was conceptualized in the Industrial Age. As we attempt to articulate a way forward, we get sidetracked by pointing fingers at the individuals working within the system:

‘If only we could fire the bad teachers.’
‘If only my superintendent gave me less paperwork.’
‘If only parents were more involved.’
‘If only politicians were less involved.’

In other cases, we look at changing discrete practices, hoping that a new strategy, approach or resource might result in the change that we want to see. We often overlook the possibility that it’s the deeply rooted assumptions about teaching and learning, and how school should be, that represent the largest barrier to moving forward – assumptions about:

  • the most effective way to organize time
  • the types of environments that optimize the teaching/learning dynamic
  • how students move through our education systems
  • how to best allocate school human resources

This CEA workshop will offer a unique and meaningful opportunity for students, teachers, superintendents, ministry of education representatives, corporate and other not-for-profit education leaders to work together to identify the barriers and underlying assumptions that prevent changes from taking hold on a system-wide basis. Collectively, we will answer the question: What’s standing in the way of transforming our education systems to meet the needs of all 21st century learners?

Participants will leave with a renewed perspective on the strategic actions required for them to work towards true systems change.

What will workshop participants be doing?

Dr. Sharon Friesen (Vice-Dean, University of Calgary’s Faculty of Education) and Stephen Hurley (Educator and Facilitator) have planned an active professional development session that will not be the usual ‘sage on the stage’ approach. The expertise will be in the room and this diversity of voices will build the knowledge we need to find out what is truly standing in the way of change.

Step 1 – Identifying our highest aspirations for public education

Participants will get to the heart of what they personally value and envision for public education, schools, and for all students.

Step 2 – Recognizing barriers to change

Reflecting on their aspirations for public education, a rich cross-section of education stakeholders – from superintendents, to teachers, to students, to policymakers – will work in small group peer-to-peer round tables to identify what is standing in the way of change in education.

Step 3 – Understanding what holds these barriers in place

These small groups will then be challenged to understand the theories of learning, the underlying agendas, and the historical legacies that hold particular barriers in place.

Step 4 – Exploring systemic assumptions

By revealing the assumptions in education, participants will then have the opportunity to loop back to the work they did in Step 1, and consider whether these assumptions are worth hanging onto, or not. If they are viewed as valuable, then the focus can be placed on finding more constructive ways to preserve them. If they have lost their value, then participants can work on how the system can let them go.

Step 5 – Inspiring you to return to work with a fresh mindset about how to transform public education

Participants will leave the BMO Centre acknowledging the value of going beyond talk of barriers to understanding the real roots that hold the system in place. We want participants to return to their daily work realities with a different lens, inspired by new questions and new approaches to making deep meaningful change happen.

In addition to this workshop, global education thought leader Charles Fadel – visiting practitioner at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and founder and chairman of the Center for Curriculum Redesign – will be delivering a keynote address entitled: 21st Century Knowledge, Skills, and Character: The New Imperative. This exclusive presentation also includes a reception alongside education leaders from across Canada.

This conference is perfectly suited for reflective group work so please note that CEA is offering special team discounts and subsidies so that you and your colleagues can benefit from this thought-provoking experience.

Special Team Discount: (Full Conference only): We encourage school districts to send teams of students, teachers, principals and district staff to attend the conference. We are offering one free registration for every three people attending (i.e.: if you send three people, one registration is free. If you send six people, then two registrants are free, etc.). The rates are based on the individual rates listed above. This group discount is open to all types of organizations.

Who should attend?

Students who ‘do school’ well – to tell us what needs to change.

Students who have dropped out or are nearly dropping out – to tell us what needs to change.

Teachers who blaze a trail of innovative, yet seemingly unscalable pilot projects – while tending to the constant flux of curriculum and assessment requirements.

Principals and superintendents who juggle shifting priorities and directives to provide some breathing space for the change they know needs to happen.

Teacher candidates, new teachers, researchers and faculty of education representatives who are challenged with designing teaching and learning environments for a post-Google generation of learners.

Bureaucrats charged with maintaining an excellent and equitable 21st century education system while balancing the oft-polarized expectations of parents, teachers, and taxpayers.

Parents, who are growing impatient with the pace of change in public education to provide all students with the 21st century skills that are required to thrive in an uncertain future.

Education not-for-profit and business community leaders seeking a more direct supporting role to school divisions in preparing students for the 21st century.

Anyone who wants to work towards the transformation of classrooms and schools, or is completely content with the status quo.

For sponsorship opportunities please contact: Gilles Latour at 1-866-803-9549.

Contributing Partners

albert calgary

UC education

Silver Sponsors

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Bronze Sponsors

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Event Sponsors


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