Reflections on the Art of English AATE/ALEA National Conference, Perth

It is always a pleasure to immerse yourself in a three day conference: catching up with colleagues, attending (and delivering) stimulating presentations and being part of pedagogical workshops. I chose to attend those sessions closely aligned with my interest in teacher and student writing.

The opening keynote was delivered by Kim Scott, Noongar novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at Curtin University. His wide-ranging presentation considered how fiction is ‘research through writing practice’, and how language can be both and entrapment and liberation.

Read about Kim’s latest book, Taboo.

In the Donald Graves Memorial Lecture, Professor of Education (at University College London) Dominic Wyse discussed ‘Choice, Voice and process: how writing should be taught in the 21st century’. He stated that students need to learn about choosing their own topic in order to lose the connection between voice and subject. An accomplished author, he referred to a range of writing perspectives from The Paris Review interviews. His focus was recent research exploring music and writing – connections, and how teachers orchestrate many learning opportunities.

On Tuesday, Terry Locke’s keynote reflected on ten years of writing with teachers.

The Emeritus Professor in Arts and Education of the  University of Waikato discussed ten propositions:

  1. All of us are writers.
  2. Many teachers struggle to identify as writers.
  3. There are reasons for the first two propositions.
  4. There are specific constructions of ‘English” and ‘the writer’ which contribute to teachers’ reluctance to identify as writers.
  5. Disciplinary communities construct, articulate and disseminate knowledge via the management of written language (and other semiotic) systems.
  6. Learning in mathematics means learning to understand and use the discourse of mathematics. Learning in science means learning to understand and use the discourse of science.
  7. Creativity and the aesthetic are not the prerogative of one domain of knowledge. All cutting-edge disciplinary thinking is creative.
  8. All teachers, regardless of their curriculum area, are required to induct students into the discursive practices of one or more disciplinary areas.
  9. Our job is to think of our students as novice writers, in Wenger’s terms, peripheral participants in a disciplinary community of practice.
  10. Therefore, as teachers ourselves we need to find ways of identifying ourselves as located on a novice-expert writer continuum related to the disciplinary areas we are responsible for and to model this identity with our students.

An important point made by Terry was Scott Berkun’s statement:

It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well; something quite different

He concluded by asking ‘why do people apologise before sharing their writing? – we are all in this together.

Always an enjoyable presenter, Paul Sommer discussed ‘The video essay for English teachers’. We viewed and discussed exemplars from the last ten years (since video essays have been recognised as an academic form).

Paul also suggested these resources


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