Dancing the Divide: Creatively navigating competing discourses in education

Dancing the Divide:

Creatively navigating competing discourses in education

There is a disconnect between the policies and rhetoric surrounding the need to promote student engagement and creative thinking in schools, and the consistently narrow and restrictive focus on short-term improvement in test scores.

This was recently highlighted in the “NSW Curriculum Review Report: Nurturing Wonder and Igniting Passion”, which was framed within the broad regulatory and compliance architecture that constrains the very flexibility and innovation recommended in the report itself.

There is urgent need for structural change, particularly in order to enable better alignment with the agreed aims of contemporary education, including greater student agency, integrated creativity and curriculum flexibility. If teachers are to be the key figures in achieving these stated priorities, then this must be supported by policymakers.

Dancing The Divide is an interactive, immersive online conference (OnCon) inviting participants to explore the disconnect and confusion that occurs as a result of competing discourses, why it matters and what we can do about it – for the well-being and growth of students and teachers. This event will be co-hosted by the University of Sydney’s CREATE Centre.

Register to attend: https://tinyurl.com/yadwvuos


Professor Emerita Robyn Ewing AM
The University of Sydney
‘It’s time to reimagine education’

The pandemic, escalating global poverty and environmental crises have been incredibly challenging for most of us. In education these challenges are further exacerbated by longstanding competing educational discourses. Nevertheless, the disruption of these uncertain times may enable us to reimagine education using arts-rich, creative, critical and connected approaches to learning and teaching. At the same time,  we need to be mindful of the significant obstacles to realising authentic reform.


Professor Michael Anderson
The University of Sydney
‘The ‘how’ of transformation: bridging the gap between policy and practice’

In these times of rapid change, everybody seems to be talking about transformation and how it might actually be possible in diverse schools. This presentation will consider how schools can take control of transformation opportunities by reconsidering and reimagining their values, learning, pedagogy, curriculum, teacher education and leadership. Emerging from Michael’s established work in “Transforming Education” this presentation will discuss how schools can begin the journey of putting the pieces of transformation together. More than as an aspiration, we will discuss the very real and tangible steps each school needs to take to make transformation a reality for each student, teacher and leader.


Nicole Ostini
Samford Valley Steiner School
‘Kinaesthetic learning in the creative classroom’

We may understand the benefits of creative movement in the primary school but as we progress into the high school, movement becomes designated to a subject area such as dance or drama or other extra-curricular activities. Although we understand the benefits of movement from a physical health perspective and more recently from a mental health perspective, increasingly research also points to the benefits of movement in the ‘act’ of learning itself. Neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford (1996) states ‘movement anchors thought’ (p.54). What does this mean for prioritising the balance of cognitive, emotional and physical responses in our classrooms? This session explores the importance of teachers creating rich contextual learning environments that use movement to connect to time, place and emotions. By activating and integrating students’ cognitive, emotional, and physical responses, we make learning more meaningful and memorable (Gris, 2013), drawing on and developing students’ imaginations to ‘awaken, to disclose the ordinarily unseen, unheard and unexpected’ (Greene,1995, p. 28).

Following the research of Lovesy (2003), whose study raised the profile of kinesthetic drama practices such as playbuilding as a learning experience in Australia, Nicole argues the ‘moving’ threefold classroom has much to offer our often-sedentary high school teaching methods. This includes improved well-being and engagement (McMullen, MacPhail, Dillon 2019; Arnold,2005) and learning outcomes (Coffield, Moseley, Hall, Ecclestone, 2004) for all learners. This session is interactive, providing educators with practical examples, tools and references to support their own explorations in the classroom.


Matthew Cunnane
The University of Melbourne
‘A little IMPROV – working imaginative practices into your critical and creative thinking teaching’

Imagine for me if you will a small Red door. Can you see it? Good! I wonder is the paint work in good condition? Is the handle brass? Could you tell me what room, what building this door is in?  …Could you tell me where it leads? 

The answer to all of these questions and more rely on a very human ability, imagination. The focus of this session will be looking at ways to call upon (and perhaps even develop) it in our classroom. This is not just a nice thing to do with our students when we have time it is core business!

A recent OECD report (Vincent-Lancrin et al., 2019) identifies that imagination plays a fundamental role in our ability to think critically and creatively. General capabilities, such as CCT, are quickly increasing in importance and becoming the new curriculum (The Council of Australian Governments Education Council, 2019; OECD,2018).

Of course, this is not new information. Research into creativity, for years now, has identified that imagination plays a key role. But when it comes to including it in our teaching practices, the dominant focus on direct instruction in combination with targeted learning intentions has relegated it to only a few disciplines and even to just primary teaching. While these pedagogical strategies have ensured we can see and measure knowledge acquisition very effectively, it can come at the cost of developing independent thinkers. In this session we will look at and unpack strategies that have shown some success in fostering thinking and building knowledge through …using a little imagination.

Dr. Nikki Brunker
The University of Sydney 
‘Finding the Wriggle Room’

An interactive, collaborative session to explore possibilities and practical action which empowers educators to find the wriggle room within constraints of the dominant educational policy discourse.

Munya Andrews
Evolve Communities

Munya Andrews, a Bardi woman originally from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, will be giving an Acknowledgement of Country and, through story inspiring the theme of ‘Dancing the divide‘.

Dates and times:

November 18, 2020
10am – 12.30pm
November 25, 2020
10am – 12.00pm

This online conference is free of charge.

Register to attend: https://tinyurl.com/yadwvuos

Sydney University Create Centre

18 Nov 2020 - 25 Nov 2020
VENUE: Online Conference - Session 1: 18 November & Session 2: 25 November, 2020