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OISE researchers impress at Ontario’s 10th annual Education Research Symposium

February 18, 2015

OISE Staff

Julia O'Sullivan and Carlana Lindeman at OERS15The weather outside was freezing, but inside the downtown Toronto Eaton Chelsea Hotel last week the atmosphere was super-charged as OISE researchers, educators and policy makers met with colleagues from around Ontario to share insights on current and future education research and how best to translate it into practice. This all took place at the 10th annual Ontario Education Research Symposium (OERS).

Among the Symposium’s most highly anticipated events were those showcasing OISE experts in literacy, knowledge mobilization, and education policy and practice. At the popular Provocative Speakers Series, Professor Julia O’Sullivan, dean of OISE, and Carlana Lindeman, Education Program Director for the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI), presented their research study titled Wiiji Kakendaasodaa (Let’s All Learn). As Chief Advisor to Wiiji Kakendaasodaa, Dean O’Sullivan designed the program and its evaluation.

Wiiji Kakendaasodaa was an innovative four-year project (2010-2014) to improve achievement in reading and writing of 473 elementary students attending two on-reserve schools on the Kettle and Stony Point and Walpole Island First Nations. The project focused on increased teaching time for reading and writing, enhanced teaching quality through professional learning both onsite and through the use of tele-education, and new resources and infrastructure to support effective teaching.

When Wiiji Kakendaasodaa began in 2010, most Grade 3 and Grade 6 students at Walpole Island Elementary and Hillside School did not meet provincial standards on Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) assessments of reading or writing. When Wiiji Kakendaasodaa ended, most students met or exceeded the provincial standards, and the number of students identified with special needs had decreased substantially.

“The outcomes attest to the power of teaching,” said Dean O’Sullivan. “There is every reason to expect that, with effective teaching, First Nations students can excel as speakers, listeners, readers and writers in two or more languages and enjoy the associated cultural, cognitive, educational and economic benefits.”

Funding for Wiiji Kakendaasodaa was provided by MAEI, the Lawrence and Judith Tanenbaum Family Foundation, and the Pathy Family Foundation.

Over the duration of the Symposium, OISE graduate students joined colleagues from other Ontario universities and played key roles throughout, from staffing the OISE Research display table, to attending and participating in dozens of panels, workshops and sessions. Sofya Malik, one of several OISE student researchers attending, tweeted enthusiastically, “Excited to be learning with educators across Ontario – all-star cast. Promoting well-being at #OERS15!”

OISE alumna Sylvie Lamoureux (PhD ’07) led a workshop on interventions to support linguistic security and student well-being from the early years to postsecondary education. Reflecting on her graduate training at OISE, she said, “Through its ongoing commitment to serving Ontario’s francophone community with its French-language graduate courses and support, OISE made me more aware of critical pedagogy and research. My professors, world-leading experts in their fields, encouraged me to see that undertaking my doctoral studies was a realistic, attainable goal.”

The final session on day three featured Ontario’s provincial education advisors – OISE whole-system reform expert Carol Campbell joined Jean Clinton of McMaster University and former OISE researchers Michael Fullan (Professor Emeritus) and Andy Hargreaves (co-founder of OISE’s International Centre for Educational Change, Thomas More Brennan Chair at Boston College) to reflect on 21stcentury teaching and learning skills and what’s in store for the future of education.

Ontario is widely acknowledged as a world leader in education research, teaching and learning, and OISE’s researchers, educators and policy makers are similarly acknowledged as world leaders in advancing the use of research and evidence to inform, understand, and contribute to educational policy and practice and building professional capacity and improving student achievement.

Now in its tenth year, the Symposium re-affirms Ontario’s priority commitment to education and the use of research and evidence-informed action to support the well-being of children and youth and organizing its education system to provide them with the knowledge, skills and characteristics they need to succeed as economically productive and engaged global citizens.