Attending the popular Queen’s Conference on Education (QCE) on 11-12 January 2020, the CANOPY group joined with hundreds of post-secondary student delegates for an exciting and lively forum on teaching and learning. Inaugurated nearly 20 years ago, this annual event is an entirely student-run professional development conference organized for teacher education students from universities throughout Canada..
The QCE allowed participants to explore themes essential to the next generation of teachers—current issues in the field of education, professional development, and practical skills. The conference also enabled delegates to expand their mentor and peer groups, fostering a supportive community before they enter the profession. Indeed, CANOPY student-member Maija Tangen (MAGLU-3, Nord University) appreciated the networking opportunities of this meeting, describing it as a “great weekend with wonderful and talented people.”
The theme of the 2020 QCE was “Exploring Education within and beyond the Classroom.” The conference organizers explained the motivation behind this direction:
In the past, universal education has primarily focused on consistency and formality, but recent movements have encouraged educators to place greater emphasis on diversity, flexibility and personalization for their students within the classroom setting. Rather than a sole focus on curriculum and academics, the education system is encouraging the introduction of new techniques and strategies to foster a more vibrant, yet balanced learning environment. Students enter the classroom with a diverse range of stories and experiences; a myriad of learning styles, and though our main purpose is to help promote student success and passion, the heart of this reform begins with our ability as educators to reach our fullest potentials. The current understanding of the nature of intelligence and learning is much more fluid than previous generations, which not only allows us to broaden and expand our realm of teaching practices, but to also appreciate the endless opportunities for personal and professional growth.
In the pursuit of these objectives, the conference was organized into large speaker-sessions and smaller interactive workshop-sessions. The keynote speakers included Elia Saikaly, an award-winning adventure filmmaker and Everest enthusiast, as well as Victoria Nolan, a teacher and Paralympian. CANOPY student-member Henriette Falch (MAGLU-1, Nord University) found these keynotes to be “truly motivational” and claimed that they stimulated “new, different, and more experimental ways of teaching.” Joining these inspirational presenters was Morten Einar Edvardsen, CANOPY Project Manager and Head of Division for Teacher Education from Nord University. His talk on school systems, educational leadership, and teacher training in Norway provided “delegates an opportunity to learn about the Norwegian education system and the passion required of teachers,” according to 2020 QCE Chair Sandie Tran. “Edvardsen’s presentation,” she continues, “opened our eyes to education from an international perspective.”
Edvardsen’s presentation offered the Canadian conference attendees the opportunity to consider curricula, methods, and skills outside of the federal and provincial framework of their own teacher education. Addressing other systems, rooted in different histories and priorities (but systems dealing with the same issues and comparable questions) helped future teachers reflect and revise their own practices and consider alternative approaches . This perspective is especially beneficial, claims Edvardsen, when learning about a country with important similarities. Canada and Norway share many of the same priorities on a number of issues, including: environmental protections, society security, gender equality, progressive education, human rights, etc. Therefore learning what such a ‘sister-country’ does similarly and differently can be immensely valuable in developing educational practices in your own country. 2021 QCE Chair Esther Eisen affirmed, “our delegates had the opportunity to understand how education systems in places other than Canada differ and how these differences impact students. Our delegates were so impressed with the Norwegian education system that Morten addressed during his talk and we are confident that they will use this knowledge when designing their own classrooms.”
“This was an interesting experience,” Edvardsen reflects. “It was a pleasure to present about our own approach to teacher education at the QCE and it was nice to receive questions and reflections from the audience that day. The group was engaged and enthusiastic and the entire conference had a wonderful atmosphere. I especially enjoyed follow-up conversations with students and staff throughout the event that highlighted fascinating comparisons and contrasts between the Canadian and Norwegian systems. Many thanks to the QCE for inviting me to speak and for assembling such a dynamic and successful conference!”
Beyond attending this presentation and the other keynotes, participants could also chose various workshops for a more focused exploration of the theme. Throughout the weekend, there were four workshops:
- Modern Techniques used to Cultivate Engagement
- Learning Beyond the Standard Classroom Setting
- Understanding Educators as Lifelong Learners
- Embracing Diversity to Form an Inclusive Environment
Delegates could then choose between five sub-sessions within each workshop, based on their individual interests and specializations. Such sub-sessions included Lee Airton’s meeting about “Supporting and Learning from Transgender-Spectrum Students in Ontario’s K-12 Classrooms” (option 5, Workshop D) and Jessica Bredschneider’s meeting about “Teacher’s Learning Code: Bringing Coding to the Classroom” (option 3, Workshop A). As Falch remarked, the variety of topics covered by the program was impressive: “the program was so diverse, giving us a lot of choice.”
Of particular interest to the visiting CANOPY members from Norway was the organization of this conference. Led by an elected committee of all upper-year undergraduate teacher-education students at Queen’s University, the QCE served as an extraordinary model. “The well-organized student-led QCE was an informative surprise” says Nayr Ibrahim, Associate Professor at Nord University, “and it could serve as a blueprint for similar activities at Nord, encouraging more active involvement from our students and tapping into their sometimes ignored but unique perspectives and experiences, empowering them to shape and lead their own educational path.”
Indeed, the experience has already captivated the participating students. “The fact that it is completely run by students is truly remarkable…and so inspirational,” reflects Falch. Another CANOPY student member, Andreas Strand (MAGLU-2, Nord University) concurred, adding: “myself and fellow CANOPY member, Maija Tangen, have recently established and are now serving as board members for a brand new student union (Eureka) in the Faculty of Education and Arts at Nord University. Attending the QCE and seeing the great work from the QCE student committee and CESA (the Concurrent Education Students’ Association) at Queen’s has inspired us to consider our own options for student-led events back at Nord and we are excited to explore these possibilities.”
Study Leader for Teacher Education at Nord University, Gisle Pettersen, encourages these initiatives. “I think that many of our students have been looking for these kinds of opportunities to get more engaged with each other and the university,” he said. “Since the CANOPY students returned from the QCE, there has been a buzz around creating something similar in our faculty, and the administration looks forward to working with Eureka to create something great.”
The QCE will be a regular component for CANOPY members from Norway (1 university leader, 2 university staff, 1 local educator/school leader, 3 teacher education students) during their January visits to Canada over the four-year duration of this project. Participation in this event will contribute to DIKU’s objectives for both student and staff internationalization, collaboration, and development.
Nord University and the CANOPY Project are proud sponsors of the Queen’s Conference on Education.
“The Queen’s Conference on Education 2020 Executive team and I were honoured to have Nord University and the CANOPY Project partner with QCE, making this our first ever International Conference. Their sponsorship was essential to the success of the conference and we were delighted to have the opportunity to learn more about education from all the CANOPY members from Norway. We hope that this is the start of a long-lasting partnership! Thank you to Nord University and CANOPY for supporting our student-run non-profit conference and thank you to the amazing Norwegian delegates who made the trip and conference weekend so enjoyable!” – Sandie Tran, 2020 QCE Chair, Queen’s University
“The Norwegian contingent added to the spirit of QCE through their excitement and engagement. We cannot wait to welcome them back in 2021! – Esther Eisen, 2021 QCE Chair, Queen’s University
For more information:
- Queen’s Conference on Education (QCE)
- Queen’s Concurrent Education Students’ Association (CESA)
- Faculty of Education, Queen’s University
- Eureka Student Union, Nord University
To learn about other CANOPY activities, visit the News and Events page.
More from the QCE:
Photo credit: QCE and CESA