Ambition and Its Enemies: A Report Card on 40 Years of Leadership in Education Event as iCalendar

25 October 2017

4:30 - 6:30pm

Venue: A201 (drinks reception) J1 Lecture theatre (public lecture)

Location: 74 Epsom Avenue, Epsom, Auckland.

Host: 4.30 - 5.30pm Drinks reception (A201, Epsom Campus) 5.30 - 6.30pm Public Lecture (J1 Lecture theatre)

Website: Register here

Graeme Aitken,  Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work.
Graeme Aitken, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

In more than 40 years in education as a teacher, curriculum developer, university lecturer and Dean, Graeme has sought to achieve ambitious but not always popular goals. In this lecture he will reflect on three of these ambitions, the extent they were achieved and, to borrow Karl Popper’s phrasing, the “enemies” that challenged their realisation – including the enemy of his own personal capacity as a leader. 

From the start of his career as a secondary teacher in 1976 Graeme was an enthusiastic advocate of the importance of geographical and historical knowledge in school education – an interest he broadened when he became involved in the late 1980s in national curriculum development.  This was the focus of his first ambition – to increase the prominence of geography and history in the compulsory social studies curriculum between 1989 and 2007.

In the early 1990’s Graeme became directly involved in teacher education – first as an advisor, then as a teacher educator and programme leader.  This challenged him to consider in a much more serious and disciplined way what it meant to teach effectively and how to measure that.  This was the focus of his second ambition – to define and have accepted a conceptually coherent way of defining effective teaching without straightjacketing it into populist views of there being “right” ways to teach, and that avoided overly-prescriptive specifications of actions and behaviours.

Since joining the university in 1996 as Director of Secondary Teacher Education in what was then the School of Education in the Faculty of Arts Graeme has shifted his attention to the third of his ambitions – to make sense of the tensions between the demands and responsibilities of professional (initial teacher) education within the context and demands of a leading international, research-intensive university. It is his attempts to realise this ambition that has been a dominant theme of his time as Dean since 2008.

In reflecting on the achievement of each of these ambitions Graeme gives himself a mixed report card and argues that this is an inevitable outcome of leading change in complex human systems.

Graeme Aitken retires in December this year as Dean of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland – a position he has held since July 2008.  He was appointed to the University in 1996 as inaugural Director of Teacher Education.  In 2001 he was awarded a Distinguished Teaching Award for his contribution to establishing the secondary teacher education programme at the University.  Prior to his appointment to the University Graeme taught social studies, geography and history at Waitakere College (1977-1990) and part-time at Onehunga High School (1992-1999).  From 1992-1996 he held the position of Principal Lecturer: Schools Liaison at the then Auckland College of Education.  While he will continue his involvement with the university for a further three years in a part-time role as Director of Educational Initiatives in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office this lecture offers the opportunity for him to reflect on four decades of involvement in school and university education.