International Confederation of Principals

2009 ICSEI Conference Report (Vancouver)

ICP President, Andrew Blair, and ICP Executive Secretary, attended the 2009 ICSEI Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Click here to download the complete report (208Kb pdf file).

The text of the report (without the photographs) is as follows:

The Annual Conference of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) was attended by nearly 500 registrants on Sunday January 4th to Thursday January 8th in Vancouver earlier this year.

The participants were welcomed by His Honour, Lieutenant Governor Steven Point. He told his audience that the world is facing enormous change and upheaval. Poverty is unprecedented. Literacy and homelessness are issues. Realities are changing. Helping young people deal with tomorrow’s world is the task of educators. ‘How do we teach about changing reality? How do educators address issues such as demographical change and increasing youth violence?’

In wishing the conference well, he hoped that it would be inspiring and that the participants find it valuable ‘and even change as a result of it’.

Hosted by the British Columbia School Superintendents Association, the conference had 150 workshop presentations as well as a strong bevy of keynotes. The presentations by the keynotes can be found at The workshop presentations can be found at


Keynote speakers included:

  • John MacBeath (University of Cambridge) introduced the conference theme and posed questions and challenges for the conference.
  • Kieran Egan and Mark Fettes (Simon Fraser University) discussed work on engaging learners through imagination and the result of the LUCID project focusing on the needs of Aboriginal learners across three school districts.
  • Lorna Williams (University of Victoria) is Lil'wat from the St'at'yem'c First Nation, and the Canadian Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning addressed issues of cultural intelligence, equality and quality learning through indigenous ways of knowing.
  • Alma Harris, (Institute of Education, University of London), Viviane Robinson, (University of Auckland) and Kenneth Leithwood (University of Toronto), working together in a panel session, made a presentation on conceptions of leadership, distributed leadership and the impact of leadership on student learning.
  • Deborah Butler (University of British Columbia) shared work on understanding and supporting strategic, self-regulated learning by students in inclusive and support classrooms at the intermediate, secondary, and postsecondary levels.
  • Daniel Muijs (Manchester University) spoke of his research on school networks and the connection with learning quality and equity.
  • Valerie Hannon of the innovation Unit in England provided an international perspective on innovative systems.
  • Rahimah Haji Ahmad Institute for Principal Studies University of Malaya and convenor of ICSEI 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, shared her work on school improvement in secondary schools.
  • Louise Stoll (Institute of Education, University of London) and a former president of ICSEI provided a historical perspective on ICSEI as well as a look forward and the role that creativity will play in leadership.

In addition to a strong selection of keynote speakers, with the support of the British Columbia School Trustees' Association, there were twenty BC public schools participating in a poster session presenting learning in action projects.

A very interesting and effective ‘Learner Voice’ program in the conference was the involvement of 10 senior students from BC schools who engaged with conference presenters and participants both within the body of the conference, and interestingly, via conference blogs available to all conference participants via the internet. The comments of the students give an ‘inside’ perspective of the effects of educational research on students who have access to aspects of it.

The blogs can be viewed at When introduced, students identified issues such as the emotional needs of students, boring and interesting classes and the practical application of knowledge as being important to them.

In his opening speech, ICSEI President John MacBeath introduced the conference theme of bringing the issues of educational Quality and Equity together. “How is it that four decades after Coleman that the education gap still remains?’ “What does quality mean?” were just some of the focussing questions that MacBeath challenged the audience. School effects are between 5 and 15% he claimed, and put the view that there is a peer effect: “Who you go to school with is important”.

The 2010 ICSEI Conference is to be held early January in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The ICP is in the process of formalising a Memorandum of Understanding with ICSEI. Incoming ICSEI President 2009—2010, Tony Mackay and his committee are currently in discussions with the ICP about the MoU and also a program of projects that the ICP and ICSEI can work on together. The fruits of our labour will be reported on in the Toronto ICP Convention in 2011.

‘School based effects on student outcomes are numerous and their individual effects are small. But, when they are aligned by the principal, they have a large overall effect. Principals synergise effects.’

The Eagle Song Dancers, members of the Squamish Nation, performed the Welcome Song followed by the Talking Stick Song, where cedar bows are used to bring to life the powers of the Talking Sticks that will evoke truth and fairness. The Talking Stick is a powerful tool used by Aboriginal or Indigenous People of the world. The Talking Stick provides an opportunity for the speakers voice to be heard while others respectfully listen.


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