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16 Jun 2018

Reflections on the 2018 CSSE annual conference in Regina

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Let me begin this blog post with a huge shout out to the University of Regina for the wonderful CSSE experience! The 2018 annual conference was my fourth as a graduate student and once again I have returned home excited by all the learning, as well as the many opportunities to connect and reconnect with Canadian colleagues. As Dr. Kathy Stanford (winner of the 2018 Herbert T. Coutts award) shared at the CSSE award ceremony, one of the key strengths of CSSE is that it brings Canadian researchers together in conversation and focuses on educational issues important to our context.  Importantly, Dr. Stanford not only encouraged academics to champion and attend CSSE events and initiatives, but she also challenged them to bring their graduate students and help them to become a part of the CSSE community.  For graduate students, what makes CSSE so thrilling is that we not only have the opportunity to see, hear and even meet some of our academic heroes, but we can also better understand how to build on their academic legacy through our own research projects. As such, having the financial support to attend the annual conference cannot be understated. I am so grateful to the University of Regina for the travel award which covered room & board for me this year and truly appreciate all other support offered, such as CSSE’s partial travel reimbursement.   

For me, the Regina conference was perfect.  The venue size kept all the events localized and I loved being able run into CSSE folk frequently in the halls of the Education building, the social zone or the food courts. I also appreciated the University’s thoughtful details, such as the live music and the ever-present guides that would help me get to where I needed to be. Another key factor in my heightened experience was that I think my conferencingskills have improved over the years.  In my first congress, I pretty much stuck to presenting my work and attending the sessions of people I knew from my University.  What I have begun to better understand is the importance of diversifying my conference approach. Specifically, I have joined and submit my work across a number of different associations and during congress I generally try to attend as many different sessions as I can.  Not only do I target sessions focused on my research and practice interests across different associations, but I also make an effort to attend sessions and keynotes that are completely outside my research domain (I often use the spotlight sessions as a guide).  This approach to session selection has really stretched my thinking and research direction and what makes it even stronger is when I make an effort to connect with the presenters in person afterwards or online to continue the discussion.  Although it is truly intimidating to reach out to a scholar whose work I love and/or greatly influences my research, I have found their generosity of spirit and willingness to help me grow encouraging and inspires me to keep doing it.  It also helps to remember that they were also students once too. 

Another conference strategy that I have found helpful is to attend the pre-conference events, which are often more intimate and can be very useful to graduate students in terms of networking and building skills.  This year, it was great to be a part of the CATE/TATE panel exploring (e)portfolios with Drs. Alec Couros (Regina), Kathy Stanford & Tim Hopper (Victoria) and Norm Vaughan (Mount Royal).  I particularly enjoyed the breakout sessions a great chance to connect with others around some of the strengths and tensions we are experiencing.  I also found the CASEA session on knowledge mobilization with Dr. Katina Pollock (Western) really helpful and has already informed some of my research and publication decisions.

Finally, it has become clearer to me how valuable getting involved in CSSE and in the associations has been. In the past two conferences, I have made a real effort to attend my association AGMs and social events.  Not only is food often available at the AGMs (I am a student, after all), but these meetings give me a better sense of upcoming events, the role different members play and how to get involved.  At these meetings, I have pushed myself to raise me hand at volunteer opportunities (such as becoming a graduate student representative or helping organize the CATE student panel highlighting Drs. Leyton Schnellert, Mark Aquash & Tim Sibbald).  These events have given me the chance to grow my Canadian academic network and gain valuable mentors and advocates in the field. 

Building on this experience, this year I also made an effort to attend a number of the CSSE special events, such as the plenaries [Dr. Marie Battiste’s presentation was off the charts inspiring!], keynotes, panels [I especially loved the CATE panel organized by Drs. Leyton Schnellert (UBC Okanagan) & Caroline Riches (McGill) titled Reconciliation and Teacher Education: Sharing and Extending our Practicewith Drs. Jan Hare (UBC), Dwayne Donald (Alberta), Mike Cappello (Regina) and Celia Haig-Brown (York)].  Receptions, association dinners, banquets and award ceremonies also featured heavily in my evening plans. Even if I arrived solo at these events, I would leave inspired, energized and often with a few new contacts and ideas for session selections the next day.

Clearly, I had a wonderful CSSE experience in Regina and I am already looking forward to next year.  Hope to see you in UBC!

Congratulations to the many award winners (yay Dr. Alesha Moffatt!)

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