It’s not an easy time to be a boy, and some would say it’s not an easy time being an educator of boys. With questions regularly asked about the relative merits of single-sex versus co-education, and a culture challenging the traditional binary view of biological sex and gender, it can be easy to lose confidence in the particular work of educating boys. Committed as we are to the substantial research-based and observed benefits of single-sex schooling, at Scots we seek to constantly challenge ourselves to collaborate with others in refining — even reinventing — boys’ education.
Last Wednesday, staff from across the College had the opportunity to join educators from boys’ schools around the world for the 2021 International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC) Annual Conference. Bringing together over 280 boys’ schools from 19 countries, the IBSC provides a diverse and active network for sharing and shaping best practice in boys’ education. Scots has for several years been a key member of the IBSC, hosting conferences, shaping major research projects, and partaking in professional learning activities. Dr Lambert currently serves as Vice-Chair of the IBSC, leading the Australasia region, and chairs the Research Committee, of which Dr Caitlin Munday and I are also members.
This year’s Annual Conference was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Australasia region was invited to host the first of four successive online sessions. I had the privilege of hosting a panel conversation on ‘Boys and Relationships’ featuring Dr Rob Loe (CEO, Relationships Foundation), Professor Nancy Hill (developmental psychologist, Harvard University) and Maree Crabbe (co-founder and Director of the Australian violence prevention project, It's time we talked). In a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion, we explored key questions such as:
- What exactly are relationships and why are they so important?
- What are the key research-based ingredients for flourishing relationships?
- But how do young people learn what it means to relate well together?
- Is there anything particular about that learning journey for boys?
- How is pornography and a sexualised culture distorting how boys learn about healthy relationships?
- What sort of messages should we be taking to our parents about helping their sons grow into great relational men?
Scots staff also contributed four presentations to the conference, including:
- The Applied Entrepreneurship Program: Boys' New Pathways to the Future of Work (David Todd, Andrew Potter, Dr Ian Lambert)
- The Real Impact of Experiential Education: Practical Insights from Major Research in Boys' Education (Dr Hugh Chilton with Dr Mathew Pfeiffer, MMG Education)
- Future-Ready Boys' Schools: IBSC Research and Innovation (Dr Ian Lambert, Dr Caitlin Munday, Dr Hugh Chilton, with the IBSC Research Committee)
- Becoming a Strong 21st Century School of Character (Dr Ian Lambert, with CIRCLE Education)
Beyond the Annual Conference, we were delighted to play our part in the release of a major report with University College London on boys and technology. In December 2020, the IBSC Research Committee contracted with Professor of Learner Centred Design Rose Luckin, of UCL Knowledge Lab in London, to explore Building Learning Relationships Through the Use of Technology. The goal is to design a program of future research that aims to explore how new and emerging technologies are impacting pedagogy, relationships (especially pupil-teacher, but also pupil-pupil), and the areas of overlap between these two.
This report covers the following themes:
- Presence and how to create presence in virtual learning environments;
- Connections and what it means to know in relationships;
- Belonging and bringing together in community and classroom cultures;
- Identity and how identity impacts agency and efficacy in learning—and in relationships; and
- Learning environments, including home.
We look forward to helping shape the next phase of this significant global research.
For more about the International Boys’ Schools Coalition, please click here.
Dr Hugh Chilton
Director of Research and Professional Learning