Paterson attended an Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA) conference in 2013 and says he went in with low expectations.
“My initial impression had been that curriculum would be something that was rather dry to teachers, something that was forced upon us,” he says.
But this was no ordinary education conference.
The 2013 program included a focus on sustainability, Australian engagement with Asia and Indigenous perspectives – featuring a keynote presentation from some of the participants in the Wave Hill walk off.
“It was a very different way of approaching an education conference – having real people ... talking about real events ... and then thinking about the implications of that in terms of curriculum and teaching and learning,” he says.
Four years later, Paterson put up his hand to convene the 2017 conference in Sydney; and he hasn’t been afraid to continue in the association’s progressive tradition.
Titled “What if? – Embracing complexity in the curriculum”, this year’s program set out to “explore diverse perspectives and contested issues, radically rethink learning and teaching, and bring creative and innovative curriculum to scale”.
Paterson’s presenter line-up featured curriculum experts like Bob Lingard and Robert Randall as well as names that wouldn’t usually be associated with curriculum development, including: Malaysian Australian rapper and poet Omar Musa; author and teacher Adele Dumont, who has taught in immigration detention centres across Australia; and Kooshyar Karimi, an author, doctor and refugee now living in Sydney. Paterson says he wanted to bring together a diverse set of voices and provoke discussion about how identity informs the way teachers teach.
“...we’ve come a long way in education in terms of focusing on student differences and diversity but we’re only just at the cusp of recognising the differences that teachers bring to our own perspectives in terms of race ... socio-economic background [and] culture.”
This means engaging with different experiences, even if the direct connection to education and curriculum might appear tenuous.
And if the topics appeared a little disparate, Paterson says that’s the point. “We’re there to discuss ... ideas, to see where they clash and where they might mesh together,” he says.