IBSA 2023 Leadership Symposium Reflections

By Melissa Fitzgerald, IBSA Standing Committee Member
September 28, 2023

Education is defined by rapid change and evolving challenges. IB Schools Australasia Leadership Symposium provided the inspiration and tools for IB educators to thrive in uncertain times during their recent leadership symposium held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.  Attended by more than 70 educators from throughout Australia, Asia and New Zealand the conference featured three internationally renowned guest speakers, Dr Tom Brunzell, Professor Sandra Milligan and Emeritus Professor Louise McWhinnie.


Dr Tom Brunzell opened the symposium with a session titled ‘Leading with Strategies to Address Complex Student Behaviour’. He presented three educational myths associated with complex student behaviour and then provided the audience with strategies to breakdown these commonly held misconceptions. He started with Myth 1, that students need to make better choices. Dr Brunzell explained that most students don’t have enough strategies to make good choices and that teaching character strengths is just as important as teaching the curriculum. Myth 2, we need to manage the big things not the small things explored using restorative practices when behaviour escalates and ensuring responses are stage and age appropriate. Myth 3, this student’s behaviour is too complex for our school described how students replicate the dominant and exclusionary behaviours they see in the media in the classroom. Rather than excluding students, leaders need to put the systems in place to manage behaviours which are then supported through classroom practices.


Session 2 was led by Professor Sandra Milligan on New Generation Assessment and Credentialling. Professor Milligan explained how there has been a big shift in pedagogy, learning design and school operation that aligns with IB education including the importance of teaching students how to learn, personal virtues, social skills, interpersonal skills and purposefulness. She described how her research is focussed on how to assess competence, not knowledge and skills. She shared her poem on assessment:

A process

Of gathering evidence

From a variety of sources

In which the learner

Shows what they are capable of

In the complex domains

Of learning.

Professor Milligan concluded that it takes time to reform education, yet there are now more than 80 schools using Melbourne Assessment Credentials.


The final speaker was Emeritus Professor Louise McWhinnie who presented ‘Transdisciplinary Innovation: Beyond the Pedagogical Present for Student Futures’. Emeritus Professor McWhinnie shared that a generational change has occurred, ‘our parents had jobs for life, whereas our students will have a life of jobs’, requiring a different approach to education. She asked participants to reflect on how to include future thinking into our classrooms, to bring together disciplines so that no one subject has priority and advised that we should all ‘step on the cracks in the pavement’ rather than avoid them.


The day concluded with a panel discussion about the changes to IB support within Australia and Asia led by the Singapore office of IB. Thank you to all participants and speakers, we look forward to hosting another event next year.