02 November 2023
HTT International Conference on Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning has raised hope that better, holistic education is forthcoming
"We must unite and collectively fight for a better school!" - resounded at the HTT event, which took place on Saturday, October 28, at Cavatina Hall, Bielsko-Biała. A hundred teachers, school principals, and education specialists gathered at the conference, fascinated by interdisciplinary, based on humanistic values education, proving the power of the HTT initiative.
The conference agenda was rich: inspiring lectures, passionate workshops, thought-provoking panel discussions, and the presentation of the HTT-produced film “Good Day.” However, the most important asset of the event was the enthusiasm and open attitude of the attending educators.
It was a very good day
The conference was held with the financial support of the Ministry of Education and Science in the beautiful, modern Cavatina Hall building. The opening lecture was given by Prof. Ewa Kochanowska, dean of the pedagogical faculty at the University of Bielsko-Biala. She spoke about a student’s personal knowledge in the context of schooling, pointing out that teachers should never depreciate what a student comes to class with. Although personal knowledge is often based on intuition, sometimes (though not necessarily) colloquial and highly difficult to identify, the teacher should respect it, be curious about it, and use it in the educational process.
Dr. Justyna Pokojska, director of HTT, in turn, gave a lecture on IDS (Interdisciplinary School Subject) as an answer to the challenges of current and future education. She pointed out that we are living in times of changing contexts and labor market conditions, times in which we must consider the rise of Artificial Intelligence. In such a world, traditional education, based on a hierarchical teacher-student relationship and the acquisition of only subject knowledge, loses its meaning. The importance of social, communicative, and emotional competencies, on the other hand, is increasing. The school should respond to these needs. School, continued Dr. Pokojska, should be a place of encounter. This sounds like utopia, but it is already happening. The HTT director’s lecture was followed by a presentation of the HTT-produced film “Good Day,” depicting the ills of education in numerous countries around the world.
The final element of the morning section was a panel discussion around the WSOT (What School Ought to Teach) values created by HTT. A school based on values such as communication, trust, and curiosity was discussed by Edyta Kłeczek (IDS ambassador, teacher from the elementary school in Brzeźnica) and our partners from overseas institutions: Dr. Ryan Bramley from The University of Sheffield (UK) as well as Chris McNutt and Nick Covington from the Human Restoration Project (US). The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Mariola Bogucka from the Ateneum Academy of Applied Sciences in Gdańsk.
The power of community building
During lunch, the community-building component gained in strength. Teachers from different countries across the world talked about how schools are today, what’s deficient in them, and what can be done to improve them. This part of the conference also included a poster session prepared by various educators.
The longing for a school that gives greater agency and freedom – both to teachers and students – resonated strongly in the educators’ conversations. For a school where what matters is the human being – his personality, his sensitivity, his relationships with others – and not grades, rankings, and tests.
The afternoon section featured a lecture by Dr. Meiju Keinänen from Turku University of Applied Sciences (Finland) on education in changing times. A great value of the conference was the workshops for teachers, led by Aleksandra Kujawska (teacher, social activist), Małgorzata Nowakowska (teacher and representative of the Life Skills Foundation), and Alicja Pacewicz (education specialist, co-founder of the Center for Civic Education).
The lecture was also given by our associate from The University of Sheffield – Dr. Ryan Bramley. He spoke about interdisciplinary approaches in value-based education, using British schools as an example.
The closing lecture – and at the same time, a brief summary of the conference – was delivered by Dr. Anna Grabowska, representative of Kościuszko Foundation and Holistic Think Tank.
In evaluation surveys, event participants highlighted both the international dimension of the conference and the invaluable opportunity to meet other teachers full of passion, commitment, and dreams for education based on humanistic values. Thanks to the conference, they could observe that they were not alone in their struggle for a better school. “We believe that there will be more and more of us, and eventually the school will become a place that everyone – parents, teachers, children – dreams of,” they expressed.