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David Istance

Former Senior Analyst - CERI, OECD

Nonresident Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development, Center for Universal Education

David Istance is a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Universal Education. As his long years in the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation suggest, innovation has been a dominant theme in David’s career. He led the international project Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) until its recent completion; he wrote the 2013 book of that name and the 2015 follow-up Schooling Redesigned: Towards Innovative Learning Systems. Since then, he established a new project Innovative Pedagogies for Powerful Learning.

Learning is another of David’s interests and he co-edited the 2010 reader The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, writing with Hanna Dumont the concluding “learning principles”. He also edited the 2007 volume Understanding the Brain: the Birth of a Learning Science, and wrote its concluding chapter. He began work on lifelong learning in the 1970s leading up to the 2002 reader International Perspectives on Lifelong Learning: from Recurrent Education to the Knowledge Society, (with Tom Schuller and Hans Schuetze). He has published both on lifelong learning’s implications for schools and more recently on retirement-age seniors which, in his view, is a major neglected issue.

His work on learning has underpinned numerous sessions with education leaders, such as in recent years with the Transforming Educational Leadership programme at the University of British Columbia, Canada. In 2017 and early 2018, he has been writing (co-author) and editing a substantial new book on innovative pedagogies. Earlier on, he organised the 1980s OECD Working Party on teachers, co-authored Schools and Quality: An International Report (1989), and wrote The Teacher Today (1990).

David Istance is a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Universal Education. As his long years in the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation suggest, innovation has been a dominant theme in David’s career. He led the international project Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) until its recent completion; he wrote the 2013 book of that name and the 2015 follow-up Schooling Redesigned: Towards Innovative Learning Systems. Since then, he established a new project Innovative Pedagogies for Powerful Learning.

Learning is another of David’s interests and he co-edited the 2010 reader The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, writing with Hanna Dumont the concluding “learning principles”. He also edited the 2007 volume Understanding the Brain: the Birth of a Learning Science, and wrote its concluding chapter. He began work on lifelong learning in the 1970s leading up to the 2002 reader International Perspectives on Lifelong Learning: from Recurrent Education to the Knowledge Society, (with Tom Schuller and Hans Schuetze). He has published both on lifelong learning’s implications for schools and more recently on retirement-age seniors which, in his view, is a major neglected issue.

His work on learning has underpinned numerous sessions with education leaders, such as in recent years with the Transforming Educational Leadership programme at the University of British Columbia, Canada. In 2017 and early 2018, he has been writing (co-author) and editing a substantial new book on innovative pedagogies. Earlier on, he organised the 1980s OECD Working Party on teachers, co-authored Schools and Quality: An International Report (1989), and wrote The Teacher Today (1990).

Equity and diversity are threads running through David’s career. In the 1980s he produced one of the first OECD publications on gender in education (Girls and Women in Education, 1986). In Wales in the 1990s, he was in a small team combining different data sources to show many more hidden teenagers outside education, training and employment than officially acknowledged. His report Education and Equity in OECD Countries was published in 1997 and most recently, he wrote the first chapters of an OECD report on First Nation students in Canadian provinces (Promising Practices in Supporting Success for Indigenous Students, 2017).

Educational futures has been another of David’s professional interests. He led the international futures project Schooling for Tomorrow (SfT) over the decade from the late 1990s. He wrote the OECD schooling scenarios, first published in his 2001 volume What Schools for the Future?. Within SfT, he compiled the first Trends Shaping Education compendium, which has become an ongoing OECD series. More recently, he produced a 2013 reflection “Thinking about the Future” in the International Journal of Educational Research (co-author) and in 2014 with Tony Mackay constructed a new teacher scenario set.

David has welcomed the chance to influence systems and policy. He wrote the published background reports for two of the occasional meetings of OECD education ministers (1990 and 1984), and contributed to another in 2001. In 2015, he led the team (including Andy Hargreaves) reviewing Scottish schooling (Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective), writing the recommendations and two of the chapters. He has delivered many lectures around the world, including in the past decade in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and the different UK countries.

At the same time, the accessibility of ideas and findings for practitioners is one of David’s high priorities. To this end, he designed and produced a series entitled Education Today: the OECD Perspective summarising key messages across all OECD education analyses, as well as Innovative Learning Environments – The Handbook (2017) and the initial Trends Shaping Education reports.

David was brought up near the English-Welsh border and, except for a 6-year spell in Wales in the 1990s, spent his career at the OECD in Paris. He left there mid-2017 and is now based in Baltimore. He writes and lectures internationally and is also a Visiting Professor in the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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