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Posts Tagged ‘curriculum’

  1. The Unmeasured

    6 February 2015 by shartley

    As HSC scores and ATAR results roll into the school’s conversations and the media coverage, we find ourselves evaluated and judged on the basis of these.  The media only has access to the Band 6 (90 and above) results of students in each subject so schools are ranked on this basis.  In this post I want to discuss the unmeasured outcomes.

    In Year 12 Society and Culture today I was meant to be covering the dot-point in the syllabus about the future directions of the country we had chosen to study for the topic of Change and Continuity.  We have been studying Vietnam.  In class, students were organised into small groups and were supposed to use all that they had learned about Vietnam to predict what would happen in the next 5 to 10 years.  They had spent several weeks studying Vietnam at the end of last year and had a refresher lesson and a half this week.

    However, they struggled to focus, which could partly be because it was Friday, at the end of the first full week back, on a day of an assembly that went for over an hour and that they are keen to move onto the next topic, Popular Culture.  Every bit of pleading and guiding failed.  So I let it go.  I decided to give myself a break for 10 minutes and leave them to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss.  The group that most interested me included a girl who suffers from anxiety and the most chilled girl going around.  They run in completely different social circles but they were using this time to find out about each other and their attitudes towards school.  It was fascinating to eavesdrop on the conversation as Miss Chilled gave Miss Stressed advice and Miss Chilled learned how much other students care about results and doing their best to perform at school.  Miss Chilled expressed how much she loves school because she lets all the hard bits just wash by her.  Miss Stressed couldn’t believe that people like Miss Chilled exist in the world.  What I was most fascinated by was how much they listened to each other intently and learned about different perspectives and attitudes towards the purpose of school.  And isn’t that what Society and Culture is all about?  Yet this conversation will never be measured or recorded except in this blog and possibly in their own memories.

    All up, the three groups came up with some good basic fundamental future directions for Vietnam but mere bones which need a lot more flesh.  I’m frustrated that I feel the need to do one more lesson to expand their ideas when my schedule says we should be starting Popular Culture.  How often do we ignore learning opportunities because of our plans based on content driven syllabuses?  Thankfully in Society and Culture we have more scope and space than most other subjects except for the timing requirements of the Personal Interest Project (PIP) but I’ll save discussion of the PIP to another day.

    The assembly today was a celebration of the 2014 HSC students who achieved an ATAR of 90 or more.  It was a well ran event with one of those students performing a piece out of the musical Chess, a guest speaker, the Head of Curriculum speaking and two of the 2014 HSC students speaking, ending with the student who achieved the top ATAR mark for the grade.  Both the students spoke about balance and tried to provide advice for how to approach the HSC, study and school life in general.  They had both very thoughtfully constructed speeches directed at their peers.  The seeds they may have sowed today will never be measured because the cause and effect of HSC results to speeches like these are not measured.  My daughter is in Year 12 this year and a similar event occurred at her school and the highlight for her was similar advice from a past student but her outward behaviour will not change in any detectable way. I’m a big believer in sowing seeds that may blossom immediately or may take an age to show life.

    Today I had 10 minutes with a colleague who is resistant to change and having to learn new things but she is thrown into a circumstance where she must.  I showed her how to use the technology required for our Year 7 program and provided some tips along the way to make it easier and more efficient.  All these little moments of teachers learning are not measured; it seems that only the big registered courses that count in the teacher accreditation process.  The 10 minutes snatched here and there are precious in the teaching world but are not valued enough.  Teachers learning from each other, planning together and even teaching together is vital for the modern age but there isn’t enough of it.

    Ah, my 28 minutes are up.  I’ll sneak in here at the end stuff about my last class of the week with Year 7, my second ever Geography class with them, with both lessons having a focus on the technology set-up rather than the subject itself, and that’s fine.  While they were learning about the technology and some basics of high school Geography, I learned about them.  I learned how a boy interrupts me mid-sentence every time he had something to say (and I wonder if he is allowed to interrupt his parents at home), how another could not stop talking no matter how hard he tried, how some boys have patience and resist the hardships being dependent on technology can bring, while others want to give up at the first sign of difficulty.  I learned how strongly independent some students were, and they weren’t who I expected.  I learned that most of the students started the year with a concept that Geography is all about nature and that the human element is a perspective of Geography many hadn’t considered before.  I don’t know all the students’ names yet so I don’t have comprehensive notes of all this but this information is invaluable for deciding my attitude and approach to teaching them.  How can this sort of thing be measured?

    At the end of the school day I gave my congratulations to Year 7 for making it through their first full week of high school and was very corny by asking them to give themselves a pat on the back but they were happy to do so.  I imagined giving myself one too.  Survival, resilience, resisting temptations, and letting go of control…these things are hard to measure but are so important to life and learning.  When are we going to start valuing the unmeasured more?


  2. If only Education was like West Wing: what I learned by studying Advanced Pedagogy at uni (M.Ed)

    19 October 2013 by shartley

    I love the television show West Wing.  The fictional government was ethically sound and tried to unite the country by attending the needs of the marginalised, the poor and the society as a whole.  If only we had a government like that.

    Education has become inextricably linked to economic ideals and this has a large impact on curriculum and pedagogy.  One area where this is evident is in the “choice, competition and performance” promoted by politicians (Buchanan 2011, p.68) and I’m guilty of shopping for schools for my own son currently, as one of the financially advantaged who can do so.  Another example of economic prominence in education is how students are continually viewed as a labour resource with a desire for individual success rather than as participants in a community.  As Wyn (2009) claims, “Education must accommodate individual and social goals” (p.43).

    I am an advocate for the type of pedagogical change Kalantzis and Cope (2012) promote for schools with their concept of “learning design” that examines “the big questions” (p.84) in an environment of “energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86).  Thooman et al (2011) found it is important to connect to students and create positive collaborative experiences, “education should provide students with opportunities to work on realistic and situated activities” (p.356) which supports my motto of ‘keeping it real’.  National curriculum and its General Capabilities (ACARA 2011) provide a strong prospect to shift teaching from an industrial learning model to a student-centred thinking model which is the position we’re taking at my school.  Next year as national curriculum is introduced, I am helping teachers to implement our REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning) Program to Year 7, a student-centred concept, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team.

    There is an extraordinary amount of political rhetoric surrounding ICT in schools as revealed by Jordan (2011), some of which I readily accept as universal truths, such as how ICT drives change, but the main point where I am in agreement with Jordan is her criticism of students as being described as “digitally savvy” (p.245).  The nature and implications of ICT in education are changing rapidly and nobody is able to keep abreast of it all.  Further pressure on teachers come in the form of charismatic speakers on the education circuit such as Sir Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra criticising the current methods of teaching and promoting their own pedagogical agenda.

    This rhetoric and economic overdrive affects teachers immensely.  I thus have an ongoing concern about how a pedagogical paradigm shift is integrated into schools.  Too often structural change is forced onto teachers instead of in consultation and students are neglected altogether (McGregor 2011, p.15), making them both feel powerless.  O’Sullivan (2007) demonstrated how teachers are tied to their role emotionally, more than to their professional pride in intelligence and ability (p.9).  Thoonan et al (2011) acknowledged the role teacher self-efficacy had in motivating students. An analysis of teaching standards by Connell (2009) revealed the absence of recognition of the sheer energy required to teach, “Energy, movement, expression and fatigue all matter” (p.220).  Teachers need to be supported and be involved in the change process for it to be successful.

    Education needs to be like West Wing where idealism is implemented for the individuals who constitute the education community and the good of society as a whole.

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/general_capabilities.html

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Connell, R (2009) ‘Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism’, Critical Studies in Education, 50.3, 213-229.

    Jordan, K. (2011). Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy. Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 417-431.

    Kalantzis, M and Cope, B (2012) ‘New learning: A charter for change in education’, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, 83-94.

    McGregor, G. (2011). Engaging Gen Y in schooling: the need for an egalitarian ethos of education. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 19(1), 1-20.

    O’Sullivan, K (2007) ‘Unmasking the Professional Identities of English Teachers’, International Journal of Educational Practice and Theory, 29(1), 6–5.

    Thoonen, E, Sleegers, P, Peetsma, T and Oort, F. (2011). Can Teachers Motivate Students to Learn? Educational Studies, 37(3), 345-360

    Wyn, J. (2009). Touching the Future: Building Skills for Life and Work. Australian Education Review, 55, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne.

     


  3. Globalisation and Education

    17 October 2013 by shartley

    SkypeWithPalestine

    Photo by author: Skype to Palestine (ex-student converted from Christianity to Islam)

     

    Globalisation has had a profound effect on education.  The breaking down of political, trading and geographical barriers, strongly influenced by the development of the Internet and advanced communication techniques, is altering education from being inward looking to being more world focused.  Instead of peering into textbooks, students are beginning to connect with the wider world through technological processes.

    Curriculum is being prescribed for a globalised world but it is politically motivated with too much attention placed on the economy and the students’ future role as a labour resource.  The influence of a capitalist economy is also apparent in the political promotion of “choice, competition and performance” in Australian schools, evident in the enforcement of transparency of test results and in the development of national curriculum (Buchanan 2011, p.68).

    An example of economic language involved with curriculum is in the discussion of the environment and in particular climate change.  The word ‘sustainable’ is used often but in relation to a sustainable economy instead of having the emphasis on sustaining people’s interaction with the environment.  For instance, in the draft ACARA Geography Curriculum (2013) the word ‘economy’, or its derivative, appears 66 times.  Lambert (2013) argues for Geography to play a greater role in British curriculum, by linking “economic, environmental and educational crises of our times” (p.85) to present a case for a curriculum of survival as opposed to sustainability. Emotive and economic language is all too common in current literature about curriculum (Ditchburn 2012).

    The economy, globally and locally, is important but it should not be the dominant force influencing curriculum.  There needs to be more emphasis on students being actively involved in all aspects of community, globally and locally, not just the economic component.

    The more I examine curriculum the more I am convinced that we should be moving to capabilities as a focus in curriculum (ACARA 2011, Reid 2005). Lambert (2013) is arguing the opposite. He views the shift to ‘competences’ and the integration of subjects causing the “contemporary erosion of trust in specialist knowledge, and increased emphasis on students’ experience” and changing “the emphasis of the curriculum from content to skills and to favour more open ‘facilitative’ pedagogies” (p.89). He then concludes that this shift “almost signals that schools should give up on knowledge” (p.90).  Personally, I’m tired of extreme rhetoric.  What we need in curriculum and pedagogies is greater balance.  There is a place for specialist knowledge, a place for experience in active learning and a place for skills as well as knowledge in modern curriculum.

    As technology comes to the fore through globalisation, teachers are as important as ever due to the skill required to balance the numerous influences on education with each unique student that comes before them.  I believe in having a structured curriculum and thus resist the term ‘student-directed learning’ which makes me think of ‘free schools’ where students themselves organise learning activities or self-select from the activities provided (Galley 2004).  I am an advocate for technology and student-centred learning but there needs to be a balance.  I would like to see teachers who generally want to remain traditional, expository in nature, to learn to yield some of the control, place some of the learning process into the hands of students and connect to a community beyond the walls of the classroom.  Again, I call for balance and sensibility.

    Just as there are an immense variety of students in our education system and a wide range of resources available, each and every school, class and teacher need to adapt accordingly.  My dream is of schools, rich and poor, around the world, connecting, allowing all of us to think critically and gain deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. We need to think what is best for our students and community, not necessarily our economy.

     

     

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/general_capabilities.html

    ACARA. (2013). Draft F-12 Australian Curriculum – Geography. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum_1/learning_areas/humanities_and_social_sciences/geography.html

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Ditchburn, G. (2012). The Australian Curriculum: finding the hidden narrative?, Critical Studies in Education, 53(3), 347-360. DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2012.703137

    Galley, M. (2004). Free Rein. Education Week, 23(36), 27-31. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/ehost/

    Lambert, D. (2013). Geography in school and a curriculum of survival. Theory and Research in Education, 11(1), 85-98. DOI: 10.1177/1477878512468385

    Reid, A. (2005). Rethinking National Curriculum Collaboration: Towards an Australian Curriculum. Department of Education, Science and Training, Canberra. Retrieved from EDCN812, Macquarie University iLearn, http://ilearn.mq.edu.au/course/view.php?id=13878

     


  4. Pedagogy

    13 October 2013 by shartley

    PowerToolReadingCooking

    Photos by author

    I have recently been immersed in a wide range of activities learning about curriculum, pedagogy and technology in schools.  As a consequence I am attempting to write a series of related blog posts. Yesterday I wrote about IT Infrastructure.  Today I’m writing about pedagogy with a focus on research by Kalantzis and Cope, as seen in their New Learning website.

    I don’t have a single pedagogical model to call my own.  I am deeply cynical and resent prescribed models dictating a single way of teaching, yet this week I had to present on 21st Century Fluencies because this is a the model I’ve been training teachers in PD sessions at my school, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team. Solution Fluency is just one style of Project Based Learning (PBL) and PBL is just one pedagogical practice. What I like about PBL is its focus on process as much or more than the product.

    I believe teaching should be a balance of a whole variety of methods and be flexible according to circumstances, with circumstances being anything from the students themselves to the weather.

    Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.86) describe today’s typical learning environment accurately, “We have in our classes today a generation of young people who will be bored and frustrated by learning environments that fail to engage every fiber of their intellectual and active capabilities”.

    I hence also like how Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.84) advocate for traditional teaching “to be replaced by new notions of ‘learning design’”.  In some ways planning for learning is my favourite part of teaching because Plan A is for a perfect world where students behave according to expectations and technology works as it should and I’m excited for its potential.  It is then a case of Plan B, Plan C and so on as all the possible variables come into play.  Plan A generally focuses on “addressing the big questions” (p.84), much in line with the programming model my school follows, Understanding by Design, not that I think this needs to be followed strictly either.

    I would love to see schools that Kalantzis and Cope (2012) call “sites of energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86) and my previous school was trying to do this but at the expense of other aspects of education, such as nurturing students.  I think this community centre of thinking is almost science fiction idealism but I dream.

    Back to class, I like students to be active in their learning, meaning I am student centred in my pedagogy.  I’m not so fond of the term student-directed because I believe, in the main, students still need to be provided with direction, although there should be a place for passion projects.  This why I’m against open-plan learning but support flexible learning spaces so that learning can occur at a cohort level, large groups, classes, small groups, triplets, pairs or alone.

    Technology must have a role in Australian education because it is so integrated into our daily lives and is engaging for students.  It also allows for a wider audience and collaborators outside textbooks, schools and teachers’ own knowledge.  Thus learning is more connected to reality.  Students therefore need to be literate and discerning with technology.

    My pedagogical model is a mixed bag but my motto, Keeping it Real, is what’s closest to my heart.

     

    Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B.  (2012) New learning: a charter for change in education, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, pp.83-94


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