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  1. 2017 ACSA Conference – Part 3

    8 October 2017 by shartley

    2017 ACSA Conference

     

    WHAT IF? Embracing complexity through curriculum innovation

     

    Program: https://www.acsaconference.acsa.edu.au/program

     

    Part 3

     

    There is a constant tension between the curriculum as constructed and the curriculum in practice. While politicians and the media carry on about how Australia goes in world rankings in education and schools performing or underperforming in NAPLAN and other state enforced testing, schools and their teachers need to focus on real learning.

    However, many institutions and people believe a move away from teaching to the test involves acute risks, for example, in the forms of parent backlash and reduced government funding. One conference delegate from a prestigious private school in Melbourne told me she had no desire to change her teacher-centred approach to learning because she was achieving great marks from her students and they were learning the set curriculum as intended. This was her job, not worrying about the skills and attributes students may need for actual life. Yes, that comment is a bit harsh, but illustrates how I feel. I understand where she is coming from, particularly considering the pressure for marks, but I don’t agree with the approach all the same.

    So how can schools shift the traditional view of education being about the accumulation of knowledge to more genuine authentic learning appropriate for our modern world and heading into the future?

     

    Reclaiming the Curriculum – Implementing Change

     

    At the conference I attended sessions relating the journeys of two different schools: Parramatta Marist High School with Gavin Hays (slides) and Campbelltown Performing Arts High School (CPAHS) with Stacey Quince, the Principal.

    The message that most clearly struck home, for me, is that communication with all stakeholders about the need for change is vital, particularly with parents. The Futures Unit of the NSW Department of Education has produced a case for change in this video:

     

    Schools need to be clear about the reasons for changing the style of learning within their schools. These reasons include:

    • Student engagement in learning
    • Preparing students for a modern world of globalisation and technology driven change
    • Providing students with the skills to enter university eg interview skills for early-entry

    On the front page of their website, CPAHS is upfront about their learning approaches, summarised in this video:

     

    The biggest contrast between these two schools is their pedagogy. Parramatta Marist is a completely dedicated PBL (Project Based Learning) school where students undertake 200 projects during their time at high school. On the other hand, CPAHS advocates a range of pedagogical approaches, including PBL, design thinking and explicit instruction. As I’ve said before, I’m all about balance, so prefer a horses for courses approach.

    Other than that, the schools were quite similar in how they implemented change. At the core of change is a focus on learning and the skills required for the world today. Assessment is then aligned with these skills. Other changes include reducing timetable restrictions, adjusting the physical environment to allow for more collaborative learning and making stronger connections to the community. On that last point, I have deep admiration for how CPAHS has worked with their local council to solve various issues in their area. For instance, Year 8 students participated in a PBL with a design thinking process to consider How can we improve community engagement and sustainable use of a local wetland area? To quote the council’s Comprehensive State Of The Environment Report: Major Achievements July 2012 – June 2016:

    Students from Campbelltown Performing Arts High School investigated environmental and social issues surrounding the Park Central wetland and developed a suite of management actions aimed to improve the local environment, increase awareness about the wetland and engage local residents with the space. As a result, Council has implemented two of the student’s ideas; a children’s storybook ‘Eric the Eel’ and a wildlife tile game. Both projects aim to raise awareness of the unique plants and animals at our local parks. (Campbelltown City Council n.d., p.21)

    As a consequence of these implemented changes, CPAHS students are gaining early university entry because they can articulate what they’ve done at school and why it matters.

     

    TeachMeet 

     

    Although technology prevented a visual and coherent presentation (hyperlink to slides) from Bronwyn Joyce, my interest was piqued enough to investigate further. She is a strong advocate for integrating the UN Sustainable Global Goals into the classroom and some amazing #OneWorldOneClassroom activities can be found here. Click on the presentation slides to gain free temporary access.

    Svetlana, a pre-service teacher, presented about the importance of psychology in teaching. It resonated with the audience:

     

    Yaso showed a video about the curriculum changes being made at her school:

    Leanne Cameron talked about AI and robots taking over the workplace, or not. See Students teach to avatars in classrooms of the future, AI tutors and meet Amelia and Jill.  

    Chatbots don’t need to seem “human”, they just have to be useful.

    Annie Gerasimou promoted Club Kidpreneur which I loved the sound of because it has a Market Day that focuses on real world problems instead of food and drink, but then I found out it was outsourced to a commercial enterprise. A little disappointing.

     

    Other Presenters/Events

     

    Deena Yako shared her life story and how schools can connect with their local immigrant community. In brief she:

    • Fled Iraq as a child, went through refugee camps
    • Entered Year 8 after 3 terms of English lessons
    • Had high hopes for HSC but bombed it
    • Through TAFE ended up with job in the settlement of Iraqi refugees in Australia – educating school communities and others about refugee experience, empowering refugees to be their own advocates and contribute back to society – they want to, but many hurdles

     

    Read more about what she has achieved:

     


    Scott Eacott, Director, Office of Educational Leadership, University of NSW


    Pip CleavesTracey Breese and Alan Hope presented:
     

    Final comments

     

    I loved this conference for its mix of teachers and academics across Australia and that a handful of these people were the tribe I know and love from TeachMeets, conferences and Twitter. Cameron organised the conference and Yaso organised the TeachMeet. I hung out with Stephy, John, Darcy, Phil and Nigel who were also presenters. I connected with my MEd idols Alan Reid and Bob Lingard. I met Omar Musa and saw him perform!

    I also loved the new connections I made with a bunch of academics who want to cross the university/school divide and encouraged me in the my own pursuit of academic research. I want to research how to encourage teachers to adapt their pedagogy to make learning the focus instead of high stakes testing taking precedence, by reducing the risks they perceive.

    You can’t take home the whole beach, just bits of driftwood.

    At the TeachMeet, Cameron shared the above adage, he once heard from a colleague. Well, the driftwood I’ve brought home from this conference is pretty darn special.


  2. 2017 ACSA Conference – Part 2

    8 October 2017 by shartley

    2017 ACSA Conference

     

    WHAT IF? Embracing complexity through curriculum innovation

     

    Program: https://www.acsaconference.acsa.edu.au/program

    Part 2

     

    “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”, W.B. Yeats

    I ended the previous post with the plea that surely, learning is the point of education (as opposed to the final mark at the end). So let’s dig deeper into what learning entails, putting aside, for now, marks driven education.

    The Purpose of Curriculum

     

    One of the questions raised at the conference was regarding the purpose of education. According to Matthews (2013) Education is fundamentally concerned with the transmission of culture, values, beliefs, knowledge and skills (p.167).

    I object to the use of the word transmission since it implies students are mere sponges. Is our curriculum meant to instil a particular set of culture, values, beliefs, knowledge and skills? And whose culture, values and beliefs are we talking about? Global or Australian? Should education be about the construction of culture, values, beliefs, knowledge and skills? You will often hear me being anti-dichotomies, espousing that education is about balance. Of course there are fundamentals to what young people should know and understand but it is also important that they learn to think for themselves.

    In his Garth Boomer Memorial Lecture at the conference, Bob Lingard argued that globalisation has reduced national control over the economy and in response, governments are grabbing onto cultural sovereignty. He referenced on his slide:

    Appadurai (2006) – two major tropes of neo-liberal globalisation: ‘loss of economic sovereignty’ (human capital framing) and attempted reassertion of cultural sovereignty (Australian Curriculum and citizenship focus)

    This is seen in attitudes towards asylum seekers but also in rhetoric about education and how Australia performs in the global sphere and the citizens our education system is supposed to produce. There is a definite top-down approach to what values should be taught, demonstrated most clearly in the Values for Australian Schooling posters distributed to schools in February 2005. 

    The use of Simpson and his donkey in this poster is particularly contentious for me because there is much more to the story of Simpson than the heroic attributes assigned him in the context of the Anzac Legend construct. National curriculum reflects what is deemed important by those setting it. Perhaps also the global assessments of PISA, and to a lesser extent, TIMSS, is driving our content-heavy curriculum.

    The Role of Teachers

     

    Slide from Dr Phil Roberts’ presentation

    In his workshop, Dr Phil Roberts talked about the ‘State Theory of Learning’ (see slide above). In this state-controlled content driven curriculum, teachers often feel stymied. Many teachers feel disenfranchised from the curriculum and believe they just need to do what they’re told, that they can’t be an integral part of forming curriculum. Some teachers feel so down-driven, time poor, they’re only covering superficial content not looking at the big picture of learning. Phil wondered how much of this has stemmed from an ‘outcomes’ approach to teaching by shifting the concept and focus of curriculum from being a holistic course to end results. He also proposed that it is time to start reclaiming the notion of teacher as curriculum worker, citing Nicole Mockler in her piece from earlier this year, Roll back curriculum constraints and give teachers the freedom to make professional judgements. For further reading, read Phil’s views on curriculum and Gonski in his 2013 article for The Conversation.

    Bob Lingard pointed out that on top of the curriculum, teachers are further downtrodden with teacher standards under the quality teaching framework used to bash teachers for their shortcomings.

    Instead teachers need to be respected for their expertise and given a stronger voice in policy.

    Bob also wondered how much the ever-expanding high-stakes testing regime would become increasingly commercialised through the outsourcing of tests, curriculum, support materials and tutoring agencies. Thus, reducing teacher input to the construction of education even further.

    General Capabilities

     

    I must admit I’ve been a fan of Alan Reid’s approach to curriculum for a few years now. For my major assignment in Curriculum Studies (MEd), Collaborating and connecting: Making capabilities the core of curriculum, this was obvious. Just in case you don’t want to read all 2500 words, here is an excerpt and some direct quotes from the man himself:

    Before the Australian curriculum was written, Professor Alan Reid (2005) wrote a comprehensive report which included compelling arguments for a “capabilities-based approach” (p.6) that “would take the emphasis off the subjects” (p.8). One argument involves that capabilities lie upon a never-ending scale of attainment whereas knowledge is more of a binary concept, either the facts are known or they are not (Reid 2005, p.54). It therefore goes part way to meeting the Melbourne Declaration goal of equity by allowing students to strive to the extent of their capabilities instead of judging them on how successfully they have acquired the prescribed knowledge. (Hartley 2013)

    A central purpose of curriculum should be the development of capabilities for living in a democratic society… (Reid 2005, p.38)

    …if the purpose of education is to promote human development through experience, then the starting point for curriculum work should be the identification of the capabilities that people need, individually and collectively, to live productive and enriching lives in the 21st century. (Reid 2005, p.53)

    An official curriculum should reflect the kind of society we are and want to become, and should seek to develop the sorts of capabilities that young people need to become active participants in our political, economic, social and cultural life. (Reid 2010, p.31)

    Earlier this year at an ACEL event, the NSW Minister of Education, Rob Stokes, said the purpose of education, based on Greek philosophy, was to prepare children to make a living and make a life. He acknowledged the social aspect of this as being almost impossible to measure. Is this difficulty in measurement behind the tick-box approach of the implementation of the general capabilities in many of our schools?

    If schools are not being judged on the general capabilities of their students there is a lack of impetus to dedicate precious time to doing it properly. Instead, programs come under Learning Areas first, with the General Capabilities tenuously linked with existing material or superficially slotted-in where there are gaps.

    The Real World

     

    This cartoon was part of Bob Lingard’s slideshow.

    The real needs of learners for the jobs and the global society of today and into the future was beautifully presented by Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians. She described education as an ecosystem with complex, disparate, yet symbiotic elements. The research FYA has conducted illustrates a gig economy world that has disrupted the workplace. Our students are expected to have 17 jobs in a non-linear jungle of career progression. The jobs of the future are broken into seven clusters where the skills in one job are for the most part easily transferable to other jobs within the cluster.

    The student panel conducted after Jan’s talk expressed excitement over the proposition that they can create their future, not merely accept it. The panel, however, also showed that to a great extent the students are a product of their school. The student from a prestigious private school preferred the linear progression of textbook learning and the straight-forwardness of exams. He also argued social justice education should be left to primary school so academics could be more thoroughly covered in high school. The other two liked being engaged in meaningful learning, including social justice, throughout their school life.

    The wonderful Omar Musa performed several of his powerful poems about identity and place in Australia. He spoke of an Australia often unacknowledged by those in power. All aspects of Australian society should not only be acknowledged but be an integral part of our curriculum. In response to questions from the audience, he argued for relevance in education, that there is a need to attract students to the beauty and power of words through hip-hop music and the like. Of course, as someone in the audience pointed out, there are risks involved with teachers treading in unfamiliar territory, such as misogynist lyrics. Let’s leave that quandary there. Omar also presented a good case for teachers to focus on the talents of individuals, to recognise sparks in students and ignite them, like a teacher encouraged him to develop his use of words by expanding his range of reading matter. He also warned against teachers killing off free-thinking in their students, for example, a teacher berated him for reading Trainspotting and damned his parents. for allowing him to do so. I am grateful this teacher failed to curb Omar’s enthusiasm for words. For more Omar Musa, see his website and Ted Talk.

    Our world is so much more complex than our curriculum makes it appear. We therefore need to address contentious issues in schools. As Prime Minister, Julia Gillard wanted to focus on human rights within our schools, so in response UTS (Burridge et al, 2013) investigated “the place of human rights education in the school curriculum in each state and territory and the extent of the opportunities for teaching and learning about human rights across the school years” (p.5) in a report called Human Rights Education in the School Curriculum. This report was co-authored by Nina Burridge, who was asking at the conference, how far teachers can go as activists within schools. Teachers generally feel they are meant to be politically neutral in class, but when human rights, social justice and viewpoints of history are involved (for example), it is basically impossible to be neutral. I believe teachers have a responsibility to address a variety of global and local issues. However, parents and politicians complain about teachers indoctrinating students, forgetting young people have minds of their own and their right to make their own (informed) decisions. It seems there is a fine line between this responsibility and being considered irresponsible radical activists. Yet again, teachers’ professionalism is called into question.


    The next post, the last in the trilogy, will:

    1. Address how schools and teachers can reclaim some aspects of the curriculum, partly through changing their pedagogical practices
    2. Cover the TeachMeet held during the conference
    3. Present other parts of the conference that haven’t neatly fitted into what I’ve written elsewhere

    References

    Matthews, J. (2013). The educational imagination and the sociology of education in Australia. Australian Educational Researcher, 40, 155-171.

    Reid, A. (2005). Rethinking National Curriculum Collaboration: Towards an Australian Curriculum, Department of Education, Science and Training, Canberra.

    Reid, A. (2010). Working towards a ‘world-class’ curriculum. Professional Educator, 9(2), 30-33. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/

     


  3. 2017 ACSA Conference – Part 1

    7 October 2017 by shartley

    2017 ACSA Conference

     

    WHAT IF? Embracing complexity through curriculum innovation

     

    Program: https://www.acsaconference.acsa.edu.au/program

    Part 1

    Drinks at the end of Day 1

    Curriculum is an excuse for getting together.

     

    Dr Timothy Wright, Principal of Shore, nailed it with this remark. He assured us it wasn’t a flippant statement but said with depth of meaning. It was actually a profound and prophetic statement.

     

    Goals of Education

    Despite not being involved with the creation of the Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals (2009), teachers, for the most part, agree with its goals (p.8):

    1) Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence

    2) All young Australians become:

    • successful learners
    • confident and creative individuals
    • active and informed citizens

     

    It goes on to say:

    Achieving these educational goals is the collective responsibility of governments, school sectors and individual schools as well as parents and carers, young Australians, families, other education and training providers, business and the broader community. (p.8)

    What if we set and implemented curriculum that actually aligned with these educational goals? What would education in our schools be like then?

    The Creation of Curriculum

     

    The curriculum is not just the set of documents that come out of the Australian Curriculum, the state equivalents and their supporting bodies. It is the political and social context behind it. It is the school culture, the people within those schools and the community within which they function. It is influenced and developed by all involved but, of course, with some having stronger voices than others.

    The Australian Curriculum provides a broad scope of what education should involve in a three dimensional structure:

    However, the curriculum mostly espoused by those in authority focuses on the areas of literacy, numeracy and knowledge within learning areas. They overemphasise content at the expense of deeper learning, critical thinking, enterprise and social skills and the other general capabilities in the diagram above. Our testing system (PISA, TIMSS, NAPLAN, and Year 12 final exams) generally align with this narrow view of curriculum. The curriculum in practice is then designed with these measurements in mind, when instead we should be designing measurements (assessments) within this broader curriculum. As a result, some of the vital areas necessary for students in the world we live in today and into the future are neglected. Prof Alan Reid suggested a richer and more comprehensive assessment system is required, perhaps against the general capabilities through achievement standards in the Australian Curriculum.

    With our educational authorities and their cheer-squad media continually pushing for excellence in the areas so publicly measured, the equity aspect of Goal 1 (Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence) falls by the wayside. This lack of equity in our schooling was presented by Dan Haesler, supported by the research as listed on his website.

    Australia’s overall level of schools’ educational resources is above the OECD average… yet it is ranked fifth among 36 participating countries in resource disparity between advantaged and disadvantaged schools. (Connors & McMorrow, 2015, p.55)

    A socioeconomically disadvantaged student is still five times more likely to be a low performer than an advantaged student. (Thomson, 2016)

    These statistics seem far removed from the government’s commitment in the Melbourne Declaration that it was committed to act upon improving educational outcomes for Indigenous youth and disadvantaged young Australians, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds (p.11).

    Robert Randall, CEO of ACARA, responded to what Alan Reid and Dan Haesler had to say. He agreed that we needed to improve our assessment measures and generally stayed on safe ground. What annoyed me though, was his repeated references to education being a passport. This is like saying school education merely acts as a gateway to the rest of your life and is not important in itself. It places the emphasis on the final score at the end of school life instead of all the learning that occurred during that time.

    Surely, learning is the point of education.


  4. Education Systems – ACEL Forum

    11 May 2017 by shartley

    How High-Performing Systems Shape Teacher Quality

    a forum hosted by ACEL

    at NSW Parliament House

     

    The Hon. Rob Stokes MP (current NSW Minister for Education)

    Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli (former NSW Minister for Education)

    Ann McIntyre (ACEL NSW President)

    Aasha Murthy (ACEL CEO)

     
    ACEL
    is the Australian Council for Educational Leaders

    ‘Parliament House c.1829’
    Flickr, Government Macquarie account
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/sydneyhistory/6634269541

    This was an evening about handing over the baton, one education minister to the next. Both were humble and gracious. Both presented as remarkably intelligent, demonstrating much depth in their knowledge of education and education systems.

    The forum commenced with the President of ACEL NSW, Ann McIntyre, introducing the context of the forum title. The topic stemmed from a study led by Linda Darling-Hammond, conducted over three years in several education systems/jurisdictions in Canada, China, Finland, Norway, USA and Australia. The subsequent book, Empowered Educators: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teacher Quality Around the World, thus provided the forum its title. There is also a version that focuses on the Australian part of the study, Empowered Educators in Australia: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teacher Quality. Both books were co-authored by Ann. Somehow, Ann managed to summarise the findings of the study quite neatly (provided here as a mixture of verbatim and paraphrasing).


    The key to education improvement is:

    1. Teacher quality
    2. supported by policies and practices established within the system
    3. with a balanced assessment system
    4. and a progressive needs based funding model

     To enable this to occur the research showed school systems need:

    1. Good recruitment procedures
    2. Teacher preparation/training for deep knowledge and pedagogy
    3. Timely and quality professional experience and mentoring
    4. Continuous professional learning
    5. Opportunities for professional feedback, focused on growth/improvement
    6. A career and leadership development program

     To achieve all this, schools need resources and opportunities for collaboration.

     Key features of NSW and all the other jurisdictions studied in this research project were:

    1. High social regard for teaching (disputable in NSW)
    2. Selectivity into the profession
    3. Deep financial support for preparation of teachers and professional learning throughout career
    4. High integrity in professional standards
    5. Preparation and induction grounded in very well defined curriculum content and how it is taught
    6. Teaching that is research informed
    7. A collaborative profession, not operating in isolation
    8. Professional learning across a continuum
    9. Well-developed leadership that captured and foster the highly skilled teachers
    10. Systems focused on equity and excellence, as seen in the Melbourne Declaration 

    All this doesn’t happen randomly. It must be through systematic, coordinated reform and innovation. It is important to invest in teaching so that it transforms not just some but all students.


    Ann then handed over to the former and current NSW ministers of education. Rob Stokes spoke first, prefacing his talk with a lawyer-esq disclosure that what he was about to say were his thoughts about education, not yet fully formed.  He then proceeded to provide an intellectual, although brief, consideration of his philosophy of education. He supports an Athenian model over Spartan model, as in developing the whole person rather than educating for the mere purpose of producing people who can contribute to the state. He believes education should be inclusive and be about preparing learners rather than the didactic delivery of information. He concluded by saying he does not have a reductive view of education but an expansive view so, for example, he is not about merely developing ideas to put into existing classroom situations.

    Adrian Piccoli spoke briefly, I suspect to keep the emphasis on Rob Stokes as the current minister. In summary, he said the role of the minister is to facilitate education by providing the right environment, dollars and people to make it function. The minister also needs to be constantly aware that education reform could drift and thus be at risk, although what this risk entailed was not made clear.

    Ann then facilitated a Q&A session. Both Rob and Adrian were obviously comfortable in each other’s company, sharing the stage with ease. They were respectful of each other and the audience. The questions posed were pertinent but they were very considered in their responses, even as to who would be most appropriate to answer first.

    The themes that emerged from this discussion were:

    • Children are at the heart of education.
    • Valuing teachers
    • Systems vs People

     

    Children are at the heart of education. Rob and Adrian are very proud of NSW having needs based funding and even though they can see flaws with the amount of funding dollars out of the Federal Budget this week, they are pleased with the needs based model on which it is based. Relieved, even, that it is now a bipartisan policy. I suspect Adrian Piccoli has had many fights within the coalition about that. On the other hand, there was some regret expressed about the amount of financial contribution to education coming from the federal government.

    Valuing teachers more was another recurring point. Rob made the astute observation that at the local level, those actually involved in schools, particularly parents, mainly have great respect for teachers. That said, Adrian suggested parents don’t know enough about what happens in school and that they need to know more about the importance of growth instead of raw scores. He also pointed out that there is a cultural perception hard to remedy, represented partly by the attitude towards teachers having so many holidays, and that someone with a 99 ATAR wastes their intellect on becoming a teacher. He believes this has stemmed from complacency rising from consistent economic success and that accessing university education has become easier. He offered that the best way to help teachers is to buy them more time to think and to collaborate. Easy to say now he’s no longer making such decisions. But he’s right.

    Systems vs People is how I would summarise the rest of the discussion. There is a constant struggle in education of quality teaching being hampered by requirements of the system, where the system includes standards, curriculum/syllabi, testing regime (eg NAPLAN and HSC), policies and funding. It limits the freedom of principals to focus on learning over administration and operations, it makes it difficult to be equitable for students with disabilities and in low socioeconomic areas, and testing crowds out more genuine learning.

    Generally the discussion was philosophical. Rob returned to the Greek idea and said the purpose of education was to prepare children to make a living and make a life but the social aspect of this being almost impossible to measure. He drew parallels to his previous role as Minister of Planning that a development proposal can measure economic impact but much more difficult to assess social impact, in quantifiable terms. The relational aspect of education is what makes it particularly hard to measure. Adrian suggested that teaching is an art form, not a science. For instance, if you teach two kids exactly the same way, you will still achieve two very different outcomes.

    Rob and Adrian were political in their responses when it came to the amount of testing in our schools. Adrian cited the removal of the School Certificate and better understanding of NAPLAN data reducing the misuse of it as success under his watch. He supported the Year 9 NAPLAN becoming a compulsory hurdle for the HSC due to the importance of numeracy and literacy. Rob added that it was important for students to take school seriously earlier and not wait for Year 11 to step-up their efforts. A member of the audience pointed out that NAPLAN is so separate from the day-to-day syllabi that it is perceived as an extra burden, on both students and teachers. I don’t think many politicians and other people outside schools see the level of stress a testing regime places on students. It also places more value on mark obtainment through memorising over learning and thinking skills in a more general sense.

    Throughout the discussion I was very impressed with the deeply considered responses Adrian and Rob provided. However, Rob as the current minister and seasoned politician already has his three word slogan for education: equity and excellence. Equity, in that every child matters, and excellence by teachers being exemplars. It told me that he will be putting increasing pressure on teachers. Yes, there are some teachers who ride through with minimal effort but I believe the majority are working extremely hard for their students to achieve and thrive as living human beings.

    A tweet from a principal recently stated that senior leadership (but really applies for schools as a whole) is about “keeping young people alive, challenging [their] lifestyle choices and navigating conflicting stories, setting them up for life beyond school but mostly keeping them alive”. She added, “The heart of school is about caring for our young people and bringing out the best in them”. This is what people outside schools need to understand. The system should change to allow more time for teachers to meet the needs of their students and for society to understand what schools are really about, and it isn’t merely an ATAR. Society, the system and schools need to stop treating the HSC and the ATAR as the one and only goal of education. This includes NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) continually promoting a “Stronger HSC” ad nauseam. It is a marketing slogan, not a description of what education should be about. We need politicians and government representative bodies to be more vocal about the worth of teachers, schools and education in general, and reduce the rhetoric that overly stresses the importance of the HSC. If Rob Stokes truly believes the philosophy of education he presented at this forum, he needs to speak it proudly and loudly, without caveats.


  5. Mind the Gap: Research and Schools

    1 November 2016 by shartley

    217048717_08e3e922f1_m

    Image by Mikel Ortega at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikelo/217048717

    Last week I attended the AIS Education Research Symposium.  When I worked at Oakhill College I was part of the team that created and implemented REAL (Relevant Engaging, Active Learning) and then we researched its impact.  Unfortunately I left Oakhill before the end of the two year research project but thankfully I remained involved to an extent.  We designed REAL to create a paradigm shift in the teaching and learning environment at the school through a transparent curriculum in a detailed but clear (student-friendly) format, structured for students to know each lesson or week:

    • What is to be learned
    • How it is to be learned, and
    • The evidence of successful learning

    The research project examined the impact of REAL on student outcomes but effectively discovered the effect it had on teachers too.  The research revealed REAL as a significantly successful program, although teachers found it hard to adapt their practices, and I’m proud to have been associated with it.

    But this post is about the symposium.  The main participants at the symposium are from schools that have received a funding opportunity from AIS and are at the start, middle or end of a two year research project.  It is also for any other teachers who are keen to make stronger links between research and teaching practice.  And the first keynote speaker, Dr Stacey Waters, was exactly on this topic.

    It is extremely hard to make a cultural shift in any institution, let alone a school which has so many entrenched perceptions of what it should be like.  Nearly everyone in the world experiences school and our experiences are reinforced by pop culture’s representation of it, this image being a teacher up the front instructing students sitting in rows, resisting the learning process (except when they have a superstar teacher like Michelle Pfeiffer or Robin Williams).

    This is not the one best way to learn.  Academic research has indicated this repeatedly, yet many schools resist changing (much like their students resist learning).  I think part of it is the conflicting voices dominating the discourse of how schools should operate. As mentioned before, there is the entertainment industry image but there is also the political viewpoint that schools must do better, meaning better at publicly published score achievement (PISA, NAPLAN, HSC).  In education conference circles there are a few (mainly men) who have a certain popularity, often stringing out their one concept stories for decades (I’m thinking the hole-in-the-wall story and the idea that schools kill creativity).

    The academic voice is often lost in all this.  There are some who are picked up by politicians and/or the media. For example, John Hattie and his Visible Learning ideal is lauded by politicians and the media.  However, even the John Hatties often remain ignored in the day-to-day classroom, for a number of reasons.

    Personally I think it stems from a dominating need of isolated teachers in their classrooms to have control and order.  Control and order is easier if learning is considered to be the mere accumulation of knowledge.  It casts a dark shadow on education.  Teaching is better if it is collaborative, learning is better if it is collaborative, but it is much harder to maintain control and order in a collaborative environment when there isn’t a desire to learn in the first place, by teachers or students.  It is harder to know what individual students are doing in a collaborative environment and if it is known that they are not participating in the learning process, it is hard to know what to do about them.  There are plenty of theories, methods and systems that can be put in place but really, it all comes to dealing with individual motivations and desires to learn.  And to be honest, the better learning environments take more time and energy to plan and monitor.  I love an active collaborative learning environment in my classrooms but boy, it’s hard work a lot of the time.  

    Prof Ruth Deakin Crick shared this quote as part of her presentation about the use of technology to change school culture from exam-driven teaching to a learning culture with dynamic pedagogy and engagement (image, however, was clipped from elsewhere):

    screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-6-05-25-pm

    Teachers are so busy and comfortable with what they know well and what they’ve been rewarded for in the past, they don’t want to become even busier and take risks that result in lost control and disapproval.

    So now we can see why some resistance to change exists, let’s return to the academic voice and other reasons why it is difficult to implement research findings into school practice.

    To be able to research in a detailed, scientifically credible manner, academics focus on narrow areas to reduce multiple confounding factors in their study. They generally want to discover a cause and effect, and the size of that effect, but to be specific and certain they can only concentrate on one cause and one effect at a time, whereas education is much much more complicated than that.  It is like reducing economic modelling to two products in the market.  It illustrates a concept but an economy with just two products is not real life.  This is why Hattie’s study is so appealing, it throws hundreds of studies into the mix and calculates which causes have the most effect.  However, one point worth noting, is how long this all takes.  A research project can take years, and then months to write and publish in an academic journal, and then even longer to garner the attention of those who it really affects, people in schools.  I’m not sure of the age of the studies Hattie includes in his meta-analysis.  Due to the narrow focus and time-lags the question was raised at the conference as to whether the academic rigour should be sacrificed, to an extent, to allow more pertinent and practical studies be undertaken in a more timely manner.  I don’t know the answer.

    The publish or perish pressure on academics is a significant factor too.  The money associated with grants often comes with a proviso of what must be researched. Dr Stacey Waters also referred to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) system which awards points according to the category of grants.  To be published, it helps if the research is something new and different, rather than going deeper into something that has already been examined.  The dream situation for an academic though, is selling books.  And books sell if they have something novel and easy to implement.  We all know how hard change management is, but just how many books advocate just ‘x’ number of steps (eg Kotter’s 8 steps) like it is a simple linear process?  It’s not.

    Even if academics find something that is commonly considered important to implement in schools, the process is slow and usually ineffectual. Researchers are already balancing teaching and research and then they need to market their findings so that schools will take their ideas on board, when so many ideas are already present.  Dr Stacey Waters says that publishing and even training people is not enough. One of her presentation slides said:


    Implementation is most successful when…

    • Practitioners receive training and coaching
    • The organisation provides the necessary infrastructure for training and coaching and regularly evaluates
    • The community is fully involved in the selection and evaluation of programs

    (Fixsen, Naoom, Blasé, Friedman & Wallace, 2005)


    She argued that schools should build relationships with universities and establish a research culture by providing easy access to academic journals and having a forum to discuss what these journals have to say.

    Before Oakhill obtained the research funding opportunity from AIS, we asked some universities to help us perform academic research.  We discovered that not only did they want to be paid consultation fees, that some even wanted to virtually take over the whole process.  We backed away quickly and were relieved and grateful to receive the AIS funding opportunity.  As part of the inaugural recipients of research funding there was only minimal guidance but still, some important structural requirements, including an academic advisor.  However, we ended up only spending 50% of the budgeted amount we allocated for the advisor. He was extremely helpful for implementing research that produced quantifiable data and how that data could be used, but partly due to how late we were and partly due to the lack of need, we didn’t use as much of his services for the writing part as we thought we would.

    So here we were at a conference that was bringing together academics and teachers, albeit those already interested in research. As Terrie Jones tweeted, “Teacher practitioner researchers in partnership with academics bridging the research practice divide? This room. #AISRandD16”.  One of the sessions I enjoyed the most was about Case Study as a form of research.  From what little I have been involved in research at a tertiary level, I have found case study methods frowned upon because it is not appropriate to extrapolate something that works in one circumstance as being applicable to a wider range of circumstances.  Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn argued that yes, three case studies are better than one, but much can be learned from them and proceeded to demonstrate how powerful they could be but also recognising their limitations.  I tweeted that I’d love to work on a case study with Dr Kimberley and she responded with a “Let’s talk” which I will probably take her up on some time next year (see screen grab below).  However, I’m not looking to do research like this until at least 2018.  I started a Master of Research (MRES) at Macquarie University this year but stopped just a few weeks in due to lack of time. I’m currently not working full-time so I can help my son through his HSC (he has autism and anxiety issues).  I considered studying also during this year ‘off’ but I need to make him the priority, not my own work. After that I’ll be open to all sorts of projects!

    screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-6-30-03-pm

    The people at this conference are the core people of their organisations interested in learning and continuous improvement.  What we actually need to learn as researchers within schools, is how to gather-in colleagues to a learning mindset and join with us.

    When we first attempted researching the REAL project ourselves, we applied to present at academic conferences in Seville, Spain, and New York, USA, and were approved for both based on our ‘abstracts’.  This was before the AIS research funding program even existed and we were without any support from universities.  We then had to write papers for these conferences, the New York paper being subject to a peer review.  It failed one reviewer but the other advised us to change the format significantly, which we did, and it was then published <http://shanihartley.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.264/prod.58>*.  We also had to review other papers which was a great learning experience for us.  At these conferences there was much said about education at all levels but over 90% of the presenters were from universities.  Universities seem to take a more hit-and-run approach instead of working in tandem with the schools they research.  It would be nice to see or even experience more collaboration between schools and universities in the research process at academic conferences.  Perhaps we were better off without a university’s own agenda. We were unusual in being school teachers conducting and presenting our own research.  There should be more of it.  

     

    * Despite numerous emails to the publishers, the bios of the authors were not corrected.
    This post is also found at http://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/mind-gap-research-and-schools.html

  6. TeachMeet: Solve For x

    20 October 2016 by shartley

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting. I'm the one waving up the back.

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting.
    I’m the one waving up the back.

    * This blog post is also found at http://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/teachmeet-solve-for-x.html

    I have been to several TeachMeets.  This particular TeachMeet was held at Google headquarters in Sydney which was one of the main attractions for me.  I missed out on one two years earlier and as I searched for the Twitter hashtag for this evening I found an exchange that occurred about the use of #TMGoogle – the issue being that TeachMeets are supposed to be teacher ran and teachers as presenters, no sponsorship.  However, to host a TeachMeet in a cool location such as Google HQ there is a trade-off.  Tonight I felt the trade to be rather unequal.  The hashtag was not #TMGoogle but perhaps it should have been. It seemed every second speaker represented Google and was promoting something, useful somethings, but advertisements nevertheless. An extra grating factor was that teacher presenters were held to their time limits, albeit poorly, speakers not being deterred by soft Star Wars toys being thrown at them when their time had expired, yet Google presenters had limitless time.  And trust me, the teachers were much more interesting than the Google employees.

    The stated theme of this TeachMeet was ‘Solve for x’, thereby promoting problem solving in education, that students solve whatever issue ‘x’ represented for teachers and/or students. The evening was officially launched by Kimberley Sutton through a YouTube video to explain the concept: Moonshot Thinking: Solve for x @ Tribeca Film Festival. Our first teacher presenter linked a goal to this theme nicely.

    I have known Phillip Cooke through TeachMeets and Twitter for many years.  He is a passionate secondary school educator and declared this evening that his moonshot concept is teaching for life instead of for exams, a policy I am also passionate about.  I have enjoyed seeing Phillip present on this theme in many variations before. He is always interesting because not only does he and his colleagues come up with the ideas but they actually implement them, although I’m sure he wish he could implement more.  Phillip was intricately involved in the complete rebuild of his school, a school often seen in the industry as an alternative option for the misfits in our education system and thus had a poor reputation for a long time for drugs and disruptive behaviour. However, its hands-on practical approach to education is becoming more dominant in industry discourse and it has featured on a TV show for doing things a little differently.

    Phillip’s attitude towards authentic learning is borne out by some of the initiatives he has shared:

    • Establishing an annual Creative Careers Day where the future implications of their learning come to life through the people operating in creative enterprises
    • Implementing cross-curricular activities, such as Design and Technology with English and Drama to create wearable art costumes for a production of Othello, “Students didn’t just read Othello – they lived it
    • Printing art designs of students on tea towels and selling them, simple but effective (also make great thank you presents at Teach Meets)

    If I was to give my own moonshot for teaching and learning is that I desperately want students to be thinking for themselves. As a senior school teacher, I hate how much teaching is about preparing for HSC exams, such as artificial artifice that it diminishes authentic learning.  This is why I always like what Phillip has to say.

    Dominic Hearne set the tone of his talk by quoting Gary Stager, “Schools have a sacred obligation to introduce children to things they don’t yet know they love”. In line with this philosophy, Dominic’s school has introduced a series of compulsory critical thinking courses, which I absolutely applaud. These include:

    • Future Problem Solving
    • Visions of Leadership
    • The Art of War / The Ethics of Peace
    • Epistemology (how do we think, why do we think, what influences our thinking and perception)

    My daughter is currently studying International Relations and Human Rights at university. She would have loved the opportunity to examine some of these topics at school.  Her response being:

    screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-3-03-05-pm

    One of the students undertaking this course used several sources to investigate the Jewish holocaust and, as might be expected, referred to movie representations of the holocaust such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He also had access to his grandmother’s letters and other documents depicting her time as a Jew interned by Hitler.  The result was not just a well researched product but the rest of the class had a new insight into the atrocities.

    Nick Brierley hooked me by not only emphasising the thinking skill of problem solving but linking to the TV show Stranger Things, where the children in the show are constantly having to solve problems, not always successfully. He advocated the use of BreakoutEDU, a resource for creating engaging problem-solving games in classrooms. This is definitely a tool I will investigate further.

    Technology definitely has a role to play in developing students’ critical thinking skills. A primary school teacher, Alfina Jackson commenced with the statement that she hasn’t heard students say they need PD before they can use technology, so if they can do it, teachers can do it too.  Glib, but mostly true. I have come across many teachers who are so ingrained in teaching the same way, with the same worksheets, year after year, that they truly struggle with making more than the occasional change to their regular modus of operation.

    Alfina has her own YouTube Channel, mainly consisting of videos made by K-2 students.  These videos demonstrate learning in an authentic and meaningful way for our modern age.  Without many of us realising it, children are learning all the time through YouTube.  Actually many adults too.  I recently used YouTube to learn how to cast-off my knitting.  Alfina is therefore not only teaching students a particular topic, she is teaching digital responsibility.  Creating public videos also motivates students through the hands-on activity and real audience feedback.  All of this requires several higher-order thinking processes.

    Another initiative Alfino implemented was Year 1 completing book reviews on Google Slides. For the content, the teacher taught students to use three simple sentence word-starters:

    • I liked the part…
    • I disliked the part…
    • I would change…

    However, after a quick introduction to using Google Slides, the students worked out for themselves and taught each other the various creative features of using the slides.  After the first drafts were completed the teacher provided feedback through the comment feature which prompted students to comment on each other’s reviews, leading to a discussion of how to write positively, particularly in a public domain.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe technology should be used for simply its own sake.  Alfino showed how students learning to write could trace the letter on an iPad.  I’m not sure how this particularly improves on the pen and paper version except simply for the hook that it is on an iPad.

    The highlight of the evening was the dynamic Kathleen O’Rourke. Kathleen is learning to become a Primary School teacher at Macquarie University after a decade or so in the workforce. She is passionate about many things and her LinkedIn profile reveals she is not only an advocate for education and the marginalised but she walks the talk.  At first I thought she was also going to emphasise technology due to her tagline, “Is it OK to ask students to do something that we are not comfortable to do ourselves?” Instead, Kathleen answered that question with, “If we don’t pursue our x’s how can we expect our students to?”

    As part of being a pre-service teacher, Kathleen decided there wasn’t enough professional development on offer, beyond the regular uni courses and practicum experience so out together some events and now the concept has exploded.  As a full-time carer for her grandmother, Kathleen found it difficult to access working disabled toilets, particularly in medical institutions.  Consequently, she has an aim to develop an app that lists and user-rates them. I spoke to Kathleen at the end of the evening and found just how determined she is to put theory into action. Earlier that day she had been at a school presenting to teachers and discussing with them a university assignment. This was not part of the set work.  She has also tutored primary-aged students who are newly settled refugees on a volunteer basis.

    I was not the only one who thought Kathleen was amazing. This was the reaction on Twitter:

    screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-15-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-30-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-47-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-28-48-pm

    All in all it was worthwhile attending this TeachMeet.  I learned about some new Google products and enjoyed hearing how other teachers are implementing problem solving and other critical thinking activities.  However, I’d prefer it if future TeachMeets adhered to the no sponsorship ideal, even (especially?) if it means returning to the pubs and clubs where they began.


  7. Naive Idealist

    8 April 2015 by shartley

    I’m starting to realise I’m a naïve idealist.  I want to teach in a way that benefits every single one of my students.  I want all my students to learn and achieve as well as they possibly can.  I want all my students to enjoy learning, embrace their positive passions and have a fulfilling life.  That’s all.

    I started studying my Masters of Education just for the piece of paper at the end but fell in love with the course with the very first two subjects, Curriculum and Pedagogy.  I was lucky enough to be well versed in the language of current thinking in these areas.  However, what kept biting me was the amount of rhetoric I was inclined to use without evidence.  Now, I’m so into what I have been learning for the last year and a half I want to just keep on going.

    It felt like I started my PhD this year but technically that’s a long way off yet.  When I finish my M.Ed., I enter the second year of a Masters of Research and then commence my PhD at the end of that.  These last two subjects of my M.Ed. are proving a bit of a stumbling block though.  One, a Literature Review, is meant to help me gain some background knowledge on the area I’m going to cover in my PhD but my grand ideas of writing about some of the big concepts in education keeps being narrowed down and down to a manageable size.  Of course I want my studies to be manageable but I also want to make a big difference.  I don’t think it’s an ego thing but instead I am driven by trying to find what’s the best we, as teachers, can do to help our students.  My other subject is the one I wrote about in my last two posts, an Introduction to Educational Research (EDCN800).

    Only three of the usual crowd of twelve or so turned up for EDCN800 last night, yet I came away more confused than when I arrived and wondered if it had been worth it.  Before arriving, I had a clear idea of what I was going to do for the next task (design a qualitative research study) and had received 3/3 for my proposal (my only 3/3 for our first task) but alas, no more.  You see, I made the mistake of making it an authentic task, something I could see myself doing in real life but really, all we have to do is go through the motions.  My idealism protested somewhat.  I want my learning to be meaningful and practical during the process of doing it.  I’m not just after the marks or even learning this now for some research I might do in the future; as I learn about how to design qualitative research, I want to be actually, in reality, authentically, designing qualitative research.

    However, a piece I have to write within three weeks for a uni assignment is not reality, particularly when talking about designing qualitative research; it normally takes much longer than that.  The literature review I am writing within one semester cannot contain every single article that I need to read to produce a doctorate thesis.  I am struggling with these limitations!!!

    How much more then, are we struggling in high schools to make learning authentic?  How can we help our students think they have something to contribute to the world when we have such short times on any one task, any one topic?  Some say school isn’t real life, that it is a false, socially constructed institution and that we should just accept that it is a mere addendum on real life.  How can we make secondary school learning authentic and meaningful if we can’t make it about the real world?  Do I ask too much?

    PS

    Perhaps my next post will need to be about the benefits of learning for the accumulation of knowledge rather than for practical application because of course, I see a place for that too in our curriculum.  For instance, I know many teachers and students who love learning about Ancient History for the sake of mere interest.  I love novels for what they say about the human condition.

    PPS

    My literature review has morphed into the question:

    What do we know about the connection between ‘assessment for learning’ and the self-regulation of students in secondary social sciences?

    My qualitative research design will be probably based on the question:

    How have teachers responded to change?


  8. 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.

     


  9. League Tables

    19 October 2013 by shartley

     

    Everything seems to evolve around the economy now. Education is no exception.

    On the home page of the federal government’s Department of Education Schooling website it repeatedly refers to being about access to schools.  It states the department is responsible for access to “quality and affordable” education that meets the needs of all children (Australian Government Department of Education 2013a).  The words access, quality, affordable and needs all relate to the field of economics and economics is about constant measurement and assessment.  Education is no exception: “The My School website contains school performance data and other information on Australian schools” (Australian Government Department of Education 2013b).  It is interesting that the judgement-laden word, performance, is used, as if the data displayed is a definitive evaluation of schools.  The media then further analyses these numbers to create the Australian version of league tables.

    There have been many criticisms of the use and display of league tables including that it humiliates low-ranking schools (Farrell 2009) and sends administrators into “damage control” (Joseph 2006), place teachers under pressure (Joseph 2006) which results in teaching to the test and frequent tests (Hawkes 2010) and is used for “wedge” politics (Clennell and Patty 2009).  The main issue, however, is that the data only covers a very narrow aspect of education.  League tables neglect the cultural, sporting, extracurricular, ICT and community aspects of schools (Joseph 2006, p.16).  Boston (2009) claims employers find young people with formal qualifications “unable to communicate simply and well, cannot work collaboratively, lack initiative and enterprise…lack a thirst for continued learning and personal growth…deficit in the soft skills that form an essential component of the human capital of each individual” (p.37).  This is an example of an argument against league tables, an economic driven measurement, also being stated in economic terms.

    The government argues that MySchool exists to provide transparency to parents but it is such a small window it “becomes a proxy for all the other information which is inferred” (Boston 2009, p.37).  It has created a stronger market situation for schools using economic rhetoric about choice and asset allocation to support its case (Cobbold 2009, Joseph 2006).  Choice may actually lead to social and racial segregation (Cobbold 2009, p.10) and is not readily available to many due to the financial restrictions of fees, transport and lost time (Reid 2010, p.13).  Tim Hawkes (2009), Principal of one of the most prestigious schools in Australia, The King’s School, recognised the negative issues of league tables but also argued that MySchool is good as an indicator of the value added by a school and how government is allocating taxpayers’ money. This constant economic language ties in with the government’s neo-liberal focus on individuals instead of community.

    Education should be much more than about creating a product called human labour, contributing to Australia’s role in the global economy.  Education is about community, friendships, nurturing, caring, the whole person, contributing to the world in more than the economic sense.  It is about understanding ourselves and each other.  The MySchool website is a tiny window into just a fraction of what school is about. Other information needs to be gathered if it is to be a realistic indicator of school performance.  Even so, the rhetoric about choice and asset allocation as justification for transparency needs to cease because it is a complete fallacy.

     

     

    Reference List

    Australian Government Department of Education. (2013a). Department of Education: Schooling. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.au/schooling

    Australian Government Department of Education. (2013b). Department of Education: MySchool. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.au/my-school

    Boston, K. (2009, October). League tables. Teacher, n.205, 36-42. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/

    Clennell, A. and Patty, A. (2009, November 12). Breaking the law: the exam results they don’t want you to see. smh. http://www.smh.com.au/national/breaking-the-law-the-exam-results-they-dont-want-you-to-see-20091111-i9zt.html

    Cobbold, T. (2009, March). League tables. Professional Educator, 8(1), 8-11. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/

    Farrell, J. (2009, November 19). School league tables. Club Troppo. Retrieved from http://clubtroppo.com.au/2009/11/19/league-tables/

    Hawkes, T. (2010, January 27). Ladder of opportunity rises above league tables. smh. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/ladder-of-opportunity-rises-above-league-tables-20100126-mw8b.html

    Joseph, J. (2006, October). Report Cards: Reporting what matters. Professional Magazine, 21, 14-17. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/

    Reid, A. (2010, March). The My School Myths. AEU (SA Branch) Journal, 42(12), 12-13. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/


  10. 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

     


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