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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

  1. 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.

     


  2. 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/


  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. Policy Rhetoric Regarding Technology in Education

    13 October 2013 by shartley

     

    Photo by author

    Photo by author

    The rhetoric of the role of technology in education spruiked by government bodies and other institutions was clearly demonstrated by Jordan (2011).  It provided a similar awakening for me that the research conducted by Marcos, Sanchez and Emilio (2011) into teacher reflections also provided (see previous post).  Basically, in both cases, there are a lot of statements made emphatically, authoritatively but with little evidence of research into the effectiveness of the promoted course of action.

    The problem is the rate of change in education today, particularly in regards to education.  People feel there isn’t enough time to conduct research.  It is compounded by the familiarity many people feel towards technology and the absolute horror felt by others.  Those who have the knowledge and experience easily dictate how it should all work to those who know little.

    However, in my not so humble opinion, some of Jordan’s criticisms are of almost universally accepted truths. For instance, technology is a driver of change.  It is evident by the smart phones in people’s pockets and how they use them.  Jordan (2011) lists “ICT as driving welcomed change” (p.419) as her first theme in representations of ICT.  My issue is with the word ‘welcome’.  The language in political rhetoric is more about “opportunities” (p.420) that can be gained with ICT change.  The more emotive and persuasive language is found in words such as “vital” (p.420) in regards to how technology should be used for learning.  This is not saying it is welcomed.

    Of course politicians and educational institutions want to focus on the positives students’ futures.  Don’t we teachers want the same?  I believe it is fairly obvious that there is potential to harness and transform technology for the good of education so I don’t agree with Jordan’s criticism on these points (p.421).  However, the word ‘revolutionise’, to me, is pushing the rhetoric a bit too far.

    Overall I don’t object much to the rhetoric used regarding the potential of ICT in education.  However, I agree with Jordan’s criticisms of descriptions of students as “digitally savvy” (2011, p.425), a term coined by Mark Prensky, a prolific keynote speaker around the world.  He has experienced four years in the classroom, 1968-1971 (Prensky 2013).  In the classroom we too often see the shortfalls in students’ ICT knowledge, such as not knowing to use CTRL F to search for a particular term in a screed of text.  From my experience, they have a much more narrow experience of technology than I, generally restricted to gaming and social networking.

    At my previous school, teachers were constantly marginalised to being facilitators and technology lifted to the role of teacher.  Jordan (2011) argued that where students are deemed digitally savvy, “the teacher is relegated to the role of passive mediator, the instrumental means to predetermined ends” (p.428).  It is a false depiction.

    Popenici (2013) lamented the portrayal of an ideal where students completely self-direct their learning in a blog post that resonated to an extent with the experience I had with my previous school.  For instance a ‘Deep Learning Day’ was introduce one day a week for Year 11 to work on whatever they chose, even though teachers were expected to provide work that may not be completed.  Students were allowed to consult with teachers but teachers were (originally) not meant to keep them on task or offer unrequested assistance.

    Personally, I agree with most of the rhetoric of the politicians but agree with Jordan’s concerns for the way students are depicted as having a technological advantage over teachers.  The framing of the use of technology in education needs to more realistic for the opportunities and possibilities to be achieved through recognition of the true support and development required to make it happen.

     

    References

    Jordan, K. 2011. Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy, Australian Educational Researcher, 38:4, pp.47-431, http://www.academia.edu/1964725/Framing_ICT_teachers_and_learners_in_Australian_school_education_ICT_policy

    Marcos, J.M., Sanchez, E., and Tillema, H.H. 2011. “Promoting teacher reflection: What is said to be done” Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research and Pedagogy, 37:1, pp.21-36

    Popenici, S. 2013. Devaluation of Teaching and Learning, 10 October, http://popenici.com/2013/10/10/teaching/

    Prensky, M. 2013. Marc’s Resume (CV). http://marcprensky.com/marcs-resume-cv/

     

     


  5. The Education Revolution (a quick post)

    20 January 2011 by shartley

    So I was doing the laundry and thinking about the prep work I’ve been doing this week and about a conference I’m helping to run later in the year and wondering how many teachers actually want to move away from an industrial style of teaching and learning. I think those of us on Twitter feed off each other and become enthused and energised by the concept of change to improve students’ learning. Further, I teach at an extremely innovative school led by a Principal whose current passion is architecture and furniture for education. Not everyone is like us.

    I want my students to love learning, to enthusiastically participate in discussions, to want to learn more, to think, investigate, discover, problem solve, create, participate in world matters, and so on. I don’t want them to merely regurgitate facts and figures, to memorise standard essays, to simply read and feed it back. Yet I am constrained by our system. For the last 6 years I have only taught students in Year 9 and up so am duty bound to prepare them for the School Certificate at the end of Year 10 and the HSC at the end of Year 12. The majority of my students are not pushed at home to perform at the highest level, they have cruised through most of their school life coasting on whatever ability they are at rather than adding value to their education by being enthusiastic about the learning process and/or their subjects.

    It seems the majority of the top performers are the ones who have a culture at home of valuing academic education but what about those who don’t? Even then, many of them are seeking marks as a means to university entry and power and wealth rather than valuing education for its own sake. How do we encourage students to embrace learning?

    The work I’ve been doing this week is preparing a Business Studies course for a new syllabus. One of my main aims is to use the textbook as little as possible to the extent that next year we can ditch it altogether. This means using less than 10% of the pages and so far I’m on track. Business Studies is a subject that lends itself to being real and relevant. The Australian government at all levels and various business associations provide material online to help business owners establish and operate their businesses. Students can dream and plan their very own businesses. I love showing students how they can turn their interests into a real live business. My current HSC students that I have often referred to in this blog include a lot of sports enthusiasts. It is an absolute joy when they can envisage running a coaching clinic, owning a sports store or running a sports travel agency.

    When I taught Business Studies early in my career I was bored silly by the textbook and the internet worksheets I created so much that I never wanted to teach it again after just two years. When I saw the students enrolled in my class last year I knew they and I would never survive if I continued in the same vein. Now I use tools like LinoIt, games like the lemonade stand game, online quizes like this entrepreneur one and creating their own online glossary of key terms in Moodle. The best aspect of Business Studies is how they can apply the theory to their own future business. It takes a lot of energy to run classes like this but the reward is great. Most of these students will not perform well in the HSC but they will perform better than they would have by merely studying the textbook. They have learnt heaps about business, they are quite enthusiastic about business and they have a foundation on which they can build their own business. The HSC does not measure that.

    Now thinking about the conference on best teaching practices in Business and Economics classrooms, I wonder about the participants. What do they want from their teaching? What do they want for their students? Have they heard from a change enthusiast like myself before?

    Some of the teachers participating in this conference come from schools where the standard is extremely high and the pressure for results in tests are immense. Are innovative teaching methods appropriate for their students? Is there a trade-off of marks for passion? Is it possible to achieve both?

    I think it is possible. Actually, I believe innovative teaching is important even if marks are sacrificed. Passion can lead to better marks for the lower to average student. However, I think there needs to be a change in culture for the top-end to understand memorisation is just a means to an end and in the long-run they benefit more from enthusiasm and curiosity.

    Our testing system also needs to change. There needs to be greater scope for the way students present what they have learnt and how they can create, problem solve and be active citizens in our economy and society as a result of a quality education.


  6. Look at me: the competition for the student dollar

    19 September 2010 by shartley

    Shani Hartley reviews two of the textbooks on offer for Business Studies students in 2011.

    Business Studies in Action
    by Stephen Chapman
    ISBN 13 9781742161334
    Publisher: Jacaranda
    Expected release date: Nov 2010
    $69.95

    Business Focus Preliminary
    By Mike Horsley, Ian Biddle, Graham Harper, Robert Mulas, Natasha Terry-Armstrong
    ISBN 978 1 44252 909 0
    Publisher: Pearson Secondary
    Expected release date: Dec 2010
    $69.95

    Last year, according to the NSW Board of Studies, approximately 16,000 students sat the HSC Business Studies Examination, making it a very lucrative market for textbook publishers to snare.  Due to a new syllabus being issued for Business Studies in 2011, there is a new batch of textbooks vying for a place on school booklists.  It is my job to make that selection for our students.  However, I am tempted to not use a textbook at all.  I teach in a technology rich environment where students are able to use a range of resources so I’m finding it increasingly hard to justify the purchase of one expensive textbook.

    In the last decade our Business studies students have used three different versions of a Preliminary Business Studies textbook.  The first one we used was published by Longman (since absorbed into Pearson Publishing) and written by Sykes, Hansen and Codsi.  It contained good case studies and diagrams but it was too wordy.  Then we switched to the Leading Edge version by Robert Barlow and Kate Dally because it was easy reading and had a fantastic workbook to accompany it.  However, the text lacked substance so for the last few years we have used Business Studies in Action by Stephen Chapman and Natalie Devenish, originally under the Wiley label, but now under its Australian school division, Jacaranda. There are sections in this textbook which are too complicated and other areas which could have a little more detail, but overall it has just the right level of depth for our students.  During this time our worksheets and teaching programs have settled into a nice partnership with this textbook but that is about to change.

    The first publisher to woo me was Jacaranda with an emailed invitation to a workshop.  The main author of Business Studies in Action, Stephen Chapman, is an excellent presenter through his knowledge and engaging real life stories from the classroom so I accepted the invitation.

    The workshop was useful for providing an overview of the new syllabus and discussing some ideas with other teachers regarding implementation in the classroom.  The textbook appears professional with engaging photographs and a clear and colourful layout.  Chapman attempts to make students think like business people, particularly with the What would you do section at the start of each chapter.  This supports my Business Studies class motto of ‘keeping it real’.  I encourage students to treat their studies not as school work but as preparation for actually running a business one day.

    Jacaranda offers an online supplement to the textbook including case studies, worksheets and crosswords.  Although this website is still being developed I am surprised it doesn’t have what could be called truly interactive and engaging resources, other than the major business plan project.  The project involves video and a range of images to grab students’ attention but really requires the finesse and sophistication that students now encounter on a regular basis online.  For instance there is no provision for networking within the group version of the project.  The ‘jacaranda plus’ website is the feature Jacaranda is pushing the most but from my school’s highly technological perspective it isn’t a very appealing aspect.

    Soon after I attended the Jacaranda workshop a friendly saleswoman from Pearson visited my school.  The Business Studies textbook she showed me looked like it was merely a hatchet job of the existing version with the same old style of activities, few pictures and a dated colour palette of dark cyan and purple.  It also has online support but similarly to the Jacaranda website it fails to live up to its hype.  Pearson have now also organised a workshop but there is little point in me attending another one.

    In a school immersed in technology such as mine, we are moving away from traditional textbooks and using increasingly more online resources.  Online content is generally included in the exorbitant price charged for textbooks but if teachers only want the online component it is still very expensive.  To go without textbooks and only use the online component, Pearson have said it would be 70% of the cost of the textbook per student.  It would be better if publishers broke their online content into components with small fees for each part.  Teachers could then use only the most suitable aspects for their classes.  Parents are understandably not amused at paying over $60 for a textbook to only have it used a small amount in class.

    That said, due to time constraints, I have chosen Business Studies in Action by Stephen Chapman to be on our booklist for Year 11 students next year.  There is a distinct cultural change occurring in the teaching and learning environment.  The students are ready, my school is ready but the publishers and some teachers are not.  I am hoping that this time next year I will have constructed a program and negotiated an arrangement with publishers so that we don’t need to commit to just one textbook for the course.  There is no one definitive source of knowledge and it is time classrooms and publishers adapted.

    REFERENCES
     

    Board of Studies NSW Information

    Board of Studies NSW (2010, June)  Business Studies Stage 6 Syllabus retrieved 26 July 2010 <http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/pdf_doc/business-studies-st6-syl-from2012.pdf>

    Board of Studies NSW (2009, May 1)  Business Studies to start 2009 HSC,  retrieved 18 September 2010  <http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/media-release/pdf_doc/090501-hsc-exam-timetable.pdf>

    Board of Studies NSW (2010, July 19)  Official Notice – Revised Stage 6 Business Studies syllabus ready for 2011, retrieved 18 September 2010
    <http://news.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/index.cfm/2010/7/19/Official-Notice–New-Business-Studies-Stage-6-Syllabus>

    Information on Jacaranda’s new Business Studies textbook

    Jacaranda (2010)  Business Studies in Action Preliminary Course 3E & eBookPLUS,  retrieved 18 September 2010  <http://www.jaconline.com.au/engine.jsp?page=product&portal=teachers&product$isbn13=9781742161334&product$learningarea=%20COM1%20&product$states=%20NSW%20&product$yearlevel=%2011-12%20&product$subject=%20Business%20Studies%20&product$publicationdate=%20%20&product$series=%20%20&product$resourcetype>

    Jacaranda (2010)  Business Studies in Action Preliminary Course, 3E Page Proofs, retrieved 18 September 2010 <http://catalogimages.johnwiley.com.au/Attachment/17421/1742161332/Business%20Studies%20Page%20Proofs.html>

    Information on Pearson’s new Business Studies textbook

    Pearson Australia (2010)  Store – Business Focus, retrieved 18 September 2010  <http://www.hi.com.au/bookstore/bmoredetail.asp?idVal=2685/6457/45257>

    Pearson Australia (2010)  Business Focus Page Proofs, retrieved 18 September 2010  <http://www.pearsonplaces.com.au/places/pearson_page_proofs/business_focus_page_proofs.aspx> (only available with account access)

    Textbooks based on the previous syllabus

    Chapman, Stephen, Devenish, Natalie and Dhall Mohan  (2006)  Business Studies in Action: Preliminary Course, 2nd edition, John Wiley & Sons, Milton, Qld.

    Dixon, Tim and Smith, James  (2000)  Business Studies: Year 11 Preliminary Course, Leading Edge, Sydney.

    Sykes, D, Hansen, V and Codsi E  (2000)  Business Studies: Preliminary, Longman, South Melbourne.


  7. What’s the buzz?

    7 August 2010 by shartley

    Lattice

    There’s a buzz in my Business Studies class that is hard to explain but I believe it stems from a situation of mutual respect.  Early in the course I introduced a concept of the boardroom discussion (briefly mentioned in an earlier post).  I would break the syllabus points to be addressed into the form of a meeting agenda.  A student acts as chairperson and they find from the class what they already know.  I simply act as an external consultant, or as the phone-a-friend option.  This gave the students confidence that they actually already knew a lot about Business Studies.  All they had to do was learn to use the language, write in an appropriate format and fill in some gaps, but together they know the bulk of the material.

    We also do a fair bit of group work where I try to give them as realistic business scenarios as possible (also mentioned in a previous post).  At the moment they are individually working on their business plan assessment tasks but often as a class we brainstorm ideas for each others’ plans.  They are actually willing and genuinely interested in helping each other.  My mantra is Keep It Real.

    To ensure they do cover each of the syllabus points there is an activity on Moodle, one for each syllabus dot-point.  These activities can be drawing diagrams, internet research and much more.  One of my weaknesses in teaching is the monitoring of work completion.  I know my students very well from my interactions with them but sometimes I am caught out when their written responses don’t match what they have demonstrated verbally.  Therefore I have been making a concerted effort to check every item uploaded through Moodle and giving some very quick feedback.  The most basic feedback is by selecting one of the following Moodle options:

    • Resubmit
    • Satisfactory
    • Substantial
    • High
    • Excellent

    (One of these days I will develop my own words to replace these.  For instance, it is only now, and I have been doing this all year, that the students have asked which is better between Satisfactory and Substantial.)
    Lately I have been doing this feedback process while they are going on with their work.  I have found this very useful to do in class for the benefit of immediacy.  For instance, yesterday I noted that Mr R was not only completely up to date (at last), he had moved from being consistently Satisfactory to consistently Substantial. One piece of work was better than the majority of the class.  I commented on all this in front of the class, and his chest puffed out with pride.  I am trying harder this term, Miss, he said (paraphrased).  I’m not sure I can keep it up but I’m giving it a go. I did the happy dance inside.

    This is a class of 13 boys and 3 girls.  The vast majority of the boys are athletic rather than academic, there is a boy with learning difficulties, a couple of really quiet boys and a boy who was known to have behaviour difficulties (I only see it every now and then).  There is a girl who often places a target on her back with her loud and attention-seeking ways but she has a heart of gold.  A couple of the boys find it very hard to resist going for that target but we talk about it openly.  I might say, Miss L, stop putting that target on your back.  Mr R, please resist the temptation to hit that target and they laugh and we move on.  One student has been sent an N Award warning letter for not completing an assessment task and another has been sick and away for sporting events regularly and has not completed any work for approximately six weeks.  I still need to monitor these situations quite closely.

    This class takes a lot of energy.  Yesterday, second last period on a Friday afternoon, I didn’t feel I had the energy to give but the buzz enlivened me and in the end I was actually energised by it.  It is a colony of working bees that relies less and less on their Queen Bee for discipline and knwledge.  The hard yards made in establishing this hive is really paying off.  Yay!


  8. Ideas

    6 August 2010 by shartley

    How beautiful would it be if all teachers lit up with ideas?

    How beautiful would it be if all teachers lit up with ideas?

    A teacher in my staffroom is very excited about some ideas she has for the students in our school.  This week she sought out the Principal to discuss her ideas.  He gave her some more ideas to consider and now she is going to spend some time at home putting a plan together based on her vision and their discussion.  She is passionate about her subject area and that students are given every opportunity to perform well in it and this is what motivates her.  I am enjoying listening to the journey and hope and pray it comes to fruition.  It also helps to motivate and encourage me.

    However, other staff think she is silly to offer ideas because she will only create more work for herself.  This is not a far stretch in thinking by any means.  Often when someone sees a need the boss tells that someone to look after it, not just in schools, in any organisation.  But isn’t why we become teachers is because we want what’s best for the students?  I’m sure everyone with whom I work at least once thought that, but sometimes the focus is forgotten as we become buried in the tasks at hand and small problems become huge time consumers.

    I commend the teachers of the world who see a problem and work at resolving it, no matter the cost in time and energy.  May there be more of it.  May the passion be reignited in all teachers.


  9. Pulled every which way

    9 April 2010 by shartley

    Twitter has inspired me as I see other teachers passionate about what’s best for students.

    It has depressed me as I realise how little I know compared to many others.

    I want to investigate every which way of teaching but I would find the process overwhelming.  I want to read the hundreds of blogs I have found through Twitter.  I want to use nearly every resource I discover.  But time, sweet time, prevents me.

    Twitter has connected me to other parts of the world.  One highlight of this is a (private) blog between my Society and Culture students and students at the UN International School in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Blogging is something I am trying in a variety of contexts in class (eg see http://saclife.edublogs.org) but also a little as a teacher and anonymously as a writer.

    The last few days I have been following #ACEC2010 (Australian Computers in Education Conference) on Twitter.  Two of my colleagues have been presenting there, Stephen Collis (@Steve_Collis) and Chris Woldhuis (@cwoldhuis) and I’ve watched via U Stream.  I have been addicted to all this, yet I have learnt nothing new since it has all been discussed before in my PLN on Twitter and through what we do at my school anyway.

    I had allocated today to completing a university assignment for my Editing subject as part of my Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) through Deakin University.  I’m just over half way through this course and I’m really enjoying it.

    My other subject this semester is Script Writing.  I spent Easter writing a monologue for it.  You see, I want to be a writer, probably a fiction writer.

    I am already published as an educational writer but that is just to gain a name for writing before I hit the real deal.  I must admit I enjoy the exercise though.  At the end of each year EdAssist send me a list of topics I could write on for BusiDate and generally I choose something that would interest me, or is most relevant to what I’m teaching, or most recently, what I know a lot about and can write with minimal research.  I then write the article during the summer holidays.

    My educational writing started when Grant Kleeman came to my practicum class during my Dip.Ed. at Macquarie University and asked who had a finance background.  I’m actually a degree qualified accountant who used to work in funds management.  For example, for three years I was the Accountant for the Cash Management Trust at Macquarie Bank.  Through Grant I ended up writing three chapters of Commerce.Dot.Com.  Grant then passed my name onto EdAssist.  EdAssist also invited me to deliver lectures on Business Studies to students in holiday workshops, which I did for two years.  I have also lectured for Economics and Business Educators (EBE) as a result of an article on WorkChoices I wrote for EdAssist.  I enjoy doing all this.  But the time!

    For the last six and a bit years I have been teaching at Northern Beaches Christian School.  It is quite a ride.  Once I muddled my way through first year blues I now find the classroom quite an enjoyable and exciting place.  I’m not great at differentiation but I do see students as individuals and treat them as such in my relationship with them, just less so in the teaching process.  I think my passion for teaching and most of the subject matter is contagious and my students generally like class as much as I do.  They also love going on journeys with me learning new ways of learning.

    I also do a lot of online teaching.  I think it is very suitable for Commerce and Business Studies but HSC Economics I still wonder about.  This year I have some very enthusiastic Economics students but personal interaction is necessary so I have Skyped with one and driven to Scone for another.  Workshops are too far apart and not always convenient for the students.  My school is very gung-ho with technology and mostly I am on board.  We have an institution as part of our school called Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) which is constantly looking for new ways to educate better.  I don’t always agree with some of the decisions our Principal makes, such as our focus on Matrix learning in the middle years and teaching students en masse, a lot of the time with several classes in the one large space.  I’m not fond of that level of clashing noise.

    What I’m currently keen on to do through SCIL is collaborating with other schools in my area, sharing ideas and producing quality resources, preferably online.  For instance, I’d like to develop a focus study on social networks for the Popular Culture topic in Society and Culture.  I think it would benefit from lots of input from a variety of people, not just teachers.  The problem is, I’m having trouble finding Society and Culture teachers on Twitter.  My next step will be to talk with people in the Society and Culture Association, via email or, heaven forbid, phone (so old-school).

    I love to read, both for pleasure and to keep up with current events.  I have about 40 unopened Sydney Morning Heralds in my lounge room and 100 unread emails from the New York Times, Crikey and The Punch in my inbox.  In my bedroom I have dozens of books waiting for me to read them, goodness knows when.

    I also have two gorgeous children, a supportive husband and a dog.  I am trying to lose weight and become fit through Fernwood and a personal trainer there.  I attend Turramurra Uniting Church and meet with friends from there a lot less frequently than I would like.  I used to volunteer as a Youth Group leader but as a teacher by Friday night I am simply too sapped of energy.  I still haven’t completed my tax return from last year, embarrassing as an ex-accountant.  I have a small group of friends who I neglect too much.  Some of them I stay in touch with via Facebook.  I enjoy tennis, wine, restaurants, movies, classical music, opera and theatre but don’t have enough time or money for all that I want.

    I dream of living on a bit of land in the Southern Highlands with high ceilings and an open fire place with cups of tea and just writing the days away.  But I also know I will continue to be tugged by all my interests.  And I’d miss the classroom.   I plan to teach for another 6-8 years, which is when my children are due to complete their schooling, and then reassess.  However, I don’t think I can keep up the current pace for that long.

    I need to give some of my interests away.  But what?


  10. Draft of article “What accountants do” (approx 2000 words)

    20 March 2010 by shartley

    There was once a girl in Year 12 who didn’t know what to do when she finished school.  All she knew was that she eventually wanted to work in the Sydney CBD and be financially successful in an illustrious career.  One day, a handsome young man in a nice suit, representing one of the Big 4 accounting firms of the world [see box of the Big 4 Accounting Firms of the World], spoke to students in the girl’s school.  He spoke of a traineeship which enabled students to work full-time for his firm while studying part-time at university for an accounting degree.  This was perfect, thought the girl.  After submitting her resume and booking an interview she dreamt of working at one of the top floors in the city, looking down at the other office blocks, the harbour and the parks.  The interview process consisted of three different interviews and a tour of the firm.  It was all very exciting until the last interview, when a bored manager asked the girl what area of accounting she wished to work in.  “What areas are there?” she asked.  He gave her an exasperated, perhaps even surly, look, and listed areas such as audit, tax, business services, financial accounting and management accounting, “which is the area I work in,” he said.  “Ooooh,” exclaimed the girl.  “That one sounds interesting.  Management accounting is the area I’d like to work in.”

    The girl’s application was unsuccessful.

    Dictionaries provide overly simplified definitions of accountants [see box of definitions].  They focus on the financial accounts or records kept by businesses.  Of course this is one of the most featured areas of accounting but it belies the depth and scope of the field of accountancy.  Accountants communicate financial information in the form of accounts, advice and reports.  They are important when times are good to monitor profits and advise how to make them even bigger but also when times are bad to help businesses from the brink of disaster or to break-up a business that is beyond saving and possibly bankrupt.  Accountants are employed by accounting firms, private businesses, governments and other institutions, across all industry sectors.  They can work as sole traders or be part of a global business.

    Financial Accounting

    Financial accounting is the area most recognised by the general public because broadly speaking, it is about producing reports for people and institutions external to the business.  Financial accountants prepare financial reports, the main reports being the Revenue Statement, the Balance Sheet and the Cash Flow Statement.  These appear in the Annual Reports of companies for the general public to view but they are also used for internal purposes.  To produce these reports accountants record every single financial transaction of a business.  Each transaction consists of a debit and a credit.  Since there are two sides entered into the books for every single transaction this is often referred to as double-entry accounting.  For example, when a business pays its employees it debits salaries, an expense, and credits cash, an asset.  Each item, whether it be a form of revenue, an expense, an asset, a liability or capital, has its own record.  The General Ledger lists each individual ledger account.  They can then be organised to form the financial accounts.

    Accountants in large firms can be responsible for particular areas of financial reports.  For instance, the employment relations department of a business needs to make sure employees are paid and the transactions recorded.  Superannuation needs to be invested, company car leases need to be paid, recruitment firms need to be paid, employees need to reimbursed for expenses they incurred on behalf of the business, any extra benefits employees receive need to be transacted and Fringe Benefits Tax paid on them, and leave needs to be accrued within the accounts so the business knows how much they are liable to pay.  Accountants or account clerks are the employees who perform these tasks.

    Tax Accounting

    A branch on the tree that is financial accounting is tax accounting.  There are a range of taxes to which businesses are subjected, including Company Tax, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT).  Not only do tax accountants produce the reports for calculating tax (which can be different to those required by other regulatory bodies) but they also check for compliance to tax law within the business (or for individuals), offer advice on how to avoid tax (avoiding tax is legal, evading tax is illegal) and prepare tax returns.

    Management Accounting

    Management accounting focuses on reports that are needed within the business including budgets, feasibility studies and merger and acquisition reports.  The management accountant helps managers establish budgets for all sections of the business and then measures actual financial performance against the budget.  The sales forecast is an important part of management accounting.  Each sales person could be given a target of revenue they are meant to produce, according to the sales forecast, and then the actual results are checked against the target.  Any variances would need to be evaluated for the cause of the difference and management would decide if any adjustments in conditions or targets are necessary.  Another sales focus could be on the products.  Behind the sales item in every Revenue Statement are all the different products that make up those sales.  Analysing each product line enables management to determine what products are more successful than others so they can then make decisions about future courses of action.  Accountants produce the reports to enable the analysing, but they are also involved in the analysing process.

    Cost Accounting

    In large firms it is vital for management to know what sections of the business are making money and which sections are spending too much.  The budget is made for a whole company and then broken down into individual departments, geographical locations or products.  The cost accountant ensures that the correct portion of each transaction is allocated to the correct section, location or product.  For instance, the firm may pay for employees to attend a course in how to use spreadsheets but the staff members come from a variety of departments.  The cost of that course needs to be allocated across departments according to the number of employees in each.  An example of cost accounting on a product basis is when packaging is bought for a number of different products.  The cost of the packaging must be distributed across the various products for which the packaging was bought.

    Auditors

    There are a number of different ways to be an auditor.  The girl mentioned at the beginning of this article applied to the NSW Audit Office for a position.   The NSW Audit Office checks the accounts of the NSW government agencies for accuracy and reliability.  This is the main job of auditors, they sign-off on the accuracy and reliability of financial statements by thoroughly checking the recording of underlying components.  Auditors also work for accounting firms.  Businesses employ auditors from accounting firms to sign-off on their financial statements.  This is required by law for Annual Reports and Prospectuses.  The Big 4 accounting firms used to be The Big 5 until 2002 when the accounting firm, Arthur Andersen collapsed.  Arthur Andersen, as chief auditor for the US company Enron, was caught up in Enron’s downfall under the weight of fraud and corruption.  The common view was that Arthur Andersen must have been corrupt too since they approved accounts which should have been found fraudulent.

    Instead of working for the NSW Audit Office the Year 12 girl took a position with a small accounting firm in the suburbs, which was not quite the thriving metropolis she desired. Smaller accounting firms perform audits on smaller businesses. The girl participated in three audits with this accounting firm.  The first was just a simple compliance audit where coins were ran through the pokies of a local club to check what was recorded by the machine was what actually occurred and that the club was also recording wins accurately.  The second audit was of a horse stud where records of horses being purchased had to be checked for their actual existence at the horse stud, ensuring the description on the paperwork matched the horse itself.  The third and last audit the girl ever performed was on a car yard where she learnt that a lot more money is made from selling the cars traded in than from the brand new cars where the profits went back to the manufacturer.

    Forensic Accounting

    A friend of the girl started her auditing career with the NSW Audit Office but a few years later moved to the NSW Police as a Forensic Accountant.  Her job entailed checking the financial records of businesses suspected of fraud and corruption and then giving evidence in court if a trial eventuated.

    Business Services and Advisory Accounting

    Accountants provide advice to individuals, businesses, government and other institutions in a number of ways.  For instance, they can advise a business how to operate more efficiently, by identifying where costs can be cut or revenues increased.  They could also evaluate how productive the manufacturing arm is operating.  Accountants could also recommend strategies in the areas of employment relations, such as recruitment, training and retrenchment; or in marketing, particularly pricing strategies.

    Mergers and Acquisitions

    One area where it is important to gain the advice of accountants is in mergers and acquisitions.  When businesses are considering merging or acquiring another business experts are required to examine the financial statements to determine the viability of the investment.  This even applies to individuals looking to purchase a small business or franchise.  An accountant will advise if it is worth the asking price or if it is a business that is likely to be a future success.  Accountants may even negotiate on the purchaser’s behalf.  In more complicated investments a due diligence may be performed where accountants determine that all the facts presented by the seller are indeed accurate and reliable.

    Insolvency Accounting

    When a business does flounder it may go into voluntary administration.  The administrator is usually an accountant who looks to find a way for the business to return to fiscal success and operate again, able to meet its financial obligations.  If a business is unable to pay its bills it may go into receivership where a receiver, an accountant, is appointed to ensure all debtors are paid, aiming to keep the business afloat.  However, if a business is truly unrecoverable then liquidators, also accountants, are appointed to divide up the business in order to pay out claims on the remaining assets.

    Environmental Accounting

    As society becomes more concerned for the environment there is increasing pressure for environmental accounting.  In other words there is a demand for businesses to account for all actions of a business affecting the environment to be reported.  The difficulty in this reporting is placing a relevant and reliable price on these actions.  Yet this is an area that is seriously undergoing investigation.  At the moment environmental accounting is mainly in the area of cost-benefit analysis evaluating how a new project may impact the environment.

    Fund Accounting

    The girl who wanted to work in the CBD eventually did work in the heady field of finance.  She worked for a year in the suburban accounting firm, followed by three years as a tax accountant in a bank.  She then moved to an investment bank where she became a fund accountant.  A fund accountant records all the transactions of a trust or superannuation fund and produces appropriate reports and figures for internal and external requirements.  This includes calculating the unit price for the fund and the rates of return to be published in the media.  A fund accountant is an example of a more specialised accounting area that is peculiar to the financial sector.

    As can be seen there are a number of areas that accountants work in and a huge range of tasks they perform.  Accountants have a unique view of how a business is performing and thus often go on to work at the top end of business as general managers, chief operating officers and directors.  Accountants don’t need to have a high level of mathematical ability but they do need to enjoy working with numbers and like problem solving.

    As for our girl who knew so little in Year 12, after five years in funds management she left accounting to have children and later became a teacher.

    A box listing the 4 Big Accountancy firms in Australia:
    –    Deloitte: http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_AU/au/index.htm
    –    Ernst & Young: http://www.ey.com/au
    –    KPMG: http://www.kpmg.com/AU/en/Pages/default.aspx
    –    PwC: http://www.pwc.com.au/

    A box of definitions of accountant
    –    a person who keeps or inspects financial accounts.  http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/accountant?view=uk
    –    a person whose profession is inspecting and auditing personal or commercial accounts.  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/accountant?r=66
    –    somebody who checks finances: somebody who maintains the business records of a person or organization and prepares forms and reports for tax or other financial purposes  http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/DictionaryResults.aspx?refid=1861583281

    A box of the two main professional bodies for accountants:
    – Chartered Accountants: http://www.charteredaccountants.com.au/
    – CPA Australia: http://www.cpaaustralia.com.au/

    “Trivia” Box:
    Auditors use green pens for their little ticks to show they have vouched a certain document.  This is to distinguish from the more commonly used blue, black and red ink.

    Box:
    A quiz to ascertain the area of accounting that would suit you: http://www.charteredaccountants.com.au/students/game_quiz/student_quiz

    For more information on environmental accounting:
    http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/bus/accounting/whatisema.asp


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