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  1. 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/

     


  2. 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.


  3. 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.


  4. 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

  5. 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?


  6. The Unmeasured

    6 February 2015 by shartley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  7. Leadership and Learning

    21 September 2014 by shartley

    I am Here for the Learning Revolution

    Image source: Wesley Fryer (Flickr)

    This post (aka rant) is a result of being part of a team driving change at my school; studying not one, but two university subjects focusing on leadership; and having numerous conversations about leadership in recent times beyond these circumstances.

    There’s a fine balance between the autocratic/transactional style of one-way communicating telling staff how things are to be done and a constant consultative style that becomes caught in trying to please everyone so that nothing ends up being done.  It isn’t a dichotomy but a spectrum of leadership style.  As a leader I like to work alongside people but realise there are times strong decision making and even discipline may be required (although I know to treat the action not the person, just like with students).

    Character traits apply to leadership style but a lot of the traits demonstrated by leaders are an act, not necessarily something they are given at birth.  I’m naturally an introvert but assume a stronger persona because I’m someone who strives to be a high achiever (if a job needs to be done I want to do it well). This is why most people view me as an extrovert.  For instance, I hate conflict as a passive observer but being in it or trying to reconcile conflict between others is worse.  Yet, I am good at it.  I once went to a psychologist who helped in career matters and he told me that my sense of pride in doing things well over-rode being out of my comfort zone but it wasn’t sustainable as a constant practice.  At uni we were once asked what we thought was the most important aspect of leading change, and everyone else said communication while I said, all-in.  Communication is just a method for driving an all-in attitude.  I therefore work on solidarity, cohesion and an all-in attitude within teams.

    I believe there should be a clear vision in schools and that a vision should have at its core a focus on learning, but too often I see schools avoiding the word learning and making the vision more about character.  I wonder how much this is to absolve parents from that role?  I think developing character is important but learning across all aspects of life is important and surely, the main purpose of secondary education.

    I think it is important for my current school to move from a transactional leadership paradigm to a transformational paradigm (Bass 1997) but beyond this, it needs to bring in more open leadership style, with a focus on people more than administration (Kotter 1990).  I want to be part of that paradigm shift.  I like what Robinson, Lloyd and Rowe (2008) and Davies and Davies (2005) have to say about leadership because although they simplify leadership, they don’t oversimplify it into unrealistic expectations of a mere series of steps to follow. For instance, I like Robinson et al emphasise building trust and it appears genuine, not just a means for meeting goals.  Davies & Davies are excellent at moving leadership theory for product based organisations to the school environment and taking context of environment into account.

    I love Eacott’s (2011) analysis of Bourdieu (who I studied extensively as part of a writing and literature course) partly because “A central aim of Bourdieu’s sociology is the attempt to remove the dichotomy between the individual and society” and partly because Eacott demonstrates how the accountability of schools have become the end-goals in themselves (p.42).  The HSC should be a measurement, not the goal in itself.  The learning involved in undertaking the HSC should be the goal.

    We need a focus on learning in an environment of trust and strong relationships.  Otherwise, schools become a competitive arena about point scoring, amongst staff and amongst students.  Even between teachers and students.  Some of the top academic achieving schools seem to want to foster an individual selfish competitive environment, taking away the focus on learning to a focus on marks, and even though I’m competitive by nature and take pride in high marks (mine and my students’), a system that thrives on that is my idea of hell.

     

    Bass, B.M. (1997). Does the transactional-transformational leadership paradigm transcend organizational and national boundaries? American Psychologist, 52(2), 130-139. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.52.2.130

    Davies, B.J. & Davies B. (2005). The strategic dimensions of leadership. In Davies, B., Ellison, L. & Bowring-Carr, C. (eds) School Leadership in the 21st Century (pp.8-16). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

    Eacott, S. (2011). Leadership strategies: re-conceptualising strategy for educational leadership. School Leadership and Management, 31(1), 35-46. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2010.540559

    Kotter, J. (1990). Management and Leadership. In Kotter (ed.), A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management (pp.2-18).  New York, NY: The Free Press.

    Robinson, V. M. J., Lloyd, C. A., & Rowe, K. J. (2008). The Impact of Leadership on Student Outcomes: An Analysis of the Differential Effects of Leadership Types. Educational Administration Quarterly44(5), 635–674.

     


  8. Pedagogy

    13 October 2013 by shartley

    PowerToolReadingCooking

    Photos by author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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


  9. The Education Revolution (a quick post)

    20 January 2011 by shartley

    Pročitano u prvoj polovini 2008. godine

    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.


  10. First draft of a new Personal Philosophy of Education

    7 March 2010 by shartley

    Personal Philosophy of Education

    Education is vital for a society to progress socially and economically.  It is not merely about the accumulation of knowledge but the ability to communicate, negotiate and problem solve in a rapidly changing world.  Every student is a member of society and has something to contribute.  It is the teacher’s role to enable every student to find their part in the world.

    The classroom is a community within the school community and prepares students for a role in the broader community.  Therefore, the classroom is a place for learning values and social behaviour in order for the students to be able to not only participate but contribute to that broader community.  The teacher needs to model appropriate values and expect the same from the students.

    I believe students learn best when they have a sense of ownership over their progress.  Teachers should facilitate the learning process so that students are self-directed as much as possible.  To maintain students’ interest, content needs to be made real and relevant through integrating technology with a variety of pedagogical approaches, since technology is part of every day existence in Australia.  Careers and workplaces are no longer static and hence our students need to be flexible and be able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

    In the senior years, when education is more heavily driven by final exams, there needs to be a balanced approach.  A student’s final school mark is a gateway to opportunities in the future and is hence a critical aspect of their learning.  It is also important to focus on learning for life.  However, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Through a passion for learning students are more likely to achieve at a higher level in exams too.

    A firm, fair and friendly approach aids discipline in the classroom.  The learning environment needs to be respected and valued by all who participate within it.  Preparation and communication are key to making this a reality and boundaries must be clear and maintained.  Yet, compassion will also have a role to play at times, according to individual circumstances.  In a secondary school students are coping with many physical, social and cognitive changes.  There are also a wide range of family situations and difficulties students are experiencing at home and carrying with them emotionally.  It is important to be aware of these factors when teaching.

    As a Christian, I believe I have been called to the teaching profession.  I try to let my faith and principles guide my teaching, my whole life, as I strive to be the best I can be.


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