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  1. Lifelong Learning

    19 February 2020 by shartley

    In 2003 I first heard the terms lifelong learning and learning to learn while a friend and I were on our practical teaching placement at a Sydney secondary school. These terms appeared to permeate all their curriculum documents and came up in meetings in sarcastic derisive tones. I wondered why they were so prolific and why teachers hated them so much. I agreed that learning to learn sounded naff but, to me, lifelong learning was a nice idea and that the only problem was that overuse had reduced it to a jingoistic term.

    A few months later and the teachers were eye rolling the term quality teaching. My friend, Leah, asked why they had such an issue with it. Basically they said they’d seen it all before and it would come and go like everything else in education; that it was yet another attempt to impose standards that weren’t needed. Leah and I had been sold on the idea that the quality teaching initiative would help teaching to be seen as a profession, not merely a job. We had both come from accounting backgrounds and were not looking forward to the drop in prestige when we became fully fledged teachers. Many of the teachers in our department had been at the school for decades and just did their thing, letting the fads of the department directives wash over them where possible, leaving the people in leadership positions to alter documents to provide a look of compliance.

    It’s now 2020 and these terms are less prevalent in teaching. The teaching standards underlying the NSW quality teaching policy evolved into the Australian Professional Standards for Teaching and are the bain of any new teacher’s existence. New teacher graduates have five years to become a real teacher (proficient teacher) by proving compliance with these standards in an administrative nightmare. Thankfully I graduated a year before this became the case. However,  all teachers in NSW now have to prove they are participating in regular professional development – 100 hours over 5 years for full-time permanent teachers. As a casual teacher I have a longer period to comply.

    So it turns out, lifelong learning was as much about the teachers as the students.

    The Oxford English Dictionary (thanks Alison) cites lifelong learning as first appearing in 1930 at an institute called the Emmitsburg Lifelong Learning Center (apparently American, given the spelling). In 1941 it appeared in an article of the Journal of Higher Education in the context of community colleges. It wasn’t until 1988 that the term became connected with political policy via H R Moody’s Abundance of Life: Human Development Policies for an Aging Society. As can be seen in the Google Books Ngram Viewer below, this is when the term really took off (unfortunately this service is no longer maintained and thus the graph stops at 2008).

    This week I’ve been reading about neoliberalism’s influence on education and now feel conned by the term lifelong learning. The first article I read was by Laura Servage in 2009. This was my reaction summarised in a tweet:

    This article frequently referred to, Olssen (2006), so it became my next reading. It honed in on lifelong learning. It appears that lifelong learning came out of the issue with economies and industries increasingly needing to restructure due to the rapid change of technologies as we moved out of the industrial age. These shifts see employees losing jobs, going on welfare and having to reskill if they were to find a job elsewhere. In economic terms, this creates a time lag that stalls these employees’ from contributing to economic growth.

    In very simple terms, neoliberalism is about allowing corporations to act freely in the interests of contributing to economic growth and the governments doing what they can to support this process, because, of course, economic growth is about the greater good of society, not about lining the coffers of political parties with donations from said corporations so they can remain in power and be so very important and paid well. Sorry, with the current state of corruption in the current federal government I am even more jaded than normal.

    Under neoliberalism, economic markets are paramount, meaning non-economic factors such as community cohesion, are less important. People are valued more as an economic resource of labour than for their contributions to society as a friend, in their families, to their non-profit clubs and institutions and in other facets of life that are not compensated financially. This is partly why we have become a society so much more about individualism than community. As Olssen (2006) pointed out, since slavery was abolished (kind of), labour remains under ownership of the individual, not transferred like goods, capital, land or money to the proprietorship of some other owner. Also, labour consists of people with feelings that are voiced and demonstrated, and to some extent, employees are expected by society and the law to be protected and valued as people. These issues cause major concerns for companies and governments who want the economy to flow smoothly, onward and upwards. Employees expect to be compensated when they are no longer needed as a resource, and often look to government for financial help in situations of ongoing unemployment or for retraining to find new employment. The term lifelong learning shifts the responsibility of adapting skills to changing circumstances to the individual rather than some lifeless institution, be that a corporation or a government.

    On Twitter I follow a bunch of corporations in the information service industries (eg accounting and consultancy firms) and see a lot of talk about businesses becoming more about adding value to community and not having such a laser-like focus on profits. This includes helping their employees to reskill or upskill and just generally being more respectful. There is some hope if this indeed becomes more than rhetoric, but I suspect it only applies to businesses where highly skilled employees form the crux of the business, where brains provide the service (product), because, on the other hand, there is also a lot of chatter about businesses ripping off employees whose skills are less highly valued and less difficult to recruit. These employees are considered less and perhaps even less human, not only in the eyes of their employers but by government and society as a whole. These people are expected to lift themselves up by their bootstraps (an image that causes me much frustration) and turn suddenly into lifelong learners.

    This system, particularly in Australia, is all based on an assumption of egalitarianism, that everyone has an equal opportunity to make the most of themselves, that education is equal for one and all. We all know that isn’t actually true. Time and time again it is shown socioeconomic circumstance is the biggest determinant of educational outcomes. Yet, the persistent view in society is that it’s up to individuals to take the opportunities before them, and it’s their own fault if they didn’t listen enough in class. And those that don’t believe that, believe it’s due to teachers needing to do better, needing to have that lifelong learning attitude so they can improve students’ outcomes. The systemic issues in education are just ignored.

    In my head and in early drafts of my MRES thesis, I picture the neoliberal view of education as an input-transform-output model, much like the business process model I teach in Business Studies. In the end I didn’t include it in my final thesis because I didn’t have enough literature to support the concept. However, this week I was given (thanks Kerry-Ann) an article by Gert Biesta (2015) that describes this exact same picture (p.356). It made me very happy but also sad to know I’m not alone in this view, giving it more credence. It is becoming popular to describe education as an ecosystem which still seems a little clinical to me. I prefer schools to be viewed as community and I think it’s time that corporations become community minded too. Not as an add-on, or something they play God over, but as a participant, caring for community because they are a part of it, not as a marketing ploy.

    Anyway, I have ranted and meandered around enough. The neoliberal view of education is part of my background reading for my PhD and is really a shadow throughout the study but it’s not at the heart of it and that’s where I need to focus now.

    Despite feeling a little duped to discover a term representing a value I hold actually came out of the growing ascendency of corporations, I continue in my quest to learn new things and apply them to my teaching, my general living and my perspective of the world.

     

    References

    Biesta, G. (2015). Resisting the seduction of the global education measurement industry: Notes on the social psychology of PISA. Ethics and education, 10(3), 348-360.

    Olssen, M. (2006). Understanding the mechanisms of neoliberal control: Lifelong learning, flexibility and knowledge capitalism. International Journal of lifelong education, 25(3), 213-230.

    Servage, L. (2009). The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the Neo-Liberalization of Higher Education: Constructing the. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 39(2), 25-43.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  2. Step by step, animal by animal: The first year of my PhD

    18 December 2019 by shartley

    Andy, the kitten

    A dog chasing its tail

    My PhD topic is about investigating enterprise education via three case study schools. I thought coming up with a topic and presenting it in a formal proposal process was going to be the great significant start to my PhD with everything ready to rock and roll from there. I was wrong.

    In February, I presented my supervisors with my research concept and then they suggested trying a different angle. I spent a couple of weeks pulling that idea together and then at the next meeting, it was decided a slightly different approach would be better, so again, I spent two weeks twisting the words and concepts around. This pattern continued for over two months when finally we landed back to where we started. I sat in that meeting, feeling like my jaw was on the floor. I’m not sure they were aware just how much we were back at the original idea I presented. Yes, it was a little annoying. However, there were many benefits from taking this circuitous journey. It meant other options could be discounted; it meant my supervisors knew I had thought long and hard about what I was doing; and it helped to clarify and hone the concept. I then had just a few weeks to put together my written proposal and then my presentation.

    Sharks

    In early May I pitched my PhD proposal to a boardroom of academics and supportive fellow PhD students. I normally make presentations with just some sketched out notes in my hand but this time I had the whole speech written out and I read it almost to the letter. I needed to do it this way to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I think I still kept a reasonable amount of eye contact and I strangely felt the comfort of knowing I was doing a much better job than I had a year earlier with my Master of Research (MRES) proposal. This time I understood more academic theory and addressed theoretical frameworks in detail. During the Q&A session at the end, an academic commented how different I was this time and asked if I could explain. At the MRES proposal I employed a tactic to overcome nerves by being an exuberant presenter, I suppose to compensate for the weaknesses I felt academically. I basically replied to this effect and a sage nod was returned by the academic.

    When the general Q&A was over, five people remained with me: the coordinator of PhD students in Education, my supervisors and my two official reviewers (academics) who had gone through the written version in detail before the presentation. By this time I was exhausted but had to concentrate hard to absorb the feedback being given. The funniest moment was when one of the reviewers said there were a lot of fins in my proposal. My brain did a word association of fins to sharks but couldn’t understand what he meant about sharks circling around my work. He repeated the statement. I was still bamboozled. The third time he changed his wording slightly and I suddenly realised he meant I referenced a lot of Finns, academics from Finland!

    Overall the advice was very helpful and the PhD coordinator (who I hardly knew at this point but have come to deeply appreciate) was probably the most practical help. Again my befuddled brain had trouble comprehending what was being said. Eventually I understood she had a brilliant idea for my budget timing. You see, at my university, we PhD candidates have up to $3000 each year to fund our research and my research was going to involve a lot of travel. She suggested that I book as much as I can in 2019 for travel in 2020, otherwise I’d be considerably out of pocket in 2020. This was great advice but is my current headache. More on that later.

    A kitten

    There are four levels of feedback classifications for a PhD proposal. The first is an all clear, full steam ahead with what you proposed. The second is that the proposal is accepted with some minor changes that the supervisors oversee and the reviewers sign-off. The third level requires major changes that the reviewers must examine in detail. And the last brings into question whether you should be doing your PhD at all. My proposal received the second level. My supervisors tried to comfort me about not reaching the top level but I didn’t need comforting. Actually, I was very happy. I knew that my study was always going to be too complicated for an easy approval and also, my reviewers had been chosen specifically to provide thorough feedback. When I looked back at my reaction, I realised the MRES journey had prepared me well for ego bruising in the quest for perfection. My supervisors want what’s best for my PhD, not what’s going to soothe my ego in the short term. I adopted a kitten on the way home as a reward and a comfort. And indeed he has become an amazing companion.

    I took less than a fortnight to make the required changes to my proposal and thought, right, I’m on my way. But no, ethics approval hurdle was next.

    Humans

    When your research involves contact with other humans, approval from a university ethics committee is required. It took some time to put the ethics application together. Almost all students and staff who have been through the process complain bitterly about it. However, I didn’t mind it so much (and no, I haven’t been drinking). Having to spell everything out for ethics approval makes you think in more practical terms the very act of going around, actually doing your research. It was tedious putting together the numerous participant information and consent forms for everyone who is going to be involved in my research but a necessary evil. I had been warned to complete the application form in a Word document because the new online system was shaky and rumour told of people who kept losing their work in the process. The only online issue I had was not receiving the supposed automated email when they had completed the review. I deeply felt the loss of two weeks in which I could have been moving forward. I was able to reasonably quickly address the 20 items brought to my attention and thankfully, the committee then gave their approval within a day or so.

    Right, I thought, the hardest part is over, I can move onto recruiting my three case study schools.

    Kelpie

    Sending emails, reminder emails, playing phone tag, seeking more ethics approval and employing other communication methods to recruit three case study schools made me feel like an online sheepdog. I know from experience how busy teaching can be but when you are the one being overlooked, it is hard to be patient. One school, where my contact was the principal, was great. He agreed to the study almost from the first instance but first I had to go through their school system’s ethics process. After doing the ethics application for uni, this one wasn’t so hard and they were quite prompt at approving too. One down, two to go.

    I had to send a few reminder emails to my contact at another school but eventually I received the go ahead to go through their school system’s ethics process. This was even quicker than the one before and after more patient waiting, the principal signed up. Two down, one to go.

    The school I wanted most of all was very slow at returning email, although better than the school who didn’t reply at all to my two attempts. As I waited for this school I managed to contact another and talked over the phone to the enterprise coordinator. Their program wasn’t as big as I hoped and wondered if I was doing the wrong thing when I said they weren’t appropriate as a case study school. I did say I’d like to stay in contact though. I might end up interviewing the coordinator as an additional voice in the enterprise education story. At last, right at the end of the school year, the principal of the school I wanted, signed on the dotted line with the university’s ethics approval being sufficient.

    Right, the tough part, recruitment, was over. Now I could really begin.

    A flying kangaroo

    By the time the third school had signed up I had already sat down with the first school for a planning meeting and had scheduled a day with the second school. The first planning meeting was another moment where I felt, finally, the PhD had really commenced. Despite all my nerves beforehand, I had a really enjoyable and productive chat with the principal and we put some plans in place. Phew!

    The day booked with the second school was interstate so I flew there and back. Unfortunately I travelled not by the flying kangaroo, Qantas, but by Jetstar. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to airlines and I have lounge access with Qantas so I was disappointed to be flying out of the wrong terminal, not that I had time anyway, due to the awfully long queues. For the return trip, the queues were even worse because Jetstar’s IT system was down, resulting in a two hour delay and only 10 minutes to scoff breakfast in the lounge. I’m lucky that I have a brother to provide free accommodation reasonably near this school but have to keep the visit short so I don’t have too much personal time reduce the university funding. This visit was not only for a planning meeting but to conduct my first three interviews too. My primary, hands-on, practical research was actually commencing; ten months after my PhD officially started, seven months after the proposal. This was also nerve wracking. As I sat in the school’s boardroom, interviewing and planning next year with the three key people involved in the enterprise education of the school, at times I felt spaced out and overwhelmed but also excited. The PhD was actually happening!

    I now have to transcribe the interviews which I recorded on three different devices to determine which would be best for future interviews. Of course it had nothing to do with my phone running out of juice, or the Handy Recorder not working without being plugged into power (turns out, through poor communication between my husband and myself, it had no batteries in it at all).

    A budgie

    The most difficult time I’m having right now is budgie, I mean budget, related. Since it took so long to recruit schools and have initial meetings with them (not that I’ve met with the third school yet), I haven’t been able to book any travel for next year. The first school that was so quick to become a part of my study is local, so no expense against my budget there. The other two schools are interstate. The planning meeting last week allowed me to schedule dates for the observation phase of my research. All my schools conduct enterprise education on a weekly basis which is good in terms of a consistent approach by the schools but bad for my budget because I will need to be a bird, flying in and out of two other states. I tried to book five trips (10 flights) through the arduous bureaucratic process that is administration at university as soon as I could. First they said bookings made for next year counted against next year’s budget, not the current year. I told them how the PhD Coordinator had informed me otherwise. Then they said they were too busy to arrange all the travel I’d requested. Then when I asked for just one or two trips to be booked before the end of the year, I was just told no, I had to wait until next year.

    Well, over the weekend I stewed about it and did my sums, calculating at least $6000 in travel next year, so if I could move $2500 to this year’s budget instead of being out of my own pocket, I was damn well going to fight for it. I sent an email to my supervisor and admin, begging for the trips to be pushed through. An automatic reply informed me the head of admin for the department had left the university. Forever. No wonder she had squashed the idea! I am now waiting for her assistant and my supervisor to respond, hoping against all hope these flights will be booked.

    Ding! My email alert. Just as I was writing that last paragraph. Good news? I see the words “We are pleased to advise…” and I am joyous. And then my heart sinks. It is only to declare that I have been deemed to have made satisfactory progress in my Annual Progress Review (APR), on the basis of a form my supervisor and I submitted months ago.

    The APR report mentions something about the confusion with my scholarship. Last year I had a scholarship. Word was that if you achieved at least 85 marks for your MRES thesis you kept the scholarship. I received an 89. Woohoo! But no, I found out a month after receiving my result, that it wasn’t the case. I should have read the fine print of the scholarship rules and regulations more closely. These days the government scholarship is worked out on a competitive basis across the university and I was informed it was a particularly competitive year. Doom and gloom took hold! I worked more in casual teaching to pull in some extra money but it was far short of what we thought we were going to have to help pay the mortgage on our new house.

    Then, in July, I received a call to say I was going to have the scholarship again but just for Semester 2, funded by the university. It took two months for payments to actually start, with backpay, and then I was told it was now approved for the duration of my PhD, assuming I submit according to the scheduled due date (February 2022). Then, just this week, I was told I had now moved from a department university funded scholarship to a government funded scholarship, the same as I was on in the first place. Now hasn’t that been a fun ride!

    Slug

    The key moments of my PhD this year have been significant but otherwise I feel I have been rather sluggish in approach, particularly compared to the intensity of my MRES. For instance, I have been periodically working on a systematic literature review but with no looming deadline, I have done a rather poor job of it. Particularly now I have written this piece, I know I have accomplished a lot but I feel I’ve let myself down when it comes to keeping up with this literature review and reading in general. I am going to turn this sluggish approach to slugging it out as soon as I can in the new year. See what I did there! Haha.

    Wish me luck!

    I wonder what animals will link to my PhD next year.


  3. Business Savvy Girls

    28 January 2019 by shartley

    L-R: Jenny, Alexia, Lara, Shani, Zoe, Bella and Vivian

    I have known Jenny since we were five years old, when a little over a kilometre separated our houses on the edge of Wagga Wagga. We were best friends or worst enemies throughout our schooling due to our similarities and competitive streaks. After school we went our separate ways but over time our similarities have brought us together again. Jenny is passionate about financial literacy, particularly for women and children. I am passionate about improving the agency of young people by empowering them with a range of skills to navigate their path in the world. I am so pleased Jenny asked me (as part of my Think Learn Act business) to help her produce the Business Savvy Girls Workshop, which we conducted over the last three days of this week (23-25 Jan 2019). The program was designed for young women to discover and develop their passions, skills and attributes to build a business idea upon. We based it loosely on the Design Thinking model and used the Lean Canvas template for fleshing out their business concepts further. Activities included business idea prompts, creating an example of a customer (drawn, named and given characteristics) and website development. We discussed legal requirements, networking and promotional activities. The three days culminated with our participants presenting three minute business pitches at a lunch with a number of local business women who provided wonderful advice, guidance and encouragement.

    Zoe understood and grasped the pitch concept quickly and well

    Alexia, Bella, Lara, Vivian and Zoe are amazing young ladies who invested time and energy from 9am to 4pm each day with only two half hour breaks on the first two days and no breaks on the last day. The air conditioner struggled to process the near constant 40℃ outside. Alexia was already on the business path with her business, Dislexia, running on a Facebook page. The business name is a play on her name but after choosing it found she was indeed dyslexic and had misspelt it. During the workshop she started designing a logo with the D back to front in Canva’s logo design tool. She has plans for major expansion and diversions. The youngest, aged 12, was already running an online business with her Dad but came up with her own ideas and extra confidence through the workshop. Common across the ideas being developed at the workshop was concern for community, communication and the more disadvantaged in society. These young women are definitely social entrepreneurs, very focused on developing businesses with a conscience.

    Meghan shows cattle and needs to look good from the showground to formal dinners.
    Her jewellery needs to be cheap and preferably environmentally friendly.
    The vision is for scrap bale twine to be melted down and made into jewellery through a 3D printer.

    The participants did a two minute pitch before lunch on the first day but most only reached a minute or so and were pretty laid back. Twenty-four hours later they did a second attempt. They were visibly more nervous in manner but the business ideas and depth of information provided had much improved. One went for the full two minutes. I provided a rough scaffold to refine the approach: outline the customer and the problem(s) they face, describe how the business will solve the problem(s) and have strong branding (what the business stands for). On the last day they had three hours to finalise their Lean Canvas sheets and a three minute pitch. One of the participants had a reasonable business idea the previous day but at the start of the final day she apologetically confessed to having changed her approach somewhat. She had gone home and thought more about her passions, applied them to her business and ended up with a brilliant concept. I was so proud. I was proud of all of them.

    Deep thinking

    We didn’t time the pitches to the business women but they were all on the money. Not only that, the questions posed by the business women didn’t seem to faze them. They knew their concepts thoroughly and provided thoughtful and intelligent responses. They were open to suggestions and after the formal session was over, talked further with the experienced and wise. The business women gradually and reluctantly left, blown away not only by the business ideas, but the hearts and minds of those who held them.

    For me, it was such a joyful experience to see the growth and development of our young women. On a more personal note, it seemed my friendship with Jenny that commenced when we were five had completed a full circle. Even though we both have a lot going on in our lives, we worked seamlessly together on this workshop. At the beginning of the week I found out that I wasn’t awarded a scholarship for the PhD I commence this year when I felt quite certain I had achieved enough to receive it. My husband and I are also struggling to finance a house we are contracted to buy, despite achieving pre-approval for the amount we require. However, Jenny went through the last days of her mother’s life this week. Her Mum passed away peacefully as the family sat around in vigil in the early hours of Friday morning. Yet, Jenny only missed a couple of hours on the Thursday afternoon and the Friday morning of the workshop due to the importance she places on empowering young women. Working together this week was meant to be.

    Many thanks to the Agritech Incubator at Charles Sturt University, particularly Siobhain Howard, for hosting us and providing food and other forms of support. Also much appreciation to our business women, Emma GrantLeonie McCallum, Lauren EcclestonPennie ScottVickie Burkinshaw and Anne Reardon of Allegro Ballet School. 

    NB This post also appears on my more personal blog: https://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com/2019/01/business-savvy-girls.html


  4. Education – my thinking

    12 November 2018 by shartley

    I was recently challenged by someone to add more of my own thinking to this blog, given that recently it has been more about other people’s voices. So sitting in my gorgeous hotel in Bath, occasionally looking out the window (view in image above) for moments of contemplation, I have bashed out where my head is currently at re education and my PhD. By the way, for my more general thoughts, less education related, I have a writing blog too. Often the lines blur so the decision as to where to post can be quite the quandary.

    So here goes.

    I am passionate and quite emotionally tied up with:

    1. Students’ gaining agency through education so they feel empowered to make choices and decisions about their own lives and believe they can have an impact on the people, communities and societies around them.
    2. Creating a broad curriculum that students value and engage in.
    3. Implementing pedagogy that enables students to value and engage with the curriculum.
    4. This generally means the curriculum needs to be relevant to real life in terms of what is being learnt, how it is learnt and how it is assessed.
    5. Also means that there is a need to not only focus on students’ attainment on knowledge but also their development of skills, attributes, competencies, capabilities, and other closely related terms.
    6. Breaking down the restrictions, barriers and the risk levels teachers feel, to enable students to learn and acquire the knowledge, skills and attributes they need now and into the future.

     

    Thus, there are several areas in education that really make me angry and frustrated.

    1. Teachers who just want to deliver information to compliant students.
    2. People outside the profession who think education is merely about delivering information to compliant students.
    3. The lack of recognition that to do more than deliver information takes time and energy.
    4. The teachers who think their innovative teaching method is the one and only way. Teaching needs to be fit for purpose.
    5. Schools that promote themselves as being a “PBL school” or some other particular method of learning annoys the hell out of me. Teaching needs to be fit for purpose.
    6. Students and their families who focus on the final grade at the end of over a decade of education and not appreciating learning for its own sake. This is exemplified by students who say “just tell me what I need to know”.
    7. Schools and teachers who cater to students and families’ single-minded focus on grades and/or want to maintain an outdated image of compliant students sitting in rows, working in silence.
    8. The confines of prescribed curriculum reducing teaching to a tick-box approach to covering material.
    9. Curriculum that claims in overarching statements at the front of documents that they are achieving a range of knowledge, skills and attributes through that curriculum and then in the back end, reduce teaching to be mainly about the mere delivery of knowledge.
    10. Dichotomies in education that reduce concepts to either/or concepts. I am sometimes guilty of buying into some of them in my research and writing. I am particular against the ideas of traditional versus progressive teaching and knowledge versus skills and attributes. Again, it’s about teaching that is fit for purpose. Fit for the knowledge, skills and attributes being sought, fit for the students undertaking the learning and fit for the context and available resources.
    11. The terms “non-cognitive skills” and “soft skills”, as if leadership, creativity, interpersonal skills and so on, do not require thinking and hard work to develop and improve.
    12. The term “21st century skills”, as if these skills have only been needed for the last 18 years and not before. How ridiculous!
    13. Socio-economic inequities in education. I have worked in four private schools with various level of fees and funds to expend. My own children went to private schools for the most part. Despite my own actions and behaviour, I desperately want public schools to be better resourced. Technology adds to the socio-economic gap in education and yet I am still an advocate for technology in teaching because it is such an integral part of our lives. I worry how much education adds to income inequality in our society.
    14. Other inequities in education that occur on the basis of gender, race, learning difficulties and much more.
    15. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) currently being valued so much more than the Humanities. Is it really to cater for a job market (and thereby treating education as the mere creation of human capital)? Or is it about reducing the amount of critical thinking about societies, communities and the people within them?
    16. The treatment of education as if it is about producing human capital. I will acknowledge there is an element of that occurring because it is inescapable in a capitalist society but there is so much more to education than this!

     

    This thinking informs the research I want to undertake for my PhD.  It has led me to Enterprise Education which has the potential to encompass all that I desire in education. I also resist the wholesale embracing of capitalism and therefore would prefer if Enterprise Education did not overly feature entrepreneurship and financial gains. To me, Enterprise Education is about developing students’ enterprising skills and attributes in the broadest sense, allowing all students to flourish. I want to discover the best objectives, curriculum, pedagogies and assessment processes in Enterprise Education that is conducted at a scale beyond the classroom, at a whole grade level, preferably more than a one-off experience but a whole year program. I would love to just submerge myself in a few of these programs and analyse what works best.

    Attending the ISBE Conference last week was a fantastic immersive experience in the thinking of a whole bunch of amazing people working in this area but it also added to the imposter syndrome monster within me. My struggle is the more academic aspect of doing what I want to do. I need to work out theoretical approaches/lenses and frameworks. This is what keeps me awake at night and occasionally drives me to tears. Am I ever going to get my head around this stuff? Am I ever going to be able to produce good quality academic work that can make a difference in education by influencing curriculum and helping teachers to happily do the best for their students? Well, that’s my dream. I’m sure once I have a grip on the academic theories I will be able to analyse and write and have a voice in the arena but right now there’s a huge wall in front of me. I have ten days to write a decent PhD proposal, including a literature review, while I also enjoy the pleasures of being a tourist as I finish up in Bath, go to Prague, and then head home. I know, tough life and all. I will submit a proposal at the end of this time but it won’t be anywhere near the quality I desire unless an epiphany occurs.

    Soon this initial hurdle will be behind me and I won’t have to think on it until the PhD truly commences in 2019. In the meantime, back home, I’ll be preparing for Christmas and finding somewhere new to live (long story). I am looking forward to hosting a party for my fellow post-grad education researchers, visiting family in Adelaide, going to the cricket and tennis, reading for pleasure and experiencing the glorious heat and sun of summer in Sydney, Australia.

    PS My playlist (shuffled) as I wrote this post.


  5. A PIECE of ISBE 2018

    11 November 2018 by shartley

    7-8 November ISBE Conference

    My first communication outside the Twitterverse with Dr Colin Jones was an hour long phone conversation back in March or April about my MRES topic. When I mentioned I was presenting on Enterprise Education (EE) in Cologne, he suggested I also attend the ISBE conference in Birmingham the following week, since I was in the area. At the conference, Colin introduced me to his friends/contacts which led to many interesting conversations. We also had time to continue our discussions about EE and my possible research focus, which were extremely valuable and enjoyable.

    Anyway, here’s A PIECE of what I appreciated most from the conference.

     

    ACTIVITY

    I enjoyed the idea Dr David Higgins presented about the need for EE to be researched as an activity (verb) and our own involvement, as opposed to the clinical scientific arms-length approach that describes human activity in concrete terms (nouns) instead of their actions/emotions/motivations/thinking/etc .

     

    PEOPLE

    People I knew via Twitter came to life at the conference:

    Dr Kelly Smith – I love how passionate she is about EE  and she introduced me to the term Pracademic.

    Andrea Lane – a knowledgable and thoughtful person who makes me think deeper.

    Matt Rogers-Draycott – Matt first came to my attention just a few months ago when I read an older article he co-authored. I did a series of tweets about it because I just love his thinking and approach to EE.   

    Catherine Brentnall – I had a few but brief chats with Catherine at the conference. She didn’t have much luck while she was there. For instance, a taxi driver took her to McDonalds for the Gala Dinner instead of the Macdonald Burlington Hotel and she had a tummy bug on the last day resulting in her having to leave as soon as she presented her paper. However, I’m sure this friendship will continue to grow over Twitter.

    Prof Nigel Adams – In discussion on the walk to and during the gala dinner, Nigel reminded me of ‘Doc’ in Back to the Future due to his intelligence, passion and eccentric mannerisms. He even showed me video of him riding an electronic skateboard owned by one of his students.

    Will Hogan and Peter Harrington of SimVenture – I met these two at the gala dinner. We then continued talking to after midnight at the hotel bar.

     

    INTERSECTIONS

    Unfortunately I missed Lucy Hatt’s presentation, mainly because it wasn’t in the Enterprise Education stream. We follow each other on Twitter and had chatted briefly at the conference. At lunch on the second day, Lucy and Colin talked intensely and deeply about her concept of intersections in the student’s entrepreneurial journey, while I listened in. Colin was adding to it by saying the role of the teacher is to be at some of those intersections and work out what the student needs to help the student choose the path from that point. I also recommend following Lucy’s excellent reflection blog about her PhD process and progress.

     

    ECHO-CHAMBER

    During one of breaks, Andrea and I talked about a range of EE topics, including the echo chamber of EE, particularly that it often echoes theoretical papers more than empirical research. Lo and behold, the very next talk by Catherine and David was about the need to break out of the echo chamber and include more philosophy in the EE field.

     

    ECOSYSTEM

    I have been considering some sort of organisational theory/ies for my PhD. I was reminded by Dr Su-Hyun Berg and Prof Jay Mitra’s presentation of an ecosystem approach. I’m a little wary though, because sometimes ecosystem is a bit of a buzzword in EE literature. On the last night Su-Hyun, Jay, Colin and I went for a drink. Jay and Colin regaled us with conference stories and I learned how Su-Hyun moved from Korea to Germany 14 years ago and after two years of resisting the German language, gave in and now speaks it fluently.

     

    This is just A PIECE of what the two days of conference gave me. Now, as I enter the solo holiday part of my trip, I need to write my PhD EOI/proposal which has been informed and confused by the ever-increasing number of EE concepts that have been brought to my attention.


  6. 12 Golden Nuggets from Practical Pedagogies

    4 November 2018 by shartley

    Image courtesy of Practical Pedagogies via a tweet

    Look! Look! Look!

    I can see hundreds of teachers voluntarily gathering for the sharing of pedagogical ideas. I can hear a cacophony of accents as they chatter earnestly making new connections and friends. I see Russel Tarr, one of the first few international connections I made on Twitter nearly 10 years ago. He organised this conference at St. Georges’ School, Cologne, from Toulouse, in his spare time. I have found Russel to be deeply intelligent, skilful and passionate about education and continuous learning. Through this conference he has also demonstrated how incredibly organised he is too.

    Look! Look! Look!

    I can see a pumpkin patch of golden nuggets. I’ll list 12 of the biggest and brightest nuggets from the conference in a rough chronological order:

      1. I met Jared, a science teacher from North Carolina, USA, when we sat down for the opening of the conference. He has a delightful American drawl and repeatedly called me ma’am which was equally uncomfortable and endearing. His commitment to teaching and life in general made a warm golden moment to start the conference.
      2. Hywel Roberts‘ opening address. I had spent the previous couple of weeks reading Hywel’s book Oops! in preparation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that fond of the book since I felt it to be a little patronising but in person Hywel was very entertaining. I laughed often and loudly. After a while his educomedy style felt like it was going too long and I became silently critical of the lack of substance. He must have read my mind because he reassured the audience that substance was coming soon. And it did. His message about narrative and story-telling (Look! Look! Look! I can see…) through relationships with students provided a good reminder of the joy and wonder teaching and learning can create. I also liked his three key words:
        • Imagineering (aka VISION – visionary teacher): Thinking and planning for teaching to make curriculum palatable without dumbing it down. This takes professional imagination which unfortunately can often be eroded over time.
        • Botheredness  (aka MISSION – caring teacher): Demonstrating authentic care, being the caring adult (not at war with children) and building botheredness in students for the work they’re doing in class 
        • Phronesis (aka VALUES – wise teacher): professional wisdom 
      3. An Action Research Observation Sheet from a session led by Liz Free could be useful for my PhD research.
      4. Dominic Tremblay (not @DomTrem or @DominicTremblay on Twitter – I found out the hard way) presented a system he has implemented in many schools called Follow the Money.  I loved his enthusiasm and he had some wonderful ideas for teaching student financial concepts in a really active way. I just have concerns about the extent to which the program in full implementation is so fully steeped in capitalist values. For example, charging students a fee for using a paintbrush that is refunded upon return of a clean brush in good condition may work against attempts to instil good values for the sake of good relations, community and society. I have seen research that suggests as soon as childcare centres start charging parents for late collection of children it leads to increases in how often and how late parents are to pick up their children because of the transaction value placed upon it instead of values of respect and consideration.
      5. Dominic also demonstrated how to use the Post-it Plus App. A tool I’m sure to use in the near future.
      6. I loved the workshop by Joanna Norton because she looks at the world with such an artistic and creative eye, different to the more linear and ordered way I do. She provided lots of ideas and food for thought. Some divergent thinking too. I particularly love the idea of bringing books into class to peruse with QR codes of Questions. 
      7. I ran into Mariusz Galczyński at various times over the two days of the conference but it was the bus ride from the school to the city at the end of the first day during which we discussed education and politics extensively in the 20-30 minute trip that was the highlight. This is another connection I hope to maintain well into the future.
      8. I stand by my tweet about Jennifer Webb‘s presentation. Probably my favourite session. I nearly didn’t go to this session because I have a really lovely friend, Jen Webb, and I was scared that the name would be tarnished but no, the name still stands for people who are gorgeous, lovely and caring.
      9. Neil Atkin took us on a journey of emotional states and thinking flaws. He introduced me to the McGurk effect (YT video below) and Brain Rules by John Medina. 
      10. When I first discovered someone else was presenting on Enterprise Education at Practical Pedagogies my imposter syndrome kicked in, making me worry I’d be showed up as an amateur in the area. Instead, I have a new connection and friend in Rachel of Enabling Enterprise (aka Skills Builder). Enabling Enterprise provides standards/criteria for essential skills at a range of levels, an area my research is lacking at the moment. I will definitely be investigating further.
      11. My own presentation. Russel had asked presenters for preferences regarding when we ran our workshops. I said I didn’t but when I found out I was scheduled for the last session, I realised I did. Not last! As it was, it was good to see Rachel’s presentation first and even though we are conceptually similar we hardly overlapped in what we actually presented. I was horrified by a couple of shortfalls in my slideshow (now rectified) but at least the flaws helped to determine which bits I needed to skip since I was very aware I had too much for the hour and ten minutes we had. A last minute inclusion was the use of Lotus Charts, introduced to me by friend and former colleague, Kendra. Russel, with camera in hand, walked in as I was introducing Lotus Charts. He was pleased to have come at a point where he learned something new. It was also a hit with the participants, resulting in a few Tweets. I think overall my presentation went well.
      12. Cologne itself. The pubs and their 200ml glasses of beers that just keep coming were loud and fun. The cathedral is an imposing sight near the main railway station and opposite our hotel. Apparently it took over 600 years to build. It is one of hundreds of churches in Cologne. There’s a saying that you could go to a different church for every day of the year in Cologne. There is also a Chocolate Museum in Cologne that provides a history and manufacturing process of chocolate with some tasting to be had. When I was there numerous school groups were going through, giving me flashbacks to the stress of running excursions. There are also numerous art museums that time didn’t permit us to visit. Next time.


  7. A conference, a cruise and new connections

    6 February 2018 by shartley

    Even though I have yet to hear a reaction from my supervisor about the latest topic I’ve proposed for my MRES, over the last couple of days I have been steadily researching pedagogical practices in enterprise education. One article amused me because it fitted so well with my experiences of teaching Business Studies. Basically, the article (Jones & Penaluna, 2013) slams the use of business plans for developing entrepreneurship in students. I’ve read 100s of articles in the last few weeks but since this one tickled my fancy, I tweeted the Australian author, Colin Jones. A bit of an exchange about my research ambitions occurred and we are now aiming to meet over a drink in Brisbane in a few months time. Then his co-author from the UK, Andy Penaluna, also started tweeting me and sending links to great resources for my topic. Colin had probably gone to bed. Andy and I tweeted until I postponed the conversation at 2am. This morning I received more tweets from both of them. How cool is that?!

    I think I have been following Russel Tarr on Twitter since my first few months of joining, many years ago. He is from England but teaching History at an International School in Toulouse, France. He is a passionate and innovative teacher. A few years ago he started a conference in Toulouse called Practical Pedagogies but no matter how hard I tried to fit it in to my life and budget I couldn’t go. People have raved about it. Well now I have been accepted to present at this year’s conference which is being held in Cologne, Germany, 1-2 November. I’m hoping to tie-in a visit to Emma who will probably be on university exchange at the time, perhaps in France, perhaps in Taiwan. Now I just have to manipulate credit card points to pay for the flights.

    I am honoured and privileged to have these opportunities but it’s freaking me out a little. There is a lot happening in October and November this year. My MRES mini-thesis is due in the middle of a professional development course called Navigating Pedagogy I’m conducting on a cruise to Noumea and New Caledonia (7-14 October). Tough job, but somebody has to do it. 

    Actually, I shouldn’t be so flippant about it. I have already done a lot of hard work to develop the course and be endorsed as a professional development provider by NESA (Board of Studies NSW). As for the MRES dissertation, I’ll just have to submit it early and be prepared for the cruise and the conference super ahead of time. Really, it just means I need to be as organised as I have been the last few months. Easy!

    Article: 

    Jones, C., & Penaluna, A. (2013). Moving beyond the business plan in enterprise education. Education Training,55(8/9), 804-814. https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-06-2013-0077 

     

    * This post is also on my general writing blog: https://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com/2018/02/a-conference-cruise-and-new-connections.html


  8. Risks, Fears and Concerns: Issues teachers have with pedagogical change

    6 February 2018 by shartley

     

    The last few days I’ve been doing a slow dig into my research. I am looking at the concerns teachers have about shifting to more student-centred pedagogy. I am also trying to find out what can be done to alleviate these concerns, particularly in the form of professional development.

    For non-teachers, very roughly, pedagogy is the art and science of teaching, the methods used in the teaching and learning process. Student-centred learning is when students have more of an active role in their learning. Instead of merely being recipients of information and drilled into skills, they undertake activities that develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving and much more. By having greater choice over the process of learning, students often take on more ownership of it.

    A traditional view, reinforced by popular culture, is that learning at high school consists of students sitting in rows, in a classroom, with a teacher talking at them, leading a discussion or showing some boring film. Sometimes learning needs to be with a teacher directing a class from the front but often it is not the best way to learn. It is probably the best way to maintain order and control in a classroom. Complete order and control is not necessary for learning to occur. Structure and purpose is important most of the time, but not so tight it confines students’ minds from thinking for themselves.

    Many teachers have difficulty letting go of order and control. In their minds, quiet work is productive work, and reflects well on them as teachers. It is so incongruent of a concept, it is hard for them to learn and implement strategies that allows students more freedom because the perceived risk is too high. One of the articles I’ve read about this is called ‘What if students revolt?’. This happens more in the higher grades because students have so much pressure on them to achieve in high-stakes tests, such as the HSC, they just want to be told what they need to write to do well in the exam, having very little focus on learning itself. I’ve had one frustrated student who pleaded, “Just tell me what I need to know”. Memorising and regurgitating information just doesn’t cut it anymore. The fear is also about students not achieving as well in assessments and that also reflecting badly upon the teacher. It is being scared of looking a fool by trying something out of their comfort zone and possibly failing.

    Textbooks give the false illusion that learning is linear and straight forward, a mere comprehension task. Textbooks also help teachers know exactly where they are up to in the teaching process and can check-in with other teachers about their pacing. It shouldn’t be about where students are up to in the textbook but where they are up to in their learning.

    This fear is exacerbated if teachers feel they don’t have the backing of the school leadership or the wider school community (eg school board, parents) and are constantly slammed in the media and by government figures. The literature calls this a lack of relational trust. From my  own experience, this can occur in several ways. For instance, there is the fear that school leaders will change their mind and switch back from the new innovation to the traditional way or leapfrog onto something else again, thereby wasting a lot of time and effort of everyone involved. Sometimes when a teacher tries a new teaching method, as advocated by the leadership, and it results in complaints from students and/or parents, the leadership kowtow to the complainers when the teacher should be backed by them. It is demoralising and makes teachers even less inclined to change what they have always done. The risk to change becomes way too high. Some schools have gone through incredible changes, only to have a new principal come in and change it all back again.

    Most schools are going down the student-centred learning path but veer back to traditional teaching for the HSC when marks trump real learning. It’s the HSC game really. I hate how many times I say to my classes that in reality ‘xyz’ is this but for the HSC it is that. For example, in HSC Business Studies students have to write a business report. They are usually taught to write in exams an Executive Summary as a substitute for an Introduction and to keep it as brief as possible. It is purely to tick the box that they did one, and move on as quickly as possible to provide content that will produce the bulk of the marks. In reality, executive summaries actually are what they sound like they should be, a summary of the report and a rule of thumb is that it should be a page in length. I find this so frustrating! Exams are so removed from real life but are a convenient way of ranking people, distributing them across some statistically desired graph. We supposedly have a standards based system, meaning students are assessed against standards instead of against each other but when it comes down to it, results are manipulated to reflect a particular norm. A friend who has marked Food Technology exams has reported that when the statistics revealed the majority of students failed a question, the markers had to go back and scratch for just a word or two that could just possibly mean, perhaps, the student may have actually understood what they were writing about in some way.

    An issue with all this is the conflicting demands placed on teaching and learning. The national curriculum’s general capabilities provides a good overview of what school education should be about:

    • Literacy
    • Numeracy
    • ICT capability
    • Critical and creative thinking
    • Personal and social capability
    • Ethical understanding
    • Intercultural understanding

    However, NAPLAN, the only compulsory external testing system in NSW before the HSC, is only about literacy and numeracy. Since NAPLAN and HSC results are so public, schools can fall into the trap of teaching to the test, resulting in formulaic responses that produce solid results. Teaching for genuine, deep learning, is much harder to test properly so that in our current system, real learning can result in wildly inconsistent outcomes in NAPLAN and the HSC. I always professed I wanted my children to be motivated more by learning than by assessment results. Yet I had to compromise that ideology when Emma wanted to learn Economics for the HSC but performed better in Ancient History, which she had been interested in for years but was now bored. To achieve the mark she needed for her desired university course, the interest in learning was traded in for a higher mark.

    It takes time to implement change. It takes time to learn new ways of doing things. It takes longer to do something for the first time than it will subsequently. The planning time for new pedagogical practices will be longer because the style of learning is new and taxes the brain harder than just doing what was done before. Many teachers are used to Heads of Department writing programs and handing them over to be followed (or not). Now it’s more about collaborative planning and coming up with new ways to work together as a team of teachers. It feels like independence is being stripped away as well as authority in the classroom. However, it actually should be giving teachers greater ownership and pride in what they do because they design the learning process instead of deliver information. By not being up the front of the class so much, teachers should also have more time in class to have one-on-one discussions with individual students about their progress

    Technology has a lot to do with the shift away from traditional learning, enabling students to participate in the learning process in new, innovative and fun ways. Just watch how young people jump to YouTube for tutorials in how to do something, from knitting (I have seen a student do that with my own eyes when they were supposed to be working on something else) to changing a tyre. The Internet is their go-to for communication, information, entertainment and well, everything, really.

    Many teachers find it hard to understand and adopt technology and are fearful of it. They are already forced online to mark their rolls, maintain a grading system, complete their welfare reporting and much more, so that to also have to learn more technology for the teaching process, it can be overwhelming. Technology can also be unreliable in schools, being such an expensive commodity. To me, the gap between the technology haves and have nots is the biggest divide in education of modern times. My son gained 17 marks on his school assessment in his Information Processing Technology HSC exam with a great deal of help from Eddie Woo’s YouTube videos. If we didn’t have a reliable internet at home this would not have been possible. I worry about students who don’t have access to reliable Internet at home – it will hold up their education and their adjustment to participating in life, at work and play. Schools need to help out more in this regard, but that’s a completely different post to write.

    I know and recognise I have been a bit on my soapbox in this post. I partly wrote it here to shake it out of my system so I can approach these issues in a more academic and studious way for my research. All these concerns are real and need to be acknowledged and addressed. I am looking forward to investigating how this can best be done.

    Further Reading

    Boschman, Ferry, McKenney, Susan, & Voogt, Joke. (2014). Understanding Decision Making in Teachers’ Curriculum Design Approaches. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(4), 393-416

    Dole, S., Bloom, L., and Kowalske, K. (2016). Transforming Pedagogy: Changing Perspectives from Teacher-Centered to Learner-Centered. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 10(1)

    Le Fevre, D. (2014). Barriers to implementing pedagogical change: The role of teachers’ perceptions of risk. Teaching and Teacher Education, 38, 56-64

    Siedel, S. B., & Tanner, K. D. (2013). “What If Students Revolt?”–Considering Student Resistance: Origins, Options, and Opportunities for Investigation. CBE – Life Sciences Education, 12(4)

     

    * This post is also on my general writing blog: https://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com/2018/01/risks-fears-and-concerns.html


  9. 2017 ACSA Conference – Part 3

    8 October 2017 by shartley

    2017 ACSA Conference

     

    WHAT IF? Embracing complexity through curriculum innovation

     

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

     

    Part 3

     

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

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

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

     

    Reclaiming the Curriculum – Implementing Change

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

     

    TeachMeet 

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

     

    Other Presenters/Events

     

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

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

     

    Read more about what she has achieved:

     


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


    Pip CleavesTracey Breese and Alan Hope presented:
     

    Final comments

     

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

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

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

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


  10. 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/

     


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