The public forum ‘C21st Learning: A conversation for the whole community’ was held on Monday November 10 as part of Curriculum Corporation’s annual conference. On the panel were Professor Barry McGaw, leader of the National Curriculum Board; Michael Stevenson, Vice President of Global Education at Cisco Systems; Valerie Hannon, Director of Strategy at Britain’s Innovation Unit; and Chris Wardlaw, former Deputy Secretary of Education in Hong Kong. The recorded discussion begins with Rupert Murdoch’s recent description of Australia as a country with a 21st-century economy and a 19th-century education system. McGaw’s response is that while there are aspects of the statement that are correct, Australian students in fact perform very well in international comparisons. The main areas of improvement must be in increasing the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds that successfully complete high school and improving the success of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. A balance is also needed between deep mastery of a body of knowledge and acquiring the skills needed to solve complex problems collaboratively. The Australian national curriculum reform, to be implemented in a staggered fashion from 2011, aims to spell out what every Australian student is entitled to learn. It is not prescriptive in terms of teaching style or pedagogical approach. McGaw says that a national curriculum is needed because we live in a globalised world and we are increasingly willing to say what it is that we want young people to be able to understand, know and do regardless of whether they live in Perth or Melbourne. Wardlaw comments that the extensive curriculum reforms in Hong Kong involved a shift from the traditional British-style system to a K–16 approach, in conjunction with significant university reform. The Hong Kong reform is currently being carried out with strong community support. While Finland is an educational leader, several members of the panel comment that context is important when trying to introduce aspects of the system. Masters degrees for all teachers, for example, may not be viable for many countries. A notable feature of the Finnish system is the way in which resources are invested in students who are struggling very early in the schooling process, in contrast to other systems. Hannon suggests that a redefined role for the community is necessary, extending the concept beyond families to include other kinds of professionals such as artists and scientists. The teacher’s role will increasingly be to choreograph this expertise. She and Michael Stevenson comment on the online interconnected world that students inhabit and the need to harness these technologies within schools for teaching and learning. Michael Stevenson is concerned about the nature of the education that young people receive, as he wants to see 21st-century skills in the young people Cisco employs, but he also believes that as a global company they have a lot to contribute to thinking about networked reform in the broadest sense.
Subject HeadingsEducational innovations
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
4 July 2008
Teacher professional learning (PL) needs to allow for the various needs and requirements of the education system and sector, the local community and individual teachers. System authorities are responsible for ensuring that teachers are trained in relevant standards and codes of conduct covering the curriculum, assessment and reporting, such as VELS. Sector authorities may additionally wish to ensure that teachers are familiar with particular religious or other cultural traditions. Local communities may introduce concerns relevant to a geographic area, such as drought in rural or remote locations, or a crisis experienced by an individual locality. Local contexts may also suggest opportunities for schools to help the community, for example by participation in a coastal environment study. Education systems should ensure that teachers are equipped for these contexts. At an individual level, all teachers need to pursue the development of their content knowledge, awareness of how students learn, and skills related to teaching such as use of ICT. Individual teachers may wish to contribute to the broader school education community, for example by acquiring professional skills in short supply, and they should be helped to do so through suitable PL opportunities. Casual Relief Teachers (CRTs) have many of the same needs and responsibilities as other teachers and systems. Every teacher should have an individual learning plan incorporating PL at system, community and individual levels. The plan acts as a portfolio of their teaching expertise. There are various models for PL. In-house PL provided by consultants or specialists generates a common message at relatively low cost but should not obscure teachers’ individual learning needs through a one-size-fits-all approach. Conventional PL days, such as external seminars, offer opportunities for networking and exposure to new ideas, and can be targeted to specific needs, but they also require the cost of hiring CRTs. Web-based PL may be effective for some purposes as a cheap option offering flexible access. Individual teachers’ initiatives, including professional reading and attendance at public meetings, are also likely to be cheap, flexible and matched to individual needs. Formal courses of study provide sustained and formally recognised learning.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
School and community
Teaching and learning
Building a community in which everyone teaches, learns and reads: a case study
Volume 101 Number 6, July 2008; Pages 333–349
The article describes a two-year professional development (PD) program in a disadvantaged school serving 517 K–5 students in rural Tennessee. The program provided training in literacy instruction to the 16 K–3 teachers, and prepared selected senior staff and subject experts at the school to provide ongoing PD for teachers. It aimed to provide ‘rich differentiated instruction to all students within a balanced literacy framework’, explicitly rejecting grouping by ability. The Four Blocks framework was used, which covers writing, word work and guided and self-selected reading. Teachers were free to use their professional discretion on how to implement the four aspects of the framework. The authors, an academic and two school educators, evaluated the program through observation, teacher interviews and questionnaires. The participating teachers indicated that the introduction of collaborative planning for literacy instruction was initially unproductive and stressful, as it was a very unfamiliar process in itself and also exposed wide and entrenched differences in participants’ educational philosophies and teaching styles. Participants also described frustration at delays in receipt of materials, ‘the sense of being policed by the state department of education’, and changes to federal government requirements during the two years of the program. However, the program was ultimately successful at lifting students’ academic results and engaging teachers with the new approach to literacy instruction. The time and space provided for teachers’ collaborative planning allowed them to take to it over time. Participants benefited from the district testing supervisor’s intervention to allow them early access to the test results of their students, as this provided both evidence of students’ academic improvement and a concrete experience of using student achievement data for PD. Teachers’ morale and commitment were also raised through access to expert help, by observing their students’ improvements, through the celebration of accomplishments during the process, and most particularly by being allowed a voice in determining their PD needs. Teachers had appreciated having considerable options for the 90–100 hours of PD available to them over the two-year program, which included site visits to see the Four Blocks in action, conference attendance, PD videos and access to a professional learning library.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Early childhood education
United States of America (USA)
Ethical decision making: student values for the digital age
Volume 12 Number 3, October 2008; Pages 1–3
The 21st century has been characterised by access to information on an unprecedented scale. It is now easy for students to copy and paste work from a variety of sources and present it as their own, which forces teachers to be increasingly vigilant about checking the authenticity of students’ work. Schools have begun to address this need in a variety of ways. One common practice is to penalise plagiarism or cheating by full or partial loss of marks for an assignment. Students may also be asked to resit an exam or resubmit an assignment. Some schools use software to check students’ documents against pre-existing documents, or against other submissions from the same cohort. Another practice has been to develop courses that educate students about the ethics of information. The New South Wales Board of Studies has created a compulsory online course of study called HSC: All My Own Work that consists of five interactive modules: ‘Scholarship Principles and Practices’, ‘Acknowledging Sources’, ‘Plagiarism’, ‘Copyright’ and ‘Working with Others’. Aspects of ethical scholarship are also covered on the Australian Values Education website, which includes the lesson Whose words are they?. This lesson asks students to consider how they would feel in various scenarios that involve their work being stolen and used for someone else’s gain. To minimise instances of cheating, teachers can use different assessment tasks from year to year, as well as trying to set assignments that require students to be analytical and creative with the material. One suggestion is to have students critically examine essays from ‘cheat’ websites, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the range of essays available online. It may also be necessary for educators to reconsider their approach to information management and assessment. Recently developed web technologies such as wikis have taken a collaborative, rather than an individualistic, approach to presentation and ownership of information. It is up to teachers to consider where they wish to draw the line between collaboration and cheating. Principals can forefront ethical issues by making them a priority for professional development, developing a code of ethics for the school, and reviewing their school’s policies.
Intellectual property (IP)
Decision making in the curriculum process
Available from author
The purpose of this study was to examine decision-making processes involved in the preparation of curriculum documents in Australia, and the factors that have influenced their quality. Searches on websites of education organisations and electronic databases of educational literature were conducted to identify source documents and research literature. Content analysis method was applied to identify evidence in written communications about factors affecting decision making in the process of curriculum development. The results showed that curriculum development is conducted at the national level and in all states and territories, except Tasmania, by a two-tiered structure of committees. Superordinate committees make decisions in overseeing and coordinating the work of subordinate committees, which are responsible for conceptualising curriculum. Curriculum co-construction, in which superordinate committees make decisions in overseeing and coordinating the work of teachers in conceptualising curriculum, forms the principal means for undertaking curriculum development in Tasmania. The results indicated that the findings of research studies investigating the decision-making process identify formal and informal relationships between particular groups playing crucial roles and the dynamic process of interactions between these groups, but offer few insights to improve understanding of what factors in the decision-making process influence the development of a rigorous curriculum. Policymakers and education officials who wish to gain greater insight into particular factors influencing decision making in the process of curriculum development could apply one of four evaluation techniques outlined in the conclusion. (Adapted from the author's original abstract. Copies of the full paper are available from Dr Michael Watt: email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Making a transition: factors to take into consideration when assisting senior students with a disability
November 2008; Pages 26–27
Teachers and careers coordinators wishing to smooth the transition to university for disabled students are advised to consider taking action in several ways. First, students should be put in contact with the Disability Liaison Unit at universities they hope to attend. Through this channel they can learn about the services and types of assistance available to them. Disability-specific agencies such as Vision Australia can provide specific training for skills such as computer literacy, research and assignment writing. Students with learning disabilities and vision impairments often need course materials in alternative formats. As this can take up to three months to organise, early contact with departments and course coordinators is imperative. Students should also be encouraged to visit the campus of the university they plan to attend, finding ramps and tactile guides so they are able to independently navigate the grounds. Students requiring support staff such as notetakers or Auslan interpreters should contact the university to ensure these services are provided. It is highly beneficial for students to think about how they will explain their disability to teaching staff, since early communication of the disability and any associated special needs helps to ensure they are covered adequately from the start. Conversations with current tertiary students with similar disabilities can be extremely helpful. Websites can also provide valuable information. Broaden Your Horizons, for example, provides high-quality information about transitions as well as contact details for all TAFE and University Disability Liaison Officers and Disability Employment Networks in Victoria. The government National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) website contains regional information and contact details for coordinators in all states and territories.
Transitions in schooling
E-learning: light up your classroom
August 2008; Pages 16–17
E-learning is becoming increasingly used inside the classroom. Websites such as Google Maps can be used to explore geographical locations and to navigate from one place to another. YouTube and Viddler videos can offer excellent explanatory support for lessons, while interactive quizzes and online games can provide ways for kinaesthetic learners to grasp subject content. Because students learn best when they teach, asking them to construct PhotoStories with their own pictures is an excellent strategy for active learning. Online homework can also be given, perhaps through a quiz or asking students to research a topic and mark the information they find on del.icio.us. They can also be asked to post entries on their blogs in the virtual classroom. An example Prep class using e-learning might cover the topic ‘Where we are in the world’, and use a Smart Board or projector to navigate around the Google Maps page, clicking on the ‘Street View’ function where appropriate. Having immediate access to the internet also allows teachers to show students how to research the answer to any questions they might have.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Volume 59 Number 4, September 2008; Pages 322–331
Prominent education theorist Parker Palmer stressed the importance of teachers' own 'inner connectedness': the understanding of self that connects outward practice with inner beliefs. Teacher education must balance techniques and content knowledge with the need to cultivate aspiring teachers’ inner connectedness and teaching identity. Many theorists agree on this point but characterise the need differently, perhaps as ‘educating the soul’, developing self-understanding or cultivating the spiritual dimension of teaching. Teachers with a well-developed capacity for connectedness are able to create webs of meaningful concepts and teach students how to do the same thing. Because teaching is not a technical profession, enthusiasm, empathy with students, creativity and a solid sense of personal identity are more important than technical skill or an exact ‘best practice’ teaching approach. Unfortunately, many teacher education courses do not allow students to develop their own identity as a teacher. It is common that one approach to teaching, such as constructivism, is heavily favoured, while other approaches are neglected or disparaged. This places those teaching students who are not suited to a constructivist approach at a disadvantage. While constructivist insights are immensely valuable and should be thoroughly covered in teacher preparation programs, attention must also be paid to helping teachers focus on ‘the “who” question’: who is the self that teaches? If constructivist approaches are overemphasised in teacher education, strong teacher identities may not develop. Constructivist strategies and ideas must be more fully integrated with connectedness and a coherent, individual teaching stance. One example of a teacher preparation course that does this is the English Methods course described by Emily Smith in Bridging Theory and Practice in Teacher Education. She presents a range of educational theories, and has her students discuss and explore the different strategies that arise from each. Students micro-teach a lesson to their peers and observe the relationship between belief and practice in teaching. To prepare truly excellent teachers, instead of just good ones, teacher preparation programs must help aspiring teachers to become aware of their own strengths, weaknesses and fundamental beliefs, as well as the unique personal identity they bring to the classroom.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Helping the perfectionist student
Volume 10 Number 3, 2008; Page 8
Teaching students who are perfectionists can be challenging. It requires teachers to strike a balance between encouraging students in their pursuit of excellence and avoiding actions or attitudes that will reinforce students’ anxiety or fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists are very good at finding reasons to be unsatisfied, even if they appear to have succeeded. For this reason they should be discouraged from setting standards that are too high, and teachers can help with this by assisting them in the development of goals that represent realistic progress from their current starting point. They should ensure that the classroom environment is safe and nurturing, and that mistakes are viewed as a natural part of learning. Explaining that even extremely gifted people make many mistakes is another way to help perfectionists become comfortable with not succeeding the first time. One example is Thomas Edison, who counted over 1,500 failures before he successfully invented a functional filament for a light bulb. Challenging the student’s flawed beliefs is another strategy. Many perfectionists believe that mistakes will lead others to see them as weak, or interpret suggestions for improvement as criticism. The goals and expectations for all assignments should be articulated clearly so that time is not wasted on unnecessary parts. As perfectionists are easily overwhelmed by long and complicated assignments, it is also helpful to divide the assignment into smaller steps and give a separate deadline for each step.
Volume 10 Number 3, 2008; Pages 18–19
In European, United States and Australian schools there is an increasing focus on teaching students social skills and emotional management. Geelong Grammar in Victoria, for instance, has employed the founder of the well-known positive psychology movement, Professor Martin Seligman, to train school staff in developing resilience in their students. The school is also developing a $16 million Wellbeing Centre that is to include medical facilities, yoga and Pilates classes and counselling. While this and similar initiatives have garnered praise, there are also several critics who question the wisdom of implementing such measures before there is robust evidence to support their effectiveness. Chief executive of Glasgow’s Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, Carol Craig, for example, has expressed concern that teaching calming techniques may in fact increase children’s anxiety. Excessive focus on the self and emotions may lead to a generation of children that is self-obsessed, depressed and narcissistic. She draws parallels with the self-esteem movement in the United States, which was implemented without strong empirical support and resulted in students developing an overconfident attitude that was ultimately brittle in challenging circumstances. There are also concerns that parents now expect schools to take primary responsibility for their children’s behaviour. The Australian Government has introduced a program for primary schools called KidsMatter, which is currently in its second year of a trial involving 100 primary schools. KidsMatter is structured around the framework endorsed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which includes the five areas of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision making and relationship skills. Another program for primary schools, Bounce Back!, uses children’s literature such as ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ to discuss values such as honesty, loyalty and courage. The importance of teachers’ own interpersonal skills needs to be stressed, and the value of simply noticing students cannot be underestimated. ‘Just aligning your face as a teacher with that of a student, and face-on noticing them, has an enormous influence,’ argues Professor Roslyn Arnold.
There are no Conferences available in this issue.