Collaborative curriculum development 

Collaborative curriculum innovation: balancing rigour and engagement.
Mathilda Joubert and Cheryllynne Gostelow

This session, from two Western Australian presenters, began with the need for change, but began with a NAPLAN reference as the need for that change, a marked difference from the emphasis of the presentation this morning.

Their challenge was to develop a personalised curriculum that covers AC, enables progression … but also leads to engagement in rich learning experiences that result in deep learning (21c skills)

What they did was adopt a creative curriculum development process. This begins with student voice, learning from students and use these as ‘hooks’ to develop rigorous curriculum that taps into their interests and passions, balancing rigour and enjoyment. (eg Teaching ratios using Minecraft)

The process was ten steps: (see pic)

Maybe I’m a bit weary, but I had some reservations. I liked the idea of responding to students, but how meaningful? Don’t students have a lot of different interests? I wouldn’t want to have to do a unit on The Bachelorette! And, how does AC match? Wouldn’t there be vast gaps and overlaps? They did address this later.

I liked that they emphasised the ‘soft skills’ of the AC, ‘the hard currency of their future’, showing an approach that is term by term, with students being explicitly taught these skills, which they apply later.

They argued that the themes had to be context free, history is often contextual, and these outcomes are separated out.

Where are we with Australian Curriculum?

These are some notes from the keynote by Dr Phil Lambert from ACARA at the OUP Conference today.

Dr Lambert gave an update to the Australian Curriculum, including a reiteration that AC funding was continuing despite recent Federal Budget announcements. He talked about the big achievements so far particularly around the comparison of achievement standards.

ACARA has developed curriculum in eight learning areas, ‘incorporating both the traditional subjects that have stood the test of time while incorporating new content, skills, dispositions’, which he called 21C skills.  Languages was nearly completed and would be on the website soon, as well as new languages being developed.

He claimed that AC was world class, and countries like Brazil, Korea and Saudi Arabia were looking to the AC for inspiration, particularly in the skills and dispositions area. Interestingly, he argued that personalised learning and smaller class sizes were also on the agenda for China as they looked to move from content-only curriculum.

He was more coy about the cross-curriculum priorities, and their future, describing them as ‘choices’ that teachers could make depending on context.

One of the achievements he was proud of was the resource development in Scootle, with links to the AC content tags, being available to all Australian students. 

Some world trends: GELP. and a focus on new metrics. He linked this to Gates Foundation funding. Are we measuring the things we really value? Even when they’re hard to measure. 

He talked a little about the myths and misconceptions about AC that often appeared in the media. He did seem concerned about this in a guarded way but it’s obviously something they are concerned about. He said that ‘some areas of the media’ don’t want to tell the ACARA version of the story. One of their learnings here was not to rely on traditional media, but use social media much more to get their message across.

What next? Secondary curriculum still under discussion. ‘We are in dialogue’ and looking for suggestions from teachers. Implementation will vary, and implementation might be influence, rather than direct use of the curriculum. Illustrations of personalised learning to come, F-10 Arts; Humanities and Social Sciences (Economics and Business, Civics and Citizenship) Health and PE, Technologies. Lots of this on the web with varying status in terms of implementation.  Chinese, French, Italian, Indonesian done and 7 more languages to come, as well as work on indigenous languages. Work samples coming online and continuing to be developed. A completely new website was also coming soon. NAPLAN is now aligned to AC, they’re looking at online NAPLAN, and extending NAP sample. I was surprised that, the day after NAPLAN testing had finished, he didn’t feel the need to apologise for what it has become.

#OEC2014

Incorporating the Australian Curriculum

The Bridge

This third session at the Oxford Conference was presented by Howard Kennedy (NSW  Board of Studies)

I felt like a spy. Maybe the only Victorian in this NSW syllabus briefing getting the secret perspective from below the surface!  I thought it was interesting to title the session: ‘incorporating’. This was a session focused on the NSW changes. They aren’t talking about implementing. Its incorporating.

NSW announced a new syllabus website last November. They’ve had thousands of hits. ‘And we’re not even teaching this yet’. Okay. We are.

Kennedy went through the rationale for the AC, and I was surprised to that the old chestnut about families and students who move annually around Australia; I thought that had been dismissed as the reason for all this stuff, and he actually dismissed it a bit himself, when he gave us some Defence Force data about research they’d done, about it not being the curriculum that was the hard thing for students who moved, but the different starting ages, which haven’t really been addressed by anyone to my knowledge. I was surprised to see that he still felt the need to explain and/or justify the rationale for the AC at all, but it was an interesting enough looking-back at the history of this space since 2008.

He denied that “NSW had gone off and done their own thing”, which is basically what I thought. Instead, he argued that the NSW stakeholders requested additional elements. His slide said that in 2010 they endorsed the content, then agreed that the content should be refined. We want more detail, argued NSW teachers (not the response from most Victorian teachers) NSW was used to detail. A study in NSW was 70 pages each. In the ACT, the whole syllabus was 32 pages. Apparently NSW teachers love being told what to do, or love clear, detailed outcomes. Take your pick.

His take-away message to phase 2 and 3 teachers: ‘the curriculum needs to be achievable within existing indicative time requirements and NSW KLA structure, and the appropriate time-frame (a full 12 months preparation). I read that as your time for the subject you teach won’t change.

He then showed us how NSW were basically explaining the ACARA dotpoints. One dot point in ACARA Science becomes 4, one Maths dot point on triangles, becomes 12, the word ‘perspectives’ needs to be explained (imagine how a Turkish person would have felt at Gallipoli?)

Every student has to have been taught this stuff by the end of 2015. (pretty much indecipherable diagram)

The NSW syllabuses for the Australian Curriculum website looks pretty good. He was very happy with the level of interest in the NSW web site from all over Australia and the world. When he showed us the site, some malware or spam started coming up. It was nice to see the site being used live, which is always risky.

The site itself has some good features, some learning support materials, and a thing called ‘Program Builder’, which is available to NSW teachers and others (?) through Scootle. In this section, teachers can create units and programs based on the NSW syllabus. Already, 71,000 units have been developed in Program Builder.

You know, in all this talk, not a mention of the learning, the intention, the big picture and, in the program builder, units build of content and assessment with none of the enduring understandings or intentions that characterise UbD. In this model, curriculum units were cut and paste out of content. I did like that they had unit templates which were able to be customised.

The bridge: photo by Warrick