ACARA

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

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The place of English: the K-10 English Syllabus in NSW

Place

Louise Ward (NSW, Board of Studies)

This was a session focused on English implementation in NSW.  NSW is still in familiarisation mode with English, 2014 for Years 7 and 9, 2015 for Years 8 and 10. I suddenly felt that the first 30 slides of my own presentation coming up next were now redundant. Gulp.

Ward spoke of the ‘challenge’ of being ‘required’ to include elements of syllabus that ‘were written by someone else’. ‘We had no choice’. Yeah, that seems pretty much how NSW has seen this exercise, I think. As in, dragged to it, kicking and screaming.

She emphasised the ‘familiarity’ of the document, for teachers. Teachers should feel ‘comfortable’, this is an opportunity to refresh and renew, not replace. Okay. Maybe some discomfort would be a good proximal learning moment?

Ward argued that the rationale for English has not changed: the students are at the centre. (good) But it was interesting to hear her emphasis on ‘explicit instruction’ and mandatory Shakespeare, which you would probably not hear in Victoria. She criticised the ‘silo’ approach of the ACARA strands, and how NSW stayed with what they knew and valued (stages rather than years, strands incorporated under outcomes).

The NSW organisation of content was shown as a multi-coloured kind of pin-wheel of the kind I can never really read.It looked a bit like the IB coloured pin-wheel, which I also cannot read.

Interestingly, they moved in English from 11 outcomes to 9, deleting technology as a stand-alone outcome. And here endeth the Education Revolution.

Ward was very enthuasiastic about a new resource that  has just been launched: Suggested texts for English k-10.
http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/support-materials/additional-support-materials/

Photo: Place by Warrick

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

Teachers ‘phobic’ over test data (Murdoch press obsessed with it)

Or at least that’s how Tom Alegounarias, a board member on the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority and president of the NSW Board of Studies, sees it in a ‘hard-hitting’ (read self-aggrandizing) speech at a conference in Sydney somewhere yesterday as reported in the Murdoch press.

No doubt over neatly wrapped mints, glasses of chilled water and an audience who have been nowhere near a classroom in years Mr Algeounarias said that teachers had been dragged reluctantly to the discussion on data.

“The profession has generally been dragged reluctantly to the part of the educational debate that focuses on identifiable and measurable attainment.

“We’re reluctant to be associated too closely with any data that purports to sum up a level of achievement or pattern of attainment, no matter how popular it appears to be to outsiders.

“We are seen . . . to engage with the issue of measurement only to resist it.”

Mr Alegounarias said teachers had to discard their “phobia” of data and instead seize the initiative and develop better and more valid ways of measuring and comparing student performance.

This reluctance to embrace the use of student data was hampering efforts to improve education and overcome the effects of social disadvantage, he said.

Well, perhaps. But that might be because of the paucity of quality data, the reliance on standardised testing (and standarised curriculum Mr ACARA) and the way the data is mis-used by the (Murdorch) press to create the quasi-league tables and the simplicity that comes out of all that.

I attended an ACER Conference a while ago on ‘Using Data to Support Learning’ and got a lot out of it. Trouble is, the data simplifies what is in fact very complex and leads to blanket simplified approaches that improve testing scores but have little connection with real learning.

My School

mySkool

It’s not written as a web 2.0 marketeer might put it; perhaps it would be “mySkoole”, lower case  in a nice pastel colour but this innocuous looking site will soon develop teeth. It’s the Federal Government’s answer to questions about transparency and accountability, and it’s a limited one word answer called ‘Tests’.  Look out for how the Herald-Sun translates this into league tables when it goes live. Oh, and Victoria will have one too.

My School