I’ve never seen a moment where we have more of an opportunity to contribute to kids and teachers than I see now. Scott Hartl

Just trying to work through the topics covered in the media and research over the last month is quite daunting. All areas of education underwent some level of scrutiny [with multiple suggestions for options of course]. To do justice to all would take more than this site could cover. Many seem to be ongoing [funding, reading, teacher training, VET], or of greater value to more specific interests [teachers strikes, mobile phone bans, ‘contract’ cheating.]. Among them though, there were a couple which struck a chord.

These covered an ongoing factor as well as both research and commentary. They also covered multiple areas in education. The first covers early childhood, the second curriculum content and the third, which is just beginning, looks at a national initiative titled the National School Reform Agreement.

A brief coverage, including links to further information, is provided for each below.

  • Several research articles regarding the value of early childhood education have appeared in short order. They include The Front Project which, at its core, indicates ‘Investing in early childhood education doubles the return to Australia’. Earlier, there was a Mitchell Report indicating two years are better than one.
  • As The Front Project indicates, ‘There is a large international evidence base that demonstrates how experiences in the early years [0-5] impacts outcomes later in life’. Among the most recent, linked items is a TED talk titled A new way to get every child ready for kindergarten [Claudia Milner]. One relevant paper, done a few years before provided a Literature Review of the impact of this area and appropriate care, on learning and development. The benefits described reflect information developed in the Perry Preschool Project [HighScope] begun in the US in the 1960s.
  • Related concerns, as well as general commentary have also been forthcoming. For example : the need for qualified teachers [still significantly short of the required number], encouragement for people to become qualified with attention to salaries and conditions; approaches and curriculm; addressing specific disabilities and needs; and much more. There is though, probably one area which requires greater attention.
  • This is to ensure that those with the highest needs actually become an integral part of the process. If as indicated, ‘these benefits are greatest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds’ then it is essential that these children should be involved [read more here]. This does not seem to be the case at this time with data suggesting significant numbers not being involved.
  • While it is desirable for all children to be involved and to benefit, steps need to be taken to ensure that those who would benefit most [in all aspects of school and life] should be the primary target. Perhaps some recently funded research will provide workable guidelines to help achieve this.
  • Though the 3Rs may have been seen as the core of the curriculum for many years, the curriculum has been constantly evolving with modifications, changing emphases and continual additions. If various writings are to be believed, the 3Rs may not be the case for much longer. Already several alternatives are being suggested.
  • One of these changes the descriptor only slightly, but the result quite significantly. The 3Es represent Experience, Emotion, and Evidence. As the authors indicate, ‘this involves solving real problems that matter in a feedback rich environment. Students then build their cognitive skills to become innovators who can identify and create answers to problems that are currently unknown’.
  • Another suggested ‘many pedagogical experts argue that schools should switch to teaching “the four Cs” - critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. More importantly, schools should downplay technical skills and emphasise general life skills’. He goes on to suggest the most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things and preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations.
  • He goes further to suggest that in the future, ‘change itself is the only certainty’ [21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari, Education]. The whole of this section is well worth reading.
  • Others do not look at the acronym, but at what ways things can be changed. Edval’s Free Choice Plan is one such. This article describes it better than other presentations, but it is certainly a different approach to providing options for students.
  • Whether it is 3Rs, 3Es or 4Cs, or different structures within, change will continue for as Harari says, ‘change itself is the only certainty’, so be prepared for continuous and significant change no matter what the title may be, or what title you end up with.
  • If the terms ‘learning progressions’ and ‘formative assessment’ are not overly familiar to you, be ready for change. ‘At the end of 2018 all states, territories and the Commonwealth signed the National School Reform Agreement and agreed to progress a learning progressions and online formative assessment national initiative’.
  • This was followed in March of this year when ‘three education agencies were tasked to undertake a six-month discovery phase to inform this national initiative, [which began in May 2019]. The findings from the discovery phase will be reported to education ministers in December 2019’.
  • The National Learning Progressions & Online Formative Assessment Initiative site will provide you with a wealth of data from background information, all about the process, FAQs and more.
  • As the site indicates - ‘This initiative will explore benefits for teachers, school leaders, students, parents and education systems’. Be sure to make yourself aware about ‘A central finding of the Gonksi Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools’ and which is being done via ‘engagement with teachers to understand what they need and how they want to be able to work; and research into evidence of effective practices’.
  • If nothing else, be sure to visit the site and see what is involved and what the implications are.
  • Finally, for those who like to be more involved, there is an opportunity to ‘share your views and experiences in an online focus group on STEM education programs’. Follow This Link and have your say. Your input will be welcomed.

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There seems to be an unending supply of documents being produced about all aspects of education. It proves difficult at times to select only a few for inclusion [‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’]. Several recent items are listed below that are felt to warrant at least a brief mention. See what you think about each and whether you agree or not. Most items are Australian in origin. Follow each link that piques your particular interest.

TALIS 2018 Results [Volume I] : Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners
‘The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey [TALIS] is the largest international survey asking teachers and school leaders about their working conditions and learning environments, and provides a barometer of the profession every five years. Results from the 2018 cycle explore and examine the various dimensions of teacher and school leader professionalism across education systems’. The article The State of the Teaching Profession from Teacher Magazine provides a good overview of the report.

The Best Chance for All : Student Equity 2030
A long-term strategic vision for student equity in higher education. ‘At the start of the project, stakeholders were asked : “What does effective student equity policy, practice and research look like in 2030 ?” The answers to this question gave rise to a draft vision statement. Further consultation has led to the following policy statement for student equity in Australian tertiary education, complemented with specific practical recommendations for government and institutional action’.

The Early Years Education Program [EYEP] Model
‘This report describes the Early Years Education Program [EYEP], which is an Australian model of early years education and care designed to meet the educational and developmental needs of infants and toddlers living with significant family stress and social disadvantage. The education model in EYEP is a pedagogically driven, relational, ethical, reflective teaching and learning model that is child focused. The principles of the Australian Early Years Learning Framework provide the foundation for guiding pedagogy and curriculum development in the model’.

The Front Project
A smart investment for a smarter Australia. There is a large international evidence base that demonstrates how a child’s experiences in the early years [0-5] impacts outcomes later in life. An economic analysis of our early childhood education system has not been done in Australia before. The findings demonstrate the potential for more children and families to live healthier, happier and more productive lives alongside dividends that will benefit our entire society and economy’.

The Limits of Lesson Observation
This fairly short article by John Hattie and Arran Hamilton is an excerpt from Education Cargo Cults Must Die. The situation described is probably familiar to people at all levels of the profession. They also provide a link to access both the full article and a series of other articles available for free from the Corwin Australia Educator Series.

VET for secondary school students : ...
Acquiring an array of technical and non-technical skills. ‘This study is the first of a suite of projects aimed at understanding the value of VET delivered to secondary school students for their post-school employment and training destinations. Statistical analysis presents the quantity and type of VET programs undertaken by students in secondary schools, and a content analysis of selected training packages explores non-technical skills. The aim is to understand how VET can equip the students with the technical and non-technical skills to participate in an ever-changing world of work’.

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