External exams and school autonomy

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 8 January 2017

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Australian of Thursday 29 December 2016. It had been submitted in response to an opinion piece by Kevin Donnelly. The letter was grouped with another under a heading not directly related to the subject matter of mine. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones were inserted. The quotation marks that I used for the pieces cited from Donnelly's article were also removed.

Educational commentator inconsistent

The latest opinion piece from educational commentator Kevin Donnelly is internally contradictory ("Here's why non-government schools work better", Dec 28).

Citing Brian Caldwell, he (Donnelly) argues that schools should have greater autonomy in relation to "curriculum, teaching and assessment". At the same time however, he repeats his regularly expressed support for "high-risk examinations".

These two positions don't really fit together. In educational regimes that feature high stakes external examinations, preparation for what is anticipated in the exam effectively becomes the curriculum irrespective of what any syllabus document might say. And by their very nature, external exams like the NSW HSC (HSC in NSW) are necessarily "one-size-fits-all" arrangements with all students across the state sitting for the same test. Donnelly regularly uses this phrase to criticise what he likes to call (calls) "command-and-control" management of schooling. Logically, he can't have it both ways.

Posted in: Assessment   0 Comments

The cost of NAPLAN and My School

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 26 September 2016

The following letter was submitted to The Australian for possible publication on Monday 26 September 2016 but, alas, it did not make it into print.

Education reforms and money

Friday's editorial claimed that some of Julia Gillard's most effective education reforms were not about money, specifically citing the My School website and greater transparency ("School funding is no panacea", Sep 23).

This inaccurately implies that NAPLAN and the My School website cost taxpayers nothing. This is simply not true, although the relevant authority always seems unwilling to talk about the cost.

It is also worth noting that no proper cost-benefit analysis was done before these measures were instituted and many who work in education are still not convinced that they represent the best use of the money involved. Scarce funds would be better spent on feeding the pig rather than on weighing it.

Posted in: General news   45 Comments

Professional development

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 20 September 2016

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail on Tuesday 20 September 2016. It had been submitted in response to a news report in the previous day's edition. The underlined words were deleted and those in square brackets added. The paper's heading was "Education has broad interests". The paper also reorganized the letter into a single paragraph.

Teacher professional development

The Federal Government's chief scientist, [AlanFinkel], is reported as claiming that [claims] teachers are wasting [waste] professional development time on irrelevant topics ("Odd subjects ticked off as teacher aids", Sep 19). If true to any significant extent, this would be indeed a matter of concern.

However, from extensive personal involvement as an attendee, organizer and presenter, I can attest that valuable professional development directly relevant to the curriculum is regularly conducted by subject professional associations.

And I do wonder about the quality of the data on which the chief scientist's claim is based. The topics cited may not be relevant to his [Dr Finkel's] area of interest in STEM subjects, but school education is broader than that, important though it is.

African drumming may sound bizarre to some, but it would be relevant to the teaching of music.

Treating teachers as professionals should include acknowledgement that they are the best judges of their own professional development needs.

Garry Collins
Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland

Posted in: General news   0 Comments

Australian Curriculum: English and C2C

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 14 September 2016

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail on Wednesday 14 September 2016. The paper's heading was "Confusion with curriculum". Underlined words were deleted and those in square brackets inserted.

Curriculum confusion

Your editorial incorrectly implies [implied] that the English component of the Australian Curriculum currently contains eight units which are about to be reduced to six ("Curriculum changes a lesson in core learning", Sep 13).

This confuses the actual Australian Curriculum issued by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) with support materials produced by Education Queensland. The latter go under the name Curriculum to Classroom or C2C.

The ACARA document is not organized into units at all. For each year, it provides an overview called a level description, content descriptions and achievement standards. Arrangement of this information into units of work is left to systems, schools and teachers.

One of the problems with the way the national curriculum has been implemented in Queensland is that some teachers apparently think that the C2C units are the Australian Curriculum itself, rather than being just one possible set of support materials.

Garry Collins
Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland

Posted in: Curriculum matters   0 Comments

Pre-service teacher education

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 8 September 2016

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Australian on Thursday 8 September 2016. It had been submitted in response to an opinion piece by Jennifer Buckingham in the previous day's edition.

The paper used the heading "Teaching directions" and edited the submitted version by deleting the underlined words and adding those shown in brackets.

Explicit instruction in teacher preparation

Jennifer Buckingham implies that explicit instruction is not taught in education faculties in Australia's universities ("The case for education based on what works", 7 Sep).

She (Dr Buckingham) doesn't explain what data she bases this generalization on, but it doesn't gel with my recent lived experience. I am a retired high school English teacher and department head who now works part-time as a sessional tutor in the School of Education at The University of Queensland (University).

Explicit teaching/instruction is certainly stressed in the courses for prospective secondary English teachers in which I have taught for the last (past) few years. I also appreciate the potential of inquiry learning in appropriate situations, but have never been given any direction that it has to be favoured.

Garry Collins

Posted in: Teacher education   0 Comments

External exams and school autonomy

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 8 January 2017

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Australian of Thursday 29 December 2016. It had been submitted in response to an opinion piece by Kevin Donnelly. The letter was grouped with another under a heading not directly related to the subject matter of mine. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones were inserted. The quotation marks that I used for the pieces cited from Donnelly's article were also removed.

Educational commentator inconsistent

The latest opinion piece from educational commentator Kevin Donnelly is internally contradictory ("Here's why non-government schools work better", Dec 28).

Citing Brian Caldwell, he (Donnelly) argues that schools should have greater autonomy in relation to "curriculum, teaching and assessment". At the same time however, he repeats his regularly expressed support for "high-risk examinations".

These two positions don't really fit together. In educational regimes that feature high stakes external examinations, preparation for what is anticipated in the exam effectively becomes the curriculum irrespective of what any syllabus document might say. And by their very nature, external exams like the NSW HSC (HSC in NSW) are necessarily "one-size-fits-all" arrangements with all students across the state sitting for the same test. Donnelly regularly uses this phrase to criticise what he likes to call (calls) "command-and-control" management of schooling. Logically, he can't have it both ways.

Posted in: Assessment   0 Comments

The cost of NAPLAN and My School

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 26 September 2016

The following letter was submitted to The Australian for possible publication on Monday 26 September 2016 but, alas, it did not make it into print.

Education reforms and money

Friday's editorial claimed that some of Julia Gillard's most effective education reforms were not about money, specifically citing the My School website and greater transparency ("School funding is no panacea", Sep 23).

This inaccurately implies that NAPLAN and the My School website cost taxpayers nothing. This is simply not true, although the relevant authority always seems unwilling to talk about the cost.

It is also worth noting that no proper cost-benefit analysis was done before these measures were instituted and many who work in education are still not convinced that they represent the best use of the money involved. Scarce funds would be better spent on feeding the pig rather than on weighing it.

Posted in: General news   45 Comments

Professional development

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 20 September 2016

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail on Tuesday 20 September 2016. It had been submitted in response to a news report in the previous day's edition. The underlined words were deleted and those in square brackets added. The paper's heading was "Education has broad interests". The paper also reorganized the letter into a single paragraph.

Teacher professional development

The Federal Government's chief scientist, [AlanFinkel], is reported as claiming that [claims] teachers are wasting [waste] professional development time on irrelevant topics ("Odd subjects ticked off as teacher aids", Sep 19). If true to any significant extent, this would be indeed a matter of concern.

However, from extensive personal involvement as an attendee, organizer and presenter, I can attest that valuable professional development directly relevant to the curriculum is regularly conducted by subject professional associations.

And I do wonder about the quality of the data on which the chief scientist's claim is based. The topics cited may not be relevant to his [Dr Finkel's] area of interest in STEM subjects, but school education is broader than that, important though it is.

African drumming may sound bizarre to some, but it would be relevant to the teaching of music.

Treating teachers as professionals should include acknowledgement that they are the best judges of their own professional development needs.

Garry Collins
Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland

Posted in: General news   0 Comments

Australian Curriculum: English and C2C

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 14 September 2016

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail on Wednesday 14 September 2016. The paper's heading was "Confusion with curriculum". Underlined words were deleted and those in square brackets inserted.

Curriculum confusion

Your editorial incorrectly implies [implied] that the English component of the Australian Curriculum currently contains eight units which are about to be reduced to six ("Curriculum changes a lesson in core learning", Sep 13).

This confuses the actual Australian Curriculum issued by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) with support materials produced by Education Queensland. The latter go under the name Curriculum to Classroom or C2C.

The ACARA document is not organized into units at all. For each year, it provides an overview called a level description, content descriptions and achievement standards. Arrangement of this information into units of work is left to systems, schools and teachers.

One of the problems with the way the national curriculum has been implemented in Queensland is that some teachers apparently think that the C2C units are the Australian Curriculum itself, rather than being just one possible set of support materials.

Garry Collins
Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland

Posted in: Curriculum matters   0 Comments

Pre-service teacher education

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 8 September 2016

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Australian on Thursday 8 September 2016. It had been submitted in response to an opinion piece by Jennifer Buckingham in the previous day's edition.

The paper used the heading "Teaching directions" and edited the submitted version by deleting the underlined words and adding those shown in brackets.

Explicit instruction in teacher preparation

Jennifer Buckingham implies that explicit instruction is not taught in education faculties in Australia's universities ("The case for education based on what works", 7 Sep).

She (Dr Buckingham) doesn't explain what data she bases this generalization on, but it doesn't gel with my recent lived experience. I am a retired high school English teacher and department head who now works part-time as a sessional tutor in the School of Education at The University of Queensland (University).

Explicit teaching/instruction is certainly stressed in the courses for prospective secondary English teachers in which I have taught for the last (past) few years. I also appreciate the potential of inquiry learning in appropriate situations, but have never been given any direction that it has to be favoured.

Garry Collins

Posted in: Teacher education   0 Comments

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