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Agreeing and disagreeing with Kevin Donnelly

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 25 March 2015

The following letter was submitted to The Australian for possible inclusion in the edition of Monday 23 March 2015 but it was not selected for publication. It was probably a tad too long.

Fads in education

I find I'm able to agree with a fair bit of what Kevin Donnelly has to say in his latest comment ("Tide is turning in education as traditional forms of teaching make a welcome comeback", 21-22/3).

At Gladstone State High School in central Queensland in the late 1970s we received a much needed new classroom block. Either side of a central courtyard it had a large barn-like space consisting of three classroom areas with no dividing walls. The head office people called it a flexible learning space but I can't recall any of the teachers who worked in it finding it flexible at all.

There will probably always be fads. The main one that we are contending with at present is an obsession with standardised testing in the form of NAPLAN.

As to explicit teaching, it is central to the work that I currently do in teacher preparation courses for prospective secondary English teachers at The University of Queensland.

It was strange, however, to see Donnelly attacking some description of a Victorian Education Department program at the end of the article. The language might have been a tad inflated but is Donnelly really opposed to the development of skills that would enable lifelong learning? Effective reading would be a key part of that. He also takes issue with the program seeking to develop "creative, connected and collaborative problem solvers". This sounds to me like the workplace competencies that employers have been exhorting the school system to deliver for at least a quarter of a century.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English

Author: Garry Collins, AATE President
About: Garry Collins is the Immediate Past President of ETAQ and began a 2 year term as AATE President on 1 January 2014. A retired high school English teacher, he now works in the School of Education at the University of Queensland as a sessional tutor in English curriculum courses.
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