Teacher education review

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 16 February 2015
The recommendations of the TEMAG (Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group) review of teacher education headed by Professor Greg Craven, Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, are now available here http://www.studentsfirst.gov.au/teacher-education-ministerial-advisory-group

On that page you'll also find links to a fact sheet and the federal government's response.

The following two letters commenting on aspects of the recommendations were submitted for possible publication on Monday 16 February 2015, the first in The Australian and the second in The Courier-Mail. Alas, neither made it into print.

University courses and workforce requirements

One of the recommendations of the recently released review of teacher education is that universities should "take into account national workforce needs, in consultation with employers, when making decisions about student intake to better respond to market demand". Should this principle also be applied to other professional degrees such as law? Aren't many more lawyers trained than can be employed in the legal profession?

It could be argued that a place in a law course was wasted on Christopher Pyne because he worked as a solicitor for only a few years before embarking on a career as a political staffer and politician.

Garry Collins

Teacher education and red tape

Based on the recently released review of teacher education, the federal government intends to "increase the rigour of course accreditation". On top of what is currently required, universities will need to provide evidence that their courses will ensure that "teacher education students possess the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the classroom".

Whether or not this is a good idea, it does seem like increased red tape to which the government has often claimed to be opposed.

It is also interesting that the Australian Education Union has called for higher academic entry standards to teacher preparation courses while Education Minister Christopher Pyne dismisses this idea as a "shiny bauble" ("Don't send us dummies", 14/2). This is a curious reversal of what some might have expected.

Garry Collins

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Another salvo in senior school assessment debate

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 11 February 2015

The letter shown in the post below this attracted three letters in response in The Courier-Mail of Tuesday 10 February. A little to my surprise, the paper published my riposte as shown below on the following day, Wednesday 11 February, 2015. Underlined words were deleted. The paper's heading was "School assessment views misinterpreted".

I think that the difference in meaning between misinterpret and misrepresent is quite interesting in this context.

Misrepresentation in school assessment debate

I suggest it is telling that respondents to my letter on school assessment (C-M, Feb 9) felt a need to misrepresent what I wrote.

Professor Peter Ridd (Letters, Feb 10) implies that I said that "only internal assessment is tolerable". In fact, I wrote that "if the Core Skills Test is to be abandoned, it would be appropriate to substitute an alternative external assessment".

Tempe Harvey (also Letters, Feb 10) claims that I want "external assessment limited to pet topics favoured by bureaucrats". My letter said nothing at all about topics but focused instead on the conditions under which students would demonstrate their learning.

An important issue not touched on by any of these letters is that part of the previous government's response to the review of senior assessment was that some of the proposed new procedures be trialled in maths and science subjects. It is imperative that any trial also involves some humanities and social science subjects as well. Otherwise, we could end up with a system that does not suit a large chunk of the curriculum.

Garry Collins,Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland  

 

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Still more on senior school assessment

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 9 February 2015

An edited version of the following letter was published in The Courier-Mail of Monday 9 February 2015. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones inserted. The paper's heading was "School-based tests better".

1950s style exams don't suit 21st century

Norman Hunter (Letters, Feb 6) is to be commended for sensibly reminding readers that it would be unwise to update Queensland's tertiary entrance system by a knee-jerk reversion (reverting) to an outmoded past in the form of external examinations (exams).

If the Core Skills Test is to abandoned, it would be appropriate to substitute some alternative form of external assessment but this should be a minor component, worth no more than 25% (per cent).

External exams are high pressure, one-off activities while school-based assessment involves tasks done under a variety of conditions at several points in the academic year.

In the digital age, pen and paper handwriting marathons are not the appropriate way to measure student learning in quite a few subject areas.

And if there is to be any scaling, external results should be scaled against moderated school-based assessment, not the other way around.

Part of the previous government's response to the report of the Australian Council for Educational Research review was that some of the proposed new procedures be trialled in maths and science subjects. It is imperative that any trial also involves some humanities and social science subjects as well. Otherwise, we could end up with a system that does not suit a large chunk of the curriculum.

Garry Collins
Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland

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More on senior school assessment

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 6 February 2015

The following letter-to-the-editor was submitted to The Courier-Mail for possible inclusion in the edition of Friday 6 February 2015 but it was not selected for publication.

Senior high school assessment

Matthew Dean (Letters, 5 Feb) argues that school-based assessments at Year 12 level should be scaled against performance in proposed external examinations.

Why not the other way around? External exams are high pressure, one-off activities while school based assessment involves tasks done under a variety of conditions at several points in the academic year. It can be argued that the latter provides a more valid measure of students' ability.

Ignoring the state's well-established moderation system intended to achieve comparability, Dean also suggests that teachers cannot agree on standards. It should be remembered that some of these same teachers would be recruited to mark external exams.

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Senior school assessment

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 22 January 2015

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Courier-Mail of Thursday 22 January 2015. It was submitted in response to an opinion piece by Professor Geoff Masters and Dr Gabrielle Matters that had appeared in the paper the previous day. Underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones inserted. They also adjusted my paragraphing. The paragraph breaks below are those of the printed version and differ a little from what I submitted. The paper's heading for this and another letter was "Inconsistencies will test reforms".

Year 12 assessment system

ACER (Australian Council for Education Research) researchers Geoff Masters and Gabrielle Matters respond to some criticisms of the recommendations arising from their review of the state's OP system ("Assessing the value of changes to Year 12 examination system", 21 Jan).

A problem with reviews like this is that the recommendations are usually designed as a comprehensive package. Unless most of the proposals for change are adopted together the intended integrity and balance will not be achieved in the new system.

Unfortunately, governments often cherry pick the recommendations, implementing some that are considered relatively easy and politically attractive while ignoring others that are more difficult and expensive.

In their report, Masters and Matters propose that, instead of the 25 steps of the current OP scale, student achievement in Year 12 should be reported on a "more fine-grained" 60 point scale. In itself, this seems to make good sense.

Curiously, however, performance on each of the proposed 3 (three) school-based assessments is to be graded on a 10-point scale. In some subjects like English, this is less fine-grained than current practice. In many schools individual assessment tasks in English are, in effect, marked on a 15-point scale with each of the 5 (five) levels of achievement sub-divided into 3 (three) bands (mid, upper and lower).

In other schools, teachers grade individual pieces of work on a 50-point scale with 10 internal steps within each of the levels (level) of achievement. This seems to suggest (suggests) an internal inconsistency in the reviewers' thinking.

Garry Collins
Immediate Past President, English Teachers Association of Queensland

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Emma Monfries and Kiri Lucas will present some practical activities and observations from Unit 2: Texts and Culture.  With these activities, students can conceptualise in concrete ways the relationship between place and culture, for example, through layered maps, and to convey this in texts such as short stories.  Students can a...

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Literature is the lifeblood of the English classroom and we all endeavour to make our classrooms creative spaces, helping students to experience the pleasures of responding to and creating literature. This seminar will explore diverse ideas related to creativity in English. The keynote address will be presented by Assoc. Professor Kim Wil...

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