Intercultural understanding

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 8 September 2014

The Courier-Mail of Saturday 6 September 2014 carried on its Page 3 a story headlined "Back to basics for kids at school" which provided some conjecture on the report submitted to federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne by Professor Kenneth Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly following their review of the Australian Curriculum. The opening paragraph of the story was:

  • "Teachers will be instructed to focus on literacy and numeracy rather than vague postmodern themes such as "intercultural understandings", under a plan to revamp the national curriculum."

The following letter was submitted in response. The version published in the paper on Monday 8 September had the underlined words deleted and the bracketed ones inserted. It appeared as the second of two letters under the heading "Education report spells end to creativity".

Understanding of others a worthy educational goal

Intercultural understanding is one of the general capabilities to be developed, as opportunities arise, in teaching the Australian Curriculum.

The first sentence of explanation of this element on the website of the  (The) Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website says: “students develop intercultural understanding as they learn to value their own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others”.

It was disappointing to see this worthy educational goal dismissed in your report as a “vague postmodern theme” (“Back to basics for kids at school”, 6/9).

Without this goal, harmful fear and hatred of any cultures different from our own are likely to fester and grow.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

Posted in: Curriculum matters   0 Comments

Teacher performance reviews

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 30 August 2014
  • A version of the following letter was published in The Courier-Mail of Thursday 28 August 2014 with the underlined words deleted. Some changes were also made to the location of paragraph breaks. The paper's heading for a collection of three letters, of which this was the first, was "Feedback on teaching needs to go both ways'.

Your editorial commenting on the new system of performance reviews for state school teachers extols the achievement of Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek (“Performance reviews key to quality teaching”, 27/8).

But presumably the initial proposals for this scheme would have been approved by the Minister. If they had been more sensible, it would not have taken months of negotiations to reach agreement with the Queensland Teachers’ Union.

Properly managed, feedback can be very useful. Poorly conducted, it can be quite destructive.

You are correct to point out that performance review systems are common in many organisations. But it is also true that a chunk of the management literature suggests that such systems do more harm than good.

It is to be hoped that the system implemented in Education Queensland will indeed produce a net benefit and not become a bureaucratic compliance exercise that takes valuable time and effort away from the core business of teaching and learning.

Properly informed feedback would also help principals improve.

To this end, it would be wise to expand the system to include panels of experienced, senior teachers in schools providing formal evaluation and feedback on the job performance of principals.

Senior officers who spend their working days in regional or head offices can’t really know what is going on in schools until things have badly gone off the rails.

In a cooperative enterprise like education, feedback should not only be top down.

Garry Collins

Posted in: General news   0 Comments

2014 NAPLAN results

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 19 August 2014

The release of this year's NAPLAN results occasioned reports in most papers. In response to them, letters were submitted to The Australian and The Courier-Mail.

  • The following letter was published in The Australian on Tuesday 19 August 2014. The underlined sections were edited out of the original and words in brackets inserted. The heading that I submitted was "NAPLAN test results".

NAPLAN is not an indicator of schools' effectiveness

Perhaps the prompt (question) used for the writing component of this year’s NAPLAN tests could have been better chosen (“Marked down: how one tough question skewed the NAPLAN results”, 18/8).

It will always be difficult for ACARA (the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) to select a topic that will be equally engaging for students in Year 3 and those in Year 9.

However, the main problem with NAPLAN results is that some people invest them with more meaning than is warranted and erroneously misuse them as an indicator of the effectiveness of whole schools and/or individual teachers. The tests have not been designed to measure these features and are incapable of doing so.

In addition, the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), the national English teacher professional body, does not consider that performance in a single “on demand” writing task that has to be completed in just 40 minutes in response to an arbitrarily imposed writing prompt is capable of comprehensively measuring students’ overall writing competence.

NAPLAN results are just one piece of evidence available to teachers and other educational stakeholders. Given the narrowness of NAPLAN data and its persistent misuse by some people, AATE considers (thinks) that the cost of the testing program and the associated My School website would be better spent on improvements in teaching and learning resources, school infrastructure and teacher professional learning.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

  • The following letter was published in The Courier-Mail on the same day. Again, underlined words were deleted and bracketed ones inserted.

Smarter uses for NAPLAN funding

You report that this year’s NAPLAN results show “the worst-ever student performance nationwide on the persuasive writing task” (“Writing is on the wall”, 18/8).

Is this a matter for serious concern? Not really.

The Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), the national English teacher professional body, does not consider that performance in a single “on demand” writing task that has to be completed in just 40 minutes in response to an arbitrarily imposed writing prompt is capable of comprehensively measuring students’ overall writing competence.

NAPLAN results are just one piece of evidence available to teachers and other educational stakeholders.

In addition, ACARA (the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) concedes that the results may be partly attributable to the topic set for the task. However, the main problem with NAPLAN results is that some people invest them with more meaning than is warranted and erroneously misuse them as an indicator of the effectiveness of whole schools and/or individual teachers. The tests have not been designed to measure these features and are incapable of doing so.

Given the narrowness of NAPLAN data and its persistent misuse by some people, AATE considers that the (The) cost of the testing program and the associated My School website would be better spent on improvements in teaching and learning resources, school infrastructure and teacher professional learning.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

Posted in: Assessment   0 Comments

Education standards better than politics or journalism

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 2 August 2014
  • The following letter was submitted to The Australian for possible publication on Saturday 2 August 2014. It did not, however, make it into print.

Wednesday’s editorial described Australia’s education standards as lacklustre (“Bright ideas to boost teaching”, 30/7).

Even if this uncharitable assessment is accepted, I suspect that most Australians would consider that the nation’s schools display higher standards than its politics or its journalism.

Garry Collins

Posted in: General news   0 Comments

Teachers urged to back Aussie authors

Posted by Trish Purcell, Admin Officer on 22 July 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

21 July 2014

Teachers urged to back Aussie authors

As the country’s teachers dive into Term 3, the not-for-profit Copyright Agency is calling on 60,000-plus  teachers of English and Media to back Australian stories and authors in the classroom.

“Term 3 is traditionally the time for teachers to choose the novels and other texts their students will explore in 2015,” says Copyright Agency’s Zoë Rodriguez.

“We want teachers and librarians to teach Australian stories. So, to make their job easier, Copyright Agency has set up the Reading Australia website, featuring freely available teaching resources for Aussiebooks.”

“We developed the website and the resources with the specific aim of getting Australian literature back into primary and secondary classrooms,” says Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund Manager, Zoë Rodriguez.

In a recent survey, 200 teachers rated the resources as either “quite high” or “very high” in quality, while 87 per cent said they were more likely to teach the books on the Reading Australia website because ofthe availability of the teaching resources.

Teachers resources have been developed for both new classics, such as Oscar winner Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, as well as old favourites such as Miles Franklin’s My BrilliantCareer and Melina Marchetta
Posted in: General news Curriculum matters   0 Comments

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