Teachers' political tendencies

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ President on 23 January 2014
  • The following letter was published in The Australian on Thursday 23 January 2014 with the underlined words deleted. The paper’s heading for a collection of four letters in its “Talking Point” section was “There’s more to a good teacher than teaching skills”. Professor Greg Craven is Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University.

In discussing the national curriculum, Professor Greg Craven suggests that there is a tendency for many teachers to be, as he colourfully puts it, “a little more pink than powder blue” (“National curriculum a victim of crimes of omission” 22/1).

While he doesn’t cite any actual evidence, he is probably correct. After all, teaching involves helping others and being concerned with the good of society as a whole rather than just one’s self. And, of course, teachers are never going to make significant amounts of money.

Those with strong right wing views, which include a focus on the individual, are much more likely to be found pursuing personal gain in better paid occupations.

Posted in: Discussions   0 Comments

National curriculum does not dictate teaching approaches

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ President on 21 January 2014
  • The following was submitted as a letter to the editor but was not selected for publication in The Australian of Tuesday 21 January 2014.

Stephen Elder argues that one of the reasons the recently announced review of the national curriculum is necessary is that a constructivist approach to teaching predominates and the curriculum is therefore imbalanced (“Review will add missing balance to curriculum”, 20/1).

Some previous state and territory syllabus documents may have been based on a preferred approach to teaching but ACARA’s Australian Curriculum details only what students should learn. How the material is to be taught is left to teachers and schools.

According to Elder, constructivist approaches are characterised, in part, by students being “centre stage”. This does sound rather like Minister Pyne’s requirement that the curriculum should place students first.

Elder writes that ad hominem attacks in relation to the review are wasteful. Perhaps he should in turn be cautioned about straw man arguments.

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

  • Note: Stephen Elder was identified in the paper as executive director of Catholic Education Melbourne.
Posted in: Curriculum matters   0 Comments

General Capabilities in the national curriculum

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ President on 20 January 2014
  • The following letter was submitted for inclusion in the letters page of The Australian of Monday 20 January 2014 but was not selected for publication. On this occasion I was writing as a private citizen rather than in my role as ETAQ or AATE president.

In discussing the General Capabilities component of the national curriculum, Bernard Lane concedes that literacy and numeracy are legitimate concerns across subject areas but is dismissive of others such as creative thinking, describing them as “funkier” (“Once more unto the breach”, 18-19/1). The item listed on the Australian Curriculum website is actually “critical and creative thinking”.

In a recent opinion piece in this paper Minister Pyne wrote of the curriculum that “It must be both content-rich and, importantly, focus on the 21st-century skills of critical thinking, team work, problem solving, creativity, analytic reasoning and communication.” (“Putting critical content back into curriculum”, 10/1).

Is the Minister being faddish and funky here or is Lane’s implied criticism misplaced?

Posted in: Curriculum matters   0 Comments

Curriculum change

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ President on 18 January 2014
  • The following letter was published in The Courier-Mail on Monday 13 January 14 with the underlined words deleted and the bracketed ones inserted. The paper’s heading for a collection of four letters was “Review of curriculum motivated by politics”.

Some members of the general public (people) might naively think that a new curriculum document can be approved one week and, in response, what happens in classrooms will start to change the next. It just doesn’t happen like that.

It takes considerable time for teachers to properly get their heads around the new requirements, to review their current programs in light of them, and then to make appropriate alterations to year plans and units of work.  Long term change to routine classroom practice takes longer again.

Steady state teaching in schools is already a demanding full-time job. Accommodating change to the curriculum documents that frame (frames) teachers’ planning must come on top of that, or detract time and energy from the core job of actually teaching students.

The current Australian Curriculum was developed over years and involved extensive consultation with education stakeholders. Any curriculum needs to be reviewed on a regular basis but the Australian Curriculum (national curriculum) could (is) not yet really be said to be fully understood and properly bedded down in schools across the nation.

Because of this, a review of the school curriculum by the Abbott Government would more appropriately take place in the latter half of its second term.

Another problem is that Kevin Donnelly is not a person able to command the confidence of the majority of the education professionals who must enact any curriculum approved by politicians.

Minister Pyne says that the current review is about putting students first. Many of those who work in schools will see it as a cynical case of putting politics first.

Garry Collins, ETAQ President

Posted in: Curriculum matters   0 Comments

Dr Donnelly's institute

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ President on 17 January 2014
  • Versions of the letter below were submitted to both The Australian and The Courier-Mail during the week begiining 13 January but neither published it.

The author information for Kevin Donnelly’s regular opinion pieces on education in newspapers routinely identifies him as Director of the Education Standards Institute.

This sounds quite impressive: a whole institute devoted to standards in education and Dr Donnelly has been chosen to be its director.

Now that Donnelly has been appointed as half of a two man panel charged with reviewing the national curriculum, perhaps The Courier-Mail could provide some further details on this apparently prestigious position. I’m sure quite a few readers would be interested to know who appointed him as this institute’s director and how many professional staff he supervises in that role.

A look at the organization’s website does rather suggest that this so-called institute is just Donnelly himself. If this is indeed so, should the use of such a grandiose title for a one man business be applauded as clever marketing or deplored as misleading?

Garry Collins

Posted in: Curriculum matters   0 Comments

Upcoming Events

An Afternoon with Christine Hills

The Darling Downs Branch will present an Afternoon with Christine Hills and the Collins Writing Program on Wednesday, 26 February, 2020. Afternoon tea will be served from 3:15 to 3:45 pm. This workshop will allow teachers and school leaders an opportunity to: Explore elements of grammar that are central to good writing and align w...

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Date:   Wednesday 26th February 2020
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March Seminar 2020: Diving Deep into Story

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 What is now proved was once only imagined&nbs...

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ETAQ will present a session on how to write an 'analytical essay' on Tuesday 28 April, at Aquinas College, Edmund Rice Drive, ASHMORE. In 2020, students will be required to write an 'analytical essay' in the external exam for General English. However, the term 'essay' is not used consistently across subject areas a...

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Start Time:   3:15 PM
Date:   Tuesday 28th April 2020
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Tony Hytch presents

Tony will present a session entitled  "Getting students assessment ready for Essential English" at Pimlico State High School, Townsville on Saturday 2nd May, 2020. Teachers will explore teh possible options for assessment in Units 1 and 2. In particular how to develop an assessment program which best prepares students for the t...

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Date:   Saturday 2nd May 2020
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This event for teachers in their first firve years of teaching and those who are new to the teaching of English will submerge you in a new, colourful, and enchanting world where you can engage with your peers. it is also a 'not to be missed' event for preservice teachers.  For those who are interested in offering a presentati...

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