Home' Teacher : September 2010 Contents 52 TEACHER SEPTEMBER 2010
riculum. Breadth should not come at the
expense of depth. This obsession with prod-
uct at the expense of process is critiqued
by the Board of Studies in its response to
the draft Australian curriculum, where it
recommends 'a substantial reduction in the
amount of content.'
What we need are high-quality docu-
ments with low definition -- balancing cur-
riculum prescription and pedagogical pro-
fessionalism -- to enable a local perspective.
There is a danger that increased standardi-
sation and overcrowding of the Australian
curriculum will lead to decreased innova-
tion and creativity.
I was at the Queensland Studies Authority
conference called 'Shared Vision: An Austral-
ian curriculum P-12,' when Edward de Bono
asked the 2,000 or so gathered to list the
three main problems facing the world today.
He gave us three minutes and then took ou r
responses.Quite rightly, the usualissues were
raised -- global warming, poverty, AIDS and
so on -- and de Bono dutifully wrote them
down, but then he paused, looked up at the
gathering and poignantly asked, 'Did anyone
have poor thinking on their list?'
We need a subject called 'thinking' in
the Australian curriculu m. Research by the
de Bono Institute in Melbourne indicates
that school performance is significantly
enhanced by such a subject. This specific
course could include:
perception using something like the
CoRT program of the Cognitive Research
de Bono's six thinking hats, and
de Bono's parallel thinking.
It can be argued that current diagnostic
tests such as National Assessment Program
-- Literacy and Numeracy or NAPLAN fail
to show a students' performance in higher-
order reasoning or creativity, both of which
we shouldalsobe addressing in our curricu-
lum design, and teaching and measuring in
The middle years
The inclusion in the Australian curriculum
of cross-disciplinary understandings is war-
ranted,but it needs tobe more robustly cross
referenced to other parts of the curriculum.
Encouraging students to think across disci-
plines in an integrated manner is essential
for the improvement in student performances
especially in the middle years of schooling.
According to the Melbourne Declaration,
'students in the middle years are at the
greatest risk of disengagement from learn-
ing.' While aspects of the 10 general capa-
bilities in the Australian curriculum address
the needs of students in the middle years,
there's no clear and specific alignment with
middle schooling. Evidence from the 2001
report of the Queensland School Reform
Longitudinal Study and the 2002 Beyond
the Middle report about literacy and numer-
acy by Allan Luke and colleagues indicate
that intentional middle schooling makes a
difference in the learning outcomes of stu-
dents, especially around the Year 8 level. If
this is the case, then the Australian curricu-
lum should develop an intentional approach
with a clear philosophy on middle school-
ing and a comprehensive range of signifi-
cant practices for middle schooling aligned
across the nation.
While the concept of general capabilities
is important in the Australian curriculum,
much more needs to be developed in the
content and sequencing of these capabili-
ties. How will these capabilities look in the
content and the achievement standards?
Will they be assessed? Will they be treated
equally? Again, these types of questions
should have been addressed before the cur-
riculum writing began.
According to Steve Dinham, Research
Director of the Teaching, Learning and
Leadership research program at the Austral-
ian Council for Educational Research, by the
end of primary schooling the achievement
gap between students in any classroom in
terms of academic performance can be five
years or more. The Australian curriculum
and in particular the achievement standards
do not effectively come to terms with this.
The standards are more like descriptions and
a summary of the content than criteria that
can be measured at any given point of the
learning continuum as in the current NSW
curriculum. I cannot see what teachers can
effectively do with the achievement stand-
ards as they currently stand.
The over-emphasis on testing has its flaws,
as Ken Boston explains in 'League tables.'
National testing in the United Kingdom, says
Boston,hasturnedinto ahigh-stakes summa-
tive regime and led to a narrower curriculum.
The work of Guy Claxton, author of What 's
the Point ofSchool? Rediscovering the heart
of education, and Fred Newman and Gary
Wehlage suggest that you don't need external
exams to attain rigour and reliability. What
is needed is to invest more heavily in the role
of formative assessment, as in Finland, to
improve student performance. This takes
time, money, vision and coordination. It's
interesting that Finland is consistently one
of the highest performers in the Organisa-
tion for Economic Cooperation and Devel-
opment's Program for International Student
Assessment tests, yet ithas neither a national
curriculum nor a My School website. Educa-
tion today is being strangled by standardised
testing rather than being transformed. You
can't fatten a pig by weighing it!
Values education and service
Given rising suicide and depression, other
mental health issues, violence and obesity
in young people, Towards Evidence-based
Suicide Pre ve ntion Programs, a report by
the World Health Organisation for the west-
ern Pacific region published in 2010, identi-
fies educational settings, among others, as a
site for intervention. Educational programs
that address suicide and depression, other
mental health issues, violence and obesity
fall within the scope of values education.
One of the best ways to provide val-
ues education is through service learning,
which involves giving to others. According
to a meta-analysis by Terry Lovat, service
learning has a positive effect on students'
performance. Where is it in the Australian
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