Friday, September 19, 2008

Declaration of Educational Goals: Metaphors

MCEETYA are seeking input on the new National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians for the next decade. See previous post.

The draft document calls for the development in Australia of "world-class curriculum and assessment". Although I understand the intent I question the metaphor and therefore the possible underlying assumptions.

While previous declarations have been about 'schooling' the current document moves to 'education'. This is a welcome and significant shift away from 19th century metaphors and thinking that were designed to support industrialisation.

But which school of thought does 'world-class' sit in? We need to be careful that 19th century metaphors are not being simply re-badged leaving unquestioned assumptions to drive thinking.

For example, when the document refers to the need for "quality teachers" it also talks about developing the right people to be effective instructors to deliver the best possible instruction! Aren't we committed to personalised learning for all young Australians?

The document says teachers should have "targeted professional development... to enhance teaching and learning." Shouldn't they be engaged with "personalised professional learning... to enhance learning, teaching and assessment" ?

Laying solid foundations is another metaphor that needs questioning... The notion of providing foundations for later learning appears frequently in the document. Combined with the need for essential literacy and numeracy (also frequently cited) and the need to meet national standards this has the potential to alienate many of the learners we are attempting to engage.

Some learners spend years - even decades - in dark educational foundations...

We understand the brain/mind and learning a little better now. Laying foundations, building learning structures, sequential processes and other 19th C metaphors are not always the most appropriate...

We also need to question our curriculum metaphors. The document talks about a "comprehensive curriculum that details the knowledge, skills and values to be achieved." Is this 'curriculum as content' where "specified work needs to be covered" ? Or are we talking about more dynamic curriculum frameworks that remains current in times of rapid change?

While the document has much to offer it still appears to be caught between the 19th and 21st centuries - neither in one nor the other...

But then so are we :-)


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At 1:20 PM, Blogger dean said...

Rodger, This is a great series of posts and well worthy of much more discussion - if some Aussies and get past their facination with US issues and look at our own.

I get from this 'money for ICT strategy and committment' Rudd initiative - that handing the laptops out is a little like 18th Century 'the kings shilling'. Once you take it, you will be obliged to accept the language they are using.

I can't help but think that this is being set up to fail, so that the recovery option is to adopt a UK style National ICT Standards and take greater governmental control in the teaching and learning (or claim to).

Is it just me, or is there something in the wind here ... the changes are as you say subtle but significant. Hope there's more than two of us that are looking at AUSTRALIAN issues and not getting too globally focused.

Nice work - we must do beers!

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Roger said...

Thanks Dean - the beer might have to be virtual - maybe in SL :-)

Yeah I'm not sure what to think about the ICT "strategy" in this doc - and its relationship to Rudd's DER... Maybe a post for tomorrow...


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