Bluyonder Greg Whitby

Updated: 1 hour 15 min ago

Underrating students’ capacity to learn

11 October, 2017 - 21:04

There is sufficient recognition that our current model of schooling underrates students’ ability to learn particularly those who sit outside of the bell curve. All too often the bar is too low or unrealistically high. Those who fail to meet the narrow measures are considered non-academic and thus, not bright. Yet outside in the real world, these students are highly creative and confident learners.

My colleague’s son was placed in the lowest math’s class at his primary school. He knows it and he doesn’t want to be there. Yet he was able to construct a sophisticated remote control Lego car without any adult assistance in less than 3 hours. He then wanted to learn how to programme the car, which he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to do during school hours. His classroom teacher has been made aware of his interest in Lego but that’s where personalised learning ends.

I’ve said before that we don’t do enough to recognise and leverage off student interests to engage and extent learning. We are seeing more and more that it is technology not the teacher, that is responsive to today’s learners.

Late last term I was out at one of our secondary schools and met an articulate Year 7 student. Jeremy  and his friends created an app aimed at helping them address their homework questions. I was impressed not only with the sophistication of the app but with their understanding of peer-to-peer learning. The question that continues to surface for me in all of these examples is ‘what is an appropriate learning pathway for these students in a traditional school environment?’

I am struggling to understand why we are still not able to let go of outdated curriculum constructs and why we are not listening to students. Remaining where we are and where we’ve always been not only entrenches the status quo but limits the possibilities for all learners.



Categories: Planet

Why conservatism is failing students

2 October, 2017 - 20:44

I was interviewed for the Weekend Australia (23 September 2017) on a range of issues including the misuse of NAPLAN, the irrelevancy of the Higher School Certificate and the need for a more purposeful and personalised curriculum. Understandably, these views (which are not inconsistent with others championing educational change) were not given the thumbs up by all readers. In fact, a many felt compelled to respond, questioning my professional competence (and even my sanity!) to suggest that schools need to be responsive to the changing times.

Emotions aside, we need to be able to respond as a profession to the challenges of schooling in today’s world. Firstly, there is and always will be a need for meaningful assessments that provide constructive feedback. It is formative assessment that teachers not only gauge how effective they are but give students an understanding of where they are and where they need to go. Secondly, we need a curriculum that is less rigid but no less rigorous – a curriculum that allows students to learn through inquiry and trial-and-error rather than the installation of facts that are removed from their own interests and reality. Thirdly, there will always be the need for explicit teaching and teacher-guided lessons but not to the exclusion of student-voice in the learning and teaching. Fourthly, the profession needs to take greater responsibility for shaping and delivering the learning agenda, not the public or politicians. As Pasi Sahlberg said at the Anne D Clarke Lecture in August this year, there is far more professional freedom and autonomy in Finland because teachers are trusted by society to do what is best for their students and their local school community.

Andreas Schleicher, director-general of the OECD’s Directorate for Education has written a sobering piece in the Australian recently in which he stated:

The difference between education systems that are open to the world and ready to learn from other experiences, and those that feel threatened by being exposed or being left behind or to alternative ways of thinking and working is likely to be a key differentiator in the educational progress that we will see around the world.

The world is indifferent to tradition…unforgiving of frailty and ignorant of custom or practice. Success will go to those individuals and nations that are swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change. The task of governments is to help citizens rise to the challenges.

Sadly, it is clear that there is that is a deep conservatism running through society based on a fear of change. Everyone with an interest in education owe it to every student in every Australian school to keep dialogue open about what good schools look like now and into the future.

Categories: Planet
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