'Content reboot for teacher training' - The Australian, Dec 2023

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'Content reboot for teacher training' - The Australian, Dec 2023

Post by Debbie_Hepplewhite »

Thank you to Yvonne Meyer for flagging up this article in The Australian:
Content reboot for teacher training

Natasha Bita
Drastic changes to teacher training will force universities to cover “core content”, such as teaching children to read and master mathematics, in reforms ordered by the nation’s education ministers this week.

Amendments to state and territory accreditation standards for teaching degrees, to be revealed on Wednesday, will give universities until the end of 2025 to ensure that every trainee teacher knows how to teach children to read and write.

Step-by-step teaching techniques – many of them based on old-school methods taught in teachers’ colleges 50 years ago – will instruct trainee teachers to plan a sequence of lessons.

Explicit instruction – which involves the teacher explaining, practising and checking students’ understanding – will become mandatory in teaching degrees.

Trainee teachers must also learn how children’s brains develop through early childhood to the teenage years so as to understand how students learn best at different ages.

They will be instructed to avoid the trend of “self-directed learning’’ for students who are learning a new concept or subject.The core content will force university education faculties to focus on teaching explicit ­instruction, with clearly structured step-by-step content and “scaffolding’’ to support children as they learn.

Trainees will be shown how to create “worked examples’’ during lessons, and to design summative assessments that measure students against a benchmark.They will be taught to “provide feedback as learning is taking place that is specific, honest, constructive and clear’’.

To help students who are struggling, teachers will be shown how to “re-teach concepts, scaffold, or correct misconceptions’’.All new teachers must know how to teach children to read and write through the use of phonics to sound out letters and words, and understand the mathematical concepts of numbers, algebra, geometry, measurement, statistics and probability.

The reforms to make teacher training more robust were recommended in a review of teacher training by University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott, and are designed to prevent half of trainee teachers dropping out of “woke” teaching degrees.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has warned the states there’ll be ‘no blank cheques’ for school funding.

An Institute of Public Affairs analysis of 3713 teaching degrees offered by 37 Australian universities recently found that only 10 weeks of a typical four-year degree were dedicated to teaching children literacy and numeracy.

One-third of all subjects related to “wokeness and political activism’’, with turgid lectures about identity politics, decolonisation and social justice.

Education ministers signed off on the unprecedented intervention at a meeting on Monday, when they also released a report on the next National School Reform Agreement.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare on Tuesday told the states he would not write “blank cheques’’, doubling down on his demands they agree to reforms such as small-group tutoring as a condition of extra funding.

Pledging to “level the playing field’’ between rich and poor schools, Mr Clare said he would insist on national education reforms, tied to funding in bilateral agreements to be negotiated next year. “There are no blank cheques here,’’ he said on Tuesday.

“We need to make sure that we tie that funding to the sorts of things that we know work – like catch-up tutoring (to) help children who fall behind to catch up and to finish school.

“We want to make sure this money works, and that we invest it in the sort of things that are going to help our children in the areas they need it most.“Unless we implement the sort of reforms that are going to help children who fall behind to catch up and finish school, we will be doing a disservice not just to them but to the whole country.’

’The Australian on Tuesday revealed that state ministers had baulked at performance targets recommended by the NSRA review. They warned that they could not find enough teachers to meet the requirements for catch-up tutoring, which is already provided in Victoria and will begin in NSW next year.

Mr Clare is championing pay rises for teachers, with “financial incentives’’ for the most experienced teachers to work in dis­advantaged communities.

Governments are squabbling over who should pay for the $6.8bn a year shortfall in needs-based schools funding that was recommended by business leader David Gonski a decade ago.
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Re: 'Content reboot for teacher training' - The Australian, Dec 2023

Post by Debbie_Hepplewhite »

Why we're failing to build the knowledge students need


Every child who goes to school should learn to read. Australia is failing on this measure.

The latest OECD Programme for International Student Assessment assessment of 15-year-old students, released on Tuesday night, shows that too many Australian teenagers struggle to read.

Our teens continue to lag almost two-and-a-half years behind their peers in Singapore, the top performing country. They are also almost a year behind peers in Ireland, Japan, and South Korea. And our 15-year-olds performed about a year and a half behind their Australian counterparts in the first PISA assessment in 2000.

Forty-three per cent of our students did not meet Australia’s PISA proficiency benchmark for reading, and there was a cavernous gap between our advantaged and disadvantaged students – only about 40 of our disadvantaged students are proficient, compared with 75 per cent of their advantaged peers. And the gap between Australia’s lowest and highest performers is larger than the OECD average and every country that outperforms Australia.

PISA results are not just a matter of international vanity. Poor reading ability robs young people of their full potential. Our leaders should urgently address Australia’s reading woes.

Here’s what should happen.

In the early years of school, teaching should focus on systematic instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics, exposure to rich literature through read-alouds, and explicit teaching to build vocabulary, fluency, and background knowledge.

As students master the ability to decode new words, they can switch from learning to read to reading to learn. But they still need explicit teaching that deepens their knowledge and vocabulary, so they can comprehend what they read – the ultimate goal of reading.

This is especially important for children from disadvantaged families because those students often don’t have rich learning opportunities at home.

While most state and territory governments – except Victoria and the ACT – have now publicly committed to align teaching with this approach for young primary school students, we need to radically boost our commitment to building students’ knowledge throughout school.

By the time a 15-year-old sits the PISA test, their background knowledge and vocabulary will have a big impact on their performance. To comprehend a passage on conservation efforts in the Galapagos Islands, for example, they need to know the meaning of words such as “ecosystem”, “extinct”, “invasive species”, and “eradicate”.

Without this knowledge, they would flounder. And to do well across all the passages, they’ll need to know a lot of words – passages can be on topics as diverse as the civilisation collapse on Easter Island to the benefits of drinking cows’ milk.

These might seem like esoteric topics, but they reflect the vast range of words and issues a well-educated adult might encounter reading the newspaper, collaborating with colleagues, or engaging with strangers.

The best way to prepare young people for the reading challenges they will face in the real world is to teach them using knowledge-rich and well-sequenced curriculum materials, from Prep to Year 12.

But Australia still largely leaves this to chance.

The Australian Curriculum is surprisingly vague about the specific content teachers must cover. For example, the Year 6 Geography curriculum says students should understand ‘Australia’s interconnections with other countries and how these change people and places.’ The specific detail of what knowledge students should learn – what kind of interconnections, with what countries, what changes, and in what depth – is left for the teacher to decide. As a result, we end up with a lesson lottery: some teachers and students cover a lot while others do not.

Our governments should act now. High-quality, knowledge-rich curriculum materials that help teachers turn these vague descriptions into effective classroom teaching improve every child’s chance of success. There are several examples overseas of comprehensive, quality-assured curriculum materials, such as Core Knowledge and EL Education in the US. But there are few in Australia, especially for primary schools when solid foundations must be laid.

Curriculum materials need to be specific about what knowledge students are expected to learn, and carefully sequenced so students gradually accumulate knowledge year-on-year. The last thing our teachers need is more disconnected worksheets and activities – social media and government websites are awash with those already.

Curriculum materials should cover everything teachers need, right down to lesson-level materials – so that teachers can focus on refining their teaching and adapting their approach. Curriculum materials should reflect the growing evidence-base for effective teaching practices, such as explicit instruction, mastery learning, and formative assessment, which make it more likely new knowledge will ‘stick’.

Curriculum materials created by governments, commercial providers, or not-for-profits should be quality-assured by a new, genuinely independent review body – similar to EdReports in the US.

Curriculum-specific professional learning for teachers and principals also needs a major boost.

The latest international results make it clear that Australia cannot continue to leave learning to read to chance.

Boosting reading outcomes in our schools would be the ultimate win-win: it would improve the life chances of every Australian child, and it would make Australia a smarter, more prosperous nation.

Amy Haywood and Jordana Hunter lead the education program at Grattan Institute.
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