Posts tagged ‘ADC Lecture’

Building Professional Capital

Recently, YouTube in partnership with the Khan Academy put the call out for educational content creators to train and mentor a growing online learning audience. In many parts of America, mandated participation in online courses as part of students’ K-12 schooling is on the rise. Massive online open courses (MOOCs) are emerging in the higher education sector, challenging traditional approaches to tertiary education, which is evidenced by declining enrolments in some tertiary courses. Senator Stephen Conroy last week challenged Australian universities to rethink their business models to incorporate MOOCs or risk becoming irrelevant. This raises alarm bells for me about the quality of instruction and students’ engagement in learning.

If we agree that teachers make the biggest difference to student learning outcomes, we need to ensure online learning models are not harnessed in such a way as to reduce education to a self-serve product.

While the proliferation of online educational content certainly provides an opportunity to influence the delivery and engagement of contemporary learning and teaching, we cannot lose sight of the important role that teachers play in engaging students in deep learning. We know the relationship between the teacher and the student in the presence of content (Elmore, 2009) – the instructional core – is paramount to the learning and teaching process. If technology supplants teachers and students become learners in isolation, this is not only detrimental to the development of critical thinking skills, but also for their capacity for deeper learning and understanding.

Andy Hargreaves and myself at the 2012 ADC lecture.

The focus for education, then, needs to be in building teachers’ capabilities: individually and collectively. We were privileged to have Andy Hargreaves deliver Catholic Education’s annual Ann D Clark lecture recently to over 300 educators. He warned of the increasing prevalence of the ‘business capital’ approach to education i.e. short-term investment (e.g. online delivery models) for quick return, saying the education sector had become a lucrative market for investors.

‘When we begin to move the whole profession of education to serve the short-term interests of business capital, it comes at an immense price and carries dangerous assumptions about the nature of the teacher and whether or not this is even a profession,’ (Hargreaves, 2012)

In their book Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) identify three components of ‘professional capital’ – human, social and decisional – which he says, when developed in concert, will build the teaching profession.

  • ‘Human capital’ refers to highly qualified teachers having the content knowledge and an understanding of child psychology, individual pre-service training and preparation, emotional intelligence and capability in relationships
  • ‘Social capital’ refers to trust, collaboration, collective responsibility, peer pressure and support, mutual assistance and networks
  • ‘Decisional capital’ (a term coined by Fullan and Hargreaves) refers to the teacher’s judgement, in case experience and lots of practice, in a teacher’s ability to reflect alone and together on their practice and to adjust their practice to improve students’ learning accordingly.

Building professional capital needs to take place throughout a teacher’s career in various ways at various stages because Hargreaves suggests it takes around eight years or 10,000 hours to develop expertise in the profession of teaching through practice and concerted effort.

Hargreaves says quality teachers need to:

  • understand that teaching is technically difficult
  • know cognitive science
  • understand a range of special education abilities
  • know about differentiated instruction
  • be able to assess in a sophisticated, diagnostic way
  • have massive emotional intelligence
  • have high levels of education and long periods of rigorous training
  • be able to use judgement, wisdom and discernment to know what’s in the spreadsheet of data to connect it to the students and to the knowledge they’re trying to acquire.

Teaching is not an individual task, but is something that is done collectively with other people as a community that takes time, investment, conditions and support. These human capabilities and the collaborative aspect of teaching (social capital) cannot be substituted with an online learning system alone.

I was pleased to read Khan Academy founder, Salman Khan, tackle the concern that the Khan Academy was a way to replace teachers:

‘Human teachers will become far more valuable in the future because [the classroom] will be a more interactive place and they are going to be doing the things computers cannot do, which is form bonds, motivate, mentor, diagnose,’ (Salman Khan, 2012).

I couldn’t agree more. There is, and always will be, a role for teachers.

A national curriculum

Dr Peter Hill

On Monday evening, the CEO of ACARA, Dr Peter Hill delivered our 2010 Ann D Clark lecture to over 500 educators.

I have known Peter Hill for many years – he’s had an extraordinary career in education and is someone who brings great insight and experience to this role.

What is evident is that Peter understands the nature of today’s world and the needs of today’s learners.  This is articulated in his vision of a national curriculum that responds to these by creating equity and quality across all states and territories.

Peter shared some interesting statistics that show a decline in our international testing results especially within the top bands.  The challenge will be reducing the achievement gaps across schools and more importantly within classes.

It’s widely acknowledged that the key to the success of the national curriculum will be good teachers.  As Peter says, the curriculum is only an enabler of good learning – it cannot replace the role of good teachers as moderators of learning.

One of the merits of the national curriculum will be access to a plethora of online resources such as the ABC National Archive, Australian Bureau of Statitistics and and hypotheticals from Geoffrey Robertson QC.

Peter presented the national curriculum as a 3D construct made up traditional subject disciplines,  general capalities (skillset for 21st century) and cross-curricula priorities (Asia, Indigenous studies and sustainability.

What was re-affirming was hearing ACARA’s long-term challenges post roll-out and implementation of the national curriculum.  These are:

  • building professional capacity and accountability
  • moving from a normative to a standardised reporting system
  • personalising the learning for every student

There is a clear alignment here to Professor Richard Elmore’s instructional core – the synergy between teacher, student and high quality content to improve student learning outcomes.

I liked Peter’s 3Ps of ‘personalising, precision and professionalism’, which served as a touchstone for his work on the national curriculum.  I think the traditional 3Rs may eventually be replaced by the 3Ps when we refer to contemporary schooling.

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