Over the past few months, there has been vigorous debate over Joel Klein’s New York model for school improvement and the indications that it will serve as a model for improving schooling here.
It is clear when you read the for and against arguments that we each have a different understanding of quality education. Teachers want to develop the whole person, governments want to ensure schools produce competent citizens.
The tension exists when you attempt to apply a one-size fits all model. We cannot take a ‘shot-gun’ approach to improving schooling, hoping to hit as many targets in the process. We need to look at hitting the most important target – the one that delivers real results in the long-term.
John Hattie, Professor of Education at the University of Auckland has just published Visible Learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-anaylses relating to achievement.
Hattie has spent the past 15 years researching effective models of learning and teaching. And what is known is ‘what teachers do matters’. To quote Hattie:
What is most important is that teaching is visible to the student, and that the learning is visible to the teacher. The more the student becomes the teacher and the more the teacher becomes the learner, then the more successful are the outcomes. (p25)
If governments seek an education system that is equitable and accountable, then we must start with ‘visible learning and teaching’ in every classroom.
As Professor Ken Robinson says ‘raising academic standards alone will not solve the problems we face’. We cannot undermine our investment in teachers or students by introducing school report cards and high-stakes testing as key drivers for improvement.
The major focus has to be on teachers’ learning and this needs commitment, resourcing and recognition that it is the most critical piece of an improvement strategy. The data then is contextualised as it becomes an integral part of teachers’ learning not a narrow judgment of them. Our students, teachers and school communities deserve much more.