What price common sense?

On Monday night, I was fortunate to attend a lecture hosted by Sydney University by Professor Linda Darling Hammond from Stanford University. Professor Darling Hammond is one of the leading educational thinkers today.

Listening to Darling Hammond, I was struck by the simplicity of her message and the common sense approach to schooling.  In a very short time, she contextualised the nature of a changing world and the demands these changes will place on citizens of today and tomorrow.

She then went on to debunk many of the supposed silver bullets to improve schooling that have now been relegated to the dust bins of irrelevancy.  Take for example, her view on what we need to do to improve teaching:

1. have professional teaching standards guiding evaluation and development
2. have strong clinical preparation
3. have expert mentoring and coaching
4. have sustained professional development in collaborative professional communities
5. have career ladders that develop and spread expertise

Notice, there is no mention of merit pay for teachers!

Obviously this common sense requires some strategic implementation processes but if we don’t follow this advice we will continue to de-skill our teachers.

Darling Hammond also broadened the debate on school improvement by pointing out what the high achieving nations are doing to support schools.  These are:

1. having societal supports for children’s welfare
2. ensuring equitable resources with greater investments in high need schools
3. substantial investments in initial teacher education and ongoing support
4. have schools designed to support teacher and student learning
5. ensure equitable access to a rich thinking curriculum
6. performance assessments focussed on higher order skills

Common sense lessons from a common sense educator.

I also believe Professor Darling Hammond will be interviewed on Stateline tonight at 7.30pm on ABC One.

2 thoughts on “What price common sense?

  1. Whilst I agree with these points, there is one other significant difference between what we are doing and what is occuring in highly achieving nations which has yet again been left out. That is the value they place on Early Childhood Development. Why is it that policy makers associated with schooling hold onto traditional notions that education begins wth traditional, industrialist notions that education and learning begins with ‘formalised schooling’? Early Childhood is internationally agreed as 0-7 years which ironically crosses into those traditional formal years. Yet, even with internationally accepted scientific findings to do with brain research and critical brain periods educational change is still often only associated with formalised schooling. When we look at the higher achieving countries there are significant differences between their own and Australia’s Early Childhood policies such as school entry age and access to quality Preschool placements.
    It is encouraging though to note that the National Australian Curriculum (AC) and the National Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) have been written to compliment one another. However, do teachers in schools familiarise themselves with this framework? Given that it will be extrapolated upon in the AC why don’t most teachers know about it? This is the first flaw in cohesiveness.
    In my mind we need to add to the Darling Hammond’s list;
    Exploring a nationally agreed school entry age across Australia taking into consideration if the draft curriculum are developmentally appropriate for 4 and a half year olds. The draft states it has been written with 5 year olds in mind. Broadly speaking this already marginalises the 4 year old.
    Access to provision of QUALITY Early Childhood placements for all Australian children
    Addressing vulnerabilities identified in the Australian Early Childhood Index (AEDI) http://www.rch.org.au/aedi/index.cfm?doc_id=13051by including policies to fund specialists for schools to address developmental delays.
    Acknowledgement that learning does not begin with formalised learning institutions but encompasses communities and learning prior to school entry.
    We almost have the recipe but need to ensure that all the ingredients are included and in the correct quantity. Early Childhood years are the MOST significant years and need to be addressed in any conversation about comparisons between higher achieving nations. As you say, common sense!

  2. The NSW Institute of Teachers’ accreditation process complements the views of Professor Darling Hammond and some of her suggestions are already in practice. The establishment of Professional Teaching Standards in NSW has provided opportunities for greater consistency and support of all beginning teachers. Although this process can shortsightedly be treated as an additional administrative requirement, many schools have embraced the opportunities that it has provided to promote collaborative and reflective practice in their school communities and to develop all teachers, (not just New Scheme Teachers). The imminent introduction of a national accreditation system could guide career path planning and professional development for all teachers in the future. Not all teachers are aware of the variety of career paths possible in teaching and career development can often be on a very ad hoc basis. Promotion of a variety of professional pathways supported by access to appropriate PD as well as the introduction of The National Professional Standard for Principals could assist in developing long term PD plans for our aspiring leaders.

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