August 2018: What’s News in Education

The truth about effect sizes, new hurdles for teachers and principals, Chinese super-classes, an Aussie Fields Medallist and more.

Reading time: 6 minutes

The truth about effect sizes, new hurdles for teachers and principals, Chinese super-classes, an Aussie Fields Medallist and more.

Maths Education

From Dan Meyer: the curse and blessing of content knowledge.

What does it take to improve student interest and confidence in maths? Teachers who have coached teams in a mathematical modelling challenge share their insights.

“[A]bstract algebra and topology are typically reserved for math majors in their junior and senior years of college. Yet the philosophies of these subjects are very accessible, given the right mediums” — Carthage College math professor Sara Jensen, who is working to change students’ beliefs that there are ‘maths’ and ‘non-maths people’.

On the same topic: a team from Stanford, including Jo Boaler, has published research showing that an online and face-to-face professional development model has resulted in significant positive changes in student beliefs, teacher instructional practice, and maths test scores.

What’s behind the disparity between girls’ and boys’ uptake of advanced maths? Dr Helen Law has used a nationally representative sample of Australian students to examine the impact of educational experiences and occupational expectations.

A new paper out of the Office of the Chief Scientist has highlighted features that have enabled the most improved schools in Australia to make rapid progress in maths.

Maths is good for your healthcausation, or just correlation?

Early Childhood Through To Tertiary Education

“ [I]n 2018, there is still a fundamental duty to teach students content: concepts, facts and principles. Taught by teachers trained as experts in that content, with all the status and resources and professional development that we would demand in any other expert occupation.” — Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, in a speech to science teachers on ‘Raising twenty-first century citizens’.

Design thinking “represents a way of applying creativity to complex challenges”. Here’s what it can look like in practice for students.

“In a world where the very nature of work is changing all the time, assuming that tinkering with the edges of the education system will allow students to cope is fanciful in the extreme.” —teacher, James Bayard, on the need for an education system reboot.

The Quality Teaching Rounds program, lead by University of Newcastle Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, has received funding for further roll-out with teachers. This comes following promising results from a randomised control trial looking at improvements in teacher quality, morale, staff retention and job satisfaction from the program. Read more here from the research team.

Should we let economists play with education? A provocative question with a long-read response from teacher, Benjamin Doxtdator.

Heard of ‘not-schooling’? It challenges the one-size-fits-all approach to traditional schooling and encompasses alternatives that encourage “different educational initiatives and practices that ‘think outside the box’”. Read on.

The university experience is evolving. According to U.N.S.W., universities of the future will include bite-sized and on demand courses, and more classes delivered online. Read on.

A Window Into Some Schools & The People In Them

The Kaiela-Dhungala First People’s Curriculum has been developed by the local Principals’ network and Aboriginal community in the Shepparton region, and is bringing local history and culture of Indigenous people into the classroom.

And in more and more schools across Victoria, students are learning the local Aboriginal language.

Cobram Primary School has recently introduced ‘Every Minute Matters at Cobram’, an initiative that has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of unexplained and chronic student absences.

The Lindfield Learning Village is a new K-12 school opening in N.S.W. next year. Students at the school will have individual learning pathways that they will progress through based on curriculum stage, not age.

What’s it like to be a principal? A new book by Stephen Dinham, Kerry Elliott, Louisa Rennie and Helen Stokes provides detailed insights from 50 practising principals.

What’s it like to be a teacher? Maths Teacher and Year 9 Coordinator Mickie Tanner shares the details of a typical work day.

“I believe what the current educational narrative lacks is a reminder. Simply put, a reminder this profession is characterised by people who have a deep desire to make a difference in the life of a child. That is why we teach. We cannot be all things and yet we desperately try to be.” — a teacher comments on their frustration and hope for how we talk about education.

Education Policy & Politics

“[T]he central question in management theory and practice: how do you get your staff to do a good job and keep getting better?” Economist Ross Gittins explores this question and what it means in terms of the expectations placed on teachers.

A lack of confidence in the vocational education and training sector has lead to a 5.9% drop in enrollments in recent years. Read on. Research by Sue Thomson at ACER has found a decline in the proportion of 15 year-olds planning to do a TAFE diploma, compared with fifteen years ago. Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, puts forward a case for why VET still matters for young people today.

In a move to turn around the decline in students taking on advanced maths and science, Education Minister Simon Birmingham has announced a new plan that will require maths and science teachers to have studied those subjects at university. Here are some responses to the plan:

The Victorian Aspirant Principal Assessment is to become compulsory for all would-be state school principals across Victoria. “The scheme is designed to ensure teachers are prepared for the challenges of running a school in an increasingly complex environment where stress and burnout is common.”

The method used to calculate SES scores for schools has been reviewed by the National School Resourcing Board. The final report and associated research can be found here. A response and further analysis from Pete Goss is here.

Between 40 to 85 per cent of Indigenous people aged 15 have low literacy. Aunty Val Mulcahy who has been teaching for 23 years explains what this looks like in reality.

Education Around the World

China: The number of primary schools in China is dropping, yet the numbers of children enrolling is soaring, leading to situations of ‘super-classes’ with up to 70 students in a class.

The globe: the Global Partnership for Education supports children in conflict-affected parts of the world to get access to a quality education. Recent work has taken place in civil war ravaged Yemen and Ebola-affected Sierra-Leone.

India: Researcher Suman Sachdeva has identified seven principles that are needed to empower female teachers in India “to be effective agents of social change and become architects of girls’ empowerment”.

U.K.: Education secretary Damian Hinds has begun rolling out initiatives to help teachers reduce their workload.

U.S.A.: There’s more to standardised testing in the U.S. than meets the eye. This article explains the difference between intent and implementation of Common Core standards and what this meant for testing.

Evaluation & Research Practices

Are effect sizes robust or bogus? In this blog, Ollie Lovell provides a synthesis from conversations with John Hattie and Adrian Simpson.

Do a third of teachers leave the classroom within their first five years? Is it closer to half? Or is there something else going on entirely? Researcher Paul Weldon examines the evidence, definition, classification and measurement underlying teacher attrition.

Maths, Science & Tech

What really happens when we sleep? What happens if we don’t sleep enough? How does artificial light have an impact? This must-read article answers these questions and more.

SOURCE: National Geographic

Researchers from the CSIRO, Verily and James Cook University have successfully completed a trial to suppress one of the world’s most disease-spreading mosquitoes.

Adidas has joined other global companies, including Starbucks, McDonalds and IKEA, in pledging to reduce its use of plastic.

The team at Novoheart has developed a tiny human heart, in a jar. The heart will be able to be used for research to test the viability of drugs for humans.

Russian scientists have revived roundworms, which have been frozen in Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years. They are “the first multicellular organisms to have survived being frozen in Arctic permafrost.”

A new x-ray that has been 10 years in the making is able to “record the precise energy levels of the x-rays as they hit each particle in your body… translat[ing] those measurements into different colors representing your bones, muscles, and other tissues.”

“The ‘recommendation problem’ relates to how services like Amazon and Netflix determine which products you might like to try.” Eighteen year-old Ewin Tang has proven that classical computers can solve this problem with comparable performance to a quantum computer.

SOURCE: Math With Bad Drawings

“[T]here’s a special joy and challenge in surprising a mathematician. You’ve got to find some strangeness, some peculiar truth, which is intrinsic to logic itself. That’s no easy task — but damn, is it satisfying.” — mathematical philosopher and bad drawer, Ben Orlin.

Congratulations to Akshay Venkatesh, who has been announced as one of four awardees of this year’s Fields Medal. Venkatesh is the second Australian to win a Fields Medal, after Terence Tao in 2006.

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