July 2018: What’s News in Education

The 30 million word gap, ATAR obsessions, new research from East Germany and Cartesian-inspired fairy tales.

Reading time: 5 minutes

The 30 million word gap, ATAR obsessions, new research from East Germany and Cartesian-inspired fairy tales.

Maths Education

An integer board game from teacher, Cathy Yenca. The interesting question she poses is: what goal does the game serve? Are there helpful, and less helpful goals? You decide.

The latest Talking Teaching podcast features teacher and YouTube sensation, Eddie Woo. In the episode, Eddie discusses his approach to teaching maths, the role of technology and what role mindsets play in learning maths.

Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern Maine, on how maths education can learn from the teaching of Latin.

Where and when did maths teaching start? The book Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics by Andrew Warwick (and reviewed here) dives in.

Results from a small group maths program, The High 5s, for Kindergartners has shown promising results improving early mathematical competency. The research and implications are discussed here.

Two views on STEM education

1. “While the sciences teach us how to build things, it’s the arts and humanities that teach us what to build and why to build them” — Gavin Diamond, Australasian managing director for Bluewolf, on our over-reliance on STEM education.

2. A paper from the Australian Council for Educational Research argues that a policy response is needed to improve current challenges in STEM education.

Early Childhood Through To Tertiary Education

Is there a 30 million word gap between the most and least advantaged four year-old children? Recent research by Sperry, Sperry and Miller suggests that this is not the case. Another group of academics however, have taken issue with the research and argue that the word gap does exist. And from cognitive scientist, Daniel Willingham, is a close analysis of the research and its implications.

In the classroom, behaviour is communication. Teacher, Benjamin Doxtdator, on power, discipline and the lines of communication that exist between teacher and student.

Not all assessment is the same. David McDonald and Rod Lane from Macquarie University explain the difference between formative and summative assessment.

A six-year evaluation of the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching initiative has been completed. The initiative aimed to “dramatically improve student outcomes by increasing students’ access to effective teaching.” Participating schools successfully implemented new measures of teaching effectiveness, however they “did not achieve their goals for students.”

A new report from the Australian Council for Educational Research has shown that on average Australian students report “a poorer sense of belonging at school compared to students across the OECD”. Sue Thomson, Deputy CEO (Research) at ACER, explains the findings here.

A Swedish teaching model is coming to Victoria University. From 2020, all students at the university will be studying in block timetables, where one subject is attended for four intensive weeks, before starting the next one.

ATAR obsessions:

  • According to Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, Peter Dawkins, and Yong Zhao from the Mitchell Institute, “ATAR may not be on its way out, but it should be.” In their article, Dawkins and Zhao outline what ATAR can and can’t do.
  • The Australian National University is introducing co-curricular requirements alongside ATAR for entry into its courses starting from 2020. As RMIT academic Shane Duggan argues, however, this move will not help address socio-economic inequities in terms of which students are enrolling in or completing their degrees.

Over at The University of Melbournescholarships are being awarded to a student from every Victorian secondary school in a bid to increase the university’s diversity.

What proportion of 15 year-olds in O.E.C.D. countries expect to work as teachersAnswer: 4.4%. This is in comparison to 2.4% of the labour force that actually work as teachers.

Technology and learning are inseparable and always have been, and by understanding and embracing this connection by driving change in our technologies, we can shape pedagogical behaviour and lead academic innovation in our institutions.” — Professor Jonathan Powles, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic Innovation, University of New England

AltEd is a new Australian group that has been set up to bring together non-accredited ­educa­tion providers that are offering short courses in innovation, entrepreneurship and digital technology. Amongst the group’s aims are: to boost member profiles, and communicating with government to change the structure and regulations that exist in education.

A Window Into Some Schools & The People In Them

Remote-controlled robots are giving students in remote north-west Queensland the opportunity to interact face-to-face with their teachers and have a more personal educational experience.


Flexischools are programs or school sites “aimed at changing educational provision to meet the needs of young people”. In this article, academics Marnee Shay and Jo Lampert call for increasing the evidence base to understand the benefits of flexischools for Indigenous students and what mainstream schools can learn.

By individualising learning plans and analysing student resultsAranmore Catholic College and John Tonkin College in Perth have seen impressive academic improvements.

Finalists for the inaugural Australian Education Awards have been announced. The list includes teachers, department heads, principals schools and curriculum programs.

Students from Radford College in Canberra and Baulkham Hills High School in N.S.W. have represented Australia at the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge (IMMC). Their challenge? To work as a team in producing an original mathematical model that solves the question: How would you decide on the ‘best’ hospital to receive non-emergency treatment?

Education Policy & Politics

What impacts higher education retention and completion in Australia? A new report from the federal Department of Education and Training addresses the question.

The N.S.W. government has announced that due to a shortage of qualified maths and science teachers, it will be employing 900 extra teachers. The teachers will be employed in public schools in “Sydney suburbs under most pressure from population growth”.

Victorian news:

  • In a move that may even up the numbers of students distributed across state schools, the Victorian education department has said “that it would not deliver portable classrooms in 2019 to [state] schools where more than 50% of students live outside the local catchment area.”
  • New research from The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law on the educational outcomes for students with disabilities has identified two challenges for the Victorian Government’s inclusive education reform agenda: to “translat[e] legislative and policy imperatives into action in the school and classroom. …[and to temper increased school autonomy with effective oversight and accountability.”

NAPLAN isn’t going away. However, how data from the tests is publicised and used is going under scrutiny after an agreement was reached by the nation’s education ministers.

The Foundation for Young Australians has released The New Work Reality, a report looking at the barriers faced by young Australians when seeking to enter full-time work.

Education Around the World

Canada: Instead of the usual top-down approach, education officials in Alberta are speaking with parents across the province to hear what they would like to see in curriculum reforms.

England: shortage of maths teachers in England is more acutely affecting students in the most disadvantaged schools

Soviet-occupied East Germany: new research by Lippmann and Senik has found that the “gender-equal policies of East Germany reshaped the public’s sense of social norms and gender roles, with a resulting shift in girls’ performance in math — long after the end of the Soviet era.”

The Netherlands: Longer lessons, more choice over classes to attend, study time, and project days. Many Dutch schools are now tweaking the school timetable.

O.E.C.D.: How do different countries select, develop, evaluate and compensate teachers? What is the impact of these processes on educational equity and teacher retention? A new O.E.C.D. report explains.

Evaluation & Research Practices

Correlation is not causation — and it “is a slippery concept that has been debated by philosophers for millennia”. Read on for puzzles that explore the concept.

Effect sizes: good or bad? In response to Adrian Simpson’s four criticisms of effect sizes, Evidence for Learning have written this piece on the magic of meta-analyses.

Nearly two decades ago, the How People Learn report was released. The report “chronicled and explained the way our understanding of learning changed during the twentieth century”. However its contents have failed to have a deep impact on how learning still occurs in schools. Why? Read on.

Maths, Science & Tech

You didn’t know you needed it… if fairy tales were graphs.

SOURCE: Math With Bad Drawings

Sci-fi or real?

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