March 2018 Edition: What’s News In Education

Teaching fundamentals, hot topics in educational politics, counting frogs, and more.

SOURCE: Esther Aarts

Maths Education

Your pedagogy fix:

  • Dan Meyer has shared some of his favourite instructional routines, including ‘Two truths, one lie’. It’s a beauty. And here are recommended routines from Jo Boaler and others.
  • What do you notice? What do you wonder? What’s going on in this graph? Three simple, but illuminating questions posed by the NY Times each month to students. Check out all the colour and literary detail in the latest graph.
  • There are some areas of maths, like fractions, that are notoriously difficult to teach and to learn. Here’s how schemas can help — and hinder.
  • To what extent does memorisation matter in maths? Read on.
  • What is (and isn’t) algorithmic thinking? And how can it be taught? Ask no more.
  • Maths is fun, joyful, intriguing and more. So why not bring some of theserandom acts of maths into your life?
  • How can we help students to embrace maths and its beauty? Probably not by paying them.

“How can it be possible to take a small group of students, still in high school, and make solid progress on a major mathematical problem? …The answer is, in today’s world, everyone has access to the same rich toolset the professionals use. …You just have to know how to make effective use of them.” — Keith Devlin, on the potential for impact with mathematical problem solving.

Early Childhood Through To Tertiary Education

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Here are five things a teacher wished he knew when he started teaching. In a similar vein, what are your teaching fundamentals? Check out this considered list, and approach to honing your craft.

“Successful learning is most likely when learners are presented with appropriate levels of challenge. … [Under a reorganised curriculum,] what it means to learn successfully would be defined not in terms of year-level curriculum expectations, but with reference to a hierarchy of proficiency levels through which students would progress throughout their time at school.” — Geoff Masters, on rethinking the school curriculum.

Some thoughts on innovation and change in education:

  • How innovation can be done meaningfully and usefully in the context of early childhood education.
  • What are the external and internal factors that explain why change in schools is such a gradual process? Read on.

Dr Jane Hunter, an academic at the University of Technology Sydney, is researching equity in STEM education. Hunter has explained, “ We know that STEM subjects are integral to the jobs of the future, but we still have schools that have unreliable WiFi.” Read on.

A Window Into Some Schools & The People In Them

Nine senior secondary students from across Victoria have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to their schools and communities with VCE Leadership Awards.

Over the last three years, three schools have been successfully running The Geelong Project to help stop young people on the brink of homelessness, and get them back into school. An interim report on the project can be found here.

Education Policy & Politics

New reports that you should know about:

  • Innovation and Science Australia’s Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation outlines a strategic plan for innovation, science and research in Australia from now until 2030. Among the five strategic imperatives of the plan is: “Education: Respond to the changing nature of work by equipping all Australians with skills relevant to 2030”.
  • What’s the Commonwealth’s role in improving schools? A new report by the Grattan Institute warns against policies that increase red-tape and destroy policy coherence. Instead, it argues for four smaller reforms that can make a genuine contribution.
  • The annual report on Australia’s school principals’ health and well-beinghas just been released. In addition to outlining findings, the report gives recommendations for actions that can be taken by government, employers, professional associations, unions and others. Read a comment on the report here and here.

The Prime Minister’s 2018 ‘Closing the Gap’ Report has been released:

  • The report can be found here, and includes detail on Indigenous children’s enrolment in early childhood education, school attendance, numeracy and literacy attainment, and Year 12 attainment.
  • “new research by the Grattan Institute shows that for some groups of Indigenous students, the difference [with non-Indigenous students] is more a gulf than a gap.”
  • The Close the Gap Campaign has released a paper responding to Government action over the past ten years, emphasising that 2030 targets won’t be met unless strategic changes are made.
  • “The dynamics of our school system — rather than promoting inclusion and equity — are increasingly putting Indigenous students in a ‘class of their own’. …The evidence presented in this discussion paper suggests that the capacity of our school system to act as catalyst for inclusion, equity and opportunity for Indigenous students is weakening.”

It wouldn’t be a month of edu-news, without mention of NAPLAN. This month is particularly juicy.

  • The validity and usefulness of NAPLAN has been brought into question by Queensland’s Education Minister and education academics. Here’s what other state education ministers are saying.
  • Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, is cautiously standing by the benefits of NAPLAN.
  • Meanwhile, N.S.W. Education Minister Rob Stokes has said that the state “will no longer force year 9 students to score three band 8s in NAPLAN to qualify for the HSC”, back-flipping on a controversial policy implemented in 2017.

On government funding for schools:

On the politics of early childhood education:

The N.S.W. Minister of Education will shortly be releasing a response to the New South Wales parliamentary inquiry in to the education of children with a disability or special needs. The inquiry, which produced 38 recommendations, could pave the way for important changes in the state.

South Australia is getting into election season. To get students ready for ‘jobs of the future’, “if re-elected in next month, the state Labor party has promisedto invest $6.7 million in a program to train teachers in coding.”

Tasmanian Government policy for all high schools offer year 11 and 12 courses by 2022 is anything but simple in its implementation. Read on.

In education news in Victoria:

  • The Government has announced a new allocation of funding, including resources and training for schools, to help tackle bullying and reduce the risk of suicides.
  • What I’m most interested in, in this article on the Education State Targets, is how the precise percentage of student achievement in Critical and Creative Thinking has been calculated. And whether the differences in the space of one year are statistically significant.

An explicit instruction program, aimed at rapidly increasing literacy and numeracy skills, has received funding for a multi-year roll-out in schools across Western Australia.

How can science and politics work together? According to Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, these four things are needed.

Education Around the World

France: ‘free’ and ‘teacher-less’ are not the usual descriptors you’d hear for a university. But at Ecole 42, a programming school, this is exactly apt.

Mexico: a method of doing maths, invented thousands of years ago by the Mayans, is being reintroduced in a bid to provide much-needed support for students’ numeracy skills. Check it out how it works here.

New Zealand: the N.Z. government has announced a three-year program to review “Tomorrow’s Schools”, a system of self-governing schools introduced in 1989.

The O.E.C.D.Analysis from the O.E.C.D. highlights “ways primary and lower secondary teachers differ across a range of system-level indicators and why it matters, not only for the quality of teaching in the classroom, but also for the attractiveness of teaching as a profession.”

U.S.A. #1: “There was a time in my career when we encouraged teachers to keep their doors open, let the learning spill out, fill the halls with the sounds of excited exploration. Now, it’s silence.” The reality of teaching in an era of school shootings.

U.S.A. #2: In the U.S.A, districts have much authority over schools, however the Hempstead school district on Long Island has long faced problems of educational dysfunction and poor results. Now the district has one last chance to prove itself, or else the State Department of Education will step in and take over.

The World #1: a new World Bank Global Dataset on Education Quality (1965–2015) presents “the largest and most current globally comparable dataset on education quality, …cover[ing] more than 90 percent of the world’s population.”

The World #2: On innovation in education– teachers who deeply understand the reality, complexity, and scale of the problems faced in under-resourced classrooms around the world are uniquely placed to address them.

Evaluation & Research Practices

Do you have an interest or opinion on statistical bias, meta-analysis, the challenge of small sample sizes, and the reliability of statistical significance as a measure of success in empirical research? What are you waiting for? Listen to this podcast with John Ioannidis of Stanford University.

Maths, Science & Tech

This photo, ‘Single Atom In An Ion Tap’, has been awarded top prize by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s prestigious science photography contest:

That tiny speck in the middle of the photo is a strontium atom. SOURCE.

Science you’ve been waiting for…

(1) The “surprisingly sophisticated number-sense” of the túngara frog and other animals. (2) A fake star — likened to a giant disco ball — has been criticised for being launched into space. (3) Archaeologists have found that “a ‘lost’ Mexican city built by rivals to the Aztecs has as many buildings as Manhattan and was home to around 100,000 people.” (4) Artificial intelligence is being used to detect 17 times more earthquakes than previous methods, and in a fraction of the time. (5) Looking for a new physical challenge? The longest straight line on Earth you can walk without getting your feet wet in a lake, sea or ocean is 13,589 km and goes from China to Liberia.

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