Gonski 2.0 —the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools— was familiar reading to over 200 pioneering Australian schools, who have been using a Learning and Teaching Model already aligned to a large number of the recommendations within the report.
The Learning and Teaching Model is presently available for mathematics, and data from over 40,000 students using the model validates the Gonski 2.0 report findings: students excel when given the opportunity to learn with an individualised, continuum based, and growth-focused model.
Developed by teachers in 2013, Australian education company Maths Pathway has been championing the power of a growth-based approach and individualised learning to Australian schools for the past five years. Maths Pathway partner schools leverage technology to take the legwork out of delivering an individualised curriculum to their students. This frees up time so that teachers can deliver targeted teaching for every student.
Important findings and recommendations of the Gonski 2.0 report fall into a number of key areas that the Maths Pathway model addresses directly:
Finding 4: Teaching curriculum based on a year or age levels rather than levels of progress leaves some students behind and fails to extend others, limiting the opportunity to maximise learning growth for all students.
Finding 5: Reporting against year-level achievement standards hides both progress and attainment for some students and does not amount to a diagnostic assessment of real learning needs which—if met—would lead to growth in learning
The Maths Pathway model is centred on a continuum approach to learning. This means that students are not restricted to content because of their age or year level. Instead, students focus on work that they are actually ready for. Because of this, students in lower years are free to work on higher curriculum level content, and students with gaps in their knowledge can access lower level content needed to build a strong foundation.
With this in mind, it is misleading to report on a student's attainment against the curriculum level they are 'supposed' to be working at for their year. This form of reporting does not recognise their actual effort or the growth made in learning. A focus on growth measures how much learning a student has achieved, irrespective of their starting point. This directly aligns with the first finding and first recommendation of the Gonski 2.0 report:
Finding 1: Achieving educational excellence in Australian schools will require a focus on achievement through learning growth for all students, complemented by policies which support an adaptive, innovative and continuously improving education system.
Recommendation 1: Embed a focus on individual student achievement through continuous learning progress in the policies and practices of all schools and systems, with the expectation that each student should achieve at least one year’s growth throughout each year of schooling.
For students at Maths Pathway partner schools, growth is the central metric that they see and are assessed on, leveling the playing field, and ensuring that for every student data that they receive on their learning reflects their own development. This data is easily accessible for both students and their parents, which aligns with recommendation 4 of the Gonski 2.0 report:
Recommendation 4: Introduce new reporting arrangements with a focus on both learning attainment and learning gain, to provide meaningful information to students and their parents and carers about individual achievement and learning growth.
Finding 7: There is compelling evidence, in Australian schools and internationally, that tailored teaching based on ongoing formative assessment and feedback are the key to enabling students to progress to higher levels of achievement.
Ongoing formative assessment, and regular feedback sessions are core components of the Maths Pathway model. A students in a Maths Pathway partner school will complete a formative assessment around every two weeks, which focuses on the learning they have done over that time. Following this assessment, the student sits with their teacher individually to go over results, discuss progress, and work together to set goals for their next cycle of work.
This collaborative goal setting between the teacher and the student, combined with the choice that students have in the content they are learning, allows Maths Pathway partner schools to deliver on recommendation three of the Gonski 2.0 report:
Recommendation 3: Ensure all students have the opportunity within schools to be partners in their own learning.
Another focus of the Gonski 2.0 report was calling for changes to the way the collective pedagogy of the Australian education system evolves over time:
Recommendation 10: Accelerate the development of contemporary pedagogy through the use of collaboration, mentoring, observation and feedback, including from colleagues and students, by incorporating these practices into the core role of teachers and creating the conditions to enable teachers to engage in them.
Maths Pathway incorporates current educational research, as well as both qualitative and quantitative data from our schools, into the ongoing development of the Learning and Teaching Model. This flexible, and reflective approach has the main aim of supporting all students to have the best possible outcomes in mathematics.
An important aspect of the Maths Pathway model is that it does not deliver itself. Teachers are the drivers of change and success in the classroom. Accordingly, all teachers using the Maths Pathway model engage in professional learning that incorporates best practice research on teaching mathematics, teaching students at their point of need, supporting students to develop growth mindsets, and helping students develop skills and habits for effective learning. Gonski 2.0 underscores that ongoing professional learning is an integral part of a well functioning learning system:
Finding 8: Research and experience internationally confirms that ongoing professional development for teachers—some mandated by the school or system, and some through participation in professional learning communities—is an essential part of a teacher’s workload in high-performing education systems.
Recommendation 13: Create a continuously improving profession through the provision high-quality professional learning for teachers; appropriate to their career stage, development needs and the changes rapidly occurring in society.
Maths Pathway follows a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach to professional development, which allows schools to tap into the collective knowledge of their own community. In addition, teachers across the Maths Pathway community are connected through online forums, webinars, conferences,and regional meetings. This shared space allows the sharing of ideas and resources, growing and refining the collective teacher efficacy of the whole Maths Pathway community.
One of the most powerful, but difficult to implement recommendations of the Gonski 2.0 report was the call for an online tool to handle student data tracking and assessment:
Recommendation 11: Develop a new online and on demand student learning assessment tool based on the Australian Curriculum learning progressions.
For mathematics education, something that can deliver this (and more) already exists. The Maths Pathway online tool is used by thousands of teachers every day. It provides live learning and assessment data, with easy access to reporting software and student learning profiles.
Following the release of the Gonski 2.0 report, there has been some criticism from commentators in the education sector. Some have claimed that the implementation of the ideas contained within the report are unrealistic, unproven, or too expensive to be worthwhile. This is not borne out in the experience of Maths Pathway partner schools, who are experiencing significant success in delivering a modern, growth-based education model.
For more information on the learning that takes place at Maths Pathway partner schools, and what the impact of adopting the Gonski 2.0 recommendations could look like, see the key findings from the Maths Pathway 2018 Impact Report