September 2018: What’s News in Education

Mathematical puzzles and photos galore, the missing right to literacy, what school exams do and don’t mean, and more.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Mathematical puzzles and photos galore, the missing right to literacy, what school exams do and don’t mean, and more.

Maths Education

This listing of maths puzzles isn’t new, but it’s brilliant — and updated regularly. Thank you Jeremy Hughes!

Looking for some maths photo inspiration to drive number talks, unit chats or other mathematically thought-provoking discussions? Check out #mathphoto18 (and all the fun on twitter here) – 10 weeks of crowd-sourced maths photography.

What are the right lessons for maths class to learn from video gamesDan Myer dives in.

Research conducted by teacher Sarah Ferguson and academics Jill Cheeseman and Andrea McDonough gives insight into how young students perceive maths learning and what they value. Read on.

How can you use a maths activity to build classroom normsChase Orton explains the power of pair drawings.

Research lead by Adriana Madzharov at the Stevens Institute of Technology has found that the scent of coffee helps people to perform better on analytical maths tasks and to increase their expectations of how they will perform.

According to Barbara Oakley, engineering professor, focusing on mathematical understanding over fluency in maths education “hurts all students, but it may be hurting girls the most”. A brief rebuttal here from Dan Finkel, and a longer response here from Emma Gargroetzi.

Maths teacher and innovator Craig Barton features on the Education Research Reading Room podcast in two detailed interviews. Check out part 1 here and part 2 here.

Early Childhood Through To Tertiary Education

“We know that in every cohort of students, there’ll be students who race ahead and students who fall behind. … And teachers do their best to give the faster learners an extra challenge, and the slower learners extra support. That’s an enormous thing to ask of a single teacher. AI can help to shoulder that task. In the hands of a gifted teacher, it can tailor the level of the challenge to the learning needs of the individual. And that’s the way it’s being used in Australian schools: not as a substitute teacher, as a teaching tool.” — Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel

Research out of PISA 2015:

  • What are Australian students’ expectations for education beyond school? How does this compare to other O.E.C.D. nations? Read on.
  • Across the O.E.C.D., Australian principals have “reported the largest disparity in the provision of teacher resources” (i.e. shortages of teachers and of teachers with relevant qualifications). Read on.

Yarning the Way presents research out of the University of Newcastle on the role of Indigenous education paraprofessionals in enabling post-school educational futures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. Read the report here.

A celebrity tweets that failing school exams didn’t affect his success. Headmistress, Katharine Birbalsingh, explains what is wrong with this claim: “When the media and the public insist that exam results don’t matter, that you can own two Range Rovers while failing out of school, it makes a teacher’s job impossible. This is particularly the case for teachers who work with kids who believe street life is glamorous and you-tubing is their dream.”

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is just for trades. VET is the option for low academic scores. Jobs of the future need more than a VET education. These are just some of the misconceptions that exist about the VET sector, and which have been addressed by the Foundation for Young Australians here.

The end of the ATAR?

  • In a move against problematic aspects of the ATAR-system, Flinders University and Adelaide University are implementing measures to encourage students to “pursue school subjects that best prepare them for their preferred uni courses — not the ones that will maximise their Year 12 marks.”
  • School principal Briony Scott predicts that the ATAR will be gone within 10 years. Scott explains that ATARs are being byspassed by universities, do not help schools to learn about how they’re going and are attached to a curriculum that’s inflexible for students and teachers.

The tertiary education sector is looking to the future…

While we’re being future-focused, here’s what Luyen Chou, Chief Product Officer at Trilogy Education and former teacher, sees as the four megatrends shaping global education.

A Window Into Some Schools & The People In Them

HackEd is an annual event where students work together to find “sustainable, innovative and practical solutions to ‘real-world’ issues facing organisations in their community”. For the first time, this year students from Kalgoorlie in regional W.A. participated in the event.

Students from Radford College have won the 2018 International Mathematical Modeling Challenge. In their submission, the team developed a model of ‘The Best Hospital’. Observations from the judges can be read here.

Traralgon College has been nominated for three Australian Excellence in Education Awards, including Innovation in Curriculum Design, Best Co-Curricular Program and Education Rising Star of the Year.

Education Policy & Politics

Australia’s new Prime Minister has brought with him a cabinet reshuffle. Simon Birmingham has left the role of Minister for Education, and has been replaced by Dan Tehan. Here’s an introduction to Tehan.

The ACT government has unveiled the Future of Education project, “a 10-year road map to bring personalised learning to the centre of every school in the territory — and the product of 18 months of conversations with the community”.

Coding is set to become compulsory from 2019 for students in primary and early high school in N.S.W.

How can Australia get ahead in STEM education? It’s not up to just schools to tackle alone. Instead, “a more cohesive relationship between government, industry, universities and schools” is what’s needed, writes Renee Cawthorne.

The Tasmanian government has signed the state’s first Quality Teaching Declaration. The declaration presents a commitment “to increase educational outcomes, raise the status of the teaching profession, and ensure that Tasmania’s future workforce are skilled and job-ready”.

Another month, another round of NAPLAN articles:

  • Concerns were raised earlier in the month about the validity of comparing the old pen-and-paper tests with new online tests.
  • Jim Tognolini, from the Educational Measurement and Assessment Hub at the University of Sydney, argues that the issue is a storm in a teacup. The real concern, he notes, is the misuse of NAPLAN data for comparing students.
  • From ACARA CEO, Rob Randall: “We’re confident in the data. We wouldn’t release this data if we weren’t confident.” You can also see some of the results here.

The VCE exams won’t be rushing over to an online format any time soon due to threats of power outages. According to the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority chief executive David Howes, “The sticking point with VCE is ensuring that no students are disadvantaged, which means ensuring that power supply is continuous”.

Results of the longitudinal surveyHousehold, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), have been released for 2018. HILDA is a nationally-representative survey, which analyses “the dynamics of the health and education of individuals, their labour market experiences, and the income they receive.”

Education Around the World

Canada: The British Columbia senior school curriculum is getting a revamp. Changes will include a “focus on competencies, big ideas and learning standards”.

Japan: The Ministry of Education is planning to place English-speaking robots in around 500 schools in order to help students improve their English oral communication skills.

South Korea: The country’s youth unemployment rate is the highest in nearly 20 years.

U.S.A.: Do children have a right to literacy? According to a federal judge, it appears the answer is no.

Evaluation & Research Practices

What does ‘evidence-based teaching’ actually mean? And how does it work in practice? Geoff Masters from ACER explains.

Improvement cycles are a way of evaluating the impact that changes in a school have. Here’s an example from Evidence for Learning of how the cycle can work:

Education News September 2018
SOURCE: Evidence for Learning, 2018

And from Mary Tate at Queensland University of Technology, here’s why innovations are hard to properly implement.

Maths, Science & Tech

The first ‘unhackable’ quantum video call has taken place between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The communications breakthrough “will have a huge impact on the way sensitive information is shared”.

It was National Science Week during August. As part of the week’s festivities and events, came this piece on Australian science leaders.

Move over Silicon Valley. A partnership between the N.S.W. government and Atlassian will see a new tech innovation hub develop in Sydney.

“Math and poetry share at least one thing in common: they’re seen as obscure.” — Ben Orlin


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