Crikey



Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

Whenever I watch my six-year-old nephew write, read, make things or play games, I ask myself how long before his enthusiasm for learning is drummed out of him.

And whenever he asks peculiar questions or presents hilarious takes on the world, I again ask how long before he clams up, […]

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16 Responses

Comments page: 1 |
  1. It’s all teachers fault”?

    by klewso on Jul 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm

  2. As a newly graduated teacher in science. Would add that the year 8-10 science curriculum is high on definitions and facts and low on engaging themes. It seems to suffer from the fact that the writers of the curriculum want to train professionals in their area and not equip students to understand the world.

    by Matt Hardin on Jul 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm

  3. The problem is the terms of employment. Many talented teachers are so demoralised they leave the profession… you would, too, when it’s usually politicians, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs and opinion columnists telling you they have all the answers (no offence intended).

    by pinkocommierat on Jul 14, 2014 at 3:24 pm

  4. I do not know if I should say I am a former teacher - I did teach for one year and gave it up as a bad joke. There is no discipline and the teacher is treated like $hit by the kids and like $hit by the education system. That is why the profession does not attract quality applicants.
    The education system has been deliberately dumbed down. Control deliberately taken away from the teachers. I guess there were too many kids in the 1970s from working class suburbs taking up prestige places at Univ’s.
    Making learning ‘fun’ and ‘joyful’ is not the answer. Streaming is! The current system works on the basis of one size fits all. That can never work. Business wants workers who can ‘take instructions’ - not kids who know nothing and want to keep asking WHY.

    by Robert Jameson on Jul 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm

  5. Kind of a romantic view. Those kids who want to learn don’t ever lose their desire to but sadly puberty is a time of “NO”. Basically you could say what a beautiful day it was and their automatic response is “NO” or “whatever”. I appreciate that some teachers are better then others etc but I didn’t mind tests when I was at school and I didn’t mind learning and I didn’t mind being there, actually loved it but I was odd. Up until year 10 I was surrounded by NO but once they had left and I was in Yr 11 that all stopped. Sadly, thanks to John Howard, kids, who want to learn don’t have that freedom when they hit yr 11. No matter who, or what, teacher they have.

    by Delerious on Jul 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm

  6. So teaching is beyond the reach of rational processes and entirely in the hands of ‘creative’ individuals? How then do you account for the now voluminous research evidence that tells us that teachers ‘matter’ and that meany of them don’t know how to do it?

    by Richard Smith on Jul 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm

  7. I have much respect for teachers with passion and interest and a keenness to share their knowledge with hormone-addled teenagers. Being at the coal face, Chris of course knows of what he speaks - but I do wonder if it was ever thus?

    by laughlovenjoy on Jul 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm

  8. After 30+ years in the classroom, I agree with Chris to the extent that there is an overemphasis on testing, with NAPLAN at Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, entrance tests for Year 6 into selective schools, Year 10 SC exams, and the big cahuna - the HSC. That a student’s entire future could depend on that single event is undeniably false, but the perception is that it does!
    Why do people continue to believe that the HSC is a “single chance” for students? There are endless possibilities after HSC.
    Why do people (parents in particular) seem to believe that a University education is more important than a trade? I know sparkies who I treasure far more than my GP.

    by John Attwood on Jul 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm

  9. Pupils’ appetite for knowledge was suppressed long before the ‘relentless regime of testing’ was mandated in Australian secondary education. It is also observed in many other countries; Foucault would argue that it is part of the nature and purpose of schooling.

    by Gavin Moodie on Jul 14, 2014 at 9:01 pm

  10. I will tell you that governments definitely do not understand the problems. They would rather we walk in Grey Moderand. I have taught for over 20 years and came to the game in my late 30s. I have two kids who were great at science. One works in Earth Sciences, but the other gave it up because of a teacher clash, However, my favourite school subject, Chemistry has become a boring nonsense becasue we refuse to exclude unsafe students from the lab. Instead, we dumb down and make a wonderful subject boring due to rubbish pracs. God forbid, we may make a few slightly risky materials. We may not use in a lab what the kids paint themselves with out of class. Remove the wonder, lose the plot. I often discussed this dumbing down with my far distant uncle who proclaimed curses upon such things. He was a pretty good chemist, the only Australian Nobel Laureate in the field. MAybe he had something?

    by old greybeard on Jul 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

  11. A high ATAR does not guarantee a great teacher but a low ATAR pretty much guarantees a poor teacher. Research shows that the quality of the teacher in the classroom is the most important factor in student achievement

    by Margaret Ludowyk on Jul 14, 2014 at 9:59 pm

  12. I don’t believe in grand theory: we cannot say that one factor isn’t significant. ATAR scores do reflect a level of competence that must be considered. Current curriculum structures are flexible enough to allow good teachers to create fun and interesting lessons. I would suggest that of greatest concern, and what is most often neglected in the debate, should be the amount of time Australian teachers spend in the classroom. A look at OECD data indicates some Australian schools and systems require their teachers in class between 25 and 40% more than the OECD average (along with teaching up to 200 different students per week in the secondary context). We need more creativity from teachers, but that can’t happen when teachers spend all their time in front of the class. And until this issue is included in the debate, we will fail our young people.

    by Steve Passey on Jul 15, 2014 at 9:24 am

  13. Klewso:
    You have hit the nail on the head. The upshot here (yet again!) is that teachers are to blame. The solution apparently is to be more passionate…. Could you imagine talking in this way about any other industry?

    This kind of thinking and talking REINFORCES the status quo: If the teachers are to blame (not “smart enough” or skilled enough” “lazy”) then we legitimize the idea that there is no need to use research to improve the way in which classrooms and schools are structured. No need to put more money in to improve outcomes because its the teachers not doing their job.

    I believe that the only way to make any inroads in improving education (by this I mean using the research to base policy decision-making and spending) is through non-partisan educational policy. This was the reason for such huge and almost instant improvement in Hong Kong and many of the other countries that are now lauded as models.

    All we have in the way of policy debate is about education is “vague content wars” (Donnelly) and “we have proven that class size reduction has no effect on learning outcomes because class size has reduced in Australia from 24 to 21…” (Pyne). This kind of talk is not based on research, but, is pure ideology.

    Only when education is de-politicized can improvement be made it would seem. Sadly, as everything is now politicized and/or left to the domain of personal belief little will change.

    We live in a world now where disagreeing with research/evidence because the research does not support my world-view is socially acceptable.

    The weakness of the educational is the fault of government and policy makers NOT teachers.

    by William Byron on Jul 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm

  14. High ATARs won’t necessarily lead to teachers with the sterling qualities listed? Course not. But as someone who has helped prepare teacher candidates for decades those with a low ATAR will struggle to teach in ways that demonstrate creativity etc. Plenty of capacity in the mind department makes it easier to do all jobs with high cognitive demands.

    And it would be a good idea to stop banging on about testing. The ideas are picked up from commentary on the US where testing really has gone crazy. In Australia tests are given at years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and are not high stakes for students or teachers but they are for schools. It is a good idea to find out whether any activity is effective. Testing is necessary. Resisting appropriate testing is advertising that you are not interested in protecting the public but rather regard teaching as some sort of paid hobby that can be conducted as the individual pleases. Nope.

    by Catherine Scott on Jul 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm

  15. Classrooms are not the place to fight political battles.
    Politicians, trying to mark their territory, with their personal ideology, their budget cuts and blame-games should butt out - put the kids first and resource their teachers, to do their teaching - not stress them.
    This is an investment in our future.
    League tables are for football.

    by klewso on Jul 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm

  16. Well, if you ask me Chris, this article is just another smoke-filled, snake-oil lubricated, Jerry Maguire moment. And despite all the romance and passion etc, what made everyone really happy in the end of that story? ‘Show me the money!’. You need to get your hands dirty a bit and air our laundry for all to see. For instance, expose the gross and fraudulent merit selection process that is placing retrained PE teachers into permanent Maths positions en masse ahead of experienced mathematics teachers with actual math degrees. There’s a lot of grubby stuff going on, as you well know, and dream like telluric quotes from Bertrand Russell (despite being an absolute genius), are not very helpful.

    by Itsarort on Jul 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm

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