What do we teach for?

Last week I got to hear Charles Fadel speak on 21st Century education. I really enjoyed listening to what he had to say. He has one of those accents that really soothes and you kind of ‘get hooked’ in before you know it. There were many things he said that resonated with me and that I really and truly believe are very important at this time. I was chuffed to hear him say things that I have been trying to say for ages, though not as eloquently as he did the other day. Along with Fadel we also heard comment from the Principal of Haileybury and the Head of Mathematics at John Monash. Between them and the audience there were many comments I thought worthy of publishing below:

  • Alvin-Toffer-on-21st-century-learningFuturists describe the world as VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous
  • to be successful in the 21st Century one will not need knowledge as much as they will need skills and character attributes
  • “Assessments are not a bad thing,” says Fadel, “bad assessments are stupid. How and what we measure makes a difference.”
  • The ATAR score is the brick wall of education
  • Humanities and Arts is what makes your life worth living!
  • Core subjects get you a job BUT the Arts get you through it!
  • STEM could become STEAM with the addition of the ARTS!
  • Let’s get rid of AusVELS and introduce a superVUCA curriculum!
  • It’s not enough to just depend on what kids know about technology, we must be their moral and ethical guides.
  • There is a need to break down the resistance to allow kids to be creative in maths. Sadly the VCE Maths study guides are full of content and allow very little scope for creativity.
  • Take the risk. Teach kids creativity and thinking and they will ‘get’ the knowledge regardless.
  • Teach kids to ask questions.
  • Teach kids to SYNTHESISE as they already know how to ‘get’ knowledge but how to bring it all together and make sense of it? That is what they need to learn.
  • We are not working fast enough to get kids ready for the 21st Century world!

21st CenturyAnd then there are these questions, some others asked, some are mine.  I’ll leave them with you to reflect upon- feel free to respond below…

  1.     What do we teach for?
  2.     Are we adequately preparing our kids for this world?
  3.     Why does there seem to be a disconnect between employers and educators?
  4.     WHAT should students learn?
  5.     What will we do with all this computer power?

Fadel ended with this: “We as teachers are sitting in the driver’s seat – make it happen! Seriously.”

Smart is cool!

Thanks for reading 🙂

“My brain is full!”


2014conf_1dinst_7Connecting Content and Kids: Understanding by Design and Differentiation – 1-Day Institute

Last Monday I attended one day of the Hawker Brownlow Thinking and Learning Conference. I attend almost every year and have always chosen to follow one ‘hero’ for a day. This year I decided to attend Carol Ann Tomlinson‘s and Jay McTighe‘s 1 day institute. They played it like a tag team where Jay talked about Understanding by Design (UbD) and Carol on Differentiation. They integrated the two and while one day is simply not enough to really do these two areas justice we got an overall picture of how to integrate them to benefit the students in our classes.

12 things I heard that made me think:

1. Curriculum is a plan to get kids where they need to go

2. UbD provides the framework for developing the curriculum

3. Instruction is a plan on how we need to teach the curriculum

4. Differentiation provides the framework to carry out instruction

5. Teach all kids as though they are really smart

6. Start with planning for top level learners rather than aiming in the middle, do not dumb it down but work towards getting the students up there

7. Formative assessment is not for filling in report cards but to inform instruction

8. There is a logic in backward design

9. Essential questions are not the right answer questions

10.Teaching is not just serving ingredients but rather blending them in different ways to suit all people’s tastes

11. We learn when things are just a little too hard for you

12. One cannot ‘hand over’ understanding; this is something each learner needs to develop for themselves

Some other things I thought you might find interesting…

Evidence of understanding means you can do one or more of these:

  • explain in your words and justify your responses,
  • interpret,
  • transfer the understanding to a new situation,
  • see other people’s point of view or take a critical stance,
  • empathise, and / or
  • know yourself as a learner.

Reading and writing shouldn’t impair the student from showing you what he/she knows and can do.

One cannot differentiate poor quality curriculum.

Differentiation does not mean multiple assessment tasks, instead, one can simply change the complexity of the task to challenge students based on their skills and knowledge.

As a reference check on the validity of your assessment tasks in meeting your original aims and objectives, why not show the tasks to another teacher and ask them to state what they think your initial goals might have been.

I also think it’s valid to carry out the above with the students who are actually going to be working on the task.


Thanks for reading 🙂

You can’t teach what you don’t know

NeurotransmitterWelcome 🙂

Let’s learn a few things about the Logic of English

Did you know…?

  • English words DO NOT end in i, u, v or j

That’s why ‘boy’ is spelt b-oy and not as the sound suggests b-oi

  • C softens to an ‘s’ sound after e, i and y, otherwise we say ‘k’

think about it in terms of the word ‘circus’

  • a, e, o, u usually say their names at the end of syllables 

think paper, pa  – per

we use double letters to shorten sounds in syllables, for example, sound out pepper, pep – per, otherwise we would pronounce it ‘peper’ pe – per

  • one of the most misspelt words is ‘miscellaneous’

now let’s think about it as we apply the rules above;

mis  cel  la  ne  ous

mis (all good) cel (why is it an ‘s’ sound? because of the ‘e’) la (a says its name at the end of a syllable) ne (e also says its name at the end of a syllable) ous (ou is a phonogram, both letters together make this sound). Does that make more sense now?

Cool, right?

Want to know more?

Watch this Logic of English video

Do we teach this to our students? Could we? Would it make a difference to our understanding and development of reading and writing and would it improve spelling? Let me know what you think, click below and leave a reply.

Thanks for reading 🙂


What you should know:ausvels

  • Most Victorian schools should now be implementing the AC subjects of English, Maths, History and Science
  • No new subjects will need to be implemented in 2014 because the VCAA wants schools to have access to documents for at least 12 months prior to implementation 
  • Teachers in Victorian schools MUST go to the AusVELS – Home website for curriculum outlines and related information.
  • There are 11 levels of assessment from FOUNDATION to 10. These include .5 increments where the student is working towards the level by the end of school year.
  • It is expected that Victorian schools will be reporting to these from 2014, if they have not already done so.
  • VELS dot continuum – progression (white dot —– black dot) cannot be used with AC subjects in the first year of reporting.
  • All students should be given the opportunity to study all subjects although schools are able to make decisions on when and how long they will study them – in other words we can still offer semester units especially at Year 9 and 10 where other programs may be running and need allocation time. Reporting to these semester units has the same challenges as they did in VELS.
  • Progression points are NOT a checklist but a guide.
  • AusVELS Resources and Support 

    including audit and planning templates. 

  • Reporting for AC Science and AC History does not happen till Year 3 although curriculum outlines are available from Foundation level.
  • ALL teachers are encouraged to red the overview of related subjects rather than going straight to curriculum documents – things may have changed…

Information presented above is my summary from the VCAA online PD session – Overview. PowerPoint presentation available Introducing AusVELS

I would be interested in hearing your own school’s journey in planning and implementing AusVELS. Feel free to make comment below.

If you would like more information or perhaps to hold a professional learning session with your staff on AusVELS do not hesitate to contact me.