Two Cheers for STEM, Three Cheers for Creativity

Productivity means Innovation means STEM. That premise is looking increasingly irrefutable when it comes to building the nation’s future and the employability skills of the next generation. In other words, more investment in, and engagement with, science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in schools and universities will deliver both career opportunities and a secure economic future for the nation. In the paper that follows we make a case for re-thinking STEM as a means to securing our economic future.  Read More…

Beyond ‘Best Practice’: How teacher improvement actually works

Peter Taylor and I are aware that the term ‘best practice’ is still alive and well in talk about teacher improvement. In fact, contemporary educational literature is replete with calls for both leaders and teachers to pursue ‘best practice’ as a holy grail of educational endeavour, a goal that school leaders and staff developers ought to aspire to in every aspect of their daily practice. No-one should settle for anything less! In the brief paper that follows we want to share some thoughts on the impact of this aspirational discourse on the principal audience – school teachers and school leaders – to explain our ambivalence around this term, and to suggest more productive alternatives for the work of improving teaching performance. Read More…

‘Smart Building’ for a Practice-Focussed Profession

My partner Peter G. Taylor (Adjunct Professor, Griffith University and Special Advisor, Teaching Development, Brisbane Grammar School) has long and strong experience working to assist teachers to improve their pedagogy through a process he once called ‘Smart Borrowing’ and now calls ‘Smart Building. Here is his paper elaborating fully on the process:
Read More…

If Average is Over…

In Tyler Cowen’s latest analysis of our work and social futures, he insists that “Average is Over’. What does he mean by this and what does it mean for the current generation of Australia’s students and teachers? Read More…

Teaching Gen Z

Generation Zs (5 to 6 year olds) make up the bulk of our school populations now. So how different are they from other previous Generations – X and Y – and what does this mean for what teachers need to do more of and less of?  Below I explore this issue – who Gen Zs are and  the implications for those who teach them.  Read More…

Expanding our teaching repertoire: why is it so important and so bloody difficult?

 

Why expand our teaching repertoire? Peter Taylor and I respond below: 

Some practices will always count as good teaching. Hopefully, many of Australia’s adult population remember with affection and respect the capacity of a number of their past teachers to engage and inspire them in their schooling years well before the advent of the internet. And many of those same techniques – clear instruction, well-structured processes, timely feedback and so on – continue to be markers of highly effective teaching. Those teachers who could make the most of an ‘empty armpit’ opportunity unencumbered by books, boards, biros and other bric-a-brac, who knew how to milk a ‘teachable moment’ to engage even the most reluctant child – their practices have always been valuable in our classrooms, and will continue to be so.

It is also true that, in a digital age, some practices that were once at the core of classroom pedagogy are now much less relevant to the way that our students learn. For example, the ability to keep children anchored to their seats doing singular, silent deskwork – a managerial capacity much admired by many principals and parents in the past – is now less valuable as a teaching technique, just as memorisation is less valuable as a learning technique. While there is still a place for quiet, solitary reflection in learning, digital tools now give teachers many more opportunities to provoke peer-to-peer student conversations in order to optimise their learning. Read More…

Educating Girls – a wonderful project – a great launch on 7 September

My thanks to Dr Amanda Bell, past principal of Brisbane Girls Grammar, now principal of The Women’s College, University of Sydney for conceiving of the project of writing a history of BGGS with a difference, and to Loren Bridge, for designing the beautiful final product.  My special thanks to our Governor-General, the Honorable Quentin Bryce, for launching the book with such grace and enthusiasm.   

Signals or Noise?

Nate Silver’s recent book on the art and science of prediction – “The Signal and the Noise’ (2012) is worth a close look. Silver’s take on prediction in the Era of Big Data gives a strong justification for building the capacity of our young people to  distinguish useful information from all the rest. With so much data to distrust, and so much of it instantly available, we have a lot of work to do to build healthy scepticism in our students as budding researchers. Cynicism is unhelpful as a learning disposition – our kids still need to be eager to learn, but they must also be sceptical learners, not simply trusting ones, given the burgeoning amount of low-quality, misleading and useless information coming at all of us all the time. Ourkids need to unlearn the idea that ‘Google it!’ is the all-purpose solution to their information needs. A simple Google search might be a start, but it is by no means an end point. Brian Mull’s workshops at the recent SGIS Conference in Leysin, Switzerland (March8/9, 2013) were very helpful in providing teachers with explicit ways to direct and support students in finding the ‘best’ information i.e., in detecting the signal among the noise of ‘do-nothing’ data. I would recommend both Silver (for theory about analysing big data) and Mull (for application to teaching) to those who are genuinely seeking to build an eager and sceptical learning disposition in their classrooms.

1 2 3  Scroll to top