e-collection (PDF 7.21MB)

e-collection (PDF 7.21MB)
Education Transforms —
Papers and Reflections
The Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment
Occasional Publication No. 1
Copyright 2015
ISBN 978-1-86295-845-6
ABN 30 764 374 782
The Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment
perhaps more
than anything
is the passport
to a better life.
For an individual, education means increased pros-
“We spoke about the community having serious con-
perity, more opportunities to travel, and a longer life.
versation about how to improve its functional literacy.
For society, it means improved economic outcomes,
Such a conversation needs to be informed by relevant
better social environments, and a more thoughtful and
factual opinion before it starts and it needs to avoid
aspiring community. Here in Tasmania, we know that
the blame game. Maybe such a conversation should at
we have some opportunities to improve educational
least start under Chatham House Rules. I thought…”
This is Peter, “…that maybe that conversation should
We have opportunities to improve education attainment.
The Tasmanian challenge is a shared responsibility for
education that affects all of us. It speaks to the need for
common purpose. We must have the courage to put the
student firmly at the centre of our thinking. We must
have the wisdom both to learn from our experiences
and our shared history, and to draw on the knowledge
and ideas of beyond our shores.
begin at Government House.”
Peter’s thinking was fundamental to the creation of The
Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment
as a partnership between the University of Tasmania
and the State Government, strongly supported by University Council and Government House. His thinking
informed the Centre’s first international symposium,
and is reflected throughout the e-collection that has
resulted from it.
It was in this spirit that the late Governor, the Honourable Peter Underwood, started a conversation with the
University about what could be done to assist Tasmania and Tasmanians. We discussed the need to bring
people together to find long-term solutions, the need
for partnership across the educational and political
spectrum, and the need for neutral space where ideas
could be explored free from short term pressures. In
2013 he wrote to me:
Peter Underwood
Peter Rathjen
Former Governor of Tasmania
The Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment
Launched in
February 2015,
The Peter Underwood
Centre for Educational
Attainment is a joint
initiative between the
University of Tasmania
and the Tasmanian
State Government.
The Centre’s name honours the commitment to educa-
Thus the Underwood Centre is founded on a vision
tion and social progress made by the late Governor of
to lead a process of positive and sustained transfor-
Tasmania, Peter Underwood AC. Fittingly, our Patron is
mation in Tasmanian education to benefit the whole
Mrs Frances Underwood, herself a committed educator.
community. The Centre epitomises the University’s
Our Advisory Committee is chaired by Her Excellency
Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AM, Governor of
Tasmania, for which we are most grateful.
enduring commitments to Tasmanians now and in the
future, exemplified by our capacity to draw upon a wide
and collegial base of expertise in research, workforce
development and planning, and community aspiration
The Underwood Centre’s aim is to be a ‘centre of excel-
and outreach. This transformational vision is made
lence’ providing independent and non-partisan exper-
material by a significant partnership with the Tasma-
tise to benefit Tasmanians and help them to flourish;
nian State Government.
its key focus is upon raising aspirations for educational
attainment from birth to grade twelve in particular.
There are many exciting opportunities to support Tasmanians’ successes and choices in work, study, and
life. Such opportunities, well-met, will enable us all to
ensure Tasmanians’ sustained achievements in learning, educational attainment, and cultural transformation. Strong foundations for individuals, families, communities, and the Tasmanian economy should result.
Over time, our success will be measured by the ways
in which our communities flourish, and by reference to
a range of local, national, and international indicators
and a robust evidence base.
Elaine Stratford
Interim Director
This edited e-collection
brings together individual
and collective insights
shared by international,
national, and Tasmanian
scholars, policy-makers,
and advocates for
educational attainment.
Education Transforms — Papers and Reflections
Together we are committed to demonstrating and
Elaine Stratford is the Interim Director of the Peter
nurturing the transformational power of learning over
Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment at the
the life-course—and most especially for children and
University of Tasmania.
young people.
More than a conference proceedings, this e-collection
Sue Kilpatrick is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) at the
University of Tasmania.
is framed by prefatory comments on the critical importance of educational attainment and aspiration by the
Governor of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Minister for
Education and Training, and the Patron of the Peter
Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment. Its
purpose is introduced by the University of Tasmania’s
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students and Education) and
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students). The balance of the work
comprises papers originally presented at the inaugural
Education Transforms Symposium held in Hobart, Tasmania, over 14–16 July 2015. The work also captures
reflections by several session chairs, panellists, and
participants—all of whom share their views about how
the symposium transformed their own thinking. These
varied contributions are augmented by short commentaries from the coordinators of Children’s University
Tasmania and Bigger Things, two of the Centre’s key
aspiration programs. A final section by the Centre’s
Interim Director both closes the work and opens up a
space for further and ongoing conversations about educational attainment and lifelong aspirations to learn.
Table of contents
The Peter Underwood Centre
for Educational Attainment.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i
Education Transforms:
Papers and Reflections. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii
Contributors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
Message from Her Excellency Professor
the Honourable Kate Warner AM,
Governor of Tasmania.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Minister’s Message
The Honourable Jeremy Rockliff,
Minister for Education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Patron’s Message
Frances Underwood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
David Sadler and Sue Kilpatrick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2 New literacy and the changemaker
generation: Why empathy is as
important as reading and math
Honorable Henry De Sio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
3 Transitions from school in Australia –
the winners and losers
John Polesel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
5 From rhetoric to reality: creating a
culture of success in secondary schools
Christine Cawsey AM.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Joan Abbott-Chapman.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6 The shared work of learning:
achieving transformative
outcomes through collaboration
7 Features of effective education systems:
learnings from the OECD
Andreas Schleicher and Sue Kilpatrick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
8 Reflections from keynote
session chairs and panellists. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
9 Global challenges and the
importance of involving teachers
in transforming schools
Kim Beswick and Rosemary Callingham. . . . . . . . . . . .
14 Tasmania’s hidden dragons:
tackling education participation
equity beyond Year 10
Deborah Brewer
15 Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
16 The Children’s University
at the University of Tasmania
Jeff Garsed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
10 What should you tell them?
Evidence-based guidance for students
Susannah Coleman Brown. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
17 Bigger Things
Stuart Thorn. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
Angela O’Brien-Malone and
11 Factors that influence students’
educational aspirations
18 Metaphors to think about a
future that wants to come
Elaine Stratford. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
References. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
Ian Hay, Jane Watson, Jeanne Allen,
Kim Beswick, Neil Cranston, and Suzie Wright. . . . .
13 Opening the gate: improving
mathematics attainment
Tom Bentley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Mark R. Diamond. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
12 Students’ school engagement:
‘stickability’, risk-taking,
educational attainment
4 Making connections: research, teacher
education, and educational improvement
Ian Menter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Joan Abbott-Chapman is Professor Emerita, Faculty
Rosemary Callingham is an Associate Professor at
Honorable Henry F. De Sio, Jr is Global Chair for
of Education, University of Tasmania, and Fellow of the
the University of Tasmania with expertise in mathe-
Framework Change at Ashoka and author of Campaign
Australia College of Educators. Her expertise includes
matics education, including assessment, multi-layered
Inc.: How Leadership and Organization Propelled Barack
analysis of factors encouraging educational engage-
teaching tasks, and strands of the curriculum, notably
Obama to the White House. Henry served as deputy
ment among disadvantaged youth.
statistics and probability.
assistant to President Obama and as Chief Operating
Megan Alessandrini is Senior Lecturer and Director,
Christine Cawsey AM is the Principal at Rooty Hill
Gender Policy and Strategy Group, University of Tas-
High School, the immediate past president of the NSW
Mark Diamond is interested in applying novel sta-
mania, and has expertise in political activism, public
Secondary Principals’ Council (NSWSPC), and a former
tistical techniques to hard problems in the social sci-
and social policy, and political theory.
member of the executive of the Australian Secondary
ences and in putting publicly available data to new use.
Principals’ Association.
He writes an occasional blog on research matters, at
Jeanne Allen is Associate Professor of Education
Officer for 2008 Obama for America.
(Academic Director, Professional Experience) in the
Susan Chen is a member of the University of
Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University
Tasmania Council, is on a number of boards and
Kwong Lee Dow AO is a member of the University
in Melbourne.
works with organisations serving education and com-
of Tasmania Council. He retired from the University of
munity. For the last 11 years of her career she was
Melbourne as Vice-Chancellor in 2004, having earlier
Principal of Marist Regional College in Burnie.
been Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Education
Tom Bentley is a writer and policy advisor, and served
as Deputy Chief of Staff to Julia Gillard when she was
over a 20 year period.
Prime Minister of Australia. His international policy
Susannah Coleman-Brown is Coordinator of the
experience includes being an advisor to the Bill and
Children’s University Tasmania, a key part of the aspi-
Jill Downing is Course Coordinator for the Bachelor of
Melinda Gates Foundation education program.
ration program of the Peter Underwood Centre for Edu-
Education (Applied Learning) and the Bachelor of Adult
cational Attainment at the University of Tasmania.
and Applied Learning at the University of Tasmania.
Kim Beswick is Professor in Mathematics Education
Prior to joining UTAS in 2007, she was employed as a
at the University of Tasmania. In 2014, Kim received
Stephen Conway presently serves as Secretary,
the Research Award of the Mathematics Education
Department of Education, Tasmanian Government,
Research Group of Australasia and was appointed to
and has been CEO, TasTAFE. Stephen is also Chair
Janet Dyment is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Edu-
the Australian Research Council College of Experts.
of TAFE Directors Australia and has represented SA on
cation at the University of Tasmania, with expertise in
the National TDA Board since early 2000.
curriculum, pedagogy and assessment in teacher edu-
Peter Brett is Lecturer in Humanities and Social
management consultant in Singapore.
cation, reflective practice, health and physical educa-
Sciences Education at the University of Tasmania. He
Neil Cranston is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty
serves on the Steering Committee of the Social and
of Education at the University of Tasmania, whose
Citizenship Education Association of Australia and is co-
major interests include school principalship, organi-
Jeff Garsed is currently Research Officer with the
editor of its journal, The Social Educator.
sational change, and ethical dilemmas in educational
Australian Education Union Tasmanian Branch. His PhD
research investigated the engagement of Tasmanian
Deborah Brewer is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty
of Education at the University of Tasmania, whose dissertation is a critical social ecology case study inves-
tion, leadership and outdoor learning.
teachers in an integrated curriculum approach known
as Essential Learnings.
tigating education participation and adolescent educational identity following Year 10.
Scott Harris has been the Chief Executive of the
Adam Mostogl, Tasmanian Young Australian of the
Beacon Foundation for the last 15 years, taking the
Year (2015), is the Principal, Illuminate Education &
University of Tasmania within the Tasmanian College
work of the Foundation from a Tasmanian only organ-
Consulting, which inspires young people to embrace
of the Arts with interests in how artists research
isation to a truly national group working with over 200
creativity in finding business solutions to simple prob-
and develop bodies of work through experimentation
schools across Australia in lifting the educational and
lems, and to rethink approaches to learning.
and exploration.
employment opportunities of young people.
Marion Myhill is Associate Dean International in the
The Honourable Jeremy Rockliff MP is the Deputy
Ian Hay is Professor Emeritus and the former Dean
Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania with
Premier of Tasmania and Deputy Leader of the Liberal
of the Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania.
expertise in educational psychology and applied psy-
Party in Tasmania, and Minister for Education and
Among his areas of expertise are language acquisi-
cholinguistics, human development, learning, cogni-
Training, Minister for Primary Industries and Water, and
tion and social and emotional relationships, and their
tion, and first and second language acquisition.
Minister for Racing.
effects on educational attainment.
Rosie Nash is a doctoral candidate and associate
Michael Rowan is an adjunct professor in the Division
Sue Kilpatrick is an expert in the economics of edu-
lecturer in the School of Pharmacy at the University
of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students & Education)
cation and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students), University
of Tasmania.
at the University of Tasmania and was Pro Vice-Chan-
of Tasmania, whose responsibilities include access and
outreach, and pathways to the University from schools
and vocational education and training.
Angela O’Brien-Malone is in the School of Psychology
at the University of Tasmania, and has a long-standing
cellor of the Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences, University of South Australia.
interest in program evaluation and research method-
David Sadler is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students
Ted Lefroy is Director of the Centre for Environment
ology, as it applies to examining efforts to improve
& Education) at the University of Tasmania. Profes-
at the University of Tasmania. The Centre was set up in
access and participation in higher education.
sor Sadler heads up a large Division responsible for
2005 to foster collaborative research between the University, government, industry and community.
Lynden Leppard is a doctoral candidate at the University of Tasmania, with a particular interest in improving
organisation feedback systems and helping leaders to
effectively manage under-performing staff members.
Olumide A. Odeyemi is a doctoral candidate in Fisheries and Aquaculture at the Institute for Marine and
Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania.
Christopher Orchard is Course Director in Creative
Industries at Charles Sturt University, and a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania within the Tasma-
enabling quality learning and student experiences at
the University.
Andreas Schleicher is Director for Education and
Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the
Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris.
Yue Ma (Melody) is a doctoral candidate in the Tas-
nian College of the Arts, working to generate interdisci-
Elaine Stratford is the Interim Director of the Peter
manian School of Business and Economics at the Uni-
plinary dialogue on landscape.
Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment at the
versity of Tasmania.
John Polesel is a Professor in the Melbourne Gradu-
Michelle Louise Mendoza-Enan is a doctoral candi-
ate School of Education with expertise in education and
date in the School of Land and Food at the University
training structures and policy, comparative education,
of Tasmania.
post-school destination studies, curriculum, equity, and
Ian Menter (FAcSS) is Professor of Teacher Education
University of Tasmania. A geographer, she has a strong
commitment to understanding the conditions that
enable people to thrive throughout the life-course.
the sociology of education.
and Director of Professional Programmes at the University of Oxford with expertise in comparative research
on teacher education policy across the United Kingdom.
Karen Swabey is Associate Professor and Head of the
Frances Underwood is Patron of the Peter Under-
Jane Watson is Professor Emerita at the University
School of Education at the University of Tasmania. She
wood Centre for Educational Attainment, and served
of Tasmania, with expertise in mathematics education.
is passionate about teaching in the health and physical
Tasmania during her late husband’s tenure as Gover-
A Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences, she is
education field, and about coaching and mentoring to
nor of Tasmania. Mrs Underwood was also a passionate
also recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excel-
enhance professional experience.
educator in music and English and former head of the
lence Medal.
Stuart Thorn is the Coordinator of Bigger Things, a
junior school at the Friends’ School.
John Williamson is Dean of the Faculty of Education
partnership between the Tasmanian Government and
Indira Venkatraman is enrolled in a Masters of Com-
at the University of Tasmania. His present research
University of Tasmania, which forms part of the Under-
merce by Research at the University of Tasmania,
includes how principals and teachers perceive account-
wood Centre’s aspirations program.
examining the impact of changes in corporate strategy
ability, the development of a professional teacher iden-
on the accounting treatment of IT expenditure and the
tity, the development of pedagogy skills in the class-
management of IT investments.
room, and the nature of school leadership in different
Judy Travers works in the Tasmanian Department of
Education as the General Manager of schools, colleges
and child and family centres in the south of the state,
Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate
and has been a teacher, Principal, District Superinten-
Warner AM is Tasmania’s 28th Governor, and was
Suzie Wright is a research assistant in the Faculty
dent, Manager Learning, and Director–Centre for Excel-
sworn to Office at Government House on Wednesday 10
of Education at the University of Tasmania, presently
lence in online learning.
December 2014. Previously she was Professor, Faculty
working on an Australian Research Council Discovery
of Law, at the University of Tasmania and Director of
Project on Modelling with Data: Advancing STEM in the
the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute.
Primary Curriculum.
Her Excellency
Professor the Honourable
Kate Warner AM,
Governor of Tasmania
Getting into the education conversation:
learning about GERM, PISA, TEMAG and more
Some chance observations
I was delighted that my schedule allowed me to attend
An impressive array of international experts addressed
the first day of the Education Transforms Symposium.
the conference. For example, we heard from Ian
My first impression was to register a feeling of relief-
Menter, Professor of Teacher Education at Oxford. He
tinged satisfaction in the strong attendance that is
spoke about the influences and paradigms of teacher
promising for the success of Underwood Centre. There
education and was critical of the craft based view of
was such a good cross-section—so many teachers from
teacher training with the consequent withdrawal of
across the state—from primary and secondary schools
some universities from teacher education. His point
and colleges, from public and private schools, from the
that research, policy and practice should be brought
Launch into Learning programmes for babies, toddlers
together is central to the aims of the Underwood
and pre-school kids to TAFE teachers and University
Centre. Partnerships between schools, policy makers
administrators and academics. It was school holidays—
and the University are important.
a time when teachers are taking a well-earned break.
To see so many giving up their holidays to attend
such an event is testament to their dedication. And
the attendance of politicians from across the political
spectrum was particularly encouraging. Many of them
attended most, if not all, sessions. The cross-party
support shown was promising.
Andreas Schleicher, who leads the Directorate for Education and Skills with the OECD, explained that successful schools are characterised by high educational
aspirations in which it is assumed every student is
capable of succeeding. It makes sense that teachers’
expectations can affect a student’s capacity to learn.
In another lesson that may be useful in Tasmania, he
For me, the symposium was a learning opportunity—
argued that a way of dealing with school closures and
one of listening to and absorbing the context for better
amalgamations opposed by local communities is to
understanding the challenges and opportunities we
build the new school first—show what that school has
face in Tasmania to improve educational aspirations
to offer before closing the small schools. In relation to
and outcomes, and to harness the transformative
teacher training he stressed the need for teachers to
potential of education. To give my observations some
continually research their own practice, learning all the
structure, I will first mention a few points that struck
time with incentives and encouragement to undertake
a chord with me. I will then share what I gained from
assessments for feedback. He gave Portugal, Poland
networking during the day. And, while being aware it
and Brazil as sound examples of ongoing teacher train-
may be better not to reveal my rather startling igno-
ing; teachers are encouraged to take risks in a sup-
rance, I will then detail my new-found knowledge of
portive environment.
three acronyms that will better place me to understand
the education conversation. It is at least possible that
there are others with an interest in the education issue
who are similarly learning.
Getting into the education conversation:
learning about GERM, PISA, TEMAG and more
In one Hothouse session I attended, Scott Harris from
Pettit and Banks also referred to Launch into Learning
With all conferences, chatting and networking during
the Beacon Foundation asked: ‘Do we agree there is a
and the adult literacy program 26Ten. I have visited a
tea and lunch breaks is always valuable. In the one day
problem?’1 He added, ‘This does not seem to be clear’.
number of Launch into Learning programs at schools
that I attended I met a principal of a State primary
The importance of how we answer this question was
and Child and Family Centres. This program has been
school, whose breadth of experience and wisdom was
highlighted for me by the presentation from the former
evaluated and been shown to improve learning out-
inspiring. I spoke with a secondary teacher who related
Secretary of the Education Department, Colin Pettit,
comes. However, the challenge is to attract the 10
her experience of teaching in a disadvantaged school
and his colleague, Liz Banks. Colin Pettit was concerned
per cent who never attend and engage them. This is
which left her at first tearful and anxious and led her to
by the tone of press reports about education in recent
the group that has the most need for early interven-
transform the way she approached her task and to do
times, noting that there was much good in what is done
tion. Tackling adult literacy issues is an important
so successfully.
here that is not receiving the same exposure. Aware of
way to improve educational aspirations and outcomes
the need for evaluation and evidence, nevertheless he
for the next generation. The 26Ten program with its
was also concerned that such press adversely affects
23 literacy co-ordinators and 1000 volunteers is tack-
public confidence in our schools. He argued that four
ling this issue. It seems there has been a tendency to
out of ten Tasmanians rely upon social welfare and
not persist with promising new programs, initiatives
suggested that when analysis of outcomes controls
and policies, sometimes even before they have been
for socio-economic status, Tasmanians fare as well as
properly tried or resourced. This tendency is something
other Australians of similar SES, and do better in some
we should think about in relation to the initiative for
aspects such as school attendance in the early years.
some regional secondary schools to offer Year 11 and
Either way, his larger point is well made: striving to
12 subjects.
improve educational outcomes in Tasmania should be
done constructively.
I also spoke with two people who were passionate
about the way reading is taught and who were concerned that the currently accepted approach was failing
our children. They raised the issue of reading philosophy a number of times during the conference.
I am
no literacy expert and have no expertise to determine
whether phonics or whole language is the best method
or whether the answer is in a balanced approach.
However, I think it important that the symposium provided the opportunity to canvass these issues.
What this presentation from the Department of Education highlighted for me was the importance of crossparty support. Education must not be a political football. The current momentum in relation to improving
educational outcomes must not be lost. In aiming to
improve outcomes and aspirations we must be constructive and careful not to denigrate the current
system and our current teachers.
1 Hothouse sessions were extensions of others held during the 2015 Dark MOFO festival a month earlier and are described in the following terms:
“For three days, three teams of thinkers will inhabit the Hothouse, a massive built structure on Salamanca Lawns in Hobart’s CBD. Their brief: to think
through, and respond to, the issue of education in Tasmania. The twelve best ideas will be presented at a community forum. This latest iteration of the
Future Hobart Project (part of last year’s Dark MOFO, in collaboration with the City of Hobart) coincides with the 125th anniversary of the University of
Tasmania, and has been brought into being with the help of Clemenger Tasmania/OMD. The Hothouse was designed by Sydney’s Cave Urban and UTAS
Masters of Architecture students” [https://darkmofo.net.au/program/the-hothouse/].
Getting into the education conversation:
learning about GERM, PISA, TEMAG and more
In my role as Governor, I have had the opportunity to
using standardised tests and that focusing on them has
grounds that it gave insufficient prominence to key aca-
meet with a speech pathologist, Rosie Martin, who has
increased teaching to the test and narrows curricula
demic areas, particularly English, maths and science,
had great success in being able to teach illiterate pris-
to prioritise reading, maths and mechanistic instruc-
and there were concerns about consistency in assess-
oners how to read. She contends that speech patholo-
tion. Another symptom of GERM and standardised
ment. It was dumped after the 2006 state election.
gists have a lot to offer in the field of remedial literacy.
testing is increased competition between schools, and
The school curriculum thus became intensely political—
Without taking sides in the ‘reading wars’ I believe the
it is argued that when there is increased competition
and there are lessons to be learnt in the story of this
Underwood Centre has the potential to promote col-
schools co-operate less. Finland and Canada, it seems,
attempted educational reform, which should be heeded
laboration among researchers from diverse fields,
have resisted GERM and instead have individualised
in the present and in future education debates.
including education, psychology and speech pathology,
curricula that emphasise equity and achievement for
so they can get together and work in ways that cross
all, as opposed to the standardisation characterised
over boundaries on literacy and other issues. In here
and promoted by GERM.
focusing on literacy, I should note that in the first
sessions of the day the Honorable Henry de Sio reminded
us of the skills and knowledge that young people
will need in our fast changing world, stressing that
empathy is as important as reading and maths in any
learning framework.
What are GERM, PISA, the TEMAG
report and Essential Learnings?
The symposium was a learning exercise for me.
In asking the question above, I am exposing an embarrassing ignorance of many terms and concepts about
which everyone
seemed to be well-informed. From
Dr Jeff Garsed of the Australian Education Union,
I learnt of GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement that claims schools and teachers are failing and
that underfunding is not the problem but teacher
quality is. GERM has a number of symptoms, one of
The TEMAG report was mentioned by Professor Ian
Menter, who described it as ‘encouraging’. TEMAG, oh
dear! Another gap in my knowledge! I now know that
I was aware that PISA was some kind of test to assess
it is the Teacher Education Ministerial Report, Action
educational outcomes. So when following up, I discov-
Now: Classroom Ready Teachers, released by the then
ered that it stands for the Program of International
Australian Government Education Minister, Christopher
Student Assessment, and is a survey conducted by the
Pyne, on 13 February 2015. TEMAG deals with initial
OECD that aims to evaluate education systems world-
training to better prepare teachers with the skills they
wide, testing the skills and knowledge of fifteen-year-
need for the classroom. The report has suggested
old students.
various refinements, including more rigorous selection,
Essential Learnings or ELs were mentioned in one of
several Hothouse discussions. One person observed
that many teachers liked the flexibility of Essential
Learnings. I had a recollection of the Essential Learnings debate that raged some ten years ago. I silently
asked, ‘What exactly was that scheme?’ So I have
refreshed my memory. It was a new curriculum to be
phased in from 2005 across all Tasmanian schools from
more structured practical experience and more robust
assessment of classroom readiness. I note that whilst
some aspects of the report have gained approval, such
as stronger partnerships between universities, school
systems and schools and portfolios for pre-service
teachers, there is scepticism in some quarters about
more measuring and processing for accreditation of
teacher education programs.
kindergarten to Grade 10, and it was to be fully imple-
In conclusion, I gained enormously from my atten-
mented by 2009.
dance at the Education Transforms Symposium and I
which is a focus on standardised tests such as NAPLAN.
The five ELs were umbrellas under which students’ work
Dr Garsed argued that NAPLAN is being misused, that
was organized. These were Thinking, Communicat-
it not a diagnostic tool, that it only examines fragments
ing, Personal Futures, Social Responsibility, and World
of learning and that it is inappropriately used to evalu-
Futures. The curriculum was controversial. Supported
ate schools. It seems that there is a strong argument
by a strong research base, which included sound work
that teaching effectiveness should not be measured
on child development, it was heavily criticised on the
am looking forward to reading the published papers
from it. It was a stimulating and exciting beginning to
the Underwood Centre’s work.
Minister’s Message
The Honourable
Jeremy Rockliff,
Minister for Education
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to share in the
plementary functions: research; professional develop-
international symposium, entitled Education – Under-
ment for the workforce; and participation and aspira-
pinning Social and Economic Transformations.
tion. Centralising and utilising the University’s proven
With diverse representation—at state, national and
international levels—the symposium provided a valu-
capacity to undertake research and attract funds is
very important.
able opportunity to inspire, share information, and to
Developing our workforce across education is a priority.
test and enrich our understanding of how we can meet
High quality teaching, leadership and support is funda-
the challenges of the 21st century within our education
mental to improving outcomes. The strategy develops
and training sectors and more broadly.
the skills of those working in education, with a focus
The Tasmanian Government is committed to improving outcomes for all Tasmanians and recognises that
addressing the needs of our regional communities and
economies is paramount.
The Tasmanian Government also recognises that education has a critical role to play in social and economic
transformation, so the focus of this symposium was of
immediate relevance to our Tasmanian context. It complemented the opening of Tasmania’s Peter Underwood
Centre for Educational Attainment. Peter Underwood’s
passion and belief in the transformative power of education made the focus of the symposium all the more
pertinent both in timing and in content.
Education underpins progress at individual, societal
and economic levels and is, undoubtedly, a powerful
and effective means to ensure a bright future for this
generation and for future generations.
on driving school improvement and student learning.
The workforce development activities of the Centre will
have a critical focus on improving the effectiveness of
our educators, understanding their skills and qualification needs, and delivering and evaluating courses and
training accordingly.
responsibility, and an essential component of this
entails our communities placing a priority value on
educational participation, aspiration, achievement and
attainment. Improving pre-tertiary educational aspirations, participation and attainment is an important part
of shifting culture in ways that ensure all Tasmanians
recognise the value of education.
While work is well under way there remains a lot more
to be done. This State Government does not accept that
Tasmania’s future will be forever shaped by its current
context. We must find ways to value-add that break the
Events such as the symposium exemplify the impor-
cycle of disadvantage caused largely by poverty other-
tance of bringing together international leaders in the
wise Tasmania will not prosper as it should. If we can
field and reinforce the value and importance of the
lift education, we can lift Tasmania. To this end, we are
Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment.
firmly committed to improving participation, achieve-
The Centre has three high-level, integrated and com-
ment in learning, retention and attainment.
Minister’s Message
The Honourable
Jeremy Rockliff,
Minister for Education
Quality teaching, supported by quality leadership, is
Supporting students to identify their interests, strengths
critical to ensuring success, effecting positive edu-
and aspirations, with an essential focus on how to use
cational outcomes and, indeed, raising standards.
this knowledge to make good choices for their future is
Through openness, transparency, collaboration, inno-
very important. Programmes such as My Education aim
vation and progress, influenced by research and evi-
to ensure that young Tasmanians are job-ready and
dence of what works and directed always at improving
have the knowledge and skills to compete in a rapidly
educational outcomes for our students, we will increase
changing world and global economy.
our capacity to transform educational outcomes for all
and, in doing so we will strengthen Tasmania’s future.
In terms of our diverse education landscapes, the
symposium provided a valuable platform to recog-
The Tasmanian Government has a strong focus on the
nise the complexities of meeting the challenges of the
importance of students completing and valuing Year 12,
21st century and it was a privilege to attend. It was
with a highlighted emphasis on attainment, supported
a valuable opportunity for leaders across education to
by UTAS and by TasTAFE. Life’s opportunities stem
canvass, inspire and share information, and it certainly
from effective educational engagement and achieve-
provided an opportunity to reflect and explore what
ment and, without doubt, high achievement across
works well in Tasmania, Australia and around the world.
education and training sectors enables individuals to
effectively embrace the challenges and opportunities
of the 21st century.
Patron’s Message
Frances Underwood
Peter Underwood was a passionate believer in the trans-
In achieving such ends, I believe the symposium lifted
formative power of education. In his words “the most
both the bar and the spirits, and certainly convinced
important infrastructure of any nation is an educated
me that we can make a difference by working together
and functionally literate population”. The Peter Under-
across social, academic and political boundaries to
wood Centre, named in his honour, aims to draw on the
build a culture of success in the pursuit of our common
best international evidence available about effective
goal, and support teachers in what is our most impor-
ways to improve educational aspirations, participation
tant national work.
and attainment within the Tasmanian context. Education – Underpinning Social and Economic Transformation was an important meeting in Hobart in July 2015,
which focussed on these issues. It was a positive collaborative effort between the University of Tasmania
and the State Government, and the Centre’s first international symposium.
As an educator myself, I found the symposium emotionally energising and intellectually stimulating. It
brought to mind words attributed to Michelangelo: “the
greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our
aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim
too low and achieving our mark”. I went home inspired
with hope and high expectations for the future of young
It was clear from those who addressed the symposium
Tasmanians. In my capacity as patron I offer heartfelt
that the issues affecting high educational attainment
congratulations to all those involved.
are universal. All nations struggle to find effective
solutions within their own cultural contexts, many—
including our own—nevertheless do so with considerable success, from which we can learn. In the words of
one keynote speaker, Tom Bentley, “it is the job of the
system to think about the whole student—but different
methods, and different structures, are needed to make
that happen”.
We are not alone in our quest to lift aspiration and
ensure that our young people thrive in a culture of
success and sound relationships; experience the joy of
learning; benefit from the daily contribution of exceptional teachers; and are the recipients of all the good
that arises from effective coordination between family,
school and community. The symposium itself was a
fine example of how sharing knowledge, effort and
resources can stimulate creative thought processes,
and build trust-based relationships and social capital in
the pursuit of a shared goal.
David Sadler and
Sue Kilpatrick
It is our pleasure to introduce Education Transforms,
dence available as to proven and effective approaches
to educational and cultural transformation. The sympo-
commentaries from Education—Underpinning Social
sium was among the Centre’s first major public events,
and focussed on education as a key determinant of
tional symposium of the Peter Underwood Centre for
social and economic transformation in regional econo-
Educational Attainment.
mies and societies.
In February 2015, working in partnership with the Tas-
One of the objectives of the Underwood Centre is to
manian State Government, the University of Tasmania
bring together international leaders in several fields
needs and rights
established the Peter Underwood Centre for Educational
informing aspiration, education and cultural transfor-
to be supported ...
Attainment as a new major centre of excellence. Its
mation to learn from successes in other regions and,
principal aim is to investigate, better understand, and
in time, to share our own successes. The symposium
improve pre-tertiary educational aspirations, participa-
was instrumental in beginning this international con-
tion and attainment, and to reflect on and influence the
versation. Drawing on international research and case
ways in which education underpins progress for indi-
studies, the meeting provided a high-level forum to
viduals, communities, and the political economy: this
exchange ideas and reflect upon what has worked, why
work is fundamentally about cultural transformation of
it has worked, and how.
Education in Tasmania
must meet people’s
the most profound kind.
Symposium speakers whose subsequent written work
The Underwood Centre bears the name of Tasma-
is featured in this publication included leading interna-
nia’s late Governor, Peter Underwood AC, a University
tional thinkers, educators and policy makers.
alumnus, accomplished lawyer, esteemed judge and
passionate champion of the power of education. The
Centre was established in recognition that education
in Tasmania must meet people’s needs and rights to be
supported as they work to ensure their successes and
choices in future work, study and social contexts—and
thus give back to the communities and places that comprise this island-state. This recognition is underpinned
by an understanding that presently Tasmanians experi-
Henry de Sio was the Chief Operations Officer of US
President Obama’s 2008 election campaign, is a prominent advocate of empathy in transformational change,
and now works with Ashoka. His messages are that
innovation happens everywhere, that everyone is able
to lead, that there is no room for smallness, and that
the job of educators and leaders is to help people step
into their bigness.
ence sustained underachievement in areas of strategic
University of Melbourne Professor John Polesel has as a
priority—literacy, reading, science and maths—as mea-
key focus research on comparative education, school-
sured by a range of national and international indica-
based vocational education and high stakes testing.
tors. Such circumstances are caused by a complex mix
John Polesel asks what are we doing about education
of historical, cultural and organisational factors, and
and training for the 60 per cent of young people nation-
will require the advent of Tasmania-specific or endog-
ally, and as many as 70 per cent in Tasmania who do
enous solutions, drawing on the best international evi-
not [yet] go on to university after school?
Oxford University Professor Ian Menter has longstand-
Christine Cawsey AM, the Principal of Rooty High School,
ing expertise embracing policy for teacher educa-
Victoria, spoke of her innovative team and the ways in
tion and teachers’ work, and has carried out several
which it has been transforming educational outcomes
competitively-funded projects on ‘home international’
at the school. Cawsey conveyed how, at the centre of
comparative studies. He sets us the challenge of
the work to create a culture of success at Rooty Hill
helping teachers move from regarding teaching as a
High School, is a novel collaborative approach to school
craft, to being reflective teachers, and then enquiring,
planning and evaluation, based around a capability-
research-oriented professionals and transformative
driven curriculum; personalised learning; and leading
change agents.
for innovation driven by a research-based culture, and
Andreas Schleicher is the Director for Education and
underpinned by partnerships and professional practice.
Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the
Several colleagues based at the University of Tasma-
Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic
nia and in the Tasmanian State Government, as well
Co-operation and Development. He draws on a wealth
as those at other Australian universities also provided
of international experience when he notes that learn-
stimulating papers at the symposium, and some of
ing is a social experience. Thus, there are critical rela-
these are also in this collection. In addition, we are able
tionships and expectations we have and place on our
to showcase the views of many of our speakers, panel-
children, and crucial and high expectations we need to
lists and symposium guests in short reflections on the
have of our educational leaders. Effective teachers are
transformative potential of education.
themselves active learners who innovate, take risks
and share their practices.
Bringing together some of the best minds from around
the world to discuss optimal approaches to educational
Tom Bentley is a writer and policy adviser presently
transformation internationally, we have now set the
Education Advisor to the Melinda and Bill Gates Foun-
scene for educational and cultural transformation in
dation and was Deputy Chief of Staff to the Australian
Tasmania—change that will affect social, economic, and
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, where he was responsible
community life in profound ways. Not surprisingly then,
for long term policy planning and implementation. He
one question we asked at the symposium, and which is
notes that the costs and risks of educational failure
implicit throughout this collection is this: what are the
are growing, and that parents are voting with their
limits of our ambitions for Tasmania? We have consid-
mortgages to move to where local schools success-
ered those areas of the world where educational out-
fully engage their students. He introduces a number of
comes have been world-leading and where education
innovative models from around the world that work in
has been the engine of economic and social improve-
today’s diverse communities.
ment. Our goal is to see Tasmania among those jurisdictions that is leading the way.
New literacy and the
changemaker generation:
Why empathy
is as
as reading
and math
2 © Ashoka | Innovators for the Public
The Honorable
Henry De Sio
New literacy and the changemaker generation:
Why empathy is as important as reading and math
Key insights
The Changemaker Effect is accelerating the transi-
For many generations, society had a distinctive organi-
tion to a world characterized by change, which is the
zational design characterized by a few people at the
polar opposite of the world of repetition society has
top of the system telling everyone else to repeat their
long known.
specialized skills harmoniously, faster and faster. The
Social entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to help
facilitate societal understanding of the learning needs
of young people in a world where changemaking is the
new norm.
Every child must master empathy and teens must be
practised at the new requisite skills of cognitive empathy-based ethics, working in teams of teams (a different
type of teamwork), new leadership, and changemaking.
limits of this one-leader-at-a-time model have become
evident, however. The acceleration of change and the
consequential proliferation of problems have overwhelmed our institutions. Today, the walls of vertical
society are coming down to reveal a new strategic landscape that is fast, fluid, and hybrid in character.
advances in technology lowering the barriers to individual participation, more of us have the ability to
access information and contribute more fully in every
Transformative education must begin with a fresh look
at the societal landscape our children and youth are
stepping into. A historical shift has radically changed
the complexion and complexity of the world our children must learn to command. While most of us still
see the world as it was when we entered (allowing for
some expected evolutionary change), it is really quite
aspect of society. We carry in our pockets and purses
the tools that were once available to only a few. Our
personal networks, collaboration platforms, printing
presses, and media distribution channels—these are
now at our fingertips and can be immediately applied to
any problem or opportunity. Our one-leader-at-a-time
past is giving way to a new everyone-a-leader present.
dissimilar to the one our young people will soon navigate as adults. In fact, in many ways the two are polar
opposites, each requiring a very different skill set and
outlook. Rising generations must be equipped with an
entirely new learning framework for life success and
contribution that is aligned with the transformed strategic environment that awaits.
New literacy and the changemaker generation:
Why empathy is as important as reading and math
This level of individual empowerment has given rise to
As he approaches the others, his pace slows. Some-
the Changemaker Effect on society. A simple explana-
thing is clearly wrong. The goal posts that typically
tion of this phenomenon follows:
mark each end of the field are down. In their places are
In the everyone-leads system, the speed of change
accelerates relative to our one-leader-at-a-time past.
Why? Leaders make change. If you agree that everything you change changes everything, and everyone is
doing it—then it follows that we live in an everyone-achangemaker world.
The rapid increase in the number of changemakers
two large nets. The brown ‘pigskin’ football he knows
has been substituted with a football of another sort—
one that is rounded and spins out a black and white
pattern. The players warming up on the field are unfamiliar. They don’t sport the same heavy gear he does.
Instead, their hair flies freely in the wind and they are
wearing shorts and light clothing that enables them to
be nimble.
is producing unprecedented omnidirectional change
in society, and it is occurring at a rapidly accelerating rate. Evolutionary adaptation has long existed, but
this transition from a world defined by repetition to one
uniquely defined by change is as dramatic as making
the shift from a flat world to a round one.
The game has changed.
There are three likely reactions that follow when the
game you know has changed. The first is to freeze in
place, watching in fear and confusion as this strange
new activity plays out before you. It is a helpless
Let’s consider this differently with a story that is obvi-
feeling that will keep you a fixture on the sidelines and
ously American in context, but suitably illustrative of the
make you quickly irrelevant. The second is to dig in
broader point. Imagine it is approaching game time as
stubbornly and double down on what you know. In this
the football player makes his final preparations. Alone
instance, that might entail lowering your helmet and
in the locker room, he slips his pads over his head and
running full steam into those unsuspecting players. Of
fits them perfectly on his shoulders. Next, he throws on
course, that would make you worrisome and even dan-
his jersey, the large numbers tightly wrapping around
gerous. You would soon find yourself marginalized and
the bulky armor that frames him. Finally, he pulls on a
cast aside by the others. The third is to see differently
helmet and carefully fastens the strap across his chin.
so you can do differently—a mindset shift that facili-
Now ready, the athlete gives the hard protective shell a
tates framework change.
slap with both hands and storms out of the locker room
to join his teammates. He sprints through the tunnel
toward a deep green playing field washed in the warm
glow of a bright spotlight. It is a moment for which he
has prepared his whole life.
In the everyone-leads system, the speed of change
accelerates relative to our one-leader-at-a-time past.
Why? Leaders make change. If you agree that everything you change changes everything, and everyone is
doing it—then it follows that we live in an everyone-achangemaker world.
New literacy and the changemaker generation:
Why empathy is as important as reading and math
Playing in the new game must begin with a personal
This observation gets to a second point about the dif-
recalibration to one’s environment or circumstance.
ferences between the two paradigms. In the new game,
Real transformation is possible only after mindset shift.
the premium is on innovation as a function of change,
This is a daunting prospect, but less so once it is widely
not repetition. If innovation had long been associated
understood there is a new game requiring a wholly dif-
with advances in technology to create more efficiency
ferent set of rules. The old rules will not work in the
in repetition—the assembly line, for example—we must
new game.
now rethink that connotation in this new context.
We are similarly faced with a game-changing moment
Innovation is, in fact, the ultimate result of a wall falling
as society shifts from a longstanding model based on
between two sides that would not otherwise connect.
repetition to the polar-opposite game of change. This
Sometimes technology assists in this transformation,
process will challenge all of our existing notions for how
at other times it is an outcome, but innovation is a very
we work together and participate effectively in society.
human activity. In the team-of-teams way of working,
For example, teamwork in the repetitive system was
based on contribution to the team along narrow lines of
position or function. The new game requires a very different kind of teamwork—a team-of-teams approach—
to command an environment of rapidly accelerating
the value-add in any moment is the new team added to
an existing one to act on the ever-changing nature of
today’s problems and opportunities. The ability to tear
down walls and connect others into a team of teams is,
therefore, a requisite new leadership skill.
change. In this system, everyone must have the capac-
Third, we need a rewiring of our collective thinking
ity to form into an open, fluid team of teams working
about leadership in this new era in which everyone
across old boundaries to confront complex challenges
leads. Leadership in the team-of-teams system is not
and to create new possibilities. Different from the old
linear—it is omnidirectional, requiring “other-aware-
team built on specialized skills, individuals are valued
ness.” It is a new kind of leadership that also requires
for their unique range of competencies, perspectives,
everyone on the team to see the big picture and
passions, and experiences that can be brought to the
advance solutions that contribute to positive change.
opportunity at hand.
All of these observations point to the fact that oneleader-at-a-time and Everyone A Changemaker TM are
opposing paradigms. The skills needed to navigate a
world based on efficiency in repetition are very different from those needed in a world where the premium is
on change and innovation (Table 2.1).
New literacy and the changemaker generation:
Why empathy is as important as reading and math
Table 2.1.
Comparing old and new paradigm characteristics
Defined by efficiency
in repetition
Defined by change
and innovation
One leader at a time
Everyone recognized
as a leader and
powerful contributor
With changemaking as the new norm, the pace of
Innovation is the ultimate result of walls falling between
change in every sector and in every individual’s life will
two sides that would not otherwise connect. The ability
accelerate. In order to navigate and command this new
to tear down walls and connect others into a team of
landscape, everyone must be a skilled and practised
teams is, therefore, a requisite new leadership skill.
changemaker. Herein lie the stakes for the new learning
needs of our children and youth.
Youth learning must, therefore, be calibrated so teens
are practising cognitive empathy-based ethics, co-cre-
In a world of interaction and complexity—one that relies
ative teamwork (team-of-teams), a new kind of lead-
on collaboration for success and contribution—the
ership in which everyone on the team is an initiatory
stakes for every child mastering empathy have never
player, and changemaking. Learning in the early grades
been higher. Team-of-teams is a way of working that is
must be focussed on the mastery of empathy as a fun-
highly interactive, and individual integrity, a premium
damental skill needed for success and contribution in
Be practiced at the
core skills of empathy,
teamwork, new leadership,
and changemaking
standard in this system, is directly proportional to
today’s dynamically changing world.
Premium on expertise
and authority based
on specific knowledge
Premium on ethical fiber
— personal credibility
and authenticity based on
changemaking for the good
Communication through
authoritative voice
Communication through
storytelling and experiences
Limited distribution of
information based on
“need to know” to perform
a job or function
Open, transparent
communication flow
based on everyone
having information
on which to form a
team of teams and act
Team based on
repetitive skills
executed harmoniously
in a vertical system
Be practised at a skill
Team of teams fluidly
evolving across old
boundaries to address
complex challenges
in a hybrid landscape
change pursued for the good. Also, rules cannot keep
up with this level of change, making cognitive empathybased ethics essential in our everyday leadership and
To make this framework the foundation for education transformation, there must be societal awareness
of the historical forces that are reshaping the global
landscape. What is needed today is a sustained shift in
thinking. Mindset shift at scale will produce the broader
imperative for framework change at scale.
To this end, social impact leaders are uniquely positioned to help facilitate a global mindset shift that will
lead to societal framework change. Thirty-five years
ago, Bill Drayton (2013), a pioneer of social entrepreneurship, introduced the notion that there is nothing
more powerful than a bold new idea in the hands of
an exceptional entrepreneur innovating for the good of
all. Behind his visionary leadership, the field of social
entrepreneurship has grown. Today, the organization
he founded, Ashoka, has a fellowship comprised of the
world’s leading social entrepreneurs, numbering more
than 3,200 innovators in 85 countries.
Social entrepreneurs are systems changers who work
tirelessly for the public. Drayton describes these individuals as society’s ‘essential corrective force’. In addition to the ideas they bring to bear on the world’s most
complex issues, leading social entrepreneurs have
mastered the key skills needed for the new societal
paradigm, and they apply them to tackle these seemingly intractable social challenges. Ashoka social entrepreneurs everywhere—regardless of culture, religion,
or political system—act on their empathy and inspire
other changemakers by removing obstacles that hinder
innovation and create the conditions for changemaking.
Twenty-five per cent of the Ashoka fellowship work
on issues directly related to the health and wellbeing of young people, advancing powerful ideas and
approaches aimed at giving agency to a generation of
confident contributors in the world. They are transforming classrooms, playgrounds, neighborhoods, and
communities. Individually, these leading social entrepreneurs command the foundational skills critical for
success in the new strategic landscape. Collectively,
they model and promote the ‘how-to’ for living in a
changemaker world. However, more is needed to help
society through this shift.
New literacy and the changemaker generation:
Why empathy is as important as reading and math
In recent years, Ashoka has devoted new resources and
attention to carefully identifying, selecting, and collaborating with teams of educators in primary and secondary schools that are helping young people to develop
the strategies and abilities needed for a changemaker
world. In aspiration and practice, students are cultivated as active contributors.
The emergence of this worldwide network of Changemaker Schools offers a model others can look to for
prioritizing empathy and changemaker skills in student
outcomes. The teams in these schools have demonstrated their ability and willingness to develop and test
new ideas, rather than just follow established norms.
Beyond their local focus, they are also global frame
changers with the obvious commitment, influence, and
reputation to persuade others to follow their lead.
The Changemaker Schools network and the world’s
parents and social impact leaders in higher education, citizen-sector organizations, business, media, and
youth venture entrepreneurship—are contributing to a
growing global awareness that the learning framework
for young people must be aligned with the new societal
Everyone A Changemaker TM is not an alternative model
for success or a utopia to which we all should aspire—
it is the new reality. We already live in a world that
requires every person to understand the nature of how
the world is changing and the new skills needed to navigate and lead. As this new reality comes into sharper
focus, society will have important information on which
to act.
New literacy and the changemaker generation:
Why empathy is as important as reading and math
mindset shift. We will see evidence when principals,
board members, and others in and around the education community know that the primary school’s success
or failure is based on children in the early grades grasping and practising empathy. Cognitive empathy-based
ethics will be elevated as a foundational skill on a level
with reading and math.
Teens in middle and high school will be mindful that
they must be changemakers practised at the four core
skills needed for the new game (empathy, teamwork,
new leadership, and changemaking). Stakeholders will
count the number of student-created and student-run
groups on their campuses as critical preparation indicators. Parents will actively evaluate if the culture of the
school is can and students are instilled with a dream it,
do it belief. Finally, learning outcomes will reflect the
new imperative that graduating students must demonstrate the capacity to command the open, fluid teamof-teams landscape awaiting them.
Holding up a new lens on the world we are in will offer
a better perspective to discern the qualities young
people must have for success and to fully contribute.
As this package of attributes becomes the benchmark
for youth learning and parenting—having an innovative
mind, a service heart, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a
collaborative outlook—we will have transformative education that is aligned with the new societal landscape.
Transitions from school
in Australia –
the winners
and losers
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
John Polesel
Thinking about the transitions of young people from
Just a note first on the data sources. I will be focussing
school to further study and employment is critically
on data collected in the first three states here.
important. Let me say upfront that most young people
Victoria and Queensland – population surveys
education and training or to higher education, but
New South Wales – sample survey 2014
the outcomes for a significant minority are worrying.
Western Australia and South Australia – limited
make a successful transition from school to vocational
Moreover, we know that gender, socio-economic status
and location all have an impact on the quality of transitions. Some groups are much more vulnerable than
others to poor transitions. I want to focus particularly
or pilot tracking
Australian Capital Territory – no tracking
Northern Territory – trial survey in 2005
involving seven schools
on those who don’t go to university or into any form of
VET, because these are the ones most likely to be in
Tasmania – one-off survey of 2002 Year 10,
what researchers like Castles and Standing have called
followed up through Years 11 and 12, involving
in various publications the ‘precariat’—that is the group
approximately 6,700 students
made up of employees in short-term contract positions,
insecure jobs, with no paid holidays or sick leave, and
receiving little training. Castles and colleagues have
also noted the decline of secure, full-time jobs for
young people in modern OECD economies.
These were annual population surveys conducted in
Victoria and Queensland—the On Track & Next Step
surveys respectively. These are surveys that our team
at the University of Melbourne established about ten
years ago. Both are now run in-house by the Departments of Education in those states. The third state I am
including is New South Wales, where we conducted a
sample study in 2014. In all three cases, school leavers
were contacted by phone, usually in April or May in
the year after completing school, and asked questions
about their study and labour market destinations. The
Victorian and New South Wales studies included early
leavers, although the sample sizes are very small.
In the remaining states and territories the data are
very patchy.
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Looking for work
However, I am going to argue that the patterns
of transition and differences for different sub-groups
are probably pretty similar across Australia, and that
the situation in Tasmania is likely to be close to what
I will discuss below. Reports from the Victorian, New
South Wales and Queensland surveys are all available
online and they are a rich and accessible source of data
via Google.
P/T Work
Starting with New South Wales, it is useful to consider
two main questions—study status and labour market
status (Figure 3.1) Behind these questions are many
others: what course was a student taking, what job did
he or she secure at how many hours, and so on?
F/T Work
Bachelor degree
VET Cert IV+
Figure 3.1
Destinations of New South Wales’ Year 12 students
completing, 2013
Source: Polesel et al. (2013)
Note: NILFET is Not in the labour force,
employment, or training.
Employed FT, 8.5
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Cert I-III,
Trainee, 3.1
Cert IV +,
Apprentice, 6.9
Inactive, 2
Note the similarities and differences between Queensland and New South Wales (Figure 3.2). The main dif-
Next Step Survey
Department of Education Training & Employment
Queensland 2013
ference is the latter’s lower transition to university and
consequently the higher proportion making a direct
entry to the labour market.
Unemployed, 10.4
University, 39.4
Employed PT, 17.4
Employed FT, 8.5
Trainee, 3.1
Apprentice, 6.9
Cert IV +,
Cert I-III,
Next Step Survey
Department of Education Training & Employment
Queensland 2013
Figure 3.2
Destinations of Queensland Year 12 students
completing, 2013
Source: DET (2013)
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Victoria is probably more similar to New South Wales,
Unemployed, 4.8
with almost identical proportions going into university
Inactive, 1.1
(Figure 3.3).
Employed PT, 11.8
Employed FT, 6.2
Trainee, 2.3
University, 53.2
Apprentice, 4.8
Cert I-III, 3.7
Cert IV +, 12.1
Figure 3.3
Destinations of Victorian Year 12 students completing, 2013
Source: DEECD (2013)
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Here, I want to make some general comments that
So do these outcomes represent a problem? Should
apply to all three states and, by extension, they prob-
our schools and our policy makers be worried? Is there
ably apply to the rest of Australia, including Tasmania.
a problem for this one quarter entering the labour
First of all, most young people make a relatively suc-
market without any further education or training?
cessful transition from school into university, post-
I would argue that it depends on what kind of job they
school vocational education and training (VET), appren-
are doing and how many hours they are working and
ticeships and traineeships. The most common pathway
I will come back to that. But first, I would like to point
among those surveyed is to university; this accounts
out some of the differences for different subgroups
for approximately half the school completer cohort.
of students.
The next largest destination comprises vocational programs or apprenticeships and traineeships. Overall,
the proportion entering different VET or work-based
pathways is about one quarter. However, the transitions for the remainder—usually about one quarter of
the cohort—are more problematic. This remaining one
quarter of the cohort comprises those not in accredited
education or training of any kind. Most are in the labour
market, and the larger proportion of these is working
part-time. Note that only a minority find full-time
work. This discussion of the post-school destinations of
young people needs to be grounded in the context of
an overall apparent retention rate from Year 7 to Year
12 of 76.7 per cent in Australia. In other words, a significant proportion of the secondary school cohort does
not even complete school, and the rate varies considerably across the states, regions and equity groups.
These apparent retention rates are relatively low by
international standards and have barely changed over
the last 20 years. Moreover, the destinations of the
early leavers are more worrying than that evident with
First of all, considering gender is important because
it has an impact mainly among those who enter the
labour market without any further education or training. Overall, young women are consistently more likely
to enter university, but they are less likely to access
apprenticeships. These two balance each other out in a
sense. Both represent different but secure pathways to
highly-paid work and they represent good, though different, outcomes for the two gender groups. However,
for those who enter the workforce, approximately equal
proportions of young men and young women overall,
there are consistent differences in outcomes. Girls are
more likely to be working part-time than boys, who are
much more likely to find full-time work. This pattern is
consistent in all the states we have surveyed and has
not changed over time, and this reflects the nature of
the labour market itself, which we might characterise
as unfriendly to young people generally but actually
hostile to young women. Figures 3.4 and 3.5 summarise
the pattern evident in Victoria and New South Wales.
the school completers.
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Figure 3.4
Destinations of Year 12 completers
in Victoria, 2013, by gender
Figure 3.5
Destinations of Year 12 completers
in New South Wales, 2013, by gender
Source: DEECD (2013)
Source: Polesel et al. (2013)
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Regional differences are important to consider as well.
Figure 3.6 shows the situation in New South Wales, and
again these patterns are broadly repeated in Victoria
and Queensland. I suspect they represent the situation
on other states, as to differences between the capital
cities and regional areas.
Looking for work
P/T Work
F/T Work
VET Cert IV+
Bachelor degree
North & East Sydney
South & West Sydney
Hunter & Illawarra
Remainder NSW
Figure 3.6
Destinations of Year 12 completers in New South Wales,
2013, by region
Sydney school students are much more likely to go to
Source: Polesel et al. (2013)
south of the capital, and drops again for the remote
university, a trend that declines among those in near
regional centres in the Hunter and Illawarra north and
areas of the state. These surveys consistently show that
school completers living in the metropolitan areas such
as Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne are more likely to
enter higher education than those in the regional and
rural locations in those states.
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
On the other hand, school completers from regional
areas are much more likely to enter the labour market
without further education or training and, consequently,
they are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed
or in part-time work. We found in New South Wales that
this regional impact is significant even if we control for
socio-economic status. This matter really underlines
the vulnerability of regional youth, and raises issues of
access to higher education that we have not addressed
in this country.
The surveys consistently show a strong link between
the socio-economic status of students and their destination. They show that the proportion of Year 12 com-
pleters entering higher education increases as the level
of socio-economic status increases. The transition to
Cert I-III
Cert IV +
other destinations also tends to increase as the level of
socio-economic status decreases. This finding means
that students in areas of relative socio-economic dis-
advantage are more likely to enter the labour market
without further education or training. The numbers of
school leavers working full time, working part time or
unemployed rises as their socio-economic status falls.
This finding suggests that much smaller proportions of
Year 12 completers from the lowest SES quartile enter
higher education and relatively greater proportions of
this same group will be unemployed or not in education
or training or the labour force. Again these patterns are
consistent over the years and across the states, Figure
3.7 summarising the findings for Victoria.
Lower middle
Upper middle
Figure 3.7
Main destinations by socio-economic status, Victoria, 2013
Source: DEECD (2013)
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
So what about those who enter the labour market with
1-10 hours
no further education or training; who might be typified
11-20 hours
21-30 hours
31-40 hours
over 40 hours
as a precariat sub-population. The effectiveness of this
transition from school to adult pursuits partly depends
on the nature of employment, the hours worked, and
the conditions of employment, among other factors.
Findings suggest that only 55 per cent of males in thisMales
category are working over 30 hours and only 43 per
cent of females are working over 30 hours (Figure 3.8).
Again these patterns are consistent across Australia.
The proportions of young people in part-time work are
increasing each year in these surveys. Also consistent
is the finding that females are more likely to be working
part-time. Overall, approximately two-thirds of those in
the labour market are working part-time or are looking
for work.
0 0
Figure 3.8
Hours worked by Year 12 completers
not in education or training,
by sex, Victoria, 2013. Source: DEECD (2013)
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Figure 3.9 suggests that those who are working are
doing so in predominantly low-skilled and low-paid
casual jobs in personal services, hospitality and sales,
and mostly in a part-time capacity. What is especially
concerning is that these are exactly the same jobs
being taken by university students to get them through
their studies. So school completers are competing with
university students and even with school students for
these same low paid jobs, because that is all the labour
Checkout Operators & Cashiers
Counters Hands at Food Outlets
Factory Workers and Packers
Bar Attendnats
General Labourers
Sport and Fitness
Sales Assistants
market offers.
The role of curriculum in these circumstances is worth
Kitchen hands
noting. If we are concerned regarding the transitions
of those entering the labour market directly, we might
legitimately ask whether our school-based vocational
programs make a difference. The answer is both yes
and no. If we consider the New South Wales data (and
again it is not so different from what we find in Victoria and Queensland), we can see significant differences
between the VET students and the rest (Figure 3.10).
to be re-set
Figure 3.9
Main occupations of Year 12 completers
not in education or training, by sex, Victoria,
2012 (Department of Education & Training Victoria 2012)
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
Figure 3.10
Destinations of Year 12 completers, New South Wales,
2013 by participation in vocational education
and training in schools (VETiS)
The VET students are less likely to go to university: not
Source: Polesel et al. (2013)
and apprenticeships and traineeships. But even with
surprising, we know they have a profile that is not oriented to strictly academic achievement. Pleasingly they
are more likely to go into post-school VET programs
the higher numbers going into all those VET options,
there are more VET students entering the labour
market. And we have seen what that means—mainly
part-time, low skilled work. Do the VET students get
different jobs? No they are the same and despite their
VET studies, those students are still more likely to be
unemployed or working part-time.
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
And finally let’s consider the destinations of the early
school leavers (Figure 3.11). The outcomes are troublesome and especially unsatisfactory for girls, who have
access to far fewer apprenticeships than boys. The par-
ticular survey from which these data are drawn also
only captures 40 per cent of the cohort, the rest being,
for example, uncontactable—which may suggest that
the real outcomes are probably more precarious still.
1.1 0.9
Cert IV +
Cert I-III
Figure 3.11
Destinations of early leavers, Victoria, 2013
Source: DEECD (2013)
Employed FT Employed PT Unemployed
So to finish, these then are the patterns evident across
significant parts of Australia. About 80 per cent of
young people now complete secondary school across
the country, but of those, only about half will go to
university. This finding raises an important question.
How effective are the options we are providing for
the remainder, the 60 per cent or so who do not go to
higher education, some of whom do not even complete
secondary school? This mixed cohort is in the majority.
Transitions from school in Australia – the winners and losers
I would suggest that the culture of our secondary
schools is still one which places university entry above
all other goals, to the detriment of other pathways.
A number of strategies could be considered to address
these problems.
Firstly, there is a need to address the status of VET
that is offered in schools, by prioritising the allocation
of staff and resources in our secondary school systems.
There is also a need to provide more coherent
vocational programs which engage industry and business in the provision of training places and which
provide clearly signposted pathways to further study.
Careers advice and guidance must reflect the needs
of all young people, not just those going to university.
And finally, alternatives to our mainstream secondary
schools need to be carefully considered, designed and
resourced to provide the range of alternatives required
by the diverse users of school.
At the risk of offending my audience, I would say that
these issues point clearly to the role of universities
and the continued control exercised by the universities
over our secondary school curricula, but it is a two-way
street. School leaders too are reluctant to take risks
and provide alternatives to the pathway paved in gold
which leads to university. Until we can think about transitions in more inclusive terms and consider pathways
other than university, we will continue to do 60 per cent
of our school leavers a disservice.
Making connections: research,
teacher education and
educational improvement
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
Ian Menter
In this paper I seek to explore the relationships
The other key point to be made by way of introduc-
between teacher education, research, and educational
tion is that while education systems may still be largely
improvement, connecting directly with at least two of
based around nation states or states within nations,
the three priorities for the Peter Underwood Centre
there is nevertheless an increasingly global element in
for Educational Attainment—research and workforce
education policy processes and to some extent that is
development. My exploration is based on a deep com-
also echoed in educational practices (Rizvi & Lingard,
mitment to a research-based approach to teacher edu-
2010). Some of the most visible aspects of these devel-
cation, indeed on my commitment to teaching as an
opments may be associated with the attempts at inter-
enquiry-based profession and also to the improvement
national comparisons in educational achievement, such
of educational experiences for all learners. This is not
as PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS. One of the most perceptive
therefore a dispassionate perspective. It is one based
accounts of these developments has been offered by
on many years working in schools and universities, and
Pasi Sahlberg (2011), who continues to be somewhat
working with other teachers and researchers. However,
mystified by the success of Finland in these league
even if it is not dispassionate, I will nevertheless seek
tables, but is able to offer some partial explanations
to provide the evidence to support the case I am devel-
against the backdrop of his wonderfully suggestive
oping, in the true spirit of critical enquiry.
acronym, the GERM.
The Global Education Reform
Movement is the process which has led to the following characteristics (or symptoms) being seen in many
education contexts around the world:
increased focus on core subjects;
prescribed curriculum;
transfer of models from the corporate world; and
high-stakes accountability policies
It becomes clear in Sahlberg’s book, that Finland’s
success is built against a very different background
from many other developed nations, including England
or even the wider UK, which is a much more stratified
society than Finland, with many institutions of privilege
for the privileged.
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
Teaching and teachers
The overall theme for this symposium is ‘education
It is implied in the title of the symposium that the
Many of the debates about the form and structure of
underpinning social and economic transformation’.
measure of a successful education system is to be
teacher education programmes have centred on ques-
Teachers have a major role to play in supporting these
located in indicators of social and economic develop-
tions about the nature of teaching and what forms of
aspirations for the transformative effects of education.
ment. But few would deny the simultaneous impor-
knowledge, skills and experience are required in order
However, from the outset we must remember the clear
tance of cultural and intellectual development (see
to fulfil this definition. In a review of literature of teacher
caveat stated by Basil Bernstein (1970) more than 40
Nussbaum, 2012). Indeed, in these times of ‘the knowl-
education in the 21st century, a team of us at the Uni-
years ago—education cannot compensate for society.
edge economy’ much of the key debate concerns how
versity of Glasgow (Menter et al., 2010) suggested that
Nevertheless as others have pointed out, ‘School
these different purposes of education relate to each
it is possible to identify four paradigms of teaching,
Matters’ (Mortimore et al., 1988) and ‘Teachers Matter’
other and should be balanced. One of the key British
each of which will lead to rather different approaches
(Day et al., 2007). It is now a truth almost universally
thinkers on the development of 20th century democ-
to the formulation of pre-entry programmes:
acknowledged that the single biggest element in edu-
racy, Raymond Williams, suggested that you could
cational success and indeed in educational improve-
understand the development of education in Britain as
ment is the quality of teaching and of teachers. That
a continuing struggle between the interests of three
is the conclusion of the McKinsey Reports (Barber &
influential forces within society:
Mourshed, 2007) and it is also what emerges from the
the effective teacher –
with an emphasis on technical skills;
the reflective teacher –
with an emphasis on values and review;
the old humanists;
the public educators; and
called ‘The Quality of Teaching’ (DES, 1983). In 2010,
the industrial trainers (Williams, 1961/2011).
we had another White Paper called ‘The Importance
In so far as these social forces coincide with, respec-
of Teaching’ (DfE, 2010)—I will be returning to that
tively, the cultural, the social and the economic pur-
later on. The recognition that teaching is important has
poses of education, we can still see these tensions
Moving from the first to the fourth, each paradigm
led to some greater efforts to identify what it is that
being played out, albeit on a more global scale, in the
incorporates those with a lower number but builds upon
may make teachers more or less successful. But of
education systems of developed nations today.
it. These might be seen as positions on a spectrum of
TALIS studies (OECD, 2009).
In England, we had a White Paper as long ago as 1983
course there is a rather important prior question that
may get in the way of answering this directly. That is—
what do we mean by ‘educational success’ or indeed by
‘good teaching’?
So, it seems logical to expect that the shape and form
of teacher education will be deeply influenced by the
agreed purposes of education. If we do wish to see edu-
the enquiring teacher –
with the adoption of a research orientation; and
the transformative teacher –
with the adoption of a ‘change agency’
professionalism which, using terminology developed in
the 1970s by Hoyle (1974) moves from ‘restricted’ professionalism to ‘extended’ professionalism.
cation, at least in some significant part, as an engine of
social and economic transformation, then what kinds of
teachers do we want and how should we prepare them?
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
The reform of teacher education
At the restricted/effective end of the spectrum, there
In his account of the lessons from Finland, Sahlberg
For, by reviewing and analysing a nation’s teacher edu-
is a view that the best place to learn to teach is along-
(2011) is in no doubt that the standing of the teach-
cation system we are appraising what it is that teach-
side an experienced and successful teacher, through
ing profession, the commitment to high quality teacher
ers should know, what they should be able to do and
an apprenticeship model; this is sometimes depicted
education and continuing development, and the rea-
how they should be disposed, in order to help in the
as a ‘craft’ view of teaching. The skills of teaching
sonable remuneration of teachers are among the
formation of the future adult citizens of the society, in
are learned by observation and by imitation, and in
factors likely to have positive influence—even if he is
perhaps 10 to 20 years’ time. Teacher education may
turn by being observed and receiving feedback from
no more able than the rest of us to demonstrate more
be taken to be highly symbolic of how a society sees its
the experienced teacher. On this model, knowledge
than a correlation between these features. As we shall
future and is therefore highly indicative of its underly-
of the subject content of the teaching is assumed to
see, actually demonstrating a causal link, let alone a
ing values. Perhaps it is a realisation of this that has
be present, in other words the trainee is already well
full explanation of this relationship, continues to be a
turned teacher education into such a centre of political
versed in the subject and all they require is enthusiasm
very significant challenge (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner,
interest in the past 20 to 30 years in many countries.
and an ability to learn from observation and feedback.
2005; Cochran-Smith et al., 2008).
If this is a limited view of becoming a teacher for a secondary school teacher of a particular subject, it is even
more challenging for the elementary or primary school
teacher whose subject knowledge will need to range
right across the school curriculum. This position has
been well exemplified by a recent Secretary of State
for Education in England, Michael Gove, in his foreword
to the Government White Paper mentioned above:
“Teaching is a craft and it is best learnt as an apprentice observing a master craftsman or woman. Watching
others, and being rigorously observed yourself as you
develop, is the best route to acquiring mastery in the
classroom” (DfE, 2010).
We shall return to this view shortly.
But if we are indeed looking to education leading transformation, we surely need a more ambitious view of
It should therefore be no surprise that across the globe
I have often made the argument that in order to under-
we have seen increasing numbers of reviews, reports
stand a particular teacher education system as it cur-
and reforms of teacher education over recent years
rently exists it is necessary to consider the history,
(see Darling-Hammond & Lieberman, 2012; Townsend,
culture and politics of that society. I would now add
2011). In my travels around the UK, as well as in the
very wholeheartedly that the economy of the society
USA, Austria, Norway, Turkey and recently Russia,
is also an important factor in shaping the system. So,
there are major reforms going on in teacher education.
if we need to look at all four of these to understand
And of course the same is true here in Australia, of
a teacher education system, we may also expect the
which more towards the end of this paper.
system to have an influence on the future economy,
culture and politics of that society. In other words there
is a dynamic relationship between teacher education
and society. Teacher education is both shaped by and
also influences the society. Indeed that is why a maxim
that is important to me, especially in undertaking comparative work in teacher education research, is ‘by their
teacher education ye shall know them’.
teaching and teacher education. To what extent one
needs to adopt a transformative model of teaching in
order to promote education as a transformative force is
a key question for discussion at this symposium.
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
The big questions in teacher education that are both
In England then, one of the first White Papers that the
enduring—that is, they have historical manifestations—
Coalition Government produced was ‘The Importance
and highly contemporary, include:
of Teaching’ (DfE, 2010); this set out a clear view of the
the background and experience
of recruits into teaching;
the relationship between theory and practice;
the nature of professional knowledge;
the sites of learning;
the respective contributions of the
school and of the university;
curriculum and assessment within
teacher education;
nature of teaching and indeed of teacher education, as
demonstrated in these extracts.
We do not have a strong enough focus on what
is proven to be the most effective practice in
teacher education and development. We know
that teachers learn best from other professionals and that an ‘open classroom’ culture is
vital: observing teaching and being observed,
having the opportunity to plan, prepare, reflect
and teach with other teachers’.
[We will] reform initial teacher training so that
the continuum of professional learning; and
assessing the effectiveness of teacher education
key teaching skills including teaching early
(see Menter, 2015).
reading and mathematics, managing behav-
It may be useful here to offer a brief summary of what
has been happening in the UK to give a sense of how
more training is on the job, and it focuses on
iour and responding to pupils’ Special Educational Needs.
some of these major issues have been debated. The
We thus see Mr Gove fully supporting a simple craft
year 2010 was very interesting for us. There was a
view of teaching and an apprenticeship model of teacher
general election held in May, which led to the creation
education—actually he persisted in calling it teacher
of the Coalition Government, a partnership between
training—and we now see the dominance of his ‘School
the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Michael
Direct’ approach to teacher education. This school-led
Gove was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron
model has promoted a small number of universities
as Secretary of State for Education. Remember however
to withdraw altogether from teacher education, and it
that Gove’s jurisdiction for education was not UK wide,
has given rise to a number of others seriously ques-
it covers only England. Since the devolutions of the late
tioning whether it is worth their while to maintain their
1990s, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had full
responsibility for education policy including teacher
education policy.
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
However, only two months later, a report was pub-
Not surprisingly, in the light of these values, Donald-
lished in Edinburgh called ‘Teaching Scotland’s Future’
son not only endorsed the importance of higher educa-
(Donaldson, 2010). This report had been written by
tion and research in teacher education, he was gently
a leading educational professional rather than by a
critical that universities were not even more broadly
politician, namely the recently retired Chief Inspec-
engaged in teacher education.
tor of Education, Graham Donaldson. This set out a
very different view of teaching and teacher education
when compared to Michael Gove’s model in England.
Donaldson emphasised:
teachers “as reflective, accomplished and
enquiring professionals who have the capacity
to engage fully with the complexities of education
being offered in these two component nations of the
United Kingdom (see Hulme & Menter, 2011 or Menter,
2014, for more detailed discussion).
I should note also that processes of review have been
underway in Northern Ireland (Sahlberg, Munn &
educational change” (p.4);
Furlong, 2012) and Wales (Furlong, 2015) as well and
teaching as a profession based on high
the key role that universities have to offer
in the development of teachers;
different policy trajectories in the teacher education
and to be key actors in shaping and leading
quality provision;
Therefore we have seen in the last five years somewhat
these have generally been aligned towards the Scottish
view of teaching and teacher education, thus making
England sometimes seem something of an outlier within
the UK (see Teacher Education Group, forthcoming).
However, the ideas for school-based teacher education
teaching as a complex and challenging occupation
are not only in England; we see similar developments
which requires a strong and sophisticated profes-
in many US states.
sional development framework throughout every
stage of the career; and
the link between teaching and leadership—
good quality education is based on both,
throughout the career.
It came as something
of a shock to many
of us who had been working
in university-based teacher
education for a number of
years that the importance
of the links between
higher education and
teacher education were
not widely understood.
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
The BERA–RSA Inquiry
It was because of concern about the potential impacts
Thus the Inquiry, then established in a partnership with
on the educational research infrastructure of govern-
the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) set out to answer
ment policies concerning teacher education across the
the following questions, more or less ab initio:
four nations of the UK, that BERA decided in 2012 to
set up an inquiry into the relationship between teacher
education and research. It came as something of a
shock to many of us who had been working in university-based teacher education for a number of years that
the importance of the links between higher education
and teacher education were not widely understood.
Indeed retrospectively and in spite of many years of
pamphleteering and campaigning against universitybased teacher education by right wing think tanks and
their associates, we can see now that there had been
a failure to resist or respond positively to defend the
sector (Childs & Menter, 2013). But yet, the evidence
to demonstrate the importance of HE and research in
teaching was not immediately to hand. There were no
studies that convincingly demonstrated that educational outcomes were improved through teacher education with high levels of university input or indeed of
research input.
1. What is the role of research within initial teacher
education (ITE) and how does it contribute to programmes of continuing professional development
and learning (CPDL)?
2. What is the impact of research-informed teacher
education on the quality of teaching and how far
does research-based teaching improve learning
outcomes for students?
3. How far does current provision across the UK meet
the requirements of research-informed teacher
education and research-based teaching? What are
the barriers to creating research-rich environments
at a school and system level and how may these be
A total of seven papers was commissioned from a range
of leading scholars (BERA–RSA, 2014a). A review of
more and less successful education systems and their
approach to teacher education was carried out by Maria
Teresa Tatto (2014) and she found that there was at
least prima facie evidence of a positive linkage between
enquiry oriented approaches to teacher education and
successful outcomes—she looked at Finland, Singapore, the USA and Chile.
...models which sought
to integrate theoretical
and experiential learning
in a systematic way
provided a firm basis
for teachers’ continuing
professional learning
and for the creation
of teachers who
could work in a
range of contexts
and situations.
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
Two of my colleagues at Oxford, Katharine Burn and
The report made recommendations for each of the four
Trevor Mutton (2014), were asked to look at research-
UK jurisdictions but also some more general recom-
based clinical practice models of initial teacher edu-
mendations, as follows:
cation. They looked at approaches in Scotland, Australia, the Netherlands and elsewhere, as well as our
With regard to both initial teacher education and
teachers’ continuing professional development,
own Oxford internship scheme, and found that models
there are pockets of excellent practice across the
which sought to integrate theoretical and experiential
UK but good practice is inconsistent and insuf-
learning in a systematic way provided a firm basis for
ficiently shared. Drawing on the evidence, the
teachers’ continuing professional learning and for the
inquiry concludes that amongst policymakers and
creation of teachers who could work in a range of con-
practitioners there is considerable potential for
texts and situations.
greater dialogue than currently takes place, as
Overall the Inquiry came to the following conclusions
and the wider research community.
(BERA–RSA, 2014b):
there is between teachers, teacher-researchers
Everybody in a leadership position—in the policy
Internationally, enquiry-based (or ‘research-rich’)
community, in university departments of educa-
school and college environments are the hallmark
tion, at school or college level or in key agen-
of high performing education systems.
cies within the educational infrastructure—has a
To be at their most effective, teachers and teacher
educators need to engage with research and
enquiry; this means keeping up-to-date with the
latest developments in their academic subject or
responsibility to support the creation of the sort
of research-rich organisational cultures in which
these outcomes, for both learners and teachers,
can be achieved.
subjects and with developments in the discipline of
Teachers and teacher educators need to be
equipped to engage in enquiry-oriented practice;
this means having the capacity, motivation, confidence and opportunity to do so.
A focus on enquiry-based practice needs to be sustained during initial teacher education programmes
and throughout teachers’ professional careers …
[this needs to be] embedded within the lives of
schools or colleges and become the normal way
of teaching and learning, rather than the exception—[that is, teachers should be equipped with
‘research literacy’].
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
Now what about
Australia and Tasmania?
In July last year I was speaking at the annual confer-
The report identifies four fundamental principles on
This is profoundly encouraging. Of course much will
ence of the Australian Teacher Education Association,
which the group’s deliberations are based: integration;
depend on the level of political support that the rec-
held in Sydney, and I became aware of the moves that
assurance; evidence; transparency. Five proposals
ommendations get—and we know politicians change
were developing here to look at the organisation and
then follow from these principles:
and move on. However, what has been provided here
delivery of teacher education. To be frank, there was
considerable anxiety at that time that the outcomes of
the processes of review established by Minister Pyne
might bear a considerable similarity to the developments in England. My reading of the report (TEMAG,
2014), which came out seven or eight months ago, is
that this has not in fact been the case.
The key issues for teacher education (as delineated
1. a strengthened national quality assurance process;
2. sophisticated and rigorous selection
for entry into teaching;
5. national research and capability.
On the third of these, there is talk of structured and
mutually beneficial partnerships between schools and
as well as the influence of the GERM! The report is not
higher education in order to provide the necessary
at all uncritical of current practice however, and sug-
‘real opportunities for pre-service teachers to integrate
gests that there are some serious weaknesses that
theory and practice’.
tion, the report is clear:
Higher education providers and the teaching
profession must together embrace the opportunity to full participate in a reformed, integrated system of initial teacher education. This
And on point 5, the report elaborates:
Better evidence of the effectiveness of initial
teacher education in the Australian context is
needed to inform innovative program design
and delivery, and the continuing growth of
teaching as a profession (p. xii).
participation will be essential in embedding
Not only that, but there is a clear recommendation as
the reforms necessary to deliver high-quality
to where the leadership for this research should lie:
teaching in every Australian school (p. xi).
will be helpful across Australia, not least in Tasmania.
4. robust assurance of classroom readiness; and
cal significance of teacher education is clearly flagged,
should be responsible for high quality teacher educa-
strategy for transformation and improvement. I trust it
3. integration of theory and practice;
above) are all in there and the awareness of the politi-
must be urgently addressed. On the key issue of who
is a clear evidence-based report that offers an overall
The AITSL should expand its functions to
include provision of leadership in national
research on teacher education effectiveness,
to ensure that the Australian teaching profession is able to continually improve its practice.
Trust, respect,
conditions and salary
are all important and
can play a part in the
recruitment and
retention of teachers
who can make a
big contribution
and improve young
people’s life chances.
Making connections: research,
teacher education and educational improvement
As we see in the TEMAG report, it remains crucially
Making connections in the way suggested in the TEMAG
important to enquire into the relationship between edu-
report is crucial to positive development. We see here
cational outcomes and the nature of teacher education
an opportunity to enrich and indeed embed the rela-
and professional development; this remains a greatly
tionships between policy, practice and research. We
under-researched and under-explored aspect of educa-
also see a commitment to critical reasoning as an
tion. We may have some prima facie evidence now that
underlying principle for teaching and for education, a
enquiry-oriented teaching is strongly associated with
commitment that is endangered in England, as demon-
more successful education systems, but we still do not
strated by Furlong’s (2014) recent analysis.
really understand why that is.
It is very reassuring to see examples of researchers and
Trust, respect, conditions and salary are all important
policymakers seeking to learn from each other without
and can play a part in the recruitment and retention of
blindly imitating. Education systems and teacher edu-
teachers who can make a big contribution and improve
cation systems each have their own histories and tra-
young people’s life chances. The standing of the profes-
jectories and each seeks to meet the needs of a distinc-
sion is likely to improve as the research and practice
tive culture and society at particular points in time. So
communities move closer together. Research literacy
the connections are important—global connections and
should be an entitlement for all teachers and should be
internal connections—in all three overlapping worlds of
developed throughout their careers. In the same way
policy, practice and research. Through such connec-
that other professions develop their expertise, this is
tions we can seriously seek to transform our world—
likely to be best achieved through ever closer working
both locally and internationally—through education.
with researchers and university-based colleagues who
can ask the right questions and support teachers in
identifying answers.
From rhetoric to reality:
creating a culture
of success in
secondary schools3
3 Please note that, while intellectual copyright belongs
to Rooty High School and the New South Wales
Department of Education, the commentary is my own.
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Christine Cawsey AM
In any conversation about the wide range of perfor-
According to an Australian Council of Social Services
mance of secondary schools in Australia the first
report released on 2 July 2015, one in seven Austral-
question that is usually asked is: What do secondary
ian children lives in poverty, and in Sydney it is over 15
schools need to do to raise aspirations, participation
per cent. Almost all these children attend government
and attainment? The assumption in this question is that
schools and, on any measure (health, employment,
low expectations and low achievement are the respon-
income, education), they have poorer outcomes in the
sibility of the school, rather than the responsibility of
Australian education system than they would have in
governments, educational systems, the community
comparable systems like Canada.
and schools. By contrast, for principals and schools
facing community cultures of low expectations, poor
participation and disengagement, the challenge is how
to define and then shift the school culture to one of
This presentation discusses how principals and school
teams make choices in their planning, change platforms and strategies to create a culture of success,
often in the face of significant funding, social and
political inequity.
The Prevailing Rhetoric
In the last few months I have been increasingly irritated by the rhetoric and spin surrounding secondary
schools and, secondary public schools in particular. In
preparing this presentation, a quick review of headlines
from the popular press viewed on Google did nothing
to lower my blood pressure and a lot to increase my
cynicism about the motives behind the current commentary on education—especially public education—in
this country (Figure 5.1).
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Figure 5.1
Education news headings. Source: Google
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Let me share some of the common and recurring myths
Some emerging realities
about secondary schools:
for secondary schools
To contrast the rhetoric, let me share three of my
Hattie said that 65 per cent of schools in Australia were
this country are men who have not been in a class-
perceptions, informed by evidence within and beyond
among the best schools in the world. The ability of many
the school.
parents to make a private economic decision to choose
a secondary school for their children masks that fact
The decline in Australia’s school education can be
traced back to the 1970s when large numbers of
women entered teaching.
In his address to the ACEL conference in 2014, John
The best-placed people to determine curriculum in
room in a school for up to 40 years.
2. Not all school communities are the same.
The decline in Australian school education can be
1.School teachers and principals have never been
more expert and Australia is a world leader in
standards based professional development.
traced back to the university education of the Baby
I have been well placed to observe the quality of new
Boomers—the ‘Flower Power’ generation.
teacher graduates entering the classroom as the prin-
that 35 per cent of schools meet the needs of communities where parents and, more critically, students have
little or no choice. In a country as rich as Australia, the
‘residualisation’ of 35 per cent of our schools poses a
significant future threat to our nation’s economic and
cipal of a school with 80 teaching staff, of whom 65
social wellbeing.
are in their first seven years of teaching (including
The elephant in the room in any conversation about
four members of the executive staff). The Australian
transforming secondary school education is school
Professional Standards for Teachers are demanding,
funding—and, critically—needs-based funding. I am not
and require teachers to demonstrate deep knowledge
going to go into that debate today except to say that,
and skills in understanding their students, translat-
The commentators and, in some cases, major policy
when students are starting secondary school three
ing curriculum, planning for learning against assess-
makers usually have a solution about what ‘we’
to five years behind the average for Australia, some
ment, managing the classroom learning environment
(that is the rest of us) should do:
schools are doing some very heavy lifting to reach key
and contributing to the profession, school and commu-
academic benchmarks. The common target of reaching
nity. As university staff know, the skills and discourses
state or national averages is a statistical furphy and
needed by students successfully completing university
shows how little many people remember from school
are increasingly complex, and demand that students
about the definition of ‘average’. If, for example, large
leaving secondary schools and their teachers have a
numbers of students in western Sydney improve their
deep expertise in the learning demands of each subject.
performance, the average for the whole state moves
The decline in PISA results can be linked to increased funding, especially for public schools.
Progressive education (that is, an education that
goes beyond literacy and numeracy) is a major
cause of the decline in Australian school education.
We should test undergraduates to make sure
they are literate and numerate before they
enter teaching.
We should import micro teaching approaches,
direct instruction, school-evaluation tools and
testing regimes—generally from publishers
up; schools cannot, and nor should they, be competing
based in countries that perform even more
on those measures. I will return to this matter soon.
poorly than we do on PISA tests.
We should create independent (autonomous)
public schools and/or academies because they
will address poor participation, engagement
and attainment better than government
school systems do now.
There is little or no research to support the
efficacy of any of these solutions above any others.
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Is it any wonder that
academics and school
systems across the
OECD are reflecting on
how to teach students
to be creative, entrepreneurial and resilient
when experts are
describing the complete
transformation of the way
we live and work?
3. Rapid economic and social change
and disruption are realities.
At the recent New South Wales Secondary Principals’
Conference, several of the speakers challenged principals to pay much closer attention to the rapid economic
and social disruption occurring globally and locally. As
the March report of the Brotherhood of St Laurence
showed, unemployment in 2014 was highest among
young people. It is at its highest in regional and remote
thirst to discover and uncover, a sense of fun and creativity, whether learning about the past or developing
ideas for the future”. These words respond powerfully
to a sense of disquiet held by many educators, not only
because Byron notes the rising numbers of students
with mental health issues but also because many educators are concerned about how they will best prepare
students for the future.
communities, those communities that are also over-
Yet, many of our schools have developed their repu-
represented in the numbers of students in the lowest
tations for delivering excellent external results based
ICSEA quartiles.
on the present, a present based in a very tradi-
The emerging economy is predicted to be one with few
traditional positions and one where work that is repetitive will be replaced by machines or by outsourcing to
countries with cheaper labour forces. When even the
work of lawyers and accountants can be replaced by
scanners and sophisticated software, what we have
done in schools in the past will not be enough to create
success for our students in the future.
Is it any wonder that academics and school systems
across the OECD are reflecting on how to teach stu-
We can no longer
talk about preparing
students for the 21st
century—in 2015,
it is already with us.
School should foster a love of learning and enquiry, a
dents to be creative, entrepreneurial and resilient when
experts are describing the complete transformation of
the way we live and work? We can no longer talk about
preparing students for the 21st century—in 2015, it is
already with us.
In the foreword to Educating Ruby – What our Children Really Need to Learn (Claxton & Lucas 2015), Professor Tanya Byron writes: “As a clinical psychologist
working in child and adolescent mental health I often
meet children and young people who are struggling
at school to such a degree that it has severely compromised their mental health and daily functioning …
tional past. Claxton and Lucas (2015) have identified
the broad dispositions students need at different ages
and stages of schooling. By the end of Year 8, they
think students need to be able to make real world
enquiries and see their own possible selves. By the end
of Year 10, they think students need sustained engagement with bodies of knowledge and research. By the
end of schooling, they think students should have dispositions for deep scholarship and extended making
(vocational) dispositions.
We now need to ask if our secondary students have
such levels of mastery at these stages. Certainly, at
Rooty Hill High School, up to 60 per cent of our students start high school three to five years behind their
peers. It is higher in many other schools, including
many schools in Tasmania.
Many of our secondary principals are now asking what
they need to do to ‘future proof’ learners and learning.
Is it possible that turning a school community around
on current measures might be as useful in the long
term as improving the pony express in the face of the
arrival of the telegraph?
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
School culture and context
It is now important to turn to the questions posed for
I would argue that schools hold significant reservoirs of
this presentation and to how Rooty Hill High School has
data and information and that those schools whose per-
responded to those questions.
sonnel wish to change the learning trajectory for stu-
schools in western Sydney, what do you think? Do you
imagine low expectations, disengagement and underachievement?
dents will use a wide range of sources for their information. They will be much more likely to measure changes
over time and to see the patterns that emerge. They
will strongly prosecute the argument that the school
‘most like our school is our school last year and our
There is evidence for this view. There are communi-
school next year’. These are the schools that focus on
ties in western Sydney where there is an acceptance
patterns, progress and improvement measures. They
of low achievement from students, teachers, schools
develop cultures that are disposed to innovation (often
and sadly—the community itself. You may have similar
as a result of a crisis or the failure of decontextual-
perceptions of some secondary schools and commu-
ized, system-wide approaches) and their leaders bring
nities in Tasmania and across Australia. Many Aus-
others on the journey. They keep their schools focussed
tralian parents will be just a little pleased when their
on the future and on the opportunities presented to try
children do not have to go to these schools and there
new strategies aligned with the culture of the school.
will be people who ‘have made it’ who will apologise
to their adult peers when they talk about the school
they attended when they were at school. These dinner
party conversations tell just as much about the critical
issues for the future of secondary school education as
any reports published in recent years.
There is nothing worse for principals and teachers than
working as hard as or harder than other colleagues to
create improvement for students and not being recognised for improvement and success on the annual
(and highly variable) snapshot measures determined
by governments and systems. Broadly, these measures
fall into three groups: attendance measures, retention
measures and attainment measures. They are useful as
triangulating and comparative measurement tools for
schools but they are not enough.
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
School planning
At the centre of the work to create a culture of success
at Rooty Hill High School is a new collaborative
approach to school planning, school evaluation. This
approach includes a willingness to initiate and implement new strategies and projects that will create the
change we want.
The New South Wales Department of Education introduced the new school planning model in August 2012
that is based on the work of Simon Sinek. Starting
with redefining the purposes of the school, based on a
statement of the school’s strengths, each government
school in New South Wales has identified three strategic directions on which to focus their work, learning,
teaching and resources. The three directions at Rooty
Hill High School are:
Capability driven curriculum: We will deliver our
overall purpose through the development and implementation of high quality creative, digital, capability
driven curriculum, teaching and learning, and assessment designed to increase the learning trajectory of
each student.
Personalised learning: We will deliver our overall
purpose through the development and implementation
of high quality universal, targeted and intensive personalised learning programs that give each student the
opportunity to do his or her best in making a successful
transition to 21st century life and work.
Leading for innovation: We will deliver our overall
purpose through a values driven, research based
culture with a disposition to leading for creativity,
improvement and innovation in our planning, partnerships and professional practice.
We know our purpose and it is clearly articulated in
the school plan. It is underpinned by our articulated
school values and an over-arching set of beliefs. We
believe we have a moral contract with our parents and
students to give every student the opportunity to do his
or her best. As teachers we do not teach the students
we want to have; we teach the students we have to
be the ones we want to have. We spend a lot of time
communicating with parents who have made the choice
to send their children to the school to create the confidence in them that they have made the right choice.
This is reinforced by the use of social media to engage
a new generation of parents who are increasingly connecting to us in new ways.
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Figure 5.2
Rooty Hill HS School
Details of the Rooty Hill HS
school plan and its associated
projects are available on
the school’s website at
[email protected]
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
It is important to note that the document is just a
record—the power of the shift this has made to our
culture is in the collaborative and creative processes
of planning, tracking, monitoring and reporting on progress towards the new practices and products we want
to have in place. It is in watching the role of executive
staff shift from compliance roles to leading and managing key change projects. It is in the increasing skills of
the teaching staff to undertake action research projects, manage student data and apply their learning to
the creation of new change platforms for learning.
One of the most powerful learnings for the school’s
Key performance measures
1. average growth and value added data (learning
trajectories) to within one mark of state average;
2. 40 per cent of all students achieving Band 4+ in
external tests and an average GPA of 3.5 on internal academic reports;
3. 80 per cent students achieving benchmark standards in ACARA/BOS capabilities;
4. 40 per cent of students seeking university entry
and 90 per cent planning tertiary education after
leaving school;
teachers and administrative staff in the last three years
5. all students demonstrate progress in their digital
has been in identifying, collecting, analysing and using
portfolios towards being successful learners,
data to inform decision making in classrooms, pro-
confident and creative individuals and active and
grams, projects and the milestone tracking required
informed citizens; and
for the school plan. When we established the projects
6. the school is recognised as a major developer of
and milestones for each strategic direction at Rooty Hill
innovative intellectual, organisational, social, pro-
High School we set up measures that would capture
fessional, leadership and educational capital.
how much we have done (inputs including professional
learning), how well we have done it (effectiveness) and
what impact/difference it has made in terms of student
achievement and growth.
As a result we have identified the following key performance measures for the school, agreed measures on
which we will track our progress in the next three to
five years. There are concessions to the need to triangulate with external data and there is also recognition
of the context of our school, with its strong vocational
education programs, focus on capabilities and the goals
of the Melbourne Declaration.4
4 The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians articulates nationally consistent future directions and aspirations for Australian
schooling agreed by all Australian Education Ministers. The Melbourne Declaration has two overarching goals for schooling in Australia: Goal 1: Australian
schooling promotes equity and excellence; and Goal 2: All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active
and informed citizens http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf.
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Change platforms, strategies,
processes and projects
I am going to assume that many of you are already
We now try to ensure we focus on school-wide plat-
familiar with the work done by Hamel and Zanini (2014)
forms and processes to underpin our programs and
for McKinsey & Company and I would just comment (as
projects. We seek alignment across the school at a
an aside) that one of the reasons I am an avid Twitter
policy and platform level; projects and programs are
fan (@chriscawsey) is the amount of research and cred-
then targeted within the platforms.
ible reporting that comes to me on social media through
teachers, academics and research organisations.
I have shared the key messages from the work of
Hamel and Zanini with our school community and, as a
result, we have had deep discussions about why many
of the ‘prescribed and pre-designed programmatic
solutions’ traditionally imposed on schools in the 20th
century did not work. I would recommend reading the
full article (see link in footnote). Five recommendations
have informed our work:
1. Encourage individuals to tackle significant organisational challenges that might be considered normally
beyond their sphere of influence and/or at the limits of
their zone of proximal development.
2. Encourage personal responsibility in individuals for initiating the change they want and give them tools and
resources to ‘spur’ creative thinking and creativity.
3. Foster honest and forthright discussion of root causes
and, in the process develop a shared view of the
‘thorniest’ barriers.
4. Elicit many possible solutions or options rather than
Let me share four highly successful processes now
used by the school in this work:
Lead faculties and project leaders. When the
school has a major project to do, such as the work done
with the Improving Literacy and Numeracy National
Partnership in 2013–14 we now identify lead faculties—
teams of teachers who will conduct small scale trials
and evaluations of platforms and tools we think will be
effective. Where they are effective, they are adopted
across the school. The school also creates ‘positions’
within faculties for teachers who are peer leaders on
projects within the school plan. The following comment
was made in the final report comments: ILNNP was
a model of this new approach—a network of willing
but initially inexperienced NP leaders, lead faculties,
focus on experimenting, successful faculties working
together to solve subject based problems, consultants to guide from the side, use of social technologies,
creation of agreed platforms for reading, writing, thinking, creativity supported by deep programming owned
by teachers.
Professional learning teams (PLT). At Rooty Hill
High School all teachers (including the principal and
senior executive staff) belong to a professional learning team and undertake action research into a targeted
area identified in the school plan. Members of each
team design and conduct action research that informs
the products produced by the PLT during or at the end
of the year and then adopted by the whole school.
Capability driven curriculum. In New South Wales,
the curriculum has traditionally been driven by strong
content frameworks and there has been a tension in
secondary schools between traditional ‘content-based’
approaches to each subject and the capabilities that are
assessed in NAPLAN and in other external assessments
including ESSA (Essential Science Skills Assessment in
Years 8 and 10) and the Higher School Certificate. This
will be extended in 2016 when PISA assesses fifteenyear-olds for skills in creativity and problem solving.
Working with Professor Bill Lucas and three in-house
consultants the school has reframed its subject-based
programming and lesson design to ‘teach through the
ACARA capabilities’ rather than teach them explicitly
and separately from each subject. There has been a
shift in the rate of learning, the learning trajectories
and the overall performance of students on the ACARA
benchmarks, in NAPLAN results and, from Term 3,
2015, students in Years 7 and 8 will be able to demon-
jumping quickly to a single approach—diverge before
strate their performance on the capability benchmarks
(in addition to traditional academic reports) with their
5. Focus on generating a portfolio of experiments that
new e-portfolios.
can be ‘conducted locally’ to help prove or disprove the
general solution rather than going for a grand design.
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
A culture of success
School wide-platforms. As well as gauging our
progress on key performance measures (see above),
the school is also measuring its progress towards the
products and practices identified in the school plan.
The digital portfolio for students is one example of
a product for which the school has planned. A second,
and significant product has been the publication of
key instructional and relational platforms, including
the publication and use of the Creativity Wheel—a platform (tool) now being used in each subject to deconstruct and reconstruct learning against the key dimensions of creativity identified by research and trialled
by a professional learning team in 2014 (Figures 5.3
and 5.4 below).
In times of great transitions, schools and school leaders
have always responded by creating the best opportunities and systems they can. In preparing this presentation I took time to consider the elements of the shift
towards success that Rooty Hill High School is making
(Table 5.1). It is important to recognise that this is not
an either/or approach; rather the school moves along
the continuum depending on where we are sitting in the
planning, implementing and reviewing cycle.
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
PLANS (ILPs, Behind Plans,
Health Plans)
BBC (lesson design protocols)
School Plan and Strategic direction teams
PLT projects and Action research
School Operations Plan
Partnership program – SVA, Beacon
Aboriginal Education and AECG partnership
TPL and BOSTES endorsed provider
Sentral and social media
Figure 5.3
Instructional and relational platforms
at Rooty Hill High School
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Figure 5.4
Platform: Creativity Wheel
A focus on external measures & averages
A focus on learning trajectories & progress
Annual management plans
Longer term plans & consistency
Failure mindset
Strengths & growth mindset
Snapshots & reactions
Patterns, proactivity, feedback
Top down targets & programs
Collaborative strategies & platforms
Gaps & poor grades (A-E)
Growth & benchmarks
Teaching to the test
Leaming skills & capabilities
Structure and procedure
Culture and systems
End of school measures
Vocational & tertiary completion
Table 5.1
Indicators of a culture of success
From rhetoric to reality: creating a culture
of success in secondary schools
Success does not always last in schools. In spite of this
Finally, if I were going into a new position as principal
fact, those in a school culture who believe the school
in a secondary school I would then want to focus on the
can be successful and work towards that end constantly
following high leverage processes:
develop in it characteristics, values and purposes that
can be sustained. I have been privileged to be a principal in the same school for seventeen years and to
have conducted a number of school-wide ‘garage sales’
where we decided what to keep, what to throw out,
what to put in a box for later and what to try to get to
keep us focussed on doing our best for students and
their families. If you have not had an organisational
garage sale for some time, I would highly recommend it
as a way to work out what to continue, what to change
and most important, what to stop doing so high leverage work can proceed.
Strengths. A strong focus on the strengths, values
and purposes of the school, especially those that are
important to the students, teachers, the community
and the future.
Systematic measurement. Ongoing assessment of
the purposes, processes, products and practices that
are valued by the school community for the future of
their students.
Evidence-based practice. A school wide commitment to action research, experimentation and cycles of
inquiry and research.
Stopping what does not work. Knowing we are
willing to ‘throw out stuff’ that did not work, was not
evidence-informed and that could have damaged the
future learning culture of the school.
Collaboration. Working together to find new ways to
build the capacity, capabilities and dispositions of staff,
students and the community to do the work we have to
prepare for the third decade of the century.
Creating and sustaining a culture of success. An
ongoing focus on graduating highly educated eighteen
year olds who are ready to live their own lives (not
yours or mine); undertake new and emerging types of
work; and embrace further learning.
The shared work of
learning: achieving
outcomes through
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
Tom Bentley
1. The problem
Too many young people in Australia are starting behind
The 2009 ABS Survey of Education and Training (SET)
in their education and staying behind, and too many
showed that Year 12 attainment of young people (20–24
are disengaging from school. Meanwhile, emphasis on
years) rose from 70 per cent to 75 per cent between
educational improvement intensifies, as it has done for
2001 and 2009. However, for those living in the most
the last two decades. The pressure to improve learning
disadvantaged areas it fluctuated between 50 per cent
outcomes in ways that are faster, cheaper and more
and 60 per cent. Meanwhile, the Victorian real estate
sustainable continues to grow. Yet while the quality of
industry reports that houses within the catchment of
teaching and learning has improved in many schools,
‘good’ schools attract a price premium of 10–15 per
it is not improving enough to counteract the effects of
cent. Academic research in the ACT found that a five
systemic inertia, fragmentation, and growing social and
per cent increase in school test scores is associated
economic inequality. This situation creates entrenched
with a 3.5 per cent increase in house prices.
inequality of educational outcomes and opportunities,
which are further exacerbated by economic and spatial
trends. As a consequence, there is a mismatch between
the learning needs of students and schools, and the
current capabilities of education systems.
This paper examines the role of collaboration in lifting
student achievement and overcoming community disadvantage and sets out an agenda for systemic change
based on using collaboration to achieve impact at scale.
Australia’s stagnation and decline in international
assessments of literacy, numeracy and science is relatively well known. The patterns of inequality and disadvantage that run through education are also persistent. Analysis of Australian 2003 and 2006 PISA results
confirms that the mean socio-economic status (SES) of
schools is strongly associated with academic outcomes
Increasingly, differences in the wealth and background
of students at different schools also magnify inequalities in their resourcing.
NATSEM analysis shows that between 2003–04 and
2009–10 average family spending on pre-school/
primary education increased by 79 per cent, and
average family spending on secondary education
increased by 101 per cent. Poorer families just cannot
keep up. Yet the increases in private spending are not
leading to improvements in overall outcomes.
ABS data show that young people aged 20–24 are more
likely to have attained Year 12 if both their parents or
guardians had attained Year 12 (90 per cent), compared
with one or neither parent or guardian having attained
Year 12 (78 per cent and 68 per cent respectively).
regardless of the individual SES of a student: the higher
Some 18.4 per cent of students do not make it to Year
the mean SES of a school, the higher the level of aca-
12. A quarter of 17–24 year old school leavers are not
demic attainment.
fully engaged in education, training or work, a figure
that increases to 42 per cent for people from low SES
Schooling is not serving
the needs of all students.
As the economy
changes around us,
the consequence
is widening inequality
and, for some,
deepening despair.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
2. The promise of collaboration
Over the last decade, some school systems around the
Collaboration is increasingly sought after in education
world have made real progress, while others including
(and in other sectors) because it seems to offer three
Australia’s have stood still and gone backwards.
key benefits:
In response to this challenge, and in tune with wider
1. Swift and efficient coordination of shared activities,
changes to our social and economic landscape, edu-
avoiding the perceived cost and rigidity of central-
cation practitioners and policymakers are increasingly
ised, bureaucratic organisational structures.
turning to collaboration as a method for achieving
2. Authentic engagement and relationships built
progress amidst more diverse, flexible and connected
through voluntary, reciprocal action, which may
operating environments.
moderate the fragmentation and isolation caused
resources to pursue shared goals.
The focus on collaboration is part of a much broader
shift to a ‘network society’, driven by changing social
values and digital technology. In this transition, economic and social coordination and exchange are shaped
increasingly by self-organising networks of information networks, where social identities and institutional
forms evolve to reflect the ongoing influence of these
networks, eroding the power of traditional hierarchy.
Our personal, social and work lives, and those of chil-
by intensive, silo-bound competition.
3. Flexible, differentiated support that matches
teachers and learners with specific sources of support tailored to their specific needs and objectives.
Collaborative strategies and innovation in schooling are
not new. But in today’s context of entrenched disadvantage, accelerating structural change and new patterns
of connection, the question is: how can collaboration
be understood and applied in our diverse, fragmented
and increasingly unequal landscape we face today, and
harnessed to achieve impact at scale?
dren and teenagers, increasingly reflect this trend.
Our economies also increasingly demand people with
the skills to participate successfully in collaborative
work and organisation; this is reflected in growing
expectation that schools will develop these skills and
capabilities in their students.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
4. Why change is needed: the growing pressures
on school systems
3. The solution
To achieve and improve outcomes at scale requires a
Such practices point to ways in which collaboration
Education is a priority everybody can agree on. Yet
different approach to pursuing them systematically—
could be fostered, spread and harnessed to achieve
inequality and entrenched disadvantage are growing,
a different way of understanding and constructing
deep, lasting educational transformation at scale. But
as the outcomes of schooling simultaneously fail to
‘the system’ from our current models. We found that
to do so requires a method—an approach to institu-
improve. In a vicious cycle, our over-reliance on com-
some schools and their partners achieve outstanding
tional design—that could identify such practices and
petition between schools and competition to enrol high-
outcomes—beyond those that would be predicted by
work to apply them systematically across whole com-
status students is worsening the problems of inequality
socio-economic circumstances—with the help of
munities, using a logic that resonates for students,
and fragmentation.
tinctive practices built up through persistent, collabo-
teachers, families and also the wider institutions and
rative effort. These characteristics are:
decision-makers who shape public institutions.
shared purpose: a deep commitment to student
The later sections of this paper address the logic of
new routes to progress. Yet the effort to lift student
such a system—the next great education systems—and
achievement remains stubbornly difficult. Politics, ide-
combining longevity and energy in staffing through
make a series of recommendations for action and policy
ology, institutional fragmentation and simple human
teams comprising long-standing veteran classroom
based on five interlocking priorities:
fatigue all too often prevent sustained progress in
practitioners with a stream of younger practitioners bringing new energy and ideas;
collaborative leadership, through which principals
consistently and intentionally develop the capacity
of others to act in the service of long term goals;
building community trust with professional trust
through a strong focus on building team-based
collaboration and social capital;
drawing on external expertise by reaching out
to find specialist knowledge and advice; and
permeable boundaries which support clear,
purposeful routines and the sharing and
identify learning need;
build platforms for professional collaboration;
grow community voice;
create shared pools of data; and
reshape governance around learning.
The last decade has seen a global explosion of educational reforms, strategies and investments seeking
student learning.
Embracing and harnessing collaboration can create the
next wave of big gains in education. These gains are
essential to prevent the slide of our education system
into increasing inequality, and to create better outcomes, literally for every student.
absorption of new knowledge and practices
The policy focus
on quality of teaching
reflects the weight of
evidence showing the
fundamental importance
of the relationship
between teacher
and student to
learning outcomes.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
The policy focus on quality of teaching reflects the
But the ongoing emphasis on school-level performance,
weight of evidence showing the fundamental impor-
school-level organisation, and school-level compari-
tance of the relationship between teacher and student
son risks locking in place a set of structures and com-
to learning outcomes. However, this focus also has unin-
petitive dynamics that impede better outcomes for all
tended negative consequences. First, it can too easily
students. It reinforces a specific organisational model
be used as a political foil to deflect attention from other
of the school, with its subject-based, age-cohort pro-
factors that are also relevant—such as family poverty,
gression, standard school sizes for primary and sec-
student resourcing and the fairness of assessment
ondary, teacher-class structure and standard hours of
measures. As the OECD has suggested, these factors
working and learning. And it perpetuates ever-growing
may be more testing for policy makers to influence in
social competition for places in ‘good schools’, generat-
the short term. Second, this focus can also easily be
ing constant pressure towards social and geographical
translated into policies and actions that do not act to
segregation, and fuelling competition between schools
improve, sustainably, the quality of teaching. Paradoxi-
of different sectors with overlapping geographical
cally, seeking to isolate, compel, prescribe or incentiv-
ise teacher quality in the wrong ways may damage or
undermine the capacity of teachers and schools to offer
high quality teaching.
The focus on quality of teaching revolves increasingly
and relentlessly around the individual school as the unit
of success or failure. This shift has its origins in the
school effectiveness movement and literature. It found
its place in the sun during the 1980s and 1990s as
the tide turned against top-down, centrally managed,
large-scale public systems. On many levels it is correct.
The quality of learning, leadership, organisation and
culture does vary from school to school and have a fundamental impact on student advancement.
School versus home: a false dichotomy
Our over-reliance on schools and teaching as the
agents of educational improvement reinforces a crucial
weakness in our understanding of how to lift outcomes:
a distinction that does not exist in the lives of students.
The basic separation of professional and organisational
impacts of the teacher and the school from the social
and cultural impacts of the family and the community
is a mainstay of educational practice—an everyday
assumption. Yet there is not an ‘either-or’ choice that
reformers and educators must select: a choice between
a ‘teacher quality’ path to progress, or an ‘anti-poverty’
path. Instead, the question should be: how can we realistically address both sets of factors? And ‘realistically’
has to include cost-effectiveness. It is the job of the
system to think about the whole student—but different
methods, and different structures, are needed to make
that a reality.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
5. The practice of collaboration: findings
Research in which I have recently been involved has
examined schools and community collaboration in
three Australian school systems. The research found
Local collaboration with other schools, universities,
employers and community organisations also plays an
essential role in providing the structure, resources and
expertise for student achievement.
that diverse schools, serving highly disadvantaged stu-
These schools also use collaboration with students,
dents and families, use collaboration in numerous ways
parents and the community to build trust and social
to support student achievement.
capital, which are highly influential in supporting a
Collaboration—the sharing of effort, knowledge and
resources in the pursuit of shared goals—plays a central
culture of high expectations, student learning and
shared responsibility.
and partially hidden role in the achievement of student
Collaboration is conducted through a wide range of
learning outcomes.
flexible, trust-based relationships. It is not confined to
In all three locations studied, collaboration results
in staff, students and community members gaining
access to a network of information, opportunities and
expertise that would otherwise be unavailable within
the confines of an individual school.
Professional collaboration is deeply embedded in the
culture and organisation of the case study schools. It
is used to support, sustain, evaluate and refine professional learning about teaching and learning strategies.
Using collaboration to access expertise, data and relevant practice is an essential part of their daily practice.
a single team or unit, or controlled from above by principals or senior managers. Staff, students and parents
are encouraged to share ideas and show initiative. A
consistent, long term focus on the needs of their students provides a clear rationale for choosing when to
invest time and energy in collaboration, and when to
decline offers of partnership.
In effect, each school is actively constructing its own
local learning system, actively seeking out connections
and resources, and using collaboration to translate
them into actions that will create value for students.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
Combining longevity and energy in staffing
Drawing on external expertise
Several important characteristics help to explain the
All the schools in the case studies showed a distinc-
In their quest for student achievement, all the schools
positive impact and potential of this practice:
tive combination of long-serving senior teachers with
consistently pursue and use expertise and specialist
younger, newer staff. This mix appeared to maximise
knowledge from outside.
6. Seven key features of collaboration
Shared purpose: the commitment to learning
Strength of commitment to student learning spurs
people at these schools to seek out and develop new
collaborations in order to achieve more and transcend
the value of long professional experience, and to bring
fresh waves of ideas and new experience to bear.
Collaborative leadership
Permeable boundaries
They are able to draw in external knowledge effectively
because each of them sustains ‘permeable’ bounda-
the limitations of school organisation, resourcing and
Distinctive and sustained forms of leadership by prin-
ries of organisation. While they keep clear organisa-
location. Combining this consistent long-term purpose
cipals and other stakeholders supports collabora-
tional routines and timetables, these structures do
with flexibility and clarity about specific opportunities
tion and enables schools and communities to have
not prevent sharing time, funds, physical resources
for collaboration enables the schools to sustain their
clear directions. This leadership was exemplified by
and knowledge when there is a clear purpose or benefit
focus on student achievement, and to build mutually
the school principals who took part personally in col-
for students.
reinforcing connections between academic progress
laboration and intentionally extended it to others.
and student wellbeing.
All of the principals studied maintained an explicit
commitment to teaching and learning and to modelling and leading professional learning, but they placed
it in a broader context of community relationships and
shared purpose.
Community trust, professional trust
Well-being and attainment: co-evolution
All the case study schools recognise the positive long
term relationship between wellbeing and attainment,
and prioritise both accordingly, even when the two
goals might compete for resources or attention in the
short term.
Correspondingly, significant time and energy is invested
in building trust between professionals and the wider
community and among teaching and support staff.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
7. Actions for systemic change
The priority for the decade ahead is to learn how to use
collaboration systematically to accelerate improvement
in outcomes across diverse, flexible education systems.
The search for momentum and progress in schooling
systems involves questioning how to mobilise whole
systems—thousands of teachers, students, parents
and community partners—in settings that are increasingly diverse and flexible.
8. Recommendations for policy and action
Priority 1: identify learning need
outcomes. In Australia this is an incomplete task.
Completing it requires:
learning needs of students. Articulating why education
matters, how it is valuable, and where it is most needed
for change. It is a task of political, policy professional
and community leadership, supported by community
then need to be reflected in the curriculum, in class-
edge, and to articulate system-wide priorities that
rooms, in assessments and accountability methods.
Action: identify visible learning goals
a federal government funding framework that
delivers an equitable allocation of overall resources
and a real increase in education spending, weighted rigorously towards student need, noting that
much of the legislative, regulatory and data framework needed for such a system is already in place.
Ministers and education officials should invest
include developing and refreshing these goals
ships. The system must be defined more as a set of
with the wider community.
relationships and activities through which a shared
Through their annual planning cycles, education
departments and regions should identify the learn-
In that context, supporting collaboration effectively
ing goals that are high priority, and make them
for the purpose of student learning is the overwhelm-
publicly visible to encourage collaboration and
ing strategic priority. It applies simultaneously at
exchange of lessons and solutions.
and regions.
non-government systems, together with
tion systems. Departmental strategies should
and learning and combines them with wider relation-
ties, and of systems and agencies working across cities
resource standard’ models in states, territories and
discuss and develop learning goals for their educa-
agenda that focuses on the fundamentals of teaching
the level of teachers and students in local communi-
the full implementation of needs-based ‘student
in broad-based community processes to identify,
ual school ‘autonomy’. Instead, we need a system-wide
purpose is created and achieved over time.
in our community, is essential to any effective strategy
the continuous feedback of practice and local knowl-
ing only on the quality of teaching or prioritising individ-
foundation of any strategy for improving student
cational leaders is to give voice and visibility to the
participation, data and evidence. These imperatives
practice and impact; this will not be achieved by focus-
Transparent, needs-based funding is an essential
The first leadership task for policymakers and for edu-
Fundamentally, education systems need to learn from
reflect both social goals and rigorous evidence about
Action: dedicate resources to learning need
System leaders should continuously articulate,
model and communicate these learning goals; part
of their leadership should involve making them
clear and visible to the wider community.
Priority 2: build platforms for
professional collaboration
Build platforms that:
enable teachers to work together across the
organisational and geographical boundaries
of school sites; and
support professionals from different fields to
work together to solve common problems across
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
Action: schools should get support to consider
‘twinning’ and ‘federation’ where there is a clear
student-led rationale
System authorities should step up experimentation
with ‘federated’ governance structures for schools,
supporting groups of schools to come together around
shared operations and leadership where there is a clear
rationale for doing so.
Priority 3: Grow community voice
Collaboration to improve student outcomes is not solely
a professional conversation.
Attitudes, relationships and decisions in the wider community also have a powerful influence on what students get from their educational experience and which
resources schools can access. Building stronger rela-
education, health, business, families and commu-
tionships with the communities that surround schools
nity development, including through shared
leads to higher student achievement.
service platforms.
School systems should invest in identifying, trialling
Action: every school needs a ‘home group’
and spreading the use of community consultation, dia-
Local groups of neighbourhood schools must be able
logue and enquiry models to increase the commitment
to work together to:
and participation of their surrounding communities.
prioritise successful transitions between schools;
Action: dedicate funding for cross-school
form connections between teachers with similar
professional responsibilities;
harmonise student records and assessment data;
build systems which support greater personalisation and continuity for students as they move from
pre-school to primary school and on to high school.
Action: every teacher should have a ‘home group’ too
Modelled on the use of study groups in Shanghai, Sin-
community workers
Quality youth and multicultural workers who are outwardly focussed can create bridges between students,
families, schools and services. Education systems
should create dedicated funding streams and employment structures for staff working deliberately across
multiple schools and with other community partners,
supporting both professional and community collaboration across local communities.
Action: include student voice in decision making
gapore, British Columbia, and the practice observed in
Education systems should consider ways in which stu-
many of our case studies, school systems should iden-
dents can play an active role in the governance struc-
tify a study group for every teacher when they join a
tures of schools and how their views can be recognised
school, and especially during pre-service training and
in establishing learning priorities.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
for every local government area
Priority 5:
Restructure governance around learning
Schools should also have the option, and the opportu-
Finally, education systems need to reshape their own
Our future education systems are emerging, unevenly
nity, to join at least one wider network of schools which
accountability structures and relationships to focus
distributed, from the practices of the present. What they
deliberately spans a much greater scale and range of
more strongly on learning outcomes and build shared
look like and how well they work in a generation’s time
capability for learning at a systemic level.
depends on which signals we pick up on collectively,
Action: develop at least three ‘open access networks’
the next great education systems
which relationships we strengthen, and which ones we
Priority 4: Share pools of data
allow to wither. Our overview suggests some emer-
Systematic support for this kind of collaboration requires
gent characteristics of the systems that will succeed
a revolution in sharing and using educational data.
most dynamically in the next generation of reform, and
Collaboration relies on shared, trusted information.
achieve the greatest positive impact on disadvantage:
But data are only as good as the tools and structures
All students learn and progress along a pathway they
that support them, and here the organisation of schools
and education systems places basic, unnecessary, constraints on using data to enhance learning. It is not just
teachers within schools who need data to support col-
value The overarching test, relentlessly applied, is
whether all students are learning sufficiently. This
applies from the most motivated, highest-achieving
students through to the most disadvantaged and least
laborative action, but a wide range of partners working
together around schools as well. Accelerating the
Resources directed towards learning need:
development of ‘open source’ data, and public sharing
of relevant data, is an important priority.
to ensure that all students are learning, high
performing education systems will explicitly
Action: build common standards for analysis,
channel resources towards need; this may seem
data security and categorisation
straightforward, but it is too rarely achieved; and
A key priority for policy is to develop architecture that
promotes sharing and pooling while protecting privacy
and data integrity.
Action: create data platforms to support sharing
in the broader view of systems that we have
outlined, resources are both formal and informal.
They include the skills, knowledge and connections
of the educational workforce and the surrounding
between agencies and schools in ‘many to many’
Creating a culture of ‘transparency of results and practice’ is fundamental to the next stage of system change
and to realising the benefits of collaboration.
The shared work of learning: achieving
transformative outcomes through collaboration
Diverse system outcomes are
all valued learning outcomes.
Many-to-many relationships
System-wide cycles of learning
Too much time and energy is currently consumed
The practice of teams of teachers is based on a
feedback) or one-to-many (lecturing, broadcasting,
cycle of designing, enacting and then evaluating
between formal attainment through literacy, nu-
prescribing), the relationships through which
the impact of their practice. Similarly, education
meracy and academic qualifications versus ‘soft’
learning flows in a network-based society are
systems need to undertake the same functions at
outcomes including wellbeing, resilience and crea-
larger scale.
tive problem-solving.
Rather than one-to-one (coaching, supervision,
in educational politics over a supposed contest
Great systems will pursue intentional strategies to
The large-scale strategic role of policy centres and
In the 21st century the emphasis on non-cognitive
create many, dynamic, interlinked relationships, in
system-wide administration will change to focus
development, creativity and collaboration is grow-
different locations and at different levels of scale.
more on designing and performing cycles of learn-
ing because our society demands more. It is
They will then learn systematically how to use
ing, adjusting governance structures and routines
no longer acceptable to assume a separation
them to create better learning outcomes. In the
to better serve learning objectives, and building
of roles between schools taking care of formal
process they will move beyond their dependence
capabilities that are identified as priorities in each
curriculum content while families shape the
on planning goals and allocating resources through
system and community.
character of their children.
a vertical chain of command.
The test of a high-performing education system
Creating these capabilities will be the major focus
Perhaps the most important connections to
of efforts to restructure central policy-making,
is whether it can promote the development of
be made are between the sites of practices—
administrative and regions over the next decade.
both sets of outcomes in ways that are integrated,
the places where students learn and where
workable and available to all students.
teachers teach—and other sources of
In high-performing education systems, all these
Resourcing and accountability will be focussed
around building and shaping learning systems—
knowledge and resources.
systems that actively invest, identify, amplify
outcomes will be valued and visible, concrete and
and recognise the actions that lead to sustained
tangible, reviewed and debated, taken seriously for
improvement in student learning outcomes.
every student.
Embracing and harnessing collaboration could create the next wave of big gains in education. These
gains are essential to prevent the slide of our
education system into increasing inequality, and to
create better outcomes, literally for every student.
This requires a radical shift in policy emphasis
and political language. It does not rest on a single
intervention or ‘lever.’ It demands that we build
new capabilities out of what parts of our systems
already know and can do.
The good news is that this work is already happening.
The challenge is to make it count for every student.
Features of effective
education systems:
learnings from the OECD
Features of effective education systems:
learnings from the OECD
Andreas Schleicher
Sue Kilpatrick
in conversation
Please click here
to listen to this interview
Reflections from
keynote session
chairs and panellists
Reflections from keynote session chairs and panellists
Hope and
in the air
Kwong Lee Dow
The stated purpose of the Underwood Centre is ‘to seek
The symposium was organised to make everyone aware
Tasmanian solutions that can improve our education,
that these two days were but a stage on a bigger road
integrating learnings from overseas with the unique
to reform with the University, the State Government at
local context’.
the highest levels, and the educator workforce of Tas-
The opening of the Education Transforms Symposium
was a splendid demonstration of precisely this goal.
Through meticulous planning, balancing international
mania being encouraged to join a sustained long-haul
effort for radical enhancement of learning and schooling across all Tasmanian communities.
and Australian presentations, balancing lectures with
I left the symposium confident that a significant
opportunities for focussed participant discussions, and
and plentiful community of people will be dedicated to
with attention given to every detail, the scene was set
work together cooperatively to give this challenging
to achieve a memorable conference.
goal their very best shot. Hope and enthusiasm was
What stands out in retrospect was the high quality
in the air.
and stimulation of all sessions. Many fresh perspectives
and contexts were offered. One session of special note
was the video interview with Andreas Schleicher on
broad contemporary international learnings. Its value
was enhanced by the questions from Sue Kilpatrick,
which enabled clear focus on top order issues relevant
to Tasmania.
The other session I choose to highlight is the inspirational case study of a western Sydney high school
which showed what can be achieved by a stand-out
Principal—Christine Cawsey. She works collaboratively
with her staff and students, unfazed by the apparent
bureaucratic constraints of a large state system, to
offer what would otherwise be ‘reluctant learners’ a
sense of achievement and confidence in themselves.
These were documented and data-driven attainments,
and not simply helping people to feel good.
Reflections from keynote session chairs and panellists
A new level of
excitement – and more
opportunities to engage
the business sector
Scott Harris
Tasmania’s youth unemployment situation is dire, as is
Let’s face up to the fact that the situation we are in is
our performance across many key indicators related to
not a reflection on the performance of any one group
educational attainment. The fact that the University of
and acknowledge that the time is right for a collective
Tasmania has put its name to the issue of educational
commitment from all political parties and other key
attainment is significant in bringing greater credibility
stakeholders who can leave their own vested interest
and focus to these crippling issues. If this is the one
‘at the door’ and focus on the task at hand. The busi-
outcome that is to arise from the Education Transforms
ness community is pivotal to this success and it was
Symposium then it is worth doing, as the problem has
disappointing that there was not stronger representa-
been camouflaged for many years. Several organisa-
tion from this group at the symposium.
tions and people have tried to get a greater focus on
the key issues with isolated success. The symposium
created an independent forum for the issues to be
tabled with a new level of excitement, in my view not
seen before, about what can be achieved.
The solutions to these issues are far from resolved I
know, but with the intellect of the university and best
practice examples of success from organisations such
as the Beacon Foundation (biased I know) we can get
to where we need to be in providing all Tasmanians with
The forum highlighted that there are still some within
an education level that gives them the best possible
the bureaucracy who believe there is not a problem;
chance to succeed for themselves and their families.
perhaps they are concerned that any criticism is a
reflection upon their own performance.
I look forward with great optimism and enthusiasm to
the steps ahead.
Reflections from keynote session chairs and panellists
of individuals
and a culture
John Williamson
Mid-July, winter, in Hobart. A symposium aimed at
transforming not just individuals but also an educational culture. Stated simply, like this, it seems a daunting challenge for the first Peter Underwood symposium
and, in turn, it gives rise to several questions, including: What was the aim of the symposium? Was it successful? What did we learn? Where to from here? The
following is a personal reflection on these matters and,
as such, I’ll not seek to cover the whole symposium
but rather will highlight some of the thoughts that have
stayed with me.
The ambitious aim of looking at education as a catalyst
for personal, social and economic transformation was a
very appropriate way to recognise the many significant
contributions made to Tasmania by the late Governor,
Mr Peter Underwood AC. Keynote presenters addressed
the perplexing issues of educational aspiration, participation and achievement in ways that emphasised the
need for strategies that recognised the challenges of
personal and social history, community engagement or
the lack thereof, and pride in excellence of all kinds.
The major presentations and ensuing informal social
occasions allowed for conversations about what we
know that works in many different contexts and how—
or whether or not—it might be adapted to be trialled in
Tasmania. The concurrent sessions provided opportunities for researchers both national and local to help
flesh-out the major themes that had been described
by the keynote speakers. The session audiences had
wonderful opportunities to learn as the content of the
presentations ranged from, say, educational policy at
the international level, as in how might we explain at
a national level the comparative success or otherwise
of some educational system vis-à-vis another system?
through to what makes a champion school in an Australian suburb?
All types of presentations used data to address the challenges and, in addition to saying what worked and what
might be emulated, they were valuable also in identifying those strategies that had little or no success and
so provided opportunities for the audience to reflect
on how best to use available resources in our context.
Of course, I was particularly interested in Professor
Ian Menter’s presentation about how, in England, they
are trying to link the existing best relevant educational
research with teacher education courses and practices,
and examining the outcomes of this linkage in schools
through changed student engagement, student satisfaction and student achievement. This is a serious challenge for all Initial Teacher Education providers as we
try, on the one hand, to meet regulatory guidelines for
course accreditation which are ever-more demanding
and, on the other hand, to make available the time for
the innovative research as a strong Faculty in the contemporary University. We are confident that we have in
place some of the building blocks to achieve the ‘joinedup’ tasks outlined by Professor Menter, and his talk has
provided insights into where we need to aim next.
The symposium was a great success in bringing
together top-notch speakers in a collegial context to
discuss and challenge many current orthodoxies. It not
only excited, enthused and provoked over three days,
but there is a strong residual element of ‘getting-on’
with those areas where I can work with others to make
a contribution to the lasting success of the symposium—and the broader Peter Underwood Centre aim.
Reflections from keynote session chairs and panellists
For meaningful dialogue
and learning from
each other
Susan Chen
The Underwood Centre is a bold new venture with a
Keynote speaker and Principal of Rooty Hill High School
vision of Tasmania and Tasmanians having greater
in western Sydney, Christine Cawsey, spoke with
opportunity, economic and otherwise, through the
passion about her unique school community which
gateway of better education.
fosters shared purpose and values, engages in collabo-
It is generally acknowledged that, relative to other
Australian states Tasmania has (a) lower retention
rates from Year 10, and (b) average or lower benchmark results across literacy, numeracy and science.
rative planning and has a strong disposition towards
innovation. That education community has developed
a culture of success despite the low socio-economic
status of their students.
The orthodox explanation is that Tasmania is typical of
Students will achieve where there is a culture of high
similar socio-economic areas of Australia. Rather than
expectations, love of learning, creativity and inno-
the data challenging some in the education sector, there
vation. Let us not settle for the complacent and the
seems to be a real risk of complacency and acceptance
ordinary. Tasmania and Tasmanians can and should
that we are doing as well as can be expected.
be extraordinary. Tasmania needs young people with
It was heartening to listen to keynote speakers who
strongly emphasised that the responsibility for improving educational standards is on government, commu-
knowledge and skills to become entrepreneurs and
agents for advancement and change, and the education
sector can and should help make that happen.
nity, educational systems and schools. For too long,
schools have been seen as solely responsible for the
problem and the solution.
Keynote speaker and policy adviser, Tom Bentley,
and school systems working together to improve
educational attendance, retention and attainment.
We can build on the learning of others and the
Underwood Centre is well-placed to collate and synthesise those learnings and engage stakeholders in meaningful dialogue.
Reflections from keynote session chairs and panellists
Time to act
Adam Mostogl
Education remains one of the most divisive issues in the
Such capacity cannot be dampened by parental and
state at present, but there is one thing we can all agree
teacher influence, who hold such pivotal positions in
on—our education systems are not meeting the expec-
the life of our next generations, as well as regional dis-
tation of the wider community. And when the percep-
advantage which means the full range of options are
tion of the wider public is poor results and concerning
never presented to the detriment of these individuals.
statistics, this will remain an issue for years to come;
no matter what results might, in fact, be the reality.
Throughout the symposium we were introduced to
practices and ideas that were motivating and should
Reflections must occur on how we deliver content so our
be synthesised into the Tasmanian education systems,
students can maximise learning and remain engaged.
but then the question has to be asked: are we ready
Learning needs to become more than a classroom
and willing to actually make a change in the first place?
exercise but something everyone enjoys and do in
Because change can be hard.
their spare time as well. This expansion of the learning
environment and how to build a culture of striving for
the best is something that is important, so it becomes
normal to be inquisitive rather than cool to skip school.
Such expansion cannot simply be around the key areas
The symposium, by providing engaging and thoughtprovoking contributions, has delivered a firm foundation for change.
Now it’s time to act.
of academic achievement though, and we have to recognise the importance of the capacity of our young
people as well and ensure through raising aspirations
we create students confident to be active citizens into
the future.
Reflections from keynote session chairs and panellists
Engendering a
sense of purpose
Judy Travers
The Education Transforms Symposium provided a
The emerging research areas for the Underwood Centre
genuine opportunity to bring together educators and
looked to be clearly defined under a general umbrella
researchers from all key Tasmanian stakeholders; a
of retention and attainment. I sensed a strong commit-
major step forward.
ment from all symposium participants that the co-con-
What emerged from the symposium was the critical
need to build quality and ongoing relationships with
all sectors, based on trust and a sense of working
together; all within an environment underpinned by
clear purpose, appreciative inquiry and based on accurate data that is trusted by all.
In addition, the critical need was very apparent from
the speakers and through workshop discussions, for
educational pathways to be as seamless as possible in
Tasmania; from birth to Year 12 to the University of
Tasmania, TasTAFE and others, and including lifelong
learning pathways.
A personal reflection from listening to presenters was
affirming the critical need for key public messages
about education from all stakeholders to be based on
the reality of an accurate and optimistic platform of
continuous improvement for education in Tasmania.
Another emergent theme was the need to continuously
struction of such research and resultant learnings will
be of great benefit to all sectors and Tasmania. There
was also a sense that practitioners in the field could
best work in partnership with the Underwood Centre, to
connect practice and research and to develop and build
Tasmanian contextualised data and findings.
The symposium set the stage for bringing stakeholders together, to start to affirm common purpose
and understandings, to develop greater clarity of
pathways and opportunities of working together and
to continuously improve student retention and
overall attainment.
Above all, the symposium enabled personal connections across sectors and engendered a sense
of purpose, a sense of the whole and a sense of evidence driven opportunities of the Peter Underwood
Centre; all needed if the attainment of educational
transformation and the potential of every student in
this state is to be realised.
look outward and to learn from others, to build an aspirational culture in Tasmania.
Global challenges and
the importance of
involving teachers in
transforming schools
Global challenges and the importance of
involving teachers in transforming schools
Jeff Garsed
Internationally, there is an ideological agenda for
The lessons from Finland underscore the need to
public schooling that seeks to blame teachers and
build teachers’ capacities and to trust them to make
schools, via a regime of standardised testing, amid
the decisions they need to make to deliver educa-
poor school resourcing, increased privatisation and
tional programs. The Finns demonstrate to educational
corporate manipulation of education policy (Weiner,
reformers that whole-system reform, to be success-
2012). Locally, through their unions and professional
ful, must inspire and energise people to work together
networks, teachers seek to regain control of their pro-
for intended improvement (Sahlberg, 2012). Sahlberg
fession. If successful, their focus can remain being one
notes the success of the Finnish education system is
of educating for a better social and economic future.
driven by factors almost opposite to those employed
Australians have the option to embrace what matters
in education—properly resourced schools, highly skilled
teachers who are trusted to make professional judgements—and to reject those measures which are proven
to have failed. It will not be easy though in a media
environment that supports the ideology of the Global
in countries that have been part of the GERM, where
such education systems have provided object lessons
in what not to do to when trying to ensure successful educational change. Success in Finland has at least
in part been possible as, in that system, teaching is a
high-status profession.
In addition to practical examples such as those from
2012). The answer lies in educating our decision-mak-
successful education systems, there is a wealth of
ers and the broader Australian electorate about what
evidence via research to show both the difficulty of
does matter. The universities too, must avoid under-
effecting educational change and some of the effec-
funding their faculties of education. In many Australian
tive drivers for successful change and its sustainability
universities the education faculty functions as a ‘cash
(Fullan, 2013). Research findings suggest that those
cow’ with constantly large enrolments requiring rela-
who implement policy often have a different view of the
tively low cost resources (Gill, 2015). Such an approach
change process to the initiators of policy (Fink, 2000).
to teacher training does not help build teaching as a
high-status, highly valued profession.
Global challenges and the importance of
involving teachers in transforming schools
Persistent myths
At a recent oration, Professor Steve Dinham (2014)
noted 20 unfounded myths which persist in public discourse on education. Many of these are sources for a
perceived crisis in education, the blame for which is
placed on teachers and schools:
1. Public education is failing
2. International testing is a true barometer
of the decline in public schooling
3. Private schools are better than public schools
4. Government funded independent and for-profit
schools are better than private schools
5. Greater autonomy for public schools will lift
performance [yet]
6. Greater accountability will lift public school
7. Money is not the answer—increased spending
on public education has not resulted in
improvement in student achievement
8. The teacher is the [most significant] influence
on and is therefore responsible for student
9. Merit pay/payment by results is the solution to
improving teacher quality
10.Removing tenure and dismissing poor teachers will
lead to greater student achievement
11.Schools should be resourced on the basis of results
12.The curriculum is a captive of the ‘left’
13.Schools are not producing the skills and capabilities required by industry
14.21st century skills are not being taught in 21st
century schools
15.Technology changes everything
16.Teacher education is ineffective and the value of a
teaching credential is questionable
17.The effects of poverty are too difficult to overcome
18.Educational research offers no solutions
19.Non-educators should lead (public) schools
20.Choice, competition, privatisation and the free
market are the answers to almost any question
about education (Dinham, 2014, p.1).
Many of these myths stem from ideologies that arise
from the social and political context that envelopes
education across many western countries including
Australia. Such ideologies are less than helpful for
focusing on what really matters in schools. Also, they
show little deference to the professional understanding
and judgment of classrooms teachers, upon whom any
school improvement is ultimately dependent.
Global challenges and the importance of
involving teachers in transforming schools
Social and political context
At a local level, schools and school systems are politi-
In the USA, as in Australia and elsewhere, public edu-
cised and some of this is played out almost daily in the
cation is the largest piece of public expenditure which
mass media. Ainscow (2005) notes that schools feel the
remains highly unionised and is not yet privatised.
political and bureaucratic pressures for improvements.
Because public schooling globally is a potential market
Such pressures on schools largely have negative effects
worth trillions of dollars, it is a sector that is much con-
and can result in schools and systems having poorer
tested and experiencing a manufactured crisis. Com-
performance for equity, a crowded curriculum, and the
panies such as Pearson and the Murdoch global media
misplaced assumption that school can solve what home
empire, for example, have declared openly their inten-
and families cannot (Ainscow, 2005; Gardner & William-
tion to wrest education from public control to access
son, 2004).
What has more recently become apparent is an international phenomenon that has been bolstered by the
media, notably in the UK and the USA—where much
influence for Australian public institutions originates.
This phenomenon is a powerful ideology known as the
GERM agenda for public schooling, and one of its effects
himself has been vocal about the need to ‘fix the crisis’
in public schooling both here and in the USA. One of
Murdoch’s long-term projects is to develop further
what he views as the revolutionary and profitable move
by his media companies into online education (Guardian Online, 2012).
is to blame teachers and schools, via a regime of stand-
This desire to drive public education for massive corpo-
ardised testing, amid poor school resourcing, increased
rate gain may be the greatest threat to the best inter-
privatisation and corporate manipulation of education
ests of students in public schooling we have yet expe-
policy (Weiner, 2012; Sahlberg, 2012). The GERM is
rienced. There are several other factors that are both
characterised by competition, test-based accountabil-
the corollary of GERM ideologies and serve to support
ity, with an emphasis on school choice and increased
a manufactured crisis; of these, the testing regimes of
privatisation (Sahlberg, 2012). GERM has some great
PISA internationally and NAPLAN locally are perhaps
allies among the corporate multinationals.
the most obvious.
Global challenges and the importance of
involving teachers in transforming schools
Gaining a sense of proportion with
national and international comparisons
Results from national and international standardised
On Australian national comparisons of NAPLAN results,
NAPLAN encourages the practice of teaching to the
testing regimes PISA and NAPLAN are frequently used
Tasmania is frequently reported as performing poorly
test. The importance placed on the test results means
and misused by political parties and the media as evi-
(ABC, 2014). Yet, when these figures are adjusted for
that NAPLAN is shaping the curriculum being taught in
dence of a crisis in schools.
SES a different picture emerges of the work of Tas-
schools. If what is at stake is high, the influence of the
manian teachers. On PISA’s Economic, Social, Cul-
testing regime will be greater. It is an influence that
tural Status (ESCS) Index Tasmania scores well below
detracts from teachers’ planning, building and adapting
any other Australian jurisdiction. The index relates to
curricula based on sound professional judgement; their
aspects of student background that have largest effect
knowledge of local contexts; and student needs. As
on educational outcomes, including parents’ education
such, these influences weaken rather than strengthen
and occupation, books in the home, number of posses-
teacher professionalism. Instead of improving schools,
sions, and number of educational resources available
obsession with high-stakes testing has been damag-
to them.
ing to educational outcomes in the USA (Berliner, 2012)
It is only fair to provide PISA ranks with some context.
Sixty-five countries participated in PISA testing in
2012, double the number in 2006 (32). Over this time,
the biggest impact on the ranking of all above-average
performing countries has been the addition of East
Asian OECD economies, which now dominate the top
five international rankings on all measures. While there
is no doubt Australia could still do better, particularly
and similar experiences are noted in the UK (Stevenson
on equity of outcomes, the media has reported PISA
The capacity of NAPLAN test results to provide an accu-
results without the much-needed context to under-
rate depiction of the relative performance of Austral-
stand where our education systems need to improve
ian educational jurisdictions is contestable. There is at
Despite the limited capacity of testing regimes to
and what extant factors have led to our current stand-
least the anecdotal reporting that some schools and
provide us with meaningful comparisons, there is much
ing (Boston, 2014).
systems take part in the testing with a skewed cohort.
use and misuse of their data in attempts to do so.
The PISA results are country aggregates that often
Relative levels of participation of students with lower
masks the variance within the nation. The reasons for
such country-internal variance also differ. For instance,
ability across systems and student coaching in particular schools has brought the validity and reliability of
the Australian Capital Territory consistently outperforms
NAPLAN results into question (ABC, 2015).
other Australian jurisdictions and Canberra is high SES
Wu and Hornsby (2012) argue that NAPLAN tests are
which is a strong predictor of educational success. In
2009, Warsaw was equal to Finland yet Poland was a lowperforming country overall. Warsaw had focused a strategic investment on whole-school instructional leadership
and developing better classroom practice and targeted
funding on areas of greatest need. People around the rest
of the country then took up this matter and now Poland is
close to the top of the PISA league table (Boston, 2014).
Similarly in Canada, the province of Ontario leads the
& Wood, 2013).
misused. At best, NAPLAN only measures fragments of
student achievement. The margins of error are large.
The tests are not diagnostic and so they cannot properly inform teaching or track student progress. They
are also inappropriately used to evaluate teacher and
school performance when so many other factors influence test scores (such as poverty, parental support,
personality, or interests).
country because of targeted and strategic investment in
areas of underachievement (Boston, 2014).
Global challenges and the importance of
involving teachers in transforming schools
Finland and Canada
Finland is one country that others look towards for
GERM countries
Collaborative –
sharing and cooperation
clues as to how to create a high performing education
system; it should perhaps not be the only country. It
is worth noting that in Finland high educational attainment does not sit as an isolated achievement. Equity is
an important value to the Finns and they enjoy more
even income distribution than most. Finland also performs very highly on a range of other important indices
including happiness, technological advancement and
child health and wellbeing, to name just a few (Sahlberg, 2012).
Finland was not always a top performing country educationally, nor had the Finns sought for it to be so
Standardisation –
rather varying the curriculum
to suit the individual
One means by which Finland has teaching as a highstatus profession is to limit places in pre-service
courses, and thus make entrance to the profession highly competitive. In contrast, many Australian
universities have large enrolments in education courses
Individualised curriculum
that require relatively low cost resources (Gill, 2015).
Such an approach to teacher training is an impediment to build teaching as a high-status, highly valued
School choice – related
to competition, and sold
as producing better outcomes,
and acted against equity
Test-based accountability
Trust-based professionalism
Education systems are often large and multifaceted and
the challenges involved in improving them are likely to
be similarly complex. The systemic improvement seen
in Finland was the product of a decades-long commit-
educationally about Finland is that it has remained
Table 9.1
Educational characteristics of GERM
countries compared with Finland
immune to the GERM. Largely, this immunity has been
The lessons from Finland, Sahlberg (2012) notes, are
On the PISA tables, Finland shares, with Canada, Sin-
(Sahlberg, 2012). What is perhaps most interesting
possible because, for more than 40 years, subsequent
governments (often coalitions of multiple parties) have
not varied widely on key education policy but rather
stuck to core values of equity of achievement for all
(Sahlberg, 2012).
The way Finland has rejected the core values of the
GERM is seen by Sahlberg (2012) and others (Weiner,
2012) as key to its relative educational success. Sahl-
to have confidence in teachers and principals as highly
trained professionals; encourage teachers and students to try new ideas and approaches—in other words,
to put curiosity, imagination and creativity at the heart
of learning; and to see the purpose of teaching and
learning as pursuing the joy of learning and cultivating
development of the whole child.
ment, widely supported and unsullied by changes in
government (Sahlberg,2012).
gapore and Japan, its position as a world leader for high
equity, high quality education. Among the top group
countries it is perhaps Canada that shares the greatest
cultural similarity with Australia. Canada is well ahead
of Australia overall and has better performance for
equity, at least partly attributable to the comparatively
elitist structure of Australian schooling (The Conversation, 2015).
berg points out the key differences between Finland
and countries that have taken up the ideological precepts of the GERM.
Global challenges and the importance of
involving teachers in transforming schools
In Australia, education funding matters
In fact, OECD figures produced before the Gonski
Review of Schools Funding show that Australia was
the third lowest among developed countries in terms
of funding public schools, and one of the highest
funders of non-government schools. The Review was
established in response to known causal relationships
between aggregated social disadvantage and deteriorating national educational performance (Boston,
2014). Ken Boston of the Review Panel pointed out the
circumstances preceding the Review:
Maintaining demand for non-government schooling has
unpopular as parents in the non-government sectors
In 2010, the 2009 PISA results had shocked the
ment schools of students who are less costly to educate
now view publically subsidised choice as a right. This
nation. It clear that our international performance
leaving state schools with greater concentrations of
dilemma forms the single greatest hurdle to systems-
was declining in both absolute and relative terms
the poor, Indigenous, recent immigrants and students
wide improvements in Australian educational outcomes.
in comparison with other countries, and there had
with disabilities. Such public expenditure on privilege
developed since the year 2000:
in education has thus further compounded inequitable
International comparisons confirm that Australia’s total
spending on schools is a little above the average for the
OECD countries (Connors & McMorrow, 2015). Intensified by the uniquely Australian situation of a three
sector system of government, Catholic and independent schools, all paid for or at least heavily subsidised
by public funds, there is stark inequity in the resourcing levels available to Australian school students. Any
government proposing to improve funding equity using
only existing funding levels would prove electorally
a much stronger correlation between underperformance and aggregated social disadvantage
been seen by governments as a key way to keep taxpayer costs for education down. Yet, it may not be all
about cost efficiencies as a recent report by Connors
and McMorrow (2015) note that, rather than producing overall savings, increased public recurrent investment in non-government schools between 1973 and
2012 has caused an increase in the overall running
costs of governments. This investment has occurred as
growth in non-government schools has robbed govern-
educational outcomes, the long term cost of which to
Australian society is likely to be immense both for indi-
than in any other comparable country, and
viduals and in reduced overall economic capacity.
a gap between our highest and lowest perform-
As education in Australia has become a place of political
ing schools greater than the average for the 34
and ideological contestation, developing shared ways
OECD countries (the 2012 PISA results have since
forward that are inclusive and respectful and seek to
shown that the position has worsened) (Boston,
2014, p. 1).
strengthening of our teachers and school communities
should be a key priority. Finland and Canada stand as
The key recommendations of the Gonski Review Panel
were for a funding system which is “sector blind and
needs-based” (Boston, 2014, np).
useful examples. Corporate investment may be appeal-
From the political right, too, there is acknowledgement
of the equity problem. Jennifer Buckingham from the
Centre for Independent Studies, a right wing public
policy lobby group, has noted that “the challenge is to
design a public funding model that does not exacerbate socio-economic inequities but which also does not
create disincentives to private investment in schools”
(Buckingham, 2011, p. 1).
of the multinationals are in profits and not ultimately in
ing to governments who seek cheaper alternatives to
proper public funding commitments, but the interests
the best interests of our schools and their communities.
What should you tell them?
guidance for students
What should you tell them?
Evidence-based guidance for students
Angela O’Brien-Malone
Mark R. Diamond
The association between the performance of students
at secondary school and their subsequent performance
in the first year of university has been of enduring interest to educators, researchers, and university administrators as well as to both government and university
policy makers (Bagg, 1968; Dobson & Skuja, 2005;
Everett & Robins, 1991; Jones & Siegel, 1962; Kelly
& Fiske, 1951; Lavin, 1965; Mora & Escardíbul, 2008;
Wagner & Strabel, 1935; West, 1985). The reasons for
this interest are many but include the expectation that
an understanding of the relationship between secondary school performance and university performance
will improve our capacity to answer questions such as:
What categories of students in general should be
offered a place at university?
Is the school academic grade of some (particular)
student high enough to warrant her being offered
a university place?
Do some secondary school subjects better prepare
students for first-year university than do other
What should I answer if one of my students asks
me whether I think she should go to university?
In Australia, questions about the relationship between
academic outcomes at the end of secondary school and
subsequent performance in first year university have
frequently been formalised in terms of the relationship
between students’ Australian Tertiary Admission Rank
(ATAR) and their weighted average first-year university
mark (WAFYM). Generally this relationship has been
summarized by calculating the correlation between
these two variables (ATAR and WAFYM), or more usefully, by determining the (least squares) regression
line that best describes the data; see, for example,
the regression line in Figure 10.1, discussed in a
later section. One way to think of the regression line
of WAFYM against ATAR is as a description of means,
or averages. The regression line shows the expected
average WAFYM for students with any particular ATAR.
This focus on average or mean outcomes is not because
school principals or university vice-chancellors have a
particular interest in average performance but because
the arithmetic mean is a single-value summary of the
performance of the whole population of students. But
in many circumstances the expected average first year
mark of a cohort of students is not what a university
administrator or teacher actually needs to know. Still
less is it likely to be useful to secondary school students
who are grappling with decisions about what opportunities to pursue after Year 12. Similarly, when university
policy makers or administrators consider their institutional admission policy, they might be concerned to
some degree with average performance, but will also
want information about risk and opportunity; that is,
they will want to avoid selecting students who are likely
to do poorly (or require disproportionate resources and
support) and they will also want to know how to identify
students who will perform at the very highest levels.
What should you tell them?
Evidence-based guidance for students
Our approach
Equally, when faced with answering a student’s ques-
Just as teachers and university administrators are
We obtained de-identified data for 18,262 students
tion about whether or not to attend university, a
matched in their desire to minimise the risk that
admitted to Monash University between 2007 and 2010
teacher will likely be interested not just in the correla-
students will not do well at university, they are also
and who completed at least one year of study. The data
tion between school and university outcomes but will
matched in this further concern. There are many path-
included the ATAR, WAFYM, and pathway of entry into
also want information about the risk that the student
ways into university. If some of those pathways offer
university for each student. Most of the students in the
has of not doing well at university and about the likeli-
the possibility of better university outcomes for some
data set were admitted to Monash University directly
hood that the student will perform exceptionally well. In
populations of students, then both teachers and vice-
from Year 12 and we refer to those students simply as
these respects the concerns of teachers talking to their
chancellors will want to know. We wanted to explore
Year 12 entry students. A much smaller number of stu-
students and those of university administrators are
these issues.
dents admitted to Monash University enter via the TAFE
completely congruent, but their quest for information
pathway (Willis & Joschko, 2012). TAFE entry students
will not be satisfied either by knowing the correlation
are those who, having completed Year 12 and obtained
between ATAR and WAFYM, or by knowing the equation
an ATAR, subsequently complete some study at TAFE
for the regression line of WAFYM against ATAR. Fortu-
before being admitted to university on the basis of that
nately, there are other analytical approaches that can
study. In our data set, 16,831 records (92.2 per cent)
answer the questions.
were for Year 12 entry students and 1431 records (7.8
Before continuing with this thread, let us return to our
per cent) were for TAFE entry students.
teacher (whom we will call Sally) who is now faced with
Because Monash has an ATAR cut-off of 70 for Year 12
her student, John, asking about whether he should go
entry students, a student who applies to enter Monash
to university. We have already noted that Sally might
on the basis of the ATAR they achieved at the end of
consider the risk that John will do poorly or the possi-
their secondary schooling will not be offered a place
bility that he will do excellently. But there is something
if that ATAR is less than 70. This is not the case for
else she should consider before she gives her advice,
TAFE entry students who are considered for entry into
namely, if John is to go to university, what is the best
Monash on the basis of their academic performance
route for him to get there? And by best we do not mean
at TAFE, together with other more subjective criteria.
‘is there a route which will guarantee him the offer
The consequence is that Year 12 entry students always
of a place?’ Rather, we mean ‘is there a pathway into
have ATARs greater than or equal to 70 whereas TAFE
university which will give John the greatest chance of
entry students have ATARs that cover the full range.
success once he enrols?’
What should you tell them?
Evidence-based guidance for students
What we found
We were interested in the following questions:
What is the general pattern of WAFYM and ATAR?
Are all entry pathways equal? Do TAFE entry
As a first step towards answering our questions about
students have the same chance as Year 12 entry
risk and excellence, we took the tried and true path
students of doing well in their first year of univer-
of creating a scatterplot of the data showing WAFYM
sity study?
plotted against ATAR (Figure 10.1). We also fitted a
Is the risk of not performing well in the first year of
standard regression line, of the kind that we criticized
university the same, or different, for students from
in the Introduction, showing the average WAFYM to be
the two entry pathways?
expected across all students who had any particular
Is the potential for outstanding excellence the
ATAR, without regard to their entry pathway.
same or different?
Clearly, in order to address these questions, one must
decide what one means by ‘doing well’, ‘not doing well’,
and ‘outstanding excellence’. The choice of where to
place the binary divide, for example, between ‘doing
well’ and ‘not doing well’ necessarily involves a degree
of arbitrariness but if it is to be useful, it must make
sense within the university context.
Although we considered using a WAFYM of 50 as the
threshold for ‘doing well’ we rejected it on the grounds
that a bare pass and ‘doing well’ are not generally considered to be the same thing. Instead, we have used a
WAFYM of 60 per cent as the threshold for referring to
a student as ‘doing well’ on the grounds that it roughly
equates to a credit grade. We also decided to consider ‘outstanding excellence’ as being equivalent to a
WAFYM of 90 per cent. In case the reader is of the mind
that 90 is a rather low bar for referring to outstanding excellence, it is worth reflecting on the fact that
although there will be relatively many students who get
Weighted-average first-year mark (WAFYMs)
as a function of ATAR among Year 12 entry
students (open green diamonds) and
TAFE entry students (solid blue circles)
at Monash University.
Ordinary least-squares regression line
(solid black) is for the whole sample.
Vertical line indicates the Monash University
ATAR cut-off for direct entry from Year 12.
Figure 10.1
WAFYM plotted against ATAR
a very high grade in one, or perhaps two, of their firstyear units,
a student’s WAFYM is
affected by their
performance in all of their first-year units.
What should you tell them?
Evidence-based guidance for students
Risk and outstanding excellence:
are all pathways equal?
There are several things to note about the distribution
In contrast to the regression line in Figure 10.1 which
So, the answer to our question about whether all entry
of points (students) in the scatterplot. First, most of
indicates something about the expected average
pathways are equal appears to be ‘No’. For any given
the points, for both Year 12 entry students and TAFE
WAFYM of students, the points in Figure 10.2 indicate
ATAR, a student entering Monash University from TAFE
entry students, tend to form a dense cluster above the
the probability (‘chance’) that a TAFE entry student or
will generally have a much better chance of doing well
regression line rather than being distributed symmetri-
Year 12 entry student will ‘do well’ in their first-year of
than a student with a similar ATAR entering directly
cally above and below it. The reason for this is that the
university—that is, the probability that the a student
from Year 12. We say ‘generally’ because if one looks
expected average WAFYM (which the regression line
will obtain a WAFYM above 60.
at the far right hand side of Figure 2 it appears as if the
summarises) is dragged downwards by the scattering
of students who obtain very low WAFYMs, in much the
same way that the average of 100, 100, 100 and 0 is
dragged down to 75 because of the single zero score.
If one looks along the horizontal line that we have
called the line of even chance, one can see that a TAFE
entry student (blue circles) with an ATAR of about 38
has an even chance of doing well and their chances of
The second thing to note about the scatterplot is that
doing well continue to improve steadily with increasing
the points representing TAFE entry students seem to
ATAR. In fact, a TAFE entry student with an ATAR of 69
sit generally higher than those for the Year 12 entry
has about an 81 per cent chance of doing well in their
students. Third, while the distribution of points for TAFE
first year of university, despite the fact that the ATAR of
entry students appears to trend steadily upwards from
69 would have set them on just the wrong side of the
the left to the right of the scatterplot, in the case of Year
Monash University cut-off for direct entry from Year 12.
12 entry students there is a suggestion of a sudden
In contrast to the favourable chances of a TAFE entry
upward surge in WAFYM among those students with
student doing well at university despite a low ATAR,
ATARs above about 95. Finally, as one should expect
the chances of a low-ATAR Year 12 student are con-
given the Monash University ATAR cut-off for Year 12
siderably poorer. For example, a Year 12 entry student
entry students, there are no points for Year 12 entry
(green diamonds) will need to have an ATAR of at least
students to the left of the vertical line at ATAR=70.
74 before they have an even chance of doing well. On
Although we could fit separate regression lines for the
TAFE entry and Year 12 entry students in place of the
single line shown on the scatterplot, very little is gained
line of points for Year 12 entry students and the line for
TAFE entry students converge in the high ATAR range,
suggesting that Year 12 entry students with ATARs of
about 95 will have the same (very good) chance of doing
well as TAFE entry students with similar ATARs. Indeed,
their chances of ‘doing well’ might exceed those of the
TAFE entry students.
the other hand, the chance of a Year 12 student doing
well rises with increasing ATAR much more rapidly than
it does for TAFE entry students.
in terms of answering our questions about risk and outstanding excellence. Instead, we turned to a different
method of analysis referred to as ‘quantile-regression
with restricted cubic splines’; for technical details,
see Koenker and Bassett (1978), Koenker and Hallock
(2001), and Harrell (2015).
What should you tell them?
Evidence-based guidance for students
When one looks for outstanding excellence, the situation with regard to entry pathway is reversed compared with what one finds when looking at the chances
of doing well. Outstanding excellence is, by definition, a
rare occurrence and so our conclusions are more tentative, being limited to some extent by the availability of
data. In fact, outstanding excellence is sufficiently rare
that we have not provided a graph of the results. Only
about one in every 180 Year 12 entry students obtains
a WAFYM above 90 and they are generally confined to
those Year 12 entry students who obtained ATARs over
98; in contrast, the likelihood that a TAFE entry student
will demonstrate outstanding excellence is very much
smaller. Only one in 700 TAFE entry students are likely
to obtain a WAFYM over 90.
Figure 10.2
Probability (‘chance’) that a TAFE entry student or Year 12
entry student will ‘do well’ in their first-year of university
Probability of Year 12 entry students (open-green diamonds)
and TAFE entry students (solid blue circles) obtaining a
weighted average first year mark (WAFYM) greater than
60 given their ATAR. Solid green diamonds and open blue
circles reflect extrapolations beyond the available data.
What should you tell them?
Evidence-based guidance for students
Academic excellence is valued by universities so the
Finally, if John is one of those students whose ATAR
No doubt there are other potential explanations for why
opportunity to attract those rare students who have the
is extremely high then Sally might encourage him to
TAFE studies improve subsequent university outcomes.
capacity to perform at an extreme level of excellence
go straight into university. His chances of demonstrat-
But it is clear from this discussion that, in giving advice
is something that sets the hearts of vice-chancellors
ing outstanding excellence are much greater than for
to a student, a teacher might want to factor in her
racing. And why not? It is those excellent students who
lower ATAR students, and even if he is not one of the
knowledge of the student’s particular personal charac-
might ultimately contribute to the university’s research
rare, very bright stars, it is most unlikely that he will
teristics—both in terms of social maturity and in terms
community, improve its reputation, and enhance its
perform poorly.
of cognitive skills. And for a student who is offered a
capacity to deliver good learning outcomes for all. Such
rare individuals will most likely be found among the
cohort of Year 12 entry students but not all of them will
be found there. A few will be found among TAFE entry
students, but they will be spread more thinly.
place at university but on the basis of a relatively low
Unfortunately, that is as far as our data will take us but
ATAR, the teacher might have some insight into whether
it is worthwhile speculating about why going to TAFE
the poor ATAR was a result of transient external factors
appears to improve the subsequent university perfor-
(such as illness or family crisis) or whether it was more
mance of many students. One possibility is that TAFE
likely the result of factors internal to the student. One
gives students a chance to master a particular set of
thing that is certain is that more research is needed to
Meanwhile, teacher Sally is still talking to student
necessary skills, including adult social skills, the capac-
John, and wondering what advice she should give him.
ity to motivate oneself, the capacity to maintain one’s
The first thing Sally can tell John is that if he does not
focus on long-term goals and the ability to manage
One final comment: universities vary in their missions,
achieve an ATAR sufficient to gain him an offer of a
competing time commitments. In other words, the sig-
their relationships to the communities in which they
place at university, but he has his heart set on going,
nificance of TAFE might be that it allows students who
are situated, their focus on research, and their criteria
then he might do well to enrol at a TAFE. The period
are on the brink of adulthood time to grow up.
for TAFE entry. It would be worthwhile replicating our
of TAFE study is likely to dramatically improve John’s
chances of doing well at university. Correspondingly,
it is likely to reduce his risk of going to university but
doing badly.
address these issues.
analyses using the data of other universities in order to
Alternatively, if we think about the cognitive (rather
begin to understand whether the characteristics of uni-
than social) skills needed to be a successful adult
versities themselves contribute to the pattern of results
learner, TAFE studies might provide a half-way house
we have observed in the Monash University data.
between school and university and might, therefore,
Similarly, even if John’s ATAR is minimally sufficient to
allow students to gain their ‘sea legs’ as they move
get him into university he might still do well to under-
more gradually from the kind of learning environment
take TAFE studies first. With an ATAR of 70 John would
found in school to that found in university. In the half-
The authors are grateful to Monash University for
have barely an even chance of doing well in his first
way house students might discover what kind of study
having provided us with the data used in the analyses.
year of university but his chance of doing well would
approach and habits suit them. They might also over-
ATAR is a registered trademark of the Victorian Tertiary
rise to around 80 per cent if he first studied at TAFE.
come some skill deficits, in areas such as advanced
Admissions Centre.
numeracy or literacy, that contributed to their poor
secondary school results.
Factors that influence students’
educational aspirations
Factors that influence students’
educational aspirations
Ian Hay,
Jane Watson,
Jeanne Allen,
Kim Beswick,
Neil Cranston,
and Suzie Wright
Aspirations provide the student with a goal and a
The main findings in terms of students’ level of educa-
direction and this can influence many of the choices
tional aspirations are outlined below.
a student makes about schooling. Aspirations are an
important consideration in education because students’
educational aspirations have been shown to be closely
associated with the students’ eventual educational
achievement and educational outcomes (Nurmi, 2004).
ducted by the authors on factors that influence the
formation of students’ educational aspirations. The
findings are based on survey data involving a sample of
almost 4000 students across primary, secondary and
senior secondary school settings, located in the state
of Tasmania.
1. Students’ educational aspirations scores were
on average in the moderate range, using a
1-to-5 scale.
2. Girls had slightly higher educational aspirations
scores compared to boys.
3. Schools with higher ICSEA scores (a measure
of social and economic disadvantage) had
slightly higher educational aspiration scores.
4. Students who had higher rates of school
absenteeism from school had lower
educational aspirations scores.
5. Across the three main school sectors in Tasmania,
students’ educational aspiration scores were higher
in late primary school, but derceased in the high
school Years 7 to 10, then increased again in the
senior secondary school Years 11 and 12.
6. Students’ educational and career aspirations were
becoming established in the primary school years.
7. Many students reported little or no discussion with
their parents about future educational pathways.
8. Many parents did not hold strong views about their
children continuing on with their education.
Regression analysis was used to investigate the main
factors that influenced the formation of the students’
level of educational aspirations. This statistical analysis showed that the five main factors were: (1) parent
support; (2) students’ English ability; (3) teacher
support; (4) students’ level of confidence about school;
and (5) students’ mathematical ability.
The implications of these five factors are reviewed
in the following section.
Factors that influence students’
educational aspirations
Academic and school influences
Parental factors
on aspirations
Subject selection
The evidence from the Tasmanian research and from
The Tasmanian data support the notion that students’
High school is an important time in terms of students’
other studies (such as that by Nurmi, 2004) shows that
educational aspirations are influenced by gender,
educational aspiration formation because it is in high
the family is one of the most important factors involved
teacher support, school absenteeism, school achieve-
schools that students may start to favour particular
in forming students’ educational aspirations, expecta-
ment in English and mathematics and a successful
subjects. Understanding how low educational aspira-
tions, and future plans. The home is considered to be
transition into the senior high school Years 11 and 12.
tions can have unintended consequences is illustrated
highly influential in advancing students’ educational
Although these factors can be considered in isolation,
in the selection of mathematics. Students with a posi-
aspirations and in helping students maintain their social
in reality they are cumulative and interactive. Positive
tive career goal are more likely to select mathematics
and psychological well-being (Hay & Ashman, 2003).
effects in one factor can help mitigate against a nega-
as one of their Year 11 and 12 subjects.
The assertion is that positive student outcomes are
tive factor in another factor. For example, a low level of
more probable when home and school are connected,
school absenteeism and a high level of teacher support
when they share common values, when they mutually
can help mitigate against difficulties with English.
support each other, and when the student is connected
ongoing educational choices, subject selection in high
school, and career aspirations. Over time parental
aspirations for their children and their children’s own
self-aspirations tend to come together (Nurmi, 2004).
This convergence can help students if their parents
hold positive and high aspirations for their children and
the parents are able to support their children to reach
those aspirations (Abbott-Chapman, 2011).
mathematics, but have lower self-concepts about their
mathematical ability, they still tend to select the lower
stands of Year 11 and 12 mathematics (Lazarides &
to both the home and the school.
Parents have been shown to influence their children’s
Even when students have the ability to do higher level
Parents have been
shown to influence their
children’s ongoing educational choices, subject
selection in high school,
and career aspirations.
Watt, 2015). This choice can have unexpected consequences because mathematical thinking is important
across most professions and careers. Students leaving
school are also often surprised about the entrance
standards of vocational training courses and the
required standards needed in mathematics and English
to complete those courses.
Mathematics achievement is an important factor that
influences students’ level of educational aspirations.
Given the finding that educational aspirations start in
primary school, primary school teachers need to be
able to understand the content of the mathematics curriculum as well as know how to teach that content to
the children in their classroom. If teachers are uncomfortable or anxious about mathematics they are more
likely to transmit this anxiety to the students they are
teaching (Darling-Hammond, 2012) and so indirectly
influence students’ educational aspirations.
Factors that influence students’
educational aspirations
Home-school connections
Teachers thus have a role in helping to form students’
Parents are very influential in forming students’ educa-
Teachers and parents need to help students explore
aspirations and they can help mitigate against low aspi-
tional aspirations. Teachers also have a role in “educat-
the skill set required for future employment. When
rations for students in the home. The problem is, if both
ing” parents about what is occurring in the classroom
high school students start to talk about their possible
the teacher and the parent both have a low expecta-
and in assisting parents to have positive aspirations
careers, this is linked to their identity formation (Hay
tion for the student, the student is disadvantaged and
about their children’s educational futures (Abbott-
& Ashman, 2003). Talking with students about career
a negative self-fulfilling prophecy may start to operate
Chapman, 2011).
options and taking students to career markets and to
for that individual (Watson et al., 2013).
Teachers can unintentionally communicate negative
aspirations about a student to parents and to individual
The role of teachers
students. When a parent says, for example, my child
wants to leave school and do a trade or to work on a
teacher support has an important role in the formation
farm, the teacher needs to consider how to respond
of students’ educational aspirations. Teachers have a
because leaving schooling early disadvantages stu-
professional responsibility to assist students to achieve
dents in terms of their long-term opportunities (Gonski,
their potential and to encourage students to deal with
2011; Lamb, Walstab, Teese, Vickers & Rumberger,
the ‘difficult’ content taught in the classroom. Teachers
2004). Farming is also a business that requires an indi-
have a role in scaffolding the student’s learning and
vidual to have skills in the use of technology, machin-
this involves assisting the student to persevere with
ery, food production and livestock management; all
the task so the student gains a level of independence in
skills that are not easy to ‘learn on the job’.
doing the taught task.
Unintentionally ‘dumbing down’ content so that the
student does not have to extend him/herself is not in
the student’s best interest. Eventually, the student will
have to face that higher order content in a higher grade.
‘Rescuing’ the student by not exposing the student to
the more challenging learning activities is indirectly
saying to the student: ‘it is too hard for you, give up,
and have low aspirations’.
open days conducted by universities and colleges is
important for all students. Having the adolescents talk
about their future choices, to meet with employers, and
to do work experience, all helps in the formation of the
students’ aspirations. Teachers can help by having past
students talk to the present primary and secondary
school students about their transitions and their educational and career progress. Information from past students may be seen as more authentic to the students
still in the primary and secondary classrooms.
Having the adolescents
talk about their future
choices, to meet with
employers, and to do work
experience, all helps in
the formation of the
students’ aspirations.
Factors that influence students’
educational aspirations
The challenge of poverty
The Tasmanian survey data suggest that students from
To date, policy makers have made it compulsory for
This research identified that: (1) parent support; (2)
more socially and economically disadvantaged schools
students to stay in schooling until the age of seven-
students’ English achievement; (3) teacher support;
can have reduced educational achievement and aspi-
teen years. This policy is based on the evidence that
(4) students’ level of confidence about school; and (5)
rations. This is not an unexpected finding and there
leaving schooling too early disadvantages the person in
students’ mathematical achievement all impacted on
“is also an unacceptable link between low levels of
the employment market and it has long-term negative
students’ levels of educational aspirations.
achievement and educational disadvantage, particu-
economic and social consequences for that individual
larly among students from low socioeconomic loca-
(Gonski, 2011). It is a false economy in the long-term to
tions” (Gonski, 2011, p. xiii).
have students leave school unprepared for the world of
Previous research has also demonstrated that a family’s
socioeconomic status and parents’ level of education
have an influence on their children’s educational plans,
aspirations, and expectations (Lamb et al., 2004).
Students from low SES communities may also fail to
connect with further and higher education institutions
because of cost, transport, timetabling, and resource
limitation (Watson et al., 2013) such that students from
low SES backgrounds have lower school retention rates
(Abbott-Chapman, 2011).
work, particularly when that work is often low paid and
casual. Finishing high school to the equivalent of Year
12 provides the young person with a greater number of
future options. Students completing the equivalent of a
Year 12 education, needs to be the norm in the Australian context, and for those students unable to achieve
this aspiration, meaningful support and alternative
educational programs need to be provided (Cranston,
Allen, Watson, Hay, & Beswick, 2012).
Understanding the factors that either enhance or mitigate against students having positive educational aspirations is important for both policy makers and educators. Such information facilitates the establishment
of a data-driven policy framework and the formation
of more targeted interventions and programs. Understanding the factors that influence students’ level of
educational aspirations also helps in the formation of
a whole of government response to students with low
educational aspirations.
The findings reported are based on Tasmanian research
but they have implications to other national and international educational settings. The findings highlight that
the students’ educational aspirations are formed over
time and the factors are multidimensional. Therefore,
policies and practices to ameliorate against students’
forming low levels of educational aspirations also need
to be enacted over time and to be multidimensional.
This project is funded by an Australian Research Council
Linkage Grant LP110200828 and Industry Partner, the
Department of Education Tasmania.
Students’ school engagement:
‘stickability’, risk-taking,
educational attainment
Joan Abbott-Chapman
Students’ school engagement:
‘stickability’, risk-taking, educational attainment
Research findings on the association between stu-
Although parental education remains the leading factor
dents’ school engagement, study persistence, post-
influencing students’ post-compulsory participation
compulsory participation and attainment are discussed
(Lamb et al. 2004; OECD 2014), a growing body of
in relation to the need to raise Tasmania’s post-Year
research suggests that student engagement, fostered
10 retention rates and transition through to University.
by positive classroom experiences and school social
Findings reveal the association between measures of
capital, may modify disadvantaged family background
students’ school engagement at primary and second-
factors (Gorard & Huat See 2011; Semo & Karmel 2011).
ary school level with their educational, occupational
and health status through to adulthood up to 20 years
later. These findings are supported by ongoing analysis
of the inhibiting influence of higher levels of students’
school engagement upon their levels of participation
in health compromising risk activities including drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and use of illicit drugs.
Factors that encourage students’ school engagement
are discussed in the paper along with some of the implications for action in schools and the wider community.
Strategies to increase students’ school engagement
and post-compulsory education and training participation in Tasmania are being developed at a time when the
knowledge economy demands an increasingly educated
workforce, and when employers are seeking individuals who demonstrate flexibility, creativity and enthusiastic engagement with new learning in the workplace.
Also required are verbal and written communication
skills and the ability to apply theoretical knowledge
in practice (Abbott-Chapman 2003; McWilliam 2008;
Tasmania’s highly dispersed population, rurality and
Wyn 2009). Transformative education helps students to
low ranking on a number of socio-economic status
acquire such skills, assisting them not be put off by set-
(SES) and health indicators are associated with low
backs and to become “robust learners who can stick at
rates of Year 12 completion (ABS 2014a, 2014b). These
a task” (McWilliam, 2008, p. 120).
result in the fragmentary post-school ‘mosaic’ of study/
work and unemployment destinations of many disadvantaged and rural students (Abbott-Chapman 2011;
Abbott-Chapman & Kilpatrick 2001; Kilpatrick & AbbottChapman 2002).
Students’ school engagement:
‘stickability’, risk-taking, educational attainment
The influence of ‘stickability’
on long-term retention
‘Stickability’ was a quality that Abbott-Chapman,
The nominated teachers were then surveyed, and
Hughes and Wyld (1991) used to describe students
their characteristics and teaching styles analysed.
whom their Model of Educational Handicap predicted
Their enthusiasm for their teaching, high expectations
would not pursue their studies beyond Year 10 but who
for students’ learning, cultivation of mutual respect
did so against the odds. The model included measures
between students and teacher, and a deep understand-
of school assessed ability potential (SAAP), socio-
ing of students’ diverse learning needs, were found to
demographic background, type of school attended
raise students’ aspirations for further and higher edu-
at Year 10 and gender. Within the longitudinal cohort
cation. These qualities were demonstrated despite the
study of 14,579 Tasmanian students who left Year 10
increasing intensification and broadening of the teach-
in 1981 and 1986, 16 per cent of them who had been
er’s role, increased administrative burden and teacher
predicted by the Model of Educational Handicap not to
stress. International studies confirm that the student/
go beyond Year 10 did so, some through to University.
teacher relationship, teachers’ expectations for their
Quantitative and qualitative data analysis showed that
students’ attainment, and the quality of classroom
school engagement and ‘career’ rather than ‘experi-
interaction with teachers and peers, are important in
mental’ or ‘custodial’ retention were deciding factors in
encouraging student engagement and attainment from
study persistence, along with the encouragement of an
the early years of schooling (Department for Education
inspirational teacher. Students with stickability exhib-
UK 2003; Hattie 2009; Ladd & Dinella 2009).
ited high levels of school engagement and attainment,
despite socio-economic and rural disadvantage. These
students reported the influence of named primary, secondary and post-secondary teachers who influenced
them to go on with their studies after Year 10.
Students’ school engagement:
‘stickability’, risk-taking, educational attainment
Positive emotions are
related to feelings of school
connectedness, sense
of belonging, motivation
to learn, self-concept
as a learner and
study persistence
The development of the
School Engagement Index
School engagement has been identified as significant
The School Engagement project is part of much larger
within an investigation of modifiable factors associ-
national, longitudinal Childhood Determinants of Adult
ated with children’s long term health and wellbeing,
Health (CDAH) study which analyses factors affecting
conducted by an interdisciplinary team at the Menzies
childhood and adult health, especially cardiovascular
Institute for Medical Research and the Faculty of Edu-
health. The research began in 1985 with the Austral-
cation, University of Tasmania (Abbott-Chapman et al.
ian Health and Fitness Survey (AHFS). A representa-
2012, 2013). Of the three main dimensions of school
tive national sample of 5,472 school children aged nine
engagement that have been identified by research-
to 15 years responded to the 1985 questionnaire and
ers over the last 30 years the ‘affective’ or emotional
of these 2,334 completed follow-up questionnaires
dimension was chosen as the focus of this research.
in 2004–6, when they were aged between 26 and 36
Affective school engagement, expressed as enjoying or liking school, is closely related to cognitive and
behavioural dimensions of school engagement, that
are expressed in such things as performance of academic tasks, school attendance and classroom behaviour
(Martin 2007). The importance of encouraging
students’ enjoyment of school, starting from the earliest years, has increasingly become the focus of international research and policy, as a driver of student
attainment and of long term participation. This is part
of a growing research trend that recognizes the role
years. Of these 1,622 had completed all data relevant
to the longitudinal analysis of school engagement.
Previous analysis demonstrated that despite loss-tofollow-up those remaining in the study in adulthood
are similar to same-age peers in the general population on a number of variables. The AHFS questionnaire
included questions about health activities and beliefs,
school-based measures of academic attainment, and
attitudes to school. The adult questionnaire included
questions on health, education, occupation and socioeconomic status.
played by emotions, positive or negative, in the class-
As part of the investigation, an additive index, named
room interaction of students with teachers and peers
the School Engagement Index (SEI), was constructed
(Frenzel et al. 2009; Frenzel & Stephens 2013). Positive
from student responses to two questions in the 1985
emotions are related to feelings of school connected-
survey on their degree of enjoyment of school and
ness, sense of belonging, motivation to learn, self-con-
of boredom. The associations between the SEI and a
cept as a learner and study persistence. Expressions of
range of variables in childhood and adulthood were ana-
enjoyment or boredom at school are indicative of more
lysed. Potential covariates included age, sex, markers
deep-seated feelings experienced within the school
of socio-economic status in childhood, personality and
environment that affect the ability to learn.
school-level variables.
Students’ school engagement:
‘stickability’, risk-taking, educational attainment
School engagement, student health and risktaking activities
Logistic regression was used to estimate the odds of
The links between socio-economic status, educational
These findings are supported by re-analysis of data
respondents aged nine to 15 years achieving Year 12 or
attainment and health are well known (Gall et al. 2010).
from a Tasmanian survey of 954 Year 11 and 12 stu-
higher education or training and achieving higher status
The link with school engagement is less well known.
dents’ risk perceptions and activities, using the SEI.
occupations up to 20 years later. Findings revealed that
The SEI developed in the CDAH study was shown to
Previous findings from that research have already
each unit of school engagement was independently
have a robust predictive capacity with regard not only
been published (Abbott-Chapman, Denholm & Wyld
associated with a 10 per cent higher odds (OR 1.10 95%
to educational outcomes but also self-rated health and
2008). Preliminary, as yet unpublished, findings from
CI 1.01, 1.21) of attaining post-compulsory education
health behaviours in adulthood (Abbott-Chapman et al.
the new analysis suggest that higher levels of school
during the 20 year period, not necessarily direct from
2012). Importantly, the association between childhood
engagement, as measured by the SEI, are significantly
school. Maternal education, self-concept as a learner
school engagement and adult health behaviours were
associated with aspirations for further and higher edu-
and motivation to learn, significantly predicted achiev-
found to be independent of 1985 school attainment
cation and with lower levels of risk-taking activities
ing post-compulsory school education. Higher school
measures. Each unit of greater school engagement was
such as binge drinking, smoking cigarettes and use
engagement was also independently associated with
associated with greater avoidance of health risk behav-
of illicit drugs. Findings also suggest that member-
iours—with a 32 per cent lower odds of being a regular
ship of sports, hobbies and music clubs, both within
this engagement was independent of a host of back-
smoker (OR 0.68 95% CI 0.64, 0.75) and a 19 per cent
and outside school, is associated with lower levels of
ground factors, including childhood teacher-rated aca-
lower odds of being a consumer of alcohol (OR 0.81
risk-taking. These findings have important implications
demic attainment, whose influence appears to have
95% CI 0.64, 0.72). These associations remained sig-
for students’ classroom participation and learner self-
waned over the 20 year period, unlike the influence of
nificant and were only marginally attenuated by includ-
concept. National research has shown that risky, health
school engagement.
ing markers of socio-economic status.
compromising, activities and poor classroom experi-
Pathway analysis suggested that engagement precedes attainment. School-level variables were limited
because the 1985 survey was predominantly about
ences may predict students’ Year 12 completion more
accurately than traditional SES background factors
alone (Homel, Mavisakalyon, Nguyen & Ryan 2012).
health and fitness. However, findings suggest that students’ active involvement in a number of curricular
and co-curricular activities, including physical education, sports, and music, is associated with higher levels
of school engagement. Other research confirms that
music and the performing arts foster engagement,
especially among disadvantaged and Indigenous students (Caldwell & Vaughan 2012; Costa & Kallick 2000)
Students’ school engagement:
‘stickability’, risk-taking, educational attainment
Conclusions and implications
for policy and practice
School engagement, as measured by the SEI in child-
The demonstrated long-term effects of school engage-
School provision of opportunities for students to par-
hood at ages nine to 15, has been shown to be associ-
ment on students’ post school educational and occu-
ticipate in wide curricular and co-curricular options,
ated with attainment of educational, occupational and
pational careers through to adulthood has implications
including Physical and Outdoor Education, Sports and
health status outcomes through to adulthood up to
not only for post-compulsory education and training of
the Arts, especially Music, helps to encourage school
20 years later, while the influence of socio- economic
straight-from-school students but also for mature age
engagement, especially of disadvantaged students.
and rural background factors appear to attenuate
students, as ‘second chance’ students. This finding
However, where provision of such activities within
over time. This suggests that encouraging students’
emphasises the importance of strengthening the rela-
schools is limited by human and financial resource con-
school enjoyment and engagement in learning, and
tionship between post-school vocational and academic
straints, especially in rural and regional areas, school
their ability to stick at a task, from the earliest years
learning pathways within the mosaic of study and work.
partnerships with local community clubs and associa-
of schooling, is likely to impact upon their educational
Closer links between Technical and Further Educa-
tions may help to provide students with rich learning
participation and attainment through to adulthood. In
tion (TAFE) and the University, plus preparation and
opportunities not otherwise available. Encouragement
brief, factors associated with students’ school engage-
support programs that ensure successful transition into
of these sorts of collaborative initiatives exemplify a
ment and enjoyment of learning include the expecta-
higher education are already achieving positive student
whole-of-community approach to raising Tasmanian
tions and encouragement
inspirational teachers;
outcomes (Abbott-Chapman 2006; Abbott-Chapman
levels of post-compulsory participation and attainment.
positive relationships between students and teach-
2011). As noted in the introduction, findings on the
ers and students and peers; a rich school curriculum
long-term impact of school engagement underline the
that includes learning opportunities in the visual and
relevance of work integrated learning (WIL) at every
performing arts, physical and outdoor education and
level of education and training.
sports. Other national studies have also found that
an achieving school climate and the development of
positive school cultural and social capital may help to
compensate for disadvantaged student backgrounds
in ways that encourage student engagement. While
opportunities for on-line learning may help to shrink
social and geographical distances that represent barriers to student participation in post-compulsory education, research has shown that face-to face contact with
teachers and student peers is important in enriching
the learning experience, through ‘blended’ teaching
methods, especially for disadvantaged and indigenous
students (Stack, Watson & Abbott-Chapman 2013).
Findings on the association between school engagement and health compromising risk activities in
childhood and adulthood also suggest the benefit of
increased emphasis on linked-up health and education policies and services for children and young people
within holistic preventive health programs and initiatives, along with more interdisciplinary and longitudinal
research to support such programs. The growing focus
in schools on student wellbeing programs is a positive
expression of this kind of holistic approach. The role
of classroom teachers in fostering student engagement
within an achieving and supportive school culture is
confirmed by the research and highlights the need for
their continuing community recognition and support.
Opening the gate:
improving mathematics
Kim Beswick
Rosemary Callingham
Opening the gate:
improving mathematics attainment
Mathematics education in Australia faces two inter-
Even when it is not an explicit prerequisite, higher level
related and hitherto intractable problems. First, over
mathematics is necessary for success in many of the
the past ten years Australia’s performance in math-
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
ematics has declined in real terms on every interna-
(STEM) courses that are needed for technical careers.
tional measure: Trends in International Mathematics
Even though more students than ever before are
and Science Study (TIMSS); Programme for Interna-
studying mathematics at Years 11 and 12 the popular
tional Student Assessment (PISA); and Programme
mathematics courses are those that are the minimum
for International Assessment of Adult Competencies
requirement for tertiary entrance, and not the ‘inter-
(PIAAC). National testing tells us that Tasmania lags
mediate’ and ‘advanced’ courses needed for partici-
behind much of Australia and increasingly so as stu-
pation in STEM related careers. Leaving intervention
dents progress through school. Second, Australian
until the later years of school, however, is leaving it
students report disliking mathematics and are voting
too late. Unless students have engaged with, and been
with their feet in choosing less demanding mathematics
successful in mathematics they are unlikely to choose
options when they have the choice in senior secondary
pathways that lead to higher levels of mathematics and
school. This state of affairs hinders Australia’s develop-
science (Australian Association of Mathematics Teach-
ment and innovation in a variety of fields, and limits the
ers, 2014).
options of individuals because mathematics is a ‘gatekeeper’ subject (Blomeke, Suhl, Kaiser, & Dormann,
2012). Because of its gatekeeper status, mathematics
has particular importance in relation to issues of educational attainment more generally.
Opening the gate:
improving mathematics attainment
A variety of solutions has been proposed to address
Students report that mathematics is boring, not rel-
We know that Tasmanian students in schools with a
this situation. These have ranged from preferential
evant and too hard. Many, including those experiencing
relatively high Index of Community Socio-educational
treatment of mathematics teachers, improved train-
success with the subject at school, state that they do
Advantage (ICSEA) report greater teacher support,
ing of pre-service teachers, and making mathematics
not like mathematics—nearly half of all Year 8 students
more positive educational aspirations generally, higher
compulsory in Years 11 and 12. The problem is not a
have said this, although the same students acknowl-
perceived ability and capability in English and math-
simple one and no single solution is likely to reverse
edge the subject’s importance and utility (Thomson,
ematics, and greater parental interest and encourage-
the current trend. Sustained attention at every level
Hillman, & Wernert, 2012). Students begin to see them-
ment in relation to school work than their peers in less
is required. For Tasmania, being relatively geographi-
selves as being ‘non-mathematical’ from as early as Year
advantaged schools. Similarly, teachers in schools with
cally small, having a single university, and having a
3, and often these perceptions are reinforced by soci-
relatively high ICSEA were more inclined than their
community increasingly united in its desire to improve
etal attitudes. It is not uncommon to hear comments
peers in lower ICSEA schools to regard their students’
the state’s educational attainment places it well to
such as “I was never any good at maths” although the
self-efficacy, valuing of education, ability, and parental
address these issues more effectively than might be
same comment would rarely be made about literacy.
support positively; and to believe that teachers in their
possible elsewhere. Teachers, schools and systems,
This situation is likely to affect students’ future subject,
school were supportive of students, including having
as well as the broader community, are implicated in
and ultimately career, choices. Students may aspire to
high expectations (Beswick, 2015). These differences
students’ perceptions of their mathematical ability, and
achieve at high levels but if they think that they cannot
are important because students’ perceptions of their
their mathematical attainment. First, teachers’ beliefs
do mathematics they are likely to believe that they are
ability to succeed in mathematics are related to their
about the capacities of different groups of students,
less capable of attaining challenging educational goals
achievement, and teachers influence how students
or individual students, to learn mathematics influence
even in subjects other than mathematics, and hence
see themselves as mathematics learners (Levpušček,
the opportunities to learn that are provided, and the
reduce their aspirations. The gates to some areas of
Zupančič, & Sočan, 2012). Specifically, Levpušček,
subtle messages that students receive about what con-
higher educational attainment become closed.
Zupančič and Sočan found that students’ felt better
stitute appropriate aspirations for them. Second, stu-
about their ability to learn mathematics and achieved
dents’ opportunities to learn in a meaningful way the
better results when they believed their teachers gave
mathematics that opens gates to future options may
them demanding work, expected them to understand
be limited by the knowledge and mathematics specific
it, and worked hard to help them to learn.
pedagogic skill of their teachers.
Opening the gate:
improving mathematics attainment
In relation to mathematics, Beswick (2007/2008; in
Achieving understanding of mathematics is regarded
High academic expectations and beliefs in the capa-
press) found that teachers had different expectations
as a more appropriate goal for ‘good’ mathemat-
bility of all students are essential but are not suffi-
of students depending on whether or not they saw
ics students than for those who experience difficulty
cient to ensure that students achieve their potential
them as having difficulty learning mathematics. They
(Beswick, 2007/2008). If students believe that they are
in mathematics. Teachers have to teach mathematics
also considered different sorts of mathematics tasks
being given less demanding work and are not expected
in ways that engage students and keep them learning
appropriate for these groups of students. For stu-
to think hard they are unlikely to come to see them-
mathematics at the highest level possible for as long
dents perceived as ‘good’ at mathematics, appropriate
selves as capable mathematics learners and hence,
as possible, and this work requires more than content
tasks were described as challenging, open-ended, and
even though they might succeed on the simple tasks
knowledge (Senk et al., 2012). Many studies show that
involving problem-solving, whereas for those they saw
they’re given, they are unlikely to make real advances
there is a very low or no relationship between teachers’
as struggling, appropriate tasks were relevant to stu-
in their mathematics achievement. The current Aus-
mathematics qualifications and their students’ success
dents’ interests and provided opportunities for success
tralian Curriculum: Mathematics mandates that, in
(Mewborn, 2001). On the other hand, there is a growing
(Beswick, in press). Of course, there is nothing wrong
addition to content, all students develop mathemati-
body of evidence that suggests that teachers increas-
with having relevant tasks and experiencing success
cal proficiencies—reasoning, fluency, problem-solving,
ingly are teaching mathematics with little or no math-
but teachers also appeared to define success differ-
and understanding—but there is evidence that some
ematical knowledge (AAMT, 2014). These teachers may
ently for students depending on their perceptions of
teachers see these as largely the province of capable
be highly-skilled pedagogues but lack the underpin-
their ability.
mathematics students whom they also characterise as
ning content knowledge to build students’ confidence
exhibiting these proficiencies (Beswick, in press). Pro-
and knowledge in mathematics. The blend of content
fessional learning that focuses on how lower attaining
knowledge and pedagogy, termed pedagogical content
students might be helped to develop their understand-
knowledge (PCK), that is unique to teachers of math-
ing of mathematics and their ability to reason math-
ematics affects students’ outcomes (Baumert et al.,
ematically and solve problems appears to be needed.
2010). It is not so much the level of mathematics that
the teacher has studied, or can do, that is the issue
so much as the way in which the teacher understands
Opening the gate:
improving mathematics attainment
This specialised mathematical knowledge is a rapidly
The student had a sound conceptual understanding of a
There is no silver bullet, but this is our wish list for
developing area of research. Shulman (1987, p. 8)
sphere but lacked the vocabulary to describe it. When
mathematics education:
coined the term ‘pedagogical content knowledge’
the student made the original statement, the teacher
(PCK) as:
could have simply disagreed and said it was a sphere,
the blending of content and pedagogy into
an understanding of how topics, problems, or
issues are organized, represented, and adapted
is allowed for pre-service teachers to develop the
or could have ignored the remark altogether. Instead
requisite knowledge, pedagogy, confidence and
she chose to probe further revealing an unexpected
depth of understanding.
teacher education courses in which sufficient time
passion for teaching mathematics well;
policies that allow for the employment of all newly
to the diverse interests and abilities of learn-
All teachers draw on PCK when thinking on their feet,
graduated well-qualified mathematics teachers
ers, and presented for instruction. Pedagogical
making rapid in the moment decisions about matters
even if current overall teacher numbers are suf-
content knowledge is the category most likely
such as whether to respond to a student’s legitimate
to distinguish the understanding of the content
question or to acknowledge it and return to it later;
specialist from that of the pedagogue.
when to change the activity or pace of the lesson; how
mathematics that develops excitement and inter-
to deal with a lesson that, although well-planned is not
est in mathematics and its teaching and learning
proceeding well; or what to do when a lesson is cut
as well as building teachers’ capacities to help all
short or disturbed because of some unexpected event
students to maximise their achievement;
Since then there have been a number of studies
attempting to describe and measure PCK. All of these
studies recognise the complexity of PCK, combining content, curriculum, appropriate representations,
understanding of different students as groups and as
individuals. Consider this exchange that happened in
a Year 8 classroom towards the end of a unit about 3D
We live on a circle, don’t we?
such as a fire drill. These acts may seem to be small
and trivial in themselves, but they have a cumulative
students at all ages and apparent levels of mathematical understanding are allowed to deal with
real mathematical problems rather than learning a
series of disconnected procedures;
Teachers make a difference, as has been shown by
Hattie (2008). Investing in teachers will ultimately
mathematics, and expected to think hard and
however, needs to go beyond technical solutions. Prothis must be backed up with recognition that teachers
If we cut the earth in half we’d see a circle…
are specialists, and professionals. In the Scandinavian
Do we live on a circle?
countries, for example, there is almost no external
struggle to make sense of important mathematical
mathematics classrooms where students’ own
mathematical ideas are published, displayed and
testing, and what there is addresses rich, deep mathematical investigations judged by classroom teachers
mathematics classrooms where all students are
engaged in argumentation and discussion about
Are you sure?
It’s a cubic circle.
recognition that mathematics should be ‘messy’—
in mathematics, and motivation to study mathematics.
fessional learning is a key component, obviously, but
Hang on, no, it’s a…
ongoing professional learning for all teachers of
effect on students’ learning of mathematics, interest
schools and systems that acknowledge the impor-
rather than externally imposed tests. Moves to reward
tance of mathematics and allow students to con-
teachers on the basis of student performance, as
solidate their developing understanding and revisit
found in the United States, for example, has not
earlier concepts as they are needed; and
improved performance in mathematics, but has led to
distortion of the curriculum, and rorting of the system
(Berliner, 2011).
recognition that Tasmania is uniquely positioned
to address the issues that we have outlined and to
lead the nation in doing so.
Opening the gate:
improving mathematics attainment
Tasmanian teachers, schools and students are as good
Still, there is much more to be done. Commitments
as anywhere else but we need to aspire to be better
need to be for the long haul and funded appropriately.
than that. Efforts are needed and are becoming evident
A focus on mathematics is vital because of its crucial
at every level. For example, from 2016 the University of
status as a gatekeeper. Tasmania needs all of its citi-
Tasmania will offer prospective primary school teach-
zens to be mathematically confident and competent so
ers the opportunity to graduate with a major in math-
that they can negotiate a world in which quantitative
ematics education and will also provide a new Bachelor
information is increasingly important. Exploiting Tas-
of Education (Science and Mathematics) for prospective
mania’s natural advantages to develop industries that
secondary teachers that will include the study of math-
will drive our economy into the future are reliant on
ematics to second year university level. This secondary
the availability of employees with well-developed math-
teaching course aims to integrate learning advanced
ematical skills including those with STEM qualifications
content with developing PCK. The Tasmanian Depart-
that include sophisticated mathematics. Mathemat-
ment of Education has increased its commitment to
ics, taught well, has the potential to open the gate to
mathematics teaching related professional learning
opportunity for individuals and for Tasmania.
in recent years. Politicians, business leaders and the
broader community have all acknowledged the need to
improve Tasmania’s educational attainment and there
are efforts in progress to better coordinate and evaluate the diverse initiatives that have been instigated in
communities across the state.
Tasmania needs all
of its citizens to be
mathematically confident
and competent so that
they can negotiate
a world in which
quantitative information
is increasingly important.
Tasmania’s hidden
dragons: tackling
equity beyond
Year 10
Deborah Brewer
Tasmania’s hidden dragons: tackling education
participation equity beyond Year 10
Introduction to the research
‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ (Wuo hu zhan long) is
a Chinese idiom in which the words ‘Tiger’ and ‘Dragon’
directly refer to people with special hidden talents. This
idiom reminds us never to underestimate anybody’s
abilities. The research to be discussed relates this
message to post-Year 10 education and training aspirations of a sample of 22 Tasmanian Year 10 students.
The PhD research was conducted between 2012 and
2014. Twelve of the students who participated in the
research attended schools in communities classified
as being of low socio-economic status, and were considered by their teachers as ambivalent toward future
education participation, including enrolling and completing Years 11 and 12.5
The research framework examined the students’ education participation from a humanistic perspective
(Freire, 1990). This theoretical framework values and
conceptualises educational identity potential, human
worth, participation and inclusion (Freire, 1985). The
research applied an ecological lens (Bronfenbrenner,
1979) to the problem, seeking to reveal how educational choices are influenced by the social ecology of
students’ life experience, and how social and cultural
patterns and institutional systems influence opportunity, participation choices and perceptions of educational capability. The ecological approach asks “How
does identity influence education participation and
how does a new perspective on education participation influence identity?” The methodology aimed to
measure if young people who are less certain about
The research is significant at a time when educators
engaging in education depict their identity differently
and policy makers throughout Australia are concerned
to those students who are more certain about engag-
with educational disadvantage and are collaborating
ing. An innovative methodology was adopted in order to
with researchers to find ways to increase the participa-
explore this possibility.
tion rate of young people in education up to Year 12.
Socio-economic disadvantage, cultural attitudes, and
the stress of living in impoverished communities places
many Tasmanian young people at higher risk of discontinuing education participation after they complete
Year 10.
Childhood and adolescent life experiences and life
events can, in a range of circumstances, create situations of risk or adversity, and these circumstances and
experiences may lead to detrimental or disadvantageous identity construction and development. Disadvantage, through unknown, unrealised or lost opportunities and limitations can also inhibit or even disable
identity development. Conversely, self-knowledge of
personal identity strengths and a vantage point to systemic opportunities may assist in counteracting the
effects of socio-economic, class and cultural disadvantage (Avi & Hanoch, 2012).
5 The status of each school in the research was determined by applying the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, My
School website SES calculations (Australian Curriculum Assessment
and Reporting Authority).
Tasmania’s hidden dragons: tackling education
participation equity beyond Year 10
The complexity and dimensional range of identity are
Future educational participation may pivot here for
The research implemented an intervention at this junc-
important (Marsh, 1990). These aspects of identity
educationally ambivalent students. It is critical at the
ture in education participation when students transition
are unique to each person and provide assets of both
junction between Year 10 and Year 11 that ambivalent
between generalist subjects to focus on more specialist
capacity and purpose. The complexity and dimension-
students are provided with the opportunity to reflect on
subjects. The brief intervention focused on both iden-
ality of identity can become disabled in life by limited
their interests and strengths and on the construction of
tity development and the provision of systemic infor-
and unsafe life experiences and by lessened cognitive
their identity (particularly their educational identity).
mation. The five-day intervention program was deliv-
and physical capacities. The robust or fragile nature of
The process of facilitated self-reflection provides young
ered prior to the end of Year 10 and sought to positively
identity is also built on perceptions and beliefs of self-
people with insight into how they like to learn and an
influence self-identity, educational identity and future
efficacy, self-esteem and confidence.
understanding of how they can utilise their existing
educational participation decisions.
The educational dimension of identity takes on particular importance for young people at education transition phases (Best, 2011). Limitations imposed by macro
systems, stressful living circumstances and participa-
interests, strengths and capacities to achieve educational outcomes. This self-knowledge will assist them to
focus future learning participation and align participation decisions with aspiration.
When adolescents can cultivate greater self-knowledge around their identity, they are better equipped
to make education choices and participation decisions.
Increased participation provides choice, and through
tion barriers created by unsafe experiences impact on
Equally important to identity development in facilitat-
choice, alternative opportunities exist to build personal
some students’ opportunities and choices in second-
ing continued participation in education post-Year 10
agency, social and educational capital, in a range of
ary education participation. The importance of educa-
is making transparent educational systems, ideologies
settings, both formal and informal. Educational capital
tion as a dimension of identity (to be played out as
and discourses. An uncomplicated knowledge of how
is developed both formally and informally. Informal
enhanced social and economic opportunities in life) is
the education system operates can influence partici-
education capital is developed through social, cultural
critically revealed at the point of educational transi-
pation choices. Critical systemic knowledge can poten-
and personal life experiences, and formal education
tion between junior and senior secondary school when
tially reveal to students concealed education participa-
capital through learning and training attainment out-
young people begin to make more specialised choices
tion opportunities.
comes and qualifications. For adolescents, knowing
around education participation. This period is also the
time when young people begin to make decisions about
their independence, further study, and work participation (Coll & Falsafi, 2010).
When adolescents can
cultivate greater selfknowledge around their
identity, they are better
equipped to make
education choices and
participation decisions.
one’s strengths and personal assets facilitates active
purposeful education participation to accumulate educational capital both formal and informal (Burrow & Hill,
2011). This research was designed to identify the components of adolescent self-knowledge that assist in the
process of educational decision-making.
Tasmania’s hidden dragons: tackling education
participation equity beyond Year 10
Research Methods
The research considered the experience of transition
The visual approach to data collection provided partici-
The method appealed both because it is creative and
through two different ecological lenses. The first part of
pation equality enabling adolescent young people from
uses icons. Icons are semiotic representations famil-
the research sought to understand transition from the
a broad range of different circumstances and back-
iar to adolescents. Many icons young people feel sig-
perspective of the individual by exploring the relation-
grounds to participate. The visual approach counter-
nificant emotional attachment to (Michel & Andacht,
ship between identity, transition and future education
acted obstacles to participation because of low literacy
2005). They are an important part of their lives. For
participation. The second part of the research looked
or limited capacity or confidence to express personal
example, the icons used by Facebook and YouTube
at the high school environment and explored systemic
opinion through oral communication. The approach
were popular with young people as participants. Visual
factors that influence participation. The method applied
provided the research with a lens to view individual dif-
methods provide a way of depicting and personalising
to gather the individual student’s perspective was arts
ferences between students and differences related to
identity that is inclusive of young people with low lit-
based and visual. This paper discusses the first part of
different socio-educational backgrounds.
eracy levels and less confronting for those reluctant or
the research, which investigated students’ educational
participation as an aspect of identity. The following
definition of identity was used by the study. This definition was communicated by the researcher in the script
when describing the concept to adolescent student participants.
The use of a visual approach has several advantages
unwilling to engage in lengthy verbal communications.
over written forms of data collection for research concerned with revealing aspects of the identity, particularly in relation to research conducted with young
people (Prosser, 2012). Making a collage about themselves is enjoyable for young people; therefore they
“Think about your life, who you are, what
your life is like and what things that are
important to you.”
are more likely to actively engage in the research. The
Identifying an appropriate technique to research ado-
young participants with the freedom to express who
lescent educational identity from an asset–based per-
they are creatively and lessens restrictive perceptions
spective posed a significant qualitative methodological
around permanency. A sense of freedom from per-
challenge (Rhee, Furlong, Turner, & Harari, 2001). The
manency is particularly important during adolescence
data needed to reveal an aspect of participant’s iden-
when young people are actively exploring, construct-
tity that may be notable by its absence. To overcome
ing and reviewing their personal identity. Time, space
this challenge, the research developed a new technique
and place-specific identity concepts accommodate the
to collect the data. The method invited participants to
frequent social and interest identity changes that are
construct a visual depiction of their identity using icons
occurring during this developmental period (Chickering
to create a collage. A collage, once created became
& Reisser, 1993).
process invites participants to provide a snapshot, a
here-and-now account, of who they are and what they
consider important. The snapshot approach provides
what is called an identity-gram. Four parameters of
the visual identity depictions were then analysed to
measure: (1) dimension, (2) complexity, (3) absent
representations, and (4) present representations of
identity, before and after a ten-day period.
Tasmania’s hidden dragons: tackling education
participation equity beyond Year 10
Research Findings
Each participant’s identity-gram was unique. The
Many of the interests and aspirations depicted by this
When working with identity-gram data and preparing
researcher provided each participant with the same 75
student were common to other students who took part.
the data for analysis, a key qualitative enquiry coding
small individual symbol and picture icons from twelve
The tool box indicates an interest in tools. Perhaps
rule was applied. This rule of polysemicity accepts
dimension categories: animals, relationships, commu-
this student aspired to undertake training in a trade at
multiple personal meanings. That is, there may be a
nication, relaxation and recreation, education, food,
some point in their future.
range of possible meanings behind each participant’s
money, transport and travel, work, nature, house-
use of the icons, however it is not necessary to know or
hold and health. Figure 14.1 provides an example of a
check individual meanings with participants in order to
visual identity-gram. This graphic was made by Year 10
analyse the data because the icons used in the research
student ambivalent about continuing his participation
method represent and depict culturally and socially
in education through Years 11 and 12, who chose
understood and accepted representations or symbols
not to take part in the brief intervention
of activities or objects. For example in an identity-gram
offered to participants in the research.
the concept of education can be depicted by icons that
represent both the activity of learning (for example,
a calculator or pile of books) and objects associated
with education achievement outcomes (for example,
a certificate or graduation hat). These activities and
objects hold common understanding within the specific
Australian social cultural context that they exist. The
intention of the visual data analysis was not to interpret multiple possible personal meanings that may
exist behind the use of individual icons. Instead, the
analysis intent accepts that the use of specific icons
by an individual means that the activity or object
the icon represents is important and valued by that
individual person simply because they have chosen
to use it.
Figure 14.1
Identity-gram of a male student
Tasmania’s hidden dragons: tackling education
participation equity beyond Year 10
The researcher offered all participants a five-day intro-
Identity vulnerability was clearly evident in many
ductory vocational course. Twelve of the 16 students
depictions made by participants in the intervention
who took part in the case study took part in this ‘inter-
group. When few dimensions of identity were depicted,
vention’ short course. Its purposes were to give partici-
identity was less complex. Low complexity of identity
pants a better understanding of the significance of the
may indicate future vulnerability towards the con-
education participation choices they were making, and
tinuation of active and purposeful senior secondary
to provide critical reflection on what personal experi-
education participation because the understanding
ences and understandings have had influence on their
of identity may be inadequate to foster and support
participation decisions. The course also invited stu-
specialised strengths-based participation. This vulner-
dents to reflect on their personal identity assets and
ability becomes more acute when participation options
consider these in determining their Year 11 participa-
are limited and geared more towards academic steams
tion choices and decisions.
than to vocational training options. Any vulnerability
The analysis of the visual data showed significant differences between the students’ depictions of their
identities. As a cohort the students from the ‘intervention group’ in the case study showed less complexity
or marginalisation is of concern when students are at
a point of educational transition because this is when
critical decisions regarding continuation of participation
are being made.
in the visual depictions of their identity and depicted
The findings reveal new understandings around the
fewer dimensions of identity. The identity dimension of
relationship between identity and education partici-
‘education’ was depicted significantly less overall by the
pation. The findings also indicate that an intervention
intervention group and less also in relation to how or
offered in Year 10 can influence educationally ambiv-
if they depicted education in the future: this illustrates
alent students’ attitude to education participation.
the lower importance given to education by this group.
The intervention was received positively in terms of
engagement and influenced how the might participate
in education in the future.
Tasmania’s hidden dragons: tackling education
participation equity beyond Year 10
Discussion and conclusions
The educational consequences of less complexity and
The research found that an important first step in
fewer dimensions of self-identity are of concern. There
engaging ambivalent and disadvantaged Year 10 stu-
may be implications in relation to education participa-
dents may be to provide them with specific information
tion. Students with less complex identities may be more
on how the Australian education system offers pathway
vulnerable and less likely to engage when they enter a
options through the Australian Qualification Framework
phase in their education where identity dimensional-
(AQF) and on how they can access a range of employ-
ity strength and complexity becomes assets enabling
ment focussed learning options in Years 11 and 12
participation and creating a focus for specialised study
alongside other subject options as an achievable tran-
and skill development. Within identity lie personal
sition to post Year 12 vocational and trade training at
resources and strengths that help inform, make more
AQF level IV and above.
meaningful and reveal education participation options.
Longitudinal use of the visual identity method may
Long term and cumulative enhancement to life oppor-
provide future research the potential to see how iden-
tunities is provided when students participate in senior
tity remains stable or changes over time. The tech-
secondary programs. Options across a broad range of
nique could also be used to track participants’ changing
social, cultural, vocational and academic dimensions
identity pre and post an educational program or inter-
are important here. Participation is the key. School
vention and/or as they continue on through tertiary
activities and subject choices that span across this
studies, vocational training and enter the workforce.
range of academic, vocational, recreational and arts
programs facilitate broader and more equitable access
for all students. When a critical mass of students is colocated and when a broad range of recreational, arts,
sports, vocational training and academic subjects and
This paper has benefitted from feedback from Professor Joan Abbott-Chapman.
courses are provided, young people can choose personally meaningful and purposeful education participation
options. The more young people participate the more
they develop understandings of their identity strengths
and the more they can take advantage of opportunities to develop identity capital as an asset and future
resource. For educationally ambivalent students senior
secondary participation becomes purposeful when
learning is personally meaningful and aligned to their
immediate needs and future (Yasui, 2004).
Reflections from
session chairs,
panellists, and
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
The educational
outcomes that all
citizens of Tasmania
deserve and expect
Stephen Conway
When something is in transformation, by default you
We accept that we must improve across all areas to
have to accept there is a starting point and the destina-
achieve the aspiration outlined by Government.
tion should be describable.
The Agency’s services and primary responsibilities
When we talk about transformation of education in Tas-
include education and care, child and family centres,
mania, and particularly when we focus upon the school-
provision of early years services, primary, secondary
ing system and its outcomes, I think all readers will
and senior secondary schools, trade training centres,
accept that our starting point is lower than we would
LINC Tasmania and Government Education and Training
want or we could be satisfied with. The destination in
International. We have a set of strategies related to
our transformation can be described in many ways,
these responsibilities that we resource, and which will
and during the Education Transforms Symposium many
lead us to the transformation target.
different views were put forward. The common theme
was, however, that we must do much better.
Our Learners First Strategy is integral to all that we
do in education for Tasmania. It drives our work and
To describe the transformation target for schools
key projects and programmes through our values of
I have chosen for this reflection to use the State
learning, excellence, equity, respect, and relationships.
Government’s aspirational target set in March 2014:
Underpinning these values are the following:
That by the end of six years of a majority
our belief that all learners have a right to partici-
Liberal Government, Tasmania will be at, or
pate in challenging and engaging learning oppor-
above the national average in every single
NAPLAN measurement and will meet the
national benchmarks in reading, writing, mathematics and science.
to learning;
and engagement of our students are strong foci for
the Department of Education. Our system is dynamic
and inclusive, and aims to provide a comprehensive
and lifelong approach to learning for all Tasmanians.
conviction about the need for a culture of continuous improvement;
Education is the cornerstone of both social and economic reform in Tasmania, and participation, retention
a commitment to excellence and equitable access
commitment to maintaining a qualified, motivated
and supported workforce; and
the desire to work collaboratively with learners and
their communities.
We seek to develop successful, skilled and innovative
young Tasmanians, providing them with the opportunity to continue to learn and reach their potential, lead
fulfilling and productive lives and to contribute positively to the community.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
As a Department, we support all of our schools and
Further to this, the Supporting Literacy and Numeracy
business units to promote and understand these values
Success resource provides advice regarding quality
and our key drivers, in particular through our School
teaching and effective practice at a whole-school and
Support and Expectations document and our shared
classroom level. Network Lead Teachers and Curricu-
priorities—Bright Beginnings, Great Schools … Great
lum Teacher Leaders provide direct systemic support to
Communities and Purposeful Pathways.
schools to improve teacher effectiveness.
This strategic focus collectively supports a robust and
As part of this Government’s election commitment,
sustainable education system in Tasmania, and our
25 literacy and numeracy specialist teachers were
strategies, policies and initiatives all align to these key
appointed in Term 3 of 2014 to support students pres-
drivers which ultimately aim to transform educational
ently below the national minimum standard and to
outcomes for all Tasmanian learners.
complement the comprehensive support already avail-
As a Department, our key focus is Learners First—
meaning they are at the forefront of everything we do.
It is important that we seek to connect learners with
education at any stage of their life, and we continually
strive to provide the Tasmanian community with opportunities to access the skills and knowledge they need to
be lifelong learners and to contribute positively to the
Tasmanian community.
Across our schools, Tasmania’s Literacy and Numeracy
Framework (2012–2015) is providing a systemic, statewide approach to literacy and numeracy improvement.
Based on the Framework, every school has an explicit
literacy and numeracy strategy as part of its School
Improvement Plan, so that every student’s literacy
and numeracy learning needs can be supported. The
Framework and Plan assist teachers to assess where
able to schools. These specialist teachers are working
both with students directly and subject teachers (coteaching and co-planning models) on a number of strategies to most importantly re-engage these students
with learning to help improve results. They also support
school leaders to build a culture of literacy and numeracy learning across all subjects.
Retention, engagement and attainment are key priorities for the Department, and we want more students
in the Tasmanian education system to go on and complete Year 12 with strong literacy and numeracy skills
and a meaningful qualification, providing them with
real choices for their future employment, education
or training. The vast majority of jobs today and in the
future will require higher-level formal qualifications and
ongoing learning opportunities.
students are at in their learning, according to the curriculum, and to develop appropriate and effective learning opportunities to meet their needs. The Framework
will be reviewed in the current 2015–16 financial year to
re-establish and confirm our goals for the future.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
My Education is a
coordinated, whole-school
(K–12) approach that is
supportive and inclusive,
and that aims to inspire
Improving youth transitions and engaging learners so
My Education is a coordinated, whole-school (K–12)
that they stay in education and training is the focus of
approach that is supportive and inclusive, and that
a number of reform initiatives. Tasmania’s implementa-
aims to inspire and guide students as they undertake
tion of the National Partnership Agreement on Youth
a journey of discovery in identifying who they are
Attainment and Transitions and the Trade Training
and what they want to become. It supports students
Centres in Schools programme are examples of signifi-
to identify their personal interests, values, strengths,
cant work aimed to support improved rates of attain-
opportunities and aspirations and how to use this
ment and completion.
knowledge to make decisions about their future learn-
In addition, 2015 saw the first round of rural and
ing, work and life.
and guide students as
regional high schools selected to extend to Years
My Education also supports school leaders, teachers,
11 and 12 as part of the Government’s key election
parents and the community in their shared responsibil-
they undertake a journey
commitment. Scottsdale High School, Smithton High
ity to ensure students successfully transition from one
School, Huonville High School and Dover District High
phase of schooling to another, and to transition from
of discovery in identifying
School (in partnership) and St Mary’s and St Helen’s
school to further education or work. It strengthens our
District High Schools (in partnership) began offering
approach to career development in schools, and is sup-
who they are and what
Year 11 and 12 programmes from the beginning of the
ported through an inquiry, curriculum-based approach
school year.
as well as the Department’s Learners First Strategy.
they want to become.
The funding has provided $10,000 to each base school
and staff. Six more schools have been selected to commence in 2016 as part of Stage Two of this initiative—
Tasman District School, Campbell Town High School,
New Norfolk High School and Glenora District High
Initially scoped in 2014, further consultation has been
undertaken into 2015 on a range of resources, including professional learning, which aims to support teachers, students and parents as we roll out a staged implementation.
School (in partnership) and Rosebery District High
The focus for 2015 has been Year 10 students,
School and Mountain Heights School (in partnership).
with teachers supported to implement the Australian
Actively addressing student skills and knowledge needs
for the future is central to the curriculum. A key focus
area for the Department in 2015 was the ongoing
implementation of the Australian Curriculum, including
a carefully managed roll out of our new approach to
career education, My Education.
Curriculum: Work Studies for current information about
engaging career development activities and the world
of work. In 2016, efforts will result in the programme’s
implementation from Years 7–12, including the introduction of the associated online career planning
tool for students and parents, and full implementation
from Kindergarten to Year 12 will result from the 2017
school year.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Our eStrategy is an integral aspect of Learners First,
This partnership between the school and this leading
supporting our students into the future and respond-
industry provider is the first of its kind in Australia, pro-
ing to the need to have a systemic framework and
viding Tasmanian students with a valuable and inno-
structure in place for students to be able to develop
vative opportunity to learn from experts in the field
essential 21st century skills. The eStrategy enables
how to create, develop, market and publish an original
all students, especially those in rural and regional
Game App. This new curriculum is providing students
areas, to engage with digital technologies to support
with hands-on, real life experience in the technology
their learning and provides dynamic, engaging learning
and business industries, reflecting the aims of the
environments that support the eStrategy vision: per-
Department’s eStrategy in providing real world expe-
sonalised learning for any learner, anywhere, anytime.
rience to learners and potential career opportunities.
This year, we have produced a number of curriculum
resources as part of the strategy in partnership with
the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office (TAHO),
as well as the development of professional learning
resources for teachers around copyright and blended
learning and eLearning.
We have also been trialling
the use of cloud services to enable students access to
learning resources anywhere, anytime and there has
been increased use of the Virtual Learning Environment
by teachers and students, particularly in regional and
rural schools.
We continue to develop and promote learning opportunities and activities for our students to build 21st
century skills and capabilities through the curriculum,
as well as through the delivery of key professional
learning programmes for our teachers. As an example,
this year New Town High School offered students an
innovative new course teaching Game App Design,
which, more importantly, connects with industry leader
Appster who have made themselves available to mentor
the students as part of the course.
Promoting and assisting students as digital producers
as well as digital consumers is a large part of learning
in the 21st century, and this includes the creation and
development of Apps. New Town High School is looking
to expand the course into the future following an
excellent response by students and ultimately teaching
the course online to students from other schools; this
is an outstanding example of the leading digital education that is being delivered across Tasmanian Government schools.
Achieving the aspirational goals set by the Government
of Tasmania is something the Department has a commitment to. The symposium enabled many views to be
expressed and gave the opportunity for all educators
to reflect upon what we are currently doing, and what
we need to do better at. Learners First is a dynamic
document and sets out a responsive set of exciting
strategies. Working collectively and collaboratively, the
Department of Education is prepared for the challenges
set by the need for transformation, and will be a learning organisation that will transform internally to create
the educational outcomes that all citizens of Tasmania
deserve and expect.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Preparing young
people for the future
Peter Brett
Educational transformation is an elusive term to pin
There are multiple levers that education policy makers
down beyond broad connections to change and reform.
MIGHT pull in seeking to realise educational transfor-
It is difficult to achieve and is likely to involve socio-cul-
mation. In no particular order these include:
tural transformation and shifts of mindset. It is easier
to espouse than to enact. There are multiple stakeholders. The Tasmanian Hothouse ideas explored at
early years initiatives that raise the aspirations
of younger students and their families;
the symposium included significant community dimen-
teacher education and professional learning;
sions and responsibilities, and important messages for
leadership initiatives;
curriculum change;
innovation in the space of work-related learning;
to a view that educational transformation in Tasmania is
the imaginative application of ICT;
possible in the context of a coherent and shared vision,
a forensic focus on achievement
parents and businesses as well as educational agencies
[see footnote 1].
Overall, the symposium offered signposts and pathways
focused leadership, and energy and aspiration at the
point of implementation. My favourite keynote contributions were respectively from the American social entre-
in literacy and numeracy;
more rigorous systems of accountability
for teachers;
preneur Henry De Sio—who called for a foregrounding
of collaborative, empathetic, and change-making skills
new ways of assessing student learning;
in educational settings (all the more persuasive coming
the systematic embedding of a rich range
from President Barack Obama’s 2008 [‘Yes we can’]
campaign manager!) and Christine Cawsey, the Principal of Rooty Hill High School, NSW—who offered a com-
of community partnerships; and
re-structuring particular phases of education.
pelling case study of the practical capacity of individual
Which of these policy interventions should be pri-
schools to create cultures of success.
oritised in a Tasmanian context in ways which will
engage students, sharply raise educational attainment,
and prepare young people for the future? Hopefully
the work of the Peter Underwood Centre will assist
policy makers in making some important judgements
in this space.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Making a difference
to how we move forward
Jill Downing
My first observation of the Education Transforms
In this case, the symposium did make a difference.
symposium relates to the rather amazing collection
As a result of my attendance, I have met with several
of teachers, researchers, students and leaders who
college principals and planned how to improve the way
managed to quickly find space in their busy diaries to
in which our teacher-education students participate
attend. This commitment speaks volumes about the
in their practicum placements—looking to find ways
passion held for improving educational outcomes in
to make the connection between the University and
Tasmania, and the belief that a collective response is
the host-school more of a partnership that considers
the approach most likely to make a real difference.
each student’s development over a sustained period
Secondly, there appeared to be a willingness to face the
challenges head on—to talk openly about the unique
and shared issues within and between sectors. I noted
that the presentations which ensured conversations
of time. This work should result in graduates who
are more ‘class-room ready’; confident to take their
place in improving educational outcomes for students
in Tasmania.
overflowed to the refreshment breaks, were those
The symposium provided the opportunity to making
which brought out the hard facts about what we are
new connections and arrange subsequent meetings,
experiencing in our schools, colleges and VET cam-
but it also provided the impetus to look for new and
puses: retention, educational outcomes, the ways in
improved ways of approaching the shared vision and
which success is measured, and such like. All are criti-
goals identified at the symposium. A very worthwhile
cally important matters that need to be considered in
event indeed, and a wonderful way to launch the Peter
a collegial, constructive manner in order to plan new
Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment.
ways to move forward in Tasmania.
I am sure most attendees participate in many conferences each year, and for me the measure of the value
of these meetings is in what happens after the event—
does it make a difference to how I move forward?
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Establishing a research
and policy agenda
is now critical
Janet Dyment
In the midst of a rather bewildering array of theoreti-
Looking to solve these complex and interrelated chal-
cal perspectives, research priorities and methodologi-
lenges, the symposium touched on many of the time-
cal approaches to enquiry within education, those with
less debates in education: What is education for? How
an interest in learning and teaching continue to search
and why do learners learn? What do/should/might
for the answers to ‘big’ questions about educational
learners learn? Where should learning occur? How do
attainment, retention and engendering lifelong aspira-
we know if learning has occurred? Who teaches and
tions to learning.
why and how? What policy/practices and principles
So it was in Hobart that several hundred enthusiastic
teachers, administrators, policy makers, public officers, academics, and students reaffirmed the value
of engaging in conversation about the possibilities
afforded by engaging perspectives legitimated by the
should ‘govern’ learning? The symposium also touched
on some of the new debates that might help us find
movement and ways forward—exploring the role and
impact of technology, increased globalization, unification of standards and questions of governance.
integrity of different forms of inquiry, different philoso-
Where to from here? Establishing a research and policy
phies and different strategies.
agenda is now critical.
Acknowledging these differences was so critical to this
I believe the symposium provided openings both for
symposium because education is complex due to the
foundational clarifications of basic research purposes,
many, varied and contested ‘inputs’ to the ‘system.’ If
methodologies and methods as well as for cross-bound-
we take a socio-ecological approach to understanding
ary debates about issues of culture, gender, race, class
‘systems’ in education, we need to look at the various
and geographical location.
roles played by students, parents, communities, teachers, schools, facilities, spaces, environments. We also
need to look at their interrelationships. I believe the
symposium did a fine job of recognizing these com-
As educational researchers, we must work with others
at the symposium (and beyond) to consider directions,
challenges, and futures for educational research.
plexities—and importantly facilitated connections at
We must identify and explicate research needs and
the boundaries.
We must continue to debate about how we govern,
discipline and inspire what is counted as compelling
and worthwhile research projects and programs and
what will count and make a difference today and into
the future.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Have the courage
to step up and be
all that you can be
Megan Alessandrini
Tasmania has much to be proud of. Many University
I was familiar with Ashoka’s work with social entrepre-
of Tasmania graduates in recent years are the first in
neurs and innovation around the world, so my expecta-
their families to attain degrees, some even the first to
tions were high. Henry challenged my natural inclina-
complete Year 12. These people have had the confi-
tion to avoid the spotlight and diminish my capacities
dence and been inspired to strive, have vision, imagine
and achievements. My ‘bigness’ still eludes me, but
what might be possible for themselves and those
the challenge to have the courage to step up and be
around them.
all that you can be resonated powerfully. His convic-
Peter and Frances Underwood have between them
through their intelligence and courage to speak out
about uncomfortable topics. Demonstrating a similar
commitment to truth, the symposium above all else was
an opportunity to look honestly at our achievements in
the Tasmanian education field and more importantly
where we have failed.
The keynote speakers were varied and proved to be
leading thinkers and gifted communicators. All were
astonishing and absorbing, but I was struck most by
the ideas of Henry De Sio, formerly COO of the Obama
Election Campaign 2008 and current Global Chair of
Framework Change at Ashoka so will focus on that.
tion that empathy in learning is as powerful as literacy
and numeracy struck an immediate chord. Frequently
I have seen students with this capacity for empathy
achieve better learning outcomes and subsequently
go on to successful lives. We must embed this in our
education at every opportunity. Personal success is
based on collaboration, authenticity and social connection. Literacy and numeracy are a means, but empathy
is essential.
Apparently Barack Obama said that ‘[t]he biggest
deficit that we have in our society and in the world
right now is an empathy deficit. We are in great need
of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes
and see the world through their eyes’. I look forward to
a Tasmania with an empathy credit!
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Imagine how
we can guarantee
a lifelong desire
to learn for all
Karen Swabey
What a wonderful opportunity I was given at the Educa-
The second day saw equally challenging and confront-
tion Transforms Symposium to engage in professional
ing presentations made by Tom Bentley and Chris-
discussions around the themes of educational attain-
tine Cawsey. Both speakers discussed the reality of
ment and engendering lifelong aspirations to learn.
attempting to raise educational aspirations in a variety
From the outset, the speakers presented information
of settings.
and made statements which required us to think deeply
The concurrent session I attended was presented by
about our place and possible spheres of influence in and
Deborah Brewer discussed a range of issues present in
through these themes.
tackling participation beyond Year 10. The closing panel
My day of reflection and deep thought began when
Henry De Sio invited us to look at the skills and knowledge young people will require in the future.
discussion drew all of the key points together and it was
made clear that we must all work together if we wish to
make a difference to enabling all Tasmanians to engage
in education.
De Sio’s paper was followed by Professor Polesel’s
stimulating and thought-provoking address which presented us with data relating to school-based vocational
education and high stakes testing. The questions I
asked myself after these two presentations were: How
does this affect the Faculty of Education? What do we
need to change to ensure we are providing our graduates with the required skills and knowledge to be successful in the future?
Thereafter, I engaged in the Hothouse sessions which
spoke broadly to educational concerns specific to Tasmania. Both afternoon keynote speakers, Professor Ian
Menter and Andreas Schleicher, continued the process
of challenging us to imagine how we can guarantee a
lifelong desire to learn for all Tasmanians and, for me,
these challenges were followed by a presentation by
Department of Education leaders, who presented an indepth discussion of the current status of our schools.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Engage early:
challenge, mastery
and achievement
Ted Lefroy
Joan Abbott-Chapman’s study of retention in Tasma-
The next obvious question and the subject of their third
nian schools was a wonderful example of persistence
study was ‘what was it about the school experience of
on two fronts. First is the persistence of her research
disadvantaged students that resulted in a high engage-
team in carrying out a 20+ year longitudinal study.
ment score?’ The three factors that stood out were
Second is the fact that their findings identified practi-
physical activity and sport, cultural activities in music
cal means to encourage persistence in students from
or the arts, and learning activities that in the research-
disadvantaged backgrounds.
ers’ words developed “positive learner self-concept
The findings emerged from three consecutive studies.
Joan and her colleagues first embarked on a study of
retention amongst 14,000 Tasmanian students. The
four factors most strongly correlated with retention
were students’ school-assessed potential, socio-economic status, the type of school they attended in Year
10 and their gender.
The subject of their second study was the 16 per cent of
through challenge, mastery and achievement”.
The acronym SEEDS sums up their message:
• Start early with engagement,
• Extend the learning experience so every
child learns to master something, use
• Examples and role models through influential
teachers or visitors, emphasise
students who were exceptions to these general rules,
• Doing as well as thinking, and provide
who despite the odds managed to persist at school.
• Support for teachers and recognition
To determine what enabled these outliers to stick at
for those who inspire.
it, Joan and colleagues used a simple questionnaire
that rated students engagement on an additive scale
from 0 (never enjoys school and always bored) to 6
(always enjoys school and never bored). To their surprise they found that this engagement score was a
better predictor of educational attainment and occupational status 20 years later than either their teacher’s
assessment of their academic attainment or their selfassessed ability to learn. It proved a sound predictor of
childhood health behaviours and risk taking, and selfrated health as an adult.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Deep change should
not be a bridge too far
Michael Rowan
Attending a conference can be a bit like standing on
Then I am in a counter-current. Local leaders proclaim
a bridge and watching the water flow beneath you. At
that the education system here is back on an even keel;
first you see the big thing, most of the river moving
that our outcomes are fast improving, even though our
steadily downstream. But then you see eddies and
senior secondary certificate is more difficult to attain
counter currents, and patches of still water.
than those of the other states; that the separation of
The main stream of the Education Transforms Symposium was invigorating. The keynote speakers described
a world full of change and excitement, filled with new
possibilities for self-organising groups brought together
senior secondary schooling from the high schools is not
a problem; that we have a world-class system in the
making. But the press won’t give us them even break.
There is little discussion.
through social media. Groups which allow everyone to
I walk out wondering why we are all here—transfor-
provide leadership, and ‘step into their bigness’.
mation job already done?—talking with a teacher who
We gained insights from the OECD, especially that
if we change expectations—if we have universally
high expectations—and if we develop relationships
frankly admits her children go to a private school
because she wants them to be in a school that goes to
Year 12. She says she is far from alone in this choice.
that support schools, an education system can move
Next morning I join a group of teachers having coffee
very quickly.
together during the break. They speak of unruly kids,
And we need to move, everyone said. In a world in
which the quality of a country’s schools are part of
its competitive advantage, standing still means going
So it was good to hear stories of great schools and
committed teaching. Schools where kids want to learn,
where they are told they are entitled to complete 12
years of schooling, and they exceed their own expectations—with a culture of success passed down from year
to year.
All stories of change are driven by optimism about the
future, increased expectations of our young people, the
ambitious professional relationship building of our educators, an intolerance of inequity and ‘that’s the way it has
always been’, and a willingness to try new things, rigorously evaluate them, and improve, improve, improve.
unsupportive parents, a distant but demanding bureaucracy, and low teacher morale. Nothing surprising in
any of this. The view of the future from the bridge is
uplifting; those responsible for the here and now are
defensive; and there is friction (to change my metaphor) where the rubber hits the road.
Perhaps that is the ‘conference problem’. One water
politely slides past another, the one scarcely affecting the other. It is only when there is friction that one
motion changes another.
There is a challenge for the Underwood Centre. To
bring the bodies sliding past each other into contact,
risk that the friction will generate more movement than
heat, and ensure that the work of the Centre will lead to
better things happening for students, and teachers, in
classrooms all over Tasmania. Deep change should not
be a bridge too far.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
“But what are we going to
do on Monday morning?”
Marion Myhill
At the Education Transforms Symposium, Deborah
This research raises the important question of whether
Brewer’s presentation—entitled
Tasmania’s hidden
low student retention to the later years of secondary
dragons: equity in education participation beyond year
schooling might be more fruitfully addressed by focus-
10—provided a very positive contribution on the subject
sing more on individual students and their needs and
of the transformative nature of education in Tasmania.
acknowledging the role of adolescent developmental
The session in which her paper was presented also
factors. In this approach, students’ perceptions of the
explored the factors involved in education participation
relevance of further education to themselves and their
equity from problem identification to potential solution,
lives are identified as a particularly powerfully influence
from theoretical concept to pedagogical practice and
on their decision to leave or stay at school.
from abstraction to reality within a case study of urban
Tasmanian Year 10 students who had been identified
as ‘ambivalent’ towards undertaking further education.
If such a student-oriented approach were adopted, the
implications for change in education provision in the
upper secondary years are clear: that there should be
What was particularly interesting in Brewer’s presenta-
a much greater focus on recognising and developing
tion was the positive and empathic approach to stu-
the skills and talents of individual students, and that
dents when addressing the issue of low retention from
student participation in post-Year 10 education is more
Year 10 into Years 11 and 12 in Tasmania. Brewer drew
likely to occur when the learning is personally meaning-
on the highly effective Chinese idiom of ‘crouching
ful to the student and individual student’s study prefer-
tiger, hidden dragon’, where the tiger and dragon refer
ences are prioritised.
to people with special hidden talents. By extension, this
idiom was used to emphasise the view that all students
have talents, that these talents should not be underestimated and, if they are hidden, then it becomes the
important role of education and educators to reveal
and develop them.
In many ways this study captures particularly well the
practical spirit of our late Governor, Peter Underwood,
who was known to ask ‘But what are we going to do on
Monday morning?’ Here is a call to action to solve the
important issues identified in this symposium.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
In the
Sue Kilpatrick
Three Hothouse sessions were held at the Education
Transforms Symposium to build upon the Dark MOFO
Hothouse held in June 2015, itself a facilitated creative discussion on the issue of educational attainment
in Tasmania. The symposium’s ‘riff’ on the Hothouse
was held over three sessions and involved education
experts, young Tasmanian leaders and members of
the community. From these sessions, 12 ideas were
formed—mirroring the 12 that came out of the parent
event, which are reproduced below:
1. The Village is a project-based education
program that matches mentors from industry,
the arts and the wider community, to schools
and students.
We will develop an application that mentors can sign
up to, providing details of their expertise and availability. In parallel, similar interest and requirements will be
gauged from schools, opening up a line of communication between them. The objective is to inspire students
to learn, and create pathways to employment by breaking down the barriers between educational institutions
and the community, paving the way for collaboration
between stakeholders, and encouraging greater investment in education.
2. Have the community take responsibility
for educational outcomes throughout life by
starting a Community Revolution.
Students learn best when supported by their family and
their community. The community then gains through
their presence, with a halo effect on better health,
better socio-economic outcomes and better community spirit. We propose establishing high schools (Years
7–12) with their feeder schools as the nucleus of a community. Through a combination of community forums/
Hothouse scenarios and mapping existing and required
resources and expertise, the community identifies its
needs. A committed group would form a co-operative
to investigate, initiate and take responsibility for longterm strategies for lifelong education/health and social
welfare for their community. A roving “role model”
program to inspire students would facilitate getting
community into schools and schools out into the community. Importantly, all schools, areas and tiers of government will be evaluated and held accountable.
3. Have students shape their learning
experience through project-based learning
that will improve engagement and increase
student retention.
An online app that surveys parents of school-aged children can determine the appropriate skills and areas of
project-based learning for each area or community.
With that data, needs and opportunities can be aligned
with community stakeholders and local businesses.
The creation of digital “badges” that collect evidence of
learning, results and data, adds a further level of incentivization for the student and also provides a measure
of their activity and success by collating a digital portfolio of the experiences gained through the relevant
and empowering projects they undertake.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
4. Empower the community to demand
change to a needs-based distribution
of education resources that creates
equity and excellence by giving
every student the opportunity
to achieve their full potential.
6. Demand better educational outcomes
on behalf of all Tasmanians through
a media-led groundswell of action.
that exists in Tasmania about our standard of educa-
By breaking the culture of “it’s always been done that
We can achieve a system of less inequality that will
tion through a combination of cultural and organisa-
way” we can develop the creative design and entre-
benefit everyone through a series of initiatives, includ-
tional change. We want to increase the community’s
preneurial skills within every student so that they can
ing a state-wide needs-audit that will result in the
hunger for better educational outcomes. We also want
become resilient, innovative, motivated and passion-
fairer distribution of resources, a strong social mar-
to change the way the system delivers education.
ate about whatever area they choose to focus on. The
keting strategy to create public awareness of the
These initiatives include; extending all government
halo effect from this is a future-proofed Tasmania with
issues in order to create a loud and unified community
high schools from Year 10 to Year 12 in metropolitan
a population that can cope with change, not be afraid
voice, investing more in early years education through
areas, as well as in rural or regional towns and extend-
to fail and know how to nurture a passion. Through
increasing access to Child and Family Centres, placing
ing existing colleges back to Year 7; creating more aspi-
the four key drivers of community “heroes”, the youth
a Community Engagement Officer in every school and
rational pathway planning for higher education; provide
sector, the schools and of course the students them-
empowering each school to create a curriculum that is
frequent, external performance feedback and coach-
selves, the program will create a cycle of community
relevant to a student’s needs. The result will be every
ing for all teachers; and only employ the term “leavers’
support for start-ups and fresh ideas.
Tasmanian child having the resources they need to fulfil
dinner” for those graduating from Year 12.
Our educational outcomes are dreadful and we make
excuses for them. We will break the mindset of denial
8. Create a regionalised program
to develop a student’s ability to be
self-starting, resilient and confident
so that they can take charge of their
own future.
7. Create stronger, seamless links
between education and employment.
9. Reframe the education message for all
to develop a culture of learning for life,
and life-long learning.
Education in work, and work in education creates more
By engaging every aspect of the community we can
satisfying workplaces. By constantly asking “Who
create a full cultural shift so that there is a positive
The first step is to undertake a community research
are you? And where are you going?” we can create a
engagement with learning and a common understand-
program with students, parents and teachers to ask
platform that places work experience into the Year 9,
ing of the value of learning. By starting conversations
“what do kids want to learn” and “what do teachers
10 College and University curricula. As the program
with community and advocacy groups, undertaking a
want to teach”? Using this information, pilot programs
advances, when students become employed they can
phased advertising and marketing program and cele-
would be created to be run both in and out of school,
offer their services as mentors, creating a cycle of
brating and investing in success stories, we can create a
supported by like-minded community or sporting
involvement and engagement for lifelong learning.
culture that asks everyone “what did you learn today?”
their potential.
5. Make learning more appealing by
engaging, activating and celebrating learning
in the classroom and in the community.
organisations. Once activated, and with traction generated in these pilot communities, we can change perceptions to the wider community through a structured,
targeted media and marketing campaign that promotes
the benefits and rewards of learning.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
10. Create a new, collaborative model
of education that gives power to local
organisations and skilled practitioners
to deliver current and accurate content
in their area of expertise to our schools.
12. Create a wider understanding and
acceptance of the role of parents as a
student’s primary educator, and ensure
they remain actively engaged throughout
their child’s learning.
These ideas, generated on Day 1, were distilled into
We want to create an education model that gives stu-
Through a series of “essential ingredients”, we will
dents exposure to a wide range of influences. A teacher/
ensure that all parents understand and embrace the
mentor/guidance person stays with the same small
responsibility of being “first educators”. This includes
class or group from Year 7 through to Year 12. Applied
developing a mutually respectful relationship with
to this is a framework that supports specialist organisa-
fifteen points that were explored on Day 2 of the symposium, as follows:
aligning employer and young people’s expectations
about work;
building capacity of service providers, engaging
service-provider with schools in partnership;
celebrating the positives;
schools, the creation of a media campaign, identifying
engaging parents and guardians in partnerships;
tions to provide current and accurate information, skills
community “champions” to help communicate key mes-
and knowledge to a student’s curriculum. We want to
sages, state-wide access to prenatal programs based
facilitating lifelong learning;
generate a higher level of active engagement from stu-
on discovery and play at home, close alignment with
fostering cross-generational mentors;
dents through a hands-on experience delivered by pas-
service providers, school-based programs to encour-
fostering industry involvement;
sionate practitioners. This will provide students with
age partnerships with parents, and mobile discovery
a more diverse range of role models, help form close
units to provide access, information and resources for
guaranteeing quality teaching training;
connections with the broader community and identify
all parents.
learning how to deal constructively with the entry
into schools of issues that appear to be distractions
potential career pathways and mentors. These differ-
or marginal to core business;
ent social aspects and experiences can also be used to
further engage a student’s area of interest with other
These ideas were then further discussed at the con-
subjects, for example linking Maths to Dance.
ference to develop ideas that the Peter Underwood
between each school and community, given the
Centre for Educational Attainment could take forward.
individual characteristics of each region;
11. Assess people in the way
that best suits them.
People have different ways of learning and participating. We can change the way schooling is assessed
and empower students with the knowledge that one
method does not suit everyone. By studying the differ-
These later Hothouse sessions generated several ideas,
research priorities and concepts related to harnessing
community willingness to assist in educational attainment; and providing education that is meaningful and
providing more connectivity between schools within the system, especially to help transition points;
providing more school/community/industry engagement strategies and implementation plans;
engaging for all learners—two of the major underlying
themes from the June sessions.
learning how to develop shared expectations
remembering the critical importance of executive
function, meta-cognition, and life or soft skills;
ent assessment methods of other countries, a range of
assessment methods could be collated and presented
understanding cost and logistics; and
to students to choose from to demonstrate their learn-
using data and evidence well and in a cooperative
ing, supported by schools, UTAS, the broader com-
and transparent fashion.
munity—including organisations who work with disengaged youth, and the media.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
The original Hothouse gave experts, young people and
Overall, I was inspired by the degree of community
interested community members the opportunity to
commitment to ‘helping’ our education system. Now is
express a true commitment to improving educational
the time to take advantage of this energy. The chal-
outcomes in the state. The Symposium Hothouse pro-
lenge for the Underwood Centre is to do so construc-
vided another opportunity to consider how the Under-
tively; to develop a long term community relationship
wood Centre could take forward certain concerns in its
with schools; and to achieve true community engage-
three program areas. Many great project ideas were
ment with responsive action.
suggested: those particularly resonating with me were:
do research into, then implement, programs
that will engage with everyone who requires
skills development to support learning (business,
communities, parents, individuals);
facilitate workforce development that expands
teachers’ knowledge of careers and skills and
education pathways, including teacher in industry
and industry in school ‘in residence’ programs;
develop tools and mechanisms for teachers to
measure the effectiveness of their own classroom
practice, encourage innovation and to share
innovation across the education system; and
investigate measures of educational attainment,
followed by dialogue between researchers,
educators and policy makers in order to
agree upon which data are most appropriate
to measure educational attainment in Tasmania
at all levels from individual student to classroom
and school and system.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Reflections from
doctoral scholars
Education: A vital
tool for transforming
minds and societies
Olumide A. Odeyemi
Education is a vital tool if well-utilized. It can and has
Lastly, the symposium served to connect my research,
been changing the world at large. It is the torchlight
industry and academic development, which impact the
to see in the obscurity of underdevelopment, social
world around me. Provision of bursaries to research
stagnation and economy backwardness. Conscien-
higher degree candidates to attend the symposium
tious efforts are therefore required to educate yearn-
epitomises the positive impact of financial aid towards
ing hearts and minds to achieve the unimaginable. One
educational transformation
of such efforts is Education Transforms Symposium
which has come and gone. However, the transforming
and beneficiary impacts continues and will continue to
linger in the minds of participants.
My interest in the symposium was informed by the fact
that education transcends all human endeavour. As a
research higher degree candidate, I believe research is
not unconnected with educational improvement, which
was one of the key topics of the symposium. More so,
research remains more or less an illusion if it does not
translate into reality, which was another topic in the
symposium. I also believe that the effectiveness of
educational system affects research input and output.
A poorly managed educational system will not be able
to fulfil its primary responsibilities.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Education is a life-long
international mission
Yue Ma (Melody)
It was a great pleasure to attend the inspirational
The symposium had four main themes: current trends
education symposium. In June this year, as a Higher
in worldwide education; strategic development; school
Degree by Research candidate, I applied to join the
operations; and future directions. Overall, it was a val-
symposium with a short proposal that education needs
uable opportunity for me to learn the transformative
integration both regionally and internationally; cutting
spirit of education from all those talented and thought-
the tuition fee is a way to achieve education equity. I
ful guest speakers. Meanwhile, the symposium func-
was very lucky to get the full bursary from the Gradu-
tion dinner at MONA was such an inspiring time, for
ate Research Office. Although my research is based in
not only did we wander the museum; we also got to
the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, and
know other educators and shared ideas freely. So far,
the topic is to undertaking tourist behaviour and mar-
the symposium experience is the most exciting part of
keting with a cross-cultural context, it is worthwhile
my research study in Tasmania.
to listen to those keynote speakers and to see that so
many people are dedicated to making significant efforts
to improve education internationally.
I am from a north-eastern Asia Confucius cultural
background, and most of our teaching is based upon
sitting in a class-room with note-taking skills. However,
a concurrent session relating to the STEM field aspirations: igniting and sustaining pre-tertiary student
engagement, interest and motivation through contextbased teaching and learning strategies was the session
that impressed me the most over those two days. As
a junior research student, it is also of encouragement
to know that university research content could inform
pre-tertiary teaching systems.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Personalised learning plans:
Transforming education for
an uncertain future
Rosie Nash
My research focus and life experiences have direct
I also joined Tom Bentley’s fan club as he revealed
relevance to all three themes that were discussed at
his seven features of practice for the shared work
the symposium:
of learning:
global trends in pre-tertiary education;
1. shared purpose: student learning;
what the best pre-tertiary education
2. combining longevity and energy of staff;
systems look like internationally; and
strategies for success in raising educational
aspirations, participation and attainment.
Coming to the symposium straight from the Higher
3. collaborative leadership;
4. community trust, professional trust;
5. drawing on external expertise;
Education Research and Development Society of Aus-
6. ensuring permeable boundaries; and
tralasia (HERDSA) Conference, I was delighted to hear
7. fostering wellbeing and attainment.
keynote speaker Henry De Sio sing the same song as
fellow Americans George Siemens, Gardner Campbell
and Helen Chen. De Sio outlined a framework for educational transformation highlighting skills essential
for our future: empathy, team work, new leadership,
and change agency (entrepreneurship). Speaking at
HERDSA, George Siemens also included digital literacy
On my way out the door on Thursday I wrote down my
thoughts on the butcher’s paper in the foyer. My synthesis of what had been said alongside my own thoughts
were these points: students need personalised learning
plans; purposeful, accessible and equitable education
pathways are key; there is efficacy in early industry
and programming skills.
exposure, careers counselling and careers education;
Overall, my take-home message was that parts of
learning; education is everyone’s responsibility—and
our current workforce may be replaced by robots in
the next ten years and the jobs our children will serve
in are not even realised yet. So how then do we best
student-centred learning is important; so is life-long
leads to collective wisdom and sustainability; and
reverse mentors can be powerful.
educate them for this uncertain future? A panel following De Sio’s talk made some suggestions.
I joined the Advancement Via Individual Development
(AVID) fan club in the next session, spellbound by its
success and logic and excited by its synergies with my
own research on personalised learning plans in Higher
Education for Health Professionals.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
Christopher Orchard
It is difficult to reach the aspirational goals of an inclu-
It must be said that engaging communities requires
sive and educated populace where inherent systemic
resourcing in the form of funds, individual time and
problems occur, are identified, but are never owned by
commitment. Some such resources are available in the
the wider community of educators. There was a general
expertise already present in our institutions, and more
willingness to accept that there is a difficulty with edu-
might be made of them across all levels of education,
cational attainment in Tasmania, and that this problem
service for the benefit of those communities.
has many parallels with other regionally-based education providers working at tertiary and pre-tertiary
levels. This acknowledgment occurred with regularity,
but with equal frequency so did my sense that individuals are reluctant to be a part of the fix. The burden
of leadership is not much embraced: instead I sensed
concern about a lack of leadership and a lack of vision.
I left, as I entered, concerned that no real progress
will be made. At all levels, unless ownership for the
problem can be taken up without blame-shifting, and
leadership can be better provided (by and through
communities with educators), we will continue to talk,
while our regional and remote communities suffer. It
can be otherwise.
This reluctance seemed to manifest as arguments
about responsibility for primary, secondary, TAFE,
polytechnic, and tertiary education; about differences
in pedagogy; in relation to concerns about an already
full curriculum or about having no or only sub-standard
management or leadership in the field; about a lack of
significant resourcing; and in relation to a plethora of
other issues that situate ownership of an issue outside
of the individual’s capacity to take possession, and
make a difference. These tensions were simultaneously
part of other conversations about the need for a pedagogy that responds critically to place in order to engage
Tasmanians (and other regional or remote students).
In this respect, much of the national curriculum seems
designed for urban, coastal dwelling students.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
and the classroom
Annalise Rees
“Educational attainment and engendering lifelong aspi-
To perhaps funnel my frustration in a more constructive
rations”—what does this actually boil down to? Aside
direction is to think about what can be done in terms of
from policy, funding and the usual political frustra-
our approach to what constitutes learning and the envi-
tions what really is the essential nub of this problem?
ronment in which it is delivered. Traditional classrooms
Christine Cawsey from Rooty Hill High School pre-
are not the ideal environment to foster a sense of con-
sented a convincing model based on practical solutions
nectedness, social responsibility or even to garner curi-
that students themselves are part of. Highlighting the
osity about why one should give a toss about whether
point that engaging students in their learning is both
they learn something or not. To take students out of
the problem and the solution. Of course there are
the four walls to connect with their world and society
other ‘bigger picture’ social issues, which need to be
however is almost impossible. The narrow jobs-focused
equally addressed. These are however large scale,
model is problematic—it compartmentalizes learning
big budget, infrastructure problems, requiring consid-
and learning areas as though they are discrete and dis-
erable effort and resources to rectify and cannot be
connected, not to mention hierarchical, academic and
altered overnight.
non-academic, based purely on economic outcomes. Of
Discussion points raised at the symposium were pertinent and relevant, but these are not new problems.
These issues have been around for at least the last 30
to 40 years within the education and social sectors. My
question is why haven’t they been addressed, rather
than being debated as though we have only just become
aware of them? It was interesting to note that a large
course jobs and economics are important, but aren’t
they a natural by-product and indicator of a well-educated, innovative and progressive society? To empower
our young people to take control of their own learning
we need to utilize dynamic learning environments and
create an atmosphere that they have some ownership
over and will then naturally take responsibility for.
part of the discussion was around community involvement and engagement, and yet the lecture theatre
doors at the casino were firmly shut, containing a group
of very well educated and privileged individuals.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
for education
Michelle Louise Mendoza-Enan
There is only one constant thing in this world and that is
Education has long been there as a tool for nurturing
change. From an education perspective, demands are
every child. We recognize the potential embedded in
also continuously changing. In the past, education was
the DNA of every child. However, it takes the global
viewed merely by learning to read, write and count.
village to assist the child to discover this potential.
Today however, it is no longer adequate. Other fea-
Every stakeholder of education has to engage in the
tures of education such as employability, sustainability
learning process of the child effectively. This is only
and even convenience (that is, distance learning) have
made possible through effective leadership and from
affected decisions to pursue education and even higher
the Education Transformation Symposium, I learned
learning. There is therefore a call for education trans-
that effective leadership entails all stakeholders to
formation to adapt to these changes.
become “a leader in every moment”. For instance,
the family to which the child belongs takes care of the
first formation of values such as empathy, which is the
ability to relate to others. The teacher works together
with the family to nurture these values, enhance them
and supplement what the field to which the child will
have to test his or her knowledge and skills, requires.
The community then provides the environment for the
child to discover his or her full potential. Moreover, all
stakeholders should collaborate to provide a holistic
and effective learning experience for every child.
To sum up, each stakeholder has to take the lead and
collaborate with one another to effectively adapt to
changes and transform education.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
An education
on education
Indira Venkatraman
My premise in attending the Education Transforms
The three days were eye-opening. Particularly interest-
Symposium was simple. I needed to learn more about
ing sessions were given by Henry De Sio, Jeff Garsed,
the various aspects of education for my research. My
and Kim Beswick and Rosemary Callingham. I enjoyed
research interests fall into the following categories:
listening to the various views about education, and
Information Technology (IT) investments; accounting
especially those about creating values of empathy,
practises around IT funding and budgets; and the man-
innovation and leadership through education.
agement and accounting for IT investments in educational institutions.
Besides attending sessions, it was useful to catch up
with key speakers and ask them questions in an infor-
I have a good understanding of IT and accounting prin-
mal setting during breaks. I was able to network suc-
ciples, but education as a domain of practice and theory
cessfully with other students from various UTAS cam-
was still not well-defined for me. When the opportunity
puses who also shared an interest in education as
to attend symposium was given, I was happy to grasp
multi-disciplinary research. I enjoyed the three days
it through a generous bursary from UTAS.
and have a dossier of notes which I happily refer every
time I am working on my research topics of IT investments in educational institutions. The enthusiasm from
attending the event has also translated in my restarting a project
on integration strategies and resource
allocation for MOOCs. Inspiration that keeps inspiring
is the best kind.
Reflections from session chairs,
panellists, and stakeholders
respectfully to
Lynden Leppard
My background is teacher and principal with a variety
of professional learning and leadership roles at system
level. There is enormous potential for pragmatic academic partnerships with school practitioners, students
and communities. Action research around the themes
that are set may mean that the voices and motivations
of Tasmanian school communities could be heard and
engaged. These folks could become participants. For
example, in the Derwent and the Huon Valleys the folks
do value learning. They sometimes think that schools
teachers don’t understand and value their learning or
their culture. Transformation must come from within
and the organisation is not Education Transmission!
The high school model does not suit all adolescents and
their roles in families often involve home care and paid
work for self and family. Many (?) of the young folk
lead complex lives not acknowledged by dominant high
school cultures and structures.
A multi-disciplinary approach to adolescent life, learning and schooling in the Tasmanian context is needed
to get at retention—an issue that seems to be resistant
to improvement. A possible approach is to be seen to
listen to communities in respectful ways with the intention of transforming schooling and education, because
they are not the same, through real partnerships across
academics, communities, schools and other agencies.
The Children’s University
at the University
of Tasmania
The Children’s University
at the University of Tasmania
Susannah Coleman-Brown
Children’s University Tasmania is an exciting program
The key objectives of Children’s University Tasmania
within the newly established Peter Underwood Centre
are to:
for Educational Attainment. It forms a key component
of the Centre’s drive to lift the educational aspirations
world of learning beyond their backyard or class-
and subsequent academic attainment of Tasmanians.
room by providing a structured suite of professionally validated activities that are fun, accessible,
This licensed and tested program model from the
hands-on and highly memorable;
University of Cambridge Children’s University Trust
is proven to raise the aspirations, attendance and
(and 15 to 18 years in the Passport to Volunteering
activities (Restricted Learning Destinations) and com-
beyond the familiar;
Learning Destinations). All validated activities under
the model are held outside of class time and/or outside
of school hours.
With Passports to Learning in hand, children travel to
learning destinations that are of interest to them, collecting stamps for each hour of activity. Once students
accrue between 30 and 1000 hours, student members
and their families are invited to attend annual Chil-
complement the array of activities many schools
and organisations already offer to young people;
munity-provided learning experiences such as visits to
museums, various workshops and sports clubs (Public
expand the career horizons of young Tasmanians
through the wide-ranging learning experiences
program) with a formal, on-campus graduation ceremony for engaging with their in-school clubs and
value and reward experiential learning and community service of our members;
academic performance of its student members. It is
structured to reward children aged seven to 14 years
inspire children and families to engage with the
keep the children of Children’s University Tasmania
at the heart of our planning and evaluation.
A key expected outcome would be witnessing disengaged students discover an area of interest through a
restricted or public learning destination which tickles
their curiosity enough to pursue it further, and in the
process gain a renewed enthusiasm and confidence to
engage more in class.
dren’s University Tasmania graduation ceremonies and
In our establishment years (2015–2018), we plan
be presented with their award (bronze, silver, gold,
engagement with 77 schools in low socio-economic
undergraduate, postgraduate or fellowship). The event
areas, which will generate a wave of young leaders to
is held on our university campuses and recipients are
inspire future Children’s University Tasmania members
dressed in formal graduation garb (cap and gown).
and their local communities. Our overarching target
This powerful and positive association with univer-
(after 2018) is to see 220 Tasmanian schools across the
sity symbolism, terminology and campuses provides a
socio-economic spectrum embrace Children’s Univer-
highly memorable experience for both the student and
sity Tasmania.
their families. Many may never have visited a university campus before or had a family member who has
studied at university.
The Children’s University
at the University of Tasmania
We expect to see families and guardians accompany-
So far we have encountered 100 per cent support from
ing children to activities, learning alongside them, and
all public learning destination providers approached by
attending Children’s University Tasmania graduation
our team in 2015 and exceeded our recruitment target
ceremonies. The University of Tasmania will witness
of 30 public learning destinations since our official
the pride of parents as their child receives their earned
launch July 1st. We are extremely fortunate to have
accolades on stage, a setting they may never have con-
the program endorsed by the Tasmanian Department
sidered for themselves or their children.
of Education and to have interest from the Catholic,
We expect to see examples of student engagement
such as the tech-savvy yet possibly introverted being
introduced to welcoming environments in the form of a
public learning destination activity such as the QVMAG
Saturday Battery Shed run by Launceston’s Innovation Circle—a drop-in style workshop for working
on projects that creatively utilise technology, under
the supportive mentorship and instruction of local
robotics, software design and other innovative technology professionals.
We expect to watch confidence and curiosity grow
amongst our student members, and receive anecdotes
of improved behaviour at home as well as improved
achievement at school.
Independent and home schooling sectors. Twelve government schools are signed, with many more waiting in
the wings for 2016. We shall continue to work closely
with the Department of Education’s senior management as the program expands across the state encompassing more government schools. There are exceptional volunteer CU School Coordinators working with
our team who have fully embraced the program, regularly contribute ideas and have been excellent in-school
promoters in this first phase of implementation.
We have already seen positive responses from parents
following Public Learning Destination activities we
have hosted on campus and the first wave of student
members are carrying their Passports to Learning
excitedly in their community, having attempted activi-
We will see children find a deeper connection with their
ties of interest that they may never have expected
teachers, peers and local communities through their
to access.
experiences of validated learning destination activities
(book review clubs, Lego engineering clubs, yoga club,
knitting circles, school garden club, photography club,
philosophy club, astronomy club).
Lastly, we have the expectation that our student
members will develop a sense of pride and ownership
of Children’s University in their communities and therefore be the best spokespeople for the initiative.
To succeed long term we require sustained commitment from school leaders, student members and their
communities. We are in the process of careful and consistent relationship management and consultation to
keep things moving forward in a considered manner.
Quality delivery, robust evaluation, and communication
of successes will also be crucial to ensure we remain
financially viable and establish a reputation of being
an education program that truly transforms young
Bigger Things
Bigger Things
Stuart Thorn
Project history
“Aspiration is informed by
Tasmanian students and education providers have tra-
Bigger Things evolved out of the Educational Attain-
ditionally seen the end of Year 10 as the completion
ment Pilot project based in the Huon Valley. Bigger
what students value, constrained
of their education. Tasmania still has less than 47 per
Things is a partnership between the Tasmanian Gov-
cent of students completing Year 12 against a national
ernment and the University of Tasmania to improve
by what students know, and
average of 74 per cent in 2013. The outcomes for stu-
educational attainment—over time, and across the
adjusted to match what students
dents in areas classified as provincial and remote are
State. The project is part of the Tasmanian Govern-
even less encouraging (Report on Government Ser-
ment’s Partnership Agreement with the University and
vices, 2015).
will run over a five-year period (2014–2018).
Tasmania’s population is geographically dispersed with
In its pilot phase Bigger Things is centred on Huonville
nearly 60 per cent of the population living outside of
High School, working with its feeder primary schools
the major cities/ towns (ABS, 2009). Coupled with
and Hobart College. The project’s primary aim is to
changes in traditional industries such as forestry,
ensure that all students in the Huon Valley have the
mining, farming and an increasing use of technology in
aspiration, support and skills required to successfully
industries such as fish farming this fact means there is
transition from compulsory to tertiary education.
see as possible”
(Gale et al., 2010).
a need to shift the educational aspiration of students
and that of their caregivers.
A review undertaken by the Tasmanian State Government (Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2013) states
that the “sustained building of student aspiration,
the use of peer mentoring and the frequent exposure
and demystification of university life, are some of the
key actions than can assist low SES student transition to tertiary education”. The review further states
that “the significant decision stage regarding Year
12 attendance and tertiary education participation is
around the age of 14; it is critical that the timing of an
intervention is viewed as equally as important as the
intervention itself”.
Bigger Things
Bigger Things Working Group
Building student aspiration (Sub-Group 1)
At time of writing, membership of the working group
Activity under this strategy includes on-cam-
The Expo attracted more than 750 members
comprises staff from Department of Education, Uni-
pus visits for senior students to both the Sandy
of the Huon Valley community to a night
versity of Tasmania, the Department of Premier and
Bay and the Newnham campuses. During these
of Science. The event included science dis-
Cabinet, and the principals of Huonville High School
visits, students have had the opportunity to
plays, science activities and presentations by
and Hobart College. The working group oversees four
participate in a wide range of topics including
Young Tassie Scientists group. We also had
key strategies: (a) building student aspiration, (b) sup-
Sociology, Psychology, Nursing, Architecture,
423 participants in our World Record Stargaz-
porting teachers, parents, caregivers and the commu-
Human Movement, Mobile Technologies, and
ing attempt.
nity, (c) building student capacity and skills, and (d)
Visual Arts. The visits have given students the
strengthening vocational education and training as a
opportunity to explore campuses, interact with
pathway. A senior member of the working group leads
University students, and experience a univer-
each strategy.
sity lecture.
The Bigger Science Program was successful
on a number of levels, with parents and their
children working on Science displays, and
the schools, their staff, students and parents
During 2015, the Bigger Things team ran a
interacting at both academic and social levels.
Bigger Science Program across all feeder
Regional students where given the opportu-
schools and high schools in the Huon Valley.
nity to participate in the Science Investiga-
The program included in-classroom delivery
tions Awards where their efforts were judged
by science outreach staff, and the opportunity
alongside the work of their peers. It was the
for students to present their work at the Huon
first time Huon Valley based students partici-
Valley Science expo and bring their work onto
pated in the SIA and they did very well winning
the Sandy Bay Campus for the Science Inves-
a number of awards.
tigation Awards.
Bigger Things
Supporting teachers, parents, caregivers
and the community (Sub-Group 2)
Building student capacity and skills
Strengthening VET as a pathway
(Sub-Group 3)
(Sub-Group 4)
The primary activity under this strategy has
Bill Duhig, Programs Officer, Department of
broader community always play an important
been to work with Hobart College and further
Education has been delivering career informa-
role in supporting successful learning out-
develop its successful Buddy Program. The
tion session to senior high school students,
comes for students.
Program identified University of Tasmania stu-
with an emphasis on aligning careers and
dents who have a connection with Huon Valley
pathways through the Australian Qualifications
and invited them to become mentors for Huon
Framework or AQF, and the vocational and/or
Valley students attending Hobart College. The
academic pathways to the students’ choices.
role of mentor includes topic-specific activity
Bill and his colleagues are also planning pro-
as well as study skills and discussion about
fessional development sessions for Huonville
High School staff.
In the Huon pilot, activity in this area has
included having a University presence at
events such as Huonville High Schools Year
11 and Beyond event. Parents were actively
encouraged to participate in the Huon Valley
Science Expo. Bigger Things also provided a
bus to the University Open Day.
Bigger Things personnel also worked closely
with senior Huonville High Staff organising lectures on topics such as Sociology, Psychology
Agriculture Science and so on. These lectures
coincided with senior student curricular.
It is planned that the Peter Underwood Centre
for Educational Attainment will coordinate a
series of professional development opportunities for high school and college staff.
This sub-group is developing marketing materials better explaining the articulation arrangements between diploma level courses and
bachelor degrees, including links to TasTAFE
and the University of Tasmania web-sites and
with specific examples.
Overall, Bigger Things is a longitudinal action
project and it will take some time for benefits
to emerge. By working closely with parents,
students, schools, community and tertiary
institutions and providing relevant information
and experiences, more students will embrace
lifelong learning and the benefits it presents.
Metaphors to think about
a future that wants to come
Metaphors to think about
a future that wants to come
Elaine Stratford
Symposium closing remarks
Language speaks us into existence. What we say, how
we move in the language of the body and its masterful non-verbal dances with the world, our silences—all
these create the realities that we then experience, lay
down, and come to see as ‘truth’.
The cover for this collection of papers, reflections, and
provocations ‘speaks’ into existence an illumined landscape, and it is intended to remind us all that education
and, more broadly, life-long learning, enable us to shine
as individuals and to serve our communities well.
That metaphor of illumination is but one that I want to
name up as foundational to the purposes of the Peter
Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment, now
charged with advancing educational attainment and
aspirations for learning among Tasmanians.
The second metaphor relates to three kinds of
‘-scope’—the microscope that enables us to envisage each young person’s life anew; the telescope
that invites us courageously to look beyond a generation or two and commit to educational attainment
goals over many generations; and the kaleidoscope
that provides us with a unity of purpose, an appreciation of the colour and movement of diversity, and a
hopeful capacity to celebrate each and all.
The third metaphor is of the map and compass, dear
to my own heart as a cultural and political geographer.
Maps ‘speak’ to us about lie of the land and, with a
sound compass, enable us to find our way.
Our cognitive, emotional, and real maps of Tasmania
tell us that this special place has particular characteristics that need to be understood and engaged with
as we raise educational attainment and increase the
desire for lifelong learning among Tasmanians. Our
understandings of these maps, and our commitment to
orient ourselves to this collective goal of educational
attainment are also enhanced when we bring empathy
to bear, and have faith in this island, its people, and
our future.
The last metaphor relates to the idea that life can be
a generous space of time. Starting now, how are we
to continue with the things that are constant, enduring, and effective, and—at the same time—innovate
without undue churn or unseemly haste? How are we
to better enable people to flourish over the life-course,
creating generous and courageous spaces in which to
have conversations that matter and generate actions
that count?
This year the Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment was created because the parties are
committed to illuminating the lives of Tasmanians by
supporting their aspirations for education. They are
cognisant of their needs for targeted, diverse, and
widespread forms of individual and collective support.
They are conscious of the particularities of this island
place. And they are determined to raise aspirations to
learn over the life-course.
I am privileged to be charged with the ‘neonatal’ care
of this new venture. It has been said that it takes a
village to raise a child: so please join our community at
http://www.utas.edu.au/underwood-centre/invitationto-engage, help us, encourage and support us, and
enable us to grow.
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Thanks are extended to Fraser Hopwood
for graphic design work on this e-collection;
to Oliver Grant, the Underwood Centre’s
Project Officer; Leishman Associates Event
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