Bluyonder Greg Whitby

Updated: 34 min 35 sec ago

The big educational spend

10 July, 2018 - 16:13

If you’ve just moved to NSW and you have school aged children, you’d be impressed with the 2018-2019 state budget. In brief, a thousand public schools across the state will get air conditioning, $160 million will go towards school maintenance over the next twelve months and $6 billion over four years to build and upgrade 20 schools. Very little talk though about how we improve learning and teaching but at least students/teachers will have great facilities.

We all know that Sydney’s population is expanding, which places greater demand on school infrastructure. The challenge is always how we invest wisely. Perhaps I’m the only one who looks at the budget and wonders why we are still investing billions in bricks and mortar!

Both the UK and US have experimented with the full-service community school. This is a collaborative approach between education, health and community services that becomes a one stop shop for families. The full-service community school model is an attempt at doing something differently – a response that aims to be effective and economical. At the moment we aren’t seeing either.

Look around and you’ll see that the most successful companies like Uber and Airbnb aren’t investing in the new, they are re-purposing the old. We need to be thinking differently about schooling before the educational funding well dries up for good. This may mean looking at commercial sites that could be re-purposed and rented to schools. It may also mean designing shopping centres to include space for schools. This would ensure that schools were at the heart of community and social life.

Today’s school infrastructure needs to be as agile and connected as today’s learners are.




Categories: Planet

The tragedy of lost potential

29 June, 2018 - 14:05

The Conversation Australia had a recent piece on the differences between summative and formative assessments. I think it’s important for students and parents to understand the nature of assessment because if we understand what it is then we also understand why it is being used and in what context. Having said that, I believe there is an over-reliance on summative assessments in schools. Summative is a narrow concept of assessing learning that produces a pass/fail or an arbitrary mark out of 100. Teachers use it to rate, grade or judge students but it contributes little else to the learner and their learning. While test scores may highlight gaps in student knowledge, it offers little else in terms of how students might close the gaps. And so it goes that teachers continue to press on, teaching more complex concepts without ensuring the foundations for learning are water-tight.

I believe we need to focus more on measuring and tracking student performance over time. When the Country Women’s Association (CWA) judge cakes or dance sport judges assess routines, they are not looking through a one dimensional lens. They award points across established criteria and they provide valuable feedback on what worked and what didn’t. The goal is for competitors to be continuously improving.

The advice from the NSW CWA to its judges highlights the nature of teaching, which is to help and encourage.

  1. use the occasion as a teaching/training opportunity
  2. offer helpful comments regarding entries….it makes more members want to bake and compete
  3. please encourage the junior [entrants] as they are the cooks of the future

It doesn’t matter whether students are learning to bake, dance the Waltz or solve complex maths problems. What matters is that these become the vehicles for achieving mastery and feedback supports the journey from novice to expert. As we know, summative assessments view learning as one dimensional and it is so much more than that.

Sal Khan of Khan Academy refers to this as the tragedy of lost potential. His point for schools is that learning should be about mastery not test scores.


Categories: Planet
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