Thursday, February 19, 2009

Driving school curriculum

The connection between middle school (yr 8-9) and senior school (yr 10-12) in the absence of a prescribed syllabus is cause for concern. When a teacher is limited by timetabling to only teach middle school classes they can lack the perspective gained by teaching senior school classes.

Similarly teachers only teaching in senior school that never teach lower school classes can lack an understanding of the difficulties in teaching younger students.

Where there are middle schooling practices, we have to be ever so careful to ensure that the "developmental" curriculum in middle school is dovetailed into the prescribed and effectively "streamed" curriculum of senior school... or else we end up with cream puffs with little resilience and disparate understanding/skills.. that when faced with pressure of performance they sadly crumble.

To not have cooperation between the middle and senior school is a real recipe for disaster. By not pushing hard enough in middle school, students find it difficult to adjust to the rigor of senior school. By pushing too hard, students become disengaged and arrive at senior school unable to enter effectively into more demanding subjects.

I believe that the only way forward is with strong leadership and it has to come from the staff that have taught and have an understanding of the needs of all five years. As staff with courses of study experience only exist in the senior school, under normal circumstances, this is where you would normally find that person. Typically they are well respected and driven individuals, although recently they may be feeling disempowered and ill used.

Once that person is identified they need to be empowered with the ability to make change such that the transition of students through middle to senior school promotes the highest outcomes from students. Being part of performance management and hiring processes for learning area staff may be a good idea.

Secondly they need to identify areas of intervention that will improve results across all five years at school, in assessment practices, student motivation, ICT implementation, curriculum development, statistical analysis of results and pedagogy ideas.

Thirdly they need to be a conduit to other learning areas to measure the amount of transference of information, examining opportunities for application of mathematical concepts effectively.

Lastly these leaders need to be recognised for their achievements and clear measurables need to be defined to show them any progress that is made. This needs to be a positive process with focus on success and examining failures for better ways to achieve desired outcomes.

With the dogs breakfast that currently exists with the lack of a current syllabus and the imminent failure of the development of a national curriculum, the opportunity exists to enhance state schools through effective identification of issues and the subsequent change management. State schools that face this challenge head on will avoid the catastrophe that is approaching post the disaster of the OBE implementation.

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