Thursday, March 5, 2009

Putting urgency back into the curriculum.

The developmental curriculum has slowed the pace of the curriculum to the desired pace of students. As far as I can tell, the desired pace of a good many students is a slow crawl (perhaps even falling backwards). I lay the blame for this at the idiotic levels based assessment programme that has finally been turfed.

The idea of standardised grades across the state is plain stupid as it prevents some students ever having success in their reports. It is no wonder that motivation for these students that face constant failure is low (despite achieving during term and learning at an appropriate rate). The obvious solution is to use NAPLAN to gauge state-wide performance and normalise class grades.

The need now is to forget the pace students desire (in too many cases it is slower than what they can actually do) and create a pace that is optimum for learning. Despite hearing comments otherwise, they are not the same thing. To say that a child (with no experience of what they can do) should set the pace of their learning is wrong. An programme/syllabus of work that has been tested and improved through years of experience is bound to have a higher proportion of success than a one off experimental curriculum by inexperienced teachers solely based on the current cohort. Teachers need a syllabus well paced and sequenced to assist students complete the programme required for school leaving and thus assist in identifying when remedial or extension action is required to assist students (preferably with a streaming mechanism to reduce performance pressure) - this would be a far better result than drifting kids bobbing at the same level for years at a time.

The programme drives the class, and the urgency created by a required pace of work provides the anxiety required for proper learning. The pendulum swings and again teachers can focus on teaching to a programme rather than facilitating what students see themselves able to do. After all, students in the workforce need to manage their work to meet deadlines, where better to learn than through assessment in school.


Does all this mean that I am against OBE? Not really. I have always liked the idea of outcomes as a guide for a programme of work. It is like the backbone of a programme showing what needs to be taught. It's also all I've been taught via tertiary study. Tied to scope and sequence documents and Progress maps, OBE concepts are a good thing - give me anything that helps me understand the underlying concepts and ideas behind the curriculum. OBE is not a panacea - clearly it has shown to be poor for grading assessment, poor in promoting homogeneous classes, weak when promoted with collaborative learning and negative when tied to a developmental programme with weak students.

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