• New South Wales
  • Northern Territory
  • Queensland
  • South Australia
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia

what do these new curriculum statements have in common?

Outcomes based education

Modern Curriculum Statements focus on outcomes rather than the processes by which outcomes may be achieved. This is a difficult approach because the process of learning is not well understood. Having a clear understanding of a desired outcome gives little guidance on how to get there in education. These curriculum statements are rather fuzzy and easily misinterpreted, for instance that ICT is abolished as a core subject in VELS.

My preference is that these outcomes based curricula be viewed as guides to the philosophy of education but that content still be guided to a degree by the previous content based curricula. (TF 6/6/6 {scary number!})

See critique by Richard Berlach
Outcomes-Based Education and the Death of Knowledge

The Death of Knowledge Occurs:
  • Through Lack of Conceptual Clarity
  • Through Jargon Which Obscures Rather Than Illuminates the Significant
  • When Competent Teachers Are Forced Out Of The Profession By Ideological Aggravation
  • When Hyper-Planning Takes Precedence Over Pedagogical Imperatives
  • When Evidence of Learning Becomes More Important Than The Learning Itself (Bill June4)

Also worth checking out PLATO , People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes, their position is that Outcomes Based Education is dumbed down and politically correct. I'm still reading through this material -something seems to be very wrong about new curriculum directions in Australia both in general and in particular with the way ICT is being "integrated" (Bill June5).

For a more supportive opinion of outcomes-based education:
Outcomes-Based Education: Principles and Possibilities Assoc. Professor Roy Killen (Bill June7)

SACSA (South Australian Curriculum Framework and Accountability Framework)

When you compare ICT with maths and science the problem is simply that we don't have a subject, we don't have subject content, before stage one (Year 11)

Science for example has strands that contain content such as Earth and Space, Energy Systems, Life Systems and Matter

By contrast Design and Technology only has the generalised process strands of Critiquing, Designing, Making and the content in the examples is drawn from diverse areas - in 5.4 examples there is mentioned solar cars, animal enclosures, veterinarians overalls and a robotic arm.

We don't have content in the sense that science, maths and other subject have content.

I have heard it said that the authors of SACSA think that the 5 Essential Learnings (Futures, Identity, Interdependence, Thinking and Communication) should replace the traditional subject domains.

But of course to do that for subjects such as Science, Maths etc. would create too much resistance because the history and traditional of those subjects is greater than ICT.

ICT is the latecomer to the curriculum feast and one the main characteristics of curriculum committee meetings is turf war.

ICT is both overarching (the computer is the universal machine that can simulate any established media) and specific. Like other subjects ICT does have specific content. If ICT was as old as maths and science then we would have well established subject content in years 8-10, with names such as:

  • programming
  • computer systems / hardware
  • software applications (desktop, web based)
  • database
  • multimedia
  • internet / www / search

Subjects such as these are usually NOT covered well in an integrated curriculum because the teacher of the integrated curriculum does not have the necessary computing expertise. Once again this partly results from computing being the latecomer to the curriculum feast, creating a generation gap in expertise.

In this context, SACSA denies us a subject in 8-10 without being even handed and denying other more established curriculum areas a subject.

When a year 8 arrives in a secondary school one of the first messages they now receive is that learning ICT is not very important, compared with maths, science, english etc. because no specific lesson time is allocated to it.

Imagine the outcry this would cause if it was done to English, yet it is arguable that ICT teachers are more familiar with English than English teachers are with computing.

To make things worse the Design and Technology standards and examples are replete with a touchy feely "ethical" PC feel good language which is far more concentrated than for other Curriculum areas.

What sort of products should we be designing, making and critiquing and in what sort of ways should we be carrying out these activities. Here are some of the phrase which promote a particular "ethical stance", in just a few pages from standard 5:

pollution, obsolescence, social displacement ...
design a car in terms of quality of life of all species
animal and human rights
ethically desirable opinion
critical analysis and ethical issues about genetic engineering
transport needs of a group of senior citizens
ecologically defensible designs of a fruit drying product
politically empowering interactive website to support biodiversity
devices to be used by people with arthritis
a piece of furniture made from recycled materials
competition standard solar car
animal enclosure
veterinarians overalls
fertilisers for an organic vegetable garden
watering device that is socially and environmentally sustainable
low voltage light system
work station for a person with a disability
promotes a case for non genetically modifiable foods
wind powered machines

LOL, this reminds me of the caricature slogan for those who went to each every demo in the 60s, "land rights for gay whales"

Get the drift? This is promoting a particular political position about the use of technology which is present but not as prominent in the other curriculum areas I have looked at.

The "ethical" and political stance represented above are generated from outside of the real internal social dynamic that technology and ICT in particular has created in its own right. ICT has created hot political and social issues of significance such as censorware (filtering), open source v. proprietary software, digital rights management, copyright law, Artificial Intelligence, social implications of Moores Law to name a few. Not one of these is mentioned in the higly politicised language of the Design and Technology statements. It all points in one direction, towards stability and stasis.

What does SACSA give to ICT teachers?

  • no content to promote our case in schools cf. other curriculum areas (not even handed)
  • a political line which assumes we all ought to be members of the Green Party

(Bill 27May)

"ICT is the latecomer to the curriculum feast" In part this is probably it. More its that the people who write curricula don't understand the potential and power of computers. They are people with high verbal intelligence and see ICT as just a communication tool. If curriculum documents were written in spreadsheets or code, then the people who "understand" computers would have a bigger role in their creation. The writers of the curriculum have never stood in awe of the beauty of a spreadsheet or simulation. (Tony May28)

VELS (Victorian Essential Learning Standards)

The VELS (3) stresses the need for developing generalised skills rather than the learning of specific information in a rapidly changing world. It is the ability to learn which must be learnt.

In our rapidly changing and globalised world, with the pervasive influence of high speed, interactive information and communications technology (ICT), knowledge is a major resource. This is evident in the trend towards more highly skilled jobs, both in older industries such as agriculture and manufacturing and in the rapidly growing service industries. This is accompanied by the realisation that students can no longer prepare for one career in life and therefore need to develop a commitment to life-long learning in all occupations and facets of life, and a capacity to manage change.

The Essential Learning Standards are also underpinned by the growing evidence base on how people learn and the implications this has for the approach at different stages of learning. Of particular importance is the way in which students progress from being novice to more expert learners as they move through school. Research findings suggest the development of such learning proficiency involves:

·noticing features and meaningful patterns of information
·acquiring relevant content knowledge that is organised in ways which reflect a deep understanding of the subject matter
·applying the knowledge in ways appropriate to context, rather than just exercising one's memory
·retrieving important aspects of knowledge with a degree of automaticity and
·approaching new situations in flexible ways.

The Essential Learning Standards consciously seek to reduce the crowding of the curriculum to give students time to explore the underlying concepts of tasks and problems they are set, to process information they gather or receive, and to make connections to other information they already possess.

Learning how to program games is, educationally speaking, an arbitrary task. It is not suggested that all students will become game programmers or even programmers. Very little of the specific content that students are now learning will stay relevant throughout their lives. The ability to manage their own learning will.

With game programming, it is the motivating power of a relevant and authentic task which is important. Students are motivated to acquire “deep understanding of the subject matter” . They are motivated to learn how to learn.

Can someone explain to me why VELS is being used to remove expert teachers teaching expert computing to students and replacing this with integration of computing into the curriculum - ie. non experts teaching computing. That is not a good thing. Bill May19

IMHO its because the VELS was written by teachers who are strong in verbal skills but weak in visual ones. Teaching attracts "people people", communicators. Thats why its harder to get maths and science teachers. The people who wrote VELS understand (verbally) the concepts related to self directed learning and constructivism but they are not comfortable in a visual (programming) world and have overlooked the power of computers for this. Look how the academics jump at using games for literacy but are less comfortable with numeracy TF19May

I agree with the comments by David Patreo in the afternoon panel discussion that we have a long term fundamental problem with teachers – most teachers don’t have the skills to teach good cross curricular IT. And I also agree with another comment he made that learning objects is a passive form of IT / multimedia instruction (dumbing down approach)
(Bill May19)

Curriculum reform is a dilemma for the reformers (Government / Department). On the one hand there are progressive motherhood statements (rapidly changing and globalised world, students can no longer prepare for one career in life etc. etc.) and on the other hand there is the nitty gritty of what is actually taught when the teacher gets up in front of the class and shuts the door. If the reforms impinge too much on teachers preferred way of doing things then this causes tremendous resentment. Enter the Union and /or passive resistance. If the reforms remain vague and generalised then they tend to be ignored. The point is that Government / Departments have not worked out how to win the hearts and minds of teachers who after all are doing the real work of education. Often the authors and promoters of these documents are perceived by classroom teachers as people who couldn't hack it in the classroom. Will VELS actually change anything? I would need to see evidence. A similar framework was introduced in South Australia 5 years ago. It didn't change anything much IMO (Bill 19th May)

In the past day I have read statements on both the Victorian and SA lists about the negative impact on ICT from curriculum statements (VELS in Victoria, SACSA in SA)

In Victoria the complaint was that VELS is being used to integrate computing into the curriculum which means that computing will no longer be taught be specialist computing teachers in the middle school years
"Our curriculum committee has flagged the possibility of removing IT as a separate subject at years 8-10 (and it is not taught separately at year 7) because of the VELS approach of integrating ICT into other subjects"

In SA the complaint was that ICT skills did not map readily onto the curriculum framework
"We have just been through a similar mapping exercise and found virtually nothing that can be called 'ICT'. I wonder if there is a connection to the position of ICT in the original ESF's of some years ago, when ICT was way down the bottom of the Technology hierachy tree."

Here's that way I see it. The computer is an empowering machine that threatens to undermine the whole traditional concept of the curriculum. These curriculum statements are being used to reverse this threat.
(Bill May25)