Raising the bar
Danny Ritterman reports from “Raising the Bar” – the primary schools conference which took place in August 2017 and included the launch of the NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) compliant version of MAPPEN.
The state of play in Australia
“Raising the Bar” was attended by forty plus principals and teachers from across Sydney and focused upon the importance of school leadership and quality curriculum for contemporary teaching and learning. The conference was a unique opportunity to hear varying perspectives on the state of education in Australia, and to review a new on-line curriculum which is being enthusiastically adopted by a growing number of Australian schools – Mappen – as it launches its latest state compliant version in New South Wales.
Dennis Yarrington, President of the Australian Primary Principals Association, spoke about the importance of meaningful assessment in Australian schools. He explained his hands-on approach with curriculum when he was a principal: “I would ask my teachers to avoid setting ‘waste bin’ assessments”, referring to work that doesn’t have lasting learning outcomes and ends up in the proverbial bin. He implored principals across the country to ‘take back control’ of the curriculum in their school.
He also highlighted a narrowing focus based on NAPLAN and PISA results; “The curriculum has narrowed due to a focus on national and international testing. Maybe our STEM, Physical Education & Health and the Arts are suffering because of this focus? It should be broad, balanced and rich, allowing for deep learning. We want to know what kids can do with what they know, not just what they know.”
Teachers and learning
Jane Caro, author and social commentator, highlighted the important role of teachers and how they need to be themselves in the classroom. “There are some teachers who suit some students, and some who do not. That’s the world, it’s a good lesson for our students to learn.”
Caro spoke passionately about the high expectations set by Australian society for children to succeed. “When my daughter came to me and told me that she had failed, I said ‘Good. We learn from our failures.’” Talking about her own education she explained, “I remember next to nothing from my primary school education. There is one verse from King Lear and that’s it. What I still retain are the skills of how to think for myself and the resilience developed through interpersonal skills.”
An integrated curriculum
Karen Green, founder of MAPPEN, spoke about her years as a curriculum consultant: “I couldn’t keep up with the requests from principals and curriculum leaders who were concerned that the units being delivered in their schools lacked depth and consistency. However, my work was essentially like a Band Aid that came off in the bath. Most people think that the government dictates what is taught and teachers just teach it. It comes as a shock when people hear that every teacher in every school is planning units of work every term.”
This frustration prompted Karen to start working with co-founders of Grossard Education: Amanda McCallum, Mark Ritterman and me. We have been working on MAPPEN, since 2015. It’s an integrated primary curriculum and provides hundreds of Australian primary schools with a ready-to-teach curriculum and meaningful professional learning. It covers History, Geography, Economics, Civics & Citizenship, Science, Critical & Creative Thinking, Ethics, Intercultural Understanding and Personal & Social Capability in a series of integrated units.
(see the earlier ITM report http://consiliumeducation.com/itm/2015/08/05/professional-learning-changing-the-game/ )
Mappen is proving to be a welcome solution to the problems of meeting curriculum requirements and the time challenges faced by teachers. The content is the culmination of years of research and development with teachers and school leaders. “We’re constantly updating the content based on feedback. I believe if you keep moving in the direction that you think is right, you will make a difference,” Karen explained.
Cheryl Binns, Principal of Cambridge Park Public School has been piloting MAPPEN and was decidedly enthusiastic at the conference: “MAPPEN has reduced teacher workload by effectively integrating NSW curriculum outcomes across several learning areas. This reform alone has had a huge impact on teacher workload. It has eased the programming and assessment burden for my teachers, whilst at the same time providing engaging quality learning experiences.”
Constant updates and feedback
The design team constantly reacts to changes and feedback, encouraging teachers to talk directly with them. The fact that it is now being delivered online in over 240 schools with users in every state and territory of Australia is a testament to its popularity. Meanwhile, “Raising the Bar,” was a refreshing opportunity to discuss many of the most significant issues in education and illustrated that the enthusiasm for improvement amongst teachers and principals remains undiminished.
Danny is the co-founder and CEO of Grossard Education, makers of MAPPEN: an online curriculum and professional learning solution for primary schools. A lifelong learner Danny taught himself programming and started a web development business at age 19.
For more about how people are using Mappen, check out the video:
Feature Image: Pixabay