"Doubt is the incentive to truth and inquiry leads the way."
- Attributed to Hosea Ballou
Unit ten of the Flipped Learning Level II certification course was focused on the how flipped learning supports inquiry-based learning (IBL), facilitated by Ramsay Musallam and Enoch Ng. There was, unfortunately, video issues when Jon Bergmann and Ramsay were recording their segments and as a result, not much of the video content of Ramsay was usable.
I have to say up front that I struggled with this particular unit. What I have heard about IBL in the past has been that it is rather wishy-washing and lacking in evidence to support it. Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark published an article in 2006 titled Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching (available here), in which the first sentence of the conclusion states that "(a)fter a half-century of advocacy associated with instruction using minimal guidance, it appears that there is no body of research supporting the technique." The authors do state their definition of minimal guidance pedagogy in the article, including inquiry-based learning in that. There is also this:
"Interestingly, PISA 2013 found a negative correlation in all participating countries between a ‘student-orientation’ and maths results, with the construct roughly mapping onto some forms of inquiry. Even more strikingly, PISA 2015 found a negative association between increased use of ‘enquiry’ methods in science class and science performance."
- Retrieved from https://gregashman.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/a-toolkit-to-help-you-resist-inquiry-based-learning/ on 26 January 2018
I do need to make it clear that my understanding of inquiry-based learning has been based upon what I have seen written about in blogs discussing the research, and a few articles, many by the above three authors. I am not intimately familiar with it as a particular pedagogical strategy.
What I write below is of course my own understanding / interpretation of what was said, and it is not my intention to misrepresent the process. If I have got it wrong, please let me know - I am always happy to engage in dialogue. Ramsay and Enoch define IBL as being a general term for letting students' questions be the starting point for lessons, with teachers activating students' prior knowledge to create the awareness/information gap. Students ask questions on the topic, exploring it to find their own answers at which point they engage with the learning object, and then apply that updated knowledge or schema in some way through active learning activities.
Ramsay refers his model of inquiry as explore, flip, apply. This is the part that is leaving me feeling uncertain; I know what I have heard and read about IBL, however, I do not feel that this is inquiry, merely a fairly standard process - ascertain preconceptions and prior knowledge, address them through explicit teaching via a learning object, and then apply this to ensure the correct understanding and schema are embedded, not the misconceptions.
Jon asked them directly, why should teachers engage with IBL and they responded that it is how the human brain works, we are inherently curious creatures, trying to work out how and why things happen which creates problem solvers and which can be used to create problem finders. I know from watching Miss One that she is fascinated with trying to understand how things work and conducting experiments, as only a toddler can to understand it.
I am not sure how I feel about IBL. I know what I have read from the research and this has not convinced me that IBL works and the research is wrong. That said, it was not intended to do so and only gave a very brief overview of what Ramsay's model of IBL is. I would encourage anyone who is a proponent of IBL to get in touch via the comments below, or if Ramsay or Enoch happen to read this, to expound on your thoughts in more detail.
As always, thank you for reading.
"People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, and technology is already central. It will undoubtedly play a greater role in the years ahead."
- Attributed to Jonathan Grudin, Principal researcher at Microsoft
There are many tensions or conflicts in education. As an early career teacher, I spent much of my pre-service training hearing about the desperate need for to focus on teaching our students twenty-first century skills. In addition to this, we have been hearing, for some years now, the narrative that it is no longer the case that you join a firm as a graduate and retire from the same firm with your gold watch (this has borne out in my own experience, with ClickView being my seventh employer).
What I find worrying, however, is the way that these supposed twenty-first century skills are talked about, as if they are newly discovered skills. There always appears to be the intimation that these are new skills, such as in this article by Professor Barry McGraw, this news.com.au article, or this article from The Australian. Though I did come across this sentence in a report from the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority:
"The skills derived through senior education and needed in the 21st century are unique, and differ from those skills needed in the past."
- 21st Century Skills for senior education. An analysis of educational trends (QCAA, 2015, p.2). Retrieved from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/publications/paper_snr_21c_skills.pdf on 5 January 2018
I believe that anyone with a modicum of sense recognises that these skills are not new, as pointed out by Charles Fadel in this interview, and so I wonder why there is suddenly such a focus on these so-called twenty-first century skills. This focus appears to be driven by the needs that we are hearing from industry through such reports as The New Work Mindset (Foundation for Young Australians, 2017). This desire for twenty-first century skills has also been echoed in numerous news articles such as this article from The Australian, and this article from the Conversation; and there is a plethora of images outlining these new skills.
Is it an issue that we are taking paying such attention to industry about what needs to be taught in our education systems? The answer to that will depend on your belief about the purpose of schooling and education, something that I touched on in this article after attending Education Nation, though I did not at that time outline my own answer to that question.
I was told, during my pre-serve training, that education is not a factory line; where parents input blank slates and the education system produces trained workers (read this article for a great explanation of the problems with the utilitarian model of education). The production model of education, however, is the framework within which how education systems are ranked, using economic terms alongside testing scores from both domestic and international standardised testing regimes (NAPLAN, ATAR Scores, PIRLS, TIMMS, PISA etc.), but that they should not be what drives our pedagogy.
This is in direct contrast to the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (hereafter; Melbourne Declaration) whose preamble states:
"Schools play a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and well-being of young Australians, and in ensuring the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion."
The language used in the Melbourne Declaration, when compared to the daily rhetoric about education and schooling, indicates that the individual fulfilment component of the Melbourne Declaration is lip-service only. This article by Thomas William Nielsen makes an interesting point that, for me, highlights the lip-service. Thomas writes
"The first thing to note is that spending power has at least doubled in western countries since the end of World War II, but depression and suicide rates have increased.
Our youth are more troubled than ever before and the rhetoric around domestic and international test result is that our education system is falling behind and performing (are teachers really performers? That's a different conversation, stay on target!) worse than in the past. Thomas William Nielsen, later on in the above article commented that education was based on the US and UK model, a model which has already failed, that is centred on this utilitarian view of education which is self-destructive in the long run. Why then do we continue down this pathway? My Grandparents taught me that if you fail the first time, to try again, but that trying the same thing over and over expecting different results indicates madness.
We need to take this on board and try something different.
You may argue that the infusion of these twenty-first century skills into the curriculum is trying something new, however, incorporating these skills has arguably been a part of every teachers pedagogy, whether implicit or explicit, since the early days of civilisation. Learning how to make fire, paint, build houses, hunt animals, make clothes, build roads, cars, and skyscrapers; and to develop number and writing systems required problem solving, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.
There is also the small issue that cognitive science appears to indicate that teaching these rather generic skills is not effective, as we have evolved to have them hard-wired but that effective use of these skills requires domain-specific knowledge and skills. As Greg Ashman puts it in this article,
"You can learn to solve problems in algebra but very little if anything transfers to solving problems in interior design. The thing that does transfer is a strategy known as ‘means-end analysis’ which we all have hard-wired into us through evolution and that therefore does not need extended, school-based training."
Despite all the rhetoric around twenty-first century skills, Dr. Michael Nagel notes in this article that little has changed and that the Digital Education Revolution was '...focused on tools and infrastructure" and that you could "...argue that this strategy is more refurbishment than revolution."
Why the persistence, then, in forcing the twenty-first century skills into the curriculum as an explicit component? Why the derision for pedagogical strategies which use explicit instruction to provide students with the domain-specific skills and knowledge required to effectively utilise these twenty-first century skills?
Thank you for reading and share your thoughts in the comments.
Disclosure: My attendance at Education Nation (#EduNationAu) in June is through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Times listed in this article are correct at the time of publishing, but are subject to change.
It is interesting timing, sitting here composing this article, with Education Nation only a week away, considering that the topic for #satchatoz this past weekend was how [do] conferences help us grow professionally. I have been amazed at the response to both my interview with Professor Geoff Masters and the interview with Dr. David Zyngier. I am excited to announce that I have just received the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly, who is arguing the side of private education in The Great Debate against Dr. Zyngier. You can get involved with The Great Debate by submitting a question for the moderated questions from the floor component of the Debate by clicking here.
Today, however, I want to have a look at the programs for the various conference streams. There is a lot to be excited about on the program for Education Nation, making it difficult to choose a particular stream to be involved in. Of course, each stream has a particular focus and which you will choose will vary according to your context and your needs. I am in the position of being able to move between the event streams thanks to the media pass, and it made for some very difficult choices, as I wanted to engage with at least one session in each stream across the two days.
I have included a copy of the EduNationAu Timetable, which I have put together from the separate programs on the Education Nation website to allow for seeing what was happening at any time and it showed that the events do not necessarily line up in regards to timings for each session. I have chosen the sessions I will be attending according to a few criteria:
The first session I plan to attend is in the Rethinking Reform stream, and will be my first opportunity to hear Brett Salakas (@Mrsalakas) speak. He will be exploring the subject of PISA and the growing fascination with the results and our place in relation to the other OECD member nations. It promises to provide an open and frank exploration of our current relationship with PISA pipe dreams and the cultural contexts involved. Following Brett’s session was my first dilemma.
Do I stay and listen to Professor Geoff Masters (@GMastersACER) identify and discuss the five most important challenges facing schools, or alternatively, head across to the Digital Dimensions stream to hear Simon McKenzie (@connectedtchr) identify if we have just made everything worse with the rollout of technology in schools, from both positive and negative perspectives. Simon’s session promises to be very intriguing and potentially controversial given the explosion of one-to-one and BYOD programs in recent years.
Both options are incredibly appealing, however, in the end, I decided to remain in my seat for Professor Masters’ session. Primarily due to time; both sessions are scheduled to commence at 0940, and though there is typically some fluidity in the actual timings at conferences, I wanted to avoid being that person who enters a room late and then proceeds to become the show as they attempt to find a seat, get there and then set up for the session. I look forward to reading the tweets stemming from Simon’s session, and please, if you write a blog article from that session (or any other), send me the link so that we can re-share it with the wider Education Nation PLN.
After the morning break, I plan to spend the entire second session engaging with one of the deep-dive workshops, The Leader. Specifically, I will be attending the session which examines strategies for bridging the gap when policy and practice diverge, presented by Peter Mader (@Mader_Peter). It is an interesting area to explore, and also a common problem. Educational policy is typically slow to respond to new information and requirements, particularly when it is required to run the gamut of a bureaucracy.
Michael’s session finished and provides me with a ten-minute window to move across to my next session, hearing from Ed Cutherbertson and Prue Gill (@Ed_Cuthbertson and @Prue_G) of Lanyon High School share strategies that teachers are able to utilise in their classroom to provide their students with voice and agency, allowing them to feel valued, and encouraging students to become active participants in their own learning. This session is a lengthy one, which gives me that it will provide a wide range of strategies to assist teachers in building those relationships, in providing the voice and agency to their students. Student voice and agency has been a topic of discussion more and more on social media and there is a body of research building around this issue.
Following the afternoon break, my first choice, actually, it was the first thing I marked down as wanting to attend, is The Great Debate between Dr. David Zyngier (@DZyngier) and Dr. Kevin Donnelly (@ESIAustralia). The debate surrounding public versus private education is a hot one, and both sides have some excellent arguments. I have not heard the two sides facing off in a debate before, and this is sure to be interesting and fiery. I have already published my interview with Dr. Zyngier and tomorrow I aim to publish the interview with Dr. Donnelly. Dr. Donnelly is well known in the media for his provocative statements, and I look forward to engaging with his responses, and to hearing the feedback on the article.
Do not forget to submit your questions about public education versus private education. There is still time!
Though my choices for the final session of day one of Education Nation were guided by The Great Debate, I am genuinely interested in hearing what Teresa Deshon has to say about the role of the pastoral curriculum in her case study; People of Character – Your Best Self. The academic curriculum takes the majority of our teaching time and Teresa’s question, “…[b]ut what of the pastoral curriculum?” is an excellent one. I am looking forward to hearing the strategies that Teresa and her colleagues have employed to change the focus to the pastoral curriculum, and still maintained the academic curriculum learning outcomes for their students.
At the end of day one of Education Nation, I will be attending the live #AussieEd event at Kirribilli Club (view map), tickets to which are still available. It will be my first AussieEd event, and am looking forward to it.
Day two begins bright and early, and pending Ministerial commitments, will begin for those in the Rethinking Reform forum, with an Address and Question and Answer session with the incumbent Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham (@birmo). I requested a pre-Education Nation interview with Minister Birmingham, which was accepted, however, with the announcement of the impending Federal election made shortly thereafter, I daresay I ended up down the priority list as neither myself nor my speaker liaison heard back regarding the interview. I am very curious to hear about his views on the future of education in Australia, as well as what questions from the floor will be accepted and how they will be answered.
The timing of Minister Birmingham’s address meant that I am unable to attend any other event streams in the morning session as I would be arriving midway through, which is never pleasant. That said, Lila Mularczyk’s (@LilaMularczyk) subsequent presentation examining trends in education policy and the translation to the Australian context will be very interesting. I feel that this session will follow on nicely from Brett Salakas’ day one keynote address. Both keynotes will be examining the Australian relationship with global educational systems, from slightly different perspectives. I look forward to seeing what crossover conclusions the two share.
I will be spending a significant portion of day two in the Rethinking Reform session, as returning from the morning will see me settling in for two sessions which I suspect will provide a lot of food for thought. Murat Dizdar will commence the session with an examination of how some schools in the NSW public education system are adopting the national education reform platform a discussion of the operational lessons that can be taken from those schools.
Following on from Murat, is Dr. Kenneth Wiltshire, presenting an exploration of the future of curriculum in Australia. Dr. Wiltshire is not likely to hold back, having been openly critical of the national curriculum and the process through which it has been developed. Dr. Wiltshire lays blame on the doorstep of ACARA itself, specifically the structure and functioning, labelling it a largely discredited body within education circles. I am very much looking forward to hearing him speak. As an early career teacher, the future of the curriculum is a rather important topic for me and my students, both now and in the future.
After Dr. Wiltshire’s presentation, I plan to take some time out. His speech will finish at roughly the same time as the concurrent sessions from The Leader, The Learner, and The Educator, and with all due respect to Phillip Cooke (@sailpip), who is presenting immediately after Dr. Wiltshire; a discussion of the HSC and how it prepares students for life after school is not in my area of interest at the moment. I believe that I would gain more benefit from taking some time to refresh my brain, to re-engage with my notes, get some writing done, explore The Playground and network and meet up with some educators that I have chatted with on Twitter in the past.
Following the lunch break, I will have the opportunity to hear Olivia O’Neil speak in the Digital Dimensions forum about redeveloping a school by engaging the emerging Gen Y teachers. I am looking forward to hearing Olivia speak, as I know a lot of what has been occurring at the school she is Principal of, Brighton Secondary College from conversations with Jeremy LeCornu (@MrLeCornu), whom I heard speak originally at FlipConAus last year. I am looking forward to hearing about a journey of which I already know a little bit from the perspective of the Principal, and the challenges that were faced from that vantage point and how they were dealt with.
I plan to remain in the Digital Dimensions forum to hear Leanne Steed and Elizabeth Amvrazis as they examine the purpose of education through a lens of technology-laden classrooms and the way in which technology can empower our students.
I will then be moving back to the Rethinking Reform forum to hear someone whom I admire greatly, Corinne Campbell (@Corisel) as she speaks about the relationship between the focus on using evidence-based pedagogies and the feeling of empowerment or disempowerment by teachers. Evidence-based pedagogies are another hot topic (I quite enjoy reading Greg Ashman’s (@greg_ashman) articles in this area). If the discussions about performance-based pay for teachers come to fruition, it will be an issue of even greater importance, and make the difference, perhaps, between teachers keeping and losing their positions.
The final Education Nation session on my agenda is part of The Educator stream, and I have chosen it specifically as it is a presentation on a topic that I am not still somewhat skeptical about. The Hewes family will be closing out The Educator with a workshop giving deeper insight into Project Based Learning (PBL). The workshop is slated to allow participants to design a PBL project, ostensibly, I presume, to take back to our classroom and implement. I am not entirely sure why I am skeptical about PBL. I suspect that a lot of it is most likely misconceptions, and I have heard some local horror stories about PBL gone wrong. That said, I am looking forward to engaging with this workshop, and hopefully coming away with a new understanding and appreciation for PBL and its place in my pedagogical toolkit.
That, as I mentioned, is the final session for Education Nation 2016. I am very much looking forward to the two days and fully expect that I will need the ensuing few days to recover mentally. What are your expected highlights for the event? Let me know via Twitter using #EduNationAu which will be the main event hashtag.
As always, thank you for reading, and stay tuned tomorrow for the interview with Dr. Kevin Donnelly.
For the full list of articles in this series, please click here.