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The key to improving learning in Australian schools

The Gonski 2.0 recommendations may provide our best hope of reversing the long-term decline in the reading, mathematics and science levels of Australian 15-year-olds, says ACER Chief Executive Professor Geoff Masters.

In his new blog for Teacher, Professor Masters of the Australian Council for Educational Research writes that Gonski 2.0 was notable for looking at learning from the perspective of learners, and for recognising that the way we currently organise the school curriculum disadvantages some students. He says the review also acknowledged that the key to improving learning in Australian schools depends on ascertaining where individuals are in their learning and then providing stretch challenges that are neither too easy nor too difficult.

‘The reason this principle is so crucial to improved performance is that students in the same year of school are at vastly different levels of attainment,’ Professor Masters writes. ‘The most advanced 10 per cent of students in any year of school are at least five to six years ahead of the least advanced 10 per cent of students.

‘This means that challenges appropriate for some students are likely to be much too easy or much too difficult for others.’

Importantly, Professor Masters says, the Gonski Review recognised that this is also an issue for education systems and curriculum developers. It heard how high-performing school systems create conditions that make it more likely that students’ differing learning needs are identified and addressed with well-targeted teaching, and how some systems create conditions that make this less likely.

Professor Masters goes on to discuss these three core proposals at the heart of Gonski’s recommendations:

  • Rethink how we organise the content of the school curriculum: Gonski proposes repackaging the curriculum into proficiency (or attainment) levels instead of year levels, the advantage of which is that every student is more likely to work at an appropriate level of stretch challenge.
  • Provide assessment resources aligned with this reorganised curriculum: this provides teachers with quality information about where learners are in their learning to supplement their own assessments and professional judgements.
  • Find ways to promote evidence-based teaching practices: this builds professional knowledge and supports the use of effective, clinical teaching practices.

‘Improvements in ascertaining where students are in their learning will lead to better performances in our schools only if teachers know how to meet individuals’ differing learning needs with effective, targeted teaching that challenges further learning,’ Professor Masters concludes. ■

Read the full article:

‘Gonski, learning and the case for change’ by Geoff Masters is published in Teacher.

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About the author

Professor Geoff Masters AO is the Chief Executive of ACER. 

More [rd] articles by Geoff Masters

View selected works of Geoff Masters

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