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Research Developments from ACER


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Time for a proficiency-based approach to the curriculum

05 February 2018

Rather than an age-level approach to the curriculum, identify proficiency levels.

The way most countries organise the school curriculum is not consistent with what we know about the conditions for successful learning, ACER Chief Executive Prof Geoff Masters AO explains in Teacher.

‘The attempt to specify what an individual should learn on the basis of their age or year level flies in the face of what we know about learning itself,’ says Prof Masters. ‘Successful learning is most likely when learners are presented with appropriate levels of challenge. Learning is far less likely when challenges are within students’ comfort zones or so far ahead of them that they are unable to engage meaningfully and so become frustrated.’

Rather than an age-level approach to the curriculum, an alternative is to structure the curriculum in proficiency levels, where a proficiency level is an absolute level of attainment or competence in an area of learning, regardless of age or year of school.

‘An equitable system would be one in which every student was provided with stretch challenges appropriate to their current level of attainment and in which every student was expected to make excellent progress every year – regardless of their starting point. Such a system also would be more likely to produce a lift in our national performance,’ Prof Masters concludes. ■

Read the full article:

‘A different way to organise the school curriculum’ by Geoff Masters is published in Teacher.

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