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One major feature that distinguishes most of the top countries educationally from those in the middle is that they focus their efforts within the school and within the classroom (especially by privileging teacher and school leader expertise) rather than spend their resources outside it. Further, they aim for all to gain at least a year’s growth for a year’s input and provide support for making these judgements.
Is the HSC a Prisoner's Dilemma?
Could choosing your subjects for the HSC mean individuals gain by competing, when in fact if there were more institutional options for a cooperative strategy, we as a community could benefit?
Elinor Ostrom is the only woman to be awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences. Her work "Governing the Commons" was about building a society that could work for all of us. It celebrates cooperative solutions that facilitate individual collective action beyond state initiatives. The large-scale panopticon measures and curriculum indications from NESA and ACARA will encourage changes but it will be successful self-organisation that will perpetuate sustainable change. It will be our individual actions that will create sustainable education innovation. I found a living example of this in Singapore.
Goss (2017) identifies interventions that are working. In particular the design for change within and across schools point to deliberate measures that encourage collaborative expertise (see below for a snapshot). Fundamental to these outcomes is parallel leadership.
It (parallel leadership) embodies four distinct qualities -mutual trust, shared purpose, allowance for individual expression and a commitment to sustainable school success.
Working together works and the evidence substantiates that.
Hattie (2015, p. 27) talks about
Creative collaboration involves bringing together two or more seemingly unrelated ideas, and this highlights again the importance of having safe and trusting places to explore ideas, to make and to learn from errors and to use expertise to maximise successful learning.
It reminded me of Ostrom's work on cooperation and collaboration and so many more educational theorists.
For pre-university students, a directive from the Ministry of Education in Singapore (MOE) set out a proviso that students needed to select a 'contrasting subject'. The emphasis was to create balance in a student's subject selection. For instance, if they chose science subjects, they would need to also select art. Economics as a contrasting subject presented a unique opportunity to draw in students with 'contrasting' interests. It created a surge in enrollment in economics.
Assessment frameworks also changed, moving away from multiple choice to higher order thinking skills. Assessment utilises a student's understanding of contemporary economic conditions (in terms of Blooms' Taxonomy) through problem based learning that invite analysis and evaluation. It left more room in the teaching and learning plan as drilling and skilling made way for deeper learning.
Assessment drives learning.
Alongside these structural changes master teachers, such as Miss Deborah How, have brought together teachers in an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. The sharing and commitment of the professional learning community was genuine, and tangible in the energy of the group and the dynamism of the classrooms. There was a constant student buzz as students discussed the subject at hand and expressed articulate and heartfelt ideas about economic concepts and scenarios.
In the teaching and learning environment, students' self-understanding and their perceptions of themselves in particular contexts, feeds back to the teachers and their professional learning community.
Effective learners create internal feedback and cognitive routines while they are engaged in academic tasks.
Could this model help overcome some of the competitive dynamic 'gaming' an opt-out of economics for females?
Open-ended tasks in learning designs that build stronger student teams and utilise critical and creative thinking opportunities all come from teachers collaborating, and a school commitment to create better learning outcomes. Teachers willing to learn and work together is at the heart of change in education.
This feedback loop is 'nested' in a regional/network, state and national dynamic as shown in Goss (2017, p.19). Speaking with officers in the MOE, it is easily appreciated how cognisant they are of the importance of MOE's role in creating fertile conditions for teacher growth.
The MOE have some prescriptive designs in delivering the economics curriculum but allow for significant autonomy for teachers and schools. A Framework for Disciplinary Thinking in A Level Economics (see below) in particular allows for wholistic discussion, as it directs teachers and learners to explore intended and unintended consequences.
It reminded me of another of Ostrom's straight talking ideas,
“The power of a theory is exactly proportional to the diversity of situations it can explain.”
Giving students the opportunity to question and critique is key to learning in the knowledge economy. Let them evaluate if the theory holds up.
Teacher Growth Model
In finding out what influence the MOE has on teachers, Ms Fan Kai Ten, Assistant Director, Economics Unit, Humanities Branch, Curriculum Planning and Development Division 2 shared with me,
The Teacher Growth Model (TGM) developed by the Academy of Singapore Teachers is a professional development model to encourage Singapore teachers to engage in continual learning and take ownership of their growth.
Click on the image to link to the MOE.
Lofty but Empowering!
In particular the TGM sets out some aspirational but also inspirational ideals for the teacher as:
The Ethical Educator
The Competent Professional
The Collaborative Learner
The Transformational Leader and
The Community Builder
See the PDF for more information around the TGM when it was launched.
How can we learn from Singapore?
A new way forward begins with "mutual trust, shared purpose, allowance for individual expression and a commitment to sustainable school success" (Crowther, 2010, p.37). This seems to be where the heart of Singapore's internationally celebrated success exists. It has to be in the same place for economics education in NSW and Australia.
Crowther, F. (2010). Parallel Leadership: The Key to Successful School Capacity-Building. Leading & Managing, 16(1), 16-39.
Dweck, C. S., Davidson, W., Nelson, S., & Enna, B. (1978). Sex Differences in Learned Helplessness: II. The Contingencies of Evaluative Feedback in the Classroom and III. An Experimental Analysis. Developmental Psychology, 14(3), 268–276.
Goss, P. (2017). Towards an Adaptive Education System in Australia. Grattan Institute.
Hattie, J. (2015, June). The Politics of Collaborative Expertise. Retrieved from Pearson Higher Education: https://www.pearson.com/content/dam/corporate/global/pearson-dot-com/files/hattie/150526_ExpertiseWEB_V1.pdf
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007, March). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 1, 81-112.