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Tankette?

toy tanks
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Tankette: “a mini think tank”.(education.au, 2009) Thanks for your valuable contribution to our indreasingly jargonistic language.

This comes from a report from education.au titled “Teacher professional learning: Planning for change”.  The report forms the basis of a series of policy recommendations targeted at DEEWR policy advisors. The report calls for evidenced based policy to reform teacher PD such that they can play an effective role in the Digital Education Revolution (DER). Based on examination of PD, review of  factors influencing teachers capabilities to apply ICT, an analysis of barriers to implementation of ICT.

Background

Due to rapid changes in technologies and that teachers are already ‘behind’ in regards to ICT skills, inevitably, too much time is spent on skills at the cost of focusing on pedagogy. The authors claim that despite this skills focus,

educators do not need skills and knowledge of a wide range of technologies in order to effectively apply ICT to teaching and learning. (p.21)

The report gets to the crux of the issue, amazingly without the use of the word ‘pedagogy’… but it’s implied 🙂

The separation of how to use the technology in education from why it should be used is a major issue. (p.21)

What are the barriers to ICT PD?

  • fast pace of change in ICT
  • lack of time for PD
  • negative attitudes to technology and change (teachers need to be convinced of the benefits of ICT)

Challenging the structure and format of current PD programs is important, especially given the amount of financial and political investment. The widely used structure for PD featuring a calendar of one-off short courses are convenient to administer yet do not deliver results. The short duration and finite nature of this kind of PD experience limits learning over time and mastery of skills.Not only do they fail to provide effective change in terms of ICT skills, they are incapable of providing the depth of continued engagement required for pedagogical reform. This issue is compounded by the fact that many ICT PD courses are delivered by IT experts, with little insight into appropriate pedagogy.

Documenting the failures of the current system is an important step in designing a new structure for PD which can deliver on teachers’ needs. A learning communities based approach is suggested, resonating with the communities of practice model discussed in some of my other posts on this topic. Yet at the same time, the authors call for further collaboration at a national level, and the imposition of national teacher ICT proficiencies and an accompanying assessment and reporting process. In my mind, this top-down accountability approach is at odds with a learner-centered bottom-up approach to teacher PD. The benefits of the communities of practice model flow from the shared construction of direction and knowledge. It is hard to imagine how this will not be undermined, let alone be supported, by accountability measures imposed on a national scale.

The slow progress in the uptake of ICT in education requires additional strategies and more accountability. National teacher standards are needed to match the new national curriculum and ensure that we achieve a critical mass in the incorporation of ICT in education in order to develop students well prepared to participate fully in the modern world of work. (p.10)

The rest of the report continues in this vein. Calls to

individualise learning, engage in deeper learning and empower the learner to take responsibility for their learning. (p.23)

strike discordantly with the concept of competency’s based accountability. Further, as stated in the report, most ICT accounatbility frameworks focus on low-level competencies, competnecies which we have unanimously described as less importance than pedagogical concerns.

One of the tankette participants, Cecilie Murray, called for

teacher accountability through capability audits (p.65).

(though I must stress that this was from a transcript of the think-tank, and didn’t form the basis of the report’s reccomendations)

There is increasing interest in encouraging teacher professional development by rewarding superior performance. There is a complementary interest in specifying more clearly what constitutes good practice in teaching, and a growing rejection of the notion that teachers can base their teaching practices on personal preferences rather than evidence-based practice. (p.68)

Yes, I agree that evidence based pratice is laudable, for scientists, for teachers, and for policy design. Yet there is plenty of evidence suggesting that accountability measures linked to learning benchmarks are counter productive. Why then should we base policy frameworks on political imperatives rather than pedagogical imperatives. We know this isn’t agood way for our students to learn, why then should we expect improvements in teachers’ ICT proficiency under these measures?


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