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Australians do it Better: An

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Australians do it Better: An Outsider s Perspective on Gifted Education Down Under Professor Karen B. Rogers University of St. Thomas – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Australians do it Better: An


1
Australians do it Better An Outsiders
Perspective on Gifted Education Down Under
  • Professor Karen B. Rogers
  • University of St. Thomas
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • kbrogers_at_stthomas.edu

2
A Summary of This Outsiders Experiences With
Australian Schools
  • Before going to GERRIC full-time in 2005, I made
    yearly 2 week trips there
  • COGE training (1994 - 2005)
  • Research seminars to School of Education faculty
    and postgraduate students at UNSW
  • Parent seminars through GERRIC student programs
  • ARC Linkage Curriculum Development project with
    two NSW high schools - lived at each school for a
    period of 3 months working with teachers in these
    schools on a daily basis. (Artist in Residence
    project in education perhaps?)

3
A Summary of This Outsiders Experiences With
Australian Schools
  • 2005-2007
  • Talking with parents (individually and in groups)
    - parents of gifted children, primarily
  • DEST regional remote workshops (10) - 900
  • Seminars through GERRIC - 1,300
  • GERRIC workshops for parent groups - 450
  • Parents at conferences - 300
  • Email conversations within Australia - 75
  • Internet chat forum - 100

4
A Summary of This Outsiders Experiences With
Australian Schools
  • 2005-2007
  • Talking with teachers
  • In Gifted Education settings
  • COGE - 800
  • School workshops - 930
  • In Conferences - 1,290
  • In Regular Education settings
  • In-services - 1,625
  • School observations (practicum supervisions) - 25
  • Classroom observations - 32

5
A Summary of This Outsiders Experiences With
Australian Schools
  • 2005-2007
  • Speaking to and with K-12 students (gifted)
  • Ceremonies - 390
  • Research - 4,350 30 (in-depth)
  • Evaluations - 4
  • Relating to and with K-12 students (regular)
  • Research - 900

6
A Summary of This Outsiders Experiences With
Australian Schools
  • 2005-2007
  • Speaking to and with principals, education
    executives
  • Workshops - 185
  • Conferences - 172
  • Speaking to and with policy makers - 10

7
A Summary of This Outsiders Experiences With
Australian Schools
  • 2005-2007
  • University Experiences
  • Undergraduate teaching - 400 (guest lectures)
  • Practicum supervision - 25 schools
  • Postgraduate supervision
  • 9 PhDs
  • 3 Masters
  • UNSW Ethics Panel member
  • Collaboration with other Aussie universities - 4

8
A Summary of This Outsiders Experiences With
Australian Schools
  • 2005-2007
  • 15 field-based research studies in K-12 schools
  • 6 Catholic
  • 4 government
  • 7 independent
  • Advisory Committees
  • Government working groups (2)
  • Catholic Education Office (2)
  • Telstra/art museum critical friend

9
In Summary
  • I havent seen it all, but I have been fortunate
    to see quite a lot!
  • To qualify my experiences, though, my focus has
    been primarily through the lens of the greater
    Sydney region and New South Wales, despite many
    visits to all other states and territories.

10
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • The choices of schooling from kindergarten
    through year 12 are mind boggling!
  • The representation of schools with fairly equal
    attendance in each of the three major education
    systems makes for remarkable choice and fit for
    children and families. Everyone has the chance to
    find the perfect school.
  • Correspondingly, leaders from within each
    education system appear to cooperate with the
    other sectors when it comes to providing the
    vision of what schooling should be for Australian
    students. If one system has a good idea for
    tracking special needs students, for example,
    that will be readily shared with another system.

11
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • In public schools, there are 114 schools with
    Opportunity Classes designed to address the
    advanced academic needs of 10 of elementary
    children in grades 5 and 6. The OC school system
    has been in place continuously since the early
    and mid-1930s. There is a rich collection of data
    to tell us that this system works to best educate
    Australias brightest students.
  • Many public schools also provide preparatory
    classrooms for those children below grade 5 whom
    they feel will be accepted into OC classes
  • There is an objective and comprehensive
    assessment system in place to find and place
    gifted children into these classes.

12
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • In the Catholic education system, there is a
    strong policy in place to support every school
    that wishes to provide gifted services.
    Approximately 5-10 of gifted children within
    this system are being provided with high quality
    enrichment and differentiation. Regional GT
    coordinators are in place to support these
    schools.
  • In general education, the Catholic Education
    Office, in particular, has focused heavily on the
    greater than expected proportion of indigenous
    students, invisible underachievers, and NESB
    students it finds in its schools. Regional
    coordinators are in place to support the schools
    with these students. In many of these schools,
    special populations account for 65-90 of the
    student body.

13
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • In the private school system, increasing numbers
    of schools are providing Opportunity Classes
    for bright students, over and above the concerted
    efforts they have made to meet these needs
    traditionally. In general, approximately 20-25
    of students in these schools are being provided
    with differentiated and enriched gifted services.
  • A tremendous number of scholarships are made
    available to economically disadvantaged, NESB,
    and indigenous families to encourage independent
    school attendance. NESB student comprise at least
    40 of these schools student populations.

14
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • Elementary children, when spoken to, can express
    themselves clearly and well. They also write
    clearly and seem to receive consistent training
    in how to communicate with precision and
    expression.
  • Their general mathematical knowledge and skill
    certainly surpasses what U.S. children are
    taught. They are moving into higher mathematics
    at least two years in advance of what is offered
    in the U.S. Australia will not be at the bottom
    in international comparisons.

15
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • Creativity and the arts seem to be valued and
    consistently integral to Australias curriculum.
    This may help to explain the high per capita
    numbers of highly creative filmmakers, actors,
    authors, and musicians in this country of 22
    million people.
  • State produced Board of Studies syllabus outcomes
    are of high calibre in almost all curriculum
    areas. Australian children are not learning
    minimal competencies. Their learning outcomes are
    rich, multi-faceted, higher order, and allow for
    true differentiation for different learners
    rather than the production of cookie cutter
    clones, all having achieved minimal competencies.

16
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • Much less time, money, and focus need to be
    placed on behavior and discipline in schools. Is
    it the uniforms? Is it the comparatively small
    number of students each school takes in?
  • Teachers in primary schools seem to be much more
    committed and satisfied with their positions.
    They seem to focus on how to do a better job with
    teaching and learning rather than on how to spend
    their summer months and time off. Could it be the
    year round school schedule that supports this to
    a certain extent? Could it be that there is
    considerably more mobility between schools?
    Teachers tend to move to another school when they
    wish to pick up another set of skills. AND pay
    rates are comparable across systems.

17
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Pluses
  • Elementary school teachers, regardless of
    education system, seem to view their work as
    fulfilling, their students as individuals, and
    their own continuing professional education as
    important roles.
  • Elementary school principals communicate a pride
    in their schools, a confidence that they are
    trying their best, and a willingness to let an
    outsider come in and take a look. They are also
    very open to advice on how to improve what they
    do. Budget and personnel management seem to be of
    lesser importance than whether or not students
    are learning.

18
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Minuses
  • Students in OC classes and in many other classes
    are overtly ranked by their performance.
  • Does this suggest that assessment is considered a
    normative process rather than a criterion-based
    one?
  • Does this suggest that the assessments provided
    to children do not contain the more important
    corrective feedback children need to learn than
    to tell them how they did? (Are we falling into
    this same trap with NCLB?)

19
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Minuses
  • How the OC classes are perceived and who gets
    into them are surrounded with misperceptions. In
    some schools, the OC class is seen as the good
    class.
  • Likewise, teachers in schools will complain that
    the OC students only got in because they were
    coached to do so. True enough, there are large
    numbers of coaching colleges in NSW.
  • There is also the misperception that the reason
    there is an over-representation of Asian
    nationalities in these schools is because of the
    coaching and work ethic of families rather than
    students natural abilities.

20
Perceptions of Elementary SchoolingThe Minuses
  • I wonder if the small size of many schools
    prevents more extensive services and
    differentiation from taking place, just because
    of small numbers?
  • Is there an optimal size for a school to be
    effective and be able to provide more adequately
    for all the diverse needs represented there?
  • The huge toll taken by school transportation has
    to impact Australias environment (somewhat) --
    all those cars hovering outside schools each day
    to pick up students. When students and families
    shop for schools, transportation often becomes
    the larger issue when the school choice is not a
    neighborhood school.

21
Perceptions of Secondary (7-12) Schooling The
Pluses
  • The choices of comprehensive, partially
    selective, and selective high schools in the
    public school system offer options for very
    diverse talents among students in years 7-12.
    There are 23 selective high schools in NSW alone,
    coupled with 10 partially selective, and 373
    comprehensive high schools (including several
    sports and arts high schools). Among the
    selectives there are 4 all girls and 5 all boys
    schools. These schools seem to serve the top 10
    of students.
  • Among the comprehensives, there are 21 all girls
    and 19 all boys schools. Each type of public
    high school provides differentiation for brighter
    learners with very focused attention placed in
    years 11 and 12 on preparation for the HSC (or
    VCE, or)

22
Perceptions of Secondary (7-12) Schooling The
Pluses
  • The choices of students to be placed in
    co-educational or in single gender schools is
    wide open. Again, families and students have the
    choice of best fit.

23
Perceptions of Secondary (7-12) Schooling The
Pluses
  • In both the Catholic and the private education
    systems, there is a focus placed on university
    preparation coursework and effort. Families with
    bright children who do not do well on tests can
    receive a differentiated education at these
    schools. AND the schools seem to be prepared to
    offer differentiated services to up to 25 of
    their population. In many cases, parents may
    choose to send their children to these schools,
    despite being accepted into the public school
    system. Again, parents and students have the
    option to find the best fit.

24
Perceptions of Secondary (7-12) Schooling The
Pluses
  • Teachers do much more cross year level
    communication and planning, perhaps due to the
    common subject area staff rooms and common
    morning tea times built into school schedules, as
    well as the assignment of teachers to classes at
    several grade levels and performance levels, and
    use of cross year level marking of student work.
  • Teachers do much more cross disciplinary
    communication and planning, perhaps due to the
    common morning tea times and encouragement at the
    university level of teacher training to major in
    more than one academic area.

25
Perceptions of Secondary (7-12) Schooling The
Pluses
  • Teachers seem eager to improve their pedagogical
    expertise as well as their content expertise.
    This does not translate into more teachers
    pursuing postgraduate degrees, but does step up
    participation in extracurricular training and
    certificates.
  • Teachers, even when they have more than a hundred
    students in their various courses, still manage
    to think of individual students and how what they
    are teaching applies to that student, rather than
    about their fourth period class or this years
    seventh grader. Cross communication about
    students occurs in addition to communication
    about curriculum.

26
Perceptions of Secondary (7-12)Schooling The
Pluses
  • State produced Board of Studies syllabus outcomes
    are of high calibre in almost all curriculum
    areas. Australian high school students are not
    learning minimal competencies. Their learning
    outcomes are rich, multi-faceted, higher order,
    and allow for true differentiation for different
    learners rather than the production of cookie
    cutter clones, all having achieved minimal
    competencies. (NOTE a repeat of comments about
    elementary curriculum)

27
Perceptions of Secondary (7-12) Schooling The
Minuses
  • The opportunity is still fairly open to allow
    students to leave school early, declare
    emancipation from their parents, and try to
    function in the adult world without the maturity
    this truly requires.
  • There is some concern that the systems have
    overly focused on university preparation rather
    than the provision of authentic education and
    career guidance and support. Is Australia
    appropriately channeling our talented
    non-academic students into the fields in which
    they will thrive in adulthood?

28
Perceptions of University EducationThe Pluses
  • 41 fully functioning universities offering a
    broad spectrum of courses and training, each
    having their specialties. A substantial
    proportion of high school students are offered
    the options of attending university. It is not a
    closed system for only the brightest and
    wealthiest. Students pay very little tuition to
    attend and pay nothing at the Masters and
    doctoral levels.
  • A well-functioning vocational college system that
    offers viable alternative career and skills
    training for those not university-inclined is
    also in place. Many programs that in the U.S.
    require a B.A. first only require attending the
    vocational college directly there -- and thus
    provide Australia with qualified professionals in
    such fields as law, computer science, and
    medicine much earlier than one would find in the
    U.S.

29
Perceptions of University EducationThe Pluses
  • Although there is some ranking for top 10
    research universities, top 6 teacher training
    universities, etc., the collaboration seems
    healthy rather than cutthroat.
  • I see little youre taking MY student reactions
    among university faculty and administration when
    asked to work with other universities.
  • There seems to be a centralization of
    specialties. If some university is good at
    teaching research, for example, it offers courses
    and seminars that other university students can
    access at some central location such as Canberra
    (the national capital) and its ANU (Australian
    National University).

30
Perceptions of University EducationThe Pluses
  • The federal government supports research
    extensively and on a more focused set of
    priorities than elsewhere in the world. National
    Mental Health research funds, Australian Research
    Council project schemes, many government as well
    as private sources of funds for educational
    research are available to Australias university
    researchers.

31
Perceptions of University EducationThe Pluses
  • 33 universities offer dual enrolment and advanced
    standing courses to high schoolers who need
    something beyond their secondary coursework and
    preparation for the HSC or its equivalent.
  • 13 universities even offer case by case early
    admission to university to those students who
    need to start university considerably earlier
    than the usual age.
  • Universities are increasingly focusing on
    recruiting the best and brightest Australian
    secondary students, e.g., Scientia scholarships
    at UNSW

32
Perceptions of University EducationThe Minuses
  • The media and others have raised concerns that
    dollars drive the current recruitment of students
    with a special focus on Asian nations as the
    source for students. Increased issues with
    plagiarism, exam substitutes, quality of
    scholarship, even fluency in English then arise
    and must be confronted.
  • The student body at the college level is becoming
    just as likely to be there because they can
    afford it as because they scored highly on
    university entrance requirements. This may
    ultimately push down the academic rigor offered
    at University level, but certainly the motivation
    to attend remains high.

33
University Education in Summary
  • Australia turns out a well-educated proportion of
    its future citizens, individuals who seem to
    care about the world outside of Australia, who
    are willing to become productive and contributing
    citizens of Australia, and who are diligent and
    committed to their work.
  • No longer is there an attitude of working to live
    rather than living to work. Perhaps there is more
    workaholism there now, but I see that as a good
    thing for Australian society.

34
University Education In Summary
  • Australia is poised to become the world leader in
    research, especially educational research. It
    consistently provides substantial sums of money
    to ensure that Australian research on Australian
    educational institutions is produced. The system
    works well. If only we saw something similarly
    coordinated in the U.S. Only our National
    Institutes of Health and Mental Health show
    similar U.S. government commitment.

35
Which of These Elements Do We Offer American
Students?
  • A healthy and thriving system of differentiated
    schooling at both the elementary and secondary
    levels
  • Child-centered education systems with schools
    focusing on specific student needs, interests,
    and passions in the development of their
    different approaches to learning. (Selective
    schools, sports schools, arts schools, choices of
    HSC courses)
  • High stakes, but high competency assessments of
    student performance in preparation for university
    matriculation
  • Viable assessments of ability and performance
    upon which to make good placement decisions for
    bright learners

36
Which of These Elements do we Offer American
Students?
  • High level of visionary coordination in schools
    -- there are always executives and deputy
    principals in addition to principals, despite
    small school sizes
  • BUTa lack of comprehensive support systems in
    many school systems -- no regular guidance
    counseling at the elementary level, few social
    workers at either elementary or secondary levels,
    and guidance counselors seem to be as overworked
    as they are in the U.S.

37
Which of These Elements do we Offer Our American
Students?
  • Substantial government support for the Catholic
    and private school systems, which results in
    higher order services provided more equitably
    across all three education systems
  • BUT the indigenous issue remains unresolved.
    Heroic and good-hearted attempts have been made,
    but a reasonable solution remains to be found. At
    the present time, the system does not work
    sufficiently for these students and their
    families.

38
Qualifiers on My Conclusions
  • I have taken on the eyes wide open approach in
    looking at the Australian system, perhaps in
    typical naïve U.S. style.
  • I am often called a Pollyanna because of my
    rose-colored glasses.

39
But
  • There is a viable, working system, which remains
    flexible to student academic, social and
    emotional needs.
  • Much of the rest of the world (except Singapore
    and the Scandinavian countries, perhaps) have
    much to learn from the way Australians do the
    business of educatio.
  • So what are the lessons for us?
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