December 2019: What's News in Education

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Unitising, plotted polyhedra and the maths behind segregation, as well as innovative approaches to teacher training and more.

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Mathematics Education

How can you quickly work out the number of eggs contained in a stack of egg boxes? The concept of ‘unitising’ is behind this question. (NCETM)

The mean is a complex concept that is not as intuitive as median or mode. Cambridge Mathematics has compiled a two-page research overview of what to consider when developing conceptual understanding. (Cambridge Maths)

Maths educator Dan Meyer challenges us to think carefully about how estimation is used: “Estimation shouldn’t ask students to switch off parts of their brains or use less than their full capacity as thinkers. It should ask them to switch on new parts of their brains and expand their capacities as thinkers.” (Mr Meyer)

What’s Going On In This Graph is a weekly feature from the NY Times. Check out this graph on top sources of Greenhouse Gases in the U.S. with discussion prompts for taking this to your class. (NY Times)

A new study by Tom Lowrie and colleagues presents evidence for the impact of spatial training on mathematics performance in a secondary school context. (Taylor & Francis Online)

For students to develop deep understanding of maths, their teachers must also have that understanding themselves. Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham argues, “Some schools find it worth it to use specialized instructors to teach music or physical education. The same should hold true for math.” (LA Times)

A study from academic Bronwyn Hinz and colleagues has surveyed nearly 1000 maths teachers and 700 students across Australia, with findings highlighting “the need to improve maths curriculums and provide teachers with more access to subject-specific training, individualised professional learning and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.” (SMH)


From mathematician Nalini Joshi, is this insight into her work:

“You’re minding your own business when some punk asks what the integral of sin(x) means.” Thankfully Kalid Azad then comes along and helps us out. (Better Explained)

Mathematician Alex Kontorovich has plotted polyhedra on a three-dimensional plane. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Mathematicians and animators Vi Hart and Nicky Case have developed a playable blog post on the maths behind social segregation. It’s amazing. (NCase)

From Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, to Ursula K Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, here are 10 books of dazzling fiction about mathematics. (The Guardian)

Mathematician Julia Robinson would have turned 100 this year. Robinson contributed much to mathematics, including to the solution of Hilbert’s 10th problem, and was a woman of many firsts. (Science News)

Early Childhood to Tertiary Education

A new report by researchers Hilary Hollingsworth, Jonathan Heard and Paul Weldon has found that end-of-semester school reports “provide little indication of students’ learning growth and are increasingly becoming superseded by newer communication technologies that allow for continuous reporting.” (ACER)

How can you tell if professional development ‘works’? Researcher Thomas Guskey’s five-level framework is one method to use and has been summarised by Assistant Principal Tom Cain. (Thinking About Teaching)

Flexible learning options were first introduced into Australian schools in South Australia in 2007. However, research conducted by Nigel Howard, Andrew Bills and David Armstrong has found that outcomes associated with such programs are uncertain, with particular implications for students with disabilities. (The Conversation)

Analysis conducted by Pete Goss of Australian students has found, over 10 years “reading progress has slowed dramatically between years 5 and 7. And, somewhat surprisingly, the downward trend is strongest for the most advantaged students.” (Grattan Institute)

Researchers Evonne Irwin, Sally Baker, Emma Hamilton have compiled Australian studies on widening participation and alternative pathways into university study for people who are traditionally under-represented in higher education. (APO)

More than 15 000 students, parents/carers, and teachers have participated in research conducted by the University of Newcastle, forming one of the largest studies on occupational and educational aspirations. (Teacher Magazine)

Technology in Education

Spaced repetition software uses maths, tech and science to facilitate durable learning. In a podcast on the topic, experts Andy Matuschak and George Zonnios explain how it works. (ERRR)

Virtual classrooms and parent-teacher meetings are being used to bridge gap between university and the classroom for pre-service teachers at Murdoch University. (ABC)

A range of research exists on the role of mobile technology in learning. Five readings on the topic are presented in this article. (Teacher Magazine)

Can a valid case ever be made for allowing facial recognition technology in schools? Researchers Mark Andrejevic and Neil Selwyn examine the situation. (T&F Online)

Stories of Learners & Teachers

“Years ago Aboriginal families did not go into schools. But when there’s an Aboriginal worker in the school, families are more comfortable to come into the gates. This is helping support families to be more involved in their child’s education.” 

— Aunty Maxine Ryan on her work as cultural resident at Chifley Public School. (SMH)

Around 83% of students at Newbury Primary School speak English as an additional language. To best support EAL learners, the school has moved away from a withdrawal model and has adopted a three-tiered approach. (Teacher Magazine)

Twenty-one year-old AJ Thompson grew up in poverty and experiencing family violence. Now, she’s at university finding “the balance between earning the money to live out of home, and putting the time in to get the grades I need.” (ABC)

What are the costs of moving from a rural area to the city to attend university? Student Jess Bahr has shared her story and the challenges involved. (FYA)

Some school leaders reflect:

  • A sexist and misogynist chant from boys at one school, prompted a reflection and words to the community from the Head Master at another, Tim Bowden. (Trinity Grammar School)

  • In an interview, Principal and author John Marsden describes the changes he’s seen in schools over time. (School News)

The Foundation for Young Australians’ 2019 Unleashed Award winners have been announced. The awards recognise social enterprise, community impact and response to society’s most pressing challenges. (FYA)

Education Policy & Politics

Universities in Australia: attitudes and challenges is a report examining public confidence in Australia’s universities and attitudes towards what’s being taught. (Centre for Social Research and Methods, ANU)

A survey published by Children and Young People with Disability Australia has found, “More than 12% of students with disability are being refused school enrolment, and over 40% are being excluded from school events and activities.” (CYDA)

A new partnership between the N.S.W. Association of Independent Schools, Sydney Catholic Schools and the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta will see the three bodies share expertise and resources including in relation to teacher training, education research and student wellbeing. (SMH)

From 2020, childcare centres in N.S.W. will be required to display a star rating indicating “whether they are exceeding the national standard, meeting it, working towards it or if significant improvement is required.” (ABC)

The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) has an image problem. Despite this, in 2018 the program provided practical opportunities and career pathways for 24,000 students. (The Age)

Education Around the World

The Netherlands: What makes the Dutch school system unique? It is highly decentralised with no national curriculum. In addition, half of the teachers are employed part-time, two or three days a week. (Teacher Magazine)

Singapore: Amongst five projects that comprise Singapore’s new “national AI strategy” is personalised education. (Business Insider)

Evaluation & Research Practices

Results from a global research research survey present opinions on publishing habits, licensing preferences and open access articles. (Tayler & Francis Group)

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