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July 2019: What's News in Education

Updated: Jul 27

Democratic lessons from 4 year-olds, mental health concerns amongst our teachers, incredible applications of maths in real life and more.

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Mathematics Education

There’s a front and back to mathematics. Teacher and instructional leader Mark Bennett asks, “Do we value and make space for both the formal, precise and abstract front , AND the messy, intuitive and often clunky back side of Mathematics?”


Variation theory “is a way of analysing and planning teaching and learning activities which focuses on what changes and what stays the same and the effect this might have”. How can it impact maths class? Check out this overview from Cambridge Mathematics to find out.


Where is maths? Everywhere. Welcome to #mathphoto19, a crowd-sourced photographic exploration of the maths in our world. Here’s a snapshot, from Pierre Tranchemontagne on the theme of lines:


Maths educator Dan Meyer recently stepped into a Grade 2 classroom for the first time. Here’s what he found was the same as teaching high school and what was different.


What do you say when an 8 year-old asks, “Is infinity a number?” Teacher Nicole Medina put a call out to the crowd and got drawn into the question of “What makes something a number?” What would you or your students say?


Early Childhood to Tertiary Education

The benefits of the great outdoors:

“Considering children spend the vast majority of time outside of a school setting, even the best such approaches can be strengthened by efforts that focus beyond the school walls.” With this in mind, researchers Jennifer S Vey and Rebecca Winthrop are looking beyond school walls to support children’s educational development.


More than just a fad: new research by Camila Caballero et al. on mindfulness, has found it to be correlated significantly with academic achievement, school attendance and lower suspensions.


Critical thinking is a widely-acknowledged ‘21st century skill’ and identified as a General Capability in the Australian Curriculum. But it is an elusive concept that is hard to teach successfully. Enter “How to Teach Critical Thinking”, a new paper written by Daniel T. Willingham in conjunction with the N.S.W. Department of Education.


What does the research say about sleep needs and delayed school starting times for secondary students? Sheryl Hemphill takes us through the findings of meta analyses conducted to date, and what’s left to learn.


Writes teacher Tom Sherrington, “task completion is not a good proxy for learning.” In this article, Sherrington describes what a shift away from tasks and towards learning can look like.


Why don’t teachers adopt new technologies into their practice? And under what circumstances do they? Some insights from former high school teacher, Teagan Carlson.


Rural and regional schools face challenges not met by urban schools. To improve student outcomes, schools are sharing resources, using special programs to raise aspirations, providing incentives to attract teachers and harnessing technology in specific ways. Read on.


From Professor John Fischetti, the university model is becoming obsolete. Here are three things the sector must do to avoid disruption.


Stories of Learners & Teachers

From the very young…

Who says that democratic decision-making is only for adults? Guardian Blyth Street Early Learning Centre has shown that four year-olds are capable of discussing, weighing up the options and voting on issues of concern.


Students at Lane Cove Public School have devised and implemented their own solutions for tackling waste in their community. Check out this video on what they achieved.


To the not so young…

It’s never too late to learn. For the second time in their lives, Alexander Burgic, 69, and Marguerite Young, 65, are studying senior level maths and physics. They will shortly be sitting their HSC exams. Why? Why not.


What’s the difference between being a maths teacher in Australia and in Singapore? A group of Australian teachers went on a recent trip and learnt firsthand.


The Artful Writing program at the Art Gallery of Ballarat brings together students, teachers and pre-service teachers (PSTs) to build creative writing skills and support PSTs to develop confidence in their practice.


Happy students and a 250% increase in enrolments in just two years. Read what’s behind Mt Alexander College’s success.


From former police officer, now teacher, Ben Offner: “Facing a class of 30 8-year-olds might be a bit different to heading out as a cop on the night shift in Auckland — but the stress level is pretty similar.”


Science teacher James Bayard, by most accounts, ran a successful classroom. Students wanted to come to class, their learning outcomes were improving and a program he ran won a Victorian Education Excellence Award. But, as Bayard explains in this thoughtful article, “I failed my students”.


How do you prepare for automation of manufacturing jobs as we currently know them? Teach students the skills that will be needed once a new wave of jobs come in. Check out what Anna High School in Ohio, U.S. is doing.


Australia: 0. New Zealand: 1. Congratulations to Kiwi Abbas Nazari for being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. At age 7, Abbas was an Afghan refugee rescued by the MV Tampa off the Australian coast. Rejected by the Australian Government, Abbas and other refugees from the boat were welcomed in by New Zealand.


Education Policy & Politics

New research out of Bond University on “the health and well-being of 166 Australian school teachers, aged 22–65” has found that over half suffer from anxiety and nearly one-fifth are depressed. This is compared with national averages of 10% who experience depression during their lifetime and 13% who experience anxiety. Associate Professor Peta Stapleton, who was involved in the research, has explained the findings.


A $51 million investment over four years by the Victorian Government to support Principal health and wellbeing is paying off. Independent research has found that initiatives implemented are “working effectively to protect, promote and address mental and physical health of principals.”


Research conducted by the Productivity Commission has analysed the impact of the 2010–2017 ‘demand driven system’ in Australian universities. The system “was intended to increase domestic student numbers and give under-represented groups greater access. The results were mixed.” Here’s what the analysis has shown for Indigenous student participation in higher education.


Australia has had “more than 60 language policies since the 1970s” to try and encourage more students to learn a second language. According to Dr Anna Dabrowski who has researched what support is needed, “one of the biggest barriers to having fluent language teachers was that they had to have Australian teaching registration”


The Centre for Policy Development has now released a series of four papers, collectively titled ‘In a Class of Their Own’. The series focuses on “how Australia’s contemporary school system segregates and divides students, families and communities, and concentrates disadvantage.”


The latest budget released by the N.S.W. Government promises upgrades and additional funding for the education sector. However, “the government’s commitment came with a caveat.”As education researcher Kellie Bousfield explains, “experience (and research) tell us this simple method of aligning funding with targeted outcomes …can have some unintended consequences.


Your monthly NAPLAN hit: N.S.W. Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has said that NAPLAN is flawed and that it should be revised or replaced with something that is “genuinely useful”.


The South Australia government is “launching a major review of vocational education and training in schools”, with the goal of changing perceptions of VET as an option of last resort.


How does education work for young people in custody in Victoria? New research released by Associate Professor Julie White et al. has investigated this question and “how improvements could be made to further support education inside custody.”


Victoria’s student population is on the rise, quickly. “Victorian state, Catholic and independent schools will have to accommodate one million students by next year — a figure reached a year earlier than expected.”


“I’ll be the first to admit that this probably won’t help me with the under 18s demographic. But I think you’d struggle to find anyone who thinks students are better off on their phones than focusing in class or hanging out with their mates. It won’t be universally popular. But it’s the right thing to do.” — Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on the mobile phone ban being introduced in state schools.


Or is it? From Year 11 student, Hannah Bachelard: “[W]hile I agree that both cyber bullying and distraction levels in class are serious issues that need to be addressed, I disagree with the government’s proposed policy action and think that it will be ineffective.”


Education Around the World

Syria: the “largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response” is underway in Syria to support over a million children and their caregivers in improving cognitive and social-emotional skills.


U.S.A.: A new policy proposed by the Department of Education “would weaken the federal government’s hold on accreditors, the watchdogs that allow educational institutions to access millions in financial aid.”


The World #1: The five-yearly Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) has just been released, presenting findings on the working conditions and learning environments of teachers and school leaders around the world. Here’s what the report has highlighted for Australia: article #1, article #2.


The World #2: Save the Children has released its third annual Global Childhood Report, focusing on “the major reasons why childhood comes to an early end”, as well as data on “ill-health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, early pregnancy and violent death”


Evaluation & Research Practices

An international consortium of research funders, cOAlition S, has developed Plan S — a means of achieving “full and immediate Open Access to peer-reviewed scholarly publicationsfrom research funded by public and private grants”. Read on.


“Classrooms are just too complicated for research ever to tell teachers what to do.” So what’s the role of research in education? Emeritus Professor Dylan Wiliam explains.


And should teachers know the basic science of how children learn? A response from cognitive psychologist, Daniel T. Willingham.


Maths, Science & Tech

You can’t get more ‘real world maths’ than this…

  • Waiting for a taxi or a next-day delivery are examples of ‘dynamic resource allocation problems’. “They crop up anywhere you find a limited resource that needs to be assigned in real time. … They will also be essential for tackling some of the world’s most fundamental and complex issues, including climate change."

  • Basil plants are decussate, bamboo leaves are distichous and the Japanese shrub Orixa japonica is, well, orixate. What do these mean, and what’s the mathematics involved in these plants? Read on.

  • “[A] retired couple from Michigan, Jerry and Marge Selbee, made $26 million winning various state lottery games dozens of times.” But it wasn’t a con, scam or inside job. It was plain and simple (alright, reasonably complex) mathematics.

Thanks to a three-page paper posted online by Russian mathematician Yaroslav Shitov, a 53 year-old conjecture has been disproved. Shitov has shown “that there are better ways to color certain networks than many mathematicians had supposed possible.”


How do you prove something? To scientistists, this word is “used rarely and with great care”. In law, it falls to a balance of evidence including “beyond reasonable doubt” for criminal cases. In mathematics, this isn’t enough. Proof must be “beyond any doubt”. Read on.


The American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America have compiled a series of stories by mathematicians on resilience throughout their career. Included in the compilation is a piece by Australian mathematician Terence Tao who has summarised his story here.


The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is coming up. Teen Vogue is helping us to understand the role of women in the mission, and what advice 12 STEM advocates have for girls and young women today.


For a blood transfusion to be possible, compatibility between the patient and donor’s blood type is needed. New research, however, has found microbes in the human gut which “produce two enzymes that can convert the common type A into a more universally accepted type”.

© 2020 by Michaela Epstein. 

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