This post is the second in my ongoing exploration of the second Gonski Report. The first post is Through Growth to Achievement #Gonski Review 2.0
The ever insightful Dean Ashenden presents his analysis in Inside Story: An end to the industrial model of schooling? Ashenden writes that while the latest Gonski report points a way to the future of school reform, it has not broken with its disastrous past.
The panel was constrained by four realities. It was asked to “focus on practical measures that work,” an approach that, it turns out, it didn’t really agree with. Second, what no doubt looks to the minister to be a perfectly reasonable effort to ensure value for money may look to others like a velvet glove around Canberra’s financial fist. A third difficulty is that the report had to come up with an approach that could and would be implemented faithfully by each of Australia’s twenty-plus very different school jurisdictions. And, finally, the review was required to focus on school and classroom practice when most of the problems, including problems in practice, have their origins elsewhere.
In sum, the panel was asked to resolve two deep and ancient schisms in Australian schooling — the conflict between “conservative” and “progressive” educational approaches, and the conflict between the federal government and the states — while pinning down the notoriously elusive relationship between school funding, educational practice and academic outcomes — and to do it all with one hand tied behind its back, in eight or nine months.
Today I gave an information session on building an online presence for PhD students at the School of Education, University of Newcastle. The although the session was informal and I talked through the possibilities and how to’s of building an online presence, I did prepare some materials that pulls together research and advice. I also asked twitter and got some great responses which were added to the presentation. The latter exercise neatly demonstrated the power of twitter in terms of the usefulness and power of having an online network.
So just over 12 months ago, I blogged about the ‘Evidence for Learning’ [E4L] Toolkit, which was, then, newly available for Australian teachers as an accessible resource which purports to break down research in order to provide a metric of “what works”. (At this juncture I’m reminded of Dylan Wiliams’ warning that ‘everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere’). Anyhow, discussion about evidence is back on educational radars once more.
In my post last year I referred to the work of my colleague, James Ladwig, who at that time, blogged about why Australia does not yet have the research infrastructure for a truly credible, independent National Evidence Base for educational policy. James has returned to the topic of evidence again, writing about what is going wrong with ‘evidence-based’ policies and practices in schools in Australia:
Now just think about how many times you have seen someone say this or that practice has this or that effect size without also mentioning the very restricted nature of the studied ‘cause’ and measured outcome.
Simply ask ‘effect on what?’ and you have a clear idea of just how limited such meta-analyses actually are.
This is all very topical because yesterday’s report into the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools recommends (recommendation 5.5) the establishment of a national research and evidence institute to drive better practice and innovation. As an educational researcher myself this sounds very good, depending of course, on how evidence is defined and understood. Continue reading