Aus: 'Noel Pearson lays path to better learning' - a piece on the evidence for direct instruction for indigenous schools

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Aus: 'Noel Pearson lays path to better learning' - a piece on the evidence for direct instruction for indigenous schools

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed May 19, 2021 9:58 am

Noel Pearson lays path to better learning

Rebecca Urban, The Australian, May 18, 2021


Noel Pearson has issued a bold challenge to education policymakers, arguing that schooling could go from “good to great” within the next five years if teachers are willing to follow the evidence on how children learn.

The Indigenous leader and educator also took a swipe at progressive identity politics, university education faculties and school systems for failing to ­accept long-held evidence pointing to the importance of teacher-led direct instruction.

Appearing alongside federal Education Minister Alan Tudge for a public discussion on how majority Indigenous schools can overcome the educational odds, Mr Pearson insisted that school reform needed to start with the teaching occurring in the classroom. He said the pendulum needed to swing back from the inquiry-style learning model currently dominating Australian education.

A report by consultancy McKinsey found “the best systems are those ­systems that favour teacher-led instruction — that’s what the evidence says,” Mr Pearson told the Centre for Independent Studies-sponsored event in Sydney on Tuesday evening.

“Yet we, in Australia … we teach inquiry as a subject.

“The lesson for Australia [is] there’s far too much inquiry learning. We’ve got to get the teaching right.”

Mr Pearson lamented that many remote, mostly Indigenous schools were missing out on the most effective teaching methods, and blamed “low ­expectations” and suggestions that direct instruction was not suitable for all children.

He said evidence on the effectiveness of teacher-led direct ­instruction had been available for 50 years, and had recently been demonstrated by his organisation Good to Great Schools. But it was not being adhered to en masse, he said, meaning many children, particularly disadvantaged children, were missing out.

“The evidence has been well known about what works for children’s reading and numeracy … it’s just that there has been a concerted effort to impede the known and very effective means by which children learn,” he said.

“Aboriginal children are no different … They’re humans: if they’re taught with effective pedagogy they will learn.”

Good to Great Schools was recently involved in overseeing the government-funded Flexible Literacy for Remote Primary Schools program, implementing direct instruction in 25 very ­remote schools. An evaluation showed significant improvement in literacy skills compared with similar very remote schools not participating in the program.

In reading, schools involved in the program averaged 124 per cent achievement growth, while for grammar and punctuation, it was 180 per cent. Despite this, the program suffered from high dropout rates, driven by changes in state and territory governments, policy shifts and high school ­leadership turnover.

Mr Pearson said the direct instruction approach was “scalable” and should be rolled out at underperforming schools.

He urged policymakers to look at the 2010 McKinsey report on school and school system improvements, which he described as a “playbook” for how to improve education.

“Singapore was once ‘poor’, then it became ‘fair’, then it became ‘good’, and then it became ‘great’ — now it’s an ‘excellent system’,” Mr Pearson said. “It’s been an incredible journey … and what they did at different stages of the spectrum was different. If I were minister I would look at the McKinsey 2010 playbook and say, ‘that’s my playbook’.”

Mr Tudge said he agreed strongly with Mr Pearson’s comments, particularly regarding his emphasis on quality of teaching and following evidence-based approaches.

“I am as frustrated as Noel with the lack of evidence that is sometimes used in our schools, particularly in relation to the teaching of reading, of phonics,” Mr Tudge said. “We still find some teacher education faculties who do not impart that (knowledge) on to future teachers. If you’re not teaching the evidence then, well, there’s going to be ­consequences.”

Mr Tudge said he remained particularly concerned about Indigenous school attendance.

“I looked at the data recently on this … and in remote areas only 20 per cent of kids are attending 90 per cent of the time,” he said.

“The research tells you, unless you’re attending 80 to 90 per cent of the time, you don’t keep up.”

Despite more than a decade of commitments to Closing the Gap, there’ has been little systematic headway in lifting education outcomes of Australia’s Indigenous students.

According to the latest report, there have been modest ­improvements in Indigenous children’s literacy and numeracy achievements despite targets not being met.

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