A Pathway to Educational Excellence

Found in: SCEA News | Published on: 23 February 2016

The most effective way of improving student learning outcomes is through improving teaching quality (Hattie, 2008)[1], yet it is possible to improve teaching quality without improving student learning outcomes.  The focus therefore has to be on improved student learning outcomes and in SCEA we want to achieve this through a Christ-centred and rigorous approach to teaching and learning.

While most ‘fixes’ can lead to increases in achievement (it is almost impossible not to), the effects are not profound. We love talking about the distractors that do not matter. We can and should expect more – from our investments and for our children.

Professor John Hattie

Identifying the right priorities for school improvement is challenging, but essential. Professor John Hattie[2] warns against the politics of distraction.  A focus on the wrong drivers for change can distract our attention away from the right ones. Backing too many priorities at once will dilute our attention and thus minimise the impact. The challenge is to back the winners: the policies that will make a real impact on student learning, rather than ones that are politically attractive or easy to do. 

Raising educational achievement for young people is and must remain a priority for schools across Australia.  Evidence[3] from the OECD Program for International Student Assessments (PISA) shows that the average 15-year old student in Australia is 18 months behind his/her peers in Shanghai in reading, 19 months behind in science and 32 months behind in mathematics.  

Australia is one of the only countries in the world that has significantly declined in absolute and relative performance in the test of 15-year old problem solving abilities.  The number of high-performing students in Australia is shrinking and at the same time the number of low-performing students is growing.  In a global competitive world this is threatening the future livelihood of Australian young people.

The cost of illiteracy to the global economy is estimated at USD $1.2 trillion. The effects of illiteracy are very similar in developing and developed countries. This includes illiterates trapped in a cycle of poverty with limited opportunities for employment or income generation and higher chances of poor health, turning to crime and dependence on social welfare or charity (if available).

World Literacy Foundation.[4] 

A focus on improved educational achievement in literacy and numeracy is often critiqued by many who take the ability to read, write and be numerate for granted.  It is right that we should prioritise these goals, since the basic skills are the gateway to a life of potential achieved.  Every child deserves that and we all have an obligation to contribute to these goals. The cost of not doing so is too high.

Mathilda Joubert, Principal SCEA Instititute of Teaching and Learning 

[1] Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge.

[2] Hattie, John. (2015). What doesn’t work in education: The politics of distraction. London. Pearson.

[3] Jensen, B., Sonnemann, J., Roberts-Hull, K. & Hunter, A. (2016). Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems. Australian Edition. Washington, DC: The National Center on Education and the Economy.

[4] World Literacy Foundation. (2015) The Economic & Social Cost of Illiteracy A snapshot of illiteracy in a global context.