What Works: A template for action
By Kurt Mullane, Executive Director, Asia Education Foundation
Knowing what works to improve student learning about Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages, is the Asia Education Foundation’s core business. It’s driven our work for more than 20 years and along the way we’ve gathered an extensive evidence base to guide school improvement in these areas.
The good news is that it’s a straightforward process that can be achieved using a set of change levers relevant to most school improvement agendas.
Our research identifies seven interrelated improvement levers that enable students to learn about Australia’s place in the world, develop intercultural understanding and build Asia capability. They define the effective characteristics, practices and orientations that both shape and predict improvement in these areas. Taken together, they offer a simple and clear template for action.
1. A strong policy framework
Policy provides endorsement for action and a basis for goal setting and resourcing. It is the foundation of shared effort, accountability and a moral purpose for change. Policy focused on Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages generated by education systems is matched with school-based policy frameworks. It makes explicit what needs to be done, and why.
2. Effective school leadership
Strong and effective leadership is the first lever in translating policy into practice. Sustained improvement in the areas of Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages requires strong and sustained leadership from principals.
3. High quality teacher capacity
It is well known that teachers remain the single most important variance in student learning outcomes. For the majority of Australian teachers, up-skilling and targeted professional learning related to Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages is necessary.
4. Quality curriculum documents and resources
Schools benefit greatly from auditing and assessing curriculum documents and classroom resources to determine if these reflect a strong, sequenced and contemporary focus on teaching and learning about Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages. If they don’t, the quality of learning and teaching is invariably compromised.
5. Quality pedagogy
Even the best curriculum requires high quality pedagogical skills and capacities to implement. Schools at the forefront of innovation and good practice related to teaching and learning Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages choose to invest in new pedagogies and curriculum design. They prioritise active learning, higher-order thinking, inquiry and problem solving approaches and make use of technologies central to 21st-century learning. They take a critical lens to current practice with a view to continuous improvement.
6. Engaged parents and community
The positive correlation between parents’ engagement in their children’s education and positive learning outcomes is no secret. Schools with a commitment to learning and teaching focused on Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages communicate the moral imperative driving this work. They seek parent involvement in programs, keep parents informed about student progress and provide parents with practical tools to assist their child’s learning.
7. Building demand
All schools successful in improving student learning related to Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages work hard to counter perceptions that learning related to these areas is peripheral, ‘non core’ and less important than other curriculum foci. Their work to build demand is targeted as much to teachers and school leaders as it is to parents, students and the general community.
Effective and sustainable change in the context of student learning about Australia’s place in the world, intercultural understanding and Languages, requires attention to all seven improvement levers.