Bunthorne's Blog

Stewart McGowan's blog

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Commonsense on data!

I’ve been putting the boot into the misuse of NAPLAN data in particular lately. So It’s good to see Michele Bruniges agrees with me!


My favourite bit:

The NSW Director-General of Education, Michele Bruniges, will tell a national education conference in Sydney today that the use of test data such as National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy results should not to be used as a measure of school performance.

”Data is one of the most important diagnostic tools for teachers and schools but it has become entangled in the ideological debate about school accountability,” she says in the speech. ”The significant risk is that the data becomes devalued, particularly in the eyes of teachers, who, paradoxically, have the most to gain from the proper use of data.

Sensible talk from a Director-General. Wonders will never cease!


Streaming -the alternatives

Here’s an interesting problem. Most schools have A stream classes in English and justify them on the grounds of Gifted and Talented policy, challenging the top end and so on. The problem is that they don’t work.

It’s not just me that’s saying this. There’s a lot of research. If you’ve heard of effect sizes, John Hattie’s way of measuring how effective educational changes or initiatives are, then I can tell you that streamed classes come out at around O.4. For those who haven’t, it means that all the effort of sorting students into classes, and all the parental feedback, and all the energy and effort leads to – the same outcomes as mixed classes.

But what’s the alternative? Particularly if we’re serious about improving student’s results, and making sure that our best students get the challenges they need in English?

One approach that might work could be the Junior Extension class. What if we had flexible classes in the Junior years, with students applying for a special placement for a semester on the understanding that they would return to a regular class? This would run at the same time as the students’ regular English class but would deliberately target an area of interest that students have elected to develop.

Students might elect a class with a creative and persuasive writing emphasis, or a special unit on code-breaking. Competitive Public Speaking and Debating? Film and Website Creation? Critically Responding to Australian Literature? Playwriting and Performance?

Administration would probably be no more onerous than streaming. And we might more effectively meet the needs of a greater range of students. What do you think?

Middle Years Literacy and Learning course update.

Between sessions task

 First of all, just a reminder that your between sessions task was to find examples of texts that students are required to read in your classroom as part of their learning. Please bring along two or three copies of these texts so that they can be shared. If you are not in a classroom at the moment, don’t panic. I have a couple of old NAPLAN reading task passages available.

 8 Ways of Aboriginal Learning

 We discussed this at Singleton but it’s interesting for everyone, I think. For more information see the wiki at http://8ways.wikispaces.com/


 Cena and I talked about this. There’s a good intro to debating here. Debating Intro 1. Debating intro 2.

 Brain video

 The video didn’t work very well at Singleton, and a couple of people had to leave early. Here’s the link –


 Oh, and at Singleton I had a couple of sheets I prepared to assist people in understanding the content of the video, while demonstrating the ‘six strategies’ approach. The sheets are also attached here. Adolescent brain Nagel comp activity

 Focus on Reading

 There’s some general information about Focus on Reading here – http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/literacy/program/focus_read/index.htm

 We’ll be doing a little more work based around the ‘super six’ approach at the next workshop.

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