Posts Tagged english

English curriculum: Contested territory

Each day this week I will be adding posts on this blog that share sections of my PhD thesis. They will be drawn from a section in Chapter 2 titled ‘Contested territory’.

The motivation to do this comes from speaking with a lot of English teachers this week, following the release of the new Stage 6 English syllabus in NSW. Many were eager to learn more about the background to some of the issues coming up in professional discussion.

Contested territory

In her ‘Unofficial Guide’, Bethan Marshall describes English as “a subject which is apparently so amorphous that it elides definition and yet it is sufficiently hard edged to provoke bitter controversy” (2000, p.2).  A decade before this Peter Medway, in writing about the history and politics of English as a school subject, argued that the reason why “English is special [is because] certain characteristics generally attributable to academic subjects are notably lacking.  The most obvious example is that English does not comprise a body of facts and concepts to be communicated” (Medway, 1990, p.1).  This lack of a “body of facts and concepts” and the resultant “amorphous” nature of English as a school subject has indeed ensured that both the purpose and context of the subject continue to be hotly debated.  This section will provide an overview of the ‘sticking points’ that have shaped contemporary debates and which endure in current debates about English, and the various (at times competing) demands that are placed on English as a subject area in contemporary NSW schools.

(McGraw, 2010, pp.27-28)

Stay tuned this week for the following elaborations on contested territory in English:

  • ‘English’ and ‘Literacy’
  • Multiliteracies
  • The influence of the canon
  • Critical Literacy
  • Literary theory and the postmodern turn
  • Examination and Assessment

References:

Marshall, B. (2000). English teachers – the unofficial guide: Researching the philosophies of English teachers. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

McGraw, K. (2010). Innovation and change in the 1999 NSW HSC English syllabus: Challenges and problems (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Sydney: Sydney.

Medway, P. (1990). Into the sixties: English and English society at a time of change. In I. Goodson & P. Medway (Eds.), Bringing English to order: The history and politics of a school subject (pp. 1-46). London: Falmer Press.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Damn lies and misinformation: Daily Tele and the new Stage 6 English

New Stage 6 (senior secondary) syllabuses were released today in NSW, and the media circus was on point.

The worst offender for misinformation was probably the Daily Telegraph, with Bruce McDougall’s piece ‘NSW Education: School syllabus shake-up promotes the classics, Shakespeare and Austen back for the HSC’ riddled with unnamed sources and incorrect claims.

Author image created using Trove map resource and Bard portrait

Among the claims are:

  • That “Shakespeare is back” (he never left – he remains mandatory study in Advanced English)
  • That “Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad will become mandatory for Year 11 and Year 12” (impossible to know until the text prescriptions are released later this year, and unlikely to be true for all courses)
  • That the Area of Study is “criticised by students, parents and teachers” as being tied to “woolly concepts” (name your sources or go home).

Disappointingly, NESA president Tom Alegounarias seemed to add fuel to the fire with this misleading statement:

  • “In English, for example, Shakespeare or the equivalent other aspects of great literature will be mandatory.” (Shakespeare is ONLY mandatory in Advanced English, and always has been, and ‘great literature’ i.e. texts from the Western literary canon have always been studied in other courses)

Once again we heard this old chestnut:

  • “Education chiefs said they had listened to sustained criticism from employers and businesses that many school leavers applying for jobs lacked basic skills in literacy and numeracy.” (does this reference to ‘sustained criticism’ mean complaints about this dating back to the early 1900s, which perennially persist despite amazing growth in youth literacy rates?)

It was a frustrating read.

Especially given that NESA had fed the media machine with statements before making the syllabuses available on their website for teachers to see first hand. PDF versions of the material didn’t come online until lunchtime, leaving busy teachers with sense of panic about navigating disparate web-only resources.

One can only hope that these spurious claims work to galvanize the profession in the coming months, as we create new resources and share fresh perspectives on the syllabus change. If conversations I had online with colleagues today are anything to go by, there is still hope for this. We are already interrogating more important aspects of the changes to consider implications, including:

  1. The inclusion of a ‘multimodal presentation’ assessment (will this be more than a speech-aka-essay-read-aloud with a dose of death by Powerpoint to boot?)
  2. The categorisation of English Studies as an ATAR eligible course (what will the impact be on Standard enrolments?)
  3. The increased ability to forgo completed any study of digital or multimodal texts in Advanced English (congratulations NSW, you just got a ‘Literature’ syllabus in disguise!)

Stay tuned for more analysis in weeks to come.

(Author image created using Trove map resource, Bard portrait, and news quote.)

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

PBL presentation at AATE conference

Last week I presented material on using PBL in English at the AATE national conference.

Some English teachers up here in Brisbane gave me permission to show their work there, and I also shared some key links that helped me when I was beginning my PBL journey:

The big points about PBL that I highlighted by the end of the talk were:

  • PBL involves a process of deep learning over time.
  • PBL must involve an authentic audience beyond the teacher.
  • PBL still involves small bites of teacher-delivered material, timed to support learning and project progress.
  • PBL involves students in tackling real world concerns. Relevance is key!

Finally, I offered a range of my own ideas for PBL units for English. This frustrated non-teaching teacher would be very pleased to see others use/adapt/critique these project concepts…please report back if you do!

Digital storytelling PBL concept - by Kelli

Digital storytelling PBL concept – by Kelli (CC BY-NC-SA)

 

Student research PBL concept - by Kelli

Student research PBL concept – by Kelli (CC BY-ND-SA)

 

Poetry PBL concept - by Kelli

Poetry PBL concept – by Kelli (CC BY-NC-SA)

 

Shakespeare PBL concept - by Kelli

Shakespeare PBL concept – by Kelli (CC BY-NC-SA)

, ,

Leave a comment

Teaching English using textual concepts

I know I just finished saying that my blog would mostly be used for PBL reflection in the near future.

But there is a new resource available for English teachers and English curriculum boffins that I must share immediately.

The English Teachers Association NSW, in partnership with the NSW Department of Education, have created a resource for programming in K-10 English.

It is organised in ‘stages’ (rather than in year levels), but once you get your head around stage 5 = year 9 & 10, stage 4 = year 7 & 8, and backward in pairs from there, you will get the picture.

English Textual Concepts - 'The Textual Concepts and Processes resource'

English Textual Concepts – ‘The Textual Concepts and Processes resource’

The creators of this resource analysed the NSW English syllabus (which in theory maps on to the Australian Curriculum) to identify core concepts and processes implied by the curriculum documents.

The 15 ‘textual concepts‘ are:

  1. argument
  2. authority
  3. character
  4. code and convention
  5. context
  6. genre
  7. connotation, imagery and symbol
  8. intertextuality
  9. literary value
  10. narrative
  11. perspective
  12. point of view
  13. representation
  14. style
  15. theme

And the six ‘learning processes‘ are:

  1. understanding
  2. engaging personally
  3. connecting
  4. engaging critically
  5. experimenting
  6. reflecting
First six concepts, with learning processes represented across.

First six concepts, with learning processes represented across.

There are questions that jump to mind for me when looking at this resource, including:

  • how are the ‘learning processes’ intended to interact/overlap with the ‘general capabilities‘ in the Australian Curriculum?
  • where do ‘language mode’ and ‘medium of production’ fit into these concepts? Is it in ‘code and convention’, or…?

Overall I am excited by this contribution to English curriculum understandings. The conversations it will make possible between primary and secondary English are especially promising!

I highly recommend a look.

How might this approach to English subject content (knowledge and skills) interface with the curriculum (Australian Curriculum or otherwise) being used in your area? It’s been designed for NSW obviously, but could it have application beyond there?

, , ,

7 Comments

Inspiring PBL unit outlines from #CLP409 students!

This semester I modified my unit planning assessment for CLP409 (Secondary English Curriculum Studies 2) based on the outline developed by Bianca Hewes. You can see the 40 fantastic project outlines by her fabulous #EDMT5500 students on her blog.

Bianca developed her ‘Inquire, Create, Share’ model for project-based learning (PBL) units after finding that planning PBL units needed to involve more visible teaching and explicit structure to ensure students learned required knowledge and collaboration skills.

As I see it, this approach is a variation of existing models that suggest units of work be designed around phases of ‘Orientate, Enhance, Synthesise’. These particular verbs are popular in Queensland Schools, and can be found as one of two recommended unit planning frameworks on the QSA website.

The two things that I love about the unit framework that Bianca has developed are:

  1. It provides a structure for PBL units that takes on the narrative flow I find so natural in teaching – there is a clear beginning, middle and end in these units.
  2. The shift in verbs used to drive learning activity is important; activities to ‘Orientate, Enhance and Synthesise’ could still be very teacher-centered but ‘Inquire, Create, Share’ and similar verbs deliver an imperative to engage student-centered learning and project sharing.

Following Bianca’s lead I am posting my Assignment Task Sheet here for all to see, and below you will find some of my students’ finished products, reproduced with their permission.

CLP409 2013 Assignment 1 Task Sheet

Task sheet for CLP409 Assignment 1

Please notice that I used the same Driving Question as Bianca, ‘How can I create a project for English that will help my students own their learning?’, and that I retained some of the structure of her original project as well. Some things I did a bit differently were: adding an essay writing component where students justified their choices using scholarly and professional literature; requiring students to refer to Australian Curriculum elements rather than ISTE NETS and professional standards; providing models of other assignments.

Of course, I could only provide my class with models of assignments because Bianca’s students had been willing to publicly share their work in the first place. So a big THANK YOU to those fabulous (and generous) #EDMT5500 students, and to the University of Sydney, for making their work available to the world 🙂

Sam Mason:

Sam Mason CLP409 Unit Plan 1

Chloe McIntosh:

Chloe McIntosh CLP409 Poster1

Ben Niland-Rowe:

Ben Niland-Rowe CLP409 poster

Emma McVittie:

Emma McVittie CLP409 A1_poster

Toni Petersen:

Toni Petersen CLP409

Miranda Clignett:

Miranda Clignett Final poster image

 

Sarah Smith:

Sarah Smith Macbeth unit poster 2013

, , ,

3 Comments

Spoken Word Poem: Mathematics

I love this spoken word poem by Hollie McNish!

Uploaded in February this year, a colleague shared it with me today. It has been viewed over 665,000 times.

As well as being a stand out piece of speech, this poem would be useful for English teachers looking for texts to explore issues of immigration and racism (arguably with links to ‘numeracy’ capabilities as well!)

Press Play. Sit Back. Enjoy:

, , ,

Leave a comment

Twitter #hashtags for English teachers to follow

Are you a teacher? An English teacher, perhaps? Trying to find where the good chats are on Twitter? Look no further! Start by searching for these three English-curriculum-related hashtags and you’ll be on your way to finding and conversing with other teachers just like you!

#ozengchat (weekly)

If you search for this hashtag on Tuesday nights, you’ll find Australian English teachers talking about their craft, ideas and resources.

The #ozengchat group also has a page on Edmodo, which is where voting for the weekly topic takes place (a group code for Edmodo can be obtained by tweeting @vivimat78). Vivian, who convenes the chat, also collects our chat tweets in a weekly online storyline using ‘Storify’.

#ozengchat officially takes place on Tuesday from 8.30pm – 9.30pm, Australian EDST (i.e. GMT +11)

australia-map-flag-olga - Flickr image by lednichenkoolga (CC-BY-2.0)

australia-map-flag-olga – Flickr image by lednichenkoolga (CC-BY-2.0)

#engchat (weekly)

As well as a special hashtag for Australian folk, there is also a more general #engchat hashtag that is coordinated for a more global chat.

Currently the #engchat tag seems to be heavily used by teachers in the US – as a result you can see some interesting discussion taking place there now about the implementation of ‘Common Core Standards’ across their states. And of course also a lot of resources being shared that we otherwise might not stumble across through our own local networks!

#engchat takes place at 7pm in the States (EST) every Monday, which is 10am – 12pm on Tuesdays in Australia (Eastern time).

The Globe (78 / 365) - Flickr image by somegeekintn (CC-BY-2.0)

The Globe (78 / 365) – Flickr image by somegeekintn (CC-BY-2.0)

#literacies (bi-monthly)

You can follow the #literacies hashtag on the 1st and 3rd Thursday every month. The convenors are based in the US, so the chat happens on Thursday night for them, which is Friday lunch-time in Australia.

This chat is supported by a very up-to-date and informative blog, where a record is kept of the chats and upcoming topics.

The #literacies tag can be added to your tweets at any time, but Friday 12pm – 1pm (Eastern time) is when you’ll see it live in Australia (i.e. Thursday night 8-9pm in the US).

Literacy mountain - Flickr image by dougbelshaw (CC-BY-2.0)

Literacy mountain – Flickr image by dougbelshaw (CC-BY-2.0)

A tip for non-tweeters:

If you want to check out these tags, but don’t really want to get involved in Twitter or create your own account, never fear!

You can search for these tags any time by going to the Twitter homepage and typing the hashtag (complete with its ‘#’ at the start) into the search bubble. You will need to make your own account to reply with your own tweets, but until then there’s no harm in lurking and learning from afar 😉

, , , , , ,

1 Comment