Gonski 2.0: teaching creativity and critical thinking through the curriculum is already happening


Bill Louden, University of Western Australia

David Gonski’s report on Australia’s schooling system identifies three key weaknesses and proposes a set of pathways towards improvement.

These weaknesses include decline in student achievement over time, age-based rather than developmental approaches to differentiation in learning goals, and failure to prepare students for a complex and rapidly changing world.

On the third of these issues, the report argues more attention to general capabilities such as problem-solving, social skills and critical thinking is essential in preparing students for an uncertain future.

A zero-sum game?

Early critiques of the report have asserted critical thinking has taken over from knowledge in the latest Gonski review. And also that an increased focus on general capabilities means a decreased focus on knowledge and skills in school subjects such as history and science.

This approach treats the school curriculum as a zero-sum game. More of one thing must mean less of another. What the report actually recommends is a positive-sum. A more structured approach to general capabilities within the established learning areas would better prepare students to succeed in a changing world:

Recommendation 7

Strengthen the development of the general capabilities, and raise their status within curriculum delivery, by using learning progressions to support clear and structured approaches to their teaching, assessment, reporting and integration with learning areas.

The detail of the report argues general capabilities “cannot be taught in isolation”. It argues there should be a structured and consistent approach to teaching, assessing and reporting on the general capabilities. Without this, teachers cannot be expected to integrate them into subject-based learning.

Gonski 2.0 argues the development of general capabilities should underpin subject-based learning.
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Teaching how to think is just as important as teaching anything else


The curriculum wars

The role of general capabilities in a subject-based curriculum has been a recurring theme in Australian curriculum history.

The 1990 Finn Report identified six key areas of competence essential for all young people in preparation for employment:

  • language and communication

  • maths

  • scientific and technological understanding

  • cultural understanding

  • problem solving

  • personal and interpersonal characteristics.

The 1992 Mayer Report identified seven similar key competencies and proposed a set of nationally consistent principles for assessing and reporting on them.

This theme was taken up in the 1999 Adelaide Declaration of National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century, which identified eight general competencies in addition to the knowledge and skills in key learning areas such as literacy and numeracy.

It was reiterated in the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. It characterised successful learners as creative users of technology, logical thinkers, creative and resourceful problem-solvers, and able to collaborate, work in teams and communicate ideas.

The 2010 Australian Curriculum organised the school curriculum across three related dimensions:

  1. learning areas

  2. cross-curriculum priorities

  3. general capabilities.

The general capabilities were expected to be addressed through the learning areas. The detailed syllabus materials identify opportunities for each of the general capabilities in context. For example, in year eight curriculum content descriptions, critical and creative thinking are a part of the requirements for Historical Knowledge and Understanding:

Renaissance Italy (c.1400 – c.1600)

The way of life in Renaissance Italy (social, cultural, economic and political features) and the roles and relationships of different groups in society

Critical and Creative Thinking

  • Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
  • Organise and process information
  • Identify and clarify information and ideas

The Review of the Australian Curriculum in 2014 acknowledged widespread support for the inclusion of general capabilities, but took issue with their ability to be developed outside the context of specific subject areas. The review recommended literacy, numeracy and ICT competencies be maintained in the curriculum. The other four general capabilities were to be taught only where they are relevant in academic subjects.

The Australian government’s response to the review did not take up this recommendation. The general capabilities remain within the revised Australian curriculum.

Preparing students for a complex and rapidly changing world is an important feature of the Gonski 2.0 report.
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Read more:
Gonski review reveals another grand plan to overhaul education: but do we really need it?


What’s different about the Gonski 2.0 proposal?

The place of general capabilities in the school curriculum is one of the never-ending stories of Australian education. The old curriculum warriors such as Kevin Donnelly continue to protest that capabilities are subject specific, not general, but there is widespread agreement about their importance.

What’s different about the Gonski 2.0 proposal is the recommendation that fine-grained learning progressions be developed for the general capabilities. Students will now be expected to demonstrate progress from year to year.




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It proposes, to begin with, two general capabilities – critical and creative thinking, and personal and social capability. In each case, progressions are expected to underpin subject-based teaching and learning and provide for feedback, measurement and reporting.

The ConversationDeveloping the new progressions is not without risk. Existing progressions in literacy and numeracy build on a century of research on reading and mathematics learning. The new progressions in creativity and social skills will need to be underpinned by new scientific work. Without that detailed work, we can expect another 30 years of reviews and critiques on the role of general capabilities in schooling.

Bill Louden, Emeritus professor, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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EGYPT: JUDGE EJECTS LAWYER FOR CHRISTIAN FROM COURT


Dispute over evidence stalls bid by convert from Islam to change official ID.

ISTANBUL, January 13 (Compass Direct News) – An attempt by an Egyptian convert from Islam to legally change the religion listed on his identification card to “Christian” hit a setback on Jan. 6 when a judge ordered security personnel to remove his lawyer from court.

Attorney Nabil Ghobreyal was expelled from the courtroom at Cairo’s Administrative Court following a heated argument with Judge Mohammad Ahmad Atyia.

The dispute arose after Atyia refused to acknowledge the existence of legal documents detailing the successful attempt of a Muslim man to convert to the Baha’i faith. Ghobreyal had planned to submit the court records of the decision in support of his case.

The convert from Islam who is trying to legally convert to Christianity, Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary, first submitted his request to alter the religious status stated on his ID in August 2008. He follows Muhammad Hegazy as only the second Egyptian Christian convert raised as a Muslim to request such a change.

El-Gohary received Christ in his early 20s. Now 56, he decided to legally change his religious affiliation out of concern over the effects that his “unofficial Christianity” has on his family. He said he was particularly concerned about his daughter, Dina Maher Ahmad Mo’otahssem, 14; though raised as a Christian, when she reaches age 16 she will be issued an identification card stating her religion as Muslim unless her father’s appeal is successful.

At school, she has been refused the right to attend Christian religious classes offered to Egypt’s Christian minorities and has been forced to attend Muslim classes. Religion is a mandatory part of the Egyptian curriculum.

El-Gohary also has charged that his nephew was denied a position in state security agencies because of his uncle’s religious “double life.”

“Why should my family pay for my choices?” said El-Gohary in a report by The Free Copts.

No date has been set for resumption of court proceedings, which, due to the dispute, will reconvene under a different judge.

Ghobreyal said he plans to submit a complaint to the High Administrative Court requesting an investigation of Atyia and the expulsion from court. “I am willing to continue the fight,” Ghobreyal told Compass through a translator, saying he remains hopeful of a positive outcome.

Despite a constitution that grants religious freedom, legal conversion from Islam to another faith remains unprecedented. Hegazy, who filed his case on Aug. 2, 2007, was denied the right to officially convert in a Jan. 29 court ruling that declared it was against Islamic law for a Muslim to leave Islam.

The judge based his decision on Article II of the Egyptian constitution, which enshrines Islamic law, or sharia, as the source of Egyptian law. The judge said that, according to sharia, Islam is the final and most complete religion and therefore Muslims already practice full freedom of religion and cannot return to an older belief (Christianity or Judaism).

The seminal nature of the El-Gohary and Hegazy cases is part of what makes them so controversial, according to Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

“First, there is no experience – this is a very new question, it has made judges and lawyers confused,” he said. “The second thing is that many judges are very religious, for many of them it is based on their religion, their thoughts; the law itself allows for people to convert, so that’s what we’re trying to do, have a decision based on law not on sharia.”

Eid attributed much of the reluctance to grant conversion to this religious bias.

“If the Minister of the Interior respected the law, we would not need to go to court,” he said. “The law says clearly that people can change their address, their career, their religion, they only have to sign an application and then they can have a new ID; the law allows people to convert from any religion to another.”

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat amended the constitution in 1980 to make sharia the main source of legislation in order to bolster support from Islamists against his secular and leftist rivals. Legal experts say there are two views of how sharia is to influence Egyptian law: That it is to be enforced directly in all government spheres, or that it is only to influence shaping of law by legislators and is not to be literally enforced by courts or other bodies.  

Report from Compass Direct News