AARE blog

The AI future for lesson plans is already here


Another of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conference
If you want to cover a session at the conference or want to respond to something you’ve heard, please email jenna@aare.edu.au to check in. Thanks!

George Siemens gave the 2022 AARE conference keynote speech yesterday morning and the takeaway was this: artificial intelligence (AI) is already changing education in Australia whether we’re ready for it or not. He went on to suggest that unless we’re mindful we, as researchers and teacher educators, may not have a seat at the table in deciding what the future of education will look like. This blog post is about the future of AI-generated lesson plans and how we might think about this development today and into the future. Think of it as a concrete case study of exactly what George was talking about this morning where the conclusions might apply to other areas of education

What do today’s AI-generated lesson plans look like?

AI-generated lesson plans are already better than many people realise. Here’s an example generated through the GPT-3 deep learning language model:

Prompt: A lesson plan for English for teaching 16 year old students about the idea of “juxtaposition” within Romeo and Juliet.

Output from GPT-3 (verbatim, with formatting provided by the algorithm):

Background

Juxtaposition is the act of placing two things side by side, often for contrast. In literature, authors often use juxtaposition to create a certain mood or atmosphere, or to emphasize certain qualities of a character or situation.

 In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses juxtaposition extensively to contrast the two lovers and their families, the Montagues and the Capulets. He also uses juxtaposition to contrast the tragic events of the play with the light-hearted moments.

 Objectives

 By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

 – Understand the concept of juxtaposition

– Identify examples of juxtaposition in Romeo and Juliet

– Explain how juxtaposition is used to create mood and atmosphere in the play

 Materials

 – A copy of Romeo and Juliet

– A whiteboard and markers

– A teacher-created handout with examples of juxtaposition from the play (optional)

 Procedure

 1. Introduce the concept of juxtaposition to the class. Explain that authors often use this literary device to create contrast and emphasize certain qualities.

 2. Ask the students to think of an example of two things that are often juxtaposed. Write some of their responses on the board.

 3. Tell the students that they are going to be looking for examples of juxtaposition in Romeo and Juliet. Explain that they should pay attention to how the contrast created by the juxtaposition contributes to the mood and atmosphere of the play.

 4. Give the students time to read through the play, or assigned sections of the play if time is limited. As they are reading, they should be looking for examples of juxtaposition.

 5. Once the students have finished reading, ask them to share the examples of juxtaposition that they found. Write these examples on the board.

 6. Finally, ask the students to explain how the juxtaposition affected the mood and atmosphere of the play. What did it emphasize about the characters or the situation?

 Extension Activity

 Have the students find additional examples of juxtaposition in other works of literature, or in everyday life. They can share their examples with the class and explain how the contrast created by the juxtaposition contributes to the overall effect.

Imagine that you’d set a task for a class of second year Bachelor of Education students to create a lesson plan with that same prompt. How do you think the AI response would compare to some of your students?

Anybody can generate their own lesson plans for a year level, subject area, and topic that interests them with a similar prompt: https://beta.openai.com/playground

Some concerns

It is trivially easy to generate useful lesson plans using this technique. One obvious upshot is that setting assessment tasks for any students in initial teacher education that involve them creating lesson plans isn’t a great idea any more—it’s too simple for them to generate one. Yet there are new opportunities that arise:

  • Why not get students to generate a few lesson plans, look at the patterns, and write something about the essential structure of this thing that we call a ‘lesson plan’?
  • Why not get them to take a generated lesson plan and improve it, annotating the reasons why their changes have made it better?

Another legitimate concern that arises is that inservice teachers might start to use the next generation of AI-generated lesson plans (which will undoubtedly be an order of magnitude more powerful) without critique—or worse, that some jurisdictions might actually request that teachers use such an approach in future.

A word that we need to look to is “design”

The issues raised by AI regarding lesson plans and in many places in education too can be addressed by consideration of design. When design in education is done well (whether that’s learning by design, design thinking, co-design, or within the subject area named “design”) it always places an emphasis on two things:

  1. Authentic problems: such that the learner must always construct an interpretation of the problem before they can address it
  2. Process and rationale such that the output that the student produces is impressive only if their process and rationale support what they’ve done.

When assessments follow these two ingredients then educators can give students free rein to use whatever tools they have at their disposal. The adoption of AI stops being a concern. When students are being assessed through their process rather than their output, students can use whatever tools are available. The challenge is integrating use of such tools into solving problems through collaboration, critical thinking, cultural understanding, and creativity.

Design as a response to “what should be taught”

George Siemens concluded his presentation by suggesting a list (controversially) of what should be taught in the context of an AI future. A summary/interpretation of his key points of what we should be teaching is:

  • Beingness: what it means to be human in the world, the interconnectedness of all things
  • Systems thinking: how systems change and what complexity is about
  • Technology and how to use it: machine learning and data literacy, computational thinking, collaborating with non-human intelligences

Increasingly, design has become a part of education: design for learning, learning by design, thinking, and so on. The epistemic fluency to design using computational tools in a way that enriches material life and human culture is at the root of all three of these areas. 

For any subject area, teaching using a design approach shifts the focus from knowing content to knowing process. It becomes less about how to get from A to B in a straight line and more about knowing how to frame problems, use tools, and communicate outcomes. More design in education provides one way of responding to this increase presence of AI in education, whether we’re ready for it or not.

It might even provide a response to George’s provocation about McKinsey, Deloitte, or Microsoft trying to get in on a slice of the education sector. Education conceived as design—process rather than output—prioritises the humans involved in the enterprise and makes it harder to sideline educators.

Dr Nick Kelly is a Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design at the Queensland University of Technology, in the School of Design. He is a genuinely cross-disciplinary researcher spanning the fields of Design and Education. He conducts research into design cognition (how designers think), metacognition in learning (how teachers and learners develop their metacognitive abilities), and places where these two things come together (design pedagogy, design for learning, learning by design, design of learning technologies). His specialisation is in the design, facilitation, and analysis of online communities.

Dr Kelli McGraw is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education Social Justice at QUT. Currently teaching units in Secondary English curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, her prior experience includes teaching high school English and debating in Southwest Sydney, NSW. Kelli researches the fields of English curriculum studies, secondary school assessment, teacher identity, digital literacy, popular culture and new media texts.

The last blog for the night – reading, shadow education in China, time poverty among teachers, philanthropy in schools

One of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conferenceIf you want to cover a session at the conference, please email jenna@aare.edu.au to check in. Thanks!

This blog was put together by Naomi Barnes of QUT, Rafaan Daliri-Ngametua of ACU and Kathleen Smithers of Charles Sturt University.

Naomi Barnes writes:

The University of Aukland represented well in the Policy and Politics SIG on Day 1 of the AARE conference with one paper on reading for pleasure in the NZ curriculum and shadow education regulation in China.

Ruth Boysak (pictured, left) challenged the individualistic approach to reading education that has come from the UK to dominate NZ education. Reading for pleasure has recently been inserted into the NZ curriculum but there is very little research on the activity in a social context. The idea of enjoying a book alone is deeply embedded in reading education and dominates how the practice is thought about in school, reseach and policy contexts. However, reading is an intensely social practice and there is virtually no research into social reading in NZ. Boysak explained that some NZ children preference their family and community activities over reading because reading is framed as an individual activity. We need to engage in more research about the sociality of reading if reading for pleasure is a new staple in the curriculum.

Carlos Liuning (pictured right) reported on a student-led project investigating the regulation of shadow education in China. In China shadow education is supplementary to the schooling the Chinese government provides – approximately 10 million tutors support this industry. Before 2018, shadow education was largely unregulated in China. In recent years the Chinese government has made it impossible for these private tutoring companies to operate leading to the mass unemployment of these workers. Liuning and colleagues are conducting their research to show the Chinese government that tutors are teachers and that there is still room in the regulated system for both private tutors and government teachers.

Two fascinating papers.

Rafaan Daliri-Ngametua writes on the Time Poverty Problem  

This morning I had the pleasure of attending the Teachers and Time Poverty presentation, in the Teachers’ Work and Lives SIG. A/Prof Nicole Mockler, Dr Anna Hogan, Dr Meghan Stacey, Dr Sue Creagh and Professor Greg Thompson (in absentia) introduced the Time Poverty Problem – it was a thrilling introduction to their ARC linkage project! Tackling the current, confronting and significant concerns around the intensification of teachers’ work, they presented a synthesis of existing, empirical research. More specifically, they explored how the concepts of workload and work intensification are being operationalised and how they may explain teachers and school leaders’ experiences of being time poor. Interestingly, they identified that ‘decision making’ practices and processes may be where the intensity of the work in schools manifests. Such ‘heavy hours’ (Beck, 2017) are in fact on an upward trend, with alarming negative impacts on job satisfaction and ultimately on the student experience. While the pressure to perform within the complex and multifaceted conditions of teachers’ work is not a new area of research, the work presented in this session introduced a seminal approach to tracking the granular details of how and where teachers are spending their time. While the project is hoping to capture the ebb and flow of the daily work of teachers, Anna rightfully pointed out that in fact there may be no ebb or flow but rather the intensity of the work of those in schools is seemingly sustained and unrelenting.  

The irony of this project was not lost on the presenters as they candidly discussed the complexity of researching and conceptualising time poverty and time poor teachers by necessarily taking up teachers’ time. However, to address this complexity they have developed a Time Tracker App – a methodological stroke of genius that allows for teachers to efficiently input their activities through various snap shots throughout their day. The data points from the initial pilot have produced fascinating outcomes and quandaries with vast implications on how we understand time in the teaching workforce. This presentation was moving and thought provoking. The captivated audience was enthralled by the teams’ academic rigour and scholarship, the innovative research approach as well as the timely and critical nature of the research problem and the ongoing implications. The second pilot of the research is currently underway! We will wait with great anticipation for more updates and outcomes from this formidable team and from what will be one of the pivotal projects of our time.  

Kathleen Smithers on philanthropy in Australian public schooling Symposium

Categories of philanthropy in Australian Public schooling from Anna Hogan and Alexandra Williamson

In this paper Hogan and Williamson map six categories of school funding to problematise the common argument that philanthropic funding in Australia is characterised by the “hyper agency of billionaires”. Indeed, they argue that it is both “easy and obvious to critique philanthropic funding”, but these philanthropic categories exist due to decreasing levels of school funding. They used desk research to identify the multiple forms of philanthropic funding, mapping these against the reforms set out by recommendation 41 of the gonski review. This paper sets the scene for the papers that follow, by identifying the landscape of Australian philanthropic funding. There are six categories identified: foundations, charities, intermediaries, not-for-profits, churches and Parent and Citizen associations. Hogan draws attention to the types of philanthropic funding that we may take for granted, such as Healthy Harold, and asks why we might question church funding of schools, but not other organisations.

Philanthropy, marketing disadvantage and the enterprising public school from Jess Gerrard, Elisa Di Gregorio and Anna Hogan

Following on from the previous papers mapping of philanthropy, they begun by identifying that Schools Plus is just one element of philanthropic funding in Australia. They argue that there are discourses which shape Australian schooling as “in crisis” and that this fuels the argument for philanthropic funding, which further fuels the idea of a “crisis” of funding in Australian schooling. Using interviews with people who work at Schools Plus and desktop review data, they unpack the conditions of possibility for philanthropic funding and the positioning of schools as entrepreneurs of their own futures. Interestingly, the administration of funding is mediated through a gate keeping process whereby schools must show some measures of ‘impact’ that can be provided to donors as evidence of their ‘legacy’.

The discussion that followed these papers explored the ways that Schools Plus administer funding and raised questions over who chooses funding? Who gets funded? And there were discussions about the missing links of fundings and the ways that schools are becoming entrepreneurs of gathering funding, with particular reference to P&Cs.

From global to local – how the world shapes learning

Here is another of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conferenceIf you want to cover a session at the conference, please email jenna@aare.edu.au to check in. Thanks!

This blog, covering two sessions, was put together by Jess Harris at the University of Newcastle at the Teachers and Teaching Priority Research Centre

Kitty Janssen (top left), Russell Cross and Thi Kim Anh Dang (top right photo), Matthew Harper (middle left), Jacquie Briskham (bottom photo)

Jacquie Briskham: Prioritising Casual Relief Teachers through the provision of quality professional learning to Advance Teaching Capacity and Wellbeing

Casual teachers are in high demand. Despite the complexity of casual teaching, casual teachers have limited access to professional development, support and mentoring. Furthermore, casualisation can impact teachers’ career progressions, when they are competing for jobs with other teachers, who have been provided support, mentoring and ongoing professional development.

Jacquie reported that casual teachers are often left with superficial or simplified lessons that they have to redesign in order to help give engaging lessons.

This project engaged 32 casual teachers in Quality Teaching Rounds, with the support of the NSW Department of Education. Importantly, casuals were paid for their time, while they participated in four days of Rounds. After 6 days of professional development, there was a clear impact on the quality of teaching, the confidence of casual teachers and their morale. One of the highlights within the findings was that the provision of collaborative professional development supported casual teachers to feel a sense of belonging. They were able to develop a support network of colleagues with similar experiences. The network has endured beyond the project, with casual teachers supporting each other in schools and discussing their teaching practice. The principals noticed that QTR prompted casual teachers to engage in discussions about their teaching, a professional discourse that ‘wasn’t there previously’. Engagement in the PD has resulted in increased employment for many of the participants.

There is a call for more effective PD policy for all teachers, not just those who were in permanent positions. Responding to a question, Jacquie indicated that the development of networks for casual teachers was critical to supporting them to build a sense of belonging in the school and in the profession. There was some discussion about how you might take the program of PD for casual teachers to scale. There are issues with remuneration and across educational jurisdictions.

A question was raised about how to support casual teachers in high school settings, particularly when they were teaching out of field. Jacquie reported that the teaching standards were not as easily applied as a pedagogical model, like the Quality Teaching model, for improving every lesson. 

Dr Thi Kim Anh Dang and Assoc. Prof. Russell Cross: Globalizing Teacher Education through English as a Medium of Instruction: Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory Perspective.

Drawing on their latest publication, they look at context and teaching and teacher education research, particularly how globalised teacher education has been supported through the use of English as the language of instruction.

Globalisation has led to educational contexts that are no longer bounded in space. Rather they are shaped by global, national and local features of teaching and teacher education. The impact of COVID is used as an example of how global elements have reshaped teacher learning and practice across the globe. 

Dr Dang and Associate Prof Cross argue that there are still very limited theoretical tools for systematically analysing the role of context on teacher learning and practice. They draw on Vygotsky’s theory of genetic development across histories and times. This theory is empirical, empirically bound and theoretically rich.

There is a need for the articulation of globalised space in education. Global artefacts, including online social spaces, privilege the virtual and extend global imaginaries, which can transform our understanding of schooling, teaching, and teacher development. 

They demonstrate the utility of their theoretical framework through an examination of English Language instruction in Vietnam and how practices are shaped at these global, national and local levels.

Student perception of learning and wellbeing within and beyond the classroom

Saurabh Malviya: Continuity of Learning in the child’s everyday in outside school hours care

What does the community think of after school care educators? And how do children think about learning in and out of school. In Australia, the number of children attending Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) has doubled since 2005. While there is a national quality framework for OSHC, there is widespread variation in the level of educational practice embedded in programs. 

This study examines children’s perceptions of how OSHC as a place for developing their identity and extending their learning through play-based learning. This phenomenological study looks at one OSHC program with children ranging in ages from 5 – 12. The themes emerging from the research demonstrate that OSHC and the relationships with educators support children’s social and emotional learning and understandings of their agency.

In the question and answer session, there was a discussion about the potential unintended consequences of examining the educational outcomes of OSHC programs. Do we want that part of a child’s day to be seen as an extension of schooling? Or is it beneficial to the professionalisation of OSHC to understand the types of learning that they support.

Matthew Harper: The subject (still) matters: Uncovering student experience in a case study of high school mathematics and drama

Maths and drama are positioned at different ends of the curriculum spectrum, with maths being considered a serious pursuit while drama is seen as a school subject where students go to play and explore. Matthew Harper takes an in-depth look at these two school subjects, particularly how students perceive maths and drama and characterise their learning in these subjects. Drawing data from four classes (two maths and two drama) in one school, the study involves 51 lesson observations, two interviews with each teacher, student focus groups and visual illustrations of the subject areas.

In focus groups, students were asked to draw an illustration and asked to describe their experiences in either maths or drama lessons. These illustrations and interviews were analysed, using a Bernsteinian lens, to demonstrate the different forms of framing between the subjects. 

Students often drew and described their engagement in maths as passive and teacher driven, whereas drama is a place where students can test things out, try, fail and ‘escape’ the traditional classroom. These drawings and interviews showed powerful understandings of their experience with the content and experiences of learning in different classrooms and subject areas.

The discussion after the study was focused on some of the study’s limitations, in examining only one teacher in each school. The students’ drawings and interviews, however, reflected a specific understanding of how they believe a subject should be taught. The teachers’ individual approaches could be partly responsible for these ideas, it could be that the subject matters.

Dr Kitty Janssen: Improving adolescent sleep: The appropriateness of six potential strategies for secondary schools

Media reports suggest that Australian adolescents are sleep deprived, with reports of 7-10 teenagers not getting enough sleep. Despite a lack of evidence, school leaders from two Australian schools reported a need to build more education and support for students to understand their sleep needs. The approach to health and wellbeing in schools is complex, balancing individual student needs and supporting wellbeing. As a result, teachers need to focus on educating students about the importance of lifestyle changes, including improving sleep.

This study used a strengths-based approach to look at the various factors within students’ lives that helped to improve their sleep. Dr Janssen’s findings show that better understandings of sleep hygiene and parents’ involvement can support improvements in adolescents’ sleeping patterns. She developed the concept of adolescent busyness, which included students’ academic work, social media use, out of hours activities, and peer and family relationships to understand some of the factors that could be inhibiting sleep. Her findings challenged media reports, showing that the majority of adolescents in her study are getting the recommended amount of sleep.

Importantly for parents, this study found that parents’ oversight of social media and devices can create stress that actually inhibits adolescents’ sleep. The factors of adolescent busyness are slightly increased for female students and issues of sleep appear to be worse for children as they move into their mid-teen years.

Siemens: the biggest challenges facing education now and ways to meet them

The AARE 2022 conference opens this year with a keynote from George Siemens. Here are some of his thoughts.

We have been hearing about fundamental change in education, often driven by technology, for several decades. Previous theorists, like Illich and Freire, similarly advocated for systemic education change, but their concerns were driven by economics, inclusion, and impact. When “education must change” is now advanced as a narrative, it’s often driven by a motivation to drive use of technology or the outsourcing of some core service of universities or schools. In response to the steady drum beat of calls for change, educators have become somewhat immune and even sceptical. Where is this new reality? Why has covid produced a longing for in-person learning, rather than a great drive for online learning? In our professional lives, the appeal of space and place interactions, while increasingly augmented with online engagement, remains strong.

In this talk, I present three dynamics to consider regarding our future education systems. First, I address the education landscape and the many additional stakeholders now prominently providing some core function. Secondly, I’ll address the conflicting space between data-centric research and complexity-science orientations. Thirdly, I’ll discuss the system of education itself. I believe we are facing a systemic challenge and when looking a decade into the future, it’s apparent that a fundamental change in role and responsibility will unfold for education. 

Before I begin, I want to set context for perhaps the most substantive challenge facing education. Trends can be seen as primary or secondary in terms of impact. Secondary impacts include state government mandates and even national level testing and assessment. A secondary trend may change parts of how teaching happens, the content taught, or how students are assessed. Often, the trend has a short timeline and is connected to the interests and motivations of the party in power. Primary trends, in contrast, are those that fundamentally and structurally change the systems of learning and education. In order to keep the system as it currently is, external pressure must be exerted to keep a primary trend from taking over. Unlike the rollout of national testing, which requires mandates to make things happen, a primary trend requires policy and intervention for it to NOT take over. 

We’ve seen numerous primary trends over the last decade, including the rise of social media and mobile technology. The primary trend confronting education, however, has a long history, dating back to the 1950’s, and is now beginning a rapid and alarming ascent to prominence in all areas of our lives: artificial intelligence. AI presents humanity with a unique challenge that we have not faced before: an agent with intelligence that rivals our own in a growing range of domains. 

Educationally, this presents a significant problem. In 2022, Generative AI has grown in influence and prominence. AI can now generate and create in domains that we have previously seen as exclusively our own: art, literature, and scientific discovery. DALL-E 2 and Stable Diffusion have created art that has won state art competitions. Moonbeam can create writing that has surprising coherence. LaMBDA can carry on conversations that are human-like. After being promised for decades that we would give up routine and mundane tasks to AI while retaining creative activities for ourselves, AI is emerging as an active competitor for our most human skills. Research and scientific discovery is now a pairing of human and artificial cognition. The entanglement that happens at the intersection of the two is spilling over into non-technical domains and sociologists, educators, and psychologists are evaluating how this interplay occurs and how it should be managed and supported.

Education, and all of society, moves forward with the looming AI trend in the background as the overarching development of the current era. The education landscape itself is undergoing significant commercialization and reliance on external stakeholders. Schools and universities are no longer primarily self-contained ecosystems. Instead, the fragmentation of function that defines globalisation has arrived. Online program managers support the development, marketing, and recruiting of students. International programs rely on a global recruitment network. Behind the scenes, consulting firms who had previously mainly addressed the needs of big business and large government now provide services to university and school leaders. Policy papers and guidance documents are produced by every major consulting firm in Australia and the prospect of big economic gains through innovation is a salivating prospect. Big technology is increasingly managing core university computing and security and privacy are now off loaded to these firms. Underpinning all of these transitions is the digital revolution and the data it produces as each student movement and interaction and engagement is logged and recorded. 

Digitization produces data and data produces analytics. For researchers, a conflict is unfolding reminiscent of the science wars of the 1990s. Data has won. All research – quantitative, qualitative, mixed – is digital in capture or analysis or publication. To this end, the quantitative side has resolutely and decisively ascended to the throne. The real space of debate now is on how to move data-centric research from focusing on isolated studies to instead begin assessing and evaluating holistic systems. The “science war” emerging is one where the expression of data is the primary concern. Systemic modelling and holistic assessment sits in conflict with NAPLAN and standardised testing. Research conducted is now increasingly focusing on digital spaces or at least spaces that have a digital component: AI predicting how protein folds,  sensors capturing remote environmental data,  psychologists evaluating the mental health of students in digital settings. A complexity science approach to research moves from granular and limited scope research that occurs in sanitised or limited context settings to including multi-faceted and nuanced contextual data.  

When systems change, inefficiencies are created. Organisations and individuals who evaluate and exploit those efficiencies reflect Gould’s punctuated equilibrium (or Kuhn’s paradigm shift): a sudden and significant phase change. This has been experienced in many sectors already, including the move from physical state music and movies to digital, the shift to on demand rather than broadcast media, and the move to networked media rather than centrally controlled. The accrual of inefficiencies – doing the things afforded by previous philosophies and technologies – is confronting education. How should we teach when AI is better at many cognitive tasks than we are? What should we teach when we can find and access the world’s information from our phone?

Looking a decade into the future, international organisations such as OECD see a world where technology is central to learning, where systems of education are dramatically different from what we see today, where AI is a co-learner, where focus on wellness and wellbeing are increasingly important. Educators have long been the end recipients of government initiatives, quasi-scientific pedagogical approaches, and somewhat short-sighted policy changes. The real work of education leadership is the work of systems change. Systems makers – those who create the structures that others work within – needs to be claimed by organisations such as AARE. The future of education is one that will only emerge to serve the broadest range of stakeholders when all participants have the ability to have a voice and to shape the conversation. Finding points of leverage in shaping learning systems through policy, research, funding, and planning landscape is the critical work of today for educational leaders.

Professor George Siemens is the professor and director of the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning UniSA Education Futures. He researches networks, analytics, and human and artificial cognition in education. He has delivered keynote addresses in more than 40 countries on the influence of technology and media on education, organisations, and society. He has served as PI or Co-PI on grants with funding from NSF, SSHRC (Canada), Intel, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, and the Soros Foundation. Professor Siemens is a founding President of the Society for Learning Analytics Research. In 2008, he pioneered massive open online courses (sometimes referred to as MOOCs).

Hello! This week you will see a number of . . . (And we have a slight glitch in our email so I’ve posted the excerpt from George Siemens keynote below)

Hi Subscribers to EduResearch Matters, the blog of the Australian Association for Research in Education.

This week, there will be a number of posts about sessions at the 2022 AARE conference, being held at the University of South Australia. They will be emailed to you irregularly across the days of the conference.

Looking forward to your feedback. Please share with friends who may not subscribe. You can find the subscription button here (the last option on the menu).

And if you are at the conference and want to contribute a blog, just email me jenna@aare.edu.au

Thanks,

Jenna

Siemens: the biggest challenges facing education now and ways to meet them

The AARE 2022 conference opens this year with a keynote from George Siemens. Here are some of his thoughts.

We have been hearing about fundamental change in education, often driven by technology, for several decades. Previous theorists, like Illich and Freire, similarly advocated for systemic education change, but their concerns were driven by economics, inclusion, and impact. When “education must change” is now advanced as a narrative, it’s often driven by a motivation to drive use of technology or the outsourcing of some core service of universities or schools. In response to the steady drum beat of calls for change, educators have become somewhat immune and even sceptical. Where is this new reality? Why has covid produced a longing for in-person learning, rather than a great drive for online learning? In our professional lives, the appeal of space and place interactions, while increasingly augmented with online engagement, remains strong.

In this talk, I present three dynamics to consider regarding our future education systems. First, I address the education landscape and the many additional stakeholders now prominently providing some core function. Secondly, I’ll address the conflicting space between data-centric research and complexity-science orientations. Thirdly, I’ll discuss the system of education itself. I believe we are facing a systemic challenge and when looking a decade into the future, it’s apparent that a fundamental change in role and responsibility will unfold for education. 

Before I begin, I want to set context for perhaps the most substantive challenge facing education. Trends can be seen as primary or secondary in terms of impact. Secondary impacts include state government mandates and even national level testing and assessment. A secondary trend may change parts of how teaching happens, the content taught, or how students are assessed. Often, the trend has a short timeline and is connected to the interests and motivations of the party in power. Primary trends, in contrast, are those that fundamentally and structurally change the systems of learning and education. In order to keep the system as it currently is, external pressure must be exerted to keep a primary trend from taking over. Unlike the rollout of national testing, which requires mandates to make things happen, a primary trend requires policy and intervention for it to NOT take over. 

We’ve seen numerous primary trends over the last decade, including the rise of social media and mobile technology. The primary trend confronting education, however, has a long history, dating back to the 1950’s, and is now beginning a rapid and alarming ascent to prominence in all areas of our lives: artificial intelligence. AI presents humanity with a unique challenge that we have not faced before: an agent with intelligence that rivals our own in a growing range of domains. 

Educationally, this presents a significant problem. In 2022, Generative AI has grown in influence and prominence. AI can now generate and create in domains that we have previously seen as exclusively our own: art, literature, and scientific discovery. DALL-E 2 and Stable Diffusion have created art that has won state art competitions. Moonbeam can create writing that has surprising coherence. LaMBDA can carry on conversations that are human-like. After being promised for decades that we would give up routine and mundane tasks to AI while retaining creative activities for ourselves, AI is emerging as an active competitor for our most human skills. Research and scientific discovery is now a pairing of human and artificial cognition. The entanglement that happens at the intersection of the two is spilling over into non-technical domains and sociologists, educators, and psychologists are evaluating how this interplay occurs and how it should be managed and supported.

Education, and all of society, moves forward with the looming AI trend in the background as the overarching development of the current era. The education landscape itself is undergoing significant commercialization and reliance on external stakeholders. Schools and universities are no longer primarily self-contained ecosystems. Instead, the fragmentation of function that defines globalisation has arrived. Online program managers support the development, marketing, and recruiting of students. International programs rely on a global recruitment network. Behind the scenes, consulting firms who had previously mainly addressed the needs of big business and large government now provide services to university and school leaders. Policy papers and guidance documents are produced by every major consulting firm in Australia and the prospect of big economic gains through innovation is a salivating prospect. Big technology is increasingly managing core university computing and security and privacy are now off loaded to these firms. Underpinning all of these transitions is the digital revolution and the data it produces as each student movement and interaction and engagement is logged and recorded. 

Digitization produces data and data produces analytics. For researchers, a conflict is unfolding reminiscent of the science wars of the 1990s. Data has won. All research – quantitative, qualitative, mixed – is digital in capture or analysis or publication. To this end, the quantitative side has resolutely and decisively ascended to the throne. The real space of debate now is on how to move data-centric research from focusing on isolated studies to instead begin assessing and evaluating holistic systems. The “science war” emerging is one where the expression of data is the primary concern. Systemic modelling and holistic assessment sits in conflict with NAPLAN and standardised testing. Research conducted is now increasingly focusing on digital spaces or at least spaces that have a digital component: AI predicting how protein folds,  sensors capturing remote environmental data,  psychologists evaluating the mental health of students in digital settings. A complexity science approach to research moves from granular and limited scope research that occurs in sanitised or limited context settings to including multi-faceted and nuanced contextual data.  

When systems change, inefficiencies are created. Organisations and individuals who evaluate and exploit those efficiencies reflect Gould’s punctuated equilibrium (or Kuhn’s paradigm shift): a sudden and significant phase change. This has been experienced in many sectors already, including the move from physical state music and movies to digital, the shift to on demand rather than broadcast media, and the move to networked media rather than centrally controlled. The accrual of inefficiencies – doing the things afforded by previous philosophies and technologies – is confronting education. How should we teach when AI is better at many cognitive tasks than we are? What should we teach when we can find and access the world’s information from our phone?

Looking a decade into the future, international organisations such as OECD see a world where technology is central to learning, where systems of education are dramatically different from what we see today, where AI is a co-learner, where focus on wellness and wellbeing are increasingly important. Educators have long been the end recipients of government initiatives, quasi-scientific pedagogical approaches, and somewhat short-sighted policy changes. The real work of education leadership is the work of systems change. Systems makers – those who create the structures that others work within – needs to be claimed by organisations such as AARE. The future of education is one that will only emerge to serve the broadest range of stakeholders when all participants have the ability to have a voice and to shape the conversation. Finding points of leverage in shaping learning systems through policy, research, funding, and planning landscape is the critical work of today for educational leaders.

Professor George Siemens is the professor and director of the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning UniSA Education Futures. He researches networks, analytics, and human and artificial cognition in education. He has delivered keynote addresses in more than 40 countries on the influence of technology and media on education, organisations, and society. He has served as PI or Co-PI on grants with funding from NSF, SSHRC (Canada), Intel, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, and the Soros Foundation. Professor Siemens is a founding President of the Society for Learning Analytics Research. In 2008, he pioneered massive open online courses (sometimes referred to as MOOCs).

Provoking the children: why that matters for remarkable early learning

Our research shows why play matters in supporting young children’s learning and development. We have so many resources and materials within early childhood education but it is the way in which these resources are shared with children which impacts their capacity to learn through play. 

Poorly resourced learning environments lack variety and stimulation, while excessively resourced spaces can be overwhelming and distracting, resulting in a lack of concentration skills. When presented using thoughtful and engaging approaches, early childhood resources can maximise children’s learning and development and help them achieve their full potential. One way of presenting purposeful and effective play opportunities is through the creation and delivery of a learning provocation.

Intellectual exploration through a variety of means is a key principle of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. 

This is where the idea of learning through engagement in a ‘provocation’ has blossomed. When considering the philosophies of Reggio Emilia, the learning environment becomes ‘the third educator’ and strongly contributes towards children’s play and engagement. Learning provocations form a foundational aspect of educating children through their environment.

Put simply, provocations provoke children’s interests, imagination and engagement. They motivate thinking and investigation. Resources are arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way, sparking children’s interest and inviting them to engage and explore. For example, soft fabrics form the base or backdrop, with resources arranged in bowls or baskets that children can easily view and access. Books that accompany the provocation theme add a layer of intrigue, mirrors or pictures in frames catch the children’s eye and encourage them to take a closer look. 

Different from a learning invitation, which often has a desired outcome, provocations are open-ended and are designed to stimulate children’s ideas, imagination and creative thinking. A crucial characteristic is that they have multiple entry and exit points, meaning that children can engage with the resources within a provocation several times and produce a range of outcomes.  For example, an invitation might ask children to sequence or order a set of pictures to retell the story of Goldilocks and the three bears – one correct answer and it’s the same each time. A provocation might involve a roleplay or small-world figures of Goldilocks and the bears where children could act out the story using accompanying props and the storybook to guide their sociodramatic play. 

The role of the educator is pivotal in providing appropriate and thoughtful provocations that meet children’s learning and developmental needs and connect to curriculum outcomes. Deliberate and considered decisions need to be made based on a sound understanding of the child, their interests, what is age and developmentally appropriate, and the types of experiences to offer that will continually encourage exploration. The best outcomes for children happen when educators provide experiences that meet children’s learning needs within their Zone of Proximal Development with knowledge that is built on careful observation of the child. 

The Zone of Proximal Development is defined as the space between what a child can do without assistance and what they can do with adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.

The understanding that a child-focused learning environment encourages the child to actively explore and learn about the world themselves, rather than the educator overtly guiding and leading the child’s learning, is also critical to effective provision. 

Provocations encourage children to form their own conclusions about the world around them, rather than being told by someone else. Once children are engaging with a provocation, educators need to consider their role in supporting learning. This might involve making decisions as to when to step in and out of children’s play, when to adjust or add to the provocation, when to engage in conversation, build vocabulary or demonstrate how particular resources might be used.

Creating a provocation allows educators to be creative as they consider how best to gather a range of learning tools in a way that will spark interest and inspire engagement. Sourcing materials does not need to be an expensive task. Natural and recycled elements can be just as engaging as purchased equipment and they possess soothing elements that help to promote a peaceful space. Promoting spaces where children feel emotionally and physically at ease helps to develop a sense of belonging which optimises learning. 

Good provocations will reflect an element of care that always accompanies early childhood education. Responding to a child’s interest through a provocation might include pictures, photographs, light and/or mirrors. Worksheets and colouring-in pictures offer limited, structured outcomes and form more of a teacher-led invitation than a provocation. Providing ways for children to communicate their thinking through drawing and other arts-based practices, enables them to make meaning of new-found knowledge and understanding in more agentic ways. Literature and picture books offer opportunities to expand children’s imagination, vocabulary and knowledge of print.

There are no specific limits to the size of a provocation. Some may involve a small collection of items in a basket that help to develop a schema that a baby has demonstrated an interest in, whilst others may be large provocations using loose parts in the outdoor yard or sandpit where children demonstrate an interest in construction. Careful positioning of resources and not over cluttering the space sends the message that resources are valuable and important. Whilst provocations are often limited to prior to school settings, there is no reason as to why they cannot work with school-aged children, adjusting resources to be age appropriate and providing opportunities for further engagement with curriculum content within the classroom.

In an effective play-based learning environment, provocations are one approach used within a suite of pedagogical practices where educators can see the extraordinary in the ordinary and help children to do the same. Effective provocations should be a reflection of the child, extend learning and development, continually encourage exploration, and position the child in a space where they can be guided to calmly work and learn through play.

Rachael Hedger is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Course Coordinator for the Early Childhood Initial Teacher Education degrees at Flinders University, South Australia. She is a PhD candidate at Deakin University. Her PhD explores how arts-based practices can support children’s science learning. Her research interests focus on how drawing can be used as a vehicle for exploring science concepts, focussing on process and exploration. She is a supporter of learning through play pedagogies and encouraging pre-service teachers to be advocates for young children’s learning.

COP this right now: why the next generation can’t make miracles on its own

Climate change education is becoming increasingly prominent both as a research focus and a teaching focus, with young people often being the target of climate change education initiatives. However, while efforts to build critical climate literacies with young people are important, care must be taken not to perpetuate the idea that today’s young people will miraculously solve a crisis brewing for centuries. 

Everyone has a role to play in thinking about and acting on climate change because no single group of people or technological advancement is going to save us.

The science is clear. The world is burning, quite literally. But as the world media turns its attention to COP27, icons like Greta Thunberg have argued that these conversations are ‘not working’. The future of the planet appears to be decided in ethically questionable and far-away places, often behind closed doors. Closer to home, we can feel excluded and unheard. If expectations are already low for COP27, it may be that the path to a sustainable future can only be found from the ground up. For each of us, this starts with reaching out, turning up, and getting involved. 

What might happen if those who are often left out of the debates and conversations such as artists, educators, social scientists and humanities researchers came together to talk, activate, play, create and discuss for 3 days post-COP. What might they achieve? Could their playful and artful responses lead to change? 

  • Conversations also need to be creative, artful, playful even, and include knowledges and ways of being and seeing the world that have so far been ignored.
  • even if the change is getting to grips with our anxieties over the future and helping us re-engage with this dire ecological moment.

To create space and flip the narrative on its head, we co-designed The Climate, Art, and Digital Activisms 4-day Festival of Ideas. The festival program will be held over 3 days (21-23 November) at studioFive (UNITWIN partner and UNESCO Observatory of the Arts Education) in Melbourne, with the fourth day (27 November) to be held at the University of South Australia (preceding the AARE 2022 Conference) in Adelaide. 

The festival program consists of 12 carefully curated acts which bring invited keynote speakers and practice-based facilitators into conversation with each other. Invited keynotes are purposefully paired and discussion will be facilitated by the convenors as a decolonising act. ECR and HDR are welcomed into the conversation via Pecha Kucha sessions.

We know that taking action is better than giving in to the polarising morass of misinformation and disinformation on social media.

Reports ahead of COP27 have made it clear that we are on the path to 1.5°C or worse. Pledges backed up specious action, or worse, contradictory actions, add up to political theatre, no more, no less. These faux struggles keep us hoping that our leaders will save us, or that the political class can be shamed into action, but they also leave ordinary people feeling disconnected and disenchanted. Yet, if some doors are closed, there are others open, right under our noses, where conversations can lead to change, even if the change is getting to grips with our anxieties over the future. If there is one thing that works, it’s getting in the game. So, instead of feeling sidelined by COP27, simply reaching out, turning up, and getting involved will put you on the path to something better. 

Acknowledgement: The festival is made possible by a University of Melbourne Dyason Fellowship, competitive SIG funding from Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) and Partnership Development Grant from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). 

From left to right: Kathryn Coleman is a neurodivergent, feminist, artist, researcher and teacher who lives and works in Kulin Nation. Her work focuses on the integration of digital pedagogies and digital portfolios for sustained creative practice, assessment and warranting of evidence across education sectors. Kate’s praxis includes taking aspects of her theoretical and practical work as a/r/tographer to consider how artists, artist-teachers and artist-students use site to create place in digital and physical practice. Sarah Healy is committed to inter and intra-generational justice and is concerned with creating the conditions for reparative futures to take place. In her role as Melbourne Postdoctoral Fellow, Sarah is actively engaged in research located at the intersection of affect theory, digital childhoods, creative methods and a/r/tographic approaches to metho-pedagogy. Sarah’s expertise is underpinned by a background in art education and keen interest in close-to-practice research and teaching. George Variyan is the Course Leader for the Master of Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. His background includes teaching, learning and leading in schools in Australia and overseas. George’s engagement in research is based on a critical sociology, which explores human agency in the relationship between education and society. Key interests include educational leadership, boys’ masculinities, climate activism and social justice, and ethics. Brad Gobby is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Curtin University. His research is widely published and includes critical inquiry into education policy, educational subjectivities, and politics. Brad is co-editor of Powers of Curriculum: Sociological Aspects of Education.

We asked academics to be real about work. Here are our new findings

My children were two and three years old in March of 2020 when Sydney went into its first COVID-19  lockdown.  At the time, I was in an education-focussed leadership role but also still teaching and conducting research.

I was supporting my colleagues as they pivoted to online learning at the same time as helping implement widespread changes to education within the School and also reassuring students across our School that we were doing everything in our power to maintain education quality in an ever-changing environment. 

I was also moving my own class online at the same time.  Research fell off the radar – if it didn’t have an immediate deadline like other things in life (e.g. speaking to cohorts of students to assuage the uncertainty they were feeling, getting a lecture online, helping a colleague figure out how to deliver an in-person assessment online, feeding children, or even just sleeping), it wasn’t getting done.  Even when I wasn’t in charge of childcare, my little ones would come looking for me – and how do you tell a two-year-old that you have to work and can’t play right now?    

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on academic mothers has many long-term implications on career progression and alleviating this gendered impact should be a priority for administrators worldwide.

Of course, I was not alone.  Research that Adriana Zeidan, Lee-Fay Low, Andrew Baillie, and I conducted on the impact of COVID-19 on the productivity of academics around the world confirms this.  And worse, these impacts were hugely gendered. What’s particularly novel about our study is its potential for accuracy.  Instead of asking people to think back to their day or their week and estimate how often they were doing a particular task, we were instead able to ping our participants at six random time-points per day (during their self-nominated waking hours) and ask them what they were doing in that moment.  This led to more accurate responses, and strengthened our work.  

Our research showed that in June and July of 2020, when we conducted our study: 

  • Academic mothers were 4.25 times more likely than academic fathers to be caring for children when contacted to complete the survey.
  • Academic mothers were 3 times more likely than academic fathers to multitask, and nearly 5 times more likely to multitask by doing an activity and caring for children simultaneously.
  • Mothers were 74% more likely to have had their work interrupted in the last hour.
  •  Parents were 57% less likely than non-parents to be working on research when contacted.
  • Academic parents (especially mothers) were found to be less likely to have access to uninterrupted work time.
  • Non-parents were working on research related tasks around 20% of the time they were contacted, while fathers were working on research 17% of the time, and mothers only 11% of the time.

And our results have resonated with readers on social media.  Within 36 hours of sharing the main points of  our study  in a thread on twitter, parts of it had been shared over 1,000 times.  People were retweeting with their own experiences and calling on senior academics to take this work into account when evaluating staff on their productivity.  Differences in ability to spend time on research will have lasting impacts on career progression.  

Recognising that equity is not the same as equality, one-size-fits-all approaches such as extending tenure clocks for all academics currently working towards tenure will only stand to increase gender disparities in the professoriate down the line (Khamis-Dakwar & Hiller, 2020).

As we know, impacts on publishing in 2020 and 2021 (and even now in 2022) will not be readily apparent for some time.  Given how much longer the publication process is taking, we may not see the true effects for a few years.  However, given how trajectories are used in funding and promotion applications, a dip in productivity could have career-long implications if we are not careful.  For many years we’ve had a leak in the pipeline in academia, where women were more likely to trickle out of the academic workforce due to biases and barriers along the way.  Covid has the potential to undo the work we have done to repair those leaks, leading to further gender disparities in our academic environments. 

We must find concrete and tangible ways to ensure that mothers are able to bounce back from the setbacks they may have experienced during Covid.  Everyone needs to remember those changes that mothers will not forget – the days of caring for children while trying to work, the hundreds of interruptions in an hour, the loneliness, the isolation, and the associated reduced ability to conduct research – while other people were experiencing the opposite:  quiet time, without meetings or other interruptions.  

We should watch vigilantly for an ever-widening gap in publishing between men and women to emerge.  We need to gauge impacts on access to grant funding, and we need to see how it affects career progression (in hiring, in tenure, in promotion).  We need to implement policies that will decrease disparities, support people who were most impacted, and ensure that we don’t lose women before we get the chance to implement support and effect change. 

As some have said, we were all in the same storm, but we were not all in the same boat.  We must advocate for, and implement policies to support, those whose careers are most at risk after this period when mothers, in particular, were working all the time, but still unable to produce in the same way others were.  If we don’t pay attention, and we don’t actively work to alleviate these differences, the impact on career progression for women in academia will be huge. 

The leaky pipeline (Pell, 1996) is not going away, unless we make changes to recognise and ameliorate the barriers that groups of colleagues experience before, during and beyond the immediate Covid-19 crisis.

A few essential things to note: First, in the paper we refer to people who identify as women and have children as mothers, and those who identify as men who have children as fathers.  Unfortunately our statistical approaches were not sophisticated enough to incorporate more than a binary categorization, though we absolutely recognise that gender is a spectrum.  

Second, none of this would have been possible without the entire team.  Adriana Zeidan, despite being a master’s student studying during lockdown, managed the survey and PACO enrollment process from start to finish, and without her, none of this would have happened.  Andrew Baillie was instrumental in managing our very complicated dataset and advanced statistical modelling, and he and Lee-Fay Low’s strategic guidance were invaluable in planning and publishing.  

Roxanna Nasseri Pebdani, (PhD, CRC, SFHEA) is Director of Participation Sciences in the Sydney School of Health Sciences and Acting Head of the Discipline of Rehabilitation Counselling, both in the Faculty of Medicine and Health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the American University of Paris, a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counselling from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. in Counsellor Education from the University of Maryland. She completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Washington. She has been at the University of Sydney since July 2018. The lovely photo in the header image is of Pebdani’s children.

What the remarkable Mr Laing did next

Editor’s note: In 2021, Paul Laing won EduResearch Matters Blog/Blogger of the Year Award, which recognises an outstanding contribution to public understanding and debate of educational issues, for his post My teacher sucks’: how teacher shortages shatter learning. A year later, he has taken leave from his job as principal at a regional school in NSW. Here Paul tweets about his decision and the impact on his life.

Paul Laing is a doctoral research student (EdD) at the University of New South Wales and he has a background teaching languages across a broad range of schools in NSW. He has worked as a classroom teacher, Head Teacher, Deputy Principal and Principal, as well as a Teacher Quality Advisor and Curriculum Advisor. His current research includes exploring the relationship between working memory span before and after instruction. He has a keen interest in cognitive load theory and the contribution of cognitive science to learning design.

What you should know now about the NSW government and Dolores Umbridge’s evil ways

The NSW Government has announced the creation of an ‘expert teacher’ role, to be paid almost $150 000 pa.  While this could replace the ineffective Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher [HALT] system, the work expected of these expert teachers is already part of many teachers’ standard practice, as social media was quick to highlight

These reforms, while offering some positives, do not address teachers concerns about pay and conditions for all teachers, not just an elite few.  The recent announcement of a behaviour expert to be appointed as part of the NSW government’s plan to resolve the teacher workload crisis was also met with derision online, with many invoking JK Rowling’s brutal disciplinarian, Dolores Umbridge, in their responses.  Can Hogwarts solve the education crisis, or is that magical thinking?

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry offers a vision of an idealised (if at times fairly dangerous) school. As Katherine Firth explains, Hogwarts can be seen as an example of Michel Foucault’s construction of schools as sites of social control and discipline. In most readings, the teachers are part of the disciplining apparatus, however, I would argue that in the current circumstances, the teachers themselves are being subject to disciplining through the exertion of government power over their workplace. 

At Hogwarts’ NSW campus, the Ministers for Magic(al Thinking) (State Premier Dominic Perrottet and Education Minister Sarah Mitchell) have waved their wands to produce resource packs, disregarding teachers crying out for more planning time to allow them to collaboratively develop materials suited to their students’ needs. Just as Umbridge’s secondment at Hogwarts was as much about ensuring staff compliance as student behaviour, so too does the appointment of a behaviour expert suggest that NSW teachers aren’t doing their job well, further perpetuating the media narrative that it is teachers failing their students, not the system failing the teachers. 

French philosopher and theorist Michel Foucault explores how schools, hospitals, the military and other large-scale public institutions work as sites of “discipline”, training individuals to comply with social expectations. These sites of discipline “establish in the body the constructive link between increased aptitude and increased domination” (166): the more you comply, the better. Teachers (products of the schooling system themselves) reinforce structures and behaviours for students that they replicate in their own work. Yet what happens when teachers reject these attempts at discipline?

Schools work in lesson-units, where both students and teachers are expected to be present, and behave in particular ways, according to a set schedule. All of these organisational structures are designed to promote compliance and therefore increase productivity.  While analysis of this often focuses on the regimenting of the student’s day, it is also a disciplining act that teachers are subject to. The point of this scheduling is to allow for what Foucault labelsexhaustive use” –“extracting from time, ever more available moments and, from each moment, ever more useful forces” . As teachers shout into the online void about unsustainable workloads, the (disciplining) government seeks only “maximum speed and maximum efficiency”, refusing to concede that the workload is the problem. It is here we come to the (hor)crux of the teacher shortage crisis: The Ministry have lost their grip on teachers and they are in open revolt, just as McGonagall and the staff of Hogwarts united and fought back against the He Who Must Not Be Named.

Just as McGonagall led an internal resistance to the unreasonable demands of the Ministry, so too NSW teachers have united to protest the expectations being forced upon them in recent strike action.  They see the institution to which they have subscribed for their own schooling, and their careers as fundamentally flawed, and they begin to resist the powers that have sought to direct their conduct. This abandonment of and loss of faith in schools as an institution by the very workers who are meant to maintain them presents an existential crisis to our governments. If they wish to maintain schools in something resembling their current forms, they will need to change how they exert their power. How will higher pay for a select few entice people to the profession? How will the provision of generic resources, when teachers already have robust collegial networks for resource sharing, reduce workload and burnout? How will the maintenance of national systems of testing (a form of observation and control) reduce teacher stress? How will the appointment of one behaviour advisor make every classroom safer? These rewards for compliance, for docility, have lost their power for many teachers, and so they seek an escape, just as one would when wrongfully held in another institution Foucault describes – the prison. 

If the governments which control Australia’s education sector hope to restore trust in schools, they must regain the good will of teachers, as their compliance is what makes the system work.  Increased reward and reduced workload are the common elements of teachers’ calls for reform, not yet another consultant, off-the-shelf package or reward for a select few. Having pushed teachers beyond the limits of their productive capacity, and thus united teachers in a way that supersedes the partitioning of schools, sectors and states in protest and solidarity, governments must reform the institution itself if they hope to restore the magic of learning in our schools in the future. 

Dr Alison Bedford is a lecturer (curriculum and pedagogy) in the School of Education at the University of Southern Queensland and a secondary school history teacher.