Podcast by EducationReview
New handbook helps to counter an age of fake news | Eryn Newman
The phenomenon of "fake news" has been around since journalism first began, but the term itself and the power it can now yield has been linked with the ascendency of Donald Trump, threats to democracy and a post-truth world where facts – in some circles at least – don’t seem to matter.
But now we have a powerful new tool to combat either misinformation or disinformation – the Debunking Handbook 2020. Penned by Dr Eryn Newman from the Australia National University, as well as 21 other prominent scholars, the handbook aims to “inoculate” citizens, teachers and students against misleading information before it’s encountered.
The handbook is informed by both science and psychology, and provides a host of definitions (e.g. disinformation versus misinformation) as well as concise explanations about why "fake news" tends to stick. One of the most common explanations involves familiarity: the more an individual encounters false information, the more inclined they are to believe it.
The handbook also contains a step-by-step guide for encountering fake news, which can provide teachers and students with a formulaic way to confidently refute the veracity of a piece of information. Another valuable section focuses on lateral searches for the truth - that is, expanding one's truth-finding exercise from one source to many.
Our texts lists are (mis)representing us | Alex Bacalja
As a country, we might want to think of ourselves as many-degrees removed from the atrocities that occurred during the Frontier Wars, the women who fought for the most basic of human rights ,and members pf the LGTBIQ* group, whose activities and lifestyles still sit uncomfortably with many around the world.
But like all Western, liberal nations, however, orthodox ideas, characters and themes become vapid, old and eventually lose their allure. Empires cannot last forever. What readers are then searching for is that kaleidoscope of new worlds, characters and voices that represent them.
This was the mission of University of Melbourne academics Alex Bacalja and Lauren Bliss. In terms of diversity, the research pair’s 10-year analysis of text lists from the Senior Victorian English Curriculum leaves a lot to be desired.
After analysing 360 texts , the researchers could only find two print-based texts by Indigenous writers – one being Larissa Behrendt’s novel, Home. What about a poetry collection from Ali Cobby Eckermann, a brilliant poet who experiments with a range of form and meter, and has received international acclaim?
The research project also shone quite a sad light on digital and audio texts still being treated like encumbrances and "kiddies' games"
So, why do these outdated tests from the school cannon still get studied in Senior English in Victoria? For Bacalja, the issues of teacher familiarity and resource availability come into play, but they are peripheral issues if such a movement gained more momentum.
Finally, Bacalja explains how conservative voices tend to influence - indeed takeover - the debate, saying "a backlash can be expected when teachers try to introduce new, more challenging texts into the curriculum,” Bacalja concluded.
Academic slams LANTITE report as 'flawed' | Dr David Zyngier
Before an internal government report recently revealed that the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) was causing significant concern among pre-service teachers and universities, nine focus groups were created to brainstorm concerns about the test and possible changes to how it would be administered in the future, and by whom.
Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Education at Southern Cross University David Zyngier was invited to participate in one of these focus groups by a group of education students who had been agitating online for change.
However, after the report was released, Zyngier called it "flawed", saying the whole process appeared to have one pre-determined outcome: shifting the LANTITE test so it would be an entry requirement for undergraduate education courses. As an experienced researcher, he also thought the process involved in developing the report lacked rigour.
But, according to Zyngier, the report eschewed other important concerns that students and other experts had identified with the test. These included the ongoing role of ACER in delivering and assessing relatively costly tests that provide little, if any, meaningful feedback, as well as the fact that undergraduate education students are being forced to take the test, despite many having no intention of entering the classroom.
As he mentions, not all education undergraduates want to become teachers - some wish to become educational psychologists and trainers.
New book draws on the science of learning for study success | Scott Francis
As the end high school approaches for students and high-stakes exams are soon to take place, knowing how to study most effectively could mean the difference between strong and outstanding grades. Luckily, a new book titled Your High Performance Guide to Study and Learning has just been released.
Intended for teachers and students, the book is a collaboration between secondary school teacher Scott Francis and Dr Michael Nagel from the University of the Sunshine Coast. The book is heavily informed by the science of learning - that is "learning about how we learn".
After becoming fascinated with Nagel's work, Francis approached Nagel (his former lecturer) to co-author a book on study strategies when he realised how the area of neuroscience "could have real practical applications for students in the classroom" in terms of how they approached learning and study.
The book comprises 20 key study strategies for success, all prefaced with a foreword by Nagel. Some of the strategies included in the book are goal setting, having the right mindset and practising questions, The importance of sleep is also included, something Francis says "consolidates memories".
A huge sports fan, Francis also believes high performance sporting teams are not so different from high performing students. Both require the creation of a high performance environment to thrive and be your best.
Early childhood expert questions holding preschoolers back
After a Dandenong primary school principal recently considered the benefits of keeping preschoolers back for another year, Education Review approached Associate Professor Christine Woodrow to obtain her thoughts on the idea.
Woodrow highlighted how essential preschool is in terms of both social learning (learning to take turns, managing conflict, etc) as well as developing a rich idea of literacy and numeracy through rhymes, songs and finger plays. Importantly, however, she also said it was difficult to make broad-sweeping judgments such as 'All preschoolers must repeat their 2020 year."
For the early childhood expert, it's more of a case of "Which schools and which students" might need to be held back? For instance, while young children who come from more affluent backgrounds with ready access to books and other cultural capital will probably transition easily, children from more disadvantaged backgrounds may need more consideration and assistance.
Woodrow also emphasised that there is a "financial penalty" in making children repeat preschool that is bound to be unpopular in many circles . In terms of assisting disadvantaged students who may have difficulty transitioning from preschool, the early childhood expert recommends rich, play-based and discovery learning, as well as fostering more family engagement with the preschools.
Our school system has regressed to the 19th century | Dr Maura Sellars
An education expert from the University of Newcastle contends that Australia’s schooling system is largely stuck in the 19th century. Dr Maura Sellars, a former teacher with a wealth of experience, told Education Review that “the whole purpose of education at present is economic, instead of multi-faceted like it has been in the past.”
The academic has also noticed that in many schools the “structural organisation” of classrooms at the moment emulates those in the 19th century, promoting a “transmission pedagogy” where the teacher stands at the front of the class and desks are neatly arranged. Teachers are expected to transmit information or knowledge to students, which the students are then expected to recall.
Sellars equates this type of learning with the bottom rung of Bloom’s taxonomy of recalling and also says it coincides with pushes for direct instruction or explicit teaching, as others have called it. Sellars also notes that the current school system uses the language of factories in the 19th century, with words like “benchmarking” and “outcomes” used daily.
In a nutshell, the University of Newcastle academic asserts schooling has become part of a neo-liberal agenda where “economic rationalism has been applied to education”. Although acknowledging their importance, she views the emphasis on numeracy and literacy in today’s schools as not dissimilar to the narrow focus on reading, writing and arithmetic in the 19th century.
Consequently, Sellars believes many of today’s students are missing out on a rich education and are not developing the metacognitive skills to become lifelong learners.