How successful was the introduction of the national curriculum in the classroom?

19th September 2017 at 16:00
ACARA and the Australian National Curriculum
ACARA's national curriculum has been a step in the right direction for education in Australia since its introduction in 2014, Ryan McKenzie argues

How was the new national curriculum beneficial for teachers?

As a newly graduated teacher, it was helpful to have the clear and concise framework of the national curriculum on which to base my unit and lesson planning. The new Australian national curriculum hadn’t changed all that much from previous versions, but what was evident was how clearly the ideas were presented and what exactly was required from educators. 

A number of resource portals were created, in conjunction with ACARA's curriculum, to provide unit and lesson plans and resources to use when implementing the curriculum across the country. In Queensland, the two main portals are "Curriculum 2 Classroom", used by staff in the government sector, and "Scootle", used by independent and Catholic schools.

As tools to assist educators, both portals provide teachers with all the necessary resources to effectively implement the national curriculum. Units are organised into 10-week programs, with three lessons per week. With this, teachers can source all relevant lesson plans, resources, website and video links, practical experiments related to the topic and assessments online.

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What were the main challenges with the new national curriculum?

In theory, these portals are an excellent resource for schools and teachers. However, the reality is that these resources can, at times, be quite dry in terms of content and activities – and assessments can be difficult to rely on and to deliver.

The other difficulty lies in the lesson structure of various educational institutions. Government schools, generally, run off a timetable consisting of four 70-minute lessons per day, with a specific amount of lesson time per week (as specified by ACARA) to be dedicated towards each subject.

There are a number of challenges related to this practice:

  1. Lesson plans are very content-driven in the sense that within a single lesson, students are expected to cover a number of key concepts that can be difficult to grasp. If students are struggling with the content, there is limited time within the curriculum plans to allow for deepening or consolidation of knowledge.
  2. Content from these resource portals is not differentiated for the needs of individual students and can often be at a level higher than most students are able to comprehend, given the timeframes involved.
  3. Assessments can be different to the content that has been explicitly taught through the unit, which causes issues when testing and gaining assessment information.

With this in mind, schools will often use the resource portals, which are a great source of information, as a guide for units to be developed in schools. Individual departments will use the curriculum, with the resources provided, to develop relevant, differentiated and personalised content for students. They will also modify assessments to match the content that has been delivered.

By following the Australian national curriculum and using the resources on hand, along with individual schools' knowledge of their students’ abilities, they are able to create the most appropriate learning experiences for students. Since schools have been following this model, it has become clear that the Australian curriculum is a step in the right direction for education in Australia.

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