Editor's comment

1st May 2009 at 01:00

So ubiquitous has the jargon of A Curriculum for Excellence become, that there is a danger of trotting out the same buzz words again and again as if their mere utterance will effect fundamental reform. "Posh words" such as "co-operative learning" and "rich task" can become cliches, as ADES president David Cameron observed - and, with the publication of the new curriculum's experiences and outcomes, there is a hefty and readily- available glossary of posh words landing on teachers' desks around the country.

Delegates at last week's national CPD conference joked about the number of teachers dutifully pinning up the four capacities on classroom walls, as if incantation of the hallowed words would magically turn tearaway Tom into a responsible citizen and disinterested Donna into an effective contributor. Their amusement, however, was laced with real concern that the fundamental aims of curricular reform were not hitting home.

It is timely, therefore, to hear experts from outwith Scotland remind us about the dangers of assuming things are going well, just because teachers appear to buy into the language of grand educational projects.

School reform expert James Ladwig studied the impact of the "quality teaching framework" in Australia - and found most classrooms "fundamentally shallow and boring". A crucial feature, interdisciplinary learning, was often done "superficially, for show", simply to give the appearance of complying with the government's wishes.

There was another cautionary tale from New Zealand, where the lofty aims of curricular reform were obscured in the early 1990s as teachers latched onto a series of "essential skills"; this, said the ministry of education's Rose Hague, became a distracting "checklist".

So what was done? Essential learning was reduced and clarified, and the hopes for the new curriculum condensed into a single document: they used fewer posh words.

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