Education and Arts

AARE -Springer award for research on standard based reforms

Education lecturer and researcher Dr Lisl Fenwick was recently awarded the AARE-Springer award for her paper, 'Prevailing pedagogies for classes in low SES contexts and the implications for standards-based reform in Australia.'  The paper explores how standard-based reforms are being interpreted and implemented in local contexts – with a specific focus on students from low-SES  backgrounds.

"The reforms are partly based on the understanding that all students, regardless of their background, can make progress provided that they experience curriculum and learning environments that are defined by high expectations and individualised support. My research suggests that a focus on accountability within the national reform agenda has meant that aspects associated with equity are being lost. Teachers are not associating the movement to a national curriculum with the improvement of outcomes in schooling for students  from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Most educators in Lisl's study did not associate the setting of standards and high expectations with more equitable outcomes in education. Rather, they predominantly believed that students were supported when learning outcomes and expectations were altered to match learners' current abilities. The strategies described by the teachers were often based on a belief that students' capacities were somehow fixed and could not be changed. The findings suggest that key concepts associated with the current national reforms in schooling are not currently informing teachers' beliefs and practices.

Lisl concludes that a continued focus on accountability in the national reforms will mean that the elements associated with improving equity in education will be lost. There is a need for  professional learning which aims to provide in-depth information about the ideas and research related to equity .  

"The setting and measuring of standards alone will not improve the outcomes of schooling for students who traditionally do not experience success. Successful implementation of the national reforms will depend on the extent to which they engage educators with ideas and pedagogies associated with supporting all students to progress within quality curriculum defined by high expectations," Lisl explains.

The AARE-Springer award is given to the best paper published in The Australian Educational Researcher throughout the year. Lisl was the lead-author of the paper with Maxine Cooper from University of Ballarat. Click here to read the entire paper. (PDF 123KB)