Staff spotlight: Debating our education policy

Published: Monday 7th September 2015

Kevin Donnelly 

ACU's Dr Kevin Donnelly co-chaired the 2014 Commonwealth review of the Australian national curriculum and has become a major media commentator on education. "Working at ACU provides a stimulating and challenging intellectual environment from which to influence the public debate and to better appreciate the significance of university education within the Catholic tradition," he said.

After teaching for 18 years and being an education consultant even longer, working at the ACU is a rewarding and exciting experience.   

“The strength of the ACU, given its faculties include Education and the Arts as well as Theology and Philosophy, is that it is well placed to contribute to further discussions about pedagogical approaches and how best to include moral and spiritual values in the curriculum.”

Different approaches to teaching and learning

"One of the important issues arising from the review of the national curriculum carried out last year relates to what constitutes the most effective approach to teaching and learning.  Models range from more teacher directed, formal approaches (described as explicit teaching) to less formal ones where teachers act as facilitators and students take greater control (often described as student-centred learning)," Dr Donnelly said.

"While some of the submissions favoured one approach over the other the reality, as good teachers know, is that both are required.   Depending on what is being taught, the nature of the subject, the intended learning outcomes and whether students are novices or experts, the pedagogical approach will vary.

"In the early years of primary school, for example, when children are encountering new subject matter or are expected to develop new understanding and skills a more teacher directed, structured model is often required.  Students who have mastered a particular subject, on the other hand, can be given the freedom to innovate by taking control of their own learning.

"It’s important that graduate teachers are well versed with a range of teaching and learning strategies to ensure that they are best able to cope in the classroom."

The place of moral and spiritual beliefs and values in the curriculum

"The Melbourne Declaration, the primary document referred to by education ministers when deciding school policy, when describing a well-rounded and balanced education calls on the curriculum to deal with spiritual and moral values," Dr Donnelly said.

"Many of the submissions to the national curriculum review also argued that moral and spiritual values, represented by Judeo-Christianity and the other great religions of the world, should be dealt with.  Even though some argue that the curriculum should be secular in nature it is important to note that various state acts of parliament allow for teaching about religion in government schools.  

"One way to include moral and spiritual values is to have dedicated subjects like the NSW senior school Study of Religions.  Another approach is to imbue particular subjects, like art, history, music and literature, with a moral and spiritual perspective.  Given the multicultural, multi-faith nature of Australian society arguments for including religion include the need to dispel ignorance and to promote greater inter-faith harmony.

"The strength of the ACU, given its faculties include Education and the Arts as well as Theology and Philosophy, is that it is well placed to contribute to further discussions about pedagogical approaches and how best to include moral and spiritual values in the curriculum."

 

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