My Response to ‘Classroom no place for jargon jungle’ (Herald Sun 15/7/2013) Dr Kevin Donnelly


An invitation to Dr Kevin Donnelly to visit my school and see what we teach, how we teach and how we know our students are learning!

‘Bureaucrats talk about holistic, negotiated goal setting; learning to read is described as adopting a critical, social-constructivist framework where students are introduced to multi-modal and interactive texts.
Teachers no longer teach: they facilitate and become guides by the side. Children are described as knowledge navigators and digital natives, and learning is about being future-orientated and socially critical.
With the advent of open classrooms, mixed ability teaching and personalised learning, the problem for parents is it is getting more difficult to work out what is actually happening at school and whether their children are passing or failing. Children are no longer ranked in the class or marked out of 10; instead, they are placed on a developmental continuum and failing is described as deferred success.'(OPINION p21 Herald Sun 15/7/2013)

Where do I start?
When I read articles like this I wish I’d had the opportunity to talk about teaching and learning first to Dr Kevin Donnelly. Such negativity is disappointing because if Dr Kevin Donnelly visited my school he would have an understanding of why our practices are changing.

Firstly, I am a teacher and my students are students.

Is my teaching personalised? YES
Are my students placed on a continuum for mathematics? YES
Am I a constructivist? YES
Do we have negotiated goal setting? YES
Are our students carefully assessed against standards? YES

Today I attended an inspiring professional development day.

Working towards a whole school approach to the Planning, Teaching & Assessment of Mathematics.

Students are assessed individually to determine their prior understanding therefore instruction is built on what they know. Why? To enable students to move forward on the prescribed continuum – concepts and skills. This is constructivism.

Do I want my students to articulate what they know, what they are learning and what they will need to learn next? Yes, I do! Students who understand and can articulate their learning are able to set personal goals and achieve.

Lessons are structured carefully with students participating in a maths Warm Up, the Launch/Focus with a carefully planned purpose setting the scene, providing modelling, questioning and introducing / revising mathematical language.
The next phase is Personalised Learning where students complete quality tasks to develop and extend their mathematical understandings, problem solve and articulate their learning. All students are involved in explicit teaching sessions and are assessed against learning outcomes.
The final part of the lesson is Reflect and Explain where students articulate, elaborate and/ or consolidate learning, strategies and language.

Parents are informed of their child’s progress throughout the year and are able to discuss identified strengths and misconceptions based on thorough assessment.

Cheers Nina


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9 responses to “My Response to ‘Classroom no place for jargon jungle’ (Herald Sun 15/7/2013) Dr Kevin Donnelly

  1. Everyone is an expert on education because everyone’s been to school – or so it seems. Plus, people seem to feel that however school was when they were students, however they learned, is the right way, and are sceptical of new approaches. Imagine if people viewed other fields (let’s say, medicine) in the same way. Lobotomies were probably accepted medical practice back when Donnelly went to school, so shouldn’t he be writing an article about the ‘whizz bang mumbo jumbo of modern medicine’ too? Let’s go back to the good old days of an ice-pick through the eye? Why can’t people accept that education, just like any other field, is constantly evolving and changes in practice are for the better?

  2. Sarah Botterill

    Hi Nina

    Great response! I am a pre-service teacher and found this article rather disheartening when I read it in the paper.

    I have just discovered what wonderful resources are available through the internet for teachers. I am eagerly reading through your blog! I went to a IB secondary school and while it now has the PYP program it didn’t at the time. I find the program fascinating and look forward to following your blog and learning more. At uni we are being taught about how much of teaching is about being reflective and I can see how useful a blog would be for that. I am about to start a 5 week prac and am considering maybe starting a blog as part of my reflective journal for the prac.

  3. Georgie C

    Dr Donnelly sounds much like my Mother and others of her generation. I try to explain what is happening in the modern classroom and why things are so different to when she was a girl and when I was a girl. Her generation (and many from my own) want schools to be simplistic and easy to understand as they were in her day and my day. My Mothers generation like words and phrases such as pass, fail, smart student, remedial student, good at maths, bad at maths. I point out that when schools are simplistic and follow a one size fits all model then only a fraction of students are engaged. When lessons are directed at the average ability student then all those outside of that focus group miss out. Modern, effective schooling is complex, it needs to be in order to give students opportunities for success that were missing from my Mothers era and my era of schooling. It is exasperating to read this type of commentary week in week out and it would be lovely if education was left to the educational professionals. Unfortunately that will never be the case, so it’s important that today’s parents and students of the past are informed about why we are doing what we are doing. Instead of complaining about the language used in schools Dr Donnelly’s time would be better spent looking at how to reform our schools so that teachers can teach and reach every student without burning out. Going back to the old ways is certainly not the solution.

    • nina davis

      Hi Georgie,
      Firstly, thank you for commenting. I agree Dr Donnelly’s time could be better spent visiting schools and actually seeing what we do and how we are continuously working to improve teaching and learning for our students. We have discussed educational jargon at my school and use it appropriately. Informing and educating our communities is a goal of all schools. Once again thank you for sharing your views here.
      Cheers Nina

  4. Pingback: My Response to ‘Classroom no place for ja...

  5. tmg

    Well done, Nina. But please don’t give oxygen to viewpoints that are so deliberately exaggerated and ill-informed.

    • nina davis

      Unfortunately Dr Donnelly thinks his ideas are based on sound research. I’m not a supporter of the ‘one size fits all’ research he must read. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Nina,
    Now that I have gained a clearer understanding of modern teaching and its processes, your response was enlightening. Theory is a positive foundation but only practice delivers outcomes. Just do it!

    • nina davis

      Thanks for commenting. Personalising learning ensures students are learning what they need, and not learning what they already know. The article needed a response here. 🙂

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