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The need for flexible, personalised and responsive curriculum September 13, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
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from Steve Wilson

Imagine you had promised your friend or partner that you would go with them to watch a movie each week for a full year.

Imagine then, having made this commitment, that your friend or partner did not consult with you about which movies to watch – they simply selected the movie each week, irrespective of your own preferences or tastes, and expected you to come along.

You might put up with it for awhile. You would likely develop resentment about the situation. Eventually, as an adult, you might confront your friend and explain your feelings and try to change things. If they didn’t change, in all likelihood, you would simply stop going to the movies with them.

For children and young people in schools, the school curriculum is like being forced to go to the movies, to see things they often don’t like or can’t see the point of, but where they do not have the adult prerogative, legally at least, of simply not going to school. Trapped in schools with an unresponsive curriculum, feelings amongst young people towards school can and frequently do include resentment, apathy and disengagement. Every teacher commonly experiences these feelings amongst their children, and not just amongst the children who are the lowest academic achievers.

We should not underestimate the power of an unexplained and unresponsive curriculum as a factor in child and youth disengagement from school. Nor should it be underestimated as an explanation for any perceived decline in international education standards among western nations where, in most facets of life, young people influence and exercise considerable choice in most other areas of their lives except in school.

In writing this piece I am assuming curriculum as a broad entity, ranging from the documents comprising the Australian curriculum and the range of state-based adaptations to it, through to the formal and informal learning experiences of children in classrooms and schools, structured and developed under the auspices of each school.

Curriculum is the key. A cynic might say that curriculum is what education systems DO to learners in schools. A greater cycnic might say that what is done to learners is also being done to teachers. If our curriculum is not carefully thought through and structured, it can act as a straitjacket on teachers and learners, undermining their capacity to explore and engage through education. If the curriculum is over burdened in content areas, over prescribed with mandated teaching points, over tested, over regulated, then it robs learners and teachers of the potential to engage in education with imagination, personal investment, and joy. Learning becomes a chore, for learners and teachers alike. And, often, they disengage as a result. They simply stop trying.

In my many years as a teacher and teacher educator, I have always believed that teaching is among the most creative of professions. There is nothing more satisfying for a teacher than to develop learning experiences that enable children to understand concepts, develop skills and values, develop confidence, and enjoy their learning. The act of conceiving of and creating these learning experiences, ones that you know will bring out the best in your learners, then seeing your creative, intellectual efforts work in the classroom, and seeing children grow and want to keep learning as a result, is the key reward for the teacher.

To achieve this, curriculum needs to be freed up, becoming a crucible for fostering creative imagination rather than a straitjacket encouraging disengagement. We need a flexible curriculum, far less prescriptive than we generally have now, which encourages teachers to engage with and be responsive to the personalities of their students, and which enables young people to become involved with and take responsibility for their learning.

How to do this? We have plenty of evidence that current curricula are generally overcrowded and too prescriptive, so a good first step would be to identify a set of genuinely necessary core competencies, skills, values and content, which are limited and restrained, and which are essential for the social and economic wellbeing of individuals (and through them, the nation). The remainder and bulk of the curriculum should take the form of flexible guidelines which teachers can respond to with imagination and creativity, thereby inspiring their children to become involved and to strive to excel. This is a strength of the current curriculum in Finland, which has been considered the global ‘gold standard’ over the last decade.

We used to have in Australia, in the 1970s and 80s, strong and successful state-based cultures around school-based curriculum development – ones which enabled schools and their teachers to craft engaging and relevant curriculum developed from a clear but limited systemic curriculum framework.

These cultures (like the culture currently emphasised in Finland) had strong expectations of teachers as highly responsible, creative and professional individuals, based on high levels of trust of teachers. Unfortunately, later neo-liberal political ideologies and governance (from both sides of state and federal politics) gradually eroded these cultures. Examining and re-valuing the strengths of these previous curriculum cultures in Australia might be a good place to begin in conceiving how a less centralised, less crowded and more responsive curriculum would work for learners and their teachers.

Secondly, we have plenty of examples of thinking about curriculum, learner motivation and pedagogical approaches which respect the role of learners in learning, and teach us how to be inclusive of the tastes, preferences, talents and humanity that learners bring to their learning and their schools. People who have provided conceptual and practical clarity in their related writings include John Ainley, James Beane, Garth Boomer, John Dewey, Jacquelynne Eccles, Michael Fullan, William Glasser, Susan Groundwater-Smith, Roger Holdsworth, Stephen Kemmis, Tony Knight, Carl Rogers and R.E. Young amongst many others.

These contributions assist us in conceiving of more responsive, dynamic, shared and inclusive learning environments and communities, and of how to create effective and positive relationships between teachers and learners. They show us how these approaches can benefit and stimulate ALL learners – not just the most academically capable.

This, the ‘how’ of curriculum, is just as important as the content it contains. The ‘how’ of curriculum, the way we enable young people to engage in learning, must encourage young learners to make an intellectual and emotional investment in their learning by having input into how it is designed and conducted. That is the real beginning point to their engagement – enabling their committed buy-in to the process of formal learning.

Thirdly, in our teacher professional learning and development opportunities, in both the pre-service and in-service career stages, we need to continually emphasise the role of teachers as professional, imaginative and creative transactors and facilitators of learning. My own suspicion is that too many of our teachers may have come to regard teaching as having become de-professionalised – a profession in which they are simply expected to teach to the dot points the syllabus or school program contains, and to teach to the test.

Those teachers who do feel this way are being quite realistic – an over-crowded, over-mandated, over-tested (and often politically driven and destabilised) curriculum is de-professionalising. We need to give back to our teachers the opportunities and curriculum development skills to create curriculum and learning experiences that capture the hearts and imaginations of our children and young people.

Clearly, some of the above solutions to curriculum may require agitation by the profession and community, leading to macro, politically-endorsed reforms. In the absence of these, there are still very positive things that can be  created by schools and classroom teachers from an over-prescriptive curriculum. Many formal curriculum and syllabus documents are not, on a closer reading, necessarily as prescriptive and confining as they first appear. Many mandated themes, topics or teaching points can be interpreted and adapted by the teacher, who can choose what to emphasise within particular topics, how much time should be allotted, what teaching approaches, activities or approaches to assessment might be used, and what opportunities there are to provide students with learning choices. With imagination and creativity, flexibility, personalisation of learning and responsiveness can often be crafted from curriculum documents which may initially seem too prescriptive and unforgiving.

Teachers who do manage to find this flexibility have the opportunity to create spaces in the curriculum into which they can invite their young learners to discuss, craft and conduct learning activities and the content they focus on. These teachers often feel great personal and professional fulfilment when they do engage with their students around their personal learning preferences, and achieve great learning motivation and improved academic outcomes with their learners – even on tests like the NAPLAN (without them having to emphasise the practising of the test).

Let’s return to my opening movie analogy. Imagine instead a classroom in which children and young people are continually participating by suggesting things to learn, and ways to learn, activities to do, ways to assess their learning, and in which they help their teachers to drive learning and learning outcomes. Imagine the creative energy that might drive the group, and the outcomes that might be achieved. Unlike the movies you are forced, unwillingly, to see, this is learning where you see the point, and want to engage, because it is in some ways your curriculum – as a learner (or a movie goer), you help to own the choices. Our curriculum design must be smart enough to enable learning to be personalised, flexible and responsive. Anything less risks more teachers feeling de-professionalised, and more learners in our schools choosing to disengage.

 

Steve Wilson is an emeritus professor at Western Sydney University, and an adjunct professor in the university’s School of Education. He now lives in Brisbane, Queensland, in Australia.

Should Australian schools look to Finland? April 7, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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From Benjamin Jones

In 1988 Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the National Science and Technology Centre (now called Questacon) as part of the Bicentennial celebrations. Expecting a positive media story for the government, he was instead confronted by 200 protesters angry at budget cuts to science and education. Hawke conceded that the government needed to do more to ensure Australia becomes a ‘clever country’.

The ‘clever country’ has been embraced by subsequent leaders and in some ways, Australia has achieved this goal or at least is heading in the right direction. The proportion of Australians aged 25-64 years who hold a non-school qualification has increased from 46 percent in 1990 to 59 percent in 2006. Those with a bachelor degree or higher more than doubled from 10 to 24 percent over the same period.

Australia’s educational advancements have not been equitable with the primary winners being the non-Indigenous residents of major cities. While 56.9 percent of Australians in major cities hold a non-school qualification, this drops to 45 in outer regional areas and just 35.6 in very remote areas. This more than halves for Indigenous Australians at 14.5 percent. Even in major cities, the inequality is substantial with 37.8 percent of Indigenous Australians holding a non-school qualification compared to 57.1 percent of non-Indigenous people.

Like Australia, Finland also had an average performing education system in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Over a decade-long period, Finland transformed itself and since 2001 is has consistently ranked in the very top tier in all PISA assessments. According to an OECD report, Finland is now a ‘major international leader in education’. The crucial difference between Finland and Australia, however, is that the Finnish system has ‘remarkable consistency across schools’ and there is little variation between students from low and high socio-economic areas.

Educational theorist Pasi Sahlberg’s new work, Finnish Lessons, offers some insights into how Finland turned their education system around and how other nations might do the same. Firstly, Finland looked abroad for the best ideas and was flexible enough to adapt where better methods in other countries were producing better outcomes. Dovetailing this idea, however, is that Finland appropriated foreign ideas into a local setting. Good ideas were adapted and made Finnish.

The second key point is that Finland has a culture that respects teachers. Unlike Australia where some university chancellors want to do away with minimum requirements altogether, Finnish teachers must be high academic achievers and hold a Master’s degree. In return, teachers are well paid and resourced. In a recent TEDx talk, Sahlberg argues that Finland trusts the teaching profession and this trust is the foundational strength of the system. One of the ‘germs’ that is destroying modern schooling is the idea that schools and teachers must be regularly held accountable through standardised testing and inspections. He says the Finnish view is that, ‘accountability is something left when responsibility is taken away’. Teacher autonomy has been crucial in Finland’s success.

One final lesson for Australia is that the Finns do not have a two-tier system. Rather than a large disparity between wealthy private schools and an under-funded public sector, there is a strong cultural commitment to a large public system with high quality education offered to all. Australia, like the United States and many other nations has allowed education to become market-driven. Tertiary education in particular, is seen as a revenue-generating industry rather than a vital public asset. In Finland there is an inspiring, publicly supported, central vision of what good education should look like. This vision is linked to a commitment to social justice and equity for all regardless of wealth, gender or ability. As Sahlberg stressed to John Hattie when interviewed for The Conversation, ‘it’s an inclusive principle’.

In December 2011, the Gonski Review was released. The was the most comprehensive investigation into school funding for 40 years and it highlighted the gross inequalities in the Australian education system. The heart of the review was needs-based funding. In addition to a base level, schools would receive extra funding depending on size, location and students’ needs (factoring in social inequality). While the Gillard government negotiated six year funding deals with NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT and introduced a needs-based system, the incoming Abbott government has only guaranteed four years of funding. It has also rejected the needs-based system as too ‘complex’ prompting a strong reply from the eponymous author, David Gonski. The campaign continues.

There is much Australia can learn from Finland if it wants to also be a world leader in education. It is imperative, however, that we move beyond the empty slogans of ‘clever country’ and ‘education revolution’ and put in place systems that will allow all Australians to have access to high quality education. The challenge is also to change the culture of negativity and present a world class education system as a vital national goal. This is not only a matter of social justice, it also makes economic sense for a small but wealthy nation. The Brookings Institute has researched the vast economic advantages of education. If Australia is to maintain its prosperity into the future, we should look to the Finnish example and ensure our education system is not only high quality but fair.

 

Dr Benjamin T. Jones is an adjunct research fellow in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, and a sessional tutor in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney. He is also a graduate teacher from UWS’s Master of Teaching (Secondary) program.

 

High Possibility Classrooms: a new model for technology integration for schools March 9, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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from Jane Hunter

This post is dedicated to my parents, Patrice and Noel, and to Anna who all had great passion for education and sadly passed away in 2014.

On the 5 March Sir Ken Robinson will give the first annual Anna Craft memorial lecture: Educating for creativity: From what is to what might be at Exeter University in the UK. It will be available on YouTube at a later date. Professor Craft passed away last year after a very brief battle with an aggressive cancer. She was 53. She and Sir Ken worked closely together for many years prior to his departure to the US and it is her seminal work in ‘possibility thinking and creativity’ (Craft, 2002; 2005; 2006; 2011a); 2011b); 2012) that leaves a significant intellectual legacy for education in schools. Groundbreaking studies – years ahead of their time.

Craft’s writing and scholarship formed the epiphany moment in my doctoral studies – that instant when all that I had read, the data from research, the years of teaching and thinking about the role of technology in learning in schools … it suddenly all made sense. Light bulb! Light bulb! Light bulb! I emailed Professor Craft at the time and she emailed me back – we planned to work together this year.

Teachers who forge ahead and integrate technology in the most highly creative, intellectual and imaginative ways view childhood and youth as empowered, not at risk, in digital landscapes. The notion of LifeWork became important in my research and “how creativity in children and young people must engage with the needs and rights of the inward, in the home and the personal, and with the outward, in work and in public life” (Craft, 2005, p.150). Craft (2005) provided an important and provocative lens quite early on, that on the one hand questioned the promotion of children’s creativity in schools, and yet on the other, there was a “parallel drive towards technicisation and bureaucratisation, which, had the effect of reducing creativity in the teaching profession” (p.10). Creativity and the role of the Arts in education is also a major pre-occupation in Robinson’s intellectual work; both scholars write, argue, research and promote ideas of possibility in teaching and learning in schools.

The name High Possibility Classrooms or HPC for a fresh model for contemporary teaching practice seemed a logical step towards the end of my research of four exemplary teachers’ knowledge of technology integration in the classrooms of 6-16 year olds in NSW public schools. The doctoral study is now the subject of a new book Technology Integration and High Possibility Classrooms: Building from TPACK; it was published by Routledge on March 9, 2015. See here to order a copy.

The warrant for the book stems from a need for robust theory drawn from research to underpin technology integration in learning in education contexts – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) is a well known theoretical framework, heavily researched and is highly respected in schools and in higher education – the HPC model for technology integration builds on the important work of TPACK. HPC has five conceptions – see Figure 1 and 22 themes of students learning processes and teaching strategies – see Figure 2.

Figure 1
fig 1
Figure 2
fig 2
Professor Punya Mishra has written the foreword in the book. He refers to the core of TPACK as directly relating to teacher creativity: “the framework acknowledges that teaching (particularly in novel, and technology-rich contexts) is complex, and requires both problem seeking and problem solving. The flexibility and range of knowledge that are necessary to integrate technology thoughtfully makes technology-savvy teaching an inherently creative act” (Hunter, 2015, p. xi).

Briefly, the first chapter in Technology Integration and High Possibility Classrooms: Building from TPACK examines global policy and education trends in technology integration in Australia, the USA and the UK. There is a critique of East Asian models of schooling and a picture of technology integration in schools in Singapore and South Korea is illustrated. Chapter 2 discusses other models for technology integration principally TPACK and there is a brief reference to SAMR (Puentedura, 2006). The view of HPC as action knowledge is proposed towards the end of this chapter.

The following four chapters (3-6) are the case studies from the research and readers come to understand the worlds of Gabby, Gina, Nina and Kitty: early years, primary or elementary, middle and high school classrooms. In January this year Education HQ commissioned a series of articles about the teachers in the HPC study and if you click on each of the links above you will see a quick offering from the classrooms to acquaint yourself with the kind of practices that I argue will shift teaching and learning in our schools.

In Chapter 7 the commonalities and differences in exemplary teachers’ knowledge of technology integration are assessed from the point of view of the research. In the final chapter the question of whether all schools can create High Possibility Classrooms is posited from an urgent need to re-tool the discipline of education (Furlong, 2013) using conceptions of theory, theory, creativity, public learning, and life preparation. Collectively, the HPC conceptions work in concert with the fifth conception, contextual accommodations to create action knowledge (AK). These outcomes occur through actions both at the level of practice, through policy considerations, out of ideas for professional development for teachers and future research in schools.

Each chapter in the book has an end section for professional conversation using a series of discussion pointers to guide professional learning in technology integration in teacher education whether that might be in-service or pre-service teachers. I trust it will be useful. The case studies in the book are timely and add to what we know about technology integration from exemplary teachers’ perspectives – see Figure 3. They are inspirational examples for all teachers, they are being mapped to the AITSL standards and more research to validate the HPC model in mainstream classrooms is currently being conducted in primary and high schools.

Figure 3

fig 3

 

I will use Technology Integration and High Possibility Classrooms: Building from TPACK in my own teaching – in teacher education we have the dual imperative to know how to use technology/learning management systems/blended learning approaches and so on; however we also have to model the rich pedagogical practices that we want our future teachers to action in classrooms.

 

I look forward to continuing the conversation.

 

References

Craft, A. (2000). Creativity across the primary curriculum: Framing and developing practice. London: Routledge.

Craft, A. (2002). Creativity in the early years: A lifewide foundation. London: Routledge.

Craft, A. (2005). Creativity in schools: Tensions and dilemmas. Abingdon: Routledge.

Craft, A. (2006). Creativity and wisdom? Cambridge Journal of Education, 36(3), 336-350.

Craft, A. (2011a). Approaches to creativity in education in the United Kingdom. In J. Sefton-Green, P. Thomson, K. Jones, & L. Bresler, (Eds), The Routledge international handbook of creative learning. Abingdon: Routledge.

Craft, A. (2011b). Creativity and education futures: Learning in a digital age. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

Craft, A. (2012). Childhood in a digital age: Creative challenges for educational futures. London Review of Education, 10 (2), 173-190. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14748460.2012.691282

Furlong, J. (2013). Education – An anatomy of the discipline. Abingdon, England: Routledge

Hunter, J. (2015). Technology Integration and High Possibility Classrooms: Building from TPACK. New York: Routledge.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.

Puentedura, R.R. (2006). Transformation, Technology, and Education. Retrieved from http://hippasus.com/resources/tte/

 

Dr Jane Hunter teaches in the School of Education and is a member of the Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She researches in the field of technology integration and learning, pedagogy, curriculum and teacher professional development.

Suitability for teaching: Assessing the potential to be a teacher. July 2, 2013

Posted by christinefjohnston in Directions in Education, Early Childhood Education, Education Policy and Politics, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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by Katina Zammit

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the NSW Council of Deans of Education and listen to Minister Piccoli espouse the NSW Government’s views on prospective teachers. He spoke about the quality of entrants into teaching: their literacy and numeracy levels and their suitability to be teachers. The points he put are part of the Government’s 2012 blueprint Great Teaching, Inspired Learning (GTIL). In this post, I’d like to consider what is meant by ‘suitability’ and question if this can be assessed.

The Minister spoke about ‘suitability’ for teaching. In Greater Teaching, Inspired Learning this is stated as ‘entrants into teacher education will … show an aptitude for teaching’ (GTIL, 2012, p.7). He explained that NSW would develop ‘a framework of attributes for assessing suitability for teaching’. The development of the framework will involve the initial teaching education providers, school authorities and teachers. But how do you judge a person as suitable for teaching? Is it based on a psychological evaluation? Will everyone need to take a Myers- Briggs assessment of personality types and be a certain type to be considered for a teaching job? It didn’t work for the Peace Corps, in the US. Will there need to be a recommendation from a principal? Or other educator?

In the project Teaching and Leading for Quality Australian Schools: A Review and Synthesis of Research-based Knowledge, Zammit et al (2007) found that quality teaching could be considered as being influenced by three domains: contextual factors, professional practice, and attributes and qualities of teachers. In the domain of attributes and qualities of teachers, we categorised these as personal, relational and professional. In the personal area, the qualities were: enthusiasm, passion and commitment; high levels of communication; and, motivation to enter teaching. However, these were identified as not the only attributes that contributed to student outcomes and quality teaching. But these seem to be the ones implied in the Minister’s speech.

How do you measure a person’s interest, desire or passion for being a teacher? I remember in high school completing a test to determine which profession / job I would be ‘suitable’ for to help me make decisions about my career. The result was I could do anything. Not so helpful. 

We are not born teachers. Teaching is not ‘in the blood’. It is not a genetic predisposition – at least I don’t think it is. But you have to want to work with children; to put in the hours outside of school (the hidden requirements of the job). There are so many different and very good teachers, with a range of personalities, skills and backgrounds who have come into teaching from high school, from another course or from another career. The merchant banker has not changed her/her career to teaching for the money.

The framework for suitability is still to be developed. The form it will take is still to be decided. Let’s hope it isn’t a multiple choice, personality assessment… Watch this space.

 References:

NSW Department of Education and Communities, NSW Institute of Teaching, & Board of Studies (NSW) (2012) Great Teaching, Inspired Learning: A Blueprint for Action. Sydney: NSW Department of Education and Communities.

Zammit, K., Sinclair, C., Cole, B., Singh, M., Costley, D., Brown A’Court, L., & Rushton, K. (2007). Teaching and Leading for Quality Australian Schools: A Review and Synthesis of Research-based Knowledge. Canberra: Teaching Australia.

Dr Katina Zammit is Director of Academic Program (Primary) in the School of Education, University of Western Sydney 

Once we were students… May 20, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
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from Sarah Powell

“Get back here now!”

I keep walking.

“Get back here, Sarah!”

I’ve left the classroom.

“Get back here now, or you’ll be on detention for the rest of your life.”

How did this start?

Doesn’t actually matter.

The thrown pencil case; sitting at the wrong desk; wearing the wrong shoes; refusing to put my poster on the wall; speaking out of turn; arguing; questioning everything; but all the time the boredom.

I simply didn’t matter. I dared to challenge their authority and that had to be quashed (yes, ‘squashed’ without the ‘s’). I was just a kid. Not a real person yet.

“I have to see her next lesson, and you’re telling me, that’s all I’ll have to do and she’ll respond?”

“Yes. Trust me.” My loyal mother.

“Sarah. I know we’ve got off to a pretty bad start, and I’d like to say “sorry” for the part I’ve played. I don’t care who said what or who was right and who was wrong. I’d like to start all over again. Wipe the slate clean as it were. What do you think?”

“Yeah, okay.”

From that moment, school was different. I became human, significant. He saw me as a person in my own right and for a short time we would be travelling the same road. I reminded him of this story just the other day, now 20 years on. He was my Music teacher and whilst he didn’t solve all my troubles with other teachers, he tapped into my passion for music and singing, and that made everything else bearable. This was not just about the fact that he was a caring, passionate teacher. He understood, more than most, that there’s a key that unlocks every child.

This is the heart of Significance.

Significance is one of three interrelated dimensions that form the NSW Quality Teaching Framework (2003). According to this framework, learning should be meaningful and accessible to all students, by providing experiences that “draw[s] clear connections with students’ prior knowledge and identities, with contexts outside of the classroom, and with multiple ways of knowing or cultural perspectives” (p.9). It begins with recognising that every student is an individual, with individual expressions of culture and personality; individual social standing and understanding; individual personal histories; individual capacities; and individual identities.

Possible Selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986; Freer, 2009, 2010; Sica, 2009; Cross & Markus, 1994) is a way of considering the formation of identity, and in the school context this is a particularly important and vulnerable time for the adolescent. As an aspect of self-concept or self-definition, Possible Selves define an individual’s future self, in terms of what they would like to be in the future, their ideal. This future self, a possible self, is generally defined in one of three ways: what a person wants to become, what they expect to become, and what they want to avoid or fear becoming. Cross and Markus (1994) suggest that Possible Selves bridge the gap between present self and future self. They are a way of organising the beliefs and actions of an individual in order to achieve a particular, desired outcome. According to Markus and Nurius (1986) Possible Selves inspire direction, modify behaviour, and are discrete representations of experiences and personality. The adolescent identity is not yet fixed or definite and therefore, it is essential to provide authentic, positive and meaningful learning, so that students can have access to a range of opportunities and possibilities, allowing them to confidently make choices about what they want to do, can do, who they are, and what they want to be. This, again, is at the heart of the NSW Quality Teaching Framework’s notion of Significance. In essence, if I have a good experience of something in the present, I am more likely to pursue it in the future. The opposite is also true.

My own experience has been that one teacher took the time and trouble to recognise me as an individual and connect my learning to my personal context. This meant that in the uncertainty of adolescent identity, and in the midst of all sorts of negative messages from other teachers, I chose to follow one possible and positive self. This choice has since opened up a world of possibilities.

Once we were all students… and yes, it was a battle.

References:  Cross, S. E. & Markus, H. R. (1994). Self-schemas, possible selves, and competent performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(3), 423-438.    Freer, P. K. (2009). ‘I’ll sing with my buddies’ – Fostering the possible selves of male choral singers. International Journal of Music Education, 27(4), 341-355.   Freer, P. K. (2010). Two decades of research on possible selves and the ‘missing males’ problem in choral music. International Journal of Music Education, 28(1), 17-30.    Markus, H. & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954-969.    NSW Department of Education and Training (DET). (2003). Quality teaching in NSW public schools. Discussion paper. Sydney, NSW: Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate.    Sica, L. S. (2009). Adolescents in different contexts: The exploration of identity through possible selves. Cognition, Brain, Behavior: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 13(3), 221-252.

Sarah Powell is a doctoral student in the Centre for Educational Research in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is undertaking her PhD in music education and is also a sessional academic who teaches into our Master of Teaching (Secondary) initial teacher education program at UWS. Sarah is passionate about the need for teachers to understand and respect their students, and is the first of our postgraduate students to contribute to 21st Century Learning.

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