DAY 1

SESSION 1

Chair: Professor Kerry Kennedy, President, Australian Curriculum Studies Association

Participants enjoyed being entertained and introduced to the ‘spirit of democracy’ by the Campbell High School Musical Performers.

OPENING ADDRESS BY THE HON TONY ABBOTT, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, TRAINING AND YOUTH AFFAIRS. (Points relevant to the AFSSSE Project)

  • Unlike some countries, Australia is familiar with democracy.
  • Learning about democracy is more than learning the history of democracy. We need to appreciate the spirit of democracy that has shaped our public life – such learning enriches our understanding of this country and leads to a deepening commitment to democratic values.
  • Young people need stories on what it is be Australian

COMMENTS FROM DR JOHN HIRST, CHAIRMAN, CIVICS EDUCATION GROUP (Points relevant to the AFSSSE project)

Dr Hirst

  • challenged the view that the Discovering Democracy project was ‘worthy but boring’
  • described the project as intellectually and morally challenging, and believed in the necessity of including topics bout Ancient Athens, the touchstone of civilisations
  • stressed the need to link historical contexts to situations familiar to students, and provided examples of situational learning
  • reminded the participants that being a ‘citizen’ in Australia has never been critically important because Australians have not had to fight for freedom
  • suggested we do not have as much tangible evidence of civic national identity as some other countries. For example our heroes are sporting personalities, horses, bush rangers… and our symbols do not necessarily celebrate civic life. Even though we have a body of history to draw on, we sometimes overlook our civic inventiveness
  • suggested our aim should be for students to form values and develop civic responsibility, that we should use history to make the study about democracy a ‘human study’, to link the past to the present and consider what we might make of the future.

COMMENTS BY SUE FERGUSON, PROJECT COORDINATOR, CURRICULUM CORPORATION ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE RESOURCE MATERIALS

    Participants listened to an overview of the materials being issued to schools free in November of this year. Ms Ferguson also demonstrated using the Stories of Democracy CD ROM. This CD ROM provides a comprehensive set of print, video, audio and graphic sources; a glossary of terms; a timeline detailing the development of Australian democracy; and biographies of significant people.

    For an excellent summary of what to expect in schools in November, remove the centre pages of the booklet EQ Australia, Issue 3, produced by Curriculum Corporation. Tel 03 9207 9600.

    A teacher chat facility can be accessed via the Discovering Democracy website http://www.curriculum.edu.au/democracy.

CURRENT PRACTICE: CIVICS AND CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS – DR MURRAY PRINT, ACADEMICS CONSORTIUM

    Information on this research project can be obtained from http://www.civics.edfac.usyd.edu.au

    Dr Print explained the variables, measures, and provisional findings.

    Some participants were concerned that the definition given to ‘civics and citizenship’ might have distorted some of the preliminary results that indicated a lack of involvement and lack of knowledge on the part of many teachers.

PRESENTATIONS FROM VICTORIA AND ACT

Victoria

Ms Gabrielle England described the Victorian inter-systemic Discovering Democracy project being funded by DEETYA. In Victoria the project includes

  • grants to schools to carry out research
  • professional development activities
  • teacher conferences
  • network meeting with network leaders so professional development can occur as close to the site as possible and involve community groups
  • a conscientious commitment on the part of the participants.

Ms England described the following concerns and issues raised by teachers as:

  • where to obtain resources for a whole school approach
  • the plethora of materials requiring extensive professional development
  • linking the materials to current curriculum expectations and assessment demands
  • using the technology
  • the need for a register of local community resources
  • the need to increase the knowledge base of some teachers
  • how to change the school culture to one that models ‘a democracy’
  • resources for P-4
  • the curriculum is already crowded
  • lack of time to become familiar with the materials and link them to the local context
  • need teacher release
  • difficult to promote materials that are not yet available
  • not clear what is to happen in the post compulsory grades

Information can be located under the PLDC icon and supporting information can be found on the SOSE home page of the following site: http://www.sofweb.vic.edu.au.

Australian Capital Territory

Ms Julia Ryan described the professional development model developed by the inter-systemic committee in ACT. The program

  • involves indepth professional development
  • is a teacher/trainer program
  • included grants to schools for innovation

The four day professional development course included sessions on

  • introduction to politics
  • theories of citizenship
  • Federation/ the Constitution
  • USA and Australia
  • Machinery of government
  • How to change the world
  • Fitting to the curriculum
  • Parties and elections
  • Democracy lost
  • Spreading the message
  • Teaching materials and resources

More detail can be obtained on http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/courses/civics.

Typical concerns from teachers included

(Year 3 teacher)

  • The curriculum is already too crowded
  • More support is needed to help teachers use resources in upper primary
  • Changed view on the materials once given autonomy to select and fit to local needs and curriculum demands – became less critical.

(High school teacher)

  • Only one jump ahead of the students – little time to plan
  • Important to learn where students are at – need to check prior knowledge
  • Only used one third of the materials to meet students needs
  • Needed to include some different teaching strategies
  • Difficult to spread the word on using the units when they are not available.

SESSION 2 – DAY 1

Chair: Ms Pat Rodrigues, Deputy Chairperson, Australian Principals Association Professional Development Council

PRESENTATIONS FROM SOUTH AUSTRALIA, NORTHERN TERRITORY AND TASMANIA

South Australia

A team led by Mr Mark Blencowe described

  • How the SA context can provide examples of contradiction in democracy. SA was the first state to abolish the criterion of property ownership to be a member of parliament, but was the last state to abolish this requirement in the upper house.
  • How important it was to connect the materials to state curriculum requirements
  • The need to highlight and enhance what is already happening in civics and citizenship’
  • How the professional development program aims to develop a base of well informed and effective teachers, identify schools where civics and citizenship is taught well, meet the needs of students with special needs. The program includes close collaboration between pilot schools, professional associations, schools, community. Train the trainer model is used.

Mr Peter Leverenz made reference to specific activities in schools. Details can be accessed in EQ, Issue 3, Curriculum Corporation. Peter noted

  • The Federation CD ROM worked especially well with his more advanced class
  • The need to teach for democracy not about democracy
  • How his secondary school linked with two primary schools to find out who were the active citizens in the community, their roles and what motivated them. Skills in interviewing had to be developed.
  • The various projects already running for students and teachers interested in civics and citizenship. Examples include the Youth Parliament for the Environment (national project); Youth Council (a local project); United Nations Youth Association (international); and the Constitutional Convention (school based program).

Mr Brendon Ryan explained how he trialled the ‘Joining In’ unit. He explained

  • The school already had an active professional development program
  • The approach was to balance the past with the ‘now’ and the future
  • The emphasis on deconstruction and critical literacy (whose past, whose stories…?)
  • There was some concern about the content and methodology in the materials
  • The need to start with local community speakers (mother who runs weekend soccer club etc). This was more effective than using ‘ghosts’.

The Riverdale project was described as being a project which

  • Had a multi-age emphasis
  • Involved shared decision making
  • Students, parents and staff representation on all committees – younger students selected, older students elected.
  • Materials had to be modified to include children’s real life experiences.
  • Involvement with the project has led to critical review of current committee structures.

Northern Territory

Ms Louise Finch provided an entertaining and thought provoking criticism of the Discovering Democracy school materials. Concerns included:

  • Too much ‘product’ and not enough ‘process’
  • Difficult to know how to stop the materials being stored and kept in ‘pristine condition’
  • Teachers need support on what to keep and what to toss, and this is difficult given teachers are so busy.
  • NT has 25% indigenous people, and much of the material is unsuitable for these students. The materials are ‘about’ them, but their voices are not heard. Enormous cultural diversity exists. Heroes are different.
  • Professional development is a huge concern.
  • Lack of contemporary issues makes much of the material unsuitable.
  • Details of the professional development project are described in the paper in the Forum booklet.

Tasmania

Mr Nigel Brown made the following points

  • The One Nation debate has led to a sense of urgency in dealing with concepts of ‘democracy’
  • American political personalities have highlighted the role of the media
  • Each state/territory has local issues that can be of interest to students
  • Some concern over materials not being suitable for students with special needs
  • Concern about only one kit per school
  • Appreciate the appointment of a project officer to help schools
  • Concerns about linking the materials to the curriculum
  • Little money for professional development/ teacher release
  • Vital to link materials to local experiences
  • Male representation on workshops inadequate
  • A personal approach to professional development is possible in Tasmania
  • Need to consider the materials as a resource to enrich what is already happening – not an end in itself
  • Needs to be a recognition that teachers are best at designing curriculum, designing resources, knowing what and how to teach, controlling the learning environment
  • Teachers and students learning experiences are, and should be, diverse.

SESSION 3

  1. VOICES OF YOUTH
  2. Four young people gave their views on learning about democracy.

    Anne Witheford: Delegate at the Constitutional Convention

    Julian Leeser: Delegate at the Constitutional Convention

    Natalie Weddell: Year 10 Student, Canberra High School

    Stefan Webb: Year 6 Student, Aranda Primary High

    Stefan stressed the need for students to be team players and interested in peace. He stressed the need to value skills in problem solving, peer mediation and being aware of the needs of others.

    Natalie emphasised the need for leadership, networks, practical skills, and consultation. She described how active roles can lead to rewarding results.

    Anne described the role of the Discovering Democracy program in closing the gap between polarised images of young people. She described her own childhood where civics was a ‘conversation’. Politics were often discussed in real life contexts. The materials need to do this – make political processes 3D – content, real examples and real consequences. She noted that civic identity and responsible participation are paramount for citizenship, and that we have a unique opportunity with the centenary of Federation to invest in ‘civic capital’. Anne stressed that the mistrust of politicians cannot be reinforced through ignorance.

    Julian suggested that civics, like constitutional law, does not fit easily into a discipline in schools, so it needs its own discipline. He urged civics education to be mandatory for senior students, but that civics education needs to be made ‘sexy’. Julian provided some interesting examples of his own childhood – cutting his hair to make eyebrows for his Menzies assignment cover sheet; asking for a copy of the Constitution for his tenth birthday. Julian admitted to having a privileged childhood with intellectual challenges, and respect for tradition. He was introduced by the Chair of the session Mr Greg Craven, Civics Education Group, as a ‘monarchist with a sense of humour’.

     

Copyright © 2004  AFSSSE