Sunday, March 23, 2014

Making it real and relevant

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Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
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Authentic learning whilst exploring values

Teaching humanities is not value neutral. Everything we teach can be put into a values context. As a humanities teacher it is inevitable and indeed desirable to work in the area of values clarification and contestability. Whether called values education or not, it is beholden upon humanities teachers, if they want their learning area to be real and relevant (sometimes called authentic learning), to draw out controversial and contentious issues when teaching topics/units.

As Robert Butler says in his article “….it is getting harder and harder in conversation to raise one or other of the most basic subjects in geography – agriculture, glaciation, rivers and population – without a flicker of panic crossing the other person’s face. You are no longer talking about a neutral subject.”

The place of values in education was highlighted by the work of the Commonwealth Values Education between 2002-2008. This program was on about more than values clarification, it was actually playing in the area of enunciating Australian values for Australian schools. The values described for Australian schools in this program were:

Nine Values for Australian Schooling

1. Care and Compassion
Care for self and others
2. Doing Your Best
Seek to accomplish something worthy and admirable, try hard, pursue excellence
3. Fair Go
Pursue and protect the common good where all people are treated fairly for a just society
4. Freedom
Enjoy all the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship free from unnecessary
interference or control, and stand up for the rights of others
5. Honesty and Trustworthiness
Be honest, sincere and seek the truth
6. Integrity
Act in accordance with principles of moral and ethical conduct, ensure consistency
between words and deeds
7. Respect
Treat others with consideration and regard, respect another person’s point of view
8. Responsibility
Be accountable for one’s own actions, resolve differences in constructive, non-violent and
peaceful ways, contribute to society and to civic life, take care of the environment
9. Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion
Be aware of others and their cultures, accept diversity within a democratic society,
being included and including others.

For all the rights and wrongs of this program, yes it was controversial; some excellent work was conducted across Australia in developing the area of values education across schools and in classrooms. Two very significant outcomes of the program were:

an excellent range of values education resources on-line for classroom use

• that the idea of values in education was given exposure and has been embodied in the General Capabilities and Cross Curriculum Priorities of the Australian Curriculum
- integrated across to different extent across the learning areas. As expected values are strongly embedded in the history and geography (and later Civics and Citizenship) curriculums.

Let’s look at both of these separately:

1. Values Education resources

Resources on student well-being, learning area focussed lesson plans and intercultural understanding are particularly useful for the general capabilities.




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To help with mapping the values education resources to the Australian Curriculum the attached document has been developed to ensure that a transition does occur between the previous Values Education program and the Australian Curriculum.

The Australian Curriculum Shape Paper has the following values related ‘Educational goals for young Australians”.

• are able to make sense of their world and think about how things have become the way they are
• have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing
• have a sense of optimism about their lives and the future — are enterprising, show initiative and use their creative abilities
• develop personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others
• have the knowledge, skills, understanding and values to establish and maintain healthy, satisfying lives
• relate well to others and form and maintain healthy relationships
• are well prepared for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members
• embrace opportunities, make rational and informed decisions about their own lives and accept responsibility for their own actions.
• act with moral and ethical integrity
• appreciate Australia’s social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, and have an understanding of Australia’s system of government, history and culture
• understand and acknowledge the value of Indigenous cultures and possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
• are committed to national values of democracy, equity and justice, and participate in Australia’s civic life
• are able to relate to and communicate across cultures, especially the cultures and countries of Asia

In the Australian Curriculum there are 7 General Capabilities and 3 Cross Curriculum Priorities, all value laden and relevant to the 2002-2008 Values Education program:

The general capabilities define knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that can be developed and applied across the curriculum to help students to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens. The general capabilities to be included in the Australian Curriculum are:
• Literacy
• Numeracy
• Information and communication technology (ICT) competence
• Critical and creative thinking
• Ethical behaviour
• Intercultural understanding
• Personal and social competence

Note that the last four a reflective of the goals of the previous Values Education program.

The Cross Curriculum Priorities of the Australian Curriculum are both relevant to the lives of students and address the contemporary issues they face. The curriculum gives special attention to three priorities:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures will allow all young Australians the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, their significance for Australia and the impact these have had, and continue to have, on our world.
• Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia will allow all young Australians to develop a better understanding of the countries and cultures of the Asia region. Students will develop an appreciation of the economic, political and cultural interconnections that Australia has with the region.
• Sustainability will allow all young Australians to develop an appreciation of the need for more sustainable patterns of living, and to build the capacities for thinking and acting that are necessary to create a more sustainable future.

Reading of the Australian curriculum and conducting the filter exercise for the General Capabilities and Cross Curriculum Priorities will clearly show that these value orientated components of the curriculum are well and truly integrated across the learning areas. The Values Education resources are a great resource to use in the Australian Curriculum and should be checked out if wanting to be real and relevant when developing a teaching program.

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