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Study reveals main obstacles to effective teaching


Study reveals main obstacles to effective teaching

Too many Australian schools face barriers that limit them in delivering evidence-backed teaching practices and lifting student outcomes, according to a new paper.

The research, conducted by Trisha Jha, Research Fellow in the Education program at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), found that teachers are strongly motivated to fix educational inequity and problems with student learning when they emerge, and perceive science of learning as a solution.

A separate paper released last week by the CIS defines the science of learning as the integration of cognitive science and educational psychology insights with effective teaching practices.

It challenges traditional beliefs in education, such as student-led learning and the ineffectiveness of rote learning, arguing that student learning outcomes have not improved under the current model.

Jha noted that while there are “some pockets of excellence” in Australia’s school system, teachers often discover the ‘science of learning’ by chance rather than through deliberate, systematic education, creating a ‘lottery of sorts.

“They haven’t been trained at university nor guided adequately by school systems and policy to already be using best practice. This means schools must invest significantly in whole-school professional development — and teachers are forced to rely on informal networks and opportunities to build up practice knowledge.”

Knowledge sharing is critical

The research participants, working mostly in NSW schools, were critical of the Department of Education’s sometimes contradictory advice — observing that guidance advocating evidence-based practice co-existed with guidance advocating student-led learning. 

One key recommendation from the paper is to reform not only teacher standards but also greater system-level support with the ‘curriculum to practice’ pipeline, better assessment tools, and finding ways to model good practice and share knowledge across the system.

The paper also says that science of learning-based approaches can be “an invigorating experience” for teachers and “contribute positively to their sense of professional identity”.

“The teaching approach best supported by the evidence is explicit instruction of a well-sequenced, knowledge-focused curriculum,” Jha said.

“But the teaching practices currently promoted by initial teacher education, teacher standards and curriculum guidance are at best vague about what is most effective or, at worst, contradictory to the science of learning.”

Jha said the solution is for Australia’s education policy ecosystem to embrace the science of learning as an integral part of quality teaching across the workforce.

“In order for these ideas to become the bedrock of Australian education, teachers, parents and policymakers all have a role to play.”

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