Schools do matter, say ACER education experts

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Monday, 16 Feb 2009

For immediate release 16 February 2009
Schools do matter, say ACER education experts

Education systems must overcome ‘biological social determinism’ to focus on student learning, Professor Steve Dinham of the Australian Council for Educational Research will tell education leaders in a series of seminars next week.

“Many people today, including practicing teachers, still subscribe, consciously or subconsciously, to various forms of biological social determinism, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” says Professor Dinham, Research Director of ACER’s Teaching, Learning and Leadership research program.

“What students can achieve in their education is not predetermined by heredity, where they live, their socio-economic background or family circumstances. All students can benefit from quality education,” says Dinham.

“Similarly, there is no such thing as a ‘born teacher’, and all teachers are capable of learning to be more effective,” he says.

“But it takes time for teachers to develop from novice to competent to expert, and the expectation that first-year teachers will immediately be capable is unrealistic.”

According to Dinham, student learning and achievement should be the focus of every school, educational system, and education department and faculty. Quality leadership should drive this focus. Professor Brain Caldwell, Deputy Chair of the ACER Board of Directors, will also speak about the connection between student achievement, professional learning, quality teaching and leadership. “A degree of artistry is required to ensure an optimal balance of autonomy, accountability and choice,” Professor Caldwell says.

“Transformation is within the reach of every school that develops the four forms of capital and is governed well. Findings from international studies provide the foundation for a 10-point, 10-year strategy to enable all schools to become as good as those currently considered to be the best, here in Australia and in other nations,” he says.

Professor Dinham and Professor Caldwell will give a series of seminars in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on 23, 24 and 25 February. The seminars are run by ACER’s Leadership Centre.

Professor Dinham’s latest book, How to Get Your School Moving and Improving, and Professor Caldwell’s latest book, Why Not the Best Schools? are published by ACER Press.