In light of the CESE research released this year on cognitive load theory (Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand), I'd like to take some time to review what we are asking teachers to process in terms of reviewing and implementing new syllabuses. I want to consider the following questions:
- Are we asking HSIE teachers to process too much information too quickly?
- Are the expectations too high in terms of meaningfully reviewing and effectively implementing so many new syllabuses in a relatively short period of time?
- Are we overloading teachers and can this overloading be prevented?
- Are the findings of the Curriculum Review going to necessitate further changes?
In the past few years HSIE teachers have been through familiarisation and implementation of K-10 History and Geography syllabuses, and are currently implementing the new Stage 6 History syllabus (this year is the first Year 12 under the new syllabus). While History teachers have had a fairly heavy workload over the last few years in terms of preparing for new syllabuses and implementing them, Geography teachers have so far only had to worry about implementing the K-10 syllabus. Up until this point progress has been fairly steady and mostly manageable. In the case of the new Geography syllabuses there has actually been some frustration that it has moved a bit too slowly, with Phase 3 subjects almost catching up with Geography which was a Phase 2 subject. Regardless, most people are happy to see change to syllabuses that are stale and need refreshing.
2018 - Consultation on draft 7-10 Commerce syllabus
2018 - Implementation of Stage 6 History courses
2018 - Consultation on Elective Geography
2018 - Consultation on Elective History
2018 - Consultation on Work Education
Moving forward, this year and next may actually be quite problematic for HSIE teachers. This year sees the first HSC exam for the new History course, a proposed rewrite and possible review of the Stage 6 Geography syllabus, familiarisation with new Elective Geography, Elective History and Work Education courses, and release and consultation on the new 7-10 Commerce and Aboriginal Studies syllabuses. Teacher anxiety is already quite high with new assessment and reporting requirements and the first HSC exam in senior History. Unlike previous years, there aren't past papers to refer back to for preparation and expectations aren't as clear as they may have been in the past with an old syllabus. In addition, the quality of feedback during consultation periods for Commerce and Aboriginal Studies is likely to be compromised due to teachers also trying to create teaching and learning programs and resources for Elective Geography, Elective History and Work Education all in the one year.
2019 - First HSC examination year for the new Stage 6 History syllabus
2019 - Review of Stage 6 Geography
2019 - Proposed release of 7-10 Commerce syllabus for familiarisation
2019 - Proposed consultation on draft Aboriginal Studies syllabus
2019 - Familiarisation with Elective Geography
2019 - Familiarisation with Elective History
2019 - Familiarisation with Work Education
In amongst all of this, NESA is undertaking an overall Curriculum review, with frames of reference including identifying essential knowledge, skills and attributes, overcrowding of the curriculum, levels of detail in curriculum documents, breadth and depth of study and assessment and reporting (including NAPLAN, the ROSA and HSC). How will this review impact on newly implemented syllabuses? Will there be further changes to syllabuses now in consultation or familiarisation stages? Will the review jeopardise the writing of new syllabuses? Will the Curriculum review be continued if there is a new state government elected? Why didn't we just implement the Australian Curriculum as is, if we were going to go with something simpler anyway?
The only thing we know for sure at this stage is nothing remains constant except change itself. To be continued....
I have previously written about syllabus changes in NSW:
New NSW syllabuses
Geography - Australian Curriculum
New NSW syllabus - Geography
Consultation period for the new NSW Geography syllabus from BOSTES
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the Geoactive text book series.