Chris has been actively involved in the development of all Queensland Earth Science syllabus documents since 1995. He co-wrote the current Earth Science syllabus and was a member of the Expert Writing Team for the new Earth and Environmental Science syllabus (to be used from 2019).
As part of his role as State Review Panel Chair, Chris supported state-wide development, implementation and review of assessment in Earth Science. He developed exemplar assessment tasks and provided examples of standards. All current examples on the QCAA website are based on tasks developed by Chris and used by Redlands College students.
Chris' work to ensure student-focussed curriculum and assessment at Redlands College
One of the challenges of high definition, mandated curricula is ensuring that teachers remain focussed on students and their learning. Under the weight of responsibility to cover the content, the risk of teachers resorting to reductionist approaches that objectivify students is heightened. Despite teachers' best intentions, the content becomes the focus.
In his role as Academic Dean, Chris engaged Redlands College teachers in a series of activities intended to help them appreciate the place of new curricula relative to the teachers' roles and responsibilities as well as the school's mission.
In 2013, the concept map above was created and used to contextualise the influence of curriculum authorities while also highlighting the responsibilities retained by teachers and the school. Through discussion and collaboration, teachers were encouraged to explore all influences on their practice. The goal was to ensure teachers appreciated that, individually and collectively, they were acting in response to the needs of their students. Although curriculum authorites stipulated content, teachers had authorship of the purpose (why), process (how) and packaging (what) of teaching.
In conjunction with this activity, Chris established the following curriculum planning paradigm. It identified the essential processes for curriculum planning.
The planning paradigm focuses on developing children’s abilities such that teachers maximise opportunities for learning. What we teach is important, but it is secondary to who we teach and why we are teaching them. The purpose of this paradigm was to ensure a consistent approach to curriculum planning that maintains a student learning focus (even within the context of highly mandated, externally imposed curricula).
The elements of the curriculum planning paradigm (as explained to teachers) are as follows.
All curriculum planning must start with a clear understanding of why the unit is important to student learning. This will find expression as a rationale and learning outcomes. All subsequent planning must extend from and clearly demonstrate links back to the rationale and learning outcomes (this process is called ‘backward mapping’ or ‘backward planning’). Learning outcomes should be expressed in terms of (or with links to) assessable evidence of learning.
Importantly, statements of why must be expressed in such a way that they can be shared with students and families.
Once the rationale and outcomes are understood, planning moves onto how the unit will be taught via the identification of specific pedagogies (teaching and learning strategies) essential to achieving the learning outcomes. Identification of the role of digital technologies to facilitate learning is an important part of this process. Core pedagogies should be linked to assessment tasks.
Assessment task(s), including criteria and standards, will then be developed to provide evidence of learning in terms of the outcomes and ‘content.’ Assessment should be an integral and logical component of learning, well supported by overt pedagogies and processes.
As part of the planning process, mechanisms for collecting and providing feedback need to be identified, specifically:
teacher <> student
student <> student
teacher <> teacher
teacher <> parent
student <> parent.