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Re-framing the "Middle Years Slump"

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Level 12, 30 Mary Steet, Brisbane, 4000

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Researchers from the Australian Catholic University will discuss and debate the idea of the oft talked about middle years ‘slump’. While it is seen to manifest as a decline in student performance, at a deeper level, it may reflect a ‘slump’ in the practices that are valued and prioritised in the teaching of writing in classrooms.

The middle school movement emerged during the 1990s. Underachievement was at the heart of the movement coupled with a commitment to investigate how to best teach and engage students in the increasingly complex skills required when transitioning into secondary school. A significant investment in research ensued, with engagement in longitudinal studies of how teachers and students work in schools and classrooms. The research highlighted the importance of the middle years, galvanising policy and warranting a focus on ‘enhancing middle years’. It supported young people’s wellbeing, creativity and engagement with learning. However, 10 years later, according to NAPLAN results, the middle years are reflective of a steep decline, particularly in the writing domain. The practices adopted in this phase are considered against a broader backdrop of how writing is taught in the early years and in senior schooling.

This presentation will explore the teaching of writing, and draws on multivariate analyses of responses from 600 Queensland teachers who completed the Australian Writing Survey (AWS) representing all years of schooling and a wide range of subject areas.


The Presenters:

Claire Wyatt-Smith (Australian Catholic University)

Wyatt-Smith is the Director of the Learning Sciences Institute Australia at Australian Catholic University and Professor of Educational Assessment and Literacy. She is currently leading a large scale Australian study involving a national collective of 13 universities with a common focus on embedding the officially endorsed Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment in a wide range of Initial Teacher Education programs across the country. Claire’s research engages with significant research, policy and practice matters including standards, validity, reliability, fairness, and teacher and system use of data to inform teaching and improve learning.

Christine Jackson (Australian Catholic University)

Christine Jackson is a Research Project Officer with the Learning Sciences Institute, ACU and was previously
the Assessment and Reporting Manager for Academic Assessments Services Australia. She has been Project Manager for the ‘Research Partnership and Improvement Science Project’ funded by the DoE Education Horizon Grant that investigated how Queensland teachers engaged in the teaching of writing. Christine has extensive experience in large-scale writing assessment, testing and online management of data. She has also worked for the Education Department (Federal Government) and has managed a large project focused on improving effective teacher pedagogies using an action-research model for the Catholic Education Office in Sydney.



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Level 12, 30 Mary Steet, Brisbane, 4000

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