Reflections on Gonski 2.0 - How MAPPEN addresses a number of the reforms suggested in this latest Review.

A brief history of Gonski

In April 2010, the then Federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, initiated a review of funding arrangements for schooling to develop a funding system which is transparent, fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting excellent educational outcomes for all Australian students. This review panel was headed by David Gonski. The findings and recommendations of the committee were presented to the government in November 2011, whereafter deliberations were entered into by the Federal and state governments to consider its content. The committee's report is known as the Gonski Report.

The report focused on funding for schooling and its impact on outcomes as they are currently measured by governments both nationally and internationally. The panel considered the funding needs of students from all schools across the government, Catholic and independent school sectors. It considered the current arrangements for providing Australian Government and state and territory funding to schools, as well as other sources of school income.


In July 2017, David Gonski chaired a new review called the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools, commissioned by the Federal government to ensure that record levels of school funding are going to be spent in the best possible way, i.e. on what the evidence shows will be the most effective and efficient ways to improve students’ outcomes and achievement. The Review Panel delivered the final report to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and Senator Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, on 28 March 2018.

The report makes recommendations targeted at:

  • laying the foundations for learning and equipping every student to grow and succeed in a changing world,

  • creating, supporting and valuing a profession of expert educators, and empowering and supporting school leaders.

State Education Ministers will consider the recommendations as part of negotiating a new national schooling agreement and new bilateral agreements. These will cover all schools, both government and non-government.

The Council of Australian Governments has agreed to conclude the agreement by September 2018.

Setting high expectations for schools and students

One of the critical actions required by our education system and identified by the Review is a need to set high expectations for schools and students. Data presented by the Review indicates that 30 percent of primary schools are 'cruising' from year to year rather than improving results between years at the same rate as similar schools.

The design and development of MAPPEN was based on three basic principles:

  • most primary-aged students can usually achieve more than their teachers ask or expect of them,

  • classroom teachers do not have the time and in some cases, expert curriculum knowledge, to design enriched, sequenced units of work that meet curriculum requirements,

  • the acquisition and application of 21st Century skills is one of the most critical aspects of education today.

To this end, MAPPEN has been crafted as a curriculum that stimulates high order thinking in students, encourages student voice and autonomy, provides professional development for teachers while they teach, frees up teacher time to further differentiate a rich and contextually relevant curriculum, and builds students’ capacity as reflective, thoughtful learners.

Review Priority: Equip every child to be a creative, connected and engaged learner in a rapidly changing world.

Below is a brief summary of some of what the Review identified with regard to this priority:

Every young Australian should emerge from schooling:

  • as creative and connected,

  • as an engaged learner with a growth mindset,

  • with a mix of knowledge, skills, and understanding for a world experiencing significant economic, social and technological change.

Shifts in technology and jobs are changing the balance, type and proficiency levels of the knowledge, skill and understanding students need to develop through school. Curriculum, learning and pedagogical models need to respond to these changing needs. The Review Panel recommends placing increased emphasis on teaching general capabilities in the F-10 Australian Curriculum. The general capabilities dimension was raised repeatedly in stakeholder consultations and public submissions as critical to preparing students for a future of interactive, non-routine work.

The complexity of teaching the capabilities as outlined in the Review

  • teachers are expected to embed teaching of the general capabilities into subject-based learning area,

  • teaching and assessing the general capabilities, particularly in an embedded form, is a highly complex task,

  • teachers need to have a sound understanding of how to teach these capabilities and to design engaging material which advances both learning areas and general capabilities,

  • it takes deep expertise to know how best to interweave the teaching of the general capabilities into different learning areas, as general capabilities vary in their relevance to each learning area,

  • this embedded model carries the risk that general capabilities are treated as a secondary aspect of learning, relative to subject-based knowledge,

  • many submissions argued for the curriculum to place a greater emphasis on the general capabilities relative to the learning areas and for further development of the pedagogical approaches required to achieve this,

  • many teachers are unaware of available resources to develop the general capabilities and how they might use them in conjunction with learning area materials,

  • teachers require better support to deliver and raise the priority of the general capabilities by putting them at the core of our curriculum and teaching practice.

Embedding the Capabilities.

The authors of MAPPEN have long held the view that the development of the Capabilities is essential for the development of civic-minded, rational students. For the same reasons provided by the Review, the Capabilities have been included in MAPPEN and are embedded in a logical, sequential manner that link to eight specific concepts of Community, Sustainability, Social Justice, Creativity, Identity, Change, Discovery and Connections.

Critical and Creative Thinking

MAPPEN students develop capability in both critical and creative thinking. They learn to:

  • generate and evaluate knowledge

  • clarify concepts and ideas

  • seek possibilities

  • consider alternatives and solve problems

  • manage their own thinking and learning

  • develop arguments and draw reasoned conclusions

  • generate and apply new ideas in specific contexts

MAPPEN students explicitly learn the Habits of Mind. Students become equipped to think for themselves, applying reasoning and logic in place of panic and irrational thinking. Students learn the value of persistence and reflection. They apply humour appropriately and listen with empathy when required.

Personal and Social Capability

Cooperative learning and self-regulation are woven throughout all MAPPEN units, with students being provided with ways to both build and assess their skills of negotiation, listening and teamwork. MAPPEN students learn to:

  • understand themselves and others

  • manage their relationships and learning more effectively

  • consider different emotions and ways they can be regulated

  • understand the importance of developing empathy for others

  • understand the importance of making responsible decisions

  • work effectively in teams and understand how to negotiate and cooperate

  • practice active listening

Ethical Capability

MAPPEN students consider the nature of ethical concepts. They are provided with contextually relevant issues that require ethical judgement. Students consider the influence that their values and behaviours have on others, thereby providing them with tools for conflict resolution. Ethical dilemmas are presented in the context of the concepts being learnt.

Intercultural Capability

Throughout MAPPEN students are provided with opportunities to learn to value their own culture and the cultures and beliefs of others. They learn how personal, group and national identities are shaped. Students learn to appreciate and respect the similarities and differences that exist across diverse cultures. The diverse, interconnected world in which we live requires intercultural understanding in order to promote responsible local and global citizens.

Review Priority: Cultivate an adaptive, innovative and continuously improving the education system.

Below is a brief summary of some of what the Review identified with regard to this priority:

To support excellence in education, school systems and schools need to adapt to changing contexts and needs.

There must be continuous improvement across each part of the education system, from curriculum, reporting and assessment models to workforce development and community and parent and carer engagement.

School systems and schools must maintain a focus on innovation and improvement to ensure results move upwards and Australian students catch up to their global peers.

Australia needs to start by setting higher expectations for students, educators and schools, and rejecting the idea that there are natural performance plateaus.

An innovative, continuously improving online curriculum.

MAPPEN is an innovative and user-friendly resource for primary teachers. 32 Concept-based units have been designed around eight relevant concepts. MAPPEN units provide students with a mix of knowledge, skills and understandings. It is a readily available classroom application of a comprehensive suite of units that are framed around a pedagogical model that supports a scaffolded guided-inquiry. The online nature of MAPPEN means that it can be updated and edited in real time. The MAPPEN community of teachers post regular notes, providing other users with strategies and resources that have proven to work in the classroom.

Teachers are provided with professional development while they teach and have access to all necessary resources including video clips, graphic organisers, thinking tools, rubrics, cooperative grouping strategies and carefully crafted summative assessment tasks.

The open-ended nature of MAPPEN provides entry points for all students with more able students provided with opportunities to go ‘beyond the group’.

Review Recommendation: Creating, supporting and valuing a profession of expert educators.

Two of the points identified by the Review are the need to:

  • Create the conditions and culture to enable and encourage more professional collaboration, observation, feedback and mentoring amongst teachers,

  • Provide teachers with high-quality professional learning.

Australia can elevate the teaching profession by:

  • seeking the right candidates for admission to the profession,

  • giving them appropriate professional learning opportunities,

  • assisting them to be inducted into their jobs effectively,

  • providing access to quality tools and support to focus on growth and tailored teaching,

  • giving them time to engage in team-based collaborative teaching practices,

  • by providing meaningful career paths which value and utilise teaching expertise and keep excellent teachers teaching.

For teachers to fulfil their role as expert educators, schools need to be seen as professional learning organisations. They need to develop a culture that values continuous learning where teachers, as well as students, can feel safe to admit gaps in knowledge and understanding.

Enabling excellence in classroom practice

  • pedagogical practices must be contemporary and evidence-based,

  • teachers must have the resources and expertise to update their methods to those practices proven effective by current research and aligned with leading education nations globally,

  • students and their parents and carers must partner with teachers in the learning process,

  • teachers have competing demands on their time,

  • teachers lack of tools to support modern evidence-based pedagogical practices,

  • teachers lack access to relevant professional learning.

Schools need to help teachers seize any opportunity to work collaboratively and review their own teaching practices. There is a need to review time use and work practices of teachers. Australian teachers spend less time on professional learning and collaboration than teachers across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Australian teachers spend considerably less time on professional learning than teachers in the world's best performing school systems and more time face-to-face teaching.

School systems and schools should strive to optimise their teachers' schedules so they can better balance:

  • teaching obligations,

  • administrative tasks and

  • effective professional learning.

Helping to develop expert educators.

MAPPEN is both a curriculum package as well as an efficient and effective way to provide teachers with ‘just in time’ professional development while they teach. Through the delivery of carefully crafted units of work, teachers are provided with resources and professional learning videos that build their repertoire of best practice teaching strategies. This not only saves time, it also provides a sound base from which to differentiate learning to cater for the range of students in a class.

Teachers are able to build anecdotal records that can be used to check and report students’ learning progress.

Review Recommendation: Ensure all students have the opportunity within schools to be partners in their own learning.

Below is a brief summary of some of what the Review identified with regard to this recommendation:

Encouraging students to be partners in their own learning:

  • increases agency (ownership and responsibility) and achievement

  • helps to develop a growth mindset and positive long-term learning habits

  • builds engagement with schooling, which is associated with positive outcomes in most facets of life

As education researcher Professor John Hattie has noted, the 'biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers'. This develops positive learning behaviours, such as 'self-monitoring, self-evaluation, self-assessment, and self-teaching.'

Schools, parents and carers can help by:

  • encouraging students to take ownership of their learning,

  • helping students to set improvement goals and providing evidence of progress,

  • instilling in students the confidence to engage with new technologies, teaching strategies, and collaborative practices,

  • seeking and valuing student feedback.

Supporting student voice, autonomy, and goal setting.

MAPPEN students are provided with tools that develop their ability to reflect on their learning. Guided reflections are provided for each task with Foundation students reflecting on their learning orally. Students from Levels 1 to 6 write their reflections after each task. These reflections most often focus on the student ‘as’ a learner i.e. what they noticed about their participation, focus, cooperative skills, how they might tackle a similar task in the future and what they need to improve.

This focus on each student’s learning is therefore highly personalised and can be followed up by teachers when reviewing their students’ reflections. MAPPEN teachers identify this as a great way to incorporate some low stakes writing into their teaching, providing them with valuable insights into their students’ attitudes to learning and motivation levels.

MAPPEN teachers facilitate conferences where individual or teams of students discuss their progress as they tackle a task. Students are empowered to take ownership of their behaviour and attitudes to learning. Feedback is gathered and teachers can identify how well students are understanding skills, concepts and dispositions being taught.

‘Guided inquiry’ learning is a major feature of MAPPEN. Students from Foundation to Level 2 are provided with numerous opportunities to generate questions about their learning. These ‘Inquiry Play’ opportunities are open-ended and very much driven by student interest. MAPPEN students from Years 3 to 6 select from a range of inquiry questions that they have considered throughout each unit. These students are prompted to design inquiries into an aspect of the unit they are interested in learning more about. Examples and future actions of tasks that might lead into an inquiry are provided throughout MAPPEN as a prompt for teachers. This provides a balance between compliance to a set of standards and the critical development of student autonomy through independent inquiry. Students pursue and research areas of interest using a range of strategies that best suit their learning preferences and style.

MAPPEN teachers gather continuous feedback and data about their students’ progress by pretesting, conferencing, facilitating group discussions and using graphic organisers that make their students’ thinking visible. This enables teachers to differentiate an already rich curriculum, by modifying learning based on student ability. Teachers are provided with strategies to differentiate content, process and products in order to ensure that all students learning needs are met. This allows for a focus on individual student growth while at the same time delivering a concept rich curriculum. Rich summative assessment tasks are assessed against comprehensive rubrics and often culminate in a performance to the school community.

Review Recommendation: Empowering and supporting school leaders.

Below is a brief summary of some of what the Review identified with regard to this recommendation:

School leaders need:

  • to be instrumental in raising individual achievement through continuous learning growth,

  • a mandate to make achieving educational excellence their primary focus,

  • support to develop their expertise as leaders of learning,

  • to be empowered as instructional leaders,

  • supported to develop at each stage of their career.

Offering practical support to school leaders.

MAPPEN provides support to leaders by lightening the planning load and developing teacher capacity while ensuring that a consistent and engaging curriculum is being delivered across a school.

Coordinator access enables leaders to see progress in each classroom. MAPPEN Teachers get ongoing contextual professional learning while they teach by accessing professional development videos that relate directly to the strategies being taught through MAPPEN. The delivery of MAPPEN promotes meaningful conversations about practical strategies that improve student learning outcomes.

Leaders in MAPPEN schools report an improvement in the rigour and quality of collegial conversations with ‘staffroom talk’ focusing on what students are achieving and how tasks can be differentiated to support all learners.

Review Recommendation: Accelerate the development of contemporary pedagogy through the use of collaboration, mentoring, observation and feedback, including from colleagues and students, by incorporating these practices into the core role of teachers and creating the conditions to enable teachers to engage in them.

Strong school and system leadership is essential to create opportunities for teachers to undertake high-impact activities, such as collaboration, moderation, observation of other practitioners and quality professional learning. School leaders should also provide opportunities for their teachers to access coaching or mentoring from expert teachers to refine their teaching skills.

School system and school leaders should promote the idea that teaching is a continuous-learning profession. They should facilitate the access of teachers to high-quality professional learning, so teachers can better use collaboration as a means to accelerate and enrich student learning. While some teachers will find it easier to collaborate than others, collaboration is a skill that can and should be practised and refined.

Teachers want to focus on teaching and need to be able to set aside time for high-impact activities such as collaboration while minimising time spent on low-impact activities.

Collaboration is increasingly valued in the education sector because it offers three key benefits:

  1. collaborative structures allow teachers to coordinate shared activities more efficiently than centralised bureaucratic organisational structures, which are often costly and rigid,

  2. collaboration can lead to a more authentic engagement of teachers because it allows them to build voluntary, reciprocal relationships. Such relationships can create a greater sense of belonging for teachers in a system where a strong fragmentation into disciplines causes many to feel isolated. This level of collaboration also enables teachers to challenge each other to further improve practice and allows collaborative moderation that can address differences between classes,

  3. collaboration can provide teachers with flexible and differentiated professional support tailored to their specific needs and objectives.

Active collaboration:

  • allows teachers to learn from each other and typically has a positive impact on students,

  • is particularly important for creating a growth-based learning environment and for increasing student learning progress,

  • can involve teachers engaging students as collaborative partners and seeking student feedback on how well the teaching process is meeting individual learning needs.

Enabling effective collaboration.

MAPPEN assists with the development of contemporary pedagogy through collaboration, mentoring, observation and feedback. Teachers delivering MAPPEN often work in teams and can reflect on the effectiveness of specific tasks through collegial discussion and peer observation.

Many schools use MAPPEN units as a valuable starting point for peer observation, mentoring and feedback. Teams of teachers collaborate, read through a MAPPEN unit and identify tasks that they wish to observe a colleague facilitating. As the tasks are already written, there is no judgement about their quality or worthiness, rather the focus can be on the delivery of the task to a specific cohort. The observing teacher/s can provide feedback on a range of criteria that are established by the teacher being observed, based on their own professional requirements.

Having read the unit, the teaching team are aware of the rationale behind the unit. They know what questions students will be answering upon completion of the unit. By checking the standards that have been linked to the MAPPEN unit, they have a common, shared understanding of the content and skills being taught. The observing teachers can then teach the same task, considering what they learnt through observing their colleague.

Supporting Primary Teachers in the delivery of a concept-based curriculum.

The report makes recommendations targeted at creating, supporting and valuing a profession of expert educators, and empowering and supporting school leaders. There are many social and system-wide expectations placed on teachers and school leaders. MAPPEN provides practical support to help meet many of these expectations.