Tonight I went to hear John Firth, Assistant General Manager Curriculum at VCAA, speak on the implementation of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. What I found interesting about his talk is that results so far of the validation process show the standards are almost impossible to meet as they are currently worded. They need to have rich examples of students’ work, annotated, and discussed by professionals alongside them. Standards setting is a process, which they need to trial, revise, and ensure there are examples to accompany them. It’s gratifying to hear that the VELS aren’t perfect, that the professionals in the classroom are needed to make them come alive, but then we already knew this, didn’t we?
The new elements of VELS when compared to the CSF is the focus on personal and interpersonal learning. This is becoming a common theme of the inservices that I go to: a fortnight ago I went to hear Art Costa speak on the habits of mind, last week I heard Tom Hoerr speak on Multiple Intelligences and they both emphasised the personal and interpersonal aspects of learning. This is not new to those who value student centred and constructivist classrooms. It’s interesting that it’s now becoming mainstream. The VELS are fairly conservative but they are at least a step in the right direction; VELS gives schools and teachers the authority to make their own decisions. It all depends on how they are interpreted by the schools. Overall though, I didn’t find the session that inspiring for the day-to-day work of being in a classroom.