HomeLearn, Australian Curriculum and Diverse Learning Needs
The ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) website has information under the heading "Student Diversity" at:
1. Which students are covered by the 'Student Diversity' guidelines?
The opening paragraph of this 'advice' states:
ACARA is committed to the development of a high-quality curriculum for all Australian students, one that promotes excellence and equity in education. All students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning programs drawn from a challenging curriculum that addresses their individual learning needs.
Please note that this clearly says that all students are entitled to a program that addresses their individual learning needs.
By definition, then, a program that is designed to suit a 'norm' or particular group does NOT fulfil this, and any suggestion that a 'standard' course for a particular year level must be taught to a student is in contradiction to this principle.
Further down, under the sub heading of An Australian Curriculum for all students is the following:
The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA, 2008) (Melbourne Declaration) provides the policy framework for the Australian Curriculum. It includes two goals:
Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence.
Goal 2: All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.
Note that this is the agreed basis for education in Australia, and reinforces the same principles: all students are entitled to a program that allows them to become successful learners.
By definition, then, a 'diversity' of students needs a 'diversity' of program styles and levels to suit their individual needs.
The HomeLearn program has been built on the concept that all students are unique individuals in the same sense as is defined here. Our approach to the use and meeting of Australian Curriculum is, therefore, based on the need for an individually tailored appropriate education for each child.
2. A program to meet diverse learning needs
The Australian Curriculum gives details of what is required to 'meet diverse learning needs'.
This is in a section near the bottom of the 'student diversity advice' page (http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/studentdiversity/student-diversity-advice) headed 'Meeting Diverse Learning Needs':
• Teachers refer to the Australian Curriculum learning area content that aligns with their students chronological age as the starting point in planning teaching and learning programs. (That is, the program should be based around concepts at their chronological age)
• Teachers take account of the range of their students current levels of learning, strengths, goals and interests, and personalise learning where necessary through adjustments to the teaching and learning program, according to individual learning need, by:
(i) drawing from learning area content at different levels along the Foundation to Year 10 sequence to personalise age-equivalent learning area content (That is, use materials from other levels where appropriate)
(ii) using the general capabilities and/or cross-curriculum priorities to adjust the learning focus of the age-equivalent learning area content (That is, focus on the broader education outcomes of quality education)
(iii) aligning individual learning goals with age-equivalent learning area content (That is, make sure the outcomes are suitable for the concept age of the child)
• Teachers assess students progress through the Australian Curriculum in relation to achievement standards. Some students progress will be assessed in relation to their individual learning goals. (Note that the 'some' here, means anyone that has individual learning goals - which is everyone by the definitions of 'diversity' above). Approaches to assessment and reporting will differ across the states and territories. (That is, the different states may want it in a different form but they can't require it to be against some other students standards.)
In conformity to these statements, the HomeLearn program includes the following:
• The presentation of the curriculum has the 'necessary adjustments' for each student to be able to access information at their reading level and grade level to suit their individual learning needs.
• The program allows students to progress at their own rate, with different progression in 'different learning areas'
• Assessment of achievement in the program is based on the student's own progress within the learning continuum - ie they are assessed on their own progress as is relevant to their learning needs and not continually in relative position to others.
• The program is an ordered series of steps based on the concept of 'concentric curriculum' (each year coming round to the same or similar topics but with an increasing level of context and sophistication) to help them 'progress along the learning continuum'. [Note that the standard ANC, as written, does not do this in an ordered way in many of the subject areas, notably Science and History)
• The program gives the parents, as educational mentors, the freedom and ability to 'adjust the learning activities, assessment strategies and/ or the learning environment as appropriate' for their child.
In general the HomeLearn program ensures that the content of the Australian Curriculum is met (where appropriate) but at times and levels and in modes of presentation which suits the individual needs of each student, as individuals with 'diverse learning needs', as is their right under the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008).