Fantastic that Alison has taken the initiative in exploring ways …

Comment on Cape York lessons for Centre’s schools? by Ralph Folds.

Fantastic that Alison has taken the initiative in exploring ways to lift remote school outcomes, this is just the latest example of Alison working at the grassroots in communities to improve life opportunities.
Direct Instruction (DI) in Aboriginal schools, has been gaining popularity as a response to the need to demonstrate student achievement. Recalling number facts, reciting the times tables or “reading” very familiar books are impressive displays of school learning at a time when outcomes are demanded and teachers are frustrated by the painfully slow, incremental progress in their classrooms.
But literacy and numeracy are more than recalling memorised information.
Will a student who has memorised by rote that 3 x 4 = 12 also know how much 3 toys will cost if they are $4 each?
Will the student who can seemingly “read” a familiar book quite fluently also understand what it is about?
Very often the answers to these questions in Aboriginal classrooms is “no”. The student says that the toys will cost $100 and can “read” the book but doesn’t really know what the story is about.
DI is valuable but the risk is overblowing it by assuming that rote learning includes a deeper understanding that is actually not there. This shows up in NAPLAN testing which measures maths levels by presenting problems to solve and measures a student’s reading level by asking detailed questions about a story the student will not have seen before.
There is a place for memorised information, knowing the times tables is a good start to problem solving, memorising sight words does help with reading comprehension. Working memory is freed up for the task of understanding. DI also allows Aboriginal students to taste success, to feel they are getting somewhere at school. However, DI needs to be carefully embedded in well thought out programs such as First Steps, that teach the higher level skills.
DI is a valuable addition to programs that tackle low literacy / numeracy levels rather than a stand alone solution.
Thanks to Alison for highlighting its potential.

Ralph Folds Also Commented

Cape York lessons for Centre’s schools?
@ Clare Payne
Direct Instruction described on your website as teacher direction, presentation of information, clear outlines, step-by-step progression, prompts, lessons pacing, etc certainly have a place in Aboriginal schools. DI is especially valuable where students are struggling to read and lack confidence.
But it isn’t useful for teachers to over-direct all learning, ultimately students have to become independent learners / readers in their own right. Students have to apply what they have learned to completely novel situations and the teacher can’t do that for them.
Teaching has to be balanced in order to reflect all the learning needs.
Dr Chris Sarra of the Stronger Smarter Institute is perhaps the sternest critic of DI where it involves “teachers working strictly to a script with students drilled to repeat only what is in their workbooks”. Sarra notes that: “While early (DI) gains may appear as a result of the emphasis on decoding text, those gains evaporate and sometimes reverse in later primary years as learning requires comprehension and not just decoding.”
The potential of DI is to provide an initial supportive framework for learners, a structure within which they will gain confidence and learn new skills.


Recent Comments by Ralph Folds

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My drone flying friends say that not finding Monika is a disgrace.
Forget the old tech ground searches.
Fly the latest high tech drones equipped with high-resolution cameras or video and analyse the results.
She would have been found on day two after being reported missing.
After an initial cost of perhaps $100,000 the drone system would pay for itself within a year and the tourist industry would be better off.


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James, I suspect that remote community infrastructure does add to the NT’s revenue stream, as it always has. Case in point (admittedly dated):
Federal grant of $500,000 for remote preschool.
NT admin tax $250,000.
Old asbestos clad science block sent to the community (instead of dumping it}.
Over the next three months, Alice Springs tradies renovate the building.
There is no money left for painting so that becomes a school expense.
Darwin designed building has no security so is broken into and trashed, then closed for six months as the school tries to get it repaired.
So the NT Government gets a windfall profit, Alice Springs businesses do well and the community gets a high maintenance asbestos building.


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Gunner has made the right call on the location of the proposed gallery and offered substantial funding.
No other sensible and economically viable location has been proposed.
The gallery will probably operate at a loss as does the Desert Park.
To be sustainable the loss must be minimised and it must add value to our tourist businesses.
South of the Gap / at the Desert Part are not suitable locations.
The Greens are engaged in misguided economically damaging democracy.
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This action threatens the offer of generous funding.


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Eugene’s Mate: “Unreasonably negative and incorrigibly antagonistic attitude towards Congress pathological denial of Congress’s achievements? Very unfairly, maligning Congress.”
Any organisation that gets more than $40m a year of taxpayer money, has $20m unspent and has a stake in CentreCorp with assets of more than $50m absolutely needs to be held accountable.
It worries me that you fall back on excuses such as saying that poverty is the main driver of renal disease (and of course Congress can’t change that).
How about, a sedentary lifestyle, living in squalor, poor diet, alcohol and smoking, all of which Congress should be able to do something about.
But they haven’t despite all the millions.
A new approach is needed.
Take diabetes:
Although there are other factors, diabetes is a major cause of end stage renal disease. Many of us have watched the progression from diabetes to end stage over the years.
I’ve personally seen it a dozen times or more.
Uncontrolled diabetes is rampant in our community and the deaths are mounting.
Congress has largely failed to stem the tide so we need to try something else.
That is a medical approach.
Instead of expensively trying to change behaviour and failing we need new drugs and medical devices.
That means more money for research and probably less for Congress.
Of course that is confronting and will get the reaction we see from you.
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A medical approach has the potential to save many hundreds of millions of dollars and improve Aboriginal lives on a large scale.
That claim cannot be made about Congress.


The millions and the misery
Evelyne, the research to quantify the extent of HTLV-1 was carried out years ago and the results were scary for Aboriginal people.
There will be a large death toll in coming years.
Very little is being done to discover a drug to treat it.
Your question has broader implications.
Should the taxpayer keep funding preventative programs to the extent we do when they are not working?
Wouldn’t Aboriginal health be improved far more by putting the money into the development of medical responses.
For example, there is an urgent need for implanted insulin delivery devices that require diabetics to do nothing.
There are several life threatening diseases, HTLV-1 being just one, that urgently need medical approaches such as drug treatments for prevention and/or cure.
Aboriginal health would be improved far more by redirecting at least some of the tens of millions wasted on Congress to researching new treatments.


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