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Implementing the Asia priority

How do teachers build their and their colleagues capacity to teach Asia literacy? Activities guide teachers to examine their strengths and build their own confidence in teaching Asia content in English and History. Professor Anthony Milner and Dr Julie Hamston reflect on how teachers can examine their practice in English and History and suggestions are provided for finding opportunities to teach Asia content in English and History.

Task 1: Organising ideas for the teaching of Asia content

The Australian Curriculum supports schools in their efforts to enable all Australian students to become Asia literate.

The Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority (Asia priority) provides a regional context for learning in all areas of the curriculum. It reflects Australia's extensive engagement with Asia in social, cultural, political and economic spheres.

There are eight organising ideas for the Asia priority grouped around three themes:

  1. Asia and its diversity
  2. Achievements and contributions of the peoples of Asia
  3. Asia–Australia engagement

Read the eight organising ideas and consider the following:

  • How might the organising ideas be used as an auditing tool for Asia content in learning activities in English and History across the curriculum?

Task 2: Building teachers' capacity to teach the Asia priority in English and History

A commitment to engage in professional learning must be matched by an understanding of which types of professional learning are most likely to be effective in improving pedagogical practice and student outcomes.

Although teachers and leaders will engage in a range of professional learning activities for different purposes, overall the research is clear that the side effects of some types of professional learning on practice and outcomes are much greater than others.x

In an OECD survey, teachers from around the world report that individual and collaborative research, qualification programs and informal dialogue have the greatest impacts on their practice. Attendance at conferences and seminars and one-off visits to other schools are reported to have less impact. This is confirmed by research on the side effects of different types of professional learning on student outcomes, which suggests that observation, practising new approaches and feedback are more effective methods than discussion, lectures and field trips to other schools.

Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders (PDF 256 KB)

All teachers have different learning needs and professional learning is defined as coming from the specific needs of the teacher. Professional learning comes from the teacher's needs, as distinct from professional development, which is top down.

  • As a faculty, decide what professional learning needs to be undertaken by individual teachers to teach Asia content.
  • How will the professional learning be fulfilled and what support will be required from colleagues, the school leadership team and other agencies?

Task 3: What are my/our strengths in teaching about Asia?

The Asia Literacy and the Australian Teaching Workforce (PDF 199 KB) report (Halse et al, 2013) collected survey responses from 1,471 teachers to determine the attributes of an Asia literate teacher.

The research findings state that an Asia-literate teacher:

  • possesses expert knowledge of content, assessment strategies and pedagogy for teaching Asia related curriculum
  • demonstrates familiarity with a wide range of Asia related resources
  • actively builds intercultural understanding
  • frequently, purposefully and seamlessly integrates Asia into the curriculum
  • uses ICT to connect their students with students in Asia
  • leads Asia-related learning within and beyond the school.

What are my/our strengths in teaching about Asia?

Complete the following questions either individually or with colleagues. What do your responses indicate about your (or the faculty) Asia knowledge, skills, understanding or experiences?

  • Have I travelled to one or more countries of Asia?
  • Did I include studies of Asia in my degree or subsequent professional learning?
  • Do I have connections to Asia through family, friends or local community?
  • Have I participated in a study programme in Asia?
  • Do I have a personal interest in the cultures, histories and texts of the countries of Asia?
  • On a continuum, describe the extent of your Asia engagement:
    Strongly engaged  —  Very engaged  —  Somewhat engaged  —  Not engaged
  • What steps do you need to take to include Asia content in English and History?
  • What support do you need to achieve this?
  • What resources do you need to achieve this?

Task 4: What do teachers need to deliver the Asia priority?

The Asia Literacy and the Australian Teaching Workforce (PDF 199 KB) research report (Halse et al, 2013, p 10) identified five enablers that support teachers delivering the Asia priority in the Australian Curriculum.

The five enablers are:

  1. experience of Asia from work, study, travel or family connections
  2. substantial, ongoing tertiary study and/or professional learning
  3. school connections to the countries of Asia
  4. support from the school and school system
  5. the school teaches an Asia language.

Audit the enablers that already exist in your faculty or school against the list above.

  • What further actions need to undertaken to ensure that teachers have a wide exposure to Asia?
  • What expertise exists within the school and broader community to support elements of the enablers?

Task 5: Implementing the study of Asia in History

Watch the video of Prof Tony Milner (on the right) and consider the following:

  • Discuss with colleagues whether it is important to teach Asian history to prevent what Professor Milner calls 'inter-generational damage.'
  • Professor Milner says that there is 'little guidance' to show teachers how to implement Asia content in the History curriculum year by year. Read the sample map Australian Curriculum: History and think about where the opportunities are across your curriculum to include Asia content in History across year levels.

Task 6: Opportunities to teach the Asia priority in History

The Asia content in the Australian Curriculum is explicit in history, however, there are many opportunities outside of the specific Asia content descriptors and elaborations to include Asia content.

For example, the History level description, Year 6 Australia as a nation – digging deeper, does not describe two of the historical events that influenced Australia becoming a nation: the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 and the Dictation Test.

One of the most important events in understanding the development of Australia as a nation was the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, aimed at excluding all non-European migrants who failed the dictation test.

Take the dictation test.

Read the story of Mr and Mrs Poon Gooey. It is one of the first cases where Christians and ordinary Australians were united in their criticism of the Dictation Test and the Immigration Restriction Act.

  • What is the case of Mr and Mrs Poon Gooey evidence of?
  • What perspectives are demonstrated in this case?
  • Is this case historically significant?
  • What were the causes and effects of this case?
  • What links to the general capabilities can be made by teaching about Mr and Mrs Poon Gooey?

Compare the case of Mr and Mrs Poon Gooey to the story of Mrs Annie O'Keefe (PDF 351 KB).

  • These cases are 25 years apart. What comments can be made about continuity and change?
  • How can these cases be used to teach the general capabilities?
  • How might these two examples be used in the curriculum you are currently teaching?
  • Read the sample map: History to find other opportunities to teach Asia content in History.

A must-read for finding opportunities to teach about Asia in History is Australia's Asia: from yellow peril to Asian century, edited by David Walker and Agnieszka Sobocinska. See the Resources section for a brief overview of this text.

Task 7: Implementing the study of Asia in English

Watch the video to the right of Dr Julie Hamston, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, talks about how to embed the Asia priority in the Australian Curriculum: English and consider the following questions:

  • What experience or knowledge do you or your faculty have of Asian texts including films, documentaries, poetry, comics, print, digital or multimodal texts, plays, blogs and short stories?
  • How will the faculty support teacher professional learning of texts about Asia?
  • What resources are available to teachers?
  • Does existing text selection need to be updated and renewed?
  • Who will purchase new texts to support teachers: the faculty, school or library?
  • How can the English faculty implement a regular time for sharing, discussing and reviewing new texts and approaches to teaching them?
  • How can existing curricula be enriched by including Asia content and what opportunities exist to include Asia content?

Task 8: Opportunities to teach the Asia priority in English

View the video of Michelle Morthorpe in the column on the right. She discusses teaching Asia-related content in the English curriculum.

In the Australian Curriculum there are numerous opportunities to include Asia content into the teaching of English at each year level from Foundation to Year 10.

The years 9–10 English module, Understanding China through literature, includes a section on Symbols – short cuts for making meaning.

  • How can the analysis of symbols in the years 9–10 module (symbol/concrete object, literal meaning, what it symbolises, author's purpose and theme/abstraction) be used to examine Asia-focused texts in other year levels?

The crane is used in many Asian cultures as a symbol of longevity, auspiciousness, authority and peace.

  • Consider the types of writing that a study of the symbolism of the crane may generate in English. What other Asian symbols can be used to generate a range of writing styles?

The years 7–8 module, Stories that change lives, has a section titled Visual texts – how can we read photographs?

  • Read this section of the module and consider how the grammar of visual texts can be adapted to teach higher order thinking skills in Asia content at other year levels.
  • How can contemporary events and issues in the countries of Asia be incorporated into English learning sequences?

Task 9: Opportunities to teach the Asia priority in integrated English and History

In the Australian Curriculum there are numerous opportunities to include Asia content in the teaching of English and History at each year level from Foundation to Year 10. Watch the video of Kate Huon (on the right) and complete the following:

  • Discuss how Kate Huon is integrating English and History in this lesson.
  • View the sample map: History to see the possibilities for including Asia content in History.
  • View the sample map: English to see the possibilities for including Asia content in English.
  • Choose one year level and brainstorm the Asia content that could be used in an integrated English-History learning sequence.

The Language, a key to survival: Cantonese-English phrasebooks in Australia (PDF 1.5 MB), a Chinese Museum online resource, is an example of an integrated English and History unit of work.

  • Read the sample maps for English and History and locate which of the content descriptors and elaborations this resource supports.


Videos: AEF

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