Teaching AusVELS General Capabilities

Teaching AusVELS’
General Capabilities:
1. Ethical Understandings
Dr Janette Poulton
VAPS Education and Innovations Officer
July 2014
VAPS Vision
Our vision is to establish educational centres, named “VAPS Capability Hubs”, to support the introduction of AusVELS’ General
Capabilities across Learning Areas and throughout the Victorian community.
Our initial focus is on the Ethical Understanding domain:
Understanding ethical concepts and Issues
Exploring values, rights and responsibilities,
Reasoning in decision making and actions
Government educational policies consistently recognize that successful learning critically depends on the “quality of teaching”, second
only to “a student’s socioeconomic status“. So, in order to support the realization of this important educational initiative in
Victoria, the Victorian Association for Philosophy in Schools (VAPS) intends to establish five strategically placed Hubs,
initially to develop and deliver “Teaching Ethical Understanding resources” including Tool Kits, Professional Development
Workshops, and Guides for use in Public Places. In following years we will develop similar resources to support the three
outstanding Capabilities.
These resources will be informed by VAPS expertise in the Philosophy for Children (P4C) approach to teaching ethics, and will be
collaboratively developed with Pre-service to Lead Teachers, and public Education Officers.
VCAA is currently developing an Ethical Understanding curriculum that all Victorian K-10 school children will be
required to understand from 2015. Unlike the ACARA model, teachers must report to student achievement on a
biannual basis, thus Victorian teachers will have no choice but to attempt to deliver this curriculum. It is apparent
that this will be problematic, particularly as many Teachers regard such content as outside their brief, or have
avoided developing a dialogical classroom because of ‘crowded curriculum’ issues. Furthermore, formal teacher
education providers in Victoria only occasionally offer Courses in the teaching of ethics; as a result many pre-service
and existing teachers are ill-prepared to deliver the Ethical Understandings curriculum.
This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that ethical behaviours and values are a contentious aspect of human life,
particularly in the multi-cultural and global social context of Australia in the 21st Century. Teachers are unlikely to
know how to proceed without adequate support and training. A particular concern is that inappropriate pedagogy
of ethics often comes from those who perceive the easiest way forward is via moral indoctrination, which is
demonstrably incompatible with inclusive and democratic schooling prescribed by PoLT.
This program and tool kit will provide teachers with resources and training in the teaching of ethics in the VAPS designed
Philosophy for Children (P4C) Inquiry based pedagogical approach. These resources are intended to cultivate a
capacity for ethical inquiry, rather than being an uncritical training in moral values. As quoted in PoLT documents,
“Asking good questions and higher order thinking are intertwined. We need to value the questions students ask
and encourage it in our assessment… [we should] value, questions not answers.” This capacity is achieved through
the development of dialogical skills and democratic practices in the safe environment of a philosophical community
of inquiry.
This project may be seen to assist the 2015-17 teachers of Ethical Understandings, but also will offer invaluable resources
to teacher training providers in the future.
1. Establishment of sustainable Capability hubs in strategically placed location to ensure equity and to address issues raised in the Gonski Report 2011.
2. Publication of Framework document for use by writers and facilitators constructed to ensure coherence for the development of the three EU
resources. Moral educational theorists including Dewey, Vygotsky and Lipman, will be closely linked to both current Australian policy documents and
Victorian Curriculum documents. For example, connections will be identified between EU and the Learning Areas, as well as the remaining 3 General
Capabilities (Critical and Creative Thinking, Intercultural Understanding, and Personal and Social Capability) and the Early Years framework VEYLDF.
Practical guidelines will be derived from Philosophy for Children (P4c) based research and resources. Lipman’s seminal works on Ethical Education; ‘Nous,
Reasoning about Ethics’ and ‘Lisa, Reasoning in Ethics’ provide prototypical material. His approach rejects both dogmatic and relativist positions that
undermine effective ethical education. Lipman recognises the key to moral development is the acquisition of relevant thinking skills - learning to think
critically, creatively and with care - rather than simply learning ‘moral rules’ or being trained in ‘good‘ behaviours. The acquisition of these skills is achieved
through the pedagogically sophisticated practice of the Community of Inquiry, where higher order thinking skills, democratic practices and dialogical skills
are simultaneously facilitated.
3. Production of Teaching Ethical Understanding Tool kits for use by teachers including
• an explanatory overview and academic reference lists
• a collection of lesson plans
• a collection of examples and references to readily available stimulus materials (e.g picture story books, poems, pictures, short films, news items etc)
• a collection of artefacts for thinking skill development: traffic lights, talking sticks, concept games, quadrants, pathways
• assessment rubrics
3. Teaching Ethical Understanding workshops. This training would meet VIT standards for PD requirements for Pre-service, Graduate and Proficient
teachers. Only FAPSA Level Two trained personal with a sound understanding of this form of pedagogy will facilitate. Workshops would be offered in each of
5 regions (for groups of up to 25 teachers to allow for participation in several Ethical Communities of Inquiry). Further content will include analysis of
videoed classroom practice, direct teaching of thinking skills, and discussion of the potential difficulties associated with the teaching of ethics. Assessment
tasks include designing teaching resources (e.g a concept game and a warm-up activity) and submitting an audio-visual recording of a lesson with students.
4. Up-skilling of Level one trained facilitators Volunteers wanting to be apprenticed during the trial Workshops will be offered the opportunity to be
assessed to deliver the program as an incursion to schools post 2017, through additional 3 days training to be conducted after the Trial program has been
completed and evaluated.
5. Publication of Teaching Ethical Understanding guides in Public Places. Development of location specific guides to accompany excursions relevant to
the teaching of ethical understanding. VAPS has previously worked with such organisations to produce Philosophy Trails, and such existing resources can be
redeveloped to focus on the new AusVELS ethics curriculum. Themes already developed by members of VAPS include Identity (Museum Victoria) Animal
rights (the Melbourne Zoo) Censorship (the Art Gallery), Environmental ethics (Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) Asylum
(Immigration Museum) Media ethics (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) , Campfire films (Mind and body)…
How might you be involved?
VAPS possible of plan of action will be to
proceed in three stages from 2015-2017.
We outline possible opportunities for you to
make a contribution in the following three
Stay tuned for updates!
STAGE ONE – 2015
Preparing the project
Project Coordinator to manage overall budgeting and reporting
Framework writers to ensure coherence for the development of the three Teaching Ethical Understanding (EU)
resources. The framework will link The Ethical Understanding Capability:
• to Australian policy (e.g The Principles of Learning and Teaching)
• to Victorian Curriculum documents. ie the remaining 3 General Capabilities (Critical and Creative Thinking,
Intercultural Understanding and Personal and Social Capability) as well as key Learning Areas, and VEYLDF.
• to developmental research in cognitive science that informs the EU
• to Philosophy for Children based research and resources
and include working templates for use by Capability Coordinators.
Capability Hub Coordinators to manage site specific budget, panels, workshops and reporting, in strategically
located regions of Victoria.
Subject Matter Expert Writers to be appointed at each Hub to produce the Teaching EU Tool-Kit. The panel will be
required to map a selection of AusVELS Learning Area and Capability domains against the newly defined EU
outcomes, and generate lesson plans and artefacts.
Apprentice facilitators for those who have completed Level One training
STAGE TWO – 2016
Trialling the project
FAPSA Level 2 trained facilitators to facilitate EU workshops at each hub.
Second Panel of Subject Matter Expert Writers (including organisational
representatives, Early years and Primary generalists, Secondary specialists and
FAPSA Level 2 trained facilitators) to collaborate with Public non-for-Profit
organizations resulting in the drafting of Teaching EU Guides for Public Places.
Proposed sites include:
The National Gallery of Victoria,
The Melbourne Museum,
Melbourne Zoo
Campfire films
State Library of Victoria
Teacher Educator Providers will be invited to trial the Teaching EU Tool-Kit at
their own expense E.g, MIT will conduct workshops and semi-structured
interviews with pre-service teachers to test the feasibility of the Tool Kit, and
inform its design.
Finalising and Evaluating the project
Web page designer
on-line version of EU Tool Kit on VAPS website,
on-line versions of EU guides in public places
Report writer to collect, collate and analyse data received from each Hub and compose a
final report for publication
Funders and Patrons to maintain the program. VAPS will revert to a user pays model, and
seek further funding for development of Hubs through interested contacts.
Alignment with
VIT Teaching Standards
Know students
and how they
learn including
Know the content
and how to teach
it, including
Plan for an
effective teaching
and learning by
Create and
supportive and
safe learning
environments by
Assess, provide
feed-back an
report on student
learning by
Engage in
leaning by
with colleagues,
and the
community by
• being able to
recognise the kinds
of skills,
behaviours and
that students
• being able to
recognise the kinds
of skills,
behaviours and
that students
students should be
able to
demonstrate at
different stages of
• relationships
between EU and
the 3 other General
• the relevance of
EU to specific
learning areas.
•the key features of
the theories of
moral development
that underpin the
EU capability
• the differentiating
criteria as defined
by the levels
•how to access
local and on-line
available resources
•identifying ethical
concepts and
themes in learning
Areas curricula,
school and
•selecting and
creating resources
that provoke
ethical inquiry
techniques for
•designing small
group learning
tasks that develop
different thinking
•fostering a
community of
inquiry as a means
for students to
examine ethical
problems and form
moral judgements
• developing
strategies for
approaching the
teaching of
controversial topics
•mastering tools
for assessing
thinking skills and
moral dispositions
context specific
reporting rubrics
•being motivated to
implement the
learning activities
and assessment
tasks that foster
the development of
the EU capability
•being committed
to the importance
of the teaching of
thinking skills
•appreciating the
EU curriculum and
being proactive in
finding its
relevance to
specific learning
excursions and
incursions that
foster ethical
•collaborating with
colleagues to
produce and
improve resources
and practice
Alignment with
Many important outcomes promoted by the p4c approach to education align with VEYLDF outcomes e.g.
developing a strong sense of identity, well-being and connection, and assisting students to become
confident learners and effective communicators.
This Project directly aligns with the pending AusVELS Ethical Understanding curriculum, a variant on
the Australian Curriculum’s capability of the same name; due to be implemented in Victorian schools in
2015. Many aspects of learning associated with the new EU curriculum are embedded in VAPS PD
programs via “interdisciplinary” strand of the former triple-helix VELS structure. We will re-align our
content with the new double-helix AusVELS curriculum.
VCAA states that “Ethical issues arise across all areas of the curriculum, with each learning area
containing a range of content that demands consideration from an ethical perspective. This includes
analysing and evaluating the ethics of the actions and motivation … understanding the ethical
dimensions … debating ethical dilemmas … ” We can already discern in the existing AUsVELS Learning
Areas a rich array of ethically interesting concepts and issues, principles, virtues and ideals, upon which
our tool kit and workshop will draw for substantive content.
We will continue to develop resources , workshops and networks to foster Ethical Understandings within
the VCE Units 1 to 4 Philosophy studies.
Alignment with DEEDC policy
The proposed program is aligned with various policies, including:
The Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians, which recognises that
ethical understanding assists students to become ”confident and creative individuals“; and acknowledges
that the development of attributes “such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others”, as well
as “the capacity to act with ethical integrity” contribute to becoming “active and informed
citizens”…“who work for the common good”.
Principles of Learning and Teaching (P-12) #4 states, Students are challenged and supported to
develop deep levels of thinking and application, emphasizing connecting ideas, promoting
substantive discussion of ideas, using strategies that challenge and support students to question and
reflect, to investigate and problem solve, and to use imagination and creativity; all of which are consistent
with p4c pedagogy. #6 Learning connects strongly with communities and practice beyond the
classroom. Our program motivates teachers to support “students engagement with contemporary
knowledge and practice” and plans for students “to interact with local and broader communities and
community practices” as a consequence of the collaborative approach we are taking with Public
From New Directions to Action policy aim to “stimulate a culture of excellence and effective
professional development” through motivating and training teachers to facilitate the development of the
ethical understanding capability.
VAPS is well positioned to undertake a project that involves supporting the implementation of both Ethical Understanding and Critical
and Creative Thinking as the objectives of these newly defined Capabilities are so closely aligned with the collective knowledge,
skills and experience of members and colleagues of VAPS.
Over the past 25 years VAPS has delivered a variety of highly valued services to teachers and students of Philosophy. We organise conferences,
provide training, resources and support for teachers, students and parents, as well as work with public institutions, such as the NGV and
Melbourne Museum, to develop programs for Philosophy Excursions. We create educational opportunities for students to participate in
Philosophy beyond the classroom in such things as primary and secondary Philosophy Competitions (Victorian and Australasian), VCE
Philosophy Forums and Campfire Film Nights.
VAPS has a well-established infrastructure, being managed by a dedicated executive and general committee members, who work on a honorary
basis. We employ an Education and Innovations Officer one day a week, casual Membership Officer to manage our on-line database, and
Event Coordinators and Web Designers as needed. We communicate with members through newsletters, discussion lists, face book and
Website. Our FAPSA Level Two trained facilitators are paid at lecturing rates.
VAPS current operational model is a sustainable one. We have an experienced Treasurer, transparent bank and Paypal accounts, and report
annually to the Office of Fair Trading. VAPS funds all events and resources through annual membership fees ($100.00 for individuals,
$20.00 for students and $150.00 for institutions); and through various other events, including conference registration and professional
development workshop fees.
Many of VAPS activities are also supported through voluntary work (e.g., unpaid keynote speakers) and through the free use of venues E.g., the
University of Melbourne provides venues for student lectures and conferences, Brunswick East Primary School and Dandenong High
Schools provide venues for teacher workshops, Scotch College provides a venue for VCE Network meetings, NGV and Ballarat Grammar
City Cite for school philosophy activities.
VAPS can rely on extensive collegial support from the broader Philosophy community, including international organisations like ICPIC,
PCYNAP and IAPC. Professionally recognised experts such as Professor Peter Singer (most recently our Conference Patron) and
Internationally acclaimed Community of Inquiry experts Philip Cam, Jen Glaser and Laurance Splitter, as well as academics from
Universities across Victoria express confidence in our work.
Our programs are informed by the pedagogical approach of Community of Inquiry, elaborated in the P4C (Philosophy for Children) tradition,
which is ideally suited to the teaching of the Capabilities. VAPS has recently established professional relationships with the Humanist
Society of Victoria, whose volunteers are currently undertaking our Community of Ethical Inquiry training, for the teaching of ethics in
schools. Variants on this program have recently been delivered in Singapore and South Korea, and includes graduates from Iran and the
Long-term Sustainability
We are seeking a Strategic Partnership grant to support the trial project, and thus hope the
services will initially be offered free of charge to teachers. Once all stake-holders are
satisfied with the outcomes of this trial, we intend to improve and continue to run the
workshops through charging fees to cover the cost of staffing and further development of
the EU Tool Kit and Guides. If needed, funds acquired through memberships and fees from
other VAPS events will be used to offset expenses involved in the transition to sustainable
We have free access to schools as venues for the proposed workshops, and later for incursions.
Our continuing collaborations with Public Institutions will hopefully result in ready use of
public spaces for workshop events and school excursions, as well as additional support for
publication of resource materials.
The apprenticeship model for Facilitators will increase the available number of workshop
facilitators to deliver the program as incursions to schools post 2017.
We intend to develop these centres as providers of PD for the four General capabilities and will
seek further funding to assist this long-term project.
Useful Web Resources
The Victorian Association for Philosophy in Schools
F-10 curriculum planning and guideline released by VCAA February 2014
From New Directions to action: World Class Teaching and Leadership, October 2013
Gonski report, December 2011
Blueprint for Government school, outlining the development of the Principles of Learning and Teaching P-12.
The Principles of Learning and Teaching P-12
The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young People, released by Australian Education Ministers
December 2008
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