Higher School Certificate

More Amazing Secrets of Band Six (part two ongoing until they fix the wretched thing)


When Simon Crook wrote The Amazing Secrets of band six last year for AARE, I had no idea it would become one of the all-time best read posts of EduResearch Matters (now number 15 out of nearly 500, with a spike during the HSC results period). Those of you who read Amazing Secrets last year will have been familiar with the important points raised in the last few days in the Sydney Morning Herald regarding Band 6s and measuring HSC success [1], [2], [3], [4]. With any luck, through the SMH, these issues will have a much wider audience and may provide incentive and leverage to key stakeholders to do something about the current state of play.

A Quick Recap

NSW is obsessed with HSC performance, particularly Band 6s. Every year, the SMH, Telegraph and other media outlets publish school ranks determined by numbers of Band 6s. The SMH also publishes the Honour Roll of those students who achieved Band 6 in each of their subjects. Yet it has already been shown you cannot compare Band 6s between different subjects, so you cannot tally total Band 6s and make a fair comparison between schools or students. In fact, some lower bands in more rigorous subjects actually contribute more to ATAR than Band 6s in less rigorous subjects. 

As previously described, the standards-based ‘Band Description’ model for the HSC was never designed for comparison between subjects. One of the creators and custodians of the HSC, Professor James Tognolini, reiterated last week that: 

“for better or worse there was no attempt to make the standards equivalent when the system was set up … in most subjects there was no attempt to align a band 6 performance in one subject with the band 6 performance in another. The purpose was to report what it is students know and can do, not make comparisons across subjects.” 

In response to Professor Tognolini’s 50/50 choice, the situation is for the worse. Whatever the original intentions, most of society assumes they are equivalent, that a ‘Band 6 is a Band 6’. The whole media, parental choice and school marketing system perpetuates this flawed metric of comparison. It is tempting to blame the media, and the SMH in particular, for their role in this mess, but they are only reporting what they are allowed to report. As I pointed out last year, and as the SMH articles highlighted, more and better comparative and value-add (growth) data should be reported to provide a fairer narrative of both school and student achievement. The CSNSW paper the SMH references makes some good suggestions in this regard. These include several possible alternative measures that could be published including:

  • Non-HSC data, such as vocational education completion rates and post-school outcomes 
  • Median ATAR (or a suitable proxy for scaled marks)
  • Growth or ‘value-add’ (as suggested last year)
  • Band distributions, “which better show the range of achievements within schools, and any shifts over time”.

In order for this to happen, someone high up needs to provide the requisite permission. 

But the issue is not solely about which school performance data can be published in the media. 

It is also time to start seriously talking about improving the HSC as a whole. I’m not talking about getting rid of the HSC, or even a massive overhaul of the assessment, but evolving it in line with the education landscape in NSW in 2022+, rather than continuing with the same model devised last millenium.

A new education landscape of accountability

In the past twenty odd years, the status of the HSC has evolved from the local NSW matriculation qualification affecting university entry to an incredibly high-stakes commodity that can make or break a school/principal/teacher/student. NSW government high schools are now accountable to the School Success Model with targets for increased Band 5 & 6s. Some of these school targets in particularly challenging local contexts are unlikely to be reached, setting schools and individual subjects up to fail, or unduly influencing their educational offerings (see Detrimental Effects below). Many non-government schools and school systems have similar blanket accountabilities and targets which are again setting up certain locally challenged schools and subjects to fail. The HSC was never designed to be used this way, so it must evolve accordingly.

Detrimental Effects 

While the NSW HSC is a strong, established credential of quality assessment for NSW school leavers, over time, one particular well-intended design feature has produced counterproductive consequences. These consequences are detrimental to teachers and students, particularly in critically important HSC subjects. Furthermore, these subjects are key to the Australian economy, for example, the sciences and technical and vocational (STEM) subjects. The particular design feature of concern is the inconsistency and application of the HSC performance ‘Band Descriptions’ for different subjects.

There is an extreme variation in the proportions of students allocated to each of the performance bands in different subjects. For example, in 2021

This is NOT a fair go for all. As can be seen, under the current system the science, technology and vocational subjects are essentially discriminated against. Despite this extreme variation, the band percentages are used as the primary measure of student and school achievement, including in merit lists and strategic targets. Thus bands have become the key driver of detrimental effects to teaching and learning:

  • Warped student subject choice: ‘able’ students are increasingly choosing (or being forced into) subjects with increased access to Band 6s, thereby prioritising access to Band 6s over academic rigour. This in turn negatively impacts future pathways, particularly for diverse cohorts, including  female representation.
  • Reduced school subject offerings: many schools are axing critical subjects and skewing their strategic directions for hiring and investing in subjects/faculties due to gaming the system towards more Band 6s. This is further exacerbated and even intrinsically encouraged by the worsening skilled teacher shortages in e.g. mathematics and the sciences
  • Accountabilities tied to Band 6s (see A new education landscape of accountability above)
  • Teacher performance measurement tied to Band 6s: blanket targets and teacher performance measures can have a devastatingly negative impact upon staff teaching subjects with low proportions in Band 6, contributing to the widely reported teacher shortage and retention problems in critical subjects, poor well-being and depleted morale, particularly with the existential threats of ‘dud ministers’

As mentioned, the use of bands in this way was never part of the design remit for the new HSC in 2000. But over the years the performance bands have evolved into high-stakes features. High-stakes indicators must be strong, reliable and valid. The variation in Band Descriptions, and the proportions of students allocated to each band across subjects means they are no longer reliable or valid as high-stakes performance indicators. They must be open to scrutiny and reform. 

Evolving the HSC

There is one primary way to evolve the HSC: by strategic reforms to the bands. Reforming the bands needn’t be extensive, expensive, or threaten the HSC standards approach, or the ATAR. Bands could still allow for disciplinary differences, but with improved comparability and fairness. Myself and a loose band of academics and researchers have considered models that could be much simpler and cheaper than the current arrangements, yet strengthen the reliability and validity of bands as educational indicators. As a side benefit, they could also improve clarity on standards and exemplar material in the ‘Standards Packages’ to directly strengthen teaching and learning. We are currently making representations to key stakeholders to outline the details of these reforms. 

We have used our collective expertise and have developed possible pathways to reform bands and sustain the HSC into the future. Such reforms would counter the detrimental consequences of current arrangements, mitigate emerging risks and ensure that the HSC remains a strong credential for the next generation of students in NSW. We need a fair go for all; it would be un-Australian to be otherwise. 

Dr Simon Crook is director of CrookED Science, a STEM education consultancy, and Honorary Associate at the School of Physics, University of Sydney. He works with primary and high school teachers and students around many aspects of science and STEM education, and assists the Sydney University Physics Education Research (SUPER) group with their work, including liaising with NESA regarding science syllabuses. His PhD research evaluated the impact of technology on student attainment in the sciences. Previously, Simon was a high school physics teacher.

Why we must abandon the 2021 HSC now

A  stop-start directive to return to schools has been going on for over a month and produced anxieties for teachers, students and their families. 

How can we respond to the confusion this has produced, particularly regarding Year 12 students? The argument mounted here is that there really is only one way to respond and that is from an equity perspective. 

Abandon this year’s HSC examination and – with universities, unions, curriculum associations, teachers and principal organizations – develop pathway responses that can take account of different assessment practices.

This means looking at the situation from the least empowered by addressing barriers through what might be called affirmative action. In this case that means acting in a way that responds to students who are disadvantaged. Even at a general level all students have experienced what no other has before: two years of interrupted learning. This is, after all, a once in a century pandemic. The HSC is not a set of exams at the end of one year, it is two years of assessments where the examination is but one element. Those two years for the current cohort have been tragically upended by last year’s lockdown and now this year’s lockdown. There is no issue with the lockdown, as we want everyone safe. The problem is the intransigence of the NSW government in not being flexible enough to think this through in other ways.

Sydney Catholic Schools executive director Tony Farley called for school-based assessments to replace exams. He argued from an equity perspective that disadvantaged students lacked access to adequate resources. This was rejected outright by the minister and NESA thus demolishing the first principle of democratic participation – the right to representation. Comparing the second year of COVID to what happened in Victoria or Britain last year is comparing apples and oranges. This is two years of disruption and may continue. The uncertainty is what needs to be ended.

In appealing for the HSC to proceed the Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, harnessed her migrant background and the importance of this exam in the trajectory of her success, and therefore other migrants. While there is some truth in this narrative, for many this just isn’t the case. Gone are the days when students chose to stay on for academic reasons. Most now must stay on and not all consider the HSC the golden pathway to their imagined futures. This argument also papers over the enormous differences within and across migrant communities. Evidence suggests that a lack of devices in refugee families has seriously interrupted schooling. Some teachers report teaching to two students jammed in front of one screen in the middle of a lounge room with other siblings present. Many reports of refugee and migrant families having difficulty with online learning are also documented.

Yet it is not migrants only that are impacted. Students who are neurologically and physically diverse have had less than their normal level of support. There is also the emotional and psychological impact of lockdowns on others, reported to have skyrocketed this lockdown. Whether it is the student or their family is irrelevant here given the close living and lack of escape from sometimes very close living quarters. This leads to a second failure of a democracy, and that is justice: every person has a right to just, fair and equitable treatment.

There are other questions about marking practical work such as music, drama, art and dance. Normally itinerant teachers travel but with restrictions out of Sydney on movement what is happening? Is video doing this? How equitable is the current arrangement? This leads to the other thorny question of vaccination. Are itinerant teachers vaccinated? In the middle of all this is another failure; to vaccinate frontline workers such as teachers. In other parts of the world, they were part of the first batch to be vaccinated but not here despite UNESCO calling for them to be prioritized globally. Not valued enough. Now, when the Delta variant has made schools “just perfect” as a vehicle for transmission, we are left wanting.

Who are the disadvantaged? This cannot be answered through simple categories based on ability, socio-economic status or ethnicity because we will find exceptions in all cases. Let’s turn the gaze and ask the question: who are advantaged? There seems to be some lack of decision-making around those who get vaccinated and those who don’t for one thing. As yet we won’t know what happens to those who aren’t vaccinated. Most of the rhetoric around keeping the HSC going has been from the perspective of the ‘ideal student’; one who is self-directed, prepared, committed, in control, and of course, in a home with emotional, social and technological support. We know some of these, such as the young men allowed to travel during a lockdown for their important camp experience.

What can be done? 

As I argued earlier,  we should abandon this year’s HSC examination and – with universities, unions, curriculum associations, teachers and principal organizations – develop pathway responses that can take account of different assessment practices. We really have no choice. We can’t send thousands of private and selective school students travelling all over Sydney in two weeks’ time and we don’t know if the students living in the heart of Sydney in hard lockdown will be able to move around at all. 

There are countless pathways available to TAFE and universities already. These can be tweaked to incorporate short courses where knowledge and skills can be demonstrated leading to entry if school-based assessments have gaps. Universities such as my own have developed pathways based on Year 11 results as well as strong support systems for first year students so if they are in the wrong course or struggling, they are given support to know if they want to continue or not. Others moving to workplaces, apprenticeships and TAFE could also be accommodated with broad based representation involving consultation and some imagination. Who knows, we might even develop a new way forward that caters for a different world.

Everyone has been impacted so the support for this cohort has to be broad. Why not tap into community goodwill? We are all in the same boat. Teachers, as professionals, have not been given much space to demonstrate their capacities but have been providing what they can as they too struggle with lockdown, their own family’s needs and a lack of consultation. Let’s look after the least empowered and the collective goodwill flowing from this will serve us well. Business as usual just isn’t working.

Carol Reid is a sociologist of education in the Centre for Educational Research at Western Sydney University. Carol’s research explores processes of globalisation and mobilities on youth, ethnicity and race and the intersections of these social identities with the changing nature of teacher’s work. Current research is concerned with Settlement Outcomes of Syrian Conflict Refugees and cosmopolitan theory for education. Carol received her PhD and BA (Hons) from Macquarie University in Sociology and was a teacher prior to these studies for 13 years. 

The study of novels and poetry is essential for senior secondary students

The serious dumbing down of the senior English syllabus in NSW will have significant repercussions for students, employers, writers, poets, and Australian culture.

The changes have been widely criticized. The worst ones are the reduction in texts to be studied, the study of both novels and poetry becoming optional and the formerly non-ATAR English course now becoming assessable for the ATAR. My colleague Don Carter, who in a former role led the team developing the non-ATAR course, is greatly concerned by how this will affect students, as is Jackie Manuel, who has examined these changes in detail here on this blog.

Yes we understand the importance of STEM education and why it needs special attention these days. Also it can’t be denied that film, media and digital texts are part of today’s technologies so should be studied. And bottom line, these changes to HSC English will save money by cutting marking time.

So why worry about our HSC students skipping novels and poetry in their final year of school? What have novels and poetry got to offer in today’s world?

So much, so very much.

Why studying  novels and poetry should be compulsory

The intensive study of multiple texts, written from diverse points of view and cultural heritages, gives a vicarious glimpse of the worlds of others. Literature is the ultimate virtual reality.


In a novel, and without fancy gaming scenes and movement, sound effects, actors and cinematography, literary worlds (and plot and characters) are built by a writer using one simple tool, the infinite arrangements of an alphabet consisting of a mere 26 letters, and are then sustained and grown by readers’ imaginations.

Intensive study of novels grows awareness of how words can be used and manipulated, in both positive and negative ways, and helps us learn how we, and others, respond to such words, as well as how we can use them. Forensic study of novels, delving beyond the top layer and investigating how language creates characters and conveys feelings and emotions somehow sparks all senses; hearing, seeing, feeling, touching, smelling. Observing and studying people both like and unlike ourselves in crafted case studies in a created world provides resources that mature our understandings of our own world.

Exploring how novels and poetry (I’ll come to poetry in a minute) work, not only breeds creativity, that highly sought-after attribute when everyone is talking ‘innovation’, it also expands awareness of other perspectives, ways of thinking, and needs and problems. A novel can change cultures and bring about social change. Think about the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said on meeting author Harriet Beecher Stowe, ‘So this is the little lady whose book started a big war.’ He was of course referring to the American Civil War.

This lowering of standards by NSW represents a lowering of expectations and is a sad reflection of our impoverished educational philosophy. It’s a scary repeat of the scrapping of grammar decades ago.

In a few years we’ll (suddenly!) discover that Australian students are lagging behind world standards not only in literacy and reading and writing skills but in cultural literacy, creativity, nuanced thinking and the ability to critically analyse language.

The more people and experiences we are exposed to, actually, and virtually (and I repeat, literature is of course a virtual reality), the more we learn to respect others and respect difference. As David Parker notes, novels are ‘sites of the culture’s deepest moral questionings’; Simon Haines writes that they are sites of ‘ethical reflection’.

This is the ethical reflection of deep literacy, not just respect but a generous and intimate understanding of others that makes us hope for their wellbeing. Writing about the novel, Martha Nussbaum says that ‘respect for a soul’ is ‘built into the genre itself’. In other words it makes us more empathic, more collaborative, better teammates. It makes for more flexibility in thinking, more agility in considering how things can be done.

And some of our most beautiful novels can be challenging and need a guide (good teachers!) to introduce us to them. I’m thinking of Tim Winton’s opening lines in Cloudstreet – ‘The beautiful, the beautiful, the river’, and David Malouf’s description of the sea in Remembering Babylon:

It glows in fullness till the tide is high and the light almost, but not quite, unbearable, as the moon plucks at our world and all the waters of the earth ache towards it ….

Extended exposure to creative imageries such as these encourage a similar ache, and the capacity to listen with the mind as well as the ear, to see with the spirit as well as the eyes. Creativity is contagious; it jumps from one thought to another, from one imagination to another, from one mode of expression to another.


Poetry is the literary genre that first attracts children into language. Think of ‘Round and round the garden/Dancing teddy bear’ and ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’: rhythm and rhyme, sound and imagery. Poetry is important both for philosophical and pragmatic reasons, both for self enhancement (life enhancement) and for the skills it grows.

Poetry breeds and cultivates and demonstrates succinctness of expression, depths of thinking that generate a creative climate of shared human-ness – humanity. It uses words like Russian dolls; open up one word and another one tumbles out, wrapped in thoughts and feelings and scattering other images along the way. Advertisers and jingle writers know and love this, and we need our children to understand how it happens.

Poetry is like a theorem; a few words can express a deep thought. I’ve used this example before, but it’s just so apt:


This world of dew

is but a world of dew,

and yet …oh, and yet.    

Koyabayashi Issa (1763-1828)

The words are so simple, we know what each one means. But what is this famous haiku actually saying? It feels repetitive, unfinished. It’s like saying an apple is an apple, and the ‘and yet’ repeated at the end means – what?

These words stand on the surface of a complex thought, above not just one idea but many (philosophical, creative, intellectual, universal, particular) that may provoke, delight, and/or unsettle. We know what ‘dew’ is ( the dictionary says it is ‘moisture condensed from the atmosphere especially at night’) but this simple definition unravels into other ideas pertaining to moisture; water, morning, dawn. These in turn tumble into thoughts about dawn as being a new day, as being either a fresh start or a despairing start (or both), and moisture and water as both that which assuages thirst and as the moisture of tears and sweat, sorrow and exhaustion, or sometimes of great happiness and pleasure.

So, almost subliminally, this invites the reader to take a thought plunge into both the profound delights and the profound sadness of the world and indeed of human existence. And whichever way we read this, as delight or sadness, or both, or neither, there is always the ‘and yet’, the something else, the other side, the perhaps holy or perhaps unholy concomitance.

Poetry – using the magic of sound as well as sense – energises rigour of thought and the imagination that recognises and engages with the enigmas and the puzzles of the ‘and yet, oh and yet.’ It acknowledges and accentuates the wondering (and the wonder).

And Australian poetry! The line of a simple ballad is with me every time I look up at a starry sky: ‘And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars’. Simple, some say trite, I say tapping into and enlarging the experience of being human, of being part of a mind-staggering universe.

If young Australians don’t have to study it, will they know such poetry exists? They may miss John Shaw’s Nielson’s delicate ‘Love’s coming’ (a wonderful antidote to the current deluge of lovers on reality TV); and Judith Wright’s “five senses’ that ‘gather into a meaning/all acts, all presences’; and Lionel Fogarty’s ‘sweet peace crowned country’ and Martin Harrison’s morning song, ‘As early as this – it’s just after dawn – you’re overwhelmed by the glimmering of things’; and Paolo Totaro’s cry against war when a child picks up something that looks like a pomegranate: ‘Where did it come from, that winsome hand-grenade?’

Studying novels and poetry is needed in this new global world

Most of all, intensive study of novels and poetry grows a willingness to engage with ambiguity. Think of that ‘world of dew’ again. We haven’t got all the answers and our point of view is not always right. And the idea of ‘right’ may always be ambiguous.

Think about quantum theory and the theory of relativity. The position of the observer is always disruptive and time is not absolute.

I have heard whispers of the idea of ‘unknowing’ creeping into educational discourse, and applaud this. Part of deep engagement with novels and poetry helps us to understand that we just don’t always know and that we need to acknowledge our unknowing. This is not a deficit, but a part of growth. Life is profound and mysterious; in philosopher Cora Diamond’s words:

There is far more to things, to life, than we know or understand. Such a feeling is tied to a rejection of the spirit of knowingness often found in abstract moral and social theorising.

It is this that helps individuals to commit to a moral order beyond the self and to connect, with integrity, to community.

By cutting the need for high-level study of a range of novels and poetry are we really equipping our students for global futures?

NESA, please rethink this decision, which is not grounded on pedagogical principles or research, and is contrary to the feedback received from so many experts.

Our students are worth more than this.


Rosemary Ross Johnston is Professor of Education and Culture at UTS, and is the Director of the International Research Centre for Youth Futures. Her latest book, Australian Literature for Young People, is currently in press with Oxford.





Last week (end of March 2017) NESA did a back-flip and announced a new ruling “to clarify the requirement to study a novel in Year 12 in English”.

Read about it here.

Direct link between teaching and learning with laptops and better HSC results in biology, chemistry and physics

Most Australian students in years 9 to 12 were provided with a laptop courtesy of The Digital Education Revolution between 2008 and 2013. There was a lot of comment at the time about how the use of laptops might influence student learning and what that influence might be. I was particularly interested in the possible impact on the experiences and achievements of high school science teachers and students.
In 2010, I embarked on a six-year study involving 16 Sydney Catholic high schools in NSW to gather evidence. I have to say my expectations at first were quite conservative. I predicted my research would get a null result, as the data would be too inconsistent and messy.

The most interesting finding

However, the results were surprising and quite clear, with the statistical significance and positive effect sizes that boffins wanting “evidence” so crave. The major finding of my research was that teaching and learning with 1:1 laptops was directly linked with students attaining better results in their HSC in biology, chemistry and physics. In most of the previous research in this area only evidence of generic qualities, such as increased motivation or engagement, had been found. My research actually provided hard numbers. Given the high stakes nature of HSC exams in NSW, these findings might be of interest to other teachers of senior students.

Biggest impact in physics, why?

Investigating further I found that 1:1 laptops had a bigger positive impact in physics than in biology and chemistry. The reasons for this seemed related. Physics teachers and students out-reported their peers in the other subjects in terms of using science specific applications e.g. simulations, science software and spreadsheets. They were using applications that would directly benefit the teaching and learning e.g. simulations for experiments that would be impossible to do otherwise. Digging further, this is not surprising as the physics syllabus encourages and even mandates the use of technology throughout the syllabus, whereas in say biology, there is no reference apart from some generic motherhood statements.

I am not claiming in any way that the physics teachers were better than the biology teachers with using technology (they may or may not be, I didn’t explore this), but that the physics teachers had a mandate to use technology and they did, whereas the biology teachers didn’t have the same obligations, so they did not.

Other findings

Students became more proactive

Even if teachers didn’t engage with the technology (a minority), the students would still do so of their own accord. Given that they had a laptop, it appears they really wanted to use it. Also, students were much more inclined to use more creative applications such as blogging, video editing and podcasting than their teachers.

Old practices continued

However, in contrast, while I observed that students moved away from using pen and paper and did more work on their laptops, they still took notes and worked from textbooks, as they did before they had their laptops. The only difference was they now used word processing for notes and electronic textbooks plus simple online searching. Essentially, the laptops were most commonly being used to perpetuate traditional practices. It must be understood however that these findings were from 2010 data, only one or two years into the DER. The question now should be what are the modal practices with technology in 2017?

Teachers had ‘fingers on the pulse’

Another interesting finding was regarding teachers’ perceptions of what students were doing on the laptops compared to what the students reported themselves. About one third of teachers very much had their fingers on the pulse and were quite aware of what their students were doing. Just over half had a medium sense of their students’ practices. One in six teachers appeared to be out of tune with their students’ practices.

Teacher case studies

The final findings were based on case studies of four science teachers. Not surprisingly, I found that different teachers started from different positions of use of and expertise with technology. However, over the years of the study, all teachers reported improvement in their use of and expertise with teaching with the laptops, especially those that were starting from the lowest baseline.

A shift in the power dynamics of the classroom

The most interesting finding from the teacher case studies was that the implementation of the laptops involved a renegotiation of the power dynamics of the classroom and a shift in the teachers’ role from traditional instructor to facilitator of independent learning.

All of the teachers involved reported a gradual relaxing of ‘control’ over time, trusting and collaborating with the students more, and allowing the students to take more of a lead in how to make best use of the technology.

Future impacts

Five years since the end of the DER (such is the nature of part-time research), I feel the findings of this study still have currency for today’s schools. Whatever the latest iteration of technology in schools, or indeed any new initiative, this research raises areas of consideration for future classroom practices and research.

Teachers need to have their fingers on the pulse of their students’ practices. If teachers and students use technologies to capitalise on the unique opportunities they provide, rather than as a gimmick, it has been demonstrated that teaching and learning will improve. Hopefully, this research will further encourage research into new initiatives to include a more quantitative analysis and measurements of improvement or lack thereof.

I would strongly advocate that teachers are consulted on their personal thoughts and experiences in advance to any new initiatives implemented by governments and administrations, based on my research, and that these are monitored over the course of the implementation.

Impact on new syllabuses

In NSW as in many other states and territories, new syllabuses are being written in light of the new(ish) Australian Curriculum. It is quite pertinent that syllabus writers take into consideration the latest research regarding their influence on teaching and learning practices. New syllabuses should encourage the use of and capitalise on technologies that have been demonstrated to benefit teaching and learning. Empty motherhoods statements or catering for the lowest common denominator are not good enough – contemporary syllabuses should be relevant to a contemporary world and evidence-based.

Throughout the time of the DER and in the years since, it has been the subject of persistent criticism, particularly within the right-wing media (it was a Labor initiative after all). However, as with any initiative, while there are often failings, there are also many successes.

In the post-truth world we now find ourselves, we could all benefit from looking at the evidence rather than just react to the constant flow of opinion and comment in the media.


Simon Crook has just completed his PhD in Physics Education Research at the University of Sydney. Producing a ‘thesis by publication’, most of his academic journal articles are already in the public domain. Professionally, Simon is a STEM education consultant with his company CrookED Science. He supports primary and secondary schools and school systems across Australia, providing professional development to teachers and working with students. Previously, he was a high school science teacher for 15 years in the UK and Sydney and eLearning Adviser for the Catholic Education Office Sydney for 6 years. You can find him on  Twitter @simoncrook and check out his website

This article is about the findings from my recently published PhD thesis entitled Evaluating the Impact of 1:1 Laptops on High School Science Students and Teachers, completed through the Physics Education Research group at the University of Sydney.