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Competencies and the fighting of syllabusitis: A two-dimensional structuring of teachers’ work and development

15 March 2017, 4pm-5:30pm LSIA Brisbane Office, Level 4 Cathedral House, 229 Elizabeth St, Brisbane


Associate Professor, PhD Tomas Højgaard

Tomas Højgaard holds a position as Associate Professor at The School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark (http://pure.au.dk/portal/en/tomas@edu.au.dk). He has a Master’s Degree in mathematics and public economics and a PhD in mathematics education from Roskilde University, Denmark. His professional work follows three major strands: Teaching mathematics teacher educators; researching the use of descriptions of mathematical competencies in general and mathematical modelling competency in particular as a means for developing mathematics education; and cooperation with teachers on various developmental projects.  His most recent projects have focused on curriculum development, systematic in-service development of teachers’ professional competencies, structuring and writing of mathematics textbooks and the use of project work to develop directed autonomy. He is currently on study leave at  Learning Sciences Institute Australia, ACU, Brisbane, working with Professor Vince Geiger on approaches to mathematics curriculum reform and implementation.


Syllabusitis is the name given by Jens Jensen for a metaphorical disease of curriculum implementation related to the identification of the mastery of a subject with proficiency related to a syllabus.  During this seminar, it will be argued that a set of broader competencies (capabilities) is an essential educational tool for meeting the challenge of syllabusitis.
The introduction of a set of such competencies, as a way of minimising the effect of syllabusitis, for the subject of mathematics, was the main outcome of the Danish project ‘Competencies and Mathematical Learning’. Another outcome of this project was the development of a two-dimensional framework relating subject specific competencies and subject matter. This framework has proven to be a crucial element when attempting to meet the challenge of syllabusitis by privileging competencies when conducting curriculum reform in Denmark.

Key points of discussion during this seminar will be: a) discuss the concepts of syllabusitis and competencies, b) argue why a two-dimensional framework is crucial, c) exemplify how such a framework can make it possible for teachers to take an active part in the fighting off syllabusitis and in welcoming the competencies as a developmental tool, and d) exemplify how the framework can act as the hub of well-aligned educational assessment.