Volume 85 Number 7, 8 May 2006
Teachers and students at Wainuiomata High School in New Zealand have benefited from the Enhancing Effective Practice in Special Education (EEPiSE) project. It has helped teachers to assist Year 9 and 10 students with moderate special needs. The project involved the use of a differentiation strategy to improve student literacy. Lessons were planned to meet the needs of different students within the classroom. Each teacher was asked to target three students with moderate special needs. Teachers worked with parents to discuss the students’ learning experiences and identify possible obstacles. Teachers also interviewed the students themselves. The teachers met regularly to discuss ideas and share strategies. Differentiation took forms such as having students in the class read different novels, reflecting different levels of complexity, or posing different questions to different groups in the classroom. Over the year in which the project took place, a major shift took place in the perceptions of the value of differentiation. As a result more than 180 students at the junior school have been targeted for assistance using differentiation techniques. There has also been a significant shift in literacy results. There has been a reduction in the number of students who are not achieving as well as expected.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Don’t panic. It’s only a crisis
May 2006; Pages 64–66
Preparedness is the key to dealing with a school crisis, as your actions within the first hour of the crisis will be crucial to your overall success. A thorough crisis management plan can give staff a sense of calm and direction that helps to prevent panic responses. It is vital to respond to the media as soon as possible. Refusal to speak to the media suggests panic and may induce them to go to less appropriate people for information. An initial holding statement can ‘buy time’. It should normally be delivered by the principal. Prepare to answer journalists’ key questions, which are likely to involve ‘what, who, when, where and why’. However, the content of your messages should cover the most important messages that you want to convey to your target audience, which is likely to include students, parents and government officials. Responses should not be dictated by the media, whose questions may be designed to provoke an emotional response. Stick to your prepared statement. If the cause of the crisis is unclear, or needs to be dealt with by the police before it can be made public, care needs to be taken to protect the school’s reputation. It may be helpful to prepare template media releases. (See abridged article.)
Subject HeadingsCrisis management
School and community
Duty of care: the age factor
Number 1, 2006; Page 15
Numerous court decisions have confirmed that a school’s duty of care is fulfilled by ‘reasonable supervision’. A court’s definition of ‘reasonable supervision’ may vary, depending on the ages of the students involved. Younger children are more in need of supervision than older students; however, questions arise with respect to a school’s duty of care towards students beyond the age of compulsory attendance who are at school of their own free will. Richards v State of Victoria (1969) clearly established that even 16-year-olds are entitled to protection from risk by their school. Two more recent cases provide some indication of the extent of this protection. In Gugiatti v Servite College Council (2004), a Year 11 student was injured crossing a shallow stream unsupervised at a school camp, and sued the school for negligence. The judge found that the school did have a duty of care with respect to its students at the camp, even though it took place away from school grounds and outside school hours. However, this duty did not extend to supervision or instruction for the activity of crossing the stream, as there was no particular danger which gave rise to a foreseeable risk. The court’s decision was further influenced by the fact that one of the purposes of the camp had been to foster initiative and common sense. The other case concerned an injury sustained by a senior student in a supervised touch rugby game, where teachers did not intervene or provide instruction to prevent dangerous tackling. This case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Subject HeadingsDuty of care
Information literacy: a framework for inquiry learning. How can I teach it if I don't know what it is?
Volume 20 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 9–14
In New Zealand, a 2002 survey found that most teachers expected students’ information skills to ‘develop naturally’ without explicit instruction. It also found that even teachers with relatively high information skills tend to focus on finding rather than evaluating information. Teachers need professional development in information literacy. The Ministry of Education is promoting whole school approaches to professional development, which is supported by principals. Some researchers have warned that the whole school approach may work against teachers’ autonomy and professionalism if it is too standardised and centralised, however other research points to the value of collaborative, networked learning among teachers themselves. Infolink is a whole professional development program in information literacy. It is delivered by the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland as one of the subjects within the Graduate Diploma of Education. The course introduces resource-based learning for teachers and students through the steps of ‘deciding, finding, using, recording, presenting and evaluating’. Cognitive strategies are modelled for teachers who then implement them at appropriate points in their classrooms. In 2003 an evaluation of Infolink was undertaken by the author. The study involved teachers at two primary and one intermediate school in Auckland, using semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. Participants said that the course has helped to develop a shared understanding at their schools of good information literacy teaching practice. As a result, there has been better coordination of school resources and more cross-curricular work around information literacy. ICT specialists are now encouraged to go beyond teaching digital literacy to promote information literacy skills more broadly.
Subject HeadingsInformation literacy
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Developing information literate students: finding out how well New Zealand secondary teachers are equipped to achieve this aim
Volume 20 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 20–23
In New Zealand, the introduction of achievement standards for teachers has included a requirement that they become involved in research activity, however there is no evidence that they possess skills in this area. Evidence suggests that many primary schools and most secondary schools in the country are not addressing the need to develop information literacy skills and have no methods in place to assess them. A recent study has examined New Zealand secondary teachers’ understanding of and teaching about information literacy. A pilot study was undertaken at one Auckland secondary school. A questionnaire was prepared including Lickert and frequency scales and a number of open-ended questions. A total of 120 questionnaires were sent out and 33 replies received. It was found that few respondents understood the concept of information literacy. A number of teachers confused the concept with ICT. The poor results came despite the fact that several of the teachers had received professional development with an information literacy focus in previous years. The trial survey suggested the need to explain concepts more precisely, for example, by articulating the links between information literacy and the research process. The full study was then undertaken at another four Auckland secondary schools. Preliminary results support the findings of the pilot study.
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Learning that builds community
Volume 9 Number 1, 2006; Pages 9–11, 22
As Subject Coordinator for Media Studies in Queensland’s Anglican Church boys’ grammar school, the author was faced with the task of raising the profile of Media Studies in an environment where it was often misapprehended as a lightweight alternative to other academic disciplines. The changes he effected to meet this challenge were guided by four main themes, which have relevance for all subject areas: creative implementation of ICT, authentic learning and assessment, the notion of community, and celebration of student achievement. Existing ICT facilities, which had been set up to replicate industry practices, were reorganised to better suit an educational context. Establishing a classroom media lab increased possibilities for collaborative learning. ICT instruction emphasised underlying concepts over technological effects, overcoming the boys’ tendency to become fixated on technology rather than ideas. Authentic learning and assessment tasks were structured around students’ everyday experiences, for example investigating media bias by creating a deliberately biased current affairs report on their school’s activities. ‘Learning by doing’, and completing tasks in class that had previously only been performed in an assessment context, significantly increased student proficiency. ‘Something about the nature of visual communication’ improved students’ confidence in undergoing peer appraisal, which they might have found intimidating with written work. The author gave up his own time to supervise the media lab outside school hours to develop a ‘club-like’ community incorporating media students of all year levels. Highly effective informal student-to-student mentoring relationships were thus established, as well as a close student–teacher rapport. Students enjoyed showing off media terms they had learned in class in informal adult discussion with the teacher. The student–teacher relationship was further enhanced by collaborating to produce a media awards night for the school. The Oscar-inspired awards motivated students to excel in a way that grades-based assessment could not, gave them additional skills in events management, and further elevated the status of the subject and students’ sense of self-worth. Media Studies’ explicit utilisation of multiple intelligences and transferable skills, and its inherent adaptability to constant change, have greatly improved its perceived value in the school’s curriculum.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsMass media
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Thinking about the key competencies in the light of the intention to foster lifelong learning
Number 3, 2005; Pages 36–38
In 2005, New Zealand’s Ministry of Education released a pamphlet introducing the ‘key competencies’ proposed for the New Zealand school curriculum. These competencies are: relating to others; managing self; participating and contributing; thinking; and using languages, symbols and texts. They have been debated, defined and refined as part of the Curriculum/Marautanga Project. The key competencies are based on findings from the OECD’s DeSeCo project, which comprised extensive research into what people need to know to lead a ‘successful life’ in a ‘well-functioning society’. The research was designed to be universally applicable to all OECD nations. The competencies are intended to be integrated and holistic, and required close alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy. All five competencies have undergone several changes over the course of their development as people have come to grips with their subtleties and implications. The article details each competency and its various formulations as it has evolved. Integration of the competencies with current curriculum content and assessment has been challenging but worthwhile. They are explicitly intended to foster lifelong learning, and are ‘future-focused’. Examples of the imperatives of future-focused education include: learning that focuses on building student identity in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse world; training future workers to exercise their initiative, not just follow instructions; giving learners the metacognitive skills necessary to manage and sustain their own learning; empowering students in the classroom; and ensuring that existing knowledge can be utilised to create new knowledge. A reference for each of these imperatives is provided to encourage further investigation and discussion of how the key competencies might adapt education to meet the needs of the next generation.
Subject HeadingsNew Zealand
Education aims and objectives
When the numbers don't add up
Volume 1, February 2006; Pages 20–22
In Victoria, VCE Accounting has been reviewed and reaccredited three times since 1998. After the early 1990s enrolments in the subject began to decline. The causes of the decline include an expansion of subject choice in the curriculum, mainly in the form of VET subjects; a shortage of trained Accounting teachers, which has removed the subject from the syllabus at some schools; and the fact that many tertiary Accounting courses do not require VCE Accounting. In 1998 the Board of Studies (now VCAA) mandated the use of ICT in VCE Accounting to reflect trends in the business world. The move was supported by all school sector authorities, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the VCTA. Teachers faced the need to upgrade their ICT skills and to compete for scare computer resources in their schools. The Board of Studies and the VCTA jointly organised a Statewide program of professional development in Accounting software. In 2001 the subject was accredited again in response to ongoing rapid changes in technology. Enrolment levels continued to fall, while Business Office Administration and Financial Services were growing. It was decided ‘after much heated debate’ to continue the process of embedding ICT into the curriculum and assessment for the subject. It was also decided that Accounting should be clearly identified with accounting and financial management for a small business, and should extend beyond accounting procedures to include decision making and analysis of financial information. These additions were formally incorporated in the 2003 study design. The decision as to which tasks should involve ICT was now left to the teacher. Enrolment levels in the subject are currently reviving.
Subject HeadingsEducational certificates
Senior secondary education
Volume 85 Number 2, February 2006; Page 19
Group lessons offer unique benefits and can help students remain motivated through the otherwise lonely first stages of learning an instrument. However, group lessons introduce time constraints and may require teachers to teach across a range of abilities. For example, half of a 20-minute lesson period may be used up in setting up and packing away instruments. Music teachers should arrange with the class teacher for such activities to be done outside the music lesson. More able students can help weaker students with long note, or posture and position practice, while the teacher listens to another student. Scales are useful for all ability levels, with more able pupils playing in thirds to create intonations across the group. Music teachers can employ ensemble teaching, using duet and trio books with easy and complex parts to cater for individual abilities. Exams should be avoided until the pupil is ready, as failure can lead students to lose confidence and give up their instrument. Where parents are insistent about exams, teachers should explain that progression occurs at different rates. The Music Teacher’s Companion by Paul Harris and Richard Crozier provides ideas on managing time and group learning.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsGroup work in education
Building social capital at Narrabundah
Volume 9 Number 1, 2006; Pages 12–13
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) schools Narrabundah primary and Erindale college have developed a ‘buddy school’ program to improve post-primary transition and secondary school retention among Indigenous students. Almost half of Narrabundah’s students are Indigenous, and tend to come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Created in 2004 and planned to run until 2008, the buddy school program recreates these networks by involving students from Narrabundah and the 37 Indigenous students at Erindale in formal and informal activities such as school assembly performances, traditional games and mentoring. These activities help to reinforce the horizontal networks of individuals and groups that exist within Indigenous communities. A shared web page, chat room and e-buddy system are planned for 2006. Older students act as role models, ‘tuning’ younger students in to the importance of completing high school and further study. The program provides leadership experience and reinforces the role that Indigenous students have to play as future leaders in the community. Retention and attendance statistics, and attitudinal changes will be used to measure success. Members from the schools’ Indigenous community support the program, with both Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness committees invited to be involved from the program’s inception. Narrabundah primary has developed other successful initiatives. The Birrigai Boys Project (BBP) has improved literacy levels, self-identity, behaviour and attendance for at-risk Indigenous boys by providing an outdoor setting, male mentors and an increased student focus. The school also runs a breakfast program, and has received an award for the most improved student fitness levels in the State. Narrabundah is part of the Dare to Lead project, which is designed to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students. More than one-third of schools in Australia are involved in Dare to Lead, and work together within clusters or action areas to build local connections.
Subject HeadingsIndigenous peoples
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
Children and social capital
Volume 9 Number 1, 2006; Pages 15–16
A report from the USA offers a range of recommendations to help schools re-engage young people in their communities, and teach responsibility, trust and reciprocity. Parental involvement is a critical factor for success across each of the recommended measures. Every elementary, middle and high school student should undertake community service in every year of their schooling. Research shows that community service helps students develop values, social responsibility, compassion, tolerance and a sense of belonging within their wider communities. Schools should allocate funds and staffing rather than leaving it to students to find community service opportunities. Schools should be kept small if possible. Large schools and classes should be restructured into a number of smaller communities. Smaller schools and classes tend to be less reliant on rules and discipline; encourage trust, participation and mutual responsibility; and are less likely to let students ‘fall through the cracks’. Federal and state government funding should be restored to extracurricular activities, which will generate future social and economic benefits. Extracurricular activities will encourage young people to stay in school; develop leadership and teamwork abilities; pursue further education or employment; and subsequently pay taxes. A public education campaign should be run to encourage community members, in particular parents, to volunteer assistance for extracurricular activities. Civics activities should cover the three key areas of civics knowledge, values and skills, and be made more relevant. For example, rather than learning facts remote from their own experience such as how a bill becomes law, students should be involved in civics issues in their own communities. Students can select a local issue, such as getting lights for a neighbourhood basketball court, and work to bring about change. Effective civics programs require innovation from schools and support from all sectors of society, including parents’ and community groups. Almost one in 11 students dropped out of high school in the USA in 1997. Projects to build social capital should also involve young people who do not attend school.
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
School and community
From their perspective
Volume 9 Number 1, 2006; Pages 6–8
It is important for teachers of students with autism to understand how their students see the world, to ‘see the child, not the problem’, and to utilise strategies to make interactions positive rather than confronting. Special education teachers need to work closely with parents to establish individual education plans. Successful plans for students with autism address learning in six key areas of student experience. The first area, the social world, is confusing for students with autism, as they are unable to predict patterns and make sense of social interactions. Teaching social skills explicitly, such as modelling facial expressions or playing games, encourages active social interaction. The second area is communication, which autistic students often understand only as a means of fulfilling their own needs or expressing obsessional interests, such as reciting long strings of facts on a particular topic. Strategies for teaching communication as a social tool include maintaining routines, using clear language, adding visual cues, ensuring students’ attention has been engaged, creating opportunities to communicate (having to request a favourite toy, for example) or teaching a ‘listening routine’. The third area, behaviour, can be moderated by fulfilling autistic students’ need for order and predictability, understanding the reasons for their behaviour, and teaching alternatives to problematic behaviours to cope with situations they find stressful. Fourthly, students with autism often find certain sensory experiences (such as touching something of a particular colour) extremely distressing or unusually pleasurable. Appreciating this difference in perception, and enabling students to avoid distasteful situations, is essential. The fifth area relates to structuring teaching so that classroom practices do not trigger stress and, consequently, undesirable behaviour. The TEACCH approach, designed specifically for children with autism, is particularly effective. Lastly, students with autism should be explicitly taught the life skills they will need to function in society, such as using public transport or planning a class party. Teaching students with autism is rewarding, but can be emotionally taxing, and it is important for special education teachers to look after themselves, support each other, and retain a sense of humour.
Teaching and learning
Accountability, standards, and the growing achievement gap: lessons from the past half-century
Volume 112 Number 2, February 2006; Pages 209–238
The rise of standards-based education policies in the USA in the 1990s coincided with an increase in the achievement gap between white and minority students, which had previously been decreasing. An extensive review of literature and policy including the key 1983 report A Nation at Risk, has suggested relationships between various education reforms and equity outcomes. The review found that raising the standard of course content has potential to reduce inequity by making quality material universally available, but also to increase inequity by leaving struggling students further behind. Introducing government-based accountability, whereby rewards and punishments are given to schools according to their ability to deliver measurable outcomes, may induce schools to provide extra help to disadvantaged students. However, it may also increase disparity between the schools most and least able to deliver required results. Market-driven accountability measures, which increase school choices for parents and students, may enable only high performing students to escape failing schools, increasing inequity. Poor school performance is sometimes blamed on inefficiency rather than lack of resources, but research confirms that increasing resources for low-performing schools is effective in reducing inequity. Improving course content has also proven effective, raising achievement overall, with the greatest gains made for disadvantaged students. Of the various accountability measures, promotion/graduation exams (PGEs) were most effective for reducing inequity. The findings inspire ‘only modest confidence’ in the current accountability-driven USA education policy, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Although the NCLB incorporates the use of PGEs, which have proven effective by increasing student exposure to content and resources, it does not address other problems, including the key issue of the difficulty faced by poorly performing schools in attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers. There is strong evidence that minority students are assigned the least effective teachers in terms of experience and quality of preparation. As a result, improvement in the equity of content ‘may be masking inequities in what is actually taught in classrooms’. Good teachers are driven away from needy schools by harsh working conditions that can only be addressed through better resourcing. They are also driven away by perceptions that accountability measures may blame them for poor student performances that are in fact due to the schools’ disadvantaged settings.
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
United States of America (USA)
Using narratives to develop standards for leaders: applying an innovative approach in Western Australia
Volume 32 Number 2, 2005; Pages 122–141
As school standards gain prominence in Australian educational thinking, a Murdoch University research project sought to generate a set of standards for school leaders. Interviews were conducted with 173 Western Australian school leaders, mainly principals. From these, researchers constructed 165 narratives of about 500 words apiece, depicting decisions made by leaders in resolving day-to-day issues. Some 1,530 school leaders then judged the quality of the leadership displayed in the narratives, and provided no more than three adjectives to describe it. Eight adjectives were most commonly used: fair, decisive, collaborative, innovative, flexible, supportive, persistent, and tactful. Participants then rated the narratives again, using Likert scales for each of the eight qualities. Narratives that received high ratings overall were seen to be representative of quality leadership. Researchers concluded that how leaders do things is more important than what they do. This contrasts with current attempts to define leadership standards in terms of lists of duties. It also emerged that leadership qualities were context specific, and that the ability to decide when to apply each attribute, and to what extent, was more important than the quantity of each attribute the leader possessed. Finally, good leaders needed to consider potential tensions between attributes, for example, exercising too much decisiveness can stifle collaboration. The research has been applied to a smaller scale study in New Zealand. This confirmed the efficacy of narratives in developing leadership standards, but also highlighted the importance of cultural context. Adjectives generated in New Zealand differed somewhat from the Australian results, with ethical and visionary replacing fair and flexible. The standards generated by the Australian study have been increasingly endorsed by Western Australia’s education department, and form the core of its Leadership Framework. The framework is used by school leaders for reflective professional development, in conjunction with online reflective prompts, and has also been used to develop performance-based tasks related to the appointment or promotion of school leaders in Western Australia.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Western Australia (WA)
The justification of a curriculum needs to go beyond the transcendental notion of an ideal or absolute source of knowledge. The transcendental argument is a closed approach to learning. Its claims to universal validity conceal an authoritarian attempt to impose the values of the ‘cultural establishment’. In contrast, institutional arguments judge a curriculum by its ability to meet social or individual needs, seen either in pragmatic or idealistic terms. The institutional approach can give rise to a progressivist approach to curriculum. The substance of such a curriculum is not pre-set but arises from an open-inquiry process around student interests or current social issues. It is based on individualistic and relativistic values that do not provide firm grounds for decision making, and it fails to define criteria for knowledge. Alternatively, the institutional argument can provide for an entitlement approach to curriculum, which recognises that values and knowledge forms are neither individual nor absolute but, rather, are culturally derived. The entitlement approach can be validly embodied in the curriculum in either 'organic' or 'abstract' forms. In the organic form, knowledge is seen to be based in specific cultural practices, and within these practices educators seek explanations that best capture important theoretical understandings and problem-solving strategies. The abstract form uses thinking strategies that are generalised from the practices of a range of ‘knowledge cultures’ and can be applied to a wide range of situations. The organic and abstract forms both set out criteria by which a specific curriculum can be judged. The article uses these criteria to evaluate the Indiana Social Studies Academic Standards, an example of a standards-based curriculum. The Indiana curriculum sets out a range of standards, eg a standard for historical research. However, closely scrutinised, this curriculum does not establish adequate criteria by which the standards can be met. The syllabus is found to be narrow and prescriptive. Terms such as ‘examine’, ‘explain’ and ‘analyse’ do not take students into rich or deep forms of inquiry or independent judgement but, rather, lead them simply to reproduce facts and established opinions, ‘a lifeless experience of learning by rote', and which do not relate historical events to current social issues. The article’s appendixes document elements of the Indiana curriculum.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation