Volume 9 Number 11, 29 June 2006; Page 8
The Dicey Dealings program was developed by the Department of Education and Children's Services (DECS), South Australia in 2003 to educate students about the risks of gambling, and the wider effects on families and communities. Over 40 schools have implemented the program to date. Dicey Dealings includes professional development for teachers, and student learning activities such as games, DVDs, roleplays and guest speakers. Each activity aims to help students see how gambling is designed to make players lose most of the time. Activities include the Don't bet on it game, where students spend tokens at the races, casino or on scratch tickets. Those who lose land on a 'help' spot, reinforcing that assistance is available. Many teachers have integrated gambling education across the curriculum. At Ocean View College, strategies are taught in Health, through analysis of news articles in English, through probability in Maths, and in terms of social consequences in Society and Environment studies.
Social life and customs
Cyber-communication: finding its place in school counselling practice, education and professional development
Volume 9 Number 4, April 2006; Pages 327–331
Computer-mediated communication is significantly influencing school guidance counselling. Cyber-counselling can be performed through therapeutic software, email, or real-time discussion in Internet chat rooms. However quick and convenient it may be, cyber-communication has a number of disadvantages for school counselling. The information conveyed through non-textual communication elements, such as body language or responses to feedback, may be lost. Media such as videoconferencing may mitigate this loss, but are often impractical due to expense or inaccessibility. Technology as a medium is not neutral, and may orient users towards thinking based more on technical logic than critical or ethical understanding. Research has shown that computer-mediated conversations tend to focus more on task-oriented discussion than social–emotional issues. Where social–emotional issues are discussed electronically, text-based messages tend to be judged as more emotionally charged by their recipients than the same message presented through audio or video methods. As many issues brought to school counsellors address social–emotional concerns, the potential for misunderstanding is high. Confidentiality may also be compromised, as no electronic communication carries an absolute guarantee that it will not be intercepted. The knowledge that cyber-communication is committed to electronic record may inhibit students or staff from expressing themselves candidly. Many training programs for school counsellors are also offered online in the USA, but none are accredited by the US Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. It may be that online delivery is more suited to fact-based areas of education than to counselling, as it is hard to imagine how a field that relies on human interpersonal connectedness can be exercised effectively through a machine.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
United States of America (USA)
Commentary: A critical reflection on the research-led teacher education reforms in New Zealand
Volume 40 Number 1, 2005; Pages 221–227
The New Zealand Government is seeking to improve teacher education by linking it more closely to education research. The merger of teacher education institutes into universities has been justified partly as a way to expose teacher educators more deeply to the academic research environment. At the same time, New Zealand’s Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) is creating pressure on teacher educators and other academics to produce and publish research, which effectively is valued more highly than academic teaching. Yet conducting research will not in and of itself enhance the ability of teacher educators to apply research effectively to their academic teaching, or to model good teaching practice during lectures. The PBRF's emphasis on production of research may in fact distract attention from the quality of delivery of teacher education and may advance the careers of research experts more than those academics most skilled at teacher preparation. The Best Evidence Synthesis program has helped to identify teaching practices that improve student achievement, but no evidence has been collected as to whether these practices have or have not been taught at the former colleges of education. Research has identified the characteristics of effective teacher education programs, which have been found to involve close links to ‘reform-minded’ schools, a ‘rigorous core curriculum’, at least 30 weeks of ‘intensely supervised, extended clinical experiences’, and close links between academics and pre-service teachers, within small study units. Creating all these conditions is very demanding and time-consuming for teacher educators, and therefore requires strong support from the academic institution. Research suggests that the academic ability of pre-service teachers provides the best indication of their likely effectiveness as teachers. However, in this context government reforms may have actually set back teacher preparation because reforms encouraging the entry of a range of new providers into the teacher education market have contributed to confusion about selection criteria for entry into teacher education courses.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Response to intervention as a vehicle for distinguishing between children with and without reading disabilities: evidence for the role of kindergarten and first-grade interventions
Volume 39 Number 2, March 2006; Pages 157–169
Psychometric tests to identify reading disabilities in children do not adequately account for the influence of a child’s background and early learning experiences on their reading ability. A 5-year study of New York preschoolers sought to determine a method for distinguishing children with reading difficulties caused by biological or cognitive impairments from those whose difficulties are caused by deficits in their early reading experiences or instruction. Approximately 300 children who had been identified as ‘at risk’ readers when they entered kindergarten were divided into three sample groups. One group received reading intervention at kindergarten only, another at both kindergarten and in the first year of primary school, and the third group received only the normal reading instruction provided at school. Most of the ‘at risk’ students who received the kindergarten intervention attained an average reading level by the time they entered school and were classified as ‘no longer at risk’. Those who did not achieve an average reading level after the kindergarten intervention received further reading intervention in their first year of primary school. Only a small number of students who had received both interventions were still reading at a level below their peers by the end of the first grade. Longitudinal testing demonstrated that the gains made by successfully remediated students in reading ability were sustained to the end of third grade, when the study ended. The results suggest that early reading difficulties are more likely to arise from deficits in reading experiences or instruction than cognitive impairments. They also show that long-term reading difficulties can often be effectively avoided through relatively low-cost kindergarten or first-grade interventions. Psychometric testing showed no difference in intelligence between the students in the successfully remediated group and those requiring further assistance, suggesting that responsiveness to intervention is a much more reliable indicator than intelligence as to whether students will require ongoing remedial reading assistance.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Early childhood education
Volume 41 Number 2, April 2006; Pages 254–267
Reading Recovery is an internationally-recognised program for accelerating learning for children struggling with literacy acquisition in the early years of schooling. The program involves 30 minutes every day of one-on-one reading instruction from a specialist teacher. Daily lessons follow a consistent formula, including new and familiar texts, writing and structured exercises. Teachers document change over time using Running Records, enabling them to tailor lessons to each individual child. On completing the program, most children are ready to participate independently in mainstream classes, with around one quarter needing further assessment of their educational needs. Research has shown Reading Recovery to be highly effective in producing sustained improvements in reading achievement for students from a diverse range of backgrounds. Although targeted specifically at children experiencing reading difficulties, the principles of Reading Recovery also underpin good practice in mainstream literacy instruction. Reading Recovery understands reading as a complex cognitive process, during which children develop and exercise ‘control systems’ to manage different types of information. Teacher training must prepare all early literacy teachers to understand the complexity of literacy development, and the time and effort required to support it. Reading Recovery also recognises that children construct their own unique understandings of how to read by integrating new and existing knowledge. Teachers must understand how building on a child’s strengths makes learning easier, and how to discern and address the inevitable differences (not deficits) in the knowledge children bring to the reading process. The integration of reading and writing in Reading Recovery reflects understanding that these skills are interrelated and mutually supportive, with the slower pace of writing offering opportunities for students to think carefully about text. Both reading and writing should be taught with continuous texts, not just individual words or sounds. Reading Recovery also emphasises the importance of teacher reflection in monitoring children’s progress over time and supporting their individual paths to literacy acquisition. Although mainstream literacy teachers should not adopt Reading Recovery’s specific and restrictive pedagogy, creative application of its core principles are a sound foundation for effective classroom literacy instruction.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Number 153, May 2006
Professional standards set out levels of professional accomplishment that allow high-quality teaching to be identified and acknowledged. This process is most effectively undertaken through a Standards-Guided Professional Learning System (SGPLS). Through this system teachers undertake a set of activities demonstrating their skills. They document their practice in a portfolio, which includes entries such as videotapes of classroom teaching, personal commentary and reflection, and samples of student work. The portfolio is then reviewed by peers. Teaching standards must not be confused with the kinds of checklists of skills found ‘within the context of managerial accounting’ addressed to the needs of a particular employer or system, but should instead cover the whole range of elements in good teaching and should apply to all teaching contexts. Standards create the potential for career progression through different levels of accomplishment in teaching rather than through a move from teaching to administration. The standards should be developed by expert practitioners within ‘truly professional’ organisations, independent of any employer or other agency. The governing body should consist mainly of teachers. High-quality sets of standards for teaching science, mathematics, English and LOTE have been developed by subject-based teaching associations in
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
Teaching and learning
Primary teachers' perceptions of the impact of initial teacher training upon primary schools
Volume 32 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 33–45
In Britain, the time pre-service teachers spend in schools is no longer seen in terms of practising skills already captured during tertiary training, but as a vital stage in the acquisition of those skills. In-service teachers now play key roles in modelling and sharing practice and assessing the practical component of the trainee’s course. Head teachers have expressed concern about the burden of work mentoring places on the teachers. A study in Britain has investigated the benefits and costs of initial teacher training (ITT), examining the costs and benefits of the model as perceived by current classroom primary teachers, head teachers, and university-based teacher tutors. The study was undertaken by the ITT team at Oxford Brookes University, and also involved an experienced partnership mentor. Participants were based at three university-school partnerships. Participants’ opinions were investigated through a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. Teacher participants indicated that the classroom impact of the mentoring relationship varied with the effectiveness of the individual trainee teacher. Head teachers and mentors generally accepted the value of ITT but varied widely in the degree to which they had incorporated ITT into their documentation and had discussed ITT in the most recent government inspection of their school. Over 90% of mentors believed that head teachers, peers and trainees valued their role. Mentors had generally received specific training for their role. This training exposed them to contact with the university and many had taken advantage of it to pursue other forms of professional development. However, most mentors, especially at primary school level, had not conceptualised this further training as connected to their mentoring role and so had not articulated it to themselves as a benefit of taking on a mentoring role. Teacher tutors highlighted the role of trainees in introducing new ideas, resources and specialist skills such as ICT skill to the school. The most acknowledged benefit of mentoring trainees was that the more experienced trainees were able to teach part of the class separately, creating smaller class groups. However, researchers have found that mentors acquire skills in monitoring and evaluation and that schools benefit from the impact brought in by the trainee teachers. The trainees also rejuvenate schools by stimulating staff to reconsider existing policies and practices. Funds provided by the university to schools to facilitate mentoring were most commonly used to pay for non-contact time for mentors and teacher tutors to support the trainees' experience at the school.
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
24 July 2006; Page 12
In Victoria, calls to transfer the administration of kindergartens from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Education and Training have raised concerns that the Prep year curriculum could be imposed on preschoolers prematurely. In fact, there is a trend the other way at some schools, such as Princes Hill. Last year the school encouraged children in Prep to undertake simple project-based learning activities as a form of play. For example, during an exercise to familiarise them with shopping, the children might ‘write a shopping list, build the shop, create its wares, role-play the shopkeeper and customers, and write a story about it’. The use of this approach has substantially improved students’ literacy, especially in the case of boys. Play-based activities have more successfully engaged students, which has in turn developed children’s social skills such as willingness to share resources. The play-based learning approach was developed by consultant Kathy Walker and the schools’ Prep teachers. Another 60 schools are now being trained in how to introduce the program. At the same time some kindergartens in the City of Boroondara, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, are in conversation with local schools about the potential application of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) in preschools. VELS would be applied not as means to introduce school procedures or student reports, but as a way to prepare children more effectively for the Prep year.
Project based learning
Early childhood education
Transitions in schooling
Is an intervention using computer software effective in literacy learning? A randomised controlled trial
Volume 32 Number 2, June 2006; Pages 133–143
Despite widespread use of computer software to support literacy learning, few rigorous evaluations have been undertaken to determine its benefits. British researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial of the use of computers to improve literacy learning for Year 7 pupils in a North England secondary school. The software chosen for the study used student dictation to boost phonological awareness and word attack skills, improving reading and spelling. The school had recorded previous success with the program in raising achievement for students with literacy difficulties, based on a simple pre- and post-test evaluation. The program had therefore been extended to all students. Students’ involvement in the program had to be ‘staggered’ due to limited computer access, providing an ideal opportunity to compare outcomes for students who had and had not undertaken the computer-based component of the English course. Students randomly selected to work on the computer-based program sometimes did so instead of receiving normal English classroom teaching, and sometimes during time allocated to other subjects, substantially increasing the time they spent on English overall. Students undertaking both computer-based and non-computer-based instruction were tested before and after the program, and again some time afterwards, to assess any ‘wash out’ of differences in achievement over time. Rigorous statistical analysis revealed no significant differences in spelling achievement between students undertaking or not undertaking the computer program at any time. In reading, students who completed the computer-based component achieved significantly lower results than students receiving non-computer-based instruction. Although the study had some limitations, it was of sufficient size and statistical power that any benefits of the use of ICT would have been revealed, had they existed. The study illustrates the value of randomised testing of students to eliminate variables which may contaminate assessment data, as well as the need for more rigorous analysis of computer-based interventions before they are implemented.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Becoming a head teacher: the perspectives of new head teachers in twenty-first century England
Volume 32 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 103–122
An investigation was undertaken of the self-identified needs and aspirations of new head teachers registered for England’s recently-established Headteacher Induction Program. Survey participants rated their levels of confidence in various aspects of school leadership categorised under seven headings, then indicated in which of these aspects they felt the need for more training. Respondents indicated high levels of confidence in all aspects of leadership under the heading ‘strategic direction and development of the school’, and also for all aspects relating to ‘teaching and learning’. Aspects about which respondents reported lower levels of confidence included transforming the school workforce (a new government initiative), managing budgets and dealing with ineffective staff. Respondents also showed lower confidence levels in dealing with the personal stress of headship and managing their time. Levels of confidence were generally higher among those who had completed Britain’s National Professional Qualification for Headship, which has been made a prerequisite for appointment to principalship since the study. Predictably, the three areas of least confidence were also most commonly identified as areas for additional training, but only by half the total sample. This indicates an absence of consensus on new principals’ training needs. Three areas received high scores both in confidence levels and desire for additional training: leading strategic direction; improving education quality; and leading development of teaching and learning. Ten case studies of principals’ first year of leadership were subsequently undertaken in diverse schools. These broadly confirmed the initial survey findings. They also revealed the huge differences in the nature of the principal’s role arising from different school contexts and personal backgrounds, highlighting the need for flexibility in any principal induction program. They also illuminated the conflict that arises in the early years of principalship between new principals’ confident intentions to lead the school’s vision and the seemingly relentless series of day-to-day issues that compromise their opportunities for reflection.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Anzacs: the cynics, the sacred and the secular
Volume 43 Number 3, March 2006; Pages 21–28
The Anzac story challenges history teachers to balance healthy cynicism with due reverence. The Anzac legend has assumed an almost quasi-religious status in Australian society, but has also attracted significant criticism from pacifists, feminists, the Labor Party and numerous other quarters. Historians have discovered that Australian troops had the highest rate of desertion of all armies on the Western Front. Feminists have questioned the legend of a band of men ‘giving birth to the nation’. Even Anzacs themselves have criticised the legend, as revealed by Alistair Thomson’s Anzac Memories. Such criticism is often regarded as a kind of heresy by guardians of the Anzac tradition. With Australian troops now scattered around the world, it is important that society’s understanding of war is real and not idealised. Issues such as ethnic divisiveness, cruelty to the enemy, or post-traumatic-stress disorder should not be obscured by overemphasis on heroism and sacrifice. Far from undermining reverence of Anzacs, realistic representations of the horrors of war and the soldiers’ shortcomings can lend credibility to the legend, by portraying Anzacs as ordinary people facing the most terrible of circumstances. Historians have a role to play in reconciling realistic understandings of war with admiration for Anzac heroes. Although the passing of time enables them to view past events objectively, historians should not seek to strip the Anzac story of its legendary status. The Anzac legend has played an important role in helping returned servicemen and women overcome wartime trauma and reintegrate into a welcoming society. The values of courage and self-sacrifice embodied by the Anzacs may have been criticised at times, but Australia ‘could do a lot worse’ for values on which to base its national identity. Nor should historians remove themselves entirely from the sentiment behind society’s appreciation of Anzac servicemen. Numerous reminders exist that the heroes and casualties of war represent real human experiences and emotions. Historians should re-examine their approaches to persuading the general public to accept diverse viewpoints, and enable differing interpretations of the Anzac story to coexist peacefully.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Social life and customs
Reducing school administration to a technicality? Philosophical reflections of senior German school administrators in the context of New Public Management-based vocational school reform
Volume 9 Number 2, April 2006; Pages 111–128
New Public Management reforms seek to model school administration on private sector management. Such reforms have recently been piloted in German vocational schools. Critics claim the reforms will reduce school administration to ‘a mere technicality’ and diminish school leaders’ capacity for philosophical reflection. Three leaders from pilot schools were interviewed about how the reforms had affected their administrative values and practices. Each had had significant involvement in implementing the reforms in their school, which is likely to have skewed the sample towards both support of the reforms and predisposition for philosophical reflection. The first administrator demonstrated profound respect for the expertise of everyone in his school community. Although he viewed compliance with the reforms as his duty as a public servant, he also exercised his personal influence to protect the school from over-emphasis on business interests and maintain core educational values. He welcomed the opportunity the reforms provided to incorporate more local expertise into school decision making. The second administrator perceived schools chiefly as economic entities. To him, a school administrator’s main responsibility is to acquire financial resources and build the school’s status in the market. The reforms removed some administrative barriers which had previously hampered this leader in exercising his vision. The third administrator valued creativity and regarded administration as the art of attaining quality outcomes for every student in the school. The reforms' external accountability measures conflicted with her preference for evaluating the school collaboratively from within but she still supported the reforms as an opportunity to adapt school administration processes to better reflect her creative approach. The three administrators show that differing philosophical visions of school administration can be exercised through New Public Management reforms. Any reform process must remain flexible enough to accommodate different philosophical approaches so that reforms are not implemented superficially but are aligned with administrators’ core educational values. In Germany’s case, formal training may need to be instigated to ensure that this occurs.
April 2006; Pages 4–9
A New Zealand intermediate teacher investigated the potential of high-end software to foster creativity in her ‘discovery’ class. The class was comprised of ‘gifted underachievers’, students who had considerable potential but limited engagement with mainstream schooling. Based on the observation that students tend to prefer the ‘fanciest’ programs, the class was given a short introduction to Flash software, and a very open-ended brief as to what they should do with it. The creativity evident in their work was monitored according to seven criteria modified from the New Zealand Council of Educational Research’s Observation Scales for Identifying Children with Special Abilities. The criteria are: 'produces original ideas; displays intellectual playfulness, imagination and fantasy; creates original works or inventions; has a keen sense of humour and sees humour in the unusual; generates unusual insights; demonstrates awareness of aesthetic qualities; is not afraid to be different or wrong;' and 'enjoys speculation about the future'. Students in the investigation responded strongly on all seven levels. They each developed a strong personal vision of what they wanted to do, revelling in the release from the frustrating lack of freedom they experienced in mainstream classes. Their cartoons, images and animations showed a range of humour from cuteness to irony, and passionate attention to detail in pursuit of aesthetic quality. Student behaviour was remarkably uninhibited and highly curious, exploring the possibilities of the software, trying things out and adjusting their thinking when experiments were unsuccessful. Although their creativity would undoubtedly have existed without the software, the technology was clearly valuable in enabling students to express their ideas. Far from being intimidated, students relished the complexity of the package and its myriad possibilities. The software's ability to automatically perform mundane tasks such as copying images allowed students to concentrate on the more interesting elements of design and expression. Students benefited most significantly from the software’s interactivity, and the ongoing ‘creative dialogue’ between the technology’s capabilities and their own imaginations.
Subject HeadingsNew Zealand
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Arts in education
Growing concern about the risks to children’s safety has increased the amount of governance exercised by adults over children’s lives. Governance decisions are usually made by adults based on what they think is best for children, especially in schools, where children have little say in rule-making or other governance decisions. Far from being passive recipients of adult-imposed social orders, a recent study has shown that young children regulate their social interactions through governance decisions of their own. A 33-minute video was taken of a preparatory class undertaking a creative activity session with toy vehicles. From the outset, participants each claimed a number of vehicles as their own. A dominant boy in the group announced that no-one was allowed to ‘steal’ his vehicles. This established rules of ownership based on the concept of theft, a misdemeanour taken very seriously by children in the class. A newcomer to the activity area tried to appropriate vehicles from another child’s pile, and was quickly admonished by the participants who had witnessed the establishment of the rules of ownership. The newcomer tried to invoke the precept of sharing promoted by the teacher, but his argument was rejected by his peers in favour of the child-constructed ‘ownership’ rules. Later, a child threatened to ‘tell on’ the newcomer if he touched her pile of cars. This child’s optimism that the teacher would uphold the child-constructed rules of ownership over the teacher’s own directive of sharing may have been founded in this case, as research has shown that female teachers are more likely to uphold the viewpoints of girls over boys in their classes. Overall, the study proves that young children create complex social orders of their own to regulate their interactions, sometimes extending and sometimes challenging the governance they experience from adults.
Subject HeadingsEarly childhood education
Self-reliance in children
Germany’s unexpectedly poor results in standardised PISA assessments have led to widespread re-examination of the German education system, including early childhood. Reformers expressed concerns that play-based preschool education does not exploit crucial opportunities for early learning. Their responses have included the introduction of binding agreements between early childhood centres and primary schools, early childhood curricula focused on scholastic knowledge, and increased testing at school entry level. The reforms are inherently contradictory, increasing flexibility while at the same raising the importance of external standards. The option now provided to complete the first two grades of schooling in anything from one to three years also contains contradictions. Although it may appear to make education more equitable by accommodating the needs of the individual, it has actually served as an opportunity for middle class parents to gain competitive advantage for their children which is sustained throughout their school careers. At 9 or 10 years of age, German students are segregated into three different types of schools, reflecting different levels of academic or vocational orientation. Given that the number of years taken to complete the first two grades is correlated with which of these schools children subsequently enter, German children’s educational future is now being decided as early as their first year of school. The significance of school entry as a perpetuator of imbalances within German society is illustrated in the many rituals surrounding the first day of school. Macro-rituals for school entry are undertaken by families as soon as a child is born, such as financial outlay or investments of attention in matters relating to school preparation. Micro-rituals may include the school uniform, or Germany’s unique custom of the Schultüte, a paper cone filled with sweets or gifts traditionally given to children on their first day of school. Differences between middle-class German children’s lovingly homemade Schultütes and the store-bought Schultütes of their immigrant counterparts illustrate the cultural hierarchies of advantage and exclusion which arise at the point of entry into the formal school community.
Subject HeadingsEarly childhood education
Child care centres