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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Abstracts

Globalisation, responsibility and virtual schools

Volume 50 Number 2, 2nd  Quarter  2006; Pages 140–154
Glenn Russell

Virtual schooling, in which teacher and student are separated by time and space, and whose interactions are mediated by technology, has changed traditional lines of responsibility in school education, and raises the need for new procedures. Under traditional distance education, based on the use of print and later broadcast materials, responsibility for students was shared between the home supervisor, usually a parent; the students themselves; the teacher, and the educational authority. Within virtual schools, IT providers also share some responsibility for student learning and behaviour. In the online environment communications between teachers and students are often delayed, teachers do not have direct control over student behaviour and student misunderstandings may take longer to identify and correct. Virtual teachers require greater expertise in software evaluation and online teaching strategies. There may also be tensions between the virtual teachers and their educational authorities in relation to what and how materials are presented. The IT industry has become the mediator of the virtual school by virtue of its products. Educational software should have been adequately tested and should produce the intended benefits. However, responsibility in the corporate sector and especially the global corporate sector can be difficult to apportion and the tension between profits and ethics can lead to the dissemination of poor quality educational products. The responsibility of the student in an online environment should increase with maturity. The home supervisor must accept most of the responsibility for the online education of younger students. In some cases, the parent or home supervisor may not effectively supervise their student, leading to missed deadlines and incomplete work. Many questions of responsibility in the online world remain unresolved.

KLA

Subject Headings

Virtual schools
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Educational accountability
Distance education

The info-smart learners toolkit: information literacy, intranets, and learning and teaching websites

Volume 20 Number 3, September 2006; Pages 21–25
James Herring

The ‘smart learner’ reflects on the learning process; applies thinking skills in planning, analysing, synthesising and communicating when learning; uses information sources on the basis of its value rather than its format; adapts ICT to their learning needs; and notes the context, origin and authority of source material. Teacher librarians should encourage other teachers to incorporate information literacy training into their lessons in a way that involves the school library. More able students have been shown to possess relatively strong information literacy skills, but have also been shown to benefit strongly from specific information literacy training. While information literacy skills are often blandly identified with lifelong learning, students should be taught that their information needs in the workforce will be met far more by communication with other employees than by access to print or electronic repositories. Much more research is needed as to how students actually learn information literacy skills. They should be asked about it, for example through a questionnaire at the end of a project or by keeping and submitting a diary or journal about their use of information. Teacher librarians should take a lead in turning school intranets into tools for smart learning. Teacher librarians may be involved with intranets as builders or managers, or by selecting or creating content. Intranets can be used to host student discussion forums within or across subject areas, and to encourage students to share knowledge with each other and with school staff. While intranets are sometimes used to show students’ work in art, creative writing or technology, they can also host samples of student work from which other students might learn.

Key Learning Areas

Technology

Subject Headings

Teacher-Librarians
School libraries
Websites
Information literacy
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Science in school and society

Volume 52 Number 3, Spring 2006; Pages 10–15
Russell Tytler, David Symington

A series of focus groups have explored issues surrounding the teaching of science in Australian schools. The groups include representatives from industry, government and science organisations, as well as from the education community. Some groups noted a lack of awareness in the community about the potential business applications of scientific innovations, and sought ways to encourage a culture of technological innovation. Another concern was the difficulty of communicating complex scientific ideas to the community, particularly in view of the mass media’s tendency to highlight negative aspects of scientific development. The groups’ treatment of science contrasted sharply with its traditional treatment in school science education. The groups saw science as inherently interdisciplinary and deeply connected to technology, economics, and social and ethical concerns. They highlighted the need for science students to develop skills in personal communication, analysis and critical thinking. If students are not brought forward in this way then school projects, even around worthwhile ventures like environmental renewal, tend to become just ‘busy work’. Students need to learn the key concepts of evidence, validity and reliability. They need to know how to access and apply relevant knowledge. Authentic teaching around these issues cannot be taught didactically or through classroom simulation exercises, but must involve collaboration between teachers, students and working scientists. An example is the involvement of students at Stawell Secondary College in wine production in partnership with local producers. The Australian Governments’ ASISTM program is encouraging such partnerships. The social application of school science is being promoted in new curriculums such as the Science at Work component of VELS, in Science as Human Endeavour in the New South Wales science syllabus and as ‘rich tasks’ in Queensland. This approach is sharply divergent from traditional science teaching that has focused on the delivery of narrowly defined content knowledge. Science teachers who are not accustomed to working with an interdisciplinary curriculum need to develop skills in this area. The teaching of social content must not simply be tacked on as a minor addition to the traditional approach. Students need to understand the inevitable presence of contestable social values in science. Science pedagogy should cover controversies in science. School science should incorporate thinking skills, not as separate ends in themselves, but in relation to scientific reasoning and the use of evidence to generate ideas or reach conclusions.

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

Educational evaluation
School partnerships
Curriculum planning
Science teaching

Invest in school libraries to create 21st century learning communities

Volume 20 Number 3, September 2006; Pages 17–20
Sue Spence

School libraries have to demonstrate their value in order to justify the receipt of scarce funds within a school. Empirical evidence from the USA shows that when they are well run, school libraries make a contribution to academic achievement that is both significant and independent of other influences on student learning. Frequently, however, they are seen by school leaders more as a cost than a resource, in which case they tend to suffer cutbacks to staffing or to their overall budgets, or else teacher librarians are used to cover teacher vacancies or absences. While there are underperforming teacher librarians, the most common reason for the failure of school libraries is management by unskilled staff. Unskilled library staff, and teachers acting as library managers, should be supported to acquire professional library qualifications. There are national standards that define excellence for teacher librarians, however the attainment of an excellent standard requires support from school leaders that goes further than budgets and staffing. Teacher librarians need opportunities to collaborate with teachers. Timetables should allow effective use of the library. Leaders should send a positive message about the library's value to teachers. Given that qualified teacher librarians are in short supply, schools need succession plans to replace them as they retire. Demand for the skills of teacher librarians is likely to rise with the broad move towards an interdisciplinary curriculum. See also the author’s article, Teacher librarians, an under utilised asset in schools, in Curriculum Leadership 20 May 2005.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teacher-Librarians
School libraries

The keys to competency

Volume 85 Number 16, 18 September 2006
Kate Tringham

New Zealand has a new draft curriculum that focuses on helping all school students develop generic key competencies. Four clusters of schools are exploring ways in which the curriculum’s key competencies can be implemented, and are integrating this work with existing professional development and action research projects. A number of articles in the New Zealand Education Gazette report on early results from these pilots. The article, A matter of disposition, reports that schools in the Putaruru Cluster have integrated the pilot into an existing project to teach students how to interpret and create maps. The teachers found that teaching of competencies involves making currently used strategies, such as clear thinking, more explicit to students. Language and definitions describes action research projects from Witherlea School’s work on the key competencies. One teacher’s project involves identifying barriers to oral communication and then providing a scaffold for talking tasks. In another project, a beginning teacher is investigating issues in the transition from kindergarten to school, while a third teacher has studied the transition from primary to secondary school. The article Application and assessment describes an inquiry-based learning task, where Year 5 and 6 students were asked to assess themselves against the key competencies and gain feedback from a mentor.

KLA

Subject Headings

Educational evaluation
New Zealand
Curriculum planning
Assessment

RRISK A sustainable intersectoral partnership

Volume 25 Number 2, 2nd  Quarter  2006; Pages 17–24

RRisk (Reduce Risk Increase Student Knowledge), based in northern New South Wales, is a successful intersectoral school-based harm minimisation program for Years 10 and 11 students. It has been running for five years. The program aims to provide students with the skills to make informed decisions about the risks associated with alcohol, drugs, driving and celebrating and demonstrates statistical evidence of success. Attendance at RRISK's annual seminar has grown from eight to 24 schools, and most recently involved over 1,500 students and 80 teachers. Program partners include educational, law enforcement, road safety and licensing agencies and community and media organisations. A recent evaluation of RRISK has assessed the strengths of the intersectoral partnerships, its sustainability and identified principles applicable to similar projects. Data was collected using both face-to-face interviews and three validated checklists. Identified strengths included a strong procedural structure, shared and diverse responsibilities, the enthusiasm of key players, trust, preparedness to compromise, networking, self-evaluation and a strong 'grassroots' membership. The program was seen to be limited by time constraints, uncertain funding, undue reliance on specific individuals and concerns over the level of community advocacy for the program. A number of useful principles were identified. Intersectoral partnerships should be clearly focused on a single long-term goal shared by all partners and the wider community. Commitment from key stakeholder organisations should be endorsed by senior management. All partners must understand both the culture of the partnership and the key responsibilities of each member. Clear procedural processes and regular meetings should be established.

KLA

Subject Headings

School and community
School leadership
Risk taking
Educational planning
New South Wales (NSW)
Behaviour management

A teacher's attempts at change in a science classroom

Volume 52 Number 3, Spring 2006; Pages 18–25
Coral Campbell

The efforts of a science teacher to revise his teaching practice were investigated by the author, who had previously supervised him during their involvement in the Science in Schools (SIS) project in Victoria. The SIS project had identified various components of effective teaching practice, including an encouraging learning environment, topics linked to students’ lives and interests, adaptation of teaching to students’ individual learning styles, ongoing assessment within the classroom, community links and science ‘presented in its many facets’. The teacher attempted to apply these strategies in his Year 7 Science class. The school was a government secondary with 70 teachers and about 1,000 students in regional Victoria, and had high staff and student morale. The teacher introduced group work into his class, used a range of teaching approaches, involved students in the creation of assessment tasks and sought to promote student self-esteem through his relationships with them. He invited collaboration from other science teachers at the school, but while some interest was shown, they all declined to take part. The researcher surveyed and interviewed the students and the teacher and observed classes. Students expressed a strong interest in studying new ideas, learning how things worked and conducting experiments to test their ideas. They also were aware of the move in teaching practice and ‘felt special’. Nevertheless, these responses did not translate into a greater overall interest in science or a more positive attitude towards the usefulness of science to their later lives, which in fact declined during the year. The teacher reported that he felt able to change his teaching practice, students’ learning methods and classroom dynamics. He also claimed a deeper understanding of his own teaching. However, he also identified a number of barriers to successful reform of his science teaching. The timetable’s separation of science into three weekly lessons made practical work difficult. The room used was noisy, which impeded discussion. Supplies had to be ordered well in advance, which reduced spontaneity. Overall, traditional teaching methods were reinforced by school structures and parental expectations. His experience underlines the need for reform in a whole-school context, supported by government.

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

Teacher-student relationships
Victoria
Science teaching

Who is the Victorian ICT for Women Network?

Volume 16 Number 3, August 2006; Pages 14–16
Catherine Lang

VicICTforWomen is a network to support the entry, retention and progression of women in the ICT industry in Victoria. The network was developed in response to low female participation in ICT studies and careers, as well as low general participation in ICT careers in Victoria currently. For example 16% of ICT roles in Victoria are occupied by women, and females accounted for under 23% of ICT enrolments at Australian universities in 2003. The number of students entering VCE IT has decreased from 40,000 in 1998 to 25,000 in 2004, with significant decreases in female students in particular. Driven by the ICT industry, with input from government, business and education, the network has created the VicICTforWomen mentor program. The program aims to link those who are new to ICT with established professionals to share knowledge and promote networking opportunities. A core planning group investigated several existing mentor programs, and constructed a hybrid model and wrote templates to suit the needs of the network. Shaped largely by member suggestions, the program’s objectives included a need for meaningful one-to-one relationships over a set time period, clearly defined goals established early in the relationship, reliability of members, no cost for mentors and minimal cost for mentees. Mentors and mentees are given the opportunity to reflect on the process and give constructive feedback at the conclusion of each relationship. As students’ career decisions can be significantly influenced by making personal contact with a professional in the field, mentees are then required to attend an event promoting ICT careers to students. A round table luncheon of students and mentee ICT professionals was held, and could be successfully repeated with different schools and universities.

KLA

Subject Headings

Women
Victoria
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Africa

Citizenship through online communication

Volume 70 Number 3, April 2006; Pages 144–146
Linda Bennett, Julie Fessenden

Grade 4 students in Missouri are using their ICT skills to take part in online citizenship activity. In one class, for example, students follow local and national political campaigns using the Internet, and communicate with politicians on specific topics by email after class discussions. Monitored by teachers, they use discussion boards to discuss and research citizenship issues with other students worldwide. Online national surveys are used to teach about voting and polls. All drafts and versions of the students' online writing, plus assessment, are stored together for student, teacher and parent review. Students learn the rights and responsibilities associated with online communication. Soon primary students will be incorporating podcasts and webcasts into their class work. The initiative is part of the USA's National Educational Technology Standards (NETS-S) for students, which sets guidelines for the use of technology inside and outside the classroom. To implement this standard, teachers in Missouri can undertake professional development to become Enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies (eMINTS) teachers. The eMINTS teachers locate and publicise appropriate aged-based resources on the eMINTS website.

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

United States of America (USA)
Citizenship
Primary education
Internet
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Educational innovations
Civics education

'Lier les langues' – linking languages: Connecting ICT, LOTE and the VELS curriculum for P–6

Volume 29 Number 1, June 2006; Pages 8–12
Kathy Waterson

A program implemented at Ruyton Girls' Junior School has combined LOTE, ICT and outcomes from a variety of VELS domains. The traditional LOTE allocation of two 40-minute periods was restructured into three 15-minute periods plus a single 40-minute period, which allowed student contact with the language over four days a week. The classes were conducted entirely in the target language – French – and French language ICT products were used to achieve a variety of interdiciplinary learning outcomes. The program enhanced the value of  LOTE by linking it with the highly-valued ICT area and by creating a need for the students to understand and use the target language. Students were found to respond very positively to the program. The approach used in the program may have wider application in schools. One of the goals of the 1987 National Policy on Languages was that all Australians achieve bilingualism. Debate on methods has been ongoing and is still unresolved. Even after years of study, students currently show little progress in acquiring even basic communication skills in a second language. A recent investigation suggests this is a result of the fact that students are taught the same content over several Year levels, mainly in the form of single-item vocabulary learning.

Key Learning Areas

Languages

Subject Headings

Primary education
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Issues, challenges and needs of student science teachers in using the Internet as a tool for teaching

Volume 15 Number 2, July 2006; Pages 207–221
John Twidle, Peter Sorensen, Ann Childs, Janet Godwin, Molly Dussart

International studies have suggested not all pre-service teachers receive adequate ICT training. A recent UK study has used focus groups to explore the issues. A questionnaire was piloted and then delivered to 128 student teachers, followed by sample interviews and observations. The study found 83 per cent of respondents had home access to the Internet, and were more likely to use the Internet at home even for class-related activities. Most had used the Internet in lessons and regarded their efforts as at least sometimes, and often frequently, successful. In class, 66 per cent allowed students to use the Internet for individual research, 61 per cent sent pupils to specific sites and 20 per cent used it as a demonstration tool. When asked to rate the potential of the Internet for teaching, 66 per cent responded sometimes effective and only 29 per cent usually effective. This relatively poor response was related to the variable school provision of the Internet. Barriers included lack of computer rooms and resources, room booking difficulties, technical difficulties, server access, site blocks and administration problems. All were considered to be beyond the control of teacher training institutions. The pre-service teachers suggested that classroom use of the Internet could be improved by better resourcing, improved knowledge of suitable sites, better Internet access and more guidance on Internet use. All pre-service teachers reported increased pupil interest, motivation and enjoyment in Internet classes.  Pupils were found not to attempt to access inappropriate sites and were generally better behaved than in normal classes. There was a perceived need for collaborative practice and sharing the workload related to Internet use. Some, but not all, pre-service teachers needed more training in ICT skills. All felt ill-prepared in relation to the pedagogy of Internet use, including the degree of openness and structure in Internet tasks, the relative merits of individual, group and whole-class work and the integration of the Internet with other classroom activities.

KLA

Subject Headings

Internet
Science teaching
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Leadership and management
Teacher training
Secondary education

Boys learning language

September 2006
Sarah Pavy

A recent Australian study has investigated boys' experiences of language classes. It found that language classes often consist of traditional text and grammar-based teaching, with some topics covered several times across different year levels. This form of teaching may be particulary detrimental to boys and may explain why they fall behind more often. The poor behaviour of boys that is often seen in language lessons may be a response to having fallen behind. Boys have been found to be more easily bored than girls, if tasks are not enjoyable and interesting. A good teacher is one who is 'firm, friendly, fun, focused and fair'. Boys need a teacher who 'CARES', that is, is 'Connected with students, Actively involved in their learning, Relaxed and has a sense of fun, Enthusiastic and Strikes a balance between fun and discipline'. Boys often consider language learning to be unrelated to the rest of their lives. They need to be offered relevant content, purposeful activities in every lesson and progress indicators. These findings are supported by earlier research in other fields of boys' education. Boys enjoy lessons that are well-planned and paced, engage their attention, are collaborative and competitive, keep them active and which are rounded off and rewarding. Specific classroom strategies that help engage boys include keeping information simple and focused, different ways of memorising information, offering lists that sum up the lesson's content, offering visual means of learning and offering small, achievable challenges.

Key Learning Areas

Languages

Subject Headings

Teacher-student relationships
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Boys' education

Towards a science education for all: the role of ideas, evidence and argument

Jonathan Osborne
Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

Science education has two competing goals – the need to educate future citizens about science so they can make informed decisions on science-related issues, and the need to provide the basic knowledge required for future scientists. The decline in the popularity of science among students may be due to an emphasis on the needs of the future scientist at the expense of the needs of the future citizen. Science education is seen to consist of four elements: the development of conceptual understanding, the development of critical thinking, an understanding of the range of methods whereby scientific knowledge is obtained, and an understanding of the achievements of science in our society. A classroom focus on the ideas, evidence and arguments of science, as opposed to the presentation of a body of factual knowledge to be accepted and believed, should improve students' conceptual understanding and critical thinking skills, develop their understanding of the nature of belief in science and generally improve the quality of the science experience for students.

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

Leadership and management
Study methods
Science teaching
Science literacy
School and community