Gloves up: first round fight for accreditation
May 2007; Pages 46–51
In Australia, arrangements for the regulation of teaching and teacher education courses have been diverse and inconsistent. Teachers in all States and Territories must register with their local teacher registration authority. To gain registration, teachers must have completed a teacher education course. Once registered in one jurisdiction, teachers are entitled to teach anywhere in Australia. However, the official qualification needed to receive registration varies ‘wildly’ between States and Territories. Teacher education courses are not subject to a national system of accreditation, although Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales have implemented measures to accredit the courses in each State. Courses may also have to meet internal standards that apply within particular universities, and may be audited by the AUQA. Two organisations are currently advancing alternative proposals for a national approach to the accreditation of teacher education courses. Teaching Australia is the national institute for teaching and school leadership. It recommends that courses be graded according to ‘content, methodology, assessment and staffing’ and their capacity to produce ‘teaching-ready’ graduates. It does not propose registration for individual graduates or a merger of existing accreditation bodies. Accreditation would be voluntary. The proposal's reliance on market pressure to persuade universities to seek accreditation for courses is questionable, given the limited success of voluntary accreditation in the USA. The Australasian Forum of Teacher Registration and Accreditation Authorities (AFTRAA), involving all State and Territory governments without the Australian Government, has approved an alternative framework establishing mandatory requirements on teacher education courses. Approval processes are conducted by each individual jurisdiction, which share certain standards. Critics, however, question the efficiency of running separate accreditation processes in each system. The House of Representatives’ recent Top of the Class report has proposed that Teaching Australia develop a national approach to accreditation involving a system of professional standards developed in collaboration with the AFTRAA, the ACDE and other major bodies. State authorities would retain responsibility for teacher registration. Accreditation would be mandatory through the existing powers of State registration authorities and through legislation linking accreditation to receipt of Australian Government funding of courses.
Subject HeadingsFederal-state relations
The prevailing concept of learning in society is no longer one of detached contemplation centred in academic institutions, but rather interdisciplinary inquiry spread across academia, industry and government. Universities have shifted emphasis from abstract to practical knowledge (eg through the rise of school-based teacher training), while employers have moved from a strongly practical focus to highlighting the need for generic skills, as well as dispositions and habits of mind (such as critical thinking, adaptability, and the capacity for independent learning) conducive to productivity over the worker’s lifetime. Problem-based inquiry relates to both types of learning being used to develop generic skills in practical settings. With these changes in mind, a study has examined Queensland’s Years 11 and 12 syllabuses to identify how well they help to prepare students for the current nature of work and higher education. The study was part of a review of the State’s senior years of schooling by the Queensland Studies Authority. The syllabuses were found to include a strong emphasis on basic learning and also deep learning. By contrast, current curriculum documents ‘do not provide a ready answer’ as to how well students are trained to learn independently. The documents frequently referred to ICT, which may be used to enhance independent learning, but use of ICT was ‘not a specific requirement’. The study identified two major concerns. First, the ‘highly optional nature of learning experiences’ in subject areas ‘seems to imply that they are means to the ends of the subject’, but ‘this is clearly not the case’, since the options students most commonly choose will influence the nature of the subject itself. This fact makes optional learning problematic, particularly in terms of measuring performance, which calls for ‘much clearer guidance on important learning experiences’. Secondly, there is a mismatch between the ‘process’ emphasis in general skills frameworks and the ‘content’ emphasis in the subject-specific frameworks.
Subject HeadingsTransitions in schooling
VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Senior secondary education
Competency-based learning: a new pathway of opportunity
Volume 11 Number 2, 2006; Pages 52–54
Competency-based learning is the basis of Australia's current VET system. The competency system is criterion referenced, meaning that students’ performances are measured against standards rather than against one another. Competency may be demonstrated through a variety of means. Students are ‘challenged to be autonomous’ and are involved in the process of assessment. Life experience ‘is drawn into the learning context’. Assessment tasks that demonstrate a range of capabilities simultaneously are encouraged as a way to save time. Learning is contextualised in real-world situations. Over 95% of secondary schools with senior students offer VET courses. They are currently taken by 47% of senior secondary students, either as a subordinate part of an academic pathway or as a direct move towards employment. The take-up of VET in Schools (VETiS) more than trebled between 1997 and 2003. This high take-up rate demonstrates the suitability of the competency-based approach to VET.
Subject HeadingsSenior secondary education
VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Competency-based training (CBT) underpins VET in
Subject HeadingsVET (Vocational Education and Training)
True Vocation: VET in schools
Volume 18 Number 3, April 2007; Pages 18–21
A study of career information services in schools has found that career advisors’ perceptions of Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) strongly influenced students’ decisions about whether or not to engage in vocational education. Enrolment in vocational learning has increased substantially in recent years, from 60,000 students in 1996 to 202,900 in 2003. Students attracted to VETiS are generally low achieving, from low socioeconomic non-English-speaking backgrounds, and attend government schools. These students are less likely to apply to university than students not participating in vocational education. Overall, this pattern suggests that VETiS has low status as a program in schools and is taken by low-achieving students rather than students positively interested in acquiring vocational skills. Although career advisors stated in the survey that they perceived VETiS to be equal in merit to other, more academically inclined subjects, in practice they tend to portray VET subjects to students as an easy alternative to academic subjects or the ‘only option’ for students who are struggling in academic disciplines. Alternatively, academically strong students are advised to take VETiS as a ‘break’ from harder classes, to ‘free up time’ or to score ‘bonus marks’. Career advisers need to be better informed about the potential benefits VETiS can offer all students. Ongoing professional development of advisers (perhaps including work experience at sites which require VET skills) may better prepare them for this role.
Subject HeadingsCareer education
VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Formative feedback and the mindful teaching of mathematics
Volume 21 Number 1, 2007; Pages 19–29
An important use for formative assessment is in the evaluation of each student's ability to generalise what they learn between different contexts. Such evaluation can be achieved by setting students groups of questions that are conceptually related. In the
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
What do Australian boys think about reading?
Volume 15 Number 1, February 2007; Pages 9–16
A research report exploring adolescent boys’ attitudes to reading has supported findings from earlier research on the topic. The study was drawn from taped interviews with 30 volunteers from high school English classes in Sydney, and sought to test the belief that deficiencies in boys’ reading skills contribute to their disengagement and underachievement in school. The study aimed to profile boys’ reading experiences in school and in leisure time, and investigate the perception of a connection between the two. Previous Australian, British, and US studies have found that the highly gendered reading patterns and practices exhibited by children are even more pronounced in adolescence: adolescent boys have narrower experience of fiction, write more predictably, and struggle with emotional expression in English. The Sydney research found that adolescent boys indeed preferred adventure, mystery, supernatural and fantasy novels, as predicted in earlier studies, and that perceived trends (such as the trend for boys to read less in higher year levels) were largely accurate. A dislike of poetry was almost unanimous. Most students used a computer in their leisure time, using chat rooms and email to communicate with friends. Few perceived a connection between their school experience of reading and their interests, but most understood the use of subject English reading for research in other subjects and for improving language skills. Some boys gravitated towards texts that would support their vocational interests. Perhaps due to modesty, most students identified themselves as average readers. Boys from ESL backgrounds were less confident about their reading skills than their peers. The study also found that boys consistently framed their preference for certain texts, genres and styles in terms of relevance to their lives. This study therefore challenges teachers to meet student perceptions of relevance and meaningfulness with English texts, and demonstrate the benefits of reading to the activities boys pursue outside of school. Reflection upon reading behaviours should occur regularly in English classes to facilitate this goal.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Becoming a literacy facilitator
Volume 11 Number 3, October 2006; Pages 44–47
This article explores how a literacy facilitator can affect the way teachers teach and assess literacy. An introductory task of the literacy facilitator is observing classroom practice and identifying teacher needs. Based on observation, the facilitator is able to provide a demonstration of good practice in class, and follow this up with discussion. Meetings should be scheduled regularly with small groups of teachers as a conduit for open discussion of practice and observations, and may include professional readings related to relevant strategies. A primary aim of the facilitator, however, should be to stimulate reflection. The observation that some students were not progressing in their reading, for example, led to reflection about how their progress was being addressed. Although assessment tasks aimed at monitoring student progress were in place, performance on these tasks was not being analysed so as to inform teaching practice, and therefore teachers were not really addressing the needs of struggling students. If assessment is not used to inform teaching and progress learning, it has little function. When teachers were shown how best to analyse assessment as a guide to teaching struggling students, they were able to transform their practice to suit student needs. Providing teachers with the time to reflect in a group and draw upon the expertise of colleagues is integral to facilitating improvements in literacy education.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
English language teaching
Politics-the ultimate turn-off?
Volume 31 Number 2; Pages 26–27
Traditional civics teaching programs lack focus, give excessive attention to the formal structure of government and avoid controversial issues. This type of instruction reduces the subject to something 'dull, safe, and factual', and fails to advance students' political values and enquiry skills. The characterisation of Generation Y as inherently apathetic and conservative is false. In reality, Gen Y apathy indicates that young people feel left out of politics, and are especially disengaged from political parties. Evidence suggests that young people dislike and distrust politicians and political parties and often do not register to vote as a result of the belief that their votes don’t count. Political education programs aimed at increasing youth participation in public policy-making have been relatively unsuccessful. Such programs focus on the structure and function of different levels of government, which to some extent increases knowledge of government, but does little to stimulate students' interest in political participation.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsCivics education
Volume 64 Number 5, February 2007; Pages 34–37
Students with disabilities are often capable of working within the same curriculum as their non-disabled classmates, if allowed to work at an adjusted level and pace. However, when a student has vastly different capabilities to his or her peers (for example, when a grade five functions at kindergarten level) the student’s needs must be addressed by modifying their program goals and/or their support network. In such situations, modifications to the curriculum content, perhaps by lessening the workload or its difficulty, can sometimes alleviate the requirement of specialised supports, thereby allowing more authentic inclusion. There are two approaches to curriculum adaptation: multilevel curriculum and curriculum overlapping. In multilevel curriculum, all students work within the same subject area but with different goals. For example, a maths class may require some students to multiply fractions and others to multiply whole numbers. Curriculum overlapping is directed at classrooms with more substantial differences between mainstream and disabled students' abilities. In curriculum overlapping, all students participate in the same activity but may be working on different outcomes or areas of the curriculum. To achieve this aim, a teacher may devise a simple matrix aligning a disabled student’s individual learning outcomes, such as following instructions and responding to questions, with a list of regularly occurring class activities. Curriculum overlapping should only be implemented where the simplified outcomes of multi-level curricula cannot accommodate the student’s needs. Schools sometimes claim that their curriculum is too 'static' to facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities, which raises the question of the efficacy of an inflexible curriculum for students generally. A multilevel curriculum can allow advanced students to work towards more challenging outcomes than the ‘middle zone’ offers them. Likewise, even in classes without students with disabilities, the abilities of different students can vary substantially, especially when considering students from non-English-speaking backgrounds or those with behavioral or emotional difficulties. Confronting the challenge of inclusive education can therefore improve curriculum practices for all.
Subject HeadingsInclusive education
An approach to teaching financial literacy
Number 1, February 2007; Pages 53–56
Teaching financial literacy to teenagers enables them to better manage their finances when they leave school. Shelford Girls' Grammar approaches financial literacy education through an elective course divided into five main areas of study: income, spending and saving, credit, investing, and tax. Income is studied by examining online job advertisements and salaries at www.jobsearch.gov.au, identifying the concept of need vs. want, and finally by planning and operating a market stall at school. This activity emphasises the importance of budgeting skills, expense management and income projection. In the spending and saving module, students create a 12-month expenses planner to identify how they are spending their money. Often students are surprised by how much money they spend on incidental items. Students can research practical strategies for saving money at www.simplesavings.com.au, and a 'blind taste-test' can be conducted to illustrate the strategy of substituting inexpensive products for those based on expensive brand names. The concept of credit is introduced by completing a mock credit card application, which leads to a discussion of why banks require credit information such as term of residence and number of dependents. Students address the concept of investing by comparing banks' interest rates, talking to a local real estate agent about criteria for a good investment property, and analysing articles from newspaper business sections in terms of probable effect on share prices. The ASX website provides useful student worksheets on this topic. Tax information for young people and a simple tax calculator are available on the ATO website. The importance of research in choosing a suitable credit card, savings account or investment should be emphasised throughout financial literacy programs. Infochoice.com is a good resource in this regard. Student worksheets on all these topics are available for download at the VCTA website, and a curriculum resource comprising 12 modules is provided free at www.commbank.com.au/foundation.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsFinancial literacy
The prevention and detection of plagiarism
Volume 31 Number 2; Pages 44–46
Academic misconduct in high schools has increased significantly in recent years, and the techniques students use to cheat are becoming more sophisticated. The requirement that values be taught in schools has not solved this problem. The widespread availability of electronic resources and technology has presented a serious challenge to determining authentic assessment information. The New South Wales Board of Studies has in place several schemes aimed at ensuring academic honesty. Students are required to sign declarations stating that they have read and understood HSC rules. Teachers sign declarations of certification, or in some cases non-certification, of externally assessed work. Non-certified work is sent to a panel established to adjudicate on these matters. However, individual schools must also establish their own means of preventing plagiarism. The King’s School in Parramatta has developed a series of initiatives to ensure academic integrity, beginning with preventing ‘unintentional plagiarism’ by informing students of the conventions used when utilising others’ intellectual property. The development of a comprehensive school Academic Integrity Policy grounded in the school’s mission statement and Anglican tradition, definitions of key terms such as ‘plagiarism’ and ‘collusion’, and explanation of teacher, parent and student responsibilities helped to inform students how to achieve academic honesty. Procedures and penalties for dealing with infringements were also identified. Emailing each student a guide of the policy, an assignment cover sheet and an example of how to record and acknowledge information for a given assignment ensures that all students have access to appropriate information. Students should also be able to seek assistance with referencing, and should expect fair warning and consistent application of procedures if they are suspected of an infringement. Finally, commercial programs for plagiarism detection such as turnitin are effective deterrents of website plagiarism, or ‘cyber-cheating’.
Subject HeadingsSenior secondary education
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