Immigrant students' experience of schooling: a narrative inquiry theoretical framework
Volume 39 Number 4, 2007; Pages 399–422
The nature of immigrant students’ educational experience can be effectively investigated through profiles of individual students. While traditional studies measure student variables such as language competency, sociality and compatibility with teachers, the narrative profile technique emphasises the role of individuals’ holistic life experience in affecting educational outcomes. The article profiles Yang Yang, a Year 7 immigrant student in Canada. Yang Yang attends Bay Street Community School in Toronto, in an area with a large Chinese immigrant population. His profile was created as part of a 25-year research program investigating immigration and multiculturalism in education. Yang Yang had lived in Fujian, China with his grandparents for ten years prior to immigrating to Canada, and had only had three years of schooling there. His parents were poorly educated and had little time to relate to him, factors considered highly significant for his student life. Research in this area tends to homogenise cultural experience, making assumptions about Chinese immigrants as a whole that may not be relevant to particular individuals. Such generalisations obscure the hardship of variant experience within immigrant communities, and adversely affect policy decisions which might otherwise assist minorities. While most Chinese immigrants in Canada are middle-class professionals, Yang Yang’s background was rural and poor. His family did not fit the stereotype of Chinese as economically and academically successful, and faced some discrimination as a result. The narrative framework of this study also exposed the potential for immigrant students to be disadvantaged by cultural conflicts between their school and their family. Parents must be assisted in confronting their adopted nations’ values, for example, Canadian child-labour laws, and schools must learn about students’ family lives and adapt policy and pedagogy appropriately. At Bay Street community school, initiatives such as the parent centre, school council meetings, and community programs for children improved cultural dialogue. Policy makers and researchers must consider the variety of cultures within immigrant communities and the hidden effects of individual experience on students’ educational achievement.
English as an additional language
Education - parent participation
The ACCE position statement on media-enriched learning communities
Volume 22 Number 1, June 2007; Pages 3–9
The Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) has presented a scenario and position statement on the future of schooling with particular reference to ICT. The position statement builds on the MCEETYA ‘Learning in an Online World Pedagogy Strategy’. It calls for students to be seen as active rather than passive learners, able to contribute to community goals through their learning projects, understand more about their education, and participate in decision making. Schools must engage with media and technology in meaningful and flexible ways with the aim of improving student outcomes. Media should also be used to enrich and facilitate teacher professional development. Teachers should be encouraged to ‘democratise’ learning and engage students in culturally relevant ways. Expectations of students should be raised. Teachers should become more involved in school leadership, and communities should be encouraged to support and value teachers more. Learning spaces must also be redesigned to reflect a ‘deinstitutionalised’ philosophy. Learning spaces should be safe and comfortable, and allow greater collaboration between classes, staff, schools and communities. Curriculum design must become more flexible and individualised, utilising the capacity for ICT to extend learning beyond school and jurisdictional borders. The ACCE scenario makes several recommendations toward these goals. Federal, State and Territory governments must work to promote an environment which encourages radical innovation and risk-taking in school reform by investing in new ideas and rewarding entrepreneurship, increasing funding for research and development, encouraging greater collaboration between systems and structures, and removing constraints on the curriculum such as time-based syllabus requirements. National infrastructure programs and flexible curriculum frameworks should be implemented. More flexible funding arrangements should be sought, and departments should promote schools as ‘learning centres’ for the community. Students should be allowed to seek education from long-distance sources interstate and overseas and curriculum prescriptions should be minimised so as to meet students’ individual learning needs. Use of media-enriched learning tools should become a professional obligation and requirement of teacher registration. Education departments must negotiate staff conditions based on reasonable workloads, taking formal and informal qualifications into consideration.
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
Education aims and objectives
Got a minute? Can instructional leadership exist despite the reactive nature of the principalship?
2007; Pages 24–32
Between 1998 and 2004 the author and a colleague had surveyed over 200 principals in elementary, middle level and secondary public schools across the USA, spanning a wide range of demographic groups, geographic regions and levels of leadership experience to identify influences on principals’ decision to leave or remain in their position. Three key tensions were identified. Principals struggled to balance work and home life, and to balance the work priorities they set themselves against those the community expected of them. Thirdly, the principals almost all wished to provide more instructional leadership to teachers, in forms such as mentoring, modelling instruction, classroom visits and customised professional development, but felt blocked from doing so by the extent of managerial demands on them. The author accepted an opportunity to address these issues by taking up a position as principal in a K-5 school for one year with free rein to introduce changes. The 325-student school was in a district enjoying ‘every economic advantage’ and had extensive community support. After interviews with school staff, she identified her priorities as restoring a positive school culture, providing stable leadership, setting ‘definite boundaries between the faculty and the parent community’ and restoring ‘fun and meaning to the school’. Her significant actions and decisions included arranging more staff car parking spaces (‘which I had been told were impossible to get’), having important office space and equipment cleared and cleaned, and altering the practices of the school secretary. These changes induced staff to ask for further small physical reforms ‘they had long given up on’. Other managerial decisions caused significant levels of confrontation with sections of the parent community, but reduced undue pressure on teachers. After a year, she received very positive and widespread feedback from parents and teachers about changes to the school culture and the instructional focus she had introduced. She attributed her success to her emphasis on getting to know staff and creating working conditions conducive to their teaching. She concluded that some work considered managerial may be just as relevant to instructional leadership as direct work on instruction.
Subject HeadingsSchool administration
Crossing the divide
Number 12, September 2007; Page 23
More than 90 schools from around New South Wales have established partnerships through a cultural exchange program. Schools representing a diversity of communities (such as recently arrived refugee communities, Anglo-Australian students from suburban Sydney, migrant students with limited English language skills, Indigenous students, and rural communities from different towns) come together to participate in various activities. A long-running partnership exists between students from Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre (refugees and migrants with limited English skills) and Menai High students (who are predominantly Anglo-Australian) and this partnership has resulted in many Beverly Hills students enrolling at Menai High after finishing their intensive English language course. In another partnership, Wagga Wagga High and Tumbarumba High, come together to share ideas about the social issues affecting young people in regional New South Wales. Students from the Evans Intensive English Centre were warmly welcomed by Lismore High, where students are predominantly recent Sudanese refugees. The Lismore students were reportedly ‘hungry for contact with Sydney kids’, and shared their experiences of escaping persecution in Africa in between activities such as horse-riding and soccer. The program aims to broaden the experiences of students, who, because of the demographic make-up of their communities, often have never met children from other cultures. The exchange programs involve activities such as forums at Parliament House, Harmony Day Concerts, the International Women’s Day Breakfast, tours to religious centres such as mosques, cathedrals and temples, and surf awareness sessions at Cronulla beach. The students find common ground at these activities, starting impromptu soccer games and exchanging text messages. The program was well established before the Cronulla riots occurred, and the event prompted more work on the part of teachers to promote harmony.
Subject HeadingsSocial life and customs
Standards for school leadership: gateway to a stronger profession?
2007; Pages 44–50
In 2005 the ACER reviewed five sets of standards used for professional learning and recognition of school leaders. The systems were Western Australia’s Performance Standards for School Leaders, England’s National Standards for Headteachers, the Standards for Headship in Scotland, the Standards for School Leaders in Connecticut USA, and standards for primary school leaders set by the Nederlandse Schoolleiders Academie. Informed by this research, the paper describes issues involved in setting standards for school leadership and current thinking about how these standards should be implemented. Standards can be used to establish what school leaders should know and be able to do. Standards should offer prospective school leaders goals and direction as part of an infrastructure of professional learning. Standards should provide the means for prospective leaders to demonstrate their accomplishments, through systems of assessment and certification recognised by employers and professional associations. There are two ways to apply standards to the professional preparation of school leaders. The most common method is to develop courses backed by quality assurance mechanisms. However, courses are removed from the workplaces where educators are attempting to play leadership roles. They place aspiring leaders in passive roles. Success in courses has not been found to guarantee strong performance in the workplace. The process of evaluating courses is removed from the actual practitioners who must deliver leadership in school settings. A second and more promising way to apply standards to school leadership development is to focus on the quality of their certification. This approach encourages a focus on individual leaders in the context of their work. Efforts to develop this approach for school leaders can draw on the highly respected teacher certification process developed by the USA’s NBPTS. Methods to validate school leaders’ certification must themselves meet a range of criteria. They must establish that assessment tasks truly test the required standard. They must permit conclusions about the performance of the candidate generally. They must ensure consistency between judgements. The levels of performance they demand of candidates, for specific tasks and overall, must also be appropriate.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Three school improvement mistakes (and how to avoid them)
Volume 55, October 2007; Pages 3–4
Three mistakes commonly appear in school improvement plans. Firstly, many schools react to immediately visible weaknesses in performance data without identifying the underlying causes of poor performance. For example, a school may respond to data revealing low literacy levels by scheduling additional time for reading. However, low literacy rates may be symptomatic of deeper problems such as teachers' low expectations of students or teachers’ failure to implement the school reading plan. A second flaw in many improvement plans is the failure to address 'intangible' concerns such as school culture, teacher attitudes and values. Deep analysis of data can often reveal problems in these areas. However, improvements are hard to capture in ways that address accountability demands so schools may instead focus on more immediate but superficial methods to improve student achievement. Thirdly, many improvement plans are too ambitious. Instead of planning to implement sweeping reform aimed at multiple goals, schools should focus on one or two clearly defined goals. If schools identify too many initiatives, staff cannot keep the reform’s aim in mind and are unlikely to take reform seriously. Researchers identify the ‘fractal experience’ as a positive process for school improvement. Schools define a problem, implement the identified solution whilst monitoring its effectiveness, and then reflect on the process so as to identify the actions and structures which contributed to the success of the effort. Such a process helps schools to focus on a small change and become disciplined about a systematic process of change. Schools should also prioritise goals and work towards each goal individually and systematically. The Japanese philosophy of ‘kaizen’, which declares that ‘every defect is a treasure’, can inform schools’ approach to improvement.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Rural communities reborn
Number 12, September 2007; Pages 16–17
New programs focussed on promoting lifelong learning in the Gwydir Shire area of New South Wales have transformed whole communities. The Gwydir Learning Region (GLR) is a partnership between local high schools, TAFE NSW, Adult and Community Education (ACE) providers, other tertiary education providers, local business and local government agencies. The partnership is aimed at increasing community participation in educational programs, addressing concerns about the population’s low levels of income, workforce participation and educational achievement. As part of the GLR, local schools offer a wide variety of Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses from Year 9, with some delivered using new videoconferencing and teleconferencing facilities. Many of the teachers and instructors are members of local industry who have received training in course delivery. The high school classes are open to adults, and increased enrolment numbers signify the widespread community participation. The involvement of mature learners in school classes has also improved levels of engagement in classrooms. A TAFE-run construction skills course was one of the first developments of the program. The course engaged a number of long-term unemployed youths in restoring a Bingara landmark, the Roxy Theatre. Another initiative, the Work Out Warialda community gym, opened last year in order to provide students with industry accredited fitness qualifications. Student instructors at the gym learn basic anatomy and how to pre-screen clients and develop and write programs. Such initiatives have also benefited the wider community in terms of both facilities and community pride, and may provide young people with additional incentives to remain in the area. The GLR has contributed significantly to employment in the region. Of the 221 students who completed Year 12 between 2002 and 2006, only three did not gain employment or enter study. Despite the emphasis on VET, however, the GLR has retained its academic credentials, with the number of Year 12 students entering university comparable to the state average.
VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Against ‘competitiveness’: why good teachers aren't thinking about the global economy
18 September 2007
Educational practices should not be judged in terms of contribution to national economic competitiveness. Evidence suggests only a weak link between an individual student’s school achievement and later performance in the workplace, and schools overall are only one of many factors contributing to national economic performance. Seeing education in economic terms also encourages a competitive view of educational performance. This view is inappropriate as educators should aspire to lift their students’ achievement in absolute terms rather than in terms relative to other students. Student achievement is likely to rise if they collaborate with students elsewhere, so education policy should be directed towards enhancing collaboration rather than competition. Higher educational standards in other countries will also lift levels of knowledge and understanding worldwide, for example in terms of finding cures for diseases. The conception that ‘we are in a race’ works to stifle critical and humane thinking. The author has written the book, No Contest: The Case Against Competition, republished last year and available through his personal website.
Education aims and objectives
United States of America (USA)
Better safe than sorry? Risk and educational research
Volume 33 Number 1, March 2007; Pages 15–27
In today's society, children are predominantly seen as ‘sacred and fragile’ and in need of protection and surveillance - to be ‘kept away from work, away from the street and away from the market place (except as consumers)’. Even caregivers and guardians are seen as potential threats. In schools, anxiety about sexual abuse of children has led to a ‘no touch policy’. More generally, the drive to reduce risk to children sees ever more information collected about them, with as many of their activities as possible observed and documented. This trend dovetails with the trend towards greater accountability demands on teachers, which require them to produce meticulous accounts of each of their students. In this situation, the activity of teachers is also closely monitored, even in informal situations, and may be used to evaluate them, sometimes against other teachers. The climate of fear surrounding this intense aversion to risk makes any questioning of risk management seem 'heretical'. Nevertheless, the preoccupation with risk should be challenged. The intense focus on risk threatens to stifle any sense of possibility and play in terms of children and schooling. Schools need to be places of experimentation, where some degree of failure is accepted as inevitable. The article discusses a number of theories of risk and states that, for the most part, they have been ‘formulated without any reference to empirical studies’. Educators need access to studies that cover the way that school staff think about and experience risk in their daily work. The article cites Australian research on this topic by Judyth Sachs and L Mellor (see ERIC database summary of one of their papers and a related research paper by Sachs).
Childhood through the eyes of parent and child
Volume 14 Number 1, 2007; Pages 1–18
The author interviewed Australian and Canadian children and parents to establish their views and experiences of childhood. Findings are reported together with references to historical writings, recent governmental documents, and education system policy statements about children. Responses fall into ten categories, each reflecting different conceptions of children. The innocent child remains a common concept: children are seen as incompetent, dependent, ‘empty vessels’, vulnerable to corruption by the adult world and its online technology. The concept of the evil child has a long history and appears today in media reports of dramatically bad behaviour by children, and school discipline policies. The concept implies that problem children should conform to adult demands and be prevented from affecting innocent peers. The miniature adult concept emphasises the existing competence of children, but also the danger of undue expectations on them. The child as adult-in-training is defined in terms of their future role and sometimes by pressure to mature too soon. The snowballing child is brattish and disrespectful, making ever greater demands on tired, accommodating parents. The out of control child cannot be managed by bribery like the snowballing child, or threats like the evil child, but rather is unmanageably dysfunctional, headed for crime or self-destruction in adulthood, sometimes by way of institutional care. The self-sacrificing noble/saviour child is expressed in superheroes like Harry Potter but also in the real child burdened by expectations that they solve the emotional problems of adults. The commodified child is an object to be ‘consumed by an adult audience’, or used ‘to justify the existence of education or welfare services’, or else is used as a marketing tool. The child as victim suffers hidden, unaddressed poverty or neglect. The agentic child is capable and competent, but distinct from adults. The agentic child’s learning is negotiated between themselves and their teachers. It is important to be aware of how our interactions with, or decisions about, children shape their identity and development.
Parent and child
Education and society: the case for ecoliteracy
Volume 25 Number 1, 2007; Pages 25–37
Schools must take decisive steps to promote environmental education. In conventional education, students experience a conflict between what they are taught about sustainability and what they observe in their school and society. Education is increasingly tailored towards the needs of the global economy. Western education packages learning into discrete subjects or Key Learning Areas (KLAs), and in this context, students experience learning as disconnected and often irrelevant to the rest of life. In Victoria, environmental education has been contained within a few outcomes in the KLAs of Science and SOSE, while elsewhere it has been repackaged as ‘sustainability education’. Such arrangements convey the message that sustainability is an ‘optional extra’. Although the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) identifies sustainability as a key target, there is little in VELS documentation that is 'able to guide teachers in the implementation of this principle'. Schools must address sustainability as a framework for all education. Education should inspire a sense of 'awe' about the world, thereby offering an alternative to the prevailing discourse of nature as an exploitable resource. Teachers should demonstrate the ways in which eco-systems function, and highlight the nature of human dependency on them. Schools can develop authentic monitoring programs such as water watch, salt watch and frog watch, which help children to recognise the symptoms of ecological degradation. School pets can help develop children’s sense of responsibility for others. Tools and concepts from ‘Futures Education’ help students to think about the future as something that is created and contested (rather than predetermined and dystopian, as sometimes suggested in pop culture) and this outlook has been shown to help young people deal with depression. Where schools provide religious education, the concept of ‘God’s Creation’ is ideally linked to eco-theology. The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) provides teacher professional development about the purpose of education for sustainability and strategies to develop a school sustainability plan. AuSSI focuses on waste reduction, biodiversity, energy and water use in schools, and provides services such as sustainability audits, assistance with setting targets, and a school helpline.
Subject HeadingsEducation aims and objectives
Empty tissue boxes: considering poverty in diversity discourse
Number 5, July 2007; Pages 273–276
Worldwide, the percentage of children living in poverty is steadily increasing, and although teachers are now trained to be sensitive to racial and ethnic diversity, most instruction on diversity neglects the issue of poverty. Although the term ‘poverty’ usually refers to financial hardship, it usually also encompasses a deprivation of emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and social resources. Research-based training is being designed to help teachers address challenges faced by children in poverty, such as poor literacy development, low self-esteem, low popularity and peer relations marked by conflict, high mobility and lack of school resources. In order to improve impoverished students’ outcomes, teachers must focus on children’s assets, celebrating and developing their individual strengths. Classrooms should be positive and reassuring environments, focused on providing more scaffolding and direct instruction to students in need of remediation. Schools should hire staff that reflect the diversity of the community, and involve the community in school life by scheduling family events for which transportation is provided. Schools and teachers should listen to the needs and concerns of parents, and arrange meetings, where necessary, in alternative locations central to families’ neighbourhoods. Schools can establish partnerships with community agencies in areas such as nutrition, mental health, and financial assistance. In order to make learning meaningful and relevant to students, schools can conduct student interest surveys or simply observe students at work and play. Teachers should also help children to understand the unspoken social expectations (or ‘hidden rules’) of the school and society. The most drastic impact of poverty on children is in linguistic development. Children in poverty do not have experiences that promote literacy and reading readiness, and while US National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) surveys indicate a closing of the gap in maths scores of high and low-poverty schools, this trend is not seen in literacy. This gap could be addressed by targeting resources to disadvantaged families and schools, lowering class sizes in early grades, strengthening early childhood intervention programs and improving professional development.
Get in early!
Number 12, September 2007; Page 13
The New South Wales Department of Education (DET) and Families NSW have developed a joint program to help connect schools, early childhood services and community services. This program recently culminated in a celebration of transition to school projects, the 'Transition from Home to School Expo'. The expo showcased school projects from the Auburn, Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, Holroyd and Parramatta areas that aim to communicate transition messages to parents and communities. Prior to the expo, organisers surveyed more than 540 school and kindergartens about their transition-to-school activities. Teachers and community representatives were then invited to forums to discuss the needs of local families. Based on these discussions, 20 group projects were developed using funds from a one-off grant of $3000 provided to each project. Many of the projects focused on the communication issues encountered by communities with high immigrant populations. A discussion group from the Auburn region, for example, developed two sets of bilingual posters for Dari and Arabic-speaking families containing information about school enrolment. The DET/Families NSW program was based on the early childhood research of Professor Sue Docket and Associate Professor Bob Perry from Charles Sturt University, which suggests that transition-to-school projects should be flexible and involve collaboration between schools, pre-school services, and community representatives.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Early childhood education
Transitions in schooling
One of the hidden diversities in schools: families with parents who are lesbian or gay
Number 5, July 2007; Pages 277–281
Perhaps without realising it, schools often promote a culture of 'heteronormativity' in many aspects of administration and curriculum. Heteronormativity is society’s tendency to overlook, neglect or deliberately exclude people who live in alternative family arrangements, or who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-gender (LGBT). Conservative estimates indicate that between one and nine million US children under 19 are raised by LGBT parents. These parents may feel excluded by the heteronormativity inadvertently promoted in schools, and this obstructs the full inclusion of families in school life. Enrolment forms that request the name of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ exclude families with alternative arrangements, and should instead include a field for names of ‘parents/guardians’ and a large space that doesn’t indicate a specific number of people. Letters should be addressed to ‘families’ rather than ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’. This would also help recognise alternative carers such as grandparents. The word ‘adopted’ should never be used in a trivial way, such as ‘our class is adopting a pet’, and teachers should avoid activities that require children to bring in pictures from infancy or toddler-hood, as not all children have lived with the same family for their entire lives. To promote a welcoming environment for LGBT parents, teachers should aim to use the word ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’, ‘wife’, or ‘girl/boyfriend’ in their daily lives as well as at work, as this allows everyone to discuss their relationship without having to ‘come out’. Schools should allow, but not necessitate, opportunities in which families can discuss their family arrangements. Schools should display posters and symbols and provide books and toys that depict families with two mothers or two fathers. Appropriate age-level books can be found at the GLSEN website. Schools should develop and enforce a non-discrimination clause, and discuss discriminatory practices with children. Teachers should adopt these practices regardless of whether they are aware of gay or lesbian parents at their school, as parents may not feel comfortable ‘coming out’ under current practices. This article provides a comprehensive list of US-based resources and materials that are appropriate for welcoming classrooms.
Subject HeadingsParent and child
Gay and lesbian issues
Epistemological and educational presuppositions of P4C: from critical dialogue to dialogical critical thinking
Volume 22 Number 2/3, 2007; Pages 135–147
The Philosophy for Children (P4C) educational program aims to develop primary children’s thinking skills through inquiry. P4C material includes educational guides for teachers and novels for children aged six to 15, in which philosophical topics are adapted to an appropriate level for discussion. Children read the novels aloud in a way which promotes co-operation and involvement. For instance, older children read paragraphs aloud in turn, and younger children interact with a puppet show. After reading the novel, or a part of it, children are invited to ask questions for discussion, and thus invest themselves in the story. Although question formulation is not commonly valued in primary education, studies show that from the age of five, children are capable of formulating philosophical questions when guided by adults. Once questions have been formulated, children engage in a discussion about the central concepts of the novel. A study of the exchanges of children aged 10-12 in Australia, Mexico and Quebec found that the thought processes of P4C children became more complex over time. Despite linguistic and cultural difference, children’s capacity for critical thinking developed in a similar pattern in all three countries. This process began with concrete, logical thinking and 'egocentric' reasoning, developed into non-critical dialogue accumulating many points of view, and concluded at the end of the school year with semi-critical discussion in which peers’ points of view were sometimes evaluated and arguments were spontaneously justified. In general, students’ thinking became more complex as they developed skills related to evaluation and critical questioning. Developing children’s philosophical dialogue, however, is a difficult process which can only be achieved in an appropriate educational environment. Teachers must develop a ‘Socratic skill’ of stimulating children’s thought with questions about a concept’s meaning, purpose and moral implications.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Thought and thinking
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