August 2007; Pages 51–54
A review of school leadership in Australia was conducted in 2006 by ACER on behalf of DEST. The paper describes its findings. The paper also describes some current initiatives designed to address the problem of role overload for school leaders and allow them to focus on improving student learning. The DEST-commissioned review was designed to contribute to the OECD’s 2006 project, Improving School Leadership. Australian research indicates that success ‘is more likely when schools are collegial, consultative, collaborative and involve partnerships’, and ‘where matters are shared and owned by stakeholders’. To facilitate student learning, schools need to develop a climate of trust and cooperation, a ‘shared and monitored mission’, and a willingness to take initiatives and risks. The effective school leader promotes this environment by demonstrating an ethical, ‘authentic’ and compassionate approach and by encouraging collaboration and distributed or shared leadership. A key issue is to attract enough suitable applicants to school leadership positions. While potential candidates are now generally aware of the stressfulness of the principalship, there seems to be much less awareness of the powerful satisfaction that incumbents can get from the role. The attractions of the role need to be communicated more effectively. The professional learning of school leaders will be likely to be supported by the establishment of a ‘leadership continuum framework’ that identifies the type of professional development programs needed by principals at each stage of their careers. Associated with this development is the current move to develop standards for school leaders currently being developed by professional associations, employers and researchers. A number of initiatives are underway in different States and Territories. Teaching Australia’s Leading Australia’s Schools Program is an important step in meeting the needs of mid-career principals. Other programs are targeted specifically at women and Indigenous school leaders. Challenges remain. The factors of central importance in preparing school leaders must be identified through the development of an evidence-based standards framework, subject to ongoing monitoring. Further research into the efficacy of professional leadership learning programs is also required.
Subject HeadingsSchool administration
Relevant, challenging, integrative and exploratory curriculum design: perspectives from theory and practice for middle level schooling in Australia
Volume 34 Number 2, August 2007; Pages 51–72
Studies in the USA have demonstrated that schools which are committed to an integrative curriculum improve student results on both academic and affective measures. A five-year longitudinal study in New Zealand has provided further evidence of the academic benefits of this approach. An integrative curriculum has particular relevance for middle years’ students as a means of encouraging the academic engagement of young people. However, an integrative curriculum should not be confused with a multidisciplinary curriculum. The integrative curriculum is student-centred. Teachers seek to raise topics of interest or concerns to individual students, who then integrate new knowledge from various subject areas with the collaboration and assistance of teachers. The integrative curriculum generates class work that is creative but also messy and unpredictable, and will take a different form in every site, depending on the needs and capabilities of every student. By contrast, a multidisciplinary curriculum is subject-centred. The integration of subject areas is undertaken by curriculum developers prior to student involvement and is concerned to improve efficiency by removing overlaps between subject areas. Despite its demonstrated effectiveness, the integrative curriculum has been strongly resisted in the USA for a range of reasons. It ‘tends to disrupt the transmission of knowledge and values of the dominant political group’. It has also encountered resistance from ‘teachers with strong subject affiliations, parent groups and other stakeholders in subject-centred curricula such as textbook publishers or conservative church groups’. More generally, an integrative curriculum challenges deep-seated traditions and structures in school education and calls for a profound change in professional self-identity for teachers.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
United States of America (USA)
Volume 65 Number 2, October 2007; Pages 22–27
In the USA's 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 43% of economically disadvantaged Year 8 students scored below the ‘basic level’ on literacy, compared with 19% of their peers. To combat this problem, many middle schools with underprivileged students now offer reading instruction. However, young adolescents have little patience for typical literacy-building methods and materials which are designed for young children. A new reading program, ‘the Reading Edge’, offers a ‘last chance’ literacy solution which is developmentally appropriate to young adolescents’ needs. Young adolescents are strongly interested in competition and socialising, so in Reading Edge, students are assigned to four-member teams based on their instructional level, and told that they are responsible for the success of their team-mates as well as themselves. Students coach each other through various literacy building activities, such as ‘team talk’. In this exercise, students read questions about a text silently, then one student reads a question aloud, another restates and clarifies it, the next student answers the question, and the fourth agrees, disagrees or adds to the answer. This method allows students to channel their ‘naturally rambunctious’ energy into a productive exercise which scaffolds comprehension. The Reading Edge moves students through instructional level groups as rapidly as possible, allowing students to observe their progress and earn recognition. Students in a case study affirmed that they were motivated by initiatives which allowed them to demonstrate their progress in tangible ways (allowing them to report their progress to parents). The Reading Edge teaches students strategies for comprehension and how to apply these strategies, and allows them to assess which strategies work for them. This helps students to accept responsibility for their own learning at an age when they eager to do so. Middle school students are also capable of planning towards goals, and schools can build on this strength by having students discuss personal aspirations and set learning goals. Attesting to the effectiveness of developmentally tailored instruction, a recent study of underprivileged Year 6 students found that students in the Reading Edge program scored significantly higher than traditionally-instructed students on literacy measures.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsMiddle schooling
Reading Rescue: an effective tutoring intervention model for language-minority students who are struggling readers in first grade
Volume 44 Number 2, June 2007; Pages 414–448
A US study has investigated the effectiveness of a tutoring intervention model, Reading Rescue, in improving the literacy levels of minority language students from homes in which a language other than the predominant societal language is actively used. Previous studies have found that the Reading Rescue model can effect significant gains in reading achievement, and the present study sought to test whether its emphasis on vocabulary instruction would make it especially appropriate for language-minority students in high-poverty schools. Existing school personnel (including paraprofessionals, reading specialists and credentialed teachers) received on-site training, supervision and coaching in the Reading Rescue model. These staff became one-to-one tutors for poorly performing Grade 1 students, and kept records of students' performance. Students were explicitly instructed in phonemic awareness, decoding, writing and sight-word reading and spelling by reading short, levelled books. The achievement of this first group of students was compared to that of two equivalent groups, one which received no intervention and one which received a state mandated, small-group intervention known as Voyager Passport. Students were tested on literacy measures prior to the study, and then tested again after six months in the various groups. The study found that students who had participated in the Reading Rescue intervention had improved significantly, raising their average score to around the national average. Reading Rescue students significantly outperformed students who received the small-group intervention (whose post-test scores did not differ from those of students who received no intervention). Students in the small-group intervention and no-intervention groups performed significantly below national average. Analysis of tutors' records from the Reading Rescue intervention revealed that students' experiences of learning to read easier texts at an accuracy level of around 98-100% influenced their higher achievement on the post-test. This finding contradicts conventional wisdom, which suggests that students should read harder texts at around 90-97% accuracy. The study also assessed the impact of various types of tutors and found paraprofessionals were as effective as literacy specialists in comprehension and decoding real words, but not in decoding pseudo-words, a result that suggested 'paraprofessionals were less efficient in their tutoring'.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
United States of America (USA)
Volume 27 Number 2, April 2007; Pages 111–127
The Social Communication Coding System (SCCS) is a method of coding the duration and frequency of children’s communicative behaviours, allowing specialists to assess children’s social communication difficulties. Unlike rating scales and questionnaires, the SCCS allows observers to assess a child’s behaviour in a naturalistic and time-sensitive classroom context. The SCCS categorises a child’s discrete behaviours into ‘dimensions’ for analysis and interpretation. The first dimension, ‘hostile/coercive’, describes aggressive, unacceptable behaviour such as grabbing, provoking or yelling. The ‘Prosocial/engaged’ dimension reflects a child being engaged in a social interaction or school activity, demonstrated by listening attentively or completing on-task work. A child’s behaviour is classed as ‘Passive/disengaged’ when it is perceived as reflecting a lack of involvement in the situation or activity. The ‘Adult seeking’ dimension reflects a child seeking assistance or attention, and the ‘Irrelevant’ dimension describes off-task behaviour or activity. In the SCCS method, an observer uses a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) to code a child’s behaviour in terms of one of these dimensions. The PDA records the dimension observed and the duration of the child’s conformity to this dimension. When the child’s behaviour changes, the observer enters the appropriate change. Using this device, observers can produce an accurate overview of a child’s behaviour in class, and use this overview to find patterns in behaviour. For example, a child’s disengagement may be related to only certain types of class activities, and a teacher may be able to use this information to plan activities which produce the desired behaviour. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can also use such insights to plan more directed intervention and testing, which may reveal a child’s difficulties with specific social skills. In order to implement the SCCS method effectively, SLPs need a good working relationship with the classroom teacher and may require training in observing and coding behaviours.
Developing the IELTS writing and reading online site: flexible English-language teaching and learning
Volume 19 Number 2, July 2007; Pages 36–39
IELTS Online is a web-based course that helps prepare students for the International English-Language Testing System (IELTS) assessments. IELTS Online provides exercises in writing and over 200 practice reading exercises. IELTS online is also self-paced, allowing students to repeat activities as many times as they desire in a non-threatening, customised setting. Students pay a set fee for 12 weeks’ access to the site materials and online help from a personal tutor. Students can write draft paragraphs and essays and submit them for marking by the tutor through an online journal. The tutor annotates text with comments and corrections which are saved in the learner’s individual ‘gradebook’. Tutors at a remote location assist students online with the writing and revision strategies. Revision and resubmission are key learning strategies in the online course. The tutor also suggests areas of the site which would be of most benefit to the learner. Reading activities are automatically corrected with on-screen feedback. The site also contains information about the IELTS test format and structure, allowing teachers to evaluate its reading and writing tasks. The individualised nature of IELTS online means that learners receive far more feedback than they might during a traditional 12-week classroom-based course. IELTS online was developed by UNITEC Institute of Technology in New Zealand as a way to meet the needs of students in their IELTS preparation course. Prior to the development of IELTS Online, UNITEC students were prepared for the IELTS test only through a five-week face-to-face program. The program was found to be inadequate in the feedback it offered students, and in its inability to cater for the wide variation in students' linguistic skills. IELTS Online deals with these concerns. Students enrolling the UNITEC course are now automatically connected to IELTS Online as a supplement. The UNITEC developers are presently considering adding a listening module to the site, but bandwidth restrictions prevent development of a speaking module at the present time.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEnglish as an additional language
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
English language teaching
High school students informal reasoning on a socio-scientific issue: qualitative and quantitative analyses
Volume 29 Number 9, July 2007; Pages 1163–1187
To promote scientific literacy, it is important to provide opportunities for students to apply scientific knowledge to real-world problems. However a recent study suggests that students may require explicit instruction in how to construct arguments, evaluate evidence and apply scientific knowledge in order to engage meaningfully with socio-scientific issues. In Taiwan, 71 Year 10 students from an urban high school were given an open-ended questionnaire about nuclear energy following a unit on the relative advantages and disadvantages of various methods for generating electricity. The unit was taught in the context of a fierce public debate over the proposed building of a fourth nuclear power plant in Taiwan. Students were provided with a report summarising different positions on the nuclear power debate from social, economic and ecological perspectives. Students were then given another questionnaire prompting them to construct arguments, counter-arguments and rebuttals on the issue. Almost a quarter of participating students were found to make intuitive rather than evidence-based decisions on the issue. These intuitive decision makers were also less likely than the others to alter their decisions after exposure to the summary report. These findings suggest that students may need to be explicitly taught how to evaluate scientific evidence and use it to make decisions. Researchers also emphasised that these skills must be taught or reviewed within the context of science classes. Analysis of students’ arguments showed that students tended to argue from economic and ecological perspectives, and proposed relatively few arguments from scientific/technological perspectives. Students’ unwillingness to argue from scientific/technological perspectives is indicative of low scientific-argumentative literacy, and educators must focus on helping students apply scientific knowledge to wider social issues.
Key Learning AreasScience
Studies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
Inquiry based learning
Thought and thinking
The curricular importance of mathematics: a comparison of English and Hungarian teachers' espoused beliefs
Volume 39 Number 3, June 2007; Pages 317–338
A study investigating mathematics teachers’ beliefs about maths in the curriculum has found that they are largely culturally determined and reflect the expectations of the curricular frameworks in which teachers operate. The present study consisted of questionnaires and interviews with 45 teachers from Manchester and Hampshire and 10 from Budapest. It explored teachers’ beliefs about the nature of mathematics, its content, processes and aims. The teachers were all volunteers who taught in schools representing the diversity of schools in the two countries. Based on the questionnaires and interviews, teachers were categorised in terms of the curricular themes they identified as important. The English maths teachers’ responses fell into five broad curricular themes. Some 64% of the English teachers perceived maths as ‘applicable number’ and were seen to adhere to a ‘basics’ orientation, regarding numeracy as an essential building block for further maths study. Mathematics was valued as ‘preparation for the real world’ by 33% of teachers, who emphasised its investigative and exploratory utility. A significant minority of the English maths teachers viewed mathematics as an ‘intended-curricular-given’, expressing a view of the curriculum as essentially ‘beyond negotiation’. Others indicated that they valued different aspects of the maths curriculum depending on students’ abilities and/or cognitive development. Of the 10 Hungarian teachers, four valued maths as an introduction to logic and ‘intelligent thinking’ transferable to the real world. Nine of the 10 perceived maths as a problem-solving discipline in which the teachers’ role was to pose challenging problems. Despite limitations of the study, such as the small size of the Hungarian sample and the possible ambiguities of translation, results indicate a clear divide in teachers’ espoused beliefs. Most teachers from each country aligned with national perspectives of maths which were associated with national curriculum documents. The Hungarian maths curriculum documents contain a rationale for teaching maths, while the English National Curriculum discusses only technical and structural details. Accordingly, the Hungarian perspective views maths as a problem-solving discipline encouraging intellectual development. English teachers instead emphasise applicable number and functionality.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Mathematics teachers as moral educators: the implications of conceiving of mathematics as a technology
Volume 39 Number 3, 10 August 2007; Pages 303–316
Maths as it is taught in school contexts should be viewed as a technology that is neither objective nor neutral, and its hidden political implications should be recognised in order to make mathematics education more reflective. School mathematics as an applied discipline is viewed as a useful tool that will help students solve social problems. However, mathematical problems require students to simulate reality in mathematical terms, and such representations necessarily leave out aspects of what is represented. Additionally, simulated problems can be mistaken for and distort reality, and what is omitted from equations can be just as significant as what is measured. Mathematics approaches every problem as calculable, however real human experience often cannot be quantified or calculated. Mathematics, and the primacy it is given in curricula, also promotes an attitude and a type of problem-solving in which ‘quantification becomes synonymous with objectivity’. Mathematics also assumes there is one right answer to a given problem, and the moral implication of this attitude is that ‘moral thinking is ultimately quantity manipulation’. Utilitarianism, where the pleasure, happiness or utility that an action produces is quantified, is privileged by this attitude. Problem-solving technologies should be accompanied by instruction in the appropriate application of that technology. Mathematics teachers must therefore also teach students what cannot be achieved with maths and what is ‘left out’ of mathematics-dominated world views. One way to do this is for teachers to set an exercise which involves quantification of a qualitative experience, such as class participation or the worth of pop songs. Students establish quantitative measures for participation such as ‘frequency of being called upon’ measured inversely against ‘number of times reprimanded for talking’ and quickly discover that human error still influences the criteria’s selection and measurement. Through the development of a weighted formula, students learn that mathematical choices can be contested and adjusted, as each student is likely to produce a different answer. Whilst employing mathematics skills, students learn the limits of the technology.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Here comes philosophy man: philosophising the primary school curriculum
Volume 22 Number 2, 2007; Pages 182–191
While philosophical approaches are often used in enrichment courses for Gifted and Talented (G&T) students, mainstream students can also benefit from a ‘philosophised’ education. Philosophising the learning environment and curriculum can raise self esteem, develop communication skills, promote values and improve home-school communication partnerships. The learning environment can be philosophised with activities such as ‘Thinking Skills Starters’. ‘Starters’ are enjoyable, open-ended activities designed to inspire thinking in a range of disciplines. They can apply to any area of the curriculum. A starter is typically set at the start of the day, and might, for example, require children to compile an ‘A-Z’ of a topic, contemplate the advantages and disadvantages of being a child or adult, or list things with wheels. These activities nurture children’s creative thinking and promote a classroom culture of imaginative inquiry. In the afternoons, ‘performances’ are a positive way to set a calm and purposeful tone whilst developing self-esteem. In performances, children perform a play, dance, magic trick or talent or act as the facilitator of a discussion. The curriculum can be philosophised by promoting discussion, open dialogue, critical thinking and questioning in children’s formal work. For any written work, children should include the lesson objective set in the form of a question at the top of the page (for example ‘what is time?’), as the precursor to a worksheet (for example, on learning to tell the time). Completed work is then concluded with a comment reflecting what has been learnt. These tasks give children a feeling of involvement in determining the learning objectives. ‘PMIs’ are an activity in which children think for one minute each on the positives, minuses, and interesting points raised by any given topic. This activity can also stimulate reflection on curriculum outcomes. In all aspects of education, teachers should attempt to stimulate a fun and respectful atmosphere in which children are encouraged to think openly and freely about topics that interest them. A philosophical approach to learning can help develop children into lifelong learners.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Does addressing prejudice and discrimination through Holocaust education produce better citizens?
Volume 59 Number 2, May 2007; Pages 115–130
Teaching about the Holocaust, which 'continues to evoke the ultimate in barbarism and inhumanity', can make a useful contribution to values and citizenship education. Research on the impact of Holocaust education was conducted in a rural town in Scotland, close to Glasgow. Researchers surveyed Year 7 students (aged 11-12 years) at two primary schools in November 2003 and March 2004 before and after the students studied the Holocaust. The same students were then surveyed in December 2004, during their first year in secondary school, along with peers who had not studied the Holocaust in primary school. The surveys asked the students about their values and attitudes and also whether they felt their own understandings had improved. A number of findings were made. Teaching about the Holocaust was linked to sustained long-term improvement in awareness of the Holocaust itself. Students showed relatively little understanding of the term 'anti-Semitism', perhaps due to the specific teaching approach used in the two schools. Very few students expressed any form of explicit racism in either of the questionnaires or the interviews. However a different pattern of responses emerged over the course of the three surveys when students were asked whether Scotland had ‘too many’ of certain ethnic groups, separately listed as ‘Jews, Blacks, Chinese, Asians, Gypsy Travellers, Refugees’. For every category, ‘pupils’ attitudes became less tolerant’. The number of students who rejected the ‘too many’ concept declined, while the number of ‘unsure’ students rose in relation to most ethnic groups. There are limits to the influence that education can have on racism in society due to the ‘countervailing impact’ of other forces such as ‘economic policy, housing policy and scaremongering (for example about the number of refugees)’. In recent years, racism in Europe has grown due to varied influences including conflicts in the Middle East, hostility to refugees, the rise of far Right political groups and the use of scapegoating by some politicians. However, education about the Holocaust remains valuable in teaching students about the influence that harmful cultural stereotypes can have on their own opinions.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Engaged and delightful learning: an online classroom music program
Volume 19 Number 2, July 2007; Pages 16–22
The New Zealand Arts curriculum statement acknowledges the value of musical composition as a means of personal expression, however studies of primary education have revealed that few primary schools offer opportunities for composition. Barriers to classroom composition include the lack of confidence and competence of many classroom generalist teachers to deliver a music program, the low Government priority for provision of specialist music teachers, and the crowded school curriculum. A new program aims to overcome these barriers by linking specialists/composers to primary classrooms. The 'Compose' program consists of a series of lessons provided through Garageband files containing spoken explanations and audio examples which progressively familiarise students with features of Garageband and develop their knowledge of the elements of music. Garageband is intuitive software which enables students to 'compose' music without the need for instrumental skill or knowledge of music notation. This makes composition more accessible for children, and empowers them to express ideas in new, culturally relevant ways. In Compose, students receive online mentoring from a music specialist as they work through the lessons. Schools in New Zealand have integrated the Compose program into a literary unit called 'the Clubs project', in which the Compose lessons culminate in an engaging problem-based learning project. The project is based on the children’s book Clubs: A Lolly Leopold Story, which explores children’s clubs at a primary school. Each student chooses one of the five clubs in the story to portray musically, and works in a group or individually to produce short musical works. Students upload successive Garageband files to shared drive, which the composition specialist accesses remotely. The specialist then emails each group with suggestions, reminding them of compositional strategies encountered in the Compose program. Students at the rural Opaki School concluded the project by travelling to a sound studio to produce a CD of their compositions, which each student received. The program enables young people to identify as composers, and also provides a student-centred project in which students’ creative ideas are valued and self-esteem is developed. (For an alternative view of Garageband, see New York Times article).
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
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