Learning languages in partnership with information communication technology tools
Volume 22 Number 1, June 2007; Pages 17–19
ICT offers many ways to assist language learning. ICT can provide access to a vast range of interesting cultural material associated with the target language. Automated learning programs such as interactive games can help to foster independent learning, being ‘untiring, non-judgemental’ and adaptable to individual needs. They support the self-activity underpinning constructivist principles of education, as the student ‘becomes responsible for his own actions’. However the teacher will often need to observe and support students in these individualised learning environments. ICT can also foster collaborative learning, although most technology is geared toward individual use. CDROMs are better than the Internet in that they do not offer distracting links and material usually appears on screen more quickly. ICT also presents problems for languages education. Technology becomes obsolete very quickly, with hardware needing to be replaced to cope with swiftly changing software. Teachers may become dependent on IT help or may be called on to troubleshoot technical problems. Use of technology may require a physical move to a computer lab, interrupting lessons. Automated feedback to students may not distinguish between trivial errors (eg a wrong keystroke) and serious ones, which risks frustrating and demoralising the learner. ICT places significant new demands on teachers. Teachers need to be able to interpret results that automated programs provide about students' work. Teachers must be able to evaluate and select suitable operating software and subject content, and integrate ICT effectively with alternative tools, and with the curriculum more broadly. Teachers also need to ensure that the technology is suited to their specific student groups.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsComputer-based training
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Connecting preparation with reality: primary principals' experiences of their first year out in Western Australia
Volume 13 Number 1, Winter 2007; Pages 81–90
A 2006 study in Western Australia has investigated primary school principals’ perceptions of how well their preparation for the position met their needs during their first year in the role. The research was part of the International Study of Principals’ Preparation (ISPP), a major project across eight countries. The Western Australian study involved five principals at small non-metropolitan schools, where new principals in the State are typically posted. The participants, nominated by the State's Department of Education and Training, were all new to the position and to their current school. Using semi-structured interviews, researchers asked participants to describe critical incidents during their first few weeks in the job. Group discussions followed half-way through their first year, with a second round of interviews to be completed at the end of the year. The article summarises selected narratives from the participants. Their accounts highlight three types of experience commonly found demanding and stressful. Firstly, the participants felt unprepared for the intensity of their personal interactions, in which they had to come to terms with the personalities of individual parents, staff and departmental officials. Secondly, they had to manage conflicting demands built into their role. For example, they had to meet school-level needs while simultaneously meeting demanding accountability requirements at system level. Another example was the need to provide strong leadership while also working collaboratively with staff. Thirdly, they described their struggle to cope with the effects that these demands placed on their own personal lives. Preparation to become a principal typically relies on the ‘apprenticeship’ model as teachers move into roles as school leaders. This preparation does not appear to be sufficient, especially in view of the growing complexity of the position and increasing recognition of its importance for improving education. Principal preparation also needs to move beyond narrow, technicist training models. Further stages of the study aim to capture longitudinal information about principals’ development and professional socialisation.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Western Australia (WA)
The dance of influence: professional relationships evolve as teachers and administrators engage in whole school renewal
Volume 13 Number 1, Winter 2007; Pages 91–107
The process of improving a school tends to disrupt the established professional relationships within it. One example is ‘Eucalypt Grove’, a government primary school in Queensland. In the late 1990s the school began to encounter a different student population, more demanding in terms of behaviour management, as the semi-rural environment was overtaken by Brisbane’s suburbs. However a popular new principal had been able to deal with these issues. He drew on Eucalypt Grove’s close-knit professional community and his own formal and elaborate model for managing organisational change in a school. As a result, the Eucalypt Grove enjoyed a new period of stability and high morale. However a process of school renewal then raised new issues. In 2000, the school joined in an education district initiative based on the IDEAS model, designed to promote collaboration around school improvement. The model applies the concept of ‘parallel leadership’, relying on 'mutualism' (mutual trust and respect between administrators and school leaders), a sense of shared purpose, and allowance for individual expression’. It also emphasises the role of teachers as leaders. The authors studied the progress of the school’s IDEAS project by analysing relevant documents and artefacts and then interviewing participants. The article reports on comments received from the principal, the local IDEAS facilitator (who was also deputy principal) and a member of the school’s IDEAS management team. Teachers’ intensive discussions during the project acted to deprivatise their teaching practice and enhance their valuation of their own work. Some of the participants now began to see the principal’s style as ‘paternalistic’, presenting him with of challenge stepping back to allow more independent learning by other professional staff.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
A ten-dimensional model of communication in schools
In New South Wales, 52 Catholic primary schools have taken part in a study on organisation communication and school leadership. A total of 356 staff took part, including executive teachers, classroom teachers and teaching aides. Catholic schools were selected for study due to ‘their broad cultural similarities’. Participants completed a questionnaire designed to probe elements of organisation communication such as ‘supportiveness, direction, school ethos and culture, communication load, openness, accuracy and participation in decision-making’. The study identified ten dimensions of communication within the schools. In horizontal supportive communication, teachers advise and encourage other staff working with their year level, typically in an informal way. Downward supportive communication refers to support and encouragement provided by the principal to other staff. These two forms of communication were the strongest identified in the study, perhaps reflecting the surrounding Catholic ethos. Upward supportive communication indicates staff support for principals. Directive communication involves measures by principals to direct or influence the work or behaviour of teachers. Cultural communication transmits and strengthens elements of school culture. It is important during induction of new staff and also covers affirmation of the school’s past events and achievements. Democratic communication refers to measures taken by principals to invite staff input into decision making. Vertical load of communication is a reference to the extent of information flow. Vertical openness of communication refers to the honesty and openness of such flow, and includes the likelihood of staff presenting bad news to the principal without fear of consequences. Principals need to be aware of communication patterns in their school and should encourage supportive, democratic and cultural forms of communication.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Scaffolding Literacy meets ESL: some insights from ACT classrooms
Volume 17 Number 1, August 2007; Pages 5–14
A 2005 study of 18 primary and secondary schools in Canberra found that the Scaffolding Literacy pedagogy can be successfully applied to English Second Language (ESL) contexts when it is explicitly adjusted to meet the needs of ESL students. In Scaffolding Literacy (also known as Learning to Read, Reading to Learn), teachers select a challenging, well-written and age-appropriate narrative text which a student reads repeatedly with highly structured support. When the student achieves 90% fluency with the text, it is analysed by teachers and students in terms of language, spelling and syntax, and then used as the basis for an independent writing task. Some aspects of the pedagogy are appropriate for ESL students, but other aspects should be adjusted. The pedagogy's use of well-written narrative helps engage ESL students, who can often become frustrated and disengaged in traditional literacy tasks. In ESL classrooms, practitioners should include 'cultural relevance' as a selection criterion for text selection. In the ‘transformations’ phase of Scaffolding Literacy, students physically manipulate excerpts from the text written on cards into units of meaning. A Scaffolding Literacy teacher would usually ask supportive questions such as ‘Does this sound right?’, however, ESL students cannot draw on the same basic syntactic awareness as native speakers. Teachers of ESL learners support students’ manipulations with explanations (for example, ‘We can move this group of words here, but it changes the meaning in this way’). Spelling words in the original Scaffolding Literacy program are taken from the excerpt and students are explicitly shown how to look at words as common letter patterns. The ESL-adjusted pedagogy includes additional focus on pronunciation of unfamiliar words. Finally, students draw on the language patterns encountered in texts to create their own piece of writing. This aspect of Scaffolding Literacy is particularly appropriate for ESL students, as they can take a syntactic structure that has been modelled and explained, and use it to tell their own story. This activity builds students’ confidence and enthuses them to take risks with English.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEnglish as an additional language
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
Reflections on numeracy and streaming in mathematics education
Volume 63 Number 2, 2007; Pages 28–33
Numeracy means having ‘the mathematical tools appropriate to the tasks one is engaged in from day to day, and the inclination to use them’. The elements that constitute numeracy will therefore vary between people according to the nature of the tasks they face. For this reason, it may be useful to differentiate maths instruction according to the different uses that students expect to make of the subject. Students’ motivations for the study of maths are guided in part by the use they see for the subject in future careers, so maths courses could be aligned to prepare for future careers (eg in administration, the trades, or research and technology). Distinguishing maths subjects in this way would be more useful than streaming by perceived ability level. Streaming does have the advantage of allowing teachers to pitch a lesson at a level of difficulty suitable for all members in a class. However, it demotivates students who are not selected for advanced classes, encouraging disdainful attitudes towards the subject that block pupils from seeing the potential relevance of maths to their life plans. The authors’ arguments are drawn as inferences from his experience teaching Year 8 and 9 students at a government secondary school in Canberra.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Ability grouping in education
A trickle from the pipeline: why girls under-participate in maths
Volume 6 Number 3, August 2007; Pages 37–41
Girls in Australia perform as well as boys at maths, but less often select high-level maths subjects in senior school, or maths-based careers. In economic terms, this tendency aggravates skills shortages. It also aggravates gender inequality, as it means that girls tend to close off options for many higher paid jobs requiring mathematical knowledge. One barrier to girls’ participation in maths is the culture that dominates maths-based careers, which is shaped by ‘the values of the majority of male professionals’ and does not, for example, accommodate women’s family commitments. However, many other factors inhibiting girls from maths-based careers can be dealt with by educators. For instance, educators can reduce the perception of maths as a ‘male’ career by presenting biographies of successful female mathematicians. They can replace abstract, decontextualised mathematical activities with ones addressed to social needs, an approach that has been found to interest girls in the subject. Parents should be encouraged to provide maths-based activities for their children, especially their daughters. A number of educational reforms that promise to improve teaching generally have also been shown to have particular value for girls. They include replacing competition with cooperative work or individualised instruction; encouraging a ‘mastery’ orientation to learning that promotes the intrinsic value of learning; and making students more aware of the wide range of careers that demand mathematical knowledge.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsGirls' education
Volume 86 Number 17, 8 October 2007
Recent changes to mathematics teaching in New Zealand have required new ways of supporting teachers. One such innovation is the Ministry of Education’s secondment of 22 teachers to work as mathematics teaching coaches for teachers in Wellington, Otago, Manawatu, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty. The coaches receive two days of training and support from a mentor, as well as release time in which to coach their colleagues. Mentors alert coaches to resources, professional readings and key messages, and suggest approaches to coaching teachers. Coaches work with Year 6-8 maths teachers from their schools and from nearby schools, assisting them with contemporary mathematics pedagogy. Coaches also help strengthen teachers’ conceptual understanding of mathematics topics by presenting content in new ways. Developing a strong conceptual base is particularly important for maths teachers of Years 7 and 8, when student numeracy levels tend to vary widely. Coaches assist teachers individually, analysing areas of difficulty and developing plans for improvement. This individualised learning model has been identified as a major strength of the program, as other professional learning initiatives often provide more generalised, team-directed instruction. Following initial consultations, the coach may model a maths class for the teacher, or observe the teacher’s technique and offer feedback. Coaching is therefore closely aligned to each teacher’s individual needs and context. Coaches also run workshops where they identify needs common to several teachers. Teachers and coaches recognise the value of peer-run professional learning, which allows teachers to feel more comfortable with identifying areas for improvement, and more at ease when implementing new pedagogies. The program has allowed coaches more time to concentrate on helping their peers to implement new teaching methods and learn about new teaching resources. This abstract draws on material from several articles in the 8 October 2007 issue of New Zealand Education Gazette: Maths help multiplies, An equation for confidence, The pilot and its purpose and Tools for understanding.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Representation of problem-solving procedures: a comparative look at China, Singapore, and US mathematics textbooks
Volume 66, September 2007; Pages 61–75
A study has investigated how well mathematics textbooks represent problem-solving procedures for lower secondary students. The study analysed nine mathematics textbooks used in China, Singapore or the USA. Initially, the textbooks were assessed and compared in terms of how well they helped students apply a set of general problem strategies. The strategies were: ‘understand the problem’, ‘devise a plan’, ‘carry out the plan’ and ‘look back’. These five elements of problem solving were taken from G Polya’s four stage model, the one used most widely in maths’ instruction. Analysis revealed that texts from China and Singapore focused heavily on the ‘carry out the plan’ stage, whereas US texts tended to cover at least two of the stages in the representation of problem solutions. Despite the Singapore mathematics curriculum’s ostensible emphasis on meta-cognition, the Singapore textbooks contained the fewest demonstrations of the ‘looking back’ stage designed to promote reflection on the problem-solving process. Textbooks from the USA and China were also more explicit in naming particular stages in the problem-solving process. After comparing the general problem-solving strategies offered in the texts, the study then compared the textbooks’ use of specific strategies, or heuristics, such as ‘draw a diagram’, ‘use an equation’, and ‘restate the problem’. The study found that the Singapore textbooks taught the widest range of specific strategies and referred to them most explicitly. By contrast, Chinese textbooks taught specific heuristics implicitly, and did not name or list heuristics. Evidence suggests that explicit instruction in heuristics is beneficial for students. However, specific problem-solving strategies should be integrated with other topics, and in this respect the Singaporean texts needed improvement. The study also found considerable gaps between national syllabuses and the textbooks which are supposed to follow them. Curriculum developers and textbook authors should work to correct this misalignment.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
United States of America (USA)
Victorian education goes global
25 October 2007; Pages 10–11
A variety of programs around Victoria are attempting to prepare students for work and life in an increasingly interconnected world. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development recently sponsored 80 Victorian educators to attend the Linking Latitudes Conference in India. At the conference, 220 education professionals from Australia and New Zealand were immersed in India’s diverse culture and economy, heard speakers from the Indian education community and met with local students, teachers and principals in a wide range of schools. Approximately 25% of Victorian international students are Indian, and, for many teachers, the conference emphasised the importance of encouraging effective cross-cultural communication in schools. During the conference, Brent Brickhill of Pascoe Vale South Primary School collaborated with an Indian ICT teacher to establish a teleconferencing project between students at their schools. However, the DEECD International Division emphasises that Victorian schools’ highly diverse populations are a rich resource in themselves. For example, civics and citizenship classes can be enriched by exploring the backgrounds and perspectives of international students in the class. Another DEECD initiative, the Timor-Leste Friendship School project, allows Victorian students to send letters and undertake project work with students from East Timor. Because the 157 students at Footscray Primary school speak 26 different languages at home, the school now offers a bilingual Vietnamese program for all interested Prep-to-Year-2 students. A group of these students have just returned from a trip to Phuoc Tien Primary School in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and will receive a visit from this sister school in 2008. Wellington Secondary College presently hosts around 80 international students from China, Germany, South Korea, Vietnam, India, and Malaysia, most of whom are living with local families. The College also receives regular visits from overseas principal delegations, which are eager to observe a successful approach to educating students from a diversity of backgrounds. Victoria’s education system is one of three worldwide selected as an OECD ‘Improving School Leadership’ case study. A school based on the ‘Victorian model’ and utilising Victorian expertise was recently established in the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah.
Volume 33 Number 2, June 2007; Pages 163–175
The article discusses the role of teachers in implementing curriculum reform, in the context of the Slovenian school system. Schools face the challenge to adapt to larger and more culturally diverse student populations, the integration of special needs children into mainstream schools, new technology and new forms of pedagogy. Slovenia has recently implemented thorough curricular reform addressing these challenges, however, due to a lack of effective professional development and pre-service training, the country’s teachers are uncomfortable with the proposed new forms of pedagogy. A recent study of the self-perceptions of 468 primary and secondary teachers in Slovenia found that most were unaware of the aims of the reformed curriculum. This finding has negative implications for the reform, as without a thorough understanding of the purpose of reformed pedagogies, teachers are unlikely to risk straying from the traditional teaching techniques. The study also found that teachers viewed themselves as better qualified in traditional pedagogies than in proposed new teaching methods. Teachers felt that they were most effective in the areas of introducing subject content and using new ‘lecturing’ techniques, and considered themselves less qualified in progressive, student-centred pedagogies such as introducing strategies of learning to students, emphasising the links between subjects, and integrating children with special needs. Educational reform must therefore attempt to change teachers’ perceptions of themselves as educators by developing a viewpoint of ‘extended professionalism’, in which teachers accept moral responsibility for the effects of their professional activities. To achieve this, professional development programs must focus on introducing progressive pedagogies rather than emphasising content. Teacher education should aim to develop teachers’ perceptions of themselves as life-long learners, emphasising constructivist pedagogies and continual professional learning. Within the present structure of schools, teachers have limited autonomy in terms of innovation and reflective practice. Schools must therefore develop professional environments which are conducive to reform, adjusting curriculum, learning standards, assessment and professional development. In order for reform to succeed, education systems must provide schools and teachers with the necessary support mechanisms to encourage real, rather than cursory, implementation of change.
Volume 65 Number 2, October 2007; Pages 48–54
In schools, the experiences and cultural knowledge of migrant students are generally obscured, as the curriculum is designed to assess students according the priorities of the dominant culture. Schools unintentionally project an image of immigrant, migrant or refugee student as ‘less-than-ideal’, and as problematic in terms of language, cultural integration, parental participation, school readiness and cultural knowledge. Skills-based academic interventions, while beneficial for students’ academic development, can sometimes exacerbate this issue by confining migrant students’ educational experiences to remediation. One way to counteract this negative culture is to use students’ narratives as a way of framing diversity in a positive light. Asking students to share their stories can help students understand how to use their personal background knowledge and subjective experience to understand curricular content. Sharing stories can also have interpersonal value, promoting a more inclusive classroom community. Students’ stories can serve as a point of departure from which to explore cultural expression, geopolitics, ethics and citizenship. Many migrant students can thus learn to appreciate how their own experience or background has helped develop their understanding of complex social issues. Likewise, by hearing their peers’ stories, non-migrant students can be inspired to consider perspectives and engage with issues they may not have understood otherwise. The incorporation of students’ narratives into curricula can challenge teachers to relinquish control over intellectual authority, and teachers need to develop strategies with which to approach such an open-ended pedagogy. Teachers should familiarise themselves with books about the experiences of immigrant children and families, and even select appropriate passages from adult novels for discussion. However, multicultural students should also be encouraged to interact meaningfully with literature from the Western canon. For example, one secondary class in the USA rewrote Hamlet as a bilingual script set in the context of the colonisation of Puerto Rico. Teachers should also allow space for incorporating narratives drawn from other media, such as cultural artefacts, drama or pop culture. Teachers must continually emphasise to students that their experience and their voice matters. Such forms of intervention are more challenging, but also more rewarding, encompassing the complexity and potential of students’ identities.
There are no Conferences available in this issue.