Preparing leaders for the future: a systematic perspective
Volume 13 Number 2, 2007; Pages 66–78
The Leaders for the Future (LFF) program, developed by the Sydney Catholic Education Office, aims to encourage Catholic school teachers in Sydney to take on leadership roles. The program addresses a range of concerns. There are few applicants for principal positions. There is a need ‘to focus the attention of future leaders on the mission of the Catholic Church in education’. Another issue is that the average age of principals is increasing. This trend is a departure from the 1960s and 1970s when many Catholic principals were in their thirties. The ageing of leadership in part reflects the fact that more experienced educators have been better placed to deal with the growing demands of the education environment. However, more leadership opportunities for young staff would also help to stem the departure of talented young teachers from the profession. The LFF framework is consistent with that used by the NCSL in England, based on building local collaboration, positive cultures, diagnosing needs, and strategic development. The free LFF program commenced in late 2005 with 265 young teachers participating, and continued over the next ten months. Participants’ evaluations were very positive, with 90 per cent indicating their intention to apply for a leadership position in future. An evaluation of the LFF was also undertaken by the Australian Catholic University, again with positive findings. The article includes a substantial excerpt from the evaluation. By July 2007 four LFF graduates had been accepted into leadership positions. It is intended to repeat the LFF program in 2009. The LFF forms part of the Catholic School Leadership Program which continues to assist educators over 30 years of age. While appointing young principals is an attractive option, it raises several issues. There needs to be an ‘escape clause’ for both employer and employee, given that in an earlier period many young Religious sisters and brothers in school leadership positions later returned to the classroom. The salary implications of a return from leadership roles need to be worked out. Quality mentoring is also needed for new young leaders.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
New South Wales (NSW)
International perspectives of principal preparation: how does Australia fare?
Volume 13 Number 2, 2007; Pages 1–14
The International Study of Principal Preparation (ISPP) project has revealed differences in methods for preparing and training new principals. Two contrasting approaches to this task are the highly formal, systematised qualifications that are compulsory in
Western Australia (WA)
What do effective teachers of literacy do? Subject knowledge and pedagogical choices for literacy
Volume 41 Number 3, 15 November 2007; Pages 137–146
The article describes three key research reports on the nature of good literacy teaching, and three case studies of effective literacy teachers of Year 2 students. The issues are considered in the context of the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) in
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
English language teaching
The effects of a comprehensive reading intervention programme for Grade 3 children
Volume 30 Number 3, August 2007; Pages 270–286
Early intervention programs have been shown to significantly improve the performance of children with reading difficulties. A study in Norway has tested the effectiveness of one of these intervention programs, the comprehensive EMMA (Epi-Meta-Mastery-Approach). A group of 37 low-performing Grade 2 students, who had scored below the 20th percentile on a national reading test, participated in the intervention program. This program is widely used in Norway and Denmark for remedial reading purposes. EMMA lessons focus on the integration of word-level, sentence-level and text-level strategies. They consist of three stages: supported reading of connected text; word and/or sentence study; and, finally, independent reading of the same connected text. Tailoring lessons to the individual student is emphasised, as well as a discussion with each child at the end of every lesson to evaluate the child’s own strategies and performance during the lesson. The intervention examined in this study took place over two intensive treatment periods of ten and five weeks. The 37 children participating in the program were matched with a control group of 36 children with similar reading ability. The control group remained in their normal classes but intensive periods analogous to those for the EMMA group were introduced in the form of very closely followed-up homework, or extra material from a remedial centre. EMMA lessons were administered in groups of four in line with research suggesting that small-group instruction may be as effective as individual instruction for remedial reading. The researchers found that the EMMA intervention group showed significant improvement relative to the controls in scores for word reading, spelling and non-word reading (an important indicator of skill in phonological decoding). The five-week intervention period resulted in an average increase of 22 weeks in reading age. Whereas many similar intervention methods have seen greater improvements for girls than boys, in this study no gender difference was found. The researchers suggest that this may be related to the way this method directly involves each student in evaluating their own learning process, a key aspect for intervention with boys of that age.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Enhancing the phonological awareness and language skills of socially disadvantaged preschoolers: an interdisciplinary program
Volume 23 Number 3, 2007; Pages 267–286
Several studies have questioned the effectiveness of interventions that target phonological awareness (PA) without also addressing general language skills. The issue is of particular interest with regard to children of low socioeconomic status (SES) background, who may be hindered by a lack of exposure to print materials at home. The results of two Australian studies are reported in the article. The first study compared 72 children at a preschool catering to a low SES community with 58 children from an average SES preschool. Evidence was found reinforcing the link between low-SES and preschool language difficulties. The second study evaluated the effectiveness of an intervention program focused on language skills as well as PA. Ninety-seven children at a low SES Queensland preschool were randomly divided between an intervention group that participated in the program and a control group that did not participate. The program included story retelling using props and role-play, categorisation activities such as sorting pictures by theme, recalling story events and following directions. The program was woven into normal preschool activities. Children attended the preschool for five days a fortnight, and were tested at the end of each school term. Phonological awareness scores were significantly greater in the intervention group than the controls on all testing occasions. General language skills, however, showed significant improvement only in the follow-up testing three months after the intervention. The delay may be because children need time to consolidate and generalise the language skills learnt in class. It is therefore important that studies evaluating intervention programs include follow-up testing some time after the intervention.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Early childhood education
Transformation and emotional literacy: the role of school leaders in developing a caring community
Volume 13 Number 1, 2007; Pages 16–30
A recent study of school leadership and ‘emotional literacy’ has looked at how principals have developed a positive and caring school community. The study covered four primary and two secondary schools, five in New South Wales and one in Victoria, two of them Catholic and four of them government. They spanned a range of demographic groups, one having a large proportion of Aboriginal students. Evidence was gathered from interviews with the six principals, and, at four schools, from interviews, questionnaires and focus group discussions with staff and with students. These schools were selected as 'making a concerted effort to promote positive relationships throughout the organisation'. A picture emerged of a strong and clearly articulated vision from the principal, standing at the centre of an expanding circle of relationships between staff, students and the wider community. This vision was centred around a passion to help each individual student pursue their aspirations. In one example, ‘No Put Down Zone’ signs were posted in classrooms, staffroom and offices, which led to open conversations about the expectations they conveyed. A focus on staff wellbeing and recognition also emerged as extremely important. For instance, staff welcomed the practice of putting individual teacher ‘thank-yous’ at the start of each weekly bulletin. Other aspects of effective leadership that became apparent were emotional intelligence, including qualities such as optimism and resilience, patience and empathy. The main difficulties principals encountered occurred where the interests of staff and students seemed to conflict, as when staff members were not permitted to exclude a disruptive student from class. Access to the principal, in particular equality of access, was an important issue for staff. Some principals also found the effort and personal cost of implementing change to be exhausting. The sustainability of a principal's vision was linked to an effort to distribute power throughout the school.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Hands-on versus teacher-centred experiments in soil ecology
Volume 25 Number 3, November 2007; Pages 329–338
A study in Germany has compared the impact of teacher-centred and learner-centred experiments in biology classes. A middle school teacher delivered a lesson in soil ecology to four classes of Grades 5 and 6 students using three experiments. The teacher’s introduction to the lesson, the experiments and the teacher's’ subsequent explanation of results were similar in all four classes, but while two of the classes received a ‘teacher-centred’ lesson in which students observed the teacher conducting each experiment, students in the two ‘learner-centred’ classes conducted the experiments themselves. A test prior to the lesson established that students of the teacher-centred and learner-centred treatment groups had equivalent prior knowledge, and a test conducted immediately following the experiments also showed similar scores between treatment groups. However, after a delay of four weeks, students were administered a retention test comprising the same questions as the post-experimental test. Students who participated in the learner-centred classes scored significantly higher on the retention test. Girls scored higher than boys in both treatments, which researchers considered typical of biology classes. Students were later provided with a survey in which they rated the lessons’ interest and difficulty and overall quality. Students from both groups reported strong levels of interest during the class with students from the learner-centred group expressing significantly higher interest. Students rated the difficulty of the two types of class similarly, and boys in both treatment groups considered the classes more difficult. The study found that students retained more knowledge from the lesson when they conducted experiments themselves, but results from student surveys indicate that students enjoyed the experiments in both types of classes. Because the novel context of a learner-centred experiment-based class can confuse young students, student investigations should be introduced incrementally in primary school settings, starting with very simple experiments, materials and concepts. The experiments chosen for this study were explicitly chosen for their simplicity.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
Perceptions about health in primary school-aged children
Volume 53 Number 4, December 2007; Pages 32–35
A recent study of children’s beliefs about health has highlighted the need for further health, nutrition and human biology education. Ninety students from a small government primary school in Sydney were asked to draw pictures of healthy and unhealthy people their own age, describe their pictures in a writing task and then explain their depictions in short interviews with researchers. The study found that children ascribed personal qualities to concepts of healthy and unhealthy people, describing healthy people as ‘happy, social and enjoying the outdoors’ and unhealthy people as ‘sad, often alone, overweight or obese’, suggesting an awareness of social stigmatisation. Children drew healthy people as either of medium build or skinny, and unhealthy people with large, rounded figures and broken limbs. Children often drew muscles on healthy people, but could not describe their function until around Grade 3. Children had clear ideas about the body types and physical appearances associated with healthy and unhealthy people but were unable to explain why body type was important to health. Older girls frequently emphasised the importance of having a ‘good figure’ while older boys focused on the presence or absence of muscles. Grade 5 girls demonstrated a strong awareness of the cause and effect of anorexia on body type and wellbeing. All students considered sport, exercise, and playing with friends to be healthy activities, and several children combined this concept with a healthy diet. From Grade 3, children began to discuss fitness in terms of energy levels and began to link smoking, illegal drugs and alcohol with ill health. Children frequently identified fruit and vegetables as healthy and ‘junk food’, lollies and great quantities of food as unhealthy. However, young children could not describe the benefits of healthy food, despite some awareness of terms such as vitamins, calcium, fibre and sugar. Very few children recognised meat as a healthy food. The study found that children developed their own ‘schema’ for health in the absence of accurate information, and recommended that teachers capitalise on children’s existing knowledge of, for example, muscles, to discuss body systems and biological functions.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsHealth education
The good, the bad and the irrelevant: a brief guide to education research
Volume 3 Number 3, November 2007; Pages 1–7
Educational policy and practice is best informed by high-quality research evidence, but teachers and leaders often struggle to find appropriate research literature and have difficuly in interpreting it. Although the Internet can be a useful tool, it can also be misleading. Information on the Internet is not necessarily either up-to-date or accurate. For instance, preliminary reports may be highlighted by Web search engines even after they have been substantially changed or discredited during peer review. During peer review, research is scrutinized by professional researchers for flaws in assumptions, methods and conclusions, and sourcing research from peer-reviewed journals is therefore an appropriate way to ensure that your resources meet the minimal professional standards. Most educators find that time constraints hinder their reading. A practical solution to this dilemma is to read research syntheses and literature reviews on relevant topics. Web databases also provide access to millions of journal articles. In evaluating research, educators should look for research that is conducted under experimental conditions or case studies conducted in a similar context to an educator's own, allowing the findings to be generalised. Education leaders should help teach others to find and interpret research, and encourage staff to use research findings in their work. When talking to staff, leaders should discuss and cite research so that teachers become comfortable with the terminology. Participating in research projects can also emphasise to staff the importance of research. Educators should also be aware that all research is tentative due to the uncertainty of control conditions and accounting for change. The article recommends a range of US-based sources for research, including the US National Schools Board Association, the Education Resources Information Center, JSTOR and ProQuest Education Journals.
Subject HeadingsEducation research
Auditing the use of genetics educational technologies in Australian secondary schools
Volume 53 Number 4, 2007; Pages 36–40
Educational technologies are well suited to genetics education, as they can be updated quickly in line with the field's rapidly advancing knowledge base. Educational technologies also allow students to observe, simulate or recreate genetic principles which are difficult to illustrate in regular practical work because of cost or equipment requirements. This has been shown to improve students’ comprehension of more abstract genetics concepts. In order to audit the use of educational technologies in Australian genetics classrooms, a questionnaire was distributed at the 2005 conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association and through the Science Teachers Association of Victoria newsletter. The questionnaire received 224 responses, 187 of which were completed by secondary school genetics teachers. The sample compiled from these responses represented all states of Australia, although Victoria and New South Wales were significantly overrepresented. The audit found that over 140 different technologies were used in genetics classes around Australia, with only 17.6% of teachers reporting that they did not use any educational technologies in preparation or teaching. Websites were the most commonly used type of technology, with over one-third of teachers using websites in planning and teaching. Videos accounted for one-third of resources cited, but teachers also reported using PowerPoint presentations, television programs, DVDs and software programs. Five specific technologies accounted for 32.6% of all reported usage: the Biotechnology online website, the DNA interactive DVD and website, the Drosophila Genetics Lab CD-ROM, and the Genetic Science Learning Center website. Teachers’ responses showed that the educational technologies were mainly used in computer laboratories rather than science labs, suggesting that students were involved in using, rather than just viewing, the technologies. The audit found that genetics educational technologies are readily available to teachers, and a further study will evaluate the effectiveness of these resources. This article also contains a list of popular genetics educational technologies available to Australian secondary school science teachers.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Asking the right questions: teachers' questions can build students' English language skills
Volume 29 Number 1, Winter 2008; Pages 46–52
Teachers often feel ill-equipped to engage English language learners (ELLs), fearing that students’ lack of English comprehension will prevent them from successfully responding to direct questions. The ‘tiered questions’ model can address this issue while also meeting the needs of mainstream students. The authors outline the model, which is explained more fully in their book Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners. Tiered questions are formed taking into account a student's language proficiency level, providing ELLs with opportunities to use their developing language skills and allowing teachers to assess ELLs’ level of content comprehension. The strategy requires teachers to identify individual students' level of language acquisition and apply a five-stage model. In the first stage – ‘preproduction’ – a student has minimal comprehension and cannot verbalise in English, but instead nods ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ and can draw and point in response to basic prompts such as ‘Where is…?’ and ‘Circle the...'. At the other end of the spectrum, students at ‘intermediate fluency’ and ‘advanced fluency’ levels have near-native level of comprehension and speech respectively, and can respond to questions such as ‘What would happen if…?’ and ‘Why do you think…?’, or restate information in their own words. Teachers should ask questions phrased at a level equivalent to students’ understanding or, in some cases, ask questions at a higher level with appropriate scaffolding in order to ‘nudge’ a student towards a higher level of performance. Teachers should also be aware that even students in the preproduction stage of acquisition can respond to higher-level analytical and evaluative questions if phrased appropriately. The article includes a table illustrating the types of prompts which can effectively engage students from different language acquisition levels in different cognitive tasks. The article also provides a model of professional development in which a teacher and colleague analyse lesson transcripts, assessing whether their questions are language-level appropriate and whether cognitively demanding questions are being asked of all students.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
English as an additional language
It's easy being green: sustainability in schools
November 2007; Pages 12–15
Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) in Melbourne has developed a range of projects that promote sustainable living. When the school began planning for a new Years 3–6 building six years ago, sustainability considerations informed design and building philosophies. The concrete floor slabs contain 20% fly ash, a by-product of coal power stations, reducing the need for manufactured cement. The wall lining is made from recycled drink bottles, and the flooring is reconstituted bamboo timber. Some sections of the old building were retained as part of the new centre, and this decision saved 90,000 bricks as well as meeting the college’s budget needs. The roof collects rainwater which is stored in a 120,000 litre underground tank and used for sewerage and irrigation. An audit of water usage confirmed the efficiency of the college by industry standards. The new state-of-the-art facility provides flexible learning spaces, a large library, and specialist teaching areas, and features bright colour schemes and sound-proof doors. The community have embraced the new building and appreciate the college retaining beloved features of the old area such as the tram in the playground and a large willow tree. One parent was pleased to hear her daughter describe the building as ‘a fantastic, huge cubby house’. Other green initiatives have included a partnership with Fuji Xerox, which has reduced the school’s volume of printing by 37% and ensured that all print materials are recycled. MLC’s ‘Marshmead’ residential community program, where Year 9 students spend one term in a remote conservation reserve, provides an opportunity to learn about the natural environment and consider the impact of energy use. Marshmead is located on a working farm without mains electricity, and students quickly learn that long hot showers may impact the availability of hot water supply in the evening. Students study an environmentally focussed curriculum exploring conservation and the use of renewable energy sources. At the urban campus, students influence school policy through the Sustainability Committee, a group of students and staff from all levels of the school who meet to discuss environmental initiatives such as rubbish-free lunches through the ‘We want your food nude!’ campaign.
Subject HeadingsSchool partnerships
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