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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Abstracts

Factors influencing pre-service teachers' decisions to become secondary science and mathematics teachers

Volume 53 Number 4, December 2007; Pages 28–31
Vaille Dawson

A study of education students at five Western Australian universities has been conducted to suggest ways to increase student numbers in tertiary maths and science education courses. In late 2006 and early 2007 researchers surveyed 150 students, asking about motivations to take teaching courses, why they chose science or maths as areas of study, and the challenges they expected to encounter as teachers. The students were enrolled in either a year-long graduate diploma in education or a four-year undergraduate double degree in science and education. Overall 83 per cent were in science-related, and 17 per cent were in maths-related education courses. The most common reason for studying teaching, given by 36 per cent of participants, was the desire to make a difference in young people’s lives. Working conditions and salary were also important. Liking young people, a love of maths and/or science, positive teaching experiences and feedback, and having had a good science or maths teacher were other common reasons for studying teaching. The main reasons for studying tertiary science or mathematics was enjoyment of the subject, given by almost two-thirds of respondents. Other reasons were previous success in maths and science, and having had a good science or maths teacher. The most common challenges they expected to face were classroom management, high workload, lack of self-confidence, lack of content knowledge, and accommodating students of different abilities. Maths students were less likely to cite content knowledge as a challenge but more likely to worry about motivating students to learn maths. Recommendations of the study include cultivating a desire to ‘make a difference’ in senior high school students, perhaps through opportunities for positive peer teaching experiences. Making students feel successful at maths and science, and support for inspiring teachers to remain in the classroom, will also be important in increasing the number of high-quality maths and science teachers in the future.

Key Learning Areas

Science
Mathematics

Subject Headings

Science teaching
Mathematics teaching
Teacher training
Teaching profession
Teachers' employment
Western Australia (WA)

A national overview of services and resources for principal wellbeing in the primary sector: providing refuelling pit-stops for principals

Number 104, February 2008
Kathy Lacey

A national survey of primary school principals has explored the services available to promote principal health and wellbeing. The research, commissioned by the Australian Primary Principals’ Association (APPA), was conducted in 2006 via telephone focus groups with experienced principals. The principals had volunteered to participate and came from the government and Catholic sectors. All had between 11 and 19 years’ experience in the role. General awareness of the wellbeing services available tended to be low, with principals often not seeking help until it was ‘too late’. Proactive strategies for principal wellbeing, such as peer support networks and high-level professional development opportunities, were highly valued when available. However, principals felt reluctant to confide in colleagues when the colleague might appear on their next job selection panel. Two particularly beneficial practices in the Western Australian Catholic sector were the employment of two retired principals to give advice and regular contact with principals in remote and rural areas. Employer-paid counselling is widely used as a reactive strategy in times of crisis, such as a death in the school community or a fire. This is seen as extremely helpful. Counselling tends to be provided by employers only in cases of acute need. When principals do access counselling services regularly, this is often self-funded, surrounded by a culture of silence, and may raise concerns about confidentiality. Principals viewed paid sabbatical leave, offered after five to seven years of service in the Catholic sector, most positively. This practice is recommended for implementation in all sectors. Sabbatical leave was seen not as a time of rest but of learning, reflection and professional growth. Other key recommendations include paid leave for an annual health check, as in Queensland; an expectation that principals will attend network meetings; and unlimited paid counselling. The opportunity to participate in ‘job swaps’ with other principals and the introduction of flexible work options, such as part-time co-principalship, are also recommended. The article is based on the extended report and includes a table summarising the personal and professional wellbeing services and resources according to sector (Government, Catholic and Independent) in each state.

KLA

Subject Headings

School principals
Primary education
School leadership
Health

Refugees in our schools

December 2007; Pages 15–19
Dorothy Hoddinott, Andrea Gunton

In a set of articles educators discuss the integration of refugee children from Africa into Australian schools. Dorothy Hoddinott is principal of Holroyd High School, Sydney. Some of her refugee students have had no prior schooling, and many arrived illiterate. The school works closely with the STARTTS service and provides access to counselling. Schools themselves are a strong stabilising influence in the students’ lives through attendance in class, a focus on learning and symbolic but powerful normalising experiences such as wearing uniforms and having basic equipment in common with other children. Extreme behaviour is rare as the refugee children and their families are eager for personal stability and progress. The refugee students sometimes ‘need to become children again’, so displays of ordinary ‘naughtiness’ are positive signs. However, disciplinary processes need to be applied flexibly. The children have individual needs like other students and should not be typecast. Schools need to move beyond a deficit model of simply ‘filling gaps’ in order to take these children forward. Andrea Gunton is an ESL teacher at Glenorchy Primary School, Hobart. The parents of refugee children at her school are usually unable to offer their children much help in integrating due to language barriers and lack of experience with Australian schooling. Families often arrive without money and need time to learn to manage it. Groups of refugees are distinguished from each other more by background experience than by their former nationality. Those from urban backgrounds and who have spent relatively little time in refugee camps are easier to integrate than those from rural backgrounds or having had long stretches in camps. Initial markers of progress with refugee students include informal measures such as ability to follow classroom routines and expectations, amount of detail in drawings, and willingness to share information. Measures of progress become more aligned with those for mainstream students as refugees’ integration progresses. The school incorporates elements of refugee children's cultural background, such as dance, music and children’s games, into lessons. Support from sporting and other community groups is valuable. See also related articles by Sharyn Gill, principal of Campbell Street Primary School, Hobart and by the ESL team at Launceston College.

KLA

Subject Headings

Refugees
Social life and customs
Social adjustment
Children
Behaviour management
Africa
Primary education

Vocational education and training in Australian schools

Volume 34 Number 3, December 2007
Tom Karmel

The number of students in VET in Schools courses has risen sharply and is now very large, covering over 200,000 students – close to one in two. 'VET in Schools' refers to courses that lead to industry-recognised qualifications under the Australian Qualifications Framework, while also contributing to a Year 12 certificate. This definition excludes work experience activities, career education and subjects outside the official VET framework. The definition also excludes apprentices and trainees undertaking VET courses outside school. The success of the VET in Schools program has been widely proclaimed. However, studies by the author and by some other researchers have found mixed outcomes. VET in Schools has widened students’ post-compulsory study options, especially for academically weaker students, ‘with socioeconomic background also playing a role’. VET in Schools seems successful in making students more work ready. Of the students who have left school after Year 11, those who have taken VET in Schools courses have had a much easier transition to work than those who did not take such courses. The effect is particularly strong among females. The program appears to have lifted Year 10 to Year 11 retention rates. However, this success in temporarily retaining less academically inclined students may have contributed to the fall in Year 11 to Year 12 retention rates. Several problems remain for the VET in Schools program. School-based courses mainly lead to lower level Certificates than non-school courses, and employers are often sceptical of the value of VET in Schools courses. In general school-based courses have not broadened beyond traditional vocation-oriented school subjects such as computing, book keeping and home economics. Other problems include resources, meaningful industry involvement and integration of VET into school structures. The current focus on industry competencies might underplay the importance of broad-based training in the labour force.

KLA

Subject Headings

VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Senior secondary education
Transitions in schooling
Educational certificates
Educational evaluation

Teachers, schools and using evidence: considerations of preparedness

Volume 15 Number 1, March 2008; Pages 57–71
Judy M. Parr, Helen S. Timperley

Three studies conducted in New Zealand primary schools have examined teachers’ use of assessment data on student literacy to guide teaching practice. The first study was part of an evaluation of commercial literacy packages. The research focused on early years classes in 67 schools serving low-SES communities, and involved school visits and a questionnaire to teachers. In their judgements of student progress, respondents relied heavily on informal, subjective judgements by teachers and underplayed the value of objective measures. The second study, involving 30 schools, was based on student achievement data requested from schools and a questionnaire to principals and literacy leaders who were asked to judge the effectiveness of several hypothetical literacy programs and testing instruments. Few schools collected and sent back sufficient evidence to evaluate the project. In the questionnaire responses, many teachers struggled to match assessment measures to the learning needs of the students. This result suggests that literacy teachers need to think more critically about their choice of programs and assessment measures, and make sure that assessments target identified student needs. The third study examined the impact of a years 1–8 professional development project on teachers’ practice. The participants, 117 school leaders and classroom teachers, responded to a questionnaire about a hypothetical scenario, in which they were asked to apply student assessment data on literacy to teaching situations. The questionnaire was administered before commencement of the program and again one year later. Respondents did not apply the data very well during the initial questionnaire. Responses improved significantly after the year of practice. Respondents’ answers were significantly more accurate and relevant when the hypothetical scenario called on them to advise a colleague rather than to deal with a situation involving their own students, suggesting strong benefits may be achieved from collaborative assessment. The studies indicate a need to convince teachers and leaders of the value of systematic collection of student data, as well as to further develop educators’ skills in understanding and analysing assessment data. The studies also suggest the need for stronger development of teachers’ pedagogic content knowledge.

KLA

Subject Headings

Assessment
Educational evaluation
New Zealand
Primary education

Enhancing children's social and emotional skills: using evidence-based policy, processes and practices to reduce bullying

Number 169, November 2007; Pages 2–16
Donna Cross, Erin Erceg, Lydia Hearn

A range of longitudinal studies, collectively involving over 14,000 students, have evaluated the effectiveness of various anti-bullying programs. The studies included Friendly Schools and Families (FS&F), a whole-school program for primary schools that involves the entire school community in addressing and preventing bullying behaviour. The studies found that bullying is best addressed before the age of eight, when bully and victim roles tend to become consolidated. The most effective strategies for preventing bullying are anchored by strong leadership from a committed principal and staff. They involve the whole school community through creation of a group of staff, students and parents who undertake to monitor and report on this area. Classroom environments of trust and respect, where social relationships are valued and bullying behaviours are challenged, have been shown to reduce bullying rates considerably. Ensuring consistency in staff responses to bullying builds students’ trust and encourages them to report instances of bullying. Break times are especially important, as around fifty percent of reported bullying happens at these times. Active supervision by staff on duty, increased staff visibility, coverage of ‘hot spots’ where bullying is more frequent, and education about the rights and responsibilities of bystanders are all helpful in reducing bullying during breaks. Other effective measures are professional development for staff, increasing parent understanding of relevant school processes, improving students’ sense of connectedness to the school through active student decision making, monitoring and recording instances of bullying, and changing the aspects of the school’s physical environment that are conducive to bullying. Ineffective strategies include grouping together bullying students, role plays of bullying behaviour and responses, exclusion of students who behave badly, and training particular students to intervene as peer mediators. Using punishment to address bullying is largely ineffective unless teamed with encouragement of prosocial behaviour. A zero-tolerance approach that treats all instances of bullying equally is often seen as unfair by students and may discourage them from seeking help.

KLA

Subject Headings

Bullying
Behaviour management
Behavioural problems

Languages are important - but that's not why I'm studying one

Volume 42 Number 2, November 2007; Pages 20–24
Timothy Jowan Curnow, Michelle Kohler

A South Australian study has investigated some of the reasons for the generally poor retention of LOTE students in Australia. Fifty-seven Year 10 students, from both government and non-government schools, participated in focus groups in early 2007. Forty were male and seventeen female. The gender balance in the selection of students was intentional, as a response to the high dropout rate of boys in LOTE. Three focus groups had students continuing with their language study and in two groups the students had chosen not to continue. Students were asked open-ended questions, including why they had decided to continue or discontinue their language study, if they thought that knowing more than one language was important, and, for those who had discontinued, if they thought they would pick up language study again in the future. The reasons given across all groups were generally consistent. Most of the reasons for continuing language study were academic, such as ‘I enjoy learning it’ and ‘I’m good at it’. Students also mentioned academic bonuses at university entry for language study. Personal reasons were most often of secondary considerations. Personal reasons included being able to converse with relatives or international travel on school trips. The main reason for stopping LOTE study was its difficulty, workload or lack of personal relevance at this point in students' lives. Contrary to previous studies, the vast majority of students in all groups stated that knowledge of more than one language was important. A majority of those who had dropped language subjects also indicated that they would like to take up language study at some point in the future. Students talked in the abstract about the importance of languages for future careers, but this was not evident in their own reasons for continuing study. Results suggest that teachers should take time to focus on ways to make language study relevant to students’ current lives. More specific discussion of the potential careers opened up by LOTE study may also be of benefit.

Key Learning Areas

Languages

Subject Headings

Languages other than English (LOTE)
Language and languages
Senior secondary education
Retention rates in schools
Secondary education

The thought-filled curriculum

Volume 65 Number 5, February 2008; Pages 20–24
Arthur L. Costa

A 'thought-filled curriculum' will teach students to persist in adversity, approach and be challenged by complex problems, draw on their prior knowledge, and work collaboratively. There are a number of ways teachers can help to deepen students’ thinking in their classrooms. Teachers can show students how to confront a problem in an inquiring manner. There should be time to find or generate the resources needed to solve the problem, imagine alternative solutions and predict their consequences. Teachers can also explicitly direct students to analyse or reflect on a topic, and can model the use of mind maps and other thinking tools. Teachers should also try to choose content that is 'relevant, generative and wondrous' to engage students on a deeper level. Creative thinking thrives if students are encouraged to gently question their own and others’ assumptions. Cultivating a nonjudgmental classroom atmosphere in which all students’ viewpoints are valued also helps students to feel safe taking the mental risks and leaps that lead to original solutions. Acknowledging the reciprocal influences of individual and group in learning is also very important. When people in a group feel comfortable considering alternative viewpoints, honest reflection and inquiry can emerge. Students need to practise focusing their mental energy on understanding others, paraphrasing others’ thoughts, and consciously withholding judgements, simplistic solutions and 'autobiographical' responses. It would also be helpful for both teachers and students to become more aware of their own thought patterns and how these may be helpful or unhelpful. Such metacognitive awareness can be fostered in students by asking them to talk about their plans and strategies and talk through problems as they solve them. Finally, students benefit from being asked to ‘think big’ and address fundamental questions raised by the content they are studying. Students are usually very eager to tackle deeply embedded moral, ethical and philosophical questions, such as ‘What is justice?’, ‘What is beauty?’ and ‘What makes a human being human?’.

KLA

Subject Headings

Thought and thinking
Curriculum planning

All our students thinking

Volume 65 Number 5, February 2008; Pages 9–13
Nel Noddings

Schools need to recognise that critical thinking skills are important in vocational and trade-based work as well as traditional academic subjects such as English and mathematics. Any subject, from physics to auto repair, can be taught in a way that challenges students to think for themselves. The time-consuming, somewhat messy and roundabout process of thinking through a problem should be modelled for students by having teachers occasionally tackle problems or ideas without having prepared solutions. Teaching students to think within formal disciplines may be less useful than teaching students how to use the material they are learning for their own purposes. Today’s curricula focus on specific objectives and standards, at the expense of allowing teachers time to consider material in depth. Real-life problems should be a focus of attention, since the majority of students will go on to the workforce rather than to university. As well as the academic disciplines, the skills involved in physical work, parenting, understanding advertising and propaganda, getting along with others, homemaking, and living with plants and animals all require critical thought. Well-considered career education that challenges students to think about the world of work they will encounter also needs to be a priority. Vocational education choices should not be considered inferior to academic streams, and students should be able to choose non-academic programs with pride. As educators aiming to prepare students for life in a complex society, teachers should foster students’ appreciation of the wide range of occupations that are essential for the functioning of that society.

KLA

Subject Headings

Thought and thinking
Vocational guidance
Vocational education and training

Sharing the passion for Information Literacy and lifelong learning: partnerships between school and tertiary libraries

March 2007
Richard Dearden

A pilot program has linked a senior secondary library with a university library to help prepare students for the transition to university-based research. Staff from the University of Tasmania (UTAS) library and from Nettlefold Library in the Hutchins School have collaborated to create an information literacy program for senior economics students. Ten students took part in the pilot study, which involved a series of workshops linked with two of the students’ assessed assignments. The program targeted a criterion in the UTAS information literacy framework that concentrates on the gathering, categorisation and evaluation of information from different sources. The first assignment was a cost-benefit analysis of a current major development proposal, and the corresponding workshop familiarised students with the UTAS library online catalogue and an economics-related article database. The second assignment had students investigate economic justice in Australia. The related workshop had the students searching databases for journal articles and locating printed journals in the library. Students found the workshops valuable, useful and a good introduction to the complex information environment of a university. A potential drawback of this system is that the workshops are relatively time-consuming to prepare and facilitate, and must be customised to students’ class assignments. The approach was valuable as an exploration of the potential of secondary–tertiary library linkages but ultimately will not be sustainable in a situation of high demand. Other ways to link secondary and tertiary libraries should be explored.

KLA

Subject Headings

Information literacy
Libraries
Library resources
Secondary education
Tertiary education
Information management

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