Who’s that teacher? Matrix shows how to support teachers at different levels
Volume 30 Number 3, Summer 2009; Pages 10–16
Teachers vary in how well they 'know their stuff', in terms of both subject content and instructional practice, and also in terms of how well they know their students. The latter dimension of knowledge involves their awareness of students individually, of how to engage them, and of how to adapt teaching to allow for positive or negative influences from the students' family and community background. Teachers fall into four groups according to their strength or weakness in these two dimensions of teaching. Strength in both dimensions allows master teachers to adapt well to circumstance: they are able to present new material, 'pre-teach and re-teach', assess their students effectively, and differentiate instruction. Master teachers typically seek to continue their own learning through feedback and further professional development activities. They should be encouraged to do so, and to connect to similarly accomplished peers, especially since master teachers sometimes work in isolation, and may be unaware of their own degree of expertise. Support from school leaders can advance these teachers' skills further while also signalling what is valued in the school's culture. Technicians are teachers strong in relation to pedagogy and curriculum but relatively unconnected to their students. They benefit from pairing with master teachers. They also need PD that sensitises them to the 'lived experiences' of disadvantaged students, and to these students' consequent need for specific measures to overcome barriers to learning. One useful form of such PD requires a 'technician' to focus on a particular student: after interviewing the student about their life context, the teacher monitors their progress then designs a specific intervention for them. The caretaker teacher, by contrast, knows his or her students, and builds students' esteem for themselves and the school, but needs PD to raise their curricular and pedagogic knowledge. They benefit from involvement in professional learning communities alongside technicians and master teachers. The struggler lacks knowledge of both 'their stuff' and their students. Such teachers commonly absorb disproportionate levels of leaders' attention, sometimes around disciplinary matters. They need support to lift their skills, but it should be closely monitored for progress toward clearly established goals.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Teaching and learning
Public education matters: reclaiming public education for the common good in a global era
Volume 36 Number 1, 22 April 2009; Pages 1–26
Perceptions of education have changed with the rise of neo-liberal agendas in school policy. School education, traditionally seen as a public good, has been largely reconceptualised as a 'positional good' valuable in the sense of conferring advantage over others. Public schooling is now frequently seen as a residual part of the system, and internally it has become more and more competitive and stratified. New Public Management principles have transferred accountability for decision making to schools, while increasing the 'bureaucratization and recentralization' of curriculum and assessment. Standards-based accountability measures create the risk of rewarding schools for their selective entry policies rather than their contribution to students' learning. A 'what works' approach to evaluation encourages the implementation and refinement of existing policy, rather than the consideration of fundamental values. Data intended for other purposes may be used for accountability: student test results, for example, can be used to create 'league tables'. The appropriateness or purpose of particular assessment tools may also be obscured. The application of standards to assessment and reporting also needs careful consideration. Although standards provide a common frame of reference and terminology, and can inform reporting and motivate students and educators, they can also create a misleading impression of precision and objectivity that may have unintended negative effects. For example, students may internalise feelings of failure relating to achievement on tests designed for school-level evaluation. As one way to attend to these concerns, education policy should be informed by a wider layer of researchers, including school leaders. School leaders need professional development in education policy to deepen their understanding of key economic and political issues affecting education and to develop their skills in critical analysis. Education Queensland has addressed these needs by developing standards and frameworks that include professional learning and with involvement from principals' associations, deans of education, the State's teacher registration body, the Queensland Teachers' Union and other relevant parties. Key documents in these processes include Professional Standards for Teachers and the Developing Performance Framework. Educators have also been able to draw on the 2001 Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study (QSRLS). The article also examines and praises the accountability and curriculum development policies developed in Finland and the Republic of Ireland.
Subject HeadingsState schools
Who stopped the music?
19 July 2009
Reporter Stephen Crittenden examines the current state and future potential of music teaching in Australian schools through interviews with prominent figures in music and music education. Richard Gill, Music Director of the Victorian Opera, argues that the study of music improves learners' capacity to concentrate and to make fine discriminations between different sounds, with striking benefits to their overall thinking powers. He adds however that this learning stems only from demanding, quality study, not from listening to background music or singing pop songs. Ian Harvey, CEO of the Australian Music Association, notes that Queensland is distinctive in its support for music education in primary schools, 90% of which still have a specialist music teacher. It is 'probably no coincidence' that Brisbane has achieved international recognition as a centre for music. He also argues that one-off opportunities for musical performance, even those of high-quality like the Rock Eisteddfod or events run by Musica Viva, cannot match the value of continuous, sequential education programs. Accomplished music educator Mary Stefanakis challenges the argument that schools are too time-poor to manage substantial music education programs, given the prominence of music in the curriculum of high-achieving independent schools, and notes that high-quality programs can be run using inexpensive instruments. She also argues that musical performance can sometimes raise the self-esteem of special-needs or underperforming students. Brian Levine, Managing Director of Canada's Glenn Gould Foundation, highlights the success of Venezuala's El Sistema orchestras in lifting the lives of children from high-poverty, alienated social settings. Levine also emphasises the role of these musical ensembles in promoting social cooperation and a capacity for empathy among such youth, in contrast to the more mixed impact of competitive sport, which tends to reinforce these children's already powerful sense of 'having enemies', and, among the losers, of being worthless. Crittenden also interviews Professor Robert Walker (see earlier article abstract); Deborah Nicholson, program manager of The Song Room, which runs music programs for children in disadvantaged areas; teacher Phil Pratt, Jane Law of the APPA, and Richard Letts of the Music Council of Australia.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Thought and thinking
Assessing the promise of standards-based performance evaluation for principals: results from a randomized trial
Volume 8 Number 3, July 2009; Pages 233–263
With principal performance being increasingly used as a measure of school outcomes, standards-based approaches to evaluating principals' performance have become more common in the USA. As part of a study to evaluate the impact of different evaluation systems on principal performance, 76 primary or secondary principals from the same district were evaluated using either the district's old evaluation system, or a new, standards-based system. Both groups of principals saw improving student achievement as the main expectation of them, but principals evaluated under the new system also identified instructional leadership as a district expectation, reflecting the more specific guidelines of the new system. Feedback under the new system, which was tied to standards and a rubric, was more detailed, and was considered more useful for self-evaluation and goal-setting. In contrast, principals under the old system tended to receive more general feedback that made it difficult for them to pinpoint particular areas for improvement. Principals under the new system were also required to select particular explicitly identified dimensions in which to focus their leadership, such as developing their school's mission, using technology, or analysing student achievement. The increased capacity to focus on specific elements resulted in principals' expending more time and effort on improving school performance in these areas, and in a better alignment of the principals' and schools' goals. However, there was substantial variability in the quality and timeliness of performance evaluations under both new and old evaluation systems depending on the supervisor, the principal's level of experience, and the school context. More experienced principals and those in well-performing schools tended to have fewer interactions with supervisors and received less detailed evaluations than those in more challenging contexts. Moreover, supervisors and principals saw the formal evaluation process as being only part of the principals' ongoing assessment: principals often received additional feedback from meetings and discussions with their supervisors. They therefore saw the evaluation as a low-stakes guide to professional development rather than an accountability tool. Standards-based principal evaluations need to be properly implemented, recognised as being only one evaluative influence in a larger context, and be aligned with performance and accountability expectations.
Seeking a principalship: specific position attractors
Volume 8 Number 3, July 2009; Pages 287–306
Within the context of high attrition in teaching and low numbers of applications for principalship positions, it is worth considering the reasons aspiring leaders give for applying for particular principalship roles. Research has indicated that potential principals may be reluctant to apply for principalship roles due to perceptions of high workload, inadequate financial and professional compensation, and high expectations in terms of accountability and change management. Interest in a particular principalship role also varies with the perceived attractiveness of the position, such as a school's status and record of achievement. A study of 164 aspiring principals in Hong Kong used survey responses to examine the factors considered important by aspiring principals in deciding whether to apply for a specific principalship role. Opportunities for autonomy and innovation were most important to respondents, with many expressing a desire to make a difference and try new things. These responses may reflect the top-down leadership hierarchy characteristic of Hong Kong schools: the respondents were mostly senior staff and vice-principals, who tend to be seen as implementers rather than innovators. The second most important set of issues related to convenience and fit, including the quality of school facilities and the proximity of the school to the respondent's home, as well as respondents' alignment with the school's educational philosophy, and the potential to relate to other school leaders and staff. The third most important series of factors related to familiarity and status. Aspiring principals were most likely to apply for a position within their current school, or in a school run by the same overseeing body. They were also likely to apply for schools with demonstrated high academic achievement. In order to attract a wider variety of applicants, attempts should be made to reduce stratification and selection processes that benefit applicants already employed by the school offering the principalship position. Professional development in improving relationships with other staff and in social justice issues could increase the likelihood of potential principals being more willing to apply to a greater variety of schools beyond those that are familiar or high-achieving.
Subject HeadingsJob satisfaction
Using policy to improve teacher induction: critical elements and missing pieces
Volume 23 Number 2, March 2009; Pages 295–328
Education policy around teacher induction plays an important role in both defining the nature of beginning teaching, and in shaping the nature of support such as mentor programs and the provision of resources for new teachers. High-quality induction programs help reduce new teacher attrition and promote their professional development. Three long-standing, exemplary induction programs in the USA were analysed to determine how their different approaches influenced the induction and development opportunities of new teachers. The state-based programs, all of which mandated induction, ranged in length from one to two years, highlighting the importance of ongoing professional development to promote teacher learning. Each of the programs provided documents to support teacher induction in a form that emphasised high-quality teaching practices and, in two of the programs, the content to be taught. Two of the programs culminated in high-stakes testing in the form of evaluations or portfolio submissions. All programs involved mentoring, but mentors' roles and responsibilities differed. Mentors in one program acted as co-teachers, providing support in lesson planning and teaching; in another they also assumed the role of an evaluator, assessing new teachers' performance. Training and conditions for mentors varied with policy and funding: ongoing training and assessment was state-approved or state-mandated in two programs, although the amount of time allotted was minimal. In another, training was provided through a peer review committee. The amount of time allocated to mentoring also varied, largely due to funding: while some mentors were released from teaching to complete their mentoring role, others performed their mentoring role in addition to their teaching responsibilities. To ensure high-quality teacher induction programs, clear policies relating to the nature and duration of mentor support are needed, and funding must be allocated to support program development and implementation. Standards-based documentation and processes would support and guide new teacher learning. Structures must also be put in place to allow mentors sufficient time to work with new teachers, and specific, ongoing training in mentoring practices should be provided.
United States of America (USA)
Teacher knowledge about reading fluency and indicators of students' fluency growth in Reading First schools
Volume 25 Number 1, January 2009; Pages 57–86
The lack of emphasis on reading fluency in teacher education programs in the USA, and the inconsistency with which fluency practices are implemented, indicates that teachers may have limited knowledge of fluency and of ways to teach it. To determine whether teachers' knowledge of fluency affects students' reading development, the authors surveyed 117 teachers of K–3 students about their knowledge of reading fluency, and compared these results with their students' reading fluency achievement. Teacher knowledge correlated with growth in students' decoding fluency and reading fluency at Grade 1 and especially Grade 2 level, where the greatest growth in reading fluency typically occurs. This indicates that teachers with more knowledge about these concepts are more likely to provide instruction that facilitates greater improvement. Grade 1 students whose teachers were more knowledgeable about the importance of reading fluency, the skills involved, and instructional methods, achieved greater decoding fluency scores than other students. A predictable relationship between the effects of teacher knowledge and fluency developmental patterns was again found: teachers who understand the importance of fluency, and know how to apply methods to improve skills do so at a developmentally appropriate time, promoting greater achievement. The results suggest a link between these types of knowledge: teachers with a deeper understanding of the importance and nature of fluency are in turn most likely to have greater awareness of the relevant skills that need to be developed, as well as effective techniques and assessment methods to promote the development of these skills. Newer teachers' students tended to perform slightly better than those of teachers who had been teaching longer, which may be related to the emphasis in recent years in teacher education on fluency. Sustained mentoring and professional networks should be implemented to increase the level of sophistication of teachers' knowledge of fluency and its development, as well as to improve the awareness and implementation of effective practices for developing and evaluating fluent reading.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
An empirical framework for understanding how teachers conceptualize and cultivate historical empathy in students
24 June 2009
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsThought and thinking
Teaching and learning
Consequences of part-time work on the academic and psychosocial adaptation of adolescents
Volume 24 Number 1, March 2009; Pages 58–75
Research has indicated that although part-time work may help adolescents increase their sense of autonomy and improve transitions between school and employment, it may have an impact on their school achievement and stress. A study of 331 Grade 9 and Grade 11 students in Canada sought to identify the effects of part-time work on achievement and self-concept, as well as whether these factors changed depending on the number of hours worked per week. Students who worked 11 hours or more per week achieved lower marks than those who worked fewer hours or none at all. Working fewer than 11 hours per week did not appear to have a detrimental effect on achievement, however employed students who decreased their hours of work between Grades 9 and 11 showed improved academic achievement. No significant difference was found in the psychosocial profiles of students who worked various hours and the students who did not work: students in both year levels adopted similar problem-solving and coping strategies, although Grade 11 students who worked more hours in Grade 11 than their non-working year level counterparts showed higher levels of optimism and autonomy. While part-time work may be associated with improved time-management skills and increased resiliency and independence, it is also linked with an increase in negative behaviours. The authors suggest that those with learning difficulties, those who are vulnerable to stress, or who demonstrate low motivation towards school should take into account the possible costs and benefits when considering part-time work, particularly if they intend to work more than 11 hours per week.
Subject HeadingsWorking hours
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