What's an Asia-literate national curriculum?
Volume 7 Number 1, April 2009; Pages 23–26
The inclusion of studies of Asia in the school curriculum has traditionally been underemphasised: half of Australian schools do not, or only scarcely address studies of Asia, and less than a quarter of students have the opportunity to learn an Asian language. To meet the demands and engage with the opportunities of the 21st century, it is imperative that Australians become 'Asia-literate', a goal highlighted by the Government, and explicitly stated in the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Asia literacy involves equipping all young Australians with knowledge and understanding of the culture, countries and communities that comprise Asia. To achieve this, studies of Asia must be systematically integrated across all areas of study in the school curriculum. English classes should involve the study of a range of contemporary and traditional Asian texts, familiarising students with Asian cultural contexts, worldviews and literary traditions. In order to help students contextualise current and future economic and political contexts, history should include the formal study of topics such as imperial China, the history of Islam and the Korean War. Teachers should also receive quality, sustained professional development about the histories of Asia, and of Asia in relation to Australia. There are also opportunities to embed studies of Asia in science and mathematics curriculums. Addressing the 'big ideas of science', such as climate change, health and energy, will require an understanding of Australia in terms of its geographical context, as well as its business and political relationships with Asia. Case studies and examples should draw on Asia or Australia's engagement with Asia, and theories, discoveries and inventions from Asia should be included in units that address the history and theory of science and mathematics. Concerted efforts should also be made to include Asian languages in schools, and to forge links with schools in Asia. Such measures will position young Australians to successfully engage in an increasingly multicultural and globalised world.
Subject HeadingsMulticultural education
Personal, portable and sociable
June 2009; Pages 55–57
The recent Horizon Report for Australia and New Zealand identified smart portable technology as a high-impact trend in education over coming years. This technology includes mobile phones with camera functions, iPods and netbooks. The Australian Government's support for greater connectivity and other ICT infrastructure is a step toward realising this potential. The Victorian education system offers some excellent examples of ICT in schools. Flora Hill Secondary College students have created short films related to fiction-writing; Shepparton High School students have used iPods for a range of functions including collaboration with students in Singapore; and Healesville High School has taken part in an international activity involving the Geocaching website. As well as connecting students, portable technology facilitates the personalisation of learning. This personalisation involves students in contributing to the design of their curriculum, and drawing upon their own rich informal learning experiences. ICT also blurs the distinction between learning in the school and home environments. It encourages parental involvement in children's learning, and facilitates learning by people outside the formal education system, such as retirees and people in the workforce. The new approaches to learning encouraged by ICT require new ways to assess students' achievements and here too the new technology can assist. Researchers Wan Ng and Howard Nicholas at La Trobe University have developed internal video capture technology that records students' discussions and activities as they use PDAs for education and writing. Many challenges remain. The Horizon Report also identifies a number of obstacles to the use of portable digital technology in education, including security policies, teachers' skill levels, and challenges regarding assessment. Recent research indicates that few US education systems have established ways to use interactive technology for teaching and learning or as means to reform the learning culture in schools. Students' facility with digital technologies vary widely between individuals and between forms of ICT, and skills with recreational use of the technology do not necessarily translate into educational uses. Evaluations of the impact of ICT by Becta in Britain has found that it improves motivation, engagement, collaboration and personal organisation, 'with some evidence for improved test performance'.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
12 October 2009
The article describes the findings from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), part of the OECD's Education at a Glance 2009 report, which examined the teaching and learning conditions in government and non-government schools in 23 countries. Teachers taking Year 7 to 9 classes were surveyed from 200 randomly selected secondary schools in each country. Student discipline was identified as a problem in many countries. Teachers generally believed they did not receive adequate professional development for the circumstances they faced. Most teachers felt that underperforming teachers were not penalised effectively. Teachers also indicated that while they individually valued appraisal and feedback, the appraisal system overall did not recognise teachers' efforts and accomplishments, particularly in terms of material incentives. Professor Stephen Dinham has criticised many teacher performance schemes as unduly bureaucratic annual events undertaken by principals who, especially in large schools, lack knowledge of the teacher’s actual classroom performance. A more effective form of appraisal is ongoing feedback from peers, using professional teaching standards. However, such evaluation is hindered by the daily routine of schools. Education systems need to create conditions and cultures which encourage regular, informal peer feedback.
Subject HeadingsTeacher evaluation
October 2009; Pages 17–21
The quality of a school's external relationships has a strong influence on its internal life. The principal is usually the key 'spokesperson, negotiator and champion' for the school, but this situation creates several problems. It tends to overburden the principal; if external demands are too heavy the principal may lose touch with the school's internal life; and if the principal leaves the school it may lose many external relationships that have been built up. One solution to these problems is to distribute responsibilities for managing external relationships to other school staff. While staff attend conferences, undertake courses, and generally interact in the community they can explain the school's values and help to identify and attract new staff and resources. An official policy to distribute such roles can also help to coordinate external work more efficiently, sending a more consisent message to outsiders, and reducing the chance of staff accidentally or deliberately working at cross-purposes. Over time, long-term external relationships can be cultivated, and the influence wielded by the school can help 'to put insiders and advocates into positions of power and influence' in organisations that impact on the school. Alliance Schools is a coalition that seeks to help schools build up networks of external allies. Disadvantaged schools are among those that can gain from external links, for example with teacher education faculties or local reform organisations. Schools that lack access to education system resources may find such alliances particularly beneficial. External relationships, however, involve costs such as supervision of student teachers, hosting visitors, attendance at external committees and conferences, and contributing to assessment and other work for network partners. Close consideration is needed of the balance of benefits and costs, and the extent to which unhelpful external committments can be avoided. The enhancement of external relationships may be the most promising place to start reform in the case of struggling schools with interrelated internal problems: they may be better assisted with grants that improve their physical environment in a way that builds links with the community, for example through joint-use facilities.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
School and community
October 2009; Pages 8–14
The implementation of educational reforms, particularly those related to accountability processes, may strain principals' relationships with staff. Three forms of professional learning can assist principals to manage these relationships. The authors describe how each form of learning is taught during a Masters course at a US university. While encouraging personal reflection, the course also makes extensive use of role-plays among participants. The first form of professional learning covers how to become an effective consultant who can offer useful, practical guidance to particular teachers, students and parents on how to improve student performance. This process calls for principals to apply their knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy. A helpful, time-efficient way for principals to keep up-to-date with such knowledge is to participate in staff meetings about teaching and assessment; at these meetings principals do not need to present themselves as experts, but do need to advise staff to 'reframe their own challenges and develop strategies for action'. This in turns calls for principals to possess consulting skills that allow them to pick up cognitive and emotional messages in comments from other staff. Role-plays with peers allow principals to practise such skills. A second form of professional learning through role-play equips the principal to be a mediator and consensus builder, for example when confronted by experienced staff who are aggressive and destructive during meetings, or in disputes between teachers over pedagogical approaches: in the latter case, consensus may be developed by moving from wider philosophical arguments to a study of assessment data to examine what has worked in practice. A third set of relationship qualities refer to the priority a principal gives to people and personal interactions: while these qualities relate to values rather than skills, principals can 'learn to value relationships as part of leadership'. Professional learning in this area can help principals reflect on the nature and roles of power and authority, and the balance between personal connectedness and leadership responsibilities.
Power to the principal
June 2009; Pages 8–9
The article describes trends for and against the centralisation of educational administration in schooling. In recent times the autonomy of school leaders has eroded in some Australian education systems. In Victoria schools are now grouped in networks under a Regional Network Leader, a move criticised by VASSP President Brian Burgess as a 'top down model'. Other policies have imposed more control over how principals structure the school day, which has inadvertently limited flexibility for timetabling of parent–teacher interviews. There have also been proposals in Victoria to limit the authority of principals to expel students, a move which was later modified after policy input from VASSP. In New South Wales, banking and purchasing decisions currently managed by principals are to be centralised, potentially ending effective business arrangements negotiated at the local school level. The autonomy of Independent school principals has also been reduced as Boards 'are becoming more hands-on'. By contrast, latest OECD research indicates that principals' autonomy over issues such as staffing and budget has increased overall. The OECD notes, however, that such autonomy risks overburdening school leaders if it is not accompanied by resources to support it. Research by Helen Wildy, Dean of Education at the University of Western Australia, indicates the need to improve principals' training in administrative processes to deal with this devolution of authority.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
Youth voices: connections between history, enacted culture and identity in a digital divide initiative
Volume 4 Number 1, March 2009; Pages 13–39
By taking students' backgrounds and identities into consideration when planning learning experiences, educators can improve engagement, outcomes and students' identities as active learners. Using interviews and classroom observations, the authors examined the delivery of an out-of-hours program in Philadelphia designed to help disadvantaged students use technology to research future career aspirations. The program participants were 12 minority, middle-school students. Their instructors were six volunteer tutors who were students at a school in a prosperous suburb. The program, developed by the community centre director, emphasised control to stem potential unruly behaviour, and involved a step-by-step approach to learning. However, the program was initially ineffective, as the learners responded to the highly structured lessons by challenging the instructors' authority and knowledge. When they had the opportunity to learn more about the learners as individuals, as well as their technology skills, which had been underestimated, the instructors realised that it was a combination of the deficit approach of the lessons, which positioned the learners as 'problem children' with no technology knowledge, and the lack of relevance of the material to the learners' lives and identities that was resulting in the learners being disengaged. To mitigate this, the instructors worked with the learners to develop a learning environment that would be personally meaningful to them, and would engage them as active participants in technology use. The new project involved working in small groups to create a website that centred around each learner's life and their experiences. The completed projects were highly personal and thoughtful, and reflected an engagement with both the instructors and the program; it also helped the learners re-orient themselves as technology users. The success of the redefined program indicates a need for program developers to create learning environments where learners are not viewed through a deficit lens, but are rather considered in terms of their existing social and cultural capital. These resources can be drawn on to provide meaningful learning experiences that support and acknowledge learners' identities, and position them as valid members of a learning community, in this case as technology users.
Subject HeadingsMiddle schooling
Volume 41 Number 6, December 2009; Pages 789–811
Despite international efforts to introduce ecological perspectives into the school curriculum, such perspectives remain at the periphery of education in the USA. However, these perspectives can be seen in the classrooms of ecologically minded teachers, where they comprise an 'informal' or 'complementary' curriculum. Using interviews and classroom observations, the author examined how three teachers integrated their environmental values into their teaching practices. Two of the participants, both English teachers, were sensitive to the limits imposed upon them by the curriculum, and to the fact that their beliefs might alienate their students. With this in mind, they framed their teaching in terms of broader principles that they felt were still connected to an environmental ethic. Both teachers sought to develop in their students personal integrity, responsibility and self-awareness. While their environmental perspectives tended not to be explicitly raised, their stated intentions and subsequent practices stemmed from their ecological beliefs, such as helping students examine their decisions and lives in order to understand their responsibilities. In contrast, the third teacher, who taught social studies, felt far less constrained about raising and emphasising environmental issues in the classroom. Environmental perspectives were expressed both through stories and examples from her own life, and also in the responses she elicited around students' behaviour and beliefs using targeted questioning. An examination of population growth, for example, developed into a discussion about sustainability and recycling, and eventually to students deciding to revive the school's recycling club. The teachers' approaches exemplify Van Kannel-Ray's recommended approach to environmentally sustainable pedagogy: they highlighted 'intergenerational responsibility', where individuals' needs are balanced with those of the past and future, as well as 'organic perception', referring to an individual's connection and relationship with the natural world. The ecological perspectives teachers included in the lessons represented a 'complementary' curriculum, an additional focus of learning that arose due to particular contexts and emphases created by an individual teacher. Such curriculums highlight how a teacher's personal beliefs or passions can inform both their teaching practice, and the learning of their students.
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
Teaching and learning
Volume 8 Number 4, October 2009; Pages 380–410
Using interviews with individuals and focus groups, the authors examined how the leadership team in a low-performing middle school in the USA worked to change the daily schedule from seven to six periods in order to allow improved focus on particular instructional areas. Three overlapping forces were identified as responsible for the leadership team's success in the initiation of this reform. First, the principal supported and helped empower the leadership team by encouraging distributive leadership and by modelling transformational leadership practices. Working with a select group of influential and highly competent teachers, he fostered a climate of openness that was receptive to organisational change and development. By having an 'open door' policy and emphasising communication, he supported the staff in completing the tasks they had been delegated. Staff were also given shared planning time. A second reason for the team's success was that the leadership team strategically garnered support from within and outside the school. It sought to develop among the faculty a greater sense of a shared vision for the school, and ran parent information sessions and created information packets to help educate the school community about the need for change. Third, the school's partnership with a university-based organisation helped provide the structure and skills to promote the development and direction of the leadership team. The school achievement data collected as part of the partnership provided the catalyst for the leadership team to make changes, and the university team guided the leadership team to focus on one specific goal to improve student achievement. In addition, the leadership coaching and other professional development received as part of the program helped the teachers move effectively toward implementing the changed schedule. To achieve successful reform, schools should aim to develop their leadership teams' social and intellectual capital, as well as provide a purposeful environment for collaborative work.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
No Child Left Behind and the quest for educational equity: the role of teachers' collective sense of efficacy
Volume 8 Number 1, January 2009; Pages 64–91
In the USA, the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to develop action plans to address achievement gaps. However, the effectiveness with which schools adopt such plans depends on their perceptions of the efficacy of such policies, as well as on their own capacity to improve student outcomes. Drawing on recent research and literature, the author examines how teachers' collective sense of efficacy can influence schools' efforts to address issues of inequity. Teachers' and leaders' conceptions of their own and their schools' ability to address inequity are affected by a school's past academic performance, its environment, and by their expectations of themselves and their students. For example, teachers in low-performing, low-SES schools are more likely to have a low collective sense of efficacy, which can undermine how they address issues around student achievement. Accountability policies, and especially equity mandates, may only serve to reinforce these concepts. A school's performance, and the performance of like schools, can serve to cement beliefs about the achievement of particular student groups, and about a school's ability to close achievement gaps. As a result, staff in low-performing schools may consider these results normalised, and may lack a feeling of collective responsibility for improving student outcomes: this would lead to their being ineffective in improving outcomes. These issues indicate a need for leaders in challenging school contexts to communicate to teachers a belief in their capacity and efficacy, while also aiming to overturn beliefs around achievement, SES and other factors. They should help teachers make sense of expectations related to policy, find ways to match external policy with internal initiatives and goals, promote positive ways of thinking about accountability and equity, and help develop internal accountability systems. They must also create opportunities for teachers to experience positive outcomes with low-SES or minority students to help reshape teachers' beliefs and senses of efficacy. Finally, they must be aware that their own actions and beliefs can strongly influence a school's culture, and should model positive behaviours, including explicitly rejecting normalised expectations around class-based and minority achievement, and developing a sense of communal responsibility.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
United States of America (USA)
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