Volume 13 Number 10, November 2009
The 2009 Horizon Report predicts the impact of current ICT trends on education. Two trends are predicted to have a major impact in 2010. Mobile technology is rapidly gaining importance in schools. Mobile devices now come with high-speed internet connections and specialised applications. The iPhone, for example, offers access to over 10,000 applications including reference materials, measurement and calculation tools, a GPS, and social networking tools. Accompanying the rise of mobile devices is cloud computing, through which the software needed for common computing functions such as word processing, email and editing of media content is stored remotely and is accessed via the internet. In two to three years, a second phase of technologies will emerge. Geolocation technology will be used in studies requiring observation and field research. At the same time schools will see more use of the 'personal web': collections of tools, widgets and services will facilitate the customisation of individualised web environments. By 2014 'semantic-aware' applications will be used to search for and organise online material based on its meanings for the user, and smart objects will be able to signal changes in an object's current location, and identify, for example, whether an item in the school library has been used recently. In deciding how and why to use ICT, schools need to consider the skills that young people will need in later life. The USA's National Education Technology Standards (NETS) state that essential skills will include using ICT in creative thinking and knowledge construction, communication and collaborative work, and in gathering, evaluating and using information. Individuals should also understand core technical concepts and the social and cultural issues posed by ICT. McCallum suggests a range of strategies for classroom application of ICT. They include subordinating the technology to teaching needs; training staff members as ICT experts; offering PD in short, frequent sessions; promoting a culture of knowledge-sharing and risk-taking; and trialling ICT initiatives in selected classrooms prior to wider implementation.
Teaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Didactical designs for students' proportional reasoning: an 'open approach' lesson and a 'fundamental situation'
Volume 72 Number 2, November 2009; Pages 199–218
The authors examine and compare two approaches for instructing Grade 6 students in proportional reasoning in relation to polygons. The first of these is a lesson study plan approach, based on the 'open approach method' used in Japan. The second is a well-known French design known as 'didactical engineering'. The lesson study approach is a type of action research that involves teachers' collaborative development and testing of a problem-solving lesson and a related sequence of lessons. The lesson analysed began with an open problem, where the teacher asked students to reflect on three differently sized rectangles and consider whether they were of the 'same form'. The students were asked to make a claim, then to work individually to justify this claim. The students were then asked by the teacher to explain their assertions and justifications to the class. The class ended without any particular conclusion being explicitly favoured by the teacher, although the correct solution was implicitly highlighted by the homework task. In contrast, the didactical engineering approach to proportional reasoning involved students being given a puzzle comprising different shapes of various sizes, and being asked to enlarge it so that a side length of 4 cm would become 7 cm. As only the multiplication of all sides by 7/4 will result in successful completion of the puzzle, the solution, and refutation of incorrect methods, was built into the problem. In both plans it was expected that incorrect additive, rather than multiplicative, approaches would be taken by learners. However, each plan dealt with the additive approach in a different manner. In the didactical engineering approach, it was refuted using examples, and in the lesson plan approach through negotiation around the appropriateness of particular definitions and criteria around the 'same form'. Both approaches emphasised independent thinking and social interaction, and required teachers to anticipate students' likely strategies and to revise lesson plans accordingly. However, the lesson study plan approach required a broader conceptualisation of mathematics from students than the didactical engineering approach, which aimed for students to achieve a specific mathematical knowledge target.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Inquiry based learning
Group work in education
Contest for jurisdiction: an occupational analysis of principals' responses to test-based accountability
Volume 9 Number 1, January 2010; Pages 78–107
The pressure exerted by school accountability mechanisms can generate different responses among principals. The author examined how two secondary principals responded to pressures to improve their students' reading scores on standardised tests. The schools both served disadvantaged communities in Chicago; each had been placed under sanctions due to failure to meet required literacy benchmarks. Neither principal had a background in English or literacy teaching. Over four years the author interviewed the schools' principals and English teachers, observed classes and examined school-level artefacts. The first principal considered test-based accountability a 'legitimate encroachment' on his work, but struggled to reconcile it with his personal pedagogical beliefs. He responded through two reforms, one aimed at raising literacy test scores, and the other designed to provide a more socially supportive environment and to attract new students. The principal delegated implementation of the first reform to the school's English teachers, on the grounds that, having a background as a maths teacher, he lacked knowledge about improving literacy. However, both reforms were met with resistance, as the teachers resented the narrow focus on testing of the first reform, and were sceptical about the efficacy of the second reform. The reform efforts were largely unsuccessful. In contrast, the second principal welcomed the sanction, seeing it as a way to expand and legitimise his authority and to keep teachers accountable, which he had previously found difficult. His personal goals of school improvement were aligned with the policy goals, and the 'urgency' teachers felt over the sanction helped redirect them toward improving literacy instruction. Aware of his lack of literacy knowledge, he drew on the teachers' expertise to design and implement a reading and critical thinking program, and developed a collegial training model to improve his teachers' skills. The school was subsequently removed from probation, but the principal continued to use accountability requirements to build on the progress that had already been made. Though the principals' responses were shaped by their values and beliefs and their particular skills as leaders, the forces of external accountability pressured both principals to reorient their work toward meeting literacy benchmarks.
United States of America (USA)
The movement for national academic standards: a comparison of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the USA and the National Curriculum in Australia
This paper evaluates the nature of activities in the change process undertaken by two initiatives to produce national standards in academic disciplines, national assessments and accountability measures, K–12. The Common Core State Standards Initiative, a project coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, aims to produce common core standards for states in the USA, and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority aims to produce a national curriculum. Content analysis method was applied to summarise information obtained from searches on the websites of organisations involved in these initiatives, and from education newspapers. A model for classifying the activities of research, development, diffusion and adoption in the change process was applied to evaluate the two innovations. The results showed that activities involving research and development, at which point evaluation of both innovations were made, were well-defined. Each initiative was preceded by the publication of policy documents advocating innovation and research activities to uncover possibilities for change, although these activities were more extensive and substantial in the USA than Australia. The emphases in each innovation for developing academic standards are different. Benchmarking standards against state, national and international standards; using a research-based process for decision making; reviewing successive drafts by stakeholders; and conducting an independent validation characterise the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Specifying plans and guidelines; inventing and refining standards; using a consensus-building process for decision making; and reviewing successive drafts by stakeholders characterise the National Curriculum initiative in Australia. Initial steps to sustain adoption of the innovations are the formation of the National Policy Forum to build support for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and foundation of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. However, attention to other activities to assist practitioners to adopt the innovations are lacking in both initiatives. The paper concludes by presenting some judgments about the potential success of each initiative. (Abstract provided by the author.) See also the author's article 'What could a US initiative offer curriculum reform?' in the forthcoming edition of EQ Australia, Summer 2010.
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
United States of America (USA)
Physical education and the national curriculum
Volume 8 Number 4, November 2009; Pages 44–47
The discipline of health and physical education (HPE) has traditionally struggled for recognition when compared to 'serious' core subjects. The low status of HPE in schools has been reinforced by arguments that HPE merely concerns practical rather than theoretical knowledge. With the new Australian curriculum currently being developed, it is important to assert a number of ways in which HPE contributes to students' education and wellbeing. One is the traditional role of the subject, and the sports undertaken within it, in contributing to the moral development of the young person. Secondly, HPE helps to protect young people against the adverse health effects caused by inactivity. This role has been overwhelmingly confirmed by scientific evidence and today receives heavy emphasis as a rationale for the inclusion of HPE in the curriculum. A third value of the subject is helping to develop a student's sense of personal identity as they test the capabilities of their bodies. Finally, participation in HPE develops important social skills, such as perseverance, learning how to compete against friends, and how to play and cooperate with those outside one's friendship group.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Volume 50 Number 3, October 2009; Pages 213–229
The issue of teacher quality in Australia has recently become a focus of media and policy, and various approaches are being taken to regulate and improve teaching in order to influence student achievement. This raises questions about the definition of a good teacher, and how good teaching can be facilitated. Different models of the teacher have been presented over time, from the teacher as 'obedient servant' prevalent during colonial times, to the autonomous expert, to the 'scholar-teacher', and later to the 'reflective practitioner'. The most prevalent current model, outlined in a nationally agreed standards framework, is that of the 'competent teacher'. It presents a series of auditable competencies found in 'good' teachers. In doing so it reflects a market-based approach to education guided by neo-liberal assumptions. This approach devalues the education-specific skills of teachers and principals in favour of generic managerial skills. The author argues that the breaking down of teaching into specific, auditable competences and performances may result in a narrowing of practice, and that an improved conception of the 'good teacher' is needed. Rather than focusing on teaching as results-oriented and individualised, this model must see teaching as a labour process that involves a high degree of pastoral activity, and that takes place within the wider structure of a school and its staff. Rather than limiting or codifying teachers' work and occupational identity by applying a single model of excellence, authorities should aim to foster teacher and pedagogical diversity and a culture where knowledge and expertise is shared and developed. Teaching should be conceived of as intellectual labour, with teachers seen as intellectual workers whose work requires a knowledge of culture and substantial critical analysis and interpretation. This revised conception has implications for teacher education programs. Last, if education is to be understood as 'social reproduction', the role of the teacher in this should be considered, as should the teacher's role in developing effective learning environments for children. With the establishment of teacher registration bodies, it is essential that new and more effective models of good teachers, and of high-quality teacher education that will support the development of these teachers, be defined.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Education and state
Teaching for understanding in earth science: comparing impacts on planning and instruction in three professional developmental designs for middle school science teachers
Volume 20 Number 5, October 2009; Pages 415–436
Targeted professional development can help science teachers plan and implement approaches that promote students' deep understanding. The authors examined how three professional development programs aimed at middle-years earth science teachers affected the lesson planning and instruction of 41 teachers in the USA. Each of the professional development programs took place over an extended duration, involved follow-up support, included active approaches to learning, and was designed to relate to local standards. The three programs' most salient differences related to how the teacher engaged with or developed curriculum materials. In the first program, known as the adopt program, teachers were guided in implementing pre-prepared learning modules around 'big ideas' that fit with their schools' curricula. The teachers were trained in the particular approach taken by these modules, worked in groups to focus on content and activities, and were encouraged to implement hands-on approaches in the classroom. In the second program, the design program, the teachers were required to redevelop existing curricular materials, including their own or colleagues' materials, into instructional units focused on key questions and the development of deep understandings. Using a 'backwards design' approach, teachers collaborated to organise and present units around particular topics to fit their schools' standards and curriculums. The third program, the adapt program, involved a combination of the adopt and design programs. Teachers used backwards design processes to construct a unit that encouraged deep understandings and dealt with key questions, but that was also built around 'big ideas' and hands-on learning. Teachers mapped their unit plans to local standards. The authors used classroom observations and surveys to examine the effectiveness of the different programs when compared with a control group. As predicted, teachers in the design and adapt programs gave more weight to 'enduring understandings' in their planning, while adopt teachers incorporated more student-centred and hands-on activities in their lesson planning. The two designs that focused more explicitly on instruction had a more significant effect on practice, with design and adapt teachers more likely to engage their students in applying and interpreting models and analogies than control group teachers; similarly, an emphasis on unit preparation had a greater impact on teachers' planning.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsMiddle schooling
Insights into the intrinsic and extrinsic challenges for implementing technology education: case studies of Queensland teachers
Volume 19 Number 3, August 2009; Pages 309–334
In 2003, Queensland introduced a technology education syllabus that was to be implemented in all primary schools by 2007. Drawing on interviews with three teachers and observations of their classrooms, the authors examined the intrinsic and extrinsic challenges experienced by teachers while implementing the new technology curriculum. One of the intrinsic challenges faced by teachers was their lack of professional knowledge and understanding of technology. Two of the teachers initially had narrow conceptions of technology, and these perspectives had to be redeveloped. In addition, the teachers lacked confidence in implementing the technology KLA, and faced issues around how they approached their teaching. For example, in some instances, they had to teach students particular technology skills before being able to proceed with a task. The teachers also faced a number of external challenges. Lack of resources, such as construction materials or computers, was sometimes an issue, particularly when multiple classes were participating in the same activity. All of the teachers felt that time constraints were an issue, and raised concerns about effectively integrating technology into an already crowded curriculum, and about the time-consuming nature of the technology tasks. However, the teachers felt that the inclusion of technology in the curriculum was valuable, and that they were learning to modify their practice as they grew more confident. The challenges faced by teachers when implementing technology education can be reduced by providing further curriculum resources; developing school-based folios of technology units; conducting regular professional development activities; providing teachers with time to explore teaching approaches and design tasks; establishing support networks; establishing resource centres and technology budgets; using rich tasks to integrate technology teaching; developing a variety of effective assessment strategies; and developing collaborative relationships with nearby schools and higher education institutions in order to streamline the implementation process. As the challenges experienced by teachers in implementing a technology curriculum will likely change over time, it is essential to provide ongoing professional development programs that meet the needs of teachers.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
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