Benefits and disadvantages of sharing the principalship
Volume 32 Number 1; Pages 18–21
Job-sharing the position of principal is being trialled in a range of forms in Australia, spurred partly by the approaching retirement of incumbents at many schools, and also by new approaches toward the role of principal. A very wide range of models exists for co-principalship. They include each principal sharing the role for set fractions of the week; internship, involving an experienced and a new principal, each either full- or part-time; two full-time principals working concurrently, perhaps dividing specific tasks; related to this model, the division of principalship between an instructional leader and a business manager; turn-taking the principalship over the course of a year; and having a 'super-principal' of several campuses with a site manager or principal at each. Co-principalship offers a number of possible advantages. It allows new leaders to gain experience while supported and mentored by someone more experienced; it allows them to acquire more personal time and work/life balance; reduces loneliness and the stress of individual decision making; creates 'an automatic internal support base'; draws upon different personal strengths and skill sets, and attracts candidates deterred by the thought of sole principalship. However there are also dangers to consider. Incumbents may fall out, and then weaken each other; they may disagree over workload, credit for accomplishments, or access to space or support staff. Roles may be duplicated or missed when divided. The conditions that allow one partnership to succeed could break down when personnel change. There are few existing procedures to guide employment contracts or to support joint principals. For the system to succeed, incumbents would have to be compatible in terms of their beliefs and their understanding of their roles, complementary in their skill sets, and be able to collaborate. Evidence to date suggests that co-principalship works best when candidates choose each other beforehand.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Defining quality instruction: a necessary component of school improvement
Volume 32 Number 1, 2010; Pages 9–12
The efforts of principals or leading teachers to improve instructional practices in the classroom will be impeded, and underlying issues obscured, if the classroom teacher holds a different conception of good teaching to the leader. A well-designed instructional framework will help to address this problem. It will not only set out an effective way to teach, but will also establish common ways to think about the nature of high-quality teaching. One valuable approach is the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework, initially proposed by Pearson and Gallagher. This model outlines a path of progression from teacher- to student-centred learning. It draws on the work of Piaget around cognition, Vygotsky on zones of proximal development, Bandura on 'attention, retention, reproduction and motivation', and the work of Wood, Bruner and Ross on scaffolded instruction. The authors have applied a version of the framework as leading teacher educators at San Diego University. The version of the framework they use has four components. The first involves the teacher in articulating and modelling the purpose of the lesson, using the type of thinking and language needed for it. The second component is guided instruction: the teacher applies questions and prompts that gradually encourage students to assume responsibility for their own learning. The questioning may be addressed to the whole class but is more often used for smaller groups with similar learning needs. The productive group work component involves students in collaboration around a task related to the central topic. The students are expected to use suitable academic language and are individually accountable for their efforts. The final component is independent learning, in which each student applies what they have learnt within or outside the class. The common understandings established by the framework also facilitate valuable conversations between the teacher and school leader, in which the leader recognises and affirms valuable aspects of the teacher's work and the teacher feels able to talk about areas in which they need to improve, and to invite further monitoring.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Enabling teachers to become pedagogical leaders: case studies of two IDEAS schools in Singapore and Australia
Volume 9 Number 1, February 2010; Pages 59–74
The Innovative Designs for Enhancing Achievement in Schools (IDEAS) program is designed to facilitate school improvement by placing pedagogy at the centre of the improvement process and by encouraging parallel leadership among the teaching body. Two case studies of secondary schools implementing IDEAS, one in Singapore, and one in Queensland, are described. IDEAS was implemented in the Singapore school as a way of moving away from a strict hierarchical leadership structure and from transmission-based teaching practices. A leadership team comprising a range of teachers and a facilitator was established. The principal ensured that teachers were given time and space to work together; over time, increased trust led to greater experimentation and to the deprivatisation and critique of classroom practices. Teachers were found to be willing to participate in school improvement practices that directly benefited students, and appreciated the autonomy and empowerment afforded them as part of the IDEAS program. The principal of the second school, in Queensland, implemented IDEAS as a way to address challenges raised by changes to the community served by the school and increased external demands. The teacher-leadership team was encouraged to attend workshops and forums, and time was allocated to professional development. The team facilitator worked with the student body to encourage student input; this facilitated a schoolwide approach to pedagogy, and enabled students to take charge of their own learning. Parent and staff responses to the approach were highly positive. For both schools, principal support was crucial. The principals used their knowledge of the school context to determine how and why resources should be utilised, identified appropriate facilitators, and supported teachers in implementing IDEAS. Time and space were provided to encourage teachers to work together. Hierarchical structures were broken down, with the principals working alongside the teachers to help promote school transformation. The emphasis on pedagogy encouraged teachers to work together in order to enact the identified vision for improved student outcomes.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Teacher and child talk in active learning and whole-class contexts: some implications for children from economically less advantaged home backgrounds
Volume 44 Number 1, April 2010; Pages 12–19
Active learning pedagogies can encourage greater levels of talk amongst children and between children and their teachers. Policy in Britain has moved towards an active learning, play-focused approach in the early years. This approach is considered to help facilitate children's language development, which can influence later academic outcomes, as well as social development and wellbeing. Using interviews and classroom observations, the authors examined the experiences of six early years teachers in Scotland who had introduced active learning approaches into their first-year classrooms. Interviews were also conducted with parents. The active learning approach used by the teachers involved students rotating between different activities, where they worked collaboratively or independently; some whole-class teaching also occurred. The teachers spent a large percentage of whole-class instructional time attending to behaviour management issues; teacher-led talk dominated this time, and a considerable amount of off-task behaviour was observed. In contrast, the active learning activities encouraged high levels of talk between children, and required far less attention to behavioural issues. However, lower levels of talk were found between students from more disadvantaged backgrounds. This was significant given that these students often require more specific linguistic modelling and scaffolding than other students. In addition, despite the fact that teachers spent more than a third of all classroom time talking to and responding to the students, relatively low levels of talk between teachers and students were recorded. This was due largely to the teacher to student ratio, which meant that only a few students benefited from dialogue with teachers. This highlights the need for teachers to design tasks that scaffold students' learning and that encourage children to scaffold their peers' learning. Tasks should be specifically designed to encourage interaction, and to encourage discussion of the set task. Teachers reported becoming more aware of the talk that was occurring, and noted that students were more engaged and were discussing the classroom activities at home. Parents confirmed this, noting that their children were asking more questions at home and were more confident about their learning. Policymakers should take into account the needs of disadvantaged students when planning and assigning resources to approaches such as active learning.
Subject HeadingsGroup work in education
Instruction of research-based comprehension strategies in basal reading programs
Volume 31 Number 2; Pages 150–175
Poor readers tend to use fewer comprehension strategies when reading than competent readers, and are less likely to learn them without explicit instruction. However, research has indicated that comprehension instruction receives little attention in basal readers, which in many areas of the USA largely comprise the primary reading curriculum. This has implications for students' ability to appropriately draw on different comprehension strategies when reading. The authors examined the inclusion of different types of comprehension strategies included in the basal readers used in Texas, California and Florida. The inclusion of comprehension strategies varied significantly between basal readers published by different publishers, as well as between the grade levels targeted by specific basal reading programs. A large proportion of instructional suggestions related to answering teacher questions, with other strategies including prediction, graphic organisers, summarising and making inferences. Approximately one-third of the instructional recommendations given by the readers were not research-based, and research-based approaches such as question-answer relationship strategies, summarising strategies such as GIST, and reciprocal teaching strategies were not addressed by any of the readers. In addition, the strategies covered were frequently used in isolation, with little attention given to multiple strategy instruction or to helping students coordinate the different strategies being learnt. Furthermore, the concept of the gradual release of responsibility to the developing reader was not raised by any of the basal readers. While the basal readers did include some useful strategies, their efficacy was reduced by a lack of coherence in the introduction, application and opportunities for practice of the different strategies. Given the prevalence of basal readers in the classroom, teachers may need professional development or pre-service training in identifying gaps in the strategies offered by the readers, and in integrating research-based and explicit comprehension approaches in order to help students learn these skills. In addition, publishers need to ensure that basal reading programs offer a richer and more cohesive approach to comprehension strategies.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
United States of America (USA)
What makes a professional learning community possible? A case study of a Mathematics department in a junior secondary school of China
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Group work in education
Pre-service teachers' preconceptions, misconceptions, and concerns about virtual schooling
Volume 31 Number 1, May 2010; Pages 37–54
Exposing pre-service teachers (PSTs) to a range of exemplary online distance education programs and practices can help address misconceptions about virtual schooling. A field experience course for 65 PSTs has explored virtual schooling practices through seminars, readings, discussion activities and observations of virtual classrooms. The PSTs' online communications and reflections were examined to assess developments in their perceptions of virtual schooling. PSTs were found to hold several misconceptions in relation to virtual schooling that were addressed throughout the course. They were concerned that virtual schooling would automate teaching, leading to lowered demand for teachers. This misconception disappeared as teachers familiarised themselves with virtual schooling practices. PSTs' initial perceptions of the benefits of virtual schooling were also influenced by the faculty in which they were enrolled: students from faculties with a strong IT focus tended to be more accepting of virtual schooling. This indicated a need for the modelling of the potential of virtual schooling. Other concerns included a perception that virtual students were more likely to, and had more opportunity to, cheat on tests and assessments. After reading research about online cheating and observing virtual schooling classroom practices, many PSTs became convinced that cheating was not as widespread an issue as first believed. PSTs, particularly those who had not participated in a virtual school environment themselves, tended to believe that virtual schooling involved low levels of socialisation and interaction with both the teacher and between peers. Viewing a number of exemplary online courses that involved videoconferencing and discussion boards helped dissuade PSTs that this was the case, with many reflecting that it was largely the teacher's approach that dictated the effectiveness and interactivity of a class. They also observed how teachers provided feedback, the perceived lack of which had been an initial concern of several PSTs. Virtual classroom observation also helped disabuse PSTs of the notion that virtual schooling lacked academic rigour. One final issue was that of equity of access for low-SES or rural students. This issue was not addressed in the course, but will be integrated in subsequent years.
Subject HeadingsVirtual schools
After installation: ubiquitous computing and high school science in three experienced, high-technology schools
Volume 9 Number 3, February 2010; Pages 5–50
While many schools in the USA have moved to ubiquitous computing practices, it has been acknowledged that the successful integration of 1:1 computing can take a number of years. The authors examined computing and technology practices in science classrooms through case studies of three high-tech secondary schools in the USA. While the schools' formalised technology integration strategies and school culture guided particular technology approaches or emphasised the use of certain technologies, classroom usage remained strongly influenced by teacher practice. Teachers' approaches varied significantly depending on their individual expertise with and perceptions of technology, as well as in terms of their beliefs about the teaching of science. While technology was frequently used, in many cases teachers struggled to seamlessly integrate it into the curriculum. Technology use was also largely teacher-led, with technologies such as IWBs used almost exclusively for teacher presentations. Although a range of software programs and technologies were used, many teachers relied heavily on programs from the Microsoft Office suite including PowerPoint, and were still exploring how students could use technology to create or present content. The internet was a frequently used resource, and was employed to provide enriched classroom content such as videos, images and animations. Online laboratories were used by some teachers so that students could perform virtual experiments when particular equipment was not available, but students were generally not encouraged to engage in more sophisticated approaches such as the remote use of high-tech scientific equipment housed at universities. Technology was rarely used for activities such as logging and analysing data, or to encourage contact with experts or other learners. School-based teacher websites were one way of helping to incorporate new tools, and many teachers used these to post targeted materials to facilitate differentiated learning. The teachers acknowledged that despite their schools' emphasis on technology, a number of problems remained in terms of technical problems, the time needed to source materials, the steep learning curve involved, students' off-task behaviour, and the changes technology demanded of their pedagogy.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
United States of America (USA)
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Creative and aesthetic responses to picturebooks and fine art
Volume 37 Number 2, May 2009; Pages 177–190
Talking about art can improve children's language skills and cognitive abilities. Given that picturebooks represent for many children their first exposure to fine art, they can be a valuable classroom resource for teaching students how to look at and respond to art. There are a number of picturebooks that feature works of art as part of their storyline, and these can offer students a bridge between the more familiar illustrations of a picturebook and works of fine art. The author, a classroom teacher, read the picturebook Katie's Picture Show, where the main character interacts with paintings in an art gallery, with a class of 10-year-old students. She used open questioning to elicit students' perspectives and thoughts about the paintings included in the book, and encouraged them to discuss uncertainties and draw connections with any other texts or artwork with which they were familiar. The students' responses quickly evolved from literal descriptions of the art to more creative and speculative discussions. To see whether this discussion would help students respond to art more generally, the teacher introduced a separate work of art for discussion over a period of several days. The students discussed the piece in different-sized groups, and as a whole class, and completed a variety of tasks around the piece, including an essay about the picture's theme, and a painting of their own. The group discussion of the painting initially began as an examination of the visual elements evident, but progressed into a complex discussion of philosophical topics and the symbolism of the piece. Picturebooks represent an opportunity to introduce students to fine art, and both can be a starting point for creative discussion.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Group work in education
Arts in education
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