Welcome to the Curriculum & Leadership Journal website.
To receive our fortnightly Email Alert,
please click on the blue menu item below.
Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
Follow us on twitter

Abstracts

China’s policy of Chinese as a foreign language and the use of overseas Confucius Institutes

January 2010
Hongqin Zhao, Jianbin Huang

Prepublished article
China’s swiftly growing economic power has also increased its cultural influence around the world. Approximately 100 million people worldwide are now learning Chinese as a foreign language. While the increase in Chinese language study has been driven largely by a wish to improve economic ties with China, the Chinese government is also working to promote wider knowledge of China and the Chinese culture overseas. One way this is being done is through the funding of Confucius Institutes in a wide range of countries around the world. These institutes provide or facilitate courses on various aspects of China’s language and culture. They are usually attached to universities in the foreign country, although some institutes also provide programs for schools. Specific courses are developed in response to the local context. The London Confucius Institute, for example, provides courses on Chinese for lawyers and for business. The institutes can also provide specialist learning of other dialects such as Cantonese. Other courses cover topics such as Chinese chess, festivals, calligraphy, music, film, brush painting, tea appreciation and Chinese philosophy, as well as China’s political and economic systems and the culture of Chinese entreprises. Newly established institutes tend to focus on specialist areas such as traditional Chinese medicine. The work of the institutes faces three challenges. One is the shortage of language teachers. There is also a shortage of teacher educators and training facilities that are equipped to provide high quality training to new teachers. There is a need for about 5 million Chinese language teachers across the world, 'whereas only 2,000 teachers are available from China'. Teaching materials are also in short supply, especially for languages other than English. Cultural clashes and political suspicions of Chinese 'propaganda' have also been cited as obstacles to the institutes’ work. A further set of challenges arise around the dialects of Chinese taught. Since 1949 Mandarin, formerly a Beijing-based dialect, has been the official language of the country. Mandarin is the overwhelmingly dominant form of Chinese now being learnt, but this has an enormous impact on 'the emotions and identity' of ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan, where other dialects are used.

Key Learning Areas

Languages
Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

China
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Social life and customs
Educational planning
Education policy

Where are they now? Ex-teachers tell their life-work stories

Volume 19 Number 1, April 2009; Pages 1–13
John Buchanan

Interviews were used to compare the current working experiences of 22 ex-teachers with those in their previous roles as educators. Many of the respondents noted that their new roles offered higher salaries than teaching, although some had accepted a pay cut to escape the stresses related to teaching. However, while some respondents appreciated having greater opportunities for advancement in their new role, others missed the stability of a long-term teaching role. Another contrast was the workload and responsibility of teaching compared with their new careers. Many ex-teachers reported working shorter or more flexible hours; working on fewer tasks at once; and having a more defined role where 'responsibility creep', the addition of new responsibilities over time, was not as much of an issue. Some respondents reported working longer hours or having a greater workload in their new careers, but commented that their current roles were not as intense or stressful, and that they had greater freedom and autonomy. Some reflected that some of the time- and workload-related challenges faced in their previous teaching roles could have been addessed by sharing workloads between more staff, or by reducing hours and responsibilities; particularly for new and inexperienced staff. Differences in working conditions were another commonly raised point, with many ex-teachers describing now having job perks such as travel and learning opportunities, company cars, a pleasant working environment and a high degree of occupational support. A related issue was that of prestige, which many respondents felt that teaching lacked: disrespectful students and low levels of professional autonomy were two examples of this. To address issues of teacher attrition, attention needs to be paid to problems of professional isolation, high and intense workloads, and the perceived lack of prestige associated with the role. Teaching needs to be made a competitive occupation in terms of salary and other working conditions.

KLA

Subject Headings

Careers
Teaching profession
Teachers' employment
Australia

Formative assessment systems: evaluating the fit between school districts' needs and assessment systems' characteristics

Volume 22 Number 1, February 2010; Pages 29–52
Matthew Militello, Jason Schweid, Stephen G. Sireci

Formative assessment programs are being used by schools in the USA as diagnostic tools to guide interventions and instructional planning, and to predict student outcomes on high-stakes tests. The authors examined three formative assessment programs implemented by schools in three districts in the USA, and assessed the degree of fit between the programs’ design and their actual use. The first district sought an instrument to predict achievement on state tests. It drew on past state test items to develop its own formative assessment program comprising 30 questions on material recently taught and material not yet taught. It was administered five times each year. Class-level data were provided detailing the percentage of students answering each question correctly. However, because the data points were too few, and were not plotted on a common scale, student growth could not be effectively measured. While general areas of weak achievement were identified, teachers struggled to find the time to address them. Teachers found the program was most useful for curriculum planning. The second district, which wanted to obtain diagnostic information, used Galileo, a customisable system where administrators selected particular standards-based test items and goals relevant to individual schools’ teaching. The test, comprising 35–50 items across particular standards, was administered three times a year. Data were provided at the individual, class, school and district level, allowing teachers to identify 'at risk' students, and to identify general areas of weak achievement. Teachers found the system useful for driving curricular change and for interventions. They worked together with students to address areas of weakness identified by the data, and staged targeted intervention groups. The third district sought student-growth data, and implemented the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, a quarterly curriculum-aligned computer-based test targeted to individual students’ achievement. Data, available at individual, class, school and district levels, measured growth, and predicted test achievement. While the test helped identify weak areas and guide planning, teachers would have preferred more specific data, and to be able to view the items on which students were tested. Issues of fit between a program’s characteristics and a district’s goals are key when considering implementation of a formative assessment system.

KLA

Subject Headings

Educational administration
Education aims and objectives
Assessment
United States of America (USA)

Introducing: content and language integrated learning (CLIL)

 2009
Simone Smala

Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) refers to second language immersion programs, also called bilingual immersion programs. In these courses the content of a particular subject area is taught through the medium of a second language, so that the student simultaneously learns the subject content, the language, and cultural awareness associated with the language. These programs have become widespread in non-English speaking countries. CLIL programs have been used extensively in bilingual societies such as Canada, and in regions of the USA with high proportions of Spanish speakers. They are also widely used in Europe. There are a number of programs operating in Queensland. They usually involve about half the key learning areas being taught bilingually in Years 8-10. In each case the target cohort are native English speakers, but the programs also attract heritage speakers of the non-English language. The programs have benefited from a revival of interest in language education commencing in the 1980s, which focused on the economic advantages of speaking the languages of Australia’s main trading partners. The immersion teachers use German language text books and translate material from mainstream text books. They also make extensive use of internet material. A significant feature of the courses is the heavy use of new media, which brings with it the requirement to become adept in the use of new literacy skills. The article reports on a program operating in Queensland. A number of factors are important in making the program successful. Teachers often translate subject-specific German terms back into English to ensure they are understood. Students also draw on dictionaries and internet translation sites to understand terms. The need to understand terms in German as well as English often leads students to a deep understanding of the concepts involved.

Key Learning Areas

Languages

Subject Headings

Languages other than English (LOTE)
Curriculum planning
Queensland

Improving science and mathematics instruction: the SINUS project as an example for reform as teacher professional development

Volume 32 Number 3, February 2010; Pages 303–327
Christian Ostermeier, Manfred Prenzel, Reinders Duit

SINUS was a large-scale teacher professional development program in Germany, focused on science and mathematics, designed to improve academic outcomes and student engagement. It aimed to assist teachers' daily classroom practice in contrast to incidental professional development removed from the immediate classroom context. After being trialled at 180 schools it was later implemented at 1,700 schools. The program focused on 11 'problem areas' identified using assessments such as TIMSS. A module for each was developed, with each module outlining the key elements of the problem area, and providing research-based ways to help overcome the identified issues. A variety of supporting documentation was provided, and teachers were supported at a variety of levels through collaboration within the school, across school boundaries and with external experts. Teachers and schools were given autonomy to select the particular modules that were relevant to their schools. They were encouraged to set goals, develop new ways of working, engage in reflection and provide feedback. Long-term, continuous professional development was emphasised. Survey responses from teachers indicated that they were positive about the program’s problem-based approach, worked cooperatively towards improvement and participated to a high degree in relevant activities. Teachers varied in the nature of their requests for support: around half wanted more precise instructions and support, and the other half wanted less. Those who wanted less tended to make more use of support materials and to spend more time on program activities. Some teachers noted that the support materials were too long and too difficult. Student achievement data from participating schools indicated increased achievement, particularly in science, and improved interest and motivation. The wider dissemination of the program was successful, although some challenges arose with adopting the program into primary schools, where teachers did not necessarily have the level of subject expertise of secondary maths and science teachers.

Key Learning Areas

Mathematics
Science

Subject Headings

Mathematics teaching
Science teaching
Secondary education
Professional development
Germany

Teacher learning and collaboration in innovative teams

Volume 40 Number 2, June 2010; Pages 161–181
Jacobiene A. Meirink, Jeroen Imants, Paulien Meijer, Nico Verloop

The learning achieved through collaborative teaching teams depends to a large extent on their interdependency, that is, the nature and quality of their collaboration and the extent to which they share ideas and problem-solving strategies. The degree of interdependency of a group can vary significantly. Low-level interdependency interactions include 'storytelling and scanning', while mid-level interactions include providing 'aid and assistance' and 'sharing' ideas and materials. 'Joint work', where teachers plan and problem-solve together, is considered to be a high-level interdependency interaction. Using observations and surveys, the collaborative processes of five interdisciplinary voluntary teaching teams in the Netherlands were examined as they worked towards solving a problem of their choosing. The teams that shared and discussed experiences and alternative approaches, and that worked towards solving shared problems demonstrated the highest levels of interdependency. They had similar goals, and group cohesion was high. These teachers also demonstrated the highest levels of learning and were more likely to change their beliefs about teaching. Teams with lower interdependence, where teachers simply exchanged ideas or worked on more individual problems, were less likely to have aligned goals and were less likely to change their beliefs about teaching. Interdependence therefore plays a role in teacher learning; similarly, collaboration and learning can also be seen as interconnected. High-level interdependency approaches to collaboration should be encouraged by leaders, and teachers should be encouraged to experiment with alternative teaching methods as a way of addressing an identified shared problem. They should also be encouraged to develop concrete items such as lesson plans, as sharing and using such tools can encourage greater interdependency. To be of most use, the particular problems identified should be relevant not only to the group but also to the wider teaching staff, and topics and processes should be addressed in a way that encourages innovative teaching and learning.

KLA

Subject Headings

Group work in education
Professional development
Teaching and learning
Netherlands

Students, teachers and alternative assessment in secondary school: Relational Methods Theory (RMT) in the field of education

Volume 37 Number 1, April 2010; Pages 83–106
Sylvia Stralberg Bagley

Certain approaches to assessment can be aligned with particular forms of relationships, known as Relational Models, between teachers and students. Using interviews, surveys and observations, the author examined the types of Relational Models evident in the assessment processes of an independent secondary school in the USA. Despite the fact that students and teachers tended to have quite close and fairly informal relationships, Authority Ranking, describing situations where assessment is handed down from the teacher to students, was found to be the dominant model at the school. However, this model was somewhat mediated by the school’s efforts to make assessment requirements transparent to students, and by encouraging student ownership of their results. These efforts involved the models of Market Pricing and Communal Sharing. Market Pricing was evident in situations where students were able to 'earn' a result in return for providing a particular level of academic proficiency. This was a common approach that was made possible by the dissemination of clear rubrics detailing what was needed to achieve a particular outcome on an assessment. The rubrics offered students some agency in critically assessing their work in order to earn that outcome. However, given issues of interpretation, the final designated result remained up to the teacher. Communal Sharing, where people work together to achieve a goal, was evident in cases where students, teachers and parents worked together towards student success. For example, teachers, students and parents met for informal interviews, and students were encouraged to describe their growth and success during their final year presentations. They were also encouraged to 'own' their achievements. Communal Sharing was also evident in one case where a student designed her own personal success rubric. Thus, while Authority Ranking remained the predominant model, it was largely utilised in a way where teachers gave 'wise directive guidance' to students, and encouraged them to use their evaluations and assessments as a form of formative assessment rather than high-stakes summative evaluation.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teacher-student relationships
Assessment
Secondary education
United States of America (USA)

Improving pupil group work interaction and dialogue in primary classrooms: results from a year-long intervention study

Volume 39 Number 1, March 2009; Pages 95–117
Ed Baines, Christine M. Rubie-Davies, Peter Blatchford

Training students in effective group work procedures can help promote learning and encourage sophisticated discussion among peers. A program developed in Britain, the SPRinG project, has been used to help teachers improve the quality of the group work in their classrooms by using a range of activities designed to support students’ social, communication and advanced group work skills. The authors observed 31 student groups who had been trained in SPRinG techniques and 29 groups that had not, as they worked to solve a series of open-ended tasks. The students were drawn from a sample of Year 4 and 5 students in Britain. The SPRinG students were found to be far more actively involved in the group discussions than the other students, who tended to be off-task, or to split up and work individually. Efforts to hinder group progress were far more often seen in the non-SPRinG groups, where students often struggled to find strategies to deal with this behaviour. These differences may be attributable to the way that SPRinG explicitly teaches students strategies to discourage 'free riding' in group work and to deal with issues of off-task behaviour. SPRinG students were also found to engage in more high-level inferential talk than the other students, and were more likely to use explanations, counter arguments and conditionals. In contrast, the other students tended to use lower-level talk involving the reiteration of basic information provided on the task worksheets. SPRinG students also tended to be able to sustain their topic of discussion to a greater extent than the other students, who tended to frequently change topics. The non-SPRinG students, who took a less systematic approach to reasoning, and who took less time to consider the various supporting and opposing arguments, struggled to arrive at the same sort of considered conclusions as their SPRinG peers. Training students in group work processes such as SPRinG encourages improved discussion and interaction, and may help teachers make group work a more central component of their classroom practice.

KLA

Subject Headings

Speech
Great Britain
Primary education
Group work in education
Communication

New teachers' experiences of mentoring: the good, the bad, and the inequity

Volume 11 Number 1, February 2010; Pages 23–44
Susan M Kardos, Susan Moore Johnson

Mentoring by an experienced colleague can help new teachers deal with the challenges of teaching, and may help improve job satisfaction and retention levels among new teachers. A survey in the USA has been used to examine the mentoring experiences of 374 beginning teachers in three states. Overall, almost 80 per cent of the respondents reported having an official mentor. However, new teachers in low-income schools were substantially less likely to be assigned a mentor; those teaching typically hard-to-staff STEM subjects were also less likely to be assigned a mentor. Mentors tended to be highly experienced and often taught in the same school as the beginning teacher. However, mentors often did not teach at the same grade level or in the same subject area as the new teacher. This was especially true for those in low-income schools. STEM teachers were less likely than other teachers to be matched with a mentor who taught the same subject. The interactions between mentors and beginning teachers were also limited. Only 41 per cent of teachers reported being observed in the classroom by their mentor; interestingly, teachers at low-income schools were more likely to be observed. Interactions between mentors and the new teachers were also highly infrequent. Only slightly more than half of the teachers reported having, over their first year of teaching, at least three conversations about curriculum and lesson planning, classroom instruction, and classroom management. Teachers at low-income schools were more likely to report lower levels of interaction about these core areas of teaching, as were teachers of STEM subjects. This is significant given that new teachers need guidance from experienced colleagues in relation to issues such as classroom instruction, organisational knowledge and community understanding. While substantial numbers of new teachers are assigned a formal mentor during their first year of teaching, issues remain with regard to the quality of these working relationships.

KLA

Subject Headings

Professional development
United States of America (USA)
Teaching and learning
Mentors

There are no Conferences available in this issue.