Volume 67 Number 8, May 2010; Pages 7–13
Teacher preparation covers issues including teacher recruitment, qualifications, training, career pathways, professional development and evaluation. The article describes 10 interrelated trends in teacher preparation affecting the USA. One is the increasing links made by politicians and commentators between teacher preparation and national economic performance. A second trend is growing recognition of inequity, as teachers of disadvantaged students tend to have less experience and qualifications. This relates to a third trend towards measures aimed at increasing preparation programs' ultimate accountability for school students' performance. Preparation programs may be evaluated against the academic results of their graduates' school students, or by judgements of the teaching practices of their pre-service or graduate teachers. The elaborate technical systems used to relate preparations programs to ultimate student outcomes constitute a fourth trend. The most elaborate system in the USA is Louisiana's Value-Added Teacher Preparation Assessment Model. However, many critics query the possibility of drawing sharp links between teacher, student and teacher-preparation data, in view of the complex intervening variables. Critics also highlight the impact of social disadvantage on student results and thus call for better early childhood and health programs. A fifth trend is the move of some education systems toward performance-based certification tests, measuring aptitudes such as developing lesson plans from case studies. The rise of alternative certification is a sixth trend. The best known examples are Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. A seventh trend is toward teacher residency programs, in which teacher candidates work alongside a classroom teacher for a full year and are closely mentored. An example is Denver Teacher Residency. These programs, designed to fill particular teacher supply needs, 'are beginning to show some signs of effectiveness'. The eighth trend is a shift in emphasis from teachers' knowledge and beliefs towards practical experience. Some exemplary courses capture the complexities of teaching practice, but there is a danger that such courses will offer inadequate coverage of subject matter and pedagogy. Trend nine is the growing role of teachers in research on their own schools and classrooms. Examples include the Boston Teacher Residency program. The final trend is toward more preparation for the teaching of diverse classrooms.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
United States of America (USA)
From administrators to leaders: developing middle managers who make a difference
Volume 32 Number 3, 2010; Pages 18–21
The core role of Key Learning Area Coordinators (KLACs) should shift from administration to leadership of learning. It is now widely recognised that individual teachers contribute substantially to students' academic outcomes, and there have been an 'avalanche' of programs to help school leaders improve their teachers' instructional practice. However, senior leaders at a school have too little time to attend to the learning needs of all teachers. KLACs are better placed to do so. As an initial step toward reform, the role description of the KLAC should be revised to focus on leadership of learning. The new role should explicitly include professional development for teachers in their subject area, including the work of locating professional learning opportunities and readings, modelling best practice, and offering feedback on classroom observations. Their role descriptions should specifically require them to encourage ongoing professional dialogue on topics relevant to their subject area and pedagogy in general. The senior leadership team should then support the transition of KLACs' practice. Senior leadership should ensure that KLACs have access to mentors with the qualifications and experience to guide them in leadership processes, including the management of awkward situations with teaching staff. It is also essential for KLACs' morale that they can trust their principal to support them during difficult situations, for example when the KLAC's extensive PD to a teacher has not borne fruit, or when staff resent efforts to make them more accountable for their teaching. The KLACs' transition from administrator to leader of learning demands a 'fundamental mind shift', and this process requires patient effort and a willingness to adapt.
Twenty first century education: the creative arts and enhancing educational outcomes for boys
Volume 30 Number 3, 2010; Pages 9–18
Boys' educational performance can be improved by heightening the role of the creative arts and by challenging gender stereotypes about them. The benefits of the creative arts for learning are now well documented. Research has demonstrated that the arts can contribute significantly to students' cognitive, emotional and social development, and can help to engage students in schooling. They also contribute substantially to the creativity that is increasingly expected in the workforce. Despite these benefits, the arts often remain marginalised in the curriculum because they are perceived as 'soft', academically undemanding, and the province of intuition, feeling and innate talent rather than rigorous thinking. For many boys, gender-stereotyping of the arts as feminine creates a further barrier to participation. Evidence indicates that this stereotyping is particularly strong in low-SES categories of students. The same category of boys is disproportionately likely to struggle with literacy, and as a result, to experience 'social exclusion, alienation and long term unemployment'. These are problems that could be addressed by participation in the arts, which would also offer boys most affected by gender stereotyping a wide concept of masculinity. Schools have contributed significantly to the perpetuation of these gender stereotypes about the arts and the maintenance of gender-segregated subjects. In these environments, the gender stereotype not only discourages boys from taking part in the arts but can create risks for those who do. It is important that schools encourage boys to take part in the arts. This should be part of a wider rejection of the 'homogenising of genders in terms of curriculum trajectories', so that both boys and girls have full access to areas of the curriculum outside stereotypic expectations. The easiest way to encourage boys' participation in the arts may be through whole-school or whole-class activities.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsArts in education
Social life and customs
Volume 24 Number 1, January 2010; Pages 137–158
While the current emphasis on instructional leadership is unsurprising given the need to meet accountability demands, it ignores the political components of the principal's role. Attention should be paid to these political elements given the increasingly diverse communities schools serve, as well as the limited resources available to meet a range of often conflicting demands. The author interviewed four new primary principals in Britain to examine the types of political issue confronted by headteachers, as well as the types of political tactics the principals employed in their role. The principals identified several key influences on their political activities, including the legacy of the previous principal, the stances taken by teaching and administrative staff, as well as influences such as external accountability measures and the Department of Education. The types of internally based issues confronted by principals included dealing with poorly performing staff, conflict among and with staff members, conflict between staff and administrators, and conflict with parents. These included conflict over physical and monetary resources, new procedures, and the handling of issues such as student misconduct. Externally, the principals faced issues that involved the media, larger administrative units and external service providers. The principals dealt with these issues through three main approaches. Trial and error was the most common; the principals reflected on their approaches and directed their future strategies accordingly. The principals also drew heavily on the knowledge of a range of others, including previous and current headteachers, learning area officials, and experienced colleagues. Finally, the principals gathered information and sought different perspectives to guide their decision making. They employed different tacts in dealing with political issues, including building powerful alliances, acting as a 'buffer' against external threats, using their interpersonal skills to diffuse tensions, and avoiding situations that could paint them and their school in a negative light. Professional development programs and regulatory organisations in charge of developing principal standards should bear in mind the importance of the political elements of the principal's role.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Places to avoid: population-based study of student reports of unsafe and high bullying areas at school
Volume 25 Number 1, March 2010; Pages 40–54
Encouraging adult surveillance in areas of the school where bullying is prevalent can help reduce incidences of bullying. In order to make recommendations for where this surveillance should occur, the authors drew on survey data from 11,152 primary and secondary students in Canada to determine in which areas of the school grounds bullying was most likely to occur, and in which areas students felt unsafe. Almost one fifth of the respondents reported feeling unsafe at school, with more primary school students feeling unsafe than secondary students. Both groups felt unsafe in the cafeteria area, in bathrooms and in hallways; this was particularly true for secondary students. More primary students than secondary students felt most vulnerable during recess and lunch breaks. Assessments of bullying prevalence found that slightly more than 12% of students were victims of bullying, 5% bullied others, and 4% both bullied and were bullied. Boys were more likely to be bullies than girls, while girls were more likely to be bullied; primary students were much more likely than secondary students to be bullied. For primary students, bullying was found to occur most frequently in the schoolyard and during recess and lunch breaks, while for secondary students bullying was more widespread, occurring in a range of areas including hallways, the gymnasium, and the cafeteria. These areas tend to be poorly supervised, and suggest a need for adult supervision in order to reduce incidences of bullying. However, many secondary students reported being bullied within the classroom, suggesting that a teacher's presence may not be as effective in preventing more subtle types of bullying. In addition to increased adult surveillance, other strategies to decrease bullying might include the introduction of peer mediators, student mentors or adult volunteers.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Volume 13 Number 2, July 2010; Pages 182–196
In Britain, many schools who were moved out from Special Measures sanctions due to improved achievement outcomes, struggle to maintain these gains. Using interviews and observations, the author examines to what degree one secondary school, that had recently been passed out of Special Measures, managed to sustain its improvement without the oversight of a formal inspecting body. Interviews with teachers and administrators indicated a strong feeling of optimism among staff about the school's future, with many highlighting being formally sanctioned as having provided impetus for improvements in teaching and learning that had eventually led to the school being more 'marketable' to both students and prospective staff. The presence of the inspecting body over the previous years had driven teachers to undertake more thorough lesson planning and to develop more focused goals. However, notions of what made effective learning and teaching had been narrowed to meet the criteria of the inspecting body. In addition, some teachers reflected that efforts to meet external demands had led to the introduction of systems and processes that lacked appropriate support from the leadership team. Drops in staff motivation were found upon the departure of the inspecting body, with many staff noting that they were exhausted by the effort that had been needed to maintain the standards required to move out from Special Measures. Some staff members missed the discipline the inspections had engendered. Others noted that the school was feeling a false sense of security as a result of no longer being in Special Measures, and raised concerns over how genuine the gains in achievement actually were. There were also concerns that the inspections had led to a focus on performance rather than the day-to-day reality of the school. Some staff highlighted the need for developmental approaches to self-evaluation that would encourage staff to discuss problems rather than obscure them.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
It's only part of the story: the fallacy of improved outcome data in New York City's effort to make its high schools small
Volume 42 Number 3, March 2010; Pages 247–568
In New York the New Century School Initiative has seen the opening of a group of small schools whose task it is to improve outcomes among highly disadvantaged students. However, while these schools outwardly appear to be achieving good results, research has suggested that students' opportunities to learn may be being compromised. Using observations and interviews, the author undertook a study of three such schools to see whether improved achievement results were matched by improvements in instructional practice and educational quality. Each of the schools had demonstrated significant improvements in graduation rates, pass rates, attendance and standardised test performance. However, in-depth analysis revealed that many students were struggling to pass their classes, or were barely scraping by. Senior students appeared to be doing better than more junior students, but this was likely because few were taking a full set of classes. In addition, the bar for passing was set low, allowing students with poor grades to be passed. Teachers were also under pressure to pass students in order to meet required pass rates. Both teachers and students reflected concerns that the material being taught was not challenging enough to prepare students for the demands of tertiary education. Many teachers, for example, excluded challenging assignments and tasks from the curriculum for fear of students failing. These tasks were only assigned to high-achieving students, creating a 'de facto tracking system'. Classroom observations showed that most classes were focused on preparation for standardised tests, with students' assessment frequently taking the form of practice exams. Students' critical thinking skills were rarely engaged, in part because of the emphasis on testing, and in part because of the inexperience and low expectations of many of the teaching staff. While assessment data appeared to indicate that the schools were performing well, this narrow way of analysing achievement obscured serious problems relating to the quality of teaching and learning.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
United States of America (USA)
One school's approach to overcoming resistance and improving appraisal: organizational learning in action
Volume 38 Number 2, March 2010; Pages 229–245
The author reports on an action research project undertaken in a New Zealand primary school in order to improve the school's appraisal system. The existing system was seen as ineffectual and received poor feedback from staff. It was hoped that undertaking action research would result in a more effective appraisal system and improve staff perceptions of the process. The project took place over a year, and was conducted by teaching and leadership staff with support from an action research facilitator. The team worked together to undertake a thorough literature review of appraisal practices and requirements, and to evaluate the existing appraisal process. They then drew on this research to plan and implement a new appraisal process based on identified priorities. The implementation of the new process involved a series of key strategic actions including developing a timeline for the appraisal cycle, school-wide goals for improvement and individual performance plans. Feedback was sought throughout the process, and documentation was updated and developed as appropriate. A thorough evaluation of the new processes was then undertaken. The evaluation found high levels of satisfaction among staff in relation to both the project and the new approval process, with many reporting that the project was 'engaging and empowering'. The teachers appreciated the fact that the process had been inclusive, deliberate and transparent, and that it had focused goals, as well as ways of measuring these goals that were aligned with professional standards. Rather than being seen as punitive or worthless, the appraisal process was now seen as having a focus on improvement and development. However, the participants reflected that further use could have been made of data collection tools in order to provide substance for more rigorous reporting and analysis.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Volume 32 Number 15, October 2010; Pages 2033–2053
Modelling tools are often used in science classrooms as a resource for helping students to test their hypotheses, but their efficacy can vary depending on students' content knowledge. Using observations, the authors examined how students' ability to solve an inquiry-based physics task using a model, varied with their prior content knowledge. The participants were 11 university students, 10 senior high school students and 10 junior high school students from the Netherlands. All participants had access to a model editor that would allow them to test hypotheses and infer any necessary content knowledge. While both groups of secondary students took about 80 minutes to complete the task, the university students did so in about an hour. The quality of the students' final models also varied with their prior content knowledge, with the university students out-performing both groups of secondary students in terms of the content and structure of their models. Differences were found in how the participants developed hypotheses and rejected or accepted them. The younger students tended to make and reject more hypotheses than the older students, but on a trial and error basis rather than one informed by content knowledge. The younger students tended to have a basic understanding of the components to be included in their solution, but struggled to understand the relationships between these components. The approaches of the younger students indicate that they need support in developing their scientific reasoning and domain knowledge before undertaking inquiry-based tasks, and that they need to be scaffolded to develop an understanding of not only the elements involved in such a task, but how these elements work together.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Project based learning
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