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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Analysis and comprehension of multimodal texts

Volume 34 Number 1, February 2011; Pages 61–80
Ann Daly, Len Unsworth

A study in NSW has examined factors that influence primary students’ comprehension of multimodal texts. The researchers examined results from the state’s 2005 and 2007 Basic Skills Test (BST) for year 3 (age eight) and year 5 (age 10), applying Halliday’s functional grammar and the visual grammar of Kress and van Leewen. The researchers investigated two ways in which text and image were related to each other on BST test items. One way was ‘concurrence’, through which one mode specifies or describes the other, eg when text about a destructive dog is accompanied by the picture of a dog chewing a shoe, or when the letters in ‘seaweed’ are drawn to look like strands of seaweed. The other way was through ‘complementarity’, in which one mode introduces a new idea in relation to the other mode, eg when a caption describes the action performed by a machine pictured in a still image. One form of complementarity is augmentation, through which a representation of something in one mode introduces a different aspect of it in another mode, eg when text suggests the meaning of an abstract picture. In the BST, students found it easier to answer questions involving concurrence than those involving complementarity in the form of augmentation. The researchers also investigated the complexity of the texts and of the images independently of each other. The complexity of text is commonly influenced by its level of abstraction and by the density of content words, but these influences were not significant in the BST test items. Instead, lexical complexity was measured by the proportion of non-core vocabulary, and grammatical complexity by the proportion of dependent clauses. BST results indicate that students found questions more difficult when the complexity of the text rose. The complexity of images was measured according to the extent to which they were naturalistic or abstract; ‘commonsense everyday’ or technological; and represented or inferred/implicit. Students’ test results did not vary significantly according to image complexity. The results suggest that when students study multimodal texts they are likely to need most help when the language is complex. Teachers should also be aware that images accompanying text do not always make it easier to understand. Teachers may also need to draw students’ attention to new meanings emerging from the interaction of text and image. (CL: The BST has now been replaced by NAPLAN.)


Subject Headings

Multimodal learning
Visual literacy
English language teaching

Aligning education with the skills young people need for citizenship: an apprenticeship for social action

Number 202, 23 February 2011
Celia Hannon

Many challenges await today's students when they enter adulthood. One challenge is the labour market. For the last 30 years teenagers have had far lower levels of employment than older people, and over this time teenage workers' pay has diminished considerably against that of older workers. A second challenge is the need to play a part in 'de-carbonising' the world, for example through the AYCC. Thirdly, young people need to manage their digital identities. As danah boyd observes, online personal information tends to be scattered, persistent, searchable, replicable, and exposed without social context to unknown audiences. Young people's awareness of digital issues varies greatly, and schools are currently struggling to address these questions. A fourth challenge is the growing diversity and fluidity of family structures, with more cohabitation, stepfamilies, openly gay couples and older mothers. As parents and carers of their own elderly relatives, today's young people will be expected to 'do more with less' and to fund their own old age, 'or turn to public services that have yet to be devised'. Given an ageing population and growing life expectancy they may need to turn to their social networks or extended kinship networks for support. Fifthly, the nature of community is changing. While optional online communities are now widely available, local geographical communities have become 'low on trust' and public spaces 'a source of fear', especially in Britain and in disadvantaged areas. The sixth challenge is low youth engagement in formal political processes. However, alternative spaces of social action are developing, and they suggest promising new approaches to citizenship education. Young people are active in the rapidly growing social enterprise sector, which pursues non-profit projects of social benefit. Young people participate actively online, where they create, edit and distribute content and report and comment on social issues. These avenues are far removed from mainstream political decision-making, but should be addressed in citizenship education. While young people are often stereotyped as apathetic, important numbers of them participate in oppositional social and political activities on an individual, micro or mass level. It is important that citizenship education does not take a 'corrective' attitude of citizenship that overlooks such action.


Subject Headings

Social life and customs
Civics education
Young adults
Great Britain

School-based strategies to address cyber bullying

Number 119, February 2011
Donna Cross, Helen Monks, Marilyn Campbell, et al.

The most effective measures to stop physical bullying in schools are also broadly suitable for the prevention of cyber bullying. These approaches involve whole-school, 'non-stigmatising' measures. A 2009 meta-analysis (3.5 MB) by Farrington and Ttofi found that such approaches reduce bullying in schools by approximately 20 per cent. Against the background of these findings, the article examines six intervention strategies. The first strategy is to develop common understandings and competencies among staff, students and parents, providing information about legal and moral issues, the role of bystanders, and preventative actions. This information addresses ICT-related issues, such as adults' lower technological awareness than students, and the impact of this fact on student attitudes; students' fear that parents will remove ICT access in the event of trouble; and the limits of students' knowledge about harmful websites. The second strategy is to establish anti-bullying policies that incorporate cyber bullying, and to disseminate them effectively. The policies should set out clear roles and responsibilities for staff, students and families. These policies will allow for situations where cyber bullying spans the school and home environments. ICT professionals should check the policies to ensure they link to school's use of technology. Thirdly, the school needs a protective social environment, fostering social connectedness and, again, highlighting the role of bystanders in bullying. The school community needs to be aware of how some forms of ICT such as SMS are relatively hidden, while other forms, such as forums, expose bullying and facilitate bystander intervention. Fourthly, the physical environment should also be protective in terms of cyber bullying, for example through supervision of equipment, and reporting processes. Establishing linkages across the school community is the fifth strategy. One element of it is to set up connections to IT services that provide advice about new or unfamiliar technology or about how to remove harmful content. The sixth strategy is to ensure that the school community is ready to act on cyber bullying when required. One way to encourage this is through the active involvement of all sections of the school community in developing policies. Another way is to appoint 'cyber student leaders' able to influence policy and keep it relevant to students. The paper includes detailed sets of actions for each strategy.


Subject Headings

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Computers in society

Understanding educational leadership in North-west China

Volume 13 Number 2, June 2010; Pages 185–202
Joseph B. Berger, Matthew Militello

Educational leaders in underdeveloped regions of China face demands to lift the academic results of students. However, they have limited resources to do so, with most professional development being allocated to classroom teachers. A study covering five north-western provinces of China examined the leadership skills and professional development of local administrators in primary and secondary education. The participants consisted of principals, vice-principals, superintendents and professional development trainers. They were asked to complete surveys and take part in focus group interviews. Results showed that educational leaders have limited teaching experience and relatively low levels of formal education, and few opportunities for further training. Almost half the participants surveyed rated disposition above knowledge and skills as the most important training need. They also reported a lack of training in general leadership theories. A split system of training and promotion exists in China. The Ministry of Education sponsors in-service programs focused on teaching and learning, while the Communist Party offers other in-service training, including business English, harmony of society, and importing. Participants reported frustration at having to choose between the two systems. The study showed that educational administrators want more transparency in what is offered and why it is offered; training that is local and specific to their school's unique needs; and the chance to learn from experts, including international experts who can help them to combine Western-oriented approaches with the traditional, Confucian approaches to leadership. The article also refers to earlier studies that have focused on the developed areas of China, including a study that examined the influence of an Australian, Western-oriented educational leadership program on perceptions of leadership among participating Chinese educational leaders.


Subject Headings

Professional development
Educational administration

The Twentieth Century is not yet over: resources for the remaking of educational practice

Volume 17 Number 1, March 2010; Pages 13–26
Ken Jones

A recent research project has investigated 40 schools' involvement in the Creative Partnerships initiative in England. The researchers examined how participating schools applied funding from the initiative to explore creativity in their teaching practices, and looked at how the initiative contributed to changes in curriculum, pedagogy and assessment at the local level. Some of the schools reflected the British Government's entrepreneurial, business-oriented interpretation of creativity. However, other schools were influenced by progressivist concepts of creativity that emphasise its role in personal fulfilment and in stimulating open-ended learning. One example was the 'Oak Tree' primary school, where teachers met with artists and their school students to explore new uses of classroom space and design. The Oak Tree teachers also visited Italian primary schools that encouraged exploratory learning among young children, along the lines advocated in the Reggio Emilia model. This model originated just after World War II as part of an upsurge of progressivist thinking in Italy and other countries. The article reviews the history of progressivism in European education, and considers its potential to influence practice today. Progressivism was prominent in the 1960s and 1970s, when educators pushed strongly for equity, recognition of cultural diversity, creativity and learning-centred teaching practices. They were inspired by a wider cultural movement for liberation and personal fulfilment as a goal for education, notably articulated in the work of Paulo Freire. However, over the last 20 years education policy has moved in a different direction, focusing on the need to ensure that the emerging workforce can meet the challenges of globalisation and the knowledge economy. Recent education policy has often involved devolution of financial management, and competition for government funding. At times however, current education policies have led to major strikes and protests by teachers and students, on issues including funding levels, performance assessment systems, and 'precarity' in employment and career opportunities.


Subject Headings

Education policy
Educational planning
Great Britain

How student-teachers approach the teaching of reading: at the interface between personal history, theory and practice

Volume 17 Number 1; Pages 35–44
Maggie Pitfield, Vicky Obied

A number of influences develop the professional identities of student-teachers. A study in England has examined the factors affecting secondary pre-service teachers as they learned to teach reading and literature at junior secondary level. The research involved a cohort of student-teachers at a London university in 2008–09. Sources of evidence included the student-teachers' original application forms, their reflective writing, and focus group discussions. Three interacting factors were identified: their personal reading histories, theory, and their practical experience in particular classroom environments. The authors describe a number of insights offered by the participating pre-service teachers, discussed in relation to findings from existing research studies. At school level, reading is often a social activity, and teachers need to understand the subtleties of reading group lessons and guided reading sessions. Teachers also need to understand the wider social context of reading. At present, an important part of that context is the demand on schools to raise literacy levels. The political debates around this need tend to overshadow debates among professional educators, which can disorient student teachers. The activity of reading allows school students to 'explore the meaning of experience' and 'the emancipatory potential of fictional worlds'. As young readers mature they adopt more 'reader-like behaviours', discover deeper layers of meaning in a text, and learn to accept ambiguity, and connect reading to their own writing and drama. It is important to connect with the sort of texts that school students currently find interesting, rather than trying to force interest in recognised quality literature. Reading lessons should involve sharing between teachers and students rather than 'a chance to show off the teacher's oratory' in the face of which school students retreat into passivity. Teachers need to balance their own reading preferences with those of the class and with curriculum expectations.

Key Learning Areas


Subject Headings

Teacher training
English language teaching
Great Britain

All the schools a stage

March 2011; Pages 34–37
James Evans

School incursions can be a valuable part of education. They bring a new perspective into the classroom, support and reinvigorate teaching and engage students in active learning. One incursion that has proved successful for 21 years is the Bell Shakespeare in-school learning program. This program uses Actors At Work performances and masterclass activities to support the teaching of Shakespearean literature. The program also provides professional learning for teachers. This incursion not only assists in the study of Shakespeare but produces other positive outcomes for students. The participatory learning that incursions provide improves student self-esteem, motivation and critical thinking. A recent study by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and Professor Robyn Ewing of the University of Sydney shows a clear link between participation in the creative arts and enhanced outcomes across all other areas of learning. The author offers a range of tips to help teachers get the most value from school incursions. For example, speak to the provider about the specific needs of the students so that they can tailor the program. Prepare the students by telling them what to expect and how it aligns to the unit of study. Ensure everything is organised for the provider, including venue and equipment. Follow up with debriefing and further creative activities in the next classes. Get involved on the day of the incursion by participating in the activities. And stay in touch with the provider after the incursion to create an ongoing dialogue.

Key Learning Areas

The Arts

Subject Headings

Performing arts

Trick or treat: how modern PE is engaging a new generation

March 2011; Pages 44–46
Jon Perry

A growing obesity problem in Australia and a change in the types of activities that children find interesting are contributing to a revision of school physical education (PE) programs. With the introduction of ‘New PE’ over the last decade, school approaches to PE are more inclusive and have a long-term focus. New PE aims to instill healthy habits at a young age. Today’s children, who are stimulated by computer games, television and the internet, are less interested in traditional PE. To engage children more effectively, schools are hiring private providers to use fun, interactive activities to ‘disguise exercise’. Programs that provide an opportunity to ‘beat your own score’ and offer instant progress feedback are popular with young people. One virtual reality game involves BMX-style bikes that have handle bars that move like a real bike and a virtual reality screen that creates the illusion that they are riding through different streets around the world. Another program provides an online dance workout program designed specifically for children aged four to 12 that teaches coordination, confidence and teamwork. It incorporates urban styles of dance, such as hip-hop, that appeal to kids. There is also a series of workout videos led by different celebrities that children admire. This provides schools with a way to engage presenters such as Olympians, movie stars and professional athletes to talk to students about healthy lifestyles.

Key Learning Areas

Health and Physical Education

Subject Headings

Physical education
Health education

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