History in the Australian Curriculum F–10: providing answers without asking questions
Volume 31 Number 3, 2011; Pages 57–63
The article examines the Australian Curriculum: History F–10, and introduces several other authors' contributions to the topic, appearing in the same edition of Curriculum Perspectives. The Australian Curriculum avoids repetition of topics over different year levels. Another of its strengths is its coverage of one of the cross-curriculum priorities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, an issue which many teachers have not felt well equipped to address. In year 10, for example, students will now be expected to investigate Indigenous struggles for rights and freedoms. However, one 'glaring' limitation of the curriculum is the degree of coverage given to another cross-curriculum priority: Asia, and Australia's engagement with the region. The curriculum offers no opportunity for teachers to cover the history of China and India after 1918, or the recent histories of Indonesia and Vietnam. Students need the opportunity to study non-European heritages, the background to current alliances and concerns in the region, and Asia's contribution to Australia's current prosperity. Some of these issues have been addressed elsewhere, for example in papers by Michael Wesley and by Anthony Milner. Another concern is the lack of coverage given in the curriculum to the concept of contestability. The concept would be of value, for instance, in challenging the Anglo-centric narratives that dominated history texts 'not so long ago'. Grasping the idea of contestability is also important in the development of critical thinking, and in encouraging students to recognise the need to allow for different influences and viewpoints in representations of the past. The concept of empathy also needs development in the curriculum. A further issue of concern is the transition from Studies of Society and the Environment (SOSE) to history as a specific discipline. The transition has implications for primary and middle school levels, where teachers have applied their professional judgment to 'adapt disciplinary, multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches' to the SOSE framework. These concerns are elaborated in a paper by Mallihai Tambyah. A separate concern is the future supply of history teachers, given that the subject will now be compulsory to year 10, and that many teachers are approaching retirement. The larger catchment of history students are likely to be more varied in their interests and levels of motivation; this fact calls for effective measures to highlight the purpose and value of history to all students.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Examining differentiated instruction: teachers respond
Volume 13, October 2011
The author discusses issues surrounding differentiated instruction, through a literature review and through findings from a survey of middle school teachers. Previous research has identified three components of education that can usefully be differentiated. Content embraces concepts and skills to be learnt. To differentiate content teachers may, for example, select books and resources relevant to a range of year levels, group students according to their levels of readiness or interest, re-teach groups of struggling students, and allow students to work alone or with others. The process of learning may also be differentiated, for instance through the use of tiered activities at different levels of complexity, or by letting students choose from a range of activities. Students may also have input into the product of learning, such as a poem, book report or game. A useful way to start in differentiating instruction is through the creation of learning profiles for each student, covering learning preferences, hobbies, and family background. One blueprint for differentiated instruction is known as Reach: following a period of initial reflection, teachers review curriculum requirements, and the standards to which they themselves are accountable. The teachers then analyse individual student readiness, interests and needs, after which they prepare and conduct differentiated lessons, refined through formative assessment. To manage the introduction of differentiated instruction teachers should build on their existing strengths, compile a range of resources, and set modest initial goals, established in collaboration with peers. Barriers to differentiated instruction include lack of time, limited opportunities for professional learning, a 'fear of faddism', and concerns about how to manage the differentiated classroom, assess students' readiness, and ensure that students achieve well on standardised tests. Teachers also lack role models for differentiated instruction. The author reviews a range of studies of differentiated instruction at primary, middle and secondary school levels. She also reports on the results of a survey of 141 middle school teachers in the US state of Georgia, which highlighted the very limited exposure the teachers had had to such instruction during their teacher training courses. More training in differentiated instruction needs to be undertaken by teacher education faculties, but also by schools themselves.
Subject HeadingsIndividualised instruction
Using a learning and teaching approach to writing, in the context of NAPLAN
Number 122, September 2011
Teachers can apply the writing criteria set out in NAPLAN tests to advance students' knowledge, skills and understandings as writers. Teachers may also use the NAPLAN writing criteria to monitor the comprehensiveness of their own provision for students as they learn to write well. NAPLAN establishes criteria for expressive, narrative and persuasive writing. In the case of expressive writing, for example, the criteria include how well the writer 'orients, engages and affects' the reader and how well the writer has selected and elaborated ideas, as well as evaluating issues such as their vocabulary, paragraphing and grammar. Each of the criteria are evident in a NAPLAN writing sample, and using these samples teachers can show students how to meet them. The article offers two samples of persuasive writing that can be used to teach awareness of a genre in reading comprehension activities. Students might be asked to discuss differences between the texts, and to compare their effectiveness as persuasive pieces. The teacher might use the samples to build on students' prior learning, eg by highlighting the existence of various points of view on each topic. Students might be asked to identify what is 'true' in a given text, or to see how ideas in the text are organised. In tandem with such activities, students might learn to talk about the genre, perhaps paraphrasing a persuasive writing topic and articulating the opposite viewpoint. Students may be shown how to apply NAPLAN writing criteria within their own writing. The author separates writing into the phases of knowledge acquisition, planning, drafting, editing and proofreading, publishing and learning consolidation. Through phases of 'self talk' students reflect on how they might implement each phase. The paper includes a four-page table setting out a teaching and learning sequence for writing persuasive texts. It also lists steps in a teaching and learning plan for improving writing.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Teaching and learning
Physical education teacher education: creating a foundation to increase the status of physical education in schools
Volume 82 Number 7, September 2011; Pages 45–7,56
Physical education in the USA has been unduly marginalised. The article discusses ways in which the current form of physical education teacher education (PETE) contributes to the problem, and how PETE could be reformed. PETE has had broad and shifting foci, partly in response to changes in PE itself. It has been affected by pressures operating within higher education and by a shortage of qualified specialists. One way to deal with these problems is for PETE courses to cover a smaller amount of subject matter in more depth. Coverage might be limited to one instructional model. This remaining, in-depth coverage should allow for closer integration of theory with clinical practice, including opportunities for teaching the model with peers and with school students. It could take the form of a teacher-in-residence program, or, more modestly, structured observations and assistance in schools during practicum. This embedded practice should be adapted to the school context. The fact that students now expect vibrant, stimulating learning experiences highlights the value of game-based learning as a model. A second problem is the unrealistic expectation that new PE teachers are able to transform inadequate programs in existence at their schools. New PE teachers must cope with the anxiety of learning how to create content and manage classes while also navigating the school culture and accommodating current norms, and while teaching a low-status subject. One solution is to strengthen support to new PE teachers, and one means to do so is by extending the role of PETE into the first three years of in-service teaching. Bridgewater State University runs a teacher induction and mentoring program along these lines, supported by local teacher leaders. The program emphasises the role of PE and physical fitness in helping students' general academic learning. It groups new teachers by grade level rather than subject, so PE teachers are not marginalised. It also avoids practices that lower the status of PE, such as the use of PE class time to make up for lost time on academic course work.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsPhysical education
Increasing the value of physical education in schools and communities
Volume 82 Number 7, September 2011; Pages 48–51
Community-based physical education (CBPE) offers a promising way to increase the relevance and recognition of PE within schools and school communities. One successful CBPE program was the Leaders in Academics, Community Engagement and Service (LACES) operating at Springfield College, Massachusetts. LACES provides young people with a two-week, intensive, age-appropriate experience over the summer vacation. Participants are nominated by schools, community programs and youth agencies. During the first week the participants are involved each day in after-school meetings where they are familiarised with program goals and, working in groups of 8–12, they learn to collaborate effectively and to speak in public. Towards the end of the week they are asked collectively to develop solutions to a community concern such as obesity or gang violence. The second half of the program is a residential week on a university campus. Participants undertake further research and planning to find answers to their selected community problem. They also undertake physical activities, eat healthy meals, and reflect on how these practices might be part of a healthy lifestyle. At the end of the two weeks they present their group's solution to the community problem before a large audience including teachers, community members and local councilors. Following the two-week event the participants continue to follow program goals in joint work with teachers, after-school leaders and pre-service PE teachers to improve their local communities. In one instance, a group of high school participants mentored primary school children on the topic of fair play in sport. CBPE programs of this kind can provide PE content, make PE more visible to the community and more immediately relevant to students' lives, assist in critical aspects of youth development, and help to prepare pre-service teachers for schools, school communities, and students from diverse backgrounds. The article also discusses other strategies to overcome the marginalisation and low status of the subject PE in schools and school communities.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsPhysical education
Teaching and learning
School and community
The challenge is innovate or stagnate
16 November 2011; Pages 16–17
ICT planning at a school should be driven by its goals for learning and teaching, not by budgets or existing hardware. Based on this understanding, the author describes a plan for ICT improvement at a school. The first step is to inform staff, students, parents and the school council that the school will be undertaking an ICT improvement process. The school should undertake an internal environmental scan, or audit. In physical terms the scan should cover the existing network; internet access, including download speeds and capacity; computers, portable devices, and peripherals, as well licenced software and subscriptions to electronic resources. The audit should also cover students’ ICT access at home, and parents’ expectations. Staff should be invited to give their opinions of the current state of ICT at the school, and consider possible improvements. Proposals from staff should be clearly aligned to learning goals and curriculum objectives, extending beyond the value of ICT for student engagement. Drawing on all this information, the school’s ICT committee should develop a statement setting out the current state of ICT at the school, and intentions for the future. The committee should develop plans, including risk management plans, that cover software acquisition, disaster scenarios, protocols for acceptable use, and policies for use of socia media, email, and personal ICT devices. Policy should be aim for ICT use to be broadly equitable, accountable, sustainable and effective. It should establish a transition plan that minimises disruption, covering resource and professional learning needs and how they will be met.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
ICT leadership in schools
Volume 33 Number 4, 9 December 2011; Pages 20–24
The article is the first of two on the role of the ICT leader in secondary schools. The core work of the ICT leader is the integration of technology into teaching and learning. The ICT leader should not be expected to answer routine technical problems, which are best dealt with through a help desk. The role is also distinct from network administration. Providing professional development is a key element of the role; however, schools vary considerably in terms of the content delivered, time allocated to it, and who leads it. While the ICT leader may supervise professional development related to use of technology, it is unrealistic to expect one staff member to provide all professional development in ICT, or to provide for individuals' basic skill needs. The ICT leader's place within the school leadership needs careful consideration. They do not fit neatly into established leadership roles such as heading a subject area, or the provision of pastoral care. Nor are they necessarily the person who heads the teaching of IT as a subject area. Their teaching and learning role is likely to be interdisciplinary. The ICT leader needs some form of effective connection to the school leadership team and learning and teaching teams, while also being centrally involved in strategic development of ICT at the school. The position they report to will vary between schools. However, they may report to a staff member with expertise in a different area than themselves, unlike most school staff. Research suggests that the use of ICT for learning is still developing, and will continue to be a focus for professional development.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Developing statistical literacy with year 9 students
Number 1, 2011; Pages 43–50
Students need the capacity to interpret and evaluate the statistical information which now permeates society. The authors report on research they undertook within their year 9 classes in mathematics and statistics, aiming to improve the design of lessons in statistics. The research involved a repeated cycle of three phases. The first phase covered a literature review and development of hypotheses on ways to improve learning. In the second, 'teaching experiment' phase teachers implemented changes to lessons and analysed results at the conclusion of each lesson. In the third phase of the cycle teachers evaluated the evidence from the course of classes. Evidence was collected through pre- and post-teaching tests, videotapes of classes, students' written work, field notes and logbooks kept by the teacher researchers. They placed each of their students at one of four stages of development in statistical literacy. They found that the students were usually competent at performing statistical calculations and reproducing information from tables and graphs, but fewer students could interrogate the data or interpret it critically. Critical thinking about statistics was successfully developed through several techniques. The teachers used a thinking and questioning routine known as the Questioning the Data Detective. They scaffolded the literacy demands of the task, for example by focusing the students on particular statistical terms, and how their meanings differ from everyday use of these terms, and also through demands that students articulate their arguments clearly in both oral and written form. The teachers also scaffolded the contextual demands of the coursework, at first situating it in contexts familiar to the students, or of particular interest to them. It is important, however, that students come to be exposed to unfamiliar contexts as we;;. It is also important that students encounter contexts where statistics are used correctly, to prevent undue skepticism about statistics. These techniques used in these cycles of learning required that the teachers surrender a degree of control over lessons to their students. To conduct them successfully, students also need ample time to work through them, including substantial peer discussion.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
How well do your students understand fractions?
Number 1, 2011; Pages 34–42
The article describes a New Zealand study in which students answered questions about fractions, using number lines and measurement scales. The study involved 184 students in year 7 or year 8, based at one of four schools. The students often struggled with the tests, even with regard to basic concepts such as the idea that fractions fall between whole numbers, and that they represent the partitioning of something into equal pieces. The students were assessed either through interview or written test; the interviews were found to be most useful in identifying students' underlying grasp of fractions. Overall, however, the results highlighted the difficulty that many students experience with fractions. Research literature identifies various reasons for such difficulty. For example, students need to re-interpret whole number symbols when they are used in fractions, with the further difficulty that whole numbers are incorporated within mixed numbers; students need to grasp that the fractions can only be understood in relation to the unit originally partitioned; and fractions come in many equivalent forms. Further difficulties arise from the fact that fractions emerge as issues during varied processes, such as comparing, sharing and measuring. To improve students' knowledge of fractions it may be helpful to make use of teaching opportunities that emerge in different contexts; for example, when studying measurement or probability. Different models may be more or less useful in different contexts. In general, however, visual models should be used to help students grasp fraction symbols. The article discusses six different interpretations, or 'subconstructs', of fractions, used in New Zealand.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
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