Where did I lose you? Accessing the literacy demands of assessment
Volume 10 Number 2, 2012; Pages 3–11
A study in north Queensland has investigated ways to make assessment of mathematics fairer and more effective for Indigenous students. The authors have worked with seven schools over the past three years to find ways to address the obstacles that Indigenous students face when learning maths. The article reports on their work with four schools during the final phase of their study. The researchers analysed year 3 and year 5 NAPLAN data from Indigenous students at all four schools; examined social and cultural factors that might have influenced scores, eg the linguistic conventions and cultural framing of content; conducted a survey in which teachers were asked about the individual dispositions of each Indigenous student; and held group interviews with the students' current teachers. One key problem is the language demands imposed by tests, and the cultural assumptions underlying this language. In NAPLAN spelling tests the researchers found that students' initial task, to identify misspelt words, imposed such a heavy cognitive load on the students that they struggled to deal with the second stage of the task of rectifying the spelling. Similarly, the language demands of written mathematical questions left them with few cognitive resources to address the mathematical content. The researchers dealt with these problems in three ways. Firstly they applied Newman's error analysis, a tool used to diagnose the point at which students' learning broke down. The article includes a tabular checklist of steps used in the analysis. Secondly they set students problem-solving tasks to be done in groups, in which students could reinforce one another's understanding and recollection of task demands, reducing demand on individual students' short-term memories. The third element was culturally responsive pedagogy. Overall, the researchers helped teachers to engage in 'effortful teaching'. That is, they modelled problem-solving activities, facilitated collaborative learning, used indigenous cultural contexts to explain mathematical terms, helped students to 'decode' written assessment tasks so that they could deal with their mathematical content, and strove to create an environment in which the students felt safe to 'have a go'.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Volume 23 Number 3, September 2012; Pages 287–308
The article reports the results of a survey of Australian primary pre-service teacher educators who coordinate units and programs that include classroom behaviour management (CBM) in their content. The survey, involving 25 tertiary institutions, indicated that a wide range of models were used to cover CBM. The most commonly found model was Rogers' 'Decisive discipline', which combines elements of many existing approaches to behaviour management. No research studies have as yet evaluated the successfulness of the model as a whole; however, research has supported the value of some of the individual practices recommended under this model, including 'rules, praise and time out'. A second model, Glassers' 'choice theory/reality therapy', was commonly included in Australian programs, though not as commonly as has been reported for teacher education programs in the USA. The limited research undertaken on this model has produced mixed findings on its effectiveness. A third model used, ABA, does have strong research support in its recent versions, although earlier versions had been found to be 'potentially coercive' by some researchers. The PBIS model was also widely used in the teacher education programs, perhaps due to the growing adoption of this framework in Australian school systems. The great majority of the teacher education coordinators adopted elements from various models. This eclectic approach has been recommended since the 1980s, and is seen as a way to cover a range of classroom contexts and philosophical approaches. It may also reflect the fact that some of these models are included in classroom management textbooks. However, such an approach makes it difficult to present more than a general overview of any one model. The authors recommend instead the adoption of a 'single effective integrated model for classroom management' carried through to the point where pre-service teachers can demonstrate mastery of the strategies recommended.
Subject HeadingsClassroom management
Volume 42 Number 2, June 2012; Pages 213–233
'Bully victims' are victims of bullying in some contexts and perpetrators of it in others. Bully-victims tend to be socially isolated and to bully others as a reaction to the bullying they themselves have received. By contrast, other bullies are often socially successful, initiating aggression against victims as a calculated way to attain and retain dominance and high status within peer groups. A recent survey of adolescents across 40 countries found that 3.6 per cent of respondents identified as both victims and perpetrators of bullying, a figure similar to that identified in separate research in Australia. The same Australian research found that instances of bullying behaviour rise sharply during the period of transition between primary and secondary school. The current article reports on an analysis of survey data about bullying obtained from the Supportive Schools Project in Western Australia. The data was collected between 2005 and 2007 from 3459 students, who responded to questionnaires at the end of their final year of primary school and at the end of each of the first two years of secondary school. The research identified a range of factors that reinforced 'perpetration-victimisation' and which were simultaneously reinforced by it. These factors were lack of peer support, a sense of disconnection from school, and a low expectation that their bullying behaviour would have adverse consequences for them. In the case of female bully-victims, another mutually reinforcing factor was found: a lack of in-principle sympathy with victims of bullying. It is important to build peer support for victims of bullying as a way to reduce its impact. A number of interventions have generated such support: by encouraging interactions between parents, teachers and students; by encouraging students to take up extracurricular activities; and by encouraging interactions among students with similar interests. Schools should have policies against bullying and apply them consistently, creating a climate where students expect bullying to have negative consequences for perpetrators. Other effective strategies involve pastoral care programs and measures to improve the school's physical environment. On the other hand, 'zero-tolerance' programs against bullying, applied regardless of the severity of behaviour, have not been found to improve school climate or behaviour.
Transitions in schooling
Ten minutes a day: the impact of Interactive Writing instruction on first graders' independent writing
Volume 11 Number 3, 2011; Pages 331–361
Interactive Writing is a form of writing instruction suitable for children in years K–3. It encourages young learners to become strong, independent writers. It focuses on the learner's need at a particular point in time, and draws on Vygotsky's concept of the zone of proximal development and his social-constructivist approach to learning. Within this approach children are given authentic writing tasks, such as writing a letter, capturing details of a science experiment, or summarising a story. Interactive writing is designed as a ten-minute package, to complement rather than replace standard writing instruction such as the Writing Workshop program. A study in the USA has examined the effectiveness of the Writing Instruction approach. The study involved 101 year 1 students in six classrooms across five schools, in a disadvantaged, ethnically diverse urban area in the north-east of the country. The six teachers, all women, were highly trained and experienced. Three used Writing Workshop, incorporating Interactive Writing instruction, while the other three teachers did not. The researchers compared the writing instruction in each of the six classes, using teachers' daily self-report logs, classroom observations, and the ELLCO, a 'field-tested observational toolkit'. Students' initial language skills were measured through a standardised vocabulary assessment. Students' independent writing was assessed two ways. One was a standardised writing assessment, which measures features of writing such as quality of expression. The other assessment was of students' independent writing in response to two set tasks. An adult briefly discussed the completed pieces with each child, so as to compare the student's writing intention with the text they had produced. The results supported the value of the Interactive Writing approach to instruction. Students taught through this approach overtook the other students, and ultimately out-performed them on nine out of ten writing measures. The results support literacy teaching that is systematic and explicit, and also 'instructionally dense' in that a single lesson addresses multiple learning goals. Writing instruction is also most effective when tasks are authentic and varied.
United States of America (USA)
Volume 30 Number 2, May 2012
Within Australian curricula there has been a broad shift in emphasis towards cross-curricular skills and knowledge, values, active citizenship, and lifelong learning, and a focus on depth rather than breadth of understanding, and a stress on thinking skills influenced by the International Baccalaureate. The article describes the curriculum framework within each jurisdiction. In terms of music, only NSW and Queensland mandate a specific number of hours for music instruction. In the other jurisdictions music is subsumed within generic arts frameworks: as a consequence music programs generally have 'little substance' and music is often eclipsed by other areas of the arts. These general arts frameworks use generic terms to cover the development of 'skills, techniques, processes and understandings' as well as ' [f]ocus descriptors, learning outcomes and standards'. The content of the music curriculum is decided by individual schools, or teachers. Teachers are not given adequate guidance on how to identify essential learning or indicators of essential standards, or help in sequencing content. At the same time, teachers are expected to implement and assess these generic 'essential learnings' as they apply to students' learning about music. Teachers' responses to these challenges vary. Experienced teachers, whether generalists or music specialists, tend to adapt their existing units of work to incorporate changes of focus. Schools with more than one music specialist are relatively well placed to support new music teachers through the existence of 'a school-based scope and sequence music curriculum'. However, new teachers of music who are the only such teacher at their school tend to rely on commercially prepared curriculum material that is not tailored to their particular students. To be effective, these music teachers need strong pre-service education and ongoing professional learning opportunities.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Teaching and learning
Procedural Fluency and Flexibility
Volume 49 Number Term 4, 2012
Procedural Fluency and Flexibility (PFF) in mathematics refers to an approach in which more than one method is considered for solving a problem or computation. PFF also refers to the use of estimation before attempting the solution to a problem or computation. While PFF is widely used at primary level, it is less common in the more pressured, high-stakes environment of secondary schooling, where learning even one approach is challenging to many students. Nevertheless, PFF is valuable at both primary and secondary levels of schooling, for a range of reasons. It helps struggling students to find an accessible way to solve mathematical problems, and may reduce maths phobia. At the same time also helps to stimulate gifted students by offering them more pathways to explore. In addition, PFF offers professional learning opportunities for teachers. The article demonstrates the use of PFF through the example of the topic of differentiation. It suggests four methods: ‘the quotient rule’, ‘the product rule’, ‘renaming plus the quotient rule’, and ‘renaming plus the power rule’.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Inquiry based learning
Volume 91 Number 17, 24 September 2012
The New Zealand Ministry of Education supports a national framework for provisionally registered teachers (PRTs) and their mentors. The program also supports Overseas-Trained Teachers. The framework offers a PRTs and OTTs a comprehensive program of professional education, customized to their needs. The program, free to schools and covering primary and secondary levels of schooling, is comprised of face-to-face workshops, supported by online modules that cover the content of the workshops in more depth. A unique feature of the program is its involvement of both new teachers and their teacher mentors. Some of the e-modules cater to both types of participant. The program covers ‘effective pedagogy and teaching as inquiry’, culturally responsive pedagogy, and the building of professional learning communities and networks. It also covers the New Zealand education systems requirements for full registration as teachers. In addition to their educational content the workshops offer opportunities for participants to meet peers from the rest of their region.
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
The end of school as we know it
8 September 2012; Pages 6–8
Online education is a small but quickly growing segment of schooling in the USA. It has been estimated that 0.5 per cent of US schools students attended online-only schools in the 2010-11 school year, a 25 per cent rise from the previous year. Other students undertake part of their studies online. A 2009 analysis predicted approximately half of secondary courses would be conducted online by 2019. One force driving interest in online courses is reductions in government spending on schools, with a consequent reduction in resources and rise in average class sizes. Advocates of online education highlight its support for personalised learning, however critics argue that there is little evidence of its benefits. The great bulk of research into the effectiveness of online education has focused on the tertiary education sector. However, 30 US states now have full-time online schools, and some states require all students to take at least some classes online. The article also discusses the ‘flipped classroom’ and the use of learning management systems to track student progress and support online learning.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
United States of America (USA)
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