Volume 70 Number 6, March 2013; Pages 57–60
The blending of classroom-based and online learning allows students greater scope to control their own academic work. As a first step toward such blended learning, teachers might wish to find and apply a single technological tool that serves the needs of their class. For her own teaching the author started with Collaboratize Classroom, a platform that facilitates group work, class discussions and writing assignments. Using an online discussion platform is more time-efficient than the traditional processes of preparing and distributing written handouts, collecting marking and handing back student work. Students' anonymity and the asynchronous discussion on this platform encourages contributions from shyer students, while enthusiastic contributors simply enrich the discussion rather than crowding out peers. Technology also facilitates feedback from students to teachers. By using 'back channel' services, such as todaysmeet.com, students can post comments and questions without disrupting classroom discussion. During episodes of blended learning, student work may move back and forth between classroom and online environments. For instance, a small-group discussion during class might continue in greater depth online. The teacher might also assign research tasks to a group of students to present later to the class. Tools for collaborative research and presentation include Google Doc, Glogster, Prezi and Presentation Maker. Such online work strengthens academic networking among students. Teachers sometimes voice concerns that a move online creates inequities due to students' varied levels of personal access to ICT. In fact, the inequity exists anyway and students will be disadvantaged in adult life if they have not been familiarised with the kind of technologies used during blended learning. The author helped her own students by posting a Google map on her website that pointed out places for public internet access in the school and local community. The rise of mobile devices also offers learning opportunities. A small number of devices are easily shared among students. The author used them in class to introduce students to the use and creation of QR codes. When using unfamiliar technology, teachers should feel able to ask for help from tech-savvy students.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
Volume 10 Number 1, January 2013; Pages 1–5
The USA's National Council for Geographic Education has partnered with the National Geographic Society, the American Geographical Society and the Association of American Geographers to set out a Road Map of long-term strategies to improve K–12 geography education. This initiative has been driven by evidence that seven out of ten students in the USA emerge from secondary schooling ill-equipped for the kind of geographic reasoning they are likely to need in the workplace, community and family life. It also follows indications that geography as a subject area has not shaken off a stereotypic image as simply a body of knowledge, rather than as a means to answer questions and solve problems raised throughout life. The organisations have collaborated to produce three investigative reports. The Geography Education Research Committee Report proposes measures to 'support, expand and build capacity in geography education research'. The Assessment Committee Report has produced a 21st Century Assessment Framework for the Geographic Sciences, looking at ways to probe students' abilities to undertake geography inquiry and problem solving. The Instructional Materials and Professional Development Committee Report calls for geography education, across grade levels and subject areas, to offer real-world learning experiences that promote geographic thinking and develop skills in the use of geospatial technologies, such as web-based GIS and remotely-sensed images. The report provides ten recommendations and guidelines that target student thinking and practices in geography, teachers' knowledge and teaching methods, and research and collaborative efforts to improve knowledge of teaching and learning in geography education. The article introduces the January 2013 edition of The Geography Teacher, which includes two further articles summarising two of the Road Map reports.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
United States of America (USA)
Approaches to teaching low-literacy, refugee-background students
Volume 35 Number 3, October 2012; Pages 317–333
Many young refugees arrive in Australia with minimal or highly disrupted schooling. These low-literacy, refugee-background (LLRB) students receive up to one year of intensive English language instruction in specialist schools, after which they move to mainstream schooling. A study has investigated how 61 teachers in Victorian secondary schools have assisted such students, and the extent to which these teachers used approaches advocated in influential language and literacy pedagogy frameworks. One such approach is engaging students' prior knowledge of their own cultural backgrounds. However, opportunities to use this approach are limited by the small number of multicultural aides available and by the diversity of ethnic groups represented in classes. A second approach is to build comprehension and linguistic awareness by helping students recognise structural conventions and patterns in language. To employ this approach, teachers must first spend time identifying the linguistic demands that a forthcoming class topic make on these students, and identifying ways to make the more complex texts accessible to them. This may be accomplished by developing vocabulary, providing extensive opportunities for practice and by comparing the meaning systems and cultural discourses in a text with those in other texts. The students need the chance to relate the texts to something in their own experience and then, on these foundations, undertake more analytical and critical scrutiny of the text and generalise from it. There is a need for scaffolding students as text producers. Teachers may accomplish this by modelling ways to write, and adapt writing for audience and context. There is also a need for scaffolding through discussion: giving students the chance to talk through substantial and complex issues. Almost two thirds of surveyed teachers provided 'rich and varied textual and non-textual supports', though fewer than half provided scaffolding related to particular genres or text types. The article includes a table offering an overview of language and literacy strategies. A substantial majority of the surveyed teachers were active in eliciting students' prior knowledge, and building students' comprehension and linguistic awareness. However, most scaffolding took place through discussion rather than text-based resources. This may be due to the limited availability of such written material, but may also reflect pressure on teachers to move through the curriculum quickly. Overall the respondents had a strong tendency toward teacher-focused activities. For instance, they would often recontextualise material on students' behalf rather than generate expectations or opportunities for students to do this themselves. To cultivate a more student-centred approach the authors recommend providing teachers more time and resources, as well as more professional learning opportunities to promote awareness of student-centred learning opportunities. The authors also note the potential impact of school culture and teacher identities as further factors warranting research.
Teaching and learning
Reading-on-the-same-page: linger longer in the learning areas
Volume 20 Number 3, October 2012; Pages i–xi
'Reading-on-the-same-page' is a whole-class reading strategy aimed at helping students to read independently. The teacher models the skills and strategies of proficient reading by 'thinking aloud' to the class during collective reading of a text. A key aspect of the strategy is to 'linger longer' on fewer, carefully chosen texts, which are subject to close critical readings, repeated reading and collaborative discussion in class. To support the repeated readings students research the topic and related topics, make links to other texts, write and, where necessary, receive remedial help from the teacher. The teacher also provides opportunities for artistic expression to deepen students' engagement with and sense of the text. Repeated readings of the selected text are particularly valuable as a counterweight to the skim-reading encouraged by the web. Data on student reading development is collected at the start and end of class discussion on each text. The 'reading-on-the-same-page' strategy overcomes some problems arising in traditional student reading groups, in which adult guidance and help is very limited, fast readers often put unhelpful pressure on struggling peers, and students' goal easily slips into simply finishing rather than exploring the text. The selected books directly target curriculum requirements for a specific subject area. The article discusses an example text, Scientists in Antartica (2007). 'Reading-on-the-same-page' focuses students on one selected metacognitive strategy at a time, which is also applied to other texts then being studied. For the study of Scientists in Antartica students learnt to apply the strategy 'Summarising and organising information from a text', taken from the glossary of the Australian Curriculum: English. Another aspect of the strategy is fluency development, comprising accuracy and automaticity in the decoding of words, and prosody, the capacity to use phrasing and expression to convey meaning. 'Word work' is the study of text at word level and includes consideration of phonic elements, spelling, grammar and vocabulary. 'Textual analysis' considers how texts are organised for the needs of particular genres and disciplines.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Modelling-based learning in science education: cognitive, metacognitive, social, material and epistemological contributions
Volume 64 Number 4, November 2012; Pages 471–492
Scientific models are conceptual maps of physical systems, constructed within the context of a specific theory, used to reliably represent a specific pattern in the real world. As such, scientific models are distinct from students' own subjective representations of concepts. Modelling is a process of developing concrete representations of abstract ideas in science (eg heat) and the underlying mechanisms that cause physical phenomena. It involves engagement with a question or problem, often relating to a specific material or natural phenomenon; developing hypotheses about cause or association; and creating evaluating and revising explanatory models. Modelling is a core aspect of scientific literacy. The article reviews literature on model-based learning (MbL) approaches in science, approached from inquiry-based, constructivist traditions. It discusses four discrete steps in the modelling process: the collection of observations and experiences, and then the construction, testing and revision of the model. The article goes on to review literature on various aspects of, or contributions to, MbL. Cognitive and metacognitive contributions focus on the use of MbL to develop students' conceptual grasp of science. Social contributions of MbL refer to the role of discussion and interaction between students, and between students and the teacher, in the process of modelling. Material contributions examine the impact of material resources, such as specific modelling tools, or the curriculum, on students' opportunities to engage in MbL. MbL is at once student-centred and teacher-mediated. The teacher designs and develops the MbL activity sequence, coordinates its implementation, and supports and guides students. However, research suggests that 'a large proportion of science teachers' do not appreciate modelling 'as an authentic inquiry-based approach in science' and 'fail to ground MbL in science on inquiry principles'. Teachers tend to think of models as useful visual aids to explain complex or abstract ideas. They rarely see models' role in making predictions or as tools for obtaining information about inaccessible parts of physical systems. The challenging nature of the teacher's role in MbL calls for professional development, a topic which itself warrants further research.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
Teaching and learning
What is happening when teachers of 11 to 13-year-old students take guided reading: a New Zealand snapshot
Volume 64 Number 4, November 2012; Pages 425–449
Research indicates that students' reading performance reaches a plateau or declines during the upper primary years. Little time is spent on teaching reading once students reach this stage of schooling; they may also need teaching that is more targeted to their needs as older children. Students in the early primary years need to learn alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness and oral-reading fluency. In the later primary years, their main need is to extend their knowledge of vocabulary and their reading-comprehension skills. Reading comprehension in turn requires higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and inference, to equip students to question texts. Such questioning skills develop hand-in-hand with peer discussion of the texts being studied, facilitated by small-group and peer-to-peer work in which students co-construct meanings from the texts they read. Such collaboration and cooperation is best cultivated when discussions are focused and structured by teachers, but not dominated by them. A New Zealand study has examined how eight effective teachers of reading carried out their work. The teachers took years 7 or 8, dealing with students aged 11 to 13. The teachers were based at five schools representing a range of demographic areas and school types. They had all been identified as effective reading teachers based on their principals' judgements and on students' scores on different standardised tests. The researchers investigated the classroom practice of these teachers, looking particularly at the nature of their interactions with students during lessons. Evidence was obtained by classroom observations and interviews with the teachers. The teachers' pedagogies varied strongly, but notwithstanding these differences, most of them were found to dominate class discussion, giving students little chance to intervene or to initiate dialogue. Only one teacher provided substantial opportunities for students to lead dialogue and debate. He displayed a 'high level of theoretical understanding of how to provoke, challenge and engage students in considered discourse'. He was also the only one of the teachers to have undertaken post-graduate study of children's literature.
Teaching and learning
Owning history: building historical understandings through creative engagement
Volume 33 Number 1
Traditionally, school history teaching has emphasised the delivery of factual information over historical interpretation and has underplayed the contested nature of history. This form of teaching does not encourage students to engage with the subject, or equip them adequately to be historically interested and aware citizens. Students' engagement with the subject is further discouraged by the passive role in which students are placed, with the teacher positioned as the authority. History is usually taught as a narrative that 'often suggests that certain events inevitably led to others'. These narratives are reinforced by museum trips and excursions in which students continue to be passive receivers of knowledge. Even hands-on activities tend to be designed by teachers. Students are called on to engage in higher-order thinking in the form of analysis and synthesis of texts, but not in the form of creativity. Students need to encounter history as a lived experience if they are to be engaged with the subject at school. This engagement may be achieved through art and drama. Students can be taught to understand and reproduce forms of art, music, poetry and literature that reflect ways of thinking and seeing the world during the time being studied, including competing views of the world that then prevailed. Students can debate issues from the perspectives of the day. They can be asked to construct arguments about how different styles of clothing, for example, reinforced positive or negative status according to the wearer's social position. Students may be asked to 'curate an exhibition, design websites, write or perform and annotate imaginative pieces', or create or perform music to evoke a particular time and place. Students' questioning, when suitably scaffolded, may help awaken students' sense of historical perspective. For example, a question about the writing instruments and materials may lead into a discussion of technologies of the time and their social significance. The article describes two strategies for creative engagement through the use of drama.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Teaching and learning
Using spacing to enhance diverse forms of learning: review of recent research and implications for instruction
Volume 24, September 2012; Pages 369–378
When the study of a particular classroom topic is separated over two or more intervals of time, it is said to be 'spaced'. Spacing of study is in contrast to 'massing' which refers to the study of a topic in one single block of time. There is substantial research evidence pointing to the benefits of spacing as a study method, measured by test performance. Most of this research has been under laboratory conditions, but recent research has demonstrated benefits in realistic educational settings as well. Examples include the study by Sobel et al 2011 of grade 5 students' retention of definitions of uncommon English words; the study by Carpenter et al 2009 of year 8 students' retention of facts about US history; and the study by Seabrook et al 2005 of grade 1 students' acquisition of reading skills. Other researchers have focused on the time gap between first and subsequent learning sessions, and sought to identify the most effective gap for retention of learning. In general, the optimal time gap between first and second learning sessions has been identified as 10 to 20 per cent of the total time gap between the first learning session and the test. Thus, the greater the gap between the first learning session and the test, the greater is the optimal time gap, in absolute terms, between first and second study sessions. This finding suggests that the optimal time to reinforce prior learning depends on when the learning is to be called upon. If it is a long time, the spacing between learning sessions should also be long, and for lifelong retention of knowledge, a gap of years is likely to be most effective. Further research has looked into the spacing of more than two study sessions, and in particular has examined whether the spacing of this series of sessions should be at fixed or expanding intervals. Results have been equivocal. Overall, the research has several implications for educators. It confirms the value of reintroducing topics to students over time, eg through homework. It also suggests the value of cumulative tests that examine learning that has occurred at relatively remote, as well as recent, time frames.
Subject HeadingsPsychology of learning
Teaching and learning
Efficacy of an integrated school curriculum pedometer intervention to enhance physical activity and to reduce weight status in children
Volume 18 Number 3, October 2012; Pages 396–407
A four-week study in England trialled the use of a pedometer in two grade 6 classrooms within a primary school. The study involved 22 boys and 27 girls aged 10–11, 85 per cent of whom were of Caucasian background. The students undertook a 'virtual walk' across the length of Great Britain, using 'a global positioning-derived satellite map of their route', with goals set for the amount of walking they might accomplish. Each child wore a pedometer every day, with their step counts recorded by researchers. Students began wearing a pedometer one week prior to the virtual walk, to establish baseline figures, and continued wearing it for four weeks following the walk. Children's use of the pedometer was integrated throughout the curriculum. During geography lessons the students 'used the data in tracking the length of the UK' and learnt how to use a global positioning system to record their progress. In science lessons the pedometer study was linked to activities concerning energy expenditure, nutrition and food types. During lessons on maths and ICT the students learnt to input pedometer data and generate graphs from it. During PE lessons, students had opportunities to learn about the role of physical activity in maintaining a healthy weight. Results indicate that participating children's average number of steps per day was significantly higher after the intervention. Four weeks following the intervention children's average number of steps per day remained significantly higher than baseline figures. The study also found, however, that those children classified at 'normal' weight were significantly more active than overweight or obese peers and that, perhaps due to its short time frame, the trial had not significantly impacted on children's weight.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsPhysical education
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