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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Leadership character: understanding the link between self-awareness and mind-set

Volume 18 Number 10, November 2014; Pages 1, 3–6
Robyn Collins

Mind-sets are the ‘attitudes, beliefs, assumptions and ideas’ that shape people's thoughts and actions. A person's mind-set may be positive or negative; it may be flexible, allowing the person to adapt to circumstance, or rigid. Good leaders are aware of their mind-sets, and are able to adapt elements of them according to the situations they face. Mind-set is closely linked to self-awareness, which helps leaders understand and regulate their behaviour. Without awareness of their habits of mind, leaders tend not to absorb criticism, or else they interpret it as a threat. Feedback helps to improve a leader's self-awareness, and thus mind-set. However, leaders may not receive honest feedback from colleagues, and requests for feedback may be seen as unacceptable weakness. Leaders can seek feedback from anonymous staff surveys, but it may be vague or come too late to be helpful. There are several other ways in which leaders can take action to improve their self-awareness. One way is to write down their decisions and their rationales for them, and reflect on these notes later, on their own or with a coach. Another way is to take a personality test such as Myer-Briggs. A third way is to admit mistakes, and thus signal to others that they are open to feedback. Attending to the mind-sets of others may also make leaders more aware of their own. Having become more self-aware, leaders can use a range of strategies to alter their mind-sets. One strategy is to ‘practice the pause’: when confronted by stressful situations, they should hold back from habitual knee-jerk reactions, such as withdrawal or displays of anger, by permitting themselves time before they respond. Pausing allows leaders to study their emotional and physical reactions, and to explore the personal needs and desires that underlie them. Similarly, leaders should schedule times for personal recuperation during the day, for example ten minute breaks in the morning and afternoon, allowing time for reflection on their state of mind. To strengthen their self-confidence, they should focus on personal strengths rather than weaknesses. The article also discusses the issue of trust between colleagues. Trust helps conflicts to be clarified and resolved, rather than directed into ‘back-channel personal attacks’ or suppressed, to reappear later.


Subject Headings


Maryanne Wolf: balance technology and deep reading to create biliterate children

Volume 96 Number 3, November 2014; Pages 14–19
Joan Richardson

In this article Joan Richardson, editor-in-chief of Phi Delta Kappan, interviews researcher and author Maryanne Wolf. The act of reading, Wolf states, reflects one of the human brain’s ‘essential capacities’. It puts the brain to entirely new uses, connecting vision and language and drawing upon cognitive processes such as inference, analogy and critical analysis; during these processes readers are called on to contribute their own thoughts, beyond those provided by the writer of the text. A key question for educators is the impact of digital devices on reading development. While these devices are undoubtedly a great resource for readers, they generated a range of concerns, which must be accommodated if children are not to lose the benefits that derive from reading traditional print sources. One concern is the extent to which digital devices undermine steady attention to a text. E-readers tend to be similar to books in the reading experience they offer, but other types of device provide multiple, vivid distractions from the reading process. A second, related concern is that digital devices introduce a new state of mind, setting up expectations of distraction. Wolf describes the impact of regular online reading on herself and her own loss of capacity to absorb dense texts, which she had once taken to with alacrity; she found that she had to undertake sustained disciplined reading to restore her skills in this area. A further issue is that digital reading allows the reader to ‘just push a button a see a scene’, rather than develop their own imagination. One of the most promising environments for the initial development of reading skills is when children are read to by parents. This warm, close setting stimulates cognitive and linguistic learning. There is evidence that children read to in this way acquire more advanced language skills than children learning to read via gadgetry. Once children acquire the level of reading skills expected at grades 4 and 5, they are well placed to start taking advantage of the affordances of online technology for reading. While screen reading is valuable when speed and immediacy are required, readers should remain ‘biliterate’, able to read equally well from electronic and print sources. Ideally, the development of each child’s reading skills should be monitored, to check that they are independently acquiring deep reading skills: this would help to identify the point where ‘we can add more technology’.


Subject Headings

Child development
Thought and thinking
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

The formative evaluation of teaching performance

Number 137, September 2014
Dylan Wiliam

The most promising way to improve teacher quality is to improve the professional performance of the existing teacher workforce. A key way to do so is to win teachers to the goal of continuing professional improvement, and to establish a culture in which ongoing improvement is a moral imperative. Feedback is a crucial element of improvement, but will only have a positive effect in certain contexts. Feedback implies that an evaluation of the teacher is being undertaken: if the evaluation has implications for a teachers’ employment, for example, teachers may seek to conceal weaknesses and avoid the risk of innovating their practice. Teachers are more likely to expose areas of need if feedback is for formative purposes, to improve their professional practice. The article discusses the nature of formative assessment for teachers. A relationship of trust is needed between those giving and receiving feedback. Leaders usually have formal accountability functions, which may inhibit trust. For this reason it may be more helpful to organise peer feedback. It is also more helpful to compare a teacher’s current and performances than to contrast their practice to that of peers.  The teacher should ‘own’ the feedback process, specifying what is observed, the nature of evidence collected. The need to improve should be seen to apply to all teachers, not simply poor performers. Rubrics are often used to communicate expected standards to teachers, but rubrics are best used simply as starting points for discussion, or devices by which teachers express accomplishments, rather than as guides for improving performance. A more effective approach is to examine teaching practice, eg via video, and discuss it. The article considers the concept of validity in formative assessment of teachers’ performance. For example, the assessor and teacher need a common concept of the nature of quality teaching for feedback to be valid. Five principles govern the implementation of processes for formative assessment of teachers. The first is that formative assessment need not focus on areas of weakness per se, but on areas that will improve teachers’ overall performance, whether they are weaknesses or current strengths. Another principle is to find a balance between teachers' autonomy and school learning policies: teachers should have flexibility to adapt new suggestions and recommendations to suit their own contexts, but frameworks are needed to ensure that teachers' individual interpretations of policy do not undermine the core intent of the innovation. Professional development involves the acquisition of new expertise, which takes time: it does not occur simply by telling teachers to implement a new practice. Teachers should be encouraged to plan their professional learning, through four processes. The plan should specify a small, manageable number of changes to implement. Teachers should write down their plan: this process will help to clarify the plan and will allow for results to be measured. The plan should focus on improving student results. The plan should also specify which part of the teacher’s activity should be reduced, since teachers are already working at capacity and improvements in time-efficiency are usually ‘hopelessly optimistic’.


Subject Headings

Assessment for learning (formative assessment)
Teacher evaluation

'I don't like it, I don't love it, but I do it and I don't mind': introducing a framework for engagement with mathematics

Volume 34 Number 3, September 2014; Pages 1–14
Catherine Attard

A NSW study has examined factors contributing to students’ engagement with mathematics in the middle years. The study informed a Framework for Engagement with Mathematics, which sets out the qualities of an engaged classroom, and describes the type of teaching and of teacher-student relationships that have been found to engage students most effectively. The researchers sought students’ views about what makes maths engaging. The study involved 20 students who self-identified as being engaged with mathematics. They all went to the same primary school and progressed to the same secondary. A group of students gave their opinions on this topic via individual interviews and focus group discussions, in year 6 – the final primary year – and again in years 7 and 8. During this process the students identified three ‘good’ maths teachers who taught them over these years. The classes of these teachers were then observed by the researchers, and two of the teachers were interviewed. During year 6 the students’ primary maths teacher made the most significant contribution to students’ engagement. She tailored her teaching to each student’s abilities, establishing their prior knowledge as each new topic was introduced. She did not talk at undue length before the class. She allowed students scope to choose how they would work, eg on computer, or through hands-on activities. Students were able to request help from her without revealing their needs before the whole class. Once in secondary school, however, students’ environment became less conducive to engagement. Much of their time was spent working on laptops, which diminished opportunities for interaction with peers and with the teacher. Maths was taught by four teachers in rotation. Students described receiving less feedback or other follow-up about maths from these teachers than they had received at primary level; they felt less well supported academically and personally. The teachers’ limited content knowledge of mathematics may have contributed to this outcome. The Framework for Engagement with Mathematics has been designed to capture the insights from the study.

Key Learning Areas


Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Mathematics teaching
Student engagement

Is it time to start reconceptualising maths and science teacher education?

Volume 13 Number 5, October 2014; Pages 8–10
Jenny Pesina, Geraldine Carroll

There is a continuing shortage of teachers with STEM subject qualifications. At the same time, senior secondary students continue to shift from more to less demanding mathematics subjects, and many students studying science and mathematics in senior secondary school do not continue at tertiary level. An Australian Government initiative is seeking to address these problems by establishing collaborations between schools and teacher education, mathematics and science faculties in universities. The program, launched in 2012, is titled Investing in Science and Maths for Smarter Future. It 'a basis for inspiration' to another program, Enhancing the Training of Mathematics and Science Teachers (ETMST). ETMST consists of five projects; one of them, based in Victoria, is titled Reconceptualising Maths and Science Teacher Education Programs (ReMSTEP). Through ReMSTEP, four universities are endeavouring to align teacher education more closely to current developments in STEM, by encouraging greater contact between STEM researchers and educators. The article lists seven activities to be undertaken over the three years of the project.

Key Learning Areas


Subject Headings

Science teaching
Mathematics teaching
Teacher training
Teaching and learning
Educational planning

The expanding role of philanthropy in education politics

Volume 43 Number 4, May 2014; Pages 186–195
Sarah Reckhow, Jeffrey Snyder

Philanthropy plays a growing role in US education. There are concerns that philanthropy foundations are now ‘too powerful' and are 'attempting to privatize public education'. The authors examined data from 2000, 2005 and 2010 tax returns filed by the 15 largest donors to K12 education. The data shows 'considerable growth in giving among the largest education foundations'. The direction of these donations is changing: funding to public schools has fallen from 16% to 8% over the decade 2000-2010, while support for non-government charter schools rose from 7% to 16% . Philanthropic funding has increasingly been channelled to support particular policy positions around accountability, school choice and alternative pathways to teacher education and credentialing. Advocacy organisations, such as such as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, are, in turn, active in lobbying legislators. Two shifts in the USA’s educational landscape have facilitated changes in the role of philanthropy. One shift is the rise of ‘jurisdictional challengers’ which promote alternatives to public education, teacher educational and credentialing, and research. These jurisdictional challengers have been major beneficiaries of philanthropy. The other key shift has been the growing influence of the national government on US education, which was previously ‘shielded’ by localism. Philanthropic donations have increasingly converged on the same kinds of activities and policies. The clearest example of this trend is Teach for America, which has received funding from 13 of the top 15 donors. Further research should examine how this shift in the education landscape has affected other parts of the education community, such as ‘unions, professional associations, civil rights organisations, or university-based researchers’.


Subject Headings

United States of America (USA)
Education finance
Educational planning
Education policy
Education philosophy
State schools

Closing the gap... between the university and the schoolhouse

Volume 96, September 2014; Pages 30–35
Jack Schneider

Education researchers and practitioners tend to operate in parallel worlds. Most research ‘never moves beyond small-circulation journals and niche academic presses’. When ideas do move from research to practice, it is not always on the basis of academic merit. The author has analysed several examples of ‘boundary crossing’ from scholarship to schooling, identifying four characteristics that make for a successful transition. The first is the perceived significance of the research amongst educators. This perception may be due to the authoritativeness of the scholar involved, or to the fact that it has been received from a practitioner-friendly publication, or from professional development seminars. The second trait that encourages take-up in schools is the research idea’s resonance, or philosophical compatibility, with teachers’ values. A third trait is occupational realism: the idea emerging from the research must be readily applicable in the classroom, without substantial training or major modification of current practice. This is an aspect of research ideas that scholars ‘rarely consider’. This sense that the idea is realistic may be due to intermediary work of professional development providers. Closely related is the fourth quality: transportability. The idea emerging from the research must be essentially straightforward, and easily explained. It might also be transported in the sense of being embedded in ‘lasting structures like curriculum frameworks’. One example of a successfully transported idea from research is Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI). Gardner held an authoritative academic position. His research on the topic was available through a mainstream publisher. It was compatible with teachers’ existing beliefs as it endorsed the capacity of all children to learn. Professional development providers offered ready ways of ‘layering MI onto existing classroom practice’. The idea of MI was straightforward and easy to express. Scholars can help their research reach teachers by publishing in journals widely read by teachers, or by writing in blogs or other easily accessed channels. They should express their ideas in terms already familiar to teachers. Researchers may also wish to forge links with professional development providers or education authorities. Teachers wishing to find quality research may wish to check a researcher’s reception on Google Scholar. They may also wish to set up or join groups of peers that discuss classroom applications of research.


Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Education research

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