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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Abstracts

How schools sustain success

February 2005
Valerie Chrisman

A United States study has examined a group of struggling schools that showed different levels of improvement in student test scores. The study compared 83 schools showing sustained improvement for two consecutive years to 274 struggling schools that had improved for one year only. The primary and secondary schools were part of California's Immediate Intervention Underperforming Schools Program. The study compared the schools by test scores and school characteristics, and included interviews with the principal and four teachers at each of eight sample schools, as well as principals' responses to questionnaires. Teachers at schools experiencing sustained success were found to have considerable scope to decide on their approach to teaching and learning. They collaborated in informal action research to evaluate and compare instructional practices. They also developed internal leadership structures such as team teaching and mentoring of new teachers. The principals at schools with sustained success tended to support their staff by creating time for teacher collaboration, attendances at grade-level and departmental meetings, and by requesting or demanding feedback. These principals were also confident in using and discussing data, and willing to change practices in the light of evidence. The successful schools also received more external government assistance from their school district. The schools with sustained success had an instructional focus on academic English that helped native and non-native English speakers. Students who performed below grade-level in language arts and mathematics were far more likely to receive additional help than students at other schools.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
School principals
Schools
Socially disadvantaged
United States of America (USA)
Educational evaluation

Teenage employability: views of employers

Volume 23 Number 4, December 2004; Pages 47–53
Erica Smith

The availability of teenagers for work, and the growing casualisation of employment in many industries, have led to a growing youth labour market. While part time work is traditionally accepted amongst university students, it is estimated that 60 per cent of Australian secondary school students are employed on a part time basis in the latter years of their schooling. This article reports on a research project, funded by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), which sought to define what industry saw as the ‘employability skills’ of young workers, as well as the negative aspects of employing young people. The report is based on qualitative research gathered from twelve enterprises, in which experienced workers, managers, supervisors and the novice workers, themselves, were interviewed. Many of the employability factors of young workers are listed in the article - including enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, flexibility and so forth – along with the negative aspects, such as lack of initiative, poor communication skills and lack of commitment. The article concludes, however, that young people are employable because of a genuine set of employability skills that they bring to an enterprise, and not necessarily because of their cheaper labour costs, or an altruistic requirement of industry to develop youth.

KLA

Subject Headings

Employment
Adolescents

Incorporating history into the science classroom

Volume 71 Number 9, November 2004; Pages 52–57
David W. Rudge, Eric M. Howe

The authors of this article demonstrate to science teachers how to use history to create a unit of work aimed at assisting students to understand the Nature of Science, that is, the assumptions, methodologies, philosophy and limitations of science as a discipline. Teachers are taken through a step-by-step approach - based on a constructivist pedagogy and an inquiry learning methodology - that helps them to use historical case studies to engage their classes in learning that uncovers the social influences on, and the subjective nature and tentativeness of, scientific knowledge. Students are required to engage their own conceptions and knowledge of a particular scientific advancement, and then asked to use historical approaches and material to understand the conceptions/misconceptions of scientists in relation to that particular advancement at a specific point in its history. The article shows teachers how to develop criteria to assist in the selection of particular scientific episodes, and, through the use of examples, helps them to implement the learning approaches contained within it. 

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

Science teaching
Science

Keys to teaching the nature of science

Volume 71 Number 9, November 2004; Pages 24–27
William F. McComas

The Nature of Science is the ‘rules of the game’, garnered from how scientists produce and create knowledge, and the philosophy that underpins that process. It includes the privileging of empirical evidence and data, the qualified nature of scientific conclusions, an understanding of the difference between ‘laws’ and ‘theories’, the societal and historical influences operating on the discipline, and the limitations of science’s explanatory potential. According to McComas, the Nature of Science should share the same prestige in school science curricula as that afforded to scientific knowledge. It should be explained in scientific textbooks, and teachers should integrate it into science activities and their assessment, so students are aware of both the philosophical and methodological premises of the discipline.

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

Science teaching
Science

Changing views

Volume 10 Number 4, November 2004; Pages 169–173
Susan L. Hillman, Cathy M. Malotka

Parents’ participation in their children’s schooling is an objective towards which most school communities aspire, but few have the wherewithal to realise it. Bridging the gap between what is done in class and parents’ abilities to assist learning is one way to empower parents to play a role in their children’s education. This article describes the attempts of the authors to change parents’ views about the use of technology in the classroom, more specifically, the use of calculators in the mathematics classroom, and how they used the opportunity to deepen parents’ understanding about the mathematics curriculum and the assessment procedures, as well as acquaint them with the functions of graphic and fraction calculators. The series of workshops included students and their parents working through mathematics activities together, so that parents felt able to use the technology at home, as well as to discuss mathematical problems with their children. Descriptions of the workshops, the activities and the evaluation forms are contained in the article

KLA

Subject Headings

Parent and child
Mathematics
Mathematics teaching

Is high school career and technical education obsolete?

Volume 86 Number 2, October 2004; Pages 128–134
Gray Kenneth

Initiatives associated with the No Child Left Behind education policy, in the United States, have promoted the implementation of curricula which emphasise academic study and skills, concentrating in particular on mathematics and science. In an article which clarifies the debate around Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the United States, Gray warns against the promotion of purely academic programs of learning to the detriment of CTE programs, claiming that all the evidence points to a continuing need for CTE in high schools. To support his argument, Gray assesses the merits of CTE in high schools, and the realities of the educational and work choices most United States students make, regardless of the wishes of policy makers. He finds that even though there are efforts afoot to undermine CTE in high schools, 25 per cent of students still seek to enrol in those programs of learning, and that a significant proportion of those students will continue to tertiary education and training with skills equal to those of students who pursued a purely academic pathway. Moreover, given that a third of students will not graduate from high school, and that a further third will chose to go straight into to the workforce upon graduating, there is little evidence to show that concentrating schools’ curricula purely on academic skills will improve educational success and labour market outcomes for students. On the available evidence, however, CTE programs assist young people to define their career pathways, and so provide them with direction in education and training, ensuring that they are more successful in employment – both in terms of income and employability - should they chose to join the workforce after high school study.

KLA

Subject Headings

VET (Vocational Education and Training)
United States of America (USA)

High school career exploration programs: do they work?

Volume 86 Number 2, October 2004; Pages 135–138
Mary G. Visher, Rajika Bhandari, Elliott Medrich

The authors report on the findings of a United States study which examined high school students’ participation in career exploration programs, and the effects this had on the likelihood of their enrolment in post-secondary education and training courses. The study found that while students from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds were just as likely to participate in career exploration programs as those from well educated, middle class households, the kind of career exploration program could vary between those two groups of students. Participating in the programs, however, increased the likelihood of students taking tertiary preparation courses, as well as their chances of pursuing post-secondary education and training. Overall, the study found that while there is sometimes a tension in emphasing academic study at the expense of vocational experience, all students who participated in career exploration programs benefited academically from the experience. If keeping young people engaged at school and building their confidence to undertake further study and training are among the goals of school curricula, then ensuring that all young people have access to vocational experience is vital.

KLA

Subject Headings

VET (Vocational Education and Training)
United States of America (USA)
Education aims and objectives

A wider lens on the Black-White achievement gap

Volume 86 Number 2, October 2004; Pages 105–110
Richard Rothstein

Rothstein considers the persistent gap in educational achievement between black and white students in the United States, and asserts that the inequality in educational outcomes can only be eliminated by a concerted attempt by policy makers to eradicate the inequalities of class. This article identifies the effects that social disadvantage has on the achievement of ‘lower –class’ students, a term the author emphatically uses because it most effectively captures the wider condition (economic, psychological, occupational etc.) of class inequality, and argues that schools alone cannot be responsible for closing the achievement gap. Much of the gap is attributable to the social conditions that ‘lower-class’ students have to endure, such as ill health, high rates of mobility, and households which traditionally have not placed an emphasis on the kinds of skills that education values. While improving schools and curriculum delivery is desirable, it can only have an effect if there is a simultaneous attempt to reduce the impact of poverty. 

KLA

Subject Headings

Socially disadvantaged
United States of America (USA)
Educational sociology

Portfolios go digital

Summer 2005; Pages 25–26
Renee Hoareau

Online portfolios consist of compilations of work across the curriculum, housed electronically by teachers or students. They represent one of the ways that ICT is changing teaching and learning. Students' work in preparing portfolios can be self-paced, as well as and diverse in presentation. The online portfolio lends itself easily to group work and rich tasks, and to both peer and self-assessment. Results are readily shared with selected external groups. Teacher portfolios can be used to store support materials and classroom activities, as well as to document processes and demonstrate teachers' accomplishments. The portfolio also offers a means to develop non-competetive standards for evaluation of work.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Students
Internet
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Electronic publishing
Elearning
Assessment

The calculator as ICT

Summer 2005; Pages 19–20
Barry Kissane

For most mathematics students in Australia today, the calculator is the most important form of ICT for assisting their learning. Calculators have a range of advantages over computers: they are small and light; robust, with no down time or viruses; portable; and are dedicated to mathematics use and hence less distracting. Calculators in schools are usually designed for educational purposes, and so, for example, they apply mathematical conventions correctly in their calculations, unlike some other devices. Teachers need to equip students to understand when calculations should be carried out mentally, on paper or by using a calculator, based on criteria such as whether precise figures or estimations are needed. Students also need to learn how to decide between different choices for representation of results.

Key Learning Areas

Mathematics

Subject Headings

Mathematics teaching
School equipment
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Getting real with maths teaching

Summer 2005; Pages 11–12
Paul White

Students are likely to be more engaged with mathematics if concepts are introduced to them in relation to real life situations. This relationship is fairly easy to draw in the case of 'empirical maths', which by definition is derived from real life situations. For example, the concept of ratio can be introduced in terms of proportions of elements needed for cement or a cake. However, it is more difficult in the case of 'invented maths', which covers higher order concepts without direct connection to empirical reality. Mathematics teachers in higher grades usually attempt to apply maths only in its empirical form, or else try strained, artificial examples with only a 'facade' of real life context. Students are best engaged with 'invented maths' through appeals to their desire for overall competence or employability, or by presenting mathematics as a challenge or an aesthetic satisfaction.

Key Learning Areas

Mathematics

Subject Headings

Mathematics teaching

'Stealth attack' on theory of evolution in USA

31 January 2005
Jeffrey Ressner, Michael D. Lemonick, Noah Isakson

The teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution in US schools is coming under increasing challenge. In its place, ‘well-funded think tanks’ promote the theory of Intelligent Design, which argues that life, species diversity and the structure of some bodily organs are too complex to be understood without the intervention of a higher intelligence. While 350 scientists have issued a declaration in support of Intelligent Design, many thousands of scientists regard it as invalid. The assertion that evolution is ‘just a theory’ plays on the public’s confusion about the nature of scientific theories, which are not simply guesses but well tested hypotheses. The gaps in Darwin’s theory of evolution are comparable to those in other high profile theories such as relativity, quantum mechanics and plate tectonics.

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

United States of America (USA)
Science teaching

Collaborating to learn computer technology: a challenge for teachers and leaders

Volume 3 Number 2; Pages 111–133
Tanya Fedoruk  Cook, Vivienne Collinson

A qualitative study in the USA has examined how, why and with whom teachers share their ICT knowledge. The focus of the study was a computer technology program conducted over several years at three low-performing inner-city schools. The study found that dissemination tended to be 'informal, specific and exchanged in small doses', which limited its value, and that teachers mainly learned ICT by individual trial and error. Barriers to sharing include time constraints, individual attitudes and prevailing norms amongst teachers, and lack of understanding by school leaders. Solutions include: allowing teachers' input into the school schedule; making a school-wide schedule available; including knowledge sharing as a permanent item on meeting agenda; support for teachers to observe other classes; and making use of teachers' existing friendships, common technological interests, and disposition to collaborate. Ultimately, teaching loads must allow for learning and sharing on the job, rather than in teachers' personal time.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
School principals
Professional development
Leadership
Elearning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Computer-based training

Auditing the ICT experiences of teacher education graduates

Volume 19 Number 1, August 2004; Pages 3–9
Glenice Watson, Romina M. J.  Proctor, Glenn Finger

A project to audit the ICT experiences of teacher education undergraduates at an Australian university has now ended its first phase. The project has investigated the undergraduates' interest in, and perceived competence with, using ICT applications, and integrating them into teaching. The participants were found to have high levels of access to computers and the Internet. Participants from the primary program rated their ICT competence more highly than those in the secondary program. Their ICT experiences were found to vary according to their choice of teaching area. High numbers saw themselves as having no competency with the ICT applications most likely to motivate school students when integrated into the classroom, such as multimedia, visual thinking software and digital video editing. Teacher educators may need to draw on the skills of ICT specialists to make effective audits of their students' ICT outcomes.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teacher training
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Elearning
Computer-based training

Strengthening learning through a focus on wellbeing

Supporting Student Wellbeing
Steven Marshall

While the concept of ‘wellbeing’ is still evolving, it clearly includes the ability to be resilient, to function successfully with others, to engage in productive activity and to feel comfortable about oneself. Wellbeing is an important contributing factor to students’ engagement with learning. The emotional state of the learner strongly influences their ability to concentrate, persist with tasks, be confident, remain open to ideas, display curiosity and think laterally. Schools play a significant role in developing the child’s ability to connect with others, build relationships and participate socially. Schools also need to promote the physical preconditions of learning, such as appropriate diet, activity, and sleeping patterns. Other elements in wellbeing include a sense of spiritual direction and the intellectual dispositions towards success and mastery, understanding, original self-expression and relationships with others. The paper is intended to contribute to dialogue and innovation within South Australia's Department of Education and Children's Services.

KLA

Subject Headings

South Australia
Schools
Resilience (Psychology)
Health education
Health
Emotions
Early childhood education
Children
Child development