When innocence meets experience
Volume 10 Number 1, February 2005; Pages 13–15
The quality of support for beginning teachers varies from school to school, but many beginning teachers experience professional isolation, inadequate induction processes and indifference from their colleagues about their plight. White, who is currently conducting PhD research into the experiences of beginning teachers, suggests that schools do not always value what beginning teachers bring to the profession, and this lack of recognition is not helped by research models and methodologies which are premised on ‘deficit notions’ of beginning teachers. White suggests that the learning of all teachers is continuous and context-based, and it is misleading to assume that their professional learning is acquired in a linear and graduated fashion. Beginning teachers, therefore, should be valued for the ideas, learning and values they bring to a professional community. This can be done through harnessing the product of their critical engagement with policy and procedures, and by encouraging them to share their professional experiences with their colleagues. The latter, White suggests, is crucial for the professional development of all teachers.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Teaching and learning
Throwing the bathwater, keeping the baby
Volume 10 Number 1, February 2005; Pages 10–12
In this article, John Eddy considers the many changes to English pedagogy since the 1960s, and recounts his experiences as a school principal developing a reading program for his school, even in the face of changing literacy teaching trends. Eddy describes some of the literacy teaching strategies schools were encouraged to use in recent decades, and provides a step-by-step account of the measures he uses as a school principal to institute reading and writing programs. Issues such as consultation, leadership, parental involvement and benchmarking are addressed, as are the use of phonics, poetry and computers in reading programs.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
English language teaching
Marketing razzle-dazzle and the success of new non-government schools
Number 1, January 2005; Pages 1–2
English notes that the new school funding arrangements have led to a dramatic increase in the number of new non-government schools which seek to provide an alternative to state school education through marketing appeals to aspirational parents. Their appeals, wrapped in the nomenclature of corporate organisations, often include ‘added extras’ – such as orchestral music programs, sport, or Languages other than English (LOTE) – which are culturally valued and therefore linked to social status. In this article, English provides an anatomy of the sophisticated marketing strategies used by non-government schools to create a marketing niche for their ‘product’, and she contemplates whether these strategies help or hinder parents in making educationally informed choices for their children.
Subject HeadingsPrivate schools
It’s time for a paradigm shift
Number 40, Autumn 2005; Pages 19–22
Sexton considers the Victorian Government's Framework for reform through a Blueprint for Government Schools, in particular strategies 3 and 6 of that initiative, and proposes a method, based on Sergiovanni's notion of transformational leadership, for their achievement. Strategies 3 and 6 are concerned with building leadership capacity and school improvement respectively, and Sexton, noting the interdependence of these goals, chooses to deal with them simultaneously. For Sexton, the overall goal of the Blueprint is to achieve systemic improvement, and his proposal outlines a plan which harnesses the skills and capacities of expert principals to system-wide improvement. Sexton's proposal, which includes identifying expert principals, changing the performance process and using principals' corporate knowledge, is described in detail in the article.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
The seven deadly sins of report writing and what to do about them
Number 40, Autumn 2005; Pages 33–35
Robin Strickland is the principal of a primary school in the outer-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. In this article she helps school leaders to identify some of the problems associated with writing student reports, and helps them to devise a process whereby much of the attendant stress can be ameliorated if not completely eliminated. Strickland advises school leaders to negotiate timelines with their staff, allow time for corrections and delays, create a report writing style guide, mentor new teachers on the school’s report writing expectations and processes, cancel all meetings to alleviate the pressure on staff, and ensure that staff have raised any concerns recorded in the report with parents in the period prior to the writing of the document.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Getting through the ‘Dark Ages’
Number 40, Autumn 2005; Pages 26–29
Developmental theorists have long thought that much of an individual’s brain development was ‘hard wired’ in the early years of life; however, recent advancements in neuroscience have led to the discovery that young people’s brains are not fully developed until well after puberty. This discovery has implications for teaching and learning, as it means that education can participate in a crucial part of the brain’s physiological development. In this article, Frew explains the kind of neurological development which has been observed in adolescence, and outlines the implications of the current research for the education of teenagers. He argues for a curriculum that is flexible, allows students to interact socially and explore their emotions, and equips them to discover their individual autonomy. Frew suggests that this developmental stage of the brain will also allow teachers to assist students to make behavioural changes, an aspect of an individual’s development which was previously thought to be completed before puberty.
Calm in the eye of the storm: a boys-only class that's changing
Volume 8 Number 1, 2005; Pages 32–35
In this article, Philip Debenham describes an initiative which sought to combat boys’ behavioural and literacy problems by creating a boys-only class. The class comprised 14 Years 2 and 3 boys, who had all demonstrated emotional and behavioural problems and were underachieving in mainstream classes. After consulting teachers and parents, and with the help of the District Office in the Hunter Valley (NSW), Debenham, a teacher of twenty years’ experience, established the class to help the boys overcome their ‘classroom phobia’ – a condition which sees them suffer from low self-esteem because of their relative but consistent underachievement. By changing the boys’ environment, establishing a relationship with the group and being attentive to individual boys' behavioural traits, Debenham claims to have had some success in changing the way the boys manage their behaviour and tackle stressful situations.
Subject HeadingsBoys' education
True learning communities?
16 March 2005; Page 8
The national review of teacher education offers an opportunity for the profession to carry through a range of reforms to pre-service teacher training. Teacher education courses should respond to curriculum change and should also recognise the existing experience of those seeking to become teachers. Priority should be given to increasing flexibility as to the timing, content and nature of course delivery. It should also be possible to fast-track students with demonstrated ability. Pre-service teachers should be placed in schools as soon as possible. Very close professional partnerships are needed between teacher training institutions and schools.
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
Why the reading achievement gap in New Zealand won't go away: evidence from the PIRLS 2001 international study of reading achievement
Volume 39 Number 1, 2004; Pages 127–143
Among New Zealand school students there is a marked and persistent disparity between good and bad readers which has been repeatedly revealed in international surveys. Struggling readers come mainly from poor socioeconomic backgrounds and include many Maori children. The constructivist and whole-of-language approach that dominates reading instruction in New Zealand has aggravated the disparity. This approach teaches students to establish word meaning mainly through sentence and passage context and pictures. The approach may suit students with ample ‘literate cultural capital’, but beginning readers and struggling readers mainly learn through word-specific knowledge that relates spelling to sounds. If this knowledge is not explicitly taught, they fall behind and tend to avoid reading. The ability of a phonologically-based method to reduce the gap in reading achievement was tested during a project run by the authors, and was found to be successful. They found further support for their case from results of the 2001 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). The PIRLS results show that the correspondence between students' reading achievement and their access to literate cultural capital is higher in New Zealand than in other countries. The PIRLS study also found that New Zealand teachers already taught word decoding skills more often than teachers in almost all other countries. However, the real significance of this finding is that the there needs to be an improvement in the way these skills are taught in New Zealand. By separating words from context, word-level identification strategies help struggling readers focus on letter–sound patterns, and then help them to apply these skills in all contexts. The method also frees these readers from reliance on ineffective context-based strategies. The article includes a critique of the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s response to the PIRLS results.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsSocially disadvantaged
English language teaching
Factors affecting PAT reading comprehension performance: a retrospective analysis of some Year 4–6 data
Volume 39 Number 1, 2004; Pages 3–21
Key Learning AreasEnglish
English language teaching
Volume 9 Number 1, January 2005
Proposals for national examination of Year 12 students have used the examples of the International Baccalaureate and the USA’s Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The latter test uses ‘standards-based’ assessment, which compares students against predetermined norms, eg for age range or grade level. Standards-based testing facilitates accountability in the sense that it readily allows student and school performances to be quantitatively compared and ranked. However, there is a wide range of concerns about such testing. It does not measure the complex knowledge and skills needed in the modern economy. It encourages ‘teaching to the test’ which works against overall student learning. It can easily create an illusion of progress that hides real problems. Curriculum becomes focused around past examinations, discouraging development. Test results become seen by the community as ends in themselves rather than as just one indicator of student learning. Where such tests are mandated, responsibility for what is taught and learned moves from educators to politicians. The high stakes nature of such tests raises concerns about equity for disadvantaged students. There is pressure to push low scoring students out of school or into special programs, or to hold them down grades to improve school scores. Schools not doing well on the scores tend to lose good teachers. Random errors in such tests can be enormous. The tests are subject to bias based on the type of questions used. If standards-based testing is used, these problems can be reduced by a range of measures. All students should be tested, with no selective exclusions. Multiple indicators should be used for assessment, including school-based measures. Tests should include measures for higher order thinking. Comparison should be made year by year rather than between schools. The degree of uncertainty in such tests should be reported.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Senior secondary education
Of leaders and leadership
Autumn 2005; Pages 5–6
Leaders need a clear sense of direction for their organisation and must be able to offer a sharp focus on this common goal to those they lead. They have to have strategies for moving their organisation forward. Often this means establishing a small number of bold goals to be met within established timelines. However, leaders must also be flexible in the event of changed circumstances. They need to be able to distinguish key indicators of achievement from secondary considerations. Leaders must be competent managers, maximising the use of available financial and physical resources. They must be able to build strong teams around themselves, set up a secondary level of leadership and mentor future leaders. They must be able to create a high level of morale in their working environment, with members able to question, experiment, take risks and live with a certain level of uncertainty. Leader must expect to continue their own learning. Positive relationships with external stakeholders need to be maintained.
Is statistical literacy relevant for middle school students?
Volume 42 Number 1, March 2005; Pages 3–10
The acquisition of statistical literacy helps students to become informed citizens able to evaluate and convey statistical information in many social contexts. It is important that teachers clarify students' mistaken ideas about statistics that often develop over the middle years. Students' understanding characteristically goes through the six stages that reflect their growing engagement with context, growing numeracy skills, and greater grasp of variation and statistical terms. The article describes a range of sample classroom tasks tailored to students' needs as they progress through the six stages. The traditional divisions of the school curriculum hinder statistical literacy by dividing the study of chance and data into different subject areas, but reforms in Tasmania and elsewhere have seen curriculum integration that encourages attention to quantitative literacy. The curriculum also needs to acknowledge the staged nature of students' progress in skills such as critical questioning, predicting while acknowledging uncertainty, and understanding the nature of variation. Areas for further research are suggested.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
School sector differences in tertiary entrance: improving the educational outcomes of government school students
A range of studies and data sources show significant differences in university entrance levels between the government, Catholic and Independent sectors. University entrance is associated with higher employment and income levels, and greater job status, than alternatives such as TAFE, apprenticeships, or immediate transition to work. There is no evidence that post-school outcomes match the talents or interests of students in different sectors, raising equity concerns. Statistical studies demonstrate that government schools do not 'value add' as well as other schools. Catholic schools produce better results from basically the same socioeconomic base. Differences in student outcomes remain even after allowing for non-government schools' attraction of more talented students. There is no clear evidence that additional resource allocation to government schools would solve this inequality. To raise performance, the main body of government schools should learn from the limited number of non-selective government schools that demonstrate superior student outcomes. Experts have identified a range of key factors in increasing student outcomes, including demanding curriculums, high teacher expectations, frequent assessment, monitoring and feedback, strong leadership, and a safe and orderly climate. Unless this inequality is addressed the drift from government to non-government schools will continue.
Subject HeadingsSecondary education