University links pay off in Western Australia
Number 6, 17 June 2005; Page 15
A number of schools and universities in Western Australia have formed joint Academic Talent Programs (ATPs), that allow school students to experience some elements of tertiary study in advance. Shenton College and the University of Western Australia have designed Learning Links, through which high achieving Year 10–12 students attend university seminars in maths, science and humanities. Some of the school’s students have worked with leading academics at the Gravity Discovery Centre and Institute of Advanced Studies on Big Ideas. Students can also attend university mathematics classes and undertake workplace experience through the WorkUWA program. Another ATP is the Science/Technology Awareness Raising (STAR) Peer Tutoring Program, run by Willetton State High School and Murdoch University. Gifted science and technology students receive tutoring from university students once a week. A third ATP, the Curtintrack online project, enables selected Year 12 students from three public schools to take a university subject. Students, as well as school staff returning to study, access resources at The Curtintrack Electronic Centre at the participating Kelmscott State High School. Subjects include social sciences, accounting, art and design, business law, information systems and biomedical sciences.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Gifted and talented (GAT) children
Western Australia (WA)
VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Transitions in schooling
What is this media literacy thing?
Number 38, Autumn 2005; Pages 93–98
Visual literacy, which includes visual perception, visual imagery and visual communication, is now part of the English curriculum for Australian primary and secondary schools. However, with a broader teaching of media literacy, students can develop the observational and critical skills necessary to 'read' the digital, aural and visual messages which confront them every day. Media literacy requires cognitive understanding, an ability to see emotional cues and discussion of both aesthetic aspects and inferred values. The nature and variety of media examples available can naturally engage students and help ensure effective learning. For example, primary students could discuss symbols in their everyday lives, such as the double arches of the McDonald's logo or the Coca Cola ribbon. Older students may be more focused with a book study where a film version is available for comparison. Students can be taught to understand technical codes, such as use of camera angles, shot size, lighting, editing and costumes. Hidden symbolic codes can by analysed to reveal the purposeful associations a text makes within the audience's mind. Soundtracks and production conventions provide other 'readable' codes. Lesson ideas and further references are mentioned in the article, while the Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF) also outlines suggestions.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Mass media study and teaching
Are we building student resilience in the mathematics classroom?
Volume 30 Number 1, 17 February 2005; Pages 8–13
Resilience refers to the ability to withstand and overcome stress and adversity. Risk factors that contribute to reducing students' resilience include low IQ, low socioeconomic status, low self-esteem, foster care, and families that are large or have multiple problems. Students' resilience is built through care and support offered by family, school or community. Teachers can build students' resilience by developing their internal strengths, which involves moving students from a 'performance goal' approach, which sees success as beyond personal control, to a 'mastery goal' orientation, that sees success as achieved by effort and perseverence. Research suggests that difficult subjects, like maths and languages, have the potential to build students' resilience. However, current approaches in maths classes tend to be 'performance goal' oriented. Maths teachers can build students' resilience by showing postive regard for them, communicating high expectations, and encouraging them to take risks in their work. Maths teachers should also encourage class discussion and dialogue about the learning process, and multiple approaches to solving a problem. By doing so they help students to understand that their mathematical ability, as well as their knowledge, can be increased. Students' resilience is fostered by use of formative assessment, which focuses on the qualities of an individual student's work and how it might be improved, rather than summative assessment, which is anonymous and encourages competition.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsResilience (Psychology)
Engaging and motivating students in mathematics
Volume 30 Number 1, February 2005; Pages 2–5
Reasons for students' widespread 'fear and loathing' of maths include the pressure of timed mental tests, unvaried use of worksheets and textbooks, and students' perception of maths as simply a set of rules to be learnt. Students can be motivated to learn maths if it is presented in a variety of ways that draw on their interests and life experiences. Games, for example using boards or dice, may be useful in class to convey a mathematical concept under certain conditions. They need to be short and focus on a specific mathematical concept, such as the game Numero. The teacher must be clear on this specific use. Most importantly, the game should be followed up by discussion of the relevant mathematical concept and related problem-solving strategies. Games encourage active involvement of students, freeing the teacher to move around the classroom. Teachers can also interest students in maths by using children's literature, 'mathemagic' tricks, food, trivia questions and answers, and by posing hypothetical problems on issues relevant to students' lives.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Improving literacy outcomes for students in disadvantaged schools: the importance of teacher theory
Volume 28 Number 2, 15 June 2005; Pages 127–137
A research project in South Australia has investigated how students’ literacy outcomes were improved at eight disadvantaged primary schools. Four university researchers, including the author, gathered data through an online survey; interviews with principals, literacy coordinators and key teachers; and classroom observation. The teachers who played a key role in improving literacy in the schools constructed sophisticated theoretical approaches from their teaching experience and from formal academic theory. The project was commissioned jointly by the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) and the South Australian Primary Principals’ Association. The article describes the author’s findings at one school. The school used a range of strategies to improve literacy. High quality literature was read aloud to students; a variety of genres were used; explicit reading strategies were taught to students; and independent reading was encouraged and monitored through the use of Accelerated Reader, a computer-based program for levelled reading. The literacy coordinator was found to have played a central role in the improved literacy outcomes. She drew on extensive teaching experience in a disadvantaged setting, a body of theoretical knowledge obtained from formal academic study, professional reading and area networking. She was also able to apply her academic knowledge of research methodology to obtain detailed information from the school. She gathered information from other teachers’ programs and from their observations, which she helped to focus on key issues. When external observers try to identify the reasons for a school’s success it is important to avoid ‘fragment grabbing’ that locates success in incidental or secondary techniques, such as the Accelerated Reader program. Staff and visiting teachers need time to articulate and share the reasons underpinning the success.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
English language teaching
Critical, analytical and reflective literacy assessment: reconstructing practice
Volume 28 Number 2, 15 June 2005; Pages 95–113
The nature of 21st century literacy requires new forms of assessment in schools. Modern literacy requires the ability to interpret new media such as SMS; knowledge of terms used in ‘computer English’; critical literacy skills, especially in evaluating Internet material; and visual and media literacy, or the ability to identify meaning in images, sound, navigation and ‘context interactivity’. Traditional tests, based on literal or inferential comprehension of prose extracts, do not adequately measure knowledge of new textual forms. Modern literacy is best assessed through rubrics, complex matrixes used to measure levels of achievement of assessed tasks. To prepare rubrics for individual students, teachers may need extensive initial preparation, but should then collaborate with the students. Rubrics are a type of formative rather than summative assessment, and are built into students’ everyday work. ICT promises to enhance literacy assessment. Students can use digital portfolios to store material such as multimedia productions, or to retain and compare successive versions of work. The article includes tables and text describing literacy assessment in different States and Territories, with links to system sites.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsMultimedia systems
Mass media study and teaching
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
English language teaching
Asynchrony and the whole child: what school can learn
Number 137, July 2005; Pages 12–14
By reformulating giftedness as 'asynchronous development', Sartor draws attention to gifted students’ emotional development and their establishment of a ‘self-concept’ – their idea of themselves, their values and attributes – which has a direct effect on their self-worth and self-esteem. Asynchronous development is the variation, or the malalignment, between a child’s cognitive abilities and their emotional maturity, a phenomenon which often causes gifted children to feel socially isolated, and can circumscribe their potential. Educators, however, can ameliorate the effects of asynchronous development by matching the curriculum to children’s emotional maturity, which will also encourage their engagement. Sartor outlines the attributes of a curriculum which would cater to asynchronous development, identifying ‘emergent curriculum’ as the model which comes closest to both intellectually stimulate gifted children and to foster their emotional development.
Subject HeadingsGifted children
Gifted and talented (GAT) children
On track to what? A Foucauldian analysis of a recent Victorian postcompulsory education policy initiative
Volume 24 Number 2, June 2005; Pages 39–44
The On Track initiative is a Victorian Government program which traces and assists the transitions which young people make from school to further education, training or employment. It is the responsibility of Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENS) to use the data from the program to assist at risk youth in their jurisdictions to connect with support agencies, so that they might ‘re-engage’ with education, training or employment. Kamp’s critique of the On Track initiative questions its normative assumptions, arguing that it seeks to impose on ‘youth’ a linear developmental trajectory towards socially preferred futures, which takes little account of either the complexity of the lives of young people or their preferences. Furthermore, the framework of the program cannot account for the experiences of youth that fall outside its underlying assumptions.
Subject HeadingsTransitions in schooling
Youth homelessness: four policy proposals
Volume 24 Number 2, June 2005; Pages 32–38
Approximately 1 per cent of Australian secondary school students are at risk of being homeless. Since the 1990s, policy approaches to dealing with homelessness have focused on early intervention, and this strategy, implemented through the Commonwealth Government’s Reconnect programme and various State and Territory initiatives, has largely been successful. Chamberlain and MacKenzie review the data and the policy initiatives on youth homelessness since the mid 1990s, and propose four policy directions that place schools at the forefront of addressing the issue of youth homelessness. Those directions include expanding the Commonwealth Government’s Reconnect programme; creating a viable community placement option for homeless young people so that they can avoid stays in youth refuges; better coordination of community services to deal with young people in crisis, with greater consideration given to ‘school linked models’; and the establishment of national standards for schools for dealing with homeless youth. These standards could include the setting of ratios for counsellors to students in schools, standards for pastoral care, national qualification requirements for school welfare officers, and a funding formula for the allocation of funding to schools with special needs.
Youth, hope and cultural creatives
Volume 24 Number 2, June 2005; Pages 17–23
Cultural creatives are people who, through their ‘investment in personal authenticity’, are able to influence their societies through their practices and ideologies. Cultural creatives, by implication therefore, are people who believe in their ability to create change that benefits others. In a small study which sought to locate various understandings of hope among youth, Turner discovered that many of the participants were cultural creatives, and did not portray the pessimism that social indicators of youth usually represent. Turner’s study involved the participants taking photographs to represent the various kinds of hope identified in the article, and then submitting to an interview which further explored their representations. Turner describes the study’s methodology and findings, and concludes that those working with youth should explore young people’s ideas of hope, and create environments that empower them to make contributions to society, even in the face of adversity.
Preventing the loss of wisdom in our schools
Volume 86 Number 10, June 2005; Pages 764–771
While the current emphasis is on retaining new teachers in the profession, Alvy argues that much experience, knowledge and wisdom is lost to the profession and individual schools by not focusing attention on how to keep older teachers involved in the profession. Although he acknowledges that the attraction of retirement packages and a new lifestyle are difficult to combat, he nonetheless asserts that much more can be done to retain veteran teachers, including creating school cultures which honour their experience, devising mentoring programs in which they assist younger teachers who are new to the school or profession, creating opportunities for job sharing, and providing professional development initiatives that are specifically tailored to teachers at this stage of their careers.
Subject HeadingsTeachers' employment
Teaching and learning
Child and adolescent development: the critical missing focus in school reform
Volume 86 Number 10, June 2005; Pages 757–763
While most school improvement initiatives tend to focus on improving instruction, curriculum and academic outcomes, they tend to omit a consideration of child and adolescent development, even though it is central to educational success and to solving behavioural problems. Comer sees this omission as the result of inadequate teacher preparation, which often neglects emphasising the importance of children’s overall development to their educational success. In this vein he identifies six ‘developmental pathways’ – physical, social/interactive, psycho-emotional, linguistic and cognitive/intellectual – and outlines how schools can change in order to accommodate children’s development along these pathways. School cultures, governance and decision making are all important in creating environments which are beneficial to children's and adolescent development, and Comer provides examples in which underperforming schools improved students’ educational and behavioural outcomes by reforming their school communities to foster students’ overall development.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Starting confused: How leaders start when they don’t know where to start
Volume 86 Number 10, June 2005; Pages 736–744
In an article published in Phi Delta Kappan in January 2005, Jenz and Murphy provided school leaders with the Reflective Inquiry and Action (RIA) methodology to enable them to ‘embrace confusion’ as an extension of leadership and administration. In this article, the authors assist new leaders to make the most of their ‘honeymoon period’ by devising an entry plan, which uses their confusion about the processes of an organisation as a starting point for learning about the organisation and its respective stakeholders, and for learning about themselves and their new role. An entry plan, based on collective inquiry to overcome initial confusion, allows new leaders to be open about their confusion and to take advantage of it at a time when the organisation’s environment will be most receptive to the leader’s apprehension. It also prevents leaders from reacting hastily and reflexively to problems as they arise, instead of giving them more considered treatment. Properly implemented, an entry plan can help leaders to use the initial confusion about their new role in a productive way, gaining the trust of stakeholders and other personnel by acting collectively, and creating ‘top-down and bottom-up’ management approaches. It can also prompt an organisation towards self-examination.
It’s time to rethink teacher supervision and evaluation
Volume 86 Number 10, June 2005; Pages 727–735
Conventional principal evaluation of teachers through classroom observation is problematic, according to Marshall. Drawing on the experience in United States jurisdictions, where teachers’ working conditions compel such evaluations, Marshall outlines the weaknesses of such evaluations, before proposing a 12-point scheme for improvement. Some of the problems associated with this type of evaluation include the atypical nature of an evaluation, the small proportion of lessons actually observed by the principal, the absence of an evaluation’s alignment with student learning, the lack of expertise on behalf of the principal, and the quality of the feedback provided to the teacher. Making principal evaluations of teachers more constructive for teacher development, and meaningful for school improvement, will require that teachers be empowered to agree with their colleagues and principal on the expectations for student learning and the elements that comprise good teaching. This can be achieved through principals supporting teachers to work in teams and to create common unit plans which align student assessment to teacher evaluation. These teacher teams will foster a professional learning culture in the school, which will allow teachers to work collaboratively to improve pedagogical practice, as well as providing protection against arbitrary evaluations. With these standards in place principals should be able to visit classrooms continuously, using a clear set of criteria to inform their feedback to teachers.
Subject HeadingsTeacher evaluation
Working harder and smarter: the International Baccalaureate
8 August 2005; Pages 6–7
The popularity of the International Baccalaureate (IB) is rapidly rising as an alternative to the VCE curriculum in Victoria. Enrolments have risen by up to 90 per cent each year, though are still small compared to the VCE and VCAL. The IB is completed over two years and covers subjects including English, a second language, maths, science, humanities and the arts, as well as an interdisciplinary subject on skills in thinking and reflection. The course also requires 150 hours spent in ‘community service, sport and a creative pursuit’. In terms of middle years schooling, IB educators draw comparisons between the holistic approaches of the IB and the new Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS). The IB, including its P–10 program, is taught in 120 countries and is recognised by 3,700 universities. Most IB schools world wide are in the government sector. In Victoria the IB is taught in five primary schools, and another 30 schools have applied to teach it. Victoria currently allows the IB diploma only in independent schools, but four Victorian secondary colleges wish to offer the IB. The IB diploma is available through some State schools in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Queensland and South Australia. In the ACT, IB students qualify for the local Year 12 certificate, and Queensland is to adopt this arrangement next year. England is considering adopting a baccalaureate structure for its own curriculum.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
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