Student looping: the benefits of multi-year teaching
March 2005; Page 20
Looping allows teachers, particularly in primary schools, to remain with the same group of students for two or more years. In this article, Mickle recounts her experiences of teaching a cohort of students in their preschool year as well as in their first year of primary school, and outlines many of the perceived benefits to the students. She observes that because she was already aware of her students’ individual learning strengths and weaknesses as well as their learning styles, she did not have to spend time undertaking diagnostic work. By the same token, students were also familiar with the classroom set up, her pedagogical techniques and her expectations of them. Other benefits of looping include allowing for the forging of stronger links with parents over time, and cooperative and supportive classroom environments.
Subject HeadingsTeacher-student relationships
National parks: natural havens for students' learning
March 2005; Pages 10–12
In this article, Graeme Baxter considers national parks as a setting for student learning, and advises teachers how to organise and plan student visits to those locations. He recommends that teachers make contact with park staff before their visit so that education officers can prepare material for the particular year level and subject requirements. Notifying staff is also necessary so that park personnel are aware of the presence of the school group in emergencies. Teachers are advised to use local trails and parkland as means of preparing students for national park visits, and to use national park websites when planning the unit of work around which the visit is centred. The article contains a checklist, safety tips and advice on how to minimise the impact of a class visit on a national park’s environment.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsEnvironmental Education
Number 45, Autumn 2005; Pages 31–33
Students at Heywood and District Secondary College in western Victoria who are considered to be at risk of not completing school, are able to enrol in a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) accredited course – the Community Dreaming Program – which helps them to build self-esteem and acquire leadership skills. Heywood and
Subject HeadingsAboriginal students
VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Number 45, Autumn 2005; Pages 24–27
Dianne Peck is a former principal of a leading public school in Victoria who has recently accepted a new appointment with the Victorian Department of Education and Training. In this article, Danielle Townsend describes Peck’s views on building capacity for continuous change in schools, and how to harness that capacity to improve student outcomes. Issues such as the formation of learning communities and leadership groups in schools are addressed, as well as various dimensions of transformational leadership, as discerned by Thomas Sergiovanni.
Developing social justice educators
Volume 62 Number 6, March 2005; Pages 70–73
This article describes the work of a professional development program in a US primary school which seeks to transform teachers’ pedagogical practices to enable them to employ a social justice approach to teaching. A social justice approach to teaching is crucial in socially disadvantaged communities as it ensures that schooling is connected to young people’s lives. In a social justice pedagogical approach, teachers employ a critical inquiry methodology which allows students to use their lived experiences to confront issues of racism, violence and poverty. Engaging students in this fashion creates the links between education and their lives outside school, and it empowers them to transform their existence and their communities through education. The teachers in this in-service program collaborate to transform their teaching by sharing their knowledge of academic work in this area through written reflections, by observing and critiquing each other lessons, and by collectively reviewing their progress.
Subject HeadingsSocial justice
Education aims and objectives
The rewards of parent participation
Volume 62 Number 6, March 2005; Pages 38–42
Parental participation in schooling in one of the contributing factors to young people’s educational success. Promoting and sustaining parental participation in education is an almost insurmountable problem in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. This article, however, reports on the successes of the Yale Child Study Centre School Development Program, which has increased parental involvement in school communities in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the United States. Parental involvement in schools in depressed communities is often inhibited by parents’ own experiences of school, as well as a perceived disjuncture between the school’s culture, its curriculum and the community. Teachers’ unwillingness to have parents ‘looking over their shoulder’ is another obstacle to parents’ involvement. This article makes the justification for parental participation in education, and shows schools how to create an environment and establish structures and programs which will accommodate this aim.
Subject HeadingsEducation research
Parent and child
The value of experience
Volume 62 Number 6, March 2005; Pages 22–27
Most developed countries are having to consider and plan for the social and economic consequences of an aging population, especially with the generation known as the baby boomers approaching retirement age. Experience Corps is a program developed in the United States which uses the experience and time of elderly volunteers to help make a difference in school communities. Members of the program undergo training in literacy education and are then deployed in schools to provide individualised assistance to students who benefit from that help. Studies have established that students who participated in the program had better outcomes than students with similar abilities who had not, and that they had demonstrated significant improvements in self-confidence and behaviour. The benefits for the adults in the program were also profound, with many reporting an increased sense of physical and mental wellbeing.
No choice but success
Volume 62 Number 6, March 2005; Pages 8–12
This article reports the findings of a research project which looked at how schools in culturally diverse and socially disadvantaged education jurisdictions in the United States attempted to overcome the disparity in educational achievement between students from high-income and low-income households. The researchers report that while all teachers were keen on promoting student responsibility for their own achievement, and while many used pedagogical strategies which would be considered best practice (such as cooperative group work, use of students’ prior knowledge, and practical activities), only a small group of teachers emerged who were successful in lifting student performance. The common denominator among this group was that they refused to accept failure and had high expectations of all students. These expectations were given practical meaning in their refusal to accept grades at the lower end of the marking spectrum. Students were asked to resubmit work that did not score high enough to exhibit adequate understanding. These teachers also took an interest in students’ lives and ensured that their learning made connections to their lives outside school. The key factor, however, was the refusal from teachers and schools to accept failure. Once this was accepted as a condition, schools and teachers then went about making it a reality.
Subject HeadingsSocially disadvantaged
Teaching and learning
United States of America (USA)
Study groups as a tool for enhancing perservice teachers' content knowledge
Volume 6, 2004; Pages 4–21
Preservice teachers often lack confidence to teach maths. To address this problem in the context of tight constraints in funding for teacher training, a group of Australian teacher educators trialled the use of study groups for primary school student teachers. Optional study groups were set up for first and third year students. The groups covered content knowledge and associated pedagogy up to Year 9. Teacher educators set up meeting rooms, provided worksheets covering the curriculum, and were accessible to answer questions if needed. Participants were surveyed prior the groups to obtain background information, and at the end of each semester to identify reactions to the study groups. The groups were found to be very successful for most participants in developing content knowledge. The groups also overcame participants’ attitudes of reliance on the teacher and made them aware that problems could be solved in a variety of creative ways, modelling an approach that could later be taken to school classes. The groups greatly stimulated self-confidence, cooperation and peer leadership, raised morale and created social networks of longer term value to the participants. A small minority of participants, mainly in the oldest age bracket, did not benefit from the study groups and preferred teacher-directed learning. While mature age students made up about half the classes overall, they comprised about 95 per cent of participants the study groups. Recent school leavers were thought to be less interested due to pressures of part-time work, greater confidence in their maths knowledge, and a very competitive attitude to other students. Recent school leavers performed less well overall results for the units, suggesting that they may benefit from study groups and that ways should be found to encourage their participation in future.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsStudy methods
Inquiry based learning
Learning great outdoor lessons
Volume 84 Number 7, 25 April 2005
A new incident reporting system in New Zealand will help schools share their experience in outdoor safety management, and will provide an avenue to make recommendations for improving outdoor programs. The system will record and analyse data on fatality, injury, illness and damage to property, helping to identify trends and causes. The project will promote best practice in management of risk and safety in the outdoors, with information sharing across sectors, including schools, the Ministry of Education and outdoor organisations.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsHealth education
Duty of care
Providing a learning resource
Volume 84 Number 7, 25 April 2005
Support and resources are being supplied for New Zealand children with special education needs enrolled in mainstream schools, through a partnership between the Ministry of Education and learning and resource centres. Mainstream schools in the program are offered whole-school professional development, including guidance to classroom teachers, in addition to teacher aide support. The success of the program in raising achievement of special education students comes from regular access to qualified special education teachers. One advantage of the service is that specialist teachers can often work effectively across different learning areas, following individual student needs.
Subject HeadingsSpecial education
Retention rates on the rise
21 April 2005; Page 7
Sebastopol College in Victoria is in its first year of a program to improve retention and attendance rates. Students benefit from an individually tailored curriculum framework, additional tutoring, and a Year 11 and 12 mentoring program. Due to the focus on individual learning structured within curriculum areas, students can progress at their own pace to ensure that all basic skill areas are covered thoroughly. Accelerated programs are offered for high achievers, and those experiencing difficulties are supported with slower-paced programs. With a focus on student organisation, persistence and wellbeing, a 45 minute weekly class engages all students in Years 7–12.
Subject HeadingsClassroom management
Retention rates in schools
Coaching teachers to implement mathematics reform recommendations
Volume 6, 2004; Pages 73–91
Maths teaching often consists of drill and practice worksheets, with correct answers modelled by teachers using a single problem-solving approach. Reforms to the mathematics curriculum have sought to replace this teaching method with rich tasks aimed at stimulating students to explore mathematical ideas and develop problem-solving skills. However such reforms will not be effective unless they are integrated into teaching practices. A case study in the USA has examined how expert coaches could help teachers to understand and implement such reforms. The study was part of the Primary Mathematics Education Project (PRIME), a systemic change initiative aimed at improving teachers’ skills in questioning and posing problems. In the current study two coaches worked with three teachers of Year 1 primary students, seeking to shift them from ‘listening for memorised answers’ to using students’ responses to build mathematical ideas. The teachers resisted implementation of the reforms, either through commitment to traditional teaching methods or through lack of confidence in their content knowledge. Instead, two of the teachers applied superficial aspects of the reforms to their old teaching methods, and their discourse discouraged students from exploring ideas. The other teacher allowed students to explore alternative solutions to problems, but lacked the content knowledge to cope with students’ answers that were not in the textbook, and again fell back on traditional methods. However, the teachers’ students showed improved problem-solving skills during a class in which one of the coaches modelled the new approach. The students’ improvement was recognised by the teachers and stimulated their curiosity about the new teaching method. This curiosity did not lead them to change their traditional approach, but in the case of the most experienced teacher, it induced ‘perturbation’, in which evidence that the new approach stimulated students’ mathematical reasoning challenged her to reorganise her long-held conceptions of teaching and learning. Future coaching should do more to stimulate such curiosity, for example by asking teachers to predict how their students would respond to a question.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Balanced leadership: creating conditions for leadership effectiveness
Volume 9 Number 2, March 2005; Pages 1–3
Researchers at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) have reviewed studies which examine the relationship between school leadership and student achievement. Their work aims to encourage principals to concentrate on these essential, measurable issues. Their research has identified 21 specific leadership responsibilities and over 60 associated practices that correlate highly with student achievement. Celebrating and affirming student accomplishments is an example of a leadership practice positively impacting achievement. A leader who conducts quality interaction with students also plays a role in student performance. Responsibilities that do not correlate highly with student achievement, such as compliance with school finance laws, should be given to other staff. Such shifts in responsibility will reframe school leaders, allowing focus on improving student achievement rather than on position.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Continuity and growth: key considerations in education
The traditional grouping of students into age-based, mixed-ability classrooms, with students changing teachers each year, interrupts the work of building on students’ individual successes and in dealing with their academic or personal difficulties, especially through teacher–student relationships. It works against ‘learner-centred’ teaching, a highly successful teaching strategy, in which teachers focus on individual students’ knowledge levels, beliefs and conceptual development. Students learn best when challenged by ‘just manageable difficulties’, but these challenges are hard to provide to all students in a mixed-ability classroom. The alternative strategy of streaming, or grouping students by ability level, has been widely rejected due to evidence that it de-motivates low-achieving students. Some schools are experimenting with alternative strategies such as creating ability-related subgroups within class, or combining whole-class teaching with individual learning plans. Age-related, mixed-ability classrooms are drawn on for standards-based testing in the
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
Ability grouping in education