Climate education: empowering today's youth to meet tomorrow's challenges
Number 41, 2005; Pages 3–50
A range of obstacles need to be overcome in order to teach students effectively about climate change. The separation of the curriculum into narrowly defined disciplines hinders students from integrating scientific issues with social and ethical considerations. School science has a traditional, entrenched focus on ‘finding correct answers’ and conceptualisation skills, while students learn skills such as argumentation, written expression, and the use of information resources like newspapers in non-science subjects, and cannot always transfer them to science classes. Science teachers tend not to see a role for school science in dealing with broader social and economic problems. They tend to compress issues like global warming into the existing science curriculum, rather than adapting the curriculum to explore these questions. However, the use of a cross-disciplinary curriculum may also inhibit scientific discussion, as teachers’ own qualifications and interests often lead them to highlight the social science elements of cross-curricular activities, and downplay scientific components, especially components unrelated to biology. Young people tend to be pessimistic and feel disempowered about the future. Science teachers should address the topic of climate change in a range of ways. They should explain the central importance of fossil fuel combustion in global warming; teach students to separate the ozone issue from the broader topic of climate change; and discuss climate in relation to concepts such as the electromagnetic spectrum, processes of emission, transmission, absorption and reflection, feedback mechanisms and the global energy flow. Young people should also learn that preventative action now could help their own children and grandchildren in the future. The article reviews literature on the teaching of climate change in schools, and describes a range of online resources for climate education.
Key Learning AreasScience
Reflections on cultural crossroads: ‘empowering’ students in a critical literacy classroom
Volume 143, Spring 2005; Pages 48–58
The author, a teacher, conducted an action research project in her secondary classroom, which consisted mainly of Indigenous students in
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsWestern Australia (WA)
Measuring environmental education program impacts and learning in the field: using an action research cycle to develop a tool for use with young students
Volume 21, 2005; Pages 23–34
The Environmental Learnings Outcomes Survey (ELOS) is designed to measure the environmental knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours of students aged six to 11. ELOS measures students’ engagement in learning and also their learning outcomes. It has been used to assess the impact of environmental education programs in a range of sites throughout
Key Learning AreasScience
Studies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsEnvironmental Education
Facilitation in education for the environment
Volume 21, 2005; Pages 107–116
Education for the environment aims to promote activity to support the environment, as distinct from education ‘about’ or ‘in’ the environment. There are two main approaches to it. Socially critical education for the environment encourages ‘just, participatory and collaborative decision making’. It involves critical analysis of present society and ‘an over agenda of political literacy, values education and social change’. It can be seen as prejudicing independent judgement on the issue. In contrast, the liberal approach to education for the environment claims to teach ‘how to think, not what to think’, but can be seen as ignoring the value-laden social context of environmental issues and the influence of powerful social interests upon this topic area. A range of factors inhibits teachers from implementing either the liberal or socially critical approach to education for the environment. Education for the environment is ‘dangerous knowledge’ that can antagonise some members of the school community and may be seen to challenge the role of schools as agents of social integration. Despite efforts to encourage active citizenship among students, in reality many students remain passive recipients of ‘other people’s knowledge and thinking’. Few teacher education programs currently include adequate programs for environmental education. In the , the biggest obstacle to adding environmental education to teacher training courses is the lack of a mandate to do so, at the political level. A number of pedagogical strategies may help teachers deal with controversial topics such as education for the environment. Teachers should openly acknowledge the limitations of their own awareness about the issue. They should allow diverse groups to express their views and solicit involvement of key individuals and interest groups in the school community. It may be best to assign education for the environment to experienced teachers, to be assisted through in-service training, rather than assign it to new teachers who face many other challenges.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Values education (character education)
Teaching and learning
School and community
Sustaining teachers in change
15 February 2006; Pages 10–11
A new professional development approach, in which teachers mentor each other at the same school, is achieving success in the
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
Evolution of mathematics students
Volume 42 Number 4, November 2005; Pages 14–15
Engaging middle school students in mathematics is proving increasingly difficult as electronic media competes for their time. The frequent use of ICT also tends to reduce students' attention spans. From Year 9 on, many students have the further distraction of part-time jobs, which may also fund their use of technology for entertainment. At the same time, ICT has changed the teaching emphasis in school mathematics, from logic and abstract reasoning to more specific problem solving using modern technology. In this changing environment, middle school mathematics teaching should emphasise interesting, preferably open-ended activities. Some of these activities should include the use of computers and online and CD-ROM resources to increase their appeal to students. For example, students will be more interested in simulating financial transactions using the Internet than through text book activities. Hands-on activities using collected, real-life data are useful for teaching chance and data activities, especially for weaker students. The new activities need to be included in maths lesson plans and text books. Maths teachers fall into three main groups. Older teachers, who tend to focus on mathematical logic, understanding and attention to detail, will be lost from the profession through retirement in the coming years. The mathematics training of younger teachers already tends to focus on problem solving, however these teachers have a limited understanding of mathematical logic and extended mathematical argument. Other teachers are untrained in mathematics and may rely solely on text books, leading to student disinterest or failure, and there is a danger that this group of teachers may grow in the future.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
If they'd only do their work!
Volume 63 Number 5, February 2006; Pages 8–13
Schools face the difficulty of motivating students to complete homework. Poor teaching approaches, poor learning conditions and punitive reactions to uncompleted homework can cause students to devalue academic success in order to protect their self-esteem. However, students can be motivated to complete homework if tasks are meaningful, engaging, clearly communicated and ‘do-able’. The article outlines successful motivational strategies developed by teachers at several high schools in the USA. Homework can become more meaningful when it is used in class work the following day, or where students are required to find and analyse resources that support their own ideas. Inquiry-based project work can be used to engage students who avoid homework. Tasks should be clearly communicated, with explicit expectations regarding content and deadlines. Examples of high-quality work from past students can be shown in class to guide current students. Teachers of different subjects can vet each other’s class assignments to check that they are well written and logically organised. Teachers can check whether tasks are ‘do-able’ by having students start homework in class, where early difficulties may be resolved as they arise. Homework should be marked the following day and feedback provided quickly. For students who lack the time, space or supportive home life needed to complete homework, schools should provide supervised sessions over breakfast, before or after school or during holidays. To achieve this goal teaching schedules may need tailoring, or teachers can supervise students during their preparation time. Tasks should be designed to be completed by students independently, to avoid creating advantages for students who have parents available to assist them. In some schools, principals have run elective classes for students on how to develop good organisational skills and work habits. Teachers can work with struggling students on individual learning plans to address their specific home circumstances, motivators and skills. One school conducted a student council survey and learnt that after-school jobs were the source of uncompleted homework. In response, learning plans and homework tasks were designed to help students develop skills necessary for their specific jobs.
United States of America (USA)
Parent and child
Parent and teacher
Breaking through to reluctant readers
Volume 63 Number 5, February 2006; Pages 66–69
The students entering Blackstone Academy, a
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
English language teaching
Accelerating the learning of low achievers
Volume 63 Number 5, February 2006; Pages 88–89
A new report from the USA’s Education Trust, Gaining traction, gaining ground, has investigated four schools that have had exceptional success in improving the academic performance of struggling high school students. Researchers evaluated practices and attitudes in these high-impact schools against three comparable average-impact schools. The high-impact schools demonstrated a culture of high expectation, with school policy emphasising academic content over rules. Teachers prepared students for tertiary study or careers rather than merely graduating, and actively embraced external standards. High-impact schools offered unimpeded access to challenging courses and encouraged all students to extend themselves academically. Extra instructional time was compulsory for low-achieving students in high-impact schools, but often optional in average-impact schools, which also tended to provide additional support later, after students had fallen even further behind. Teaching assignments in high-impact schools addressed student needs rather than teacher preferences. Teacher support focused on instruction and curriculum, in comparison to the more social or personal approach taken in average-impact schools. High-impact schools reduced class sizes for low-achieving students, even if other class sizes increased as a result. Instructional time was used more efficiently and deliberately. These sometimes subtle differences proved effective but fragile, with staff turnover resulting in a decline in standards within one of the four exemplary schools within a year of the study.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Ability grouping in education
Career education in schools: an international perspective
February 2006; Pages 21–28
The role of schools in career education falls into one of four stages along a quality continuum. In the first stage, schools provide only career information, without related support. The second stage comprises one-on-one interviews, sometimes including psychometric testing. Interviews may be improved by counselling students to reach career decisions themselves, rather than simply offering ‘expert’ advice. A third stage is reached when career choices are taught in classrooms. One method for careers teaching in classrooms is the DOTS model, usually presented as SODT (Self awareness,
Subject HeadingsVocational education and training
School and community
Mentoring mathematics teachers in low socio-economic secondary schools in New Zealand
Volume 42 Number 2, July 2005; Pages 1–10
The article expands on a previous paper reporting the results of a study conducted in eight disadvantaged secondary schools in South Auckland. Researchers facilitated mentoring for teachers as part of a Mathematics Enrichment Project (MEP) in each school. Teachers chose either ‘equal’ mentoring by another teacher from the same school or a different school, or expert mentoring by an outsider from the university. The initial results revealed that, although teachers had derived superficial benefits from their mentoring experience, there was little evidence that it led them to reflect on and improve their teaching practice. The article analyses the mentoring relationship, establishing a continuum model between judgmental and developmental mentoring stances. Three short case studies are used to illustrate the model. The judgmental approach involves a hierarchical relationship between the teacher and an expert mentor, either an outsider or a more senior teacher. It may be threatening to the teacher if the expert is viewed as a critic, or comforting if they are regarded primarily as a knowledge resource. A developmental stance requires the teacher and mentor to share ideas reciprocally, help each other to reflect on their own practices, and set shared goals for improvement. This may be a less judgmental relationship, but requires greater commitment from both parties to succeed. The continuum model will undergo further development to continue this analysis.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Science education and health education: locating the connections
Volume 41 Number 1, August 2005; Pages 51–90
School health education often focuses on disease prevention, or on warning about health risks through ‘healthy messages’ to students. Both these approaches tend to discourage student participation and neglect positive aspects of health promotion. Instead, schools should use a ‘health-oriented’ approach. Such an approach avoids didactic teaching and victim-blaming, emphasising instead positive ways to enhance health and ways to avoid ill-health. It encourages a sense of personal responsibility and autonomy in individual students. It also situates health in a wider context that includes mental health, life skills and emotional wellbeing, and draws the whole school community, including students, into negotiating priorities for health education. Within this approach the science teacher provides specialist knowledge, for example, about chemical pollutants, and imparts skills in rational problem solving and ‘creative application of reason to a changing society’. Science teachers should become health educators as part of their professional identity. Their work around health education should be studied to identify good practice and professional development needs. Health education needs to address the life experience of young people in general, and also the experiences of particular groups such as young women, ethnic minorities, lesbian and gay students, and groups excluded from mainstream schooling such as disabled youth. Longitudinal studies are required to track the lasting impact of health promotion initiatives. Health education initiatives over the past two decades highlight health education’s ‘fight for survival’. They also reveal the ‘somewhat elitist and formal tradition of science education’, and reach into wider debates about education as ‘an agency of cultural, social and political control’. The article describes the World Health Organisation’s Health Promoting Schools Initiative and reviews a range of key health education studies. It also discusses pedagogical issues around education in the fields of nutrition, sex and drugs, arguing that schools should be allowed to experiment in ways to approach these issues, supported by qualitative and observational studies and by action research involving science teachers.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Social life and customs
School and community
Gay and lesbian issues
A curriculum model for calculator use
Volume 21 Number 2, Summer 2005; Pages 38–40
Calculators have the capacity to ‘trivialise cherished traditional questions’, challenging schools to find appropriate ways to use them in mathematics teaching. Calculators may be used as a ‘bridge’ to advanced maths problems, bypassing the need for students to understand the mathematical processes to reach that more advanced level. Such use of calculators presumes that students are taught how to undertake the bypassed mathematical processes at some other time, without using calculators. However this is not a safe presumption, because calculators are widespread and portable and because teachers have insufficient guidelines on how to regulate their use. A three-tier model for the use of calculators is proposed. Work in which the use of traditional methods would be tedious and time consuming and not helpful to learning should be declared ‘calculator friendly’. A second category of work should be ‘calculator focused’, in which the use of an advanced calculator would allow the study of problems or other concepts that could not otherwise be approached. Student work concerned with the development of numerical competency should be designated ‘calculator free’. However, serious thought needs to be given to how to re-introduce work without calculators into the maths classroom.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
The arts make a difference
Volume 63 Number 5, February 2006; Pages 60–64
In the USA, the arts in education are often marginalised by widespread emphasis on standardised assessment and ‘academic fundamentals’. However, analysis of the 1988 National Education Longitudinal Study shows significant correlation between arts participation and academic performance, especially for at-risk students. Practices developed over the 1990s indicate that a strategy of arts integration can have real, positive effects on student engagement and achievement, teacher motivation and school morale. Arts integration can be applied across the curriculum by connecting subject matter to an arts project. Teachers develop curriculum by identifying analogous processes in an art form and a more traditionally academic activity, such as reading literature and looking at a painting, or creating a mathematical graph and writing music on a stave. Cognitive resonance generated by teaching the two processes in parallel deepens learning in both areas. Arts integration also brings the affective and emotional elements of art into the traditional classroom. Creating an arts project helps students to relate their learning to their personal life. Pride in their work and motivation to excel are generated by producing a work of art which may be shared with the student’s family or community. Students typically enjoy ‘enormous freedom’ in an arts-integrated classroom, which they must learn to use productively. The scientific basis of arts integration is founded on recent evidence that physical and emotional sensation are essential components of thought, learning and logic. Characteristics of successful arts integration include: community involvement; commitment to curriculum-wide student achievement; pedagogical inquiry; incorporation of arts instruction both in its own right and as a medium for other subjects; and strategies tailored to particular school strengths. Schools may need to seek support from private sponsors for their arts integration programs, as system funding is unlikely to be sufficient, although advanced technological resources are not necessary for the programs to succeed.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Thought and thinking
Arts in education
Hope for science
20 February 2006; Page 16
The Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) contains a detailed science discipline strand with two dimensions. The ‘science at work’ dimension ‘pays serious attention to the development and application of science knowledge’. For example, at level 6, students are asked to describe the science base of science-related occupations in their community. This element is likely to be well received by students and helps to make up for the lack of innovative ideas in the other dimension of the science discipline strand, ‘science knowledge and understanding’. VELS also contains a ‘physical, personal and social learning strand’ and an ‘interdisciplinary learning strand’. Through these strands VELS encourages schools to examine scientific topics in connection to social or ethical issues, which reflects the real context in which scientists work and which once again is likely to stimulate students’ interest in science. The skills in communication, thinking and creativity that VELS demands are highly valued in the scientific workplace. VELS offers schools the opportunity and flexibility to develop stimulating science programs. However, the type of education received by most current science teachers predisposes them to a focus on expert knowledge in the curriculum, rather than on exploring interdisciplinary activities or developing scientific literacy more broadly. It is therefore important that teacher professional learning and pre-service teacher training both emphasise creative and interdisciplinary approaches to science teaching. The authors are working on a proposal for an innovative science teacher education course at
Key Learning AreasScience
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