Investigation of tacit knowledge in principal leadership
Volume 70, Autumn 2005; Pages 75–90
A qualitative research project has investigated how three novice and three expert principals have dealt with difficult and stressful problems. The study focused specifically on the principals’ use of ‘tacit knowledge’, ie practical wisdom, intuition, and knowledge learned on the job. The participants were each interviewed twice, about the way they had managed challenging situations. The novice principals tended to have emotional, impulsive and unguarded reactions to staff in challenging situations. They became disoriented and lost sight of goals in the face of unexpected situations or events. They often aggravated problems by delays in dealing with them. They had high levels of anxiety. They were unable to use their tacit knowledge to predict the impact of their comments on their staff and saw disagreements as conflict situations. They struggled to see or to define problems as they arose; were unable to anticipate the sort of problems a given situation was likely to produce; and were often unaware of the type of data that needed to address a problem. The values and beliefs that the novice principals described during interviews often seemed disconnected from the actual behaviours in work situations. They also appeared unwilling to adapt their initial impressions of a situation even in the light of negative consequences. In contrast, experienced principals displayed assurance, and saw the nature of problems quickly and in their wider context. They planned responses carefully, had alternatives to fall back on, applied force or diplomacy as required, and made effective use of their social standing and position. They were more likely to have articulated a vision to their staff, to have involved staff, and to have demonstrated respect for them. They were also able to see events from the other person’s perspective. They were not dismayed or paralysed by setbacks; they were likely to ‘seize’ rather than avoid problems. Expert principals believed less in the value of experience as such, placing more value on reflecting upon that experience. The researchers concluded that training programs should be ‘interactive, exploratory and reflective’, and should make use of advances in ICT for observation of leaders’ behaviour and for online communication and feedback.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
A unified approach to mathematics education created around the computer paradigm
Volume 25 Number 3, November 2005; Pages 43–49
Computers raises three key sets of issues for mathematics teaching. The first is around the need to emphasise new, different skills to students. Computer work requires use of algorithms, ie step-by-step procedures and rules, and strictly logical reasoning, yet both topics seem alien to many teachers. They are neglected in maths curricula, despite widespread but unfounded claims that they are taught implicitly. By contrast, the traditional emphases on problem solving and proving in maths classes is of secondary importance for many computer-related applications. Secondly, computers have simplified many standard maths operations, changing the levels of difficulty of various topics, imposing a need for changes to the structure of the maths curriculum. The changes have generated debates. Some maths educators argue that calculators have made drilling in arithmetic unnecessary; they seem unaware of the value of arithmetical knowledge in more advanced maths education, as explained for example by Klein and Milgram. This valuable drilling is currently being sustained by ‘inertia’ in curriculum change but in the end is likely to be undermined by public doubts about it, which no amount of arguments from scientists will allay. Educators need to develop alternative ways to maintain students’ arithmetical skills. Changes in the hierarchy of difficulty between maths topics also change the steps in which they are best learnt, which has implications for the transition between secondary and tertiary maths study. The third major impact of computers on maths lies in the way that they have created a new paradigm, or conceptual framework, in society, ‘replacing the nineteenth century machine as the basic metaphor for describing a wide range of phenomena’. Computers offer concrete ways to express many mathematical topics, and while maths teachers are usually comfortable with this abstractness it leads many students to regard maths as difficult and irrelevant. In particular the computer metaphor offers a way to explain maths ‘in an algorithmic style’. There are strong similarities between the cognitive mathematical objects emphasised in constructivist mathematics, and the object-oriented approach in computer science. The study of the formal objects in computer science as a mathematics class could make the study of mathematical objects less abstract as well as preparing students to work in an object-oriented environment.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Computers in society
Transitions from high school English to tertiary study
Number 143, Spring 2005; Pages 36–47
Current English courses at senior school level do not give students adequate exposure to the many forms of writing they will experience in the workplace or higher study, in particular non-fiction text types such as social commentary, science writing or public reports. Students need to understand issues such as style, audience and purpose in texts, and need skills such as citation and synthesis. Despite recent reforms to the curriculum, English in South Australian schools maintains a focus on reading about novels, poetry, films and authors. Most of what students are asked to write consists of responses to this reading. A stronger and more general emphasis on writing in senior secondary school English would help students to understand what they read more deeply. They may benefit from the ‘creative-critical’ approach used in the authors’ Professional and Creative Communication course at the
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Transitions in schooling
English language teaching
English, research and professionalism
Number 143, Spring 2005; Pages 20–26
In Britain the concept of teacher action research was for many years associated with small scale local school projects. But in the second half of the 1990s senior government figures began to advance teacher research as a pragmatic and effective way to improve teaching practice, in contrast to research by professional researchers, which was said to lack rigour and relevance to the classroom. However, the government’s approach can also be seen as one of several means to centralise the control of knowledge, and to associate professionalism with ‘accountability’ and adherence to centrally determined standards. This approach erodes the sense of trust and autonomy formerly associated with teachers’ professional status. It complements the introduction of centralised curriculum and assessment ‘that insist on what is to be taught and how it is to be taught’, as seen for example in the Key Stage Three Framework for Teaching English. In contrast to this approach, English teachers who are ‘active in the construction of professional knowledge’ argue for teacher research as a means to stimulate ongoing engagement with pedagogic issues. Such research can help develop the confidence and independent judgement needed in teaching and if teachers are to assert their professionalism within the current educational climate.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEnglish language teaching
Writing standards-based rubrics for technology education classrooms
October 2005; Pages 19–22
The growth of new technologies and the expansion of project-based learning create challenges for standards-based assessment in the subject of technology. One effective means of assessment is through the use of a rubric. A rubric is a two-dimensional matrix that can be used to measure a student’s performance in a given unit of work. The article includes a sample rubric. It was used to measure student performance in a project in which students had to prepare the technical requirements for a public service announcement. Along one axis of the rubric is the set of criteria used to measure student performance, eg script and storyboard, lighting, team work and continuity. On the other axis are levels of performance, eg Novice, Developing, or Proficient. Text within the cells describes performance indicators for a given criteria at a given level of attainment. The development of rubrics requires a number of steps. The teacher needs to establish how the ‘real world’ defines quality performance for a product or service. The teacher should gather samples of student and expert work that illustrate different levels of quality and group them by quality. The specific attributes or skills needed to create a product should be distinguished, with descriptive statements written for them and operational definitions prepared for each of level of attainment. Examples of expert and student work should be linked to the criteria and the levels of attainment.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
United States of America (USA)
TECH-know: integrating engaging activities through standards-based learning
October 2005; Pages 15–17
The subject of technology is well suited to project-based learning that integrates technology with science and mathematics education. North Carolina State University has developed instructional materials suitable for this purpose through the TECH-know project. The 20 units of instruction developed through the project cover a wide range of topics, including digital photography, desktop publishing and radio-controlled transportation. They cover diverse subject areas such as agriculture and biotechnology, environmental work, medical technology, film technology and structural engineering. The units consist of a ‘student edition’ with contextual information for real world application and a teacher’s guide. For three years technology education teachers in several US states have trialled the units. Evaluations of the units found that various categories of disadvantaged students performed at levels equal to or greater than other students. The materials apply the Standards for Technology Literacy developed by the International Technology Education Association (ITEA) and a range of other standards covering science and mathematics.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Inquiry based learning
Beyond games, gadgets and gimmicks: differentiating instruction across domains in physical education
Volume 76 Number 8, October 2005; Pages 38–45
By differentiating physical education lessons, teachers can more effectively accommodate students' individual abilities, interests and the different timelines of an individual student’s development. Differentiation involves varying lesson content, methods of instruction and assessment across motor, cognitive, social, and affective skill domains. A variety of directed and student-focused teaching styles should be used, and supported by demonstrations, diagrams, writing, verbal instruction and part-to-whole or whole-to-part formats. Motor differentiation requires regular modification of an activity’s physical components, such as modifying distances, equipment, rules or movements. Within a gym, students can be grouped at different learning stations with low, moderate and high performance levels for each activity. This differentiation can promote student choice, increase time spent on-task and encourage peer modelling and feedback. Individual learning plans or mentoring from an older student can differentiate lessons for physically gifted students. Teachers can encourage reasoning and problem solving by providing a variety of resources and by allowing students to develop their own strategies for a sport or game. Students can develop critical thinking skills through open-ended questions; through activities that link to current events, cultural traditions or real world problems; and by allowing students to choose the equipment, partners, activity or timing for their activities. Material from other subjects can be differentiated, and perhaps better understood, when learnt kinaesthetically. For example, in Society and Environment students can simulate third world farming practices using sports equipment. Teachers can help develop social skills, such as accepting and providing feedback, respectful communication and cooperation, by discussing and role-playing appropriate behaviours at the beginning of lessons. Varying group structures according to students’ learning styles or motor, cognitive or social skills increases involvement and provides for developmentally appropriate learning. Affective qualities such as self-esteem, confidence and risk-taking abilities can be developed through lessons which link to students’ interests or to real world tasks such as rock climbing. Assessment should provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate motor skills. It should include student portfolios, demonstrations, group discussions, and performances. The article refers extensively to Bloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills and includes checklists for assessing teaching practices and differentiating instruction across domains.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsIndividualised instruction
Group work in education
Using case study analysis and case study writing to structure clinical experiences in a teacher education program
Volume 70, Autumn 2005; Pages 48–60
A teacher education course in the USA requires pre-service teachers to document their practicum experiences as formal case studies. The exercise has proved very successful in bridging the gap between education theory and practice for the teaching students. In preparation for writing their own case studies, students analysed existing case studies, read about the case study writing process, and were taught how to use library databases and find relevant journal articles. During two subsequent practicum periods, students identified issues and then wrote their own case studies. Open ended cases, where an issue is described but not resolved, were written in the first period, and closed cases with a solution in the second period. Students continued to meet regularly to discuss the issues and share perspectives. Instructors provided ongoing feedback throughout the process. Writing closed cases led to a better understanding of an issue, and decision making which was more closely aligned to professional knowledge. Students identified increasingly complex and diverse issues as their case writing abilities improved and practical experiences expanded. While first case studies tended to focus on issues such as disruptive behaviour, ESOL students, teacher burnout and standardised testing, case studies from the second period covered issues such as learning disabilities, socio-economic backgrounds, early puberty and the effects of war on children. The teaching students also demonstrated improved skills in linking professional knowledge to the issues they faced. Case studies offered teacher educators a way to identify their students’ strengths, misconceptions and knowledge gaps. Sensitive issues such as inappropriate teacher behaviour arose in some cases, so future case study teaching is to include an ethics review to resolve such issues. The article outlines related research; the case study assignment given to students; and the students’ rubric for assessing resource quality.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Darkness invisible: a school head's struggle with depression
Volume 65 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 40–46
A principal of an independent school in the USA outlines his struggle with depression and hypomania. He calls for schools to become leaders in promoting public acceptance and discussion of mental health issues, and suggests ways for schools to create a ‘mental health net’ for leaders, staff, students and parents. School programs should promote the importance of healthy eating, exercise and rest. Relevant mental health issues should also be covered, and can be integrated into the current curriculum through studies of individuals such as Virginia Wolfe and Vincent Van Gough, and movies such as A Beautiful Mind. Guest speakers could help to promote open discussion between staff and students. Schools should establish a safe place for employees to seek help and share their concerns openly, and could appoint a life/health coach to provide assistance. Board members and relevant teaching staff should be trained in how to identify behaviours commonly linked to mental health problems, and be willing to confidentially discuss these with colleagues and students. The Chair of the school board should carefully inquire into the mental and physical wellbeing of the school principal at regular intervals, while another board member should check on the principal’s spouse or partner. Extra attention should be paid to school leaders who are new to the community, as they are particularly vulnerable. A school’s health insurance should cover mental health referrals and therapy. The author cites years of overworking as the cause of his depression, which was confounded by his fear of admitting the problem given his public role, an internal stigma over having a mental illness, a lack of correct anti-depressant medication and the failure of people around him to notice his increasingly erratic behaviour. He suffered insomnia, obsessive thinking, inability to make decisions and family and career breakdown.
Subject HeadingsMental Health
Technology and teacher preparation in exemplary institutions: 1994 to 2003
Volume 22 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 5–11
Education faculties at seven universities in the USA have recently won awards for their successful integration of technology into teacher education programs. Research was conducted into the reasons for their success, with findings linked to results from an earlier study of other universities. Key factors contributing to the success of universities in the recent study were a focus on effective teaching and learning rather than on the technology itself, and coordination and mutual support among staff. Success was also driven by key staff members’ personal pedagogical goals, such as the wish to prepare students to be successful teachers and meet student needs, or to keep up with students’ knowledge of technology. In each faculty, leadership was characteristically provided by a ‘champion’, a staff member who actively encouraged integration and guided colleagues without holding a formal leadership position. All of the Education faculties had access to adequate infrastructure. However, several faculties had difficulties in acquiring or installing new software and equipment. While instructional direction for integrating technology varied widely, most faculties noted the importance of collaborating with fellow colleagues. At some universities, instructors informally integrated technology into individual courses. Other faculties used a formal curriculum mapping process. Some faculties have designated a position or committee to ensure that new, relevant developments are incorporated as they arise. For the purposes of the evaluation, the courses were divided into the topic areas of teaching methodology, field experience, general education/subject specific courses, and courses about technology as a topic in itself. Each faculty’s courses were evaluated in terms of how well they integrated the six National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for preparing preservice teachers to use technology in their future practice. Evidence from the research suggests that the courses are more effective in teaching how to integrate technology into specific teaching approaches and subject areas, rather than on general use of technology in the classroom or on technology as a personal resource.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
HSC English in the media: the reporting of conventions and controversies
Number 143, Spring 2005; Pages 27–35
The article examines reactions from the news media and the teaching community to revisions of the New South Wales’ final year HSC English syllabus in 1999. The research, undertaken as part of the author’s doctoral project, involved a qualitative study including content analysis of documents collected during the consultation and implementation phases of the syllabus, and records of fieldwork and teacher interviews in two secondary English faculties. Newspaper coverage of the new syllabus was found to be overwhelmingly negative. Many commentators argued that its critical literacy elements supported an extreme relativism that denied objective truth and saw ideology as all-pervasive. The newspaper commentators persistently presented the study of ‘traditional canonical literature’ as ‘an enlightened and transcendent learning experience’. They implied that the study of this literature was threatened by ‘uninspired or unimaginative practical study’ of modern texts and alternative text forms. These arguments were rarely, if ever, linked to wider philosophies of education. The newspaper reports rarely acknowledged that the study of Shakespeare remained an option in the standard course and was compulsory in the advanced course; that the standard course required students to study prose fiction, drama and poetry, along with non-standard text types such as film or non-fiction text; or that writing tasks remained the most important component of assessment. Defenders of the syllabus usually focused on the value of alternative text forms. None questioned the actual value of school students studying Shakespeare. In contrast to these debates, teachers and professional organisations supported the study of a wide range of text types from a number of perspectives. Their concerns were about the implementation of the new standards-based assessment framework, the external examination, the lack of school resources to integrate film and multimedia, and the lack of professional development to support the new syllabus. The ‘inaccuracies and the silences’ of the newspaper reports, driven by a ‘strong desire to uphold conventional practices’, raise questions about the newspapers’ impact on public perceptions of the syllabus.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsNew South Wales (NSW)
Mass media study and teaching
English language teaching
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