6 June 2006; Page 37
The Victorian Government is to increase the number of select entry government schools in the State from the current 27 to 37 next year. Victoria will also have a specialist sports school in 2007, operating in a similar way to the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (VCASS). The Victorian system operates through Select Entry Accelerated Learning (SEAL) programs. However Pat Byrne, President of the AEU, makes a case against the creation of selective entry schools. She argues that they encourage an inequitable distribution of resources and academically talented students. High performing students in comprehensive schools currently serve as valuable role models to other students and help lift their academic performance. The exemplary schooling system of Finland operates through fully comprehensive schools. The thinking behind the creation of selective entry schools in Victoria has elements in common with the approach surrounding the move to specialist schools in England, where two thirds of state secondary schools specialise in one area. The development in England is overseen by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT). The British Government plans to make all secondary schools specialist by 2008. To qualify for specialist status schools in England must raise $20,000 from private sources. The Government then provides a grant of $250,000 plus $300 per year for every student. The specialist schools all teach the national curriculum as well as their specialist area. The SSAT’s international arm has a branch in Australia, iNet, whose head, Wendy Cahill, cites the raising of standards in England evidence of the specialist schools success. However Professor Jim Taylor of the Department of Economics at Lancaster University suggests that the benefits of the specialist school approach have been exaggerated by the British Government. He says that the superior academic performances of students in specialist schools reflect their level of achievement prior to entering the new system, and also reflects these students' socio-economic background.
Education and state
Education aims and objectives
Volume 85 Number 9, 5 June 2006
The Inservice Teacher Education Practice (INSTEP) project is researching ways to enhance the professional development and strengthen the practice of in-service teacher educators in
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
A window into mathematics classrooms: traditional to reform
Volume 40 Number 1, 2005
Maths education in
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsNew Zealand
A closer look at gender in NAEP mathematics achievement and affect data: intersections with achievement, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status
Volume 37 Number 2, 2006; Pages 129–150
The authors analysed the USA’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 1990–2003 to identify relationships between gender, ethnicity and student achievement in maths. The NAEP is a government-mandated survey of knowledge and attitudes of large representative samples of students in Grades 4, 8 and 12 in the USA. The grades roughly correspond to ages 9–10, 13–14 and 17–18. The authors identified that boys generally performed better than girls. The gender gap was small, but had not diminished over the period studied. The largest gaps concerned number, measurement and operations in grades 8 and 12, and geometry in Grade 12. In terms of algebra and functions, grade 4 boys were significantly ahead of girls. At each grade level the gender gap was greatest for white and high-SES students. As grade levels increased, the gender difference became more concentrated at the upper range of percentiles of student performance. Among Hispanic students, boys out-performed girls in 2003 but had not done so in 2000. The difference may represent an inadequate sample size in 2000, or the 2003 figures may be an anomaly. There was no gender difference among black students at any grade level. The exception was in Grade 4, where there were significant differences in favour of black girls over black boys in geometry and data analysis. Female students’ self-confidence in maths was persistently more negative than that of males. Average scores for both sexes rose steadily over the period studied.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsEthnic groups
Volume 37 Number 2, 2006; Pages 76–86
The USA’s NCTM (is developing processes to forge closer links between research and teaching practice in school mathematics. The NCTM has created a set of ongoing publications known as LRP Analyses, Briefs and Clips (ABCs) to address questions raised by maths teachers within an effective timeframe. The Analyses aim to summarise all existing research literature relevant to a specific question. They have a different focus to most existing research syntheses, which tend to summarise all work that researchers have done on a broad topic. The Analyses also aim to highlight limitations of current research, in terms of ‘holes, weaknesses and limited generalisability of research’, differing findings, open questions and points of dispute. By highlighting these limitations the NCTM hopes to deepen teachers’ grasp of the nature of education research, stimulate them to take part in it, and ‘to have inquiry perspectives toward their own teaching’. The Briefs describe and comment on subordinate questions raised by the Analyses. Clips are short summaries of answers to practical questions, ‘short sound bytes that state major conclusions drawn from the analyses’, and are designed for a diverse audience. The ABCs are part of a broader suite of devices being prepared to link research and practice. Another key step will be the creation of ‘teacher leaders’ or ‘instructional engineers’ to convey research findings to classroom teachers and to feed back teacher comments and questions to researchers. The teacher leaders are expected to come from a range of backgrounds, for example teacher education, professional development and management of maths departments within schools. They need to have access to and influence with classroom teachers, and will work with researchers to create practitioner-friendly material, bridging cultural barriers between teachers and researchers. The article also describes the general condition of mathematics education in the USA today, describing barriers to cooperation between researchers and teachers and the impact of the cornerstone NCLB school legislation, that prioritises quantitative over qualitative research. See also the NCTM report Harnessing the Power of Research for Practice, January 2005.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
United States of America (USA)
'Go to the page and work it from there': young people's experiences of learning mathematics from a text
Volume 20 Number 1, 2006; Pages 8–14
In many classrooms secondary school maths tends to be seen as something learnt from a textbook, individually and in separation from other disciplines and real-life contexts. Problems are broken into discrete steps that can be tested readily. This approach may be used by teachers who lack confidence in the subject area, but over-reliance on textbooks means that these teachers will tend to restrict the range of topics covered in class and will be unlikely to provide an adequate conceptual framework for their students. A textbook-dominated approach disadvantages students who are struggling academically. Because it does not encourage a ‘community of learning’ in the classroom, struggling students find it hard to contribute and tend to see themselves as marginal figures in class. The article describes the findings from interviews with 43 young people who left school before Year 12 and, in some cases, before the completion of the compulsory years of schooling. All interviewed students were in a Youth Reconnected Program at a TAFE college. Their comments indicated a range of reasons why they felt they had struggled with maths at school. They described problems that are often associated with over-reliance on textbooks for teaching, such as teaching the same content to all students in a class, the standard pacing of the lesson and the assignment of homework to students who had not completed work in class. The interviewees did not describe the same range of problems at their TAFE course, where they found teachers gave them individualised attention.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
The initial training of physical education teachers – in search of the lost meaning of professionalism
Volume 11 Number 1, February 2006; Pages 69–82
To recover the meaning of professionalism in physical education teaching, we must first determine what it means to be a physically educated person. Fundamentally, education is a process of transformation into a more humane and civilised individual. Education goals must be informed by the deficiencies, limitations and needs of children in developed societies which inhibit this transformation. One deficiency in the area of physical education is lack of understanding of the ‘cult’ of being thin, including its personal and social implications and the economic interests which sustain it. Students must be taught to appreciate bodies as they are. Knowledge about looking after our bodies is similarly lacking, and must be rectified with informed, rigorous study of activities which benefit and harm us. ‘Healthy living’ must be detached from health-related products promoted under the ideology of ‘consumerism’, which distort students’ understanding. Physical education should also address deficiencies in the affective-emotional area, which are often ‘solved’ by behaviours such as drug or alcohol abuse or ‘addictions to computers or sex’. Bodily expression can build self-awareness and self-esteem to overcome these deficiencies. A need for greater respect in society can be addressed by discussing the values expounded by physical activity, especially sport. Some sport-related values such as nationalism foster exclusion and intolerance of diversity and undermine peaceful coexistence. Lastly, physical education must meet students’ need to develop motor skills without which they will be inhibited both in physical activity and in social interaction. Overall, students must be taught to find meaning in whatever they are doing. We must also address what it means to be a physical educator, or a trainer of physical educators. Physical educators must be enthusiastic about their material, about children and about teaching. Their enthusiasm will lead them to accept the moral responsibility to receive proper training, and to understand all the whys and wherefores of what they do. Trainers of physical educators must foster personal as well as professional qualities in their students, frame knowledge in social, political and economic contexts, and adopt a dialogue-based pedagogy which their students can go on to use in their own teaching. Above all, they must be reflective and committed to ongoing learning.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsPhysical education
Education aims and objectives
Volume 99 Number 3, January 2006; Pages 144–155
A University of Nevada study investigated the studying and test-taking strategies used by 61 senior secondary mathematics students in two private urban high schools. The researchers interviewed two sub-groups, composed respectively of students with high and with low levels of interest and achievement in mathematics. During interviews each group of students was asked three questions: how they would prepare for a mathematics test; what makes them feel they are ready to sit a test; and any methods they would employ during the test. In test preparation, students indicated that they used cognitive strategies more frequently than environmental or motivational strategies. These strategies included reviewing, solving problems, checking and repetition. High-achieving students displayed a greater tendency to employ deeper-level study strategies, checking the processes they used in problem-solving. In contrast, lower-achieving students were more likely to check only whether their answers were correct, a method that does not connect a study topic to prior learning. Previous studies have shown that higher achievers often employ study strategies, such as reading or elaboration, to deepen understanding rather than the ‘rehearsal’ strategies employed by lower achievers. Higher achievers also regulated their study environments and asked for assistance during study more often than lower achievers. Higher achievers were more likely to assess their readiness for mathematics tests in terms of higher-order skills such as ‘automatisation’ of problem-solving processes, although the frequency of such comments was relatively low. Lower achievers referred more often to ‘knowing’ or ‘remembering’ than ‘understanding’. In test-taking, students frequently appraised item difficulty and allocated time before solving problems, usually choosing to tackle easy items first. Higher-achieving students tended to use additional strategies such as eliminating distractions or anticipating multi-choice answers before reading the options. Student responses to all three questions revealed motivational concerns. These concerns arose in both ability groups, with some students not studying because they found mathematics easy, or because they found studying hard. The research suggests that all students may benefit from further instruction in deep-level test and study strategies, covering issues such as motivation, test anxiety and self-efficacy.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsStudy methods
United States of America (USA)
Ten don'ts of successful school leadership
Volume 6 Number 7, March 2006; Pages 40–43
A veteran principal in the USA, retiring after 41 years of education service, shares his top 10 list of things school leaders should not do. Firstly, in terms of positives, be visible. Stand at the front of the school each day when parents drop students off, so they and their parents can be reassured that administrators are always nearby. Regular classroom walk-throughs, or cafeteria and playground duty, can also be useful opportunities to interact with teachers and students. Secondly, avoid being tied to a desk. Relegate ‘administrivia’ to outside peak school hours, or delegate it to support staff. However, out-of-control delegation practices are the third ‘don’t’, since they lead to loss of awareness and control of events in the school. Fourthly, school leaders must prioritise the human needs of their teachers over the need to implement mandated programs. If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students is a valuable publication on this topic. Fifthly, school leaders must avoid a dictatorial or egotistical leadership style in favour of inclusion, empowerment and teamwork. The sixth and seventh ‘don’ts’ are forgetting to give praise, and being too quick to give criticism. Celebrate successes and respect the contributions of all staff members. Bringing Out the Best in Teachers is worthwhile reading. The eighth point is that school leaders should avoid focusing on negatives. Attitudes, especially those of an authority figure, are contagious. Leaders should try to ‘sandwich’ any negative statement between two positives. Failure to control mood is the ninth practice to avoid. Practise being even-tempered and consistent, to engender trust and equity. Lastly, good school leaders should not forget their students. If they get caught up in any of the preceding pitfalls, it becomes too easy to become distanced from the student population. Principals should make time to get to know students, attend student activities and be where students are, to ensure each one feels valued individually.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Curran Primary School is situated in Sydney’s south-west, the site of significant community unrest in 2005. During this time, the area received negative media attention. It could be expected that the local school would come under fire as failing to alleviate the social and educational disadvantages of residents. Instead, Curran’s supportive view of the community’s potential enabled it to implement strategies to make a real difference to its students’ engagement with education. The Fair Go Project, a joint research effort by the University of Western Sydney and the Priority School Funding Program, was adopted in one senior primary class. The project fosters student engagement in classroom experiences through highly cognitive (self-regulated learning), high affective (deeply valued by students) and highly operative (students are active participants) classroom activities. This contributes to a broader level of engagement, whereby students develop an enduring relationship with the school as a place and with education as a resource. These levels of engagement are influenced by messages conveyed by pedagogies and classroom processes. An important part of the pedagogy used in the researched class was building a sense of community. As part of its Human Society and its Environment course, the class decided to undertake a collaborative research project which would improve teaching and learning in their school, called ‘School is for Us’. The students participated in the project as data collectors, writing letters to teachers and conducting classroom observations. They became decision-makers, shaping the research, and data analysts, identifying and sharing common themes. They also became reflective researchers, keeping reflective journals and sharing their insights. Data collected from journals and student interviews showed a marked improvement in student confidence and engagement. The pedagogies used gave students a sense of fun and of control over their own learning. As one student commented: ‘If you don’t learn you won’t go nowhere. But if you think and talk about learning more it will make you keep going’. The project proved that even students in the most disadvantaged educational communities can come to believe that ‘school is for me’.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsSocially disadvantaged
New South Wales (NSW)
Teaching and learning
Project based learning