25 June 2006; Page 17
The proposal to employ chaplains in Australia’s state schools has been promoted by John Howard and Julie Bishop to enhance values, to ‘“counteract the anti-religious character” of state schools', and to improve social harmony. Chaplains have been proposed in preference to the hiring of youth workers, welfare workers, psychologists and social workers who have extensive training with youth of varied cultural and religious backgrounds, and formal qualifications in providing professional care. The proposal to appoint chaplains identifies values only with religion, ignoring rich traditions of secular moral teachings. Australia’s liberal tradition separates church and state. Given the nation’s multicultural nature schools should provide equally for students who are atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews as well as Christian. In this context, employing Christian clergy in state schools represents a ‘double standard’ that contradicts the Australian Government’s official commitment to the values of freedom, respect, tolerance and inclusion. It is ‘a provocative and divisive act’ in a situation where ‘racists exacerbate minor differences in cultural and religious practices’.
Subject HeadingsValues education (character education)
Social life and customs
School and community
Thinking to learn: mind tools for critical thought
Summer 2006; Pages 33–39
The article surveys a wide range of ICT applications that can be considered 'mind tools', software 'used in a new way to engage learners in critical thinking'. One key tool, the Wiki, is a form of text editing software that provides an easy way to alter and republish a web page at frequent intervals. The Wiki can be used for many classroom activities such as debates. One convenient feature is that they allow irrelevant postings to be moved elsewhere. Wikis may be useful for engaging boys who struggle with literacy requirements, and allow them to express their ideas in text. Wikis assist in meeting curriculum requirements to develop generic skills such as organising and communicating information. They suit the range of 'multiple intelligences' and can serve to introduce a range of ethical issues relating to ICT, such as e-vandalism, censorship, copyright, plagiarism, privacy, and the accuracy and authenticity of e-texts. The WikipediA has a section on Geography. Other potential mind tools considered in the article include blogs, bots, webquests, and simple databases.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Thought and thinking
Examining e-texts in English exit examinations
Volume 41 Number 1, 2006; Pages 31–36
The secondary English curriculums in
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
English language teaching
15 May 2006
Two researchers from the University of Washington’s Information School and Syracuse University and other experts are working on a project to help web users assess the credibility of online information. The teams are developing an ongoing collection of computer programs and tools that are available from the Credibility Commons website. Three developments are underway for the website. A collection of scholarly articles about Internet credibility is already available, with educational materials and daily or weekly updates of the latest credibility news also planned. A searchable directory of Internet resources that have been verified by reference librarians is underway. A comparative search tool that will allow users to search using multiple search engines and collections, and compare search results, is also planned. The website aims to meet the needs of all web users, although some aspects may be tailored toward the K–12 audience. Organisers plan to maintain strong connections with the research community. The team is interested in providing different search capabilities and testing these with educators. For example, the team may look to provide technology that offers a Google-style ranking system on the basis of credibility rather than hits. A searchable database of ‘credible’ sites recommended by librarians, which users could search in place of the entire Internet, may be offered. A variety of existing applications for assessing the credibility of web information are already available. However, researchers point out that users have no control over who determines whether information is credible, or how they do it.
Volume 63, May 2006; Pages 38–42
The New Trier School in the USA is successfully using senior students to assist with instructional activities in classes through a leadership program known as the Senior Instructional Leadership Corps (SILC). The aim of the program is not just to develop student leadership skills but also to enhance curriculum delivery. It began with a one-semester trial in 1998. The SILC students must assist a mentor teacher in a classroom two to five times per week and meet the teacher once a week outside class time. They attend monthly seminars with program coordinators that cover effective teaching practices, learning styles, group dynamics, how to build personal relationships, relationships with teachers and classroom management skills. Participants also keep a journal of activities and thoughts, and write a self-evaluation at the end of the semester. Participants who meet expectations earn a small academic credit from the school. After two years the program became ‘a powerful and pervasive instructional practice’ in the school. The participants have been found to work effectively with classes at all grade and ability levels, including other senior students. Contrary to expectations, the success of participants did not depend on having a close prior relationship with the mentor teacher. Key principles are maintaining confidentiality of communications with participants, respect for teachers’ authority and a sense of responsibility and commitment from the students. Teachers have ‘different comfort levels’ in terms of the participants’ involvement in the classroom.
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
Senior secondary education
Teaching and learning
The politics of the English curriculum: Ideology in the campaign against critical literacy in The Australian
Volume 41 Number 1, 2006; Pages 25–30
Over 2005 The Australian newspaper ran 14 articles on the role of Critical Literacy (CL) in the school curriculum. Although the newspaper called on teachers to be impartial in literacy teaching, the articles were all partisan attacks on the CL approach. The articles raised three key criticisms. First, CL was held to be biased towards a left wing ‘politically correct’ view on issues such as class, gender and ethnicity. Second, CL denies students the moral and aesthetic benefits of reading. Third, CL is responsible for ‘dumbing down’ of students and for the perceived decline in literacy standards. The articles are represented as being value neutral ‘commonsense’, but this approach is a ‘feigned political agnosticism’. The teaching of reading and writing is necessarily ideological and political at some level. The notion that literacy teaching can be autonomous from politics assumes that literacy is ‘unitary’; that is, its meaning is not affected by social determinants such as class and race. It assumes that literacy is a single, neutral mechanism ‘that does not itself define, limit or influence the use made of it’ for political interests. It also assumes that literacy automatically brings about economic, social and personal benefits. In fact, a given form of literacy is inseparable from certain beliefs and values. The Australian writers represent classical texts as embodying timeless truths about the ‘human condition’. This ignores the fact that these texts were often socially disruptive when first published, that their perceived value has risen and fallen with the political mood of the time, and that the ‘human condition’ itself is contested ground, based on and serving different viewpoints. An identification of subject English with the colonial heritage closes off post-colonial alternatives. The notion of the value-free, socially unmediated ‘truth’ that is espoused by these writers rests on a radical positivist epistemology that now has few philosophical supporters. The writers limit the role of literacy to minimal, socially passive, functional forms. They also create a false impression that teachers employing literacy practices have abandoned traditional ones. The writers’ attacks are driven partly by a nationalistic, conservative and Eurocentric ideology, and partly by a lack of understanding of the topic.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducation philosophy
Education aims and objectives
English language teaching
Volume 26 Number 2, April 2006; Pages 149–167
No mandatory standards exist for principal preparation in
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
The Le@rning Federation's on-line initiative: lessons from teachers on change, technologies, and learning about English and literacy
Volume 41 Number 1, 2006; Pages 48–56
The Le@rning Federation produces learning objects (LOs), files or modules offering ‘interactive learning activities that are accessed via computer and often include a variety of media’, usually combining sound, image and text, and designed to be reusable in multiple ways in various settings. They have been trialled at a wide range of schools. The schools were surveyed on their use in 2005 and 2006. Results suggested that school staff varied widely in their attitude toward LOs. These differences did not correlate to school system, geographic area, SES, teacher or student demographics, sector or primary/secondary level. In terms of curriculum area, however, LOs were rated lower than average in LOTE but higher in literacy. There was some evidence of LOs being used with ‘old’ pedagogic methods that did not draw on their full potential. The article reports on the use of LOs at 17 schools taken as case studies, involving lesson observation and interviews with principals and teachers. The schools represented a mix of age levels and locations, with significant coverage of at-risk, Indigenous and special needs students. Two were all-girls schools and one provided distance education. The schools varied widely in their ICT budgets, technological capacity and procedures for use of LOs. Respondents highlighted the importance of smooth access to ICT. Teachers appeared more willing to integrate ICT into the classroom when they themselves were involved in planning ICT programs. Students made extensive use of LOs outside of lesson time when allowed to do so. Many respondents praised LOs for allowing independent and self-paced learning, motivating students to learn, and offering them immediate feedback and the chance to repeat work. LOs were found especially valuable for students with learning difficulties. However at some schools the use of LOs was tightly controlled. Schools that saw themselves as most successful in the use of LOs applied them to specific educational purposes rather than as a ‘time filler’. Teachers emphasised the role they played in contextualising the use of LOs for their students, through preparing instructions, follow-up questions and other forms of reinforcement of learning. Many respondents had previously used ICT only for drill-and-skill tasks. Concerns about LOs included the perceived unwillingness of students to persist with an LO, and fears of unreliable ICT infrastructure. Researchers saw short lesson times as a constraint on LO use. The impact of new technologies such as LOs cannot be effectively evaluated without also studying their interaction with ‘ongoing, residual and emerging technologies’, such as interactive white boards.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsMultimedia systems
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
English language teaching
Volume 26 Number 1, February 2006; Pages 5–22
Educational leaders must understand the implications of globalisation in all its forms. Most influential is economic globalisation, characterised by increased financial mobility and the growth of trans-national corporations and free-trade organisations. A neo-liberal economic agenda has dominated economic globalisation. Organisations seek to maximise profits by extracting the greatest amount of labour from their workers at the least cost. This practice has contributed to the widespread educational leadership shortage, as workload intensification has deterred potential leaders from seeking promotion. Economic globalisation also exacerbates inequities between developed and developing countries. Political globalisation is manifest in supra-national political entities such as the EU. It is also demonstrated in the devolution of identity, whereby nations are divided into diverse political communities. Cultural globalisation is exemplified by our ability to experience the food, music or other practices of many cultures in a single geographic location. This provides educators with new windows through which to view the world, but may also present them with so many choices that each one becomes meaningless. Cultural globalisation also involves the ‘best bits’ of various cultures being ‘reformulated and packaged for quick, easy consumption’. Educational leaders must be aware of the possibilities, dangers, and tensions inherent in these developments. The pressure to adopt private sector concepts such as efficiency and profit can conflict with public sector values like equity and care. Educators are also expected to be more flexible, creative and effective in their work, while being increasingly constrained by government-driven accountability targets. The dominance of economics in globalisation creates a risk that education itself will become a private economic commodity. In response, educational leaders should assume responsibility for teaching others not only to survive in a global context, but to challenge existing models and build justice and equity. Leaders must reshape the professional educational context so that champions of truth over economics are not relegated to the status of ‘court jesters’ for their more successful managerially oriented counterparts. To do this, educational leaders must earn the trust of governments and local communities, and help shape models of accountability that measure performance in more than economic terms.
Education and state
The impact of computers on the work of principals: changing discourses on talk, leadership and professionalism
Volume 26 Number 1, February 2006; Pages 23–36
Interviews with 30 Canadian primary school principals explored the extent to which computers have affected their capacity to respond to changing expectations of leadership. The principals spent between half a morning and half a day at the computer during school hours. Many noted that it would be easy to spend more time at the computer, and that they sometimes had to make a conscious effort to get away from their desks. It was not unusual for principals to spend time in the evenings doing computer-based work from home. Principals were asked how computers had affected the ‘talk’ that is central to daily administrative work. In many instances, text had replaced talk because of the ease with which information can be distributed around the school community. Electronic communication also facilitated information gathering, as principals could email questions to multiple mentors simultaneously, or seek advice on a particular student from all of their teachers at once. The possibilities created by networked technologies for simultaneous information-sharing have helped break down traditional boundaries of expertise and increase teachers’ sense of professionalism. Improved information processing, such as more sophisticated test analyses or reporting practices, assist in building knowledge on which strong professional practices can develop. The accessibility of electronic student databases was identified as especially useful when dealing with parents, although some principals noted that there were situations where it was better to communicate verbally than to commit information to electronic text. A number of principals remarked that it was important to maintain face-to-face communications in addition to electronic ones. Others noted that electronic communication had improved efficiency on administrative matters, leaving more time for face-to-face discussion about teaching and learning. Knowledge management has been enhanced through electronic resources such as online repositories of administrative documents for local education offices. As education reforms focus more and more on process, complexity and shared learning, it is becoming increasingly important for educators to pool information and ideas. Computerised administration not only creates opportunities for greater efficiency, but also for more transformative, distributed leadership.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Number 25, April 2006; Pages 239–257
US national guidelines recommend that children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) every day. Physical education classes are an important opportunity to contribute to this objective, especially for those children least likely to engage in physical activity outside of school. Healthy People 2010, a US government national health initiative, recommends that at least 50 per cent of each physical education class should be spent on MVPA. Liverpool John Moores University researchers undertook a systematic literature review of studies of physical activity levels in children aged 5 to 11 years. The 44 studies reviewed used a range of instruments to measure physical activity, including heart rate monitoring, systematic observation, and motion sensors such as accelerometers or pedometers. On average, MVPA constituted 34.2 per cent of class time in classes where no specific interventions were undertaken. Frequent stops for instruction or class reorganisation compromised teachers’ ability to maintain high levels of MVPA. The average lesson time was 33.7 minutes, and increasing lesson time did not necessarily result in increased MVPA. MVPA was most likely to be increased where teachers deliberately prioritised physical activity in their lesson planning. Two specific interventions, SPARK and CATCH, resulted in significant increases in MVPA, almost attaining the recommended 50 per cent threshold. MVPA was shown to decrease after the interventions had ended. Although it was clear that both SPARK and CATCH significantly improved the time spent on MVPA, no information was available as to how they accommodated the educational nature of physical education. Physical education lessons should ideally integrate high levels of MVPA with learning through the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains, as these are linked to lifelong physical activity engagement. Students showed a tendency to engage in more MVPA as they got older, and no consistent differences emerged between boys and girls. Specialist physical education teachers, or classroom teachers who had experienced in-service training, were most effective in encouraging MVPA.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsPhysical education
United States of America (USA)
Volume 43 Number 5, February 2006; Pages 42–44
A case study of seven Ohio elementary schools investigated the issues involved in establishing high-quality science programs in the early years of schooling. Three central issues emerged: a gap between the school district’s philosophy and actual practice; deficiencies in the training and support provided to primary teachers for teaching science; and a lack of strong logistical support for supplies and equipment at the elementary level. Teachers’ philosophical beliefs in constructivist learning had been largely eclipsed by concerns to prepare students to meet state content standards and assessment. These concerns led to the introduction of a text-based rather than activity-based science course. Hands-on activities were constrained both by materials shortages and over-reliance on textbooks as the focus of the course. It may be possible to maintain a sound philosophy of science teaching in the face of state-mandated curriculum and assessment, but this would require significant in-service training and logistical support. Teachers in the study developed their own science knowledge, many using the textbook as their primary resource. Having teachers teach themselves science does not seem a reliable strategy, being likely to result in science activities being implemented in classrooms without knowledge of the scientific principles that underpin them. Teachers should be offered in-service training and workshop opportunities to first enhance their own scientific knowledge. The enthusiasm generated for their own science learning will be transferred to their students. In-service training may begin with a survey of ‘content competency’ among teachers in a district to target knowledge gaps. Teachers should not be burdened with responsibility for providing science materials. Local education offices should work with schools to create a clear picture of what successful elementary science courses and classrooms look like and establish plans for providing the resources to make them a reality.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
United States of America (USA)
Volume 26 Number 2, April 2006; Pages 107–123
School networks and leadership development are receiving much attention in school reform in the UK. Schools Facing Challenging Circumstances, Education Improvement Partnerships and Education Action Zones (EAZ) are examples of recent government initiatives in which networking is central. Research undertaken in one EAZ investigated the impact of a leadership development program as a catalyst for school improvement. School leadership teams began by attending a Hay Group team leadership program. The Hay model is based on aligning leadership methods to the needs of schools. This enhances the professional climate and motivation levels within the school and in turn has an impact on student learning and behaviour. Critics of the model argue that it is based on neo-liberal drives for efficiency and a narrow behaviourist theory of learning, and undervalues knowledge and understanding. However, the approach is consistent with leadership practices in successful schools. The program began with leaders receiving feedback from their peers and developing plans to improve their individual performance. Leadership teams then identified critical areas for action in their school. Leaders from the eight EAZ schools appreciated the value of feedback and reflection in providing realistic appraisals of strengths and weaknesses, and boosting confidence. Around 70 per cent felt their team had bonded successfully. A few teams did not successfully negotiate tensions, adopting ‘defensive routines’ to prevent discussion of the delicate issues that might have proved most worthwhile to address. Four of the eight schools reported significant change as a result of the program. These schools were characterised by a strong sense of readiness for change; solid planning and support from the principal; leadership meetings to consolidate progress; and involvement of staff at all levels. Allocating time to follow through on actions and ‘social space’ to reinforce team relationships were also important. School networking enabled the leaders to experience effective collaborative leadership. Nevertheless, the dependence of the approach on teamwork highlighted the importance of facilitation skills in forming successful working alliances.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Teachers' use of rubrics to score non-traditional tasks: factors related to discrepancies in scoring
Volume 13 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 69–95
When using rubrics teachers are prone to distort results by being too lenient, too severe, centring results around the average, or by being influenced by prior knowledge of the student. A study in the USA has evaluated the use of rubrics for non-traditional tasks undertaken by middle school mathematics teachers in a US state. The research was based on the work of Suzanne Lane on the QUASAR project at the University of Pittsburgh, which established a model for measuring the construct validity and reliability of rubrics. This was used by the US state in which the study took place. The teachers took part in a two-day workshop on assessment and an associated scoring rubric. They then scored samples of work from Year 8 students, and their scoring was compared with that of experts in assessment. Almost all the teachers showed discrepancies from the experts and many showed major discrepancies. Unlike expert markers, the teachers tended to place undue emphasis on correctness of answers and give insufficient recognition to the quality of students’ explanations. This was particularly the case when tasks involved content already familiar to the teachers. The workshops needed to be of longer duration. Teachers should be involved in developing their own rubrics rather than relying on those developed by experts. This involvement would deepen their engagement with the rubrics and thus increase the likelihood that they would use them more consistently. Professional development of maths teachers needs to make teachers think deeply about familiar and unfamiliar concepts in maths rather than simply recall procedures, as many have been taught to do. The definition of ‘highly qualified teacher’ used in the USA needs to be clarified. Professional development requires time for teachers to examine student work in the light of the rubrics, and time for discussion with colleagues.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMiddle schooling
United States of America (USA)
Discipline-oriented curriculum provides rigorous specialised knowledge and creates ‘a sense of order about the complex world’. Conversely, integrated curriculum responds better to issues of immediate relevance, increasing student motivation. Limited evidence exists of either positive or negative learning outcomes related to integrated curriculum. As part of the SCIps project, case studies were undertaken in two very different Western Australian schools to investigate the influence of school context on the implementation of integrated, community-based projects. The first school, a traditional high school, organises learning around the eight disciplines outlined in the WA Curriculum Framework. An integrated project, studying midges in a local lake, was implemented in a Year 9 extension class. Rigidly predetermined learning activities and assessment prevented integration into other subject areas, and strict timetabling limited the possibility of excursions. The teacher, a biology specialist, used traditional science lessons to give students the basic skills needed to design their own investigations. Aside from one excursion and guest speaker presentation, most lessons involved students working alone on teacher-developed worksheets. In the second school, an open-plan, purpose-built middle school, time allocated to subject areas is flexible. Learning is organised around the Curriculum Framework’s core shared values. This school chose a whole-school integrated project that prioritised values of environmental responsibility over academic content. Teaching techniques included role-plays, games, excursions, experimentation and poster analysis. A range of learning areas was covered. In post-project interviews, students from the first school demonstrated considerable improvements in their scientific content knowledge. However, many did not find the midge project motivating or relevant. Students at the second school showed greater awareness of environmental responsibility, but their content knowledge may not have satisfied researchers assessing the project from a disciplinary perspective. Integrated curriculum can therefore be successful in a traditional, discipline-oriented school when real-world experiences are integrated within a single discipline. In a school where integrated learning is the primary focus, integration across subjects can occur more readily. Both options have implications for what students learn. It is important that any assessments of the value of either method are conducted from a perspective consistent with the individual school’s philosophy.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Western Australia (WA)
Project based learning