Pedagogic practice integrating primary science and elearning: the need for relevance, recognition, resource, reflection, readiness and risk
Volume 15 Number 2, July 2006; Pages 175–189
Science teachers often use ICT only within traditional teaching styles, rather than to stimulate high level thinking skills in students. However, a project based in
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
Teacher professional learning in an online community: the experiences of the National Quality Schooling Framework Pilot Project
Volume 15 Number 2, July 2006; Pages 143–157
A study has evaluated the experiences of teachers and school leaders involved in an online community that was part of the 2002 National Quality Schooling (NQSF) Pilot Project. Online groups allow teachers to participate with considered contributions, when and where convenient. However textual interactions without face-to-face contact may not suit all teachers. Online contact requires access to networked computers and the confidence to use them. Schools do not always provide such facilities or recognise and support such forms of professional learning. Successful online communities offer members operational, practical help; intellectual stimulation; and affective, emotional support. The NQSF pilot was set up by DEST as a web resource to assist schools to implement a range of school improvement projects, and the NQSF provided an online professional learning environment as one way to help those involved. It included an information section and a community section. In the latter members could take part in chat or through a forum or other tools. Researchers evaluated the NQSF online community section by analysing online postings and through interviews with 13 NQSF participants, who covered primary and secondary schools, had different levels of confidence with ICT, and were in leadership or classroom teaching positions. The study found that only a modest number of discussion topics had arisen on the forum. They did not last very long and not many members took part. Respondents said the main barrier to participation was lack of time, suggesting that they had little support from the schools for their involvement. Their aim in going online was to meet narrowly focused practical needs related to their school improvement projects, and they struggled to meet people with sufficiently similar concerns. The overall online discussions were heavily dominated by operational rather than intellectual or affective issues. Respondents usually lacked the confidence to expose their ideas and experiences to unknown people online. Many were not only unfamiliar with online communication but also with a culture of reflective sharing teaching practice. Teachers were less familiar and less experienced than school leaders in these areas. Online communities that ‘grow organically in response to clearly identified needs by self-selected participants’ are more likely to overcome these barriers than communities set up externally, on behalf of school staff. Schools need to overcome significant structural and cultural barriers to enjoy the potential of online professional learning communities.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Hands on CERN: a well-used physics education project
Volume 41 Number 3, May 2006; Pages 250–254
The updated Hands on CERN project allows teachers and students to take part in frontline high energy physics experiments in their own classroom via WIRED (World Wide Web Interactive Remote Event Display). Data is obtained from a library generated by the
Key Learning AreasScience
Pulling back the curtain: uncovering and changing students' perceptions of scientists
Volume 106 Number 4, April 2006; Pages 181–190
A study in the
Key Learning AreasScience
Volume 99 Number 4, March 2006; Pages 232–245
Research has shown that students’ self-initiated reading is an important predictor of reading proficiency, as well as of knowledge about other topics such as history, science and literature. The article describes research addressed to one of the many strategies that have been suggested to stimulate student engagement in reading: hands-on activities. These activities are characteristic of a group of classroom activities known as ‘stimulating tasks’, which encourage students to think in new ways. Hands-on tasks engage students in multisensory ways. Although the engagement may be short term, it can be used to provoke longer-term thinking and questioning about a curriculum topic. Students were given a stimulating or hands-on task in the classroom, within conditions designed to stimulate their interest in it. Students then read texts relating to the task they had just performed, while their interest in it was still aroused. The 98 elementary students in the study were divided into two groups, with one group receiving a greater number of stimulating tasks than the other. It was expected that the group receiving the higher number of stimulating tasks would show greater reading motivation and comprehension scores than the other. Results confirmed this hypothesis, with a greater number of stimulating tasks provoking higher reading motivation, and a significant positive correlation between reading motivation and comprehension scores. It should be noted, however, that the short-term situational interest around a specific topic sparked by a stimulating task will not necessarily translate into longer-term motivation for reading. Identification of specific environmental conditions that might facilitate translation of short-term interest into longer-term reading motivation was therefore also undertaken. Students who frequently experience the process of performing a stimulating task and then reading related texts will come to associate reading with a sense of competence, personal autonomy and relevance. The support provided by the teacher in encouraging these feelings was another factor in building reading motivation.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
A case study of teachers of gifted learners: moving from prescribed practice to described practitioners
Volume 50 Number 2, Autumn 2006; Pages 119–131
Case studies of two exemplary teachers of gifted classes have brought to light the specific practices and interactions that typify quality education for the gifted. The teachers share many of the personal qualities necessary for teaching gifted learners. Both are friendly, excitable and full of energy and expertise. Both had also completed Master’s degrees in special or gifted education, and had established a gifted education program in their school early in their teaching careers. One teacher had retired, but the other’s classroom provided insight into a quality learning environment for the gifted. The room was covered with interesting media, from maps to posters of famous people, so that even students who drifted off from the lesson could not help but be stimulated. Both teachers shifted seamlessly between focus on the individual and the group. Team challenges, where individual students contributed to a team objective, fostered a cooperative yet individualised learning environment. The teacher–student relationship was similarly important, with each teacher possessing a repertoire of ideas to spark students’ thinking in new directions. Both teachers emphasised the importance of planning, although one undertook year-long planning and the other managed her class week by week. At the same time, both were ‘constantly in the design phase of teaching’, ready to adapt their plans and processes to suit individual students. Opportunities for students to manage their own time were given, with one teacher sometimes giving students their work for the week on Monday and letting them set their own priorities. Similarly, the students were given ample latitude to direct their learning. Acceleration, compacting and differentiation of curriculum were crucial aspects of both classes. Both teachers spoke of the need to assess where students were up to and provide opportunities for them to skim over new concepts or study them in depth, as required. The study suggests that formal certification in gifted education is not enough to create a quality teacher of gifted students. Research into gifted education needs to move away from prescribed principles and towards examples of best practice in action.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Gifted and talented (GAT) children
Why does Year 12 retention differ between Australian States and Territories?
Volume 50 Number 2, 2006; Pages 203–219
In the early 1990s, national rates of Year 12 retention were not measured accurately. Their comparability between jurisdictions was limited due to population changes including overseas and interstate migration; the impact of full fee-paying students at the upper secondary level; Year 12 repetition; and the availability of part-time study and alternative schooling options such as TAFE. For example, when the national retention rate fell six percentage points between 1992 and 1996, it was due mainly to the decline in Year 12 repetition among students aged 16–19. Alternative measures exist in the form of ‘attainment rates’ achieved by 19 year olds and ‘full-time participation’ rates that cover full engagement in any mixture of work and study, however as national measures these indicators are once again distorted by external factors such as the presence of different age-grade structures between jurisdictions. Once such influences are allowed for, alternative measures show a similar pattern to those of adjusted school completion estimates. The main cause of change in the underlying retention rate in the early 1990s was the decline in the number of full-time jobs available to teenagers, although the importance of this factor declined after 1993. Differences in underlying school completion rates between jurisdictions may be due to ‘policies, practices and institutional arrangements’ that affect school starting ages, and on the availability of part-time study and TAFE courses as alternatives to Year 12. Variations may also be due to different urban-rural balances and ethnic mixes in the student populations, however the impact of these factors is difficult to quantify. Although figures on Year 12 retention estimates may be adjusted to render them more comparable, ‘it would be better to analyse differences between jurisdictions with data that were already comparable’.
Subject HeadingsSenior secondary education
Chaos in the classrooms
12 August 2006; Pages 25–26
In the 1990s, the deregulation of
'It's a difficult matter': historical perspectives on the enduring problem of the practicum in teacher preparation
Volume 34 Number 2, July 2006; Pages 181–188
Critics of current teacher training argue that it does not adequately prepare new teachers for the ‘realities’ of the classroom. Historical analysis of teacher training in
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Volume 34 Number 2, July 2006; Pages 143–160
A 2004 study set out to illuminate the experiences of Indigenous teachers in Australian schools. Historically, Indigenous people have been marginalised in Australian education, and have been able to enter the teaching profession only since the 1960s. In the 1970s, Australian governments began employing Indigenous education assistants to help teachers understand Aboriginal culture and provide role models for Aboriginal students, but this initiative did not significantly increase the number of Aboriginal people undertaking formal education training. Today, the percentage of Australian teachers who are Indigenous is still much lower than the percentage of Aboriginal Australian students. Interviews with Aboriginal teachers and education leaders revealed three main challenges for Aboriginal teachers. First, the label ‘Indigenous teacher’ carries an expectation that they will deal with all Indigenous issues in their school, removing this responsibility from non-Indigenous teachers. Indigenous teachers interviewed resisted this construction of their identity, some suggesting that it is non-Indigenous educators who have a greater need for exposure to Indigenous education issues. The second difficulty is the widespread perception that ‘Indigenous teachers’ will have received poorer quality training than their ‘mainstream’ non-Indigenous counterparts. This undermines their self-confidence and their ability to see themselves simply as ‘teachers’, or members of a non-racialised professional community. The third difficulty arises from the expectations that the identity of ‘teacher’ engenders within Indigenous communities. Indigenous teachers may often be the most highly educated members of their communities, and so may be expected to act as mediators between the community and non-Indigenous institutions. This position becomes particularly difficult when relations between a school and an Indigenous community are strained. Aboriginal values of closeness and community also pose challenges for Aboriginal teachers who do not want to leave their homes to pursue employment opportunities elsewhere, but also offers powerful support mechanisms for those prepared to wait for a vacancy in a school in their area. The metaphor of ‘cinders in snow’ aptly describes Indigenous teachers’ situation. Although the cinder risks being extinguished, it may also melt into the snow onto which it falls, maintaining its own shape while reshaping the landscape around it.
Subject HeadingsIndigenous peoples
Teaching and learning
Volume 9 Number 2, April 2006; Pages 129–155
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Students' perspectives on direct, peer and inquiry teaching strategies
Volume 25, April 2006; Pages 166–181
Researchers interviewed 70 middle school physical education students in the
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
The effect of teachers' staff development in the use of higher-order questioning strategies on third grade students' rubric science assessment performance
Volume 36 Number 3&4, September 2005; Pages 157–175
Researchers in the
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
Thought and thinking
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