Beyond the practicum: improving pre-service teacher training through partnership
Volume 5 Number 3, August 2006; Pages 24–27
In 2001, Central Queensland University (CQU) introduced its Bachelor of Learning Management (BLM). The BLM seeks to strengthen the links between theory and practice and partnerships between schools, employing authorities and the university. A small project at CQU’s Noosa campus in 2006 is taking the partnership with schools further: Twenty-five BLM students are having their university classes conducted at Maleny State High School. Holding university classes on school premises enables theory lessons delivered by university lecturers to be immediately followed up with practical sessions conducted by teachers and using actual classroom facilities. The BLM program also incorporates the 'Teaching School', a school in which pre-service teachers undertake weekly visits over an extended period, usually a year. They have to complete ‘portal tasks’ within their placement school towards their course assessment. One such task might be the organisation of a community event for their school, reflecting the expansion of teachers’ roles beyond the classroom and into their school communities. The arrangement offers reciprocal benefits. The student teachers represent extra human resources for the school and bring fresh perspectives to spark professional discussion. The school receives a ‘use of facilities’ payment from the university for the use of teaching premises and resources, and teacher release reimbursement for teachers who assist with university classes. Teachers have also reported that sharing their knowledge with education students is professionally rewarding. Early evaluations of the Maleny school project suggest that further investigation should be conducted on the positive effect the relatively small student cohort size is having on the students’ ability to function as an interactive professional learning community. The opportunities created by the placement model in linking content between different university courses will also be examined in future evaluations of the project.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
The talent enigma
Volume 9 Number 3, July 2006; Pages 183–204
To recruit and retain talented principals the ‘teacher supply line problem’ needs to be addressed. New teachers should be offered ‘appropriate and fair’ teaching assignments, professional development and collegial support, especially regarding issues such as discipline. In the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand teacher retention is impeded by government policies on issues such as teacher transfers, the timing of hiring decisions and salary caps. A range of factors interact to wear down school leaders. High stress levels are related to school competition, the narrow evaluation of success in terms of test scores, public ‘blame and shame’ and a loss of power coupled with rising responsibilities. Schools are ‘one of the few intact social organisations’ facing growing social needs created by poverty, rural depopulation, language barriers and rising numbers of refugees. New principals may be worn down by hostility from unsuccessful applicants working at the school. All these problems need to be addressed. There should be more ‘informed, aggressive and targeted recruitment' unhampered by cronyism, gender and ethnic stereotypes, or by fear of appointing critics of the status quo. Minority groups should be targeted through advertising, recruitment agencies and special courses. Certification requirements should not block applicants who lack teaching backgrounds but who display skills in diagnosing and dealing with schools’ problems. Incentives should be offered to attract and retain principals. Material incentives include relocation assistance, rent subsidies, tax credits and policies to allow for a work–life balance. Idealistic incentives include the opportunity to ‘lead and not simply manage’, to build alliances with peers and to take part in professional development. Principal recruitment should recognise the contextual needs of given schools. Pressure on the principal may be reduced by sharing or rotation of the job, distribution of responsibility or support beyond the school in the form of mentors, ‘critical friends’ or coaches. One powerful means of collegial support is networks such as England’s Networked Learning Communities (NLC) program. Consideration should be given to the organisational models in Danish and Dutch schools where leadership is largely or entirely devolved to classroom teachers.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
School leadership in context: narratives of practice and possibility
Volume 9 Number 3, July 2006; Pages 205–228
School leadership crucially depends on context and is invariably negotiated between the principal and school community. A study in the
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Cloning their own: aspirant principals and the school-based selection game
Volume 50 Number 2, 2006; Pages 102–121
The selection process for principal class positions creates significant and unnecessary barriers to the career paths of aspirants to school leadership. Interview panels tend to prefer internal candidates as a means to ensure that the future principal will be a low-risk option, someone loyal and predictable and fitting ‘a preferred mould’. However, this bias creates the alternative risk of ‘groupthink’ and lack of dynamism in the school. Internationally there are generalised concerns about a current or future shortage of applicants for principal class positions. The uneven impact of the shortages means that some schools experience the problem acutely. Schools’ concern about the risk in appointing hitherto unknown applicants is increased by the pressure associated with the rise of competition between schools. However, if bias in the selection process discourages suitable candidates from applying, the entire school system suffers. Two recent studies involving the authors have investigated the perceptions held by applicants for principal level positions in schools. In the Identifying and Tracking Principal Aspirants (ITPA) project the authors worked with 21 assistant principals and leading teachers, who had been described as aspirants by their employer. The participants were interviewed, completed e-journals and took part in focus groups. The researchers sought to identify factors influencing the participants’ ‘identity formation’ as potential principals. As part of the Principal Aspirations and Recruitment amidst Leadership Disengagement (PRALD) project the authors were involved in focus groups with 60 principal aspirants in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, seeking to establish participants’ perceptions of principalship as a career goal. In both studies aspirant principals described what they saw as a generalised bias towards internal candidates. They found the application process stressful and a risk to their ‘internal self’. They expressed frustration at the responses they received from interview panels after unsuccessful applications. They felt panels were more concerned to justify themselves and guard against grounds for appeal than to offer sincere and helpful advice.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Seven steps to professional research heaven
Volume 41 Number 3, 2006; Pages 18–20
The acquisition of a PhD by a History teacher does not guarantee promotion, higher pay or improved status but is a way to improve professional knowledge. The researcher should aim to make an original and substantial contribution to scholarship. The first step towards a PhD is to determine a broad research topic. It may cover any one of a wide range of areas, such as historical theory, practical issues in teaching or the social and political impact on History as a subject. The second issue is to resolve the issue of cost. Candidates may apply for funding to cover the cost under the Australian Government's research training scheme. Alternatively, some scholarships are available. Applicants may wish to fund themselves through part-time work; however, universities give priority to requests from full-time students, which may disadvantage part-time workers. The third step is choosing a university. Its status is relatively unimportant but its policy on off-campus supervision may be significant to some applicants. Step four is the critical issue of finding a supervisor. Try to find a potential supervisor held in good regard. Seek advice on this point from school colleagues or through ‘coded queries’ to the university's faculty office staff. Seek someone whose speciality is aligned to the proposed PhD topic. It is a ‘buyers’ market’, so be confident about persisting in demanding a good-quality supervisor and, if necessary, transfer the application to another university in order to obtain one. The remaining steps involve the formal application process, setting a start date and specifying the proposed topic to university examiners. Candidates should not be intimidated by the length required for a PhD paper. Applicants may wish to contact the History Educators Network Australia for advice about the application. The article includes a sample PhD structure.
Subject HeadingsEducation research
The problems with teaching History
Volume 41 Number 3, 2006; Pages 21–23
The teaching of History in
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Teaching and learning
Project based learning
Inquiry based learning
A professional development project for improving the use of information and communication technologies in science teaching
Volume 15 Number 2, July 2006; Pages 159–174
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has great potential to improve science teaching and learning. It can increase student and teacher motivation, make education more versatile and goal-oriented and promote cooperation, creativity and study in authentic contexts. However, integration of ICT into science classrooms remains limited. The Finnish Virtual School for Science Education (FVSSE) was a professional development project to assist the country's science teachers to build skills and confidence in ICT integration. A total of 13 two-day face-to-face seminars and numerous online conferences were conducted over the three-year project. The 22 teachers involved showed a marked increase in their ICT usage and skills after participating in the project. The project’s success can be attributed to the three key elements of its approach: empowerment, communication and context. Teachers were empowered by their involvement in planning and evaluating the project, having adequate resourcing and through ongoing discussion of their beliefs, goals and current practices. Teachers conducted autonomous guided experiments and prepared presentations to share their growing expertise. The project’s approach to communication emphasised versatility, creativity and diversity. Reflection in small groups was actively encouraged, either online or face-to-face, and uncertainties arising from new information were framed as opportunities for creative discussion. All project activities were linked to specific teaching contexts, and pitched at the teachers’ existing levels of competence, to provide cumulative, authentic learning. Overall, the project suggests that professional development which integrates ICT with existing teaching practices will be more readily adopted by teachers than the radical revisions to teaching and learning promoted by some advocates of ICT in education.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Literacy, behaviour and auditory processing: there is a link
Volume 5 Number 3, August 2006; Pages 16–17
Auditory processing capacity (APC) refers to students' capacity to hold, sequence and recall auditory information. It is measured by presenting children with recorded sentences or sequences of digits which they listen to and repeat. Their ability to recall sentences demonstrates their capacity to understand what they hear in the classroom, and their ability to recall number sequences indicates how well they process information in a certain order. Recent research has shown a strong relationship between APC and literacy achievement. APC develops gradually throughout childhood and adolescence, with a typical increase of one word or digit per year up to the age of ten. Until that age, boys’ median APC values are typically one year level lower than girls’. Children from non-English-speaking backgrounds typically have APC values two years behind their native-English-speaking counterparts. The APC assessment procedure is quick and easy to administer, and very helpful to teachers in identifying APC levels in their classes. Simple adjustments to teaching methods consistent with good general pedagogical practice can address APC difficulties, such as speaking slowly, ‘chunking’ information, and waiting for compliance. Schools where teachers have undergone APC-related professional development have shown marked improvement in literacy achievement compared to other schools. APC-directed pedagogy does not compromise learning for more able students as the classroom becomes less disruptive and information becomes easier for all to understand.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEnglish as an additional language
Volume 5 Number 3, August 2006; Pages 6–9
Plagiarism in secondary schools is becoming both more frequent and more sophisticated with the massive increase in information available to students through new technologies. Schools must counter this trend with a clearly articulated commitment to learning based on honesty and integrity. In
New South Wales (NSW)
Promoting physical activity and health in schools
Volume 5 Number 3, August 2006; Pages 36–41
Schools have more to offer than any other institution in helping children live active and healthy lives and prepare the way for good health in adulthood. In 2005 the report Australia's Physical Activity Recommendations for Children and Young People suggested that young people spend a minimum of 60 minutes in moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, and spend no more than two hours per day using electronic media for entertainment. A number of effective physical activity initiatives have already been undertaken in schools. They include the introduction of a requirement that students spend two hours in physical activity per week and of initiatives such as Active After-School Communities and the Healthy Canteen and Physical Activity Guidelines. Schools should consider a five-point strategy for promoting active, healthy living to their students. Firstly, opportunities for physical activity should be increased, including organised activities such as 'walking buses'. School environments should be planned with a view to encouraging physical activity. Secondly, physical educators need to overcome perceptions that increasing school time spent on physical activity will compromise academic learning. Physical activity can be integrated across all curriculum areas, such as playing basketball to gather statistics for a mathematics assignment. At the same time, physical education needs to focus on the whole child, not just the body, to develop healthy self-concepts and habits of activity. Thirdly, schools must tailor physical education to different learning styles and preferences, and target children not usually disposed towards physical activity. The ‘student voice’ should be allowed to contribute to shaping physical activity initiatives. Fourthly, schools should tap into parent and community resources to further physical activity outside school. Parents have an important part to play in role-modelling healthy behaviour, but work commitments and time or financial restraints often prevent them from engaging in physical activity with their children. Organising shared parent–child activities can help get parents involved. Lastly, staff development opportunities should be provided to support the integration of physical activity across the curriculum and encourage experimentation with new ideas. Staff should also be supported to participate in physical activity themselves to model healthy habits for their students.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsPhysical education
Dialogic narratives of literacy, teaching and schooling: preparing literacy teachers for diverse settings
Volume 41 Number 2, April 2006; Pages 202–224
A US–Canadian study has investigated the impact of an innovative teacher education program in preparing new teachers to better understand the relationships between literacy, cultural diversity and social justice. The research was undertaken by the teacher educators involved in the program. They had previously observed that their students’ understandings of these issues were often well intentioned, but simplistic or overgeneralised. The program addressed this concern by placing student teachers in volunteer work in community literacy centres, and by providing opportunities for the students to reflect on and discuss these experiences. Ten graduate student teachers undertook volunteer placements in three different community literacy projects. The placements were inspired by the researchers’ belief that interacting with communities like those in which they would later be teaching would give pre-service teachers a better sense of the child in the context of their family and community than they could gain in schools, which are inherently ‘riddled with inequalities’. In particular, the researchers wanted to counter the ‘deficit’ view often taken of ‘at risk’ communities and encourage students to recognise and build on the strengths and opportunities every community offers for literacy learning. Excerpts from student narratives about their experiences are provided in the article from which two students were chosen as case studies. The first showed a clear commitment to multicultural education, describing an intention to provide ‘culturally relevant’ literacy education through initiatives such as the selection of multicultural texts. This student saw himself as fulfilling a ‘need’ in the communities he visited, suggesting that, despite his commitment to multiculturalism, the ‘deficit’ model still lay behind much of his thinking. The second student came from a home background strong on social justice. She had a more reciprocal view of need, acknowledging her own ‘need to be needed’ as a teacher. She also emphasised the value of building on community strengths and not seeing ‘parents as adversaries’. The students’ different responses to the research illuminated both the challenges and benefits of seeking to provide pre-service teachers with a more complex understanding of cultural diversity and social justice in literacy education.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
United States of America (USA)
The information book genre: its role in integrated science literacy research and practice
Volume 41 Number 2, April 2006; Pages 226–250
Despite calls to connect primary science learning with language and literacy, the use of science information books in primary schooling remains limited. This may arise from the prevalence of ‘story’ texts in the primary classroom; from the trend away from textbooks towards hands-on science activities; or from a lack of awareness about the availability of quality informative primary texts. The importance of information books in primary science should not be underestimated. Science involves particular ways of thinking and particular types of language to express concepts and ideas. Reading books which use typical scientific language can help children talk about the hands-on activities they experience in the science classroom. An analysis of approximately 400 children’s picture information books identified the common elements that can be said to typify the information book genre. All information books began by introducing the focus topic. The bulk of the book then described the topic's key characteristics, behaviours, relationships or classifications. The last obligatory element identified was a summary of the major ideas covered in the book at the end. Optional elements which appeared frequently in the information book genre included: a short imaginative scenario preceding the presentation of the focus topic, a brief historical account or legend about the topic and a suggestion for an experiment that the reader could conduct themselves. The study also explored a corpus of picture books described as ‘hybrid’ texts, where elements of the information book are interspersed with elements of other genres such as the story book. Although these books may appeal to teachers who, perhaps mistakenly, believe that children prefer narrative texts, further research has shown that they are not as effective as ‘typical’ information books in providing children with the language they need to articulate science concepts confidently.
Key Learning AreasScience
Beyond method: assessment and learning practices and values
Volume 17 Number 2, June 2006; Pages 109–138
Teachers who value assessment for learning (AfL) do not necessarily feel able to practise all its key elements in the classroom. Obstacles to implementation of AfL have been investigated through a survey that was part of the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme in England. The article reports on a subset of survey results. They cover responses from 558 teachers without administrative responsibilities working in 32 infant and primary and secondary schools. The teachers were asked to identify the gaps that they saw between their values and their practice in relation to use of AfL in their classes. One element of AfL consists of a group of assessment and teaching methods designed to make students explicitly aware of the learning process. These methods receive recognition and support with England’s national curriculum and administrative organisations such as Ofsted. The teachers reported a relatively narrow gap between beliefs and practice with regard to this element of AfL. A second element in AfL consists of teaching methods designed to promote peer and self-assessment by students as a way to promote independent learning. The teachers reported that they applied these methods much less often than they felt was appropriate. The lack of implementation reflects ‘a concern to organise learning rigidly through the National Curriculum, and accompanying testing arrangements, that currently prevail in England’. England's National Curriculum encourages a teacher-centred approach to learning. A third type of classroom assessment practices covered in the survey concerns summative assessment, which prepares students for the curriculum’s ‘formal testing regime’. Teachers reported that they applied these methods more intensively than they felt necessary according to their own beliefs about teaching and assessment, and in this context they described the need to find ways to reconcile their teaching methods and their beliefs about teaching to the constraints imposed by the curriculum.
Engaging the Google generation through Web 2.0
Volume 25 Number 3, August 2006; Pages 46–50
'Web 2.0' refers to a new generation of websites that involve participation by a range of readers and the sharing of content, ideas and technical source code. The sites have a range of formats, all of which have educational applications. Blogs are usually generated by a single author on personal topics with entries available in chronological order. Blogs develop digital literacy and confidence and can be used by students as a journal or diary and by teachers and teacher librarians for professional development. There are currently over 10 million blogs available. A wiki is a simple, editable database usually constructed by many authors that reflect the interests of those authors. Both teachers and students can use wikis for research and can create their own projects and resource pools. Social bookmarking is the use of an online service to hold bookmarks that have been tagged with keywords and are searchable and available to others to use. For example the Flickr website is a searchable database of images uploaded by individuals that can be kept private or made publicly available. Folksonomy and squidoo are variants of social bookmarking whereby like-minded people sort and classify information. The end results are like research portfolios or topics and can be shared and searched. All can provide resources and potential web activity for teachers and students. RSS is an acronym for several phrases, including ‘really simple syndication’. It allows users to receive frequently updated news items from news websites. It requires access to 'feed reader' software which is available free of charge. A rapidly developing variant of RSS is podcasting, which delivers an audio version of this 'feed'. Students can prepare podcasts to share and display their work. Web 2.0 offers many opportunities for teachers to improve their own digital literacy skills, for students to research and create and for all to participate, collaborate and share in lifelong learning experiences.
Subject HeadingsLifelong Learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Telling stories: sustaining whole-school change in schools located in communities with deep needs
Teachers and school leaders in schools operating in adverse conditions can find that the constant need for ‘on-the-spot’ problem solving leaves them little time for reflecting and planning for broader school improvement. In 2004 the Australian Government funded the Changing Schools in Changing Times project to investigate and support sustainable processes for whole-school change in four
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
New South Wales (NSW)