What happens when salt dissolves in water? An introduction to scientific argument and counter argument drawn from the history of science
Volume 52 Number 1, Autumn 2006; Pages 24–27
‘Putting the people back into chemistry’ can demonstrate to students that chemistry is not just exposition and explanation, but also a dynamic and sometimes controversial process. Modern textbooks have marginalised or completely removed references to the chemists and the arguments that once raged between them. Seemingly simple concepts such as the dissolution of salt in water can be used to deepen student understanding of the processes of science and demonstrate that the facts that now fill textbooks have had a disputed history. The controversy over the dissociation and association models for salts in water in the late 1800s and early 1900s provides a useful case study. Using historical data about the arguments and their proponents, students could be asked to produce a short vignette that summarised the major arguments for and against the two models. This approach could include associated, cross-curricular topics, for example deepening students’ knowledge of appropriate dress and language used in a given historical period.
Key Learning AreasScience
School choice and competition: a public market in education revisited
Volume 32 Number 3, July 2006; Pages 347–362
In 1993, the Parental and School Choice Interaction Study in England examined the marketisation of education. A recent case study of three secondary schools in
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
A qualitative investigation of the factors influencing the implementation of reform efforts in science education
Volume 9 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 61–68
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsInquiry based learning
United States of America (USA)
Volume 9 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 69–76
Sir John Lawes School in Hertfordshire, England, chose to sustain the momentum of their already highly successful school improvement program by focusing on unlocking the potential of teacher leadership. Sir John Lawes became one of a group of schools in the HertsCam network, working in partnership with University of Cambridge staff to support Teacher-Led Development Work (TLDW) groups. Teachers in the network undertake development work through a series of twilight seminars. Each participant creates an evidence portfolio documenting their work, leading to academic certification up to Masters level. An evaluation of the initiative formed part of the author’s own Master of Education research. Two case studies from the nine original members of the Sir John Lawes TLDW illustrate the potential of teacher leadership. Danielle is a young teacher whose development work focused on girls’ self-esteem. She developed a ‘self-esteem checklist’ based on relevant literature, which was administered by all Year 8 teachers to identify target students. These students were subsequently interviewed in order to develop the materials that would be used with them. Danielle was unsure about her leadership capacity at first, but her influence grew as her work gained momentum. Support from the school principal boosted her development. She reported that the experience changed her perception of leadership, which she had previously equated with formal management positions. She is now moving confidently into a leadership role in her department. Anne was already a departmental head, but wanted to extend her leadership capacity further. Her development work around metacognition in science involved students in trialling and evaluating different learning methods, and developing a new set of Year 9 resources based on their responses. Anne shared her work with a wider audience through the TLDW group, in lunchtime Learning Forums, and came to realise the opportunities that informal ‘chatting about teaching and learning’ offered to generate ideas and create new knowledge. There are currently TLDW groups in ten schools in the HertsCam network, giving rise to a valuable new community of practice.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
What is 'specialist' about a specialist department in a Specialist School? A case study focusing on dilemmas and contradictions in the 'partnership' requirements
Volume 9 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 33–46
More than two thirds of England’s state secondary schools are now Specialist Schools. These schools receive targeted funding to develop one or more curriculum areas of particular strength, on the assumption that this will flow on to whole school improvement. Recent policy developments have widened the focus of specialism from individual school improvement to broader community benefit, and Specialist Schools must now allocate a proportion of their specialism funding to building partnerships with other local schools to disseminate their innovative practices. A case study of one mathematics Specialist School explored the partnership model in action. The school nominated four primary and two secondary schools as partners in its bid for specialisation, but tight application deadlines prevented detailed planning around the nature of the partnerships. Partnerships with the primary schools proved ‘ad hoc and short-lived’ due to staffing and timetabling restrictions. Approaches to the secondary schools required delicate assurances that the Specialist School was not claiming to be ‘God’s gift to teaching’, but that the partnership would be based on reciprocal sharing of expertise. One of the secondary schools resisted the partnership, suspicious that the Specialist School was seeking to ‘poach’ its senior students. This suspicion highlights the inherent tensions in introducing cooperative structures to a competitive, selection-based school system. The other school arranged for a teacher from the Specialist School to teach a small mathematics class for one afternoon per week. The teacher’s expertise enhanced the class’s learning, and the unfamiliar context provided him with valuable professional experience. However, no other teacher observed his classes, and no collaborative planning or reflection was undertaken, reducing the partnership to little more than a small amount of extra staffing for the partner school. The research generates a number of pointers for schools entering partnership arrangements: encourage deep debate within each school about what it has to offer and what it hopes to gain; collaborate with prospective partners to establish processes before funding is obtained; and ensure that the partnership is given equal priority to other activities in school timetabling, as it is unlikely to be successful if perceived as a ‘bolt-on’ by either party.
Subject HeadingsState schools
Volume 9 Number 1, March 2006; Pages 17–31
In many OECD countries, current policy debates on disaffected students focus on deficiencies in the students, their families or communities. The Re-engaging Disaffected Pupils in Learning project offered five
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Teaching and learning
Am I a teacher or a nurse-maid?
Spring 2006; Pages 6–7
Teachers are increasingly expected to provide pastoral care to their students. They are also faced with growing numbers of emotionally disturbed students, unsettled by dysfunctional home lives, competing values systems within society and the seductive influence of the media. ‘Wellbeing’ is a supposedly values-neutral term that human services professionals have borrowed from health science to address these issues. However, any application of this term to human subjects is values-laden, as it involves making judgements about what is good for human beings. Wellbeing may come into conflict with moral values. For example, it may be taken to mean contentment with the status quo, where discontent might be a morally preferable response. Wellbeing intersects with values in that it results not only from physical and emotional health, but also from a sense of individual purpose and meaning, sometimes conceptualised as ‘spirituality’. As both institutional religion and empirical science have declined in popularity, postmodernist and ‘new age’ philosophies have redefined spirituality as the pursuit of a private vision. The essential spiritual element of human existence must be recognised when addressing wellbeing in education. Schools should assist students to recognise and pursue their personal framework of meaning, and make constructive, not self-destructive, life choices. This must involve learning about the cultural resources available to support their search for meaning, including the study of world views and morality, as well as the assumptions and values underlying all curriculum areas. It creates an imperative for school systems to support the wellbeing of teachers, so that they can model life skills for their students. Increasing expectations on teachers to assume responsibility for helping disturbed children, as well as to undertake detailed administrative tasks, will not enable them to perform the functions of ‘enlightenment and skilling’ that schools do best.
Subject HeadingsValues education
Good manners in the classroom
Spring 2006; Pages 48–49
Prominent Australian politicians have recently complained of a lack of manners in Australian society. Children need to learn good manners so that they understand their social boundaries and can participate cooperatively in society. Good manners are about more than saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. They are grounded in the broader value of respect for others. Although teaching respect is the responsibility of the whole community, not just schools, there are many things schools can do to contribute. Introducing good manners into the classroom might begin with a brainstorming session about what good manners are. Children can then be given homework assignments to practise good manners and report on their experiences. Further development may include a class ‘Guild of Good Manners’ agreement to help direct student behaviour. Communicating expectations and gaining commitment are highly effective ways to create harmony in a group or classroom. In another best practice example, the leader of a sports camp began the event by clearly stating that the only way students could get something from a teacher was to ask politely. Participants were expected to talk calmly, listen well, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and smile, all behaviours that exhibit respect. The most powerful way to teach respect is to lead by example. Bending to speak to a child at their level, listening, clapping rhythms to get class attention, or acknowledging children who display good manners, are simple but effective ways to demonstrate respect in the classroom. The author also recommends Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper as a resource about manners for primary students.
Subject HeadingsBehaviour management
Volume 58 Number 3, August 2006; Pages 339–366
An extensive review of literature on girls’ and boys’ education supports the belief that teachers pay more attention to boys than to girls in the classroom. However the key cause of this difference is not gender bias in male or female teachers, but rather the fact that boys are more likely than girls to misbehave. To forestall disruption teachers give more eye contact and other forms of attention to boys, on both academic and behavioural issues. This attention includes instruction and academic questioning, as well as criticism. Boys’ higher level of misbehaviour may be due to ‘a poor fit between the culturally prescribed male gender role and the student role’. However the greater overall attention to boys is misleading, since it is not uniform but is concentrated on a few, disruptive boys. The relatively greater compliance typical of girls works to their advantage in school, but to their disadvantage in the workforce. A recent action research project was found to reduce boys’ misbehaviour significantly, with benefits to all students in the class. The teachers in the project gave their students high levels of positive feedback about their classroom behaviour and task engagement. Rather than reacting to misbehaviour the teachers headed it off by taking the initiative in their interactions with students. The article gives close attention to a range of specific findings and debates in the literature. For example, off-task comments in class are most common among boys in the early years and among under achievers of either sex in later years. High-achieving boys have been found to dominate class by calling out answers without being asked to, while low-achieving boys use off-task forms of disruption. Attention seeking behaviour can also assume more subtle forms such as ‘consistently taking unusual positions on issues in classroom discussion’.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
School skills ward off more ills
Spring 2006; Pages 15–16
The rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in today’s young people may be caused in part by changes in society. Blue-collar work has dwindled, leaving fewer spaces in society for people who have a lot of physical energy and who prefer activity to reflection. Growing concerns about child safety mean spaces for children to ‘let off steam’ outside school are dwindling as well. Although Australian society has traditionally valued qualities of energy and rebelliousness alongside courage and creativity, schools are under pressure to curb these attributes in children. The model of the ‘hard-working, studious female student’ has become the benchmark for student behaviour, catering to workforce demands for smart and creative, but also focused and compliant, employees. Many myths surround ADHD, more often formulated to shift blame than to inform solutions. Schools need to dispel these myths to promote a more constructive understanding of ADHD. ADHD is not caused by television, diet or poor parenting. Contrary to popular belief, most parents who seek ADHD medication for their child do so reluctantly, and only after avenues for educational support have been exhausted. The perception that ADHD is solely a medical issue must be replaced with a broader debate that also includes educational expertise. Lastly, teachers need to be provided with time and support to learn more about ADHD and address the needs of individual students within their class. Larger class sizes favour ‘chalk and talk’ teaching, which neither suits students with ADHD nor provides teachers with the time to understand them. Although medication may open a ‘window of opportunity’ to reach students with ADHD, the skills they need can only be provided through educational, not medical, support.
Subject HeadingsLearning problems
A study of the impact of reform on students' written calculation methods after five years' implementation of the National Numeracy Strategy in England
Volume 32 Number 3, July 2006; Pages 363–380
The National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) in
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Volume 36 Number 2, June 2006; Pages 221–235
The National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) was adopted in
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
Analysing research on teachers' electronic portfolios: what does it tell us about portfolios and methods for studying them?
Volume 22 Number 2, Spring 2006; Pages 89–97
A literature survey in the
Subject HeadingsPortfolios in education
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Picturing evaporation: learning science literacy through a particle representation
Volume 52 Number 1, 2nd Quarter 2006; Pages 12–17
Primary students need to experience a range of different representations of scientific concepts to be able to translate, connect and ultimately understand these concepts. Scientific literacy entails the interpretation of data presented in linguistic, numerical, graphical and tabular formats. A sequence of classroom activities for Grade 5 students has explored evaporation using visual, verbal and gestural modes of representation, and the use of a particle model for understanding the evaporation process. Students were found to respond differently to different modes of representation and to work with them in different ways. Students were challenged to produce a coherent, coordinated explanation of what they had said, experienced and drawn, which they did with varying degrees of success. Constructing and refining representations is a core knowledge-construction activity within science and part of learning science effectively. The construction and use of representations is of major importance in the science classroom.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
The community contribution to science learning: making it count
Research Conference 2006 Boosting science learning - what will it take?
Scientifically literate people are interested in the world around them. They can talk about science, assess the quality of evidence, and are sceptical of scientific claims made by others. They are able to make their own informed decisions on science-related matters. Research indicates most students neither engage with nor learn science meaningfully and are not scientifically literate when they leave school. The challenge to science teachers is to engage the disinterested majority. One way this can be done is by bringing school science and the out-of-school science community closer together. Useful science-based community institutions and services include the students' family and friends, institutions such as aquaria, zoos and environmental centres, science-related community and government organisations and the media, particularly television and the Internet. The learning of science can be seen as a personal, contextualised process that takes time. Students have different personal backgrounds, motivations and learning styles. Learning has been shown to be contextualised according to where, when, with whom and how it happens. Extending the science class into the community demonstrates the application of science in the everyday world and aids the transfer of learning to new situations. Meaningful learning takes time because it is cumulative. If some of this learning occurs in out-of-school environments, then there is a greater likelihood of such learning continuing after the student has left school. The addition of community resources to the science curriculum will increase the likelihood of successful student engagement with science. Teachers contemplating such programs should keep in mind several points. There are many uncontrolled variables in ‘real-world’ science and traditional science concepts provide at best abstract explanations and imperfect predictions. Much of the science knowledge associated with everyday concerns is characterised by uncertainty and dispute, and there are often competing or even conflicting social and cultural interpretations of how to use scientific knowledge. Successful projects have been based on some issue or stimulus that comes from the community, require local knowledge, model science as a way of thinking and acting, are integrated into science at school, involve negotiation and decision-making with the community and have tangible outcomes. Successful projects also required some funding. Guided community contributions to science can be made to count.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsSchool and community