Volume 76 Number 2, Summer 2006; Pages 173–208
The article summarises recent empirical
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
United States of America (USA)
Volume 85 Number 20, 20 November 2006
New Zealand's Growth and Innovation Framework – Technology Education Beacon Practice Project involves senior secondary students in technology-focused ventures, and produces case studies of best practice in technology education. Currently there are seven Beacon Practice projects in 13 schools throughout the country. In one case, a live music venue became the ‘client’ of a Wellington High School Beacon Practice project. At the client’s request the students designed and built additional lights for areas of the venue. The teacher involved concluded that the choice of client is important. Clients should be committed and be able to relate to a class of senior students and provide appropriate and timely feedback. At a Beacon Practice school in Hamilton, two Year 13 technology students designed a tricycle for a local boy suffering from cerebral palsy. The teacher organised a meeting between the students, the disabled boy and his parents to discuss the concept. The students then approached the not-for-profit disability resource centre Life Unlimited with a financial proposal, and were granted funding. The students also generated a number of partnerships with local businesses and industries. See also related articles, Real world technology and Bright ideas.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Factors fuelling the looming teacher shortage
15 November 2006; Page 9, 15
Significant numbers of Australia’s teachers leave their jobs to teach overseas or to move into other professions. The problem caused by this loss is likely to be aggravated by the fact that many teachers are nearing retirement age. Many teachers go to schools in North America and England, attracted by higher pay and the opportunity to live overseas. The demand for them demonstrates the value placed on Australian teacher education graduates, who are seen as highly skilled, learner-focused and better equipped in practical classroom skills than overseas counterparts. Most of them return to teach in Australia. However, teachers who have worked overseas do not have their experience adequately recognised, meaning that they are disadvantaged in terms of pay and opportunities. The structure of the teaching system in Australia needs to be made flexible enough to accommodate overseas teaching experience without disadvantaging teachers who remain here. Of much greater concern for teacher supply in Australia is the departure of teachers to other professions. This trend reflects the fact that a teaching qualification equips graduates well for a range of other professional and managerial positions.
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
United States of America (USA)
Dyslexia: a generation of inquiry
Volume 26 Number 2, 2nd Quarter 2006; Pages 95–109
Research focusing on language-processing abilities has identified dyslexia as a language-based learning disorder, biological in origin and characterised by poor decoding and spelling, and associated with deficits in phonological processing abilities. It may also involve a deficit in naming speed. Dyslexia is known to be inherited, and research has now identified 22 locations on different chromosomes associated with the condition. It may be that different genes or sets of genes can give rise to dyslexia, or different variants of dyslexia. Studies of brain structure have documented differences in hemispheric symmetry, but the significance of these differences in relation to dyslexia has not yet been established. Studies of brain function, in particular the use of functional MRI, have demonstrated several specific differences in the brain activity of dyslexics. Cross-cultural studies have identified differences in the incidence and severity of dyslexia in different language cultures. Languages that are orthographically more transparent (that is, where each letter corresponds only one sound) are easier to learn for all children, including those with dyslexia. English, however, is relatively opaque. A number of theory-driven interventions, rooted in beliefs about what reading involves, have been implemented for dyslexia, with varying success. Although much has been learned about the genetic basis of dyslexia and the workings of the dyslexic brain, teachers and clinicians are just beginning to understand how to act on this knowledge.
Subject HeadingsLanguage and languages
School libraries and VELS: great minds at work
Volume 4 Number 3, 2006; Pages 5–6
The Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) suggest a changed role for teacher–librarians and school library services. The deep-thinking skills that VELS calls for are inseparably intertwined with specific content in each subject area. This fact challenges teacher–librarians to move beyond the generic model of information literacy to which they are accustomed and to merge their work more closely with that of teachers. For example the inquiry process in maths involves 'problem posing, problem solving, mathematical modelling and investigation', which in turn requires maths-related information literacy skills involving 'conjecture, formulation, solution and communication'. Such skills contrast to those defined in the traditional, generic model of information literacy, summed up as 'define, locate, select, organise, present, assess'. To help students learn through the VELS approach, teacher–librarians need to collaborate deeply with subject teachers to identify 'zones of intervention'. These zones are the points in the knowledge construction process at which students need, or greatly benefit from, expert professional assistance. This process is once again interwoven with disciplinary knowledge. In an accompanying article, 'A multi-model, multi-faceted approach', Dr Susan Boyce draws out several conclusions from Todd's argument. She believes that his case involves a degree of surrender of the teacher–librarian's traditional identity, but she also suggests that the new role 'more than compensates for this loss by relocating teacher–librarians as collaborative partners more fully integrated into the domain of their teaching colleagues'. The ground needs to be prepared carefully for this substantial cultural shift. VELS offers 'an authoritative platform and a safe context' from which to do so. One of the roles of teacher–librarians with this new approach is to develop, with subject teachers, exemplars of knowledge construction processes. Teacher–librarians will also need to re-examine collection development processes and ensure that collections are not limited to traditional print-based material.
20 November 2006; Pages 6–7
Problems often ascribed to girls, involving body image, peer pressure, sexual issues and drugs, are not as pervasive as commonly thought. Girls do however remain distinct from boys by choice of subjects, being much more likely to choose the fine arts, history and home economics, and to avoid physics, chemistry and computing. In relative terms boys remain narrowly focused on career, whereas girls have more dispersed concerns about their futures. The difference reflects the continuing social expectation that women will take disproportionate responsibility for family life and management of human relations in their future lives, while males will do most of the work around technical processes. These gender stereotypes continue to be reproduced in schools, in subtle ways. For example, while girls are now told they can ‘have it all’ in terms of career and family, the term is not presented to boys, who are much less likely to be encouraged to see themselves as future parents and partners. According to Professor Johanna Wyn, Director of the Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, the key differentiating feature for students is class rather than gender. Issues such as substance abuse, depression, racism and homophobia and unemployment have a disproportionate impact among the socially disadvantaged layers of society. Thus, while some girls at school are expressing unprecedented levels of confidence and ambition in terms of education, career and life choices, others continue to be held back by a range of problems, such as the racism often described by young Turkish women and, among girls from non-professional backgrounds, lack of academic encouragement at home, and requirements to undertake paid and domestic work to support themselves and their families.
Subject HeadingsBoys' education
Home schooling: preach your children well
Volume 192 Number 2577, 11 November 2006; Pages 20–23
In the USA the number of children in home schooling has risen from 300,000 in 1990 to between 1.9 and 2.4 million today. According to the National Centre for Educational Statistics (NCES), almost three-quarters of these parents are motivated by the desire to provide religious and moral instruction. Adherents of creationism or intelligent design are a powerful force within home schooling. In 1983 two evangelical attorneys founded the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Campaigns by this group succeeded in overturning the requirement, widespread in US states, that home schooling parents must be certified to teach. As a result there is now almost no government regulation of the practice. In the state of Virginia, for example, those running a home school for religious reasons do not need a degree. By contrast, public school teachers in the state must have at least a Bachelor’s degree. Higher qualifications are demanded in 31 other US states. The influential Exodus Mandate organisation in South Carolina is lobbying millions of Christian parents to withdraw their children from public schools, with the explicit aim, stated by Director E Ray Moore, that the public school system will ‘start to unravel and at some point implode and collapse’. The home school movement is often seen as ‘a grass roots effort, scattered amongst a dispersed group of quiet rural families’, but in fact is highly centralised and has strong political influence. Patrick Henry College was founded in 2000 to fight for ‘our home school freedoms through careers of public service and cultural influence’. In 2004, seven out of the 100 interns in the White House came from the college. In the last ten years most secular universities have come to accept home school graduates. The universities' entrance tests examine applicants’ factual knowledge but not their understanding of scientific method, despite the fact that public schools require students to learn scientific method. Brian Alters of the Evolution Education Research Centre (EERC) at McGill University in Canada complains of ‘gross scientific inaccuracies’ in home schooling textbooks. The article describes a range of home schooling texts, such as Science of the Physical Creation, Science Order and Reality and Taking Back Astronomy, that defend Biblical interpretations of physical phenomena. Successive polls indicate that one in two US citizens does not accept the theory of evolution.
Key Learning AreasScience
United States of America (USA)
When a family quits your school
Number 6, 2006; Pages 36–37
The withdrawal of family groups of students from a school has potential impact on class size, school finances and staffing allocations. It is often difficult to elicit clear reasons for withdrawal from parents, who wish to avoid confrontations or disclosure of personal information. The school will also wish to avoid public criticisms that would harm the school’s reputation. The Centre for Marketing Schools has developed an exit survey designed to recognise the sensitivity of the situation while also obtaining clear reasons for the withdrawal. It combines multiple-choice and short-answer questions, and allows personal comments. The Centre has now sold and analysed many exit surveys and identified certain patterns. Contrary to the common assumptions of school staff, families do not usually leave because of financial problems or departure from the locality. Common reasons identified are that the school ‘has not lived up to our expectations’, has not recognised a child’s strengths or that complaints have not been properly addressed. Other issues include academic quality, discipline, bullying and the range of subjects offered.
Education - parent participation
School and community
Volume 85 Number 20, 20 November 2006
Computer Algebraic Systems (CAS) and specially designed calculators are engendering excitement and understanding in the teaching of algebra. A pilot study, now including 22 New Zealand secondary schools, has found that the understandings of students at all ability levels has improved through the use of these systems, with no negative impact on traditional skills. Teachers have found that CAS technology enables a more exploratory approach to algebra, and that students are less likely to be bogged down in the mechanics and more able to apply algebraic skills to solve problems. Some of the initial pilot schools that used CAS technology in Year 9 algebra and geometry are now using it for Year 10 algebra and probability. The project is managed by the New Zealand Ministry of Education and New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and includes industry partners Casio, Texas Instruments and from 2006, Hewlett Packard. Alternative CAS-enabled versions of the Level 2 and 3 standards will be developed for use in 2008 and 2009. The project is an example of professional development improving the use of technology in the classroom. See also two related articles on CAS. A successful experiment describes how David Phillips from Lincoln High School found that CAS calculators allowed him more creativity, caught the students' attention and encouraged them to be more exploratory in their mathematics. In Higher understanding Andrew Tideswell from Wainuiomata High School observed the use of CAS calculators in Australia and began using them in Year 9 classes a year before the pilot study. He found that after using the calculators the students were more able in pen and paper exercises, produced more formal and correct work and worked to a higher level of difficulty. Mistakes could be detected earlier and were more obvious. Although drills were still required, Andrew reports that a few well-chosen and well-worked hands-on practical activities can replace numerous test book examples. The challenge is to continue developing appropriate activities.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
The Resilient Families program
Volume 25 Number 2, 2nd Quarter 2006; Pages 33–40
The Resilient Families program, developed by the Royal Children's Hospital's Centre for Adolescent Health in the greater Melbourne area, has attempted to encourage links between different families and the wider community created around their schools as a means to help families nurture their children during early adolescence. The program has targeted families with children in the first two years of secondary school. Over 2004–06, 39 government and Catholic schools were invited to take part in a trial of the program, and 24 schools agreed to be involved. The program included a series of ten classes for students, run by teachers, covering communication, emotional awareness, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. It also used a two-hour 'Parenting Adolescents Quiz' night for parents/carers at the school. An activity called 'Parenting Adolescents: A Creative Experience' (PACE) involved eight two-hour group sessions for parents, while the 'Building a Community of Parents' component aimed to inform parents of activities at the school via a telephone tree or emails. The final component was a handbook on strategies to help parents assist their adolescent children. Participating families with children in Year 7 were asked to evaluate the program by completing annual surveys in 2004, 2005 and 2006. All families in this category were approached so that 'at risk' individuals and families were not singled out. Despite promising beginnings, parent participation and support was low, with 30 per cent actively refusing to take part. Only 9 per cent of parents attended any active parent education events and no parent information networks were established. Parents who did attend events were very positive in their response, finding them informative and helpful. Possible reasons for the low participation rates are financial and time pressures on parents; the advertising and conduct of the program being only in English; and over-commitment of school staff. The trial has highlighted the challenge of introducing parental involvement in schools and the community, and collaboration between different families, when such actions have not been part of the culture of the school community. It may be useful for such schools to establish a dedicated team of staff and parents to facilitate family–school partnerships, with guidance and explicit support from the school’s leadership.
Subject HeadingsResilience (Psychology)
Parent and child
Parent and teacher
School and community
Education - parent participation
Volume 12 Number 5, 17 October 2006; Pages 571–592
Learner-centredness is a familiar term in current educational discourse, but its meaning is widely disputed. Definitions range from superficial descriptions of laissez-faire teaching, to profound notions of respect for individual students and the classroom community. US researchers sought to create a deeper understanding of learner-centredness by interviewing teachers whose professional practice was characterised by learner-centred philosophies. Eighteen participants were recruited through the learner-centred education network FoxFire. Three were selected as examples of the diverse range of experiences and contexts out of which learner-centred education can emerge. All three began their teaching careers using traditional methods. One, based in a poor rural primary school, turned to a learner-centred approach because of frustration that the material she was diligently teaching ‘wasn’t sticking’. ‘Everything changed’ when she ‘put the challenge to the children and let them answer the call in their own way’. The second participant, teaching in an upper-middle-class primary school, received a vigorous induction into learner-centred methods from an enthusiastic colleague. She described how her ‘perfectionist’ nature and need for safety led her to use an incremental approach to introducing learner-centred methods in her classes. She began by modifying lessons in familiar subject areas, with support from her colleague. In the end, her students’ enthusiasm motivated her to tolerate setbacks and continue experimenting. The third interviewee initially taught in a district that emphasised textbooks and testing. Her ‘gut instinct’ led her to try more innovative approaches, resulting in the loss of her job. When she re-entered teaching, association with the FoxFire group gave her the confidence and the vocabulary to justify her methods and follow her intuition. All three teachers involve their students extensively in lesson planning and take a genuine interest in the skills, ideas, preferences and dreams each student brings to the classroom. This approach expands, rather than eclipses, their role as teachers, as they are constantly re-casting themselves as supervisors, instructors, co-learners or the ‘cheerleading section’. Engagement, insight and joy in learning feature prominently in their classrooms. Each regards learner-centred education as a never-ending learning journey. This suggests that learner-centredness cannot be encapsulated in a fixed definition, but is enacted through a practitioner's personal and professional experience.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Volume 32 Number 3, September 2006; Pages 319–330
A 1994 Australian Government report on violence in schools ruled that the majority of schools provide safe learning environments for their students. However, reported incidents of the dangers posed by schools are on the rise in the media. In the current climate of increased community involvement in education and school accountability, schools cannot expect some past practices and standards to remain acceptable. The duty of care invested in schools is prescribed by common law. The article outlines recent Australian court cases brought against schools, which demonstrate the perceived dangers that can arise throughout the complex web of relationships contained in schools, and how the Australian legal system has responded to them. Examples of the dangers posed by students to other students include both deliberate and accidental physical and emotional injury. In one case, a student also endangered a teacher through a violent act. Dangers from teachers to students include cases of negligence, as well as discrimination or inappropriate physical contact. Negligence may include providing inadequate supervision, insufficient intervention in situations when a violent act is likely to occur, or providing incomplete or incorrect instruction so that students are not aware of how to protect themselves during dangerous activities. In another case, a teacher endangered another teacher through harassment and degradation. Further cases illustrate the dangers that can be posed to students in the school or natural environment. In many of these instances, schools have been found to be at fault and substantial damages awarded. Fault arises when an injury has been reasonably foreseeable by the school or its representatives, and when appropriate measures have not been taken to prevent the injury from occurring. However, in some cases, judges have dismissed claims on the grounds that the school’s duty of care is not ‘one of perfection’. Today’s schools need to have effective risk-management plans, which are regularly monitored and reviewed, to minimise risk to their students and staff.
Duty of care
Volume 11 Number 4, November 2006; Pages 337–352
Many teachers have been attracted to the profession through the role it allows them to play in caring for students, and that role is a benchmark by which they measure their performance. A caring teacher is also an important factor in students’ engagement in schooling. This may be particularly true during physical education, which provides opportunities for teacher–student interactions that do not arise in other classes. A US study investigated what students perceived as caring behaviour on the part of their physical education teachers. Students in eight schools were asked to describe a single incident when their teacher had demonstrated caring behaviour. A total of 398 responses was received from across elementary, middle school and high school classes. Eleven main categories of behaviour emerged and were grouped into the following categories – ‘recognised me’, for behaviours that acknowledged a unique personality trait, ability or condition in an individual student; ‘helped me learn’, for behaviours that directly supported student learning; and ‘trusted/respected me’, for times when teachers accommodated students’ requests to undertake preferred activities or alternative tasks. The overall category encompassing all caring behaviour was ‘paid attention to me’, reflecting the high value students placed on behaviour that demonstrated interest in their individual learning and physical or emotional wellbeing. The responses also showed that the caring actions students appreciate are typically brief but timely, and can occur in any of the multiple contexts for interaction that arise in a physical education class.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsTeacher-student relationships
Duty of care
United States of America (USA)
Developing school evaluation methods to improve the quality of schooling in China: a pilot ‘value added’ study
Volume 13 Number 2, July 2006; Pages 135–154
In China, the use of assessment data to evaluate the quality of school education is still in its infancy. Some preliminary work in this field has recently been undertaken through a pilot study in the Local Education Authority (LEA) of Baoding City, 135 kilometres south of Beijing. The study used multi-level, hierarchical modelling analysis to measure value added by schools. ‘Value added’ is described as ‘a quantitative measure of student progress within a given time frame, in comparison to pupils in other schools in the same sample after adjusting for varying intake achievement and other background information’. The LEA contained 105 urban and rural senior secondary schools, 17 of which agreed to take part in the pilot. Covering a range of subject areas, the study compared students’ scores in 2000, at the end of junior high school, against their senior secondary results in 2003. It found significant variations between schools and between subject areas within individual schools, in terms of their ability to promote student learning. Further research should be undertaken around factors specific to the Chinese context, including qualities of school education that are most valued by the Chinese public and other stakeholders. A follow-up study has been funded for 2006–2008 and will cover all the upper secondary schools in the LEA.
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Volume 22 Number 4, October 2006; Pages 395–410
Many studies have identified the importance of word recognition in learning to read. Children with weak sight-word vocabularies have poor reading scores and run the risk of academic failure. A third grade class in New York has taken part in a study to examine and compare the effect of computer-mediated and tutor-mediated word recognition training. The students were asked to read passages of text and then to read a list of 100 difficult words selected from the texts. They were then randomly assigned to three groups. A computer read out and displayed the words to one group. A human tutor read out and displayed the words to a second group, while the third, control group, simply saw the words. The computer program was custom written for the study, and had no ‘bells and whistles’ such as games or music that may have distorted the study by intruding motivational variables. The reading accuracy and fluency of all groups was then tested. The performances of students helped by computer or tutor were improved, to the same degree, against those of students who received no assistance. Students were also asked to read a second list of words, of equivalent difficulty, which had not appeared in the text. The three groups performed equivalently on this task. The study showed the potential value of computers as a cost-effective alternative to tutors in reading instruction. Computers offer an individualised, non-threatening, non-embarrassing and open-ended learning environment. Children are free to read above their level and have access to a range of readings, perhaps increasing their motivation to read. Computer-assisted instruction required little teacher time or supervision.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsWord recognition
Developing sixth graders inquiry skills to construct explanations in inquiry-based learning environments
Volume 28 Number 11, September 2006; Pages 1289–1313
Recent reforms to Taiwanese science education are moving students away from memorising facts towards constructing knowledge through inquiry. Without the necessary skills, learning through inquiry can be a frustrating experience for students, yielding little valuable knowledge. Four skills are critical to inquiry: identifying causal relationships, describing reasoning, using data as evidence, and evaluating explanations. Two Taiwanese sixth-grade science classes were studied to determine how these skills might develop through a series of group inquiry tasks, and how the role of the teacher might evolve during this process. Over the 15-period series, students made significant progress in three of the four inquiry skills. All student groups were able to identify causal relationships by the end of the final task, although most relationships identified were simple and did not involve reference to scientific concepts. During early interviews, students tended to jump to conclusions based on personal experiences, but their descriptions of their reasoning processes improved significantly over the course of the study. They also learnt to use data to support their conclusions, which no group had done in preliminary discussions. The only skill the students did not develop was evaluating each other’s explanations. It may be that the tasks did not provide sufficient opportunities for students to practise this skill, or that the teacher did not offer sufficient scaffolding or feedback in this area for students to understand what was required of them. It may also be that the skills required at different stages of the inquiry process vary in complexity, and some may take longer for students to develop than others. The role of the teacher changed slightly throughout the series of tasks, from guide to collaborator, as students became familiar with core concepts and gained independence in their learning. As the concepts involved in scientific inquiry may be highly challenging for middle years students, it is essential that appropriate scaffolding is provided, either from the teacher or through supporting resources such as ExplanationConstructor.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
Inquiry based learning
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