Professional development for pedagogical impact
In New South Wales a study has investigated the effectiveness of Quality Teaching, a professional learning initiative for New South Wales public schools. Researchers examined the pedagogy of a group of approximately 900 teachers involved in the Quality Teaching program, using coded observations of 330 classroom lessons and 199 assessment tasks that the teachers set their students. Teachers’ practice was evaluated in terms of the three dimension set out in the Quality Teaching model: high intellectual quality in teaching, establishment of a quality learning environment, and ‘significance’, the ability to make learning meaningful to students. These results were correlated to feedback from the teachers about their experiences of and attitudes towards their formal and informal professional development since the introduction of Quality Teaching. Feedback had been collected through 178 interviews and about 1,000 responses to a survey. Teachers had been asked for their opinions on Quality Teaching’s importance, impact, and supports, and its coherence with other professional learning and with their own school’s culture. In the analysis of results, the quality observed in teachers’ classroom practice and assessment tasks was found to be positively correlated to the amount of time they said they spent on two informal but intellectually demanding forms of professional learning: curriculum development, and the preparation of student reports. Teachers who expressed a strong sense of responsibility for student learning also demonstrated higher-than-average quality, good classroom practice, although not in the quality of assessment tasks they set. Notably, however, in all the other measures there were only limited correlations to teachers’ classroom practices, and no positive correlations to the assessment tasks. Possible reasons for the generally low correlations are first, that ‘what is done in the name of Quality Teaching PD is (so far) weak’; second, that teachers are resisting Quality Teaching, or this type of professional development; third, that the Quality Teaching program has failed to overcome ‘a culture of pedagogical inertia’; and fourth, that the program’s impact cannot yet be measured accurately. The research used base-line data from the Systemic Implications of Pedagogy and Achievement (SIPA) longitudinal study conducted over 2004–07.
Subject HeadingsNew South Wales (NSW)
Transforming the subject matter: examining the intellectual roots of pedagogical content knowledge
Volume 37 Number 3, 2007; Pages 279–295
The concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) describes a process of using pedagogical skills and knowledge to make the content of academic disciplines accessible to students. PCK is said to include awareness of different ways to represent content knowledge to students; awareness of the likely intellectual starting points of a given body of students, taking into account their age, social background and other variables; and knowledge of ways to identify and correct misconceptions amongst students. LS Shulman, one of the key proponents of PCK, calls this process ‘transformation’ of disciplinary knowledge. However, leading educational theorists over the last century have pointed out that disciplinary knowledge has already been substantially adapted for the school context before reaching the classroom. One, JS Bruner, was a leading member of the USA’s curriculum reform movement in the 1960s, which was spurred by concern at the country’s economic slowdown relative to Russia after the launch of Sputnik. Bruner argued that the conversion of disciplinary knowledge for the classroom needed to involve subject matter specialists and psychologists. JJ Schwab, writing in the late 1960s and early 1970s, also saw the translation of academic knowledge for the classroom as ‘fundamentally a curricular concept’. However, Schwab differed from Bruner by rejecting a ‘theoretical’ model of curriculum development in favour of the ‘craft’ tradition ‘that emphasises the immediate local context’. Schwab emphasised that curriculum planning needs to take account of learners, in terms of their psychological maturity; teachers, in terms of their likely level of knowledge, flexibility and broader beliefs; and the influence of the broader milieu, including the state of society, policy and economic forces. J Dewey, in the early 20th century, emphasised, like Schwab, the psychological maturity of the individual learner as a starting point for curriculum planning. In contrast to Schulman, all these theorists acknowledge that classroom teachers work with material that has already been substantially adapted from its original disciplinary form by curriculum developers. However, it should also be understood that teachers retain an important role in adapting the curriculum to the particular students and groups of students in their classrooms.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Long-term outcomes of early reading intervention
Volume 30 Number 3, August 2007; Pages 227–48
A study in England explored the long-term impact of two models of early intervention for children with reading difficulties: the Phonological Training program based on decoding and phonological processing, and the more broadly based Reading Recovery program. An analysis of existing studies, including four conducted in Australia or New Zealand, casts doubt on the ability of either of these approaches by themselves to improve children's reading in the long term. Only one of the studies found that early, time-limited phonological intervention brought long-term reading success. None of the studies found that broadly based early interventions, such as Reading Recovery or Success for All, sustained improvement in the long term. To explore the issue further the current study examined the reading skills of about 400 children in England diagnosed as the poorest 20% of readers in their 63 schools. They were pre-tested in 1992 when they were in Year 2 and aged between 6 and 6.5 years. About one-quarter of the children, in 23 schools, were then assigned to Phonological Training, another quarter received intervention through Reading Recovery and the remainder became a control group. Both intervention programs significantly improved some aspects of children’s reading in the short to medium term. However, by 1996, the children in Reading Recovery were ‘no longer significantly ahead of their peers’. The partial exception were students who had been ‘complete non-readers’ at age 6, who made ‘significantly more progress’ than the control group in reading, but not spelling. For the other group, Phonological Training ‘only explains around 1% of the variance on the spelling/reading measure when the children were 10 years old’. The research indicates that long term development of reading skills is heavily influenced by students' level of enjoyment of reading, by the skills and expectations of teachers, and by the level of encouragement they receive at home or from peers. It has been ‘consistently reported that teachers tend to restrict poorer readers’ choice in the reading curriculum’, despite the fact that readers’ ability to choose texts has a strong impact on readers’ engagement, comprehension and accomplishment.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
The quality of systematic reviews of effectiveness in literacy learning in English: a 'tertiary' review
Volume 30 Number 3, August 2007; Pages 287–315
The article is a broad review of literacy learning in Britain, evaluating 14 different meta-analyses of literacy interventions for children or adolescents up to age 18 who had English as their first language. One topic considered was the value of ICT for literacy learning. Five separate meta-analyses found little evidence that the use of ICT improves spelling or reading, although two meta-analyses found evidence that ICT can help weak beginning writers. Two meta-analyses found strong support for the value of adults reading aloud to children as a way to improve literacy, particularly when the adult was the child’s parent. Three meta-analyses found benefits in a structured approach to systematic phonics instruction in the early years, particularly for children at risk of reading failure. The 'whole language' approach to literacy learning was evaluated in one meta-analysis and was not found beneficial, though the meta-analysis noted a range of methodological difficulties in the reviews it examined. Metacognitive instruction was found to be moderately beneficial for reading comprehension by one meta-analysis, particularly in terms of the use of self-questioning by students to monitor their performance. To be selected, each meta-analysis was required to cover at least one report of a randomised control trial. While the meta-analyses were found to be of high quality overall, six of them did not allow for ‘publication bias’ (publication based on the tendency or strength of the study findings). A tertiary review is ‘a systematic review where the included studies are themselves systematic reviews’. The main purpose of the current article was to 'evaluate the quality of systematic reviews in literacy learning' with the secondary aim of mapping the substantive findings.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
English language teaching
I'll have mine annotated please: helping students make connections with texts
Volume 96 Number 4, March 2007; Pages 73–8
The annotation of a text offers a range of ways to deepen students’ engagement with reading, by encouraging them to think about the meaning of the text and to find points of connection to their own lives. This exercise can be commenced by showing students an example of professionally annotated text. Small group discussions follow, to discuss uses of annotation. Whole class discussion is then used to bring out the various roles of annotation, such as to define meanings, supply background, explain complexities, connect to other texts, or point out the use of literary devices. In these discussions students often explore ways that texts impact on them, which might be by evoking emotion or memories, or by offering new knowledge or perspectives, or new understandings of others. Students should be allowed to select a passage of text to annotate, to deepen their sense of engagement. Students can be stimulated to think more deeply about annotations by specifying the total word length so that they have to prioritise content; by encouraging feedback from peers; by asking them to state what they found most enjoyable or challenging in the text, to comment on what they would change in it and to consider the purposes of the annotator. The exercise can be supported by instruction on how to prepare footnotes on a computer. In later classes students can be asked to present the notes in alternative formats such as hyperlinked web pages. Students should also be asked to apply what they have learnt by annotating texts they read in future. The article includes images of a senior student’s annotations to a text, in their original handwritten form and in their final version.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
English language teaching
Why I won't be using rubrics to respond to students' writing
Volume 96 Number 4, March 2007; Pages 62–66
Rubrics are too insensitive and limited to function well as assessment tools for students’ writing. In this context rubrics may be compared to the options offered by a computerised telephone answering system. It is difficult to capture every possible dimension of good writing in a rubric, and a piece of writing may be excellent without possessing all these possible qualities. The purpose of a piece of writing can develop as it is written. This process is itself worthy of assessment, but such measurement requires interaction between the student writer and a teacher who knows the student and their current stage of progress. Assessment involving discussion with the teacher or with peers may also inspire revisions or new work that would not be generated by rubrics. Reading is also an interaction between the individual reader, in this case the teacher, and the text: rubrics bypass that relationship with an implied but false objectivity. Writing does not lend itself to the standardisation that underlies many forms of assessment, except when used to deliver precise information that is not designed to bring the evocative, associative or rhetorical powers of words into play. While the abandonment of rubrics may allow poor subjective judgements by teachers, rubrics in the hands of an insensitive teacher may be just as harmful.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
New World Order
20 August 2007; Page 4
A change to Victorian Government policy will enable public schools to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program to their senior students from 2009. Although State primary schools have offered the IB’s inquiry-based primary years program for some time, middle years and diploma courses have been unavailable to state school students. The IB diploma course for Years 11 and 12 is a holistic, internationally focused and demanding program that requires students to complete a broad range of subjects including English, a second language, maths, science, humanities and an interdisciplinary subject called Theory of Knowledge. In accordance with the IB’s holistic philosophy, candidates for the diploma also participate in community service, sport, and creative pursuits. The IB Organisation’s representative in Australia, Greg Valentine, states that more than half of IB schools worldwide are state or government run. He also argues that in Victoria the program has unfairly developed an elitist reputation. Independent schools in Victoria have previously been able to claim the IB as ‘part of their domain’, invoking IB's prestige and exclusivity in their marketing material. Principal of Werribee Secondary College, Steve Butyn, has promoted the IB as an opportunity for top State schools to compete on par with their independent equivalents. The University High School and Rosebud Secondary College have also expressed interest in providing the IB diploma, and another four state schools hope to implement the IB’s middle years program, which is closely aligned with VELS. In allowing state schools the option to offer their students IB, Victoria follows Queensland, South Australia, and ACT, where successful candidates for the diploma also receive their state certificate of education. Advocates of the IB emphasise the program’s value as an internationally focused and ‘real life’ based curriculum. The diploma is recognised by 3,700 universities worldwide including such prestigious institutions as Yale and Oxford. The IB diploma offers an alternative to VCE, but will not replace the state certificate. It is expected that most state schools will elect not to offer the diploma.
Subject HeadingsVictorian Certificate of Education
Transient and robust knowledge: contextual support and the dynamics of children's reasoning about density
Volume 1 Number 2, 2007; Pages 98–108
Research has shown that although children's cognitive performance improves for a short time following contextualised support, the improvement is transient if support is not sustained. 'Contextualised support' refers to interaction in which a teacher models desired actions and prompts the learner, but does not co-participate in the task. A recent US study has investigated how long children’s transient performance improvements are sustained after supportive interactions. There were 39 kindergarten and 25 Grade 2 children from two large US cities randomly sampled for participation. The study measured children’s understanding of the concept of ‘density’ over repeated trials before and after a supportive interaction. After experimenters repeatedly modelled the correct explanation of buoyancy (this object floats because it is light for its size in the water), most children’s responses improved sharply for one or two trials and then gradually deteriorated. Some children (58%) subsequently demonstrated a secondary, less dramatic improvement in answers following this initial peak as they struggled to recall the experimenter’s demonstration, but this improvement was also temporary. Kindergarten children’s answers were less complex than those of children in Grade 2; however, they demonstrated a roughly equivalent degree of improvement following the demonstration. Kindergarten children initially justified their buoyancy predictions in terms of identity, for example ‘the ball floats because it is a ball’, while Grade 2 children generally identified relevant characteristics such as size or weight. Kindergarten children were often able to identify these characteristics immediately after the support for one or two trails, and grade 2 students progressed to naming two relevant characteristics, for instance ‘the ball is small and light'. Some children (22%) sustained their initial post-support improvement for the remainder of trials. This finding reiterates the critical need for teachers to offer sustained and frequent support to students when addressing new concepts.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsPsychology of learning
Thought and thinking
The use of ICT in the assessment of modern languages: the English context and European viewpoints
Volume 59 Number 2, May 2007; Pages 195–213
The implementation of a national curriculum for modern languages in England demonstrates a resurgence of interest in Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) as a subject area. The reporting requirements of the national curriculum have led to considerable developments in MFL assessment practices, which emphasise interaction and practical application of language. Computer Aided Assessment (CAA) has great potential to aid teachers in MFL assessment by offering data management, web resources and plagiarism detection software. CAA can also increase learners’ confidence by providing immediate feedback in terms of ‘right’, ‘wrong’, or ‘try again’ in a non-judgemental environment. These perceived advantages have prompted England's curriculum authority to set strategic objectives for MFL examination reform that would require all learning providers to offer on-screen alternatives to paper exams. However, a recent survey of experts in language teaching from various European countries has found that leading Online Language Learning (OLL) providers failed to offer effective formative assessment, particularly in the domain of spoken language. The most common forms of assessment offered by OLL programs tend to use 'yes/no' ‘fill the gap’ or multiple choice questions. Teachers would prefer that assessment was capable of judging the subtleties of language and students’ capacity to engage in interaction, discourse and contextualised speech and writing. Teachers also considered summative assessment important, but nearly half of the OLL resources failed to provide summative assessment tools to teachers’ satisfaction. The resources could assess neither students’ speech nor extended passages of writing. Many of the resources assessed were considered unsuitable for class work as they were not conducive to interaction and creativity. In general, OLL resources were considered novel, but pedagogically unsound. Because MFL assessment is socially based with emphasis on interaction and speech, available resources cannot effectively provide formative feedback, and assessment programs largely consist of ‘old tests in new technology’. However, surveys indicated that many OLL programs provided a rich variety of resources for student help as well as information concerning the culture and civilisation associated with a language. Sound icons were provided by 34% of resources, and were rated highly.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Language and languages
Effective learning of civic skills: democratic schools succeed in nurturing the critical capacities of students
Volume 33 Number 2, June 2007; Pages 115–28
Civics and citizenship education has gained renewed focus in recent years, following a 1994 survey which found that students demonstrated ‘widespread ignorance and misconception about the structure and function of Australia’s system of government’. The Keating and Howard governments both committed resources to resolving civic illiteracy in schools; however, civics curriculum programs have not been as effective as anticipated. The interrelationship between curricula covering democracy and democratic practices in schools must therefore be addressed. Schools with democratic practices allow students to experience social justice and democracy in day-to-day life, rather than simply including abstract parliamentary role-plays in the curriculum. Based on interview, observation and official school data, a small-scale study of Western Australian schools has revealed major similarities between schools with reputations for democratic practices. The sample schools, two private schools located in affluent areas of Perth, one rural state school and one state school from an underprivileged area of Perth, were selected on the basis that they promoted ‘active citizenship’ in providing students with some form of agency in school administration. Principals in these schools all believed that there was unusual emphasis placed on children’s rights to dignity and participation in decision making in their schools. Case study schools also shared a common perception of school rules as 'social technologies' used to structure a democratic social order, and believed traditional school rules’ focus on hierarchies of control and surveillance to be antiquated. School rules were limited in number and phrased as statements informing ‘respectful conduct’ rather than as specific dos and don’ts. In this way, children were encouraged to reflect on their beliefs and actions in general terms and to connect the rights of others with personal responsibility. Rather than responding to punishable offences with uniform punitive measures, schools considered the child and context in responding to antisocial behaviour. For example, one principal explained that if a child’s reason for acting out stemmed from problems at home, suspending the child would only exacerbate problems. Schools resolved antisocial behaviour by identifying its cause, and teaching the student to resolve their issues appropriately.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Effects of structured self-reflection on the development of authentic leadership practices among Queensland primary school principals
Volume 53 Number 2, 2007; Pages 225–46
The theory of authentic leadership posits that effective school leaders are deeply aware of their own values and beliefs, and that this awareness helps them to make decisions that are congruent with their values, even in the face of mounting social or situational pressure. Authentic leaders also understand how these values may influence their behaviour in both positive and negative ways, and therefore reflect critically on their motivations for behaviour in professional practice. However, self-awareness and critical reflection do not come naturally to most people. Unless leaders make concerted efforts at introspection, personal values remain subliminal and leadership behaviours remain unchallenged. In light of this theory, a recent research project has attempted to improve leadership practice by helping principals to clarify their values and beliefs and understand how these affect their behaviour. The project explored how deeply structured processes of self reflection could develop authentic leadership practices in seven Catholic primary school principals in Brisbane. These principals were provided with a set of guiding questions designed to direct reflection upon aspects of ‘Self’ such as self concept, self-esteem, motives and values. All of these components of the Self are interrelated and influenced by individuals’ life experiences, specifically, by ‘defining moments’. Questions and processes for the study were devised in light of feedback from an earlier trial of the procedure by Victorian Catholic school principals. Principals involved in the study were presented with a series of questions in a matrix. Each question prompted reflection upon a different aspect of Self and required principals to consider how a particular ‘defining moment’ in their life had influenced this aspect. The layout of the questions helped principals conceive of their life experience as exerting direct influence on a series of beliefs and behaviours. This exercise assisted principals to clarify their values, be more attuned to the potential for their values to affect undesirable leadership behaviours, and be able to suppress the influence of values that affected negative behavioural outcomes. The results from this study evidence the necessity of developing professional development programs that stimulate structured self-reflection.
Girls' groups and boys' groups at a municipal technology centre
Volume 29 Number 8, June 2007; Pages 1019–33
Swedish municipal technology centres provide enjoyable after-school technology education for children aged 6–16, in boys’, girls’ and mixed groups. In particular, the centres aim to encourage girls to choose technical professions because of a perceived lack of technological competence in the wider workforce. The technology centre in Örebro focuses on mechanics and electronics with the primary aim of stimulating children’s interest in technology. Despite evidence that boys-only school science classes tend to be disorderly and not conducive to learning, disruption was not apparent in the leisure-time classes at the Örebro technology centre. Boys sometimes questioned the legitimacy of female instructors, but otherwise exhibited interest in the practical tasks, suggesting that boys’ negative behaviour in school might be a reaction to the obligatory nature of school itself. Parents saw the classes as a valuable forum for male socialisation. However, in the absence of conscious gender work that trained boys to recognise girls’ technical abilities, the classes also had the potential to cultivate a 'macho' form of masculinity. Girls' groups in schools are traditionally thought of as well-functioning, communicative and supportive. Some girls’ groups at the centre functioned like this, but others were more unruly, with girls lacking concentration. The social interaction in the group and decoration of their created artefacts seemed more important to girls than to boys. In this way, both girls’ and boys’ groups resembled traditional single-sex social groups in leisure time. Six of the eight instructors at the Örebro centre were female; however, female instructors crossed gender borders to various extents and in different ways. Young female instructors were accustomed to operating in male-dominated groups during their own education and were more successful in proving their legitimacy. Girls became more confident of their technological competence after participating in girls-only groups, but without concurrent efforts in boys’ groups to develop inclusive practices, girls are still marginalised. However, because of the predominantly female staff and relatively high (40%) proportion of female students at the centre, boys' attitudes were affected to some degree. In promoting gender inclusiveness in technology, aspects such as sex and gender of staff, activity content, student body composition and the activity’s image must be considered.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsTechnological literacy
There are no Conferences available in this issue.