The role of ICT in schools is the result of an interaction between technological infrastructure, teachers’ attitudes towards the technology and their general approach to teaching. For example, a laboratory with computers for each student could easily be used to deliver traditional ‘transmission’-based instruction, in which each student receives information separately and passively in the whole class setting, whereas the introduction of only a few computers in a classroom would lend itself to collaborative, inquiry-based learning but may create difficulties for transmission-based teaching. Effective implementation of ICT in schools therefore requires measures to understand and respond to teachers’ beliefs about technology. In 2002 researchers surveyed 464 public, Catholic and Independent primary schools across Australia regarding their use of ICT for teaching. The schools had all submitted applications for grants under the Commonwealth Bank’s e-learning program, designed for schools wishing to enhance existing practices. Survey results indicated that the schools fell into three types. Type 1 schools, 13 per cent of the total, were not using ICT in classrooms so the act of introducing it was innovative in itself. These schools saw technology in generic terms as a means to improve students’ basic learning skills, core technology skills and motivation, and to assist school operations. Type 2 schools, 73 per cent of the whole, saw ICT in a more targeted way, linking it to specific goals regarding learning, curriculum and assessment, after critical consideration of its potential applications. The 14 per cent of schools in Type 3 once again saw ICT in terms of its value to improve student learning, but they also recognised that a key element of ICT’s value to learning was its potential to facilitate changes to the organisation of the learning process, and to beliefs about learning held by students and teachers. ICT can facilitate constructivist and student-centred learning, collaboration and inquiry, and customisation of teaching to suit different individual learning styles. It can help to encourage self-driven learning and critical thinking. To realise the potential benefits of ICT, ‘teacher beliefs and values need to be shaped and supported by the organisational culture of the school’.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Some education commentators see the socioeconomic status (SES) of students and school communities as the most decisive influence on students' academic achievement. For other commentators the main influence on student performance is the quality of teaching they receive. These positions represent a false dichotomy that ignores the interplay between these two elements. A study of government schools in New South Wales has examined this relationship, by investigating the ways that teachers’ conditions of employment and work influence their teaching practice. A preparatory literature review examined how the relationship between teaching quality and student outcomes is mediated by school context, including SES and other demographic factors, and teaching context, including class size, provisions made for casual or relief teachers, subjects taught, teachers’ planning time and participation in collegial activities. The review found that these mediating influences have received remarkably little attention in research literature. The current research reported draws on baseline data from the SIPA longitudinal study, which is tracking three cohorts of students moving through primary and secondary public schools in New South Wales, and covers 988 teachers and 33 schools. SIPA evidence used for the current research includes teacher interviews, classroom observations, in-class assessment tasks and resulting examples of student work. Analysis of the SIPA data found a significant positive correlation between the quality of teaching observed in classrooms and the amount of planning time teachers had available to them. The study also identified a need for more effective professional development for secondary teachers in terms of classroom practice, and for primary teachers in terms of the development of assessment tasks. One of the most striking findings was the relatively low quality of pedagogy observed in classrooms that had a high proportion of Indigenous students.
Subject HeadingsNew South Wales (NSW)
Teaching and learning
Gathering dust: the shelf life of school principals
Number 3, 2007; Page 14, 27
A review of longitudinal research in the UK suggests that principals’ careers typically progress through six stages. Stage zero is preparation for the principalship, in which future principals learn about the job vicariously through others. In stage one, new principals engage with the reality of the job, and in stage two they experience a ‘honeymoon period’ in which staff give the new principal the benefit of the doubt. In stage three, principals begin to initiate major changes within the school and refine these changes in stage four. By their fifth–seventh year, in stage five, principals begin to consolidate earlier efforts. Stage six usually occurs around the seventh year of a principalship, and is referred to as the ‘Plateau’ stage. Principals in this stage believe they have changed all they wish to change in a school, and this is associated with a decline in the principal’s effectiveness. Although researchers identified an association of less effective schools with principals who had been at the school for fewer than three and greater than 11 years, the author acknowledges that a large number of variables impact on principals and schools which prevent such broad generalisations. Several strategies are recommended to prevent principals from reaching stage six. Sabbaticals allow principals an opportunity to refresh themselves, and gain a fresh perspective on their role. Principals should seek more assistance in their work, spend more time preparing prior to accepting a principalship, receive greater support and professional training, and finally recognise the limited length of effective working life. Five-year or six-year contracts for principals, with scope for renewal, would seem appropriate in light of this research. The author notes that principals must not let the idea of a ‘shelf life’ become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and notes that many principals are able to maintain enthusiasm for the role for many years.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Meeting the challenge of engaging students with Asia
Number 3, August 2007; Pages 4–9
It is imperative that schools provide students with a range of learning experiences and curriculum programs that assist them to engage constructively with Asia. The Australian Government aims to address this challenge through the National Statement for Engaging Young Australians with Asia in Australian Schools, endorsed by all ministers of education in 2005. The statement was developed by the Asia Education Foundation (AEF), which is a cooperative venture of the University of Melbourne and Curriculum Corporation. It outlines a set of skills and understandings that students should acquire as a result of Asia and Australia programs in the curriculum. The National Statement is accompanied by a Teacher and School resource, which provides advice on auditing existing practice and developing a whole-school plan for implementing Asia and Australia studies. Plans for including studies of Asia and Australia in the curriculum need to be part of long-term planning across a range of curriculum areas and year levels. Whole-school planning should consist of a policy statement or strategic plan, whole-school activities involving the community, accumulation of relevant resources, and staff professional learning programs. Schools can use a combination of models in integrating studies of Asia. An ‘infusion’ model is based on making connections between studies of Asia and the existing curriculum. In Victoria there are numerous opportunities for schools to implement studies of Asia in the VELS domains of Humanities–Economics, Civics and Citizenship, ICT, English and the Arts. Schools could also adopt a specialist studies model in which separate, subject-based programs such as ‘Year 10 Asian History’ are developed. Extra-curricular activities such as student exchange visits can complement such programs, but should not exist simply as ‘add-ons’ to the existing curriculum. This article includes a comprehensive list of teaching and learning resources relating to studies of Asia and Australia, including AEF resources, APEC: Strengthening our community, building a sustainable future student resource and teacher guide, Access Asia CD ROMs and online materials, the Linking Latitudes international professional study-tour program, Global Education Project professional development training, Austrade economics-related teaching and learning resources, and various newsletters and Curriculum Corporation publications.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
21st century learning and ICT: what does the research say?
September 2007; Pages 40–2
An independent evaluation of the Intel Teach program’s Essentials Course has found that successful professional learning programs can stimulate long-term, whole-school improvements. With the growing importance of ICT in Australian schools, the course is increasingly relevant, and an increase in ICT resources in schools has dramatically improved teachers’ ability to use skills they learn in the course. The Essentials Course has also been supported by curriculum reform initiatives in each state, which allow providers to tailor the strategies, skills and tools taught in the course to be compatible with key departmental standards and outcomes. Teachers in the Essentials Course collaborate with colleagues, share ideas about technology, and develop unit plans based on the content delivered in their own classrooms. Unlike other professional learning courses, which can often be delivered isolated from authentic practice, the Essentials Course comprehensively guides teachers through the development of an entire unit of work intended for delivery in the classroom. Technology is ever present in the course; however, there is a wider focus on learning and teaching practice through an inquiry-driven, project-based, student-centred approach. Teachers in the Essentials Course are therefore confident of the relevance of what they learn to their subject area and professional practice. Another advantage of the Essentials Course is the atmosphere of collaboration, feedback and pedagogical discussion which it encourages. The course is delivered to teachers by their colleagues, and this ‘train the trainer’ model enables greater ICT collaboration in the whole-school context. The Deakin University evaluation of the Essentials Course found that 79% of teachers who completed the course had begun to use technology weekly or more, and that 83% were using technology in new ways. The research also found that use of technology increased over time. The 84% of teachers who completed the course had implemented part or all of their unit plan, and 82% indicated that they had developed new units of work based on the Intel unit plan framework. For more information about the Essentials Course unit plan, see Alan Thwaites’ article ‘Project-based, student-centred, inquiry-driven’ in the same edition of Teacher, September 2007, p43.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Inquiry based learning
Orthographic analysis of words during fluency training promotes reading of new similar words
Volume 30 Number 2, 2007; Pages 129–39
A Dutch study has found that children’s reading speed and fluency varies according to the type of training they receive. The study compared the effectiveness of ‘orthographic’, or spelling-based training with ‘semantic’ meaning-based training in improving struggling readers’ fluency and speed. Fifty-one Grade 2 delayed readers from 13 Dutch primary schools participated in the study, which involved a pretraining test of reading speed and accuracy, ten training sessions focused on either orthographic or semantic characteristics of words, and two post-training tests. Training was conducted on a computer, and consisted of the repeated reading of 15 target words alongside 15 neighbour words with similar orthography (eg klas and glas) and a control list of words with similar structure to the target words but dissimilar spelling. Orthographic training required children to identify letter clusters shared between target words and neighbour or control words, while semantic training required identification of related word meanings (eg bird and egg). The computer provided automatic feedback about children’s accuracy during the training. The results showed that both forms of training improved children’s skill in reading the 15 target words. Target word reading speed was improved most dramatically in children who received semantic training. However, in the orthographic training condition, children’s reading speed improved in relation to both target words and neighbour words, demonstrating that orthographic training allowed children to generalise word-specific knowledge and draw orthographic analogies between target words and control words. This effect might be enhanced if children are exposed to groups of neighbour words rather than single words. The study also assessed whether oral reading during training would produce greater improvements than silent reading but results between oral and silent conditions did not vary significantly. The study concluded that semantic-focused training leads to greater word-specific improvements in the reading of target words, and orthographic training enhances children’s ability to generalise fluency gains to orthographically similar words.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Volume 30 Number 2, May 2007; Pages 184–97
A recent study of the effects of orthographic exposure has found that children recall spelling using qualitatively different processes to those of adults. Earlier research indicates that adults’ exposure to a single misspelling of a word can detrimentally affect their spelling of that word, even if the subject is aware of the spelling error. This ‘orthographic exposure effect’ demonstrates that adults’ spelling is strongly mediated by implicit recall processes in which spelling is unconsciously affected by experience. The present study aimed to provide evidence of a comparable effect in children. The study in a North London primary school consisted of an initial spelling test, three types of exposure to both correctly and incorrectly spelled words, and a post-exposure test administered to children in Years 5 and 6 . During the exposure phase, children were assigned to various conditions and shown a list of words, half of which were spelled with phonetically plausible but incorrect spelling. In condition a) children were exposed to correctly and incorrectly spelled words typed on blank cards, and were then asked to copy that word exactly onto paper. In condition b) children read the words out loud from a list, and in condition c) children were exposed to the spelling words embedded in a story. Researchers hypothesised that the results would mirror findings of adult tests, with exposure to incorrectly spelled words causing higher incidence of inaccurate spelling, and that there would be no difference in this effect between conditions. However, although exposure to correct spellings affected greater accuracy in the post-test, exposure to misspellings produced no measurable result. Indeed, the intentionally misspelled words may have provided children with necessary orthographic information, such that a child who spelt ‘electricity’ as ‘electrecity’ in the pretest and was exposed to the misspelling ‘electrisity’ was able to formulate the correct spelling in the post-test. Additionally, the differential results between conditions suggested that more in-depth exposure affected more accurate recall of correct spellings and conformity to a narrowed range of incorrect spellings in the post-test.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsThought and thinking
What role for humanities in science education research?
Volume 43, 2007; Pages 62–87
The social aspects of science need to be understood and acknowledged, both as a means of understanding science and the roles and limitations of ‘scientific’ research as a way to address educational issues. Quantitative research based on randomised samples is not necessarily the most effective as a way to ‘get to the heart’ of key issues in education. Such studies tend to be focused on objectives that are most easily measured. The moral and value stances underlying these studies, however, are ‘rarely addressed directly’. The notion that scientific research stands outside social debates is belied by the roles that science has taken in major social controversies, such as climate change, stem cell research and evolution. In all of these examples a basic consensus among scientists themselves is challenged by small minorities of scientists whose opinions receive disproportionate media attention and therefore have undue weight in the public mind. The political dimension of science has implications for the role of scientific method in educational research. Results of research are often used to justify decisions already made on political grounds. Within the science curriculum, a central place is given to the promotion of scientific inquiry. However, this emphasis did not emerge from the results of scientific investigation but rather from long discussion among experts in ‘many fields’. There are two helpful ways in which social studies can inform the study of science. One way is to highlight the role of individuals in specific social contexts in the emergence of scientific ideas. Another way, which has particular potential to engage students, is to study the science involved in current social controversies.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsScience teaching
Kick starting school improvement
Volume 3, 2007; Pages 16–37
The literature on school improvement emphasises the central role of dynamic school leadership in facilitating change. A 2006 survey of 36 principals from south-west Victorian schools sought to ascertain principals’ views about which issues, systems and strategies are the most effective drivers of change. Principals identified strategic planning as the most powerful initiator of school improvement, claiming that extensive review of past performance combined with precise planning for future cycles enables schools to base their improvement strategies on current needs and future directions. Internally based school reviews were seen as similarly important to stimulating reflection and planning. Principals also emphasised the importance of a new or revised vision, shared by all staff, in motivating change. School-specific issues such as poor school facilities, disengaged students and low student achievement were identified as the most likely issues to initiate school improvement action. There is widespread disagreement among principals about whether positive response to external directives or efficient internal drivers more effectively achieve school improvement. New government funding initiatives were seen as beneficial, but there was little support for centrally mandated changes to policy. Most principals perceived internal initiatives as more effective than external drivers. Although the school improvement literature cites data collection as integral to the improvement process, data were not viewed as particularly motivating by the 36 principals surveyed. The school level report (SLR), a centrally provided annual collection of figures, was identified as the most useful data in terms of identifying concerns that might initiate improvement action. Some common themes in the survey responses were identifiable. Unsettling internal issues and dissatisfaction with the status quo seem to motivate staff to agree to change, and because of this, identifying incentives to change and providing a more positive vision for the future are important strategies for teachers. Principals must therefore identify ‘glimmers of improvement opportunity’ and build on them to kick start school improvement.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
The interactive whiteboard in an early years classroom: A case study in the impact of a new technology on pedagogy
Volume 22 Number 1, June 2007; Pages 20–5
An interactive whiteboard (IWB) is a large touch-screen that displays images from a data projector connected to a computer. Although IWBs have rapidly penetrated Australian primary and secondary schools over the past four years, this technology is rarely incorporated into early years teaching. Where IWBs have been installed, research literature suggests that effective use is often precluded by teachers’ belief that student interaction with IWBs is too time consuming, and they tend to use the IWBs as substitutes for traditional tools such as whiteboards and flash cards. Victorian researchers suggest, however, that IWBs tactile operation, the large size of letters and images, the potential to link symbol, image and sound and the easy manipulation of screen objects can greatly benefit early literacy and numeracy teaching. A recent research project aimed to test this hypothesis in a naturalistic case study of a Melbourne prep class over five months. A pedagogical continuum was adopted to illustrate the teacher’s progression in IWB integration, framing pedagogy from ‘strong’, highly structured and authoritative instruction to ‘weak’ interactive teaching where students are active participants in learning. Despite IWB proponents’ portrayals of the tool as enhancing interactivity and student involvement, the teacher in the present study adopted a stronger pedagogical style when using the IWB, shutting down class discussion and preventing children’s interactions. Because the IWB was only being utilised at a superficial level, researchers intervened in the classroom to team-teach for an afternoon and explore the board’s capabilities more effectively. After this intervention, the teacher became more relaxed and confident in her use of the IWB, stepping back and allowing children to interact with the board directly. She noted that children became more aware of their agency in learning, and that usually disinterested or troublesome children became involved in class activity. The sheer size and dynamicism of the board were credited with captivating the interest of the children, and long-term research over ten years in the UK has shown that this effect is not simply a reaction to the novelty of the technology. The present case study demonstrates, however, that pedagogical support is critical to effective IWB use.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Early childhood education
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