The impact of leadership on student outcomes: making sense of the evidence
August 2007; Pages 12–16
The Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis program in New Zealand has evaluated the relative impact of different forms of school leadership, measured in terms of student achievement or gains in achievement. The evaluation, covering primary and secondary levels of schooling, examined 24 studies worldwide, including one each in Australia and New Zealand. It compared the impact of instructional and transformation models of school leadership. It found that studies of instructional leadership showed ‘effect sizes that were, on average, three times larger than those found in transformational leadership studies’, when studies using similar research designs were compared. The evaluation also assessed the impact of different dimensions of leadership, and identified five practices of key importance. The first is establishing clear goals and expectations. Goal setting helps to guide staff through a stressful environment of multiple and conflicting demands. Successful leaders establish school goals through personal interaction and also by structuring teachers’ work so as to embed goals in classroom procedures. Strategic resourcing is another key practice. It refers to leaders securing and allocating resources specifically for pedagogical purposes. It is likely to be an especially important practice in under-resourced schools. The third dimension, planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and the curriculum, was found to have a powerful impact, especially in primary schools. It involves discussion with staff about the impact of teaching on students, close work with staff in curriculum review, classroom observation and feedback to teachers, and monitoring of student progress for improvement at classroom and departmental level. Promoting and participating in teacher learning is the fourth key practice. Effective school leaders are knowledgeable about teaching and are available to offer advice to teachers on pedagogic issues. Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment is the final key practice to be outlined. Effective leaders clearly and consistently enforce social expectations and discipline codes, and protect teachers from ‘undue pressure from education officials and from parents’. Leaders also need to deal with staff conflict quickly and effectively. Policy makers need to encourage instructional leadership from principals and create conditions that foster it. Researchers need to ‘focus more closely on how leaders influence the teaching practices that matter’.
Does curriculum matter?
Spring 2007; Pages 15–16
Curriculum was once seen as the central component of schooling. Much of the work of education systems and schools was in the development of curriculum content which was then delivered to students through courses of study. Curriculum is now seen as only one part of a wider strategy to lift student achievement. Curriculum also serves purposes beyond teaching, one of which is to serve as a statement of society's values. The social significance of the school curriculum encourages close public attention to what goes into it, and also produces many calls to expand its coverage. Curriculum is seen as a means to address new developments, such as growing social diversity, or as a solution to students’ ‘supposedly inadequate knowledge of something’, as reported in the media. Curriculum is typically developed by subject experts who tend to add further layers of content. This is often at a level of complexity beyond the capacity of most teachers to address with their students. The curriculum’s size and complexity means that most schools cannot cover all aspects of it. As a result the school may not offer students the subjects of most interest or relevance to them. Teacher professional development cannot cover the amount and range of content in such a curriculum. Teachers’ efforts to cover large amounts of content in the curriculum are likely to discourage them from exploring the constructivist approaches to teaching and learning recommended in curriculum documents. To be effective in raising student achievement curriculum needs to recognise the real context faced by schools, and should be aligned to the schools real needs.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Curriculum, capabilities and nation building
Spring 2007; Pages 8–9
The case for a national curriculum in Australia has chiefly been made as a means to help students moving interstate, and as an efficient use of resources. Framing the issue in these terms has posed the national curriculum as a challenge to Australia’s States. A more promising approach towards a national curriculum is to identify the elements of Australian education that are best addressed nationally. These elements include the capabilities that young people need to participate as future adult citizens of the nation. The nature of these ‘democratic capabilities’ should be established through national dialogue. The capabilities should be developed through the current learning areas administered by State and Territory systems. They should no longer be taught simply as ‘ends in themselves’ but with a view to preparing the nationally agreed democratic capabilities, ‘through a process perhaps led by the Australian Government and starting with a review of the National Goals of Schooling’. Within this approach the national curriculum would not be a ‘single entity’ but ‘an interaction between different components in different areas’.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
A personal integration of faith and life
Volume 12 Number 1, 2007; Pages 10–19
Catholic educators confront a mixed, contradictory situation in which the decline of traditional forms of worship, of the established Catholic educational model and the cohered Catholic community, contrast with new prospects for the revival of faith. On one hand, traditional models of Catholic education are less successful than in the past, with evidence that 95% of graduates from Catholic schools ‘give up the formal practice of religion within a year of leaving school’. The decline of traditional religious observance in society sometimes takes negative forms such as ‘superstition, fanaticism, fundamentalism, ambiguous forms of popular religion etc’. There is an atmosphere of ‘cultural unbelief’ surrounding and even sometimes within Catholic schools, suggesting that religion is unimportant or ‘a private taste, like classical music’. Dissatisfaction with materialism often leads to an individualised, ‘anchorless spirituality’. Pressure from the dominant culture can block ‘readiness for faith’. At the same time there are signs of regeneration in religious faith. Most states in the European Community now support religious education within mainstream schooling, endorsing ‘the place of religion as a unique form of thought and experience, an essential part of any curriculum’. More generally there are positive aspects to new forms of cultural sensibility in society. There is a ‘strong and continuing development of “spirituality”’ in extremely diverse forms’, including emotional engagement with modern music, that open up ‘new possibilities about being Christian’. Catholic schools should reach out to those who experience these forms of sensibility. To do so effectively, however, Catholic schools need to address certain practical concerns. Staff in Catholic schools need to be united in their support for religious activity in the school, rather than leaving this work to a ‘God squad’ of those formally responsible for religious practices. Catholic schools need to resist the pressure on senior secondary students to focus only on academic results and ENTER scores, as these students are at an age when they are most capable of grappling with issues of religion and philosophy. The Catholic school tradition of taking all who apply, rather than an ‘intellectual elite’, is another practical issue, but it is one closely connected to its aim to give a meaning to life.
Subject HeadingsCatholic schools
Social life and customs
Millennium man: constructing identities of male teachers in early years contexts
Volume 59 Number 2, May 2007; Pages 179–194
A study in England has examined the views and experiences of female primary teachers and male student teachers, on issues surrounding males as early years’ teachers. The study involved interviews with 18 male student teachers, graduate or undergraduate, from various ethnic backgrounds, who were based at three schools serving different SES communities. Four female teachers at each school were also interviewed, all of whom had mentored male student teachers and four of whom were head teachers. Both sets of participants described the pressures imposed on male teachers by the public perception of early years’ teaching as ‘women’s work’. They also emphasised the value of having male teachers; however, without spelling out the nature of this value beyond broad descriptions of them as role models or providing ‘balance’. Participants said that male primary teachers are readily categorised by other staff into positive or negative roles, such as caretaker, action man, ogre, sex object, flirt, or hero. They said that male teachers face strong demands or expectations, from women and men. They are expected to be assertive; good at discipline, especially regarding boys; and proficient at maths, sport, and technology. Female participants wanted male teachers to be sensitive as well as ‘macho’, caring towards young children, a good listener, and to have a sense of humour. Overall, the assumptions and preferences of other staff work strongly against men teaching early primary classes, and frequently make male primary teachers uneasy during the first years of their career. Males who don’t fit the desired model may be scorned or marginalised. However, males able to present the desired range of characteristics possess a powerful ‘labour market resource’. Social esteem for confident men, together with male bonding networks, can propel them quickly into senior positions in a school. Female interviewees commented on this unequal distribution of power, expressing ‘notions of injustice, under-representation and the threat of being taken over’. Male primary teachers’ experiences reflect wider social uncertainty about social identities which are always to some extent fragmented, by the different contexts people work within, but which have become more fluid in recent times.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
From the big screen to the computer screen: australianscreen goes online
Number 153, 2007; Pages 119–124
The australianscreen website contains information on Australian audio-visual production, including feature films, documentaries, advertisements, television programs and home movies. Intended primarily as an educational resource, it allows users to explore Australia’s screen heritage through a searchable database of film clips, specialist curator comments, primary material and lesson notes contributed by teachers. Educational material, such as a timeline of Australian audio-visual history, is also available. The site was developed collaboratively by the Australian Film Commission (AFC), Curriculum Corporation, the National Film and Sound Archives (NFSA), and the National Archives of Australia (NAA), with funding from the Australian Government. Curriculum Corporation, through the Le@rning Federation, advised on design, functionality and content from the beginning so as to optimise the educational value of the site. The clips for the site are selected by curators with specialist knowledge of various genres. Tachers in briefing sessions were eager for the site to be wide-ranging and uncensored, arguing that the different curricula in each State would be best served by variety. As such, the site does not eliminate swearing in clips, but provides censorship ratings and warnings. Even the curators have been surprised by the historical significance and educational value of the film clips, noting particularly the documentation of the Snowy Mountain scheme, Australia’s entry into the space race in 1967, and political films produced by women in the 1970s and '80s. The pattern of development of cultural discourses, such as the stereotype of uncommunicative Australian males and the tradition of ‘English bashing’, can also be traced through film archives. The site was designed for maximum accessibility, so that all computers around Australia, varying greatly in quality and sophistication, can access content. AARNet assumes hosting of australianscreen from December, and it is expected that the site will then become faster and even more accessible. The site is still in developmental stages, and it is hoped that both the quality and diversity of content will improve as the national archives are digitised.
Social life and customs
Engaging the visual generation: some Queensland teachers come to terms with changing literacies
Number 46, 2007; Page 130
There is a tendency to counterpoise ‘multiliteracies’ with traditional literacy in education. There are concerns that the promotion of multiliteracies has created a ‘literacy crisis’ in which reading and writing skills are neglected. These concerns reflect a conflict between traditionalism and innovation in education, but also express some teachers’ anxiety about technology. A recent study has aimed to ascertain the cultural beliefs that underpinned teachers’ engagement with multimedia. The study was based upon 26 interviews with primary teachers in regional
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Strangely familiar: cross-curricular and creative thinking in teacher education
Volume 10 Number 2, July 2007; Pages 162–179
Studies in England have shown that students entering teacher education often struggle to apply creativity and imagination to their teaching. In order to stimulate effective teaching, higher education must focus on teacher ‘education’ rather than teacher ‘training’, emphasising creativity over information transfer. The Higher Education ARTS and Schools (HEARTS) project at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) has attempted to do so by reinstating the Arts in primary teacher education and hence in primary schools. The HEARTS program was offered as an elective subject for education students in their final year, and involved a series of ‘experiences’ designed to encourage a creative approach to teaching. The first part of the project required students to travel to an unfamiliar town with 60 12-13 year-old children, and participate in creative activities with them. Students then attended a two day conference of interconnected and imaginatively presented Arts and Humanities tutorials on creative arts, design technology, citizenship, and spirituality. For the third experience, students were sent to work in teams of three or four to rural primary schools, and told to develop a series of creative tasks for the class. Finally, students completed a reflective essay on the previous three experiences. Researchers hypothesised that student teachers would experience a transformation in their perception of teaching, becoming more open to progressive methods. The study found that student teachers were initially extremely preoccupied with concerns about how to control their class, but after the first experience were considerably more relaxed. The student teachers became less formulaic in their interactions with children, rediscovering their personal creativity and establishing emotional connections with the children. However, researchers also noticed that students failed to integrate professional practice into their creative interactions. The project did, however, dramatically improve students' perception of the arts and of cross-curricular study. An adjusted program is being introduced as a formal university subject in universities from 2007.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsArts in education
The state and citizenship education in England: a curriculum for subjects or citizens?
Volume 39 Number 4, August 2007; Pages 471–489
Policies of mandatory citizenship education raise questions about what role the state should have in determining the beliefs and values of citizens, especially when these may differ from family and community values. In England, citizenship was introduced as a compulsory foundation subject in 2002 with the stated aim of encouraging students to perceive themselves as ‘active citizens’ rather than as simply 'subjects of the crown'. However, even this seemingly innocuous aim implies values which may be misaligned with those of minority communities. Some from conservative faith communities may regard active citizenship as undesirable ‘worldly involvement’, and many others may ascribe their citizenship to allegiances which transcend the geo-political borders of nation states. The form of English citizenship education is also widely regarded as inappropriate. Ofsted encourages formal school assessment of citizenship as a separate subject, and students can even take citizenship as a GCSE (Year 11 and 12) subject. However, assessment which aims to judge the culturally defined attitudes and beliefs of pupils is clearly inappropriate in a subject which purports to promote inclusion. Furthermore, if student apathy towards voting is a consequence of students’ disillusionment with the distribution of power in society, exam and formal assessment conditions which emphasise existing power structures within schools may exacerbate the problem. Ofsted’s emphasis on written work and formal assessment may also negatively effect the quality of content taught in citizenship, as the most pertinent aspects of citizenship are not as easily examinable as those of ‘old rote-learning civics’. Teachers agree that portfolios recording community projects, assessed in terms of a student’s progress over time, would be a more appropriate assessment. Although Ofsted does not support whole-curricula integration of citizenship this approach may effectively engage students by exemplifying citizenship’s significance and cross-curricular relevance. Citizenship can be taught through English literature, ethics in science, examination of history’s ‘meta-narratives’, social commentary in art, and discussion of how ICT use is governed by societal values. Systematic, explicit teaching might be appropriate for informing children about citizenship topics such as the justice system, but generally, informal integration of citizenship which does not seek to manipulate values will effectively promote respect for cultural difference.
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
A qualitative study using project-based learning in a mainstream middle school
Volume 10 Number 2, July 2007; Pages 150–161
Mainstream public schools in the US are failing to engage students, resulting in a current drop-out rate of 30% by the end of secondary school. Significantly, 88% of these early leavers have passing grades, and 50% leave out of 'boredom'. Aiming to address this issue, the present study evaluates the feasibility of Project-Based Learning (PBL) as a means to engage students in their education. PBL is advanced as a way to engage students because it provides meaningful learning experiences, promotes active learning, is relevant to the real world, allows children to work autonomously, increases communication skills, and motivates learners. However, research literature notes that although PBL requires ‘less teacher talk’, it requires considerably greater preparation time, as teachers are required to develop research questions which will stimulate student interest and inquiry. Through observation and data collection, researchers aimed to assess teachers’ acceptance of PBL as a model, and therefore its legitimacy as a strategy to engage students. The study involved 35 teachers at Dakota Meadows Middle School, Minnesota, who completed a knowledge-assessment survey, a one-day professional learning program, group discussions, and a follow-up survey of practices six months after training. Although the initial survey indicated that teachers were largely unfamiliar with PBL, the interest teachers showed at the presentation day together with positive post-training survey responses indicated teachers' acceptance of and interest in PBL. Interviews with seven teachers yielded similarly positive responses. Six months after the training, six of the seven teachers were using PBL models in their classrooms at least twice a week, and four of the seven reported that they used PBL models 90% of the time. The report concluded that PBL was highly effective at engaging students, and that this engagement was what motivated all teachers in the study to use PBL at least occasionally. However, results also show that students’ engagement with PBL was unequal, and that teachers are apprehensive about loosening their control of classes. The report also acknowledged that the 'No Child Left Behind' legislation’s emphasis on test scores was likely to discourage use of a model which prioritises problem-solving skills over standardised testing achievement.
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
Retention rates in schools
Project based learning
Inquiry based learning
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