'Could you just tell us the story?' Pedagogical approaches to introducing narrative in history classes
Volume 37 Number 3, September 2007; Pages 263–277
Narrative in history classes should not be dismissed as a lower level skill. It can provide a sophisticated overview ‘of the sequence and significance of sweeps of history or key episodes’. A recent study in England investigated history teachers’ use of narrative for students aged 11–14 in five schools with reputations for excellent history teaching. The five departmental heads were interviewed, twenty lessons were observed and records were collected from discussions among history teachers in the area. School Five, a selective school, stood in the ‘academic’ tradition, emphasising ‘canonical’ content in depth to students through substantial introductory narratives from the teacher, enriched by question and answer sessions throughout classes. The other four schools emphasised a mix of ‘pedagogic or developmental’ approaches, stressing learners’ engagement and vocational approaches aimed at developing future job skills. Only one of these schools used teacher narratives as an ‘entry point’ to engage students. Interviewees pointed to the danger that teacher narratives would lead to uncritical repetition of content by students. Schools One to Four were generally successful in terms of student engagement, development of general literacy skills and classroom management, but ‘ran the danger (in many, but not all, lessons) of curtailing the development of detailed historical narratives’ by the students, especially as content was covered at a fast pace. In a lesson using sort cards ‘teachers took the line that all responses were valid’ if well argued, ‘even in instances where some responses were clearly more accurate than others’. Such an approach risks trivialising content and encouraging superficiality ‘consonant with post-modern perspectives’. Students’ limited access to historical information in the lesson meant that their answers ‘often had less to do with history and more to do with an assumed common sense deriving from the literacy cues on the cards’. In another class students were seen to prioritise web-based sources over a more substantial printed source, jump between websites rather than integrating material into a coherent narrative, and engage in significant off-task activities on the Internet. Teachers at these schools generally overlooked the potential of narrative as a scaffolding tool. It is important to find approaches that engage students while also promoting skills in developing academically rich historical narrative. The topic is discussed in relation to the Key Stage 3 Strategy in England.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Teaching and learning
Principals as teachers
Volume 32 Number 2, September 2007; Pages 38–45
A classroom teaching role allows principals to get to know students, to act as a role model for teaching staff, and to maintain first hand experience of the frustrations and achievements of teaching. However, the time commitments of school leadership can eat into classroom teaching time, disrupting lessons when heads are away from school at meetings, and diminishing preparation time. In this article, primary and secondary principals discuss how to balance these demands. Mike Clapper, Principal of Gippsland Grammar School in Victoria, notes that his classroom teaching role allows him to meet with some students more regularly, but also finds that he therefore knows other students less well, and he has less time to observe other teachers, or prepare for departmental meetings. Jenny Williams, Head of All Saints’ College in New South Wales, overcomes the challenges of missed and disrupted classes by rotating teachers in the timetable. Other principals find that they can adapt their role as principal to afford greater contact with students without taking on a teaching role. Dr Leoni Degenhardt, Principal of Loreto Normanhurst in Sydney, meets with small groups of Year 12 students for morning tea to ‘chat together about life in general and their hopes and dreams’ and discuss their views of school improvement. Degenhardt also attends various school camps, schedules regular meetings with school captains and the deputy principal, and attends heads of department meetings. Paul Browning, principal of Burgman Anglican School in the ACT, emphasises the importance of participating in school duties such as ‘car park duty’, as they offer opportunities to speak with students and parents. Norm Hunter of Hillbrook Anglican School in Brisbane contends that, in order to establish credibility among staff, principals must be familiar with educational research and work as ‘gate keepers’, preventing inappropriate educational agendas from taking hold. In order to support pedagogical improvement, Hunter recommends that principals ensure that teaching and learning are the focal points of staff meetings, take the lead on professional development, become involved in decision making at a system level, and visit lessons where they can be genuinely helpful.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Teaching and learning
Job satisfaction and occupational stress in Catholic primary schools: implications for school leadership
Volume 13 Number 1, 2007; Pages 31–48
The relationship between job satisfaction and occupational stress in New South Wales Catholic schools was investigated as part of a larger study. Three hundred and fifty-six staff members from 52 primary schools were surveyed about their ‘satisfiers’ and ‘dissatisfiers’ at work, including factors such as recognition for one’s work, personal growth and advancement, pay, relationships with colleagues and job security. Measures of job satisfaction were compared to teachers’ self-reported experiences of antecedents of occupational stress including being overwhelmed by work, being uncertain about their role, lacking influence over the work environment, lacking support from the principal and perceiving the school climate and culture to be inadequate. One antecedent of occupational stress, teachers’ relationship with the principal, was found to be significantly predictive of teachers’ job satisfaction. Teachers who perceived a lack of support and supervision from school leaders, or did not feel appreciated by their principal, were significantly more likely to report dissatisfaction with the school climate, colleagues, the work itself, their level of responsibility and the level of variety in their work. The degree of communication and information sharing operating in schools was also significantly predictive of teachers’ job satisfaction. School leaders can promote higher job satisfaction in their schools by making themselves available to teachers when help is required and by building supportive, friendly climates in which constructive feedback is regularly provided. School leaders need to show their concern for teachers’ wellbeing, recognise and appreciate good work and ensure opportunities exist for staff to share dialogue. Principals can encourage such dialogue through staff afternoon teas and other social functions, and by providing time during staff development days for grade-group or department dialogue. Principals should support innovation and allow staff members greater control over decisions they make in their work. Greater support from principals can genuinely improve teachers’ job satisfaction.
Subject HeadingsTeachers' employment
The challenge of educational disadvantage: taking action through language
Volume 15 Number 3, October 2007; Pages 71–77
Many of Queensland’s government schools serve communities with low socioeconomic status and high numbers of students from non-English speaking backgrounds. A new initiative developed by the Queensland Government has addressed these issues by providing teachers in two clusters of schools with professional development in literacy teaching. The schools, one secondary and two primary, are situated in low to middle income communities in which 30.8 per cent of residents were born overseas and 7.4 per cent were identified as Indigenous. Students in the schools score significantly below average on state testing, often due to gaps in their learning as a result of transient lifestyles. Teachers from each school, including representatives from the Polynesian and Vietnamese communities, were trained in the Functional Grammar method over nine 3-hour sessions. Participants learned the Functional Grammar meta-language, which allows students and teachers to discuss grammar with a common vocabulary and in reference to formulaic grammatical rules. Teachers are taught a simple method for demonstrating how language patterns work, using colour and simple terminology to clarify previously vague concepts for students. Students, particularly those from ESL backgrounds, are often enthusiastic about learning patterns and formulae which can help them to understand the intricacies of language. The Functional Grammar project also provides a framework for improving literacy outcomes in schools, and provides teachers with a valuable opportunity for collaboration across the cluster. The course is time intensive, with teachers expected to complete course readings between module activities, trial lessons during the week and share their experiences with others at meetings. Without sufficient support from administrators and colleagues, some staff resort to older, easier methods; however, teachers who have worked collaboratively on functional grammar activities and strategies have shown great enthusiasm. Although quantitative results cannot yet be drawn from the project, anecdotal reports from teachers and students are very positive.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsSocially disadvantaged
English as an additional language
Leading learning and leading teachers: challenges for schools in the 21st century
Volume 13 Number 1, 2007; Pages 1–15
System-led education reforms in New Zealand and England have promoted the concept of a middle level leadership in schools. This concept associates such leadership with senior roles and responsibilities for curriculum or subject areas, or pastoral care, or, in the case of primary schools, with year levels. It links leadership to activities such as skills development, team management and teacher appraisal. Within this conception, leadership ‘remains structural, even if it is overlain with people-oriented language such as vision and mission’, or ‘leadership for learning’. In recent years the concept of school leadership has shifted to acknowledge the complexity, variety and overlap of such roles, and also the fact that these roles are shared across the school. However, this concept of leadership is still seen in organisational terms and is often accompanied by a conception of students as passive recipients of teaching. The links between school leadership and student learning have been explored in a study of two primary and two secondary schools in England and New Zealand, selected for their stress on ‘teacher leadership, innovation and student achievement’, and their reputation for encouraging students to take responsibility for their learning. Researchers interviewed 82 teaching professionals and 14 students across the schools. The students clearly indicated that their learning was enhanced when teachers knew and respected their students; connected the learning process with students’ experiences in a ‘purposeful, relevant and fun’ manner; gave constructive feedback; and actively involved students in decisions about learning and assessment. The teachers spoke of involving students in decision making but tended to see this involvement in terms of their own skills at eliciting student contributions. A process of rethinking is required in school education to allow more substantial input from students into their own learning. In this regard, ‘perhaps the focus upon leadership is itself the biggest barrier to learner and learning progress’. Rather than shift the location down the hierarchy from senior staff to teacher to student, it may be more helpful to dispense with the focus on hierarchy.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
How to talk so teachers listen
September 2007; Pages 30–34
Teachers can often perceive the work of school improvement as corrective and may feel that teacher leaders and instructional specialists are threatening their established ways of operating. In order to communicate effectively with teachers, teacher leaders must first provide a psychologically safe environment in which receptivity to new ideas is increased and connections are forged between present practice and new initiatives. Conversations should be focused not on current teaching practices, but on factors producing positive results as well as performance gaps. Teachers and leaders should allocate sufficient time to defining and analysing problems, as novel approaches to a problem can yield new and effective solutions. Teachers with different levels of experience, emotional readiness, and skill require different types of support. Teacher leaders and instructional specialists should therefore adopt different ‘stances’, or demeanours, during supportive interactions depending on these factors. In the coaching stance, teachers generate their own solutions to pedagogical issues they identify, and are scaffolded in this by the instructional specialist, who inquires and probes so as to broaden perspectives, increase awareness and clarify issues. This stance should be the default in instructional support; however, it assumes that the teacher possesses the resources with which to generate instructional ideas. Teachers without the means to do so should be provided with information, through a more collaborative or consultative interaction. In the collaborative stance, the specialist and teacher develop ideas and analyse situations in tandem. Instructional specialists can encourage teachers to contribute ideas to the collaboration with inclusive pronouns such as ‘us’ ‘our’ and ‘we’. The collaborative stance signals respect and the expectation of a collegial relationship. Specialists in this stance must be careful not to override the collaborative intention by being overly enthusiastic about an approach or insisting about one ‘right’ way to do things. In the consulting stance, the instructional specialist supplies information, identifies and analyses gaps, suggests a range of solutions, and enunciates thought processes leading to these. Specialists should be careful not to overuse consultation, which can build dependency rather than capacity.
Subject HeadingsConsultants, educational
Space and place: learning environments for the ne(x)t generation
October 2007; Pages 4–7
The design of schools is believed to exert a significant effect on students, and this belief has influenced policy in some jurisdictions. For example, the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)’s most recent capital works project requires educational planners to develop instruments to measure the quality of their school designs. However, designing learning environments to support inquiry-driven, collaborative and individualised learning has offered school designers and planners significant challenges. One issue has been the development of a common vocabulary, or ‘spatial literacy’ among the education community, so that administrators, leaders, teachers, students and design experts can collaborate in design tasks linking pedagogy and space. This collaboration requires significant effort but enables educators to inform design teams about how the space will function in their specific school context. In return, educators and other members of the school community gain awareness of the pedagogical philosophies driving the architecture of their learning environment. The immersion of technology in schools initially challenged educational planners to adapt designs to new considerations, for example the placement of computer labs and provision of fixed equipment such as printers and projectors. However, these challenges have largely been overcome by the spread of portable, wireless technologies. Modern pedagogies offer school planners other significant challenges. The DEECD frameworks for 21st century learning emphasise inquiry, project-based learning and personalised learning, and these principles require increasingly flexible spaces. Recent research indicates that such pedagogical approaches require an increase in space allowance for learning environments of roughly 30 per cent. The principle of differentiated instruction also implies that learning environments should be age-appropriate, with spaces reflecting an emphasis on ‘belonging and sharing’ in earlier stages and ‘exploring and retreating’ in later stages. Schools which fail to adapt their educational environments to suit current trends in pedagogy could be wasting up to 50 per cent of their built assets.
Subject HeadingsSchool grounds
Schools: places apart?
October 2007; Pages 10–15
Since the 1960s, increasing emphasis on school space standards and child safety have ensured that Australian schools have been built on suburban fringes, isolated from other services and facilities, and surrounded by parking or vegetation buffers or high walls. This isolation contradicts current approaches to education, which aspire to stronger community integration for schools. The Report from the National Summit on School Design in the USA stresses that successful schools often have great support from and involvement with their community, and that there are significant benefits to be realised by partnering with local cultural organisations such as museums and libraries. The report mentions examples of schools which provide facilities to their communities such as recreational centres, resource centres and performing arts spaces. In Australia, recent shifts away from ‘zoned’ planning policies towards the creation of mixed use environments are promising for school integration. Growing concern about children’s sedentary behaviour, rising fuel prices and environmental concerns are contributing to the renewal of ‘urban villages’ where people can live, work and attend school within walking distance. An associated trend, the ‘city of learning’ principle, identifies schools as potential catalysts for urban regeneration and community establishment. This philosophy inspired the design of North Lakes State College, which is situated within the centre of a library and resource centre, a skill development and training centre, training institutes and industry, and a leisure centre including an indoor sports hall and lap pool. The design of the precinct allows the school and community access to outstanding facilities by coordinating school projects with broader urban redevelopment aspirations. Regardless of concerns about busy roads, space for playing and school expansion, schools may have to adapt to smaller spaces and more urbanised, populous settings, as urban planners attempt to control urban sprawl. Schools will need to develop clever solutions to limited space and increasing demands from their external environments. The construction of higher walls around schools will not resolve these issues.
Subject HeadingsSchool buildings
School and community
Bullying: what do teachers think should be done?
Volume 6 Number 4, 17 October 2007; Pages 4–8
Research shows that Australian teachers are relatively well informed about the prevalence of bullying among boys and girls of all ages and what should be said in classrooms to help prevent bullying. However, many teachers are unsure of what specific actions should be taken when instances of bullying are discovered. On average, anti-bullying policies only succeed in reducing bullying by about 15% directly after implementation, and many affect no change whatsoever. During a recent international study, 72 teachers from Australia and other teachers from Canada, Finland, Norway and the USA answered an online survey which asked them to respond to a hypothetical bullying situation in which a 12-year-old-student was being teased by a more powerful student who had successfully persuaded others to avoid the victim as much as possible. Ninety-five per cent of Australian respondents believed that they would not ignore this case of bullying and asserted that it should be made clear to the bully that such behaviour is not tolerated by staff. About 70% supported some form of punishment, with fewer than 10% opposing it. In line with teachers' support for a 'whole school' approach to bullying, 74% were inclined to report the incident to other authorities within the school, and around 60% advocated involving parents or guardians. Seventy-five per cent supported working with the bully, using a problem-solving approach rather than a punitive one. Around 35% believed that the victim should be told to stand up to the bully but 45% opposed this action. This area requires more attention in schools as teachers are unsure of their role. Teachers' lack of certainty about how to work with victims and bullies is indicative that many would be amenable to improving their skills in such interventions, for example through professional development in implementing methods such as the 'Social Group' method, formerly the 'No Blame Approach'. Schools require more consistent dialogue about bullying, interventions and punishment.
Subject HeadingsConflict management
Lessons from networking
September 2007; Pages 48–52
The Teacher Leaders Network (TLN) is a virtual community of 300 experienced and accomplished teacher leaders in the USA. Network members join by invitation. They consider education policy in ongoing daily discussions either among themselves or with visitors interested in teachers’ perspectives. The TLN began in 2003 as a series of email conversations on topics of interest to teachers, distributed using a simple email discussion list. This low-tech method of communication has remained popular, and although the TLN continues to eschew ‘MySpace bells and whistles’ such as photos and videos, the TLN Teacher Voices blog, live conferencing platforms and wikis now supplement the email discussion lists. The TLN’s primary aim is to help accomplished teachers develop their leadership skills and provide a platform from which leaders can change teaching, learning and education policy. In partnership with the University of Connecticut, the College of William and Mary, and the IBM Transition to Teaching program, members of the TLN mentor student teachers and beginning teachers, supplementing site-based mentoring programs. The TLN mentoring discussions, addressing topics such as classroom management, preparing for a substitute and coping in negative school environments, improve teaching and model professionalism for beginning teachers. TLN members also transform learning through their discussions of issues such as the use of homework and the potential of e-learning technologies. The TLN has also helped expand teachers’ ability to engage in effective advocacy in educational policy making. TLN members are provided with various opportunities to practise leadership by writing for and presenting to important audiences, serving on state task forces, giving testimony at Congressional hearings, and presenting to distinguished research panels. These experiences, and the insights gained, are then shared in email discussion groups and online workshops. The TLN also develops in-depth policy projects, called Teacher Solutions, in which a group of network members assess and debate education policy topics together with policy analysts, community activists, and teacher union leaders and practitioners. The TLN is designed to support and augment the teacher union model of teacher advocacy.
Teacher attitudes towards preparation for inclusion: in support of a unified teacher preparation program
Volume 8 Number 1, August 2007; Pages 49–60
Policies to include children with disabilities in mainstream education are based on principles of human rights and social justice. However, while both general and special education teachers support the principle of inclusion, both groups doubt the ability of mainstream teachers to cater for the needs of children with disabilities. A study of teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion found that attitudinal differences were strongly associated with teachers’ perceived efficacy and their sense of the adequacy of pre-service preparation. While general education teachers perceived themselves as lacking the necessary knowledge and competencies to effectively implement inclusive practice, special education teachers were more positive about the practicability of inclusion. The research supports a shift from traditional teacher training models which offer general and special education teacher training as separate streams with marked differences in content and pedagogical approach. Training for inclusion, addressing classroom management strategies, adaptation of curriculum and materials, and collaboration with special education teachers should be offered within general education teacher training programs. These will effect higher levels of confidence and dissipate the anxiety associated with a lack of awareness of, and exposure to, children with disabilities. Training institutions generally see the introduction of special education content into general education programs as desirable, but research investigating the degree to which this should happen has been inconclusive. While some studies report that the incorporation of a single subject on diversity is sufficient to improve general education teachers’ attitudes, others advocate the inclusion of many more units and the incorporation of practical field experiences. Common subjects between the two streams of teacher training will help to demystify the processes of special education and promote more effective inclusion in schools.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Formative assessment: definition, elements and role in instructional practice
Volume 8 Number 1, August 2007; Pages 37–48
Assessment is formative when it yields information which teachers and students can use to modify teaching and learning. In contrast to summative assessment, which generally takes place at the conclusion of a unit of work, formative assessment is conducted during a unit so as to inform subsequent lessons. During classroom questioning, teachers often ask ‘closed’ questions to which there is only one correct response. Using formative assessment, however, teachers ask ‘rich’ questions which are more likely to reveal students’ misconceptions. Rich questions require the student to do more than remember a fact or reproduce a skill, and students build deeper understanding by investigating multiple possible correct answers. Formative feedback focuses the learner’s attention on processes rather than on personal attributes or correct responses per se. Providing comments on student work has been shown to improve students’ motivation, in comparison with providing only grades or praise. Praise for academic success improves students’ performance if focussed on student’s effort or work process, for example ‘You found a good way to do it’, rather than on the child, for example, ‘You’re a good boy/girl’. Children who receive the latter type of praise become discouraged when they are unsuccessful in subsequent tasks. Formative assessment also involves sharing assessment criteria with students, and may involve students in developing criteria. Particularly in arts and humanities subjects, enunciating the criteria for marking is essential so that students develop concepts of quality similar to that held by their teacher. Student-peer and self-assessment also serve to demystify assessment practices for students. Students participating in self-assessment become less inclined to attribute their assessment outcomes to luck, and are better able to identify the factors affecting their success or failure. Further instruction must take place following formative assessment so that students have an opportunity to respond to feedback, and this requires that lesson plans are adaptable. Teachers are unlikely to implement formative assessment in addition to summative assessment, and it is recommended that teachers design formative assessment activities from which summative assessment can later be drawn.
There are no Conferences available in this issue.