Classroom First: from rhetoric to reality
April 2008; Page 4
In Western Australia the number of non-teaching tasks required of teachers has been significantly reduced to free up more time for teaching itself. The Director General of the Western Australian Department of Education describes steps she has taken to reduce teacher workload as part of the State's Classroom First strategy. Firstly, teachers are now free to select any form of assessment and reporting that provides accurate information about students' progress. Secondly, the administrative demands related to submissions for Schools Plus funding have been halved. The third change streamlines appointment processes for principals. Principals at 'level 4, 5 and 6 schools' are now selected locally. Fourthly, routine school reviews have been reduced in scope. The fifth change is a sharp reduction in the number of documents schools must provide to exclusions panels. The changes are one step in an ongoing process of reform in the Western Australian school education system. This article is available online on the website of the Department of Education and Training, Western Australia. See also the article on the Classroom First strategy in Curriculum Leadership 23 November 2007.
Subject HeadingsWestern Australia (WA)
Flipping the field trip: bringing the art museum to the classroom
Volume 47 Number 2, April 2008; Pages 110–117
Internet resources have the potential to change art teaching at all levels of education. Museums are currently developing a wide range of online teaching resources that are freely accessible on their websites. Annotated content from museums can often now be viewed online, bringing the museum into the classroom in a way comparable to traditional field trips. These ‘virtual tours’ are important in developing students’ visual literacy, as well as their understanding and appreciation of art. Online resources that develop students’ skills in identifying art techniques and styles include the Artist’s Toolkit, which uses simple animations to introduce Grade 6–8 students to concepts such as line and negative space. The site also includes two short videotaped interviews with artists creating works of art while talking about their artistic process. Museum websites contain many teaching and learning resources, such as those found at The Peabody, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the two collections covered in ArtsConnectEd, and the Walters Museum’s ‘Integrating the Arts: Mummies, Manuscripts, and Madonnas’ project. Many of these programs are based on constructivist learning theories and locate the learner, rather than the museum object, at the centre of the learning process. Sites such as The Gateway and Curriki offer access to online educational resources in all curriculum areas, including the arts. The John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts ArtsEdge website includes lesson plans, links and a ‘How-To’ section with tips and suggestions for teachers. Sites such as Pachyderm, that allow teachers to compile, organise and share their own art exhibits from Web pictures, are becoming increasingly popular. These sites allow teachers increased freedom and flexibility in planning lessons to suit their own needs and interests. Finally, teachers are strongly encouraged to contact their local art museums to ask about the resources available.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsArts in education
Chess: making a move in schools
April 2008; Pages 40–42
Chess is currently one of the fastest-growing activities in Australian schools. The number of participants in the Chess Kids National Interschool Chess Championships has increased ninefold in the last five years, from 821 to over 9,000. Chess is excellent for use in schools, as the rules are simple enough to be understood by children as young as four or five. Research has shown that chess confers many educational benefits, including developing problem-solving ability, abstract analytical skill, spatial ability, memory and concentration. An Australian program known as Chess-Squared has been developed in
Subject HeadingsClassroom activities
Self-reliance in children
Volume 43 Number 2, 2008; Pages 107–118
Research into effective classroom literacy teachers has been significantly influenced by educational psychologist Michael Pressley. His research, beginning in the late 1960s and continuing until his recent death, was informed by a constant effort to seek out and document outstanding literacy teaching. Pressley’s research, which was based on thousands of hours of classroom observations, identified a number of characteristics consistently present in highly effective literacy teachers. Rather than joining the ‘great debate’ between skills instruction and whole-language approaches, he observed that excellent teachers used a combination of these approaches. Such teachers created a classroom environment based around books and favoured authentic reading experiences. They spent a large proportion of class time on learning skills and strategies related to reading. The tasks they set required considerable thought and planning, and students were engaged in a range of different types of writing throughout the school day. Teachers carefully monitored students’ progress, as well as their skill level and their use of particular strategies for improving comprehension. Feedback was targeted at individual development rather than being comparative. Teachers held high, individually appropriate expectations for each student and assisted students in working to achieve these goals. Outstanding teachers also constantly used a variety of motivational strategies to keep students engaged. This was so prominent a feature that Pressley and colleagues published a book on the topic. He found that whole schools that consistently showed exceptional performance in literacy, regardless of area or socioeconomic background, were characterised by strong leadership that was ‘distributed but unified’. School leaders had an impressive knowledge of research, particularly current research dealing with motivation and literacy, and were familiar with the curriculum being taught in their classrooms. Portfolios of a student’s work were commonly passed from teacher to teacher as the student progressed. Professional development opportunities were available and valued. This was especially important, given Pressley’s general finding that less effective teachers were more confident of their skills and saw less need for professional development. Exceptional literacy teachers ‘are not born but rather improve over time’, through being open to opportunities for change and growth.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Teaching and learning
More than just teaching: educating Indigenous young people from remote communities
February 2008; Pages 48–51
Indigenous education in remote communities is often based around a different set of priorities than those dominating mainstream education. Aboriginal communities commonly emphasise family and relationships above academic achievement, and keeping students attending school can be a major challenge.
Subject HeadingsAboriginal students
Volume 65 Number 6, March 2008; Pages 46–49
The reluctance of many students to learn may spring from emotional wounds they have received throughout the course of their schooling. Labelling students as more or less able can lead to a vicious cycle, in which those who are judged as below average accept the label unquestioningly, are not exposed to advanced content and progressively lose their interest in learning. Students placed in lower ability groupings may self-categorise as incompetent or stupid. These labels, which are ‘deeply personal, internalised, and often hidden’, may then have repercussions that echo through entire lives, influencing subject choices, career paths and personal satisfaction. There are many ways of unintentionally wounding students at school. 'Wounds of creativity' may occur when unusual ways of thinking are not honoured or appreciated. Underestimating students can also do significant damage, and 'wounds of perfectionism' may make students reluctant to take risks in their learning because they are too focused on external motivation. To help students heal, teachers must first acknowledge the wounds they may be carrying. This may involve one-to-one conversations with learners to uncover hidden beliefs that underlie their reluctance to learn. Listening is crucial, as is providing space for students to reflect on their own feelings and self-definitions. Teachers must also become aware of the ways in which labels are used in their school environment to classify and judge students. Often simply beginning to notice these labels can prompt a deeper understanding of their pervasiveness and how they may lock students into particular patterns of behaviour. Students should also be reminded that success at school requires persistence, self-discipline and ambition, and that personal effort is powerfully linked to school success. Encouraging students to question authority about judgements of their own abilities is another positive measure. Attending professional development courses on common neurodevelopmental problems is also very helpful in understanding the difficulties students may have in engaging with class material. Finally, it is important to pay attention to day-to-day interactions with students. Classroom language use is extremely influential in shaping identities, and a conscious and sensitive use of language may shape attitudes to learning far into the future.
Subject HeadingsAbility grouping in education
28 April 2008; Pages 5–6
In one of an increasing number of violent incidents involving parents in
Subject HeadingsParent and teacher
Volume 65 Number 6, March 2008; Pages 62–66
The question of ‘reluctant learners’ can be re-posed to refer to ‘reluctant teachers’, those who struggle to stay motivated and to connect their students to the classroom. Motivation is important for teachers as well as students. It can be cultivated through supportive networks, professional development experiences, and by valuing the occasional expressions of gratitude and appreciation from students, parents and colleagues. Motivated teachers make a continuous effort to engage their students. This can be done through increasing their cultural competence and empathy with students from different backgrounds, as well as through understanding what students’ daily lives are like outside the classroom. The vast majority of teachers care about their students, but that caring is not always felt. Teachers can endeavour to give their students individual attention every day to make sure they feel valued and connected. Connecting to students’ families is also very important. Connecting to the communities students live in is essential, perhaps through community service projects that have students identify and tackle problems in their neighbourhood. Using students’ input for lesson material is also highly beneficial. Motivated teachers make an effort to master effective classroom management strategies, such as clear transitions between parts of a lesson or having a concrete outcome due at the end of the class. Well-motivated teachers create time for honest self-reflection and are willing to change. They seek professional development and mentoring opportunities and identify areas in which they need to improve. The reluctant learner ‘creates a thin veneer of resistance to cover his or her yearning’, which is penetrable only by teachers who are not themselves reluctant.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
The advantages and disadvantages of using ICT as a mediating artefact in classrooms compared to alternative tools
Volume 13 Number 6, December 2007; Pages 587–599
A range of conditions must be met before ICT can be used effectively to enhance student learning. A researcher in Norway collected data on this topic from two Year 8 and one Year 10 classes based at different schools. Evidence was gathered from classroom observations; taped interviews with the classroom teachers, other teachers in their team and the principal of each school; and documents, including the syllabuses used by each teacher, and each school’s activity plan. The teachers and students also gave written responses to open-ended questions about the use of ICT in the classroom. The study confirmed the need for regular maintenance of equipment, computer literate teachers and hardware and software suitable for student learning. Complex Web interfaces may confuse students and distract them from the topics under study, so it is important that teachers know how to demonstrate efficient Web search strategies. It is also important for students to learn when alternative sources of information are more useful than the Internet. The placement of equipment needs to be decided. Distributing computers throughout students’ work area can assist integration of ICT in general learning, but some teachers consider it useful to have computers grouped together to facilitate ICT-related work.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Teaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Bridging the gap: recognition for prior learning
Volume 7 Number 1, April 2008; Pages 28–29
Subject HeadingsVocational education and training
Transitions in schooling
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