Breaking the logjam on teacher 'value added'
Volume 27 Number 42, 16 June 2008
The concept of ‘value added’ by teachers refers to their distinct contribution to student learning. There is growing interest in using a teacher’s value added as a basis for their pay or tenure, rather than using credentials such as experience, academic achievement or levels of certification. However, there is debate about the extent to which the value added by teachers can truly be identified and separated from contextual factors. Reflecting these concerns, the New York State legislature this year banned the use of student test scores as a basis for deciding individual teachers’ tenure. The article covers reports from a number of research studies on this issue at a recent conference in the USA. Some researchers supported the possibility of identifying value added. One study found that when teachers were randomly assigned to students the amount of value they added to student test scores was matched closely to the amount assigned to them from their teaching prior to the study. Another study found that teacher value added is reasonably consistent across different types of students taught. A third study found that scores for teachers’ value added were positively though modestly linked to principals’ assessments of the teachers. However, other researchers challenge the measureability of value added. For example, they query the assumption that a one-point increase in a student test score is of identical value for high and low achievers. They also note that measures of teachers’ value added often identify variations in a teacher’s performance from year to year that are higher than is likely in reality. They further suggest that different test scaling methods produce sharply differing scores of value added. Another problem is that individual value added can only be attributed to teachers when they have taught over several years in tested grades and subjects. An alternative approach is to calculate value added at the school level, which may create pressure for teachers who perform relatively poorly to improve to the levels of the school’s best teachers. Governments should fund further trials investigating ways to measure teacher value added. See also news item April 2008 from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research, summarising the author's own research findings.
Subject HeadingsTeacher evaluation
Teaching and learning
Is the crisis in science education continuing? Current senior secondary science enrolment and tertiary entrance trends in Western Australia
Volume 54 Number 1, June 2008; Pages 41–46
The 2007 report Re-Imagining Science Education argued that Australian science education is in crisis. The report cited a decline in post-compulsory science enrolments, increasingly negative student attitudes towards science, and a lack of qualified professionals in both industry and teaching. Most student participation data in the report was drawn from the 1990s. The current article updates this information with data from 2002 to 2007 on senior science enrolments in
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Senior secondary education
Western Australia (WA)
Winter 2008; Pages 110–119
Students’ beliefs about intelligence impact powerfully on their learning, motivation and school achievement. There are two main mindsets in relation to intelligence. Within a fixed mindset intelligence is seen as predetermined and stable, while a growth mindset involves the belief that intelligence can be enhanced through education and hard work. A
Psychology of learning
Volume 39 Number 1, 2008; Pages 9–32
Substantial research has addressed the effects of mathematics curriculum reform on achievement and student attitudes. In the
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Transitions in schooling
A comparison of performance and attitudes in mathematics amongst the 'gifted'. Are boys better at mathematics or do they just think they are?
Volume 15 Number 1, March 2008; Pages 19–38
A number of large-scale studies have reported gender differences in mathematics performance, with boys tending to outperform girls on average. Research suggests specifically that more girls reach the average or expected level of performance, while more boys perform at the highest levels. Across
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Research in the 1970s and 1980s suggested a distinction between ‘Chinese’ readers, who use the visual images of words to access their meaning, and ‘Phoenician’ readers, who rely on sound–letter correspondences to ‘sound out’ words. Most readers lie between the two extremes. ‘Chinese’ readers may have an advantage when it comes to irregular spellings. ‘Phoenician’ readers often learn to read competently, but may continue to spell inaccurately due to incomplete knowledge of sound–letter relationships. Both types need to learn about the various relationships between sounds and letters if they are to succeed. Many struggling readers have been told, inaccurately, that each alphabet letter ‘makes’ a different sound. Under this misapprehension written English seems illogical and impossible to work out. Readers need to understand that the same sound can be written in different ways, and that the same letter or combination of letters can be pronounced in more than one way. Children come to the classroom with considerable prior knowledge about how words sound and what they mean. Building on this knowledge, children can be taught to hear the individual sounds that make up words. They can then be taught that letters and letter combinations can be spoken. Regardless of their age, struggling readers should be taught how written English works. The author’s position on literacy teaching is informed by fourteen years’ experience teaching children who struggle with reading. Her study of thirteen Year 9 students with high literacy needs (Burt Reading Age between 7 and 10.5 years) indicates that a twice-a-week intervention program over five terms can result in substantial improvement, with some students going on to pass enough credits to achieve NCEA Level 1. The author’s approach is also effective for students who are beginning to read. An observational study of six-year-olds at a decile 4 school in
Key Learning AreasEnglish
I can do this: revelations on teaching with historical thinking
Volume 41 Number 1, November 2007; Pages 54–61
The article describes issues raised at a social studies conference in the USA. Studies over the last century repeatedly report that history students struggle to learn and retain historical knowledge. This problem can be attributed to the dominant approach to history teaching, through which students are asked to learn from textbooks, ‘hopefully sprinkling in activities that somewhat engage students in active learning’. This approach often originates from a huge curriculum that prevents in-depth exploration of content. Instead, we should call on students to construct knowledge through deep explorations of history. When applying higher-order thinking skills through this approach, students also internalise historical facts as a by-product. This approach is further enhanced by the passion and sense of excitement the teacher can bring to the study. Students should be asked for opinions about the content as a way to create a sense of ownership of it. Assessment of history is often undertaken through a ‘wearisome’ process, with rubrics used to assess procedural or completed work. It is useful to approach history assessment through some of the criteria set by M Bevir for judging professional historians: whether the student’s work has an accurate, substantial and logical fit with the evidence, and how critically the evidence has been examined. Students’ work is not as closely bound up with written output as that of professional historians, so students should be assessed not only on writing but on test completion, observation of activities and verbal or written output.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Thought and thinking
Pre-service teachers' engagement with student wellbeing
Volume 28 Number 1, 2008; Pages 21–34
Numerous research studies and reports have called for pre-service teaching programs to place greater emphasis on student wellbeing. In a recent study, ten Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) students were interviewed to gauge their developing ideas about wellbeing. The teaching students, five males and five females, were aged between early 20s and mid-40s. The interviews took place in July and November of the 2005 Graduate Diploma course. Unlike teacher preparation programs that compartmentalise wellbeing, the course wove wellbeing-related issues into the program structure. It also included a school-based orientation program one day a week for the first six weeks of the course. Initially, students had a broad idea of the meaning of ‘wellbeing’, recognising that it encompassed physical, emotional, psychological and social dimensions. However, their proposed indicators of students’ wellbeing tended to focus on negative behaviours or physical appearance. Participants also connected wellbeing to a safe and emotionally supportive school environment. In the November interview series, answers became more complex and incorporated factors such as school retention, prevention of teenage pregnancy and pre-emption of violent behaviour. The second interview round also revealed more attention to the teacher’s and school’s role in promoting wellbeing, and more concern about personal competence in dealing with these issues. Differences between schools’ approaches were noted by participants, with some having a systematic and caring process for monitoring students and some taking a less careful approach. Recognised procedures, communication between staff and contact with parents were identified as helpful wellbeing measures. Students’ engagement with the curriculum and the flow-on effect this has on wellbeing were reinforced. Participants’ comments underscored the importance of explicitly addressing the complexity of wellbeing-related issues in teacher preparation programs. Pre-service wellbeing education should be presented in a broad school context, rather than as narrowly relating to physical and psychological health. Reflective analysis to link theory and practice is also important. Another interview round was conducted six months after the students became practising teachers. Those findings will be published after data analysis has been completed.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Wellbeing: the way teachers' attitudes, values and beliefs affect children's social and emotional wellbeing
Volume 7 Number 2, June 2008; Pages 24–27
Research has commenced at three northern
Subject HeadingsMental Health
Teaching and learning
The Link Program: investigating the relevance and implications of preschool theory and practice for primary school teacher professional development
Volume 14 Number 2, 2007; Pages 95–104
A cross-sector professional development program has given primary school teachers a useful grounding in early childhood education. The Link Program was instigated by the Directorate of Education and Training in
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Early childhood education
The politics and ethics of Indigenous histories: how do historians negotiate racial and cultural sensitivities?
2008; Pages 34–37
An understanding of Aboriginal history is essential for a true and balanced understanding of Australian history. However, the ‘right to write’ Aboriginal history is often contested. 'Whitefellas' attempting to write Aboriginal histories, of which the author is one, may be seen as writing ‘the white history of Aboriginal people’. This springs largely from white accounts of Aboriginal history, many of which were poorly researched and written from a self-enhancing colonialist viewpoint. Henry Reynolds, author of The Other Side of the Frontier, is a notable exception. Historian Bain Attwood has adapted Edward Said’s term ‘Orientalism’ into ‘Aboriginalism’, referring to the deliberate political construction of particular images of Aboriginality. The best historical writing is aware of these constructions and the purposes they serve. It is also compassionate, seeking to understand others and their lives through imagination, curiosity and empathy. Finally, good historical writing does not accept prevailing discourses without critical examination: it involves both reading and writing ‘against the grain’ of the dominant discourse of the time. High-quality history writing requires receptivity to different historical voices and a deep awareness of the author, purpose and audience of each source. Historical figures are viewed as real people with basic human dignity, not as abstract collections of historical facts. All of this means that good historical writing is more dependent on training, compassion and skill than on the ethnicity or religion of the writer. The intertwined nature of white and Aboriginal Australian histories means that each forms an integral part of the other. Space must be left in the historical landscape for different perspectives to challenge, inform and converge with one another. This Enlightenment-style ‘free trade in thought’ moves us towards a shared writing of Australian history. The author’s attempts to include the voices of Victorian Aboriginal communities when researching his recent publication, Aboriginal Victorians, initially met with silence from potential participants. However, after efforts to explain the research purposes through telephone calls and personal visits, a number of communities responded. Deeper relationships and more shared and enjoyable historical work have been the result.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Volume 30, 2008; Pages 39–44
The Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP) was established in 1974 by E Paul Torrance to develop gifted students’ interest in complex global issues. Highly able students are often deeply sensitive to social and environmental problems, but may lack the resources to cope with the emotions that these problems can provoke. As many of these students will be important problem solvers in the future, they should be provided with opportunities now to explore, develop and implement positive solutions. Training these high-ability students in moral responsibility and leadership matches both society’s needs and the students' own need to develop in these areas. The current internationalisation of schooling reflects an increasing need for global connectivity in problem solving, and the FPSP is being implemented in a broad range of countries around the world. Participation in FPSP involves explicit training in a six-step problem-solving methodology, followed by its application in a hypothetical future world scenario. Recent topics have included Nanotechnology, Environmental Law, Terrorism/Security, and World Population. Practical application is the cornerstone of the program, and projects over the last few years have assisted underprivileged schools in Africa, arranged textbook translation into Farsi and resourced a school in
Inquiry based learning
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