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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Abstracts

Staffing high-needs schools: insights from the nation's best teachers

11 June 2008; Pages 766–771
Barnett Berry

Via survey, interview and study group, the USA’s Center for Teaching Quality asked 1,700 highly accomplished teachers how educators like themselves could be attracted to work in disadvantaged schools. The participants had all received certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The teachers’ first recommendation was to improve teaching and learning conditions in the target schools. This could be achieved by providing small class sizes, suitable ICT, and social service supports needed by disadvantaged students and their families. It could also be served by teacher education that covers culturally relevant pedagogy and ways to teach ESL students and those with diverse needs. Teacher education students should be required to have at least one high-quality, sustained practicum experience in a disadvantaged setting. The professional development should also be job-embedded, focused on student work, and collaborative. Mentoring and induction in these schools need to be undertaken in depth, not as a formality. Another recommendation was for education systems to recruit and develop principals and local system officials who can respect and value expert teachers and who are willing to draw on these teachers’ knowledge of their students’ academic and social needs. Accomplished teachers should be engaged to help train future principals at universities to provide curriculum support and professional learning communities in schools. Accomplished teachers should be offered a menu of incentives to teach at disadvantaged schools. These incentives should include financial rewards pitched to the needs of different groups of teachers, such as young, single graduates, experienced teachers and mature-age career switchers. Even more important, however, are non-financial incentives. Good teachers would be attracted by the promise of freedom to use their professional judgement. They would also be attracted by ‘a guarantee to work with like-minded and similarly skilled colleagues’, for example by the recruitment of whole teams of them at once. Disadvantaged schools should be helped to grow their own accomplished teachers, for example through funding to defray costs of upgrading qualifications and certification. Politicians and senior administrators should spend time with expert teachers in meetings and school settings to develop a deeper sense of the issues involved in teacher recruitment and retention at disadvantaged schools.

KLA

Subject Headings

Socially disadvantaged
Teaching profession
Teachers' employment
Teaching and learning
Professional development
United States of America (USA)

Pedagogical biases in educational technologies

May 2008; Pages 3–11
Marlene Scardamalia, Carl Bereiter

Common educational technology tends to channel students away from intellectual challenge. Web search engines track words rather than deep concepts, and retrieve miscellaneous facts. Word processing software tends to focus attention on display, even in the early stages of content creation. Presentation software, like mind maps, often reduces complex ideas to phrases and labels. In online discussion forums key ideas are likely to be buried within older postings and hierarchies of messages. Software to guide the inquiry process is often too limiting and directive: it micro-manages students’ input and hinders creative effort, which moves in unpredictable directions. Blogs on the other hand offer too little guidance. Collaborative writing software and wikis tend to facilitate only localised and small-scale revision of work. The authors are involved in the Knowledge Forum multimedia community which applies alternative software that forefronts higher-level thinking. It works with conceptual 'notes': varied units of information such as models, evidence or references. They are presented as ‘views’, groups of graphics offering flexible ways to display and share information in the notes (see for example Figure 1 in M Scardamalia 2004). To promote higher-level student dialogue, the Knowledge Forum software offers participants phrases such as ‘my theory …’ or ‘this theory does not explain …’ which scaffold their contributions. The Knowledge Forum offers ways in which concepts can be connected, synthesised, revised and adapted to new contexts. Collaborative inquiry is fostered, not just around concrete tasks but around learning goals, for example by providing ways for students to cite and link to each other's work. The Knowledge Forum attempts to offer students personal agency, not just over their classroom activities but over ideas and knowledge management. Students are given responsibility to lift the level of knowledge not only of themselves but their whole class.

KLA

Subject Headings

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Thought and thinking
Elearning
Students
Computer-based training

A study of pre-service teachers' conceptualisations of academic freedom and controversial issues

Volume 35 Number 4, Autumn 2007; Pages 520–550
Thomas Misco, Nancy C Patterson

Controversial issues may be understood as values-related, relevant and contested. In 2006 the authors surveyed and interviewed selected secondary pre-service teachers of social studies at campuses in the midwest of the USA, asking for their opinions about the nature of academic freedom and the degree to which they felt able to cover controversial issues in their future classrooms. Most respondents understood academic freedom in terms of the range of content they were free to cover. A minority also felt that academic freedom referred to their choice over how to approach such topics. They identified a range of overlapping concerns that they felt might hold them back from teaching controversial issues when they taught in schools. The barriers included school policies, the social climate at the school, school curricula, pressures resulting from high-stakes testing, concern at reactions from peers, the school community and individuals, potential impact on their jobs, their own lack of background knowledge on the issues, and students’ limited abilities to grasp complex topics. They felt relatively comfortable discussing political and racial conflict but less comfortable with controversies over sexuality or religion. Many felt historical and public controversies were more easily covered than topical issues or ones likely to become personalised. Prominent reasons for teaching controversial issues included the need to prepare students for future civic participation and as a means to improve their skills in critical thinking. Education courses for pre-service secondary teachers of social sciences should prepare these students in a number of ways for covering controversial topics. Courses should highlight the civic benefits, the ways in which these issues can be covered within required areas of the curriculum, and how to deal with the content of prominent social controversies.

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

Conflict management
Teacher training
Secondary education
Teaching and learning
Social life and customs
School and community
United States of America (USA)

Best practice or better practice: challenging the paradigm of teacher professional development

Volume 30 Number 2; Pages 19–24
Peter Hayes, Peter Noonan

The endless quest for ‘best practice’ in education can ultimately be exhausting, frustrating and discouraging for teachers. The authors, who are leader in the Raising Achievement In Schools (RAISe) initiative featured in the current edition of Curriculum Leadership, suggest that when every new program or resource is marketed as  best  practice teachers often feel intense pressure to keep up. However, the promise of best practice is ‘an ever-changing illusion’ – old, outmoded practices tend to emerge repackaged as new and innovative. Instead of viewing each new program as a complete overhaul of previous knowledge, searching for ‘better practice’ allows teachers to build on their personal knowledge and expertise. Professional improvement does not occur instantaneously; rather it requires prolonged effort and investment over an extended time period. Regular practical learning times must also be provided for teachers, allowing them to implement the knowledge and skills they have learnt. Without this time allotment many teachers may lapse back into familiar but less effective strategies. Collegial support is essential to counter the professional isolation felt by many teachers, so RAISe schools appoint a Teacher-Learning Coordinator and take part in a variety of professional learning activities on-site. School leaders are encouraged to share the load and to take part in RAISe leadership skill development workshops. The most effective teacher professional development is student-focused, and action learning activities arising from real-life classroom issues help to focus attention fully on students’ learning. Instead of chasing the moving target of best practice, ‘better practice’ involves progressing forward, seeking challenges and unswerving dedication to the best outcomes for students.

KLA

Subject Headings

Professional development

We do make a difference: shared moral purpose and shared leadership in the pursuit of learning

Volume 14 Number 1,  2008; Pages 38–59
Michael Bezzina

Authentic learning is learning that transforms learners’ understanding of themselves and the world. This process requires the academic curriculum to connect to learners’ personal search for meaning in their lives. The connection to deep personal purposes gives authentic learning a fundamentally moral character. It also gives authentic learning a deeply relational character, since learning is also about ‘giving one’s unique humanity to others and to the community’ and involves students in establishing ways in which they can contribute to the community. Authentic learning and shared leadership in schools are connected by ‘their collective nature and their fundamentally ethical basis’. Researchers at the Australian Catholic University have explored the connection between shared moral purpose and shared leadership in the pilot program 'Leaders Transforming Learning and Learners' (LTLL). The pilot involved 33 teachers at four secondary and five primary Catholic schools in New South Wales. The schools were spread across four Catholic education systems, two in regional cities and two in Sydney. Participants developed a conceptual framework covering values, learning and leadership. They then identified needs in these areas at their schools, and developed plans to address them. This work was integrated into the LTLL framework. The program involved six plenary sessions over 18 months. Between meetings participants communicated online with each other and with university and Catholic sector staff. The pilot supported the importance of moral purpose in guiding leadership and student learning. It developed proposals by which moral purpose can be made explicit through the elaboration of a conceptual framework and vocabulary. The pilot also affirmed the role of shared leadership in authentic learning, describing how individual initiative can lead in collective action within the context of shared values.

KLA

Subject Headings

Catholic schools
New South Wales (NSW)
Ethics
School leadership
Educational planning
Teaching and learning
School culture

Classroom behaviour: a developmental management approach

June 2008; Pages 24–30
Ramon Lewis

This edited extract from The Developmental Management Approach to Managing Classroom Behaviour outlines lessons learnt from 20 years of working with teacher groups, developing strategies to help their students behave more responsibly in the classroom. Many teachers believe that managing student behaviour is becoming increasingly difficult. Students and their parents are increasingly challenging the disciplinary decisions made by teachers and principals. When school leaders and teachers are ignored or openly confronted, power often shifts from the teacher to the student involved. Many misbehaving students are more adept at reading body language and non-verbal cues than at comprehending complex sentences. This means that verbal reprimands from teachers that are accompanied by unconvincing or contradictory body language can serve as invitations to continue a confrontation. There is wide variation between schools about what constitutes misbehaviour, ranging from girls at a non-government school saying ‘No, I don’t want to!’ to serious vandalism and aggression. In Australia, many students challenge teachers by ignoring them rather than through open confrontation. Often experienced teachers become more stressed by student disobedience than younger teachers because the success of their behaviour management techniques relates strongly to their sense of competence as a teacher. Increasing emphasis on student rights has made some teachers feel pressured to adopt a more democratic teaching style without being convinced of its benefits. ‘Post-guru syndrome’ is common when the underlying theory is not explained by a visiting management expert who is brought in, effects substantial change and then leaves, with teachers then implementing the approach less and less consistently. Most teachers are attracted by practical techniques for behaviour management; however, without a theoretical grounding and opportunities for reflection and honest conceptual change, their behavioural changes will be temporary. Every interaction is a learning experience for students about how people behave and should be acknowledged as such by teachers. While the stress caused by behaviour management is a problem, the Australian popular press tends to over-sensationalise the issue. Stress caused by other factors, such as workload, may also lead to a teacher perceiving ordinary student behaviour more negatively.

KLA

Subject Headings

Behaviour management
Australia

Bridging musical understanding through multicultural musics

May 2008; Pages 50–55
Deborah V. Blair, Shinko Kondo

The use of music from a variety of cultural backgrounds can considerably enhance school music education. The new musical ideas that ‘multicultural musics’ introduce help students to learn about musicianship in general, different people around the world, and the commonalities and differences between the music of different groups. However, it can be difficult for educators to know how much of the authentic cultural context they should include in their teaching. It is important to provide authentic context, but new material should also be presented in a way that allows students to draw on their own prior musical experience. The teacher’s role is to help students connect the new sounds to their pre-existing musical knowledge. Many teachers, wishing to respect the culture that has produced the music, attempt to teach it as it would be taught in an authentic context. However, precisely replicating the authentic context is difficult, since children in the home culture have often been surrounded by this type of music since birth. While the cognitive capacities that underlie music are thought to be universal across cultures, these innate capacities are manifested in diverse ways around the world. Children who have learned the concepts of melody, rhythm, texture and form can use them to examine and compare the organising principles behind different types of music. As teachers and children explore new music the interpretative nature of musical experience is often revealed. For example, American children listening to the Japanese song Sakura often think it is sad or scary, while in Japan the song is seen as joyful, peaceful and beautiful. Thoughtful use of multicultural music in the classroom expands students’ cultural understanding, while also acting as a mirror for them to examine their own background and experiences.

Key Learning Areas

The Arts

Subject Headings

Music
Multicultural education

Vexed about sex

14 July 2008; Pages 6–7
Denise Ryan

The sexual attitudes and behaviour of senior secondary students in Australia is the subject of ongoing research by the ARCSHS centre at La Trobe University. In 2002 the ARCSHS reported on a survey of 2,388 students in Year 10 or Year 12 across the three education sectors. They found that the number of sexually active young people is increasing, and a significant number do not practise safe sex. Over 25 per cent reported having unwanted sex, often due to drunkenness or pressure from a partner. Unsafe sex by young people is on many occasions linked to males’ expectation that females will take all responsibility for it, and to females’ undue levels of trust that their current relationships are monogamous and long-term. Homophobia is widespread and very damaging, as victims face a long-term stigma and often do not wish to report this form of bullying to parents. Current school practices frequently do not meet students’ needs. Sex education is often a one-off lesson without follow-up. The important social aspects of the issue are frequently under-emphasised. Visiting nurses tend to focus on medical issues while physical education teachers tend to focus on anatomy and physiology. Same-sex students ‘are consistently portrayed negatively’ in sex education courses. The preventative focus of sex education means that topics such as the nature of female physical excitation tend to be avoided, even in programs recommended by experts. In general, schools and individual teachers are wary of a backlash from parents and sometimes from ethnically diverse school communities. Experts recommend that sex education should start early in schools, with particular emphasis on how to build mutually respectful and rewarding personal relationships. Boys need to learn that it is unacceptable to impose demands on girls, and girls need to learn to assert their rights. Parents need to be engaged in the processes, for example through information nights. The article covers a range of websites and books for teenagers and parents and professional development options for schools.

KLA

Subject Headings

Sex education
Adolescents
School and community
Social life and customs
Homosexuality
Gay and lesbian issues
Victoria

Exploring pre-service teachers' understanding of statistical variation: implications for teaching and research

Volume 21 Number 2,  2007; Pages 31–42
Sashi Sharma

Teachers’ ability to understand and verbally express statistical reasoning is important, as these concepts appear increasingly in mathematics curricula at every level. Variation is a foundational concept in statistics, but is often viewed by teachers as ‘cumbersome’ and difficult. A preliminary study of pre-service teachers’ conceptions of statistical variation has found that many teaching students do not demonstrate sufficient understanding of variation. Twenty-four pre-service teachers answered a two-item written questionnaire, which asked them to make judgements about likely outcomes based on an understanding of statistical variation and sample size. One item, for example, asked whether the probability of recording 80 per cent or more female births in one day was greater at a small hospital (with fewer births overall) or at a large hospital. Responses were allocated to the categories ‘statistical’, ‘partial-statistical’, and ‘non-statistical’, based on the understanding demonstrated in their responses. ‘Statistical’ answers gave appropriate estimates of variation and were clearly explained; ‘partial-statistical’ answers either failed to consider variation or were based on common but incorrect intuitions about probability; and ‘non-statistical’ answers were incorrect and poorly explained. Most participants’ responses fell into the ‘partial-statistical’ category, with only two able to give fully reasoned ‘statistical’ answers to both questionnaire items. Results suggest that pre-service teachers’ concepts of variability ‘are not significantly more sophisticated than those of younger students’. The findings suggest that more attention should be paid to statistical variation in high school mathematics curricula, and in teacher preparation programs. Pre-service teachers must also be taught to express what they know in precise mathematical language. Discussions about the characteristics of a good teacher explanation would also be valuable additions to preparation programs.

Key Learning Areas

Mathematics

Subject Headings

Statistics
Mathematics
Teacher training
Mathematics teaching

Local knowledge and digital movie composing

Volume 51 Number 6, March 2008; Pages 464–473
Jory J Brass

Poorly performing students may have ‘out-of-school literacies’, skills and knowledge developed through personal interests. Such literacies are often undervalued in schools, but teachers can draw on them to promote these students’ academic engagement and achievement. The Technology and Literacy Project (TALP), involving academics and graduate students at Michigan State University, explored the use of these literacies in school settings. For two seasons in 2003, a TALP facilitator worked with three high school students on a film-making project. The student central to the project, ‘Horatio’, had been identified as at risk of school failure, but displayed a well-developed literate life around hip hop music, collecting magazines and recording and disseminating music electronically. The three students created a digital film about hip hop and adolescence, observed and supported by the TALP facilitator. The group meet weekly for two-hour meetings over ten weeks. The students became familiar with digital video recorders, laptops and some relevant software. The students produced a creative short film that described the social meaning of hip hop ‘gear’ in terms of social capital and social hierarchy. The students drew on particular genres of peer talk, hip hop music and images of commercial products reframed to suit the film’s purposes. Calling on these resources involved the students in repeated transgressions of standard classroom protocols, sometimes producing a cynical reaction from their classroom teacher but broadly supported by the TALP facilitator. Rather than conventional brainstorming on paper, they used the kind of peer talk typically discouraged in class to set initial directions for content, focus and social analysis of their film. They filmed images of corporate brands outside the school premises, and incorporated audio and visual texts normally excluded from school. The success of the project supports the idea of a ‘permeable curriculum’ in which students’ out-of-school experiences can not only inform school work but move outwards to generate new perspectives within the students’ home and peer environments.

Key Learning Areas

The Arts
English

Subject Headings

United States of America (USA)
Multimedia systems
Films
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Literacy
Social life and customs
Socially disadvantaged

The full circling process: leaping into the ethics of history using critical visual literacy and arts-based activism

Volume 51 Number 6, March 2008; Pages 498–508
Trisha Wies Long

‘Full circling’ is a teaching technique that employs visual media as a way to engage adolescents in their learning, and as a means to help them develop their personal identities away from bombardment by commercial messages and products. The teacher selects historical images and texts that pose ethical issues, such as racism or homelessness, considered likely to stir students emotionally and intellectually. The materials may be photographs, old newspaper articles, letters or personal narratives. The teacher highlights socially significant elements in this material while challenging students to probe deeper into the issues, and their personal feelings about them, through discussion and analysis. It is important that students understand that the materials authentically represent a specific time and place. To move students beyond surface impressions, they can be asked to speculate about the images. For example they may consider reasons behind the geographic placement of internment camps. Students can also be asked to express their personal feelings about the images, and to predict subsequent events in the historical situation. At a later stage the teacher calls on students to examine the varying and sometimes antagonistic perspectives of different people in these situations. The students then undertake creative work to create physical representations of these situations, eg through pictorial representations, writing letters as one of the historical individuals depicted, or through drama. The final stage in the process is for the students to plan and then undertake social action around an aspect of the historical issues that has current relevance. One simple option is for participants to write letters to next year’s students, describing their thoughts and feelings about the process they have gone through. Another option is for participants to survey other students at the school for their opinions and then to analyse the data and propose some form of action around the issues raised. The full circling process draws on adolescents’ widespread interest in visual and tactile learning. It develops students’ awareness of ethics, engages with and cultivates their capacity for empathy, promotes artistic expression, and connects their affective and cognitive development.

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment
The Arts

Subject Headings

Thought and thinking
Literacy
Ethics
Visual arts
Teaching and learning
Social life and customs
Social education
History
Arts in education
Adolescents

Pre-service teachers' use of different types of mathematical reasoning in paper-and-pencil versus technology-supported environments

Volume 39 Number 2,  2008; Pages 143–160
Ismail Ozgur Zembat

A recent study in the United Arab Emirates has compared pre-service teachers’ mathematical reasoning when using pencil and paper to their reasoning using technology. The participants were three pre-service secondary mathematics teachers and one graduate student, all of whom had passed the compulsory maths subjects and were attending a technology-rich mathematics education course. They participated in hour-long individual interviews involving two problems based on derivatives, a fundamental concept in most undergraduate mathematics programs. For the first question they were only permitted to use pencil and paper, and for the second they were limited to the Texas Instruments TI-83 graphical calculator, spreadsheets and the Geometer’s Sketchpad. Their attempts to solve the problems were audio- and video-recorded and analysed with respect to Sternberg’s three types of mathematical reasoning: analytical, practical and creative. Analytical reasoning uses formulas and rules to solve problems, while creative reasoning is the ability to invent methods of thinking about problems. Practical reasoning is used in applying concepts to everyday scenarios. When attempting to solve the problems with only pencil and paper, all participants seemed to be limited to analytic reasoning. The use of technology enabled several participants to make more connections between mathematical concepts, triggering a shift from analytical to creative reasoning. Some participants, however, could not move beyond analytical reasoning even with the use of technology. Results suggest that integrating technology in mathematics curricula might help students to be more flexible in the type of reasoning they employ.

Key Learning Areas

Mathematics

Subject Headings

Mathematics
Mathematics teaching
Technology

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