Welcome to the Curriculum & Leadership Journal website.
To receive our fortnightly Email Alert,
please click on the blue menu item below.
Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
Follow us on twitter

Abstracts

Principal leadership: what does it look like, and how might it evolve?

Number 42, June 2008
David Gurr

In the 1980s literature on school leadership called for principals to be instructional leaders. However, research found that such a leadership style was uncommon, especially at secondary level. Principals reported difficulties in playing this role, and ‘teachers, importantly, did not believe principals should be involved in instructional leadership’. In reality principals understand that there are different ways to lead effectively, influenced by different contexts. Ken Leithwood and his colleagues offer a helpful definition of school leadership that covers four elements. Firstly, leaders build a vision and set a direction for the school, establishing a shared sense of purpose and high expectations of performance in pursuit of group goals. Secondly, leaders understand and develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions of their staff. This aspect of leadership embraces individualised support, fostering intellectual stimulation and role modelling. Thirdly, leaders redesign the school as an organisation, to create supportive working conditions and to connect the school effectively to parents and the wider community. Fourthly, leaders manage the school learning program, monitoring school activity and protecting teachers from undue distractions. All these elements of leadership take account of the school’s circumstances – the type of school, including its location, governance and demographic makeup – and the wider political context. Leaders are not put off by complexity; rather, they celebrate it. Leaders also need to keep up-to-date with theories of learning and apply this knowledge. Leaders should be able to demonstrate expertise in at least one curriculum area and be able to discuss all areas. Leaders need to make decisions based on evidence, and be able to understand research findings and apply them to policy, programs and practice.

KLA

Subject Headings

School principals
School leadership
Leadership

Seeing thinking on the Web

Volume 41 Number 3, May 2008; Pages 305–319
Daisy Martin, Sam Wineberg

Useful historical sources abound on the Internet, but History students need to learn how to evaluate them. The website historicalthinkingmatters.org offers teachers ways to show and impart the nature of historical reading and thinking. The site provides video clips of ‘think alouds’ in which historians, presented with an historical text to examine, articulate their efforts at interpretation. Their talk is ‘filled with the hems and haws, false starts and switchbacks, wrong turns and self-corrections’. The clips are no longer than 90 seconds, so as to hold students’ attention and limit use of bandwidth. The documents are on subjects entirely outside the historian’s area of expertise. An important part of their role is to describe what they don’t know and to ‘find problems’ for themselves. The website owners write commentaries on each historian’s contributions, spelling out the strategies evident in what they say. For example, PhD student Natalia Mehlman, whose area of expertise is bilingual and sex education in California in the 1970s, was asked to ‘think aloud’ about the text of an 1898 Senate speech praising land expropriation in Indiana. Using gesture and tone to communicate meaning, she described the context of westward expansion at the time, and she ‘read the silences’ in the text, eg the removal of indigenous peoples. The website commentary on her think aloud explained some terms she used such as ‘expropriation’. It drew attention to her contextualisation and her reading of silences and explicitly asked students to apply these techniques to their own work in future. Other historians’ contributions raised issues such as sourcing, and explicitly trying to identify to themselves what they do not know regarding a text. The website also includes clips from and commentaries about selected school students. The commentaries identify the students’ limitations and errors, such as ungrounded assumptions of causality or failure to address contradictions in sources, while also generalising these shortcomings from the individual student contributors.

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

History
Thought and thinking
Elearning
Teaching and learning
Multimedia systems
Websites
United States of America (USA)

Web-based Holocaust denial: blurring information literacy boundaries

Volume 43 Number 2,  2008; Pages 35–39
James Goulding

School subjects relating to ICT and the Internet tend to focus on technical mastery of technology. A number of resources on information literacy are available to overcome this limitation, including Tony Taylor’s Making History handbook. The handbook gives students a valuable approach to the critique of websites. It covers ways to locate information, validate sources, investigate the motivations of content creators, detect bias, assess the relevance of information, and separate fact from opinion. These strategies, all of which derive from print-based critical scaffolds, can be complemented by further strategies focusing on the distinctive features of the Web environment – features which Holocaust denial websites often exploit. Shane Borrowman applies the term ‘Ethos’ to two techniques used to enhance websites’ credibility. Academic Ethos refers to credibility based on academic recognition of a site’s contributors. Techno Ethos derives from the technical sophistication of the site. The current author’s own research in 2006 has led him to suggest further categories, which Holocaust denial websites exploit for rhetorical purposes. Liberal Ethos starts from the vast amount of Web material not filtered by processes traditionally used to review printed sources. Denial sites suggest to readers that such material includes ‘ideas the “thought police” do not want them to see’. Through Hypertext Ethos, denial sites build scholarly credibility through hyperlinks to a range of authoritative sources, intermingled with links to other denial websites. Mutual hyperlinks between websites can also be used to create an impression of a consensus of opinion around the ideas they espouse. Search Engine Ethos exploits the common illusion that search engines are an objective, comprehensive index of the Web. In fact, result rankings are influenced by popularity and also by meta-tags, so that, for example, the denial website air-photo.com may rank highly on search results for ‘Treblinka photos’. Multimedia Ethos has been used to enhance the impact of racist websites through the inclusion of interactive games and other appealing software. The article lists a range of Holocaust denial websites. The author, a Blashid Fellow at the Sydney Jewish Museum, advises teachers to obtain approval from the school and parents before using such material in classrooms.

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

Websites
History
Racism
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Information literacy

Teaching Australian history: a temporally inclusive approach

Volume 26 Number 1, May 2008; Pages 25–31
Catherine Harris, Debra Bateman

It is important that students learn to view history as intrinsically relevant to the present and the future as well as the past, as an ‘extended present’ characterised by multiple narratives that intersect and often conflict. However, this approach is not reflected adequately in the 2007 publication Guide to the Teaching of Australian History in Years 9 and 10 by the AHCRG. The topics of study end with the year 2000 and there is little, if any, discussion of how past events impact on the present and help to shape the future. History teachers and students need to develop the ‘temporal mobility’ to move freely between different perspectives on past, present and future, but the Guide is structured in a linear, chronological fashion. Its focus on the nation state as the unit of analysis is also questionable. More desirable would be the use of ‘temporally inclusive pedagogies’ that explicitly emphasise connectedness between past, present and future. For example, a history lesson on water shortages might begin with information on Australia’s current water crisis and proceed to a consideration of other national and international historical examples. Another important aspect of history teaching is the explicit cultivation of empathy, perhaps through photographs of refugee children in a SOSE lesson on Australian immigration. Visits to important cultural institutions, both past and present, and freely available activities such as city walking tours should also be included in SOSE and Australian History classes where possible.

 

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

History
Australia
Secondary education

The use of dynamic testing to reveal high academic potential and under-achievement in a culturally different population

Volume 24,  2008; Pages 67–81
Graham W. Chaffey, Stan B. Bailey

Children from non-European and low-SES cultural backgrounds are underrepresented in gifted education programs. This is partly due to a bias in the methods used to identify gifted students. A recent Australian study has used a dynamic testing method with Aboriginal students in Grades 3 to 5 in a rural district of New South Wales, using a pretest-intervention-posttest format to gauge children’s receptivity to instruction. The method was designed to identify ‘invisible’ underachievers, those whose school-assessed potential is significantly lower than their actual potential. The project involved 79 children and was endorsed by the Indigenous communities involved. The Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM) test was used, a visual test that measures Spearman’s ‘g’ or ‘general intelligence’ without using language. Children were split into two groups matched according to their RSPM pretest scores. The experimental group received an intervention based on metacognitive skills, while the control group was given a placebo intervention. Both groups were retested after the intervention and again six weeks afterwards. Children in the experimental group scored significantly higher after the intervention, an effect which was persistent after six weeks. One child moved from the 18th percentile to the 91st percentile of performers in that age bracket. Children in the control group did not improve significantly post-intervention, but did show a slight improvement after six weeks. This was attributed to the socio-emotional aspect of the intervention that was given to both control and experimental groups, which focused on potential inhibiting factors in motivation and test performance. Four of the children scored in the ‘gifted’ range only after six weeks post-intervention, suggesting that the socio-emotional strategy instruction had a long-lasting effect. Based on initial test scores, only three per cent of children scored in the ‘gifted’ range, far below the expected rate in the general population. After the intervention this improved to 17 per cent, which approximated and even slightly exceeded the expected rate. Dynamic testing therefore appears to be effective in identifying gifted underachievers in a cultural minority population.

KLA

Subject Headings

Gifted children
Aboriginal students
Australia
Socially disadvantaged
Assessment

The production and distribution of Burarra talking books

Volume 23 Number 1, June 2008; Pages 19–23
Rose Darcy, Glenn Auld

Talking books have been created in an Indigenous language to support children’s literacy in their home language. The Burarra language is spoken by approximately 1,000 people in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, and at school Burarra-speaking children learn literacy skills in Burarra before they read and write in English. Talking books have been shown to improve children’s phonological awareness, and using the books to target the everyday life of the community allows children to situate their literacy learning in practices that are meaningful to them. The project involved a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with the Aboriginal researcher giving permission for the Anglo-Australian researcher to enter the land and create books on the basis of a previous friendly relationship. The talking books were based on digital photographs of the community collecting turtles for food. Children sorted the images and made up stories about them, which were recorded and then transcribed in Burarra by the Aboriginal researcher. Macromedia Director was then used to create the talking books and display them on the computer. The books became very popular with surrounding communities, with people passing through the area to hunt turtles often asking to see them. Children and adults enjoyed reading them together, which promoted home–school links and family literacy. The project demonstrates the potential use of computers in drawing out the importance of place for Aboriginal students who may be attending school away from home. The talking books will help to provide first-language literacy resources for students placed at a disadvantage by the dominance of English-language ICTs.

KLA

Subject Headings

Language and languages
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Aboriginal students
Aboriginal peoples
Northern Territory
Literacy
Australia

A new beginning: Indigenous education

Volume 7 Number 3, September 2008; Pages 34–37
Anthony Hockey

The Prime Minister’s apology to the Stolen Generations earlier this year addressed the trauma and grief that is part of daily life for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia. To a large degree this trauma has sprung from Government policy that forces Indigenous groups to adapt to Western cultural norms. The 2007 Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle: Little Children are Sacred report highlighted the problem of abuse and trauma becoming normalised and accepted. Schools play a double role in minimising abuse and trauma in children. First, school staff are well placed to notice the signs and symptoms of trauma, which might include low attendance, behavioural problems, physical pains such as stomach aches and headaches, aggression, irritability, poor concentration or excessive talk. Second, schools can teach students about how to deal with trauma when it occurs, perhaps through discussing thoughts and feelings and teaching basic relaxation and coping skills. A school system designed around Anglo-European cultural conventions may also be a cause of trauma, alienating students with an Indigenous background from the start. High levels of teacher turnover in remote schools contribute to the problem. Schools can counter the effects of trauma by creating a safe environment where staff can be trusted. Using books in Aboriginal languages helps to incorporate the language, history and culture of local communities and combats students’ feelings of alienation. Employing Aboriginal staff who can act as role models for students is crucial. Schools should not try to handle trauma and abuse alone, however. They need to be supported in forming long-term, systematic partnerships with community health services, social services and other relevant institutions.

KLA

Subject Headings

Australia
Aboriginal students
Child abuse

The effectiveness of distance education vs. classroom instruction: a summary of Bernard's meta-analysis with implications for practice

Volume 35 Number 2,  2008; Pages 138–144
Genevieve Marie Johnson

Many studies have compared the effectiveness of distance education with classroom instruction, but many of them incorporate an inbuilt researcher bias. Attempts between 2000 and 2003 to synthesise the existing research proved inconclusive, reaching opposite conclusions and employing questionable methodologies. An extensive meta-analysis of 232 studies published since 1985 was conducted in 2004. The researchers were careful to avoid the methodological biases of previous work. The article summarises the findings of this detailed analysis and offers some implications for distance education practice. The study used three types of outcome measures: achievement, measured by objective test results; attitude, subjective opinions and evaluations; and student retention, the proportion of enrolled students completing a course. In total, the analysis included 57,019 students with achievement outcomes, 35,365 students with attitude outcomes, and 3,744,869 students with achievement outcomes. The most compelling finding was the extreme variability in distance education quality and outcomes. The strongest ‘predictor’ of student achievement and attitude was research methodology, indicating that differences in research design affected the findings substantially. Quality pedagogy was found to predict higher student achievement, regardless of instruction type, and the electronic media used also had a small but significant influence on achievement. In synchronous learning environments (real-time contact with the teacher), media but not pedagogy predicted students’ attitudes. In asynchronous learning environments both media and pedagogy had an impact on attitude. Student retention was not predicted by methodology, pedagogy or media type, but classroom instruction had a small positive effect on retention rates. Students learning mathematics, science and engineering in classrooms outperformed their distance education counterparts, while the reverse was true for computing, military and business subjects. The achievement of distance education students receiving asynchronous instruction was higher than for synchronous instruction, perhaps because of the added time for reflection. However, dropout rates and attitudes were substantially worse for asynchronous classes. Overall, distance education showed a slight advantage in terms of student achievement but a disadvantage in terms of retention rates and learning attitudes. Implications include the need for greater focus on pedagogy in distance education and finding a way to mix synchronous and asynchronous course delivery that retains the benefits of both.

KLA

Subject Headings

Distance education

Have you Googled your teacher today? Teachers' use of social networking sites

May 2008; Pages 681–685
Heather L. Carter, Teresa S. Foulger, Ann Dutton Ewbank

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace carry the potential to publicise teachers’ personal lives in an unprecedented way. Their use is extremely common among younger and pre-service teachers, who are often not aware of the professional implications of their online actions. An increasing number of teachers in the USA are being reprimanded or dismissed for what are deemed questionable uses of social networking websites. New teachers must understand that posting content related to drugs, alcohol and sex may damage their professional reputation, which will play a crucial role in their teaching future. Teachers have also been investigated for posting content that is offensive and critical of teachers, parents or the education department. However, these warnings should be balanced against the potential of social networking sites to be a positive influence in education. One high school teacher has argued that Facebook has helped her deepen her relationships with students, especially those who are quiet in the classroom. Networking sites are useful for publicising school clubs and activities, and have even been used by some teachers to remind students of homework deadlines and upcoming tests. As Internet-based social networking is a relatively new phenomenon, the exact legal implications of teacher dismissals due to inappropriate use are still unclear. Also unclear is the appropriate protocol for dealing with student-initiated contact such as ‘friend’ requests. In an attempt to give teachers advice for online behaviour, the Association of Texas Professional Educators has devised some brief guidelines. As teachers tend to be held to a higher standard of behaviour than many other professions, teacher training and professional learning programs must be extremely thorough in covering this area.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teaching profession
Teacher-student relationships
Internet
Technology
Teacher training
Teaching and learning

Teacher tool mimics social networking sites

27 August 2008
Stephen Sawchuck

An increasing number of US States are introducing online networking tools for teachers. The sites use the ‘learning team’ approach to professional development, which has educators discuss and reflect on teaching practices. The networks, for example TLINC, allow teachers to contact each other outside of working hours. They are based on social networking websites such as Facebook, and most of them connect new teachers to others in their teacher preparation classes, or to those who teach the same subject or year level. One network in South Carolina is more social in nature, with its aim being to connect rural teachers who are physically isolated from other teachers. Users of the sites post profiles and tag them with keywords such as ‘reading’ or ‘biology’, and can join groups focused on various areas of education. Discussion boards and chatrooms are increasingly featured. The opportunity to connect educators across different schools is especially valuable. However, Stephanie Hirsh, president of the National Staff Development Council (NSDC), has warned against too much reliance on online networks, since this may lead to fragmentation and exclusion of some teachers and students. A combination of in-person and online methods should be used, or a ‘bricks and clicks’ approach. The networking sites are currently facing the challenges of building a sufficiently large user base and of recruiting veteran teachers. There has also been a decrease in usage over time. Creators of these sites are investigating ways to increase voluntary use by making the sites more professionally satisfying for teachers.

KLA

Subject Headings

Networking
Teaching profession
Rural education
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Professional development

The inherent interdependence of teachers

June 2008; Pages 751–754
Ilana Seidel Horn

Teacher collaboration has been shown to help students learn, but collaboration is not the norm in most schools. Teachers of the same subject and year level are rarely given paid time for discussion and teamwork, and those who do conduct meetings are often forced to do so before or after school hours. Research in the USA has shown that teachers in most schools do not work collectively, especially in schools serving low-socioeconomic status and ethnically diverse areas. ‘Norms of privacy’ mean that many teachers are reluctant to share what goes on in their classrooms. Even in schools where collaboration is expected of teachers, they may be expected to incorporate collaborative work in their schedules while retaining the same teaching load. This strategy tends to result in highly engaged students but teachers who are exhausted from overwork. A trial program has suggested that the benefits of teacher collaboration become evident almost immediately. An urban school that provided maths teachers with one extra period to meet with colleagues found it led to increased morale, improved teacher learning and better student learning. Students at the school were overheard commenting that the maths teachers ‘really care’ about them. Furthermore, allowing teachers to discuss and synchronise their instruction enabled them to take colleagues’ classes at the end of the assessment period, freeing up the teachers to hold individual hallway conferences with students whose marks were borderline. Collaboration also yielded the unanticipated benefit of emotional support from colleagues on difficult classroom issues. Word of the collaborative policy had spread among teachers in the area to such an extent that in the second year of the collaborative program, when two teaching positions became open in the school’s maths department, the number of applicants was far greater than the typical rate.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Teaching profession
Curriculum planning

Gifted and talented: kick 'em while they're down?

Volume 7 Number 3, September 2008; Pages 38–41
Peter Merrotsy, Linley Cornish, Howard Smith, Susen Smith

Catherine Scott’s opinion piece in The Professional Educator, April 2008 (see abstract in Curriculum Leadership, Vol 6 No15) argued that 'gifted' is an unhelpful label for children. This response to Scott's piece argues that gifted and talented children do in fact need special attention. The ‘gifted-and-talented industry’ is in fact very small, and the academics specialising in gifted and talented education have no higher status or salary than other academics. Educators in Australia generally lack the knowledge and inclination to identify the special needs of gifted children, which deprives these children of a voice in their own education. The model of giftedness in use in Australia is based on Françoys Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent, a model that incorporates intrapersonal and environmental factors in translating high potential into high performance. This model allows for inclusion of underachieving gifted students, known by Chaffey and Bailey (see abstract in this edition of Curriculum Leadership) as ‘invisible underachievers’. The Australian education system has been slow to acknowledge the special learning needs of gifted students, perhaps because of the increased responsibility and resource needs that special gifted education would require. Many gifted students are bored by the school curriculum and rejected by their peers, making school unpleasant and unfulfilling. Often they face a forced choice between excelling in their area of talent and being accepted by their peers. Providing gifted children with an education that meets their educational, cognitive and emotional needs is a matter of social justice that must be addressed.

KLA

Subject Headings

Gifted children
Gifted and talented (GAT) children
Australia

There are no Conferences available in this issue.