Education Revolution: building our future schools
Volume 13 Number 2, March 2009
The Australian Government’s program for extensive refurbishment of schools needs to start swiftly to stimulate the economy, but facilities must also be well planned to ensure high quality and ‘future proofing’ to ensure their long-term value. Future proofing requires identification of the long-term trends the facilities will have to accommodate. These trends include personalisation of student learning, collaboration between teachers, project-based work and accompanying forms of assessment, and the teacher as knowledge guide rather than instructor. Trends in school structure include the move to smaller learning centres and growing use of ICT. Further, as yet unknown trends are also likely to arise. The best way to prepare for them is by changing the attitudes of school staff to encourage more flexible and adaptive ways of thinking about facilities. For example, ‘turf wars’ over facilities are likely to obstruct future planning. Staff should not attempt to have new facilities designed too tightly around specific purposes. There is likely to be resistance to departures from familiar and comfortable patterns of use for facilities. There is also a need to balance current needs against likely future ones, and to accept that some elements of design may not be used for some time. Practical changes are likely to include ‘suites of learning spaces’ in place of traditional classrooms arranged in rows; connections between adjacent spaces, with windows to help teachers supervise various groups; more physical variety within rooms; and more mobile furniture and fittings. Instead of being grouped around school departments, facilities are likely to reflect the needs of smaller, more varied grouping based on grade or developmental level or available for specialist purposes such as the arts. The need for dedicated spaces for science labs is already being reduced by the growing use of computer simulations and the flexibility afforded by wireless technology. Libraries on the other hand are likely to expand as they take on broader roles as media and information centres. The article draws on and acknowledges the Future Proofing Schools series by Frank Locker.
Subject HeadingsSchool buildings
The principalship: a specialised career
Summer 2008; Pages 2–5
Victoria needs to develop a professional compensation structure for principals to encourage retention and to reflect the growing complexity of school leadership. The school environment has seen changes in pedagogy, funding and governance, but principals’ salaries do not take into account the increasing complexities of principalship. Recruitment and retention have become problematic not only in Victoria, but worldwide, and there is a widespread shortage of quality candidates for principal positions. An OECD report has called for a principal remuneration scale, separate from the teaching scale, to appropriately acknowledge the responsibilities and workload of principals and to assist in attracting and retaining candidates. However, while a suitable base level of compensation is key to attracting and rewarding candidates, a comprehensive remuneration system should involve additional measures. Payment in accordance with results is common, but can deter applicants from applying for positions at challenging schools. The extent of the principal’s influence in the school’s achievement of set targets can be misunderstood or improperly analysed: if this system is to be used, concepts of school performance and principals’ work need to be thoroughly understood and accounted for. Formal recognition of academic or leadership achievement would allow principals with additional qualifications and accreditations or obtainment of advanced certification to be remunerated accordingly. The context and demands of individual schools, and the principal’s performance in light of this, could also be considered. Principals should also be rewarded appropriately for taking on additional responsibilities. An appropriate compensation structure for Victorian principals that takes account of the complex nature of the role would heighten the profession’s status, reward performance and achievement, and encourage applicants.
Volume 45 Number 4, December 2008; Pages 913–945
Approaches to the teaching of ethnically diverse students in North America have varied over time. In the socially optimistic 1960s educational equity was often pursued through a multicultural and sometimes explicitly anti-racist curriculum. Over the next two decades multiculturalism increasingly contested with approaches based on standards, high stakes testing and market competition. The authors describe how these changes played out at two schools in Canada and two in the USA. These schools have seen substantial rises in the ethnic diversity of their student populations over recent decades. As part of a larger study the authors interviewed school staff, observed meetings of the staff or school communities, and studied school documentation. A number of trends emerged. The teachers least responsive to the distinctive contexts and needs of minority students tended to be older and based in more prestigious disciplines, whereas younger teachers and those taking ESL or humanities subjects tended to seek ways to adapt the curriculum to minority students. System policies that permitted curriculum flexibility sometimes allowed such teachers freedom to adapt the curriculum for these minorities, but in other contexts were used to ‘balkanise’ the student population, with high achievers streamed into more prestigious and better resourced classes. Government support for market competition allowed the elite Barrett Magnet school a policy of 'selection and ejection' in pursuit of a uniformly high achieving student population. This policy, temporarily abandoned when the system required an end to selective enrolment, was later restored through the school’s adoption of an IB curriculum. Nearby Sheldon comprehensive school was unable to compete with Barrett’s resources and magnet branding despite the development of academically rigorous programs within a standards-based framework. Across the schools, the advent of standards worked to affirm traditionalist teachers who focused on delivery of subject content without reference to student diversity. Standardisation is ‘insistent on means though often evasive about the moral purpose of its goals’. While not rejecting all standards-based reform, the authors call for ‘post-standardisation’ that allows flexibility to adapt the curriculum to diverse student needs, but that also guards against social and ethnic stratification through system-level policies to promote equity.
Teaching and learning
English as an additional language
United States of America (USA)
25 April 2009; Pages 53–54
The school education policy of the current British government has, like the one before it, focused on disseminating information about school performance to parents, allowing schools to diversify in terms of subject range and specialities, and allowing parents to choose their children’s school. These policies, as currently implemented, have clearly failed. Literacy and numeracy standards in primary schools have ceased to improve, and ‘independent observers agree that much of the initial rise was illusory’, a product of teaching to the test. There is also a consensus that the apparent improvement in results for the GCSE for 16-year-olds and A levels for senior students can be attributed to grade inflation and to schools encouraging students to take easier subjects. Nor has the gap between high and low SES students diminished. Evidence on school performance comes mainly from the results of SATs tests for children aged 7, 11 and 14, the value of which is questionable due to the difficulty of interpreting results, and due to recent, serious criticisms of the government's own interpretations of these results. The subject diversity and specialities advertised by schools are 'largely illusory'. School choice is supposed to be effected through a quasi-market mechanism: the publication of lists of poorly performing schools, which are then either partnered with or taken over by other schools, or closed and replaced by academies (independent schools funded by and reporting to the government). Such half-measures 'do not seem to have done even half the job'. Currently the clearest form of school choice is between religious and government schools, but a recent study has found that the presence of faith schools failed to stimulate improvement in nearby secular schools. The failure seems to be due to other schools' perception that the religious schools could not absorb many more students or to a belief that faith schools' better resources precluded meaningful competition with them anyway. The Conservative and Liberal Democratic opposition parties have proposed more robust and promising approaches to school choice and competition: in government, either party would permit new independent schools to open in areas where existing schools are not at capacity.
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
Challenging experiences faced by beginning casual teachers: here one day and gone the next!
Volume 37 Number 1; Pages 63–78
Australian schools are not providing casual beginning teachers (CBTs) with the induction and onsite support required for personal and professional success, or to prevent attrition. The transition into the school environment is difficult for new teachers, but CBTs face unique challenges relating to job instability and the development of ongoing professional relationships. Studies of CBTs highlight high levels of dissatisfaction, alienation, and feelings of powerlessness. One study examined CBTs’ posts on an online forum provided as part of the Educational Alumni Support Program (EdASP) to document their experiences. The CBTs indicated that finding work or receiving appropriate prior notice that they were required to work was a source of anxiety for them: many had graduated expecting stable, ongoing placements. When in unfamiliar classrooms, CBTs frequently experienced ‘culture shock’, and had to contend with issues of classroom management. CBTs lacked the time to build rapport with students; they faced rowdy and challenging behaviour but had little recourse to discipline students. Secondary school CBTs in particular often had to teach outside their areas of expertise, and the frequent reframing required to present unfamiliar material was overwhelming for some of them. The assistance schools provided to CBTs varied: some schools ensured lesson plans and timetable information were provided, but others failed to provide essential items such as class rolls and classroom keys. Over time, CBTs developed relationships with their preferred schools, which tended to be those where support and assistance was provided by both administrative and teaching staff. Overall, systemic support for CBTs is lacking. Teacher educators need to prepare new graduates for study–work transitions, including relief-teaching work. Schools should develop policies and procedures, such as ‘survival packs’ and buddy systems, to assist CBTs’ induction and provide support. These approaches could improve CBTs’ classroom experiences and prevent attrition.
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
Volume 43 Number 1, April 2009; Pages 11–19
The British curriculum’s focus on reading as a means to learn sub-skills such as spelling and grammar has positioned children’s books purely as study resources. As a result, students’ willingness to read for pleasure has decreased. The United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) study, Teachers as Readers, sought to widen teachers’ reading knowledge and pedagogical practice, creating ‘Reading Teachers’ who would positively affect students’ reading habits. Over the course of a year, 43 teachers met in groups to discuss reading and pedagogy. Initially, participants’ reading knowledge relied largely on an established literary canon, but teachers gradually engaged with unfamiliar texts and genres, such as graphic novels, in order to support their students’ diverse reading preferences. Pedagogical approaches to reading were at first oriented toward instruction and assessment, but teachers began to organise activities that promoted reading for pleasure, and provided opportunities to discuss texts. Teachers worked to build reader relationships with and between students by designating set times and spaces for reading, and also sought to develop relationships with parents and library staff. As they grew as readers and began to share and reflect on their reading preferences and experiences, their pedagogical approaches in turn developed. Their conceptions of reading and awareness of reader diversity broadened, and their improved content knowledge meant they were able to discuss and recommend more books. Students’ attitudes toward reading and their self-confidence as readers increased as a result. They too were now reading more, which they attributed to having more choice over their reading material, access to more diverse materials, and having more time to read. Teachers need support to develop their reading repertoires and provide a personalised reading curriculum for students, and to create positive reader relationships between schools, families and communities.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
Enhancing motivation to complete math tasks using the high-preference strategy
Volume 44 Number 3, January 2009; Pages 146–150
Children with learning and behavioural difficulties often find maths tasks challenging, and may demonstrate low interest in mathematics. Motivating these students to practice solving equations is important to ensure mastery of mathematics skills. One practice strategy to enhance student motivation is the high-preference strategy (high-p). The high-p strategy involves students completing a series of preferred tasks before a related but non-preferred (low-p) task, for example, completing single-digit multiplication problems before a multiple-digit multiplication problem. Students are more likely to complete the low-p task if high-p tasks are presented first. This may be due to ‘behavioural momentum’, or driven by students’ initial success. The high-p strategy has been used to increase engagement and accuracy, and decrease the time taken to begin a task. In conducting a high-p strategy, teachers should first determine that the skill being practiced has already been learnt, and then assess which tasks are preferred by students in order to prepare worksheets containing high-p and low-p elements. The tasks should be similar in subject matter in order not to confuse students. For example, a sheet should contain only multiplication tasks or subtraction tasks. To assess the effectiveness of the high-p strategy, the teacher should time students as they complete the tasks, and then note the number of problems completed and the number of facts completed correctly. Graphing of completion rates allows monitoring of students’ improvement and the likelihood of the completion of low-p tasks. If students’ results do not improve within four or five sessions, teachers can use modified or alternative interventions in conjunction with or in place of the high-p strategy.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Using program evaluation to inform and improve the education of young English language learners in US schools
Volume 13 Number 1; Pages 35–54
New education programs should be effectively evaluated to assess their value to teachers and learners. Despite the widespread implementation of education programs targeting disadvantaged students, little research has been done to document their effectiveness. However, detailed and thoughtful analysis of and recommendations regarding these programs can result in changes in approach regarding the implementation and use of these programs. The authors undertook a two-year detailed analysis of the implementation and effectiveness of the Waterford program, a computer-based literacy intervention program implemented in Californian primary schools with high ELL enrolment levels. The program was intended to supplement classroom literacy teaching in K–1 classes. Using multiple, complementary types of data analyses, including achievement rubrics, classroom observation, and interviews, the authors studied learners in 200 classrooms to assess the extent to which the program was implemented, as well as its effect on reading achievement. Overall, analyses indicated that the Waterford program had minimal impact on students’ reading levels, and little effect on ELL students’ reading results. However, the data showed that, due to time constraints, students were not using the software for the recommended amount of time, and teachers were not ensuring that the software was configured for individual learners. There was also overlap between classroom literacy instruction and use of the Waterford program: the program, instead of supplementing literacy teaching, was supplanting it. By undertaking thorough and detailed analysis of the program’s implementation and use, and the context surrounding these factors, the authors were able to appropriately assess the program’s effectiveness and make recommendations for improvement in use and implementation. These evidence-backed suggestions resulted in the creation of detailed implementation guidelines for teachers, and the limitation of the use of the Waterford program to after-school intervention classes.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
English language teaching
Early childhood education
The complexities of supporting Asian international pre-service teachers as they undertake practicum
Volume 37 Number 1, 10 February 2009; Pages 79–94
The teaching practicum component of education programs is challenging for students, and in particular for international students. These students are generally unfamiliar with the teaching and learning styles and behavioural norms of Australian classrooms, and they often have to deal with cultural and linguistic differences. To better understand these students’ concerns about the practicum, the authors interviewed six Asian international students undertaking a one-year Graduate Diploma in Education. Prior to the practicum, students’ main concerns were their English-language fluency and their lack of awareness of Australian school culture. The respondents had not been previously exposed to Australian classrooms, and did not know what to expect in terms of differences in classroom culture, students’ interests, or the teacher’s role. International students’ English vocabularies are frequently well below required levels for academic success, and they may lack specialist subject vocabulary or listening comprehension skills. After completion of the practicum, the respondents re-emphasised or outlined new challenges faced in the classroom. Their English-language proficiency had been a barrier, and they lacked confidence in their ability to use the English language to resolve issues or in behaviour management. Cultural differences were apparent in notions of appropriate classroom behaviour: the respondents saw in-class talking, common in collaborative styles of learning, as disrespectful. Some respondents felt that their relationships with the supervising teacher hindered the practicum, and felt undermined or burdensome. They felt their supervisor should have been more supportive of and sensitive to the teaching challenges they faced. Some also felt that the university environment did not provide adequate support or preparation: universities themselves are still learning how to meet the needs of international students. Their preparation for teaching could be improved by language immersion programs covering classroom contexts and language, and increased hands-on teaching experience, progressing from teaching individual students to whole classes, with the support of a partner teacher.
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
English as an additional language
Elements of collaborative teaching
Volume 44 Number 3, 7 January 2009; Pages 173–178
A collaborative approach between general and special education teachers can improve learning in inclusive classroom contexts. By working cooperatively to ensure that their teaching strategies are aligned, teachers can positively affect both student learning and the professional work environment. Effective collaborative teaching requires careful planning and negotiation of participants’ needs, roles and skills. A framework that covers the tangible and intangible elements of collaborative teaching can help facilitate success. Tangible cooperative planning uses concrete materials, such as written classroom schedules, meeting agendas, detailed written questions, and examples of student work. These materials provide documented common knowledge and an outline of the teachers’ identified strengths and responsibilities. Intangible cooperative experiences complement the tangible aspects, and assist in building and maintaining supportive collegial relationships. Intangible aspects include developing a shared outlook, mutual respect, the ability to listen to and work closely with colleagues, and a commitment to nurturing collaborative relationships. Collaborating teachers should schedule regular meetings to plan forthcoming classes and to reflect on previous ones to review progress and refine their approaches. This type of pedagogical approach allows the integration of the goals and ideas of both participants to promote student learning.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Designing video-based professional development for mathematics teachers in low-performing schools
Volume 60 Number 1, 14 January 2009; Pages 38–51
The focus of video-based teacher learning tools has become more complex, requiring teacher educators to adapt these tools to reflect new understandings of teachers' learning processes. A two-year case study of Grade 6 mathematics teachers from low-performing schools analysed how teachers learn, and how video-based teaching tools could be improved to aid learning. The professional development program aimed to assist participants to teach conceptually complex problems in their classes. The program comprised three elements: Content Exploration, aimed at deepening teachers’ conceptual knowledge; Lesson Analysis, where mathematics lessons were viewed and analysed; and Link to Practice, where teachers taught the concept and provided student work for analysis. In the first year of the program, teachers’ responses to the tasks showed they had difficulty with questions focusing on their own content knowledge, their awareness of and capacity to build on students’ understanding, and in-depth analysis of student work. These findings indicated a gap in assumed and actual teacher knowledge, perhaps due partly to the lack of support and opportunities available to teachers in low-performing schools. The program designers addressed these difficulties in the program's second year by refining the content-related questions, focusing on common student misconceptions, and providing explicit guidance in the analysis of student thinking. Facilitators' planning and conduct of the professional development sessions was refined to account for deficits in teachers’ conceptual and practical knowledge. Attending to these issues can improve video-based professional development tools, and improve teachers' learning.
Subject HeadingsVideo recordings in education
Asperger Syndrome and the English curriculum: addressing the challenges
Volume 24 Number 1, 2009; Pages 11–18
Impairment of the imagination is a central aspect of Asperger Syndrome (AS), and affects the success of AS students in English classes. AS students tend toward the literal and the logical, and struggle with inference, figurative language, and the creative requirements of the English curriculum. They prefer rote, highly structured methods of learning, and struggle with ‘mind reading’, the understanding of emotion, belief and pretence. Secondary English examinations require students to draw on their imaginations and emotions, for example by writing a diary entry from a character’s perspective. The authors developed an intervention strategy to improve 12 AS students’ inferential reading and creative writing skills, which were identified by teachers as particularly challenging for AS students. Scaffolds targeting these skills were designed and used with mainstream and AS students in English classes, and the AS students’ progress was monitored. The frameworks were designed to provide a structured approach to creative activities in line with AS students’ preferred responses. The creative writing framework comprised a grid with the five-subheadings 'Who?' 'When?' 'Where?' 'What?' 'Why?', and the inferential reading scaffold consisted of three sections focusing on idiomatic and figurative language. While AS students showed some engagement with the first framework, the second was less successful, requiring heavy intervention and prompting from the teacher. The students were often reluctant to complete the tasks. The same frameworks were applied in small-group situations involving only AS students, and were more successful, with the students responding better to the individual attention and structured time. However, although their confidence increased, they demonstrated little improvement in the target skills. Students who practiced the frameworks at home with their families made more progress. The greater improvement seen in small-group contexts raises questions about whether AS students are disadvantaged in mainstream classes. While the creative aspects of the curriculum remained significant challenges to AS students, the frameworks, when paired with the small group-settings, improved students’ confidence and their likelihood to attempt set tasks.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Group work in education
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