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

Induction of newly qualified teachers in New Zealand

Volume 37 Number 2, 13 May 2009; Pages 175–198
Eileen Piggot-Irvine, Helen Aitken, Jenny Ritchie, et al.

The article reports on 20 case studies of successful induction processes for beginning teachers in New Zealand, at early childhood, primary and secondary levels, and in Maori settings. New graduates are officially provisionally registered teachers (PRTs) for two to five years after which they apply for fully registered teacher (FRT) status. Data for the current evaluation were collected through focus groups, individual interviews and analysis of documents. The findings supported the effectiveness of a number of procedures already identified in previous research. The factor most closely associated with successful induction was the existence of a social support network, or ‘family’, often including school leaders and other classroom teachers. In some cases support was concentrated at the start of the PRT’s teaching, as the time of greatest need. Support from individual personnel was accompanied by systematised procedures, which tended to be formalised at larger schools. A second factor was support from mentors assigned one-to-one with the PRT. Care was taken to ensure that the mentors were well-matched, in terms of teaching area, personality, and physical proximity. Proximity was also used to compensate for time constraints on both mentor and PRT. Other time management tactics included team teaching, collaborative planning for teaching units, sharing of resources, and coordination of release time. The mentor offered positive feedback to the PRT, and offered suggestions and alternative strategies. Mentors also assisted in goal setting, and reviewing evidence and steps needed to reach FRT status. This feedback process is stressful and demanding, and requires professional learning, but when well-delivered it can generate trusting relationships. Formal or informal classroom observations by the mentor were important, and usually welcomed by the PRT. When FRTs were in short supply, schools used group support processes, including collaboration amongst PRTs and support from older PRTs to newer ones. Other forms of support included limits to the roles and responsibilities assigned to PRTs, and reassurance to those with short-term employment contracts. The assessment of PRTs’ performances was facilitated in the case-study schools by common understandings between PRTs and mentors about teaching and learning as learner-centred and collaborative.

KLA

Subject Headings

New Zealand
Teaching profession
Teaching and learning
Mentors
Professional development

A rapidly changing context

Winter 2009; Pages 6–8
Tamerlaine Beasley

Australia’s economic and social integration with Asia, and others areas of the world, continues to deepen. For example, it is increasingly common for Australian professionals to work with people from a range of other countries on corporate or government projects, face to face or online. At the same time, Australians’ language and cultural backgrounds continue to diversify. Asian countries have responded to the challenge of global integration: growing numbers of Asian students combine strong cultural knowledge of western societies, their home countries, and their region, equipping them with international networks and career opportunities, and a capacity for 'traversing intercultural spaces'. Australians need similarly high levels of intercultural awareness. Cultural literacy means moving beyond clichés of Asia as poor, needy and defined by traditional cultural practices, and the alternative misconception that globalisation and consumerism have led to an homogenous international culture, symbolised by brands such as Starbucks. Cultural literacy involves knowledge of the world view and cultural contexts of other people, as well as an awareness of one’s own cultural preferences and their potential impact on social interactions. Research indicates that effective intercultural communicators also possess ‘highly developed people skills, empathy, self-awareness and a tolerance for ambiguity’, allowing them to accept varying perspectives. These attributes are in turn developed by close study of other cultures. The author, managing director of Beasley Intercultural Pty Ltd, outlines the involvement of her company in capacity building projects, describing issues involved and effective strategies for such work. An example is the BRIDGE project involving Australian and Indonesian schools in the development of intercultural understanding, language learning, and collaborative learning online.

KLA

Subject Headings

Asia
Social life and customs
Education policy
Educational planning
Australia
Language and languages

Carpe diem! Maybe this time

Winter 2009; Pages 11–13
Joseph Lo Bianco

Government and public interest in language learning and intercultural studies has recently revived in response to economic and security concerns. While the revival is welcome, it is insufficient in scope and its rationale is too limited. A language learning policy that relies only on economic and political justifications is likely to be attached to particular political leaders or contexts, and to melt away when conditions change. The National Asian Languages and Studies in Australian Schools (NALSAS) strategy generated significant interest and raised enrolments, but two years after its withdrawal, the study of Asian languages and culture in Australia was once again being widely described as in crisis. An altogether different approach is needed. Thorough, ongoing language learning has a humanistic, intellectual justification, and as such it should be ‘a compulsory, unproblematic, and celebrated’ component of school education in Australia, planned across all year levels including preschool and post-school, and supported through core education funding, not specific grants. There is scope to respond to adapt language learning and intercultural studies to changing contexts with specific, short-term initiatives to address immediate political and economic concerns. However, such initiatives will be developed more rapidly and richly if they are grounded in a thorough ongoing education in language and intercultural learning.

KLA

Subject Headings

Educational planning
Education policy
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Language and languages
Social life and customs
Asia

Embedding literacy in Indigenous education through Indigenous assistant teachers: lessons from the National Accelerated Literacy Program

Volume 37 Number 2; Pages 120–129
James Cooper

With suitable professional learning, Indigenous assistant teachers (ATs) in the Northern Territory can play a key role in the academic development of Aboriginal students. ATs already play a range of positive roles. Generally long-term employees, they help to compensate for high teacher turnover in the Territory. They provide cultural mediation between white teachers and Indigenous communities. They also help to translate for students who have English as a second or third language. However ATs are often frustrated by relegation only to translation work, ‘crowd control’ or menial clerical roles. Their value to students can be greatly enhanced by professional development in literacy teaching. Literacy is a central need for Indigenous students. As Martin Nakata has pointed out, Indigenous students can and must be taught mainstream literacy practices and attached cultural understandings, without loss of their own cultural identity. A survey of research literature (Woolley and Hay 2007) found that literacy tutors can assist such learning by providing the form of guided reading, which in more prosperous communities is normally undertaken by parents. However, if ATs are to play such roles with Indigenous students, they require theoretical and technical knowledge, and training in often neglected areas such as conflict resolution, time management, communication, ICT, and basic book keeping. Strong support for this argument comes from the evaluation of the National Accelerated Literacy Program (NALP) undertaken by Charles Darwin University (CDU) and published in 2008. The Accelerated Literacy (AL) program, grounded in the social learning theories developed by Vygotsky and by Bruner, aims to equip learners to cope with cultural dimensions of literacy, including the way discourse varies in different social contexts. AL is also designed to cope with the setbacks learners have suffered from inappropriate reading strategies in the past. The CDU’s evaluation found that many ATs persistently indicated a wish for professional development, but that the courses offered to them were both difficult to attend and inaccessible in presentation. Recognition and support for ATs’ potential role in literacy education is growing, but not yet systematic.

KLA

Subject Headings

Educational planning
Educational evaluation
Teacher aides
Professional development
Northern Territory
Literacy
Aboriginal students

Bunuba-Walmajarri: land, language and culture

Volume 43 Number 2, 4 February 2009; Pages 21–27
June Oscar, Kim Anderson

Wesley College, in Melbourne, in partnership with Indigenous elders, has developed authentic units of inquiry covering Indigenous languages, culture and perspectives as part of the International Baccalaureate program for Grades 4 and 5. In the Grade 4 unit, students learnt about the importance of land, language and culture to Indigenous identity, as well as the value of storytelling and interpersonal relationships. They explored differences in Indigenous and non-Indigenous people's expression of values and identity. The Grade 5 unit examined how individuals’ cultural heritage influences interactions with land and country, and explored issues of social and environmental responsibility. Throughout the units, Bunuba and Walmajarri elders shared their understandings and perspectives, stories and languages. Students kept diaries detailing their learning and their developing understandings from the unit and the ongoing interaction with the Indigenous elders. These evolving perspectives were used as a basis for their final presentation. While the project was received extremely well by all participants, the unit developers had to consider initial and ongoing challenges such as scheduling and the need for cultural sensitivity and awareness. Regular timetabling had to be suspended during the units to allow for flexibility around the Indigenous elders’ teaching practices. Consideration also had to be given to the fact that the elders preferred to conduct classes outside. The city environment and sense of isolation from their communities was an issue for the elders, and staff volunteered their homes to help ameliorate these difficulties. Open and honest dialogue and a commitment to the sustainability of the program was essential in building trust and a sense of community between the school and Indigenous communities. The program’s success has been due to the school’s flexibility in terms of program structure and learning approaches, such as its willingness to accept storytelling as a medium for teaching.

Key Learning Areas

Studies of Society and Environment

Subject Headings

Social life and customs
School and community
Primary education
Intercultural studies
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

The complex nature of reading fluency: a multidimensional view

Volume 25 Number 1, January 2009; Pages 4–32
Roxanne F. Hudson, Paige C. Pullen, Holly B. Lane, et al.

While reading fluency is often understood to be fast, accurate reading with appropriate prosody, this definition fails to acknowledge the complexity of the many complementary processes underlying a fluent performance. Framing reading fluency as a multifaceted construct that involves multiple reading processes and sub-skills has implications for both reading instruction and assessment. At the decoding level, the sub-processes that affect reading fluency include: phonemic awareness, the knowledge of meaningful sounds and their relationships; letter knowledge, or graphemephoneme relationships; and knowledge of common letter patterns and groupings, such as those seen in suffixes and rimes. Other elements affecting reading fluency include sight word automaticity, ie the ease with which known words are identified; fluency in decoding unknown words; and knowledge of orthographical relationships. The ease with which a reader can integrate these cues will also affect fluency performance. Fluency is likewise affected by meaning-related processes. Evidence suggests that fluency and comprehension are reciprocal, with word context and vocabulary knowledge influencing automaticity. Readers' different metacognitive approaches, such as whether reading is considered a word recognition or a problem-solving activity, are also likely to affect fluency, as are cognitive features such as global processing speed. While it is evident that the effective inter-operation of these processes is required for reading fluency, current assessment practices are not able to identify the area in which a breakdown of skills is occurring. Oral reading tests that subsequently require students to answer comprehension questions are one way to assess fluency generally. Students’ sight word and phonogram (letter group) vocabularies can be tested using flash cards; nonsense-words can be used to test phonemic decoding skills; and letter knowledge can be assessed by having students name upper- and lower-case printed letters. By identifying the area where a certain process or skill is lacking, appropriate, targeted interventions can be implemented. Early instruction should focus on developing accuracy in different sub-skill areas before fluency problems can develop. Students should also be encouraged to read widely and attend to meaning when reading, as this facilitates development of automatic comprehension processes.

Key Learning Areas

English

Subject Headings

Reading difficulties
Reading
Literacy
Fluency
Child development

Digital forms of performance assessment

Volume 23 Number 2, December 2008; Pages 7–11

Performance assessments in ICT capture thinking processes and skills not easily addressed in formal written exams, and are increasingly viable as technology becomes more accessible and affordable. A study of eight senior secondary ICT classes examined the pedagogical benefit and manageability of a range of ICT practical assessment tasks. The assessment types examined included short performance tasks, such as production of a webpage, with additional responses to set questions; extended production exams, such as creating a poster; and process portfolios, such as production of a video with accompanying process documentation. While production task exams tended to be short, self-contained and easy to mark, they were limited in the knowledge they could assess. The other formats offered greater scope of assessment, but were more likely to suffer from too much or too little structure, which could limit students' ability to demonstrate the extent of their knowledge, or conversely result in unfocused responses. A clearer indication of how students' time should be spent on tasks such as annotation, documentation, and production, would have mitigated this issue, as students disliked annotating and responding to written components, and their performance reflected this. Analysis of the technological requirements of the assessments indicated that tasks that limited students to particular software or templates were easiest to mark, whereas task-based portfolio work that used different presentation formats and software programs was difficult to manage and assess. Uploading work to a database in condensed PDF, web and Flash formats facilitated ease of collection and assessment; the use of standards-based marking rubrics meant that the marking process could be easily conducted online by teachers and external examiners. While digital forms of performance evaluation are a viable assessment alternative and offer opportunities for students to demonstrate practical skills, they raise new challenges for ICT teachers, who must ensure that instructions are clear and offer scope for high-quality performance, and that tasks result in a similar output to ensure ease of marking.

KLA

Subject Headings

Western Australia (WA)
Technology teaching
Secondary education
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Assessment

'To find yourself, think for yourself': using Socratic discussions in inclusive classrooms

Volume 41 Number 3, January 2009; Pages 55–59
Barbara Fink Chorzempa, Laurie Lapidus

Socratic discussions, student-centred group conversations where students explore ideas and questions relating to a text, can help primary school students develop crtical thinking skills, and can promote more thoughtful, organised student writing. Prior to conducting a Socratic discussion, the appropriate foundations of mutual respect and a sense of community should be established: students should learn to value both their own and their peers' perspectives, and have the skills to offer constructive feedback. Students should also have an understanding of literary devices and elements, as this knowledge helps them in making textual connections, making inferences and identifying themes. They should be able to differentiate literal 'in the book' questions from 'in your head' questions requiring students to read between the lines. Students should read the text for discussion several times, answering guided questions and developing their own questions around themes and issues. A selection of these questions will be drawn upon in the Socratic discussion; these should be shared with students beforehand to allow students to flesh our their arguments and mark supporting evidence in the text. A final discussion topic that will be later assessed in writing should also be determined before the debate, as this allows the discussion to be guided toward relevant themes and topics. During the discussion, students should sit facing each other in a circle, and be given the opportunity to speak should they wish to; the post-discussion reflection time is the only point where all students are required to contribute. The teacher's role is that of a facilitator; they should not give an opinion until the reflection time, and then should be the last to speak. However, at primary level teachers may consider rephrasing students' questions to highlight key points or strategically calling on capable students to connect themes and arguments for the benefit of their peers. By engaging in a Socratic discussion, students have an opportunity to consider and pre-organise their thoughts and arguments, which can help them to produce evidence-supported, cohesive written work.

Key Learning Areas

English

Subject Headings

Thought and thinking
Reading
Questioning
Primary education
Inclusive education

Inclusion by design: engineering inclusive practices in secondary schools

Volume 41 Number 3, January 2009; Pages 16–23
Charles Dukes, Pamela Lamar-Dukes

While inclusive education programs cannot be easily superimposed upon highly structured secondary education programs, effective inclusive practices that work within existing structures can be planned using processes analogous with engineering design. An engineering design framework takes the following form: an issue should be defined and conceptualised; the purpose and function of the resulting system should be considered; design concepts and specifications should be developed; and solutions should be implemented, tested and evaluated. The system, proposed to promote effective inclusive education, comprises a number of complementary subsystems: belief and vision, implemented via a vision statement; time and work space, through conscientious scheduling and access to teaching and meeting areas; documentation, helping cement instructional plans and goals; conflict resolution, achieved through planning and professional development; professional development, through training and collegial discussion; open lines of communication, facilitated by clear referral processes and regular contact; and standards of practice, to ensure inclusive principles are met. Mechanisms, such as school support teams, should be put into place to aid the implementation of the system. In order to test the efficacy of the system and its implementation, additional subsystems are needed. These include data collection, to monitor student, teacher and program success; and program evaluation, to determine whether the program should be continued, discontinued or modified. By framing inclusive education as an engineering problem, it can be addressed with basic engineering principles, which allow school support teams to implement building-block-style subsystems to engineer inclusive practices.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teaching profession
Secondary education
Inclusive education
Classroom activities

Integrating evidence-based practices in middle science reading

Volume 41 Number 3, January 2009; Pages 6–15
Stephen D. Kroeger, Cathy Burton

Reading comprehension in content areas such as science is challenging for many students, with texts involving abstract, conceptual material, non-narrative formats, high incidence of content words, and variation in text complexity. Explicit strategies, reflection, and small-group interactions can help students engage with challenging content material. One effective strategy is peer-mediated instruction, which encourages question asking, listening, the giving and receiving of feedback, and can help struggling students better engage with science concepts. Two middle school science classes took part in a peer mediation program to improve students’ skills in reading science texts and identifying main idea statements. Students with weaker reading skills were matched with stronger students and, in pairs, alternated between reading coach and reader roles, with the coach guiding the reader through the text by asking questions and offering explanations. A scoresheet was used to encourage specific reading behaviours, and a small reward was given for successful demonstration of these behaviours. Partners then followed guidelines to identify main idea statements in the text, and collaboratively constructed their own versions of these statements. This task was more challenging for students than the reading task; students tended to simply highlight either the first or last sentence of a paragraph, resulting in omissions. To help students, the teacher carefully modelled the identification of main ideas, and where necessary worked with students to edit their statements to reflect an accurate and concise understanding of the text. Analysis of struggling students’ content knowledge indicated that the program had resulted in some improvement in comprehension. The teachers reported that students’ skills and performance had improved, and favoured the reciprocal mentoring format, which did not appear to favour high- or low-achieving students. However, high-level readers often became bored with the fairly inflexible format, and would have benefited from some variation of materials or procedures. Student responses indicated that while they perceived content reading as difficult and undesirable, the majority (61%) found the program helpful. In implementing peer-mediated instruction programs, teachers need to allow program flexibility; provide a framework for independent interaction; allow students to extend their learning by promoting transfer of knowledge by highlighting generalisable features; and sustain student engagement.

Key Learning Areas

Science

Subject Headings

Middle schooling
Science teaching
Science literacy
Reading
Literacy
Coaching

Exploring barriers to the role of Corrective Reading in systemic school reform: implications of a three-part investigation

Volume 9 Number 1, Winter 2009; Pages 13–33
Michael R. Vitale, Theodore S. Kaniuka

In the USA, a Grade 3–12 remedial reading program known as Corrective Reading (CR), where students are placed in small groups depending on the results of initial placement tests, has had minimal uptake despite strong evidence supporting its efficacy. Teachers' estimations of student achievement potential, as well as teachers' perceptions of CR, were analysed to provide potential reasons for low levels of the program’s implementation. The authors first undertook an analysis of the effectiveness of CR when used by low-achieving Grade 3 and 4 students over a year-long period. Students in the CR program demonstrated between 24% and 29% greater achievement growth on state accountability tests than control group students who received basal reading instruction. Using these results as a guideline for viable student achievement, the authors then analysed 57 non-CR teachers' perceptions of the grade-level appropriateness of the program’s content. Teachers rated CR items as appropriate for students at much higher grade levels, or only for high-ability students. However, these test items had been successfully mastered by remedial Grade 3 and 4 students, indicating that CR intervention could result in accelerated achievement beyond teachers' expectations. For the final part of the study, teachers enrolled in a postgraduate elementary education course were given basic information about CR and were asked to make recommendations regarding its adoption in their school. Less than half of the 21 respondents made a favourable recommendation for the program. However, the program weaknesses they identified when explaining their recommendations represented misconceptions of CR's design principles and reflected perspectives potentially influenced by the prevalence of other widely accepted remedial programs. Teachers advocated approaches that contrasted with those of CR, indicating that the program, despite evidence of its benefits to students, might be rejected from consideration for implementation due to lack of consistency with accepted program principles. To encourage the take-up of programs such as CR, teachers must be convinced of these programs' efficacy. One way of achieving this is through demonstration of how such programs can help students meet performance standards of mandatory accountability systems.

Key Learning Areas

English

Subject Headings

United States of America (USA)
Reading difficulties
Primary education
Literacy
Education policy
Child development

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