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

Why has Computer Assisted Learning made so little impact in secondary education? Lessons from an economics and business subject case study

Volume 20 Number 2, June 2009; Pages 139–159

There has been 'widespread overhyping' of the educational contribution of ICT, the impact of which has remained 'stubbornly low'. A large-scale study of secondary schools in England, which controlled for social deprivation, ability and school selection, found 'the return per pound of ICT spending was less than one-quarter of that from book spending,' but also that schools spending highly on ICT 'received higher school inspection grades than would be indicated by their test results'. Findings from a comprehensive literature survey of the impact of ICT on attainment linked ICT's impact on educational outcomes to particular types of pedagogy, one of which is the use of games and simulations. Exploring this issue further, the article reports on findings of a longitudinal study that examined the impact of ICT in secondary school business and economics courses in England. The research involved a questionnaire sent in 1985, and at five-yearly intervals thereafter, to all members of the national subject association covering these disciplines. In 1985 the teachers reported that ICT was often subject specific, focused on the learning process, and involved students actively in their own learning processes. This form of use was exemplified by the then-prominent Computers in the Curriculum project. Between 1972 and 1985 the project developed simulations through which students explored simplified models of how government policy could influence the economy. However, over the following decades, use of ICT shifted toward generic applications. The proportion of students' ICT time spent on games and simulations fell from 20% in 1985 to 2% in 2005. Reasons include a turn to vocationally oriented business subjects; less subject-specific software on new PCs, which for commercial reasons followed changes to the curriculum; and teachers' continuing lack of confidence with ICT. Further reasons related to accountability mechanisms. School inspections recorded total levels of ICT in subject departments, 'but gave little guidance on good uses over bad'. The publication of 'league tables' encouraged a focus on testing rather than the wider benefits of self-directed, exploratory learning. Perhaps even the CAL model may be less beneficial than 'understanding, in a more literary way, the complexity and fascination of real-world problems through the use of case-studies' of economics.

KLA

Subject Headings

Economics
Business
Teaching and learning
Curriculum planning
Games
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Great Britain

A model for research-based state professional development policy

Volume 37 Number 3, August 2009; Pages 231–251
Allan Luke, Felicity McArdle

Teacher professional development (PD) in Australia has moved away from large-scale, state-driven programs and toward school- or region-based programs. However, this has made state-level accountability for PD costs difficult; similarly, there are no systems in place to assess the quality and efficacy of these programs. The authors review the literature on PD programs, and propose a six-phase, research-based model for selecting, devising and evaluating programs. First, the policy priority must be identified. Second, the priority must be refined to represent a specific, rather than general, educational problem. Existing or purpose-generated empirical data of students' results, teacher and student self-reports, or careful extrapolation from published studies, could be used as a basis to generate a more targeted statement of purpose. Third, the particular teacher cohort that will participate in the PD should be identified. The introduction of teachers' self-reports of skills, training and needs could help identify who would benefit most from the professional development, and avoid 'one size fits all' approaches that may not adequately build on teachers' existing skills, or may offer training to teachers who do not need it. Fourth, the particular PD content should be identified. The relevant theory and content of the PD can be identified by considering the particular content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, curriculum knowledge, and knowledge of students and community to be addressed by the professional development. Fifth, the particular mode and design of the PD should be addressed. These would include specific program characteristics such as whether the PD would take the form of a short course, workshop or conference attendance, and its duration, scale and theoretical research base. Sixth, formative and summative evaluation measures must be addressed in order to provide ongoing feedback to the program, and to address accountability and efficacy issues. Current policy emphases on high-stakes testing should not be allowed to shift PD toward short-term approaches. Schools would benefit from improved professional knowledge informed by evidence and research, and supported by sustained opportunities for translating knowledge into practice, and a focus on teachers as members of professional learning communities.

KLA

Subject Headings

Professional development
Teaching profession
Teaching and learning
Educational planning
Educational evaluation

Headteacher preparation programmes in England and Scotland: do they make a difference for the first-year head?

Volume 29 Number 1, February 2009; Pages 5–21
Michael Cowie, Megan Crawford

Despite increased interest in preparing new principals for their leadership role, little research has been undertaken into their perceptions of principal preparation programs. Seven new principals in Scotland and England were interviewed to examine how preparation programs and their paths to principalship had prepared them for their new roles. Prior to becoming a principal, all respondents had been offered additional leadership responsibilities, or had experience in senior teacher or acting principal roles, all of which supported their beliefs in their ability to become leaders. The self-efficacy and self-belief associated with their principal identities, and cemented by the principal preparation programs, helped them transition to their new roles without experiencing 'culture shock'. The respondents valued the opportunities provided by the principal preparation programs to develop and practise the skills required to deal with commonly arising issues. The programs broke down the 'information barrier', giving them insight into leadership issues, and fostered their credibility as principals. The programs were structured to enable the principals to adapt their learning to their particular contexts, which promoted reflection on principles, purposes and values. The programs likewise encouraged consideration of management approaches and the integration of theory and practice. The principals' developing experience and identification as leaders provided a 'means of entry' to the profession, reinforcing their conceptions of validity and efficacy as principals. These conceptions were further reinforced by the leadership networks they developed through the programs, which helped validate their professional identities and their approaches to their responsibilities. Principal preparation programs should ensure that new principals' identities as leaders are supported in order to promote their self-belief and confidence; wide networking opportunities should be provided to ensure that communities of practice are broad enough that they continue to be open to change. These programs should also ensure that attention is paid to the support and development needs of new principals, as well as to the socialisation processes involved.

KLA

Subject Headings

Professional development
Great Britain
School principals
School leadership

Needs for developing culturally oriented supportive learning with the aid of Information and Communication Technologies

Volume 17 Number 2, July 2009; Pages 189–200
Nektaria Palaiologou

Access to ICT and networked learning needs to be improved for many people in non-Western societies and for those belonging to ethnic minority groups, especially immigrant groups, within the West itself. ICTs are usually 'embedded with the values of the society which produced them' and may not be readily adapted 'to incorporate other cultural values and interests'. Online participation rates vary widely by ethnic group. Researchers have found that ICT use among Indigenous Australians is very low; that 95% of the Indian population is effectively excluded from internet participation due to a lack of English language knowledge; and that 'the liberal humanist traditions of Islamic and Arab high culture' are 'drowned out' by the 'dominant language and culture of cyberspace'. Multi-language websites are needed for educational programs and curricula. Cultural obstacles to communication in cyberspace include the absence of cues such as gesture and glance, delays in communicative feedback that are infrequent in real-world interaction, and limited technical understanding of ICT. Software developers, curriculum designers, and educators should plan to support and promote intercultural understanding. Learning objects, educational curricula, and software need to accommodate other cultures not only at the visible, superficial levels that are more open to change, but also at the level of the cultural 'inner layer'. Assessment practices for immigrant groups and other minority student groups should be informed by cultural understanding. The article also examines different definitions of culture and approaches to the concept of cyber-culture.

KLA

Subject Headings

Social life and customs

Media literacy and neo-liberal government: pedagogies of freedom and constraint

Volume 17 Number 1, March 2009; Pages 57–73

Emerging in the 1960s as a supplement to literary studies, media education later became known as cultural studies, with a new emphasis on students' own interests in and uses of different media. By the 1980s media production in the classroom became common, and has since spread further with the arrival of varied forms of ICT that are cheap and accessible. Media teachers often aspire to develop students' critical literacy and their sense of the work skills and decisions involved in making media. However, as Allan Luke foresaw, media educators' focus on 'critiquing media texts and media corporations' has been largely overwhelmed by a neo-liberal focus on 'de-politicised skills and techniques', with the capacity for critical study of media texts reconceived as part of a suite of capabilities that prepare students to be entrepreneurial risk-takers, actively and responsibly pursuing individual choice. One particular policy, to raise student retention rates, has had a distinct impact on media studies, and at once expresses, and points to the limitations of the neo-liberal agenda. Retention of more students has highlighted the problem of engaging students who are not academically inclined: media education has been seen as a means to engage and retain such students, as well as being 'an ideal subject to turn boys into readers'. As a result the subject struggles to attract the academically inclined students who are best placed to reflect on theoretical issues surrounding the media; media education is even seen as a 'dumping ground' for disruptive or disengaged students. Its low status means that media teachers often struggle for access to schools' technological and financial resources. Against the neo-liberal ideal of individual empowerment are the actual students' 'messy and complicated' entanglements in 'gender and race relations, poverty and homophobia'. The article is informed by the author's group interviews conducted with primary and secondary media teachers in 2007 in Ontario.

KLA

Subject Headings

Canada
Educational evaluation
Education policy
Educational planning
Films
Literacy
Mass media study and teaching

A conceptual framework for understanding the working relationship between school principals and vice-principals

Volume 29 Number 2, April 2009; Pages 157–159
Ping-Man Wong

In successful school-based management (SBM) schools, the principal and vice-principal often take on the respective roles of leading and facilitating change. However, understanding this working relationship is complicated by the vice-principal's often diverse role and varied responsibilities. The authors propose a detailed framework for analysing the types of working relationships that characterise principal and vice-principal teams, and for identifying the components that result in a successful pairing. The framework comprises three dimensions, with the first identifying the principal and vice-principal's relationship status, the second the roles played, and the third the tasks or functions performed. The framework was applied to 113 primary and secondary leadership teams in Hong Kong, where policy has focused on SBM, to examine which relationship types tended to occur, as well as participants' satisfaction with these. In most (53) leadership teams, the vice-principal's status was as 'chief-assistant'. In 41 teams, the vice-principal was a 'partner', or co-principal, and in 19 a 'mentor–learner'. The 'partners' relationship was more common in primary schools. Overall, although the working relation between principals and vice-principals was good, principals perceived a better relationship than vice-principals. The mentor–learner relationship was associated with the highest levels of satisfaction, followed by the partners relationship. This is perhaps due to these working relationships providing opportunities for on-the-job training for a future principalship position. The major factors affecting the working relationship were the degree of shared outlook towards school development, personality fit, and the provision of clear job specifications for vice-principals. Vice-principals' functions were diverse and significant, and included assisting with teacher appraisal, student discipline, the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. The framework provided an insight into the management culture of Hong Kong schools, as well as a means to identify the duties undertaken by a vice-principal. It offers a way to analyse the often ill-defined roles of vice-principals, and can be used to focus school and leadership development. A detailed description of the framework and its application is included in the article.

KLA

Subject Headings

School principals
School leadership
Hong Kong

Threat rigidity, school reform, and how teachers view their work inside current education policy contexts

Volume 46 Number 1, March 2009; Pages 9–44
Brad Olsen, Dena Sexton

When an organisation perceives itself as under threat or in crisis, a response phenomenon known as 'threat rigidity' may arise, resulting in communication problems, centralisation of control, increases in accountability, efficiency and conformity, and pressure to conform. Drawing on interviews with 6 teachers, the authors examine how such a response hindered reform efforts at Hawthorne High School, a large, underperforming school in the USA. To various degrees, teachers felt that the reforms, and the way they were decided upon and implemented, devalued their expertise and autonomy. Group tensions between the teachers themselves, as well as between teachers and the school leaders affected communication and participation: teachers felt uninformed and voiceless, and began to distance themselves from their colleagues, avoiding collaboration. Forced adherence to changes in curriculum, as well as the co-opting of professional development opportunities to further the reforms, constrained teachers' approaches to their work and threatened their professional autonomy. Opaque decision-making approaches, such as the way a 'small learning community' approach had been voted in by the administration despite teacher opposition, frustrated teachers. The new approaches constrained teachers' flexibility, creativity and autonomy, but emphasis on outcomes and standards, as well as perceived threats to their job security, pressured teachers to publicly conform. However, teachers took advantage of the relative privacy of their classrooms to strike a balance between meeting the new requirements and teaching the way they wanted. Finally, a high-stakes school evaluation dramatically escalated tensions around conformity, autonomy and lack of recognition, resulting in a public feud between teachers and the school leadership that ended with the principal and several vice-principals leaving the school. School leadership teams should consider potential threat rigidity effects before deciding on and implementing reform programs. Reforms should be implemented slowly and in an integrated and sustainable manner. Teachers should be included in all reform phases, and their expertise and professionalism should be valued. Open communication, innovative thinking, and a climate of trust, cooperation and teacher inclusion should be fostered.

KLA

Subject Headings

Reviews
School administration
School culture
School leadership
United States of America (USA)

Relationships among learner characteristics and adolescents' perceptions about reading strategy use

Volume 30 Number 3, May 2009; Pages 195–224
Susan Chambers Cantrell, Janis C. Carter

Proficient readers consciously draw on a variety of comprehension strategies when reading texts. Awareness of the strategies used by these readers and by their lower-achieving counterparts can inform instructional approaches. Drawing on self-report questionnaires and comprehension tests, a study examined the relationship between 2120 Grade 6 or Grade 9 students' reported use of academic reading strategies and their reading achievement, age and gender. Strategies were divided into three types: problem-solving strategies such as visualising, re-reading and adjusting reading speed; global reading strategies such as skimming; and support strategies such as note-taking or highlighting. Problem-solving strategies were the most frequently used, followed by global reading strategies: these strategies were more likely to be used by stronger readers. Support strategies were the least commonly used strategy type overall, and were more likely to be used by weaker students than higher-achieving students. However, girls, whose reading achievement was higher than boys', reported using all three strategy types more often than boys. This result may reflect gender differences in motivation and self-concept; alternatively, research indicates that girls use metacognitive strategies more than boys. No significant relationship was found between age and strategy use. Students' use of analytical 'deep-level' or, of more initial 'surface-level', strategies was then considered. Both levels of global reading strategies, such as critical evaluation (deep) and using tables and figures (surface), were significantly related to reading achievement. Surface-level problem-solving strategies, such as re-reading, were positively related to reading achievement; surface-level support strategies were negatively related to achievement. Deep-level problem-solving strategies were not significantly related to achievement; nor were deep-level support strategies, although these were perhaps underreported by weaker students due to being less immediately evident than their surface-level counterparts. Struggling readers must develop skills in using surface-level strategies to quickly repair comprehension difficulties, as well as deep-level strategies to aid analysis. They should learn strategies to identify and solve reading problems, and develop global reading strategies. Boys may benefit from developing global reading strategies and surface-level problem-solving skills. Educators should also consider that students' strategy use is context-specific, and may change with factors such as motivation, engagement and background knowledge.

KLA

Subject Headings

Reading
Literacy
Adolescents

'Living the literate life': how teachers make connections between the personal and professional literate selves

Volume 30 Number 1, January 2009; Pages 20–50
Kimberley Gomez

Teachers help shape learners' literacy skills not only through their pedagogical knowledge and teaching practices, but also their personal values and beliefs regarding literacy. A study of 12 teachers enrolled in a Master’s degree in literacy examined the teachers' beliefs about their 'literate selves', and how these beliefs influenced their classroom approaches. Data were collected via interviews, surveys, and a diary of participants' literacy-related activities over a 24-hour period. Survey data indicated that the teachers strongly valued literacy; most reported having read from a young age, being confident readers, and enjoying reading for pleasure. However, the teachers' literacy diaries displayed little evidence of time spent 'reading for pleasure': the teachers' reading tended to be work- or classroom-related. Only one-third of teachers reported writing for pleasure within the previous month, and teachers rarely engaged in extended writing. Writing tasks mainly comprised emails, text messages and lists. Teachers agreed that functional reading and writing often predominated over leisure-related forms of these activities, but some expressed surprise or disappointment at their infrequent engagement in these activities. Teachers connected their identities as literate people to the classroom in a variety of ways. Their personal literacy was an important tool, and deeply influenced their classroom approaches. Valuing literacy was key to supporting literacy development, which was considered a force of 'liberation and transformation'. The teachers reported sharing their literate selves with students by creating reading spaces in their classrooms, spending time on reading activities, arranging author visits, encouraging involvement in poetry competitions, sharing their own reading material and reading experiences with students, and promoting discussion about reading. Teachers who value and who are enthusiastic about literacy strongly connect these beliefs with classroom practice, and are confident supporters of classroom literacy.

Key Learning Areas

English

Subject Headings

Reading
Teaching and learning
Self-perception
Literacy

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