From instructional leadership to leadership capabilities: empirical findings and methodological challenges
Volume 9 Number 1, January 2010; Pages 1–26
Instructional leadership, where the focus of the leadership is learning-centred, is considered to have a much greater effect on student outcomes than transformational leadership. However little has been written about the particular capabilities that leaders need in order to practise successful instructional leadership. Drawing on case studies, the author proposes a model of three interrelated qualities an effective leader needs. The first is leadership content knowledge (LCK), that is, an understanding of teaching and learning and how it interacts with administrative decision making such as teacher evaluation and the selection of resources. Leaders with a deep knowledge of pedagogy can more easily identify problems related to teaching and learning, and respond appropriately. The second quality is the ability to solve complex, ill-structured problems. Research on principals who are considered expert decision makers has found that they are open to alternative perspectives, tend to link the problem to wider goals, and seek consensus on solutions. The third quality is the ability to build relational trust. Trust can encourage a willingness to engage in new endeavours, foster a sense of responsibility, and encourage the development of a stronger professional culture. Its presence is critical to goals that require collaborative effort in order to be met. Essential factors in building trust are interpersonal respect, personal regard, competence and integrity. Each of the three qualities of effective instructional leadership are strongly interrelated. High-quality problem solving, for example, is strongly linked with leadership content knowledge, and is usually done in an inclusive and social manner. Rather than drawing on heavily specified descriptive lists of capabilities, leadership standards frameworks and curriculums should emphasise the integration of relevant leadership skills.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Volume 29 Number 15, 11 December 2009
Local district education systems in the USA are revising their teacher evaluation mechanisms to capture more details of teachers' performance levels. The move has been encouraged by government funding to support closer performance monitoring: the government's Race to the Top program links teachers' performance with promotion, remuneration and professional development. One prominent model for performance measurement, Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, has been used within an evaluation system in Cincinnati, and a review of this system found 'a strong correlation between teachers' evaluation scores and student achievement on year-end tests'. A joint committee of teachers and administrators in Cincinnati proposed a new salary schedule designed to raise salaries of high-performing teachers, but 'withhold a significant amount' from teachers found to perform poorly over several years. Members of the relevant teachers union voted against the pay proposal and the union leadership that negotiated the agreement was replaced. One senior administrator involved attributed these difficulties to delays in implementing associated professional development; compulsory involvement of current teachers in the pay plan, rather than introducing it only for new teachers; and a 'fear factor' among teachers who initially scored below expectations. A subsequent review by the New Teacher Project organisation has also raised concerns that 'well-designed systems can become less rigorous over time': it found that no teacher had been rated as unsatisfactory since 2004–05. The Framework for Teaching model was also applied in Chicago's Excellence in Teaching Project, which has had ongoing union backing. It is now in its second year. An evaluation of the project found overwhelming support from principals and teachers, however the project manager has noted the need for gradual introduction. A separate evaluation system in Washington DC, called IMPACT, has been opposed by the AFT, which raised concerns that teachers had no say in the appointment of 'master educators' assigned to evaluate them. Further concerns about pay-related evaluation schemes include inter-rater reliability, the expense of training and hiring qualified evaluators, and the danger that the resistance generated by the schemes' implications for teachers' salaries and careers could affect efforts to use the systems for continuous professional development.
Subject HeadingsTeacher evaluation
United States of America (USA)
The 'spiritual' is a quality of human consciousness that responds to the awesome and the beautiful in nature and in human creations. It is often linked to a deep sense of fulfilment, unconnected to egoism or material gain. The spiritual can be understood in secular as well as religious terms and, in the school curriculum, should not be confined to faith-based contexts. The Adelaide Declaration and the Melbourne Declaration have both endorsed the relevance of the spiritual for all students. The Melbourne Declaration, for example, calls for education to offer the chance for students to become 'confident and creative individuals' able to manage 'their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being'; it links spiritual well-being to self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity. The spiritual has not traditionally been recognised through formal curriculum structures, especially in the government sector. It could, however, be expressed in the curriculum via three broad themes: awe and wonder, a means to inspire and to generate reflection upon 'the bigger and more powerful stories'; means and purposes, inviting students to explore satisfactions of activity unrelated to the pursuit of personal advantage; and being and knowing, the integration of thought and action, for example through the application of ethical principles to practical problems. Opportunities to invite spiritual awareness in students arise across subject areas: for example, through community service learning in Civics, aesthetics in Mathematics, ethics in Philosophy, and vision in History or Science. The spiritual in the curriculum is more likely to be expressed at the level of content elaboration than content description. Assessment of the spiritual is most meaningfully undertaken in terms of 'the educator's provision of opportunities for deep learning and expression' rather than attempts to grade the spiritual content of student work.
Thought and thinking
Volume 38 Number 1, February 2010; Pages 5–22
Efforts at both State and federal levels to prepare teachers for employment within the local or national context fail to take into account the fact that teachers have transferable skills that equip them well for employment overseas. These transferable skills are in fact a major reason that young people take up teaching. Australian teachers are also being actively sought by employers in other countries and by international recruitment agencies, to fill teaching gaps and for their English language skills. The authors interviewed 11 pre-service teachers to examine their perceptions of job mobility, and whether they aspired to teach overseas. The respondents were highly aware that they were considered a valuable resource overseas. In addition to seeing many advertisements offering overseas opportunities to teachers, they reported being contacted by international recruitment agencies. The teachers saw their careers as experience-based, and saw teaching overseas as a valuable way to gain these experiences. Nine of the respondents were actively considering teaching overseas, although many wanted to 'find their feet' locally before doing so. Younger teachers were more likely to want to teach overseas, however they considered doing so an 'interlude' in their careers. A number of 'push' and 'pull' factors for teaching overseas were identified. Pull factors included 'the experience', and extended social networks, as well as the demand for Australian teachers overseas, and the added lifestyle and financial incentives of these opportunities. Push factors included the current employment situation in Australia, and local living conditions. Alternative incentives to remain in Australia included existing social bonds; personal priorities that varied according to life stages; and local salaries, which were perceived to be greater than those abroad. Education policy in Australia should reflect an awareness of young teachers' tendency toward mobility, and rather than discouraging young teachers from travelling overseas, should acknowledge the intercultural capital earnt through these experiences. However, it should also provide incentives for these teachers to return. Institutions should aim to exploit the skills gained through overseas employment, and should therefore focus on helping these teachers develop transferable skills and knowledge.
Coordinating procedural and conceptual knowledge to make sense of word equations: understanding the complexity of a 'simple' completion task at the learner's resolution
Volume 31 Number 15, October 2009; Pages 2021–2055
Although chemical word equations are commonly used in secondary school chemistry classes, students often struggle to solve them. To examine students' reasoning when completing these problems, the authors asked 300 secondary students in Britain to complete a five-item exercise where they filled in the missing term in a word equation, and then explained their answers. While the students achieved a reasonably high success rate on the items, their explanations often did not demonstrate a high level of understanding of relevant chemical concepts. Examination of students' reasoning suggested that correct responses to simple tasks 'are often achieved despite thinking that is inappropriate or at least incomplete', which would not be effective when used in more complex equations. 'Recall' strategies, for example, were only effective if the student correctly remembered and understood the relevant information. The 'schema', 'classification', and 'behaviour' strategies, where students applied patterns found among types of reactions, classes of substances, or related to a particular substance, were useful, but often had to be used in tandem, or in conjunction with other strategies and additional chemical knowledge. Students also used knowledge of the conservation principle to suggest items that had to appear in the equation, and used narratives to explain what occurred during a reaction. Some students reported guessing. The students' strategy use was often undermined by poor or confused understandings, and by difficulty in coordinating the different levels of chemical knowledge required by the equations. The authors suggest a schema for solving written chemical equations that may help students direct their strategy use. The schema involves 'strategic' knowledge, or awareness of the different strategies and the background knowledge needed, 'tactical' knowledge, knowledge of different chemical principles, patterns and processes, and 'meta-knowledge'. Teachers should take time to explore possible strategies with their students, and examine the strengths and limitations of these strategies. They should keep in mind the difficulty written equations pose for students, who will need to understand that appropriate strategies will vary depending on the particular chemical knowledge that can be drawn upon for a particular case.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
Volume 31 Number 13, September 2009; Pages 1777–1803
The article examines the implementation and effects of School Innovation in Science (SIS), a Victorian Government initiative designed to help schools improve their science provision. The program, rolled out to 400 primary and secondary schools in 2000–2004, comprised two key elements. The SIS Components was an eight-part framework for effective science practice, and was designed to help students develop meaningful understandings, as well as improve engagement by making science relevant and contextualised. It aimed to evaluate current practice, provide ideas for plans for action, encourage thoughtful approaches to teaching, and promote a shared vision of science. The second element was the SIS Strategy, a process to help schools improve their science programs by reviewing, planning, implementing and monitoring new initiatives. Drawing on analysis of their current science approaches, schools, helped by their SIS Coordinator, created action plans consistent with the SIS Components. Professional development was tied to the action plans, and was largely driven by the SIS Coordinator, and by collegial discussion and collaboration within the school. Important elements included time allowances, network support and quality documentation. It was found that the circumstances of different schools, and therefore the appropriate approaches, varied widely. Primary schools faced challenges in building up a coherent science curriculum, as well as issues related to teacher confidence and knowledge. Steps taken to develop the profile and efficacy of primary science programs included writing science units matched to the state curriculum and the SIS Components, developing activity-based science units, obtaining science resources, and running science-related initiatives. Secondary schools struggled with the lack of a collaborative science culture, and with student engagement. They sought to promote team planning, develop a range of teaching and learning strategies to cater to different abilities and interests, and increase student autonomy. Improvements in team and classroom practices were significant outcomes for SIS schools, and student outcomes and attitudes improved when teachers' practice was strongly aligned with the SIS Components. SIS Coordinator leadership and school leadership were essential to the effectiveness of the SIS program.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsEducation and state
Volume 31 Number 17, November 2009; Pages 2355–2384
Beginning science teachers may benefit more from science-specific induction programs than from more general teacher induction programs. Using classroom observations and interviews, the authors examined the beliefs, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), and experiences of 114 new secondary science teachers participating in one of four different induction programs in the USA. The programs were categorised as general induction programs; science-specific e-mentoring programs; science-specific induction programs; or alternative certification programs where teachers earned their teaching qualification during their first year of teaching. It was found that the teachers' beliefs were largely 'instructive', or teacher-centred. While these beliefs did not change substantially over the year, the teachers in the science-specific induction program tended to move toward more transitional and reform-oriented beliefs. Conversely, other teachers, especially those from the alternative certification group, were more likely to shift toward traditional orientations. The teachers' PCK tended to be limited: teachers relied on a small number of instructional approaches, had difficulty recognising students' prior knowledge, struggled to accommodate diverse learning needs and styles, and rarely used inquiry. However, the teachers in the science-specific program group tended to use discussion far more than general induction teachers, and were more likely to review homework in class. They also conducted more practical work than other groups, and especially the alternative certification group. While most of the teachers had a science teacher mentor whom they met twice a month, half of the teachers did not find these meetings helpful or useful, and would have preferred more frequent meetings, more assistance in sourcing materials for laboratories, and more suggestions to support their teaching. Instead, many teachers frequently drew on the expertise of science teachers whose classrooms or offices were nearby; teachers in the e-mentoring science program also drew on online networks and resources. While science-specific mentoring programs may help new teachers develop reform-oriented practices and beliefs more readily than other programs, these programs need to include ongoing instruction in teaching the content area, and an emphasis on student learning. High-quality support from expert colleagues in close proximity was also an essential part of the induction process.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Teaching and learning
10 December 2009
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Social life and customs
United States of America (USA)
Volume 35 Number 2, January 2010; Pages 143–172
Developing informed views about the nature of science and technology is an important component of science education. However, research has indicated that many students have difficulty differentiating between science, which is the pursuit of knowledge about particular systems, and technology, the pursuit of solutions to particular problems or to meet particular needs. To examine teachers' and students' perceptions about the goals of science and technology, researchers in the USA surveyed 183 students in Grade 5 or 6, 132 students in Grade 7 or 8, and 78 pre-service teachers about whether they felt particular research projects were science- or technology-based. Interviews were then conducted with 36 of the participants. Analysis of the responses indicated that the participants had difficulty distinguishing between the two domains. Overall, only 22% of all respondents were able to correctly distinguish between science and technology, with primary and middle-school students achieving comparable results, and pre-service teachers performing better. Approximately 16% of the respondents incorrectly felt that science was concerned with natural entities, while technology was related to artificial ones, and a further 16% thought that the two were distinguished by the processes entailed by each, with science characterised by the use of experiments, and technology by construction. The remaining participants provided inadequate or ambiguous descriptions of their conceptions of science and technology. Criteria such as whether a project was innovative and creative, involved decision-making, was theoretical or experimental, or provided a certain contribution to society were used in deciding whether it was science-based or technology-based. Technology was often conflated with technological artefacts, or with manufacturing. Respondents were often inconsistent when assigning projects to science or technology categories, and when interviewed, many explicitly noted their failure to distinguish between the two fields. Given the widespread confusion about the role of science and technology, these issues should be explicitly addressed in classrooms, as well as in teacher preparation and professional development programs.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsMiddle schooling
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