How secondary principals view New Zealand's leadership preparation and succession strategies
Volume 15 Number 2, 2009; Pages 44–58
The article is the first report of a review into strategies for the preparation and succession of educational leaders in New Zealand. It reports the results of a survey of 14 secondary principals who described their experiences of school leadership development. This group broadly matched the gender, age and levels of qualification of New Zealand principals nationally, while over-representing Maori principals. Five had participated in the country's First Time Principals Programme. Most participants reported that they had been promoted into middle and senior leadership roles with little training or prior understanding, leading to 'serial incompetence' in their performance. Such leaders need to learn on the job, a situation that encourages the development of idiosyncratic leadership theories. The participants were generally unaware of the world-class educational research into school leadership that has been conducted in New Zealand. During their careers none had encountered systematic efforts to identify and encourage potential school leaders, nor had they encountered programs to train them for specific roles in middle leadership; all such efforts to nurture leaders should be put in place. Their responses indicated that the shift from team leadership to principalship was receiving far more attention and support than the move from potential leader to aspirant leader, from aspirant to team leader, and from team leader to executive leadership roles. The support they had received was uneven and fragmented, and had been accessed more or less accidentally. The study suggests a growing diversity in the paths to principalship. If confirmed by further research, this finding calls for leadership strategies that impose few entry conditions; allow many entry and exit points for relevant training and tertiary study; allow for training units that are discrete and modular and also widely accredited; draw on existing leadership resources for mentoring; and integrate experiential and academic learning.
Taking up the reins: the first year for deputy principals
Volume 15 Number 2; Pages 31–43
The deputy principal, sometimes called deputy head-teacher or assistant principal, has traditionally been assigned to management of a school's routine operations, such as superintendence of material resources, staff rostering, and student discipline. Research suggests that deputy principals often desire a greater role in strategic leadership of the school and the curriculum. A recent Western Australian study has examined how deputy principals adapt to their role during their first year in the position. The researchers interviewed eight deputy principals in primary schools, four of them new to their school. They were interviewed after two months, 7–8 months and 10–11 months in their positions. The researchers also drew on deputies' reflective logs and observations of their work. The research indicated that each set of interviews marked the end of a distinct phase in the deputies' adaption to their new role. During the first phase the deputies were 'taking bearings': learning new tasks and, if the school was new to them, learning about its staff and culture. They had not taken part in any preparatory programs, instead they learned pragmatically on the job. While generally unsurprised by their new tasks, they were not prepared for the frequency of interruptions to their work and the consequent degree of reactivity imposed on them. However, the task-oriented nature of this apprenticeship period made it qualitatively less demanding than that of new principals. In the next phase they were 'taking stock': building relationships by making themselves accessible to other staff, collaborating and advising, easing workloads and giving feedback. Other research suggests that experienced deputies develop sophisticated methods to delegate, support others, and cultivate professional networks; for participants in the current study these techniques were at the early stages of development. After 7–8 months they began 'taking control' and developing a sense of ownership over their roles. In contrast to previous research focused on principals, the deputies did not highlight problem-solving as a contributor to their professional maturation. They did however develop a strong sense of their role as mediator between teachers and the principal, which added to the significance of their position while also generating tensions with their role, and the potential for conflicting allegiances.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Volume 5 Number 2, April 2010; Pages 118–129
Small learning communities in the middle years have become an integral part of middle schooling, and the formation of small teaching teams has become a popular strategy across education systems in Australia. However, implementing teaching teams requires substantial changes in school culture and teacher practices. Using observation and interview data, the authors examined over a year-long period how middle-school teaching teams developed within purpose-built middle schools in Queensland. The participants were 24 teachers from teaching teams from four middle schools. Many of the facilitators and barriers to team teaching related to school culture. While the administration had set up structures to promote team teaching, such as 'pods' and configurable classrooms, other affordances such as joint planning time and appropriate training and PD were largely inadequate. The teachers felt uncertain about negotiating the unfamiliar demands of team teaching and many reverted to teaching independently as a result. The teachers, many of whom were subject specialists, struggled with designing an integrated curriculum and lacked the administrative support to implement it. Many of the teachers also struggled with the human element of working in teams. Some teachers were frustrated by 'not having a choice' in their teaching partners, while others were frustrated by the instability caused by high staff turnover. While the top-down policy approaches created initial conditions to facilitate team-teaching practices, the expectation that such practices would emerge spontaneously as a result of the implementation of certain administrative structures proved ill-founded. In order to develop a genuine culture of teaming, teachers need targeted and ongoing training in teaming practices. Team members should have some say in their team placement, and in order to reduce issues of instability, should be permanent members of staff rather than those on contracts. Administrators need to mentor teams and offer ongoing professional development and resources such as shared planning time to encourage collaborative working. Evaluation protocols should be used to assess team knowledge and skills, and to assist in developing effective practices and overcoming potential conflicts. Such approaches can facilitate bottom-up recognition of the top-down support and value of team-teaching and learning practices, encouraging a culture of team practices.
Subject HeadingsGroup work in education
Teaching and learning
Volume 29 Number 5, November 2009; Pages 463–476
Changes in the diversity of school communities have seen increased emphasis on equity issues. The authors undertook a literature review on research into equity issues confronting students who face potential disadvantage due to low-SES backgrounds, special needs, or sexual orientation. The article provides a range of strategies designed to help principals and leadership teams close the equity gap, presented under four domains. Under the curriculum interpretation domain, the authors recommend that principals encourage discussion of issues of diversity and social justice; model equity-related beliefs and expectations through interactions with school staff; provide intellectual support to staff in relation to the clarification of misconceptions in terms of equity issues; and work to create a school culture that is safe and affirming. The four strategies in the instructional practices domain include providing ways to help teachers support students through methods such as instructional support and linking student identities with coursework; ensuring that all students have opportunities to participate; ensuring that potential bias is recognised when identifying students for special education tracks; and prioritising and providing support for research-based practices and teacher inquiry. Recommendations under the third domain, assessment and evaluation, include providing data-rich environments to monitor progress toward reducing achievement gaps; training teachers in providing consistent and reliable assessment practices; avoiding cultural, linguistic or gender bias in assessment tasks; accommodating the needs of special needs or English-learner students in assessment tasks while avoiding processes that 'game' the system by inflating achievement scores; and celebrating achievement gains at all levels rather than simply those that will result in improved school results on national tests. The final domain, community involvement, recommends that schools make use of the wider school community by recognising the unique expertise and perspectives of those involved; and by working with parents and families to create partnerships to support students' learning and identities. Through working with staff to improve pedagogical approaches and to address beliefs about equity, and by connecting the school and the wider community, principals and leadership teams can influence equity outcomes.
Volume 4 Number 7, July 2009; Pages 1–8
High teacher turnover due to teacher migration and teacher attrition is a problem for many schools in the USA. High teacher turnover affects school 'community, continuity and coherence', negatively affecting achievement and accountability. In addition, high levels of attrition have led to concerns about future teacher shortages. Research has indicated that salary and poor working conditions are two factors significantly influencing teacher turnover. The authors drew on three years' data relating to teacher turnover and teacher salary from all schools in the state of Texas to examine possible links between income and attrition. Across each of the three years a significant relationship was found between teacher turnover and salary, with lower salaries linked with higher levels of turnover. In addition, the teacher turnover rate was approximately twice as high in the poorest paying school districts as in the highest paying school districts. This is significant in light of research that has shown that the poorest resourced areas tend to be those with disproportionately high levels of new or inexperienced teachers despite often being most in need of experienced, expert teachers. In order to ensure the continued provision of high-quality teachers, it is essential not only to train new teachers, but to reduce levels of attrition among experienced and high-quality teachers. Attrition is costly in that it not only requires the recruitment, hiring, processing and training of teachers, but also that it affects student outcomes and overall teacher quality. Addressing teacher salary levels and other benefits could have a positive influence on levels of teacher migration and attrition.
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
15 March 2010
At Deakin University a sex education unit for pre-service teachers is addressing some persistent challenges which this delicate topic poses for educators in the classroom. While sex education is compulsory at both primary and secondary levels, it is often taught in a superficial or outdated way. For example, most primary school sex education programs focus on 'stranger danger' despite substantial research evidence that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by people known to the victim. Teachers tend to be reluctant to cover the topic, for several reasons. They may fear negative responses by parents or the school community and may themselves be uncomfortable with the issues raised. Teachers may also feel that they lack sufficient training and knowledge of the topic. Sex education at primary level is often limited to anatomy. In secondary schools, it is often taken by physical education or health education teachers with only a few hours' training on the topic during their teacher education course. Teachers can help to deal with sexual abuse of children by picking up on warning signs, such as sudden social withdrawal by a formerly happy and outgoing child, and by creating an environment where children feel able to raise difficult topics.
Subject HeadingsSex education
Teaching and learning
Poverty, family resources and children's early educational attainment: the mediating role of parenting
26 February 2010; Pages 1–20
Subject HeadingsSocially disadvantaged
Parent and child
Volume 26 Number 2, March 2010; Pages 115–139
A recent literature review has examined the relationship between socioeconomic status and literacy achievement, and strategies to increase the reading achievement of low-SES students. The review found that children's reading achievement was higher when they had more educational resources available at home, and when parents provided challenging activities and quality time and attention. Parents' education, salaries, and work hours also affected literacy achievement. Poorer homes had fewer of these resources, and poorer parents tended to provide less emotional support and cognitive stimulation. Strategies to improve students' reading achievement included linking children's 'reading identities' to their home and at-school experiences, supporting students' cultural and linguistic identities. School-home partnerships offer a means to improve poor students' reading achievement and to include parents in their children's education. A number of successful programs are discussed. One program involved providing parents with specific guidelines for participating in literacy practices such as reading aloud, or reading with their children, while another encouraged parents to observe their children's reading at school, and offered sessions instructing parents in how to read with their children. A third program attempted to improve children's language and reading skills through encouraging dialogic reading, while a fourth provided literacy materials to low-SES families. Issues relating to intergenerational illiteracy may need to be countered through special programs or approaches. Rather than simply attributing students' literacy skills to their home environment, literacy practices should seek to capitalise on students' interests, culture and language practices. Literacy instructors should examine students' motivation for reading, and tailor instruction accordingly using authentic literacy activities.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEarly childhood education
Parent and child
School and community
United States of America (USA)
Cross-cultural immersion in China: preparing pre-service elementary teachers to work with diverse student populations in the United States
Volume 37 Number 3, August 2009; Pages 295–317
Despite attempts to address the demands of culturally diverse education in teacher education programs, many new teachers remain underprepared to teach students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Cultural immersion experiences offer a way to help students develop culturally responsive pedagogies and improved cross-cultural perspectives. Drawing on interviews, correspondence and observations, the authors examined the changing perspectives of ten pre-service primary teachers (PSTs) from the USA who participated in a four-week teaching exchange program in China. As part of the program, the PSTs taught English classes in Chinese schools, stayed with host families or with colleagues from their schools, and participated in cultural exchange activities. Overall, the program had a significant effect on the PSTs' understanding of different cultures and on their approaches to teaching. They demonstrated improved understandings and respect for a culture that was unfamiliar to them. Their personal and professional encounters in China helped them move from very superficial understandings of cultural differences to an awareness of the importance of culture and its link with identity. They learnt to empathise with minority experiences and reported feeling closer connections with second-language learners. For example, several PSTs initiated penpal exchanges with Chinese students to encourage further cultural exchange after the program. Differences in terms of teaching resources and class sizes encouraged the PSTs to be creative and flexible in their teaching, and to collaborate in terms of class planning and sharing materials. They worked in partnership with the Chinese English teachers to develop practical and effective classroom approaches, and significantly improved their pedagogical knowledge in relation to working with language learners. However, the PSTs who actively sought out learning opportunities through social interactions, collaboration and exploration of culture tended to find the program a richer cross-cultural learning experience than those who did not. The cross-cultural experience could be further improved by ensuring that PSTs receive critical guidance prior to, during, and after their exchange program. For example, they could be given preliminary reading material before the program, be encouraged to attend weekly meetings during the program, and then participate in reflective small-group meetings upon its completion.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Social life and customs
English language teaching
Volume 29 Number 2, June 2009; Pages 213–227
Recent educational reform in Hong Kong has focused on lifelong learning, with homework being used as one component to consolidate learning and understanding. However, Hong Kong students already have high levels of homework, so there is potential for overload. Drawing on questionnaires and homework diaries, the authors examined the experiences of and attitudes toward homework among 2,361 K–6 primary students in Hong Kong. While 43.7% of students spent less than one hour a day on homework, 27.8% spent between 1 and 2 hours, and 28.3% of students spent more than two hours on homework each day. Senior primary students were significantly more likely to report moderate or high homework involvement. This is likely to be due to the demands of high-stakes internal and external examinations that determine secondary school placement. Distinctive patterns of involvement in homework were identified. Students who reported spending relatively little time on homework did in fact have low levels of homework assigned to them. However those who reported high levels of homework often had no higher workloads than students who reported moderate levels of homework; they simply worked at a slower pace. Junior primary students who had low levels of assigned homework, and therefore spent less time on homework, showed greater homework interest and academic efficacy than those who had moderate amounts of homework, and therefore spent moderate or high levels of time on homework. However, for senior students, those who were assigned moderate amounts of homework on which they spent moderate amounts of time demonstrated better achievement than those who were assigned the same amount of homework, but who worked more slowly, or those who were assigned smaller amounts of homework. Spending large amounts of time on homework, whether due to the amount of homework assigned, or an individual student's working pace, not only affects students' attitudes and academic efficacy, but can also result in stress, and detract from time spent on other activities that can be beneficial to socio-emotional growth. Schools should therefore focus on the quality rather than quantity of tasks when assigning homework, and should ensure that tasks maximise potential learning without overloading students. Teachers should aim to coordinate assigned homework across subject areas, and to ensure that students who are spending disproportionately large amounts of time on homework receive appropriate support.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
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