Volume 31 Number 3, June 2010; Pages 50–56
Principals can assist their teachers' learning in six broad ways. Firstly, principal's expectations of teachers as learners should be positive. Principals need to allow for the fact that teachers learn at different rates, and may be learning in ways unknown to them. Without these allowances principals may dismiss a teacher's accomplishments and developmental potential. Secondly, principals should demonstrate to teachers the process by which they themselves learn, for example by taking part in a study group alongside teaching staff. Some leaders may worry about revealing the limits of their knowledge on a given topic, but such openness is effective in making teachers more open to learning. A third principle is hospitality: the welcoming of unfamiliar ideas and different viewpoints. People often respond to differences of opinion by pretending they don't exist, surrendering to others' views, or rushing to compromise. It may be more useful to accept the existence of opposing views as not only permissible but as an opportunity for growth. Open expression of differences may also clarify them and make them easier to address. Principals should support the benefits of having different perspectives and should distinguish differences of opinion from personal judgments about the staff involved. When the practical resolution of differences is required, principals have the options of selecting one opinion, allowing different plans to proceed simultaneously in different contexts, establishing a compromise solution or introducing a new approach altogether. Fourthly, principals can stimulate teachers' disposition to learn by creating a sense of possibility, through 'new visions of what might be' and 'new lenses for seeing what is'. This can occur by exposing staff to other educators' ideas and practices, eg through classroom visits, video presentations and study groups. Fifthly, principals' inquiry into what teachers are learning can highlight the value they place on such professional development. The sixth element is that principals should try to ensure that professional development is addressed to the teacher as a whole learner: proposed new practices should be integrated into the teacher's wider knowledge base and their broader system of beliefs and values.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Teaching and learning
The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: balancing teacher control and student autonomy
Volume 26 Number 3, 2010; Pages 369–385
A model for the introduction of autonomous, networked student learning has been trialled at a K–12 independent school in the USA. This test case involved 15 students spanning the final three years of secondary school. During a nine week unit each student researched a contemporary social issue of their choice using a range of web applications, including RSS alerts, social bookmarking, personal blogs, video conferencing, web searches, podcasts, digital notebooks and a class wiki. Teachers scaffolded this learning experience, providing students with working knowledge of the web applications involved as well as the organisational skills required for independent learning online. Students' capacity to develop and maintain a personal learning environment was assessed through weekly assignments, a rubric-based evaluation at the end of the unit, an essay and a final synthesis of the topic using multimedia. At the end of the semester students were surveyed for their views about the trial. Positive responses were received from 11 students, who valued the unit for the breadth and quality of learning it offered, and saw it as a sound preparation for tertiary study. One negative response referred to the fact that ICT was not 'fun or entertaining' in the school context, while another student noted the difficulty of moving from a traditional to an autonomous model of learning. Students identified time management as the greatest area of difficulty for them, especially time free from normal classes, which students were left to regulate on their own. The researchers concluded that students' success in adapting to autonomous networked learning is likely to depend on their individual levels of motivation, technical aptitude and comfort with self-directed learning. It also depends on the teacher's ability to gauge students' understanding and progress. The unit called on teachers to find a balance between encouraging student autonomy and scaffolding students' experience of a new and challenging learning environment. Generalising this form of learning to other schools would require extensive professional development and 'a philosophy different from that of most current educators'. One of the most useful forms of such professional development would be to apprentice a teacher to a colleague who has already implemented networked learning in a classroom.
Subject HeadingsInquiry based learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
United States of America (USA)
Volume 13 Number 2, April 2010; Pages 155–176
Researchers in the USA have studied the experiences of five Grade 4 and two Grade 5 teachers who took part in a 'video club' at their school. The purpose of the club was to improve their students' mathematical thinking and practice. The teachers were located at an urban school in the third year of a reform-based maths curriculum. The club met once or twice a month, a total of 10 times over a school year. The researchers taped the teachers' maths classes, selecting five- to seven-minute segments that showed students working through a maths problem or discussing it with their teacher. Each meeting observed selected sequences from two videotaped classes. The researchers evaluated the club by observing the teachers' classes, watching videotapes of the club meetings and interviewing participants at the end of the year. The teachers indicated that they valued the opportunity to re-examine their lessons on videotape, which allowed the teachers to see events they did not note at the time. They also valued the chance to observe other teachers' classes and discuss classroom events from multiple perspectives. The researchers found that by the end of the year teachers provided significantly more opportunities for students to express their mathematical ideas in class. This success is notable given the fact that professional development often has little effect on teachers' practice. Its success may be due to the close link between the videotaped content and the teachers' classroom context. The meeting discussions may also have stimulated teachers' interest in students' comments about maths. Other benefits of the meetings were in informing teachers about the curriculum used at another grade level, and encouraging them to reflect on their own mathematical thinking. While teachers may gain insights from participation in a video club, their ability to apply new ideas in class may be limited by existing beliefs that do not match the reform vision; by lack of awareness of how their ideas conflict with new teaching methods; and by lack of knowledge and skill to teach in the new way. Their school context may also inhibit adoption of reforms.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Video recordings in education
Volume 26 Number 4, October 2010; Pages 361–373
Response to Intervention (RTI) approaches can be used to help identify students with learning difficulties and to guide instruction in order to improve outcomes for all students. The core elements of RTI are the use of formative assessment for screening and progress monitoring; the placement of students into tiered instructional groups; the development of level-appropriate interventions; and the monitoring of student progress. The authors examined how an underperforming primary school in the US Midwest implemented an RTI program to improve literacy outcomes. To examine the efficacy of its literacy program, the school began screening all students three times a year using a range of reading assessments. Depending on their achievement, the students were then assigned to either the core program, a supplemental intervention program or an intensive intervention program. The school adopted a new research-based reading program that offered a more systematic and explicit approach to building students' reading skills. In addition to participation in the daily core program, students participated in intervention or extension activities for 45 minutes each day. During this time the lower two tiers participated in strategic reading instruction and intensive reading instruction. The teachers worked with literacy specialists to examine data and propose interventions for particular students. Data was also used to inform instruction and decision-making. At the end of three years, student outcomes had improved significantly, with the number of students in the first tier increasing and the number of students in the bottom tier decreasing. The school also became significantly more accurate in identifying students to be referred to special education.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
United States of America (USA)
9 August 2010
Australia has seen an 'explosion' in the number of children diagnosed with behavioural problems, which range from autism to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The number of special needs school students has risen from 40,000 in 1981 to over 150,000 in 2008. A recent parliamentary inquiry in NSW found that over 143,000 students in the state had special needs or learning difficulties. However Linda Graham, a researcher at Macquarie University's Centre for Research into Social Inclusion (CRSI), has argued that the criteria used for these diagnoses are vague and has suggested that the process used to verify these figures is also unclear. She has cited NSW Treasury statistics showing a 41 per cent rise over one year in the number of students diagnosed as eligible for special education support in integrated settings. Her findings are to be reported in the International Journal of Inclusive Education. She has also raised concerns over the fact that boys in NSW have been diagnosed with autism at nine times the rate of girls, noting that internationally the ratio of boys to girls is only three to one. These concerns will be raised in the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Volume 11 No. 3. The current article also cites varying opinions as to when it is appropriate for children with disabilities to be taught in mainstream classes, at special schools or in special classes in a mainstream school.
New South Wales (NSW)
Volume 38 Number 1, February 2010; Pages 5–11
The author interviewed 17 Grade 1 and 20 Grade 4 or 5 students from a primary school in the USA to examine the sources from which they gathered information about their own learning, as well as criteria they used to evaluate their knowledge and performance. All of the students regularly participated in reflection and self-appraisal tasks as part of their regular classroom activities. The most frequently listed source of information for self-assessment was others’ evaluations, such as those of a teacher or parent. The older students were twice as likely to use personal standards as a criterion for self-assessment. Where the older students tended to describe meaningful text features when judging the quality of their work, the younger students tended to identify superficial features, such as neat handwriting as evidence that their work was of a good standard. The older students were more likely to draw on multiple sources and criteria when assessing their work, indicating that they may have begun to internalise external criteria in assessing their work. By understanding the ways in which students assess their knowledge and performance, teachers may be able to obtain insight into students’ metacognitive growth. Teachers can use reflective activities to help students interpret their own progress, develop a sense of academic standards, and promote a sense of self-efficacy.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Missing Out? Challenges to hearing the views of all children on the barriers and supports to learning
Volume 37 Number 4, November 2009; Pages 349–360
A study examined the approaches taken by five schools in Britain as they sought students' perspectives about barriers and supports to learning. In order to create a trusting environment, the teachers first explained the purpose of the activity and emphasised that students' input was valued. The teachers also modelled appropriate responses; some provided clear guidelines for responses. Several challenges arose during the interviews, including the difficulty of finding ways to articulate abstract concepts, ensuring that students with limited communication skills understood and could respond to questions, and the fact that students were often uncomfortable talking about things that they did not like or found difficult about school. The use of detailed and specific prompts, as well as allowing additional time for responses, helped address these issues. However, while repeating questions sometimes helped elicit responses, interviewers should be cautious not to guide students to respond in a particular way. Group interviews helped provide an inclusive and supportive environment that encouraged student responses and discussion, but may not be appropriate for students with less developed communication skills or who find turn-taking difficult. Activities using visual prompts were also used to elicit students' feedback. The visual prompts were helpful in engaging students and in assisting them to reconstruct events or to consider past and future events, but often did not result in extensive discussion. The students also tended to become distracted by the prompts and lose focus. While open prompts and questions can be effective with some students, students with limited communication skills may need additional scaffolding and support in developing and sharing responses. In addition, teachers need to ensure that students understand the importance of providing honest responses about learning dislikes or barriers, and that they recognise the difference between ongoing issues or challenges at school and one-time occurrences.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Possibilities and potential for improving instructional leadership: examining the views of National Board teachers
Volume 49 Number 3, July 2010; Pages 223–232
In the USA many teachers obtain NBPTS certification as evidence of accomplished teaching. These teachers bring with them leadership experience and skills that may be drawn upon to improve student outcomes. Researchers surveyed 831 NBPTS-qualified teachers to examine whether the certification resulted in greater opportunities to take on leadership roles or responsibilities. Most of the respondents had leadership experience prior to beginning the certification; many highlighted leadership opportunities as one significant reason for seeking an NBPTS qualification. After obtaining certification, the majority of the teachers played more leading roles than before in areas such as the implementation of new instructional approaches or in the mentoring and coaching of new teachers. However, the teachers tended not to take on new, formal leadership roles and were instead exercising leadership from their positions as classroom teachers. Many of the teachers reflected that their leadership skills were underutilised. This was due to several barriers, one of which was that the teachers were unwilling to pursue leadership roles if it meant taking time away from the classroom. Resourcing issues were also a factor, with many teachers feeling they had inadequate release time to pursue leadership opportunities and that they were not appropriately compensated for their work. Efforts to increase teacher leadership opportunities need to take into account the varying preferences, skills and strengths of different teachers. They should also aim to ensure that these opportunities are closely linked with student learning, such as in areas involving curriculum, instruction and assessment. The organisational context of a school should be considered, with barriers and enabling factors, such as time and resources, identified and addressed.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
United States of America (USA)
Volume 12 Number 1, January 2010; Pages 42–49
Cultural immersion experiences can help address pre-service teachers' misconceptions about teaching in schools serving disadvantaged communities. As part of their training, 250 pre-service teachers from a small institute in the USA were required to spend a week 'shadowing' a Year 11 student attending one of two inner-city schools, joining the student in the classroom, at lunch and during extra-curricular activities. The schools were located in a disadvantaged area; almost all of the students and the majority of staff were African American. Prior to the immersion program, most of the participants expressed reservations about teaching in an inner-city school. They had low expectations of the quality of the school's grounds and social atmosphere, and about student behaviour. However, many were surprised by the positive atmosphere and well-maintained school buildings. The pre-service teachers expected negative elements of the students' home lives to be reflected in the school environment. However, while the students faced numerous challenges, they reflected on the importance of the support of their school and of their families in guiding them towards positive outcomes. The students reported that their parents encouraged them to achieve, while the schools made affordances such as offering daycare facilities to young mothers attending the school. These supportive approaches were facilitated by the principals, who were active and change-oriented, and were seen as role models by the students. Many of the pre-service teachers were surprised to find that religion was highly significant within the schools: as an important part of African American culture, it was used to help create a school community. Other unexpected elements included the focus on vocational education rather than on transitions to tertiary study, and 'tough but caring' approaches in the classroom. The pre-service teachers found that the immersion experience helped address and dispel particular preconceptions they had had about teaching in inner-city schools, and helped them learn about cultural differences, as well as the teaching and learning approaches typical to these schools. Many of the pre-service teachers felt encouraged by the experience, and expressed interest in teaching in inner-city schools. The research was part of an eight-year longitudinal study.
Subject HeadingsMulticultural education
United States of America (USA)
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