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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Finding a book for Jamal: recommending text types for at-home reading of beginning readers who struggle

Volume 31 Number 4,  2010; Pages 365–410
Amma Akrofi, Jeanne Swafford, Carole Janisch

Learning to read is difficult for some children. Their reading skills may be developed through joint reading with adults in the home. A study in the USA has examined which types of books may be most helpful for their home reading. It considered the most suitable text types and their relationship to children's thought processes. Several text types are widely considered appropriate to help struggling readers. The article reviews the advantages and drawbacks of decodable, predictable and hybrid texts. The relevance of each type depends in part on particular children's thought processes. These ways of thinking can be detected through analysis of miscues, through think alouds, and through the child's 'embedded oral narratives' (EONs) in which they react to the content. The focus of the study was one disadvantaged six-year-old child, 'Jamal'. He was offered a range of books at, above and below his reading level. He selected 12 books, and the study recorded his responses to them. Based on the research literature and the current study, the authors offer a range of recommendations. Young readers should be offered a 'varied diet' of books which can support their confidence, interests and strengths, and at times offer them relief from strain of difficult texts. Children should be encouraged to self-select books, even those not at their reading level; their interest in these books may sustain them through their reading difficulties. When reading with children, adults should pick up on and run with the child's own ideas, or 'schema', expressed through their EONs. Books should have pictures well matched to the words. Books that teachers have read with the child should be sent home so that the child can read them easily with a parent or carer. Teachers should encourage parents to minimise anger and frustration during reading sessions, and avoid excessive focus on decoding or on correcting errors. Teachers should also recommend books for the parents to use at home, also explaining the distinct purpose and strengths of each text, eg to practise reading, to stimulate discussion with the child, or for parent read-alouds. Teachers should also show parents varied ways to read aloud; sometimes, for example, parents should interrupt the reading session to point to a picture or to discuss the content with the child. The parent should draw out the child's opinions and should not focus on right or wrong answers. They should cultivate enjoyment of reading.


Subject Headings

Parent and child

The strategies that teachers believe work well in healthy lifestyle programs - a case study of the Canning Stock Route Challenge

April 2011; Pages 187–197
Ross Williams

While healthy lifestyle programs are well established in Australian schools, there has been relatively little research on how to implement them effectively. A study in a remote area of Western Australia has sought to identify such factors with regard to one such program, the Canning Stock Route Challenge (CSRC). The eight-week program, created by a State Government heath unit, is designed to address the risk of Type 2 diabetes. The actual Canning Stock Route is a long cattle track across the north west of the state. Students travel it symbolically as they complete physical activities and health education lessons, with stages of achievements marked off as one of the route's water wells. Teachers receive a resource kit including a lesson book, a map of the route itself, and stickers to mark students' virtual progress. Teachers with experience in implementing the CSRC were asked for their opinions about success factors, via a survey, interviews and focus groups. The teachers saw four strategies as particularly effective. The first was the use of motivational incentives for both students and teachers: prizes were allocated to the winners of competitions that took place within or between classes and schools. The second factor was to adapt the program to each school's local context, involving students in the study of local places, plants and animals, and sometimes involving excursions, camps, or sporting trips. They also studied elements of the culture of the local community, such as the use of local bush foods. Integration across subject areas was a third factor in successful implementation. For example, maths-related activities included the creation of maps and graphs and measuring heart rate, while students might walk to a venue to undertake art work. This integration helped to avoid overloading the curriculum. The fourth factor was engagement with the local community, eg cooperation with the owner of the local store to allow students to add shelf labels marking the nutritional value of foods for sale. (The author's paper appears in a 3MB pdf document of conference proceedings – CL)

Key Learning Areas

Health and Physical Education

Subject Headings

Rural education
Teaching and learning
Curriculum planning
Physical education
Health education
Western Australia (WA)
Aboriginal students

Connecting and collaborating in regional, rural and remote Western Australia

Volume 25 Number 2, December 2010; Pages 22–26
Sue Trinidad, Tania Broadley

A recent national study found that teachers in rural, regional and remote areas were more likely to be retained in these settings if they were part of a professional learning community. The study recommended that teachers in these areas be provided with equitable access to ongoing quality professional learning. One way to connect teachers is through the use of technology. The Australian Government has committed to providing a quality high-speed national broadband network to ensure educational services can be enhanced and delivered in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia. A number of Government initiatives, including Digital Regions and Rural and Regional National Broadband Network Initiative, support this commitment. In light of the Government initiatives, two research projects were conducted: to investigate the use of technology to improve teacher and student learning; and to assist with Indigenous education and teacher professional learning in rural, regional and remote Western Australia. The first project focused on developing staff professional learning online through the use of 'Cybercells'. These Cybercells allow virtual and actual groups to function using internet communication tools and video conferencing. Using Cybercells offered access to quality academic and social support for those who have traditionally had limited access to professional learning. Findings confirmed the importance of access to professional development, access to resources, the importance of leadership and a community of practice to support social and academic needs. The results also showed that participants recognised the potential of the technology, and noted its value as a form of delivery for training staff in schools, childcare and playgroups in remote areas. The second project focused on developing social learning networks. The 'Social Computing' project examined the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to support teaching and learning, and equity. Part of this project involved working with Indigenous students to connect them to the world outside their remote community. The students created blogs on social network sites, which helped with their literacy and connected them to other parts of Australia. The project also aimed to improve the understanding of issues and challenges facing Indigenous education in rural, regional and remote Western Australia.


Subject Headings

Western Australia (WA)
Aboriginal students
Professional development
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Indigenous peoples

Collaborative co-teaching of numeracy and literacy as a key to inclusion in an independent school

Volume 30, 25 March 2010; Pages 293–306
Deirdré Krüger, Claire Yorke

Two researchers report on a program designed to provide inclusive education within a Grade 3 general classroom at an independent boys' school in South Africa. The participants were a Head of Department, four general education teachers, three learning support teachers, including one of the authors, and the other author involved as consultant. The authors provided three types of support, in close collaboration with other participants. They gave resource support, working with a general education teacher and the Head of Department, to guide the preparation of individualised education programs (IEP) for learners with diverse needs. They offered moral support by working with the school staff to create an atmosphere of trust, and sharing , in which 'perspectives can be shared without fear of cutting remarks, criticism or breaches in confidentiality'. They also gave technical support by suggesting strategies, which they demonstrated and modelled. Three basic collaborative co-teaching formats were employed to allow the integration of students with special needs into the mainstream student group. The approaches were interactive teaching, in which the class is taught as a whole by both teachers; parallel teaching, where learners are divided into two mixed ability groups; and alternative teaching, where the class is divided into one big group and one small group of learners. The approach adopted in the program represents a departure from the 'medical deficit' model of disability to a social systems model. The social systems model no longer positions these learners as problems, but rather locates barriers to their learning in their wider environment. Evidence was collected via interviews with other participants, document analysis and observations. The results provide broad support for a social systems model, while recognising there may be some instances where students with diverse needs still require private individual instruction. Working with small groups of students was found to foster inclusion and a sense of acceptance. Games and fun activities were found helpful in creating a relaxed atmosphere among students. Co-teaching creates challenges for teaching staff. One way to reduce them is to set clear ground rules at the outset of the partnership.


Subject Headings

Inclusive education
Teaching and learning
South Africa

Mobile learning

Volume 2011 Number 220, April 2011; Pages 35–36
Jarrod Robinson

The author, a physical education (PE) and outdoor education teacher, explores how the features of mobile phones can be used in the classroom, some of which are illustrated by examples from his classes. Mobile phones potentially have many useful applications in lessons. This makes them a valuable resource, especially when limited school funding means gaining access to school audio visual equipment is often a problem. Most mobile phones give students access to a personal video camera. Year 11 PE students used the cameras to video the biomechanical principles of a sporting skill. The videos were shared with the class to reinforce their understanding of the principles, and students then used their understanding to correct their peers' techniques. Text messaging provides a convenient way for teachers to communicate to large numbers of students. For example, a last-minute change to excursion details can be sent via a bulk message sent from the teacher's laptop to students or parents. MP3s allow students to record podcasts and play them while they are on the move. This means students can remain physically active while they revise for tests. Podcasts have the potential to be used for any subject. History or geography students could record interviews with members of the public about events or landmarks. Bluetooth and quick response code are technologies that may also be used for education in conjunction with mobile phones. The majority of students in year 9 classes or above have mobile phones, making it feasible to use them in class. In this case, the author was able to compile a full class set when other teachers and their friends donated further phones, most of which had the desired features, such as a camera. Another way to cater for the students without mobile phone access is to design group activities that require only one shared phone. It is important to secure parental consent before introducing mobile phone use in the classroom. For the author's classes, parents were sent a letter informing them that mobile phones would be used, explaining that their use would be directly supervised by the teacher and specifying when and where the phones would be used.


Subject Headings

Physical education

Two lanes to leadership

Volume 32 Number 2, April 2011; Pages 28–31
Denise N. Morgan, Jeff L. Williams, Katie Plesec

Solon City Schools district in Ohio has used classroom visits and grade-level meetings, as part of its approach to professional development, to build leadership and promote collaboration among teachers. Solon promotes shared leadership through the establishment of 'teacher leader' positions. Teacher leaders serve as instructional coaches in individual schools. All teacher leaders were former classroom teachers who had demonstrated success in classroom instruction, possessed content expertise, and displayed leadership qualities. Third-grade teachers attended monthly grade-level meetings, facilitated by the teacher leader, where they examined students' reading data. The teachers shared results from reading assessments, and worked together looking at patterns of development needs and how to meet those needs in order to progress the students. Teachers analysed performance indicators and adjusted their instruction if a part of the indicator had been neglected. They also became clearer on how to measure student progress. This collaboration fostered shared leadership as team members shared their specialised content knowledge and instructional strategies. Five schools from the district participated in a program of classroom visits. They then shared their experiences with each other and met with the observed teacher to debrief. Visitation protocols were put in place to help teachers to feel comfortable about sharing their practices with others. Observers did not talk or write during the visit; they limited movement while observing; and principals and other district administrators refrained from any evaluative comments. The teachers observing the classes deepened their understanding of content and expanded their pedagogical knowledge. The program was also beneficial for the teachers being observed: by demonstrating their methods, the leadership of the classroom teachers was simultaneously being developed.


Subject Headings

Professional development

Developing instructional leaders: using mixed methods to explore the black box of planned change in principals' professional practice

Volume 46 Number 2,  2010; Pages 241–279
Carol A Barnes, Eric Camburn, Beth R Sanders, James Sebastian

The article reports on the evaluation of a one-year professional development program for 10 principals in the USA. Evidence was obtained by 'shadowing' the principals, interviews, logs of principals' daily activity, and participants' responses to written or video scenarios simulating practice. The principals placed greatest value on aspects of the program that characterise it as a community of practice. They valued the chance to discuss the content with peers, trial it in practical contexts within their own schools, and then discuss it further with other participants. In this context they noted that the ideas they received from their policy environment 'were not transmitted in a fully worked-out or ready-to-use state' and that one of the main benefits of the program was helping them to operationalise these ideas, translating declarative knowledge into procedural knowledge. However, the program led them to refine their existing practices rather than make wholesale changes. Eight of the participants used one or more aspects of the program's strategic planning and improvement cycle in their own schools over the course of the year. Three of the participants were the focus of more detailed case studies.


Subject Headings

Professional development
School principals
Educational evaluation
United States of America (USA)

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