Relations between specific and general word learning
Volume 31 Number 4, 2010; Pages 327–346
A one-year study in the USA has examined how children's knowledge of particular words contributes to their overall word learning. The authors sought to extend certain theories previously proposed by Chliounaki and Bryant, who argued that children tend to acquire a morphological rule once they have learnt several individual words in which it is applied. For the current study the authors tested 62 kindergarten and 64 grade 1 children at two primary schools. The children were asked to read and spell real words and matched pseudo-words in tests that took place at the start, middle and end of one academic year. The results support three hypotheses previously advanced by Chliounaki and Bryant. Firstly, the children were better at reading and spelling real words than pseudo-words, when these words had simple correspondences between letters and sounds. This applied particularly to the first stages of learning to read and spell. Secondly, the children's test results regarding real and pseudo-words increased at approximately the same rate, with scores for real words consistently higher. Thirdly, children's knowledge of letter and sound correspondences in real words predicted their later success in applying these correspondences to pseudo-words. The findings imply that developing children's word knowledge 'might be as important, if not more so to begin with, as teaching them the analytical skills to code them'. The findings also have implications for assessment. To measure children's grasp of phoneme-grapheme correspondences in words, children should be tested on words that appear fairly frequently in speech but less often in writing, e.g. 'tent' rather than 'went' should be used to test the 'nt' consonant blend. This practice, however, is not always adopted in spelling assessments. The findings also suggest the need to vary the type of measures used to assess word-level literacy skills over the course of the first school year. In kindergarten, children may struggle with pseudo-words, generating floor effects, while the use of real words towards the end of the first school year may generate ceiling effects.
Subject HeadingsPrimary education
Early childhood education
The untapped benefits of after-school and holiday learning programs
Number 197, September 2010
Out-of-school learning programs take place after the school day or over holiday periods, usually the long summer break. The author examines both types of program, based on evaluations conducted in the USA, and to some extent Canada and Britain, and draws conclusions for disadvantaged schools in Australia. A 2004 meta-analysis of out-of-school programs identified statistically significant positive effects on reading and mathematics, particularly in the case of programs of more than 45 hours, and programs that include homework or tutoring. Reading gains were highest for the early years and for programs offering one-to-one tutoring. Gains for mathematics were greatest in years 9–12 and for programs that combined social and academic activities. After-school programs can reconnect disaffected youth to schooling, cultivate social skills, open youth to new people and environments that support their academic learning, and improve work habits including persistence with tasks. They can provide safe environments, and discourage delinquency. Both types of out-of-school programs support the transition from middle schooling to the senior years, and offer ways for schools to provide enrichment activities. The NCQA recommends that out-of-school programs support homework, through tutoring, coverage of study skills, and by providing time and space for study. Programs should include fun, accessible and varied activities, such as art and sport. They should offer chances to learn and master varied skills. They should also cultivate social skills and relationship building, connect young people to a range of real-world contexts, involve the local community, connect to curriculum benchmarks, and survey and respond to students' interests. Support from school staff and school leaders is important, especially when conducted on school premises. Program staff should be role models for participants. Holiday programs should be run by paid, professional staff. They should target specific groups and meet an identified need. In these ways they would contrast with traditional holiday programs for low-SES students, which focus on academic remediation, and identify participating students as poor performers. Demand for the programs is driven in part by teen unemployment, concerns over young people's wellbeing, changes to family structure and the need for both parents to work beyond the home. Demand for out-of-school programs is also increased by evidence of summer learning loss in maths and, especially for socially disadvantaged students, in reading and the language arts. Parents in low-SES and minority communities strongly desire programs that offer academic benefits to their children. However, these parents are 'far more likely' than others 'to be dissatisfied with the quality, affordability and availability' of programs.
Subject HeadingsAfter school services
Internationalisation and the work of the Asia Education Foundation
Number 203, April 2011
The Asia Education Foundation (AEF) provides a range of ways for schools, teachers and students to increase their Asia literacy. The AEF web portal gives access to resources and materials to help teachers deliver the Asia literacy in all domains of the Australian curriculum. The AEF's Leading 21st Century Schools project develops school leaders' capacities to provide both an internationalised curriculum and Asia literacy. The Becoming Asia Literate: Grants to Schools project is funding teaching and learning initiatives about China, Indonesia, Japan and Korea. It currently operates at over 300 Australian schools. The AEF is collaborating with Victoria's DEECD to fund study tours in any one of several Asian countries. The opportunity is open to school leaders, teachers and education system officers. The AEF and DEECD are also developing a Student Overseas Study Manual, awareness-raising activities and professional learning forums. A further initiative of the AEF is the Australia-Indonesia BRIDGE project, organised with the Australia-Indonesia Institute. It is creating partnerships between schools in Australia and Indonesia: 93 have been developed so far. In 2009 the AEF led the establishment of the Business Alliance for Asia Literacy. This coalition, including large companies and peak business and union organisations, 'stands ready to work with the education sector' to support Asia literacy. To stimulate demand for Asia-related education the AEF has also set up an Asia Literacy Ambassadors project. The 'ambassadors' are people with Asia-related skills who share relevant work and life experiences with particular school communities. It is important that these initiatives are accompanied by extensive teacher professional learning, as well as mechanisms to track the progress toward Asia literacy nationally. Australian governments' support for learning about Asia is evident in the 2008 Melbourne Declaration, in the multiple references to Asia literacy in the new Australian Curriculum, and, supporting both these policy developments, the National Asian Languages and Studies in School Program (NALSSP). (Note: The paper is one of four published collectively under the title Directions in internationalisation: Papers from a CSE forum on the past work, current activities and future challenges of the International Education Advisory Group.)
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Korea (South Korea)
Textbooks for the teaching of algebra in lower secondary school: are they informed by research?
Volume 5 Number 3, September 2010; Pages 187–201
A study has analysed leading algebra textbooks in England, to establish the extent to which they have incorporated research evidence on how best to teach the topic to lower secondary students. When measured by results of tests, including TIMSS, knowledge of algebra has improved significantly among 14-year-old students in England over the last 30 years. However, the recent ICCAMS study found no substantial improvement over this period, and attributed gains in test scores to teaching to the test. Other research has also found that students continue to see algebra as 'difficult, abstract, boring and irrelevant'. The study of leading textbooks offers one way to examine the quality of students' learning opportunities, since textbooks continue to be almost ubiquitous in mathematics classrooms. The current research, part of the ICCAMS study, evaluated the leading textbook of the 1970s, the SMP Letter Series, with two market leaders today, Framework Maths and Maths Frameworking. A number of features of the texts were compared. One was the coherence with which mathematical content was presented and the degree to which the text illuminates key ideas. A second feature was the treatment of misconceptions about algebra and the extent to which the books have helped teachers to anticipate and plan for them. It is also important for texts to offer multiple representations of algebraic concepts, so this was a third criterion. Other criteria covered the variety of examples offered in the books, the extent to which they explained the practical need for algebra, and how well the books aided the effective use of technology for algebra learning. Overall the earlier SMP Letter Series was found to have 'more educative potential' than the current texts. In particular it integrated learning objectives more effectively. It also gave a more coherent presentation of two key ideas: 'the move to continuous variables, and the graph as representing a series of points'. The finding suggests that national education policy in England has had some negative, unintended effects: limiting the time and in-school trialling of textbooks, reducing the influence of academic researchers on these books, and increasing publishers' focus on marketing. The study, along with other research, also reveals the need for more effective ways to disseminate research evidence on algebra pedagogy.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
NSW Secondary mathematics teachers battered by a 'perfect storm'
29 May 2011
Secondary mathematics teachers in NSW confront a 'perfect storm' of conditions that inhibit their students' mathematical learning. Firstly, the primary teachers who have previously taken these secondary teachers' students tend to lack content knowledge and confidence to teach maths. Research indicates that students' experience of maths in the early primary years has a substantial impact on their willingness to study the subject at senior secondary level. A vicious circle is created, since pre-service teachers who enter their course lacking mathematical knowledge are poorly placed to learn how to teach it well to their future students. Secondly, many teachers taking secondary maths are not trained in the subject. Trained maths teachers tend to take senior secondary students, but lower secondary teachers also need training in maths, particularly as they have a major influence on students' willingness to pursue maths in the final years of schooling. Trained maths teachers are also distributed unevenly between schools, generating equity concerns. Out-of-field maths teaching also disguises the extent of the shortage of trained maths teachers. Thirdly, an ageing workforce 'has limited the positions available to new, graduate and keen mathematics teachers'. A fourth problem relates to timetabling. Longer and fewer periods of maths extends the gap between maths lessons. This leads to a fifth concern: long interruptions to the flow of drill-and-practice. While over-emphasised in the past, drill-and-practice remains very important for mathematical learning. The teaming of literacy and numeracy is a sixth problem, since literacy receives the bulk of attention and resources. In 'extreme' cases 'literacy experts have entered territory that belongs traditionally to numeracy with their claims to Visual Literacy'. A seventh difficulty is that students are often advised that they may qualify for tertiary maths courses by taking only General Maths at secondary level. While this is technically correct, students are ill-equipped for mathematics at tertiary level without having studied calculus at school. An eighth problem is the change to the state's system for selecting principals, which is reducing the proportion of principals with a background in maths. This in turn has contributed to unhelpful policy decisions such as the change to timetabling. A ninth obstacle is that some university students are being encouraged to take Early Childhood degrees, some of which 'are now classed as 0–12 years', because of 'a lesser amount of mathematics when compared to a Primary Teaching degree'. Solutions to these problems are currently being pursued by the NSWIT and the MANSW.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
New South Wales (NSW)
But sport is good for you: exploring the complexities of keeping children in sport and shaping a curriculum of possibilities
April 2011; Pages 255–265
Involvement in organised sport declines during the teenage years, which indicates the need to rethink the provision of sport and widen notions of acceptable physical activity for children and teens. Sport is often proposed as a means to help children feel more competent, to improve health, to develop character, and to promote teamwork, a sense of fair play, a work ethic and resilience. In the Australian context sport has been advanced as a means to strengthen national identity. However, figures from New Zealand indicate that teens' participation in sport declines after ages 10–13. One reason is teens' widening options for leisure opportunities, including high-tech entertainment. Other reasons, however, relate to the nature of adult-organised sports, and adults' failure to recognise or adapt to young people's motivations for playing sport. One incentive for young people to play sport is to make, keep and be with friends. Organisers should therefore create time for children to make friends within a team or club, provide opportunities to keep friends together, include social events outside practice times, and maintain connections via social media via parents or children if old enough. Children want to play sport for fun, stimulation and to learn new skills. They tend to be repelled by the pressure of unduly high expectations, the fear of injury, bullying, and fear of ridicule for poor performance, and some dislike competition. To minimise these issues, organisers should ensure all children are involved in enjoyable and varied activities. Non-competitive levels of the sport could be set up. Feedback on young people's performance needs to be constructive, and coaching developmentally appropriate. Premature specialisation of roles should be avoided. Teens increasingly resist the highly structured, controlled nature of much adult-administered sport, moving instead toward independent, player-controlled activities such as skateboarding, cycling, canoeing, and beach volleyball, where the players set their own challenges, can train in their own time and not have to commit to a lengthy season. Sports need to be more flexible and allow more autonomy. Young people should be offered shorter seasons, and participation in one-off events. Children should be allowed more ownership of practice time. (The paper appears in a 3MB pdf document of conference proceedings – CL.)
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Why we are still losing it in translation
30 May 2011
In Victoria, 12 primary schools are now offering bilingual education. For example, Abbotsford Primary School offers a very successful bilingual program in Mandarin for subjects including literacy, numeracy, cultural studies and physical education. There are proposals to involve Victorian universities in the development of a teacher training program covering bilingual education for core subject areas such as mathematics and science. A suggested pilot program would involve 30 schools across the state. The proposal is seen as one way to address low and declining participation in languages education. While language education programs are mandated for the state's primary schools, 2009 Victorian Government figures indicate that up to one third of primaries do not meet these requirements. About 30% of the state's secondary schools are unable to offer a languages program. Approximately 60% of secondary students do not study a language other than English, with high drop-out rates after year 9. This participation rate is low by international standards, yet it is the highest for any Australian education system. An AEU survey identified LOTE teaching vacancies as the most difficult for schools to fill. The article also includes commentary on ACARA's languages draft shape paper.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsBilingual education
Language and languages
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Do rural and regional students in Queensland experience an ICT 'turn-off' in the early high school years?
Volume 25 Number 2, December 2010; Pages 7–11
Students in regional, rural and remote Queensland are disengaged from school-based ICT, even as their interest in technology grows in the home environment. The article reports the views about school-based ICT held by students in years 8, 9 and 10. The research involved 629 schools and almost 1300 students, whose views were obtained via surveys, interviews and focus group discussions. The article also includes teachers' comments on the results. Students gave a number of reasons for their disengagement from school ICT. One was that schools disallowed multi-tasking with ICT: in the home environment, by contrast, students enjoyed the more or less simultaneous use of technology for immediate academic tasks, for more general learning and for musical entertainment. Teachers observed that a whole-class multi-tasking at school was likely to overload servers and divert attention from coursework. Possible solutions are to limit multi-tasking to compatible tasks, and to make use of the greater bandwidth to be offered by the National Broadband Network. A second problem is clumsy internet filtering that obstructs legitimate web searching. More sophisticated systems are needed. Filtering should also be reduced as students progress through school. The need for filtering could also be reduced through good quality education programs covering responsible internet use. A third, major problem was 'boring' ICT-related tasks for students, focused on routine or already-known functions such as basic word processing, which students contrasted to the exploration open to them at home. Maintenance problems and lack of IT support was a further obstacle, with substantial numbers of computers sometimes disabled for long periods of time.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
iPads: transferring or transforming education?
April 2011; Pages 30–32
The iPad is now making an impact in education due to its 'portability, affordability, intuitive interface and access to a wide variety of applications (apps)'. The Victorian DEECD is currently trialling the use of iPads at 10 education institutions, covering primary, secondary, P–12 and specialist settings. One of them is Ringwood North Primary School, where 138 iPads were distributed to students in years 5 and 6, during September 2010, in a trial due for completion at the end of this year. The students have been permitted to download their own apps, music and videos, reflecting 'one of the biggest changes in thinking' at the school. However, the main way that the devices can contribute to improving students' performance is as part of a wider change in the curriculum and its delivery. This change responds to the new ways in which learners interact with the information environment. The rise of the internet and social media means that learners now have to find their way through overwhelming stores of public information. At the same time they have many and varied ways to interact with it and with each other. The iPad apps categorise information and thus offer one means for students to sort through it. They are also accessible to people without expertise in technology. The school's use of the devices, focused on communication and learning rather than on the technology itself, has turned the staffroom into a 'hive of collaboration'.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
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