Volume 43 Number 2, June 2012; Pages 130–158
Vocabulary knowledge is strongly correlated to reading comprehension, and effective instruction for struggling, disadvantaged learners can help to overcome the achievement gap between SES levels in the early years. To be effective, however, instruction needs to be informed by effective ways to assess young children's word knowledge. Knowledge of a word meaning is usually measured in absolute terms as simply right or wrong, but in reality children's word knowledge exists along a continuum. The article looks at existing research on the nature of these continua, conducted in the fields of education, linguistics and developmental psychology, and considers their limitations. It compares this research against the author's recent analysis of 56 children's understandings of 28 words. These sets of evidence are then used to establish a more complex continuum, grouping 19 categories of children's word knowledge into five levels of understanding. When questioned about a word, children at 'Level 0' offer no response or an incorrect meaning, perhaps confusing the word with one phonologically similar. At Level 1 children have grasped the schematic category of the word but miss its essential meaning. They may over-extend its meaning, eg using 'dogs' to denote all small furry animals, or under-extend it, limiting its use unnecessarily to particular situations. They may refer to the meaning of a morphologically related word. They may be aware only of a word's connotation, eg the idea that 'altruism' refers to something positive. They may place the word syntactically with a 'dummy subordinate', eg describing the meaning of 'rescue' as 'rescue somebody', or they may identify a word only by its opposite. At Level 2 the child has some contextual understanding about the word: initially in terms of one concept, eg 'superheroes rescue people', later grasping one or more additional contexts for its use. At Level 3 they have generalised knowledge beyond specific contexts, being able to articulate either synonyms for the word or to offer a formal definition; at Level 4 they can do both. Knowledge of these continua can help educators to align their teaching methods to their instructional objectives. For example, children's overall comprehension of a text may be achieved by reading a storybook aloud, with the teacher briefly explaining the more challenging words; this approach would be likely to develop children's knowledge of these challenging words to Level 1 or Level 2. If the purpose were instead to develop rounded knowledge of the words, the children would need them presented in varied contexts, with this learning reinforced by interactive discussion in class. Knowledge of these continua can also inform assessment-based instruction. For example, a child showing Level 1 under-extension of a word's meaning needs to be offered more contexts for its use.
Early childhood education
Health at every size: the need for salutogenic approaches in HPE for the new F–10 Australian Curriculum
Volume 10 Number 1, 2012; Pages 18–26
In western countries there are long-standing concerns that unhealthy lifestyles generate lifestyle diseases and raise the risk of coronary heart disease. These concerns have generated school-based efforts to promote healthy lifestyles. In turn, these government policies and national health agendas have sometimes been used to 'legitimise' Health and Physical Education (HPE) as a key learning area. Teachers, however, need to become 'critical consumers' of the health messages promoted in school curriculums. These messages often reflect 'healthism' – the belief that 'health can be achieved unproblematically through individual effort and discipline, directed mainly at regulating the size and shape of the body'. Healthism has been applied in the form of anti-obesity programs and curricula; this is of concern for several reasons. Research by O'Dea in 2004 and 2005 indicates that these initiatives have not had a significant impact on children's weight; it indicates on the contrary that they do harm, as a form of 'victim blaming', generating eating and physical activity disorders and size-based discrimination and bullying. It also demoralises students who do not have the desired body type, and disengages them from physical activity. As Tinning points out, healthism reinforces the popular confusion of 'body shape, fitness, strength, disease prevention, longevity, youth, beauty and sex appeal'. These initiatives may also glamourise dieting and eating disorders. The Queensland syllabus promotes a holistic approach to health and physical activity and guides teachers away from the blaming of individual victims. However, alarm over obesity within the broader social environment has worked against the intentions expressed in this curriculum document. In 2007 the author collaborated with teachers at a Queensland primary school to develop a Health at Every Size (HAES) teaching unit, suitable for use with year 3 students. Implemented through 10 core lessons, the unit's tenets included holistic health, the presentation of eating as a source of pleasure and comfort, encouragement of comfortable levels of physical activity, and self-acceptance of varied body sizes. This 'salutogenic' approach reasserts the intentions of the curriculum. It encourages teachers to focus not on disease prevention but on 'normal and acceptable diversity of growth rates, size and shape of children'.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
General capabilities in the Australian Curriculum: an ACARA perspective
Volume 32 Number 1, April 2012; Pages 52–56
The Shape of the Australian Curriculum 3.0 acknowledges the need for students to learn beyond formal subject areas. The Australian Curriculum includes general capabilities that cut across traditional subject boundaries and help to prepare students for life in an increasingly complex, changing, information-rich, technology-rich and globalised world. These capabilities embrace knowledge and skills and also the dispositions to apply them effectively. These dispositions include 'open-mindedness, curiosity and scepticism'. The cross-disciplinary nature of the capabilities helps students to grasp the connections between subject areas and between school and other aspects of their lives. For example, students' capabilities for ethical behaviour, critical and creative thinking and sustainability may be brought to bear by asking them to apply scientific knowledge to the solution of current social problems. While cutting across disciplines, particular capabilities find 'natural homes' in certain subjects, in which they are 'represented more strongly and addressed more comprehensively'. For example, personal and social capability is suited to health and physical education, and intercultural understanding to the languages learning area, while the inquiry learning that occurs in history and science foster critical and creative thinking and complex management of information. It should be acknowledged that students bring diverse histories, abilities and world views to their learning, which influence the processes used to develop their own capabilities. The general capabilities are to be assessed by teachers insofar as they are incorporated within particular subject areas. State and territory education authorities are likely to offer further guidance for assessment and reporting of general capabilities. Materials used for learning of the general capabilities are to be monitored and reviewed over the next two years. The author is a Senior Project Ofﬁcer: Cross-curriculum with the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Schisms, skills and schooling: the challenges of general capabilities
Volume 57-59 Number 32, 2012; Page 1
The general capabilities set out in the Australian Curriculum cover the 'knowledge skills, behaviours and dispositions' that students need for success in today's world. Existing across the traditional disciplines, the general capabilities prepare students for a globalised society that will call on them to adapt to changes throughout their lives. It is increasingly complex, and rich in information that requires its own set of skills to navigate well. The full implementation of the general capabilities, and the achievement of these goals, face challenges from two sides. On one side are those who see the general capabilities as 'a corruption or at least a distraction' from the traditional disciplines. In its extreme form this line of argument calls for 'deference to the canon', the value of which is taken for granted. An example is David Cannadine's call for the strengthening of history in England's school system. However, the traditional disciplines may also be defended as avenues to develop deep learning and problem solving. On the other side, technical-instrumentalism threatens to degrade the general capabilities to low-level skills of immediate need to employers. An example is the call for financial literacy in the narrow, limited form of managing one's personal finances. By contrast, the 2011 MCEECDYA definition of financial literacy is far more valuable, extending the concept to cover awareness of financial issues facing 'the broader community and the environment'. The MCEECDYA definition illustrates the fact that instrumental needs may be met while still recognising 'the cognitive, social and moral dimensions of everyday practice'. The challenge, however, is to see that this potential to go beyond shallow instrumentalism is in fact realised. The article includes a critical examination of some aspects of the Australian history curriculum in the 2008 discussion paper and the 2009 shape paper broad goal of equipping students for 'informed and active participation in Australia's diverse society', arguing that it does not adequately spell out ways to achieve this goal.
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
13 March 2012
The USA's National Science Teachers' Association asked members for feedback on their use of and opinions about the use of flipped classrooms. Over 70 per cent of respondents had used the approach, often accompanied by a mastery orientation. The use of flipping was higher at secondary than primary levels, and highest at senior secondary level. A number of respondents reported favourably on the results of flipping classrooms. Students may control the pace of their learning and repeat part of the lesson as required. It can be used for peer teaching, with one student designated to watch the video and explain it to peers. However, others were critical or cautious about this instructional approach. Some reported that it did not succeed in motivating students who were not previously motivated to study; that it may be more difficult to prepare suitable flipped lessons for students with special needs; that primary and middle school students tend to need immediate feedback; and that excessive reliance on flipping can be as boring for students as unvaried traditional instruction. Opinions varied as to whether flipping made it easier for teachers to differentiate content for different students. The preparation of the videos takes considerable time. It relies on suitable hardware and software being available to the teacher, and makes the teacher 'accountable for home technology'. Some students complain of being unprepared when tested on content that was covered only via the flipped approach. The value of flipping may vary according to lesson content.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Volume 12 Number 1, Winter 2012
Under the 'flipped classroom' model the traditional pattern of classroom lessons followed by homework is reversed. The teacher records the lesson on video which is made freely available to students. The students are expected to view it at home prior to class. The class lesson time is then given over to questions about the work from students, and discussion of the issues raised. Teachers using and supporting the flipped classroom have reported that it elicits more classroom contributions from struggling students, who were formerly marginalised. Lesson content formerly delivered over an entire period are now condensed into short videos. The preparation of these brief lectures encourages teachers to be concise, and to attend more consciously to details of instruction such as pace, the choice of examples and clarity about the concepts underlying the lesson. Flipping is moving into the mainstream, popularized by sites such as The Khan Academy. Its popularity, however, raises the risk of it being caught up in polarized political debates over education.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
1 May 2012
As the power and flexibility of ICT continues to grow, new issues are raised for educators. The advent of webcams, podcasting, smart phones and tablet computers, and wifi, all offer considerable means to facilitate learning. Schools have been concerned at the potential of the new technology to distract students from their studies, but interest is now growing in the educational value of allowing students to use their own devices in school – a trend known either as 'bring your own device' (BYOD) or 'bring your own technology' (BYOT). In Wisconsin the Fox-Bayside school district is trialing a BYOD program for students in years 7 and 8 at a middle school. The district's wireless network is 'pre-filtered' to prevent the use of student devices for chat or instant messaging. District policy also disclaims responsibility for theft or damage to student-owned devices. The district allows the use of tablets, netbooks, laptops, smart phones, e-readers, iPods and mp3 players. The article also includes a brief discussion of the advent of the flipped classroom, and covers an iPod trial at one secondary school.
Subject HeadingsTechnological literacy
Teaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Effective teachers: is it about interaction styles?
May 2012; Pages 4–6
The way in which teachers communicate to students and peers influences their professional effectiveness. These habits in professional life are influenced by teachers' more general communicational styles as people. People tend to fall into one of four characteristic interactional styles, identified by psychological profiling tools. The In-charge person is directive and result-oriented, comfortable in leadership roles. The Chart-the-course type is also directive, giving more attention to analysis and planning. The Get-things-going type is process-driven, keen to motivate and facilitate others, while the Behind-the-scenes person, also a facilitator, is more cautious and more concerned to accommodate varied viewpoints. The article reports on a study of 336 pre-service teachers at one Australian university who completed psychological profiles. Just over half the cohort were in the Get-things-going group, less than 1 in 10 were Chart-the-course, with the other two types each holding about 20% of the cohort. This pattern broadly replicated that of a similar study in Florida 2007. The students' profiles varied by the subjects they were preparing to teach, with those studying English more likely to be in the Chart-the-course or Behind-the-scenes categories, those in mathematics more likely to be In-Charge, those in health and physical education more likely to be In-Charge or Get-things-going. Effective teachers are able to adapt their communication style according to the needs of the teaching process.
Teaching and learning
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