Professional development for technology-enhanced inquiry science
Volume 81 Number 3, September 2011; Pages 408–448
Inquiry-based learning in the science classroom poses challenges to teachers and generates a range of professional development (PD) needs. Researchers have analysed literature published in 1985–2001 to identify the most effective way to equip science teachers to use ICT for inquiry-based learning in their classrooms. They summarise findings from 43 studies. The most effective PD customised teachers' existing curriculum. This approach allowed teachers to build on existing practice and retain the use of a tested curriculum unit. Teachers exposed to this approach tended to look for ways that the new technology could offer additional ways to enhance student learning, and also paid more attention to promoting individualised learning among students. By contrast, when PD focused on particular technological tools in themselves, teachers tended to explore the use of these tools only within existing teaching practices. Teachers usually lacked the expertise or time to independently identify the most valuable uses for technology in their classrooms. A second feature of effective PD programs was their extended duration, of two years of more. Teachers were found to need this length of time to work out how given scientific topics could be handled by particular technologies and how students' learning could be tested when using these technologies. The teachers developed their practice through successive adaptations of the curriculum followed by periods of reflection. The extended time scale also helped the teachers cope with other demands such as familiarising themselves with equipment, obtaining sustained access to an adequate number of computers, convincing school leaders and parents to support inquiry learning over traditional methods, and meeting expectations to cover all science standards within the school year. Teachers' ability to cope with these demands was also assisted by a third feature of successful inquiry PD programs: collaboration with school-based peers, and assistance from school or university-based mentors. By contrast, assistance from mentors based in the education system tended to be less well regarded: these mentors sometimes diminished the emphasis on inquiry learning in favour of direct instruction or 'data collection protocols'. The article includes case studies of three PD programs.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsInquiry based learning
Teaching and learning
Switching on and switching off in mathematics: an ecological study of future intent and disengagement among middle school students
Volume 104 Number 1, February 2012; Pages 1–18
The middle years are a critical time for the study of maths: a time when students plan future studies but also when many disengage from the subject. A study in Sydney has explored issues affecting students' engagement in and future planning regarding mathematics. The study involved 44 Catholic schools, 200 classrooms and 1601 students in years 6–8. The schools were all comprehensives and catered to a wide range of SES levels. Just under one in five students were from NESB backgrounds, mainly Arabic, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Filipino/Talagog and Vietnamese. Survey responses were examined through a detailed statistical analysis. Mathematics anxiety was a strong predictor of disengagement, a finding consistent with earlier studies, but this anxiety did not predict students' future intentions regarding mathematical studies. Strategies to address maths anxiety include teaching relaxation techniques, measures to prepare them for pressure situations such as tests, and measures to help students deal with academic stresses and fear of failure more generally. It may be useful to research the role of anxiety in other subject areas. Both disengagement and future study intentions were predicted by students' self-efficacy, valuation of maths, and enjoyment of maths. Self-efficacy may be promoted by maximising opportunities for success, eg through individualised learning, addressing students' more general academic self-concept, and teaching them to set goals effectively. The value of maths may be promoted by pointing out its potential applications in students' own lives and careers, and by having teachers role-model their own valuation of maths. Enjoyment in maths can be encouraged through fun activities, by matching tasks' level of challenge to students' skill levels, and through clear informative feedback. The study found that the family's impact was also significant. Mothers tended to play more of a 'protective' role against disengagement, and fathers a greater role in promoting further mathematical study. Higher NESB composition was linked to lower levels of disengagement, although earlier studies have noted variation between ethnic groups in motivation and academic performance. Higher SES was linked to lower levels of disengagement. The girls' level of disengagement did not vary with age; the boys' level of disengagement initially declined then rose to match that of girls. The study found that students' future study intentions and current disengagement levels could be explained at the student.or residual levels in over 85 per cent of cases, with 10 to 12 per cent of variation explained at classroom and school levels.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
New South Wales (NSW)
Promoting and sustaining high-quality physical education and school sport through school sport partnerships
Volume 17 Number 3, October 2011; Pages 341–351
England's Physical Education and School Sport (PESS) initiative aimed to enhance the range and quality of opportunities for students to be physically active. It was first introduced in 2000 and rolled out nationally by 2007. PESS was implemented in a large part through School Sport Partnerships (SSPs), area-based collaborations between secondary and feeder primary schools, which organised opportunities for students to be physically active through sport. SSPs were run by paid coordinators. The coordinators were tasked with persuading schools to surrender some of their former control over PE and persuading school leaders to commit to the initiative despite a crowded curriculum. Annual surveys show that PESS has successfully extended the number and range of opportunities for students to be physically active. A recent study has explored other aspects of the program: the nature and quality of experiences it has offered students. Researchers interviewed eight experienced SSP coordinators based in the north of England, five of whom had overall responsibility for SSPs. One issue that emerged was the impact of evaluation targets on the work of the coordinators. From its outset PESS was tightly and publicly evaluated. However, earlier research suggests that the purely quantitative nature of these evaluations, and the 'constantly shifting targets' to be met for continued funding, distracted coordinators from attention to the nature and quality of the program's offerings to students. The educational quality of experiences being offered through the program were also affected by organisational arrangements. The program was run mainly by SSP-appointed sports coaches who worked alongside teachers. The coaches themselves usually had backgrounds as secondary school teachers of PE. As a consequence, the coaches' specialist knowledge helped the generalist teachers in primary schools, but sometimes lacked the inclusive pedagogy needed to meet the needs of all primary students, or the valuable task-based pedagogy that encourages students to do their personal best rather than compete with peers. In secondary schools the SSPs had some success in engaging some previously disaffected students by offering students more control over their learning, and by introducing the opportunity for students to acquire formal leadership qualifications. However this success did not extend to three traditionally disengaged groups: girls, low-SES students and those from ethnic minorities. The SSP was also felt to challenge existing practices and expectations in some secondary schools, where staff resisted the loss of control over extra-curricular sports activities.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsPhysical education
Fostering a lifelong love of music: instruction and assessment practices that make a difference
Volume 98 Number 1; Pages 45–50
The number of students participating in school music has declined in the last few decades. One contributing cause may be a decline in primary teachers and pre-service teachers' confidence in their own musical abilities, due in turn to the prevailing emphasis on competition rather than the inherent rewards of participation in music. Behind these issues is the wider issue of goal orientation. Achievement goal theory identifies two orientations. The dominant one in school music is the grade or performance orientation, in which success is judged in competitive terms, against others' performances. The alternative is a mastery orientation, also known as a learning orientation, through which success is measured by personal improvement and enjoyment of the activity itself, and attention focuses on personal taste in music. A grade orientation tends to demotivate students who perform at average or below-average levels in music, while a learning orientation is likely to enhance motivation. Students' goal orientations are not fixed: teachers may influence them, and counteract the effects of the wider, competition-oriented culture. Research has highlighted three ways to cultivate a learning orientation among students. One is in the nature of tasks offered to students. Tasks should be meaningful rather than restricted entirely to mechanics. They should be varied and should allow for students' own interests. For example, students may be permitted to improvise on a piece of music, or to teach themselves popular tunes. Tasks should help students achieve specific, manageable goals. Another way to promote a learning orientation is via suitable evaluation mechanisms. Formative assessment can be used to provide quick feedback to allow students to improve their performance. Assessment should, once again, focus the student on their own progress rather than on that of peers. For example the student be encouraged to record and compare their musical performance at the start and end of a semester. A student's results should be kept private to discourage peer comparisons. Rivalry for coveted roles in musical performance should be minimised. Students' participation in music can also be encouraged by offering them choices on how they are assessed, through student-led activities and by allowing them to select music and their own roles in performance. Students may also be engaged through exposure to interesting background information about a composer or by analysing the impact of music in films or special events, or by comparing the social impact of different performances of a piece.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Teaching and learning
Parsing the Australian English Curriculum: grammar, multimodality and cross-cultural texts
Volume 35 Number 1, June 2012; Pages 192–205
The advent of the Australian Curriculum has revived debates about the role of grammar. One school of thought argues that traditional grammar is appropriate, at least as a starting point, for school children. The other school of thought adopts a functional approach to grammar. While recognising the value of traditional grammar, it emphasises the importance of context in guiding grammatical usage. During informal discussion, for example, less conventional grammar is used. This approach also serves to emphasise the importance of visual, spatial or gestural forms of communication that supplement or sometimes replace written and spoken texts. Functional grammar identifies three types of meanings, or metafunctions, expressed through grammar: ideational metafunctions are used to convey subject field, interpersonal metafunctions convey roles and relationships between communicators through the use of tenor, and textual metafunctions govern the flow or mode of a text. The Australian Curriculum 'reorientates the role of grammar' by applying some traditional grammatical terms within a functional approach. The article considers how this approach helps to achieve the three strands of the English curriculum: language, literature and literacy. It uses an example relevant to one of the Australian Curriculum's cross-curriculum priorities, Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia. The example is the multimodal texts used for two softdrink advertisements, promoting the same product but addressed to different audiences, one in South Korea and the other in Australia. The South Korean advertisement focuses visually on 'masculine bodies and celebrity product endorsements', which are used to convey strength and expectations of the audience. The Australian advertisment prominently includes the chance for consumers to win money through a competition associated with the product, and for this purpose places greater reliance on text than image; the text uses verb groups urging the audience to act on the desire for monetary gain. In each case a particular multimodal framework is applied. The different meanings created by each advertisement are captured effectively through the functional approach to grammar, in a way that would not have been possible within the traditional approach.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEnglish language teaching
A multi-level language toolkit for the Australian Curriculum: English
Volume 35 Number 1, June 2012; Pages 169–191
The language strand of the Australian Curriculum: English describes English as a language system, setting how English works at the level of structure or syntax, and meaning or semantics – at the levels of the individual word, the sentence and the whole text. The article shows how the curriculum achieves this purpose, using the example of persuasive text. The article offers examples of persuasive writing in the forms of analytical exposition and of exhortation, or 'hortatory exposition', noting how grammatical knowledge taught within the Australian Curriculum 'provides a toolkit for analysing such texts'. For example, noun groups can 'do distinctive persuasive work' in analytical expositions by helping to categorise concepts within an argument, while verb groups are important in establishing cause and effect relationships. In earlier times persuasive texts, in the form of rhetoric, were extensively studied. In the nineteenth century the study of rhetoric lost ground as the focus moved to the meaning and organisation of text. The Australian Curriculum has reasserted the link between the patterning of language and its persuasive effect. Students examine how language is deployed to influence opinion, in varied forms for example by public orators, academics or advertisers.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
English language teaching
Health and physical education pre-service teacher perceptions of journals as a reflective tool in experience-based learning
Volume 17 Number 2, 2011; Pages 135–151
A study has examined the value of journal writing as a means to assist the learning of pre-service teachers (PSTs) of health and physical education (HPE). The study involved 32 third-year PSTs specialising either in HPE or in HPE combined with outdoor education. The participants were required to keep structured journals during field trips, to record reflections during and after their field experiences. Following the unit all the participants completed a survey to record their views about journaling. The authors discuss the findings against the background of evidence from earlier research literature. Journals are widely advanced as a means to promote reflection, or as alternatives or complements to group debriefing sessions or formal academic papers. Writing a journal encourages students to examine their academic readings more deeply and helps to forge connections between formal academic knowledge, informal learning, and the student's beliefs, values and prior experiences. Journals also encourage self-assessment, intellectual risk-taking, and allow for the developmental nature of learning. However, survey participants raised doubts about the value of the journal-writing exercise. Some noted that journals were heavily used in other subject areas, and that as students they consequently felt 'journaled to death'. Some described a temptation to adapt their writing to meet assessor's views and expectations, or to write all their entries just prior to the deadline for submission. Other studies suggest that the perceptions recorded in student journal entries may be rationalised to conform to their existing beliefs. Survey responses and earlier literature suggest the need for academic instructors to teach skills in reflection and offer structure for journal entries. Earlier studies, including research by the current authors, identified a gender bias in the use of and attitude toward journals: women have been found to use them more extensively and value them more highly than men, and women are more likely to record impressions and feelings, and men to record facts. Journal writing tends to be seen as something passive and stereotypically feminine. However, the current study found no differences between female and male participants in their perceptions of the journals; this finding may be due to the small sample. Previous studies have also examined the impact of ICT on journal writing. Learners have generally enjoyed digital technology's ease of use and affordance in greater learner control, and swift feedback. ICT has been found to encourage more pithy entries, without however enhancing the quality of reflection.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Digital social networking: implications for education
Volume 11 Number 5, July 2012; Pages 12–17
Social media breaks down a traditional division in schooling, in which social activities occurred outside the times and spaces used for formal learning situations. While students and teachers make extensive use of social media in their personal lives, it has had a mixed effect educationally. Inappropriate use of the social media can distract students from work and lower academic performance. Barriers to its application in schools include technical problems, limited connectivity, and teachers' confidence and competence in using ICT. Further difficulties are posed by the challenge of integrating ICT into pedagogy, by legal and social issues involving copyright, privacy, unsuitable content and bullying. Social networking can be harnessed for learning purposes; for example, by providing new ways for students to interact in depth during learning activities and by increasing students' connections with people from other cultural backgrounds. However, the educational potential of social media will not be realised 'without teacher-led programs in schools'. Therefore the uses of social media and ICT as learning tools need to be taught explicitly in teacher education courses. Relevant topics extend beyond those directly related to the technology itself. They include acceptable behaviour guidelines, community involvement, safety issues, and the history of the internet.
Subject HeadingsSocial media
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
Changing everything? iPads in education
Volume 11 Number 5, July 2012; Pages 8–9
For the last year researchers in Western Australia have been examining teachers' use of mobile technologies in schools. The first phase of research involved 10 independent schools all exploring the more general use of iPads in the classroom. In most cases the iPads were being used in the classroom as 'consumption devices', eg for reading ebooks, finding and viewing websites, or accessing apps for drill-and-practice exercises. Some teachers were also using iPads to produce new multimodal content. The most innovative use of the new technologies, however, was the use of the devices to facilitate students' peer collaboration, to interact with networked audiences of peers and parents, and to integrate the formal and informal dimensions of their own learning. One of the challenges of using iPads for learning was adapting devices designed for individual use to a shared learning environment. Practical issues to be resolved included storage of different students' work on one device, and ensuring that apps are updated consistently across different students' devices, in the absence of bulk licensing arrangements. During the second phase of the study, focusing on four case-study schools, researchers have been collaborating with schools to investigate how iPads might be used to promote literacy learning. A community of practice has been created, using a wiki as an online platform for collaboration. The project is a collaboration between the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the AISWA.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Teaching and learning
Western Australia (WA)
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