Aligning professional learning, performance management and effective teaching
Number 217, September 2012
The paper suggests ways in which schools can improve the alignment of teaching, professional learning and performance management. A key problem is the difficulty in translating formal professional learning into improved classroom practice. Lectures from experts to a large, heterogenous audience help to provide information and alert educators to the need for change, but cannot detail strategies to improve student learning or behaviour. To be effective professional learning needs to be school-based and school-managed, as individuals teachers usually lack the resources to attend professional learning events regularly, and may not identify highest-quality opportunities, or be able to translate insights from a one-off event into their own practice. The emphasis should move from individual to school-wide professional learning, facilitated by skilled coaches and by structured learning opportunities, eg in workshops or forums. Goals for individual, group and school-wide professional learning should not remain generic but should crystallise into 'micro-teaching strategies and techniques'. It should be expected that teachers help one anothers' professional learning. To support this process, teachers' individual professional learning plans should be made public. Teaching overall needs to be 'de-privatised', with teachers willing to receive and provide advice and feedback from colleagues, undertake and accept classroom observations, collect and share data about their students' performance, and assist students beyond their own classes. School leaders can promote such a culture through instituting measures such as team teaching, mentoring, and team planning to develop a syllabus, lesson or work unit. A professional learning culture can also be promoted through facilities such as small-group meeting rooms or lesson-demonstration areas; through resourcing of in-school teacher release, professional reading, coaching and networking opportunities; through setting outcome expectations, eg that teacher collaborations will produce artefacts; and through 'structural strategies' such as the assignment of groups of teachers to specific responsibilties for a particular group of students. The paper suggests an instructional model, set out in a table, and notes alternative models such as GANAG and e5. These models can be used to promote teacher discussion around particular learning or behavioural strategies, eg how teachers might activate students' prior knowledge, or communicate learning goals or success criteria. The paper includes a one-page table suggesting ways to avoid classroom disruptions. Individual and group learning plans should contain 'bite-size' learning tasks that can be completed within a 10-week time frame. Such tasks are short term, not daunting in their scope. They can also be implemented and refined in practice quickly, in contrast to the sequence of traditional professional learning when a new insight is only put in practice after the learning experience has ended. The paper also discusses the relationship between teacher professional development and formal performance management. Both processes aim to improve teachers' practice. However, performance management processes will be out of step with effective professional learning if they focus on the individual teacher's development in isolation from the school's preferred instructional model; if areas of improvement are treated generically rather than specifically; and if performance is reviewed only annually. The paper includes a narrative that suggests how to overcome the disconnection between professional learning and formal performance management.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Opening doors for bilingual students
Volume 15 Number 2, July 2012; Pages 130–147
The authors suggest a range of ways to improve education for bilingual school students, based on research literature and their own experience as educators. Firstly, it is vital for educators to familiarise themselves with the details of language education policy and associated regulations. They can apply this knowledge to negotiate language policy and practice. Policy should neither be avoided nor implemented unconditionally; rather, it should be appropriated by educators. Policies can be called upon to fund and support local initiatives, wherever they align. There is 'ample space between the layers of language policy and the practice carried out in classrooms', allowing teachers to adapt their practices to support bilingual students. Educators need to understand their particular school context, and the issues it raises for second language teaching and assessment. These issues should be discussed collaboratively by language teachers, in conjunction with broader issues facing bilingual students, concerning assessment, teacher training, academic content, poverty, and the need to resist a 'deficit mentality'. Knowledge of relevant policies and regulations can also be used to advocate for bilingual students. Secondly, educators need to document a vision for the school, applying to all disciplines and year levels, to serve as 'ideological groundwork' for language education. The vision should value cultural and linguistic diversity, and outline how teachers will embody this valuation in their work. The documented vision should also describe what bilingual students can contribute to the school community. It should also include a statement in the home language of students and their families. The vision should be concise and easily absorbed, so that the school's programs and practices can be measured against it. Educators should 'cultivate a culture of achievement and diversity' that draws on bilingual students and their families as funds of knowledge; for instance, about plants and their traditional medicinal uses in a community. It should also recognise cultural practices in the home and how they intersect with school practices; for example, looking at how questions are asked and answered in the home, compared to the school. Thirdly, educators should evaluate how well the curriculum, timetables and physical structures and appearance meet the needs of bilingual students. For instance, bilingual students should not be concentrated in particular areas that discourage contact with the whole school; hallway displays can be used to celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity. The school should build social networks that support bilingual students. Adult mentors can help these students navigate issues such as peer relationships, tertiary entrance, and negative influences such as drug abuse, connecting students to wider networks and resources that meet their needs. The school's own social networks should facilitate contact between bilingual students and peers with similar interests. Clear pathways should be open from ESL courses to mainstream instruction, supported by transition programs. Bilingual students should be set high expectations for their achievement. Scaffolded instruction should support a relaxed atmosphere where students can take risks. Instruction should provide rich opportunities to acquire academic language and vocabulary as well as to use students' home language. Schools should also seek opportunities to build links to potential partners such as libraries, community centres and universities.
Subject HeadingsLanguage and languages
English as an additional language
Teaching and learning
Inside the VCE's Chinese-Australian success story
October 2012; Pages 15–18
The authors provide three linked reports of a partnership between a school in Victoria and a school in Sichwan Province, China. Nick Dwyer, a vice-principal of Haileybury College in Melbourne, notes that Haileybury is the first school to develop a model of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) that can be used overseas. Using this model the VCE – Victoria's year 12 certificate – is delivered at the Schude School in Sichwan, by local teachers trained and supervised by Haileybury staff. The students study the VCE in English, and face the same assessment requirements as Victorian students. They complete the VCE in tandem with their Chinese course and graduate with the VCE and a Chinese high school certificate, allowing them to apply to Chinese, Australian or other international universities. Australian schools who enter business partnerships with local Chinese schools stand to benefit through receipt of school fees, cultivation of cross-curriculum links, and strong student performance in language studies. For Haileybury this partnership, and the mentoring undertaken by its teachers, has also improved staff morale, provided a great impetus to achieve high educational standards, and generated a strongly internationalist perspective in the school community. The school undertook the partnership after analysing its strengths (pedagogy, academic record and ICT) and weaknesses (small size and inexperience in international education). Vincent Lee, from Chengdu Schude High School in Sichwan, explains that the school introduced the VCE in 2005, as a response to Chengdu's growing international exposure. As the first high school in Sichwan to introduce an international curriculum, the school faced the challenge of assuring parents, students and teachers about the program's quality and validity. The school also had to assess its own capacity to support its students in an English-speaking setting, and to support them in moving from teacher-centred to student-centred instruction. The school provides its students with intensive courses in English. It covers the first two units of the VCE before year 12 to strengthen their academic foundations. Its teachers have benefited greatly from mentoring and collaboration with their Australian peers, and from exposure to 'cutting edge' teaching methods. This learning is integrated with Chinese traditions and culture, which remain of key importance to the school. The collaboration has been very successful at allowing graduating students to enrol at highly regarded universities in Australia and other countries. John McSwiney from the VCAA provides background about the VCE's delivery in China and describes requirements to be met by Victorian education providers seeking a licence to deliver the VCE overseas. (The article is adapted from a presentation to the AIEC 2012 conference.)
Subject HeadingsEducational certificates
Leadership challenges in international schools in the Asia Pacific region
Volume 15 Number 3
In the last ten years the number of International Baccalaureate programs adopted by schools internationally has almost quadrupled. The growth is most pronounced in the Asia Pacific. The IB consists of the senior secondary Diploma Programme (DP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Primary Years Program (PYP). Researchers have investigated key issues facing the leaders of five IB schools in Asia, drawing implications for IB leaders elsewhere. The study was part of a global study on IB implementation across 175 schools worldwide. The five selected schools offered the full IB program and all had higher than average results for the DP level students. The schools were located in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and mainland China. The researchers interviewed a total of 68 teachers and leaders and 25 students from the schools. The evidence highlights the importance of two key external factors influencing the roles of leaders and setting challenges for them. One factor was parents and community. In the Asia Pacific, IB schools' traditional constituency of expatriate professional parents are increasingly being joined by high-income local parents, whose children now occupy four out of five places at these schools. East Asian parents tend to follow an educational philosophy different to that of the IB: they tend to focus on examination results rather than ongoing assessments, on teacher- rather than student-centred instruction, and on the learning of subject content rather than process-oriented, deep learning. In consequence school leaders have had to devote considerable if subtle efforts to realign parents' expectations. The second external factor is the importance of external assessments, 'represented by the IB Diploma exam which impacts directly on university entrance'. As well as the external factors, the school leaders face challenges from the organisational context of international schools in general. International schools are private and self-funded. There is competition between schools for parents' custom, and in some cases between parents for places at particular schools. The parents are 'highly sensitive to differences in price and quality' between schools, and 'news travels fast in these densely woven East Asian communities'. IB schools in particular face the challenge of managing a very diverse student population, containing many ethnicities within the Asian region. Other issues include high staff turnover and lack of job security among school administrators. In terms of curriculum, a key challenge was to manage students' transition from the inquiry-based learning at primary and middle school levels, to the greater emphasis on subject content in the senior secondary years.
Subject HeadingsInternational education
Policy for all? The impact of centrally developed, universally applied policy on decision-making in Western Australian public schools
May 2012; Pages 165–174 (Conference Proceedings A)
Schools have been caught up in competing tendencies, one toward decentralisation of decision-making, the other toward more standardised accountability measures. In Western Australia, state school principals are guided by centrally developed policies and procedures. The assumption underlying this centralised approach is that they are suitable for all school contexts. This demand for 'consistency and universalism' has been defended as a way to pursue equity, but it has been challenged as incompatible with the current focus on individualised education. It may also be seen to clash with the need to respond to geographical factors that demand a unique response, and to school communities that differ significantly from the norm in terms of 'cultural values and idiosyncracies'. The paper reports on a survey of principals in 253 Western Australian public schools, concerning their implementation of government policy, and their willingness to 'take risks' by adjusting policy to allow for local circumstances. The findings indicate that 'in practice many principals make decisions that are non-compliant with governance structures' in order to respond suitably to local conditions. The paper recommends that the mandating of policy 'should be minimised' to allow schools to accommodate their individual circumstances.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Western Australia (WA)
Principals' confidence in managing disruptive student behaviour: exploring geographical context in NSW primary schools
Volume 32 Number 4, 2012; Pages 375–395
The issue of student behaviour imposes competing pressures on school principals. On one hand they face demands to involve all students in learning, including those with behaviour-related disabilities. On the other hand they face pressures to promote achievement of all students, which may be compromised by disruptive behaviour of some students, whether or not these students have diagnosed behavioural disorders. The article describes the results of an initial quantitative analysis of data from the Principals and Behaviour Survey (PABS) in NSW. The survey was part of wider research into principals' attitude toward the inclusion of students with disabilities into mainstream schooling. The electronic survey was open to all 1702 public primary school principals in the state, with 433 responses received. Two thirds of the respondents had more than six years' experience as principals. Two thirds of respondents had worked in two or more schools. Female principals were over-represented; women make up about half the total number of public primary school principals but they made up 65 per cent of respondents. Principals generally reported high levels of confidence in dealing with disruptive behaviour in general, although they were less confident about their ability to achieve academic gains among disruptive students. Principals' skills and confidence are influenced by geographical context. Principals in urban schools tended to see their role in terms of providing support for individual staff and students, while rural principals placed more emphasis on their whole-school role, perhaps reflecting the smaller and more integrated nature of the rural schools.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
New South Wales (NSW)
Parenting and academic achievement: intergenerational transmission of educational advantage
Volume 84 Number 4, 2011; Pages 299–321
The relationship between parenting practices, social background, and children's academic achievement is explored through an analysis of US data. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) is a longitudinal study of individuals and their families in the USA, commencing in 1968. The study's Child Development Supplement (CDS) provides additional data about children up to the age of 12, and their parents. The authors employ the concept of cultural capital, which is taken to include not only high-status cultural activities but also parenting practices. They also apply four categories of social class, which combine parents' existing and previous class locations: stable middle class, upwardly mobile new middle class, downwardly mobile new working class, and stable working class. Children from stable middle class were found to have the highest academic achievement, and students from stable working class backgrounds the lowest. Upwardly mobile mothers played an important role in acquiring resources and adopting parenting practices that are characteristic of the middle class, and which promote student academic achievement. In the case of downwardly mobile families, the relationship of educational attainment, class and parenting practices is more complicated. It seems to be influenced by the specific reasons for downward mobility, such as divorce or change of economic circumstances. The article examines the data in the context of two theories about cultural capital: Bourdieu emphasises the importance of family background to student achievement, while DiMaggio highlights the capacity of individuals to acquire cultural capital throughout their lives.
Parent and child
Intergenerational music making: a phenomenological study of three older Australians making music with children
Volume 59 Number 4, January 2012; Pages 339–356
The article reports on a study of three musically trained older people who have assisted in the musical training of primary or secondary students. The status of 'older' is usually defined as over 60 years of age. Evidence was collected via interviews with the three older participants. Irene, 67, had recently resumed learning the piano, previously undertaken as a child, and now trained and played alongside her 11-year-old granddaughter. Margaret, 75, had for two years been working as a volunteer piano accompanist to a rural school choir. Bruce, 72, had been playing in a rock-and-roll band since his youth, although since the 1990s he played only for pleasure. The interviews produced a range of findings. Firstly, intergenerational music making can be important as a form of social engagement for older citizens: it alleviated the loneliness felt by the two older women, who each lived alone. The ongoing nature of the collaborations was important in this respect. Apart from immediate dealings with young people, the musicians' involvement in the training served to expand their own social networks. Secondly, the collaborations fostered more positive attitudes toward young people. Prior to the musical collaborations, these older musicians had little contact with children or teenagers and their interactions were shaped by incidental experiences or anecdotes of rude behaviour. Now, they were exposed to information from teachers about the stresses experienced by today's youth, such as the higher proportion of single-parent homes. A third finding was importance of choice in the collaborations, for both the older and younger participants. They valued the ability to select the music they worked on, and the form of their involvement in it. Fourthly, the collaborations made them feel more valued and respected, by the young people and their teachers. Fifthly there were 'perceptions of reciprocity' in the learning. The collaborations exposed the older people to contemporary music and to the role of technology in music.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Teaching and learning
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