Volume 97 Number 1, March 2013; Pages 5–21
Education policy strongly advocates that principals take on roles as instructional leaders at their schools. The role includes motivating teachers, coordinating the use of strategies for teaching and learning across the school or between classrooms, creating a positive learning environment, introducing improvement strategies, supporting ongoing professional learning, and playing a supervisory and mediating role with regard to the implementation of curriculum ‘standards, structures and processes’. However, several aspects of the school environment tend to obstruct principals from playing a role as instructional leaders. One factor is the growing complexity of schooling. The ongoing advance of disciplinary knowledge means that principals cannot ‘know everything’. In secondary schools particularly, increasing size and elaborate structures impose further obstacles. A second factor is finding time to lead. Like middle-level managers in the corporate sector, principals tend to be waylaid by frequent, unpredictable incidents calling for urgent attention, generated either by more senior education officers or within the school. A third barrier is imposed by the ‘normative environment’ or culture of the school. There tends to be a deep-seated expectation that principals will focus on managerial tasks, and that the classroom is the province of the teacher. Research literature notes that principals attempting to challenge these understandings encounter ‘overt and covert resistance’, sometimes experienced as an invisible ‘force field’. Principals themselves often internalise these beliefs, leaving them shy about entering the classroom. Principals typically receive few formal accolades for implementing curriculum and instructional change, and face few sanctions for failures in these domains - including the failure to pursue their own professional learning. Taken together, these obstacles are likely to take their toll on the principal, particularly over time and particularly in high-need schools where their instructional leadership role would be of most benefit. However, three strategies, used in concert, have the potential to overcome these barriers. Firstly, principals need to separate the urgency and the importance of tasks. Tasks that are urgent, but not closely connected to the school’s overall goals, should be delegated. Secondly, the principal needs to develop a collective leadership at the school. This task may be assisted by the use of frameworks designed to ‘assist in thinking about the range of instructional leadership responsibilities’. A third, closely related strategy is to develop the capacity of other staff to lead. Implementing each of these strategies is important, but not urgent, underlining the need to keep these two qualities distinct in the principal’s mind.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
United States of America (USA)
Volume 16 Number 1, March 2013; Pages 14–26
The article presents a scenario in which a regional administrator of an education system attempts to lead the adoption of new instructional technology in a school district, under challenging circumstances; the article then discusses how this scenario might be discussed and used within a class of graduate students in educational leadership. The hypothetical regional administrator works in a district covering about 10,000 students. He faces the task of integrating ICT into student learning, working with a committee representing stakeholders in the district’s education community. He encounters diverse beliefs in his district regarding the value of this initiative. One issue to resolve is whether students should be allowed to bring their own mobile devices to class: some principals relay strong concerns from teachers related to student misuse of their mobile devices at school. The union has concerns that teachers will be expected to work informally, unpaid, out of hours, as technology makes them more accessible. Faced with this scenario, the graduate students are called on to establish the facts of the case, identify central problems, and prepare a strategy to address them, drawing on two key articles from the educational literature. The students are also called on distinguish the ways in which the district’s stakeholders are open or resistant to the integration of ICT; the extent of expertise that is available within the implementation team to lead the adoption of new technology in the district; and the extent to which implementation tasks are shared or individual responsibilities. They are asked to identify opinion leaders in the district, and to look for opportunities for generating positive personal experiences with the new technology amongst stakeholders. Students are asked to develop an action plan and a cost/benefit analysis, and to suggest an ‘ideal team’ for implementing such an initiative in the school district.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Dispositions refer to ‘attitudes and beliefs manifested in behaviour’. In terms of teaching, desired dispositions include basic behaviours such as courtesy, promptness, and consistent attendance, as well as behaviour indicating respect for school students, and commitment to their academic success. There is ‘an explosion of interest’ in the dispositions of preservice teachers as a possible guide to their future performance in schools. In 2008 a national survey of teacher preparation providers in the USA investigated the extent to which teacher education courses promote desired dispositions, and the strategies they use to do so. The survey was sent to 330 institutions, directed to the most direct administrator of teacher preparation programs at each college or department of education; 236 replies were received. About 85 per cent of institutions had set out a formal set of dispositions to promote among their students. Participants were asked to nominate the strategies used to promote desired dispositions, and rate their effectiveness. The strategies deemed most effective were the requirement that students provide written responses to the feedback they received from their instructors, and discussions of the dispositions of classroom teachers they had observed, and writing journals after direct instruction on dispositions. The relatively ineffective strategies included student-to-student discussions, one-to-one debriefings between instructor and student, and analyses of dispositions in staged video clips.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Teaching and learning
United States of America (USA)
Everyday practices of teachers of English: a survey at the outset of national curriculum implementation
Volume 36 Number 2, 2013; Pages 111–120
The Peopling Educational Policy (PEP) project is examining the implementation of the English and Mathematics components of the Australian Curriculum. The article discusses some early research findings from the project, in relation to the English curriculum. The article looks at primary and secondary teachers’ perceptions of common practices in the teaching of English, using data from an online survey of 367 teachers. Just over 90 per cent of respondents were female; 248 were primary and 119 were secondary teachers. They covered metropolitan, regional and remote areas, and all sectors of schooling. Three quarters of respondents indicated that they often used curriculum documentation for long term planning, over the course of a term or a school year; 45 per cent of respondents also used curriculum documentation when planning weekly or unit-based teaching. Other resources used included materials developed at individual, team or school levels, and curriculum materials developed by their state or territory. More than eight out of ten respondents were likely to refer to official curriculum documentation when seeking to resolve ‘a serious difference of opinion among colleagues’ over what to teach. When implementing curriculum, the teachers were most likely to be influenced by students’ individual qualities and capabilities, special needs, and aspirations. When discussing their own professional learning needs, over 80 per cent of teachers nominated the need to learn more on how to develop and assess students’ fluency in ‘speaking, listening, reading and writing’. Over 80 per cent of primary teachers rated ‘Incorporating general capabilities’ as either important or very important, and the same proportion identified the need to learn more about developing and assessing students’ understanding of curriculum content. Respondents noted the need for professional learning that went beyond an explanation of the curriculum documents in general, and helped them learn how to adapt the curriculum for their own school context.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
English language teaching
Volume 82 Number 3, March 2013; Pages 455–479
Fractions may be understood in several ways – ‘part–whole, measurement, ratio, operator and quotient’. Research literature indicates that preservice knowledge of fractions in primary teachers in the USA is too limited, failing to move beyond the concept of ‘part–whole’, ie partitioning – a limitation shared by most of the K-8 students they will subsequently teach. Fractions need to be understood as numbers in their own right, which may, for example, be marked on a number line. This requires an understanding of numbers as more than simply whole numbers – an understanding that emerged historically with the concept of rational numbers. A study has examined how fractions are taught to preservice primary teachers in the USA. The study was part of a larger project, the Mathematical Education of Elementary Teachers (ME.ET), investigating the teaching of maths to preservice primary teachers in undergraduate classes, with particular reference to fractions. The current paper reports on the teaching undertaken by six of the mathematics instructors involved, based on classroom observations and interviews. The article describes each of the six interviews. The results indicate that important aspects of the mathematics of fractions, including the concept of fractions as numbers, were not explicitly taught by the instructors, because they assumed it was unnecessary. To remedy this gap in knowledge, the authors recommend more emphasis in preservice teaching about the nature of fractions as numbers.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
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