Practical strategies for teaching grammar
Volume 21 Number 3, October 2013; Pages i–xii
The author suggests a range of strategies for the teaching of grammar. The first strategy is the physical manipulation of blocks of text to illustrate the different grammatical components of clauses and sentences. For example, using pieces of cardboard students may be asked to re-assemble word groups (such as subjects, objects and verb groups) into other grammatically meaningful arrangements, to deepen students’ understanding of sentence structure. A second strategy is to use analogy to explain grammatical concepts. For instance, the image of a ‘party popper’, and the paper that streams out of it, can be used to show how one clause might project another clause. A third strategy is to juxtapose simple texts with more elaborate ones, in which grammatical elements have been added or changed. Students might for example compare the effectiveness of sentences with and without adverbial phrases, which could then lead into a formal discussion of adverbs. Fourthly, students may be shown how to identify ‘patterns of choice’ in grammar. ‘Patterns of choice’ refers to the different grammatical elements commonly selected for particular text types, such as the frequent use of adverbial phrases in biographies. Students might be shown ‘that character is constructed through language choice’. For example a fictional character’s sophistication can be conveyed by the inclusion of complex grammatical forms, such as embedded clauses, when a story is being told from that character’s viewpoint. The fifth strategy is role play and games, to show the way that language differs according to cultural context. When placed in different social roles in a role play, students are able to learn ‘that strategies for interaction become more complex and demanding as levels of formality and social distance increase’. The article also describes ways in which role play and games may be used to teach about modality, and to reinforce knowledge about grammatical concepts.
English language teaching
Teaching and learning
Geography and creativity: developing joyful and imaginative learners
Volume 41 Number 4, 2013; Pages 368–381
The article discusses the nature and role of creativity in the learning process, and then examines its application to the teaching and learning of geography. Creativity has been variously associated with: imagination; originality; problem-solving; openness to suggestion; the capacity to envision new possibilities and to see the world afresh; and the ability to link concepts, especially during the playful or dreamy states of mind which allow connections to be made between hitherto separate ideas. Creative activity helps to develop children socially, emotionally and cognitively, contributing to self-esteem, health and well-being. In the classroom setting, however, creativity poses difficulties. Qualities such as dreaminess conflict with some elements of the education system. Creativity ‘develops erratically rather than in allocated time slots’; it is hard to measure or assess. It is sometimes seen as a means to engage struggling learners, while accomplished students are directed toward 'substantial and quantifiable knowledge'. Nevertheless, creativity is relevant in many ways to geography education. Geographers have to synthesise knowledge from disparate sources of information. They also have to link the physical and human aspects of the subject area. The creation of maps, crucial to geography, involves ‘imaginative representations of reality’. Geography involves a sense of place, and the interaction of place and people, which again lends itself to creative thinking. There are many ways in which geography can be taught creatively. At the outset, students can be creatively engaged through well-chosen puzzles, games, or mapping exercises, or even riddles or word games that stimulate curiosity. Stories can awaken children’s imagination, and provide manageable introductions to complex issues such as global warming, in a positive and hopeful way. Students may go on trails through the school, with activities along the way, or engage in outdoor learning, where they learn to depict local environments in words, pictures or diagrams. Their sense of place can be deepened through activities such as setting up a camp. In the wider locality, students can be introduced to planning issues involving new building developments or the protection of local habitat, through activities such as role play, drama, debate, or investigations. Students may study differences within or between countries, or, at a world level, have their assumptions challenged by unfamiliar kinds of maps. All these forms of creative learning in geography recognise the autonomy and agency of the child, recognise that learning takes place in different ways and speeds, and accept that the development of ideas is inherently messy. (To purchase this article, go to the Taylor & Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Teaching and learning
The author reports the views of five experts regarding trends in ICT for education. Several trends are gathering momentum. One is the trend toward ‘bring your own device’ in schools: students are increasingly likely to bring their devices to school regardless of official education policy. The trend has been encouraged by improved security for education system infrastructure, and by the growth of tablet computing. However, concerns remain around equity and the availability of network expertise in schools. Another ‘hot’ trend is toward social media for teaching and learning. It may be used to encourage students to write, and as a ‘window to the world’, while for teachers social media facilitates professional networking. Learning analytics is also gathering steam, as a way to apply data to improve instruction. Several other trends are now considered ‘lukewarm’. One is the movement toward open educational resources. They are now widely used, but the value is thought to be reduced by set-up and maintenance costs and by the difficulty that teachers face in identifying high quality material. Another lukewarm, slowing trend is the use of learning management systems. They can be used to underpin the flipped classroom, and to connect with parents, but innovation is sluggish as a handful of providers dominate the market. Game-based learning is similarly lukewarm. It has proved difficult to provide games that are both engaging and educationally valuable. A stronger body of research will be required to demonstrate the benefits of these games in the face of a trend to return to the ‘basics’ in education. Two trends are thought to be ‘losing steam’. The use of desktop computers continues to fall. The use of e-portfolios is also diminishing: their use might potentially be boosted by interest in personalised learning and the burgeoning of digital resources, but they come up against high-stakes testing, ‘the political reality of our time’.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Child sexual abuse prevention education: a review of school policy and curriculum provision in Australia
Volume 39 Number 5, 2013; Pages 649–680
The National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF), endorsed by all Australian education ministers in 2010, requires that ‘personal safety and protective behaviours’ be taught as part of its wider commitment to children’s wellbeing. Child sexual abuse prevention education is a component of such teaching. The article examines how Australia’s state and territory education departments provide for child sexual abuse prevention education. To research the issue the author examined publicly available material on departmental websites, including policies, curriculum guidelines, and syllabus documents. Findings are presented according to ten criteria: the departments’ ‘base child protection policy’; specific child sexual abuse prevention policies; the ‘expressed strength of departmental adherence’ to relevant policies; the location of the relevant policies within the curriculum; the provision of curriculum support materials; the provision of training for teachers; assessment of student learning on the topic; policies toward parental permission; information provided to parents and caregivers; and the existence of partnerships with relevant community services and agencies. The article notes the provision made by specific education systems in relation to the criteria. While all the departments have a base child protection policy, only three ‘demonstrate commitment’ to the compulsory inclusion of child sexual abuse prevention education in the school curriculum. In two systems the base child protection policy requires that teachers receive training in child sexual abuse prevention education. In the early primary years, child sexual abuse prevention education usually forms part of safety education, while in the upper primary years it is usually taught as part of broader education about sexuality and/or relationships. The provision of curriculum support materials includes references to external resources. The extent of these links is at times overwhelming; classroom teachers would benefit from more guidance on how to identify the highest-quality materials and ‘which, if any, materials from external agencies were endorsed or preferred’. (To purchase this article, go to the Taylor & Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Factors that lead to positive or negative stress in secondary school teachers of mathematics and science
Volume 39 Number 5, 2013; Pages 627–648
Teachers frequently face stress caused by students, colleagues, teaching and administrative workload, time pressures, performance evaluations, and working conditions, as well as from teachers’ own expectations of themselves, and, sometimes, low levels of self-esteem. The subject areas of science and mathematics face high levels of scrutiny, adding to teacher stress. However, while stress is usually considered as a negative experience, it can also take a positive form, known as ‘eustress', which can spur action to address difficulties. The article draws on research into the impact of stress on 12 teachers of mathematics or science, and profiles three of the teachers, noting how personality and context combine to produce positive or negative outcomes for teachers facing stress. James was a mathematics teacher in inner London. Though newly trained in this role, he had ten years’ previous experience teaching in another country. At the time of the interview he had been experiencing sustained bullying from the headteacher. Nevertheless, he had not experienced burnout, despite this ongoing stress, due to his high self-efficacy, support from his head of department and other teachers at the school, and his belief that his skill set enabled him to find work elsewhere. Gurdip, a science teacher with 30 years’ teaching experience, described contrasting experiences at his current and former schools. At his former school he faced stress from an unsupportive school leadership, a failing marriage, and career aspirations that he found himself unable to meet. At his current school he experienced low stress due to a supportive senior management, and a more realistic appraisal of his professional capacities. He also had the benefit of having learnt coping mechanisms such as seeking social support and maintaining a better work–life balance. Elsa taught mathematics. She had previously been head of a mathematics department, but had lost this position after she started a family and changed schools. She had never regained her former level of authority, leaving her feeling undervalued and de-skilled. While she had a good work–life balance, she did not seek social support during times of difficulty and tended to avoid confronting problems. Overall, the most important factor governing teachers’ stress was their relationship with their school leadership, and, in particular, whether they trusted their school leaders enough to discuss their personal vulnerabilities with them. (To purchase this article, go to the Taylor & Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
Classroom dialogue: a systematic review across four decades of research
Volume 43 Number 3, 2013; Page 325–356
A review has examined 225 studies of dialogue in primary and secondary classrooms, published from 1972 to 2011. The ‘paradigm’ structure for classroom dialogue is the ‘initiation-response-feedback’ (IRF) pattern in which a teachers asks a question, receives a student’s response, and offers feedback. This pattern has many variations, for instance the teacher may receive several student responses before offering feedback. The teacher may move from the ‘classic’ IRF pattern to ‘dialogic interaction’, encouraging multiple student contributions to class discussion, by withholding a response or through non-evaluative feedback. Student-to-student discussion is another form of classroom dialogue, most commonly occurring through group work. However, one large-scale study has found that ‘group work is rare in classrooms’. While group work is potentially a rich form of dialogue, the tasks assigned for group discussion are often unsuitable, ‘so social chitchat is as probable as serious task discussion’. Statistically, boys are more likely to respond to teacher’s questions, and are more likely to receive responses to teachers, ‘especially negative feedback’. However, this finding results from the extreme talkativeness of a subgroup of boys and is not characteristic of boys overall. A recurrent theme in the research is that ‘teachers find it extremely difficult to promote exploratory talk in classrooms’. Obstacles include the pressure on the teacher to achieve curricular goals; the expertise needed to choose the right moment for exploratory talk; students’ reluctance to challenge peers; and students’ tendency to see class discussion as irrelevant or secondary to their learning. Just over one third of the studies examined the content, rather than the structure, of class dialogues. Here three main themes emerged. One was the impact of cultural background on dialogue, mainly in terms of ‘matches and mismatches’ between teachers and students. A second theme concerned preconceptions of a topic, while a third was the impact of previous or anticipated dialogue on classroom discussion. (To purchase this article, go to the Taylor & Francis home page and type the article title into the search box.)
Subject HeadingsTeacher-student relationships
Teaching and learning
Number 3, April 2013; Pages 1–16
Grade retention is the practice of having students repeat a year of schooling due to unsatisfactory academic progress, in contrast to the practice of social promotion, when failing students are accepted into the next year level to keep them with the rest of their age group. Grade retention is put forward as a means to allow students more time to learn; however research has found that grade retention tends to lower students’ self-esteem and raises the likelihood that they will drop out of school. Research has also highlighted the value of alternatives to grade retention, such as summer schools, after-school programs, and early intervention measures, but these alternatives are effectively unavailable to schools at times of budgetary restraint. One factor promoting grade retention is the pressure on teachers and schools to perform well on high-stakes tests. The article reports on a study in an urban school district in the USA, examining how primary teachers decided whether or not to retain students at the same grade level. The study involved a questionnaire answered by 74 primary teachers at three schools, followed up by interviews with selected participants. The study identified a range of factors in teachers’ decision-making. The most important criteria were the student’s academic performance and perceived maturity. Another factor was whether parents supported retention, and the anticipated level of support from parents for the student's academic work in future. Teachers believed grade retention was better done in earlier grades, where it had less negative social and emotional impact for the child. When the student had a disability, special education teachers tended to consider a wider range of factors than other teachers. Teachers did not believe that accountability pressure ‘was or should be the sole reason a child is retained’. They also indicated that grade retention should be a group decision at the school.
Subject HeadingsGrade retention
United States of America (USA)
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