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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Sustaining emotional resilience for school leadership

Volume 34 Number 1,  2014; Pages 52–68
Julia Steward

The article examines how emotional resilience of headteachers is created and sustained. It is based on a literature review, an online survey of 49 headteachers in England, and subsequent individual interviews with six of the headteachers. The interviewees agreed on the important contribution of general well-being to their emotional resilience. Well-being is supported by a healthy work-life balance, time for reflection, and networking with peers. In England, headteachers' employment provisions allow them time to take up these activities, but few do so, perhaps because their sense of their long-term needs is obscured by short-term demands. Well-being is also affected by headteachers' attitudes such as their propensity to value their own role, to find satisfaction in making a difference to others, and to notice and celebrate successes. Burnout tends to occur when individuals do not acknowledge warning signs; when they take pride in enduring unrealistically high workload, particularly amongst peers with similar attitudes; when they lose a sense of self through 'dysfunctional closeness' to their organisation; or when their sense of self is fragile, producing over-reliance on affirmation by others. One interviewed headteacher noted the danger of 'colluding with unrealistic expectations' from the school community. School leaders new in the position are particularly vulnerable to the risk of over-work, especially first-time headteachers, due to new levels of accountability, isolation of the role, workload, and the need to provide support for others. A strong sense of moral purpose can help to sustain headteachers, as long as it is accompanied by self-acceptance: lacking that, moral demands can undermine resilience. Harris stresses the importance of earlier, formative influences on individuals, which determine or modify the impact of recent experiences. The interviewed headteachers who described having been loved and affirmed in childhood were now strongly resilient. Another, who spoke of high academic expectations on her as a child, now tended to focus on her failures more than on her successes. Deep self-awareness is needed, so that the individual knows and manages the 'shadow self' – parts of oneself that are vulnerable or socially unacceptable, but which, if denied or ignored, may sabotage attempts at self-help, or burst out at moments of high stress. Individuals unable to accept their shadow side may use up energy concealing it from others, or 'unconsciously pick up and carry the projections of others that resonate with their own worst fears'.


Subject Headings

Educational evaluation
School principals
Resilience (Psychology)
Great Britain

Promoting metacognition in music classes

Volume 100 Number 2, December 2013; Pages 52–60
Carol W Benton

The concept of metacognition, in the educational context, covers thinking and study skills, self-awareness, self-evaluation, and self-regulation. For a student learning a musical instrument metacognition might mean noting difficult sections of a score for later attention, acknowledgement of personal strengths and weaknesses, and evaluation of their performance. Metacognition involves three types of knowledge. Declarative metacognitive knowledge – the 'what' of learning – means that the learner knows the facts of their own strengths and weaknesses, in general terms and in relation to particular performances or tasks. Procedural metacognitive knowledge refers to processes that the learner undertakes to address learning needs, eg the piano student who notes her past confusion about Baroque and Romantic trills, and therefore practises both types. Conditional metacognitive knowledge means that the student knows 'when and under what conditions to apply known procedures'. Three instructional strategies help students to develop their metacognitive skills. The first is reflection on a learning task, before, during and after its completion. One way students may reflect on their work is through journal entries, perhaps in association with audio or video recordings. The teacher may wish to provide writing prompts to guide students' reflective activities, directing them toward self-awareness, self-analysis and goal-setting. The second strategy, self-assessment, is similar to reflection, but involves more self-evaluation. Well-developed self-assessment is a characteristic of the expert musician. Students may use rubrics for formal, structured self-assessment, perhaps modelled on the rating scales used by judges in musical competitions. Informal self-assessment may emerge during class discussion. A third strategy is the use of 'think-aloud' sessions, in which learners bring out their 'internal voice', guided by carefully constructed questions. Think-alouds may involve pairs of students 'interviewing' one another. There are several signs that a music student is applying metacognitive strategies. One is that their responses focus on specific elements of music, eg intonation or rhythm, and also focus on their own, or their band's, performance. Another is that they tend to use musical terminology in their responses. Thirdly, their reflective activities describe their own thought processes and how they lead to specific actions. Teachers should model metacognitive strategies, while also emphasising that the strategies they themselves use are one of several options.

Key Learning Areas

The Arts

Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Thought and thinking

School libraries and teacher-librarians: evidence of their contribution to student literacy and learning (CLJ archived article)

Volume 11 Number 12, 9 August 2013
Hilary Hughes

School libraries have the potential to be a vibrant hub for learning, information, reading promotion, creativity, student leadership and social interaction within their school community. From an equity perspective, the school library is one of few places in a school open to all students, teachers and parents. In addition to providing a congenial learning environment and 'safe haven', the school library often offers a venue for extra-curricular activities, as well as school community events and meetings. Teacher-librarians enable students and teachers to use the library's resources and spaces to their fullest potential. As specialist teachers, they draw upon dual qualifications in education and information science that enable them to respond to diverse learner needs and the affordances of evolving technologies. With a 'bird's-eye view' across year levels and subjects, effective teacher-librarians support collaborative curriculum development and teaching. International research provides compelling evidence that school libraries and teacher-librarians make a significant contribution to student literacy and learning outcomes. After summarising previous research, this article presents recent research focused on Gold Coast schools. These new Australian findings offer an evidence-based snapshot of school libraries and teacher-librarians, from the principals' perspective. They indicate that school NAPLAN scores for reading and writing were generally higher when student-to-library staff ratios were lower and when the school employed a teacher-librarian. In light of the National Plan for School Improvement, the findings are of potential interest to education authorities, policy makers, school leadership teams, teacher-librarians, teachers, parents and researchers. They offer evidence to inform policy development and strategic planning for school libraries and professional staffing.


Subject Headings

School libraries

Extensive reading interventions for students with reading difficulties after grade 3

Volume 83 Number 2, June 2013; Pages 163–195
Jeanne Wanzek, et al.

For some students, reading difficulties persist into the upper primary years. Difficulties may even intensify, as schools reduce the level of instruction they provide in how to read, contributing to the 'fourth-grade slump'. The authors report on a synthesis of 19 studies published 1995–2011, examining interventions for students whose reading difficulties have persisted in years 4–12. The article complements an earlier study covering the K–3 years. Ten of the studies met criteria for a meta-analysis; findings from the other nine studies were subsequently compared to these results. The meta-analysis found 'a small effect for extensive interventions on reading comprehension, reading fluency, word reading, word reading fluency, and spelling outcomes'. The quality of data in the meta-analysis 'was high, increasing confidence in the results'. Findings therefore suggest that extensive interventions produce small but definite improvements for struggling readers across these year levels. However, the most rigorous studies were also the ones indicating the most modest results from interventions. The meta-analysis also found that shorter interventions appeared to produce greater reading improvements than longer ones, perhaps reflecting the stimulating effect of an intervention's initial novelty, which is lost as time goes on. There was little difference in the interventions' effectiveness across 'reading fluency, word reading, word reading fluency, and spelling'. The effectiveness of the interventions did not appear to be influenced by the number of hours involved, or the year level of the students. Nor was it influenced by the size of student groups: perhaps the size of the smaller groups had not been reduced sufficiently to have an impact; perhaps the teachers involved had not sufficiently differentiated instruction so as to make use of a smaller class size. Overall, the modest effects of even sustained interventions may reflect the depth of the problems faced by struggling readers after grade 3. It may also indicate that results of K–3 interventions have been artificially inflated by false positives: students whose reading improvement was credited to an intervention, when it would have occurred anyway. (Curriculum and Leadership Journal archived abstract)


Subject Headings

Reading comprehension
Reading difficulties

Remote control labs

Volume 52 Number 2,  2014; Pages 18–20
Cathal O'Connell, David Hoxley

Science comes alive to students when they actively participate in practical science experiments, but such participation is often prohibitively expensive, due to the cost of equipment and/or of transporting students to science labs. This problem is addressed by the FARLabs (Freely Accessible Remote Laboratories) initiative. FARLabs gives high school teachers and students online access to practical experiments. The experiments are aligned to the Australian science curriculum, as well as to the middle years and VCE curriculums (see curriculum map in the For Teachers section of the site). Teachers and students access the equipment via a web portal. Four lab activities are currently available. With each activity comes ‘downloadable student notes, teacher notes, student worksheets, quizzes’ and background information. The teacher does not need to install software; only an internet connection and web browser are needed. Teachers register free of charge, after which they are able to book equipment. FARLabs, launched in October 2103, is funded through the Australian Maths and Science Partnerships Program (AMSPP).

Key Learning Areas


Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Science teaching
Mathematics teaching

The language ladder

Number 3, 26 May 2014; Pages 16–17
Kathe Kirby

The Australian Government aims to have 40 per cent of year 12 students studying a second language within the next ten years. Achieving this target will involve doubling the current number of students studying languages up to and including year 10, and stemming attrition of languages students in the senior secondary years. The target can be reached with support from state and territory education ministers; the response in NSW and Victoria has been promising. A number of steps are now needed. Swift measures are required to attract more languages teachers. This will help to achieve a second key requirement: continuous pathways in languages study between primary and secondary schools. Class times for languages education needs to be increased. There is also a need to ‘close some exit points where students can opt out of languages in secondary years’. For year 12 students aspiring to university entrance, the ATAR system needs to provide incentives to continue languages study, compensating for the subject’s difficulty. All states need to provide differentiated pathways for native language speakers. National data on languages study needs to be updated. The study of Asian languages will be developed by embedding studies of Asia throughout other curriculum areas, and by informing the Australian community of the value of studying Asian languages and cultures.

Key Learning Areas


Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Social life and customs
Language and languages

Respect the old guard

Number 3, May 2014; Page 10
Antonia Maiolo

Older teachers should be valued and encouraged to remain in the profession, but in reality the recruitment and retention of older teachers has often been overlooked. ‘Prejudice and myths’ surround old employees, as well as young ones. While there should be legal restraints on age discrimination, a more basic challenge is to change popular beliefs. Katherine Lindsay, a senior law lecturer at the University of Newcastle's Law School, describes ‘deeply held and heavily entrenched attitudes within the labour market’ that produce pressure on older workers to retire. She calls on educators to act as role models in changing ageist attitudes. Collegiality should be fostered between young and old, as both have roles to play in supporting the other. Susan Ryan, the Age Discrimination Commissioner, notes that teaching has a particularly high number of older employees. She also points out that teaching is attracting many older workers interested in a career change.


Subject Headings

Age discrimination (ageism)
Teaching profession

Social media strategies for school principals

Volume 98 Number 1, March 2014; Pages 5–25
Dan Cox, Scott McLeod

Social media is having a growing impact on schools. A study has examined why and how social media is being used by school principals in the USA. The study involved telephone interviews with 12 principals already comfortable with the use of social media channels, and analysis of internet data on their use of social media. The respondents remarked that social media had provided another avenue for two-way communication with their school communities, as newsletters are replaced by blog posts or tweets allowing rapid responses. Social media could also be used to survey school community members. Social media allowed principals to query or communicate with prominent educational figures, eg via chat or twitter. Use of social media helped principals understand the world inhabited by their students. Obstacles to the uptake of social media by principals include the time commitments needed to learn the new tools, and to interact online. The authors recommend that principals who wish to begin using social media start with blogs and with twitter. Initially, material for blog posts may be obtained by simply duplicating existing texts, eg items in the school newsletter. Leaders can start using twitter simply to promote student/school accomplishments, or to ask questions of education experts. The principal's twitter account should be announced to the school community, eg via the newsletter and on the principal's email signature. A twitter icon can be added to the school website. Preparation programs for school principals should include the use of social media in their study programs.


Subject Headings

Social media
School principals
Educational evaluation

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