Murder they wrote: problem-based learning
May 2005; Pages 18–21
Problem-based learning (PBL) requires students to find solutions to ‘real world’ problems. Compared to traditional, discipline-based learning PBL has less emphasis on learning content. It allows for more than one solution to a problem. It is designed to create independent, self-directed learners. However it also encourages cooperative learning in teams. Teams should be of a size that allows a variety of contributions without burying any individual’s input. Parade College in Melbourne’s northern suburbs decided to adopt a PBL approach for Year 7 and 8 students, driven by efforts to solve overcrowding of the early secondary curriculum. The school’s curriculum committee decided on a murder-mystery scenario in which the English, Science, SOSE and Arts learning areas took responsibility for different aspects of the problem. The planners were concerned to avoid reducing the problem to a simple research task, or have it dominated by one learning area. The problem was designed to stimulate students to make cross-discipline connections. The PBL assignment was successful in the first year of operation but less so in the second. A ‘surprising number’ of teachers struggled to accept the posing of a problem without a definitive correct answer. Assessment of students’ PBL work remains a challenge.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Studies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Inquiry based learning
Prep – the new transitional year for Queensland schools
Volume 4 Number 1, 2005; Pages 4–5
This article outlines the benefits of the new preparatory year in Queensland schools by examining the new Early Years Curriculum Guidelines and the External Evaluation of the Prep Trial by the Early Childhood Consortium. Truasheim, a primary teacher, asserts that the whole community is responsible for the child’s transition from home to school, and that the community needs to see the transition as wider than just the child’s acquisition of academic skills. Children whose schools engage with the community and with parents tend to garner greater benefit from their preparatory year, as they are being supported in their development of positive dispositions towards learning. Truasheim also notes that the preparatory program was found to have measurable benefits on children’s emotional, communicative, motor skill, literacy and numeracy development, and to have made it easier for them to adjust to Year 1, as they had already being inducted into the routines of school life in their preparatory year.
Subject HeadingsEarly childhood education
Transitions in schooling
Engaging middle years students – a student conference based model
Volume 12 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 18–20
Chisholm describes a student conference model, employed in a school region of Victoria, which was used to involve middle years students in reforms aimed at improving their school experiences. The article describes two conferences where teams composed of primary and secondary students and their teachers worked on particular measures to bring about change in schools for middle years students. Some of these measures included addressing student teacher relationships, school spirit and the problem of teasing. The conferences were facilitated, and the teams were provided with the necessary thinking skills tool to help them to formulate and develop solutions to problems. Chisholm describes the conferences and the outcomes in some detail in this article, and advises schools to give some thought to employing this format in order to develop the role of middle years students in their learning environments.
Subject HeadingsMiddle schooling
Education aims and objectives
Principalship, like life, is a journey, not a destination
Volume 12 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 16–17
In this article Mike Harris looks at those aspects of principalship that have sustained him in the role over the last 14 years. As the principal of a Catholic primary school in Victoria, he sees his role as one where he can influence the lives of the whole school community and support all its members in their emotional, spiritual and social growth. Harris confides that this relational part of his role is the most satisfying and contributes greatly to his wellbeing and development. He also values opportunities to relieve teachers of their classroom teaching. While he acknowledges that there are quite burdensome demands on principals, he encourages aspiring school leaders to find out as much about the position of principal as they can, and provides advice on some of the accepted pathways to attaining that level of leadership.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
On being a juggler
Volume 12 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 12–13
Katherine Hudson has been a primary school principal for the last 25 years, and is currently the principal of a Catholic primary school in the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne. In this article she recounts the many phases of her career and the times that she has found most fulfilling and enjoyable. She relates how her leadership of schools has emphasised the nature of relationships between people, and that her vision of schools is for them to be professional learning communities that are involved in continuous renewal. She notes, too, that there are many practical ways to encourage aspiring principals into leadership positions, and contends that the experience of the demands of principalship should not be confined to assistant principals but be open to others in a school’s broader leadership team.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Attracting and retaining competent teacher leaders in 21st century schools
Volume 12 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 6–8
School communities have changed drastically in recent times, and the demands on and expectations of their staff have increased to reflect these changes. Carlin and Neidhart highlight the different roles that schools are now expected to perform – centres of learning, managers of student wellbeing, developers of staff teams – and argue that the increasing pressures on schools and on school leadership teams is discouraging many would-be leaders from aspiring to principalship. Given that most of the next generation of leaders will be derived from the Generation X cohort – a group which generally favours lifestyle choices over work – much more needs to be done to ensure that school leaders are properly prepared and supported in their roles. To accomplish this, the authors advocate a school audit in which the demands operating on the school community are clearly discerned so that schools can be made more attractive to potential school leaders.
Taking the hit
Volume 12 Number 1, May 2005; Pages 34–35
There is a growing awareness that students' physical and mental wellbeing impacts directly on educational achievement. Yet, this article reports that, in the United States, school counsellors and nurses are finding their positions to be vulnerable as schools look for ways to cut costs ‘away from the classroom’. As this article suggests, schools mirror the social needs of their communities, and they are now expected to deal with, amongst other community ills, issues such as student depression, homelessness, pregnancies and drug abuse. Tucker considers the impact that withdrawing healthcare professionals from schools will have on students' and school communities’ wellbeing in the United States.
School and community
The state of our schools 2005
Volume 11 Number 3, May 2005; Pages 20–21
This article reports on the findings of the AEU’s State of Our Schools survey for 2005. The survey, in its current form, was initiated in 2002, and has been implemented annually in Victoria since its inception. It seeks the views of principals on issues such as the resourcing of schools, their workload, and the roles of government and their direct employer, the Department of Education and Training. More than a third of government school principals participated in the March survey. Some of the survey’s major findings include a persistently high level of dissatisfaction with the funding of schools, and an increase in principals’ workloads. The average time spent working increased to 57.8 hours a week.
Subject HeadingsSchool buildings
What happens when the media just gets it plain wrong?
Volume 37 Number 2, May 2005; Page 18
Francesca Kinnane is the principal of Ceduna Area School in South Australia. Her school’s student body is made up of a significant proportion of Indigenous students, whose attendance and retention rates, historically, had been low. In response to this, the school divised the Ngaliei Nyindigu, ‘working together to learn program’, which has seen attendance and retention rates improve significantly. This program, along with other measures the school has taken to accommodate its diverse student base, was jeopardised earlier this year (2005) when a media report questioned the inequity of treating some students differently from others. The report created a furore in Ceduna and throughout South Australia. In this article by Karen Ashford, Kinnane discusses the impact the report had on the school, staff morale and the community.
Subject HeadingsMass media
Retention rates in schools
Number 41, February 2005; Pages 1–2
Television, film and multimedia offer teachers useful ways to cover values education by providing a common point of reference to introduce potentially sensitive and controversial issues. The Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF) Advisory Schools' panel, consisting of sixteen primary and secondary teachers representing a wide range of schools across
Subject HeadingsValues education
Video recordings in education
Teaching and learning
The article reviews research surrounding current issues in school leadership. Succession planning is becoming an urgent concern, with many principals soon to retire. To plan for succession, schools need to identify and develop candidates for leadership roles. High workloads faced by principals require the adoption of team leadership. Routine management and maintenance functions should be delegated to allow principals to focus on core leadership roles, which should also be the focus of their professional development activities. Networks of school leaders need to be encouraged to promote ongoing learning in leadership. US research calls on schools to address the quality of internships for aspiring school leaders. New, flexible work arrangements, including shared principalships, should be trialled for principals. Teachers should be offered formal or informal leadership responsibilities early in their careers. Senior staff, especially assistant principals, should have opportunities to act in the principal’s position.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
'Making schools measure up' in Victoria
30 May 2005; Page 5
The Victoria Government is trialling a new school accreditation scheme in 62 public primary and secondary schools. Two Catholic schools are also taking part in the trial. Under the scheme schools must show that they have implemented a number of performance measures. These measures include induction programs for new teachers; customised professional development for each teacher; and other ways to demonstrate a ‘high performance culture’ at the school. The feedback measures include ‘rate-your-teacher’ surveys of students. At Belmont High School, Geelong, students have been found to use the surveys seriously and results have helped to improve classroom activities. Teachers are encouraged to discuss the student feedback with an appointed senior colleague. The scheme encourages a team-based approach among teachers in which the data is shared and discussed. The Government plans to introduce the accreditation scheme as a compulsory requirement for all public schools in 2008. About 230 schools have indicated that they will soon be ready to apply for accreditation. Schools will be required to include data on students’ academic and personal outcomes in school performance measures. Union officials warn that the scheme will require major changes to teachers’ traditional, individualised work practices. One principal in the trial, from Kyabram Secondary College, describes ‘a legacy of suspicion’ among teachers about performance review reforms resulting from changes implemented by the previous State Government. He also warns against schools taking a top-down approach to implementing the current changes.
Subject HeadingsTeacher evaluation
Classrooms: just how dense are they?
Volume 9 Number 3, April 2005
Studies have found a link between small classrooms and higher levels of stress, non-involvement and aggression among students. In theory, the size of classrooms should depend on the nature of learning activities, but in reality the Australian Government guidelines for school building sizes are constrained by funding availability. A cost-effective alternative may be found in the ‘Fat-L’ classroom design developed by James Dyck, an architect and trained Montessori teacher. In this design classrooms are like a capital letter ‘L’ in which both ‘legs’ are nearly equal in length and depth. This design creates an illusion of space through elongated areas and by creating visual barriers. The illusion of having more space accommodates the need for small learning groups, which require a sense of separation from other groups. It also allows for a wide range of other pedagogical strategies, and offers open access to adjacent classrooms and other open areas.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Burning towers and ashen learning: September 11 and the changes to critical literacy
Volume 54 Number 1, 17 February 2005; Pages 6–22
The drive for 'basics' and standards-based literacy education enforces the teaching of superficial skills to do with the 'encoding and decoding of print'. Such education does not probe the socially dominant attitudes and assumptions underlying most texts. This education offers privileged students a familiar and affirming social environment but does not help the disadvantaged to understand the world as they experience it. Critical literacy can empower disadvantaged students, both by helping them to probe beneath social appearances to investigate the nature and causes of their inequality, and by offering multiple paths to literacy that engage with their own cultural and social background. In the social and political climate after 11 September 2001, conservative ideologies, expressed in short phrases like 'coalition of the willing', discouraged critical exploration of phenomena such as terrorism. Critical literacy allows such exploration. It raises questions like 'what is terrorism?', asking, for example, why Nelson Mandela and Menachim Begin were once, but are no longer, regarded as terrorists. The Internet, with its multiple but often unauthorised information sources, increases the need for critical literacy. Critical literacy also moves beyond the 'capitalist requirement' for workforce reskilling, flexibility and competence that are embedded in lifelong learning and 'just-in-time' learning.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Social life and customs
English language teaching
While the drive toward professional standards in teaching has been gathering momentum in both the USA and Australia (‘all for one’), practitioners of physical education need to pursue a distinctive identity (‘not one for all’) and teacher educators in this discipline should assist the development of this identity. In the USA, representatives from the NASPE, a professional certification body, met with physical education representatives to develop a set of teaching standards specific to the subject area. The resulting standards are best seen as ‘a process rather than an event,’ and continue to be adapted 14 years after first being recommended. Physical education teacher educators at Georgia State University (GSU) found the NASPE standards attractive because they were based on Schulman’s widely accepted domains of teacher knowledge, were developed by well-respected teacher educators, and were validated in broad-based public review. They were implemented over an extended two-year time frame, unlike the ‘token’ collaboration around Australia’s HPE national curriculum mapping in the early 1990s, that had been rushed to ‘meet Ministerial deadlines’. Although the NASPE documents were highly prescriptive at a general level, the standards were also open to substantial adaptation by the GSU physical education teaching faculty to suit their own context. While the NASPE documents clearly outlined the standards, the GSU teaching faculty had to decide how they were to be acquired, verified, sequenced, prioritised and assessed. The article includes a review of the recent history of moves toward professional teaching standards in the USA.
Key Learning AreasHealth and Physical Education
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)