Managing the multicultural classroom
Volume 5 Number 47, May 2005; Pages 4–5
Franklin examines the problems teachers face in accommodating cultural diversity in the classroom, the misconceptions they bring to the task, and the dilemmas in which they sometimes find themselves. The article cautions teachers against using cultural sensitivity as an excuse for making cultural generalisations, and to balance students’ cultural needs and expectations with their individual needs as learners and their learning styles. One way in which to accommodate diversity in the classroom is to be open to learning from students about their perspectives on learning, and to do so by building a community in the classroom which is accommodating of all students’ learning requirements.
Promoting diverse leadership
Volume 47 Number 5, May 2005; Pages 1–3 & 8
Education professionals from minority groups are grossly under-represented in the ranks of school principals in the United States, according to this article by Rick Allen. Even though students from minority backgrounds account for 39 per cent of the total school enrolment in the United States, and for as much as 67 per cent in some jurisdictions, African American and Hispanic principals comprise only 10 and 5 per cent respectively of the proportion of school principals. Yet schools can benefit from being led by an educator who is also a member of a minority community as that person usually has a high degree of cultural competency, and is able to both reflect the diversity of the school and engage the community in the life of the school. School leaders who find themselves leading schools in their community neighbourhoods are able to bring a wealth of cultural knowledge to the position, especially about local organisations, social institutions and cultural values and understandings. This article looks at the benefits and the challenges of being a principal from a minority background in the United States, and considers also the unique contribution made by principals from Native American communities.
United States of America (USA)
Customising the school for student learning
Number 63, May 2005; Pages 41–43
Graham Speight is the principal of Rosetta High School, in Hobart’s northern suburbs. In this article he describes the school's structural and cultural transformation in its bid to create a more ‘personalised school environment’. Personalising the school environment entails creating an ‘ethic of care’ in the school’s culture, in which teacher–student relationships adopt a caring dimension which transcends the classroom. The measures the school took had to be aligned to system-wide reforms, as well as to projects conducted by the Education Department, but the school was able to balance the competing requirements in order to fulfil its aim of personalising the educational experience for its students. Some of the measures included restructuring the Years 7 and 8 timetable to accommodate interdisciplinary learning; professional development to equip staff to teach accelerated learning programs to all students, as well as to help them to integrate information technology skills into their teaching; and the adoption and implementation of an authentic assessment program across the school. Graham describes these transformative measures, and their implementation, in the article.
Subject HeadingsTeacher-student relationships
Education and state
Education aims and objectives
It’s time to throw boys a lifeline
Volume 63, May 2005; Pages 30–32
West examines the gap between schools’ expectations of boys, and boys’ views of school and their attitudes towards education. He notes that while boys find school boring, they will gladly learn about other things, such as surfing, roller-blading and war games. Schools and educators need to harness the enthusiasm that boys bring to extra-curricula activities by noting some of the ways in which these activities are conducted and socially valued. Teachers should depend less on talk as the dominant means of instruction and allow boys opportunities to experiment with, and explore and debate, understandings of key concepts. Learning needs to be practical and immediately useful to fully engage boys, and schools should be moving towards models of education that allow boys to take more responsibility for their own learning, for developing their learning styles, and for mentoring younger students.
Subject HeadingsBoys' education
England's education reforms: what can Australians learn?
Number 41, Winter 2005; Pages 25–28
Bloxham considers the effects of increasing standardisation and competition on the schools education sector in the United Kingdom, with the intention that it might have implications for Australian policy makers and education professionals. Some of the effects have included the introduction of league tables, the devotion of ever increasing proportions of school budgets to marketing, difficulty in retaining staff at challenging schools, the introduction of performance management processes which encourage the attainment of targets as opposed to risk taking, the directing of school resources towards students who are just under the testing benchmarks, and a contraction in the number of subjects offered to students. Bloxham observes that the overall effect has been to stifle creativity in teachers and schools, at a time when schools are having to prepare students for an increasingly 'messy world', one which will require 'imagination, ingenuity, creativity, resourcefulness and other affective qualities'.
Subject HeadingsEducation policy
Education aims and objectives
Education and state
Avoid the rocky path to change
Number 41, Winter 2005; Pages 25–28
In this article, Dennis Sleigh distills eight principles for bringing about successful change in schools, derived from 30 years experience as a school principal. Among those principles is the need to keep an open and honest dialogue with parents, staff and students; the requirement to listen to the 'silent' – the quiet people and not just the vocal advocates for and against change; and that change should be part of an overall plan, evolutionary and consistent with the school's overall philosophy. Sleigh contextualises those principles in the article, and demonstrates to the reader how his experience has allowed him to arrive at those conclusions. He also advises beginning teachers that they should enter the profession prepared for continuous change, and not expect to find the educational environments from which they graduated.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Creating motivated teachers
Number 41, Winter 2005; Pages 14–16
Noting that enthusiastic and motivated teachers have a positive effect on student learning and education achievement, Campbell makes the case for school leaders and leadership groups to ensure that all teachers benefit from positive and collegial work environments. These environments can be produced by school leaders taking an active role in publicly acknowledging teacher achievement, and building those kinds of recognition into the school's routines and culture. Additional measures can include fostering a management culture which provides 'ready access' for teachers to school leaders, ensures that communication is continuous between staff, remembers to celebrate achievements, and recognises teacher expertise by encouraging them to publish their work, design school programs or mentor others.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
Shrinking the shadow
Number 41, Winter 2005; Pages 2–5
Holmes, a principal at a rural primary school in Victoria, describes a ten-month, whole-of-school professional development program, conducted during a former posting as principal. He reminds the reader that, according to TS Eliot, there is always a shadow between an idea and its realisation, and, according to Holmes, this shadow is caused by the implementation of the idea – the process in which we discover the gap between theory and practice. Teacher professional development is about closing the gap between the expected educational outcomes for students and their actual achievements. In this article Holmes describes, in detail, the Blended Thinking professional development program – designed to increase proficiency in the Thinking Skills Curriculum – implemented by the staff at his previous school. He explains its theoretical underpinnings, its processes and stages, the role of the facilitator, its accountability measures and its outcomes.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Bell curves are for the birds
Winter 2005; Pages 10–11
If standards are to guide school education effectively, they must be accompanied by ‘formative standards-based assessments that give meaningful and frequent feedback to students and teachers’. Norm-referenced assessment, that compares students to other students rather than to standards, does not reveal whether standards have been met, which leaves the standard as ‘little more than a political slogan’. Norm-referenced assessments are based on the notion of competition between students and between teachers. This approach requires test items called ‘discriminators’, which many students get wrong, in order to create hierarchies of achievement. The effect is to discourage many students. Standards-based testing allows all students to be considered successful. Norm-referenced tests tend to use a multiple-choice format that sometimes credits pure guesswork. They are adapted to the need for assessing many students within a short time frame, a system that intensifies stress for students. Standards-based tests are adapted to challenging students to higher level thinking and communication, and allow for ongoing, less stressful testing throughout the year. They also lend themselves to collaborative evaluation by groups of teachers, becoming a form of teacher professional development.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Going to bat for standardised testing
Winter 2005; Pages 7–9
In Australia standardised testing does not dominate teaching or curriculum in any subject area, contrary to widespread opinion in the school education community. In most jurisdictions tests are only administered at Years 3, 5 and 7. State-based tests of literacy and numeracy may influence system or school policy, for example in the allocation of resources to areas of perceived weakness, but have little impact at classroom level. Good quality standardised tests offer real indications of learning and make ‘teaching to the test’ useful. The PISA reading literacy study has generated serious discussion about changes to education in a number of countries, illustrating the value of standardised tests. In Japan, for example, the test results have impacted on discussion about appropriate levels of homework and on the length of the school day. Australian educators usually remain ignorant of the PISA results, due to the prevailing hostility to external standardised testing and to the generally strong, and hence uncontroversial, performance in PISA tests by Australian students. However, the PISA results were very useful in revealing the poor performance in literacy by Australian boys, relative to Australian girls and to boys overseas. The PISA tests also revealed that Australian students are relatively strong in pragmatic and information-gathering work, but are relatively uncritical and unreflective. Standardised tests ‘can and should provoke critical review of our education systems’ as they have done overseas.
Subject HeadingsBoys' education
The body of evidence
25 May 2005; Page 11
A range of researchers at Flinders University have investigated issues surrounding weight and body image among teenagers and children. Research by Dr Anthea Magarey indicates that obesity among Australians aged seven to 15 doubled in the decade up to 1995. Other research by nutritionist Kaye Mehta shows that the rate of food advertising shown during Australian children's television viewing times is the highest in the world, and focuses mainly on foods high in fat, sugar and salt. There are parallel concerns that poor body image among young girls may lead to anorexia or other eating disorders in adolescence. A study by Professor Marika Tiggemann and PhD student Hayley Dohnt has examined attitudes to body image of 81 students at two Adelaide schools. Almost half of the sample of girls aged five to seven said they wanted to be thinner. Dohnt calls for intervention programs around body-image to begin around school-entry age.
Subject HeadingsAnorexia nervosa
Seeking credit where its due
19 May 2005; Page 9
The Victorian Government is encouraging state schools to gain accreditation for establishing performance and development cultures. The scheme, outlined in Flagship Strategy 4 of the Blueprint for Government Schools, is to be implemented in Victoria by 2008. To gain accreditation, schools in the Goulburn North Eastern Region (GNER) are undertaking management and leadership training. The training will be managed by the GNER in partnership with Innoven, the management development unit of the Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE. The joint program is called Learning Bridge, and is modelled on The Bridge program developed by Britain’s TLO organisation. The program allows professional learning to be combined with school-wide strategic planning.
6 June 2005; Page 3
The Victorian Government has invited public comment on a plan to revise the selection process for state school principals. The plan, accompanied by a discussion paper, aims to boost the expertise on school recruitment panels, introduce improved state-wide selection criteria, and ensure that at least one principal is present on each selection panel. The move follows concerns among education groups at the quality of current selection panels and the falling numbers of applicants to lead schools. Stephen Franzi-Ford of the Association of School Councils in Victoria has called for an accreditation scheme to train potential candidates in financial, management and business skills.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Support program 'tapping' into everyone's potential
19 May 2005; Pages 12–13
The Turn Around Program (TAP) is a holistic student support program. It recognises that attendance, engagement and behavioural problems shown in school often have 'more to do with what happens after hours than inside the classroom'. Developed by four schools in Adelaide, the program offers educational, social and health services to students and their families through the involvement of partner organisations, including the University of South Australia, the Women's and Children's Hospital, The Smith Family and the Playford Community Health Centre. These organisations offer counselling, family intervention and workshop groups covering issues such as father–child relationships, anxiety, self-esteem and homework. One TAP program involves eight University of South Australia Social Work students mentoring TAP participants, with plans to involve students from other disciplines in future. Increased student engagement in the classroom and a reduced burden on principals highlight TAP's success, which has been based on building trust within the school community.
Parent and child
Current debates about gender and education tend to fall into 'simplistic winners and losers binaries of "all boys versus all girls"', ignoring the different kinds of gender-based disadvantage. Broad statistical studies are vital in describing patterns of difference and inequality, but cannot answer how and why such patterns are played out a personal and small group level. To deal with these issues, a research project has investigated two groups of young women, living in urban/rural fringe areas in Victoria and South Australia. The women had either left school prior to Year 12 or were identified as ‘at risk’ of doing so. The researchers interviewed the female students, their mothers and teachers. They found that the young women 'speak the language of staying at school' and know why it would be helpful to them, but are nevertheless pulled away from school by personal and emotional ties with their friends, and by experience of school as difficult and boring. The teachers formally acknowledge the value of the girls staying at school, but informally they are often influenced by 'deeply held professional commonsense about family background, producing a set of entrenched assumptions about gender and class'. They often feel that the girls lack ambition and capacity for success, and informally they communicate their opinion to the girls. It is important to address these issues rather than relying on ‘the official and rational discourse of policy and the labour market’ to retain students at school.
Subject HeadingsGirls' education
Senior secondary education
Retention rates in schools