What’s your (mathematics) story?
Volume 11 Number 5, January 2005; Pages 266–271
While surveys and questionnaires are crucial instruments for gathering data on pre-service teachers’ perceptions and understandings of their teaching method (discipline), they do not, usually, provide information on the actual development of those understandings and perceptions. Mathematics is one subject to which many people bring preconceived prejudices and beliefs about their own abilities, and this is no less prevalent among mathematics teachers. Understanding the experiences which formed these beliefs, and, more importantly, helping pre-service teachers to recognise them, are fundamental to assisting pre-service teachers to become effective teachers in the discipline. The authors suggest, therefore, that method lecturers use a story protocol to allow pre-service teachers to both disclose and reflect on their mathematics experiences, and they demonstrate its use amongst a group of primary pre-service teachers. Method lecturers, it is suggested, should identify the themes which emerge in individuals' stories, and use them to help pre-service teachers to question, reflect, and if necessary, alter their predispositions towards the discipline.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Culturally responsive mathematics teaching and English language learners
Volume 11 Number 5, January 2005; Pages 249–255
Gilberto Lobo teaches primary mathematics to first generation migrant students in the United States whose ‘home language’ is Spanish. Lobo ensures that his mathematics classes are engaging with the students’ culture by teaching in Spanish, and by using their knowledge of themselves and their community as a bridge to mathematical concepts and strategies. For example, students are surveyed about their backgrounds and origins, and encouraged to graph the information as a whole-of-class exercise, so that they learn how to present the data, and use it to speculate and draw conclusions about themselves and their community. In this way students are getting to know one another and their community, while learning the relevance of mathematics to their everyday lives. Students are also leaning about the language of data analysis, and how to use mathematical vocabulary. The authors describe the classroom strategies of Gilberto Lobo in detail, and highlight their intersections with constructivist learning theory.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsEnglish as an additional language
Why are we waiting?
Volume 46, Winter 2005; Pages 24–27
Indigenous communities in Australia endure much poorer educational outcomes for their young people than any other cultural group in the country. Indigenous retention rates to Year 12 are much lower than for other students, and their completion rate is less than half the national average of 76 per cent. Furthermore, 48 per cent of Indigenous young people between the ages of 15–19 are not in formal education. It is all too obvious that failure to negotiate education systems perpetuates intergenerational poverty and its concomitant issues, and leads to Indigenous communities being trapped in an endless cycle of poverty and powerlessness. According to this article, closing the gap between Indigenous students’ achievement levels and those of the general community requires schools to make more purposeful efforts to become inclusive of Indigenous students, Indigenous communities to participate in school communities, governments to see the need for education programs to be tailored to particular communities, and the political will to implement the recommendations of inquiries into Indigenous education.
Subject HeadingsAboriginal students
School and community
Number 46, Winter 2005; Pages 20–22
The problem of retaining older teachers in the profession is contributing to the teacher shortage in Australian educational jurisdictions. Many older teachers feel that the administrative demands on teachers have increased their overall workload, making the profession less attractive to those who would otherwise prefer to continue in the profession. Coupled with the perception of being undervalued, as well as superannuation packages which make it profitable for many older teachers to retire before reaching the age of fifty-five, the factors forcing older teachers out of the profession have, so far, proven to be irresistible. Rossmanith surveys the opinions of older teachers and union representatives to figure out what can be done to encourage older teachers to stay in the profession. Suggestions include professional development specifically aimed at this group of professionals, creating mentoring roles for older teachers so that their expertise can be better used in schools, and developing easier pathways to part-time work and teacher transfer schemes, which would allow ‘retired’ teachers to reconcile an ongoing role in the profession with their lifestyle.
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
Teaching and learning
Teaching educators how to use student assessment data to improve education
Volume 86 Number 9, May 2005; Pages 700–706
The authors describe a series of teacher professional development workshops which were designed to encourage educators in Massachusetts to use school assessment data to inform whole-of-school pedagogical practice. The program, based on a collaborative effort between Boston Public Schools and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, equipped teachers to identify and interpret data – creating meaning from it and presenting it in ways that would support notions of school improvement – to understand group processes so that they could work and collaborate effectively to bring about school change, and to use computer software in their data analysis and presentation. Participants in the workshop series were required to attend 13 sessions over the period of a school year, and had to use data from their respective schools to devise their school improvement plans. This article describes the structure of this professional development strategy and its many advantages, before considering some refinements to the course's structure that others wishing to adopt this strategy might make.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Reaping the systemic benefits benefits of lesson study
Volume 86 Number 9, May 2005; Pages 674–680
Lesson study is a Japanese form of collaborative teacher professional development which has gained increasing acceptance in the United States since the mid 1990s. It involves teachers setting collective instructional or pedagogical goals, observing each other implementing them in classroom contexts, and then revising and refining their methodologies until an outcome or suitable level of expertise is achieved. Lesson study has the potential to provide a knowledge base for the teaching profession, to assist in re-envisioning the role of educators and elevating the status of teachers in the perceptions of the broader community and to make a connection between education and policy and practice. Such potential lies in its facilitation of teacher collaboration, which in turn generates knowledge and encourages teacher agency in their professional development. While the authors are optimistic about the many advantages of this form of professional collaboration, they also detail some impediments to realising its full effect on teacher professional development.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
What do we mean by limited attention span?
Volume 86 Number 9, May 2005; Pages 652–653
Findley ponders the custom of teachers to leap from activity to activity in classes so as to ensure that students do not become bored and disruptive. While she applauds their intention to ensure that students are engaged and attentive, she suggests that teachers should look for ways to intrinsically motivate students to learn. In this vein, she shares the story of her daughter who suffers cerebral palsy, and her motivation to emulate all her older siblings’ achievements and physical feats. Findley observes that no amount of encouragement could assist her daughter to stay engage in therapy sessions, but she was relentless in her efforts to master what her sisters, who did not share her physical encumbrance, could do. Her motivation, Findley suggests, was derived from the fact that she set her own goals, and that there were social rewards – the fact that other children had accomplished a certain feat – for achievement. From her daughter’s experiences, Findley extrapolates that teachers need to help students to set their own learning goals, and to do so by modifying the curriculum to accommodate their interests and purposes.
Education aims and objectives
Small learning communities that actually learn
Volume 86 Number 9, May 2005; Pages 649–653
In their examination of learning communities in the United Sates, the authors found that size and a collaborative ethic were not sufficient to ensure that learning communities were beneficial to school reform initiatives and improved educational outcomes. They assert that that the claims made about the effectiveness of small learning communities, as well as the assumptions which justify their creation, are not borne out in student achievement or staff development, unless specific measures are taken by school leaders to focus, support and structure these communities to contribute positively to instructional outcomes. Those measures include focusing learning communities on educational outcomes by equipping their members with the analytical tools and the data to measure educational achievement, creating a block of time for this collaboration which is free from administrative concerns, being aware of productive group practices and how to cultivate them, ensuring that groups are representative of a range of teachers, providing for teacher professional development, allowing groups and their leaders a measure of autonomy and authority to prioritise and shape their focus, and to require staff members to participate.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Bridging the distance
16 June 2005; Page 12, 15
Open Access College (OAC) in South Australia recently celebrated the first anniversary of ConXU, a secure website which aims to encourage a sense of belonging for distance students at the R–12 school. The website has been released to all students after a 12 month trial, and provides an online forum for student opinion and ideas as well as fostering a sense of community. ConXU has already sparked a number of face to face meetings and excursions for distance students, including special interest groups such as young mothers. A discussion forum, chatroom, health links and learning support are provided in the safe online environment, and participants can also upload personal information and photographs. OAC has 1552 distance students, some of whom have had negative experiences in the traditional school system. The school caters for a diverse range of students across all ages. See also related article on page 15 about Sarah White, one of the students studying by distance through OAC.
Subject HeadingsPregnancy and adolescents
Focusing on pedagogy: the Victorian Principles of Learning and Teaching
Volume 3 Number 1, 2005; Pages 5–14
The increasing complexity of learning expected of students has generated a need for more sophisticated teacher pedagogy, often accompanied by a move from a discipline-based to a generic curriculum. In Victoria these drives are reflected in the Principles of Learning and Teaching (POLT) initiative. Part of the Victorian Government’s Blueprint for Government Schools, POLT incorporates a framework for effective teaching and learning that has been developed from prior projects. It rests on a set of principles that are illustrated by examples relevant to different levels and classroom contexts. For instance, the principle that the learning environment is to be supportive and productive is to be expressed by appropriate modelling behaviour by teachers, by teachers knowing each student and showing that they value them, by teachers promoting students’ self confidence and willingness to experiment, and by the recognition and valuing of students’ work. Accompanying this framework is the POLT Strategy for teacher professional development. It makes a number of audit instruments available to schools to help them measure teaching and learning quality in terms of teacher practice, student perceptions, curriculum and the operation of professional learning teams. The POLT initiative was successfully trialled in 2004 within seven school clusters.
What's new in gifted and talented education
Volume 24 Number 2, May 2005; Pages 36–38
Last year, new policy guidelines for gifted and talented (GAT) students were introduced in New South Wales. Like the old guidelines they acknowledge that GAT students are spread across ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. They now also acknowledge that gifts and talents need to be understood in terms of different cultures’ values and beliefs. The new policy uses Gagne’s definition of giftedness as above-average potential in one or more abilities, while talent is taken to refer to performance. Support materials for the policy cover identification of GAT students, acceleration strategies, models for curriculum differentiation, and information for parents. The policy fosters partnerships between home and school. Teacher librarians can help teachers introduce a differentiated curriculum by mapping outcomes and assessment across the curriculum and by helping to provide high quality resources and information literacy education. Sample work units are provided in the support packages.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
School and community
New South Wales (NSW)
Gifted and talented (GAT) children
Exposing the tragedy of Koori education
15 June 2005; Pages 4–5
The current secondary school system is ineffective in engaging Koori students, resulting in alienation and an increased drop out rate in Years 9 and 10. International research shows that the KLA approach to teaching has resulted in fragmented learning, particularly for Indigenous students who learn best within the context of community and land. Schooling systems should integrate Indigenous and European knowledge, with project work that connects with the local environment and involves parents and elders. Schools can help accommodate the needs of Koori students in the current system by incorporating key Indigenous principles. Parents and elders should be involved in children's education at school and home. Schools should incorporate the local environment and community values in activities. Communication in the classroom needs to be fostered, and the curriculum adapted to include elements of Aboriginal culture on an ongoing basis. Teachers worried about making mistakes over sensitive issues can contact a local Indigenous group, and utilise available support materials. See also related articles – Governor-General Michael Jeffery's call for Indigenous education to become part of the Australian education curriculum, and about an Indigenous high school in the Kalkaringi community.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Snapshot reveals disturbing trends
15 June 2005; Page 15
The new report Growing up in Australia outlines the initial findings of a nine-year study of Australian childhood. The report found that 6% of five-year olds are obese, and half of their parents are unconcerned about it. More than a quarter of five-year-olds ate high fat food three or more times a day, and 16% ate fresh fruit or vegetables once or not at all. The study also found that by the age of five, girls are more physically, socially, emotionally and educationally advanced than boys. The study will follow 5,104 infants under 12 months and 4,976 children aged between four and five as they grow, monitoring daily activity through dairies and parental interviews. Researchers are interested in how the early years influence later life, with final outcomes to help guide future family, childhood and youth policies. Parenting expert Michael Grouse suggests television and parental efforts to keep children safe and stop them getting dirty have led to decreased physical activity and interaction with peers. See also related article on a four-year-old research participant.
Subject HeadingsPhysical Fitness
Ground zero for learning
Volume 26 Number 6, July 2005
Services in New Zealand school libraries need improvement, according to school librarian Adaire Hannah. In a recent paper, written on behalf of the School Library Association of New Zealand (SLANZA), she points out that adequate library resources must be provided to meet information literacy and academic achievement goals. She recommends that school libraries have a qualified librarian to manage resources and assist students, and a trained teacher librarian to assist teacher planning. Schools are not legally required to have a library or trained librarian, so some currently rely on a teacher with two to five hours release time to manage their library services. The report also advocates central funding for school libraries. The current process, in which the library must compete with other services for funding from the school's operation grant, can be particularly restrictive in lower socioeconomic areas. The recently adopted National Certificate for Educational Achievement (NCEA) has introduced a wider range of research objectives, and is shown to have added to the stress on already stretched library services.
What do we know about student motivation and engagement?
The paper reviews different approaches to research on student motivation. Such research usually examines either personal qualities that encourage student engagement with learning, in general or in given contexts, or else it examines the conditions conducive for learning, whether local or system-wide. The PISA 2000 research connects students’ motivation to their participation in school activities and their sense of belonging within the school community. In the PISA research, students' sense of engagement with schooling was found to correlate strongly with high socio-economic status, a firm disciplinary climate, good student-teacher relationships and high expectations of students. The PISA research also found that reading literacy was a stronger predictor of student engagement than gender or socio-economic status. Other studies examined in the paper include the Longitudinal Studies of Australian Youth 2002, research on early primary school learning in Victorian Catholic schools, and other literature reviews of research on student motivation.