'Yeah, Buts' that keep teachers from embracing an active curriculum: overcoming the resistance
Volume 60 Number 4, July 2005; Pages 28–26
A developmentally appropriate curriculum in early childhood education is a learner- or student-centred curriculum, which, according to the authors, includes experiential learning, in-depth exploration, cooperative learning and projects based tasks. Too often, however, teachers are reluctant to introduce developmentally appropriate curriculum because of perceptions about its relevance to standardised testing, fears about classroom management problems, anxiety about departing from the prescribed curriculum, and concerns about excessive workloads. This article allays those concerns by systematically addressing teachers’ most commonly held fears about student-centred learning, and by providing reasoned and research-based explanations for its implementation.
Subject HeadingsEarly childhood education
Brain research and early childhood development: a primer for developmentally appropriate practice
Volume 60 Number 4, July 2005; Pages 12–20
Advances in brain research should be used to inform early childhood teaching practices, so that those practices can be more aligned to children’s emotional and cognitive development. The author examines three areas of brain research – neural development, stress hormones, and brain specialisation – and elucidates what the research holds for developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood learning. Stimulating environments that offer varied sensory experiences for young children are more likely to both take advantage of synapse production and foster their development. Equally, early childhood settings and practices that decrease the amount of stress in children’s lives are more likely to be conducive to memory development and self-regulation. Increasingly, the author observes, brain research is providing evidence that early childhood settings and practices need to respect diversity, foster social relationships, and be intellectually stimulating, inclusive and safe.
Subject HeadingsEarly childhood education
The power of the interactive whiteboard
Volume 21 Number 2, Summer 2005; Pages 11–15
The authors report on an action research project conducted by six primary mathematics teachers in conjunction with the NRICH Project at Cambridge University. The teachers’ research took six different approaches to gauging the effectiveness of interactive whiteboards in relation to classroom practice, and their findings were centred around the three themes of student engagement and motivation, student self-esteem, and assistance with prior learning. Data for the projects was collected through student observations, testing, interviews and questionnaires. In relation to the three themes it was found that student engagement was initially raised by the use of the technology, but that there was a tendency for students to be more fascinated by the visual display than by the mathematical content. Interactive whiteboards were found to have a positive impact on student self-esteem due to their facility for recalling information from previous lessons, and for allowing students to erase mistakes. The former not only allowed students to work at their own pace, but it afforded them the opportunity to build on knowledge generated in previous lessons. While interactive whiteboards were found to have positive effects in all three of the nominated areas, the authors caution that teaching practice is still the most significant factor in fostering student engagement and self-esteem.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Volume 4 Number 3, August 2005; Pages 14–17
Used in some criminal justice systems, restorative justice is an inclusive approach to acknowledging the harm caused by aberrant behaviour, and allowing for amends to be made to repair a situation or relationship. Both the ‘harm-doer’ and the harmed are part of the mediation and decision-making process in the act of repairing the relationship or making amends. In this article, Harney describes a restorative justice project which was undertaken at three Catholic secondary colleges in Sydney over a period of 18 months. Teachers were trained in the principles and practices of the restorative justice process, and, over the period of the project, school disciplinary regimes were adjusted to accommodate the process, which would usually include the wrongdoers, those harmed, teachers and the parents of those whose actions had caused harm. In an evaluation of the project, it was found that between the three colleges, absenteeism and detention and suspension rates had dropped noticeably, and those involved in the restorative justice project reported positive outcomes from the process. The effects and outcomes are explained in the article.
Subject HeadingsSchool discipline
Transition to further education: the first-year experience
Volume 4 Number 3, August 2005; Pages 6–9
Research demonstrates that tertiary students are most vulnerable to dropping out of study or changing courses and institutions in their first year of higher education. Hillman and McMillan summarise the findings of two reports which traced the experiences of two Year Twelve cohorts who progressed to further education (university and TAFE) in 2002, and 1999 or 2000, respectively. The findings show that while most students settle into first year with few difficulties, there was a great disparity in the level of adjustment between university and TAFE students, with 17 per cent of the former, compared to 34 per cent of the latter, citing ‘no major difficulties’ in their adjustment to tertiary life. Changes to enrolments and between tertiary institutions correlated with certain student profiles, as students from government secondary schools, those who were fulltime, and those who had initially not intended to pursue tertiary education showed greater stability in their course and institutional choices. Reasons for withdrawing from study often included disillusionment with a particular course or with study in general, and differed according to gender. To ensure that secondary students’ transitions to further education are successful, the authors recommend that secondary schools equip students with the necessary skills to participate in tertiary environments, and that tertiary institutions provide more substantial orientation and induction programs.
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Transitions in schooling
Contemporary classrooms: connecting to the past
Volume 3 Number 2, July 2005; Pages 26–29
Gibson is a pre-service teacher who had the opportunity to observe his supervising teacher (mentor) during his teaching round in a Queensland high school. The article considers his mentor’s professional practice, their identity as a teacher, their relationship with their classes and with individual students, and their pedagogical practices and expectations of their students. Gibson is able to demonstrate how teaching is a constant engagement with one’s values as they come into contact with those of the school, the community and the students, and he also draws attention to how teachers’ values and respect for students’ contexts influence their pedagogical practices.
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
Teaching and learning
Towards a more inclusive Indigenous citizenship, pedagogy and education
Volume 3 Number 2, July 2005; Pages 15–21
Nichol’s aim is create a pedagogy, informed by Indigenous cultures, to improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students. He notes that Indigenous people have often had ambivalent experiences of schooling and school systems, as their own cultures were often excluded from, or derided in, the curriculum, and schools were often places which led ‘them down a path to failure’. In order to make schools spaces in which Indigenous people have control over their learning, Nichol posits an inclusive curriculum which draws on Indigenous values and cultural experiences of learning. In such a curriculum pedagogical practices must be holistic, taking care to avoid the rigidity which discipline boundaries enforce, and learners must be able to learn in cooperative environments and in visual and kinaesthetic ways. The article also outlines the social and cultural contexts of Indigenous education, and explains culturally sensitive approaches to teaching and assessment practices.
Subject HeadingsAboriginal students
Quality educators produce quality outcomes: some thoughts on what this means in the context of teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Australia’s public education system
Volume 3 Number 2, July 2005; Pages 11–14
The recent debates about teacher quality and its effect on student outcomes have neglected to consider teacher quality in relation to the educational outcomes of Indigenous students, according to Moyle. Indigenous student school retention and completion rates are abysmal in comparison with those of the wider student population, and there is a need to consider how to improve the quality of teachers so that they are better able to address those statistical trends. While it is beyond doubt that quality teachers produce better educational outcomes for students, just what constitutes quality teaching in relation to Indigenous students is not so well established. Moyle reports on two seminars conducted by the Australian Education Union at which the attributes of quality teaching in relation to Indigenous students, as well as support from school systems to create capacity for the achievement of that objective, were considered. The seminars resolved that teacher training courses should ensure that pre-service teachers participate in programs that prepare them for teaching Indigenous students, that teachers of Indigenous students have a propensity for cultural and cross-cultural understandings, that they have an awareness of racism and its impact on their practice, and that they are able to work within local cultures and in collegial networks. School systems are able to assist in developing teachers for working with Indigenous students by affording them time to work in Indigenous communities, by establishing mentoring networks and by employing an internship model to allow beginning teachers to obtain experience in working with Indigenous students.
Subject HeadingsAboriginal students
Linking educational research and the teaching of science
Volume 86 Number 316, March 2005; Pages 119–123
There are a range of advantages in having science teachers conduct their own action research, rather than rely on external researchers. The teacher is already present and their research work does not incur extra costs. There is no intrusion by an external observer whose presence may disrupt normal classroom patterns. The teacher has access to virtually all research details. The research is largely free of issues such as confidentiality. Longitudinal studies are also facilitated. Once a teacher has generated a research hypothesis about students’ learning or a teaching strategy, they can begin to collect data systematically. Once a hypothesis is validated it can be tested by other professionals, and subjected to more rigorous processes to assess whether it can be generalised and has statistical significance. The article includes two case studies drawing on the author’s experience.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsCase studies
The assessment of reading comprehension: considerations and cautions
Volume 25 Number 1, 2005; Pages 33–50
The article describes four purposes of reading comprehension assessment, and examines the validity of measures that are commonly applied in each case. Reading comprehension assessment is used for accountability purposes at school level and wider levels, but the standardised measures typically used for it are unsuitable as guides to individual student performance, and may foster a negative climate in schools. A second use for such assessment is to identify children at risk of developing reading problems. Screening measures have proved very successful in identifying young children at risk of poor comprehension due to poor word reading, but may overlook semantic differences caused by children’s cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds and are less useful for identifying reading problems that arise in later years. A third use for such assessment is to diagnose children with known reading comprehension problems, which involves measuring skills thought to underlie reading such as vocabulary and phonemic awareness. Problems with phonological processing usually go with other problems in oral language and, in some cases, with language comprehension, despite average word decoding skills. Children with such secondary reading problems will not be identified by simple silent reading comprehension tests. A fourth purpose of reading comprehension assessment is to monitor student progress in order to evaluate instruction and intervention. In this context the article gives detailed consideration to the use of standardised, criterion-referenced, and curriculum-based measures. Two computer-supported tools – ICARE, produced by the Center for Spoken Language Research, and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) created by the Northwest Education Association – are said to offer flexible and efficient use of ICT in reading comprehension assessment while avoiding the pitfalls described elsewhere in the article.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
WA program builds classroom management skills
Number 8, 19 August 2005; Page 10
The Classroom Management and Instructional Strategies (CM&IS) program allows teachers from across Western Australia to explore best practice class management techniques as part of the Behaviour Management and Discipline strategy (BM&D). Using local teaching knowledge, 80 ex-primary and secondary teachers act as consultants to lead the program, with another 53 teacher consultants currently undergoing training to meet demand. Participants attend five workshops and are then observed on their implementation of strategies within the classroom. Around 450 teachers have completed the program, with plans for another 1,050 to be trained by 2006. In a related article, Praise for CM&IS, staff from several primary and secondary schools outline the improvements experienced from CM&IS. Benefits for attendees included being able to reflect and build on existing classroom management knowledge, share strategies from other schools and receive valuable feedback through consultant observation. For schools, strategies were easily translated into whole school expectations and could be clearly linked with existing values programs, providing students with consistent goals. Some attendees led in-service workshops for their own schools on completing the course.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Western Australia (WA)
Child obesity: what's to be done?
Volume 4 Number 3, August 2005; Pages 28–31
The Healthy School Canteen Strategy has been implemented across New South Wales by The School Canteen Advisory Service (SCAC). With representatives from the government, health industry, the three school sectors, parents, the School Canteen Association and a school student, SCAC have developed the Fresh Tastes @ School information flyer which has been sent to all schools in the State. The Canteen Menu Planning Guide outlines the Strategy and ways to involve parents, canteen, staff and students. Also included is the Canteen Menu Planner, with nutritional details and a visual guide of ‘occasional’, ‘select carefully’ and ‘fill the menu’ food items for canteens. The Fresh Tastes Tool Kit offers practical food ideas and guidance on promoting, managing and implementing a healthier menu. The resources also include the Come Into My Canteen DVD, with case studies of schools which have successfully implemented the Strategy. The Strategy has already achieved success at a range of individual schools, based on support from principals, high student and community involvement, and effective promotion, pricing and presentation. Contrary to initial concerns, menus have demonstrated variety, student appeal, and have maintained or improved profitability. The Strategy will be evaluated formally later this year.
Subject HeadingsSchool and community
Under the swings
Volume 192 Number 6, June 2005; Pages 31–34
Falling from equipment is the most common cause of injury in the playground. Schools can help minimise the number and seriousness of accidents by selecting suitable surface materials to be used underneath and around play equipment, and in line with environmental considerations, child development and accessibility needs. Safety guidelines, drainage and toxicity should be considered, and input gained from students, parents, teachers and maintenance staff when deciding between materials. One option is loose fill material, which includes wide variations of mulch, sand and shredded rubber. Unitary material, which includes rubber tiles, poured-in-place rubber and bonded rubber surfacing can be more expensive but generally lasts longer. Some schools use strategically positioned unitary mats around high impact areas and loose fill materials in general play areas. Asphalt pathways can also be re-constructed from recycled rubber and recycled glass to offer a softer surface.
United States of America (USA)
Volume 192 Number 6, June 2005; Pages 35–37
Old school buildings, often cheaply constructed, poorly maintained and poorly ventilated, contribute to unhealthy air, which can lead to respiratory conditions such as asthma. About 14 million school days are missed each year in the USA due to asthma, while school districts also face the threat of lawsuits, staff sick days and increasing pressure on health resources. To help schools and school districts deal with these problems, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed an Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools (IAQTfS) Program, which includes an action list. The EPA recommends regularly measuring temperature, relative humidity, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, and using low volatility and low aroma paints, adhesives and cleaning products. Humidity levels should be maintained between 30 and 60 percent, leaks should be repaired and areas which gather mould pre-treated. Ventilation systems can be programmed to bring maximum outdoor air into the classroom and should be regularly cleaned, re-filtered and drained, and all surfaces kept free from dust. The article also outlines examples of schools which have successfully improved air quality.
Subject HeadingsUnited States of America (USA)
Professional learning that makes a difference: successful strategies implemented by Priority Actions Schools
Australian Association for Research in Education
In 2003 the Priority Action Schools Program (PASP) in New South Wales supported 74 primary schools, central schools and high schools serving disadvantaged school communities. The program, a joint initiative of the NSW Department of Education and Training and the NSW Teachers' Federation, aimed to address problems in the areas of students’ academic achievement, behaviour management and attendance. Schools were encouraged to create and share professional knowledge and to cooperate with TAFEs and other community organisations. Professional learning opportunities were provided to the schools. They included working with an academic partner or ‘critical friend’, and training for principals in the process of action inquiry. Program activities took a variety of forms at different schools. Some schools focused on support for specific student cohorts, especially those in transition points in their learning. Other schools set up ICT centres or established learning centres that consolidated subject-based resources in one area. Schools which felt they had successfully developed platforms of shared beliefs reported that meeting time shifted from administrative details towards discussion of pedagogy. A number of schools reported the effectiveness of mentoring and modelling in enhancing learning. Other areas explored included team teaching and the productive pedagogies approach to teaching and learning.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Inquiry based learning
New South Wales (NSW)
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)