Putting it to the test
Volume 84 Number 20, 7 November 2005
Software for Learning is a multimedia authoring tool in New Zealand. It is currently being trialled in 10 Auckland schools, in a wide range of subjects from science to narrative writing. Students have used the program's software to develop storyboards, animations and publications. Software for Learning reflects growing interest among educators in 3D environment and gaming software programs. In one part of the trial, Year 10 English students at Pakuranga College were assessed on their use of the program to prepare a multimedia presentation of Romeo and Juliet. Teachers aimed to see if the program could be used as a form of assessment for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 1, bringing together two separate standards for the static image/poster and performing a dramatic monologue. During the trial the program has been very successful in engaging students. Drawbacks include its lack of New Zealand content and the fact that it is effectively limited for use in a computer laboratory only.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
New kids on the blog
Volume 24 Number 2, October 2005; Pages 32–34
The weblogging craze has infected many young people, who have made it an ever increasing part of their Internet usage. Weblogs are a type of online, public diary, which allow the 'blogger' to receive comments on their entries, and in this way engage in conversations with other Internet users about their postings. In this article, Flannery looks at how teachers have incorporated this Internet literacy activity into their teaching and into the curriculum, by using it as a way for students to collaborate on work, and as an outlet for their writing. The article cautions, however, that teachers need to devise protocols for students' use of weblogs, as, amongst other things, they need to be screened to ensure that students do not inadvertently post their personal details online.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Setting the course for English and literacy teaching in the C21st
Volume 10 Number 3, October 2005; Pages 18–19
There has been an increasing emphasis on student literacy in recent times, and with that has come a proliferation of the types of literacy in which students are required to be competent. These include basic literacy, scientific literacy, economic literacy, technological literacy, visual literacy, information literacy, multicultural literacy and global awareness. Julie Mitchell proposes adding another to that list – worldview literacy. An individual’s world view is shaped by their beliefs, which are not necessarily consciously formed or coherent, and these beliefs are the filters through which they perceive society, events, relationships and behaviours. As Mitchell suggests, they are the ‘beginning points in our thinking’ and form the foundation of an individual’s value system. Being able to engage with one’s own world view as well as those of others in a reflective, critical and empathetic way is central to worldview literacy and, according to Mitchell, the material for such analysis has never been more abundant, nor the need more urgent.
The effects of mobility on students, families and friends
Volume 10 Number 3, 12 October 2005; Pages 42–44
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 30 per cent of households with children move at least once every three years. Australia also has one of the most mobile populations in the world, according to this article, with the average person expected to change their place of residence 11 times during their lifetime. People often moved for reasons to do with housing and employment, as well as relationship breakdowns. This degree of mobility has implications for schooling, students and schools, and the authors of this article sought to gauge its effects in a study conducted on a sample of Queensland schools. The study found that while mobility did have some positive effects for students and schools in the main, these were offset by the negative effects it produced. Mobility affected students adversely in terms of their relationships with other students and the disruption to their education and attention to their academic needs, and was also associated with behavioural problems. For schools, high levels of transient student populations often impacted adversely on teachers’ time, school budgets and the school environment. The authors include a series of recommendations in the article to lessen the effects of high student mobility on educational outcomes and schools. The recommendations include enhancing student emotional wellbeing through the curriculum, a standard curriculum which is recognised nationally, student mentoring systems, better sharing of information between schools and between schools and families, and a central data collection agency which records student attendance and achievement.
School and community
One school’s journey: Using multiliteracies to promote school renewal
Volume 10 Number 3, October 2005; Pages 10–13
The authors recount the experience of leading a school-wide professional development initiative which had the effect of culminating in the school’s renewal. The project’s focus was on multiliteracies, and on the transformation of teacher’s knowledge and pedagogy, in order to ensure that it was a part of the school curriculum. Using an action research approach, teachers identified areas in their knowledge and pedagogy, with regards to multiliteracies, which needed improvement. Once this was established, they produced action plans which outlined the means to their improvement in the identified areas. All action plans included the audio-taping and transcribing of lessons so that teachers could reflect on their work. The final day of this eight-month professional development process saw teachers report their progress and achievements to the rest of the group. The success of the project is measured in the growth of the school’s professional collegiality, a move away from a culture of ‘social collegiality’ it had previously supported. From their examination of the professional development project, the authors were able to discern those ingredients which contributed to its success, among which are action learning, validation of progress, adaptability to the school’s context, self-reflective and collegial conversations, and the fact that it was a long-term project.
Subject HeadingsProfessional development
Step ahead mentors
Number 6, 14 September 2005; Pages 1–2
Mentoring has become an accepted form of professional development and is employed in various organisational settings. Step ahead mentoring is the tendency of mentees to choose successful individuals who are just two or three years ahead in their own careers to guide their professional growth. This tendency was observed during a study conducted by the author of mentoring in large, multi-campus middle schools where it had the effect of creating ‘multiple layers' of mentors within an organisation. The step ahead mentoring relationships involved students and school leaders, with early adolescents forming mentoring relationships with mid-adolescent students, Years 11 and 12 students forming partnerships with second-year university students, aspirant school leaders seeking out school principals and middle school principals looking for mentors among multi-campus school leaders. As Matters points out, the mentees’ desire was not to become their mentor or to have a relationship of dependence, but merely to have the leadership and advice of someone who affirmed their aspirations and had achieved similar goals. The article describes the relationships in that vein.
Critique: Where arts meets assessment
Volume 87 Number 1, September 2005; Pages 38–40 & 58–63
Art and assessment are usually considered to be mutually exclusive but, Soep observes, they have a lot in common. At the outset, they have a shared purpose, turning the intangible into the tangible, and, related to this, they both grapple with apprehending the illusive. Drawing on many years of experience in researching and being involved with community art projects, Soep makes the case for the introduction of ‘critique’ into teachers’ and schools’ assessment practices. Young people, she notes, are capable of developing sophisticated critiques or assessments of their own work as well as those of others, and in the process they develop another ‘performance’, one in which they assume the roles of the characters who are assessing the work. Introducing critique successfully into peer and self-assessment processes relies on the level of engagement that young people will have with the project, whether the criteria and standards can be debated and formulated by the young people involved, the level of interdependence of their work and their collaborative contribution to the creative process.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Arts in education
Teaching qualitative reasoning: portraits of practice
Volume 87 Number 1, September 2005; Pages 18–23
Central to qualitative reasoning is the ability to infer meaning from the close observation of an object or artwork and to communicate its meaning in some way, whether it be visual, written or spoken, drawing on evidence in the work. Qualitative reasoning is most easily used in the arts curriculum but Siegesmund, through his dissection of the process, encourages teachers to adopt it across the curriculum as a way of making their subjects more engaging and student-centred. Siegesmund notes that there are three skills which characterise qualitative reasoning, namely exploring, attending and interpreting. Students should be given the opportunity to explore a work, attend to the emotions that they feel it evokes, and use those emotions to interpret what the author or artist is attempting to convey. The teacher’s role, among others in this process, is to guide the exploration, help students towards an articulation of the meanings that they discern, show them possible ways through the problems that they formulate, and maintain the enthusiasm of the task. In the examples of classroom use of qualitative reasoning in the article, Siegesmund reveals that students who were often disengaged from class found pathways back into education, and students who were considered ‘good students’ found qualitative reasoning challenging as it presented the ‘education game’ outside the conventional rules of regurgitating what the teacher deems to be important.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Education aims and objectives
Redefining Ratso Rizzo: learning from the arts about process and reflection
Volume 87 Number 1, September 2005; Pages 11–17
This article considers the results of a study into arts-based education which highlighted a number of worthwhile characteristics in the discipline which would be of benefit to education generally. Those characteristics are passion and industry, connection and community, difference and respect, and process and reflection. All of these characteristics are inherent in the arts and, therefore, underpin arts-based education. Students and teachers in arts-based schools share an enthusiasm for their craft and this sustains their interest and endeavour. Links with the broader community are maintained by students’ need to attend cultural institutions such as galleries, theatres and museums, and by encouraging professional artists to share their work with the school community. Respecting difference is a given, as the arts demand that different perspectives on objects, performances and works be heard and appreciated. For the author, however, process and reflection is the one characteristic of arts-based education which is possibly the most important for mainstream education. Reflecting on process allows for revision, which suggests to students that the process of learning is as important as the product, an awareness which also allows them greater ownership of the learning process. Implementing reflection requires that teachers model such behaviour by making space for students’ points of view and allowing opportunities for the exploration of different perspectives, genuinely making reflection part of the curriculum by allowing students to participate in the design of criteria for projects, and using vehicles for reflection such as journals and exhibitions of students’ work.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsEducation philosophy
Education aims and objectives
Getting ICT into classrooms
July 2005; Pages 23–29
A New Zealand report finds that teachers’ use of ICT in the classroom is heavily influenced by their definition of good practice and perception of their role. Researchers surveyed staff at four secondary schools and interviewed 28 of the respondents, who covered a range in their level of computer use. Findings show that teachers adapt ICT to fit in with the existing curriculum and teaching, creating a gap between policy and practice. Those teachers who have integrated ICT into regular practice tend to have broader learning outcomes and be more reflective about their teaching. They see ICT as offering a range of tools which can be used to address individual needs, and motivate and engage students. ICT can help students develop critical thinking and review skills, understand diversity and prepare for life beyond school. Teachers who define their role in terms of classroom control and content delivery are less likely to incorporate ICT into practice, and may see ICT as a distraction for students. Teachers who actively used computers in their classrooms noted the importance of a clear framework for learning, defined student outcomes, regular monitoring and prior knowledge of specific ICT tools. The report recommends that ICT objectives should become more central in future, with teaching practice adapted accordingly. The report also suggests that future professional development for teachers should be individualised.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
What is research for teacher researchers?
Volume 13 Number 2, 2005; Pages 169–189
Teacher researchers encounter a range of obstacles to the conduct, recognition and dissemination of their research work. Teacher research is usually qualitative and reported in narrative format. As such it clashes, in the USA, with the prevailing definition of education research which sees education research in terms of experimental design and capacity for replication. This approach is promoted in the key No Child Left Behind law, in the report Scientific Research in Education by the National Research Council, and in the What Works Clearinghouse. Academic scholars sometimes criticise teacher research as informal, lacking rigour or as taking teachers from their appropriate pedagogic role. Teacher researchers tend to see research as intimately linked to improving practice, but this approach usually results in a ‘slow passage through gatekeeping procedures’ of university authorities, which are characterised by ‘work overload, ignorance, strict compliance with federal regulations, application of rules, overemphasis on risk’ and protection of the university’s reputation. These issues are discussed in terms of a research project undertaken by the authors on how a teacher research group might help in the mentoring of early-career primary music teachers.
Subject HeadingsEducation research
Scientifically based research: establishing a research agenda for technology in teacher education community
Volume 37 Number 4, Summer 2005; Pages 331–337
A summit of 60 educational leaders in the USA in 2003 examined ways to measure the effectiveness of technology in teacher education. The leaders had been involved in the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3), a large-scale federal government grants program begun in 1998 designed to improve teachers’ confidence and skill in integrating ICT into teaching. The summit, which met in the context of the government’s strong demands for ‘scientifically-based research’ in education, recommended a research agenda for evaluating teacher education. Quantitative research should be complemented and enriched by qualitative research. Data sources for assessing the implementation of ICT may include skills-based standardised tests, pre-service teacher work portfolios, classroom observations of pre-service and first-year teachers and their students’ academic results. Research should use multiple measures for both formative and summative assessment. Potential research questions include how well ICT skills developed during teacher training transfer to the classroom; how these skills impact on teacher retention; how the take-up of ICT varies between subject areas and levels; and the value of video in teacher education. There is a need for long-term research and for synthesis of results from various projects. Researchers should collect data in ways that allow it to be disaggregated.
Principles for literacy assessment
Volume 40 Number 2, 21 April 2005; Page 256–267
Literacy involves the capacity for social interaction and communication, and resilience in the pursuit of learning under difficult conditions. Most literacy assessment, especially high-stakes testing, ignores these qualities, focusing on narrow skills such as sound–symbol knowledge. Summative forms of assessment such as accountability testing are based on individualistic and behaviouristic theories of learning, and on rewards or punishment of students, teachers and school systems. These methods shift practice from pursuit of learning towards avoiding punishment. Formative assessment can improve student performance either through constructive commentary from teachers or class discussions on topics designed to test understanding. Effective formative assessment involves non-standard validity measures such as trust, sensitivity and social support. Disagreement between examiners is seen as measurement error in the context of summative assessment, but offers the chance to discuss and improve formative assessment, and so increase its validity. The National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) in New Zealand is an example of effective assessment. In the NEMP children are expected to evaluate and select reading texts collaboratively, which stimulates their understanding, social interaction and confidence. At a wider level the NEMP evaluates system performance, not that of individual students, teachers or schools, avoiding individual and organisational resistance. A four-year assessment cycle allows for complex assessments and responses. Teachers report that the complex professional development required for the NEMP is exceptionally valuable. Different approaches to literacy assessment rest on different values and generate different types of literacy in children, eg emphasising abilities such as communication, critique, self-awareness and enjoyment of reading, or convention, conformity, speed and individualism. Assessment concepts and terms can be used to attribute problems either to the teaching environment or to the learner. Literacy is related to context, and children perform better when given meaningful and authentic tasks, a fact not recognised in common assessment practices. The Primary Language Record (PLR) assessment instrument is recommended for its emphasis on social context, and the way it highlights what children can achieve independently and in groups. Over the last decade, there has been a shift from complex and authentic literacy assessment towards high-stakes testing for accountability. The shift ‘has everything to do with politics and relatively little to do with research’.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
English language teaching
Principal selection: homosociability, the search for security and the production of normalised principal identities
The current model of principal selection by merit emerged in the early 1980s, replacing a centralised hierarchical appointment system. However in recent years the system has come under pressure, as principals need to be able to implement reforms such as student-centred learning, interdisciplinary curriculums, establish links to local industry and local community organisations, manage school finances, ‘market’ the school and manage the media. Principal selection procedures need to promote innovative practice by widening the pool of good applicants. Procedures should encourage diverse types of candidates to apply for principal positions and overcome the continuing gender disadvantage faced by women. Existing selection procedures do not address these needs well. Research indicates that current selection practices strongly discourage many potential applicants. At a system level a ‘normalised’ applicant is encouraged, one who does not ‘rock the boat’, risk poor publicity, raise complex management issues or resist system policy. At the regional level selection is strongly influenced by networks, especially ‘old boys’ networks’. At the local level selection committees tend to give the job to incumbents, acting principals and assistant principals who have been ‘groomed’ for the role. There is often a strong suspicion of candidates who display knowledge of education theory, which panels tend to counter-pose to good practice. Women are disadvantaged either through old fashioned aversion to women in leadership or, in elite settings, by the linking of entrepreneurialism to masculinity, ‘informed most recently by discourses about “masculinity in crisis” and “feminised” schools’. Reform of principal selection needs to ensure that applicants are judged by a wider range of stakeholders in schools and in terms of a range of leadership capacities. Community and system beliefs about educational leadership also need to be opened to more diversity. In Victoria, the Blueprint for Government Schools Flagship Strategy 3 raises a range of proposals for reform of the selection process, including improved succession planning. In Western Australia, a pilot project in 2004 asked candidates for principalship to take part in tasks reflecting everyday work of principals, with their performance measured in terms of an official leadership framework. In Britain, principal selection includes a practical component, with short listed applicants called upon for tasks such as addressing staff meetings or engaging in debate with a student panel.
Subject HeadingsGreat Britain
Western Australia (WA)