Child poverty and education
Volume 35 Number 3, November 2005; Pages 17–18
The Senate report on Poverty and Financial Hardship (2004) estimated that 743,000 children in Australia in 2000 were living in poverty. The Senate’s investigation into this area of social disadvantage has since been supported by other research, much of which is reviewed in this article, in which Suzy McManus describes the impact of poverty on education. Children who live in poverty will also experience educational disadvantage, whether that be manifested in learning difficulties, inability to afford resources, developmental delays, health problems, or a community culture in which education’s utility is not understood or valued. Much of these effects of poverty put children at risk of social exclusion, and can lead to behaviours and dispositions that eventually lead to their formal exclusion from school and, eventually, education – a circumstance which produces intergenerational poverty. McManus outlines the effects that poverty has on the behaviours, education and life chances of children, and calls for Australian governments to set targets for its eradication.
Developing statistical literacy
4th Quarter 2005; Page 6
Years 5 to 10 students from 1,100 New Zealand schools are taking part in an international educational project which is designed to develop statistical literacy. To engage students in real-world examples of mathematics, the CensusAtSchool New Zealand project requires students to collect census-type data and calculate statistics on their own behaviours and characteristics. The project also requires students to critically examine and 'clean' data, understand social trends and make comparisons between themselves and students from other countries. Statistics generated from students' work provide interesting insights for teachers, such as the fact that 84 per cent of students surveyed owned a mobile phone by the age of 14. The project has been running internationally for three years. It was developed to increase student interest in mathematics, increase awareness of national censuses and develop student capacity to use ICT in maths. New Zealand's involvement in the project is the result of a joint venture between Statistics New Zealand, the University of Auckland and the Ministry of Education.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Addressing diversity in the mathematics classroom with cultural artifacts
Volume 11 Number 2, September 2005; Pages 54–61
This article describes a mathematics project – the SCAMP Project – which attempts to accommodate multiple dimensions of student diversity through the employment of a constructivist pedagogy. SCAMP is an acronym for ‘Story about a Cultural Artefact from a Mathematical Perspective’, and it allows students collaboratively to research a cultural artefact. They then propose a mathematical problem, and create a story, song or poem, related to that artefact. Students are encouraged to nominate an artefact from their cultural background, and to build on their prior knowledge of their chosen artefact, while making the link to its mathematical relevance. The examples of student work in the article include a ‘pizza project’, a mah-jong project and an origami project. To facilitate the project, Singh Neel suggests that teachers ensure that their classrooms are conducive to student collaboration, and that they are willing to alter their assessment practices. The article contains a step-by-step description of the SCAMP Project, and an assessment rubric for students.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching
Balanced approach needed for students with learning difficulties
Number 14, 2005; Pages 11–13
Ellis undertook a review of the research on teaching approaches to discover which methods were most effective for students with learning difficulties. Broadly, the teaching approaches examined fell into two categories – direct instruction and strategy instruction. The latter, strategy instruction, is a cognitive approach to teaching, and is used widely in constructivist pedagogies. Student-centred, it promotes the assimilation of cognitive learning skills as well as meta-cognitive abilities, such as self-management, monitoring and planning. Ellis draws attention to the fact that the acceptance of constructivist approaches to learning has come at the expense of, and perhaps disregard for, the more teacher-centred direct instruction, but that the research suggests that it, too, can be effective in assisting students with learning difficulties. In fact, research points to a combination of strategy and direct instruction as best practice in this area. As a result, Ellis’s review calls for more research into direct instruction, and urges practitioners and theorists to consider a ‘balanced approach’ – one that combines strategy and direct instruction – when working with students with learning difficulties.
Subject HeadingsLearning problems
Training great teachers
Number 14, 8 December 2005; Pages 7–9
Ingvarson reports on the results of a survey which asked beginning teachers to comment on how well they felt their pre-service courses prepared them for the demands of the profession. Those surveyed were at the start of their second year of teaching, and made particular mention of the quality of their practicums and the absence of a clear link between that experience and the coursework of their teacher training programs. Ingvarson reports that those who did four-year undergraduate degrees felt more prepared for the profession than those who undertook a postgraduate degree, and there was a feeling that the content focus of courses, preparation for assessment and curriculum planning, and feedback during their completion of study were important aspects of pre-service courses. Courses which emphasised content generally allowed for a greater depth of knowledge, clearer links between theory and practice, and allowed students to develop pedagogical practices to fit the content. Students, however, generally felt inadequately prepared in the areas of curriculum planning and assessment. The survey also found a positive correlation between those who felt adequately prepared by their training and the level of feedback they received from lecturers in their course.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
Teaching and learning
It’s time to listen: principals’ views on the principalship
Number 65, Summer 2005; Pages 25–30
This article reports on the Australian part of an international study which examined the personal beliefs of principals with regards to education and their visions for schools in the future. Principals in the Hunter Region of New South Wales were asked to respond to a survey which sought to solicit their beliefs, and gauge the impact those had on their views of the purposes of education and the role of the principalship. The study found that most principals subscribed to a progressive view of education, which sees the role of schools as helping students to realise their full potential, that most saw basic skills as central to the educative purpose, but rated intellectual development and critical and independent thinking almost as high, and that developing ethical and moral character, and global and multicultural understandings, were lower on their list of educational priorities. Principals listed the funding of private and public schools, the role of ICTs in education and student outcomes as the most important issues currently facing education in Australia. Their visions of the future of education, as well as their views on professional development, reform and the responsibilities of the principalship are also outlined in the article.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Interculturalism: the new social imperative
Number 65, Summer 2005; Pages 16–18
Moving beyond multiculturalism, a celebration of ethnicity, and towards interculturalism, a genuine interchange and understanding of diverse cultures, should be a goal of educators and school communities. Blair, an educator at the Victorian School of Languages, urges teachers and schools to avail themselves of the cultural diversity in their classrooms, and their own diversity, to create authentic and meaningful cultural learning experiences for students. Cultural diversity, she believes, allows individuals to come to terms with their own beliefs, values and dispositions, and it contributes to creating a culturally enriched global citizenry. She describes the work undertaken by the School of Languages with Victoria Police, in which police personnel were trained in cultural understanding in relation to their work with the Vietnamese community, and challenges readers to consider the fact that this work was undertaken by members of the local Australian communities attempting to reach a mutual intercultural understanding. Situating interculturalism in local contexts, as Blair urges, is significant, as there is a tendency to link cultural diversity with global concerns, to the neglect of the opportunities for interculturalism in our midst.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Let’s keep our beginning teachers!
Number 65, Summer 2005; Pages 2–4
Twenty-five per cent of teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching, a factor which is not only contributing to teacher shortages, but also retarding the regeneration of the profession. Abbott-Chapman asserts that one explanation for this high attrition rate might be the ‘mismatch’ between the expectations that beginning teachers have of the profession, and the realities that confront them in classrooms and schools. In her investigation of this disjuncture, she compares beginning teachers’ motivations to teach, which usually include the intrinsic, personal reward of helping others to learn, with the increasingly ‘technicist’ aspects to teachers’ work, such as reporting and administration, which erode the time teachers are able to spend with students. Furthermore, increases to the pastoral dimension of teachers’ work due to societal changes, as well as expectations of them by employers and parents, which diverge from both their capacities and vision of their role, place enormous burdens on beginning teachers. According to Abott-Chapman, resolving this mismatch between expectations and reality will require better school induction programs, and ongoing support through the first year of a beginning teacher’s career. A further measure could include improving the alignment between the publicised attributes of ‘good teachers’ and the realities of the role.
Subject HeadingsTeaching profession
Teaching and learning
Engaging the digital natives in learning
Volume 3 Number 3, 2005; Pages 20–25
Engaging students in learning often means bridging the divide between the classroom and students' lives outside it. With the rapid changes in information communications technology over the last decade, bridging that divide has often meant using relevant and meaningful technologies in students’ learning. As the title of this article suggests, many teachers, because of their generation, are ‘digital migrants’, but are given the responsibility of using technology in classrooms with students who are ‘digital natives’. In recognition of this divide, and the need to engage students in their learning, The Le@rning Federation (TLF), an organisation which was established by the Australian Commonwealth and State and Territory governments, as well as the New Zealand Government, produces online multimedia content – digital resources and learning objects – which can be accessed through digital repositories or CD-ROM, depending on the delivery mechanism favoured by the respective educational jurisdiction. In this article, Olivia Clarke describes the learning objects produced by the TLF, and outlines teacher and student responses to their use in the classroom. Overall, teachers have found the content both engaging and adaptable to a range of classroom contexts and year levels, and students have commented on approaches to learning which are fun, rewarding, stimulating and foster higher order learning skills.
Subject HeadingsInformation and Communications Technology (ICT)
Silent Spring: science, the environment and society
Volume 86 Number 316, March 2005; Pages 113–117
Published in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring discusses the negative impact of pesticide spraying in the USA and promotes alternative approaches to controlling crop disease. The book describes how 'greed' and market forces have influenced scientific developments. Silent Spring’s key messages, writing style, critiques and scientific thought on related issues are appropriate for today's curriculum. Many science organisations and corporations began managing public opinion after the release of Silent Spring. Classroom discussion can help students understand the impact of this public opinion management, and consider whether it continues today. Carson offers a positive female role model, as a scientist and writer who changed public awareness of a major social issue.
Subject HeadingsTechnology teaching
Expanding our thinking about ICT: the digital opportunities projects
July 2005; Pages 30–35
Over 2001–2003 the New Zealand Ministry of Education's Digital Opportunities (DigiOps) project aimed to bridge the digital divide between schools, as defined by schools' socioeconomic and geographic positions. The project raised challenges in terms of the capabilities of the technology and the capacity of teachers to use it to support student learning. Evaluative studies of DigiOps in 2004 found that the component projects were most successful when championed by local teachers who linked the projects to existing curriculum and teaching goals. In some cases, schools reallocated project resources away from the stated project goals to fit them into existing infrastructure, systems and curriculum. As a result of the evaluations, the focus on the latest DigiOps projects has moved to a more inclusive approach in which project goals and resources will be customised to the contexts, goals and needs of specific school communities, and will be built from the ground up by participants. Seven new projects have been set up. Schools will have flexibility to develop the projects themselves, within an expectation that the projects will ‘add value’ and will involve alliances with local ‘business partners’. The results are to be reported as case studies on the DigiOps website, and will document each project’s development, logistical requirements, management, and key findings.
Subject HeadingsNew Zealand
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
School and community
A critical analysis of teacher evaluation policy trends
Volume 49 Number 3, 2005; Pages 292–305
Teachers now face continuous and exacting evaluation by governments and government-approved teaching bodies, driven by a managerialist commitment to applying the values of the business world to teaching. The evaluations are used for purposes which include initial teacher certification and performance-based assessments for employment or promotion. More and more often, governments devolve responsibility for these evaluations to other policy agents, such as official teaching councils and school administrators. Teachers are also encouraged to evaluate themselves, and internalise a range of evaluation policies and practices. However, some research indicates that assessment models that focus on accountability ‘inhibit creativity, flexibility and sensitivity to the contextualised nature of teaching’. Teachers tend to take fewer risks in teaching practice that is evaluated for summative assessment purposes, and tend to spend less time with students. Accountability-based evaluation discourages collegiality when it creates competitive conditions between teachers, or when high-stakes summative assessment by the principal determines job security or promotion. Accountability-based teacher evaluation also makes auditing 'the benchmark of institutional and individual legitimacy', in which public demonstrations of compliance becomes a priority over real development of teachers' performance, both for governments and for individual teachers. Some jurisdictions are examining alternative forms of teacher evaluation. One example is Canada's Ontario province, which has abandoned the 'teacher test' and is consulting with faculties of education and teachers' federations to plan a new system of teacher certification.
Leading learning communities: what's the formula?
Volume 25 Number 2, June 2005; Pages 28–29
A formula for effective school leadership begins with active involvement in classroom teaching. Effective leadership decisions are informed by the suggestions and examples of fellow principals, but based on the individual needs of each school, its teachers, students and also the local community. To manage their own workloads, leaders must prioritise, reject some of the less critical initiatives, and delegate tasks effectively. Both the person delegated to, and the amount of work involved, should be carefully considered. A school leader should present simple, clear interpretations of departmental directives to staff, rather than handing them straight on. Planning should include discussion of the reasons for the plan, its context, its relationship to existing initiatives or systems in the school, requirements for teachers' professional development and short- and long-term goals. Staff teams can also plan their own initiatives, provided they have a documentation process and regular reviews with their principal to ensure timely implementation. A school leader must monitor staff enthusiasm for plans to ensure their success.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
November 2005; Pages 46–51
The SAGE (Supporting, Accomplishing, Guiding and Enriching) Mentor Training program in Victoria is designed to pass on wisdom from retiring principals to new ones. It also aims to build a network of experienced and accredited mentors who can manage regional succession planning and professional development. Programs range from a two-day training session to a series of development workshops spanning a year. Each program is customised to meet regional needs. Experienced and new principals work in mentor-protégé pairs. Many new principals have found the program helped them to share problems openly, while mentors reported learning from their protégés. Pair discussion and learning activities focus on ‘teaching, sponsoring, encouraging, counselling and befriending’. Participants are taught how to question critically and identify their own preferred learning styles. They are also encouraged to examine their interactions and their relationships, and are guided towards developing the leadership capabilities outlined in the Victorian Department of Education and Training’s Blueprint for Government schools. Participants are taught how to resolve challenges such as time limitations and accepting feedback. The program was developed by the Australian Principals Centre (APC) at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). The article also defines mentoring, and discusses the 2004–05 Beginning Principal Mentoring Program undertaken in Victoria’s Eastern Metropolitan Region (EMR).
Spaces to learn
November 2005; Pages 24–26
Architects, school staff and the local community can work collaboratively to design spaces that assist teaching and learning. Planners should observe learning activities, to understand how children like to use and adapt space. Local and international examples of good interior design can offer additional inspiration. School spaces should also make the most of available technology, light, colour and imagery to stimulate students and teachers. Planning requires consideration of how spaces can be transformed and adapted to foster belonging, engagement, performance, and to celebrate achievements. Classroom layout should be redeveloped from teacher-owned to student-directed areas. Spaces can be adapted for small-group, whole-class and independent learning by rearranging furniture, incorporating sliding doors or moveable panels, and by using outdoor areas. Teachers have a sense of ownership when they are provided with distinct, well-resourced areas for planning and meetings. Performance and visual presentation spaces must cater for varied group sizes and formal, informal, indoor and outdoor activities. Circulation spaces, such as a widened corridor or verandah, can provide excellent performance areas. Student, staff and community achievements should be celebrated physically and visually within school areas. An example of good practice is Western Australia’s Djidi Djidi Aboriginal School in the Bunbury District, which celebrates the local Noongar culture by incorporating their artworks and built forms, and teaching students their traditions.
Subject HeadingsSchool buildings
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