February 2006; Pages 44–45
Recent research from the Australian Catholic University (ACU) National Industry Research Incentive Scheme (IRIS) has explored multimodal learning for students aged 5–14. As part of the IRIS study 14 teachers delivered multimodal lessons, with researchers analysing both teachers' and students’ reactions. Many multimodal projects involved group work and fostered collaborative learning. Using the Web introduced new literacy skills, as students encountered non-linear texts, came to understand the new metalanguage of digital publishing, and developed a wider appreciation of different audiences and purposes for text. Website design also introduced new learnings about composition. Participating teachers redesigned curriculum to utilise multimodal possibilities. Professional development and lesson planning time were part of the teachers’ participation in the study. Four of the teachers involved in the research presented their work at conferences last year.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsElectronic publishing
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Productive inner spaces
Number 1, 2006; Pages 10–11
Despite being the most common classroom arrangements, rows of desks facing the front and groups of desk facing each other are detrimental to student learning in most situations. Rows facing the front create a teacher-centric learning environment where students contend for attention. This arrangement is designed for copying from the board, and supports few other activities. Students facing the front have many distracting objects in front of them and become easily disrupted by fiddling or rocking on their chairs. Groups of desks facing each other are not conducive for independent tasks, and limit teacher supervision. Rows facing the front and desks facing each other can be used in competitive tasks, such as hands up activities. During competitive activities, rules should be clearly communicated and fairly applied and all students should feel they have a chance to win. Cooperative and individual teaching are supported by alternative desk layouts, which must be open to rearrangement as an activity requires. Students should have a separate place to keep their belongings and be free to use any desk. Cooperative layouts include: theatre-style seating; eye to eye seating for pair share activities; shoulder to shoulder for pair worksheet activities; concentric circles for group reviews; and scattered desks for an eight square share or gallery walk. Students must be taught the necessary social skills, given group objectives and personal responsibilities for cooperative activities. To promote student success in individual tasks, desks can be placed facing outwards against the wall ensuring students can write with minimum distractions. A teacher can remain outside of students’ line of vision by swivelling between students as needed, and using over-the-shoulder supervision. Students should understand the activity criteria before sitting down. The number of instructions given should match their age and individual activities should last the equivalent of their age plus five minutes.
Subject HeadingsClassroom activities
Group work in education
Bringing out the best with magazines
Volume 1, 2006; Pages 22–23
Magazines provide an excellent classroom resource, which teachers can harness once they know what is available and how to incorporate them into lessons. A United States survey finds that the variety of text types in magazines develops strategic reading ability among primary school students. The range of informative and narrative texts offered in a magazine can help students learn to differentiate between writing styles. Reports, debates, poetry, reviews and procedural texts provide good examples of the styles which today's students must learn to write for their ongoing success. Through their visual nature and varied length of articles, magazines are naturally appealing and engaging to students. They are less threatening and retain the interest of those with literacy difficulties. Magazines are relatively inexpensive as a classroom resource, and can be used to encourage a home-school connection. They can be used to present students with a range of viewpoints, encouraging critical thinking. Students can analyse how various ways of presenting information impacts their interpretation, and implement presentation aspects such as subheadings in their own writing. Teachers can use both traditional educational and mass-market magazines to support a wide range of group and independent activities. An article can be used as a starting point for research projects, and provide experience in presenting findings clearly and concisely. Activities where students write a response to the editor on a particular article can be used to test comprehension. Students identify with articles which feature people of a similar age, rather than when they simply read about an issue. One teacher uses the Girlfriend letters page, where professionals respond to youth issues. With this example, students write and respond to each other with advice on schoolyard issues.
Key Learning AreasEnglish
Student grouping for high performance in mainstream classrooms
Volume 1, 2006; Pages 12–13
Organising students into heterogeneous work groups in the classroom can help students develop team, communication and thinking skills. These skills are particularly important in the service sector, where a high proportion of future workers will be employed. Teachers should harness the efficiency of group work to develop these skills. Running daily group activities will help students get to know each other, and overcome the gender differences, pecking order and territory issues which inhibit successful collaborative work. Groups should be student-selected if the activity is social, or teacher selected if it is a skill activity. Partner hunts, numbers out of a hat or birthdays are fun ways to randomly designate groups. Groups should be restricted to four students to avoid isolation of certain members. To ensure success, students groups must be explicitly taught the social skills of mutual respect, no putdowns, active listening, and how to seek help. The classroom should be arranged to enable students to physically work in groups. Teachers should also be available to share in a group’s discussions. Roles, responsibilities and required outcomes for each student within their group must be decided and communicated. Each student should individually review their own and the group’s performance. This can include self-assessment, group discussion of each individual’s input and analysis of what was produced. Group work is not appropriate for individual tasks, such as reading and writing, unless as a way for students to share at the end. Awards should also be avoided, to ensure groups remain cooperative rather than competitive.
Group work in education
January 2006; Pages 16–20
Television, the Internet and other media now expose children to more visual information than ever before. It is important to cultivate ‘visual literacy’ in schools together with phonemic literacy, so that students are able to construct meaning critically from visual texts. Schools remain very ‘text-focused places’, where teachers rely on the text-based material with which they are most comfortable. Systems offer little guidance in visual literacy instruction. Teachers must start by developing their own visual literacy, but too much professional development in this area focuses on the technology used with online images rather than on the cognitive skills needed to deal with them. The article describes exemplary professional development activities, which begin with defining core terms such as ‘literacy’, ‘text’ and ‘reading’. Like phonemic literacy, visual literacy involves decoding symbols for concepts which are organised to make meaning. Images are more concise, but less precise and more open to interpretation than words. Also, meaning may be taken from images less consciously than from text. Two historical political advertisements are used to illustrate the next steps in visual literacy professional development. Teachers are guided through the deconstruction process, identifying key elements in a visual text such as colour, light, and sound. Next, they study the ‘syntax’ (such as how the image is framed, or which myths and themes are propounded) that gives the visual message coherence. As they progress to reading images with fluency, including the ability to identify rhetorical devices and underlying messages, the teachers become comfortable with the analytical process and develop appropriate language to replicate it in the classroom. They then create their own multimedia texts, with emphasis not on technological virtuosity but on the value of the visual text to higher-order cognition. The professional development concludes by exploring how visual literacy techniques can be applied across the curriculum to support visual learners, even in those subjects not traditionally involving visual information. Read full article online (free registration required).
Key Learning AreasTechnology
English language teaching
Foiling cyberbullies in the new wild west
Volume 63 Number 4, December 2005; Pages 39–43
Cyberbullying refers to any misuse of technology to harass or intimidate another person online. It has proliferated due to the growth of rapid, potentially anonymous electronic communication. In contrast to earlier types of bullying, cyberbullying does not allow time for reflection between planning and implementing a hostile act. Perpetrators may not be aware of the reach of cyberbullying, or be sensitive to its conequences on people in remote locations. The broad reach of cyberspace also makes it difficult to contain bullying and track down perpetrators. The responsibility to control cyberbullying lies with school administrators, business leaders in technology companies, and parents. Schools should make students aware that no electronic communication is truly anonymous, and local police may support teachers in conveying this message. Clear rules for the use of technology should be promoted through the school’s ICT education program. Incidents should be followed up promptly, and professional development offered so that teachers can confidently mentor and discipline students in an online environment. Cyberbullying should become part of a school’s core discourse about respect and equality. Parents also need to set down rules, but many do not feel confident about doing so for online activities. Their reticence increases children’s dissociation between their ‘real’ and ‘online’ lives. Both schools and parents need to emphasise that cyberspace is not a separate, lawless domain, but subject to the same responsibilities and consequences as the wider environment.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
First year out: how to ensure the development and success of graduate teachers
February 2006; Pages 38–40
Strategies to support graduate teachers are outlined by the principal of Mullewa District High School (DHS), a rural kindergarten–Year 11 school in Western Australia with a 90 per cent Indigenous enrolment. The high turnover of new teachers should not be viewed negatively, as each graduate is likely to bring enthusiasm, the latest knowledge in education and a positive attitude to their work. Upon hiring graduates, a principal should welcome them with clear, positive information about the role, the school, the local community and potential accommodation. Learning for new teachers should be carefully paced so that they are not overwhelmed in the critical first days of their careers. Ground rules and management plans should be put in place for the first month of teaching, until new teachers develop their own teaching style. Induction should cover: school policies and rules; procedures for planning and accessing support; budget management; staff committees and contact with the school community. At Mullewa DHS, Indigenous host families share their knowledge of local issues and Wajarri language with new teachers. Local elders bestow authority on new teachers at the first school assembly each year. New teachers should reflect daily on their work, and be encouraged to debrief directly with the principal. In turn, principals should provide written feedback of both positive and development areas after classroom observations. Samples of program formats, teaching philosophies and rationales can be used to guide new teachers. Peer support programs, weekly recreational activities and colleague teaching appraisals strengthen staff support networks. Teachers in rural communities may be away from their support networks for the first time, and require emotional support. School leaders should encourage sensible eating and a balance between work, rest and exercise, and be prepared to cancel meetings when staff are exceptionally overworked. Behaviour management strategies can be demonstrated for new teachers, who tend to experience increasingly negative student behaviours in the first six months of their careers. Staff meetings should include incident debriefs, so that teachers can share effective behaviour management ideas.
Subject HeadingsSchool and community
Teaching and learning
Time for a new approach
Volume 25 Number 1, February 2006; Pages 35–37
Schools in Partnership is an initiative of the New South Wales Department of Education and Training (DET) to achieve more equitable outcomes for Aboriginal students. The initiative emerged from a 2003 DET review of Aboriginal school attendance, retention rates and academic performance, conducted in partnership with the State's Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporated (AECG). Its principles are drawn from proven effective practices, relying on formalising partnerships between community and government, individual schools and Indigenous communities. Schools in Partnership will provide funding and support to ten New South Wales schools with significant Aboriginal student populations in 2006. Anticipated outcomes for these schools include: greater appreciation of Aboriginal culture in the school community; improved school and community collaboration; specific targets and innovative approaches to improve educational outcomes for all students; improved tutorial assistance for Aboriginal students outside school hours; better organisation and study skills for students; training and development for teachers and Aboriginal Education Assistants (AEAs) with support from dedicated DET staff; and initiatives to attract and retain staff, streamline operations, and accommodate curriculum flexibility. The establishment of partnerships between Aboriginal people and organisations is fundamental to the initiative, as part of the State Government’s philosophy of Aboriginal self-determination, or the greatest possible involvement of Aboriginal people in shaping change to their communities.
Subject HeadingsSchool and community
New South Wales (NSW)
Assessing students' knowledge in ICT
Volume 1, 2006; Pages 36–37
A selection of Year 6 and Year 10 students across Australia will participate in a national assessment of ICT this year, as part of the National Assessment Program (NAP). The two-hour computer-based assessment is to occur every three years. ICT assessments will also be conducted in a number of States. Although today’s students may be confident users of technology, they are not necessarily ‘critical, creative and productive users’. Communication and literacy skills must be taught simultaneously with technology skills. Teachers should not feel that their students’ familiarity with the latest ICT devalues their own literacy and critical-thinking skills, or those of students who may not be so technologically savvy. Assessment of ICT must include consideration of context, outcomes, activities, marking guidelines, and the impact that oral and written feedback may have on student motivation. The article includes links to sites that may assist in differentiating technology skills for assessment, and practical applications for the NAP’s three strands of ICT literacy in the classroom. It also suggests a range of topics for a whole-school ICT program, and general assessment activities.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsTechnology teaching
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
13 February 2006; Page 16
Proponents of a discipline-based curriculum emphasise the role of abstract reasoning in learning, and assume that this learning model imparts higher-order knowledge. From this perspective the current Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) is accused of lacking consistency and rigour. On the other hand, supporters of inquiry-based, learner-centred education argue that students’ creativity is stifled by narrowly categorised knowledge, and instead emphasise learning through social interaction and practical reasoning, connected to students’ life experiences. In fact, a combination of discipline-centred and inquiry-based learning is appropriate for secondary education. Year 12 should be based around core subjects such as ‘the arts, humanities, sciences and technologies’ with a philosophy subject covering ‘ideas, mathematics, logic and communities’ and a sixth subject ‘involving sport and physical education, instrumental music and general school activities’. A framework of inquiry should accompany these six subjects, involving cross-disciplinary projects and practical reasoning to integrate practice and theory.
Subject HeadingsSecondary education
Teaching and learning
Adolescent health: what's the problem?
February 2006; Pages 10–16
The Connecting Kids Company (CKC), a subsidiary of the not-for-profit Peer Support Foundation, surveyed two student cohorts in 1996–1998, and 2003–2005, to discover which issues they felt most affected the 15–18 age group. The survey was part of CKC’s Supportive Friends Program, which assists students to develop skills to respond helpfully in problem situations. The survey process began with short group discussions. Each student then created a confidential Concern Card, with an illustrated explanation of their chosen concern and the feelings associated with it. Students sampled were ‘normal, well-adjusted’ senior secondary students from all education sectors, which researchers deemed to be broadly representative of students in Victoria, despite acknowledged flaws in sampling. Approximately 1,200 cards were collected across the two cohorts, and sorted according to keywords and themes. Significant variation emerged between themes identified by the two cohorts, confounding the researchers’ intention to use the same categories across the entire sample. For the first cohort, pressure from schoolwork and exams was the most mentioned problem, followed by issues concerning lifestyle, relationships and family expectations. For the second cohort, relationships were the greatest area of concern. New categories had to be created for image, sexuality and bullying, which had been subsumed into the ‘relationships’ theme for the first cohort. These changes may not reflect an increase in the incidence of these issues, but rather the degree to which they are reported. For example, television highlights issues concerning body image, and schools now encourage students to openly discuss bullying. The survey results emphasise the importance of interpersonal connections in adolescent mental health, and urge school communities to support students in supporting each other. The article includes three strategies to support young people: connection, significance and meaning, and empowerment – with practical ideas for their implementation in schools. Complete lists of themes are also provided in the article for both cohorts.
Legal perspectives on bullying
February 2006; Pages 22–37
Bullying is not specifically recognised in Australian law, and the legal channels currently used to address it in schools are rarely satisfactory. Criminal law proceedings are often inappropriate to children, and are also dependent on the bully having committed a serious crime. As such, they come too late to prevent injury to the victim. Protection orders are more commonly used in bullying cases, but enforcing them in schools is impractical and, more importantly, may adversely affect the students’ development of conflict resolution skills. As a means to overcome defiencies in the use of intervention orders, a number of countries have adopted a New Zealand resolution technique known as Family Group Conferencing. However Australian juvenile courts do not currently have the resources to offer such services. As criminal law is too blunt an instrument for most cases against juvenile bullies, such cases are usually best dealt with outside the courtroom altogether. When schools have been negligent in their duty of care to protect students from bullies, civil law may be used to claim damages. This raises many questions about school responsibilities: does the duty of care rest with individual teachers or school bodies? Is it confined to the hours of a school day? In which situations should a school be able to foresee and prevent injury? Does the duty cease once the student leaves school grounds? Providing examples of arguments on both sides, the author asserts that the duty of care extends beyond school grounds. Schools have the right to discipline students travelling to and from school, so should also have a responsibility to protect them. If schools know that bullying is taking place on the way to school, they are best able to prevent it, as police only intervene if a crime is committed, and prevention is ‘asking much of parents’. While awarding damages does not prevent harm which has already occurred, legal responsibility may motivate schools to address bullying more assiduously. Other legal remedies such as anti-discrimination may also address bullying, and examples are provided in the article. The legal system should remain a last resort for dealing with bullying, but education and legal authorities must identify appropriate legal remedies to apply when necessary.
Duty of care
Volume 32 Number 3, December 2006; Pages 1–18
A study by the authors over 2002–2005 has examined factors influencing applications for principal positions in Victoria and South Australia. Findings were drawn from statistics and from qualitative data, including interviews with principals and assistant principals from a wide range of school districts and regions. The study found that there is currently no uniform shortage of principals, but that applications for principal positions are now fewer and more selective. The socio-economic status of a region tends to influence the type rather than number of applicants. Unless they are lifestyle destinations, rural areas are seen as lacking in educational, health and entertainment resources, and hard to move on from. Very small schools are seen as poorly funded and staffed, and again hard to advance from. Very large schools are seen as too demanding in terms of management and leadership. Other factors that strongly deter applications for principal positions include: knowledge or suspicion that an incumbent is re-applying; perceptions of hostility from local area managers, school staff, parents or the local media; loss of faith in merit selection; fears of heavy accountability demands; the complex social and emotional support now expected for students; and lack of scope for educational rather than managerial leadership. Discrimination against female applicants may be ‘persisting or re-emerging after a period of equal opportunity’. Teachers now apply less often for positions outside their current districts, due to insecurity about their spouse finding work in a new location, and to women’s greater reluctance to sacrifice an existing job for their partner’s career. Young teachers may be deterred from considering school leadership roles by dissatisfaction at work or by medium term plans to change careers. It is important that all potential principals, including young teachers, receive systematic encouragement to pursue careers in school leadership. Systems have implemented a number of promising initiatives to overcome principal shortages, such as the measures included in Victoria’s Blueprint for Government Schools. However, the data about principal supply that systems keep or make available is inadequate, raising important issues of equity and transparency in government.
2005 International Education Advisory Group Invitational Symposium
International education is a necessary response to global cultural changes, the rise of global communication and international student migration. It links to the existing curriculum areas of values, creativity, ICT standards, and civics, citizenship and thinking skills. International education should be tailored to address each student’s individual cultural background, and involve all students in inquiry based activities which require critical thinking. It should be focused on developing the environmental and humanitarian values, knowledge, skills and actions necessary to participate in both the local and global worlds. Students should be encouraged to appreciate diversity, especially in the face of current security concerns. It should foster action to promote a sustainable, humanitarian future. Studies of Asia and relationships between local and international students are vital to prepare students for their future in Australia. Research by Matthews and Sidhu finds that 'the normalising discourses of nationality, race, and ethnicity' permeate international education and 'reinforce old ethnic and national affiliations'. They note that ICT is not used to its full capacity to develop meaningful international relationships. They also suggest that simply recruiting overseas students, foreign food consumption, travel and use of global brands are not enough to promote real understanding of global issues amongst students. Schools should document successful case studies to promote effective international education strategies. The International Education Advisory Group was established in 2000 in Victoria to promote international education in policy, and explore possible curriculum objectives and pedagogy. The article includes a resource list.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Studies of Society and Environment
Is impact a measure of quality? Producing quality research and producing quality indicators of research in Australia
Ways to assess the quality of education research are under discussion as the Australian Government moves to set up the Research Quality Framework (RQF). Setting criteria for quality research involves social and political values and discipline-based considerations. Judgements are influenced by the current historical and international context, and are swayed by public perceptions. The
Subject HeadingsEducational planning