Motivating maths? Digital games and mathematical learning
Volume 14 Number 1, 2005; Pages 127–139
Over the last 25 years there has been a trend to use real-world examples when teaching mathematics to prepare students for life beyond school and to motivate them to learn. Games, especially computer games, have attracted academic interest as a means to create stimulating, realistic learning contexts. A range of educational websites use formats drawn from computer games. The authors investigated a range of games offered on two British websites, Gridclub and Spark Island. Eight case studies, including observation and videotaping of children and interviews with the children and their parents, were conducted. The researchers found that the ludic motivation of the games, ie their interest to students as a form of play, is not integrated well with the games’ learning components. The games were found to have limited interactivity, to be linear and hierarchical in terms of problem solving, and didn't connect the learning questions meaningfully to the narrative. Images tend to be attached to the play element of the game, and text to the learning element. These limitations are similar to those on another educational site, the Cadbury Learning Zone. In the absence of intrinsically motivating learning activities, the children often tried to avoid the game’s learning component, eg they tended to select the least challenging level of learning difficulty allowed in the game so as to gain the rewards offered most quickly. The designers have not constructed sufficiently complex learning opportunities. In contrast, real computer games, such as Tomb Raider 4, provide multiple learning paths and a mix of learning by instruction and experiment.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsCase studies
Computers in society
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
A to E student reports?
Volume 4 Number 3, 29 August 2005; Pages 4–5
Two leaders in school education offer perspectives on gradings in student reports. Anna Bligh, until recently Queensland’s Education Minister, argues that the A to E grading proposed by the Australian Government needs to be backed up by ‘a consistent, comparable, standards-based curriculum, assessment and reporting framework’. Queensland operates a successful five-point grading for Years 11 and 12, supported by continuous, school-based moderated assessment. Queensland’s proposed P–10 curriculum, assessment and reporting framework will provide a firm basis for a five-point grading scale to be used in the compulsory years. The framework includes comparable, state-wide and cross-sector assessment against set standards at three stages between Prep and Year 10. Andrew Blair, President of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, supports the Australian Government’s call for ‘clear and less jargonised’ student reports but warns that rich, personalised content should not be lost in the name of simplicity. The proposed A to E grading is problematic for a range of reasons. It is better suited to the less sophisticated assessment and reporting used five decades ago than to today’s conditions where there is a trend toward interdisciplinary studies that mainly require individualised, formative assessment. The Australian Government’s requirement that a student be reported against a student’s peer group will create ‘a climate of winners and losers', which will inhibit learning. It is unclear how 'peer group' will be defined in the case of vertically integrated classes.
Just how private are these schools?
27 August 2005; Page 9 (Insight section)
There is a continuing discussion in Australia as to the degree to which private schools should be publicly accountable. By accepting public money, private schools accept a level of public accountability. Funding of private schools by the Australian Government has grown steadily, and this year the Victorian Government has provided ‘the largest ever state commitment to private schools’. Both governments have attached conditions to the funds. The Australian Government’s requirements include the explicit teaching of values and plain language student reports. In Victoria, forthcoming legislation will require private schools to meet new curriculum and reporting standards, although an earlier proposal to commit private schools to freedom of information laws has not been adopted.
Subject HeadingsSchools finance
Volume 8 Number 15, 22 August 2005
New funding will allow selected New Zealand teachers and secondary students to undertake international exchange between August 2005 and December 2008. The funding is provided through the Language Immersion Awards given by the New Zealand Ministry of Education. The Awards are part of a broader initiative to promote international language teaching in schools, which also includes more intensive teacher professional development. The month- and year-long teacher programs and a six-month student program will be managed by AFS Intercultural Programs, with successful applicants living with a host family in their chosen location. Teachers will undertake goal-setting with a mentor prior to departure and can access funding to attend language conferences or tertiary study during their exchange. An evidence-based reporting framework will evaluate the effectiveness of the programs. There will be ongoing measurements of outcomes in terms of teachers’ knowledge, skills and attitudes and the overall impact on teaching and learning.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsInternational education
Languages other than English (LOTE)
International research shows that teachers matter
August 2005; Pages 20–21
The recent OECD report Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers predicts that many OECD countries, including Australia, face teacher shortages. The report also predicts qualitative shortfalls in the number of teachers with adequate expertise in maths, science and languages, especially in remote or disadvantaged areas. In Australia, a large number of teachers are due to retire over the coming five to 10 years. Many other teachers plan to leave the profession to pursue career change. Major reasons given for early departure are lack of resources, time pressures at work, and inadequate pay. The number of teachers in training has risen but is insufficient to meet expected demand. It is unlikely that many teachers can be recruited from other developed countries, which are also seeking more teachers. The methods used in the past to deal with shortages, such as reducing qualification requirements, deploying teachers in subjects outside their expertise, and increasing class sizes, do not address the need for qualitative improvement in teachers' skills. Instead, the Teachers Matter report calls for a greater emphasis on teacher quality, which will require more careful selection of candidates for teacher education, rewards for effective teaching, and provision of adequate supporting resources. Teacher quality may also be pursued through redesign of work to focus on core professional and knowledge-based elements, with other duties to be performed by para-professionals. The report also calls for more flexible teacher education, continuing teacher professional development, alignment of teachers' performance and development with schools' needs, and greater school responsibility in selection, working conditions and development of teaching staff. A large influx of new teachers over the immediate future is painted as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape changes in education.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
Learning in context
Volume 84 Number 15, 22 August 2005
The New Zealand Ministry of Education is piloting professional development in second language teaching for upper level primary teachers in a year-long project. Learning a second language through meaningful, cross-curricular activities is expected to increase student retention in languages other than English. Selected Year 7 and 8 generalist teachers are studying tertiary level language acquisition and second language teaching methodology in German and Spanish, and will sit internationally benchmarked exams as part of the pilot. Participants are expected to be more reflective of their own teaching practices, having experienced the learning process involved. The teachers have already demonstrated use of their second language across the curriculum, from giving dance instructions through to having students write artwork captions in second languages.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsNew Zealand
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Reel to Real: teaching the twentieth century with classic Hollywood films
Volume 69 Number 4, June 2005; Pages 189–192
Film can be an valuable primary source in classroom historical investigations. They provide fruitful sources for cultural and historical analyses of many periods of the twentieth century, and create a sense of immediacy that print sources sometimes lack. Matz and Pingatore demonstrate how films can be ‘windows on the past’. The authors provide educators with a rationale for using film in class, along with criteria for selecting suitable excerpts for classroom viewing, and ideas for transforming film into educational material. The article refers teachers to the Internet Movie Archive.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Supporting principals through critical friendship
Spring 2005; Pages 16–18
‘Critical friends’ are those who can provide professional support to others through listening and purposefully empowering them to address professional concerns. School leaders often experience professional isolation, in that they are usually the person on whom the final responsibility for the school rests, a burden which is unlikely to be shared by their colleagues and staff. Employing a critical friends model of professional support for school leaders could go some way to addressing this isolation, and in supporting school leaders’ performance in the principalship. Swaffield considers the nature of the relationship between the professional leader and their critical friend, the kinds of qualities a critical friend should have, and the type of professional background they would need to be able to provide the breadth of support that a principal would require.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Supporting preservice teachers: leading a culture of professional commitment
Spring 2005; Pages 12–13
It is widely accepted that schools and university teacher preparation courses share the responsibility for equipping preservice teachers for the profession. While some schools welcome this responsibility and actively create the conditions for inducting student teachers into the profession, others have been unwilling participants or have declined to participate in this process at all. According to Walkington, schools that are supportive of the process are frequently also environments where the leadership has clearly communicated the value of the process to teachers, where mentors are identified and supported in their roles, and where teachers are able to receive professional development which enhances their mentoring and supervision of student teachers. Schools that are often reluctant to participate in preservice teacher induction programmes tend to cite staff workloads and inadequate training for mentoring teachers as reasons for their non-participation.
Subject HeadingsTeacher training
The principalship: a way of life that must ‘ring true’
Spring 2005; Pages 6–8
Teresa Stone is an assistant principal at a primary school in Victoria. In this article she asserts that leadership, and leadership development, is a profoundly emotional journey in that it engages the aspirant’s beliefs, values and identity – aspects of the self that can only be examined through honest reflection. This ‘emotional meaning-making’, however, helps leaders to arrive at their core beliefs, and builds resilience as it forces them to confront their vulnerability and fears. Stone delves into the various aspects of leadership that ‘ring true’ to her, and describes the experiences that have helped to bring her to this realisation.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
What’s the best path to excellent school leadership?
Spring 2005; Pages 2–4
The role of the principalship has become increasingly more demanding and complex, and thus principals’ qualifications and preparation for their role have become important considerations for education systems. Principals take responsibility for creating school environments and school communities that will positively impact on the educational outcomes of students. To this end, they need to have a range of professional attributes which include leadership skills, administrative abilities, curriculum and professional development knowledge, and policy-making experience. Gamage reports on research conducted in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan and the United States, which sought to ascertain the qualifications currently held by principals, and to discern the trends in principal qualifications and preparation in those jurisdictions. He found that systems are increasingly moving away from professional development models that merely emphasise school leadership experience, and towards those which require higher degrees in leadership and management.
Subject HeadingsSchool principals
Taking a new approach to student assessment
Number 13, Winter 2005; Pages 15–17
Whole School Assessment, developed by the Australian Council for Education Research, brings an additional dimension to student assessment in that it seeks to assess students’ competencies beyond subject-specific skills and competencies. The seven competencies assessed are those identified in the Mayer Report in 1992, and include collecting, analysing and organisation information; communicating ideas and information; planning and organising activities; working in teams; using mathematical ideas and techniques; solving problems; and using technology. McGurry describes the trials of this assessment model, including those conducted by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority between 2002–2004, and outlines some of the results.
International Achievement studies: lessons from PISA and TIMSS
Number 13, Winter 2005; Pages 7–10
Masters compares the outcomes of the 2003 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), with those of the 2002/03 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. The former examines 15-year-old students’ abilities to apply mathematical, scientific and literacy skills in real world situations, while the latter tests the procedural mathematical and scientific knowledge of students in Years 4 and 8. While Australian students’ performances were among the best in the world in the PISA study, they did not fare as well in TIMSS. According to Masters this has implications for school curriculums, domestic benchmark testing, science and mathematics pedagogy, and teacher recruitment. The PISA report is available at www.pisa.oecd.org, and the TIMSS at http://timss.bc.edu.
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
Post-school plans of junior secondary students: are they realistic?
Number 13, Winter 2005; Pages 3–5
Adrian Beavis was part of a team of researchers who conducted a study into the post-school and career aspirations of socioeconomically disadvantaged, lower secondary students. The study, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research, and sponsored by the Smith Family, surveyed 3,721 students, all of whom were part of the charity’s Learning for Life program. The study found that while two thirds of those surveyed intended to complete their schooling, and more than half wanted to continue to tertiary training and education, there was a significant disparity between students’ intended level of educational preparation and the requirements of their chosen career. Up to 45 per cent of those surveyed were not aware that the career to which they aspired would require an educational qualification beyond the level at which they intended to leave education and training. There was thus a need for better career counselling and information, so that students could make more informed decisions about their pathways into work. The report, What do students think of work? Junior secondary school students’ perceptions of the world of work, is available on the Smith Family website.
Subject HeadingsSocially disadvantaged
Transitions in schooling
Neuroscience: the public agenda and misconceptions in education
Australian Association for Research in Education
A common theoretical framework needs to be built between neuroscience and education theory, addressing the nature of information processing in human neural networks. Such a framework could help to identify key periods for skills acquisition, explain how and why people learn in different ways, and prepare the way for teaching methods that stimulate all relevant regions of the brain. However, much of the current neuroscience literature written for educators makes vague, superficial and confusing connections between neuroscience and education. These works contain many misconceptions about the brain. The authors of these works often claim connections between a particular component or activity of the brain and a given educational outcome without offering sound evidence or detailed argument. For example, one author describes the value of a positive emotional environment for creating 'memory pathways' in the student's brain. This loose term is not grounded in any reference to the circuitry of the hippocampus or its links to the neocortex, nor is there any reference to the distinction between short- and long-term memory. There may be a ‘bandwagon’ effect as authors rush prematurely to make use of the surge of public interest in brain research. Patience is needed in bridging neuroscience and education theory. Many important aspects of brain development are still to be resolved. Knowledge of the brain’s information processing can only be built up by rigorous research, with all claims solidly grounded. Once this step occurs, means will be found to explain these insights in terms that the education community and other non-scientists can understand and apply.
Subject HeadingsEducation research