Mental mileage – how teachers are putting brain research to use
Volume 47 Number 6, June 2005; Pages 1–3&7
While admitting that brain research is still in its infancy, neurologists and educators alike believe that the research has the potential to revolutionise approaches to classroom teaching. Pedagogical strategies will need to be informed by the different developmental stages of the brain, and allow for the range of different environmental settings and learning modes that individual students might prefer. The key developmental phases of the human brain are at age 2, 10–11, and the early 20s. At age 2, children begin to consolidate their early experiences with various stimuli, and at age 10–11 their brains are beginning to demonstrate an ability for higher order thinking. The brain is fully mature by early adulthood. Researchers suggest that classroom practices which encourage different learning strategies, create stable and safe learning environments and encourage experiential learning readily accord with their findings on the development of the brain.
Science for limited English proficiency (LEP) students: one teacher, one class, one approach
Volume 41 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 16–22
Margaret Bowering is a researcher in the School of Education at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. Her research examined the effectiveness of science teacher practice in English as a Second Language settings, and this article chronicles the teaching strategies used by a secondary science teacher in a class which was exclusively composed of limited English proficiency (LEP) students. Bowering dissects a video of the teacher’s work to arrive at a series of practices which are regarded as sound pedagogical techniques in this setting. Those practices included: engaging students through the Initiation/ Response/Evaluation (IRE) cycle, in which the teacher was mindful of using accessible language and deliberately used repetition as reinforcement; using objects, pictures and diagrams to help students understand the concept being explored; modelling the use of language in verbal summaries and elaborations; and implementing close reading exercises to develop scientific literacy.
Subject HeadingsEnglish as an additional language
English language teaching
Teaching and learning
Teaching Social Studies on a shoestring budget
Volume 69 Number 2, March 2005; Pages 98–101
Gandy is a Social Studies teacher in the United Sates, whose ideas for accessing teaching resources and activities will be relevant to teachers of Studies of Society and Environment, History and Geography. Gandy demonstrates to teachers how the everyday and familiar can be powerful learning experiences for students, and should not be overlooked in classroom planning. Telephone directories, newspapers, postage stamps, main streets of towns, cemeteries, local commemorative sites, and personal artefacts are all rich sources of learning, and, with the appropriate insight and scaffolding, can be made accessible to students. In this article, Gandy shares her strategies for making the familiar interesting, and points teachers to several sources of information, including Internet sites such as the Paper Boy, Birds of the World, and the Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
The importance of financial education today
Volume 69 Number 2, March 2005; Pages 64–65
Alan Greenspan, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in the United States, argues that financial education is a necessary part of the curriculum, given the increasing sophistication of the financial industry, technological changes, and the plethora of financial products and options available to consumers in a deregulated financial market. Greenspan asserts that consumers can only avail themselves of the many products and opportunities on offer in financial markets if they have the ability to research and understand the products, and the capacity to take advantage of the available technology to exploit financial opportunities. In communities which have traditionally not had access to financial markets, having this education can protect them from predatory and illegal practices, as well as empower them in economic decision making.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Education aims and objectives
‘I can pick my own class’: self-selected secondary classes
Volume 27 Number 2, 2005; Pages 20–22
Self-selected classes allow students to choose to enrol in certain lower secondary classes based on their ability in, and enthusiasm for, a particular discipline. This model of learning was trialled in science classes at South Grafton High, in New South Wales, in 1996–7, and since then the school has adopted it as a school-wide initiative. One of its main advantages is that students are able to address the key components of the formal curriculum in a much shorter time, which allows them to revisit various topics to increase their depth of understanding. The success of this initiative is highlighted by the number of students who are able to maintain their motivation and enthusiasm for learning in the latter years of their secondary schooling.
Subject HeadingsEducational planning
Education aims and objectives
Shared values and beliefs: the basis for a new community school
Volume 27 Number 2, 2005; Pages 10–15
Creating a new school means more than just its physical design and the hiring of staff. It is also an opportunity to embed the core values of the prospective school community, the foundation upon which the school’s culture – priorities and personal interactions – will be built. The authors describe the work undertaken by the Foundation School Council and the Foundation Principal in the establishment of the values framework at Peter Moyes Anglican Community School in Western Australia. The school’s founders were keen for the school community to have a readily identifiable set of values and beliefs that would inform the staff recruitment process, and provide a set of criteria upon which to base the school’s vision and decision making. Using the work of BP Hall, Values shift: a guide to personal and organisational transformation, and JA Atkin, From values and beliefs about learning to principles and practice, the school’s foundation members settled on the a set of values, and those values have been continually reviewed as the school has become established and its community has grown. The advantages and challenges of creating a school’s values framework are addressed in the article, as are the various stages of assisting the school and the broader community with their assimilation of its key tenets.
Subject HeadingsSchool culture
School and community
The courage to appraise the principal
Volume 27 Number 2, 2005; Pages 32–34
Robyn Kronenberg, the principal of St Michael's Collegiate School in Hobart, agreed to submit to a performance appraisal which would take place 18 months after her appointment to the position. The appraisal was conducted through a survey created by an independent market researcher, and her assessors consisted of the school board’s members, 12 senior staff members and herself. Amongst other attributes, the survey’s respondents were required to assess the principal’s educational leadership, management capabilities, relationships with students and capacity to implement and manage change. Kronenberg notes that a well constructed appraisal process provides the principal with an opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments and to set goals for the future, and gives their assessors an appreciation of the complexity of the principal’s role.
The secret to being a successful school in a disadvantaged setting
Volume 27 Number 2, 2005; Pages 26–29
Socio-economic disadvantage affects student achievement at school. Schools in socio-economically disadvantaged communities usually struggle to compete in regards to educational attainment with schools in wealthier communities. This article, however, considers the efforts of successful schools in socio-economically disadvantaged parts of Wales, to discern how they were able to improve and sustain student attainment levels in the face of disadvantage. The authors conducted a research project which examined the school communities of successful primary schools, and found that each shared a common characteristic and key, mutually supporting features. That characteristic was a productive and inclusive school culture that was focused on ‘improving and further enriching teaching for learning’, and it was sustained by features which included energetic leadership, a motivated and optimistic mindset, close, collaborative staff relationships, efficient school organisation and the inclusion of local communities and parents.
Subject HeadingsSocially disadvantaged
Don't our children deserve better
25 July 2005
Beginning teachers in New South Wales are experiencing a high 'burnout rate',with up to 25 per cent leaving the profession within five years. Figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph show that most beginning teachers are assigned to classrooms in disadvantaged and remote schools, where they are exposed to harsh conditions such as verbal abuse and the witnessing of physical assaults between students. The newspaper claims that little has changed since it publicised the problem 18 months ago. The Government has appointed 60 mentors to help the new teachers, but critics argue this response is inadequate. Angelo Gavrielatos of the Teachers' Federation has said that proposals put forward to reduce the early exit rate, such as a reduced teaching load for beginning teachers, had been 'consistently ignored' by the New South Wales Government. State Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt has stated that the 'vast majority' of public schools have a small number of first year teachers, and that the few schools with larger numbers have more experienced peers on hand to help them.
Subject HeadingsState schools
New South Wales (NSW)
Teaching and learning
Dancing outside the studio space
July 2005; Pages 46–47
The Dancing in Australia and New Zealand (DANZ) project has enabled Indigenous groups in different locations to develop dance sequences collaboratively through the use of technology. The project recognises the importance of dance as a text for constructing and communicating cultural, social and religious beliefs for Indigenous students, as well as the social and cognitive benefits of ICT skills. Education Queensland’s Virtual Schooling Service (VSS) has utilised video-, tele- and data-conferencing to link a dance teacher, an Indigenous community school in Queensland and Maori students in New Zealand. The Indigenous and Maori students used the technology to share cultural dance movements and create their own dances, under the guidance and direction of their offsite teacher. A cultural dance teacher also worked with each group of students onsite, to ensure traditional meanings were maintained. Each group was assisted by an Indigenous dance teacher onsite to ensure cultural sensitivity. After working together for 12 weeks and with the help of corporate sponsorship, the groups met in New Zealand where students met and performed live. The positive effects noted throughout the communities include a greater sense of citizenship, improved resilience, greater awareness of technology and a more empowered community. Students described a greater sense of confidence, pride in their heritage, and a sense of being supported, and said that they now ‘want to come to school’.
Key Learning AreasThe Arts
Subject HeadingsAboriginal students
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Bullying in schools and the National Safe Schools Framework
July 2005; Pages 20–22
Bullying affects as many as one in six children each week, and can have serious physical and mental consequences. The 2003 National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) provides a set of recommendations for reducing bullying in Australian primary and secondary schools. Anti-bullying programs up until now have been shown as only moderately successful. The NSSF recommends that each school develop a specific anti-bullying policy which defines accepted and unaccepted behaviours and outlines consequences of bullying. The policy should be developed in collaboration with parents, staff and students. It should integrate with existing policy and be regularly evaluated. Professional development for staff, promotion of positive peer relationships through curriculum activities, and pre-emptive behaviour management steps are also advocated. Research shows that about 50 per cent of schools do not currently have an anti-bullying policy, and those that do have often failed to involve parents and students, or to integrate measures against bullying with other school policies. While bullying is most commonly reported at junior secondary level, secondary schools are less likely than primary schools to employ programs to develop relationship skills. Schools can adopt a number of problem solving approaches such as support groups and no-blame techniques. It is important to provide ongoing support for bullied students and to work to ensure that students disciplined for bullying are not alienated from the school.
Subject HeadingsBehaviour management
Developing the 3Cs curriculum
Volume 9 Number 1, May 2005; Pages 22–25
Foreign language teaching took a step forward in the 1980s with the Graded Objectives in Modern Languages Movement (GOML). However, this approach threatens to become a ‘fossilised orthodoxy’ that focuses students on narrow topics without preparing them for real world situations. Foreign language teaching can be enhanced if it connects to the current shift in pedagogical thinking toward collaborative learning, higher order thinking, and cross-curricular links. Modern foreign language learning can also help students to develop cross-curricular skills and competencies, such as social skills in communication and cooperation, and personal skills in working independently, problem solving, decision making, and ‘learning to learn’. Content from other subject areas can be introduced into foreign language classes, and other subjects can be taught, for brief or extended periods, in a foreign language. A major challenge is determining who should teach in such areas. However, the value of this teaching approach is supported by case studies in Britain. Expansion of the approach to more schools would create opportunities for networking and mutual support.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsThought and thinking
Inquiry based learning
Languages other than English (LOTE)
Science awareness and scientific literacy
Volume 51 Number 1, Autumn 2005; Pages 10–14
A major review of school science teaching in 2001, by Denis Goodrum, Mark Hackling and Leonie Rennie, highlighted the importance of developing scientific literacy in the community. For example, citizens should be able to understand labels on medicine and food. They should be able to follow science-based debates in the media, and decide whether the debates are due to limited or inconsistent evidence, or to a conflict between vested interests. Citizens should be able to pose questions and locate information on scientific issues; take positions on ethical issues in science; and identify some of the connections between science and other subject areas. Students, in particular, should be learning how to assess the scientific authority of websites. The review found that scientific literacy was not well understood by teachers. Since the review, the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) has managed two projects to raise scientific awareness in the community. The Science Awareness-Raising Model encouraged schools and their communities to undertake a science-related project connected to local community needs. The School Community Industry Partnerships saw the development of 24 projects across all States and Territories.
Key Learning AreasScience
Subject HeadingsEducational evaluation
School and community
9 July 2005
Darwin's theory of evolution is currently under challenge from the theory of intelligent design (ID), which argues that at least some steps in evolution have involved purposeful intervention by God or some other intelligent force. This edition of New Scientist has a range of articles on the challenge posed by ID to the teaching of Darwin's theory, in schools and elsewhere. 'No contest', the editorial, summarises and introduces the other articles. 'A battle for science's soul' describes the inroads ID has made in school education and other fields, not only in some states of the US, but also in England and other countries. 'A skeptic's guide to intelligent design' queries the validity of ID's challenge to Darwinism. For example, the article confronts ID's concept of 'irreducible complexity', which claims that many complex biological structures, with mutually dependent parts, can only have arisen as vast qualitative leaps caused by intervention from a higher intelligence. The article suggests that such complex structures instead arise as a series of blind, limited steps that each have some functional value to the organism. Most importantly, it argues, ID does not make testable predictions and is therefore unscientific. 'The monkey trial' discusses the legal battle to allow Darwinism to be taught in Tennessee schools in the 1920s. 'Survival of the slickest' describes the stringent tests that scientific theories go through before they reach school textbooks. This article also argues that 'scientists must learn that fighting lobbyists is not the same as debating ideas in scientific journals', and that confronting ID supporters requires social intervention rather than just clarification of facts and ideas.
Key Learning AreasScience
The Accelerated Teacher Training Program (ATTP) in New South Wales offers accelerated teacher education courses to people with prior training and industry experience, in subjects including VET in Schools and Technology. A group of 15 ATTP teachers, who are taking part in the Technology and Applied Studies course at Charles Sturt University, are participating in a longitudinal study of their pathways from industry to school. Their teaching placements are mainly in rural and remote settings. Now in their second year of teaching, they have described their experiences so far, via interviews and email, to a researcher who has also been their teacher at CSU. Many of them had unsuccessful careers in school but they have all had extensive workplace experience. All research participants expressed 'deep satisfaction' with their career move. They have become confident in their teaching skills. However, their atypical work backgrounds and shorter teacher program has sometimes led to confrontations with other teachers and a sense that they clash with their school's prevailing culture. Their tales of workplace experiences, including ‘horror stories', have been received with considerable interest by students keen to know ‘what it’s like out there’. Many of them criticised the university training course as lacking information on practical aspects of teaching such as how to interpret syllabi. None of the participants described problems in classroom management. All of them found secondary teaching involved a much higher level of intensity and responsibility than their prior training roles in workplaces.
Key Learning AreasTechnology
Subject HeadingsTeachers' employment
Teaching and learning
New South Wales (NSW)
VET (Vocational Education and Training)