Enabling learning: The crucial work of school leaders Jean Russell
This publication is the result of research that fo...
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Enabling learning: The crucial work of school leaders Jean Russell
This publication is the result of research that forms part of a program supported by a grant to the Australian Council for Educational Research by state, territory and Commonwealth governments. The support provided by these governments is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the state, territory and Commonwealth governments. First published 2000 by Australian Council for Educational Research Ltd 19 Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell Victoria AUSTRALIA 3124 Copyright © 2000 Australian Council for Educational Research All rights reserved. Except as provided for by Australian copyright law, no part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. ISBN 0-86431-592-9 Printed in Australia
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The critical challenge for school leaders The complex environment of the school leader Understanding enables improvement Establishing and maintaining a powerful focus
1 1 3 4
Which student learning outcomes are highly valued? Test results and certificates The new-world view What is ‘learning’?
5 5 5 7
A framework for student outcomes: learning, thinking, being Thinking and learning Motivation and engagement Self-regulation and control Looking through students’ eyes: current classroom and school characteristics Student engagement School culture: teacher-student relationships and a sense of belonging School learning: opportunities to develop deep, self-regulated learning The challenge
9 9 13 14 15 15 17 20 21
Enhancing teachers’ efficacy and classroom practices Teacher and classroom effects on learning Reconceptualising teaching and learning Teachers’ sense of efficacy and its relation to classroom practices The need for intervention Leadership and the quality of teaching: vision for improved student learning
22 22 22
The enabling role of school leadership Backward mapping Using a whole-school design approach Achieving shared beliefs A powerful focus: coherence within complexity
28 28 29 30 31
24 25 26
List of figures 1 Secondary student, teacher and leader perceptions of student-teacher relationships 2 Student responses to School Environment items 3 Mean student ratings by year level on the Attitude to School scale 4 Teacher and leader perception of leaders’ vision for improved student learning 5 Whole-school design model for improvement in student learning List of tables 1 Proportion of variation in student progress accounted for by three factors 2 Teacher perceptions of responsibility for both general student engagement and achievement in improvement program focus areas
THE CRITICAL CHALLENGE FOR SCHOOL LEADERS From time to time it is suggested, perhaps more often in films and novels than in real life, that the charismatic or heroic school leader can have a profound and direct influence on the learning of students in a school. Some examples of this might be found in reality. However, when the notion has been put to empirical test, the results have not supported it. On the basis of a meta-analysis of some 40 international research studies on school principals’ influence on school effectiveness and student achievement, Hallinger & Heck (1998) concluded that the evidence fails to support the view that principals have a direct influence on student achievement. When principals or school leaders more generally hear this, they are not surprisingly somewhat discomforted. To be able to influence and improve student learning outcomes is usually seen as a crucial aspect of the leadership role. Fortunately, the use of direct influence is not the only option available. Can school leaders have any impact on what happens in the classroom? More particularly, can school leaders enhance student learning? If so, how? In the midst of the complexities that constitute a school, being able to see and pursue the whole task of leadership rather than its many isolated parts is a major challenge.
The complex environment of the school leader Regardless of what the future holds for education and schooling, while schools continue to exist they will remain highly complex organisations and environments for learning. There is no need to tell principals, for example, about the complexity of a school, though those commenting on education from the
outside (for example, the media) often fail to appreciate the sophisticated and demanding world that a school actually is. Think of the number and range of human beings who constitute a school community: hundreds of young people moving through childhood and adolescence in a time of marked social change, teaching and support staff, school leaders, all in turn relating to family, friends, community members, school board members, system administrators, and so on. Then throw into this swirling mass of interactions and relationships all the thousands of tasks required of individuals and groups within a school, usually under pressure of time and sometimes of trauma, and the picture of multi-layered complexity is clear. One source of complexity that we know about, but sometimes fail to keep in mind, is the way in which we tend to see the world of the school through our own eyes only. Although there are always individual differences to be found, the role of a member of the school community tends to shape the perspective of that person. For example, students, teachers and school leaders (and I include both principal class and teacher leaders within this role of school leadership) each have a set of perspectives on the school and its functioning. The perceptions of these three groups are not necessarily in alignment. Marked discrepancies between their perceptions, when they exist, can be quite dysfunctional. Understanding the world of the school, through the eyes of these different groups, can provide insight into how the central activity of the school, student learning, might be enhanced.
Especially important, and often ignored in the past, is an understanding of the students’ experiences of the school. As Ruddock points out: ‘Rarely is there a suggestion that schools might usefully start the process of improvement by inviting their students to talk about what makes learning a positive or disappointing experience for them; what enhances or diminishes their motivation and engagement; and what makes some of them give up and others settle for a minimum-risk, minimum-effort position… .’ (Ruddock, Day & Wallace, 1997:74)
And Fullan’s question along the same lines is a thought-provoking one: ‘What would happen if we treated the student as someone whose opinion mattered?’ (Fullan, 1991:170)
Until relatively recently, the students’ perspective was not explored. Reliance was placed on an adult interpretation of student learning and of students’ experience of the world of school. Some recent Australian school data illustrates the fallibility of doing this. Student, teacher and leader perceptions of the quality of student-teacher interactions and relationships are being collected as part of the Middle Years Research and
Development Project1 (MYRAD), which spans Years 5 to 9 in Victorian government primary and secondary schools. Some 250 schools, organised in primary-secondary clusters, are using a whole-school design and evidence-based approach to improve the experience of the middle years of schooling for, in total, approximately 36,000 students (Russell, 2000). Subgroups of clusters are engaged in implementing improvement programs with a special focus on literacy or on a thinking curriculum or on well-being and engagement. Marked differences were found in the data derived from the first completion of questionnaires in March, 2000 among student, teacher and leader perceptions of the relationships between teachers and students, for example, teachers’ friendliness, respect, personal interest in students and absence of student put-downs by teachers. Adult perceptions were noticeably more positive than both primary and secondary student perceptions. As can be seen in Figure 1, there is a world of difference between what secondary students say is their experience of teacher friendliness and personal interest and the understanding of that experience reported by teachers and leaders (Russell, 2001). Discrepancies have also been found between teacher and leader perceptions of professional experiences within the life of the school.
The Middle Years Research and Development Project is a project, funded by the Victorian Department of Education, Employment and Training (DEET), and undertaken by the Centre for Applied Educational Research (CAER). All MYRAD data cited in this paper comes from the first data collection phase in March-May, 2000. I am indebted to DEET and its Early and Middle Years of Schooling Branch, to members of CAER, and to all those students, teachers, leaders and schools participating in the MYRAD project.
Students Teachers Leaders
Mean 3 response 2 rating Fr ie nd N ly doo p w ut Re n sp e In ct te re st
Figure 1 Secondary student, teacher and leader perceptions of student-teacher relationships (Middle Years Research and Development Project : n=approx. 20 000 students, 2000 teachers, 300 leaders) (Russell, 2001)
Understanding enables improvement Understanding this source of complexity within a school is vital for school leaders. After all, as human beings we act on the basis of how we perceive the world and what we believe about it, not on the basis of what someone else might consider to be ‘objective reality’. If, for example, a student believes that ability is the only factor in successful learning and that ability is an unalterable given, then the student is highly unlikely to put effort into school work. So leaders who understand how students and teachers see the world of the school can choose courses of action that are likely to be successful. It is especially important if the leader’s concern is to improve the learning
outcomes of students. Much can be learned from students and teachers, as well as from other leaders in a school, about what they want to achieve, the problems that stand in the way, and the processes that would, for them, be productive. What Ruddock says of students could well be said of all groups within the school: ‘But what researchers and teachers who have ventured down the route of consulting students have found is that young people are observant, are capable of analytic and constructive comment, and usually respond well to the serious responsibility of helping identify aspects of schooling that strengthen or get in the way of their learning … .’ (Ruddock, Day & Wallace, 1997:75–76)
Establishing and maintaining a powerful focus It seems to me that an extraordinarily powerful focus is required by school leaders if they are to be able to maintain a meaningful pathway through all the events, tasks, decisions and requirements that bombard them and constitute their daily experience in their leadership roles. David Marsh (2001), in a recent seminar in Melbourne, illustrated just how complex the role of principals is by pointing out that they are second only to air traffic controllers in the number of decisions per hour that they must make – a situation that does not exist in other professional or business occupations. In these circumstances, it is very easy for leaders to be waylaid by the fragmentation and diversity of their tasks, with the result that many end up simply responding to immediate pressures and crises. Professional interactions over the years have convinced me that in practice there is no single, universally acknowledged focus of activity for those filling the role of school leader. Examples of school leader focuses include: • establishing an impressive and enviable set of school buildings and facilities; • developing the high standing of the school reputation in the community via a forceful public relations program; • achieving the most outstanding set of Year 12 results or highest percentage of tertiary entrants; • saving the school from closure; • increasing the student enrolment; Page
• developing supportive and cooperative teacher-leader relationships; or • creating a power base within the education system. Perhaps at first these were considered the means to an end, but over time they seem to have become ends in themselves. And yet there should be one single, powerful and dominating focus for all school leadership activity: the achievement of well-considered, agreed and explicitly stated student learning outcomes. Some assumptions are implied by this assertion: • that leadership activity can influence the achievement of student learning outcomes; • that the processes by which leaders influence student learning outcomes can be made explicit; • that we know the kinds of student learning outcomes we want to achieve.
WHICH STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES ARE HIGHLY VALUED? Test results and certificates
The new-world view
Sometimes student learning outcomes are defined by communities, systems or schools in terms of end-of-schooling certificate results, or standardised tests, or tertiary entrance scores. This is particularly so when the publication of league tables of school results concentrates attention on them. While such performance measures are socially important for the immediate future of the individual student (especially in a society where students must compete for places in post-school education courses and for employment), as well as for the public standing of individual schools, they are not necessarily indicative of the type and quality of learning outcomes that we might strive to achieve.
At the outset of his recently published book, Creating the future school, Hedley Beare (2001) has brought to life the ‘big picture’ that is compelling schools to change from an old-world to a newworld view of the qualities of learning that are to be highly valued. Through the eyes of five-year old Angelica, a student sitting in one of our classrooms today, he describes the world of the twenty-first century in which she will live, work, and raise children, children who in turn will live to see the twenty-second century.
This depends on the kinds of outcome that are measured by such tests and assessments. If, for example, students gain high performance scores simply on the basis of memorising and reproducing information, then the assessments would be inadequate measures of what most would consider to be desirable learning outcomes. The responses of more than 7,000 Australian school communities to an open-ended questionnaire indicated the belief that effective schools brought about learning outcomes such as the love of learning, personal development and self-esteem, life skills, problem-solving and learning-to-learn skills, independence of thought, and well-rounded, confident individuals (McGaw, Piper, Banks & Evans, 1992). Narrowly conceived assessment does not measure the richness of learning outcomes that many would want schools to achieve.
Her world will be very different from the one in which we have grown up – a globalised world, with a planet-wide economic system controlled by big business networks; strong international courts of justice to enforce globally agreed laws; internationally enforced environmental responsibilities; a strong world focus on the Asia/Pacific area because of the changing balance in population centres; frequent and easy international work and leisure travel; increasingly sophisticated communication technology creating a borderless world and access to enormous amounts of information; changing forms and patterns of work; different forms of energy as fossil fuel stocks are exhausted; deepening problems with food production, population size, poverty and wealth, super-cities, many aspects of the environment, and the nature of families and relationships. It is a powerful and persuasive view. Angelica finishes her new-world description by asking:
So do you know what to teach me? Do you know what I need to learn? And do you know how to teach me? Are you confident that you can design a curriculum which will equip me to live in my world?
• an understanding and positive sense of self as an individual human being, as well as in relation to others, both on a personal basis and in terms of membership of a local community or society at large.
(Beare, 2001: 17)
Much attention has been paid in recent years to the need for all members of society, not just an élite group, to develop competent and complex cognitive capacities (thinking, learning and knowing), including the capacity to continue to learn throughout life in the way demanded of them by the increasingly rapid and discontinuous change in knowledge of the twenty-first century (Beyer, 1997; Burden, 1998; Hamers & Csapó, 1999; McGuinness, 1999; Perkins, 1992). The teaching of thinking and learning strategies and skills and the development of ‘thoughtful’ teachers, classrooms, schools and communities has been advocated on this basis. Although different in nature from much traditional academic learning in schools, the call to develop the students’ capacities to think, learn and know in complex ways can be conceived of as part of academic learning.
And that, of course, is our challenge. We don’t want to educate students for the world of twenty years ago. We cannot predict exactly what content knowledge global citizens will need in the future; in fact the knowledge base continues to change and expand so rapidly it would be foolish to try. When it is predicted that some 70 per cent of the job categories, products and services that will exist in the year 2020 have yet to be invented (Ellyard, 2000), we certainly cannot train people directly for employment. Instead, it is claimed that people will need to be in a constant state of learning during what will be known as an era of lifelong learning (Bryce, Frigo, McKenzie & Withers, 2000). We can be certain about the broad qualities of thinking, learning, knowing and being that our students will need if they are to be able to experience positive, satisfying lives and contribute to global and local community well-being. These will include: • a conscious values-basis; • the capacity to be flexible and adapt to change that derives from knowing how to learn new things; • the desire to continue to learn throughout life and knowledge of how to do so;
• the capacity to solve problems, to think creatively as well as critically, to deal productively with complex issues, to make well-balanced decisions and judgments; and
There is also increasing concern about social learning in schools and about the social outcomes of schooling. Good citizenship, for example, is seen to entail increasingly complex requirements (Beyer, 1997; Maclure, 1991), including the confidence to make profound moral, ethical and political choices in the absence of certainty and stability (Dalin & Rust, 1996). In Australia, a similar concern is embodied in the assertion in the National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-first Century (Australia, 1999) that students leaving school should have … the capacity to exercise judgement and responsibility in matters of morality, ethics and social justice, the capacity to make sense of their
world, to think about how things got to be the way they are, to make rational and informed decisions about their lives and to accept responsibility for their own actions. While some of the concern with social learning is connected to its impact on academic learning, there is much concern with those social outcomes that influence the young person’s contribution to the social fabric of the school community and subsequently to that of society. As society becomes more complex and less predictable, there is an increasing need to build and strengthen ‘social capital’, …the processes between people which establish networks, norms and social trust and facilitate co-ordination and co-operation for mutual benefit. (Cox, 1995:15–16)
Several types of social learning and outcomes have been the focus of interest for schools and for recent research. The most important of these are concerned with • prosocial behaviour (behaviours that promote positive social relationships such as cooperation, sharing, helping – for example, Covington, 2000); • socially responsible classroom goals and behaviour (the desire and ability to meet both formal and less explicit classroom rules and behavioural expectations – for example, Wentzel, 1994); • social reasoning (reflection, thinking and decision-making on social, moral, ethical and values matters – for example, Turiel, 1989); • social competence (skills that enhance interpersonal relationships – for example, Ladd, 1999); and
• social outcomes (a range of social attitudes, values, behaviours and self-perceptions – for example, Ainley, Batten, Collins, & Withers, 1998).
What is ‘learning’? People differ in their conceptions of learning. Two opposing notions are frequently cited: learning as the transmission and literal retention of knowledge and learning as an interpretative process directed towards understanding (Schmeck, 1988a). Säljö (reported in Marton & Säljö, 1997) explored adult conceptions of learning through interviews; five distinct conceptualisations of learning were identified: • a quantitative increase in knowledge; • memorisation; • the acquisition of facts, methods, and so on, that can be retained and used when needed; • the abstraction of meaning; • an interpretative process aimed at understanding reality. These conceptualisations fall into two pairs, with the third item possibly belonging to either of the pairs. The first two conceptions are evidence of a transmission view of learning: the learner is understood to receive information from an external source, to memorise it, and then recall and reproduce it when necessary, thus showing evidence of a quantitative increase in knowledge. Such a transmission conception is seen as providing an orientation to learning that is superficial and passive in nature, yet is still thought to be basic to much classroom, school and system activity (Larochelle & Bednarz, 1998; McIver, Reuman & Main, 1995).
In contrast, the fourth and fifth conceptions understand learning to be an active, dynamic process. These represent the modern conceptualisation of learning, known as ‘constructivism’. As learners, we are said to interpret incoming information, building up or constructing meaning for ourselves. The meaning we construct will not necessarily be identical to the incoming information, because, as we process it, we filter it through our existing knowledge, experiences and beliefs. The construction of meaning is also socially and culturally mediated, through an individual’s interaction with other people and the artifacts (such as books and media) of the society (Fosnot, 1996; Salomon & Perkins, 1998). Hence learning is conceived of as an interpretative process, aimed at understanding reality, and achieved via the abstraction of meaning from information. The outcome is conceptual change, the reorganisation of the learner’s conceptual structures, and a new, deeper understanding which can be manipulated, combined and applied in a range of situations (Marlowe & Page, 1998).
Do we know how our students conceptualise learning? What would they say if we asked them how they know when they have learned something? Student conceptions of learning affect the approaches they adopt to learning tasks, just as the approaches they use affect the qualities of the outcomes of those tasks (Marton, 1988; Marton & Säljö, 1997). We could ask the same questions of teachers. Teachers’ conceptions of learning affect their teaching practices and, as a result, they affect the opportunities students have to develop the qualities and characteristics of learning and thinking we would want to see as outcomes of schooling.
The easiest way to discover how teachers and how schools conceptualise learning is to look at the tests, tasks and forms of assessment that are used to determine students’ results or grades. These signal to students the kind of learning expected of them (Ramsden, 1988) and provide the “most concrete (most ‘operational’) definition of learning offered by the teacher” (Schmeck, 1988b:336). If assessment focuses on the unreflective retention of disconnected factual information then that will shape students’ understanding of and approach to learning. If interpretation, construction of meaning and conceptual change are valued, then student assessment must be of a significantly different order. How do such conceptualisations of learning relate to social learning and the social outcomes of schooling? McCarthy and Schmeck (1988) argue that the developing identity or self-concept of the learner is the ultimate organiser of all experience. Learning, when seen as including all social, personal and cognitive aspects, is the creative development of identity – the self, the whole person, the integration of all goals, beliefs, values, capacities, information, understanding and meaning. It is significant, in this regard, that Marton and colleagues (1993, reported in Marton & Säljö, 1997), when pursuing the conceptualisations of learning revealed by the work of Säljö, found a sixth conceptualisation – learning seen as the process of developing as a person.
A FRAMEWORK FOR STUDENT OUTCOMES: LEARNING, THINKING, BEING It is clear that thinking and learning are about much more than ‘cold cognition’, that is mental or intellectual activity alone (Perkins, 1992; Pintrich, Marx & Boyle, 1993; Wyatt, Pressley, El-Dinary, Stein, Evans & Brown, 1993; Weiner, 1986). Thinking and learning incorporate a whole constellation of things in addition to the cognitive: emotions and feelings, values and goals, motivation, interest and engagement, interaction with people and sources of information, and the understanding, discipline and control of self and environment. Whether we are learning to use a new computer, trying to solve a challenging school problem, reading a government report, or deciding which political party to support, our response is an integration of all key facets of behaviour. In fact, thinking and learning involve the whole person. Similarly, improving the quality of the thinking and learning of young people has implications not only for their cognitive achievement, but for their personal and social development and their sense of well-being also. In my view, a conceptual framework for describing the key qualities and characteristics of good learning and thinking is provided by considering three sets of interacting characteristics, strategies and skills: thinking and learning, motivation and engagement, and self-regulation and control. It is a conceptualisation of learning that is constructivist in nature. Good thinkers and learners, in my view,
Thinking and learning • seek depth of understanding and meaningfulness; • have strategies, skills, styles and attributes that enable the achievement of understanding and productive manipulation of ideas; • have a cultural and strategic knowledge base; • are conscious of and reflect on their own learning and thinking. Motivation and engagement • have learning goals, expectations and feelings that enhance involvement in and quality of thinking and learning. Self-regulation and control • determine, regulate and control their own behaviour in the service of learning. What does each of these qualities and characteristics entail? An explanation of each is outlined below.
Thinking and learning 1. Good thinkers and learners seek depth of understanding and meaningfulness Students who use a deep processing approach to learning tackle a task with the intention of developing an understanding of the underlying meaning and, in doing so, relate new ideas to their previous knowledge and experience, ask questions of the information, see connections and implications, integrate separate pieces of information, evaluate ideas and propositions, recode or transform earlier understandings, and thus derive meaning.
In contrast, a surface processing approach is simply reactive; it sees students trying to learn by memorisation or collection of factual information, and then providing a literal reproduction of that information. There is no discrimination among the pieces of information or facts. Facts are seen as disconnected or simply strung together, without meaningful connection, integration or perception of holistic structure. It is a limited and narrow approach to learning, directed towards fulfilling the demands imposed by others (for example, passing a test or completing specific task requirements), rather than meeting one’s own desire to interpret and make meaning of the world (Biggs, 1987; Entwistle, 1981; Marton & Säljö, 1997; Snow, Corno & Jackson 111, 1996).
A deep processing approach to learning is consistent with the kinds of complex thinking and learning that are advocated as critical for today’s students to develop. This is the approach that is regarded as significant for living successfully in the knowledge society. Higher order thinking, critical thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving and the capacity to use and manipulate information, to go beyond the information given and create new ideas and solutions rather than simply follow routines and rules, to impose structure on new situations, to see connections between apparently disparate pieces of information and link knowledge from different spheres, to seek and to find problems in need of solution, to apply knowledge in different ways and in different situations (Beyer, 1991; Lipman, 1991; Newmann, 1991, 1992; Perkins, 1990; Resnick, 1987) – these are some of the forms and qualities of thinking and learning encompassed by and consistent with the generic notion of deep
processing. These are also the forms and qualities that ideally would be characteristic of all thinking, whether the content be academic, personal or social. 2. Good thinkers and learners have strategies, skills, styles and attributes that enable the achievement of understanding and productive manipulation of ideas Strategies used by good thinkers and learners during learning are sets of procedures or techniques that help make the learning process efficient and successful (Schmeck, 1988a). Such strategies are legion, but can be grouped in various ways for descriptive purposes. These categories include: • task-specific strategies, such as reading strategies (eg., use of text features), communication strategies (eg., observing cues from listeners), and cooperative learning strategies (eg., negotiation); and • general goal-related strategies, such as recalling information (eg., repetition), elaborating information (eg., applying a principle to everyday experience), organising information (eg., creating a conceptual diagram to impose order on information), monitoring comprehension (eg., explaining to oneself or another), and managing affect (eg., self-talk to reduce anxiety) (King, 1997; Pressley, Borkowski & Schneider, 1987; Weinstein, 1988; Weinstein & Mayer, 1986; Wyatt et al., 1993). Expert strategy users combine strategies proficiently, often arriving at the point where they can execute strategy sequences automatically, thus freeing up their attention or memory capacity for more challenging aspects of a task (Munro, 1993; Pressley et al., 1987). Learners who have developed proficient use of strategies, for example in reading,
would be regarded as having developed reading ‘skills’ – a judgment of the quality of their strategy use (Kirby, 1988). There are strong links between strategy use and metacognition. Learners need knowledge about strategies and task requirements in order to judge when and where to use the strategies appropriately. Until automaticity develops, the choice of strategies is a conscious one. There are also links between strategy use and motivation. Learners need to know when success is attributable to appropriate strategy use and when failure is due, for example, to inappropriate use of time and effort, rather than to some other cause. Recognition that people have different cognitive styles (relatively stable, trait-like consistencies in the way they attend to, perceive and think about information) reminds us of the need to orient classroom experiences to the range of styles to be found there. Various types of cognitive style have been described, mostly in terms of the extreme ends of a continuum, such as global v analytic, field-dependent v fieldindependent, right-brained v left-brained, simultaneous processing v sequential processing, or impulsive v reflective (Schmeck, 1988b). Another type of stylistic framework used in classrooms in recent times is Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983, 1993). The best cognitive style for constructing meaning and achieving understanding is thought to be a ‘versatile style’ – in effect, the capacity to use a range of styles, selecting according to task needs (Pask, 1988). This suggests the need for classrooms not only to recognise individual students’ existing cognitive styles, but also to broaden their stylistic capacities and make their use of them more flexible.
Personal attributes or dispositions or ‘traits of mind’ (Paul, 1991:77) have also been seen as being characteristic of the good thinker and learner. Attributes or dispositions often mentioned are those of fairmindedness, openmindedness, intellectual curiosity, independence of mind, intellectual integrity and truth-seeking, cognitive self-awareness, empathy, responsibility and reflectiveness. The list of suggested desirable attributes is a long one. Some have argued that the range of specific attributes or dispositions could be combined into a single, generic disposition such as ‘thoughtfulness’ (Newmann, 1991). From the examples given, it is possible to see the overlap (or consistency) between such attributes or dispositions and other qualities or characteristics of good thinking/learning that are described here: deep processing, metacognition, cognitive styles, motivation and self-regulation. 3. Good thinkers and learners have a cultural and strategic knowledge base Rich domain knowledge is seen to be another attribute of the good thinker and learner. School subjects are seen as a reflection of the domains or disciplines of academic learning, those formalised bodies of abstracted, conceptual knowledge organised around core concepts or principles that have traditional recognition in society (Alexander, 1997). Experts in a field think, learn and solve problems differently from and more powerfully than novices (Pressley & McCormick, 1995). Experts perceive their domain in terms of large and meaningful patterns, broad principles, concepts and structures, rather than in terms of fragmented, unconnected pieces of information. They can thus represent problems at a deeper level and draw more significant
inferences from information. The knowledge base of experts is better ordered and more easily retrievable. Many of their strategies (domain procedural knowledge) have been so well practised that they have become automatised skills. Memory load is thus reduced and experts can process information more quickly and more accurately. Experts also have strong self-monitoring skills, so can evaluate and, if necessary, adapt approaches and performance. Once again the concepts of deep processing and the use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies are emphasised in the characteristics of good thinkers/learners. We do not expect students during their school years to arrive at the level of the expert in a domain. However, we do want them to move from being novices in the direction of expertise, through the development of greater, more coherent and more principled domain knowledge, increased individual interest and effort in the domain, and appropriate, efficient, effective and independent use of domain-specific and general learning and thinking strategies (Alexander, 1995, 1997). Part of that domain learning will be the development of understanding of principles and structures that are socially significant and value-laden in nature, such as the role of empathy in literature and the understanding of human beliefs and motivation revealed in historical events.
It is also important that students come to understand that knowledge is not fixed and immutable, but always in the process of formation and change – an understanding that is vital as the rate of knowledge change accelerates. A teaching approach that combines domain knowledge, structure, procedures and strategies helps students
to develop in this direction, though it needs to be allied with a simplification of the curriculum if such deep, complex learning is to take place (Shulman & Quinlan, 1996). The good thinker and learner, having constructed broad principles and ideas within particular domain boundaries, is also able to impose structure on, apply principles to and use appropriate strategies in the investigation and solution of real-world social and political problems that pay no heed to domain boundaries (Harpaz & Lefstein, 2000; Shulman & Quinlan, 1996). Students who are given the opportunity, within the social situation of the classroom and school, to develop their social reasoning capacities and construct their personal values and moral systems through such interpersonal interaction and reflection (Hill, 1991; Turiel, 1989), should be better able to approach the challenges and decisions in their own personal, social and community lives successfully. 4. Good thinkers and learners are conscious of and reflect on their own learning and thinking It is important for students to understand the nature of human learning and thinking. This includes, for example, the roles of ability and effort in learning, the interaction of cognition, emotion and motivation in the learning process, the variation in approaches needed for different types of task, the way memory works, and effective learning strategies. Knowledge about human learning and thinking in general, together with knowledge and awareness of their own individual learning and thinking behaviour, has been shown to enhance students’ learning processes and products (Baird & Northfield, 1992; Borkowski, Carr, Rellinger, & Pressley, 1990; Covington, 1998; Hacker, 1998; Paris
& Winograd, 1990). Students who understand themselves, their tasks and appropriate strategies to meet the nature and demands of these tasks, and who reflect on their progress and understanding as they undertake learning tasks, are in a strong position to regulate and manage their own thinking and learning successfully.
Motivation and engagement 5. Good thinkers and learners have learning goals and values, expectations and feelings that enhance involvement in and quality of thinking and learning The good thinker and learner has task (or mastery) goals; they want to meet the challenge of a new task, master it, increase their competence and knowledge, and satisfy their interest and curiosity. Those who favour performance (or ego) goals, in contrast, focus on the gaining of approval or recognition from others, outperforming others, and enhancing their own ego in the process. Students with task/mastery goals, as opposed to performance/ego goals, tend to seek more challenging tasks, make greater effort, persist more in the face of difficulty, use more effective learning strategies, and show higher achievement levels (Pintrich, 1989; Pintrich et al., 1993). Allied to the task goals that good thinker and learners have are their perceptions of the values they associate with tasks. High achievement values assigned to a task (due perhaps to the student’s intrinsic interest in the task, its importance to the student or its perceived usefulness as a means to achieving a goal) affect the quality of the student’s engagement in the task. This means greater energy is committed to it, more selective attention is given, higher quality thinking and use of strategies are involved, and more challenging tasks are
chosen (Ainley, 1993; Rathunde, 1993; Schiefele, 1992; Wigfield and Eccles, 2000). Students’ belief that success in schools is possible for them is one of the most important factors in learning (Wittrock, 1990). Such expectancy beliefs are essentially perceptions about the self. They form the foundation for students’ thinking and learning behaviour inside and beyond the classroom. Students’ expectations of success are high when they: • have a strong belief in their capacity to do what is necessary to succeed with school work (self-efficacy: Bandura, 1997); • believe that success is contingent on their own behaviour rather than being attributable to some external influence over which they have no control (Rueda & Dembo, 1995; Weiner, 1986); • have a firm sense of self-worth and do not feel the need to engage in counter-productive self-protective and failure-avoiding behaviours (Covington 1984, 1992); and • their level of achievement anxiety is not so high that it has a damaging effect on learning and performance (Covington, 1992).
Self-regulation and control 6. Good thinkers and learners determine, regulate and control their own behaviour in the service of learning Good thinkers/learners are self-regulated, that is they take an active part, metacognitively, motivationally and behaviourally, in their own learning process (Zimmerman, 1989a, 1989b). They initiate, direct and control their own learning behaviours. Self-regulated
learners use three basic, interdependent metacognitive processes during learning: • self-observation – deliberate, systematic attention to and monitoring of their on-going performance; • self-judgment – systematic comparison between actual performance and the goal to be achieved; and • self-reaction – adjustment of performance when a discrepancy is seen, together with self-administered praise or blame (Schunk, 1989; Zimmerman, 1989a). When a learning task is being undertaken, the capacity of the learner to maintain attention on and effort towards attainment of a selected goal, in spite of internal and external distractions and competing intentions (known as ‘volitional control’) is particularly important (Corno, 1994). Volitional control (or perhaps ‘will power’) helps students actually do what they plan, want, or intend to do. The capacity to monitor and regulate one’s social interactions (social self-regulation) is also seen as vital to socially competent behaviour (Patrick, 1997).
These are the outcome characteristics of learning and thinking that I believe should be highly valued for our students – my ‘vision for student learning’. Because the characteristics I have outlined integrate into a concept of the whole person as learner and thinker, it is not surprising to find recurring themes underlying them. These are: • depth of meaning, involving the development and change in understanding of relationships, patterns, structures, conceptualisations and mental models; • active processing, involving interpretation, making of decisions and choices, and control by the learner; and • awareness of and reflection on oneself and one’s behaviour as a learning person.
LOOKING THROUGH STUDENTS’ EYES: CURRENT CLASSROOM AND SCHOOL CHARACTERISTICS Student engagement Two broad and interacting dimensions of school and classroom experience have a critical impact on student engagement in or alienation from schooling and learning (Newman, Wehlage & Lamborn, 1992). The first concerns the quality of the school culture for students: whether students perceive their relationships with and treatment by teachers to be positive and supportive, and so feel a sense of belonging to and identification with the school. The second concerns the quality of the learning experiences provided for students: whether these are seen by students to be challenging, interesting, meaningful, appropriate and offering a sense of ownership. Commonly acknowledged indicators of student disengagement are school or class non-attendance and early school leaving, that is failure to complete secondary schooling (Batten & Russell, 1995; Brooks, Milne, Paterson, Johansson, & Hart, 1997), with consequential effects on the opportunity for and quality of student learning (Finn, 1989; Rothman, 2001). Many risk factors have been associated with school non-attendance and early leaving, including characteristics of the individual student, the family, the school and the society (Batten & Russell, 1995). However, many of those structural and individual factors lie beyond the power of the school to alter. In any case, student background factors are not necessarily the predominant influence. One analysis has concluded that such factors account for just under 40 percent of the variance in student absence rates (Rothman, 2001). On the other hand, schools can take the initiative and consider those important
and pervasive aspects of schooling that contribute to the problem and bring about change by responding responsibly and constructively (Finn, 1989; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986). Finn (1989) proposes two models for understanding disengagement and dropping out. Both view disengagement as a developmental process arising from students’ negative experiences of schooling and possibly beginning in the earliest grades. The first is the familiar frustration-self-esteem model: poor school performance, resulting from an inadequate learning and/or supportive school environment, is thought to lead to lowered self-esteem and thence to withdrawal from positive involvement with schooling. An alternative model, the participationidentification model, highlights a different set of dimensions, ones that stimulate students’ active participation in school and classroom activities, together with an associated feeling of identification with the school. Students’ feelings of attachment or connectedness to the school have been demonstrated elsewhere to be protective against risk of underachievement, early leaving and maladaptive social behaviour (Resnick, Bearman, Blum, Bauman, Harris, Jones, Tabor, Beuhring, Sieving, Shew, Ireland, Bearinger, & Udry, 1997). The nature of the school and classroom culture are important in this regard. Particularly important are: • friendly, informal, respectful, fair, flexible, cooperative and caring relationships with and individual interest in students;
• student involvement in decisionmaking and self-determination; • organisational policies and practices that embody these characteristics; and • curriculum, teaching-learning practices and assessment procedures that are authentic, meaningful, participative, individually-focused and challenging (Batten & Russell, 1995; Corville-Smith, Ryan, Adams, & Dalicandro, 1998; Finn, 1989; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986; Newmann, 1992). Although the analysis and understanding of non-attendance and early leaving data are generally acknowledged to be marred by problems of variation in definition, modes and reliability of data collection, and lack of availability of comprehensive statistics (Ainley & Lonsdale, 2000; Milner & Blyth, 1999; Rothman, 2001), there is nevertheless sufficient information to indicate the need for concern. The Department of Education, Employment and Training, Victoria (1999), in advising schools about issues of non-attendance, has noted that, as a rule of thumb, a school average of 12 days absence per student per year is one that requires investigation and action. Analyses of Australian data for government schools (information from other schools is generally not available) have shown that: • the estimated mean number of days absent per student in five state systems is approximately 14 per year (Ainley & Lonsdale, 2000); • the average number of days absent rises markedly in secondary schools (Years 7 to 11) in a five-state analysis (Ainley & Lonsdale, 2000) and in a Page
Victorian analysis in Years 7 to 10, with a peak of 18.18 days in Year 9 in 1997 (Department of Education, Employment and Training, Victoria, 1999); • there is a worrying proportion of students with a high number of days absence per year (Ainley & Lonsdale, 2000; Department of Education, Employment and Training, Victoria, 1999; South Australia, Department of Education, Training and Employment, 1999); • an increase in mean absence rate in the years 1993 to 1998 has been recorded (Ainley & Lonsdale, 2000); • there is an increasing percentage of young people not participating in schooling, especially between the ages of 12 to 14, that is below the official school leaving age (Ainley & Lonsdale, 2000); and • a declining Australian apparent retention rate to the end of secondary schooling has been recorded in the years 1992 (77.1%) to 1998 (71.6%) (Australian Education Council, 1993; Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2000). There is sufficient indication in these data of the need for improvement in the schooling experiences of young Australians. How do our students perceive their school and learning experiences? Do they have positive perceptions of their school culture and relationships? Are their learning experiences ones that engage them, enabling them to develop the qualities and characteristics of learning that they find stimulating and we regard as highly valued?
School culture: teacher-student relationships and a sense of belonging Teacher-student relationships are fundamental to student learning. As indicated earlier, previous research has shown that young people respond positively when teachers treat them as individuals and relate to them in friendly, informal, supportive and fair ways. From a study of secondary students’ perceptions of the quality of their school life, Batten and Girling-Butcher (1981) concluded that the influence of teachers on students’ experience was powerful and pervasive … In our study the nature of the teacherstudent relationship remained the most constant factor in determining the quality of school life for students, even when the philosophy and operation of the schools in question were quite different… (Batten & Girling-Butcher, 1981:65–66)
Students who are accorded respect, regarded as responsible in decision-making and behaviour, and who feel their views are listened to and heard by teachers, are more likely to experience a sense of well-being at school, interact positively with peers and adults, remain engaged in learning and complete their schooling (Batten & Russell, 1995; Withers & Russell, 2001). It is much harder for students to learn, both academically and socially, when relationships are negative and unsupportive, and when students do not feel valued as individuals. While many young people have positive experiences of school culture and relationships with teachers, there is evidence that indicates clearly the need
for improvement. In a national sample survey of schools and students in Years 5 and 10, Ainley and his colleagues (Ainley et al., 1998) obtained evidence of the perceptions of some 8,000 students from 350 schools across Australia. Student perceptions of their school environment were measured on a scale that tapped their views of their treatment by teachers, of school rules, of practices within the school and of the extent to which they see the environment to be enjoyable, stimulating and supportive. Statistically significant differences were found between the perceptions of Year 5 and Year 10 students on this scale, with Year 10 students’ perceptions being markedly less positive. The least positive perception of Year 10 students related to the item “I am made to feel important.”, an item that could be interpreted as indicating the extent to which students felt treated and valued as individuals. Fewer than 40 per cent of Year 10 students agreed (rating 4 or 5) with this item. The level of agreement at the Year 5 level was also very low in comparison to the Year 5 agreement levels for other items. Girls rated their school environments significantly more positively than did boys, a consistent finding in a wide range of studies (Ainley, 1995). While both girls and boys had much less positive perceptions in Year 10 than Year 5, the gap between their perceptions increased between these two year levels. Furthermore, based on student ratings, schools differed noticeably from one another, as they have in previous studies (Ainley, 1995). Some 11 per cent of the variance in school environment perceptions at Year 5 and 12.2 per cent at Year 10 were attributable to differences Page
The things I learn will help me in the future Rules are made clear Teachers challenge us to develop new skills I learn to get along with other people School rules are fair and just Students have responsible positions in the school Teachers are friendly and helpful I feel safe and secure Community and social service is encouraged I enjoy learning I feel happy and interested I am made to feel important
Year 5 Year 10
Other people listen to what I say in class 0
% mostly or almost always agree
Figure 2 Student responses to school environment items [from Ainley et al., 1998: 123]
between schools. Students’ perceptions of the environment were found to influence the level of their engagement in social concerns – the social outcomes of schooling identified as relating to others, concern with community well-being, the importance of rules and conventions, interest in learning, self-confidence and optimism for the future.
Consistent with the concept of a relationship between students’ perception of their school culture and their engagement, students who indicated that they planned to leave school before completion, whether in Year 5 or Year 9, had significantly less positive perceptions of their school environment than did those planning to remain. Thus disengagement from
5 4 Mean rating
Attitudes to school
3 2 01
Y5 Y6 Y7 Y8 Y9 Year levels
Figure 3 Mean student ratings by year level on the attitude to school scale (Middle Years Research and Development Project: n=32,210)
schooling was seen to be associated with disengagement from social concerns (Ainley, 2000). Current evidence of student perceptions of teacher-student relationships and students’ sense of belonging in schools is also available from the Middle Years Research and Development Project (MYRAD). Data from the MYRAD project, presented earlier in this paper, demonstrate students’ perceptions of some specific qualities of teacherstudent interactions – teacher friendliness, absence of put-downs, respect, and personal interest. The Attitude to School scale, based on items concerning students’ perceptions of such teacher-student relationships, their sense of connectedness to school and their enjoyment of school, produced less positive student perceptions at each year level from Year 5 to Year 9, with a mean rating in Year 9 of 3.1, just above the 2
midpoint point of the scale (see Figure 3).2 Girls’ perceptions were significantly more positive than those of boys at each year level, though in this study the gender gap diminishes in later years. The lowest rated item (“My teachers take a personal interest in me.”) is an important one in terms both of student perceptions of relationships and teachers’ knowledge and understanding of the individual learning needs of the student – their beliefs, motivation, styles, goals, apprehensions, and so on. Even in Years 5 and 6, where perceptions are usually positive, students do not feel strongly that their teachers show individualised interest in them, as can be seen from their mean ratings for this item of 3.6 and 3.5 respectively. In secondary schools, the ratings are considerably lower, especially in Years 8 and 9, where mean ratings drop below the midpoint of the scale to 2.8 and 2.6 respectively (Russell, 2000).
These findings have been derived from data analysis undertaken by the author as part of the MYRAD Project and have not been presented previously in published form.
What are the teacher attitudes and behaviours that contribute to the formation of these student perceptions? Secondary teachers in particular, quite rightly, point to the large number of students they teach each week, often for very short periods of time. How can teachers show individualised interest in students and get to know the learning needs of say two hundred different students, especially when they see them for brief periods of time, perhaps only two or three times a week? Schools need strategies to overcome this problem.
School learning: opportunities to develop deep, self-regulated learning There is evidence of room for improvement in the level of student interest in learning and their enjoyment of it. The Victorian Quality Schools Project, a longitudinal study of school and teacher effectiveness, provided data from approximately 14,000 students in 90 Victorian government, independent and Catholic primary and secondary schools. Student enjoyment of school and school work, which began in the preparatory year at an extremely high level, declined as schooling progressed, but particularly toward the end of primary school through to Year 10 (Hill & Russell, 1999). In the secondary years, mean scale scores were only a little above the midpoint of the scale. Boys’ perceptions were consistently and significantly more negative than girls’ perceptions; tentative signs of improvement in boys’ attitudes were not found until about twelve months later than for girls.
Positive attitudes to school life and school environment have been found to be associated with a deep approach to learning (Ainley & Sheret, 1992; Watkins & Hattie, 1990), one of the underlying
themes to be found in the highly valued characteristics of thinking and learning outlined earlier in this paper. To what extent do students see our schools to be providing them with the opportunity and support to develop those qualities and characteristics of learning and thinking that are needed in the knowledge society? Results from the MYRAD Project (Russell, 2000) show the following. • Only 56 per cent of primary and 34 per cent of secondary students feel they have “time to really explore and understand new ideas”. Having time to think is positively associated for students with feeling motivated to learn, having a deep approach to learning and the perception that their teachers are showing them how to go about learning. Teachers also perceive that the opportunity to engage students in in-depth learning for extended periods of time is lacking. • Although 64 per cent of Year 5 and 6 students felt that their teachers let them have some say in what they do in class, only 34 per cent of Years 7, 8 and 9 students agree. Selfdetermination and the opportunity to make learning decisions are regarded as critical to engagement in learning and the development of self-regulation (Graham & Harris, 1997; Zimmerman, 1994, 1995, 1998). • Secondary students’ perceptions of teacher emphasis on thinking and learning strategies, especially their ratings of the item “My teachers show me how to be a better learner.” (mean rating = 3.27) are not strongly positive. The more students believe their teachers to be emphasising these strategies, the more strongly they focus on a deep approach to learning,
the more motivated they are, and the more they feel in control of their own learning. • Although at each year level, students are positive in their perception that their teachers and school value meaningful understanding and effort in student learning, there is a stronger perception at each secondary year level that teachers pay most attention to the smart students and schools care more about the clever students than the others. In Year 9 approximately one third of students agree that teachers and schools were ability-focused. The stronger students’ perception of an ability focus, the less they value a deep approach to learning, the less they feel in control of their own learning, and the less point they see in trying if they do not consider themselves to be good at school work.
The challenge Student perceptions of their school culture (teacher-student relationships and students’ sense of belonging) and their school learning (provision for the development of deep, self-regulated learning) support the evidence from school non-attendance and early leaving data that there is a need to improve student engagement in learning. What role do school leaders play in improving student engagement and enabling high quality student learning outcomes to be achieved? Significant differences in student perceptions between schools suggest that there are useful approaches to be identified.
ENHANCING TEACHERS’ EFFICACY AND CLASSROOM PRACTICES Teacher and classroom effects on learning For improvement to take place it is necessary to focus on what happens within the classroom – on teacher-student relationships and teaching-learning practices. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that classroom effects on student learning are strong and much greater than school level effects (Scheerens & Bosker, 1997). For example, in the Victorian Quality Research Project, teacher-classroom effects were quite marked (Hill, Rowe, Holmes-Smith & Russell, 1996), as can be seen in Table 1.
Student progress (adjusted for grade level and prior achievement) Primary Literacy Secondary Literacy Primary Maths Secondary Maths
Within students % 46.0 54.9 41.8 38.8
the teacher is the ultimate key to educational change and school improvement”. The implication is clear. We need to look within the classroom if we wish to improve student learning.
Reconceptualising teaching and learning
The messages that teachers hear when they see how students perceive their classroom and school experiences have considerable impact. Most teachers are seriously concerned, some are hurt and others angry. Similarly, when teachers are faced with developing a fundamental reconceptualisation of learning and teaching, there will be different reactions. Some will be Between Between stimulated by the ideas classes schools and the challenge. At % % the other extreme 45.4 8.6 there will be those who will reject any 37.8 7.3 such notion of change 53.6 4.6 out of hand. Almost all 52.8 8.4 will feel some degree of vulnerability. A fundamental change in the conceptualisation of the teaching and learning process will de-skill teachers. It will cause them to feel uncertain, disconcertingly projecting them back in time to the status of novices (Blagg, 1991). This is a major challenge for teachers to confront whilst they continue to fulfill the demanding day-to-day role of full-time teaching.
Table 1 Proportion of variation in student progress accounted for by three factors (Hill, Rowe, Holmes-Smith & Russell, 1996)
The proportion of variation in student progress in literacy and mathematics accounted for at the class/teacher level is very much larger than that accounted for at the school level. The quality of the teacher in interaction with the students in the class is the most powerful of the components in the learning process over which the school has control. As Hargreaves (1992: ix) has indicated, “…we have come to realise in recent years that
Nor is the reconceptualisation of teaching and learning an easy process that can be completed in a short time.
Just as students require time to explore, interpret and understand new concepts in order to construct their own meaning, so too do adults need to engage in a deep processing, constructive approach if they are to develop a changed and expert understanding of teaching and learning. In contrast to the superficial, disconnected, inflexible and unreflective knowledge of the novice, the deep knowledge of expert teachers is characterised by: • sophisticated, coherent, underlying structures, representations, or mental models that organise and relate knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning; and because of this • greater capacity to take in, monitor, encode and recall complex sets of events, and to analyse, interpret and make inferences about what is or ought to be happening • greater speed in understanding new events and greater flexibility in responding to the unexpected by making adjustments, improvising, predicting and using errors productively • greater reflectiveness, resulting in the constant modification and upgrading of mental models (Pressley & McCormick, 1995) If we want teachers to develop new meanings regarding teaching and learning, and for those new meanings to be shared ones, then clearly a long and challenging process lies ahead. Leat (1999) has pointed out that, although teachers feel they have experienced a time of intense and continuing change in recent years, classroom researchers from different countries (England, Sweden, Italy and USA) have found little evidence
of change within the classroom. Teaching is still seen to be essentially a process of telling (Dimmock, 1995; Leat, 1999). In his attempt to understand why much difficulty has been experienced in trying to implement thinking skills programs and a constructivist approach to teaching, Leat (1999) argues that several factors impede fundamental change. • Socialisation School staff, school practices, and teacher talk all define what is regarded as normal professional practice. Those trying to initiate change can be dragged down by these prevailing professional socialisation influences in the school. Students have also been socialised into ways of working in schools and resist change, especially when it places new and complex demands on them. • Craft knowledge and expert-novice status New approaches to learning and teaching place difficult demands on teachers, who have expertise in existing approaches. Teachers find it unpleasant to resume amateur or apprenticeship status or to experience a sense of failure when students find difficulty in understanding the new demands placed on them. • Pedagogical content knowledge Teachers encounter difficulty in redefining the balance between the content demands of the subject area (especially where this is the basis for assessment and accountability) and the new process demands for developing knowledge through use of a constructivist approach, a longer term and more general goal of learning. Page
• Images of teaching The mental models or images of teaching that teachers have are deeply held, having been developed initially through their own experiences as students, and are resistant to change. • Teaching and the emotions The whole process of change is highly emotionally charged for teachers. Given that fundamental change implies a shift in professional identity, it is not surprising that turmoil is involved. Nor is it surprising that some are more open to change than others and more able to tolerate the turmoil and ambiguity involved. It is desirable that teachers have the opportunity, in a supportive environment, to build on their existing expertise and craft knowledge. Craft knowledge is a concept akin to the expert-novice dimension. It has been defined by Brown and McIntyre (1993) as: that part of their professional knowledge which teachers acquire primarily through their practical experience in the classroom rather than their formal training, which guides their day-to-day actions in classrooms, which is for the most part not articulated in words and which is brought to bear spontaneously, routinely and sometimes unconsciously on their teaching. (Brown & McIntyre, 1993:17)
On the basis of studies of teachers’ craft knowledge, Batten and Marland (1993) note the way in which teachers’ craft knowledge is enhanced when they: • work with one another within their own school; Page
• build on strengths in actual classroom practice; • relate the process to day-to-day concerns in the classroom; • create the chance for themselves to reflect on and articulate their evolving personal repertoire; • break down the isolation of the classroom by enabling them to observe and discuss one another’s craft knowledge in action. School-wide, collaborative classroombased professional development assists in the redevelopment of expertise and craft knowledge, when fundamental change to a shared conceptualisation of learning is being initiated.
Teachers’ sense of efficacy and its relation to classroom practices One of the teacher variables that has an important impact on student learning, according to the research literature, is the teacher’s sense of personal teaching efficacy: “the teacher’s situation-specific expectation that they can help students learn” (Ashton & Webb, 1986:3). The expectation that they can make a difference is based on a belief about whether their students are capable of learning what is being taught (hence the importance of a belief that all children are capable of learning), and it influences all aspects of teachers’ approaches both inside and outside the classroom: • their thoughts and feelings about students, teaching, and themselves as teachers; • their level of expectations of students; • their relationships and interactions with students; • their choice of teaching practices;
• the amount of time, effort and commitment to teaching;
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