Series Editor: Suzanne Mellor – Senior Research Fellow, Educational Monitoring and Research Division, ACER.
The series is freely available to download from the ACER Online Shop. The ACER Online Shop also provides a wide variety of research-based resources, assessments and publications with the mission to improve learning outcomes.
Each edition of the AER is also available as a free download from the page for that edition.
Copies of earlier issues are available in ACER's Cunningham Library. See the Library Catalogue for the full list of titles in the AER series.
The Case for Urgency: Advocating for Indigenous voice in education
Kevin P. Gillan, Suzanne Mellor, and Jacynta Krakouer
In 2004 the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) published an Australian Education Review (AER) on Indigenous Education: The Case for Change: A review of contemporary research on Indigenous education outcomes, AER 47 (Mellor & Corrigan, 2004). In the 13 years since its publication, the state of Indigenous education outcomes has remained substantially unaltered. All the social indicators demonstrate that Australia’s First Nations people continue to be the most socio-economically disadvantaged population cohort in Australian society. This is after decades of continued policy efforts by successive Commonwealth, state and territory governments to ameliorate Indigenous education disadvantage. We still struggle with understanding how best to get Indigenous children to go to school, keep them in school, help them finish school and then go on to future education or employment. Despite the seemingly elementary nature of the problem, policy practitioners will be all too familiar with the complex nature of Indigenous education in Australia. Consequently, addressing Indigenous educational disadvantage attracts a multitude of solutions that manifest themselves as ever-changing policy approaches, often underpinned by ideology. The authors of this review paper argue that no one solution will remedy Indigenous social or educational disadvantage, but neither will policies premised on ideological views.
Building quality in teaching and teacher education
Nan Bahr and Suzanne Mellor
AER 61 discusses the contemporary influences on initial teacher education, with particular attention to the notion of quality teaching, and the role of teacher education and teacher educators in the development of quality teachers. Section 1 introduces the key concept of ‘quality’ and explores the notion of quality in teaching. Section 2 reviews the context of education in Australia with discussion of the organisation and management of the educational systems, with particular attention to the different roles Federal and State/Territory governments play. Section 3 considers teaching as a profession by examining the nature of teachers’ work, working contexts and demands, and the variations or regularities that exist. The section reviews the characteristics of quality teachers versus those that are demonstrably competent. Section 4 discusses teacher education and the development of quality teachers and teaching with comment on program accreditation processes and the capacity for differentiating between basic teacher competence and quality. The role of the teacher educator is argued as being key to the development of truly quality teachers. Section 5 examines what it takes to be a quality teacher, what the personal attributes might be and how these extend from the competency framework for effective teaching. We challenge the notion that important personal quality attributes are appropriately accounted for in the current selection regimes for entry to teacher education and in the processes of accreditation. Additionally, the authors argue, it is the role of initial teacher education to target and develop these quality attributes.
Imperatives in Schools Funding: Equity, sustainability and achievement
Lyndsay Connors and Jim McMorrow
AER 60 takes the 2011 Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling as a vantage point, from which to consider the national funding of schools in Australia, past and future.
Section 1 outlines the educational values and perspectives that have underpinned school funding policies and programs and describes major themes in the evolution of schools funding – quality, equity and choice – providing a general guide for subsequent analyses. Section 2 provides a policy history of schools funding 1964 – 2011, during which time the Commonwealth government emerged as a significant funding partner. It analyses the political forces and recurring themes, policy issues and tensions that have affected the distribution of resources within and between the school sectors – providing context for an examination of the Gonski Review. Section 3 concerns the Gonski Panel’s Report: a substantial summary and analysis of its findings and recommendations, and stakeholder responses to it. The distinctive nature and characteristics of schools funding policy in Australia are then analysed in Section 4, in the light of the Gonski Report’s recommendations. The authors argue that cumulative political compromises have left Australia with a hybrid school system which is inequitable and unsuited to Australia’s changing social and economic circumstances. The review paper makes the case for a new schools funding architecture to be developed in the context of the federal system. The authors urge that it should be one with clear priorities in regard to a greater coherence between the provision of public funding and the achievement of educational goals for all children.
Reforming Educational Assessment: Imperatives, principles and challenges
Geoff N. Masters
AER 57 reviews research into assessment, especially in schools; it analyses the pivotal role of assessment in learning and argues for its reconceptualisation by practitioners and policy makers to better support learning. The genesis of this AER was the ACER Research Conference Assessment and Student Learning: Collecting, interpreting and using data to inform teaching, held in Perth in August 2009.
Section 1 outlines some current pressures for assessment reform, introduces the concept of a learning assessment system designed to establish where learners are in their progress within an empirically mapped domain of learning, and sketches a set of design principles for such a system. Section 2 considers pressures for assessment reform in greater detail and the implications of these pressures for educational assessment practice. It is observed that traditional assessment methods are often not well aligned with current understandings of learning, and are of limited value for assessing deep understandings, life skills that develop only over extended periods of time, or more personalised and flexible forms of learning. Section 3 analyses and illustrates five design principles for an effective Learning Assessment System. Section 4 considers some practical challenges to the implementation of this kind of Learning Assessment System, including: the changing of widely held perceptions about educational assessment; the development of deep understandings of how learning occurs within specific learning domains; the promotion of more coherent systems of assessment across a range of educational contexts; and the promotion of higher levels of assessment literacy across the profession.
The Arts and Australian education: Realising potential
AER 58 surveys the international and national research on the role and effect of arts-rich programming in schools and in the broader community, and examines the policies and practices that inhibit or support these initiatives. It puts the case that embedding the Arts in learning would be a powerful catalyst for educational and social reform in Australia, since arts-rich experiences can benefit students academically and socially, revitalise school curricula and foster the development of much needed creativity and imaginative thinking. Section 1 discusses and defines ‘the Arts’ collectively, as a way of knowing and learning – embodying play, inquiry, experimentation, creation, provocation and aesthetics – and provides vignettes which illustrate these elements. Section 2 reviews the growing research evidence about the impact of the Arts on learning, and the meaning and importance of ‘quality’ in arts education, and urges a more systematic and evaluative approach be undertaken in arts research. Section 3 uses project exemplars to argue the Arts provide a critical, quality pedagogy, one which leads to relevant and flexible education, enabling students to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Section 4 considers several community arts education initiatives in which arts-based programs are currently being utilised as a catalyst for social transformation and discusses policy implications associated with realising the potential of the Arts in Australian education, especially with the impending national curriculum.
Teaching Mathematics: Using research-informed strategies
AER 59 reviews research into aspects of mathematics teaching, focusing on issues relevant to Australian mathematics teachers, to those who support them, and also to those who make policy decisions about mathematics teaching. It was motivated by and draws on the proceedings of the well-attended and highly successful ACER Research Conference Teaching mathematics? Make it count: What research tells us about effective mathematics teaching and learning, held in Melbourne in August 2010.
Section 2 describes the goals of teaching mathematics and argues that a practical orientation should be the focus of mathematics teaching in the compulsory years, and outlines the contribution numeracy-based perspectives can make to schooling. Section 3 uses assessment data to evaluate how well those goals are being met in Australia and introduces the challenge of seeking equity of opportunity in mathematics teaching and learning. Section 4 expands on the importance, to individuals and society, of achieving the mathematics goals; and Section 5 discusses six research-based principles of mathematics teaching. Section 6 argues for the importance of well-chosen mathematical tasks in supporting student learning, and models tasks and particular teaching strategies. Sections 7 and 8 analyse research which provides insights into a key issue facing Australian mathematics teachers, that of finding ways to address the needs of heterogeneous groups of students. Section 9 describes and recommends particular emphases and strategies for education programs for both prospective and practising teachers.
Building Innovation : Learning with technologies
AER 56 explores national and international policy priorities for building students' innovation capabilities through information and communication technologies (ICT) in Australian schools. Section 1 sets out the Australian policy context for digital education and highlights some of the emerging challenges. It provides an overview of two Australian school education policy priorities: that of how to meaningfully include technologies into teaching and learning; and how to build innovation capabilities in students. Section 2 critically examines the education and economic policy contexts for digital education in Australia, their intersections with international economic priorities, and the role of commercial technologies markets in schools. Section 3 discusses those Australian education policy priorities that focus on how students build both their discipline-based knowledge and general capabilities, such as creativity and innovation, using technologies. Section 4 provides some insights into how students currently use technologies for learning and communicating with each other inside and outside of school, and reflects upon what are the implications of these practices for students and policy implementation in schools. In Section 5 the discussion focuses on the physical and human characteristics required by all stakeholders to enable learning with technologies in 21st century schools. Section 6 challenges existing policy approaches to technology-use in schools, and argues for more open approaches to the deployment and use of technologies and digital resources in schools.
Second Languages and Australian Schooling
Joseph Lo Bianco
It is an underlying principle of AER 54 that active efforts should be made to cultivate the latent bilingual potential within Australia’s wider population and that this should be linked to major improvements in the quality of language teaching in schools. A combined approach of this kind will require investment in specialised preparation for language teachers, more time allocated to second language teaching in schools, and coordination of effort across school and post-schooling sectors. Section 1 describes the critical distinction between niche learning and mass learning of languages, and the current distribution of language competence throughout Australian society. The role of languages throughout the world is discussed, including the problem of the dominance of English. Section 2 traces the major ideologies and key social interests and voices that influenced thinking and policy making in languages education in Australia. Section 3 analyses the dynamic forces which contribute to the choice of languages provided in Australia and examines the research on how to teach and learn languages, including immersion education. Section 4 describes the Australian patterns of planning, implementation and provision of language education. Section 5 proposes several ways forward, but the focus is on improving quality of offerings, enhancing teacher education, encouraging student persistence and building a culture that expects high levels of achievement.
Touching the Future : Building skills for life and work
AER 55 explores the goals of Australian education and of how schools should prepare young people for work and life. Section 1 provides an overview, discussing the nature of broad social and economic changes over the last 20 years, and their implications for the goals of Australian education systems today and for the future, and for what young people need to learn and why. Section 2 critically explores the assumptions which dominate current educational policies about the alignment of schooling with economic goals and work. Section 3 provides an analysis of the policy for social inclusion: the framing of educational goals that are oriented towards civic education, life skills and well-being. Developing curricula that equip young Australians for life involves confronting difficult questions about what kind of society Australia is now and should be in the future. Section 4 considers the nature of school knowledge and questions the learning outcomes traditionally measured. It argues that chronic inequalities experienced by some groups are the result of educational debts, accrued over time, through practices of social exclusion. National and international research indicates that addressing these inequalities will require different resourcing models and new teaching and learning approaches. Section 5 concludes that to prepare young Australians for the future, their education should be holistic and flexible, and encompass a commitment to learning for both work and life. In their ‘education for the future’ young people should be provided with opportunities to engage in learning that has meaning to them and in which they can exercise active participation and decision making.
The Leadership Challenge : Improving learning in schools
AER 53 elaborates on issues raised by the ACER Research Conference 2007: The Leadership Challenge - Improving learning in schools. This conference was significant in that it identified leadership as an area of interest to school leaders requiring explicit policy development at both a school and system level.This review aims to demonstrate that a great deal of a school's success depends on which areas of school life the educational leader chooses to spend time and attention. Section 1 describes the three interrelated, or nested, elements of leadership. Beginning from the outside and moving inward to the core these are: school context, school organisation, and the school leader. Section 2 focuses on the school context, with reference to the forces that are currently pressing on schools, and the implications these have for schools and their leaders. Section 3 examines school organisations and looks at evolving models such as communities of professional learners. Section 4 concentrates on the school leader, questioning whether one type of leader fits all and what it means to be a successful leader. It also examines issues of leader recruitment and retention; leadership in pre-retirement, or small schools, or high-poverty communities; leader autonomy and responsibility; and new shared models of leadership. Section 5 provides a range of recommendations and the challenge to school leaders that they move beyond mere technical competence and be contextually literate, organisationally savvy and leadership smart.
Literacy Education in School : Research perspectives from the past, for the future
AER 52 aims to expand our understanding of the nature of literacy at a time when public and private lives have become increasingly literacy-dependent, and literacy demands more complex and sophisticated. This review of the research literature is guided by the view that what passes for effective literacy education will differ depending on language, culture, history and the technologies of communication and knowledge production. Section 1 describes the large body of research relating to the teaching and learning of literacy that emerges from a wide range of discipline bases. It details the complexities associated with defining literacy, and it outlines the scope of this review. Section 2 explores the differing versions of literacy education that have been constructed for study by researchers from different disciplines, in the context of a brief historical exploration of the role of literacy as a force for social and cultural coherence. Section 3 presents a summary of current research into how educators have taught young people to crack the codes of literacy in school settings. Section 4 suggests principles and topics for further research in literacy education, based on both the research reviewed in earlier sections, and a discussion of the kinds of research needed to advance literacy teaching and learning in coherent and actionable ways, and in real educational sites.
Re-imagining Science Education : Engaging students in science for Australia's future
AER 50 calls for major curriculum reform, arguing that the time has passed for tinkering around the edges of a science curriculum that belongs to the past. Using research presented at ACER's Research Conference 2006, Boosting Science Learning - what will it take? as a base for a broad and intense review of the literature, the review calls for a 're-imagined' science education that is focused not only on preparing future scientists, but also on engaging all young people in science.
Early Childhood Education : Pathways to quality and equity for all children
AER 50 calls for a coherent, long-term national action plan and timeline to develop and implement an integrated, well-funded, regulated and managed system of early childhood education and care with clear goals, priorities and outcomes. The review describes the current provision of early childhood services in Australia and examines relevant policy. It also provides an overview of the early childhood education research, in Australia and internationally, and uses this body of work to identify and illuminate the central issues.
Using Data to Support Learning in Schools : Students, teachers, systems
AER 49 examines the issues raised by the ACER Research Conference 2005: Using Data to Support Learning. It analyses the conference papers, distils the essence of the conference 'conversations', and contextualises them in the light of a survey of the broader Australian and international literature on using data to support learning. Section 1 sets the context by providing definitions and an organisational framework. Section 2 discusses some purposes for collecting and analysing educational data, and considers the role of data in professional work. It addresses issues associated with identifying potential data sources, including consideration of the decision-making required to locate appropriate data. Section 3 records what the research says about how data can be used to support learning, and notes recurring themes. The identified themes revolve around the role of data in the interrelationships built by schools and the system; teachers, classrooms and schools; and teachers and students. Section 4 identifies and comments on four apparent dichotomies in our current discussions about data and evidence, and suggests some alternatives for operating more effectively. In conclusion, Section 5 sets out implications for policy and practice of the methodological, strategic and ethical aspects of the issues discussed in earlier sections.
Balancing Approaches : Revisiting the educational psychology research on teaching students with learning difficulties
Louise A. Ellis
In most Australian schools, there are significant numbers of students who are failing to learn effectively. They underachieve in all or some of the basic skill areas of the curriculum. Concerns regarding the most appropriate methods with which to address the needs of these students remain widespread amongst teachers. This book examines the findings from local and international evidence-based research, with particular reference to meta-analyses deriving largely from the fields of educational psychology. The author identifies and illustrates methods that are effective for a wide range of students in mainstream classrooms, but which are especially powerful for students with learning difficulties.
The Case for Change : A review of contemporary research on Indigenous education outcomes
Suzanne Mellor and Matthew Corrigan
AER 47 examines the research evidence underpinning current government policy developed over the last two decades in an attempt to improve the educational outcomes of indigenous students. It reviews and analyses existing educational research into the precursors and concomitant factors that contribute to educational achievement for students generally and for indigenous students in particular. It argues that current policy is insufficiently underpinned by substantive research, and that changes should be made, both to research methodology and to policy content.