The current issue of this journal illustrates the diversity of research interests in the educational community and the importance of the journal as an agent for dissemination of such research. All of these articles deserve to be read widely in the educational community and to be used as a basis for further discussion and inquiry. They present valuable ideas both for educational practice and for educational research.
The articles span all levels of education - primary, secondary and tertiary - covering language education, learning to write, itinerant music teachers, girls studying mathematics and science, and the problems of the beginning university students. They also represent several kinds of educational inquiry - document analysis, action research, surveys, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and issues analysis.
Doig, Wyatt-Smith, Cumming and Ryan in their article provide an extensive and detailed analysis of the way in which language has been conceptualised within the official policies and syllabus documents of the Queensland Senior curriculum. They trace the historical origins and development of thinking about language across the curriculum as well as the differences in style and emphasis now found in the language statements in different subjects. They show that the mandated requirement for inclusion of a statement on language education in all Senior syllabuses has been a critical factor in directing attention to language issues in all subjects. The initial Language Education Statement of 1989 has evolved from a standard generic statement with a focus on spelling and grammar into a broader perspective which encompasses the need to consider the particular role of language within each subject. Some of the differences in language statements among subjects reflect important differences the role of language in different contexts although some are more carefully considered than others. One implication is that considerable progress has been made in encouraging widespread recognition of the role of language and communication in learning settings although there is need for further evolution. Another implication concerns the process of reform and change within education. A simple mandatory requirement which encourages consideration and debate on an important issue can have profound consequences in the long term if it is allowed to evolve over time through the participatory involvement of teachers.
Howden's article is interesting because it reports the implementation of an action research approach to improving educational practice. In this case the author/principal acted as 'facilitator' for the teacher/researcher. The focus was improvement of writing in a Year 6 classroom but the processes could be implemented in any setting. The article captures the processes of the action research from initial considerations and planning through the various stages of the action research cycle. Of particular importance in this case was resolution of the role ambiguity of the facilitator/principal, accomplished by a process of staged transferral of responsibility from facilitator/principal to the teacher/researcher. The action research approach used in this case is well known. The advantage of the article is that it illustrates and critiques the approach. It is to be hoped that it inspires others to implement action research to improve their own educational practice.
Roulston reports a pilot study of the work of itinerant primary school music teachers in Queensland. She used semi-structured interviews of a sample of itinerant music teachers and a statewide survey of such teachers. Itinerancy is shown to have positive features such as 'variety' and 'relief' but also to increase the pressures on workload and performance. This is a seminal study which suggests a need for further enquiry into the characteristics of the work of itinerant teachers, including those teaching LOTE, ESL and physical education.
Walkington focusses on why girls make their choices of subjects in the final two years of secondary education, especially with respect to mathematics and science subjects and with respect to pathways to tertiary studies in science and engineering. This topic has been with us for a long time. Despite modest increases in the numbers of girls in science and engineering, under-representation remains. Also, despite many studies exploring the reasons for this, there is much still to learn and new social circumstances to incorporate. The girls in this study did not emphasise gender roles; rather, perceptions of their own ability and interests as well as of tertiary studies and career opportunities were dominant. The teacher is identified as a powerful agent in shaping these perceptions. This points to the need to provide more extensive support for course and career planning within schools and also to design teaching and assessment which enhance the self-confidence of girls in mathematics and science. The implication is profound - that we must reform our pedagogy.
Doring, Bingham and Branwell-Vial analyse the implications of increasingly diverse backgrounds for the problems faced by beginning university students. They focus especially on the need to support beginning students in goal setting and self regulation and to embed such support within the academic units of the university. They go further to suggest that self regulation be seen as an important goal for university learning, rather than a starting point, to be acquired developmentally over the course of study.
What is common to all five articles, then, is the need to reform our educational aims and teaching methods. The agency for thinking about what reform is needed can differ - analysis and contrast of curriculum aims in different subjects, action research on a practical teaching problem, exploration of teachers' perceptions of their work, inquiry into the reasons for students' academic choices, or analysis of the goals and expectations of educational programs. All of these articles emphasise something transcending the specifics of the immediate problem - a long term strategy of change at the system level, an action research approach to change at the classroom level, a reconsideration of the role of the teacher, understanding the learner in social context and framing educational provisions and expectations in terms of a broader developmental agenda. Further, they illustrate the value of reading across the field of education to encourage connections of ideas. Both these principles, transcendence and connection, are important for the future improvement of educational theory and practice. I hope they will be emphasised in future articles in the journal.
|Please cite as: Maxwell, G. (1998). Editorial. Queensland Journal of Educational Research, 14(1), 1-3. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qjer14/editorial14-1.html|