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[ Contents Vol 15, 1999 ] [ QJER Home ]

Editorial: Educational research for policy development and evaluation

The lead article in this issue is the J.A. Robinson Memorial Lecture 1999. This was delivered by Terry Moran, Director General, Education Queensland. It is pleasing to be able to publish the lecture in this form. It is a significant article for two reasons: it provides a supporting rationale for the project Queensland State Education: 2010, which was instituted by Moran on his appointment to the position of Director General, thereby enabling a wider examination and discussion of the aims of the project and providing a basis on which its success can eventually be evaluated; and it provides a visionary statement of the important role which research needs to play in shaping educational policy and evaluating its impact. This provides a useful introduction to the other articles in this issue, each of which addresses specific educational policies and their impact.

Moran strives for fundamentals, seeing the Queensland State Education project as an examination of the basic purposes and aims of schooling, specifically state education in Queensland in the early years of the twenty-first century. Rather than enunciate these from the high ground of a particular moral or philosophical position, he has chosen to consult widely with the stakeholders and presumably build a new consensus on the direction that education should take. This continues a trend towards greater community consultation and involvement in policy development which is evident in landmark enquiries of the past thirty years. For example, the 'select panel' approach of the Radford Review in 1969-70 gave way to the more politicised process of the Review of School-based Assessment in 1979-80 and then to the participatory and consensus-building approach of the Viviani Review in 1989-90. The success of this new project will no doubt depend on the extent to which this process of involvement is widened further.

The view of research is also encouraging, especially in its vision that educational research might be restored to a central place within the planning and evaluation of policy initiatives, in which research is seen as offering 'informed influence'. He also suggests that 'in times of uncertainty, there is a greater, not a lesser, need for research'. It is to be hoped that this signals a greater openness among policy makers to the findings of education research, even when those findings reveal inadequacies in existing policies, as they sometimes will. Just as there needs to be a separation of the legislative and judicial arms of government, there needs to be a separation of the policy and research arms of education. It is one of the roles of journals such as this to provide a forum for public discussion on the interpretation and significance of educational research and its applicability to educational policy.

All of the other articles in this issue can be seen as evaluating various educational policies and practices, especially in relation to teacher education or teacher practice. They offer various insights and recommendations that are relevant to improving teacher education and teacher practice, covering mathematics teacher education, preparing teachers for diversity (two articles relating respectively to culture and disability), teaching English as a foreign language, and drug education.

Kaminski reports an investigation of the role that experience and attitude play in preservice teachers' mathematics learning (for teaching mathematics). While cautious about generalisation from a sample of six, Kaminski shows that case studies of a small number of students can produce powerful insights into the learning process, especially concerning the diversity of their prior experiences and their current attitudes. He situates the study within other literature on these issues and offers further support for teacher education that emphasises personal reflection on the teacher's own professional theories and practices as well as socio-cognitive and constructivist approaches to learning, the latter as basis for their own learning and as models for their teaching.

Campbell, Hanashiro and Shockley also studied beliefs and attitudes of preservice teachers. In this case the focus was attitudes towards cultural difference. By comparing the responses of preservice teachers in three countries (Australia, Japan and USA), it was possible to explore the relationship between the different cultural contexts and beliefs about appropriate teaching practice. They found that the Australian group was more positive to cultural diversity and more confident in dealing with cultural difference. Whether teacher education influenced this or whether it is more culturally pervasive is unclear, probably both since the two are inextricably linked in Australia. At first glance the finding that the American and Japanese groups were more similar, and different from Australia, appears puzzling in view of the differences in cultural diversity in the two countries. However, the authors submit that while the USA is culturally diverse, different cultural groups may have less experience of each other than in Australia. While these overall differences are interesting, so too is the diversity of opinion within each country, spanning the scale on almost every question. Clearly, there is work to do in all three countries. The authors conclude (as does Kaminski in the previous article) that reflection on experiences, beliefs, attitudes and values needs to be a key component in all teacher education programs.

Forlin, Tait, Carroll and Jobling continue the theme of diversity in their article. However, this time the focus is on disability rather than culture. They surveyed preservice teachers in three Queensland universities on their attitudes towards people with disabilities. Most of their samples had not yet taken any courses on teaching children with special needs. Their findings confirm other findings that to have had more frequent contact with people with disabilities, not just information about disabilities, is important for raising expectations and reducing levels of discomfort concerning students with disabilities.

The range of different experiences and beliefs among preservice teachers is striking, though the amount of contact with disabilities is higher than that found in previous studies. The authors conclude that all teacher education programs should provide substantial and pervasive attention to opportunities to interact with people with disabilities (in this case emphasising the first of Kaminski's two background dimensions in teacher education, that is, experience).

Surjosuseno and Watts analyse current theories of teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL), particularly concerning critical reading, and compare the expected outcomes of these theories with the six levels of Bloom's Taxonomy of Education Objectives (from 1956). They show how critical reading outcomes can be related to the taxonomy levels, thus revealing a degree of continuity in educational thinking that can be traced back to A ristotle. This is useful in reminding us of our culture-boundedness and of the continued relevance of some older theories, despite their apparent limitations. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised about this since it happens in many other fields. For example, Newton's theories are still relevant despite their being superceded by Einstein's, and orbital models of the atom remain useful at one level of discourse despite their replacement by quantum models.

Fritz and Carroll report a study of drug education practices in a rural Queensland school under the national School Development in Health Education Project. Here, we return full circle to Moran's vision of educational research assisting in policy development and evaluation at state and national level. The Principles for Drug Education in Schools were developed for this national project on a sound research and consultative base and are required to be implemented in Education Queensland schools. This study examined their implementation. The researchers found that about half of the principles were successfully implemented in the school studied, another four partially implemented, and three not implemented (delivery in the health curriculum, by health teachers, to all year levels). These three principles were seen as critical to success of the whole program. The researchers identify several barriers to proper implementation and evaluation of this program and suggest some improvements, including the need for a wider community base and the need for proper monitoring of implementation.

Each of these articles addresses matters of importance concerning policy development and implementation. They also provide a useful range of models of investigation on which future research on policy development and implementation can build.

Graham Maxwell

Please cite as: Maxwell, G. (1999). Educational research for policy development and evaluation. Queensland Journal of Educational Research, 15(2), 155-158. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qjer15/editorial15-2.html

[ Contents Vol 15, 1999 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 28 Dec 2004. Last revision: 28 Dec 2004.
URL: http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qjer15/editorial15-2.html