QJER logo 2
[ Contents Vol 6, 1990 ] [ QJER Home ]

RESEARCH REPORTS

The purpose of this section is to summarise information from recently completed research and evaluation studies in Queensland.

Intending contributors should forward a short abstract of their work, together with relevant biographical data, to: The Editor, Queensland Researcher, Research Services, Queensland Department of Education, PO Box 33, North Quay Q 4002.


Title:Roma Middle School - A report on school organisation and curriculum development
Author:John Lee, Barry Tainton
Institution:Research Services, Division of Curriculum Services, Department of Education, Queensland
Date:October 1989

Background

Roma Middle School was opened in 1987 as the only State school in Queensland specifically designed to cater for the educational needs of students from Years 4 to 10. In October of that year, a descriptive profile was compiled by Research Services as part of an evaluation proposal to monitor the school's educational developments. Since its opening, the school has undertaken numerous curriculum initiatives and supported their implementation.

Also over this period of time, a number of projects located within Research Services have been undertaken as part of the Department's focus on its P- 10 program. Roma Middle School has provided Research Services with an opportunity to collect information relating to a range of P-10 curriculum implementation issues that would be of interest at the school, regional and system levels.

Early in 1989, meetings with Roma Middle School staff, South Western Region personnel and officers from the Division of Curriculum Services were held to discuss their various information needs. Subsequently, officers from Research Services visited the school in May 1989 with a view to collecting information that would:

  1. inform the school community about the educational provisions available to students at the school;
  2. provide the school with an opportunity to reflect on its own curriculum development program;
  3. provide some indicators of school effectiveness; and
  4. contribute to regional and systemic awareness and understanding of the emerging structures of schooling and curriculum implementation that are occurring at Roma Middle School.

Method

In pursuit of these objectives, various sources of information were tapped: school administrative records which provided demographic data on staff and students; records of school resources; documentation on significant activities and events associated with the school, staff and students; documentation of curriculum developed by the school; examples of subject area programs; and school publications.

Over a period of two days at the school, interviews were conducted with the executive team, curriculum coordinators, groups of Year level teachers and students. As well, observations were made of whole school activities, individual class lessons, small group teaching situations and general school ground activities.

The Report

In the report, information is presented with respect to:
  1. School Resources - The range of school resources (physical, material and human); how they are managed to the advantage of the students; and how their effective utilisation makes a significant contribution to the provision of quality educational experiences.
  2. School Administration - The administrative procedures and decision-making processes in the school; how these contribute to its efficient operation; and their contribution to the quality of educational provisions and outcomes.
  3. School-Based Curriculum Development and Organisation - Curriculum initiatives and organisation of the curriculum that have had to cater for the development of students from Years 4 to 10 in a single educational setting.
  4. Teaching/Learning Environment - The distinctive characteristics of the teaching and learning environment of the school; how these influence student development; and their impact on educational outcomes.
The final section of the report presents a synthesis of all this information, examining its potential for providing indicators of school effectiveness. This is followed by some general conclusions relating to the school's development to date and suggestions for further evaluation inputs into the school development process. The final concluding statements are reproduced below.

Conclusion

In recent years, a number of facilities with innovative structural arrangements have been established by the Department of Education as a means of extending and evaluating structural options and fostering curriculum developments. The consolidation of facilities at Roma to form the Roma Middle School (Years 4 to 10) was one of these innovations, and as such, can make a significant contribution to regional and systemic awareness and understanding of an emerging structure of schooling and curriculum implementation.

Since opening in 1987, the school has engaged in the task of providing a balanced, comprehensive, sound and general education for students from Years 4 to 10 in the one educational institution, and yet be flexible enough to be able to respond to the students individual strengths, interests and styles of learning. Faced with these dual challenges, the staff of the school embarked on an extensive curriculum development program that would enable students to experience continuity of learning as they progressed through the Year levels and growth across developmental stages from middle childhood to adolescence. Concurrent with this was the need to develop appropriate support and organisational structures within a school that had elements of primary and secondary education.

Roma Middle School is successfully addressing these challenges to date. This report has outlined the range of curricula presented to students, the various structural arrangements that have been used, the organisational and support measures available to both teachers and students, and other considerations that the school had to accommodate in its efforts to provide quality educational experiences for students from Years 4 to 10 in the one facility.

If the progress of Roma Middle School is to be further monitored, a number of considerations may need to be taken into account. In the first place, the conduct of external reviews such as the present one, can provide a school with the opportunity to reflect on information provided by independent observers. The school, as part of its ongoing responsibilities to develop and maintain responsive school programs, also needs to generate information in a coordinated and systematic fashion to enhance the quality of educational decision-making. Experience has shown that, where both internal and external sources of information are taken advantage of in the consideration of school development initiatives, more benefits for students ensue.

Further Information

Copies of the full report entitled 'Roma Middle School: A Report on School Organisation and Curriculum Development' are available from the authors, Research Services, Division of Curriculum Services, Department of Education, PO Box 33, North Quay Q 4002, telephone: (07) 237 0974

Title:Managing the Effects of Change in Secondary Education
Author:E. D. Hobbs
Institution:Research Services, Division of Curriculum Services, Department of Education, Queensland
Date:November 1989

THE STUDY

Australian society is in the throes of rapid, significant change. Economic restructuring, shifts in social values, technological development and other arenas of change interlock with each other to impact on individuals and social groupings. Secondary schools cannot be isolated from the rest of society. Consequently for senior schooling, change is an imperative, not a matter of choice.

In recent years, schools and school systems have been attempting to adapt to increased participation rates, broadening demands from various sectors of society, increased pressure and tighter selection for tertiary places, changing assessment and certification practices, and calls to relate senior schooling more closely to entry to the workforce. Indications have been observed that significant problems are accompanying the changes that have been occurring. There are signs among school administrative and teaching staff of stress and unrest associated with rapid change.

If change is a problem, one response is to try to halt the tide of change. The more realistic alternative is to manage the change process itself as far as this is possible, and at the same time, to manage the effects of the change.

The research study summarised here was intended to investigate the nature of current concerns within secondary schools towards changes in secondary education, and explore strategies for managing the effects of such change.

Interviews were held with administrative and teaching staff in State secondary schools in order to elicit:

  1. a list of recent or current changes in secondary education which had affected staff or their students, with details of the nature of these effects, and the perceived value of the changes;
  2. the general feelings among staff about the pace and the nature of current or recent change; and
  3. suggestions on strategies and skills for managing change and its effects, and forms of support for teachers implementing change.

THE FINDINGS

(a) Nominated Changes

For the principals, the major category of concern was DEVOLUTION, including moves towards greater school autonomy with community involvement, especially in the areas of staff deployment and finance. The principals could see value in the underlying concept but they were worried that community involvement might present serious difficulties and were anxious about increased workload or greater complexity and accountability in the principal's role.

For teachers, the major category of concern was ROSBA, including changes to assessment requirements and the rewriting of work programs in Board subjects. Generally, teachers supported the concepts behind ROSBA and the various changes, but complained of extra work and time pressure associated with the changes. Many were frustrated, angry or confused about the changes.

Changes associated with the P-10 Curriculum initiative were nominated by all staff groups. While the general concepts behind P-10 were widely accepted, many complained of a lack of clear, consistent information, causing confusion and misunderstanding among staff.

Curriculum changes in senior secondary were nominated by many of the teachers, subject masters and deputy principals. These changes were well supported by staff, even though they did mean extra work.

The source of most of the changes nominated was perceived to be either the Department or the government. ROSBA changes were usually perceived as originating with the Board of Secondary School Studies. Some of the changes were seen as originating either within the school (usually well supported) or external to the system (usually unwelcome social change). The regional office was seldom seen as a source of the nominated changes.

(b) Change in General

When asked to discuss change in general terms, the interviewees expressed various concerns including feelings of 'too much change too fast', impressions of unsystematic and poorly coordinated implementation processes, and claims that insufficient attention is paid to the demands of change on school staff.

Concerning change that is needed, many called for more curriculum change in the senior years.

Some claimed that recent changes generally have not addressed those aspects which are of most concern at the school or classroom levels.

(c) Suggestions for Implementing Change in Schools

Discussion on managing change and its effects yielded three types of findings:

Strategies for implementing change

When the secondary school staff were asked to suggest strategies for implementing change in schools, the responses were numerous and diverse. After careful study, the suggestions were organised into 10 categories, each of which represents a broad strategy for implementing change.

The 10 Strategies are listed and briefly described below:

Strategy 1: Time Allowance: People need both lead time and time off to implement changes. They need lead time to find out what the change means, to come to understand the driving ideas and the practical detail, to adjust to and accept the ideas and detail, and to prepare for the implementation. They need time off in order to carry out the additional work involved in implementation.

Strategy 2: Essential Information: School staff need to be prepared for the implementation of proposed change by the supply of essential information, which establishes a clear direction for the change, and relates it to other changes occurring or proposed.

Strategy 3: Persuasion: The commitment or agreement of all affected by the change needs to be gained in a campaign to persuade people of the necessity or advantages of the change. A successful campaign would focus on actual benefits to teachers and students, preferably at the classroom level.

Strategy 4: School Level Support: Where changes require action by school staff, a supportive environment at the school level should be created. Ideally, the school administration supports the change, and a climate of trust prevails. Subject masters, as key people, must be in support of the change.

Strategy 5: Higher-Level Support: Support from the regional or central office level consists of backing up the implementation of change in palpable forms, such as money, support staff, teacher release and resources.

Strategy 6: Promotion of Adaptiveness: In times when change is necessary, a general receptiveness to change and willingness to adapt need to be fostered. In other words, a change mentality has to be developed.

Strategy 7: Devolution: Many of the suggestions above would be most effectively applied where knowledge of local people and situations is greatest, that is at regional or school levels. This requires substantial degrees of both responsibility and flexibility at those levels.

Strategy 8: Containment: The management of change includes containment of the change implementation. This means focusing on a few aspects or issues rather than trying to solve all problems at once. Gradual implementation is controlled according to a schedule.

Strategy 9: Practicality: If scho ol staff can have confidence that proposed changes are realistic and practical, they may more readily accept and adopt the changes. Practicality perceived is a precondition to acceptance at school level.

Strategy 10: Systematic Processes: Staff were critical of changes they perceived to be poorly thought out, or implemented in hasty or disorganised ways. A well planned, systematically implemented change would be based on a clear rationale, preceded by consistent, clear information, based on research or documented experience, accompanied by analysis of consequences, tried and evaluated, and phased in to a schedule.

Teacher support in change implementation

A line of questioning in the interviews was concerned with forms of support for teachers implementing change. The researcher was able to discern four distinct categories, each necessary to the implementation of change.

These four cornerstones of teacher support are displayed below.

Cornerstones diagram

Attributes for coping with change

The interviews yielded a diverse array of suggestions for managing or coping with the effects of change. These suggestions were condensed into a set of six personal attributes. The attributes derive directly from the responses of the school staff, hence they are grounded in the first hand, practical experience of teachers and school administrators.

The six attributes are:

  1. flexibility, consisting of open-mindedness, willingness to experiment, and readiness to adjust when problems arise;
  2. willingness to share problems and pool resources, to learn from others and to co-operate - displaying tolerance and perceptiveness to others' responses;
  3. ability to muster support in the form of assistance, resources, money or materials - through assertiveness, diplomacy and persistence;
  4. mental attitude of survival - being able to tackle problems as they arise, keep priorities clear, tolerate uncertainty, resist being rushed, exercise patience and practise relaxation;
  5. a positive approach, accepting change as inevitable, practising self-evaluation and taking direct steps to gain the competencies and knowledge demanded to implement or assimilate the changes; and
  6. skills in self-management, especially the management of time and organisation of priorities.

THE REPORT

The full report includes: Various sections of the report may find direct application in problem solving workshops or professional development activities. Organisers of inservice or teacher support programs may find the report helpful in structuring their planning processes. Personnel at all levels who are involved in curriculum development, educational administration or consultancy should find the report to be relevant to their work in both the practical and conceptual dimensions.

Copies of Research Report: Managing the Effects of Change in Secondary Education are available from Research Services, Division of Curriculum Services, Department of Education, PO Box 33, North Quay Q 4002.

Please cite as: QIER (1990). Research reports. Queensland Researcher, 6(1), 20-31. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr6/reports-6-1.html


[
Contents Vol 6, 1990 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 29 Aug 2006. Last revision: 29 Aug 2006.
URL: http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr6/reports-6-1.html