[ Contents Vol 6, 1990 ] [ QJER Home ]
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:||An Overview of Research and Evaluation Activities Associated with P-10 Social Education|
|Institution:||Research Services, Queensland Department of Education|
This report provides an overview of the various research and evaluation activities associated with Social Education carried out throughout 1989 by the Division of Curriculum Services, Department of Education, Queensland.
The P-10 Curriculum Development Program is a long-term initiative of the Queensland Department of Education, which will review and revise the curriculum provided in its schools from preschool to Year 10. The goals of the program are to:
Children's individual strengths, interests and needs will be provided for by means of a common and an options program, the latter determined by each school.
- ensure that all children attending State schools receive a sound general education; and
- promote continuity of each child's learning experiences.
To support the implementation of P-10, a range of curriculum documents is being prepared. These documents are being developed through a process of wide consultation. All documents including the three overarching frameworks which address the basic elements of schooling (P-10 Curriculum Framework, P-10 Teaching Framework, P-10 Assessment Framework) and the curriculum area frameworks, offer a basis for discussion.
Social Education is one of the seven curriculum areas which constitutes the common component of the P- 10 Curriculum Development Program.
The P-10 Social Education Framework (1989) defines social education as 'a curriculum area concerned with patterns of interaction - among people, social institutions and their cultural and natural environments. These environments are located both in place and in time, and are subject to political, social and economic influences.' (p.2)
The following findings focus on research and evaluation activities concerning the Primary Social Studies Syllabus and Guidelines ( 1987), and the P-10 Social Education Framework (1989).
The Primary Social Studies Syllabus and Guidelines (PSSSG) and Sourcebooks
During 1989 interviews were conducted with teachers, administrators, regional social studies consultants and teacher librarians in 14 State primary schools across three education regions. The purpose of these interviews was to gather information on the use of the Years 1 to 7 social studies materials across a range of schools and in a variety of contexts. Information was sought on various issues including the level of use of the materials, the way the materials were used, aspects of these materials which schools found particularly valuable, the impact of the materials on the teaching of social studies and any perceived links between social studies materials and materials in other curriculum areas, e.g. materials developed within the P-10 Curriculum Development Program. Schools were identified with the help of regional social studies consultants. The 14 schools varied in size, 'approach' to education (e.g. traditional, multiage), and context, e.g. rural and urban settings. Where possible, teachers across a range of Year levels were interviewed within each school.
In brief, the findings of these activities indicate that:
- Few schools have developed a formal structured school policy or school philosophy for social studies.
- Teachers in multi-age settings generally concentrated on the development of thinking processes and concepts as the main impetus for planning across a number of Year levels.
- In both multi-age settings and traditional classrooms, a thematic approach was often used as a means of unifying the curricula and for ease of planning.
- Some teachers developed thinking processes through their experiences with the teaching of science and mathematics rather than social studies.
- It appears that teachers do not refer to any significant extent to the PSSSG.
- Consultants refer extensively to the PSSSG, particularly in designing in-service programs.
- The Primary Social Studies In-service Kit, designed to accompany the PSSSG, was virtually unsighted by most classroom teachers.
- In the main, teachers assume that the sourcebooks 'accurately' reflect the principles, objectives and concepts of the PSSSG.
- In many cases, teachers use the sourcebooks as the major input to their teaching of social studies.
- The PSSSG does not address the needs of the small school and multiage groups in planning work programs.
- Many of the social and academic skills presented in the PSSSG do not appear in the sourcebook activities.
- All teachers interviewed are using the sourcebooks, but to varying degrees, e.g. in multi-age settings and composite classes, sourcebooks are typically used as a reference source, whereas in traditional classrooms, many teachers follow the sourcebook activities closely while still generating resources of their own. A small number of teachers see the sourcebooks as the work program.
- Teachers generally expressed satisfaction with the presentation and layout of sourcebooks.
- Teachers in the upper primary Year levels indicated that the sourcebooks failed to provide sufficient content necessary for the development of children's knowledge. This lack of content as a base often meant that students were unable to engage in process thinking and the formulation of desired concepts.
- A number of sourcebook activities were considered unsuitable for the intended Year level, e.g. mapping activities in Year 3.
- Some teachers indicated that the lower primary Year level sourcebooks lacked variety in their approach to activities involving teaching strategies and learning experiences.
- Teachers considered that social studies is a resource-intensive curriculum area, with most teachers reportedly devoting considerable time to locating and developing resources for social studies activities.
- The resource lists compiled to accompany the sourcebooks are not used to any great extent.
- Teachers generally displayed very little awareness or understanding of the formal aspects of the P-10 Curriculum Development Program. However, during interviews teachers in many schools (particularly those using a multi-age approach) demonstrated that they were addressing issues such as continuity, school-based curriculum de
velopment, curriculum integration and a child-centred approach in a variety of ways.
- Overall, teachers were in agreement that the sourcebooks were an improvement on the materials of the previous syllabus.
- Consultants generally agreed there is consistency between the PSSSG and the accompanying sourcebooks with regards to use of terminology and the matching of objectives. However one consultant maintained a lack of correlation existed between the objectives in the sourcebooks and those suggested for the Year level in the PSSSG.
- Many teachers see the syllabus as more of a philosophy for social studies, with the guidelines being regarded as the syllabus. It would seem that many teachers may not understand the philosophy underlying the syllabus.
- Consultants saw a need for further practical guidance on the 'investigative process' as outlined in the guidelines section.
- With regards to the sourcebooks, most consultants indicated that there was too much dependence in teaching procedures relying upon 'discuss ...' without providing sound strategies.
P-10 Social Education Framework
An initial review of the P- 10 Social Education Framework (SEF) as part of the overall research and evaluation activities of the P-10 social education curriculum area has recently been completed. The review involved a structured questionnaire forwarded to over 40 personnel considered 'expert' in social education and sought comments on particular aspects of the SEF. Some of the findings are outlined as follows:
Further research and evaluation activities are expected to focus on monitoring the development of a Years 8-10 Social Education Syllabus as part of the overall P-10 Curriculum Development Program.
- The majority of reviewers indicated that the SEF provides a clear and valid description of social education, is well organised and written. However one reviewer saw the description of social education to be confusing in terms of students being able to know and understand the 'natural world'.
- Most reviewers believed the SEF was adequate within its aims as a development document, logically structured, educationally sound, setting out clearly the principles and priorities for social education.
- There was general agreement that the different sections within the SEF are consistent with each other and also with the P-10 Curriculum Framework.
- Most reviewers indicated that the SEF presented a broad, clearly delineated and flexible approach to social education, which would enable further social education curriculum materials to be developed throughout the P10 years. However one reviewer commented that the integrating themes were too rigid and prescriptive.
- Another concern was that the SEF tended to ignore the background of those involved in its implementation. In particular, there was comment as to whether secondary school and primary school teachers of social education would embrace the philosophy contained in the SEF to the same extent. For example, one reviewer indicated that teaching Year 8 history or geography was different to teaching social education values. There was concern, for example, that teachers might align history solely with the integrating theme 'exploring heritage and tradition'.
- Another consultant expressed concern that as teachers in secondary are generally trained in one or two specialist areas, many would feel unable to adequately teach across up to eight key disciplines within the social education curriculum area.
- While the integrating themes were generally favourably received, one reviewer commented that teaching through an integrated approach, although commendable in theory may be difficult to put into practice.
|Title:||Student and Teacher Attitudes to the TE Score|
|Institution:||Research Services, Queensland Department of Education|
This report describes selected findings from a recent study on Senior Schooling. The full report, Issues in Senior Schooling, has been provided to all State secondary schools and secondary departments. Additional copies of the report and associated bulletins are available from Research Services, Department of Education.
This report relates to the Tertiary Entrance (TE) score and its importance to student career goals as perceived by students and teachers.
The TE score was first used to select students to attend tertiary institutions in 1974. Over its 16 year history the TE score has come under increasing criticism on its use and calculation to the point where it was recently reviewed and an alternative system for tertiary selection proposed. Aspects covered in the research study include:
Data collection occurred in three phases late in 1988:
- the intrinsic value of the TE score;
- the TE score's influence on subject choice; and
- the TE score's relation to assessment.
(1) interviews with teaching and administrative staff in selected State
(2) interviews with Years l 1 and 12 students; and
(3) questionnaires completed by Years 11 and 12 students.
Student Goals for Further Study
During Years 11 and 12 most of the students had decided on a single future occupation or were considering a few possibilities. Forty-eight per cent of the students intended to go on to tertiary study. Twenty-four per cent intended further study at TAFE colleges, police and military academies or private colleges, whereas 28 per cent were planning to finish studying at the Senior school level. Only 10 per cent of students were prepared to rule out the possibility of further education beyond secondary school in the future.
Importance Attached to the TE Score by Students
The TE score evoked extremely negative responses (Display 1) in many of the students except in terms of its usefulness. Display 1 shows mean scores on semantic differential types of items in response to school, assessment and TE score. The results indicate strongly negative attitudes among the students towards the TE score.
Nonetheless, the vast majority of students (84 per cent) rated the importance of the TE score as high (56 per cent) or moderate (28 per cent).
The TE score was important for more students as a credential for obtaining employment than for obtaining tertiary entrance. It was also considered an important life-long credential and necessary for some types of employment (Display 2).
Subject Choice and the TE Score
Most of the students chose subjects for Senior schooling which suited their interests but still allowed a TE score and kept open the option of tertiary study in some fields. For many, these options were restricted by the absence of Mathematics I.
Display 1: Student's Mean Responses to School, Assessment and TE Score
Display 2: Lower and Higher Achievers' Ratings of Importance Attached
to Reasons for Obtaining a TE Score by Students who Intended to Obtain One
The next most predominant pattern for subject choice indicated clear intentions for tertiary study.
The minority pattern (taken by one in seven in the sample) would not permit the award of a TE score.
A higher proportion of boys than girls choose either the non-TE score pattern or a pattern oriented towards tertiary study which included Mathematics II, Physics and Chemistry.
Board subjects were widely chosen by students in spite of clear evidence for widespread, strongly positive attitudes among students towards school subjects (Display 3).
Display 3 shows how the student responses to school subjects were cl
early more positive than their responses to Board subjects.
Teachers and the TE Score
Most of the teachers interviewed expressed a wide range of concerns about the TE score system. However there was general support for the system, at least in principle, due to the absence of a better alternative.
The most prevalent concerns of the interviewees related to:
- perceived lack of understanding of the tertiary entrance system by many students, parents and some teachers;
- validity of the TE score with specific reference to possible manipulation of the score by individual schools, and to the panel system of moderation;
- fairness of the TE score with particular reference to the score not providing a sufficiently broad measure of the students' ability, to the tertiary selection cutoffs being too rigid and to the scarcity of tertiary places. Some thought the TE score was an unrealistic hurdle, and claimed that there were lesser rigours in tertiary study;
- inappropriate use of the TE score outside of the educational system, particularly by some employers; and
- a tendency for the TE score to influence the curriculum for some students in inappropriate ways, by narrowing their curriculum experiences or by influencing their choice of subjects.
Display 3: Students' Mean Responses to School, Board Subjects and School Subjects
Teachers commonly expressed concern about their increased workload and the stress associated with the TE score. This was due to the significant impact that their assessment of student performance had in contributing to the TE score for a student.
The research results indicated clearly that the TE score was widely disliked and mistrusted. It was regarded by most students as important and useful as an all-purpose credential, but was surrounded by mystery and suspicion. Teachers questioned its validity and its use by employers.
The features which underlie such strong reactions seem to be these:
The TE score itself did not seem to be the cause of all the problems: the intensity of competition for credentials was the underlying cause. Nonetheless, changes to the tertiary entrance system, associated with changes in Senior secondary credentialling, could result in alleviation of the problems.
- Students and parents could neither understand nor accept that individual Australian Scholastic Aptitude Test (ASAT) scores were not used in calculation of a student's individual TE score. They felt that their own TE score would be unfairly affected by the performance of other students.
- The TE score was misused as an all purpose credential by students and some employers.
- Students' selection of subjects in Years 11 and 12 was influenced by the wish to obtain a l~ score for use as an employment credential. Thus the curriculum of most students was influenced by tertiary entrance requirements.
If the features listed above are to be addressed by any new system for tertiary entrance, the system would need to have the following characteristics:
- the contest for tertiary places would be separated from the certification of Senior secondary achievement;
- selection for tertiary entrance would be based on simple processes that are capable of being widely understood among students, parents, teachers and the general community;
- measures used in tertiary selection would depend, and be seen to depend, only on a student's own performance;
- preparation for tertiary education, undertaken in high schools, would be part of a broad general education; and
- tertiary preparation would not be allowed to dominate the curriculum for students, regardless of their future intentions.
The report recommends making a clear distinction between the process for deciding on eligibility for tertiary study - to be decided by schools - and processes of selection for limited tertiary places - to be decided by the institutions.
The full report of the study 'Issues in Senior Schooling' contains findings on:
The report makes extensive use of tables and graphs. Various sections of the report will be useful to secondary teachers, secondary staff and administrators working on school development plans; to in-service workshop planners and regional support staff; to guidance officers and educational researchers. Copies may be obtained by contacting Ted Hobbs, Research Services, Division of Curriculum Services, PO Box 33, North Quay Q 4002, telephone: (07) 237 0980.
- factors affecting students' choice of subjects for Years 11 and 12;
- factors affecting students' motivation to achieve;
- concerns among secondary students and teachers about assessment practices; and
- students' perceptions of schools' provision of educational and career information and guidance.
|Please cite as: QIER (1990). Research reports 6(3). Queensland Researcher, 6(2), 55-68. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr6/reports-6-3.html
[ Contents Vol 6, 1990 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 15 Oct 2006. Last revision: 15 Oct 2006.