Archive for the ‘School of Education’ category

ALTC Grant successes

October 18th, 2010

UNE has been awarded several grants in the latest ALTC grant rounds. This is an excellent result for UNE and congratulations go to:

Sue Gregory and Yvonne Masters, School of Education $220,000 for: VirtualPREX: innovative assessment using a 3D virtual world with pre-service teacher;

Laurence Tamatea and Keita Takayama, School of Education $220,000 for: TKNe: a transnational knowledge network in education that facilitates internationalization.

Jennifer Clark, School of Arts $170,000 for: After Standards: Engaging and embedding history’s standards using international best practice to inform curriculum renewal. Leading Insitution: University of New South Wales.

Stephen Colbran, School of Law $250,000 for: ReMarks Stage III

UNE wins national research tender to conduct validation study of national professional standards for teachers

August 13th, 2010

In the last week we were formally notified that the UNE’s National Centre of Science, ICT, and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR National Centre) was successful in winning the first major national research tender offered by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). This large-scale and nationally significant research endeavour will undertake the validation study of the Draft National Professional Standards for Teachers of Australia prior to Standards being adopted by every state and territory during 2011.

The research team from the SiMERR National Centre comprises Professor John Pegg, Dr Greg McPhan, Dr Bruce Mowbray and Mr Trevor Lynch who are support by Mr Russel Glover and Mr Gerard Todd.

The research commissioned by AITSL comes under MCEECDYA, which is the national body of state and territory ministers of education. A significant consequence of this organisational structure means that the findings of the study will offer a uniform national and empirically validated framework of Professional Teaching Standards to underpin the career aspirations of every primary and secondary teacher in Australia across all education jurisdictions.

The Validation Project is designed to gather information from teachers across Australia in such a way that the construct of the standards reflects the views and aspirations of classroom teachers.

Congratulations to Professor Pegg and his team and we look forward to hearing about the results of this significant national study, particularly colleagues in the education.

UNE – IHSU Uganda Collaborative Research Proposal

July 23rd, 2010


Many of the services and amenities we take for granted in Australia, such as clean and reliable water supply, at home and at school, are not available in many developing countries, such as Uganda.

As a result, the lives of many children are exposed to unnecessary waterborne diarrheal infections, such as typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis A and to diseases spread by faecal bacteria such as dysentery.  These diseases are often contracted by eating food without washing hands or eating food that has come in contact with dirty water.

A report in a top medical journal, The Lancet, recently stated that poor water sanitation and lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined.  A recent UN Report estimated that 4,000 children worldwide die every day as a result of diseases caused by ingestion of filthy water. A Report published by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington estimates that ninety percent of these are children under five years old.

In Uganda, even though the Government is trying to improve clean water supply such as through the installation of bore holes as illustrated here, child mortality partly attributable to illnesses caused by poor water hygiene, is estimated at 130 per 1000. Concern about the plight of children in such circumstances has prompted researchers at the International Health Sciences University (IHSU) in Uganda to invite two researchers in the School of Education at UNE to join them in an international collaborative research project to investigate how information about sanitation and hygiene can be gathered and made available nationally through a program called Taking the First Action. The project is lead by Professor David Majwewe Ndungutse at the IHSU in Uganda and his Research Assistant Ms Teddy Nagaddya who have invited Prof. Margaret Sims and Dr. Charles Kivunja from the School of Education at UNE to be partners.

‘Unexpected and wonderful outcome’ of maths project recognised

April 13th, 2010

A presentation to employees at Acacia Park Enterprises in Armidale has celebrated an unexpected outcome of the work that a team of the organisation’s employees is doing for the University of New England.

That “unexpected and wonderful outcome”, explained UNE’s Associate Professor Lorraine Graham, is an improvement in the numeracy skills of some of the employees working on the project.

The Acacia Park team has been working for several years on the collation of numeracy resources used in the QuickSmart program. QuickSmart – an intervention program developed by Dr Graham and the Director of the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR), Professor John Pegg – is helping school students around the nation improve their basic skills in mathematics. The QuickSmart resources include games and “flash cards” designed to help students develop automaticity in basic mathematics skills.

Acacia Park Enterprises is a division of The Ascent Group – an organisation that supports people with a disability across the New England and North West regions of NSW. Over the past two years, the Acacia Park team has sorted about two million cards into sets of QuickSmart resources. During the process, some members of the team have developed an interest in – and have improved their ability to answer – arithmetic questions such as those presented on the cards.

The recent presentation was made by Mr Glenn Luchetti, General Manager of The Plastics Factory in Coffs Harbour. The Plastics Factory produces the high-quality perspex boxes in which the QuickSmart resource kits are distributed. Mr Luchetti presented one of these boxes to Will Brunsdon and Astrid Scott, two of the Acacia Park employees who have worked on the QuickSmart project. He said his company had been impressed by the improved numeracy outcome for the employees, the important work being accomplished by the QuickSmart program, and the University’s business collaboration with local organisations.

Will and Astrid both said they had enjoyed working on the QuickSmart project. They have both been participants in Acacia Park Enterprises’ “Transition to Work” program, and they accepted The Plastics Factory’s generous gift for use within that program. SiMERR has donated the flash cards and other materials to complete the resource kit.

Mr Barry Looker, Coordinator of Customer Relations for Acacia Park Enterprises, said the employees had worked diligently on the QuickSmart project, increasing their speed in completing the kits while maintaining a keen eye for accuracy.

Dr Graham said the QuickSmart program was on track to be implemented in more than 400 schools – with a presence in every Australian State and Territory – by the end of this year.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here expands to show Glenn Luchetti (left) presenting the QuickSmart resource kit to Will Brunsdon and Astrid Scott (centre front). They are joined by (from left) Associate Professor Lorraine Graham, Barry Looker, and Alison Quaife (coordinator of the Transition to Work program).

NSW Aboriginal Community Development Project

March 4th, 2010

normal_crams-seminar-012Adjunct Professor Jack Beetson , Associate Professor Bob Boughton and an independent consultant Deborah Durnan undertook two innovative community research and development projects for the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs (now AANSW) Partnership Communities Program. Under this program, forty Aboriginal communities across NSW were chosen to pilot a new community governance policy framework. The aim was to establish a process through which government at all levels would agree to recognise one community governance body in each community, and then negotiate a community action plan with that body to achieve improved service delivery and increased community health and wellbeing.

The first project Jack’s team undertook was a state-wide community consultation on a draft of the proposed framework prepared by AANSW. During July 2008, Jack, Bob and Deborah facilitated community meetings in nine locations, at which AANSW officials explained the new policy framework, and sought feedback. Over 270 people attended from 61 different communities. The government’s proposal generated vigorous debate, and many suggestions for major amendments. The consultants documented and analysed this feedback, before circulating a report which sought to achieve a consensus on how the framework could be improved to satisfy the communities’ requirements. Following further feedback, and a final meeting with stakeholders from both government and the Aboriginal community of NSW, the team produced a new draft which the Minister approved to be implemented on a trial basis in 2009-2010.

In 2009, the team signed another contract with AANSW, this time to deliver an action-based learning professional development program to twenty new community development workers recruited by the Department. Their job was to help the forty partnership communities establish governance bodies which would be recognised under the revised draft framework, and to develop their community action plans. Action-based learning was chosen as a methodology because such an experiment had not been tried before and there were no set procedures or protocols for how things should work. Both the Department and its new employees of whom the majority were Aboriginal, were moving into unchartered territory, and action-based learning provided a model in which all parties – government, its employees and community members – could contribute to the new learning that was required.

The partnership community project officers (PCPOs), along with their regional managers and representatives from head office executive and policy branches, took part in a series of workshops facilitated by Jack and his team at one- and two-month intervals, to reflect on the experiences they were having and to share learnings among the different locations. During and between workshops, participants formed small learning ‘sets’, following the action-learning model, to undertake focused group reflection on specific aspects of the program, and how it was working in the communities. Over time, these ‘sets’ became powerful tools for solving problems and improving procedures and practices, building up a repetoire of ‘fit for purpose’ community development tools and internal policies and procedures. Once agreed by the whole group, these became part of a loose-leaf manual which the staff used to carry out their duties, and which became a resource for new staff who joined the program at a later date.

At the time of writing, the action-based learning process was at the end of its first twelve month cycle. Jack’s team provided regular evaluation reports over the first twelve months, and the Department is now considering whether and in what form to keep the program going. Despite a number of setbacks, including delays in recruitment and staff changes, the AANSW policy framework is on target to met its objectives by June 2010, with recognised governance bodies in most of the forty communities, and a significant number on the way to developing their community action plans. Only time will tell if this will lead to the ultimate goal of improved health and well-being in the partnership communities. One problem faced by all community development workers is that the rhythms of community life rarely synchronise with the timeframes of government policy making and election cycles. The risk is that a change of government will trigger a whole new policy formulation process, just as the communities start to gain control of the current one. This serves to underline the need for a bipartisan approach to Aboriginal development policy, which most people in Australia now agree is an urgent national priority.

For more information, please email:
Adjunct Professor Jack Beetson or
Associate Professor Bob Boughton

UNEs QuickSmart mentioned as a ‘key achievement’ in the Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2010

February 17th, 2010

mathematicsQuickSmart, an intervention program that helps school students improve their basic skills in mathematics, has been named as a “key achievement” in the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap report.

The report, published this month, includes the QuickSmart program in a list of eight “key achievements” that have contributed to improved levels of literacy and numeracy among Indigenous students. One of the stated national targets in Closing the Gap is to “halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievement for Indigenous children by 2018″.

Developed at the National Centre of Science, Information and Communication Technology and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR), which is based at the University of New England, the QuickSmart program is currently operating in more than 200 schools around Australia – a number set to double by the end of this year.

“The QuickSmart program provides intensive focused instruction aimed at improving student fluency and facility with basic numeracy facts,” the Prime Minister’s report says. It includes a table listing QuickSmart participants’ improvements in both response time and accuracy when answering questions of basic arithmetic.

Many Indigenous students are among the thousands who have benefited from QuickSmart intervention – supported by funding from Commonwealth and State governments – over the past decade. “The parents of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory report that they’re really keen to go to school on QuickSmart days,” said Professor John Pegg, the Director of SiMERR and co-developer – with Associate Professor Lorraine Graham – of the QuickSmart program. “In one year, the Indigenous students are experiencing up to three or more years’ growth – the same rate of growth as non-Indigenous students.”

QuickSmart has systematically addressed the learning needs of those middle-school students (aged 10-13) who often find themselves caught up in a cycle of continued failure in numeracy and/or literacy,” Dr Graham said. “It was heartening to see QuickSmart mentioned specifically as a ‘key achievement’ in the Closing the Gap report. We have been working with schools and QuickSmart since 2001.”

QuickSmart builds the confidence of those students who need the most support,” said Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions. “A major focus of the Commonwealth Government’s agenda is to increase the education opportunities for all Australians – particularly those who are disadvantaged. It has been particularly impressive to see the data that show students from rural schools and Indigenous students improving as a result of the QuickSmart program.”

The QuickSmart literacy program, which parallels the numeracy program, is in increasing demand from schools that have successfully implemented QuickSmart numeracy. During 2010, schools from Western Sydney, rural Victoria and the New England region will join schools in the Northern Territory already implementing this program.


January 14th, 2010

Len UnsworthA sequence of projects in the area of multiliteracies indicates the emerging strength of this field at UNE. Professor Len Unsworth has secured an ARC Discovery grant (2005-2007) and three ARC Linkage grants (2006-2009; 2008-2011; 2009-2012) in this field.
The ARC Discovery (Image/Text Relations in Narrative and Information Texts for Children in Print and Electronic Media: Multimodal Text Description for Multiliteracies Education) focused on three main literacy areas: children’s literature in the form of picture books, science books for primary age children, and educational e-texts relevant to primary school social studies curricula.
The ARC Linkage grant (New Dimensions of Group Literacy Tests for Schools: Multimodal reading comprehension in conventional and computer-based formats) focused on image/text relations as a foundation for effective literacy assessment tools incorporating the comprehension strategies required to understand conventional and computer based texts with increased integration of images and print.
Teaching effective 3D authoring in the middle school years: Multimedia grammatical design and multimedia authoring pedagogy (ARC Linkage 2008-2011)’ with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, focuses on multimedia writing pedagogy to prepare students for a world where communication is increasingly digital, multimedia and online. The pedagogy is distinguished by developing students’ explicit knowledge of ‘grammatical’ design – strategically integrating the meaning-making resources of language, image, sound and movement in dynamic, three dimensional compositional contexts.
The most recent project, led by Professor Michael Bittman with Associate Professor Leonie Rutherford and Professor Len Unsworth (Digital Natives’: Growing up with new and old media in Australia) ARC Linkage 2009-2012, with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Australian Communications and Media Authority seeks to develop sophisticated digital literacy for both the future of children, the cultural, social and economic well-being of the nation. Investing in the development of a digitally literate Australian population has become an explicit means for promoting the future economic and social well-being of the nation.
The impact of the multiliteracies work in the school sector is illustrated by the receipt of an Association of Independent Schools, WA research grant ‘Knowing and using the language of informative and argumentative writing: Enhancing the potential of text types for transformative learning’ with Associate Professor Mary Macken-Horarik.
The significance of this research is evident in Associate Professor Mary Macken-Horarik’s extensive publications in this and related areas and in Professor Unsworth’s publication record dealing with the explicit development of students’ systematic knowledge about language and images, in traditional and computer-based media, as a practical tool to improve critical comprehension of different types of texts and effective production of texts to demonstrate effective learning and critical response. This entails complementary research embracing linguistic and visual semiotic analysis as well as research on children’s learning through both digital and paper-based multimedia texts. This bridging of social semiotic and pedagogic research is also being extended in publications by other members of the English and Literacies Academic Team including the publication this year of a new book by Dr Susan Feez on Montessori and Early Childhood.

QuickSmart Fast and Accurate Basic Skills

December 21st, 2009

pastedgraphicStudents with poor numeracy and literacy skills are usually caught in a cycle of continued failure. Those who exhibit consistent weaknesses in basic skills, such as the recall of number facts or difficulty with reading and comprehension, are particularly vulnerable. To address this need, the QuickSmart basic academic skills interventions in literacy and numeracy were developed.
QuickSmart is a cost-effective, long-term intervention and research program that was developed through UNE’s National Centre of Science, Information and Communication Technology and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR). The research program associated with QuickSmart has two overall goals. First, it seeks to investigate the conditions under which improved fluency with basic academic skills is developed. Second, it observes whether improved fluency has any effect on the performance of more demanding tasks, as reflected in students’ performance in state-wide or standardised achievement tests. Data are collected from two sets of students to inform the research: the QuickSmart students and the comparison students. Comparison students are average-achieving students drawn from the same schools as the low-achieving QuickSmart students.
Independent (state-wide or standardised tests) assessment results gathered over the last eight years have consistently demonstrated student growth of up to three years’ improvement over a 30-week period as measured by effect size statistics. The narrowing of the achievement gap between the QuickSmart and comparison students enables low-achieving students to proceed with their studies successfully and to learn to ‘trust their heads’ in the same ways that effective learners do. QuickSmart students report a new confidence about their learning based on feedback and improvement results.

The QuickSmart research project was supported initially by federal research funding from the Innovative Literacy and Numeracy Projects Scheme in 2001 and then by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant from 2003 to 2005. Since 2005 the QuickSmart Numeracy research program has been funded through further federal competitive grants such as the National Partnerships Pilot Projects Scheme, the NSW Department of Education and Training, and the Northern Territory Department of Education and Training. 2009 has been another year of opportunity for the QuickSmart program with new clusters of schools beginning in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, as well as continuing growth in NSW and the Northern Territory. Funding from the Yulgilbar Foundation, administered by the Myer Family Philanthropic services, will also see QuickSmart Numeracy offered to schools in rural Western Australia during 2010.

The QuickSmart team of John Pegg, Lorraine Graham, Jenny Thomas, Noelene Raymond and Eve Croeser won the Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award for Excellence in Research earlier this year. Other highlights of the QuickSmart project during 2009 included its recommendation as the numeracy intervention program offered to NSW schools eligible for National Partnerships Funding, its significant mention as a Matter of Public Importance in the Federal House of Representatives by the Member for New England, Tony Windsor, and the inclusion of QuickSmart and QuickSmart students from Kingsford Smith School in Canberra as part of the UNE exhibition at the Australian Research Council Expo at Parliament House in October.

International Capacity Building Research

December 17th, 2009

p2040292The motivation for this research program is based in social justice. The program attends to the problem of capacity building that makes a difference. There is a considerable amount of literature that identifies the “one shot”  model of capacity building as inadequate in the long term. Our alternative is to require those involved in our capacity building efforts to undertake follow up work on return to their workplace and report on the effectiveness of that capacity building through using action research.

The research program began over a decade ago in Bhutan (see The basic model there is replicated similarly in other projects, ie, in-country commitment followed by workshops related to practice and developing action plans to implement upon return to the workplace. Upon return improvements, chosen by practitioners, are implemented as suitable for their context and these are monitored using action research (AR) and a report is developed and submitted.

International projects in which this model has been used include:
1    Bhutan multigrade attachment project: In collaboration with a range of colleagues, over a period of eleven years more than 100 remote teachers and officials completed this program resulting in over $500,000 in grants to UNE. The impact of this program is the subject of a recent paper;
2    Using action learning to develop leadership in teacher education: This AusAID project under the Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) program ($333K, 2008-9) brought 19 teacher educators from Bhutan, East Timor, PNG and Vietnam to UNE in 2008 for workshops on leadership and action learning focussed upon development in teacher education. While at UNE they prepared papers as part of the International Seminar for Teacher Education. Twelve produced action learning reports based upon their improvement efforts upon return and 10 will present their work in roundtables at the Australian teacher Education Association conference in Albury in late June 2009. Subsequently these papers will be further developed for publication in a refereed journal;
3    Using Action Learning to develop Leadership in Early Childhood Education: This AusAID ALA project ($290K, 2009-10), with Drs Forrest and Taylor, is similar to 2 (above). Twelve early childhood educators from the Pacific and PNG will attend workshops, present roundtable papers at a regional symposium and return to their workplace to undertake improvement efforts supported by AR. Selected participants will present conference papers and contribute chapters to a book.
4    Developing Zambian and Ugandan Teacher Trainers in Multi-grade Education: The British Council though its Delivering Partnerships in Higher Education program funded $156K over three years (2009-11). Over 40 academics work on incorporating multigrade eduction into teacher education using AR annually.
5    Developing Ghanaian Teacher Trainers in Multi-grade Education: This project is similar to 4 (above). The application is pending.
6    Bhutan Public Sector Capacity Building: An AusAID project ($129K, 2008-9), ten Royal Institute of Management academics will develop expertise in distance education using distance education with the UNE Graduate Certificate in Higher Education as the vehicle. This project follows a different model.

Out of these projects other research and consultancies have developed. Post-graduate students have also been attracted to UNE. Time and patience is needed to work with “developing” countries and relationships are important.

European Commission Scholarship

November 13th, 2009

An academic from UNE has won a highly competitive scholarship from the European Commission that will enable him to share ideas with researchers in Scandinavia. Dr Siri Gamage, a Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Education, is known internationally as an expert analyst of – and commentator on – ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. He said that the Erasmus Mundus Scheme Scholarship would enable him to broaden his investigation of the human rights instruments available to ethnic minorities in nations around the world, and the conflicting claims of “national sovereignty” and the rights of minorities to “self-determination”. Dr Gamage’s scholarship will take him to the University of Tromso in Norway where he will be Visiting Scholar in the Department of Social Anthropology. He will go on to the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where he will be a Visiting Scholar in the School of Global Studies. Dr Gamage’s paper “Economic liberalisation, changes in governance structure and ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka”, was published this year in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 39 (2). The Erasmus Mundus Scheme aims to enhance the quality of higher education within the European Union by encouraging dialogue between European academics and researchers and those from beyond Union.