Vol. 9 no. 2 / December 2015 / Special Issue on Addressing Educational Reforms and Developments in the Maltese Context

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Special Issue Articles

Effective leadership as a model for schools in 21st Century Malta

David Debono

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This paper aims to investigate a model of leadership for Maltese schools in the light of recent changes in the educational system. Effective leadership in the Maltese educational system is urgently needed. It is argued that leadership needs to be taken seriously if we want the reforms to bear fruition. This research explores whether forms of distributed leadership can render the system more effective. Furthermore, it aims to explore the roles played by members of the Senior Management Team in primary and secondary schools and what their views are about leadership. A combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches were adopted and the study was carried out in one particular college in Malta. Methods of data collection used were questionnaires and one- to-one semi-structured interviews. This research established that an effective leader is one who prioritises, knows what is going on in the classrooms and who listens to staff concerns. Various tasks that are not related to curriculum work are a huge burden on the SMT and while student learning is the main concern of the school SMT, this study confirms that there is very little time to monitor curricular and pedagogical work. Teachers express concern about the size of large secondary schools and they prefer working in small schools which would allow for more direct contact with members of the SMT. It also emerged that stronger external support from the education authorities is necessary to address discipline and absenteeism in schools.

The main recommendations emanating from this research are that teachers should be crucial decision-makers, paper-work and bureaucratic tasks should be reduced, and a middle-manager for time-tables and schedules should be introduced. Moreover, given that the reforms have brought about the introduction of College Principals this should not imply that the role of the heads of school should be undervalued.

Policy-mandated collegiality in the Maltese education scenario: The experience of the leaders

Denise Mifsud

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In the unfolding Maltese education scenario of gradual decentralization and school networking, I explore the reception of policy-mandated collegiality among the Principal and the Heads of School within one Maltese college, and its subsequent effects on the unfolding network leadership dynamics. This is explored through the leaders’ understanding of the collegiality concept; their reaction to the ‘forced’ implementation of policy-mandated networks through ‘For All Children to Succeed’ [FACT] (2005); and the resulting ‘effects’ of this implementation. My study is framed within a postmodern paradigm and adopts a Foucauldian theoretical framework. Data are collected through semi-structured, in-depth interviews; observation of a Council of Heads meeting; and a documentary analysis of FACT. Narrative is both the phenomenon under exploration and the method of analysis. The Heads experience the college as simultaneous individualization and totalization, acknowledging its benefits but criticizing their lack of autonomy, loss of individual school identity, and its imposition in the form of geographical clustering. The findings address a gap in educational leadership literature in terms of the effects of ‘contrived collegiality’ as they unfold within the top leadership hierarchies in the network. This research can serve as an inspiration for practising leaders; as well as aid policy makers in reviewing the way policies are initiated and enacted.

Laying Foundations for an Effective Professional Learning Community in a New Primary School: An Action Research Study

Mark A. Farrugia

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This study explores the culture of a new primary school, as it is engaged in the process of setting its policies, developing pedagogies and introducing organisational structures. Specifically, it examines the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model which is reported in the literature to create a collaborative culture aimed at improving both the educational environment and students’ achievement. The study critically analyses the literature in the field of PLCs, and the principles extracted from it guided the methodological approach adopted in this study. The research approach was action research, with the aim of changing practitioners’ practices, their understandings of their practices, and the conditions in which they practice to improve the learning experience of the students. Finally the study outlines the leadership implications to develop and support a PLC in the local setting.

Investigating the impact of a Church school ethos and leadership on student character development

Mark Ellul

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The study investigates how the ethos, leadership and structure in a particular Catholic school affect character development. A well- balanced character is important as it will direct one in life. This direction is driven by values that are culturally normed and represent the ‘ideal’ way of acting. Literature on the apparent effects of church schools on pupils is sparse, except in the field of student performance outcomes. The study goes on to describe a small scale investigation that was carried out with a number of students from different year groups within the same school. Methodologically, the study adopted the phenomenological approach. Focus group discussions elicited the pupil’s experiences on how relationships within school and with staff effect their character development. One question also focused on how the school and the family complement each other. The study indicates that the interactions happening in school influence individual ethos and values which ultimately aid in character development. A critical analysis of the findings attempts to highlight similarities and differences to what is reported in the relevant literature. It was evident that literature which focuses on other aspects such as psychological development, achievement, community and leadership, complements the findings of this research; that rather than formal teaching, community life and individual care enhance pupils’ self-esteem and support their personal and social development further. Indeed, contrary to the perception of authors who are opposed to the concept of faith schools, this study argued that values are not internalized through indoctrination, but rather through healthy community living.

Assessment for learning in the Maltese state primary classroom: The Blue Creek College case study

Anthony Satariano

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This research paper investigates how and to what extent is assessment for learning (AfL) being used and what is influencing its integration in the teaching and learning process in the Maltese state primary classroom. This study presents the teachers’ viewpoints and perceptions, and provides insights into possible implications that AfL could have on the teaching and learning phenomenon. Data was collected through a series of one-to-one interviews and classroom observation. The research found that some AfL strategies such as the sharing of the learning intention, effective questioning techniques and the provision of quality feedback are generally being employed in the classroom. However, this study also revealed that crucial strategies such as the sharing of the success criteria and self-and peer-assessment were very rarely implemented. The data analysis also revealed that many teachers did not pass responsibility to the learners during the learning process. Possible implications for the development of formative assessment practices that enhance the child’s learning experience and progress are finally discussed.

A Study on the Effectiveness of Classroom Disciplinary Measures in a Maltese Secondary School

Christopher Kenely

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The study examines the different classroom disciplinary measures used at St Miguel secondary school, their effectiveness and why teachers resort to such measures. There is evidence in the literature that teachers resort to various disciplinary strategies, albeit not all effective, when trying to manage learners’ behaviour. This study goes on to describe a small-scale research carried out with all the learners in Year 9 and Year 10 (i.e. 13- to 15-year-olds) and with all the teachers who teach one of four particular subjects in the afore mentioned years. The study compares the findings with similar international research conducted mostly with secondary school learners and teachers. The similarities and contrasts are highlighted in the research findings. The author contends that implementing effective disciplinary measures in the classroom would be beneficial for both teachers and learners, especially those who are often seen as the most troublesome.

Other Articles

English in Malta, English in Bristol. What implications for teacher education?

Lorna Smith, Doreen Spiteri

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This article explores some emerging issues surrounding two teacher education courses in different parts of the world which share a similar purpose: preparing student teachers to become secondary school teachers of English. In one context the English language is the first language, in the other, the second. However, the distinction is not so neat when learner differences in levels of proficiency are factored in, and is even less neat with the influx in both contexts of immigrant students who are new to learning English. How are teacher educators and student teachers responding to this changing scenario while simultaneously acclimatizing to new national curricula, both placing an emphasis on developing students’ writing skills? The article refers to this one aspect of teacher education course – the teaching of writing skills to secondary school students – and compares the curricular implications in terms of how the PGCE teacher education courses respond.

The Influence of Teacher Behaviours on Pupils’ Mathematical Attainment at Age 6

Lara Said

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Teachers’ instructional behaviours are proximal to pupil learning but not isolated from the broader setting of education. The overall aim of this paper is to explore the influence of teaching on pupil attainment. Utilising a large national sample of pupils’ standardised outcomes, this paper revisits and reanalyses data from a 2005 study called ‘Mathematics in Maltese Primary Schools’ (MIMPS). The study employed random stratified sampling methods to sample pupils (n = 1,628), in Year 2 classrooms (n = 89) in primary schools (n = 41). Pupils were administered Maths 6 (NFER). Results from multilevel analyses reveal, that after adjusting for the contribution of pupil, classroom and school level factors, pupil ability, curriculum coverage, teacher behaviour and head teacher age were elicited as significant and influential predictors of pupil attainment at age 6. The findings highlight the importance of quality teaching and instruction for pupil attainment. The author concludes by recommending the implementation of a system to monitor pupils’ baseline and later attainment outcomes in tandem with the contexts and processes associated with classrooms and schools.

Didactique comparative de la Notion du but/finalité examinée dans quatre langues : le français, l’anglais, l’italien et le maltais

Laurent Seychell

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Deux langues de travail majoritaires en partage entre les 28 pays membres de l’UE, confrontées à deux autres langues minoritaires, problématisent la totalité de la présente communication. Notre objectif est en premier lieu d’examiner la diversité des outils linguistiques marquant les connecteurs du but/finalité dans les langues en question et en deuxième lieu de repérer les cas, rares d’ailleurs, où les connecteurs, quoique n’exprimant pas de but/finalité, ne nuisent pas au sens des phrases/ discours traduits par rapport au sens originel.

Commentary

What should History teachers do when Historians do not agree?

Yosanne Vella

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Actually, historians not agreeing is not such a problem. History teachers are accustomed to historians hardly ever agreeing! By its very nature history is not a quest to find the ultimate truth but it is a never ending investigation and the most a historian can hope for is to provide a valid interpretation based on reliable evidence. However, there are then those moments in history academic studies where historians do not just provide mildly different interpretations but they disagree in a spectacular way, and that is when history becomes terribly interesting and exciting. This is what makes history special and these strong disagreements provide great learning opportunities in the classroom which good history teachers use to their full potential.

Book Reviews

Warren Kidd & Gerry Czerniawski (2011), Teaching Teenagers: A Toolbox for Engaging and Motivating Learners, London, California, New Delhi and Singapore, SAGE Publications, ISBN: 978-0-85702-385-8, pp. 178

Marvic Francalanza

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Carmel Borg & Michael Grech (Eds.) (2014), Lorenzo Milani’s Culture of Peace: Essays on Religion, Education, and Democratic Life New York: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN: 978-1-137-38210-8, pp. 253

Barbara Baschiera

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Colin Calleja & Christine Johnston (Eds.) (2015), A Learning Paradigm Informed by Knowledge of the Learning Self: A Compendium of Applied Research on the Let Me Learn Process®, Malta: Horizons, ISBN 978-99957-38-90-7, pp. 538

Robert B. Kottkamp

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