[Archive] Chapter 4 Good Practices and Key Issues Identified
|4.1 Good Practices Identified In Schools|
- Inspection findings in Chapter Two reveal that the schools inspected displayed obvious strengths in the Domain of Support for Pupils & School Ethos. Praiseworthy practices were identified in such aspects as "home-school co-operation", "extra-curricular activities" and "pastoral care". It is encouraging to find that individual schools performed very well in "school self-evaluation", "staff development" and "curriculum planning and organisation" though these three aspects were often considered to be the areas for improvement for the schools inspected. To avoid a mere repetition of the general strengths mentioned in Chapter Two, this chapter will only present the more specific and unique practices identified in schools with outstanding performance in the above-mentioned aspects. With respect to such aspects as "resources and accommodation" and "non-academic performance of pupils", the strengths of the schools concerned have been duly elaborated in Chapter Two and thus they will not be discussed again here.
|4.1.1 Home-school Co-operation|
- Parents' volunteer support teams were formed to help schools organise programmes and activities in areas of remedial support to pupils, lunch arrangements, extra-curricular activities and guidance services. Some parents even served as instructors of interest groups or assisted teachers in supervising pupils in school outings. Parents not only helped alleviate the workload of teachers in planning and organising activities, but also provided an extra pool of manpower.
- Individual schools also organised seminars/workshops/study groups to help parents establish better relationships with their children and enhance their parenting skills. Some schools also conducted training courses to help parents acquire IT skills so that they could access the homepage of the school for more information. Besides, both parents and their children could share the excitement of learning together.
- A few schools had involved parents in advising on school policies and monitoring school performance. This forged parent-school partnership essential to the success of school-based management.
- Some schools had successfully implemented a whole-school approach to pastoral care with the commitment of all teachers. Individual schools stressed the importance of an empathetic attitude in pastoral care. Teachers were found to be caring, understanding, dedicated and supportive. Pupils were encouraged and allowed to learn from their own misbehaviour and to make improvement. Instead of placing emphasis on punishment, these schools attached due importance to the use of awards to reinforce good behaviour and to help pupils develop a positive attitude towards service and learning.
- The guidance rooms in individual schools were well-resourced to provide a good environment for "play therapy" and individual or group counselling.
|4.1.3 Extra-curricular Activities|
- Apart from offering a good variety of activities, some schools followed closely the directions of the curriculum reform and tried to extend students' learning experiences beyond the school context or even beyond the bounds of the local territory. A number of indoor and outdoor programmes with new insights for pupils were organised and geared towards the development of pupils' different abilities. The increasing number of cross-subject activities indicated that more and more teachers recognised the value of activities as integral to, not peripheral to, curriculum planning.
- 個Individual schools had outstanding performance in leadership training. Students were provided with ample opportunities to develop their talents and skills. Student leaders were expected to train their successors through role modelling. Leadership training programmes and workshops were regularly held by the Students' Union.
|4.1.4 School Self-evaluation|
- In individual schools inspected, attention was paid to the development of SSE with the involvement of staff of all ranks. Evaluation was of multiple dimensions ranging from self-appraisal by individual teachers to peer-evaluation and to mutual evaluation between the management staff and teachers of the basic rank. In some cases, teachers could also comment on the performance of their principal. In the process of evaluation, various tools including questionnaires, interviews and observations were widely used to help form the basis of judgement.
- In a few schools, staff development plans to meet the specific needs of the staff of different ranks were formulated. There was variety in the modes of staff development programmes. Apart from releasing staff to attend external training courses, there were various forms of school-based training and professional sharing within the school. For instance, sharing sessions were arranged in staff meetings to cascade information of the new developments in learning and teaching, and fruitful experiences acquired by teachers from other training events. Peer lesson observation and team collaboration on new curriculum initiatives or resource development were encouraged. Professional development was further facilitated by teachers' active participation in specific pilot schemes and quality circles organised by different educational organisations. In some cases, local or overseas visits were arranged to broaden staff's horizons and experiences.
|4.1.6 Curriculum Planning and Organisation|
- Individual schools showed outstanding performance in curriculum planning and organisation. Apart from covering all the key learning areas in the formal curriculum offered at S1 to S7, these schools placed due emphasis on cross-curricular elements, extra-curricular activities, guidance and religious programmes to supplement the formal curriculum.
- In the process of curriculum planning, the Academic Committee of one of the schools inspected was proactive enough to motivate other teachers to reflect on their existing practices, to inform other subject panels of the recent developments in curriculum development, to lead other teachers to attempt new curriculum initiatives, and to set appropriate priorities for the learning and teaching policies. The policies adopted reflected the visions and insights of the Academic Committee as they were well in line with the recent curriculum reform.
|4.2 Key Issues for Primary, Secondary and Special Schools|
- Among the schools inspected, the key issues identified for action in the domains of Management & Organisation, Learning & Teaching and Support for Pupils & School Ethos were by and large similar to those identified in the previous academic year. This proves clearly that they are issues that need immediate addressing. A summary of these key issues listed in descending order of predominance is given below.
|4.2.1 Management & Organisation|
- Thorough evaluation of school programmes at both school and subject levels should be conducted. Tools and procedures should be established to facilitate schools' self-evaluation.
- Training needs of staff should be analysed and reviewed to map out a coherent and school-based plan for staff training and development. Professional exchange of experience and collaboration among the teaching staff should be promoted.
- Communication and co-ordination between the management and staff should be strengthened in all kinds of school activities so that staff concerns and problems could be better addressed and staff initiative further developed. This would also help boost staff morale and team spirit.
- For effective implementation of school-based management, wider staff participation in decision-making would be required. Shared decision-making involving teachers of all ranks would help build up a sense of ownership with respect to the school policies.
- A review of the various initiatives introduced should be conducted so that proper work priorities could be set to best match the resources available, the strengths of staff and the needs of pupils.
- Leadership of the middle management, including heads of various subject departments and functional units, should be strengthened. Schools should provide relevant training for the middle managers to enhance their management skills and professional knowledge.
- An open and fair staff appraisal system which links with the staff development programmes should be instituted.
|4.2.2 Learning & Teaching|
- As regards curriculum management, there should be better co-ordination among different subject departments and functional groups. Closer monitoring and review of the implementation of the school curriculum were also required. The roles of the panel heads, in primary schools in particular, in leading and monitoring curriculum development should be strengthened.
- A greater variety of learning and teaching strategies should be adopted to enhance interaction in class, to help pupils develop critical thinking skills as well as to cater for pupils' mixed abilities.
- With respect to curriculum planning and organisation, schools should give due attention to cater for learner differences and to broaden pupils' learning experiences when developing a school-based curriculum. Remedial teaching as one of the means to address the issue of learner differences should be carefully planned and reviewed at regular intervals.
- Teachers' expectations of their pupils should be raised so that pupils would be encouraged to develop their potentials to the full. Greater importance should be attached to the development of pupils' generic skills. Pupils could be encouraged to pursue more independent studies through better utilisation of IT and library resources.
- Teaching skills, questioning techniques in particular, required further refinement so as to enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching.
- Information derived from assessment should be fully utilised to improve learning and teaching. Assessment information could, for instance, be used for addressing pupils' learning problems and adjusting teaching programmes.
|4.2.3 Support for Pupils & School Ethos|
- The design of remedial teaching programmes and the adoption of teaching strategies should be reviewed to optimise the effects of such provision.
- A policy for the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs should be established, especially for those with severe learning difficulties.
- Training in counselling and guidance should be provided for teachers to enhance their s kills in handling pupils' behavioural and adjustment problems.
- An effective mechanism should be established for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of remedial teaching programmes and cross-curricular programmes.
|4.3 Key Issues for Kindergartens|
- For the 20 kindergartens inspected, key issues are identified for action and they are listed in descending order of predominance as follows:
|4.3.1 Management & Organisation|
- To facilitate self-improvement, kindergartens should establish a self-evaluation mechanism. Concrete tools and procedures should be formulated. The results of self-evaluation should be followed-up to best match the needs of schools in drawing up development plans with short and long term goals.
- Communication and co-ordination between the management and staff should be strengthened in implementing the school policy and in conducting school activities. Good relationship should be established to facilitate team spirit. In addition, channels of communication should be used appropriately to allow wider staff participation in decision-making.
- A clear and open staff appraisal system should be set up to assess the performance of the staff. Through this appraisal system, the staff could have a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses as well as their training needs.
- After analysing and reviewing the training needs of the staff, a school-based teacher training and development plan should be formulated. Sharing of teaching experiences and good practices should be promoted among teaching staff.
- The kindergarten premises should be well utilised so as to spare more space to conduct activities for children.
- In distributing the workload among teachers, the strengths of teachers, resources available and the needs of the school should be considered.
|4.3.2 Learning & Teaching|
- Assessment modes on children's learning experiences should be reviewed. Children should not be assessed by means of dictations, tests and examinations. Continuous observation and recording should be adopted to assess the various aspects of children's development. Results of the assessments should be used to review teaching effectiveness so as to enhance children's learning.
- The amount of assignments given should be reduced. Mechanical copying exercises should be avoided. A greater variety of tasks which help stimulate children's creativity should be designed.
- The comprehensiveness, balance and appropriateness of curriculum design should be reviewed. Curriculum linkage of the Upper Kindergarten Class, Lower Kindergarten Class and Nursery Class should be strengthened so as to match with children's abilities, interests and needs. Diversified activities should be devised to enhance children's learning experiences and to promote their all-round and balanced development.
- The roles of the school management in planning, co-ordinating, implementing and reviewing the curriculum should be strengthened. Curriculum review with teacher participation should be conducted regularly in order to encourage effective teaching.
- Fine motor development and eye-hand co-ordination of children in Nursery Class should be strengthened through play and activities. Nursery Class children should not be asked to do writing.
- Musical and physical activities should be arranged for children on a daily basis. More free-choice activities for children should be designed to promote their active learning.
- Time management should be effectively utilised and the tempo of activities should be appropriately regulated. 'Active' and 'quiet' activities should be alternately and appropriately arranged in the daily schedule. In addition, more small group learning should be conducted to promote effective learning.
- Teachers should be given opportunities to participate in school-based curriculum design catering for children's abilities, interests and needs.
|4.3.3 Support to Children & School Ethos|
- Home-school co-operation should be established. Parent education on quality early childhood education should be effectively promoted so that parents would support the implementation of a balanced curriculum in the school.
|4.4 Reflections on Inspection Findings|
- QA inspection has been implemented for four years since 1997/98 academic year. Huge amounts of manpower and resources have been spent on this vehicle with an aim to improve the quality of school education in Hong Kong. Are Hong Kong schools really making advances towards this goal? Critics of QA inspection may argue that inspection findings of the past few years come from schools which mostly volunteered for inspection, thus their findings cannot be generalised. Yet, similar key issues identified over the four years of inspection definitely speak for some common phenomena among the Hong Kong schools alike and warrant our special attention. While the in-depth exploration of these common areas of concern should be left to a consolidated report with the evidence of statistical analyses, it may be opportune to have a preliminary reflection on a few striking inspection findings in each of the three domains, which repeat themselves over the years. Hopefully, they would draw the immediate attention and action of the stakeholders.
|4.4.1 Management & Organisation|
- Inspection findings in the past few years reveal that the weakest area in which the schools performed in Domain 1 is "self-evaluation". Yet, school self-evaluation (SSE) is a critical part of the QA framework. The aim of the QA framework is to help schools build up a culture to strive for continuous improvement. Schools are delegated greater autonomy under school-based management and are held accountable for the quality of education provided. Without good school performance in self-evaluation, the aim of school-based management and QA framework cannot be achieved. It would be impractical for QA inspections to take the form of external validation unless the schools are ready for and competent in self-evaluation.
- Why are schools weak in this area? Schools, primary schools in particular, have long been looking up to the ED for guidance and supervision. The school management has limited or even no participation of different stakeholders including parents and staff. The school sector still lacks the culture of evaluating different aspects of school work against some success criteria and making themselves accountable for the quality of work.
- How can ED help schools build up a culture that moves the schools continuously forward through constant evaluation of their own work? This involves schools' acceptance and awareness of the need of SSE. Schools' competence in SSE must rest on their mastery of various evaluation tools and related performance data for comparison.
- Publicity is important to make schools aware that SSE is an integral part of the school-based management framework and the QA framework. Schools should be fully aware that SSE is not the concern of the school management alone. Rather, continuous improvement of a school rests on the concerted effort of all the staff. Staff of different levels in the school management must be duly informed of their respective roles in implementing SSE. The determination of ED to help schools build up competence in this aspect has to be made known to the schools. ED has started work in this direction, but the existing far-from-satisfactory performance of the schools in SSE certainly implies the need to step up the effort.
- More reference materials on how schools in other countries successfully conduct SSE may be collected for schools' reference. Also, more self-evaluation tools such as questionnaires for evaluation of different aspects of school work, the norms of school performance in different aspects which can serve as reference points for comparison have to be developed by ED and distributed to schools for their use. Training sessions have to be conducted to acquaint staff with the uses and limitations of these tools. Furthermore, schools with success in SSE need to disseminate their experiences so as to help cultivate among schools a culture of striving for continuous progress. Such a culture needs to be cultivated within and among schools before SSE could be validated through inspections. Officers from REOs and those engaging in the dissemination of good practices also need to step up their effort to help schools in this area of work.
- While external assistance of the above may be rendered by ED to accelerate the development of a school culture conducive to SSE, the ultimate success of the schools in SSE depends on their own initiative to make a truthful review of their work for continuous progress as well as on their mastery of the SSE tools. In view of the principle to hold schools accountable for their own performance, pressure may have to be exerted where schools persistently fail to reach the desired goals.
- In this regard, schools should refer to the Handbook on Self-evaluation which has been distributed to them for an understanding of the framework and basic tools of SSE. SSE should be targeted as a key issue in staff development. The school management should encourage staff, in particular the functional heads and subject department heads, to attend relevant SSE training courses organised by ED or other tertiary institutions. To step up the dissemination of SSE concepts within schools, in-house staff development programmes should be organised to acquaint teachers with their respective roles and the various tools used in the SSE mechanism. In the long run when more schools have become accustomed to the SSE framework, they can embark on more sophisticated measures such as action research to diagnose their own problems in learning and teaching, to devise remedies and to experiment with new pedagogical innovations suited to the needs of their students. A quality culture will then be cultivated in these schools which are learning organisations aspiring to continuous development. Should schools have difficulties in SSE, they can seek support from the respective REO.
|4.4.2 Learning & Teaching|
- What else, if not for learning and teaching, does it make a school different from other organisations? In the past four years, schools' performance in the domain of learning and teaching has been consistently weak relative to the other three domains under inspection.
- When we look ahead, schools have to meet more challenges arising from the recent curriculum reform. The promotion of life-long learning and life-wide learning means that teachers can no longer be mere transmitters of a fixed domain of knowledge. In a knowledge-based society, teachers and pupils alike have to keep on learning through different channels, with the support of IT in particular. Learning should no longer be restricted to a rigid formal curriculum and schools are allowed to develop a school-based curriculum to cater for the needs and abilities of their pupils. Besides, assessment should serve to diagnose pupils' learning progress with an aim for continuous improvement. Past inspection findings reveal that teachers were weak in the use of assessment information for improving learning and teaching. Hence, extra guidance must be provided to the majority of the teachers to help them implement the curriculum reform.
- Senior staff, heads of departments in particular, are expected to take up a more proactive role in curriculum development and to demonstrate curriculum and instructional leadership in school. If schools did not perform well in learning and teaching in the past, how can they cope with the higher demands in times of more dynamic changes? How can ED help teachers meet the increasingly higher expectations and challenges ahead?
- Before seeking external support, teachers may enhance their own professional expertise through more frequent professional exchanges among themselves. In-house sharing sessions can be organised in conjunction with peer lesson observation to cascade good pedagogical practices identified so that a culture conducive to continuous professional development could be fostered. Collaborative lesson preparation is another means to help teachers enhance their professionalism. For the above recommendations to take effect, the heads of departments are expected to play a leading role to motivate and lead other teachers.
- ED will continue to provide support to schools to improve the quality of learning and teaching. For example, cooperative learning which involves the use of a diversity of learning and teaching strategies can be introduced to provide more room for student participation in class activities and to encourage collaboration among students. ED will organise seminars and prepare a training package on this instructional method to help the schools that have undergone QA inspection since 2000/01 to enhance their competence in teaching strategies.
- Past inspection findings reveal that the primary schools inspected were in general weaker than the secondary schools in curriculum planning and management, as well as in teachers' subject knowledge. This may have nothing to do with the differences in quality of teachers in the primary and secondary schools inspected. Instead, the above inspection findings reveal a difference in administrative arrangements. Unlike their secondary counterparts, primary school teachers seldom specialise in subject teaching. The heads of departments are not promotion posts and thus are not necessarily assigned to teachers with the required experience and expertise to take up the leadership role in curriculum and instruction. As curriculum and instructional leadership and teachers' professional expertise are crucial to the successful implementation of curriculum reform in the school context, there is a genuine need to have an overhaul of the above administrative arrangements. Recently, more graduate posts are allocated to primary schools. The post-holders are usually required to take charge of important aspects of school work such as curriculum planning and academic affairs. Action research has to be done to gauge whether or not this change in administrative arrangements can bring about the desired positive impact on the development of school curriculum.
- As facilitators of pupils' learning, teachers need to possess good subject knowledge and put in sustained effort to keep themselves abreast of the development of pedagogy and subject matter. In view of the dynamic changes in the education sector, professional development of teachers in such areas as IT and curriculum development needs to be strengthened as well. Professional development becomes another key issue affecting the quality of learning and teaching in school. While secondary school teachers' subject knowledge was found to be good, the relative weak performance of primary schools is worth our attention. Have sufficient attention and support been given to staff development in schools, primary schools in particular? Are there any institutional factors impeding teachers in their quest for professional development? Is the workload arising from higher expectations on teaching and the need for professional development manageable to the teachers? These are some of the follow-up research questions to be pursued.
|4.4.3 Support for Pupils & School Ethos|
- The effectiveness of remedial teaching programmes was a key concern which appeared repeatedly in past inspection findings. Resources have been given to schools to cater for the needs of the academically low achievers in the main subjects, language subjects in particular. Yet, there was only slight improvement in pupils' learning progress.
- The effectiveness of remedial teaching programmes has important bearings on the policy of catering for learner differences. When pupils' bandings are reduced from five to three, how can schools cope with a group of pupils with a larger range of ability? Schools tend to call for more resources from ED so that remedial teaching can be offered to more pupils with such a need. However, resources are not unlimited. A decision for injecting additional resources must be grounded on evidence that it is more worthwhile than other alternative uses. Present inspection findings point out that existing resources on remedial teaching have not been optimised.
- Often, "borderline" pupils are selected for remedial teaching, leaving those pupils at the lower end of the attainment spectrum unattended. Inspection findings already reveal that improvement is needed in almost all main aspects of work including the deployment of staff, co-ordination, curriculum planning, formulation of teaching strategies and design of assignments and assessment to meet the needs and abilities of the pupils.
- Another issue arises from two divergent views with regard to teaching pupils with mixed abilities. The present modes of remedial teaching require streaming and grouping of the less able pupils into smaller remedial teaching groups. On the contrary, there are educational theories in support of differentiated instructions in a class with pupils of mixed abilities.
- How can the services catering to pupils with diverse abilities be improved? How can we tap the valuable expertise of those teachers who have extensive experience in teaching the academically low achievers? How can such valuable experience be effectively disseminated, within school and across schools, to other teachers who have to cater for pupils with diverse abilities? All these questions point out that professional sharing among teachers needs to be further strengthened.
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- Schools have to face unprecedented dynamic changes in the years to come. To help pupils learn how to learn, schools must be a learning organisation. The school authority and teaching staff have to meet the higher expectations imposed on them. Not only pupils have to learn, but teachers as well have to exert sustained effort to keep pace with the rapid changes in subject knowledge, curriculum, pedagogy and management concepts in the knowledge-based society. As such, staff development and professional sharing among teachers are conducive to enhance the professionalism of the staff and are crucial to the cultivation of a quality culture in school. The anticipated staff development programmes will be large in quantity. Can teachers cope with these extra training needs of a diverse nature when their workload is already very high? Which mode(s) of staff development programme may help alleviate the extra burden put on the teachers? Can staff development be left to the decision of individual schools? Or, what can ED do to foster systematic staff development in school? These are some of the key questions which deserve our serious consideration.
|4.5 Support for Schools|
- In addition to carrying out QA inspections, ED also renders support services to schools and disseminates good practices identified in inspections with a view to helping schools enhance their quality of learning and teaching.
- Three QA Support (QAS) Teams have been established through the redeployment of manpower resources within the Inspection Section to render post-inspection support to the schools that have undergone QA inspection since the 2000/01 academic year. Mechanisms and procedures for rendering post-QAI support service, reference materials and training packages that would address key issues identified during inspections have been developed. Other worthwhile activities regarding post-inspection support such as seminars and workshops for the school clusters, on-site consultancy services and networks within and across districts are being planned to help empower the schools with the capabilities for sustained self-improvement. Post-QAI support service will commence in the 50 primary, secondary and special schools inspected in the 2000/01 academic year. For the coming academic year, the 70 schools to be inspected in the 2001/02 academic year will receive initial post-inspection support and seminars on post-inspection action planning will be conducted. The focus of the post-QAI support service will be on macro issues at school level.
- ED has continued to disseminate the good practices identified during QA inspections through experience-sharing seminars. In 2000/01, four seminars were organised on issues common to schools at large. They were attended by a total of 1,703 participants. Response was positive, with over 80% of the participants regarding the seminars as useful and the content as good. To further promulgate the good practices identified during QA inspections, a new site has been created on the ED homepage (http:www.emb.gov.hk/qai/qai.htm) and 24 contributions from schools have so far been uploaded. In 2001/02, ED will continue to disseminate good practices through experience-sharing seminars and the QAI web page.
- ED has continued to assist schools in enhancing the effectiveness of learning and teaching of specific subjects by organising district-based experience-sharing seminars under the District Teacher Network Scheme. This Scheme, started since 2000, has brought about further momentum for promoting experience exchange and dissemination of good practices in learning and teaching, which is conducive to raising the professional standards of teachers.
- The current range of advisory and supporting services offered by ED to schools will be continued. To support the implementation of school curriculum, ED will continue to publish newsletters, bulletins, pamphlets and resource materials for distribution to schools. In-service teacher education programmes (INSTEP) to improve the quality of teaching will be held on a regular basis. In 2000/01, AID organised 83 events of INSTEP with a total number of 7,62 4 participants from primary and secondary schools.
- Support services provided to the kindergartens were stepped up in the 2000/01 academic year. ED conducted seven seminars and 17 workshops on School Self-evaluation (SSE) for about 2,300 participants. In addition, talks on various topics were delivered to teachers and parents of kindergartens. A set of guidelines and resource materials for SSE has been developed and issued to kindergartens for reference.