UQ teams up with government and industry to create change for rural schools

22 Apr 2016

Reading comprehension levels of children in the Bowen Basin have improved thanks to a University of Queensland-led project.

The UQ School of Education’s four-year project, in partnership with BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and the Department of Education and Training (DET), has provided on-site professional learning to teachers at 10 Bowen Basin primary schools.

A resource book has also been published for classroom teachers, outlining strategies to help motivate students in years 4-7 to read and ways to improve reading comprehension.

Associate Professor Christa van Kraayenoord said rural and remote schools often faced challenges providing professional development for teachers.

“The project helped build teacher capacity and skills, which improved learning outcomes for students and in turn built student confidence,” Associate Professor Kraayenoord said.

“Many of our young teachers start their careers in remote and rural schools, so the project was particularly beneficial to them.

“When we compared the NAPLAN and TORCH (Tests of Reading Comprehension) results against five local non-participating schools, the reading comprehension of students involved in the project had improved.

“The partnerships with BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and the Central Queensland Region of the DET played a key role in the impact of the project.

“This was the first time a coal mining company had partnered on a research project of this kind, and their involvement raised the profile of the project within mining communities.

“The Central Queensland Region of the DET liaised with schools, and principals.

“This is a great example of how partnering with industry and the Education Department can be really effective in creating change within schools and communities.”

Grant Webb from the Department of Education and Training Central Queensland Region said the project helped develop relationships between schools.

“The collaborative partnership was beneficial in providing high-quality professional learning to teachers in our mining communities,” Mr Webb said.

“This professional development also enabled the building of strong partnerships across a number of schools.”

UQ researchers in the project included Professor Robyn Gillies, Dr Eileen Honan and Associate Professor Karen Moni from the School of Education; Professor Mark Western from the Institute of Social Science Research and Professor David Brereton from the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining.

The project was funded by the Australian Research Council with funds and in-kind contributions from the Central Queensland Region of the DET and BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance.

Media: Gillian Ievers, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences UQ, g.ievers@uq.edu.au, 07 3346 1633; Associate Professor Christa van Kraayenoord, c.vankraayenoord@uq.edu.au, 07 3365 6521.