Saturday, November 21, 2020

OLNA preparation

OLNA diagnostics and group diagnostics are found in SIRS and assist in identifying parts of the course that students don't understand well.  I've spent the last week collating data for my class and identifying what needs to be learned.

The main ideas so far have been in Money/Percentages and Proportion:

Money, Proportion and Percentages (Number topics)

    Profit/Loss: Percentage increase decrease
    Discount/Markup: Percentages of amounts
    Finding quantities in an amount: Multiplication / Partitioning
    Providing change: The difference in two amounts / Subtraction
    Changing quantities in a recipe
    Pie charts

This has been consistent over many years of teaching that these concepts are poorly understood.  With the increased understanding of how to teach Linear Algebra among teachers through the efforts of Pam Sherrard, proportion and specifically percentages are the new frontier.

There were some other topics: Volume, Elapsed Time but Percentages and Money topics comprised the majority of issues faced by students, particularly when calculators are not allowed to be used.

Something to consider as we design the new programmes, particularly in the lower ability classes.

The biggest tip so far is not to learn rote methods without context.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Developing Assessment for use across multiple classes

Developing assessment for use across multiple classes is problematic.  Each teacher and text interprets the syllabus a little different and each class enters with different prior knowledge and horsepower. There is a sweet spot where courses can cater to students and minimise work for teachers.  It is not always possible to bring all teachers together to co-write assessment, typically it is assigned to a teacher to complete.

Conflict can occur if the following occurs:

  • Teacher that writes the assessment is inflexible (or unable to take constructive criticism)
  • Teachers that read the assessment are overly critical
  • The teacher writing the assessment has not had enough/spent enough time developing the assessment. 
  • Grade related descriptors and exemplars are not consulted (or been used over prescriptively)
  • The assessment is too broad or narrow in scope
  • Syllabus has not been taught fully in one or more classes
  • Corners of the course have been emphasized in one class (particularly skills based work)
  • If an assessment is written below or beyond the capabilities of a class
  • Time is not given to consider the assessment before the requirement to present it to students


To solve these issues requires patience and developing a collegiate approach.  Teachers need to feel safe when developing assessments that if they have done their best, the college will improve it, not "correct it" because they have done it wrong.  It's a mindset developing growth in the team.


In some cases it's a case of developing a shared language:

"I understand what you are saying but in this case..."

"Given the Syllabus dot point identifies this behaviour/concept/idea perhaps we could modify it to..."

"This question may be beyond the scope identified through this grade related descriptor and may be more suitable for year x".

"Here is an alternative problem that might be substituted."

"I might have to think on that some more and will come back to you.."


Using past assessments as an item bank where this process has already been navigated might help as long as the syllabus is used as a basis for identifying appropriate questions.


Anger, aggression, threats, forcing an opinion, getting personal in criticism, going rogue, white anting and undermining, are not ok, professional or appropriate.


Where a difference of opinion exists, ensuring there is time to investigate a solution or involving a HOLA to mediate helps.  Sometimes having slightly different tests or a supplementary tests for different classes are ok as long as the difficulty level is maintained (to assist with consistent judgements and class ranking).

A collegiate approach requires those more experienced to work with those less experienced to develop a shared understanding (which requires investigating why the views are different and considering all opinions until a mutual or adjudicated position is found).

Similarly a reflective approach requires all of us to consider new ideas, especially if our experience or understanding indicates otherwise.  Being right all the time is an irritating and frustrating trait that will draw ire from colleagues.

Friday, November 6, 2020

HOLA - Is this it?

 A career often leads to different areas than the one you start in.  I was asked earlier in the year if I would consider a change in position to a role in another government department related to my IT management skills rather than my teaching skills.  With my wife not working and kids in school, although exciting, it was not something that my risk averse family could contemplate.

Often, I think, am I doing the right thing?  I was an expert in my field, respected for what I could do and could create new stuff at will.  The field of teaching is much larger and more difficult to reach the same level of expertise.  I would have thought that those in IT have well and truly forgotten who I am and what I did during my ICT career and that it was behind me.

Again it has been raised, do I want to jump back to ICT?  Do I want to engage in the higher risk/reward that is IT compared to teaching?  Do I want the absolute highs (and lows) of running an IT team with insane deadlines compared to the relatively simple and benign role of a HOLA in a school.

There's always that little voice in the back that says... :-)

Last night I had a vivid dream (unusual in itself), I was jumping off a cargo ship just offshore with my family.  I'm swimming well (I can't swim) and initially have my child on my back.  She gets off and starts to swim to shore.  I start racing another person and get to shore first but my child and the rest of my family is nowhere to be seen.  I woke up and needless to say I was quite shaken and took awhile to get back to sleep.  The dream repeated multiple times.

I'm not a hippy sort but I do like to reflect on what my subconscious may be trying to tell me - even random events can lead to insights as it breaks patterns of thinking.

In this case was it warning me that I am doing this in my classes?  Do I get carried away with what I am thinking and sometimes leave students behind?  In my "I'm a HOLA and know what I am doing", started to believe my own BS and forgotten what made me able to give students that aha moment every class.

Could I be considering a change in occupation because I am (again) doubting my ability to teach and lead others and running away when I need to dig deep and make this work?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The meaning of full participation

Full participation is the emerging buzzword in education.  What is it and why do we need it?

79.1% of students were engaged in full time education as at the 2016 Census.  That means 20.9% had dropped out of full time education.  One would expect that full participation would mean 100% but every teacher knows that the percentage is lower than this.

In every school, there are a number of students either passively not participating in classes or actively seeking to disrupt classes.  Different sectors are able to deal with these students in different ways.  One of the clear inequities of the public/private is the ability of private schools to encourage students to leave (either through the cost/return argument or simply by not renewing their enrolment) resulting in a disproportionate numbers of these students in public schools.  Full participation is engaging these students.

Since the implementation of compulsory education the public system has developed a number of measures to minimise disruption of low participation students in schools (and their disruption in local communities).  These students are the most at risk socio-economically and for mental health; typically with poor role models, have a low value of education and foresee few job prospects.

These students lower the actual participation rate in schools and consume a significant amount of time initially for teachers, then student services and later for administration requiring alternative pathways to education or employment, or increasingly in extreme cases being passed between schools via section A exclusions.

They are currently in the spotlight for the amount of time they consume - and the new focus for classroom teachers to attempt to prevent them becoming issues for the department, admin and student services.  They are the students that typically know that discipline and BMIS is a bluff - if they say no, there's not much schools can do.

It is one thing to say full participation is required - another thing to make it happen, the levers are below and this is far from an exhaustive list.

a) establishment of rapport

You don't want to be their least favourite teacher - if you are, you are in for a hard time.  For a traditional teacher, where consequence (detention/suspension) is the only remediating measure in a teacher's kitbag, these are the teachers most at risk.  A positive approach is needed (and is wearying), each day, every day. 

b) positive re-inforcement

These students typically are low performing and have low self esteem.  Ensuring success is encountered and encountered frequently, is essential for engagement.  

c) syllabus delivered at developmental level

Students that have not found success, particularly in Maths get accumulated in secondary school.  The current syllabus is an issue as it is "one size fits all" and with students 4-6 years below syllabus, this is not conducive to success, requiring other strategies.  Where they could hide in multiple primary schools getting extra assistance as the bottom two students in classes across the suburb, they now get put together and are expected to learn in a standard learning environment without the additional support and attention they have previously been given.  Not being equipped for independent learning, all too often this results in poor learning environments.  To get them to achieve at level, requires identification of where they are at, and devising a learning programme that caters to their needs.  This is time consuming, expensive and rarely implemented well.

d) students services support

These students have issues and lots of them.  It often feels like whack-a-mole in these classrooms.  As one student settles, another looks for attention.  This is a lifelong pattern by students to gain attention (good or bad) not gained elsewhere.    Typically to address these issues requires an holistic approach, with student services monitoring student and family wellbeing and communicating this to classrooms such that teachers understand the source of issues faced.  It can be as simple as giving a kid a pen and paper to reduce anxiety for a student with a family underemployed and struggling to keep a roof overhead. Effective student services and timely information is critical to establishing and maintaining establishment of teacher rapport. A case management approach is critical to success.

e) environmental supports

Students in this category can have limited social skills and may not respond to measures that work in other classes.  Low key measures may not work (proximity in particular may raise anxiety levels), their focus on social equity creates friction(attention given for poor behaviour is seen as unfairly distributed),  poor social skills (seating plans become problematic, peer conflict more frequent), homework creates friction (few study skills, no environment that supports homework, little IT access at home).  These classes have high levels of conflict and these levels of high stimulation can undermine students ability to function particularly where autism and ADHD is mixed in.  A shouty teacher with an anxious or traumatised student completely undermines any ability to learn.  They need a caring, supportive environment, hard to supply when they evidence little care of themselves.

f) instructional techniques

Instructional techniques are more limited as students find it difficult to work independently - especially as class sizes rise to 26-30 students.  This results in highly structured lessons, teacher directed lessons, with fewer opportunities to engage with investigative approaches to cater to multiple levels of ability.  With higher levels of impulsive behaviour, lessons that are not highly structured can quickly become unworkable.  I'm not sure what the answer is here and my feeling is that the problem is significantly different in Year 7 (where there is still hope for connection with education) to Year 10 and beyond (where external influences and antisocial behaviours may exceed the ability of schools to engage them). 

g) parental involvement

These students have had constant negative feedback given to parents whilst in formal schooling and often parents have disengaged.  Families can often too be classified as at risk themselves, being possibly broken, abusive, helpless and highly resistant to engagement.  Developing a team approach can be difficult and requires a deft touch.

h) community involvement

Community involvement - Smith family, Rotary, Lions, Police, Juvenile Justice, Focus First, AustismWest, EdConnect, Mercycare, Clontarf, RMLA, Headspace provide a range of supports that can improve the home situation for students and promote full participation.  A pair of shoes, pen, calculator, exercise book or a strong mentor can help a student engage in a classroom in class and supplements what student services can do.

i) classroom structures

Low participation students are typically put in the same classes as students with disability as both are academically struggling and the supports (such as EA's or small class sizes) are with other low functioning students.  Many of the issues above are shared with students that have a disability but attract no funding to rectify. The management of these students is completely different - putting them together creates a more complex classroom (typical of streamed environments) than not doing so and is not desirable. 


Now all this for a relative few, which diverts attention from core business of schools - delivery of the syllabus.   The obvious statement is that this is what schools do, and they care, but it should not be just assumed it will happen - because it won't and hasn't in many instances despite best intentions - to do it requires a clear understanding of the issues faced and addressing them with due consideration of the cost/benefit.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

What part does motivation play in teaching students?

 As teachers we are typically motivated people. We prepare classes, mark work, consider what comes next.  Generally we are moving from one thing to the next without a lot of thought about "why am I here".

Students on the other hand are on a 12 year journey where the press constantly questions the direction of education as a system.  Anecdotally, the general trend of apathy towards education is growing, or many teachers would have you believe.  Students are unmotivated, apathetic and of decreasing standard is a fairly common comment.

This raises the question of what role do teachers play in motivating students? Where are engagement strategies in the list of hierarchy of skills to develop.

I have asked teachers whether they consider motivating students a part of teaching.  Thankfully, the view that students are self motivating is less common and teachers accept that motivating students is a key component of teaching. The "hook" is nothing more than a motivational strategy to link students with a teaching context.

So, what happens if a student is unmotivated.  


Teacher centric                                              

Student needs to motivate themselves            

Isolate the student to prevent negative influence          

Inform parents that a problem exists               

Inform student they have a problem                

Expect someone else to solve issue               


Student centric

Need to identify a method or context to motivate the student

Place student among good role models

Work with parents to identify possible solutions

Work with student to identify why unmotivated

Opportunity to develop skills to motivate students



It's a interesting problem to consider.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Examining programmes

Programmes for each year group are developed over many years.  Redesigning them from scratch is a time consuming task and has the potential to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There are a number of models that I have seen being used.  The model I'm faced with has left me challenged and has been driven by streaming at the school and an aim to make teaching easier, freeing up time for intervention with students.

In Term 1 and 2, Number and Algebra is done in each year group. In Term 3 everyone does Measurement.  In Term 4 everyone does Probability and Statistics.  Some of the programmes are simply the outcomes listed in order, with texts identified next to each topic. It helps with sharing material as everyone is basically doing the same thing at the same time.  Tests are set and everyone does the same test in each pathway.  Each test appears to be rewritten from scratch each time.


I must admit I scratched my head at this model.  It was obvious the difficulty ramped by midyear and dropped at the start of Term 3 and Term 4.  A group of students in each class disengaged as they fell of the programme and the work became too difficult.  Retention of material, year to year, was not apparent - especially in senior school.  Problem solving was not strongly developed resulting in a lower than expected number of students attempting ATAR courses or performing well in ATAR courses. Together with the current streaming model and in consultation with other HOLA's and SWS it appears the programmes and structure set are not inline with current teaching practices and needed attention.


After a bit of a review, I stated that I wished for this to change to the team and that NA be set as the backbone for material over the year with M and PS applying concepts taught in each NA unit providing context for ideas presented.  The problem was how to implement it..  and this required some thought.  

My initial idea was to set year groups to teachers in groups with an objective of rewriting them slowly over 6 months.  This method has been singularly unsuccessful.  One alternative was for me to sit down (again) and write a series of programmes for all streams.  The main issue that I have found with this approach is a lack of ownership by the teaching group which leads to a lack of future development and analysis of the programmes.  In a team critical of change, it had the potential for a blame game rather than a incremental improvement model to be developed.

So I took a long view instead.  I took the most difficult year (Year 10) and will rewrite this one myself (and will need to incrementally rewrite it over the next four years as students adjust to new teaching pedagogy, starting in Year 7).  As I will be teaching in Year 10 for some time, I can ensure that this gets ongoing review.  Secondly I set the most progressive teachers to redevelop the Year 7 programme and then found a PD from SWS later in the year that would help them develop an engaging course.  I can then work with them to analyse how each course progresses and develop an evidence based approach to teaching, whilst encouraging development of the course with engagement and instructional techniques needed to advance students optimally. Once these two year groups are established in 2021, I can look at the remaining two year groups that require development.

A big part of the new model has to be how grades are allocated (giving meaning to pathway grades), how students are assessed (broadening the methodology for assessment), how SEN reporting is used and how EAs are used to support learning in the classroom. 


Now that the main idea is set, hopefully it will gain traction.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Perception and being overly critical.

It is easy to fall into the trap of being overly critical.  As an insider you know why things are done a certain way.  Often it is a compromise, where you know there is a better way, but at the time, this was the best you could get consensus with.

As an outsider you look at it without context and think.. boy, that is stupid.

I'm pretty free with an opinion and happy to comment on something if it is either in my domain of expertise or if asked.  It was put to me - "Don't you like it here?" by someone that I really respect.  This wasn't a jibe or a snarky comment, it was a legitimate observation and made me step back and think.  I responded, "What choice do I have? I'm not able to move until I make a success of this."

I know I'm pig headed and will continue long after others would give up. I need a good success to progress my career and this is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference.

Is that how others perceive me? Are my comments overly critical?  Have I become one of those people?

Do I like it here?

I gave myself a break and thought, I've been somewhere that I have great memories of 13 years, transition is hard.  I've been criticised from the minute I entered my new school by the team I need to own - it hasn't always been pleasant.

I wasn't sure.  My enjoyment of teaching has on occasion been from interactions with admin and teachers, but for the most part it has been with students.  Was I getting jaded because I felt like I wasn't making a difference?

Being action oriented I did something about it and surveyed my kids, nothing special, a survey I found on the web.  The results were great and lifted my spirits significantly.  Far better than when I surveyed myself. I could answer a different question now, "could I like it here?"  Absolutely.  If the kids can see benefit in my teaching style, they will provide the impetus for me to follow through on what evidence makes obvious.

I then presented the survey results to Admin.  This is what I have in my classrooms.  Admin need to be confident that I can walk the walk.  This will lead to them backing my judgement when I say something needs doing or in supporting something I have done.

I talked to my team.  You're a good teacher?  Here's a survey - don't tell me from anecdotes, go check and bring back the results.  There are the benchmarks, my classes, the most difficult class of last year and an ATAR class being taught in a different way.  If you're not getting better than that, come talk to me and we can discuss what worked for me.  If yours are better in some areas, I have something to learn too. 

I went and spoke to those I considered experts outside the school on next steps refining our delivery.  We put together a plan of attack.

I had my fire back.

..

I'm beginning to like it here.




Saturday, September 19, 2020

The five year plan

I was given advice when I started teaching - have a five year plan.

It's good advice - like most good advice I've been given it was easy to see with hindsight.  Don't get me wrong, for the most part I've been very lucky with my promotional opportunities and have been promoted to incompetence a number of times through what has felt like sheer luck.  It certainly hasn't been through careful planning.

For those that have come to me for guidance (and for those that could not understand why others with less experience or skill had been selected for positions) I would say the following.

Being a good classroom teacher is not enough.  You need to build a story that highlights you over all of the other applicants.  A five plan can keep you focused on what you need to do and help you through those times when you feel under-appreciated or are questioning what made you think you would be a good teacher.

To begin start with identifying where you would like to go if you were not teaching (yes I know we all want to be in the classroom but there may come a time when you have more to offer the system than getting 30 kids to progress faster than the next bozo).

Common aims are to spend time in student services, broaden your skills into another LA, L3CT, Senior Teacher, remedial teacher, ATAR teacher, as a year leader, teacher in charge, in an extension environment, GAT/GATE, curriculum leader, HOLA, deputy (heaven forbid), Principal (if you wish to shorten your lifespan), return to university, teach at university.

Each has a different pathway and the pathway changes depending on the current political environment.  The five year plan is important as it gives your line manager time to identify opportunities that you lead you to your destination whilst accomplishing goals in line with business plan objectives.

For instance, you wish to be a HOLA.

You need to be able to teach across the whole spectrum of your Learning area.  If all goes to poo, you will need to step in and fill the gap until a better solution is found.  No Specialist teacher - guess who is teaching it, the engagement year 9 class has gone through 3 teachers - saddle up, the ride will be bumpy.  Be the go to guy for your HOLA.  Your CV needs to show you have demonstrated your skills.

Do you understand an evidence based approach and how have you implemented ideas that have resulted in positive outcomes for students?  Can you state what you have done eloquently and will this be backed up by your HoLA when queried during reference checks.

Make sure that your current HOLA is happy with your performance.  Be sparing with criticism (it's easy to fall into this trap if you think you can do it better than your HOLA) and support the initiatives presented - white ant, passively resist and undermine them and they will be brutally honest when queried about you.

Do the extra - all schools ask about the commitment a teacher has to a school.  If you leave school at 3pm and arrive at 9, for kids or your own business and don't volunteer for anything other than core teaching - you are not showing the qualities desired by admin to inspire a staff.

Make connections in the community - find the Rotary, Lions or other community group that is knocking down the doors. 

Get involved in PD, bring the knowledge back to the school and implement the ideas.

Create a CV that screams hire me.

Be familiar with trends in education - direct instruction is the current go to, hattie's visible learning, zbar, There are some great models for mentoring and leadership - know a few that align with (or have formed) your thinking.

Have a go to project to talk about.  Worked with low ability students, low mood/mental health, remedial students and SEN reporting, streaming, increasing access to ATAR, running summer schools, tutoring programmes, improving engagement through instructional techniques, mentoring grads or prac students, running an afterschool music or boardgame programme and make sure you can discuss the evidence of success associated with it and that your referee can back it up as your project.  None of these require promotion to be run and can attract FTE if successful.

Volunteer for short term roles that align with your direction. Especially if no one else wants to do them.

If you don't know why you are doing something it can cause resentment and loss of motivation.  Especially when classes are not going well or providing the motivation needed to drive the next class activity with full throttle.

It should look something like this:

Year 1: talk about opportunities with line manager. Identify the qualities required to be competitive in the desired role/position. Update CV. Set goals that lead to desired role.

Year 2: Get involved with projects identified with your line manager. Update CV. Revise goals.

Year 3: Evaluate what is currently available at the school and other schools. Increase involvement in roles aligning with direction. Discuss successes with Line manager. Seek recognition of some sort of significant successes.  Seek to increase your network in the desired field. Update CV.  Seek others in the desired field to see your CV and make suggestions as to how to improve it/be more competitive. Revise goals. Revisit your goals, set some new ones and drop the ones you will not achieve.

Year 4: Be actively discussing your aspirations with your line manager and network about opportunities. Update CV.  If the school does have roles available for you, start applying for roles outside the school.  Get feedback about what you need to do to be more competitive. Do not get downheartened - this step is part of the process.

Year 5: Actively review available opportunities regularly. Discuss with your line Manager and admin about possible roles in line with aspirations - actively show that you are looking for opportunities and have developed a competitive CV in the field desired.  Use your network to validate your successes.  Celebrate the new role when it comes! Set the next plan.


Monday, September 7, 2020

HOLA Duties

As a HoLA there are a range of tasks you need to perform.  As part of a mentoring course a model was put forward that described these duties quite well.

"Tell, Sell, Collaborate, Coach"

We were all tested for our mentoring style and my initial response was "collaborate" as my preferred strategy with the proviso that we needed to do all of these depending on the particular task we were undertaking.


Four situations:

Situation 1.

A teacher has not given an assessment schedule or course outline to a class.

Action: (Tell) Teacher is gently reminded that this is a requirement of SCSA and given a compliance date.  If not complied with, needs to be followed up as it is a requirement of a HOLA to ensure this is done.  If possible assist with any roadblocks preventing it being done.  Escalate issue if not complied with as it has the potential for issues with parents and SCSA.


Situation 2.

School would like to implement a numeracy week

Action: (Sell) Consider all the benefits of a numeracy week, discuss the benefits with the team and propose to delegate the duties in a way that does not impact on learning.  Identify champions  that are enthusiastic and able to get the project off the ground (and reward them to encourage others to champion projects in the future). Attempt to achieve team consensus to limit white anting.


Situation 3.

Issue identified that programmes need a review through analysis of student results.

Action: (Collaborate) Discuss the issues with current programmes with the team, delegate year groups to sets of teachers.  Set a deadline for completing the programme review and allocate templates to ensure a consistent review is completed.  Set a long deadline and have teachers report back on how the review is going at each learning area meeting. Emerging leaders should be identified for future projects and advancement.  Create a transparent environment to prevent social loafing.


Situation 4.

Staff member identified with potential leadership capacity.

Action: (Coach) Work with the teacher on their five year plan and identify opportunities to challenge their existing understanding of leadership.  Identify opportunities for them to work with other departments, to lead small groups within the team and to work with admin to develop their capabilities.  Provide an insight on decision making strategies used within the department and provide opportunities to contribute to the decision making process outside of team consensus.

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Consuming ICT

Learning via ICT is an odd fish in education.  Often seen as a panacea and the enabler for a transformation in education, it has consistently failed to live up to expectations.  Blogs, LMS, tablets, interactive boards, apps, graphics calculators, CAS calculators, Connect, Teams, youtube, screencasts, Wiki's and the list goes on!

I've had the pleasure of working with a wide range of students and tailoring ICT to the needs of students over the years.

My latest epiphany is that students do not learn from ICT when directed to it.  They are consumers of ICT, they use it when they need it - they seek information and use it on demand.  This is how they see ICT in the same way they use social media.

This is very different to what we do as teachers, as our jobs are so often as motivators and as "teachers of information in a sequence" that has no connection to immediate student perceived needs (we create the demand for the consumption through delivery of the syllabus!).

Sitting in front of a screen in of itself is typically not motivating and students resist doing it.

Getting information that you require is to satisfy a demand and is easier to negotiate with students (eg. the need is being better able to pass a test they would fail otherwise).  

If we can make information available that they need, when they need it (and acknowledge it is not at  the start of a topic before a need is generated - eg an extension of Voygotski's zone of proximal development and the idea behind "just in time intervention"), then they will consume it.  They may not learn the main idea well using ICT but it may fill gaps in their learning with ICT.

My most recent iteration experimenting with this was with a low ability class doing Trigonometry.  Rather than working through the process online (and generating resources and a sequence to do this which takes some time to do properly), I did the revision exercise online which quickly went through each step and then indicated to students to ask me about the bit they did not understand.

We then did the process again in class (after they had an opportunity to watch the screencast).  Low an behold they then asked questions about specific elements of the process.  The demand was generated and the reason for consumption was clear to students. It was also sent to parents such that they could be involved in learning (at a point where the majority of teaching was done and they could act on the individual problems of their child - another distinct benefit).

Voila - consumed ICT!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Scratch and the Maths challenge

My daughters do a maths challenge each week at their primary school.  I didn't pay much attention to it until my youngest was worried that she wasn't improving.  My usual criticism of these weekly quizzes is nothing is done with the information and students keep getting the same questions wrong.  In many cases, the reasons why they are getting questions wrong is never investigated.

So I had a look at the challenge and it focused on addition, subtraction and times tables.

I wrote a little application in scratch to help develop some basic numeracy and help identify where issues were occurring. I added in extra steps to assist where we found issues and practice was needed (with instant feedback).

It covers:
a) learning multiples
b) adding/subtracting to and beyond 10
c) tables (using commutative property and division)

You should be able to see it below.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Assigning classes to teachers and Performance Development/Management

One of the roles of a HOLA is to assign classes to teachers each year.  Constraints limit putting the strongest teacher with the optimum class with optimum defined as the class with the highest potential for learning.


Constraint 1: The timetable
The timetable often limits which teacher can be placed in which class (eg. teaching the same course to two different classes).  This is common where ATAR and General classes are run at the same time to assist with students moving courses midstream or where streaming is done, allowing student to move stream without disrupting other subjects.

Constraint 2: Experience vs capacity building
An experienced teacher understands the scope and sequence of a course of work, has strategies evolved and resources collected.  An inexperienced teacher requires opportunities to develop their skills.  Some staff have some specific skills (Specialist, Foundations, low ability, extension, leadership) that make it desirable to put them in a specific course.

Constraint 3: Part time staff
Some staff are hired on the basis of being part time to fulfil a specific need or have a circumstance that requires a part time approach.

Constraint 4: Capability / Capacity
In some cases, staff have limitations that result in being unable to take certain courses.  Similar to constraint 2, some staff lack the confidence to attempt ATAR courses, Year 12 courses, lower school courses, classroom management limitations.  Teachers may be unable to dedicate time required to support upper school classes or to develop capacity to deliver upper school classes.  

Constraint 5: Personality/Cultural conflict
As much as I would like to say Professionalism should overcome this constraint, this is not always the case.  With enough flexibility, interaction can be minimised to promote a functioning department whilst performance development works through the underlying issues.

Constraint 6: Stage in career
Teachers have different requirements at different stages in their career.  The impact of supporting their own children, generational gaps towards retirement, graduate opportunities, caring for parents, seeking promotional opportunities, seeking higher learning will impact on how a teacher is deployed.



Once the constraints are considered, the approach used to assign classes needs to be considered to maximise learning and staff morale.  I have primarily used three approaches or combinations of these approaches.

A: Best teacher for each class (seniority model).  
Capacity building occurs as staff vacate desirable courses.  Staff are allowed to remain in courses for significant periods to develop a thorough knowledge of each course. 

Advantage: Optimal learning for students (most capable teacher aligned with suitable classes). Fewer parental issues regarding teachers developing capacity. Mid tier classes may get higher levels of support (as teachers develop capacity/demonstrate a teacher's suitability for more desirable classes). 
Disadvantage: Can become stale, transition can be difficult in case of promotion, entitlement issues, sickness, etc.  Some teachers will have a set of less desirable/higher behavioural requirement courses causing morale issues/higher turnover of new staff.

B: Balanced approach. 
Cycling teachers through courses developing capacity across the entire teaching group. 

Advantage: Flexibility in case of changes required due to turnover.  Higher morale as teachers develop their capacity in a transparent manner. 
Disadvantage: Ongoing suboptimal learning whilst teachers develop capacity. Higher turnover as teachers seek positions with lower levels of change required.

C: Allocating points to courses.  
Each course is allocated a point in a distribution.  The average of a teachers subjects is allocated with an aim for teachers to have a combination of challenging behavioural classes and challenging academic classes. 

Advantages: Transparent, seen as a fair approach for teachers. 
Disadvantage: Sub-optimal learning, teachers focus on desirable classes and sacrifice attention to less desirable classes (eg. upper school vs lower school classes, academic vs less academic classes etc).

D: Cycling teachers with students.  
More common in pastoral care situations.  Can be combined with A/B/C.

Advantage:  Students become familiar with teaching pedagogy and teacher becomes familiar with needs of students.
Disadvantage: Conflicts may be carried over extended periods.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Why the Classpad was a monumental mistake.

When the Classpad replaced graphics calculators, the thought was that it would drive a new level of applied mathematics, removing from students the repetitive parts of problem solving, widen access to higher mathematics and allow students access to deeper learning.

It failed.  It just produced a level of IT complexity irrelevant to mathematics and little further development of mathematical thinking.  The proposed gains in graphing did not materialise (due to the size of screen and accuracy of the LCD) and the CAS element was nifty but questions it could be used for were often implemented in non calculator sections anyway and calculator section questions often have to avoid questions that would otherwise demonstrate understanding but can be answered without knowledge by the calculator. In many cases it caused issues for examiners to ensure that problems were not trivialised by button pushing.  

The level of skill with the calculator by each teacher has the potential to differentiate between students in classes and schools more so than their individual mathematical aptitude (or teacher knowledge), particularly in Applications and Methods as teachers in rotations develop their skill with the device.  It was never the aim to have the calculator impact on the teaching quality received by students, but as each new teacher is introduced into a course, it has increasing potential to do so, more than without CAS.

I don't  think it has aided algebraic ability either, with students not always receiving the algebraic grounding developed through solving complex equations.  CAS has the potential to trivialise this process, and can limit the development of fluency, particularly where texts do not state where it should be used (or where students use CAS where they shouldn't).  The counterargument is that this is dependent on the skill of the teacher, and I don't discount this, but it is just another factor that impacts on teaching with limited, if any, benefit.  It certainly hasn't given access to maths at a higher level than ever before, one only has to look at declining engagement numbers and the relative farce that is the current applications course. This though, is just my opinion.

It is now predicted to cost $270 per calculator, which tied to texts, revision seminars and revision books typically used by students can top the booklist for Methods and Spec to be over $500.  It's an equity issue I raised with Rom Cirillo (who I respect greatly), who indicated it was a factor that had to be controlled by HOLA's, something that we all have to keep in mind, especially in low SES schools.  Increasingly, where Maths was once accessible by all, the combination of the increase in literacy requirements (through an increase in statistics) and CAS calculator usage (leading to more "applied" literacy type questions) change our subject to a further limited demographic. 

This is causing some students to reconsider doing higher mathematics, or worse still attempting to do it without the calculator, particularly if it is lost or broken (and not covered by the one year warranty).

I've just had an email from Abacus that they are getting a 15% increase in cost next year.  At $270+ it is getting pretty close to the cost of a reasonable tablet, with a larger screen, multi-purpose, similar software and enough battery life to get through a day.  Sure, standardising it for exams would be difficult but considering it as a thought exercise it makes you think.

Universities and other learning areas never took the CAS calculator into their courses making it irrelevant post schooling.

If it is costly, is not providing the benefits suggested in senior school classes and has little relevance post schooling, would we not be better dropping it as a failed experiment.  I remember reading a post from Charlie Watson (Calculator guru and all round nice guy) proposing to discontinue it.  I do agree and would like to see a pure math subject returned where the skill in developing mathematical knowledge through a simple text and a teacher was the primary objective rather than driving the use of a mediocre device with limited applications beyond high school.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Course Counselling and Mathematics

The current Mathematics course is not my favourite of the past few editions.  

It has four main courses: 
- Foundations (for students that require basic numeracy)
- Essentials (for students to develop their basic numeracy to a TAFE level)
- Applications (for students to develop skills for higher learning)
- Methods (for students seeking maths skills for tertiary math/science courses)

and a fifth course Specialist that can be taken in addition to Methods (for those seeking tom complete Engineering or Mathematics courses at University without additional courses to bridge to the level required)

Unfortunately WACE and University entrance is the main reason why the majority of students take Mathematics courses.  I would suggest that seeing Mathematics as only a pathway to higher learning or graduating high school is a very limited view as it does not consider the requirements after entry to a learning institution and for lifelong learning.  

The difficulty gap between Applications and Methods is large, much larger than in the previous iteration of ATAR courses (2AB/2CD 2CD/3AB 3AB/3D) as the option to do 2CD/3AB no longer exists.  The mean for Applications is 55, which results in half of the students sitting the course not having scores that is conducive to a university entrance score.   Given this is the case, half of these students end in TAFE or using other courses to build their ATAR score.  Getting a 1st or 2nd ATAR score with Applications is unlikely (and when done, tends to be students that drop in from Methods in Year 12.  Given this, as a counsellor, if I was unsure about whether a student should do Methods in Year 11, I would counsel them into Methods and parachute them into Applications if they were unsuccessful in Year 12).  This makes choosing Applications a problematic choice for many students (why do it if there are other subjects that I am more likely to gain a score with).

The mean for Methods is 65 with a SD of 12, with 3/4 of students getting a scaled score above 55, indicating that this is a course to build a reasonable ATAR score around. If students have the ability to do Methods, they should.  If they wish to do a Science based course, this is the only option to gain the thinking and capacity required for Science courses.  They may not use all of the Maths, but they will gain skills invaluable for learning new content beyond their current understanding.

The difficulty of Specialist has reduced its importance over time for maximising ATAR scores as the effort required is often better put to ATAR English, Chemistry, History or Physics and is only done by those with a passion for Mathematics.

My frustration with the current counselling thinking is that because many university courses do not have Mathematics pre-requisites, that it is better to do Applications (and pass) than Methods and potentially fail or that if students have C's or D's in Maths they should bypass Essentials or Applications and do other subjects instead.

To this I would simply say - Mathematics is about lifelong learning.  It is more than just entry to tertiary education.  There is no point gaining entry to higher learning, to only fail (or have to do bridging courses without the assistance available in school when you get there).

Doing Specialist puts you in an elite group of people able to do something that the majority of people cannot do.  Putting yourself in an elite is never a bad thing if you have the ability to do so.
Doing Methods takes effort, but is an opportunity to stretch yourself and truly learn how to learn. It will help a student get to university in the majority of cases if they have shown the aptitude in previous years.  If you complete Methods, you are likely to be a competent Mathematics student at university.
Doing Applications will develop your mathematical skills to a level that will mean in the majority of cases you will not need to learn more mathematics in later life but is unlikely (in many cases) to assist with University entry.
Doing Essentials will help you reach the next level in Mathematical understanding.  You will better understand the world in which you live from a basic numeracy, financial, measurement and statistical perspective.
Doing Foundations will raise your basic understanding of numeracy to allow you to function in society.

From a school point of view Mathematics provides opportunities in senior school to exploit 4 years of learning in lower school and has a course for any student - more so than any other subject (I'm looking at you English and HASS!!).  It is cheaper, more flexible and easier to run a full Mathematics course than 5 elective subjects trying to cater to various needs and ability levels under-subscribed.  A lesson learned by a few schools I dare to think.  Not making Mathematics compulsory results in significant bloat in school offerings.

To get students to choose Mathematics willingly requires many years of work.  Students must have an understanding that they will be supported, will pass and that there is an option tailored and available for them.  This is especially true for students with Ds and Es in lower school.  For the first time, in Senior school these students have courses that are designed for them (Foundations and Essentials) and there is a clear path to find success.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Relooking at education and the society in which we live.

Today we have this odd situation.

We are weighing up the needs of a child to be educated vs their wellness.

The proposition is that kids are better off in the home with a parent than in fulltime schooling.

Many years ago I stated that the measure of a good government is the improvement of the standard of living.  To achieve a higher standard of living families have forgone their responsibility of educating their children and left it to  the education system and digital technologies such as TV and internet.

Over time, rather than increasing the standard of living, it has become the norm for both parents to work and parents live just to pay mortgages and buy food.  They are not getting ahead, they are getting by.  The ability of hard graft getting your family ahead has seriously diminished, the ability of working hard alone to pay off your house is apparently gone with the rise of the information age and automation.

We now have widespread unemployment.

We need a reset.  Parents do not have to work.  Banks and miners do not need to make large profits.  Superannuation benefits are now eradicated with the failure of the stockmarket.  The political left has the opportunity to propose something bold.

We have again become an isolated island that still has the ability to feed itself, produce most goods and become a net exporter.  At the moment families are together and exercising supported by a government that has supported their wellbeing first and the economy second (albeit buoyed by the knowledge that widespread death will result in poor polling and election losses).

Take a sec to think about resetting the economy around the nuclear family.  It doesn't matter if mum or dad works - but let's have one parent responsible for raising our children and driving the family home.  In more affluent areas this is more common as it is easy to recognise the pressures families are put under to raise children whilst both parents work.

Children, well cared for, have fewer mental health issues, are better supported in education, are more healthy, can do more exercise.  Our future is brighter when a proportion of our kids aren't narcissistic and apathetic blobs.  Many can't see a future that is beyond being cared for into their 30's.  With half the workforce at home doing a job that needs doing, these children would be needed in the workforce.

Let's have a think tank actually support an idea that is currently being modelled during the Covid 19 cleanup that might work for the benefit of all.

Would that parent supported by a school be able to educate a child for part or all of the week and be part of the education solution too?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Collegiality, Resource Sharing and Collaboration.


It was posed to me that by not insisting that staff share resources that I was not effectively leading my team.

I refuse to insist that anyone share anything other than what was mutually agreed to at the start of the year.  In this instance, staff had been allocated courses of work prior to my arrival that they were responsible for and had to provide all assessments and programmes for those courses.  Given that the distribution was initially uneven due to staff turnover, I evened it out and gained agreement that the assessment allocation method would change in 2020.

My argument was (and is) that if someone else sets the assessment for my class, it is unlikely to test what I have taught with the same emphasis. My class may have strengths based on prior learning, gender bias, teacher competency, ability composition... that would make it unfair to compare them using a test entirely constructed by another teacher (for the entire year). It diminishes the responsibility of the teacher teaching the class that is not in charge of the course.  To my mind, all teachers need to be in charge of their own classroom!

The argument against was that it was difficult to rank students if they did not do exactly the same coursework and exactly the same assessment - that courses should be kept in lockstep.  I was, and am worried that by keeping classes in lockstep through strict streaming in lower school, students that would be able to complete work by the end of the year, would become disheartened if they continued to fail by being presented with assessments that they could not do.  I understand that there are legitimate reasons why this is required in senior school.

What then happened was interesting.  Staff that did not wish to share additional resources they developed, now stopped sharing with some staff.  This is where my leadership differs from my predecessor as I refused to insist that they share resources.  Forcing someone to do something (like resource sharing) causes resentment and de-motivation to develop resources if they are forced to share.  It stifles innovation.  What I prefer to see is friendly competition, collaboration and collegiality. When I didn't insist that they share their resources it caused significant concern.  Anyone that did not make reasonable effort to establish a collegiate, collaborative relationship, would have to do the work themselves.  At the heart of every teaching contract, is the understanding that you are responsible for teaching and resourcing your classroom, I struggle with the notion that creating resources for your class is a workload issue.

Definitions of resource sharing, collaboration, collegiality and professionalism are listed below:

- Resource sharing is giving a portion of (something) to another or others.
- Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce something.
- Collegiality by definition is companionship and cooperation between colleagues who share responsibility.
- Professionalism is the ability to learn, conscientiousness, interpersonal skills, adaptability and integrity.

If  staff members are in conflict, resource sharing could be forced (and resented thus restricting future resource development), Collaboration and Collegiality are less likely to occur (as staff are being managed rather than developing collegiate relationships) and their Professionalism may be compromised. I imagine this is why the first two levels of AITSL standards relate to personal competency and the latter two to collegiality and community involvement.

Certain actions are likely to prevent collaboration and collegiality:

1. Criticising the work of others.
2. Questioning others competency.
3. Refusing to contribute.
4. Contributing substandard resources.
5. Avoiding opportunities to contribute.
6. Being unable to keep to agreed timelines.
7. Negotiating to do less work.
8. Complaining that workload is too great to contribute.
9. Being prickly, rude or unreasonable.
10. Expecting others to do your work.
11. Resisting accountability

I think that at the heart of Collegiality and Collaboration is mutual respect and being nice - not a patsy or pushover, but following the golden rule - don't do anything that you wouldn't want done to you. At the heart of professionalism is competence and a growth mindset that says there is always something to learn (and learn from others even if you privately question their practices).  If someone is not wanting to share with you, why and how can I turn it around.  This type of thinking is freeing as it removes resentment (it's not fair that I have to work harder) and gives you back control of the situation.  There are actions you can make to develop trust and encourage others to work with you (and not have a feeling of working "for" you).

There cannot be an expectation that everyone is able to collaborate effectively and be collegial with everyone on a team all of the time (it cannot be insisted for under professionalism's interpersonal skills as people interact unreasonably regularly for many reasons outside of the other party's control, everyone is at a different stage of their learning journey).  The larger the team, the less likely a fully collegiate environment will occur.  A little bit of friendly rivalry also has the potential to drive progression in a team.  Creating an environment where challenging beliefs is ok and requires more than just saying the right things - takes time and requires modelling of the skills required.

Next steps are setting the groundwork for collaboration in 2021, creating the most even playing field that I can and hopefully, the further development of collaboration and collegiality within the team.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Remediation of NCCD students in Mathematics

Students marked at risk on the NCCD list are the forgotten students in Mathematics today.  Typically students on the NCCD list have an imputed disability and due to this disability/risk factors are more than 2 years behind other students in a class.  Often the remediation required is assumed to be resourced under differentiation by a teacher within a classroom.

A good rule of thumb is if a student is beyond two years above, or two years below the syllabus, a typical teacher utilising DOTT and planning time effectively will find it difficult to cater to the needs of these students without additional assistance, resourcing and planning.

Where there are a group of four or more in one class (typical of low ability streaming) this results in students not progressing their mathematical understanding when in Years 7-10. This is frustrating for parents and students and cause for concern (and is a workload issue) for teaching staff.  It is also easily measurable using NAPLAN7 to NAPLAN9 progress data.

To properly address this issue requires analysis of assistance, resourcing and planning available.

ISSUE

1. Assistance
  • Identifying the help required is a difficult proposition as students on the NCCD list may have undiagnosed IDs, mental health, DV, FASD, family dsyfunction and typically requires a multi-disciplinary approach. 
  • Providing "just in time" intervention to students when in the proximal zone of development requires teachers to understand the needs of NCCD students who are typically not in the proficiency area of high school teachers and support staff.  
  • Teachers are committed to teach the year level curriculum from the syllabus to the majority of students in the class. 
  • Many of these students attract no extra funding from external agencies as the disability is either not covered, require an extended period of observation and/or are too expensive for parents to receive a formal diagnosis.
2. Resourcing
  • To teach year levels beyond a year either side of the year level achievement standard will reduce the effectiveness of teaching the majority of students in the class.  Where more than two groups of students are in a class that require instruction outside the year level achievement standard, students will not get optimal instruction from their teacher alone.
  • Typically resources available at developmental level are not developmentally appropriate (when teaching Year 4 material, resources are pitched at 8-9 years olds, is not appropriate for  13-15 year olds).
  • Assistance by support staff is typically unavailable through current FTE model which requires an IQ and EQ diagnosis.
3. Planning
  • For every student in the class that requires teaching from another year level in the syllabus, requires the equivalent of an extra class of planning to be completed by the teacher.
  • Additional planning time is not available even if content could be delivered with sufficient preparation.

SOLUTION

1. Make it someone's problem
  • Identify someone with a passion for the problem, a champion that can relate to these students and has a rapport with students services, parents of students and HOLAs of each learning area.  This person becomes responsible for driving solutions and becomes the Learning Support Coordinator (LSC).
  • Acceptance of a student into a remediation group must be linked to resourcing being available.
  • Make the solution a team effort with shared responsibility by support staff and Learning Areas.
2. Communicate with parents and create a shared understanding
  • Create IEP / Documented plans
  • Develop MHRMPs/RMPs/BMPs
  • Have meetings with parents and create measurable attendance/behaviour/academic goals for each term
3. Adequately resource the programme
  • Resource the programme based on number of support groups required (eg. where indicated by class composition) not by resourcing allocated through support staff FTE.
  • Develop resources that can be reused with minimal customisation.
4. Measure the results
  • Research project / Masters or PHD level support
  • SEN reporting
  • Standardised testing (PAT Testing/ NAPLAN)
  • Attendance
  • Behaviour
5. Keep expectations reasonable
  • Expectations set in IEPs must be achievable and modified when found to exceed ability of intervention programme to achieve.
6. Celebrate wins / analyse challenges
  • Make time to analyse progress of intervention programme.
7. Communicate with stakeholders regularly
  • Connect
  • SEN reporting



Thursday, April 2, 2020

Adjusting to online delivery

Delivering online is an interesting beast.  For a short period most teachers can deliver content that students can do based on what they have taught thus far.  A logical extension from their existing teaching.

The first hurdle comes with a new topic.  Typically a student cannot learn independently, especially in the lower years.  Where a student is challenged by content, and is not fully engaged, presenting a student with a page of explanation is not going to work.  Couple that with a parent that has limited teaching knowledge and patience is a recipe for a poor learning experience.

Thinking back to my own experiences with online learning, presentation of materials and motivation are key components.

I have challenged my team to think beyond traditional lesson design.  Some have put a little joke in their lesson to keep students coming back. Others are preparing short videos to continue the connection they have with kids, others are looking at formative assessment to provide feedback.

Some of the ideas thus far that we could look at:

- Contact if the student has not logged in regularly to learning platforms
- Collaboration vs resource sharing
- Feedback on successful/not successful practices
- Use of different learning platforms (Connect, Mathspace, Mathsonline, oneNote, ActiveInspire, youTube, Khan Academy)
- Wider and tailored use of texts
- Video lessons (screen capture, face capture only and whiteboarding)
- Encouragement to use discussion forums to share ideas
- Motivational elements (how, why, hook, timing)
- Sharing resources between teachers
- Online Quizzes
- Booklets of work
- Direct and ongoing interactive parent contact
- Student wellbeing and engagement
- How to present ideas in a consumable manner by families consistent with other learning areas
- Sustainability of practices
- Software/hardware required for delivery
- Copyright issues
- Paper delivery where internet is not available

This is only the beginning.  Ensuring that the correct tools are used for the right kids is the major challenge and engaging them with the new learning environment.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Teaching staff and the future

Today may be looked back as a turning point in education.  Is this the disruption in education that has been predicted for some time? Can we take the predictable and repeatable process of educating students and automate the repetitive parts without significantly reducing outcomes and with lower costs?  Can education be made more efficient than 1 teacher to 30 students with high capital outlays and investment in property?

Is this the day when the model for educating students changes?

If changes in the economy return us to a nuclear family structure with a maximum of one parent working with the other caring for children or unemployed could this lead to a change in the teaching model?

For instance, if a distance model becomes the norm for many students and parents take a significant role in education of children and teacher re-training occurs on a large scale, do we need schools open 5 days per week?

Imagine if things changed.  A 60,000 teacher strong workforce instantly becomes the strongest 2000  delivering online and the rest part time if at all.   Online everything becomes the norm.

This has never been able to be done as technology was not there..

It's an interesting thought.

Are teachers in a privileged position with salaries and doing a job that could be done by a relative few?  Is there a legitimate case for laying off teachers to preserve capital for the upcoming recession/depression? Some are seeing this period as an extended holiday or a "work" at home.  I'd suggest that everyone get into doing something productive such that we can say "I'm needed for my kids to make parents very happy that they have a great teacher" - otherwise these sorts of questions might be raised.  There will be discontent over the have's and have not's.


Yesterday I presented to staff and posed the questions -

What is online learning and what does it look like?
What is the difference between supplementing learning online and delivering teaching online?

For some, there was no difference, for others this caused a critical change in thinking.

The flipped classroom was the first point where teaching was effectively done and supported offline in schools and is closest to an offline delivery model that we have for parents.  Teachers "instruct" online, students complete work offline and self mark or submit work online, teachers are available to answer questions online as they occur.  The intervention done by teachers observing work being completed is not done easily or neatly and would be an area managed by parents.

Teachers might be able to identify things to look out for to parents to increase intervention. Would this be enough to change education from a 60000 strong workforce "rolls royce" solution to a 2000 "it'll do" model where very similar results are found after 12 years of schooling (do the possible efficiency gains possible offline for students of high ability offset the need for 12 years of schooling  and would it be less for those that would be diverted into other forms of education such as apprenticeships and the like).

To perform in society, do children need to attend in person school for 12 years?

Heresy.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Closing Schools and the effect on Year 12 students.

According to the media it sounds like schools are closing next week.  The big question is what will happen to Year 12 students?  Creating a statistically sound ranking is going to prove problematic for TISC.  It's time to think about the what next..

External WACE exams and ATAR ranking are not about content, knowledge and skills but about identifying potential through evidence that can be used to identify students that will succeed in higher education.  It is far from perfect, but it is the fairest and most manageable idea devised thus far.  The evidence for this is simple - pre-requisites in university courses are rare, they accept students on ATAR scores.  I understand the logic that students will have to do bridging courses once there - but the counter argument is that once there they will be able to do the work based on their ATAR score.

I imagine SCSA could do a few things depending on whether schools are out for 4 weeks, a term, two terms or the rest of the year.

1. Create an exam based on Year 11 course content and run it as the external exam.  A little time at the end of the year to revise content and advise kids early enough and this would work.

2. Create an external exam based on Unit 1 and examine that only relying on the end of the year to finish Unit 1.

3. Expect kids continue their work in isolation through distance education and run examinations of Unit 1 and 2 as per any other year.

4. Reboot 2020 as 2021 and create a mandatory year 13 for all years currently in school(increasing staffing for kindy/pre-primary and rooming as that year group passed through school years) requiring an extra year of workforce for the next 12 years in schooling (dealing with more 18-19 year olds in high school) and a dead year passing through TAFE/universities for the next four/five years.

Kids in my class are becoming able to use a flipped classroom effectively (where instruction is given through Connect), but it does not work for all students and some require face-to-face intervention to be successful and motivated.

I do hope we are sensible about this.   To use 3. (the most likely outcome even if schools are closed for an extended period) has vast inequity particularly for low SES students that are not disciplined, do not have the resources available or are not supported enough for distance education. We should not underestimate the value of peer based instruction within ATAR classes / the power of students at a similar level working together to solve a problem (rather than passive instruction only).

For Certificate students, I am not sure how they will complete any onsite parts of their Certificates -   Childcare, Building and Construction, Sport and Rec when industry are shut down as all are courses with significant practical requirements.

For General courses with practical components, particularly those with significant infrastructure requirements (D&T, Home Ec, Engineering etc), will have an impact on students WACE, students through no fault of their own may be unable to complete courses.

For ATAR, General and Certificate courses, SCSA may need to consider reducing WACE requirements for 2020 (fewer units required) and award units based on partial or projected completion of Unit 1.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The perils of streaming

I managed the streams at my previous school for a number of years and significantly reduced the amount of issues raised by teachers.  It was a difficult process to manage as the stream was one size fits all - move in maths, you move in all the MESH subjects.  To get around this required three of the four to suggest a stream or one humanities/english, one math/science to be moved.  At it's best, students worked with teachers over at least a term to get promotion.  By the end the move was valued and deserved.  Streaming was done twice a year for all students and reviewed each term for students that had entered the school during the last semester.

The problem with streaming is that it lacks a research basis for putting it in place in an average school.  In a school where the level of teaching required is 4+ years within the same room, there is a basis for it as it is difficult to teach students that far apart.  In my new school, after removing a small number that require IEPs, it appears that the remaining students fall within a 2-3 year syllabus bracket in each class.

I am struggling with the existing streaming model I am faced with as I come to grips with the benefits and deficits of it.  Three streams have been devised with top, middle, bottom courses.  Top, middle, bottom have two classes in each, also streamed (creating six fully streamed classes) - the best students in each stream in one class and the remainder in another.  The streams appear to align with NAPLAN (with some obvious exceptions being rectified) indicating that for the most part they have been ranked correctly. One teacher in each stream sets all assessments.  All assessments are written from scratch in each stream.

Issues appear when the performance of the streams are analysed.  Out of the 60 students in the top stream, a significant proportion of the second class are achieving less than 50%.  The gap between the mean score in the top class and the second class in each stream increases significantly as students progress through school. My top class outperformed the second top class and were highly motivated and enthused, but students in the second class universally wanted to be in my class (not theirs) but were unlikely to be promoted as they significantly performed lower and demonstrated lower levels of motivation.

Having a highly motivated class may be seen as positive in isolation, but having half the students undermotivated in the top course made me question current practices.  In each stream, one teacher sets the assessment with little communication with the other teacher.  This leads to the second class being given an assessment that is pitched at the wrong level for the second class resulting in lower levels of engagement.  Thus high performing (top pathway but in the second class) students are left believing that they are not solid high performing mathematics students.  It also has the potential for friction between the two teachers (at the level of the assessment set and/or the students of the underperforming second class (blaming the teacher for the underperformance).

As a trial I rebalanced the year 8 top stream to have two classes of equal ability and challenged each class to raise their performance.  To date I have seen little difference in student performance in my rebalanced (lower ability than before the rebalancing) class and hope to see the other class rise to the challenge. We now have two classes of equal ability, we should achieve median test scores approximately the same. With both classes being exposed to high performing students they should have an increased potential for success.

The second issue that I see is that streaming in Year 7 occurs too early.  This separates kids into haves and have nots very early in their high school career, prior to them engaging with specialist mathematics teachers and gaining a love of mathematics.  The issues with this is seen with undermotivated middle tier classes in later years and students that struggle to fully engage with Mathematics as they lack proper role models, particularly boys who generally develop later than girls.

A quick analysis today indicated that there is a clear difference in teaching with respect to results in Year 7, as four classes with similar composition (same NAPLAN mean) with the most at risk removed into a remediation class, performed significantly differently on the same assessment, with one class clearly outperforming the others.  There are some factors that can be attributed to class differences (the spread of ability was different in two of the classes), but if the differences in programme and pedagogy can be identified then improvement can be made in subsequent delivery across all classes.  This was also after one assessment, this may be a strength of one teacher in one topic and may vary in future topics or in students adjusting to a different style of teaching.

The third issue identified is with the performance of upper school classes - there is always room for improvement.  Although small Methods (10-15 students) and Specialist (5-7 students) classes consistently produce 55+ course scores, it is not as consistent in Applications courses (30-40 students) with between one third and one half of students achieving a 55+ course score. In a school of so many students in Band 9 and 10 students in NAPLAN9,  there appears potential for higher numbers of Methods students out of the 60 students typically in the top stream.  To produce a higher number of Methods students requires aligning the Year 10 course with Methods rather than the current programme of 10/10A aligned to the Specialist course and only producing 6-7 Specialist students.  We need to make Mathematics a subject of choice for students at the school and fall in their top two subjects ranked by ATAR course score.  This means the Year 10 teacher would need to extend potential Specialist students through differentiation in class (rather than through the general programme) and assess predominantly on the year 10 (not 10A) curriculum.  If the current course (with a 10A focus) produced more students in Methods with the current programme, it could be seen as workable, but they are not choosing Methods, underperforming in it with many withdrawing from the course in Semester 1, Year 11 (thanks SCSA for an overloaded Semester 1 course) - typically seeing the Applications course as an easier path through Mathematics; resulting in few students using Mathematics as their first or second score in Year 12.

The fourth issue comes with creating unteachable classes.  If students that are disengaged are lumped into a class together, there is the risk of creating a difficult class to engage. Rather than working with difficult students, the first option appears to be to use the streaming process to remove them to another class - reasoning that needs to be constantly challenged.  My prediction when setting up streams at my prior school was that middle classes would prove the most difficult to teach never eventuated there, but I can see it at the new school.  The middle classes appear to lack a clear pathway to keep them motivated, lack positive role models and this may be a good area to explore for further improvement.

Food for thought going forward.  Now to get teachers to see the streams holistically and derive positive changes that can be measured for the benefit of students.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Week 7: Covid19 and teaching.

A lot has been spoken about the effects of Covid19 and students, but there is another possible impact.  The ageing workforce in teaching has led to many teachers working into their 60-70s and now risk exposure to Covid19, more so than in other industries that have gone into lockdown.  For some this is life threatening.  The question that can't be answered is for whom it is life threatening and who will be ok.

As with health professionals, teachers have been asked to go beyond social distancing (as this is not possible in a larger school or even in a classroom).  The main difference to health professionals is that teachers do not have protective equipment or basic expectations of hygiene that can be expected in a hospital environment.  At present we are not exposed to sick children, but it appears we will be soon, we are not doctors and will not easily be able to identify children that are sick in their early stages, placing each teacher at risk (more so than the kids as we will be more susceptible to the virus than they are).  It is not properly known at this stage if children are propagators of the disease and teachers are being asked to care for them on mass despite this not being well understood.

Students are worried about Covid19.  Each day a new scenario is considered.  A child misses school due to their parent returning from overseas and being in quarantine.  A party where a person attended  that was breaching mandatory isolation.  A staff member has the sniffles and a sore throat but no fever.  Should we seperate desks or try and keep things business as usual?  An EALD overseas student returns from home after seeing their parents.  Kids concerned about parents out of work for an extended period. Kids not going to school for fear of Covid19.  Students pretending they have Covid19 to get out of school.  Parents keeping students at home asking for work.  Drug(Ventolin), basic needs and food shortages. If teachers get sick how does that potentially impact our families (even if teachers themselves have low mortality rates)?  How do we keep learning progressing if kids are kept home for an extended period?  How do we complete required assessment for 11/12 students? We have dealt with similar issues before with TB outbreaks or contagion for suicidal ideation, but Covid19 is another level of concern.

Yes, I understand that by keeping kids in schools we may be saving lives in the wider community.  What appears to be lacking is that teachers have been expected to take a frontline role, without being asked or given an option as with the rest of the population - there is not enough information available to know that we are safe.  To some degree it feels like teachers are being set up as the sacrificial lamb (or a lower risk option) to protect the economy, keep parents working, assist health care professionals stay in hospitals and grandparents to not have to care for kids.  Needless to say, teachers didn't sign up for getting sick, purely to ensure someone else doesn't.  When a virus is life threatening, a degree of self preservation kicks in.

The union has been silent on this issue.

I am not criticising the department - they have been open, communicative and have a government line to follow.

Currently teachers are being asked how they would deliver content if students were sent home.  The answer in many cases is that we don't know, we're busy trying to deliver content to kids that are in school as per any normal school year.  For 11/12 students, delivery through technology such as Connect is possible, but assessment remains an issue.  For a short period of time, online tutoring is possible, but instructional time is best face-to-face to ensure just in time intervention for students.

Needless to say, the fear of Covid19 is within our staffrooms and it is a current topic of conversation.  Although it is business as usual, the underlying fear of sickness has an effect on each member of staff which will manifest in a range of ways.  Although general morale is currently good and staff are soldiering on, if teachers start getting sick, it is hoped that schools do close and other measures to protect the wider community will be considered.

I certainly didn't think this would be the big issue in a new role!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

2020 Mid first term.

Being a HOLA can be challenging.  You teach, lead staff, manage student behaviour, guide curriculum, manage a budget and participate in middle management.  With 2/3 of your time teaching, sometimes you can feel a little thin.

This year, coming in cold to a new school, has been a challenge - especially ensuring the three classes I teach are challenged and comfortable without the usual background of work that gets done prior to the start of term.  It has been an interesting exercise seeing the difference in focus of a low SES school compared to a higher SES school.  I spent last week looking at metrics and there are so many focus areas that could be examined - the mind boggles at what can be done with these kids.

I did an interesting analysis of students that achieved 55+ in ATAR compared to cohort strength in NAPLAN9 and another of 55+ achievement in ATAR compared to students that finished the course.  Then used these statistics to predict year 10 class sizes by current counselling processes and those predicted to achieve 55+ ATAR scores.  What was interesting was the number of band 8/9/10 students that are not succeeding in upper school Mathematics courses or that are doing Applications and getting sub 55 course scores.

A straw poll in the top 8 maths class indicated that their favourite subject was Science.  Seriously something that needs fixing and checking why students are not inspired by mathematics education practices.  My hunch is an over dependence on Mathspace, nightly practice based homework, difficult investigations and a very focused and disciplined mathematics course is not providing as stimulating environment as is being done with the Science curriculum.

Working to my strengths is working directly with the kids.  Starting just-in-time intervention, acknowledging that motivation is a key component in performance and maximising learning whilst students are in the classroom.

For my 8's extension class, it's about ensuring that every class students have an aha moment - we work together to identify weaknesses, plug them one at a time and develop strengths.  For my Year 9 development class, it's about getting them to understand that they can do maths (and preparing them for the try a trade we've organised for the end of the year), for my Methods 12's it's establishing a strong work ethic, good work practices and balancing the risk/reward - their time doing Methods work is time well spent that will reap a reward at the end of the year.  We've struggled with the OT Lee text but seem to be on top of it now.

I've enjoyed developing investigations for year 8s, IEPs for year 9's and developing a predominantly flipped classroom for my 12s.  The videos (private playlist here - not public distribution quality, just for my students predominantly presenting OT Lee/Saddler examples) for the 12's. They take a couple of hours each Saturday to develop and upload, but it has been key to allaying the fears of the 12s having a new face to teach them.

I really miss my interactive whiteboard and having a younger team looking to me for guidance.

I'm tiring and losing weight, my car died, my foot is playing up and I'm not exercising as much as I would like.  It's week 5.  I know I have to slow down a little as the pace I've set is not sustainable.  It's fun though, it's not the weary slog of last year, it's a new challenge I should have taken on but was worried about leaving Girrawheen on good terms, with a good staff to fill the gap I would leave without significant disruption.  As far as I know they are doing well and so am I (I haven't had feedback otherwise yet).  Bring on the rest of the year!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Day 5: First day with the kids

Sat down today and did the exercises for tomorrow, wrote names in my teachers journal and looked at student results for last year.  It's all a bit cathartic and readying me for working with kids.  There's always that nervousness that the kids won't respond the same way in a new context.

I'm missing my car, each day I've popped down to the repair place to pick it up but it hasn't quite been ready.  It's amazing how awkward it is not to have something that you rely on - can't stay late at work,  can't get the bike to do regular rides, can't pop to the shop to get resources.

My own kids are starting year 2 and year 6.  They're excited which is great as all years have not been this way.

Managed to get access to school data, logins, timetables on Friday afternoon.  Starting to wade through the information and see what is happening.  Some Exam results are concerning some  NAPLAN results are very encouraging.  Horses for courses. Yay!


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Day 2: Learning to keep quiet and watch and learn

Ok, seemed to navigate day 1 without creating a reef of grief.  Fell asleep during the yoga exercise, hopefully didn't snore too loudly.  Looked at last year's results. Looks good so far.  Keep quiet you idiot until you know what you are talking about.  Vocalise here where nobody reads it and it can cause no concerns.  Talk bout the kids and the holidays, keep it light.

There are many things that I wish I was good at.  I've watched people walk the room and talk to everyone in sight, with a smile and some smalltalk.  I gave it a red hot go and hope that people see me as a fairly affable soul looking keen to get started in a new role (and not the annoying new person that knows everything).  Work the absent minded professor role and see what happens.

I can't tell where the undercurrent is coming from, but it appears to be there - a group of people outwardly working together but a very strange vibe at the moment.  It could just be new people working together and not quite gelling yet, I really hope so.  It appears that there has been significant turnover, which has created administrative load.

Timetables today.  Hopefully IT issues sorted out.  It would be nice to get some time to walk the school and learn the lay of the land.  Need a spec teacher stat! Get a few boxes of stuff out of my garage and onto my shelves.  It's all a very odd feeling.  Start operational plans and budgets.

Back to waking at 5am.  This is good as I've been sleeping in too long and was wondering if it was an age thing.  Hives on my left wrist telling me to calm down.  I'm so excited though!! Enthusiasm is a good thing!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New day, new job, first day jitters

For the first time in many years I start in a new job, with new people and a new context to apply my skills.  It's a bullet I should have bitten a fair time ago and so far I'm glad I did it.  For the first time in my career I walk away from an environment without leaving a big hole that is difficult to fill and hopefully on good terms.  Last year wasn't a bad year. I've been a Deputy for an extended period, I've come out relatively unscathed and I've won a great position in a new school.

As you get more senior in an environment, it's fairly normal to see divergence in what you think should be done and what the general consensus is.  If you tend to be less risk averse than the incumbent team, then the gap is likely to increase with time.  There are a number of main ways to deal with it.  You can roll with it, you can try to influence the decision makers or you can leave and find a new environment and bring your hard won skills with you.  The alternative is to stay, get stale and discontent.

I've tried the roll with it routine, it's not me and I get frustrated over time.  It's more my style to run a team, to understand the goals of the decision makers, influence the team to align with those goals and influence decision makers to align with what the team wants to achieve and measure the results.  My last role sat between the decision makers and staff and I spent a lot of time explaining and supporting decisions that I didn't always agree with and had no team to work with.  It's exciting to be back with a team and be able to do great things again.

With performance management, I work with staff to ensure that they don't feel stale.  What is the path to their ATAR class, do they want leadership opportunities, do they need support whilst their children are growing up, how are they travelling physically and mentally, do they need pedagogical, assessment or behavioural support, do they need support understanding the evidence base of their classes, are they looking for promotion, do their requirements align with the needs of our students and the school?  These are critical questions to ensuring that staff are engaged and have a clear career pathway to staying relevant in the system.

This time, I don't know if I have an enthusiastic team wanting me to succeed, but I'm guessing so as nearly all teaching staff are good people.  I will miss those that carried me through difficult times and believed that I could do it, even when I looked at a problem and thought how can I do all that!  Doing the impossible has been in my job description a few times in my career, looking at the stats of my new school, for a change, this does not appear the case.  I'll know more when I have more information at hand today.

I'm looking forward to doing the basics well.  Operational Plan, Performance Management, Compliance documents, Faculty Budget, Evidence base, Teaching and Learning.

I've prepped what I can, I've had a good break, everything seems to be aligning nicely.  Bring on that first day!