Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Saddler Methods text and general ideas for improving ATAR results

I've been a proponent of Sadler texts in low SES schools as they are relatively cheap, ramp slowly, have reasonable worked examples and I really like the built in study through the Miscellaneous exercises.  Some teachers really dislike them and prefer the Nelson texts instead and for some students the Nelson text is better.  By doing the Sadler Unit 3 Methods text again to reacquaint myself with the course, it has reminded me of a few pitfalls I have encountered along the way.

There are some tricks to using the Saddler text.

1. Go through each worked example with students identifying explicitly what Saddler wanted students to recognise in each topic.
2. Understand that Saddler does not cover every dot point in the syllabus.  You do need to check what is missing and include it in your programme.
3. Check that students are doing the Miscellaneous questions, otherwise they will miss one of the greatest benefits of the Sadler text.
4. There are few exam level questions in the text.  Ensure students use their revision guide in conjunction with the text.
5. Provide revision papers, prior to tests and exams, to get students to assessment level.  The text does not do this at all.
6. Make connections to the glossary and formula sheet whilst students are learning.
7.  Use a journal to identify key points (eg. get students to put their notes in a seperate book from their exercises) and then generate their page of notes from the journal.
8. Get students to highlight question numbers that are tricky or test corners of the syllabus that may turn up in assessment.
9. Identify which questions may appear in calculator sections and which questions appear in non-calculator sections.
10. Explicitly teach and enforce calculator usage until competency.
11. Make sure students are reaching questions at the end of chapters and not just doing 15 easy questions in class.
12. Do corrections (and go through the assessment) after each assessment.
13. Ensure that students check answers after every exercise (at a minimum) and redo questions that are incorrect.  Preferably in red pen, so that you can see from a distance without interrupting them.
14. Be mindful that some exercises take longer than others when setting homework.  As a safety net, I tell students to stop after 1hr 15 mins and assume that they will do a minimum of 45 mins every night.  If it is the whole class, we continue the exercise the next day.  If just a few students we identify together why they are taking too long and try to remedy it.
15. Extend students with the Nelson text if they are finishing earlier than the rest of the class.  In some cases, get them to use this text instead.

I tell students the following:
a) Do only the first ten questions in each exercise and expect to fail.
b) Do the main exercises only and you may reach 50% on assessments and expect to fail the exam.
c) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, you may reach 50% on assessments and it's possible to pass the exam.
d) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, make good notes, understand the syllabus dot points/glossary, you should reach 50% on assessments and could pass the exam.
e) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, make good notes, understand the syllabus dot points/glossary and use the revision guide, you should do well (60%) on assessments and may pass exams.
f) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, make good notes, understand the syllabus dot points/glossary, use the revision guide and do your corrections thoroughly, you should do well (60%+) on assessments and about the same in the exam.
g) Make a study group prior to exams and allocate content research for revision to each member prior to study meetings to further improve exam results.  Drop members that are not actively contributing.
h) Do as many past papers as you can lay your hands on and have time to complete. Identify any patterns in papers.
i) Do all the past ATAR papers prior to Mock/ATAR exams.

Given the median in exams is over 70%, points g-i are imperative for low SES students to reaching the state mean (not only using Methods as part of your ATAR score).  We would complement above with after school classes, UWA Fairway, ECU Studiosity and summer schools to help students rectify the 2 year gap that they entered high school with.

Natural ability will take some students so far and buck the trend, but usually it catches up with them.  The formula above has worked well with getting average students through the course and though "obvious" took a fair few years to nut out what worked and what was ineffective for larger groups of students (other than just the top four students or students falling behind getting intensive tutoring).

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