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?