Sunday, December 20, 2020

The student interest test.

The student interest test is a test I try to use whenever I make a decision as a HOLA.  It's a pretty simple test as it asks the question, "Is this in the best interests of students?". If it fails this test, I am opposed to it or non committal if it is obvious it will take time to change the view of the majority.

In education we lose the majority of our graduate teachers in the first five years.  The main reason is the sink or swim approach used in most schools and by most HOLAs.  A compromise is generally made to prevent turnover of experienced teachers and prevent complaints by parents while graduate teachers are learning their craft - they are generally given classes difficult for experienced teachers: low ability classes and/or classes with behavioural challenges many of these in remote areas away from family support.

To my mind this fails the student interest test.  These are our most enthusiastic staff that bring modern techniques, are closest in age (relate) to students, understand modern issues/pop culture and bring technological capability to the classroom. It is in students interests for teachers and HOLAs to support graduate teachers such that they can perform at a level acceptable to parents and provide them with classes they are most likely to find success in.  Counter intuitively these are the students most able to learn, are good students with the fewest behavioural problems.

During the last term of the year, Year 11 and 12's are off campus leaving teachers without classes until the end of the year.  Schools reduce their relief budget by using these teachers.  There are not enough relief classes, which results in teachers having unallocated time.  Given that this is not DOTT time, I allocated tasks and deliverables to to those that preferred not to do relief, gained approval from admin and teachers commenced these tasks (with the intent to use unallocated teachers to do the relief).  Other faculties complained when they had to do Math relief whilst Maths teachers completed tasks to improve student performance.  The relief coordinator complained that she was required to give reliefs to teachers that had previously had increased non teaching time, was fielding complaints and increasingly put pressure on Math to do the tasks and provide the relief required for Maths classes.  To prevent conflict, I ceased providing tasks to teachers and Maths teachers became part of the relief pool.  This response failed the student interest test as teachers were available to do the relief, it was in the interest of students for course improvement tasks to be completed but a willingness to overcome the conflict was not present.

Mathspace cost each parent $18 per year, was used by less than half of the student group, has had no effect on standardised testing results over four years, classes of equal ability did not perform higher when using Mathspace than classes that did not, there is no research basis that ICT practice based initiatives are effective in Maths, the diagnostic information available through Mathspace was available using other means, it deskilled teachers ability to diagnose issues within a class, was being used to replace good teaching practices and was demotivating for a large number of students.  It failed the student interest test, even if it made teacher's lives easier, particularly at the end of term.  Although unpopular with teaching staff, it was removed and is set to be replaced with a tool targeting OLNA performance that has a record of assisting students with numeracy issues relating to ACSF.

Assigning assessments in Pathways by one teacher to all classes in a Pathway without a proper feedback mechanism for other teachers fails the student interest test as it provides an advantage to the teacher creating assessment, especially where there are communication issues within the faculty.  Workload arguments (such as I am writing more assessments than other teachers) fail the student interest test, as the assessments written are likely to advantage students in class of the assessment writer and result in poorer assessment outcomes than if assessment was written by all. It also limits development of teaching staff and students by not being exposed to a range of question and marking construction strategies.

Student centred learning uses evidence to improve student outcomes.  It is not always in the interest of the teacher (that have a teacher centric approach) to implement these strategies and in these cases it is important to drive the message through teacher management. A "sell", "collaborate" or "collegiate" solution is unlikely to develop as often they result in more work and disrupt the status quo. 

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