Showing posts with label reflective practice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reflective practice. Show all posts

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Deficit Based Approach

 A deficit based model from a quick Google search could be defined as:

"The deficit model of teaching, in which the teacher provides the learning to make good a deficit, stands in direct contrast to the belief that the teacher's role is to draw out learners' tacit knowledge and understanding through questioning and facilitation." Oxford Reference, 2020.

It's a model that has been prevalent in teaching from inception.  We teach, we tell kids what they can't do.  It's in contrast to a model where the focus is for the teacher to assist students understand the required information, develop a skill to complete a task or how to assimilate a concept within their existing conceptual framework and where it is not understood, diagnose and work with them to rectify the ommission.

When working with teachers with disgruntled parents, I am most interested in how well a teacher knows the student.  If they know their friendship group, can tell where they sit in the class, can describe their demeanour, provide an accurate guide of their recent performance, talk about the positives of the child, it's a fair indicator that the student may not be telling the full story to their parents.  In these cases the solutions required tend to be quite simple, are behaviour management related and easily remedied.

If a teacher is unaware of these things and can only describe what the student is not doing, it rings immediate alarm bells that this situation may need further investigation.  These tend to be the cases of high ability or at least capable, underperforming students where a disconnection has occurred between the teacher, family and student (my specific area of interest).  It can also be an indication that the teacher has defaulted to a deficit model and needs assistance to reconnect with their student.

In these cases it is important to let the air out of the situation, let everyone be heard and then gently guide the conversation back to what can be done to assist the student find success.   It is not sufficient to say they are underperforming and set a goal of, "student will improve their grade by 10% by Term 3" unless it also says how they should achieve the goal.  Goals set should be guided by the teacher with measures that are likely to reach an achievable outcome together with an aspirational goal.  These measures should observable;  processes, techniques, habits or revision that will be checked that they have been done and then measured for success against the goal.

If the student does what the teacher indicates and does not achieve success, they will lose confidence in the ability of the teacher.  It is very important that whatever measure is set, that the probability of success is high.  Often the measures initially set by a teacher are not specific, not measureable and have no way to ensure that the student is doing it correctly.  In these cases they are very likely to fail with blame deflected to the student.

A recent case I was working on:

Problem: The student was writing a persuasive text rather than the required informational text.  

Deficit Feedback to student: Student is not specific when stating her solution. Language used is not appropriate.

Alternate Response: Understanding of an informational text requires additional attention. Revisit an  informational text with the student and contrast it with a persuasive text. Student to construct an informational text as a formative assessment, to be discussed and annotated with the teacher.

Problem: Level of detail is insufficient in written response.

Deficit Feedback to student: Response is full of waffle and preparation is insufficient.

Alternate response: Student would benefit from further developing her mind mapping techniques.  Student to construct a mind map for next task and compare her response with a student that is highly capable in this skill.  Student to submit next mind map created before constructing next written article.  Student to construct a glossary of terms before next essay and review with teacher before next task.

and so on.. It is a different way of thinking and requires the responsibility of teaching to be firmly with the teacher working with the parent and student.  With a reflective, timid, hardworking student in particular, asking them to self reflect and inform the teacher what they need to do is an intimidating, frightening and pointless task only likely to raise anxiety and lower performance further.  This may in some cases remove the student from the care of the teacher (thus allowing the teacher to focus on other things) but is not in line with department policy on high care, high expectations.


Monday, January 18, 2021

2021 New Year excitement


It's a new year.  All that preparation done last year and over the holidays is about to bear fruit.  Graduates are getting ready for their first classes, students are entering high school for the first time, students are preparing for their first run at Year 12 ATAR.

For us it is a year of firsts.  New programmes in all year groups, teachers have their own classrooms, expectations of what teachers need to do have been clearly developed, feedback to students through Connect, SENN, SEQTA and Reporting to parents has been reimplemented and refined over the last year.  Kids have been placed into classes where they can perform and things should come together nicely.

Every so often things fall nicely into place and you can make a push for improvement.  This never comes without a good deal of hard work and last year was surely a year of hard work to put the building blocks in place.  If teachers follow the grading guidance given, participate in streaming processes actively, engage with the new BMIS, instructional model and business plan and actively communicate well with each other there is a huge potential for improvement.

I put my preliminary work on Connect and can see 15 of the 20 ATAR Methods students looking at content and preparing for the fast paced start in a course that doesn't let up until second semester.  I'm really interested to hear from students about what they thought about the preliminary videos, how to make them more interesting and whether the time and effort of producing them was worthwhile.  The great thing is that I only have to do them once, now is just identifying errors and re-recording them when required.  It's really interesting watching students through analytics and the time that they put into preparation.

I also released the teaching videos for the first six weeks of term and some students have engaged with these too.  This is a continuation of my "Just in time" approach to teaching - giving students information when they need it, in a form they readily consume, with access to help to avoid frustration.  If they're a little ahead - this will help them adjust to the additional work requirements of ATAR 11 classes and hopefully reduce the Exam anxiety and typical low performance in Semester 1.

It's great to see teachers actively working together to develop courses of work.  We have some strong teams developing courses that cater to student needs and move away from it's what's in the text, to a student centric, syllabus and engagement approach to instruction.

Our kids and parents are a little blame happy, some look to who to blame before reflecting on what they could have done to rectify the situation.  This is something we have to target in earlier years to give students back a 'locus of control' and get them to realise there is a lot they can do to improve their results before starting the blame game.  Revision, study, work ethic, work practices, attendance, engagement, ICT usage all impact on results in addition to instructional techniques.  These other things do not happen overnight - students have to be shown these to do well by parents and teaching staff.

Here's to a great year!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Past students and dementia

As a teacher you forget stuff, over 1000 students over 13 years and they all start to blend into each other.  To students though, they saw you every day (out of their ten or so teachers) and remember you for the right and wrong reasons as if it was yesterday. 

I was walking through the shops and a young man stopped me.  He asked if I remembered him (I didn't) and then gave me his name.. and I went Ohhh... He went on to explain that he was now a plumber and I was one of the teachers that he really liked.

Now I've told the story of this student lots over the years but never connected the name with the student.  He came to my class on his last legs - any more trouble and he would be expelled.  I don't think it was the dreaded 10C class that was the most difficult of my career (and one of two classes I couldn't win over) but was around that time about 8 years ago.  The conversation was - make this work or they will encourage you to leave, held just outside SS1.  He turned himself around and I was proud of him (I wish I had told him today as I didn't make the connection until afterwards).  He did his apprenticeship and now has his own business in plumbing. He is one of those students that was always going to do better once he left school - without the confines of discipline, where his jokes would be taken well.  If (as a student) you see this post, know that I'm not a heartless bastard, I did greatly appreciate you taking a few moments to say you liked my class and that you were now successful (and I'd like to think I had a little part in that).  I'll let other teachers know of your success too.

I saw another student going down an escalator whilst I was going up from this year.  We had a few heartaches over probability throughout Methods, but he has been accepted into engineering.  He says the others in his class have done well too.

We don't often get to reflect on the success our students achieve - many times it is long after students leave.  These are the things that keep you in the profession - if you don't believe in the good that you do, it becomes a drudge rather than a privilege.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The big achievements of 2020

Started a new role as a HOLA
Navigated Covid-19 and assisting staff use Connect and other technologies to deliver online content
Delivered another Year 12 Methods class, producing over 100 videos to support their learning.
Established transparent and regular streaming processes including explicit connections between grades and Pathways
Refined grading processes to align with grade descriptors and acceptance of consistent judgements.
Created connections between faculty knowledge and subject selection processes
Continued the after school homework club
Investigated the effectiveness of Mathspace and evaluated the effectiveness of implementation
Allocated rooms to teachers with an aim to create dynamic spaces in 2021 rather than existing bland shared classes
Navigated staffing changes and relief staff
Developed some apps in scratch to assist students learn their tables and basic numeracy
Implemented new BMIS and Performance Management procedures

Worked on repairing/managing faculty interpersonal issues
Implemented a concept of equity with course management, teaching and assessment writing allocations
Implemented a consistent comment bank and report comment framework (APAL)
Created connections between student services and Mathematics to support students
Implemented SEN reporting to support students at academic risk
Worked with at risk students in Year 9 (D/E students), resulting in returning a small group of students to the year level achievement standard and then gaining promotion to Pathway 2.
Established grading guidance documents to provide structure to the creation of assessment and desired outcomes.
Delivered Year 8 Pathway 3 (A/B/C students) with 65% average and 12% standard deviation - spot on the grading guidance across both Year 8 Pathway 3 classes resulting in at least 60 students currently in ATAR aspirant pathway
Managed development of new programmes designed by the team for each Pathway 7-10
Started embedding the idea of extension classes (with the Year 10 class established in 2021) and 90 students in the aspirant ATAR Year 10 pathway
Worked with Science to determine class composition, pathways and sizes for 2021 
Addressed issues where staff saw resources produced as personal property and ensured they were available for future years for all teachers

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, 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.

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.

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?

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?


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.

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!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Looking back at 2019

So when I look back at 2019 I see a successful year.
  • Deputy for the majority of the year
  • Supported three different Principals
  • Assisted students find alternate pathways where required
  • Navigated difficult cases working with Department of Communities, Department of Justice, Participation and Engagement resulting in positive outcomes for students
  • Led the Course Counselling team
  • Led the Curriculum team
  • Completed the 2020 timetable (undone)
    • Created a MAG class for 7/8 to assist low literacy numeracy students in 2020 (undone)
    • Implemented the Student Council Form Class
    • Implemented a lower school specialised basketball programme
    • Created a focus on Endorsed Programmes (undone)
    • Changed the mode of the period 25 class to reduce FTE requirements (undone)
    • All teachers on load (undone)
  • Created a focus on NCCD intervention (unlikely to continue)
  • Worked with teachers in performance management group to raise awareness of opportunities and strengths
  • Managed the NNEI relationship
  • Named a fellow by Rotary for services to education and welfare of students
  • Started the Guitar group and a boardgame group with students (unlikely to continue)
  • Continued to work with the low mood boys group (unlikely to continue)
  • Developed an understanding of SENN reporting and implemented it for a whole year 7 class
  • Mentored two social work Practicum students
  • Navigated some difficult staffing issues to conclusion
  • Maintained a calm approach in Senior School
  • Organised the achievers club with 80 students on B averages (a rise from 50 in semester 1)
  • Developed the business plan reporting tool and managed the addition of information to the tool
  • Completed 5 job applications, 2 interviews, 1 job
Update (edit above): Sadly, a lot was undone when I returned to my current role due to a host of reasons, (including leaving for a new role in a new school).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ability and performance of students in year 10

Today I focused on the performance and ability of year 10 students. I really wanted to know what caused the lack of performance in students coming through from the middle school.

Issue 1: Middle School and Middle Schooling.

Funnily enough these are two different terms. Middle school is the structure - the buildings, the leadership model, the way students move between classes and the like. Middle schooling is the teaching pedagogy and curriculum. Neither came out unscathed.

Research was not positive about progress in middle schooling.

“middle schools are in serious decline in the US and UK... What is actually done within classrooms and schools is the most important thing, not structures... The most important factors for high-quality education are quality teaching and learning provision; teaching standards; and ongoing teacher professional learning focused on evidence based teaching practices that are demonstrably effective in maximising students’ engagement, learning outcomes and achievement progress.” (Dinham & Rowe, 2009)"

“the report called for a “second generation” of Middle Schooling philosophy with a focus on relationships, relevance, pedagogy and rigour, which is informed by students’ experiences and enabled through sound educational research.” (OBrien, 2009) [Referring to the Beyond the middle report]

" In a region with very low student retention, the middle years when curriculum becomes compartmentalised and fraught with judgmental selectivity was a crucial locus for confronting serious consequences, in student lack of engagement, for later achievement and retention" (Hattan et al, 2009).

“Middle Schooling movement that has been variously described as “arrested”, “unfinished” and “exhausted”." (Prosser, 2008)

"There needs to be a more systematic emphasis on intellectual demand and student engagement in mainstream pedagogy that moves beyond and capitalises on current foci on increased participation rates and basic skills development for target group students." (Luke et al, 2003)

A great article to read is Beyond the Middle Years (Luke et al, 2003) by DEEWR and then follow it up with Dinham and Rowe (2009) article available from ACER. If students don't have a workable learning environment then learning is highly unlikely.

Issue 2: Home environment

Home environment is a key aspect of demonstrable learning ability. Although the gloss has come off this idea since the Campbell report (1960) in the US which prompted black students to be bussed away from their homes into "better" environments, it is still a factor in understanding student ability and performance.

"Students performance in low SES schools significantly lower than high SES schools. Internal school-based determinants of success do not operate independently of external, context-based determinants" (Angus, 2009)

“Cost of school represents a disproportionate amount of household income in term 1 for sole parent families” (Bond & Horne, 2009)

" In the 2007 Education Costs Survey, most parents reported having difficulty paying aspects of their children’s education during the last year, particularly for sport/recreational expenses (69%), for camps (62%) and for books (60%). Almost half struggled to pay for equipment (48%) and excursions (47%)" (Bond & Horn, 2008).

“If education is going to be the means to personal fulfilment and opportunity, we need to ensure that all these young people and their families are given the support they need to succeed. If not, then the education process will reinforce disadvantage, not overcome it, to the detriment of us all.”(Dinham, 2008)

"Schooling reproduces the structure of inequality itself" (DEEWR, 2009) inferring that prejudices and low expectations are placed on working class children by the system and re-inforced by parents

Lower expectations by parents impact on adolescent performance (Crosnow, Mistry & Elder, 2007)

High level of aspiration, low chance of success (p.162) – ESL students with non-english speaking parents (Windle, 2009)

Issue 3: Ability is often not recognised

Students are unaware of their underperformance

“Honesty in recognising and reporting student ability levels (p.163) Students reported that their skill in English was much higher than assessment indicated” (Windle, 2008)

“Ability may not be recognised due to teachers failing to recognise high ability students manifesting typical low socio-economic behaviours.” (Petersen, 2001)

“Further, social and individual factors were found to affect students' attitudes and academic choices; in particular their identification with peers, school and family and student's perceptions of peer, school and family attitudes towards HE. An interesting finding arising from stage one data was that there were significant age related differences in students' attitudes toward school and learning. Students in year 10 were significantly more negative on nearly every measure than students in Year 9 or 12.” (Maras, 2007)

Issue 4: Underperformance of teachers

Poor application of new ideas has resulted in lower than expected performance for a generation of students.

"Research conducted over the last 40 years has failed to show that individual attributes can be used to guide effective teaching practice. That ‘learning styles’ theory appeals to the underlying culture’s model of the person ensures the theory’s continued survival, despite the evidence against its utility. Rather than being a harmless fad, learning styles theory perpetuates the very stereotyping and harmful teaching practices it is said to combat." (from abstract only) (Scott, 2010)

"Practice, grouping of concepts and direct instruction/frequent modelling are key element in addressing learning difficulties. Independent learning and discovery based learning is inappropriate in a learning difficulty environment." (Bellert, 2008)

“Many primary teachers feel under-equipped to teach mathematics and science. In a 2007 study of 160 Australian primary school teachers, they devoted only three per cent of their time to the teaching of science and 18 per cent of their time to teaching mathematics. There is concern that if students receive an insufficient grounding in mathematics and science in primary school, this will cause difficulties in secondary school.” (quote taken from (Chinnappan, Dinham, Herrington, & Scott, 2008).

“Curriculum alignment must occur to clearly connect outcomes to assessment.” (Hedemann & Ludwig, 2008)

“Curriculum Mapping is required to ensure minimum standards are met. Every student must have multiple opportunities to attain minimum standards. Choice of actions is required to improve performance.” (Falls, 2009)

And that was today's research!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Keeping up and reducing doubt.

It's a hard ask keeping up sometimes. It's my first year teaching year 12 Calculus, Probability and Statistics. Your focus slips from your good year 12 kids, to the lower classes where your interest lies and all of us sudden you are faced with a crisis of confidence.

Are you good enough? Have you done enough? In a subject like maths, students need you to always be on the ball, or their confidence also suffers.

It's times like that you have to go back to basics. Do each exercise. Talk to a staff member that you trust. Get your confidence back. Maybe put some things aside for awhile.

I remember when I found out that I was on a pathway to take these classes, I wondered if I was up to the challenge, if my mathematics had risen back to that level. I argued that these kids needed the best teacher available. I still believe this should happen, but will fall in line with department wishes.

Maybe I have to rekindle some doubt in myself and do some real work to improve. It's a shame, because I'm really making some ground putting effort into my teaching capability with the lower classes. My masters research is teaching me a lot about myself and my teaching style - a teaching style that is much harder to work on with a good bunch of kids that will respond to a simple instruction.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

3A Mathematics Specialist Course

Well I sat down today and finished my worked solutions for the 3A MAS course for Saddler's text. The most difficult part seems to be the Vectors component as the other areas are quite simple in their delivery.

I suggest to students to get a hold of the OT Lee text and do extra examples of these vectors questions. A couple of examination preparation books are also available from Academic associates and Academic task force. I was lucky to have been given the West One 3A CD that also has some great material to supplement the standard text.

A problem that I have seen in the class is getting students to understand the nature of vectors, especially the idea of magnitude and components. I even have to think twice when wind problems are involved. I need to amend the programme and structure it more to vectors and away from logarithms.

My advice for all starting out teachers is to do the hard yards and complete any exercises set for students before asking students to complete them. This is especially true for mature age teachers with long gaps between completing high school maths and teaching it.

One useful thing I did was mark stop points against the work where I felt I'd had enough before starting again. Although I completed the text in a couple of days, it was in multiple sittings. I'll use these stop points as indicators where I can slow the programme down.

The TDC assignments to date have been well received by students. They have been able to complete the assignments and have been positive in their feedback. If the TDC can keep supplying quality assessment then that will reduce the assessment problem for teachers starting to teach yr 11/12 specialist courses. It is daunting for starting teachers to identify good assignments/investigations.

The MAT course on the other hand so far is a bit of a doddle given the work we did with students last year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ten Tips for Practicum Students

I remember being on practicum and had my collection of nightmares and successes. After recently having a practicum student, it reminded me of some of the things I learnt while on practicum. There are lots of things that you are told at uni, but here are some of the more obvious that you may not be told.

1. If you are going to talk to the class, ensure that all students are ready to listen. Don't talk until you have full attention of everyone in the class. Create a spot at the front of the class so that students know that you are waiting to start.
2. Don't talk to the board while writing on it. There aren't any students behind it to hear you.
3. If your practicum teacher tells you to do something, do it. Write it down so you don't forget.
4. Appreciate your practicum teacher. The $12.50 per week and the aftermath is not worth it. They are doing it for the right reasons.
5. Don't have another job outside of school whilst on practicum. You are making a hard job harder.
6. Don't get lazy or cocky.. when you think you are prepared, prepare a little more.
7. Make sure students have been taught enough to complete any task you set them.
8. Do any exercise/task yourself first before you give it to students.
9. Have a clear introduction and conclusion to your lesson (keep an eye on your timing!).
10. Take praise and criticism well from students and peers. Reflect, learn from mistakes and grow thick skin where required.
11. Be rested, eat well and look after yourself.

Ok, it was eleven.. shoot me.