From Year 7, 2013 to Year 8, 2014. Time is ticking!

Anyone who follows @materdeiwagga knows about TED.

The TED program for Year 7 students in 2013, an integrated approach to learning for Religious Education (R.E), English and History, Society & Its Environment (HSIE), has prompted us to think carefully about the transition of Year 7 students into Year 8. The TED team argue that, as a cohort, Year 7 students will arrive in Year 8 with an increased ability to:

  • Independently select resources and technologies to achieve outcomes;

  • Make reasoned choices about working collaboratively on part or all of a task;

  • Reflect on and evaluate their learning process and product;

  • Make effective use of conferencing with teachers, experts and peers to achieve all or part of a task;

  • Plan their own learning based on lesson objectives; and,

  • Follow inquiry cycle which includes: Open, Immerse, Explore, Identify, Gather, Create, Share & Evaluate.

They base these statements on data derived from surveys and observations conducted over the course of the year. Their ongoing reflections indicate that the collective capability of Year 7 to ‘self-direct’, is greater than those students of older classes in 2013.

Students in Year 7, more so than any previous year, are used to directing their learning and exercising choice around that. Just recently there have been times when (non-TED) teachers have passed comment that they too have observed a greater capacity of students in Year 7 to direct their learning as compared to students in older classes. Added to this, an isolated individual example of increased capability, was recently observed when a Year 7 student ‘in-serviced’ a Year 10 class about the use of an ‘app’. When is the last time a Year 7 students has ‘taught’ a class full of students who are three years older? It might only be a ‘one-off’, but a powerful one at that.

Throughout the delivery of TED this year, there has been a very strong focus to pursue the stated learning priority of the College; that is, for students to become ‘self-directed learners’ through the provision of learning opportunities which are ‘student-centred’. Being ‘student-centred’ has meant deliberately providing students with greater choice of subject matter, learning methods and pace of study in TED. This has resulted in students being more involved in decision‐making processes, extensively using digital technologies to ‘create’ (not just ‘consume’) and increasingly ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world. The data extracted from a survey in May of this year, and interviews with a selection of students in September led to these conclusions.  

The ‘unpacking’ of student-centred pedagogy by the TED team has been constant, regular, persistent and on-going. It has required much time of the team, which was supported by one hour a week being built into their load. This time only partly contributed towards the substantial time they spent collaborating, consulting, reflecting and evaluating as a TEAM.

TED has not been without its struggles, challenges and flaws, one of which has been programming. I will be the first to acknowledge that TED might not have ‘hit the same high mark’ as other programs across the College, and they will need to be improved for next year, but I am not disappointed. As I stated to those (few) who have criticised the quality of our TED programs, “If programming was the priority we would never have had the development of TED this year.” I then ask aquestion, “What is more important, programming or learning?” Both! Of course, they are strongly linked, but where does the balance lie? Good programming is one element which assists good teaching, but the best teachers, the most innovative teachers can adopt ordinary programs (not that TED is an ordinary program) and make learning come alive for students. As stated earlier, if programming was the learning priority for TED, then we would not have witnessed the valuable developments which have unfolded. I am pleased programming was not the ‘driver’ of TED.

It is those developments which we need to keep at the forefront when planning for Year 8, 2014. In that planning we need to understand the aims of the program. They are:

i)                   Developing ‘self-directed learners’ through student-centred pedagogy; and,

ii)                  Improving teacher practice by maintaining a team-based approach to planning, reflection and evaluation. Capturing                        data, meaningful data, will assist with this process.

The challenges are substantial, but not insurmountable. Options and avenues need to explored to assist teachers to pursue those stated aims above. To strive for those two aims, it is planned that  all lessons will be “blocked” for RE., all lessons “blocked” for English and all lessons “blocked” for HSIE. All lessons will take place in the Glasshouse; however, unlike TED, lessons will be delivered as part of individually programmed courses, not with an integrated approach to learning as is the case with TED. This allows for numerous OPPORTUNITIES and POSSIBILITIES. Further to this, the greatest resource teachers will need is time.  

To assist with the provision of time, one possible idea may be to allocate six teachers for five classes. This will allow for various possibilities. For example, to assist with the “reflect and evaluate” aspect of a team based approach will require team teaching and peer observation. All TED teachers, and SOR I teachers for that matter, have spoken about how much they have learnt (both good and not so good) from observation and team teaching with others. Research through the Bill Gates Foundation, Measuring Teacher Effectiveness (MET) program, identifies team teaching and peer observation as two of the most important factors required to improve teacher practice. Having six teachers for five classes during lesson time, could be one way of exploring how this could be done.

The idea of six teachers for five classes raises questions. If this is to go ahead, we need to think (and quickly) about how using six teachers for five classes could work well. Some questions…..

  • How can we maximise the opportunities that come with six teachers for five classes?

  • How can we best use the time to promote a ‘team-based approach to learning’?

  • Do we allocate 5 teachers to 5 classes and have a 6th teacher ‘float’? What would the ‘floater’ do/be responsible for? all Programming, Assessment, Peer Observation and ‘rostering’ of Team Teaching? Is this equitable?

  • If we have a “programmer”, are we shifting the focus from learning to compliance?

  • What role does the 2013 TED teacher play? Every good team needs a good leader? Are they the ‘leader’ of the team?

  • Who makes decisions about ‘when to pull the walls back’?

In the end, many of these questions need to be answered by members of the team.

Our Staff Charter reminds us of the need for effective communication which assists the development of professional learning communities. For this initiative to be successful it needs to be supported by allowing time for the team to meet regularly, either by way of timetabled meetings, meetings after school which are acknowledged elsewhere with each individual’s overall load, and/or ‘blocked days or ½ days for the team to meet. It will be difficult to ‘timetable’ a meeting for all three teams during school time. Another important question, “When does the team meet?”

I would suggest while looking at answering the many questions, we need to consider an ‘orientation’ for Year 8 teachers of R.E., English and HSIE. This orientation would, among other things, need to:

  • Understand what it means to be part of a “teaching team”;

  • Develop norms as to how to operate as a team;

  • Explore ways to utilise the Glasshouse;

  • Immerse teachers in the use of Google Apps to support student collaboration; and,

  • Acknowledge student willingness and desire to collaborate.

The 2013 TED teacher would be of assistance here.

No doubt, you have many more ideas and questions and I look forward to hearing them. 

Regards,

Greg.

P.S. It is November. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock!!!

3 thoughts on “From Year 7, 2013 to Year 8, 2014. Time is ticking!

  1. Great read Greg and the progress is exciting! Learning is much more important than programming! Team teaching and peer observation is the next big challenge for all of our schools! The research on teachers giving effective feedback to each other and instructional rounds as a process of peer observation are something I am keen to explore further with you and your team.

  2. Thanks for the Ping. I enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm with which you have written about your TED program. I too have experienced the increased capacity of students who learn to direct their own learning. In fact the incidental and often unplanned learning can at times outshine the expected and programmed outcomes. Congratulations on the support of your TED Team. I hope they are aware of the impact they are having on their students.

  3. I think this is an excellent initiative Greg. As for the stuff that’s not perfect well I think from time to time we need a reality check that our profession isn’t about getting it perfect, it’s about people and people are “messy”. I think it is worthwhile both from the student’s perspective and the capacity building of your staff. Noam Chomsky sums up what I think you are trying to achieve “Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own. .” I have found Edmodo a great place for professional dialog as well. Congratulations to you and your staff.

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