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Friday, 5 June 2015

Communication – Who are the key stakeholders and how can we be effective communicators to the key stakeholders?

Children benefit academically when parents and educators work together, as a parent is a child’s first and most important teacher. Within the formal education system, parent involvement is most effective when viewed as a partnership between parents and educators.

Parent involvement occurs when parents and educators participate in regular two-way and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities. Parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their children’s learning at school and are included, as appropriate, in decision-making activities.

This may be achieved through regular feedback for schools, students and parents regarding the social and academic progress. As such school reports are an essential element in the partnership between teachers, schools and parents. As teachers focus on building trusting collaborative relationships among families and community members; they acknowledge and respect the family in addressing any class or cultural difference. This enhances the notion of partnership, where power and responsibility are shared for the education of the child. The education of every child is helped immeasurably when parents take an active interest.  

By means of professional discussions with parents and teachers, I appreciate that elements parent’s value most in reporting are interaction with teachers and a mark that gives a fair and accurate assessment of their children’s progress but as mentioned previously this mark needs to be accompanied by an explanation and suggestion for improvement to help improve and deepen student understanding.  

Written reports are an essential part of reporting but they do not provide a full picture of a child’s progress at school. As well as informal talks with teachers, reporting should include formal meetings, meetings involving parents, teacher and child. 

Ideally, through regular contact with the school, parents should know enough about their child’s progress for there to be nothing in a written report that comes as a total surprise.  

Parent – teacher meetings are crucial to parents’ understanding of how their child is progressing. I have found benefit in conducting multiple meetings throughout the year to allow a constant flow of information on the student's learning. The first was to allow parents to meet the teacher and talk to them regarding educational goals, the second was based on the mid-year report and the final was to discuss aspects of education parents could work on during the summer holiday. Informal conferences were conducted with individual parents on a daily basis, either ten minutes before or after school, many of these I had the opportunity to conduct or participant in.  Meetings with teachers give parents the chance to raise their concerns about their children, or their misgivings about the school and the teacher teaching them. Meetings offer a chance to clear the air and to find reassurance.

Providing a constant flow of informations through emails, the classes blog and twitter accounts have also increased parent buy in and follow-up at home. I have found that these have reduced confusion and potential misunderstandings created in the transfer of essential information from the teacher to the parents via the student. 

Being fully informed about their children’s education enables parents to better decide the degree to which they want to become involved and the type of action they may want to take. 

Social Inclusion – What are the consequences of classroom practices?

Berne and Stiefel (1999) suggest that, all children should have an equal chance to succeed, with this success based on personal characteristics such as motivation and effort. Equal educational opportunity should result in no difference in educational success based on student characteristics or place of residence. For there to be equal opportunity, all students should have access to capital that put them at an unbiased starting block and the conditions at school should allow them the possibility to succeed.

Within a classroom, inclusion is the key for pedagogy, understanding and appreciating people. Inclusion has been seen as a process that is relevant to all children in a school, but particularly focusing on those groups who have historically been marginalised by class, race, religion, sex, speech, disability and appearance or have underachieved. It recognises the way the school involves all parents, staff and community in its practices and decision-making processes as an important stage in inclusion. I was intentional to think about the similarities and differences of the students in my class. 

Attention to diverse needs of students enriched the teaching and learning experiences allowing me to adapt and modify teaching and learning activities to cater for the needs of all learners (BOS, 2012). This can be achieved through establishing additional support mechanisms for those who required them, such as extra teacher time to de-compact task, daily schedules so students became less anxious about what was happening next and setting students up for success by immersing them in an environment where answers to questions were on the walls and teaching them how to then discover these answers.

Berne, R. & Stiefel, L. (1999). Concepts of school finance equity. In H. F. Ladd, R. Chalk & J. S. Hansen (Eds.), Equity and adequacy in education finance: Issues and perspectives. Washington: National Academy Press.
BOS (1998) English Syllabus, Board of Studies NSW, Sydney.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Relationships - How do we manage relationships with and amongst students and other staff members?

Professional interactions with colleagues, parents/caregivers and the wider community are vital means of communication that enhances students’ learning, gives insight of particular needs and requirements of students. To create rich, nurturing educational environments in the classroom, schools need to maximize the use of resources available in their communities. Professional interactions with other staff offer the opportunity for teachers to work with colleagues to strengthen their professional practice and deepen their understanding of teaching; through a cycle of planning, teaching, and feedback. The desired outcome of these interactions between teachers is foster the concept of the teacher as reflective and collaborative practitioner.

The qualities for a positive relationship can vary to set a learning experience approachable and inviting the students to learn. A teacher and student who have the qualities of good communications, respect in a classroom, and show interest in teaching from the point of view of the teacher and learning from a student will establish a positive relationship in the classroom. Research indicates that “academic achievement and student behaviour are influenced by the quality of the teacher and student relationship” (Jones et al., 1981:95). I noticed the more that I intentionally connected and communicated with my students; the more likely I was able to help them learn at a high level and accomplish goals quickly. 

Interaction between the student and teacher becomes extremely important for a successful relationship through the entire time of a school year. On professional experience I found that intentionally getting to know my students and generating good rapport was helpful especially for those students who were shy and find speaking in front of the classroom difficult. This gave them the opportunity to feel heard and that their opinion was respected.

Teachers can establish a positive relationship with their students by communicating with them and properly providing feedback to them. Respect between teacher and student with both feeling enthusiastic when learning and teaching. Having established a positive relationship with students will encourage students to seek education and be enthusiastic and to be in school.

Jones, V. F., and Jones, L. (1981) Responsible Classroom Discipline. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc, 95-215.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Edutech Australia Takeaways Day 2

As I sit on the AirTrain pondering my reaction to Edutech I realise how blessed I am to be teaching in a wonderful school and supported by an incredible Professional Learning Network. Much of today confirmed for me that there is a groundswell of educators who are now looking for ways to pedagogically improve their application and integration of technology. They realise that they along with students can do "dumb things with smart devices" and we need to be empowering educators and students to move to creating solutions for real world problems. 

I loved the quote that "a pencil is a technology but does it mean students can write?" The answer is no, obviously! Teachers need to be the guides in the learning process. We need to become less scared about what technology we are going to use and look more about the skill and process we are looking to teach. Then choose the technology appropriate for teaching the skill.

Another takeaway was student voice is more powerful that a lecture. I experienced this during my teach meet session. As soon as my Year 2 class came up on the screen using google Hangouts I instantly saw the audience move forward on their seats. They became increasingly engaged and interested in the concept because it became an authentic experience for them.

The final takeaway came when I saw the power of the four program structures - learning space, grouping, personalised learning and time. If we want to see learners excel we need to modify all of these to allow complete engagement with the content being taught. 

Student's deserve the best so we need to become our best self. 

Organisation - How can the Classroom be Managed?

The ability of teachers to organise classrooms and manage the behaviour of the students is critical to achieving positive educational outcomes. Student learning is the primary goal of effective classroom management and thus the inability of teachers to effectively manage classroom behaviour according to Harrell et al., (2004) contributes to the low achievement of at risk students.  Instruction that is effective in encouraging higher rates of academic engagement and on-task behaviour is characterised instruction which has significant to the students, is planned, sequential and logically ordered to develop skills, offers frequent opportunities for students to respond and guides practice through immediate feedback (Carnine, 1976).

The use of rules and routines is a powerful preventative component of classroom organisation and management plans. Rules establish the behavioural context of the classroom by specifying what behaviours are expected and the consequences of inappropriate behaviour. The rules are stated to describe the expected behaviour. Routines allow the teacher to effectively organise their classroom allowing them to run efficiently with fewer disruptions enabling the teacher to attend to other aspects of teaching (Brophy, 2006). Rules should have a strong preventive role. An example of this was during my professional experience I observed a myself constantly reprimanding a student for putting down other students. I was aware that this action was taking time away from active learning of the class, on guidance of my mentor teacher; we put into place a simple preventive option, a set of rules stating expected behaviour to guide the effective language towards others in school and at home.

Research has revealed that creating a collaborative learning environment presents as an additional method for classrooms to be managed (Slavin, et al., 2003). Activating students as learning resources for one another produces some of the largest gains seen in any educational interventions, provided two conditions are met. Principles which I experienced regarding collaborative learning environments were that the learning environment must provide for group goals, so that students are working as a group, rather than just working in a group. The second is individual accountability, so that each student is responsible for their contribution to the whole, so there can be no ‘passengers’. When students worked within these principles group work was very productive on the other hand though when they wanted to do their own thing group work became very counterproductive and disruptive.

Carnine, D. (1976) Effects of two teacher-presentation rates on off-task behaviour, answering correctly and participation. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 9(2), 199-206.
Brophy, J. (2006) History of research on classroom management. In C.M. Evertson & C.S Weinstien (Eds.) Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice and contemporary issues (pp. 17-43). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Harrell, P., Leavell, A., Van Tassell, F. and McKee, K. (2004) No teacher left behind: Results of a five-year study on teacher attrition. Action in Teacher Education, 26, 47-59.
Slavin, R. E., Hurley, E. A., & Chamberlain, A. M. (2003). Cooperative learning and achievement. In W. M. Reynolds & G. J. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of psychology volume 7: educational psychology (pp. 177-198). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

EduTech Day 1 Takeaways

I love the ability of educators to connect and the power of this has been shown today at EduTech Australia. Previously working in other field speakers were often distant and untouchable; however, the key notes, session leaders and seminar speakers were accessible.

My greatest takeaways so far are:

  • Maker spaces are here to stay – contact @ZeinaChalich 
  • Computational thinking is a concept we are going to hear more and more about.
  • One size and method of technology implementation does not fit all. 
  • Backchannels are something to consider implementing in classrooms as it draws out the students who would often draw back.
  • What would a classroom be like if we took most of the furniture away?
  •  How can we allow students to collaboratively complete assessments after completing an individual assessment?
  • The value of teachmeets - learning from the grassroots.
  • Authentic assessment and teaching is crucial.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Assessment – How are we monitoring student learning and performance?

When teachers assess student performance, they're not placing value or judgment on it as this evaluating or grading. They're simply reporting a student's profile of achievement with relation to an expected benchmark. For student performance the teacher reports on such effects as absolute achievement, relative progress and scores for specific writing skills. Good assessment is about expanding the assessment repertoire to generate richer information about students' performance because no single form is sufficient. There are reliability and validity problems with each. Every method has its strengths and weaknesses, and its place.

Authentic student assessment ought to be done regularly to guide teaching (Mosier, 1951). This assessment reinforces the content gathered throughout the term, helping students accumulate a body of knowledge and gain deeper understanding. Teachers that guide students learning experiences based on the child's current level of performance shown through observation and authentic assessment (Vialle, Lysaght & Verenikina, 2000) allow them to operate within Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development. This fosters a more demanding and challenging approach to learning, so that valued outcomes, such as the capacity to analyse and synthesise, are rewarded.

Through professional experience I understand that it is pivotal to use the design principle of backward design for assessments. This backward mapping from the task, assists me to as at each step of the way "What's the evidence I need of children's understanding? Will this assessment get at it?" This provides students that opportunity to learn the knowledge and skills covered in the material being assessed. I utilise formative assessment to scrutinize the whole process of testing student understandings with and against others and on the based on feedback, I monitored how they modified and developed those understandings. Summative assessment are applied to measure the level of success or proficiency that has been obtained at the end of an instructional unit, in comparison to a standard, benchmark or matrix.

This measure the level of success or proficiency tells students something about the effectiveness of their learning. Though to improve and deepen their understanding, the students are required an explanation and suggestion for improvement. A guiding principle that I come into contact with is that students should get feedback on one piece of work in time for this to be of benefit for the next.

What is the Impact of this on our Teaching and Learning Cycle?

In my class I clearly state the KUDo's (Know, Understand, Do) for each unit. Expectations ought to be clearly communicated, so that students know what they can expect from the teacher and the class, as well as what the teacher expects from the students. Assessment should therefore be in the front of the teacher's mind in both the design and delivery of lessons. As the teacher concentrates on the learner and the quality of learning in individual classroom sessions they provide the experiences the student requires for success. The learning intentions and success criteria must be accessible to the students and the teacher must support the students as they learn how to help each other improve their work. By crafting questions that explicitly build in the under and over-generalisations that we know students make, teachers can get far more useful information about what to do next. This essentially generates a solid evidence base for deciding whether the class is ready to move on. I found that planning such questions takes time, though by investing the time before the lesson, I am able to address students’ confusion during the lesson, while the students are still in front of me. 

Mosier, R. (1951) The Educational Philosophy of Reconstructionism, Journal of Educational Sociology, American Sociological Association.
Vialle, W., Lysaght, P. and Verenikina, I. (2000) Handbook on Child Development. Social Science Press Australia

How can we develop our own teaching strategies?

Teachers by setting challenging and realistic expectations for all students taking into account their individual needs and learning styles. This assist all students learn to appreciate the need for quality in all they do. I found that by encouraging students to slow the pace of their work they began develop the appropriate skills. In employing an interactive approach to teaching based on student questions, their prior knowledge and negotiated learning tasks and the teaching of research skills I become aware that students were readily engaged and desired to learn. This was managed through a range of explicit thinking skills and strategies so students become aware of the appropriate strategies and could use them independently as basis of lifelong learning.

I experienced the importance of coaching students using explicit co-operative learning skills so students can work together in teams. This showed me the importance teaching by modelling and demonstrating until students can use them automatically when introducing new skills.

I introduced learning to students by means of realistic projects, themes and units. Making use of student personal interests and experiences where relevant e.g. for personal writing or class discussion and studies to demonstrate the value their life experiences and interests. An element of motivation I observed and experiences was on the student led conference day, the classroom environment celebrated students’ questions, their research and creative work in a way that both informs visitors and celebrated student creativity.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Curriculum – How can we develop teaching and learning experiences to build student knowledge and understanding?

Due to the constant classroom activity students often think in different contexts about concepts and thus have a better understanding as reflective learners. For teaching goals to be successfully accomplished a supportive learning environment where students must feel comfortable to take intellectual risks and express their opinions is imperative. Through my experience I have witnessed group activities, discussions and peer evaluations become key components in generating this dynamic learning community.

The depth of a students’ understanding is not reliant on reducing the amount of content they are responsible for knowing. Knowledge and understanding are the foundations from which higher-level learning can occur. Setting high academic standards is important as this expectation assists students to achieve their educational goals. 

Scaffolding the learning builds student confidence and ability to expand intellectual qualities. Students’ academic growth through engagement and significance of the subject matter is an important aspect to building student knowledge and understanding.

Students actively and individually make sense of what they learn by integrating it into what they already understand. By definition teaching cannot occur without learning, teachers ought to seek and value students' points of view in order to understand students' thought processes and knowledge acquisition.

Students respond well to the student-centred approach, they are quick to respond, engage and participate in class. Such an approach establishes high expectations of students and the teachers, in regards to the quality of the learning experience. Learning experiences that emphasise hand-on, activity based teaching and learning during which students develop their own frames of thought. Learning occurs through the construction of new, personalised understanding that results from the emergence of new cognitive structures. Teachers who constantly search for new ways to present material and have students exhibit their understanding of concepts; display consideration and thoughtfulness in areas of human communication.

I experienced this when introducing the HSIE topic of India, one of my students had returned from a trip to New Delhi. In teaching the class, I utilised her experience and allowed her to become the expert, giving the class an authentic understanding that was significant to them. Then scaffolding these experiences with opportunities to deepen understanding and thinking strategies.

Values and Identity - What does it mean to be a teacher?

Being a teacher in Australia is critical to the improvement and maintenance of Australian society. We are responsible for mentoring students in the process of living and the preparation of their coming futures. It is essential to be fascinated with the subjects that are taught, committed to generating enthusiasm and interest in others and producing an environment respectful to the student’s culture and background. Variety in teaching methodology is very important, not only because students have different learning styles but also as this further stimulates the learning environment. Teachers that value student studies help them make connections across their schooling and personal lives.

The responsibility of a great teacher goes beyond the doors of the classroom. Encouragement to participate in the community and sporting activities provide students with the links and resources to connect with their community, providing opportunities to apply what they have learned in the classroom as lifelong learners.

Being a teacher, means leaving students better than when you found them. This could mean that a student knows more about the specific subject than the teacher, has a new skill, has greater self-confidence, works with others better, understands something better, or is just a happier person in general. I believe teachers are expected to be moral guides (Beavis, 2004) as there is need for values and morals education to bridge the gap between what students know and how they behave. Their role is to give students the best opportunity to be engaged with each learning experience offering them consistency, accuracy and comprehensiveness. This approach seeks to develop within students “sound methods of inquiry and techniques of problem solving” (Mosier, 1951:86); this is grounded in culture and requires a partnership among anthropology, philosophy, and education. It is a philosophy that emphasizes the addressing of social questions and a quest to create a better society and worldwide democracy (Aronowitz, 1993).

Teachers, as professionals are required to continually develop, taking opportunities to learn new skills and enhance their abilities. Regular professional development opportunities to expand curriculum and pedagogy skills as it essentially creates a rippling effect in the lives of students, providing them with the opportunity to gain concrete knowledge and more importantly a desire to apply the knowledge they have gained into their own personal endeavours.

Aronowitz, S. (1993). Paulo Freire's radical democratic humanism. In P. McLaren & P. Leonard. (Eds.), Paulo Freire: A critical encounter p.9. Routledge London.
Beavis, A. (2004). Why parents choose private or public schools.
Mosier, R. (1951) The Educational Philosophy of Reconstructionism, Journal of Educational Sociology, American Sociological Association.

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