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Wrestling with the learning

March 19, 2016

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Last week’s contexts:

  • In class with Year 11 students studying TV genre; in particular, we scrutinised Seinfeld episodes;
  • At Joseph Banks Secondary College for a workshop on setting growth targets with Philip Holmes-Smith;
  • Sculpture admiration on Cottesloe Beach.


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Notes taken during Thursday’s workshop:

Improving student outcomes: setting growth targets


Tier 1- NAPLAN

Tier 2 – PAT

Tier 3 – pre/post test

Does this sound familiar? 4 year strategic plan: maximise student learning outcomes in literacy & numeracy. 75% of students in year 7 to achieve NAPLAN band 7. Problematic: Set independent of characteristics of cohort.

 Assumptions: Bands have curriculum meaning. Do not. Arbitrary. Year 7 Bands 6-9 and above are all too often identified as targets. Set better targets.

Our job becomes helping students understand how to get that growth.

Tier 3 targets: individual groups of teachers developing a good pre-assessment. Tells us what they know. What errors/ misconceptions exist. Tells us what their point of readiness for learning is.

 Use for baseline data. Effect size will measure teacher input.

Set data targets in terms of growth from last term assessed.

PISA test results are in decline. We do not have high enough expectations. We are widening the gap. Set targets to narrow the gap.

Need a steeper rate of growth – 12 weeks in 10 is that figure. Grow the average student 12 weeks every 10. Stop wasting time. Avoid regression back to the mean.

How to avoid test fatigue?

Inform students. Get them on board. Trying to find what you know or don’t know. Get them onside.

Philip’s recommendations:

  • Applied use of SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982)
  • Focus on teacher collaboration to establish a data set of learning intentions
  • Use of rubrics
  • Pilots, tests and trials to provide diagnostic information and inform teaching
  • In responding to the perennial “Why are we doing this?”, explain scope and sequence; convince students that they need to develop academic skills. Essay writing framed as a learning intention then becomes I will learn to express myself clearly.

Key takeaway: Need all teachers on board to get kids to take learning and growth seriously.

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Selected reference

Ausubel, D. P. (1968). Educational psychology: A cognitive view. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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