Posts Tagged ‘Australian Curriculum’
Quite often, developing powerful and meaningful key understandings is an area that teachers struggle with as they create and plan authentic rich task units. This is a critical step that many teachers can gloss over in planning but can make a profound difference to having clear, powerful units that provide great learning opportunities.
What we have experienced when teachers have begun the process of extracting “understandings” from the Australian Curriculum (or any curriculum documentation for that matter) what results is a long list of statements, understandings, and facts being written down. This is an important step in the process but it is not the final step. Quite often it is treated as a final step because the teachers themselves are used to teaching students “knowledge” rather than having the students learn. This is a consequence of the Industrial Education paradigm that has existed in our society for the past 200 years. If the teachers just use the lengthy list of “understandings” in their planning documentation without sequencing the “understandings” into a coherent and consistent whole, then there is a subtle but long reaching impact.
What we have found is that teachers take this mass of “understandings” and, with the mindset of they have to “cover” all this and make sure the students “learn” this, crowd the unit with too much material. All of this is with the hope that the students will gain the “understandings” articulated in their planning documents. This is shotgun learning. This approach fundamentally undermines the opportunity students can gain to frame their understanding inside a powerful context. If we, as a teaching profession, want to develop students to be performance oriented in their learning, we must first clearly and logically articulate what we are intending the students to understand and what skills they are to develop and then align the learning to accomplish those goals.
Key understandings are created to clearly define the purpose of the learning within the unit. They articulate the fundamental deep learning that the unit is being created to achieve. The key understandings not only have the scope of addressing what the Australian Curriculum achievement standards require to be understood, but also the passion and self-expression of the teaching team, as well as the values and expression of the school.
Clear key understandings will allow teachers to create authentic essential / fat / fertile questions that can be used to guide and challenge student thinking in particular directions. The sequence of understandings also allow for an authentic and meaningful sequence of learning throughout the unit. Teachers and students alike will actually know what they are fundamentally out to learn in the unit and what would indicate successfully achieving that understanding.
The following document highlight the process and the thinking behind designing powerful key understandings as well as the overall process to creating great authentic rich-task units that allow for differentiation and student centred learning. The document includes a range of actual teacher designed examples from Grade 1 through to Year 10.
I thought I would provoke some discussion and thinking up front in today’s blog. I want to be especially confronting to the status quo that schools are in at the moment because we have a belief … opinion … viewpoint … that most schools are living in lala land about the Australian Curriculum. [Note: Lala Land is that land you go to when you put your hands over your ears and shout loudly "lalalalalala" to block out the conversation someone is trying to have with you!"]
We have been working with a range of schools in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia and our opinion about the readiness of schools for implementing the Australian Curriculum is a resounding NO!!!!!!
This is not a critical issue at the moment but I don’t believe many schools (nor the governments for that matter) have confronted what it is actually going to take to authentically and professionally implement the Australian Curriculum to honour both its intent and the possibility available from its embedding.
We have some perspective on this because we have spent the past 18 months working with primary and secondary schools, government and independent schools, teacher teams that are on board and those that are not, and across several states, and have spent an enormous amount of time and thought looking at what are the factors that will empower and enable the effective implementation.
We have HAD TO DO THIS as part of being paid by the schools and being effective as a consultancy.
The implementation of the Australian Curriculum is an extraordinary opportunity to create a shift in the learning and teaching profession. It is one of those line in the sand sort of moments that will define education in this country … or not (if schools don’t act). The next few years will involve some enormous transitions for the way that schools and teachers think, plan, and operate in their learning environments. It will challenge the habits and rituals of learning within the learning environments. It will demand that teachers develop themselves continuously to be more masterful. It will be confronting, challenging, sickening, and thrilling.
What it IS going to take for the Australian Curriculum to be delivered well is a paradigm shift in the way that teachers provide learning and schools support learning.
To give you a sense of our thinking and observations of what it will require, I sat down and wrote out a list of some of the actions schools would need to take at a minimum to be effective and cause learning performance across their school.
- Have you mapped out the Achievement Standards across the year levels to see how they flow and fit and could be linked?
- Have you audited your current curriculum documentation to get a sense of what you are currently delivering?
- Has there been a skills mapping that articulates how both the subject specific skills and the general capabilities will be coherently built upon through the year levels?
- Have you set benchmark expectations for each year levels end-of-year expected skills and understandings to measure progress against?
- Has the school set time aside for teaching teams throughout the year to map out and plan each year level’s implementation of the Australian Curriculum?
- Have you begun to trial some Australian Curriculum units?
- Have you documented any Australian Curriculum units already delivered and reflected upon what worked and what didn’t and refined the unit?
- Have you looked at the timetable and thought about how to redesign it to allow for new learning approaches and cross-curricular learning?
- Has the Senior Leadership developed a progressive plan over the next two years of how they will support teachers with time, professional learning, and critical friends to support the cultural shift?
- Are there developmental structures to support the embedding of new teacher practice, strategies, habits and thinking?
- Are there frameworks to support teacher growth, acknowledge teacher performance but also to professionally deal with teacher non-compliance?
We are working with schools on all of these aspects and over the coming months our blogs will be sharing the results of our work with various schools so you can start to see the unpacking of this thinking.
My question to you (and please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) is … what do you see needs to be addressed and where are you stuck?
One of the clear facets of the Australian Curriculum is the requirement for teachers to explicitly develop skills in the students. These skills include both the subject specific skills as well as what are now termed the general capabilities (another name for interdisciplinary skills).
The challenge for teachers is figuring out HOW they are going to be more explicit about developing the required skills. Part of the challenge is that, for the most part, teachers have operated with the HOPE that students will develop the required skills by practicing or participating in activities. Well … to a certain extent this does develop the skills but in a world of performance this is insufficient.
K. Anders Ericsson has pioneered the research into deliberate practice. One of Ericsson’s core findings is that skill expertise has more to do with how one practices than with merely performing a skill a large number of times. An expert breaks down the skills that are required to be expert and focuses on improving those skill chunks during practice or day-to-day activities, often paired with immediate coaching feedback. Another important feature of deliberate practice lies in continually practicing a skill at more challenging levels with the intention of mastering it.
One of the structures that we use as we facilitate teacher’s Australian Curriculum planning is the formative rubric. We use the structure of a formative rubric (see the Rubric Student Version and the Rubric Teacher Version) to support the teachers to unpack not only what the skill chunks are at different stages of skill development, but to provide a structure for teachers to articulate the explicit approaches they will use to develop and challenge the students. Our experience is that teachers have a ‘light bulb’ moment and suddenly it all becomes clear.
The thinking behind the formative rubric is this. Expert teachers generally know what level of skill a student is displaying in the way they are demonstrating in their work. However, this is an instinctual thing with teachers which they address when they see it. If we are going to actually support the students in developing a mastery approach we have to move this from an anecdotal ‘on-sight’ approach to explicitly articulating what it is we are looking for, the evidence that we require them to produce to demonstrate that they are at a level, and the strategies we will be using to develop their skill. Once we have captured this information suddenly the process of developing visible feedback mechanisms that the students drive becomes much easier. The result is that performance increases, the more competent students have a structure that can extend them, teacher’s have more time to support the struggling students, and the students begin to have tools that allow them to become independent learners.
It does take time to articulate it well as it challenges the teachers to get really clear about WHAT demonstrable behaviour it is they are looking for. I have attached a sample rubric for research so you can get an idea of how we unpacked one skill at a year 8 level.
Another benefit of going through the process is that the teachers suddenly realise their mastery of a particular area and can coach and give away their understandings and mastery to others. Win-Win really!
Any thoughts or comments?