Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Pure unadornable rubbish in The Oz: Jan 30 2016

Someone tell me how on earth such tripe came to be publishable?
Virtually every paragraph is trite, childish and gives teachers cause for shame in contemplating the old saw that;


That refers to you JOHN HATTIE!
You only answered my emails to the point of you realizing you qualify re above!
Comment from Geoff Seidner



a sententious saying; maxim; proverb:
He could muster an old saw for every occasion.

Teacher, teach thyself and ignore the usual advice

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As students across the country returned to their classes this week for the new school year, their teachers and school leaders were faced with the same question as every year: How will I help my students learn?
There is no shortage of strategies offered for teachers to try to improve students’ literacy and numeracy, cultivate their 21st-century skills and support them more effectively in the classroom. This commentary is likely only to increase, given the announcement this week that Labor will fund the last two years of the Gonski scheme if returned to government.
The implication of much of this advice is that the answer to “How will I help my students learn?” is sitting right in front of teachers, if only they would consider the evidence.
In some cases this is true, but few teachers in Australia are not across the works of our leading education researchers such as John Hattie and Patrick Griffin (who are two of the best in the world).
The commentary and endless advice to teachers neglects two other important issues. First, it ignores some of the complexities of school education that must be overcome before teaching that “following the evidence” can even begin. Second, and most irritatingly, it ignores the complexity of highly effective teaching. We talk about “meeting every child’s needs” so casually that it seems simple to most people. All of this undermines the professional expertise inherent in effective teaching.
So how will we actually improve student outcomes this year? There is clear evidence to support what many primary and secondary teachers across all school sectors are likely to have spent this week doing — getting to know the students in their classes, and perhaps taking time to meet their parents.
Student-teacher relationships are highly relevant to student learning. Good relationships have strong positive effects on student engagement and learning, while poor relationships can contribute to students feeling unhappy at school, leading to poor outcomes. Good relationships with parents are also crucial. While teachers have the biggest in-school influence on student outcomes, the impact of parents is greater. Student learning increases when what they are taught at school is reinforced at home.
While the evidence backs teachers getting to know their students, the practical reality of actually doing this can be fraught. Relationship building is notoriously difficult in many industries — and arguably particularly so in the school setting. A range of social and emotional issues can affect teachers’ efforts to build (or rebuild) relationships with the children, teenagers and parents they work with every day.
Building and maintaining a positive relationship with a student who has been excluded from another school or class for unacceptable behaviour, for example, or a student who is experiencing severe trauma in their home life, is certainly not impossible — teachers all over the country do it every day.
Beyond building positive relationships, everyone is telling teachers they must continually meet every child’s needs through differentiation, or individualised learning. This is often discussed in a manner that ignores the expertise required to achieve this. It involves assessing students to determine their ability level in a particular subject, and then developing and delivering teaching strategies that engage them at this level, while setting ambitious goals and monitoring progress towards them.
Some students will require support to catch up, others will require extension activities to advance their learning. To ensure learning occurs for all students, teachers know they need to revisit the differentiated strategies for their classes continuously, drawing on student outcomes data and professional discussions with their colleagues to trial new approaches when a student’s learning is stalling.
Teachers know that, while differentiation is important, it is extremely difficult to achieve in practice. This may seem surprising given how commonly “make sure you individualise your teaching” is proffered as advice to the profession, almost as a throwaway line. Good assessment requires sophisticated data literacy, content knowledge and student assessment skills. And effectively individualising teaching requires great pedagogical content knowledge — knowing how to teach particular concepts in different ways to students, depending on their learning needs.
Pedagogical content knowledge is a highly specialised component of teaching practice that must be applied differentially depending on the subject and the student. Individualising instruction for a Year 5 student who is struggling with arithmetic is different from individualising instruction for a Year 5 student who is struggling in literacy, in terms of both the knowledge of content areas and teaching strategies.

HUH??? gs

For example, a primary teacher will need to know how to support the learning of a student who is having trouble ranking fractions from smallest to largest on a number line.
This might involve using manipulatives (learning tools such as small wooden cubes) to demonstrate what written fractions represent. In the afternoon, the same teacher might need to select a strategy, such as guided oral reading, to support the literacy of a student struggling with reading.
To achieve this, the teacher might choose to put students into mixed ability pairs, and have each student take turns reading aloud and providing the other with feedback. Our education system and policy debate too often overlook the complexity of this work.
Even teachers well trained in differentiation are likely to be challenged by its practical reality. It is not particularly unusual, for example, for a single Year 7 mathematics class to contain students with ability levels ranging from Year 2 to Year 10. Effectively differentiating means the teacher would need to develop strategies to deliver the curriculum to students whose ability spans nine year levels, and continually reflect on and refine these strategies to ensure each student is learning.
For secondary teachers, effectively differentiating for this class means having to draw on primary school teaching pedagogies — in which the vast majority of them will not have received training.
So our only “advice” to teachers this year is to try to concentrate on just one or two things and block out the rest. Developing professional expertise requires prioritisation and Australian school education does not have a great history in prioritisation (at least for more than a week at a time). Focus on the areas where your students need most support and then consider how you can collaboratively develop the appropriate evidence-based instructional model. This then needs to be continually evaluated to gauge the impact of changes in instruction.
This is terribly complex but it is the best way to help your students, and exponentially more helpful than traditional professional development.
Only attend the conferences and meetings you have to. There are a huge number of conferences to choose from, but few will help your teaching.
As a hint, if there is a “futurist” speaking, don’t go. So try to ignore the myriad new ideas that people have, even though you’re likely to be hearing a lot of them at this time of year. “How will I help my students learn?” is actually a hard question to answer. Finding the right answer requires deep professional expertise. Developing this expertise should be the work of schools and of school systems.
Ben Jensen is chief executive and Jacqueline Magee is an associate at Learning First.

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