The TFEL Compass Tool – Tutorial Videos

The Teaching and Learning in South Australia You Tube Channel has posted 3 videos on how to set up and use the TFEL Compass Tool. These videos were produced by the Teaching for Effective Learning Team.

We have discussed the TFEL Compass Tool before at PBAS and some staff have gone on to create surveys. What I like about these videos are the explanations given about the Polar Maps and Quality Tests within the Compass Tool. Both of these allow you to analyse your data. The Tool provides feedback for you based around the feedback you received from the students or observer.

Tutorial 1: Creating a survey

Tutorial 2: Polar Maps

Tutorial 3: Quality Tests

Learning Design – What do my students already know?

Tanya has very kindly allowed me to share her classroom observation which occurred in week 3. Tanya’s focus is around Finding out what students already know. This closely links with the Learning Design process and TFEL.

Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning. Element: 4.1 build on learners’ understandings
the teacher identifies students’ prior knowledge and cultural practices as a starting point for curriculum.

I have inserted Tanya’s observational notes based on our new 2015 observational proforma. Please have a read and hopefully it provides some help and inspiration with your own planning in this area.

Learning Design – very quickly, what is it?

One of the 6 areas of Learning Design, What do they bring? requires us to carefully consider the beliefs, misconceptions and experiences students have. “What students bring” should not only be considered in relation to the content being taught but also other experiences students have had that impact on their attitude towards learning and their relationship with the teacher and other students.

To become effective at finding out what our students bring we need strategies to help us elicit this information. I have provided some resources that hopefully give some practical strategies that can easily be used in the classroom to achieve the aim of finding out what students bring to your classroom.

Resource 1: Click on the diagram to go to the Cornell University Centre for Teaching and Excellence website

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 8.55.26 pm


Resource 2Strategies to find out what students know

Professional Reading from Twitter Part 5

Click on the blog post titles to be taken to the article.

Reading number 1

Blog: Wayfaring Path

Blog post: Kill the report card

Posted on Twitter by @whatedsaid


Reading Viewing number 2

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.59.03 pm Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.59.23 pmPosted on Twitter by @mraspinall


Professional reading number 3


Blog post: How do your expectations influence learning?

Posted on Twitter by @whatedsaid

Why is movement important in a child’s development?

I found these series of posts by Valarie Strauss in the Washington Post via @SirKenRobinson (on Twitter) promoting the work of pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom. They make a very interesting read about how inactivity and a “full” curriculum is contributing to a lack of basic muscle strength, underdeveloped sensory systems, poor posturing, and inefficient sensory processing of the world around them due to the amount of time spent sitting. Below are some quotes from the posts to give you a taste of what is in the articles.

If you are interested in reading the full articles the links are provided at the bottom of this post.

“A perfect stranger pours her heart out to me over the phone. She complains that her 6-year-old son is unable to sit still in the classroom. The school wants to test him for ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder).”

“I recently observed a fifth grade classroom as a favour to a teacher.The teacher was reading a book to the children. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.”

“We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance.”

“They need hours of play outdoors in order to establish a healthy sensory system and to support higher-level attention and learning in the classroom.”

“Shortened recess times, cutting gym classes, and other specials (i.e., music and art) means we are no longer respecting the needs of the whole child. Our system of testing is failing our children.”

“In fact, none of our bodies are made to stay sedentary for lengths of time. This lack of movement and unrelenting sitting routine, are wreaking havoc on their bodies and minds.”

Admittedly these posts are directed at the American culture and schooling system where curriculum is often more focused on “high stakes testing” than in Australia and where some schools eliminate recess, P.E., the Arts etc to find more time to focus on “core” curriculum. That being said we can take a lot of important messages from these articles about how we parent and school our children in Australia.

Schoolchildren bored in a classroom, during lesson.

Post 1: Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today

Post 2: The right – and surprisingly wrong – ways to get kids to sit still in class

Post 3: A therapist goes to middle school and tries to sit still and focus. She can’t. Neither can the kids

PBAS Teacher Learning 2015

Professional Learning

John Hattie – Hattie’s research tells us the most important factor in student learning, within the school, is the teacher. It is not, among others, funding, school buildings, ICT or how good your camps program is. While all of these are valuable it is teacher quality in the classroom that has the biggest impact.

Dylan Wiliam believes “every teacher needs to get better”, not just those that are seen as struggling but every teacher. Taught for one year? Taught for 25 years? The teaching landscape is constantly changing and we must change with it demonstrating the attributes we seek in our students as learners.

AITSL – The crucial role of the teacher – ‘The greatest resource in Australian schools is our teachers. They account for the vast majority of expenditure in school education and have the greatest impact on student learning, far outweighing the impact of any other education program or policy’.

Below are some examples of types of professional learning. This list is not exhaustive but does provide a variety of types of professional learning:

  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Face to face professional learning communities
  • Online professional learning communities
  • Professional reading (education publications)
  • Professional reading (online including blogs, Twitter, education publications)
  • Classroom observations (peer to peer)
  • Student feedback
  • Visit another school

Professional learning should not be seen as “the extra thing we need to do” or “the 60 hours we need to keep our registration”. It should be seen as a part of our job that is central to our role as educators.

Classroom Observations and Student Feedback

Classroom observations and student feedback provide a different lens for us to view our teaching by. In a supportive and committed environment were all staff help each other to develop their practice this lens can be a valuable learning tool.

For example, without the help of an observer or student feedback we may never identify that:

  • we don’t use small group work effectively
  • we only ever use direct instruction
  • we talk too much and do not allow for student input during class
  • we heavily weight our questions to the boys and forget the girls
  • we only ever use closed questions
  • we only ever call on the loudest children at the front of the class
  • we rarely give students options and choice
  • we provide little formative feedback
  • we never ask our students to use higher order thinking skills
  • we forget to find out what students already know
  • we need help developing relationships in our class
  • we do not challenge our students regularly enough
  • we only ever use one method with students to communicate their learning i.e. essay writing

Below is an example timeline of undertaking observations and collecting student feedback.

  1. Term 2 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 2 Create safe conditions for rigorous learning.
    2. Classroom observation week 7 Focus  – questioning
    3. Classroom observation week 8 Focus – questioning
    4. Classroom observation week 9 Focus – questioning
  2. Term 3 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 3 Develop expert learners.
  3. Term 4 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning.

While undertaking this plan during terms 2-4 constant consideration must be given to changes that can improve your teaching. 

The PBAS Classroom Observation Process

The Foundation Document

This document should be an integral part of the observational process. It allows teachers to see what is considered quality teaching. The document should be used as a starting point for professional discussions and classroom observations and can be found in your white PD folders.

Peer observers

Observers should be people who are respected and trusted by their colleagues.

Pre observation meeting

The observer and the teacher need to agree and be clear to what the observation is about. This needs to be specific and easily definable. Consideration needs to be given to where this fits with TfEL, the Australian Professional Standards and School Priorities.

Observe the lesson and the learners

What are the students doing, writing and saying? There should be no hidden agendas. The focus of the observation should be about improving student learning and not ranking/grading the teacher. A new observation tool will be implemented in 2015 based around TFEL but with the flexibility for the teacher to focus on what is most relevant to them at that point in time. This proforma can be accessed by clicking here.

Follow up meeting

Both parties will meet after the observation preferably within 48 hours and discuss professional development ideas. Initially the meeting needs to provide specific feedback based on the original goals set prior to the observation. After this questions like, “How can I use the feedback to improve future lessons?”, “Where to now?”, “How will I get there?” and “When will my next observation occur?” are important to consider in terms of improving teacher quality. There are a number of reflective questions on the back of the 2015 observation proforma we discussed in our week 1 staff meeting.