Dylan Wiliam – The Classroom Experiment

This is a two part series called The Classroom Experiment. Each video is an hour. I realise this is a large amount of time and that the end of term 2 is not the best time to watch them. However I highly recommend these videos. So if you do choose to watch them you can probably count them towards your time for week 10 term 4. You may wish to download the videos from You Tube and watch them in smaller chunks over a longer period of time. Perhaps through term 3?

One of the purposes of this blog is to share educational theory and research. I think that these two videos are a valuable and give the opportunity to view practical educational ideas (at least one of which is being implemented already at PBAS by Ed – coloured cups).

In this two-part series education expert Professor Dylan Wiliam sets up an experimental school classroom. For one term, he takes over a Year 8 class to test simple ideas that he believes could improve the quality of our children’s education. The concepts and ideas presented have implications from R-12.

Some of the concepts/issues in the experiment include:

  • No hands up – names on lollipop sticks.
  • Coloured cups.
  • Use of mini white boards (1 per student) – everyones in the spotlight/instant student response system (low tech version).
  • Removing grades from work. To help students focus on the comments on their work. High achieving students struggled with this. Whay do we need to give students grades?
  • Student feedback to teachers. Student observers.
  • Daily exercise – 10 minutes in the morning to prepare students for learning.
  • The second episode shows some good stuff about high achieving girls and making mistakes and their struggle with this.
  • Secret Student – improving student behaviour through peer pressure. The class earns points through positive behaviour. A Secret Student is picked each day (students don’t know who). The Secret Student for that day is the only one that can earn the points through behaving in a positive way.

The videos can also be found on the Pedagogy page under TfEL Domain 2.

Episode 1

Episode 2

The Australian Curriculum – What is the latest?

Today I went to a T&D run by the Primary Maths Association. The T&D was led by Lisa Jane O’Connor. I thought I would share with you some of the interesting and relevant information that I gathered, a lot of which is information relating to the AC in general, not just maths.

Reporting and Assessment

1. The new “Reporting Guidelines” will be out sometime this week or next through Info Connect (not sure who gets this – Denise?). This is the document that describes what an A, B, C, D and E grade is. It also gives the language to be used if you want a word equivalent. This wording by the way is non negotiable. There were also supposed to be reporting proformas with this but they are not ready yet. They should be out by the end of the term and hopefully will be useful when we look at our R-6 reporting through this year.

1.1 An interesting point made by Lisa was about grading. She suggested that a lot of students may now get ‘D’ grades and not ‘C’ grades based on the word descriptors. For example:

C Grade : “Apply …………. in new contexts

D grade; “Apply …………. in familiar contexts

This is only a part of the descriptor obviously but it was a key part. How many of our kids can apply concepts from any subject in new contexts? If they can’t they are a ‘D’ student!

1.2 All students will be assessed by the Achievement Standard that they align with i.e. a Year 4 is graded against the Year 4 Achievement Standard (regardless of ability). There are two exceptions to this; 1. The student has an IEP. Only those subjects mentioned in the IEP are exempt from grading against the Achievement Standard and 2. Individual negotiation with the students parents.

1.3 Reports must state if the subject is aligned with SACSA or the Australian Curriculum.

1.4 Lisa made it clear that reports should not only cover content but the 7 capabilities as well. How/where do we fit this in?


2 When programing in maths teachers should look at the Content Descriptions, the Achievement Standard (I think most knew this) and also the Numeracy Capability (which I didn’t know) when working out what content to cover at a particular year level.

2.1 Lisa described the Numeracy Capability as another list of things to cover in maths. On the AC website go to General Capabilities – Numeracy – Learning Continuum. This shows what students need to know by the end of Year 2, Year 4, Year 6 and Year 8. Lisa described the 3 areas in the following way – Content Descriptions and the Achievement Standard are used to generate the A-E grade while the Numeracy Capability is tested by NAPLAN explaining why it says by the end of Year 2 etc…..

2.2 The Australian Curriculum (can’t remember if Lisa just meant maths or all areas) is at a higher level than most students work at now. Considering what I said above under Reporting and Assessment 1.1 this implies that students grades will fall across the board. How will parents react to this? How will students react to this? It was mentioned that the Minister needs to come out and publicly say something like, “Implementing the Australian Curriculum requires schools to work towards the Achievement Standards over the next 3 years.” Schools should not be left to justify to their communities why students results have dropped i.e. due to a new curriculum and grading system as this will just sound like we are covering our backsides.

Programing and Planning

3. Lisa talked about ‘Learning Design’ being the term now used across DECD as the term for planning. She said that the backward design process is now not used. This was just one example of many conflicting messages seemingly out there at the moment. The process of Learning Design will be out as part of a Leaders resource coming out in week 10 this term. It is more detailed than what follows but to give you a basic idea of the Learning Design process you would ask yourself these three questions and undertake your planning based on those questions in this order:

Step 1 – What do I want them to learn?  Step 2 – How will I know they have got there?  Step 3 – So how will we get there?

3.1 The issue of legality around programing was raised.

  • Evidently programs are the property of the Minister of Education and are to be archived by the school at the end of every year and kept for seven years. There have been court cases where these programs have been called upon.
  • The department requires that all teachers have a written detailed program.

I hope this information has been useful and generates some discussion (anger, confusion) amongst staff. Maybe even leave a comment so others can see your thoughts encouraging them to add their own.




How do you handle change?

Education is going through some significant changes at the moment. A new curriculum and a more intense focus on pedagogy and teacher performance. The Federal Government (rightly or wrongly) wants to reward high performing teachers, they want to rate teachers on a yearly basis using the newly formed Professional Standards for Teachers that focus on our pedagogy. As well as these “system” based changes there are those changes that are occurring because they are part of our and our students daily lives. Web 2.0, iPhones, iPads, Android Tablets, educational apps, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Cloud technology, online gaming ……. it can be all a bit overwhelming.

So considering all of the rapid changes occurring in education at the moment how do you see the next 5 years in education? How will you handle all the change?

I like the following quote about change, I think it sums up nicely that fear we have when we are between the comfortable and the new.

It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear… It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to. ~ Marilyn Ferguson

Here is an interesting blog post by Canadian teacher Joe Bower on change. The lizard brain, ninjas and pedagogy