Shifting pedagogy

The following video is from the Teaching and Learning in South Australia You Tube Channel. The video is a presentation by Val Westwall from the Teaching for Effective Learning team, DECD.

The presentation explores traditional pedagogy and the shift required to change the way our students think about the content required by the Australian Curriculum. While the example that is presented in the video is a maths one the concept of shifting pedagogy is easily transferable to any curriculum area.

The screenshot below shows four ways in which pedagogy can be shifted to improve student learning. The two that are circled are addressed in the video.

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“The way that we get students thinking about the content makes a difference”. Val Westwall.

Teacher-instructed: students are passive – no thinking required. We tell students what it is we are about to teach, we explain why it is important and we show them how. We then ask students to regurgitate that information in some form.

Student constructed: open-ended questioning causing students to think. Develop transferable skills while still teaching the core content. Develop skills outside of the core content i.e. collaboration, developing opinion, justifying opinion, convincing others their opinion is the right one, proving/disproving, transfer.

Where are you as a teacher? Are your students passive in their learning? Are your students actively engaged in their learning? Do you cause your students to think?

“There is some information I just need to tell them because you can’t reason it, but there is a whole heap of the maths curriculum that actually if we ask the right questions our students can reason and construct their knowledge for themselves”. Val Westwall

The video is 24 minutes long but is worth watching and will make you think deeply about how you teach. How will you approach that first lesson of a new topic in week 1 of term 4?


Continuing to develop formative assessment

Thank you to everyone who engaged in the formative assessment activities over the past few weeks. Hopefully being able to read and then discuss peoples ideas, trials, successes and failures over the past 18 months around formative assessment was a useful process. For those staff who were not here when we started our formative assessment focus I hope it has built a picture of where we have been and put into context some of the things we are doing now.

It is great to see and hear that teachers are still thinking about and using formative assessment strategies and acknowledging the importance of these for student learning. Remember, it is about changing your practice in the long term (embedding) not trying a million ideas for 3 weeks and then throwing your hands up and saying, “well that didn’t work!” Select one, maybe two formative assessment techniques and work on them, put time into them and adapt them. Ensure that your practice changes to benefit student learning.

Thanks to the teachers who were willing to share their thoughts in this post about what they are doing in their classrooms for the remainder of this year and into 2016.

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Do we make smaller class sizes work for us?

Smaller class sizes can improve the opportunity for learning to occur but without teacher awareness, knowledge and strategies it will not.

At Port Broughton Area School we have a small R-12 cohort. In some subjects and at some year levels this translates to smaller class sizes. While many of our primary and middle school classes are vertically grouped and therefore not considered to be small other classes are. Some curriculum areas through middle school have single year levels and therefore small cohorts of students while our Year 11 and 12 class sizes are always small in number. So does this translate into better outcomes for student learning?

John Hattie’s research suggests as a whole that smaller class sizes have a relatively small impact on student achievement particularly considering the significant financial cost that is required to implement this strategy. Hattie’s argument is not that smaller class sizes aren’t effective. It is that the research suggests teachers do not change their pedagogy to suit smaller class sizes and therefore do not reap the potential learning outcomes that a small class may provide.

“Hattie contends that some of the most powerful in-class learning comes from teacher-to-student dialogue and more especially from student-to-student dialogue. We might like to imagine that smaller classes facilitate increased student-to-student dialogue and learning and greater one-to-one feedback between teacher and student, but the evidence gathered by Hattie suggests that teachers can actually lecture to smaller classes more than they do with larger classes.” Margery Evans, 2015

The above paragraph is from Margery Evan’s CEO blog on the AITSL website and prompts the following thought:

When we have the opportunity to teach a small class, be it for a term, semester or the year do we ensure teaching strategies that take advantage of having less students? Do we engage students with more teacher feedback and provide opportunities for more student to student conversations? Or as Margery Evan’s points out do we manage small groups of individuals in more-or-less the same way that we manage large groups, therefore not realising any of the advantages that may be possible in having small groups?

To read AITSL CEO Margery Evan’s full post about class size click here.

Technology, PE and Assessment for Learning

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies as part of Assessment for Learning.

  1. Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions & success criteria.
  2. Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievements.
  3. Providing feedback that moves the learning forward.
  4. Activating students as instructional resources for one and other.
  5. Activating students as owners of their own learning.

These key strategies underpin a wide range of techniques that can be explored in Dylan Wiliam’s book, Embedded Formative Assessment.

For the past 2 years I have continued to develop and trial the use of technology in my PE classes. During term 1 this year I tried to incorporate the use of iPads and an app called Easytag to create an process that allowed Assessment for Learning to occur.

During my 7/8 volleyball and 9/10 badminton classes in term 1 this year I decided to use the iPad app Easytag to allow students to record data relating to their performance. The app allowed the class to record statistics relating to student performance. My 7/8 volleyball class collected data on successful digs, sets, serves and unsuccessful shots with the purpose of creating ratios of successful to unsuccessful shots. This occurred at various points throughout the unit to analyse if performance was improving and in what area. My 9/10 badminton class recorded where their badminton shuttle was landing in their opponents court during a game (front L/R, middle L/R and rear L/R). The purpose was to improve the spread of shots played i.e. not hitting all shots into the mid court. Both groups had to use this data to try and demonstrate improvement over the course of the unit.

9/10 Badminton – The Easytag panel was used by a partner to record a students shuttle placement during a competitive game. The example below is one of four panels recorded during the unit. This data was transferred to a proforma in the student’s PE book allowing for easy comparison. The data shows the student was able to improve their spread of shots to the front and rear of the court during the course of the unit.

Note: The data from the Easytag panels and student proforma below are not from the same student.

Panel (ignore the numbers in the far right column)

Seb set 1

Data from the Easytag app was collated on a single sheet. The aim was for students to improve the spread of shots, not having all shots in one area of the court.

Tiana badminton7/8 Volleyball – Students created panels in the Easytag app that displayed the information seen below on the recording proforma. Data was transferred from the app to this proforma so students could see improvement (or not) over time. The student below could see significant improvement from a ratio of approximately 1 successful to 1 unsuccessful shot at the beginning of the unit to a ratio of 4 successful shots to every unsuccessful shot near the end of the unit.

Cooper Volleyball


How has this use of technology helped me to address Dylan Wiliam’s Assessment for Learning Strategies?

Strategy – Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievement

The data was accessible to me on student iPads or in their HPE books for me to view. This information gave me starting points to have discussions with students about what could occur next at a lesson by lesson level. The data provided me with evidence of student learning at three different points during the term.

Reflection – I would have students complete at least one more set of data (most collected 3 data sets) to provide a more constant flow of evidence giving me a better picture of student learning and progress.

Strategy – Provide feedback that moves learning forward

The data was taken at varying points during the unit. The first set of data was taken at the beginning of the unit giving students a starting point to improve on. The second set of data gave students a further reference point indicating if they were heading in the right direction. Explicit teaching, lesson by lesson feedback about how to improve, student commitment and collaboration with peers was required to enable students to successfully use the data.

Reflection – As I have already mentioned I would try to include at least one more set of data during the unit. This would allow students (and me) to access more feedback about their progress at more regular intervals.

Strategy – Helps activate students as instructional resources for one and other

Students showed the data to their partner at the end of each game and quickly discussed strengths and weaknesses. There is no way that I could have assisted all students to collate and receive this amount of data over the course of the unit. Students became resources for each other providing data to move learning forward.

Reflection – I would strengthen these discussions. I did not monitor them closely and suspect that these were not as effective as they could have been. In the future I would include a more formal process of analysis to help students focus on the data more effectively.

Strategy – Activate students as owners of their own learning

Students had concrete data to work with. They could see areas of weakness i.e. I have no successful serves (7/8 volleyball) or I have not been able to hit any shots into the rear court (9/10 badminton). Students were encouraged to use this information to focus on how they could improve (own the learning).  It was entirely up to them to demonstrate through the data their learning over the course of the unit.

Reflection – While students were required to take ultimate responsibility to use the data to try and improve I needed to get around to students more regularly and have conversations about their data to help them direct there own learning.

QUESTION NUMBER 1 – How do you address the following key strategies of assessment for learning?

  1. Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions & success criteria.
  2. Eliciting evidence of learners’ achievements.
  3. Providing feedback that moves the learning forward.
  4. Activating students as instructional resources for one and other.
  5. Activating students as owners of their own learning.

QUESTION NUMBER 2 – What techniques do you have at your disposal to address the 5 key strategies of Assessment for Learning?

1. Click HERE to read more about Assessment for Learning and access a range of techniques to help improve your ability to formatively assess your students.

Teacher Sharing – Formative Assessment

After attending Dylan Wiliam’s conference at the beginning of 2014 teaching staff decided that formative assessment would be a focus area for improving teaching practice at Port Broughton Area School.

As all teaching staff have now had the opportunity to see Dylan Wiliam in person (Joelene, Tyler, Beth and Margaret this term) it is a good opportunity to reflect of our formative assessment practices in the classroom and share with each other what we are doing in this area.


If you have not already read them or you are unsure about a particular strategy here are a series of posts that remind us about the 5 Key Strategies required for formative assessment. Each post in itself is quite short (5-8 minutes will be enough time to read them all). There are links within each post that take you to more detailed information.

  1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success
  2. Providing feedback that moves learners forward
  3. Activating students as owners of their own learning
  4. Activating students as instructional resources for one another
  5. Engineering effective classroom discussions, questions, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning

By the end of the term it would be great to have all teaching staff contribute to this sharing/discussion through the comments section of this post. Select one strategy below and share your practice in this area with others.

Suggestion – Write your comment in a Word document and save your writing. Then copy and paste from the Word document into the comments section of this post.

Select 1 of the following and discuss how you address this strategy in your classroom. Your discussion could focus on processes you use to address this strategy as well as successes and deficiencies in this area.

  • Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success
  • Providing feedback that moves learners forward
  • Activating students as owners of their own learning
  • Activating students as instructional resources for one another
  • Engineering effective classroom discussions, questions, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning

Why activate students as learning resources for one and other?

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies for Assessment for Learning. Activating students as instructional resources for one another is one of these.

The following information is from the following article Activating Learners as Instructional Resources.

Why should we develop our students ability to help other students?

  1. Motivation: The teacher structures the process so it is in a student’s interest to help others.
  2. Social Capital: Students perception of their value to others increases.
  3. Better Understanding: When you have to teach others, you have to understand an idea clearly. The stronger students improve by having to teach and the less competent improve because they have a second teacher.
  4. Activating learners as instructional resources for each other clearly helps learning in the short terms because it resolves questions more quickly and provides more feedback, both of which help learning right now.

Click HERE to read how questioning can help students be instructional resources for one and other.

Why is it important to share and clarify learning intentions and success criteria?

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies for Assessment for Learning. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success is one of these.

The following information is taken from an article titled Learning intentions and criteria and Dylan Wiliam’s Embedding Formative Assessment.

Why is clarifying the learning intention a good idea?

  1. Because students are much more likely to achieve a learning intention they understand, ensuring the learning intention and criteria is very clear are really important.

How might this look?

  1. Provide models and samples so students can really see what this looks like and compare it to other students samples at their own level.
  2. Work together to make a list of what it would look like to meet the learning intention.
  3. Use student friendly language not curriculum (ACARA) language.
  4. There is no one right way to present learning intentions. Wiliam’s even suggests (pg 56 Embedding Formative Assessment) that sometimes it is not beneficial to tell the students what the lesson is about if that impacts on the way students will go about solving a problem, in say maths.

Click HERE to read about how the NSW Education Department suggests teachers go about presenting learning goals to their students.

The positive impact of self assessment

Dylan Wiliam presents 5 Key Strategies for Assessment for Learning. Activating students as owners of their own learning is one of  these. How often do we get our students to reflect on their learning asking them to self assess on a regular basis? How worthwhile is it to do this?

The following information is from a blog post titled Self-Regulation of Learning Leads to Student Performance Improvement written by Kelly Goodrich. This can be read in full here.

  1. For students to become actively engaged with the learning process they need guidelines and opportunities to learn and engage in self-assessment.
  2. Engaging in the process of thinking about and assessing their own learning and then using feedback to improve requires students to take responsibility for their learning.
  3. Students who are provided with regular opportunities and encouragement to engage in self-assessment are more likely to attribute their learning to internal beliefs  i.e they feel they can impact on their own learning through effort and study (growth mindset).

Click HERE to see how one teacher scaffolds to help her students to self assess.

Year 3/4 Chickens

During term 1 our Year 3/4 class looked after and hatched baby chickens in the classroom. This was done through a program called Living Eggs. Jackie organised all the resources required to set up and hatch the eggs through the Living Eggs program. The class was supplied with fertilised eggs, incubator and other materials needed to successfully hatch and look after the chicks.

Living Eggs supplies:

Embryo eggs, 2-3 days from hatching.

The Living Eggs incubators specially designed for classroom hatching.

A brooder box complete with heat light, bedding, feed and waterer is supplied which allows teachers and children easy observation and access to the chicks.

Teachers Resources, including hundreds of activities directly linked to the National Curriculum are supplied on a CD with the kit.

Colourful wall posters are supplied depicting Life Cycles and Embryo Development, depending on your pupils’ ages.

The kids were very excited throughout the whole program particularly when the eggs hatched. Watching the chicks breaking the eggs and coming out was definitely a highlight for the students (and staff) who got to witness it happen. For those of you who missed the chicks hatching there is a video below.

Student Power Point Diary – All students kept a diary from the time the eggs arrived to the time they left the classroom to go to their new homes (lucky students got to keep the chickens).

Photos and Video

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