Consider this …. you have gathered a considerable amount of achievement data that shows a particular group of students is underachieving compared to the rest of the school in mathematics. They have come through the school as a group who have consistently, year after year, shown the same trend. All the students in this group have had Reading Recovery and have continued to receive some sort of teacher aide or other intervention support for much of the five years they have been at school. While this group has been on your radar for some years they have not been the ones who have been referred to any sort of resource teachers or special education; as their teacher last year put it, “They are low, not bad”. They do not have individual education plans (IEPs) or any other personalised programme planning, but they do get extra attention of the teachers in the classroom, as they have all tried to get them achieving more highly.
The group’s achievement in literacy is more variable, with some achieving ‘at’, some ‘below’, and some ‘well below’. Teachers find the group quite frustrating and have tried hard to get them engaged and keep them on-task.
What will you do with this group in 2017? How will you make a difference for them? How will you make sure that you are not trying things that have been already explored and have not worked in the past? What new things could you try this year that WILL make a difference?
This is the challenge, or one that is quite similar, that we often face as leaders and teachers in schools and kura at the beginning of each year. The questions we ask ourselves are about how we can finally make some impact on a group of students who have been resistant in the past.
I invite you to use different strands of the eLearning Planning Framework (eLPF) as a scaffold for things to consider, and to explore the range of professional learning opportunities that CORE Education offers to support a targeted and effective response to the challenges you have in your setting.
For those who are not familiar with it, the eLPF is a self-review framework, which, while it focuses on e-learning specifically, is also a great place to start when considering how to respond to challenges in student achievement.
The framework is split into five strands:
- Beyond the Classroom
- Leadership and Strategic Direction
- Learning and Teaching
- Professional Learning
- Technologies and Infrastructure
As you consider your student-achievement information alongside the other data you have gathered, the following could be questions to ask yourself or your team in these three areas:
1. Beyond the Classroom:
- How well do you really know these students? Is the programme they are experiencing sufficiently engaging for them to put in the effort required to improve?
- Are families and whānau fully engaged with the school and in ensuring that their children succeed?
- Do the family and whānau goals and indicators of success align with those of the students, the staff, and the school?
- Have you gathered student voice? Do you know what the students really think? What do they have to contribute to the understandings around their success — what are they actually really good at that can be a platform for success?
2. Learning and Teaching
- What changes in pedagogy have been tried with this group? (Not simply breaking the learning up into smaller and smaller steps and getting a Teacher’s Aide to work with them, but doing things in different ways).
- How well do the teachers know and engage with the learners? Do they know specifically where the ‘blocks/barriers’ are? Do teachers have the pedagogical and content knowledge to address the specific issues the students have?
3. Professional Learning
- Has this group been a specific focus of professional learning for teachers in the past? Has this knowledge been shared with the new teachers and everyone else who will need to know?
- Has a Professional Learning and Development (PLD) response to their needs included the students and their families?
CORE Education specialises in these very areas, and I’ve seen the benefits many times of what such professional assistance brings. Let me show you the kind of offerings and examples of CORE Education can provide.
We are privileged to have here at CORE some of the most highly skilled facilitators in the country, who understand how to ‘get to the bottom’ of learning challenges, and explore possible ways of supporting teachers and other staff to uncover and address what solutions might be. CORE has a range of PLD options that schools and kura can access to help address just the sorts of scenarios described in this post. For example, We can support your team in customised and bespoke ways and also have face-to-face half-day workshops and 20-week online courses that introduce and extend ideas and understandings that our experience tells us are valuable components of effective, personalised, and sustainable school change. If you need courses on a specific aspect of practice, or the opportunity to work independently or together with a team from your school to extend your practice, there are courses that will meet your needs. Developing and extending your professional learning networks, is an added benefit — one that enables you to draw on, and learn from, the expertise and experience of others.
A new initiative from CORE in 2017 is that we have sets of iPads and Microsoft laptops to support schools prototyping 1:1 programmes. If you would like to know more about accessing these, please contact me. Our Apple, Google and Microsoft accredited and certified teams can help with the effective utilisation of collaborative tools, spaces and pedagogies that support student learning.
Transforming practice and implementing Modern Learning (MLE) and Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) pedagogy for teams and whole staff are CORE Education specialties. As an accredited Ministry of Education PLD provider, this support is accessible through MoE funding — and we can support you with your application.
Having coaching and mentoring support for change-leadership teams and leaders can also be invaluable. That external perspective, and someone to challenge and invite reflection, has been hugely valuable to those we have worked with in the past. During 2016, a colleague and I worked alongside a team in a large primary school, prototyping and leading the implementation of collaborative and ILE pedagogy in their school. Feedback from the team and their principal was that the challenges and provocations provided by the targeted and focused questioning, and the models for change and classroom practice we shared with them, magnified both the pace and effectiveness of the changes they made in their practice and in the effectiveness of their support for others. Through the mentoring they could share and ‘bounce ideas off’ someone else and ensure that the things they were considering were planned, well-thought through, and the most likely to have the biggest impact. A target group, similar in many ways to the one described at the beginning of this post, showed greatly increased engagement and outcomes in their learning as a direct result of the developments in teacher practice. Individual students also often made huge progress in their standardised curriculum outcomes.
As you delve into the data on student achievement, we would encourage you to consider the factors that may sit behind and around the information. Dig into it, and dig deep. Get to the influencing factors for student outcomes, and do not just treat the symptoms of non-success. Seek support where you need it and where it can help accelerate professional learning — and of course, we are here to help!