Improving performance for lower and middle ability students

30 03 2010

How do we maintain our excellent results at the top end and push other students to achieve what they are capable of?

After some very impressive results in the 2009 HSC, data has indicated that an area for improvement is that of our lower and middle ability students. In doing this we would obviously like to maintain the achievement of our higher ability students. This raises some interesting questions and challenges in how to go about achieving this.

“HSC what makes a good teacher” provides some great reading around quality teaching in the HSC and while it  has been looked at before but is probably worth investigating again. Of the many great suggestions one that resonates with me is the need for the teacher to be an expert in the subject area or as the teachers commonly put it ‘you have to know your stuff’. In another article, he outlines one of the state’s top performing physics teachers relearns his course content each and every year before teaching to the students to ensure he is ready for all of their questions and can present the content as effectively as possible. I think knowing your stuff is only part of the puzzle though as you then have to be able to develop this understanding in your students.

The Albert Einstein quote – “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” sums this up nicely. As teachers we should aim to be masters of ‘explanation’ and regardless of student ability, all can benefit from a simple explanation. Complex understanding can be built on a simple explanation but if students do not understand the basic concepts then it can be very difficult to develop that deeper understanding. This to me would be especially true for our middle and lower ability students.

Getting feedback from students to me would be crucial here as while we may feel we have given a simple explanation the only true guide to that can be our students. Providing regular opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding and being able to provide appropriate feedback to help guide them is fundamental to ensuring our students understand our course content and achieve what they are capable of.

Having a strong understanding as a teacher, being able to explain our course simply and getting feedback to ensure our students do understand is a small piece of the puzzle and there is no simple answer to having students achieving at and above what they are capable of.

This post is meant as more of a discussion starter as opposed to a definitive guide to improving student performance and there are lots of variable and issues to consider here. Feel free to critique what is presented here and raise your own issues, questions, concerns and suggestions.

I do think we are far more likely to achieve our goal if we work together and share our experiences both within faculties and across the school community.


Inspire innovate conference

23 03 2010

Attending the inspire innovate conference and thought I would post up key points of the keynote speakers.

Click Here

David Warlick Keynote

David Warlick – professional learning

Stu Hasic – endnote

Showcase 1 – Embedding mandatory ICT across the curriculum.
Mandatory ICT across 7-10.
Showcase 2 – Incorporating ICT in a cross curriculum approach
Cross-curriculum pedagogy (click to download pptx) Looks at a range of cross curriculum assessment tasks that incorporate technology.

it’s the pedagogy that counts. It’s worth keeping in mind that laptops are only a tool. They’re at our disposal to make learning easier, and more enjoyable and meaningful for children. (Holmes, 2008)

Professional observations

22 03 2010

Professional observations

Professional observations present a great opportunity for teachers to reflect on their practice and talk with other teachers about teaching. While it presents a great professional learning opportunity it also presents some challenges and as a staff it is important we have a chance to voice our concerns and work through any common issues together. The SRI group responsible for implementation have begun the discussion and concerns have been voiced below. Feel free to comment and add any other concerns you feel need to be addressed before implementing our professional observations.

1. Being a good observer and critical friend – we need a common language for observations so that observers are respectful towards their partner but can address any areas they may have questions.
2. Being judged – a common concern may be that we are being judged and our observer will not recognise other teaching styles and strategies.
3. What will this lead to – is this leading into something like performance based pay and what happens with the documents that we develop as part of the observation.
4. What happens to the documentation – Will they be used against us later on? A feeling that if documentation is required then it can be an overview/register and that the rich conversation can be privileged between to pair.
5. Ensuring that the process remains focused around professional learning and not an accountability task / inspection type activity.

Do you have any other concerns or suggestions on how we can make these a worthwhile experience? Feel free to add a comment below.

Learning as Transformation

22 03 2010

I recently stumbled across a website which looks at the idea of “Learning as Transformation” and sure did hit the mark.

As an educator I find myself in search more and more these days for the  elusive “mark” many of us have been missing.
Every now and then I do experience a glimpse of it in a lesson which comes to life through a “spontaneous emancipation from mindless questioning to something real and meaningful.”
Somehow something happens in the lesson where both students and teacher find themselves deeply engaged in the content.

These lessons are far too few and far apart these days and I only wish I could make it happen more often.

Have a read of this site and let me know your thoughts.


John Coppola