Recently, Ellen Newberry, Eli Simpson, Damian Roff, Alicia Pringle, Simon Fleming and myself attended the second session of the Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Armidale, Collaborative Learning Initiative presented by Dr Lyn Sharratt (University of Toronto) and Dr Kate O’Brien (Sydney Catholic Schools).
The title of the presentation was ‘Everyone’s a Leader’ with a focus on Assessment Literacy and Learning Walks and Talks.
At O’Connor’s Professional Learning day on 17th July, learning walks and talks were introduced to all staff. Learning walks and talks are a systematic, non-evaluative approach to know what is happening in classrooms.
To know what is happening and why it is happening is our core business as educators. Walks and talks are growth promoting and collaborative. They focus student thinking and give insights into what students are learning. On a learning walk, students are asked the following questions:
`What are you learning?
How are you going?
How do you know?
How can you improve?
Where do you go for help?
(Sharratt & Fullan 2012, Sharratt & Haild 2015)
I have been doing learning walks since I began at O’Connor and it has been pleasing to see the increased focus of students on their learning. We are now encouraging all teachers to participate in learning walks. These questions can also be used by parents to ask questions about the learning that is happening at school. The answers are a great starting point for reflection for everyone about the learning process.
Our focus on learning at O’Connor is not just for the students but for staff and parents as well. Henry Ford said: ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.’
Lyn Sharratt also has questions for teachers to use as part of their own reflections.
What am I teaching?
Why am I teaching it?
How will I teach it?
How will I know when all students have learned it?
Our focus is on learning growth for all. Great results should be celebrated and we are as excited for someone who grows from a D to a C as well as the student who is dux of the year. This is especially pertinent to Year 7 and 9 students with NAPLAN results due shortly. It is also important for Year 12 to reflect on their learning prior to their trial examinations.
NAPLAN results are due to be released and I wrote to Year 9 parents in regards to this last week. I have included parts of the letter here for all parents information. Once again the media is sensationalising the NAPLAN results in regards to the minimum standards for HSC. Headlines such as 'NAPLAN 2017: Year 9 results improve, but 68 per cent will still have to re-sit an exam' - Sydney Morning Herald 2.8.17 do nothing to encourage learning and are in fact false.
Earlier in the year, I gave a presentation to Year 9 Parents about the link between NAPLAN and HSC. I would like to draw your attention to the following points:
There are minimum standards for literacy and numeracy needed to attain a HSC;
Three areas where minimum standards apply: Reading, Writing and Numeracy;
From 2018, online tests will be available (at least twice a year) in Year 10, 11 and 12, as well as up to 5 years after sitting the HSC;
Year 9 NAPLAN 2017 is an early opportunity to meet the standard by achieving Band 8 or greater in NAPLAN;
NO student will be ineligible to sit for the HSC on the basis of their Year 9 NAPLAN results.
A better headline would read: 'NAPLAN 2017: Year 9 results improve, and 32% of students reach the benchmark for HSC 3 years early!' At O’Connor, we will analyse the NAPLAN results thoroughly and plan for students to meet these benchmarks prior to the HSC. The results are released to schools and parents on 15th August. Any parents with any concerns should contact the College.
Keep learning everyone!