Friday, 15 June 2018

Create - Innovate - Responding to Student Voice

Design of the new Year 10 curriculum has begun and I'm proud to report that one of the five responses from students has now been incorporated, within two of four 'themes' that classes could select to learn for the year. 

The first theme is called Survival (see below) and focusses on designing houses using sustainable materials. It features a reading about the Te Kura Whare by Tuhoe, as well as a Living Building competition, which could stimulate further research and reading (as there are many similar competitions around the world, with some in America focussing on withstanding tornados as the student suggested).

The new survival theme in the year 10 curriculum.

Te Kura Whare Green Building design reading by Tuhoe

The Living Building reading by the Living Building Initiative

The second theme is Building to Live.  In this theme there are two readings - the first is about traditional Maori Architecture by Te Ara (see below) which could prompt students to think about traditional building styles and how they could continue to be incorporated into future designs.

The new building to live theme in the year 10 curriculum

The Te Ara reading that tells the story of Maori buildings from more traditional to contemporary.

Other things that I will try to incorporate into the year 9 or 10 curriculum (based on student voice) are Maori technology - I don't know anything about this and will have to research it! Running a study on something in culture - I feel this could be left quite open-ended and student-centred. Students also mentioned learning about the history and things Polynesian people discovered or invented - this could be tools again but I'm thinking more about the navigation of ancestors to NZ and around the Pacific using stars.

The last idea that students offered up was to include Maori and Pacific scientists or inventors in the curriculum and it got me thinking - all of the scientists we traditionally talk about are old, stuffy, white men. They're not really role models for the students at Tamaki College. We SHOULD be including successful Maori and Pacific academics, scientists and inventors into our junior curriculum so students see that science IS for them, CAN be part of their future and is entirely achievable for them.

So.. stay posted!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Create - Innovate - Affordances of Technology

Manaiakalani ascribes to the learn create share pedagogy, where students are constantly engaging in a cycle of learning, using that understanding to create, and then sharing what they have learnt/developed/created. Also, students might skip ahead to create and learn while they do so!

I personally like this pedagogy because it's a nice simple checkpoint for me during planning my lessons or a sequence of lessons; am I giving students time to process all the new scientific concepts they're being exposed to? What are they doing with it and how are they taking ownership of it? Thinking about learn create share means I can't just be transmitting knowledge and holding all the power; I need to pass it over and I need to do so regularly.

Learn create share also nicely lines up with SOLO. Learning is unistructural and multistructural, maybe even sometimes relational depending on the learning process; creating often requires relating ideas and creating is definitely an extended abstract process as the learning takes on a new form.

Anyway, I need to consider learn create share while I think about changing the junior curriculum.

How can learn create share and the affordances of technology help our new junior curriculum:
  • assist teaching conversations
  • increase visibility
  • provide cognitive challenge
  • provide scaffolding
  • engage learners
I think the answer to this lies in structuring the new junior curriculum around SOLO taxonomy, where learning outcomes are phrased as "I can" statements. That way, learners should be able to articulate where they are and where they're going next, and say things like "I need help so I can.." 

Having a clear progression of SOLO levels and associated learning activities will provide ever-increasing cognitive challenge as students move through the SOLO levels of a new scientific concept. Being able to move up and down through the levels should provide both the scaffolding and challenge for learning; move down and be scaffolded if a particular SOLO level is too hard, or skip on and move up a SOLO level to provide challenge if you already "can do/describe" things. 

I think engaging learners will be the hardest thing. As with committing to any one framework or any one learning style, this can lead to the loss of novelty and excitement! I can try to plan varied activities and practicals as often as possible, cultural links and links to life, etc, but I think it will often be down to the teacher to spot if students are becoming disengaged and their class needs a bit of 'spicing up' or offline variation etc. 

Friday, 1 June 2018

Learn - Research - Teacher Voice

I surveyed Tamaki College science teachers to find out what specific learning outcomes they would value students learning in Year 10 from their special subject areas. I had the best response form Jay (our Head of Department and Physics specialist) who contributed learning outcomes for Waves, and also for Electricity and Magnetism. Shirley, Tamaki's other Physics specialist, also logged onto the document and concurred with Jay's suggestions.

The link to the Google Doc is here, and I have included a screenshot of the science departments' responses below:

This will help me shape the year 10 curriculum by including areas from the NZC that teachers feel students need to arrive better prepared in.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Learn - Research - Student Voice - Culture in Science

The survey that I gave to sixteen year 9 students at the end of 2016 revealed some great possible cultural/science connections from the minds of Tamaki College's young people. 

In the survey I asked them: 

While most students wrote 'idk' (student-speak for "I don't know), here are the pearls of wisdom gleaned from the survey:

When asked "can you think of any way that science could include more Maori culture/beliefs into any of their topics?" three students responded. Here are their answers (in exactly their words):
  • We could learn about how Maori people created primitive technology and how they used them.
  • To run a study about something in the culture?
  • We can make Maori traditional stuff into useful equipment. 

When asked "can you think of any way that science could include more links to Pasifika culture/beliefs into any of their topics?" three students responded. Here are their answers (in exactly their words):
  • We can make stronger houses for Islanders at the islands so when tornadoes come they won't have to keep rebuilding it.
  • We could learn about history and things that Polynesian people discovered or invented. 

I will take on board these ideas as I begin to develop the junior curriculum.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Learn - Research - VTaL and Relationships

Hinerau's COL inquiry focussed on the design and implementation of VTaL - visible tracking and learning.

For me, the main takeaway from the inquiry was that students should at all times be able to see where they are, what they've done, and where they're going in the future. Hinerau used Class Project Task Lists to achieve this and she reviewed the tool at the end of 2017.

Students reported the tracking sheets kept them on task and they know what they haven't finished in class and what they're doing the next day - hear feedback from the students here.

This is different to how I've used tracking sheets in the past, which I've used as a way to have quick links to all students' work in one place, track their completion, identify an idea of their achievement, and also ensure that I'm giving regular and equal amounts of digital feedback to all the students in my class.

Students have access to this and can view their progress, feedback, and explore other students' work - but there's no future pathway visible on the tracking sheet. Instead it's available on workspaces.

One thing that is required for VTaL Class Project Task List is that all learning tasks/experiences must be established and laid out at the start of each unit, so students can see their learning pathway and move ahead if they want to extend themselves. This requires a lot of organisation!

If I was to use a VTaL tracking sheet with the new junior curriculum that I will develop it would have to still afford flexibility for students to engage with the curriculum in different contexts; therefore, any tracking sheet would have to match the curriculum rather than a theme, or be general enough to adapt quickly.

An of course Noelene, who is our Tamaki College relationship and behaviour wizard (fairy?) included a mixture of literacy strategies, VTaL tracking and data sharing, collaboration on and offline, choice, and the use of SOLO taxonomy... but the main point I took away from reading her 2017 COL inquiry is the importance of genuine relationships and a connection between school and whanau.

Noelene found that:

  • If data is being collected then it should be shared with students too, and they should have the chance to process and respond to it as well. 
  • Constant reinforcement from the teacher and a consistent message of belief and support from home and school helped to raise Maori learner achievement; whanaungatanga.
  • That all the planning and organisation and thought in the world can go into planning learning but sometimes it's worth just having a bit of fun to re-engage students in their learning!

So my final thoughts as I close down all the 1000 tabs I have open right now is that whatever I do to the junior curriculum after this; whatever SOLO-formatted, literacy-focussed, science-skill-building, integrate-able, thematic, tracked learning programme I design for our year 9's and 10s - there's something that I can't plan for..

The need for a caring, thoughtful, adaptable, fun teacher to be forming relationships with students and guiding them through the junior science programme! Relationships are key and it's not something we can really inquire into and force people to do. The individual teacher will always have a massive impact on our junior students' learning and enjoyment of science.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Learn - Research - SOLO Taxonomy from 2017 COL Inquiries

SOLO Taxonomy was written about in 1982 by Biggs and Collins, but since then Pam Hook seems to have taken the reigns and launched it into classrooms in the 21st Century. SOLO provides a "simple and robust model" to describe different levels of understanding.

The image below shows prestructural understanding (you don't know much yet and that's ok), unistructural understanding (you know one thing about the concept), multistructural (you know a few things about this idea), relational (starting to understand the links between and across ideas) and finally extended abstract thinking (where you can take what you know and apply it in a new setting, or create something new).

Tamaki's SOLO Queen has to be Karen. She has a whole segment on her blog dedicated to the SOLO resources she's created - both general frameworks and design-specific ones! She also worked with Brent Dunn from the Maori department to design a Tamaki College-style SOLO poster in Te Reo.

One of Karen's earliest activities was to get students first describing at the unistructural or multistructural level, and then she continued on with a Google drawing that made 'describing' at each SOLO level very explicit and clear. I actually found the Drawing in Karen's trash through one of her links - she's obviously moved beyond her earlier attempts and as I continue exploring her 2017 posts I'm sure I'll come across even cooler examples!

Ah here we go! An upgraded model. Karen has removed the 'include evidence' column to streamline student's work process and included a column titled 'target vocabulary' to make her subject-specific vocabulary more explicit.

I can see Karen constantly reflecting as I explore her posts. The one I'm reading at the moment says "I looked at the support I had included on their class site [for evaluating their final poster designs] and decided it was not good enough." Onya Karen, you're so honest! She decided to upgrade the support so students write an analysis at increasing depth of SOLO levels (see image below). Once again she's included key vocabulary explicitly, and also given sentence starters to support lower-ability students.

Karen also used SOLO hexagons (one of Pam Hook's ideas) to collect (multistructural) and get students to identify links between (relational level) her new Year 9's vocabulary around a clock they were analysing.

Noelene also used SOLO taxonomy to break down her Level 1 standards for her learners, such as in the multivariate statistics standard and again in the algebra standard. This made it really clear for students about what they needed to be able to do to achieve, and how a deeper understanding would lead to better grades.

I really like the clarity that using SOLO as a learning framework affords. Students can identify what they can and can't do from the framework, and it also makes 'beginning at the start' acceptable; being at the prestructural level of a concept is normal at the start! The SOLO levels also really nicely align with the depth of thinking and writing required in NCEA for Merit (relational) and Excellence (relational and extended abstract) work.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Learn - Research - Integration from 2017 COL Inquiries

Another thing that some of the COL's inquired into in 2017 was integration across topics, subjects and schools.

Dot did some research at the start of her 2017 inquiry and found:

"The concept of curriculum integration offered by James Beane (1998) involves four major aspects:
  • The integration of experiences uses both past and new experiences to help students understand and solve new problems.
  • Social integration is based on personal and social issues that can be identified in, and developed from, the students’ world. Social integration assists students to apply new ideas and understandings to their daily lives and to the lives of others.
  • The integration of knowledge involves being aware of the ‘big picture’ of learning. When knowledge and skills are connected, rather than fragmented, students begin to see situations as real to themselves and the world they live in.
  • Integration as a curriculum design occurs when students and teachers explore, gather, process, refine and present information about topics they wish to investigate without being constrained to a specific learning area."

Dot continued: 

"One approach which I felt suited our school was the thematic approach.  Because subject content is the starting point for planning, the thematic approach is described as subject-centred. Teachers identify the curriculum content focus and plan how connections will be made.  

On reflection, this approach seemed like the best place for us to start.  It allowed for subject teachers to relate to a theme that they could connect to and therefore base their planning around.  The downside was, it was very teacher focussed and centred."

Dot recognised that each subject is very aware of the short time they have with their students to cover a remarkable amount of curriculum. She mentions: 

"I know each subject area at high school feels that they don't have enough time. So why in the world would you want to have an integrated curriculum when there is never enough time already to do what you have to do?"

Taking these findings on board (as well as the growth of schools such as Hobsonville Point, St Cuthberts y5-9, and Albany Senior High) and considering Dot is now our across-schools COL I feel that integration may play a part in Tamaki College's future, and any changes I make to the junior science curriculum must be able to integrate in a flexible way that doesn't require staff to rewrite entire units or reinvent the wheel with new resources.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Learn - Research - Literacy from 2017 COL Inquiries

The Achievement Challenges and focus on literacy is not a new phenomenon in 2018. In fact, last year's COL teachers had a similar focus as they completed their inquiries. After a year's trying, failing, learning, improving, trying, and sharing, these are the ideas relating to literacy I could take from their inquiries :)

This blog post will focus on literacy strategies shared by 2017's Tamaki College COL teachers.

SOLO hexagons to support concept mapping
This strategy is used by lots of teachers in the school, and is useful to start students discussing key vocabulary and the relationships between the words. Dot used the same vocabulary hexagons repeatedly across three weeks to build her student's confidence and then after three weeks asked students to collaboratively write what they had understood from the activity. You can read about it here.

Reciprocal reading
This is a strategy shared by Aaron Wilson that Dot employed in some of her classes last year. It involves group reading, once the members of the group have been assigned the certain roles to contribute to the reading.

In this post Dot asked shared how she asked her year nines to identify 20 keywords from a text, then select the six most important, and then write a summary using those six words.

Using SOLO taxonomy to structure 'summarising' blog posts
In another post Dot shared how she asked students to recall all the information they could from a visitors presentation the week before, and wrote all their ideas on the board. Then the class cut that down to eight key ideas. From there they formulated paragraphs that met the criteria for multi-structural, relational and extended abstract-level writing.

Group brainstorm and sense-making
Dot visited a classroom in Panmure Bridge and observed students "free writing" down any and all ideas they had learnt in the last few days about a topic in groups, on their own corner of a shared A3 sheet of paper. Then the three or four group members compared what they had written and together identified what the MAIN key points were. Students then worked together to reach the common goal of summarising a key point. Dot also noticed that expectations around writing - such as sentence structure, writing frameworks, and word banks were really visible around the classroom.

A writing framework created by our literacy coordinator Marc Milford
Dot implemented Marc's writing framework with one of her classes and found it more effective at helping to motivate the boys in her class to write than the girls. She also noted that boys responded best to digital feedback while girls seemed to prefer having it explained in person.

Noelene uses chunking in her algebra unit to help students break questions and tasks down into manageable pieces.

Three level reading guide
Another tool that proved useful (a student articulates the strategy here) is the three level reading guide, where students read 'on the line' at Achieved, 'between the lines' for Merit and 'beyond the line' for Excellence. Reading on the line involves substituting to solve equations, between the lines requires comparing and explaining, and beyond the line is forming their own equations.

Early on in the year Karen identified a lack of vocabulary as holding her students back from being able to analyse, or even just describe, objects. Vocabulary was her major focus. 

Using vocabulary to analyse
Karen planned four lessons focussing on improving the understanding of design vocabulary; first students analysed a poster using these words, then they located different level SOLO words (e.g. describe, analyse) in a reading and turned them different colours, then giving them time to research difficult word definitions on google and select the correct one/ones that made sense in a design context, and finally made a display of the most important subject-specific vocabulary to display on their class wall.

Playing 'Articulate' with vocabulary to practice 'describing'
Karen repurposed the idea of the brilliant boardgame 'Articulate' where people must describe a word or object without saying the name of it.

Reading and highlighting using SOLO levels
Students were instructed to read a text about the Chrysler building and follow instructions to highlight words at different SOLO levels, so students were both reading and also thinking about the structure of their readings.

Getting used to form and sound first
Karen visited another teacher's class and observed the teacher introducing new vocabulary at the start of the lesson and just getting students used to seeing the words and saying them out loud to each other. Later in the lesson, after they learnt the meaning of the words, they were encouraged to use them immediately in context, as often as possible. The teacher also used a '25 word summary' at the end of the lesson, for students to summarise what they had learnt in the last hour.

Collecting prior knowledge and prior vocabulary using SOLO hexagons
Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, see an example of student work here.

Reading more before writing
Karen got students to read model answers and identify key vocabulary before moving on to writing. See the example task here.

Testing comprehension with Kahoot; competitive motivation to read
Before and after reading assessment information Hinerau got students to answer questions on a kahoot and then challenged them to beat their scores by the end of the lesson.

Collaborating on a Google Doc
Hinerau got students to enter questions they had about their upcoming Achievement Standard on a Google Doc and in pairs collaboratively research answers to their own and classmate's questions.

Sorry for my explanations getting shorter at the end there, it's late and it's been a long day!

I forgot to mention Wide and Deep literacy units!
These units were designed by Aaron Wilson and Naomi Rosedale.

The idea behind them is that students engage in reading to gain a deeper understanding of a concept, rather than quickly learning surface information. When they first told me about this I thought "ok, that's cool, but we have rather a lot of content to actually get through each year" (this is still true, I'm already behind with Year 9, but I'm telling myself that it's better they properly understand less different concepts but understand them well rather than meet a lot of concepts only a little as we rush past them).

These reading units involve the selection of a simple scaffolding text, a text that elaborates on the idea, a complimentary text or two, and then a contrasting or controversial text presenting an opposing viewpoint. Students are also encouraged to select and share their own text around a topic. There is also a clearly listed wordbank, so students know what the keywords in the topic are.

Students engage in reading using the group roles mentioned above; this involves a lot of two-way conversation and discussion between students but can be very scary for science teachers, as nothing gets written down and we can only be in one place at a time! It's hard to hand the power over and trust that they will indeed engage with the text and stay on track the entire time. At the end of the unit students ARE required to create and share a DLO to their blogs, demonstrating the depth of their new understanding.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Hypothesise - My Idea for a New Junior Curriculum!

So far I have:

  • Collected junior student voice - year 9's from 2017 reported being 6.2 out of 10 "good at science," and unsure (aka - open to convincing about) whether or not they would take a science during their senior years.
  • Collected the perspectives of young people - year 9 students rated science 7.5 out of 10 "fun" and being 7.1 out of 10 "engaged in class." Students reported that science is "important" - 8.9 out of 10. 
  • Shared anecdotes and student achievement data from senior biology in 2016, which highlighted room for improvement in student preparedness for senior science.
  • Gathered staff voice to find out if this was only the case in biology - teachers thought students were roughly half as prepared as they need to be (5 out of 10), and the junior curriculum was not doing as well as it could. Teachers also mentioned specific areas that could be improved.
  • Looked at student achievement data in senior science back as far as 2015 if it was available, and failed to find a clear trend of improving achievement over time; some years were just randomly better than others.
  • A similar trend was found in Maori student achievement data in senior science; it changed every year and the sample size was small. 
  • This was a key takeaway from my data analysis - not many Maori students have been selecting to take a science in their senior years.
  • I also had a look at the junior e-asTTle reading and writing data (using my class as a random sample) to see what level of abilities our juniors have arrived with this year; only 2 of my class are writing at the national norm and all the rest are reading and writing below national norms.
  • Established that I will focus on Achievement Challenge 1, which is about raising Maori student engagement and achievement by increasing cultural visibility. I will also incorporate the cluster-wide focus on literacy.

My hypothesis is that the junior science curriculum could do with a bit of a shake-up. It currently is only "half" preparing students for senior science (according to teachers) and specific areas of improvement have been mentioned (graphing skills, writing scientific reports, researching, making notes, atomic structure, acids and bases, genetics and cells). Students are reporting they are only 7.1 out of 10 "engaged" during science class, though they know science is "important." Maori students are not often selecting to take senior science for whatever reason (a side-study could be done on this; do they see it as less valuable in their lives, are they less engaged and interested in science, are they less confident?) Another side note is that Tamaki likes to try new things each year and our current sites and resources need to be remade each year, which is tiresome and time-consuming.

There must be a way to develop the junior curriculum so that it can be flexible enough to move with new themes and topics, to integrate with other subjects, and maybe even eventually let students move through it at their own pace and in a form they select. The NZC dictates some of the content we must teach - but we can try to squish it into around into interesting contexts for our students.

I would like to try and design an online curriculum for Tamaki College that is flexible, involves choice, has lots of links between science and culture, or science and our student's everyday lives; includes reading and writing, investigating, and has students learning and then creating as they move through the SOLO taxonomy levels. As I do this I will increase the cultural visibility of science, and have opportunities for improving literacy, and any changes I make will have a broader reach than just changes I make inside my classroom...

Watch this space!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Identify Trends - Common Learning Challenges in the WORLD!

In February I went along to listen to Roger Dennis talk at Pat Sneddon's house. He was absolutely fascinating. Roger Dennis has a job that allows him to look for trends and patterns at a global level, and think about possible futures and how governments and large businesses should prepare for this.

He said that there are four certainties (and challenges) facing us in the future:

1. Higher densities of people in certain areas of the planet - and the resulting resource shortages, which will require forward-thinking and large-scale urban planning and scientific advancements. For example Cape Town in South Africa has basically run out of water. He also mentioned another city where the water supply outside of town is controlled by the local mafia!

2. The decline of America and the rise of China - and the resulting Eastern influence in pop culture, markets and languages. I can see this already with the love of k-pop and anime in my juniors!

3. Technology will continue to improve and develop - and everything that CAN go online, will go online.

4. Climate change - despite what the orange buffoon claims, its real and its happening right now, and it will bring with it more extreme weather events and massive stress on existing infrastructure.

Click here to explore the Climate Change infographic on Climate Change Impact on People.

What can help us!!? BRAINE.

Biology - gene sequencing, gene editing and the costs associated with that rapidly decreasing.
AI - interesting developments in this area; jobs that rely on patterns and rules (e.g. accountants, lawyers, traditional "good" jobs may be able to be performed by AI in the future. What does this leave for humans?
Energy - becoming more efficient, powerful and SMALLER; use of solar and renewable energy.

The new face of AI - meet Atlas!

When these BRAINE strands combine, amazing things can be created and change life as we know it; nanosurgery and drones being a few of these.

Best ever drone footage (from 2016)...

How can we prepare our students for these vastly different future from the one we (and their parents) grew up in, and how can we prepare them to contribute to these? Well... being able to read, write and do basic maths will still remain relevant and necessary for the transmission of information and the development and collaboration on ideas across time and space.

We can only hope that governments listen to Roger Dennis and upgrade our education system beyond the teach-to-assessment model and allow space for more critical thinking and creativity with our content.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Identify Trends - Identify Common Learning Goals

Manaiakalani Goals
  • To raise Maori student achievement through the development of cultural visibility and responsive practices across the pathway as measured against National Standards and agreed targets for reading Years 1-10 and NCEA Years 11-13. 
  • Lift the achievement for boys writing in Years 1-10.
School Goals
  • To raise Maori student achievement and cultural visibility.
  • That 85% of Maori students will achieve NCEA Level 2.
Science Department Goals
  • That 85% of Maori students doing Level 1 NCEA get 16 science credits.
  • That 85% of Maori students doing NCEA Levels 2 or 3 get 14 science credits.
  • That 80% of Year 9 and 10 students are reading at or above expected Curriculum Levels. 
My Inquiry
  • Can changes to cultural visibility and responsiveness in the Junior Science program improve Maori student a) reading achievement and b) enjoyment, confidence and achievement in science? 
TLDR summary: There is a common theme running through the Manaiakalani cluster, Tamaki College, the science department and also my own inquiry, and that is an eye to improving Maori student achievement, cultural visibility in the curriculum, and reading and writing.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Identify Trends - Common Learning Challenges

In my last post I shared our current Y9 reading data. 

Reading and writing are a massive focus for the Manaiakalani cluster this year, have been identified as a cluster-wide challenge, and have therefore been included in half of the cluster's Achievement Challenges: 

2. Lift the achievement of boys writing in years 1-10.
3. Lift the achievement in reading for all students, with a particular focus on boys and Maori students (both genders) years 1-13.
4. Increase the achievement of years 7-10 in reading, writing and maths.

A lot of inquiries by staff this year will focus on the acquisition of language, subject-specific language, and aim to make student environments in class be "dripping with language." 

The graph above shows years the writing test scores for years 2-10 in 2016-2017, and each of the year groups have three data points; the start of the year, the end of the year, and after the holidays.

We accelerate children in our classes! We do! We have a lot of catching up and when we have children in front of us in our classrooms, we accelerate them BUT they remain below the norm; and this graph may show one contributing factor why - holiday drop-off. 

Within the 2016 learning year, each year group individually made accelerated gains in writing. The grey line is the national norm. Two groups (the girls in year 5 and almost all of year 8) improved so much throughout the year they moved above the national norm with their end-of-2016-writing scores. Then their scores plummeted over the holidays, and then the effort to push students back up towards national norm began again at the start of 2017... here's the data for 2017.

Below is the graph of two data points for each individual year level during 2017; in Feb and in Nov 2017. This time the holiday drop-off wasn't included. 

Once again across the cluster all of our students start well below the national mean in writing ability; in 2017 only females in Y8 had crossed the national norm line by November. 

Side note: the year 9's who arrived in 2017 must have been a vastly different cohort from the year 8's tested inside the cluster at the end of 2016, who reached very very close to national norm as a cohort. This year 9 cohort in 2017 started WELL below norm and also made the least progress; year 10 2017 started below the norm but made above-average gains. To me, this means there is room for improvement in the junior curriculum and it should be focussed on improving literacy.

TLDR summary: reading and writing are both incredibly important skills, and all of our students (not just the ones we focus on in our inquiries) can and should improve in these areas, to give themselves the best chance at success in any area of their life in the future. I think it is vital and completely relevant that our inquiries (and any changes I make/inquire into) should have a focus on literacy and be "dripping with language." 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Identify Trends - Student Data - Reading and Writing

Here are the reading and writing results for 9TGn:

Red students are the students that identify as Maori in the class. 

How to interpret results: 

B stands for basic.
P stands for proficient.
A stands for advanced.

Students are expected to arrive at secondary school in Year 9 ready to learn at level 5, as a high 4. 
Students at level 2 have given very little evidence of reading or writing ability.

Interesting 9TGn results: 

Only 3 students are where they should be (4A, 5B and 5A) and only in writing.

The class average in reading is 3P.
The class average in writing is slightly higher at 3A.
This is more than a full year level below where they should be in Year 9.

Student 1 is level 4P in reading but drops to 2B in writing (a big, unexpected drop - perhaps this student was mucking around during the writing test and this result is not reliable).
Student 12 is level 3B at reading but increases a whole level in writing.
Student 3 has a whole level difference between reading and writing.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Identify Trends - Maori Student Achievement Data

In my last post I learned that overall performance in the senior sciences are mostly on par with Decile 1 and at times closer to National norms. This data included internals AND externals, and students of all ethnicities. 

Today I'm going to delve deeper and look at Maori student achievement data in science, as my inquiry title is: 

Can changes to cultural visibility and responsiveness in the junior science program improve Maori student a) reading achievement and b) enjoyment, confidence and achievement in science?

Before we jump in, I think it's really quite important to note that the number of Maori students who take senior science is not high. It's difficult to talk about trends in data when there are only one or two students involved, as their individual differences may be massive!  

For example there were 2 Maori students in Biology in 2015, 1 in 2016 and 1 in 2017. There was only 1 Maori student enrolled in Y12 Chemistry in 2017 and no Maori students enrolled in Y13 Chemistry. 

The fact that not many Maori students choose senior science is an area that I hope to improve by inquiring into the cultural visibility and responsiveness of the junior curriculum to the lives and cultures of our Maori akonga.

These %'s represent the total % of grades across the year in both internal and externals. For example in the Year 12 2015 Chem Maori results there were 5 standards sat by the lone Maori student, and they received NA for 1, A for 1 and E for 3 of them. 

So let's jump in!

Year 12 Chem Maori Results
2015 Maori results - 20% NA, 20% A, 0 M, 60% E.
2016 Maori results - 57% NA, 0 A, 0 M and 43% E.
2017 Maori results - 100% NA.
National Statistics Decile 1 - 37% NA, 37% A, 13% M, 13% E.

Year 13 Chemistry Maori Results
2015 Maori results - 46% NA, 18% A, 9% M, 27% E.
2016 Maori results - 75% NA, 25% A, 0 M, 0 E.
2017 Maori results - no Maori students enrolled.
National Statistics Decile 1 - 31% NA, 40% A, 11% M, 12% E.

Year 12 Physics Maori Results
2016 Maori - 67% NA, 0 A, 33% M, 0 E.
2017 Maori - 64% NA, 21% A, 14% M, 0 E.
National Statistics Decile 1 - 32% NA, 45% A, 21% M, 3% E.

Year 13 Physics Maori Results
2016 Maori results - 0 NA, 0 A, 100% M, 0 E.
2017 Maori results - 0 NA, 75% A, 0 M, 25% E.
National Statistics Decile 1 - 43% NA, 33% A, 12% M, 12% E

Year 12 Biology Maori Results
2015 Maori results - 0 NA, 43% A, 57% M, 0 E.
2016 Maori results - 46% NA, 46% A, 7% M, 0 E.
2017 Maori results - 33% NA, 50% A, 17% M, 0 E.
National Statistics Decile 1 - 39% NA, 42% A, 11% M, 9% E.

Year 13 Biology Maori Results
2015 Maori results - 80% NA, 20% A, 0 M, 0 E.
2016 Maori results - 0 NA, 0 A, 100% M, 0 E.
2017 Maori results - 75% NA, 0 A, 25% M, 0 E.
National Statistics Decile 1 - 42% NA, 35% A, 15% M, 8% E.

Some things that have just jumped out at me is that in three Years no Maori student has gained an E in senior Biology, (Y12 or 13), although the rest of the Y12 grade distributions are similar to that of other Decile 1 schools.  

Maori students seem to perform better in senior Chemistry compared to Physics and Biology. 

Again, it is difficult to say this data is conclusive when the stats are based on 1, 2 or occasionally 3 students per year.

Interestingly, this article was posted over the weekend and shows that Nationally, 80% of students pass 'Science' (across all 3 levels, I guess?) and that about 19% will pass with Excellence.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Identify Trends - Student Achievement Data

What is achievement like across all senior sciences - we have staff reporting that students are not as prepared as they could be when they arrive, but what is the data telling us? I compared all Achievement Standard data from 2015, 2016 and 2017 with the 2016 National results (across all decile schools) and also with the 2016 National Decile 1 results. 

Results seem to indicate that while teachers feel some of our students are less prepared than they could be and that we need to "catch them up" on previous years' learning sometimes, their performances are by-and-large on par with the rest of the country.

These overall results could hide standards that students are find much harder and perform worse in, by mixing the data with standards they found easier and performed better in. This data also reports on internal and exam performance together.

Year 12 Biology Results
Year 12 results across 2015, 2016 and 2017 follow a similar proportion of grades to both 2016
National Statistics and Decile 1 Statistics too, although slightly less Excellences and more of
other grades.

Year 13 Biology Results
2015 results are similar to the National Statistics in Decile 1.
2016 results are similar to the 2016 National Statistics across all deciles.
2017 results shows a large increase in Excellence (almost 50% of all grades).

Year 12 Chemistry Results
Results in 2015 and 2017 are very similar.
2016 saw a small increase in NA and E and a decrease in A and M.
All three years have a higher proportion of NA than 2016 National Statistics and Decile 1 Statistics.

Year 13 Chemistry Results
2015 and 2016 show similar proportions of NA and A grades, with a few more E’s in 2015 than
in 2016.
2017 results show a lot less NA compared to 2016 National Statistics and also Decile 1 schools. There was also a
decrease in E and therefore a large increase in Achieved and Merit grades.

Year 12 Physics Results
2016 has a similar pattern of results to other Decile 1 National Statistics.
2016 and 2017 results both have more NA and less E than the overall 2016 National Statistics.
Compared to 2016, 2017 saw a slight increase in NA and a small decrease in A, while the M
and E remained fairly similar.

Year 13 Physics Results
2016 and 2017 Not Achieved results sit squarely between Decile 1 National Statistics and the
overall National Statistics.
2016 had a greater proportion of M and E than the 2016 National Statistics, and much less
2017 had a very similar proportion of M and E to the 2016 National Statistics.

TLDR: There doesn't seem to be a clear trend across time or the three subjects. Most results are on par with 2016 Decile 1 results, and some appear more like 2016 average nationwide results from all deciles. Results vary by year.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Identify Trends - Staff Voice

Is it only in Biology that teachers feel students are arriving somewhat under-prepared for success? 
That is the question I investigated today. 

If it is ONLY in Biology that students are arriving with gaps in their expected knowledge then perhaps it is just the "wonderful world" and "genetics" topics in Year 9 and 10 that I need to improve cultural visibility and responsiveness in! 

I surveyed the teachers of senior science at Tamaki College to find out (my responses are also included):

Teachers thought students were roughly about half as prepared as they need to be.

Teachers thought the current junior curriculum is only halfway preparing our senior students for success in NCEA, which indicates massive room for improvement based off professional judgement.

Specific topics that could do with improving included atomic structure, names and properties of acids and bases and genetics, along with skills that can be applied across all the sciences such as graphing, problem solving, researching, writing reports, and making scientific drawings.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Gathering Evidence - Student Data & Anecdotes

Can changes to cultural visibility and responsiveness in the junior science program improve Maori student a) reading achievement and b) enjoyment, confidence and achievement in science.

I fear this will not be a "short and sharp" post but I'll include a TLDR (too long didn't read) summary at the bottom!

It's time to look at some student data! I will share the data for junior student reading and writing levels in a later post, when I look for trends in students across the board rather than focussing on science.

I would like to share some senior Biology student data and anecdotal evidence that has been in the forefront of my mind while thinking of improving the junior science program. I have felt for some years that many students arrive in Biology under-prepared. 

This may be a school-wide issue due to reading levels and comprehension, but I feel there is also room to improve junior program to connect with students more and build understanding and achievement across two years. 

Senior Biology 2016 (I was absent 2017):

In 2016 nine students out of 21 failed their first NCEA Level 2 Biology assessment, which is to create a biological drawing of an organism using a microscope. This involves labelling different cells or features of cells, and describing or explaining their function in the organism's life and environment. My reflection at the end of the year was this: 

"Students did not enjoy being forced to remember/recall information rather than copy/transcribe it - a trend that continued throughout the year with effort for the exam."

Information that students were required to recall was not overly complex. In fact, some of the most basic Achieved-level labels contained similar information to what I was teaching Year 7 students at a school in England in 2017 - yet many of my students were unfamiliar with the basic structure of a cell. Some could not understand the difference between cell structures (e.g cell walls) and organelles (tiny organs) found inside a cell. I would love if students could arrive with a little more biological knowledge, and that is something that a change in the Y9 and 10 junior curriculum could support.

In 2016 five students of 14 (some were away on a two-week trip) failed a practical assessment, which is to design and carry out an investigation into the effect of osmosis on percentage mass change. My reflection at the end of the year was this: 

"2015 students found understanding valid testing and controlled variables difficult. 2016 students also found this a little confusing, but there has been a lot of focus on valid testing and variables with the 2016 Year 11s, so hopefully next year's 12s will be more confident."

Writing hypotheses, methods, identifying variables, averaging and graphing data and writing conclusions are skills that students require across all three science disciplines. It would be useful if students arrived knowing the basic expectations of a scientific support and what variables are. 

In 2016 eleven students of 18 failed an essay-like assessment where they were asked to evaluate the validity of information presented to the public. This was the assessment that had the highest fail-rate in 2016. My reflection was this: 

"Students were really, really reluctant to read, and then equally reluctant to write anything about their reading. To pass this assessment students must complete all three analyses. I believe the reading and broad completion requirements hindered success." 

Reading, comprehending and being able to discuss (in writing) key points from written texts were vital in this assessment. This requirement links to the Achievement Challenges 1 & 3 of Manaiakalani; relating to reading and writing. Interacting with texts (scientific or otherwise) from a young age and being able to convert understanding back into writing is a skill that would benefit our learners across all subjects.

In 2016 fourteen students failed their end of year exam, which was a Genetics exam. Only seven showed up. Of them, one gained Excellence, one gained Merit and two Achieved. The low attendance rate was a particular kick in the gut, as the exam is always a massive focus throughout the year. Having students not show up after you've invested hundreds and hundreds of hours into them is like a slap in the face. My reflection was this:

"In the 2016 Year 12 Biology class, only 2 students had previously passed the Y11 Genetics exam (one of those had arrived mid-year from AGGS). Only five of the original 22 students in the 2016 Y12 class had done ANY genetics at all in Y11 (those in 1101 during 2015).

Students from 1102 had done no biology at all since Term 3-4 in their Year 10, and during their Year 9 the Biology learning was called "Web of Life" and did not include any genetics. I am unsure what Biology was taught in their Primary schools before that. 1103 did some biology during their "Life Processes" internal but again no genetics. 1104 and 1105 also arrived with very little biological knowledge as many more achievable standards are selected from physics and chemistry."

Going back to anecdotal evidence again here (sorry, not overly scientific) but in 2016 I had to spend 2-3 weeks teaching Year 11 genetics to my Year 12s because without the basic understanding of what a gene was and what a chromosome was, it was impossible for them to wrap their brains around more complex concepts like meiosis and crossing over. Having a solid basis of learning from Year 9 and 10 (or even before) of concepts (or vocabulary) such as organism (living thing), habitat (an organism's home) or inherit (receive from parents) would make senior science so much easier - students could attack the learning of more difficult concepts without having to stop and learn the surrounding vocabulary. 

TLDR: I think that the room-for-improvement in senior biology results really makes the case for adjusting our junior curriculum. From student data and Biology-specific anecdotes I have identified that our junior curriculum could include improved: 

- Practicing valid testing, report writing, and identifying variables.
- Reading, comprehending, analysing and practicing writing about those things.
- Learning about cells and genetics.
- Building of biological knowledge across two years rather than separate units in each year.