Thursday, 16 August 2018

ROUND TWO - Intro - Learn - Gather Evidence

Now the new junior curriculum is being implemented, it’s time to focus on how it is impacting achievement of Maori students in junior science.

The area identified as impacting learner achievement most significantly in our cluster is the ability of our students at all year levels to read and write.

What is the problem, what is currently being done, what is working, and how can we improve?

There are six Maori students in my year 9 class. In answer to the question "what is the problem?" - let us look at their reading/writing e-aSSTle data. 

Students arriving at secondary school should be reading and writing at Level 4 or 5 of the curriculum. 

Only Student 15 is reading and writing at a level appropriate for a Year 9. 

Student 12 is writing at a Year 9 level but their reading is not, while Student 1 is able to read at a Year 9 age but their writing is at the level of an average New Zealand Year 5 or 6 student. 

What is currently being done? At Tamaki College we use the Accelerated Reader programme during Year 9 and 10 to increase the reading mileage of students, and scaffold their reading to a level that is both challenging yet achievable to them.

Students are guided to select books at the appropriate level (based on their initial scores and suggested Zone of Proximal Development) for them. Each day students read for a minimum of 20 minutes and during one English period a week they read for 50 minutes. When they complete a book, students complete a short quiz on the content of the book to check they read and understood it; score too low and they will be guided to an easier book, while a perfect 100% score means the book was too simple for them! The AR programme aims to extend students' reading abilities.

What is currently being done in science is largely up to the teacher. When I designed the new junior units I've tried to include some 'wide and deep' literacy units and each theme has readings attached to it. Now that I've progressed further through my inquiry into supporting literacy I realise there is so much more that can be done.

How can we improve?

That is the question that I will be focussing on during my second round of inquiry this year. I will still be focussing on Achievement Challenge 1: Raise Maori achievement through the development of cultural visibility and responsive practices across the pathway as measured by agreed reading targets for Years 1-10 and NCEA for Years 11-13.

However, I am also interested in writing, so some of that may creep in too!

I have given my second-round inquiry the title "Raising Maori student achievement by improving literacy in Science."

Here's the link to my initial outline.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Share - Reflect - Data Analysis

Week two with the Year 9 SOLO learning - does the pattern continue?
Week two is about the concept of natural selection!
Here are the learning outcomes for each SOLO level:

Here's what the rangaranga maha activity looks like:

At the end of the week I gathered data using this quizizz (only 10 questions) and then plotted it against their highest level of work completion:

Next I found an average quiz score for those who completed each SOLO level:

I found a similar pattern to last week :)

Once again I showed this to the class to reinforce that the more effort you put in to your learning, the more you learn!  

Friday, 20 July 2018

Share - Reflect - Data Analysis

Is there any initial evidence to back up my idea that these SOLO-structured, literacy-focussed, culturally-located learning sequences support learning?

Well, when I created them - no. I went with my gut/teacher instinct and the readings/research I'd already completed, but I had to just make it and then see what happened. 

Let's have a look at how the learning went down with my Year 9 class - 9TGn. We began to learn about Ecosystems; in particular what an 'ecological niche' is.

First I introduced the topic and we watched the first 5 minutes of this video on stone-age farmers. Students were mostly engaged. Then they made a copy of the activities for Specific Learning Outcome 1

Over the course of the week students progressed at different speeds through the learning activities, with me able to float around and discuss the concept and try to motivate them onwards. Students asked for help at different places to one another.

The SOLO activities included students forming their own definition of what an ecological niche was my mixing and merging two online definitions. Then they moved on to complete a guided reading activity in pairs or small groups (which I have already blogged about here), a vocabulary activity that asked students to represent the vocabulary with an image AND in a sentence, and finally the last activity asked them to apply what they had learned about ecological niche's to their own lives (what is their own ecological niche?).

During the last 15 minutes on Friday we 'played' this 10-question Kahoot (which is actually a data-gathering tool for me). 

And LOOK at the glorious correlation between kahoot scores and the highest level of SOLO activity that was completed!!

Here is the raw data I used to calculate the averages, if anyone is interested: 

In summary the further that students progressed through the learning activities, the higher they scored (on average) on the 10-question kahoot at the end of the week's learning. One exception to this was a student who only completed the Multistructural activity but scored 90% on the kahoot to take the win - but the overall pattern was still visible.

I will repeat this data analysis next week with a new SLO about 'natural selection.'

Friday, 13 July 2018

Share - Feedback and Feedforward

Now that the Y10 unit (and new Y9 Term 2 unit) are being implemented in junior classes, I need to consider how it can be sustainable and how it can be improved. Two questions to consider are:

1. How will I help sustain effective teaching practice with this new junior curriculum and format?
2. How can other science teachers reach me with questions / suggestions?

How will I help sustain effective teacher practice? Having the full year's plans already laid out in advance should improve consistency in learning experience at the junior level for some years into the future (until the NZC is changed, anyway). Teachers only need to look ahead to be ready for practicals and have enough crafty supplies to allow for some of the Extended Abstract activities. Some teachers have been making copies of all the activities to ensure they are familiar with and own the learning, and have then placed it onto their own sites so they can provide feedback for their students. I also ran a speedy tutorial on how to use the new site during a Science Department meeting, and made he screencast/video on my previous post. I have responded to a few email queries on how to run certain activities and manage the spreadsheet, and popped over to a colleague's room after school to help.

How can other science teachers reach me with questions / suggestions? I receive notifications of blog comments, and can also be reached at, as well as the email address I used to create parts of this while I was overseas;  So far my HoD has emailed to say one presentation had links to two videos but that both links went to the same video - that was a quick fix.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Share - Model - How to Use the Site

I created this video for students who are new to the Y10 learning format, but it could also be useful for teachers who didn't want to read my enormous last post! 

Friday, 29 June 2018

Share - Publish - New Year 10 Science Curriculum

I'm finally ready to share the new year 10 science curriculum that I've been working on and gradually tweaking and improving for SO long!

To make the year 10 curriculum flexible and trackable and linked to the only thing that doesn't seem to change in our world as teachers it is based off the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC).

It includes the:
Material World
Living World
Physical World and
Planet Earth and Beyond strands.  

Each strand in broken into three or four units that align with Level 5 of the NZC (where year 10 learning is supposed to be found). For example the material world strand in year 10 includes:

Periodic Table and
Fuels, as you can see below.

However to ensure that the year 10 programme is flexible and able to integrate and is thematic, each strand is broken down further into 'units' - the circles above you can see. These circles could be quickly combined together in any combination and linked to any theme. 

Above are four year-long programmes that different Year 10 classes could select from at the start of the year. Each Option includes all of the 'units,' but combines them in different ways and in different themes! For example, in Option 1 the first topic is called "Me in New Zealand." 

In "Me in New Zealand" students will learn about waves, the geosphere, atoms and genetic variation in the context of themselves and their lives in New Zealand. Together the class can first engage with two different readings; "Christchurch Earthquake Kills 185" and "Ancient DNA." 

Let's have a look inside the "Pressure" unit circle..

At the top of each 'unit' page there's links to the NZC and THREE specific learning outcomes (SLO's) listed. Each of these SLO's has a short paragraph introducing it, followed by a video or gif, and a link to the learning activities that support it. 

Let's click on the learning activity for SLO2... (if you would like to open it without making a copy, replace the word 'copy' in the URL with the word 'edit').

Ah, here we are. As you can see, it looks very similar! The SLO is listed in the top right corner. All activities to support the SLO are written as "I can" statements to help students articulate what they need to be able to do to achieve each level of SOLO learning. I've tried to build the activities up to support a good understanding of the SLO by the end. 

For example, the unistructrual activity just asks students to complete a cartoon about the definitions of mass and weight: 

By the end of the activities they'll be busy theorising, creating, analysing or any other Extended Abstract-level task. I've really tried to make extended abstract activities varied to suit different learning styles. Sometimes it's a short story, a video, an interview script, an analysis, a poem, a stop-motion animation, a hand-drawn cartoon, the conclusion of a scientific report, or even a painting of a concept using a selected artist model. 

One key idea is that student must provide evidence of their learning back to that one copy of the learning activity that they made. At the start of the week students should share a link to their copy of the learning to a class spreadsheet, as shown below:

Sometimes tasks will lead them off to a website or quiz, and students will be asked to insert screenshots onto that one document/drawing/presentation as evidence. If they make a video or animation the onus is on them to provide a link to that on that one document. That means teachers just have to open provide feedback on just one document/drawing and they can all be found on the one spreadsheet. 

Grading is also nice and easy - I just created another sheet behind this first page. Students have access to view this but not edit it. 

Also, the spreadsheet lets teachers know when a practical is coming up; the SLO is coloured pale orange. 

Finally, a few of the 'units' are a bit different; they're based of the 'Wide and Deep' literacy units designed by Aaron and Naomi. Students engage with multiple texts from multiple perspectives (including a student-selected text on the topic) to more deeply understand a concept. A key word bank is explicitly required. The unit requires group reading and student-led discussions. A DLO is created at the end and shared to blogs.

Here is the link to my site, if anyone wants to visit :) I've linked you straight to Year 10 because Year 9 is only half complete. Once again, if you would like to open any activities without making a copy then replace the word 'copy' in the url with the word 'edit.' 

I would appreciate feedback! 

Friday, 22 June 2018

Create - Reflect - More Teacher Feedback

Now that the year 10 curriculum is nearly completed (I've been chipping away at it for a long time.. like.. all of 2017..) I have shown what's been created to the Tamaki College science department again. It has been tweaked and pulled and pushed around as I gathered more student voice and teacher voice, learnt about SOLO and different literacy strategies, and it's time for a final check before we let year 10 at it!

I asked the science department "which websites were being used in 2017?" and they answered Third Rock, Web of Life, and Sound and Light (these are all my old creations and Third Rock in particular seems popular with students.).

I asked them "is this new format I've designed something the science department would be interested in using?" and they responded "yes, it looks good but it might not meet the new Tamaki College learning area site requirements. Some changes may be required in that area."

To this I shrugged. The swap from Google old sites to new sites is not something I saw coming, and by the time I asked the department to review all of my work there was too much on there to spend time converting. And, to be honest, after an entire year of working on this, I couldn't be bothered doing all the extra work for a formatting niggle that wouldn't affect the teaching or learning.

Graham has since elected to convert my "old" Google site across to New sites as he teaches the new year 10 curriculum, which has spread the conversion work out for him across the year and ensured that Tamaki College has a copy of the site for themselves, should I ever leave the school. So, win-win.

I also asked "looking at what has been created, what changes would you (as experts in Chemistry and Physics, with me representing Biology) like made to the year 9 and 10 learning outcomes and content to be covered, that have been created so far?"

Answers included:

Year 10 Physics - the Electricity and Magnetism unit: Learning outcomes all needed to change to 1. Current and voltage, 2. Circuits and 3. Ohm's law.

Year 9 Physics - teachers wanted the Pressure unit to move into year 10 and the Energy unit to year 9, as pressure is seen as more difficult and is covered in the year 11 Mechanics unit - better to learn it closer to the time.

My final question was "before I start to build the site for year 9, what changes would you like made to the year 9 learning outcomes and content to be covered that I have brainstormed?" 

Answers included:

That the two year 9 units titled Particles, and Matter, need to always be taught together as they support and complete the learning of each other.

In the Particles unit learning outcomes needed to change to: 1. Elements, 2. Atoms and 3. Mixtures.

Year 9 physics was also adjusted, so that the Electricity unit includes 1. Static Electricity and Electrons, 2. Current and Resistance and 3. Circuits. This way students encounter circuits and currents across two years and increase their knowledge in year 10.

Shirley also pointed out that the year 9 Forces unit in physics only focussed on two of Newton's laws (I had thought they were the most important for now) but that there are actually three and they should be exposed to that in year 9.

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.