Learning Teams

Our school ran a Year 7 Learning Team Project with one class this year and the evaluations are extremely positive. The executive is currently working out how best to improve the learning outcomes of students, especially in the middle years of school. We really need to engage our 11-14 year olds much more effectively and to build on success in the immediate future. The whole staff are about to explore the ideas and structures discussed in this post.

 

We have been struggling with a number of issues at the school and time-lines are tight for being organised for 2009. It is extremely difficult to create the time and structures needed to implement far-reaching change and, as always, we need to do a better job leading. There has been debate about a range of the issues at the school, including previous ‘Able & Interested’ programs, consultation and the structure of our timetable. Not everything is perfectly set-up but the basic ideas of creating structures that allow for collaboration and professional development should be unchallengeable IMHO.

 

Some staff may well be cynical or skeptical and feel the weight of working cross-faculties in a different way but hopefully implementation and enthusiasm from a critical mass will be enough to affect change. We need a sense of urgency and the good sense to enjoy ourselves and have fun. 

 

The ideas below contain the spirit of what may be attempted but there is much work to be done:

 

 

Draft

 

Year 7 Learning Teams Project in 2009

 

 

PREAMBLE

 

DHS must plan for the continual improvement and ever-ongoing revitalisation of teaching and learning at the school. The executive must set a clear direction that the entire school community can articulate, if we are to become a focused ‘community of learners’.

 

Our greatest assets, of course, are the professional teachers who work at the school.

 

If research is correct and 30% of student success is determined by the teacher (Hattie 2003) we should focus on developing teachers’ skills.

 

Staff should have structured and sustainable opportunities to participate in formal (and informal) Professional Development and Teacher Professional Learning if student outcomes are to improve. Opportunities to collaborate, in a structured manner during 2009 and onwards, can be facilitated through the introduction of Learning Teams (LTs) based on Year 7 class allocations.

 

When teachers have high expectations and a detailed, professional knowledge of how young people learn best, students are more likely to set and achieve challenging goals.  Teaching strategies should be selected that build on students’ prior knowledge, provide scaffolds, structure, and sequence for learning; assessment tasks should assist students to understand where they need to improve and how then can achieve their potential.

 

Our focus must be holistic, not narrowly based on improving test scores; however, these will partially indicate success and areas for development.

 

 

RATIONALE

 

Learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin. The strategy of organising teachers into cross-facultyLTs– based on Year 7 mixed ability classes – will provide learning opportunities for staff about best practice in teaching 11-14 year olds.

 

Collaborating in Learning Teams will assist teachers by strategically targeting professional development opportunities that will assist staff to:

 

  • improve learning experiences and outcomes for all their students
  • share insights gained when reflecting on their class and practice
  • share teaching & learning ideas with colleagues,
  • shape their own professional learning
  • professionally develop their skills in the areas targeted by the school
  • develop their theoretical perspectives on teaching and learning
  • develop knowledge and skills with digital technologies
  • understand ‘synergies’ between subject/faculties/courses
  • develop their understanding of what it means to participate and collaborate in a ‘community of learners’

 

Conceptualising, the Australian Council of Deans of Education assertion that, “the skills of collaboration will supersede the competitive skills required in the old industrial economy, and the focus will shift to interpersonal relations and communications” (2003) is of the greatest importance to the future development of our learning community and educational health of the school.

 

Research suggests that the belief we are in a ‘community of learners’ where mutual respect, a relentless focus on learning, in a safe, relevant and inviting environment, is the key to improved educational outcomes. Our traditional concept that teachers teach, students learn, and administrators manage is challenged by this notion.

 

In a community of learners, everyone is about the business of learning, questioning, investigating, and seeking solutions collaboratively.

 

 

STRATEGY

 

The areas targeted for ongoing professional development include:

 

  • How students learn in the Middle Years (11-14) and ways to best organise a positive environment that fosters a love of learning and enthusiasm

 

  • Teacher nominated areas for development or need/interest

 

  • Whole school and subject specific literacy and numeracy strategies

 

  • Collaborative and cooperative learning strategies

 

  • Digital technologies and how they impact on learning

 

  • Welfare and discipline – consistent classroom approaches

 

  • Assessment for learning including extension of students and catering for diverse, individual needs

 

  • Mixed ability teaching and constructivist approaches to teaching & learning

 

  • Other relevant educational theory and classroom strategies where appropriate

 

 

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

 

Teachers, quite understandably will wish to know what it means practically, to be a Year 7 teacher involved in the Learning Teams Project. Staff are encouraged to:

 

  1. meet and collaborate with Year 7 teaching colleagues during whole school, committee and the usual meeting/TPL times – of course, class teachers can agree to additional gatherings
  2. participate via an email distribution list to ongoing discussions with their LT
  3. participate in TPL arranged by the school as well as their own areas of interest/need (see above)
  4. support LT agreed to approaches/initiatives
  5. explore cooperative and collaborative learning in their class
  6. consider being the facilitator or co-facilitator for their Learning Team
  7. complete an evaluation (or two) about the project
  8. recommend areas where HTs/faculties could further develop team approaches to curriculum in 2010

 

 

ANTICPATED OUTCOMES

 

This Learning Teams approach should enable students to demonstrate:

i)                   enhanced engagement with learning

ii)                 improved literacy and numeracy

iii)               greater collaboration and cooperative learning in class

iv)               enhanced use of digital technologies for learning

v)                 enhanced well-being due to improved welfare and discipline

 

This project intends that teachers have:

i)                  improved formal and informal opportunities to work as a team with colleagues in other faculties developing a more integrated curriculum (where possible) teaching expertise, resources and strategies

ii)                professional development about teaching middle years students, especially for  literacy, numeracy and using digital technologies

iii)               enhanced use of ICT for collaboration, teaching and learning

iv)               leadership opportunities

v)                 opportunities to professionally develop colleagues’ and their own skills

 

 

FAQs (Frequently Anticipated Questions)

 

Q: What happens if I teach more than one x Year 7 class?

A: You will attend one class’ meeting (as suits faculty)

 

 

 Q: What happens if I teach more than one x Year 7 class re: the email distribution list?

A: You will be on the CC list so that all can see you teach more than one x class (but may request to receive emails for one class)

 

Q: I teach TAS/Art/Maths and my class consists of different students to the English/Science/HSIE/PDHPE/Music teachers?

A:All staff should be in a LT for TPL but some of the students may be different depending on subject

 

Q: What happens if I disagree with my colleagues in the LT?

A: You have professional autonomy but should endeavour to be as supportive and positive as possible

 

 Q: I am considering, but feel nervous about volunteering to be a facilitator, what does this entail?

A: Facilitators are necessary to assist with the organisation of teams rather than generating material or ideas. It should not be onerous but requires enthusiasm

 

Q: Do I have to be in a team if I teach Year 7?

A: Yes please!

 

Q:How will the school create the time needed for meeting/TPL?

A:Weeks 2, 6 & 10 have been committee meeting time during 2008 but much of this time will be available for TPL of one kind or another in 2009

 

Bibliography

 

7O Teachers – Collated: Evaluation of 2008 Learning Team – 2008

 

Anderson, Michelle and Cawsey Christine, Learning for Leadership – Building a School of Professional Practice, 2008

 

Australian Council of Deans of Education, 2003, The Role of the Teacher: Coming of Age, http://acde.edu.au/

 

Australian Literacy Educators Association  http://www.myread.org/scaffolding.htm

 

Australian National Schools Network http://www.nsn.net.au

 

Gardner, H, 1993, Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice, Basic Books, NY

 

Hattie, J, 2003, Teachers Make a Difference: What is the research evidence?ACER http://www.acer.edu.au/workshops/documents/Teachers_Make_a_Difference_Hattie.pdf

 

Lee, M and Gaffney, M, Leading a Digital School – Principles and Practice, 2008

 

Ramsay, G, 2001, Quality Matters: Review of Teacher Education in NSW
http://www.det.nsw.edu.au/teachrev/reports/

 

Vinson, T. 2002. Report of the Independent Inquiry into Public Education in New South Wales. First Report  http://www.nswtf.org.au/fedpdf/vinson_interim.pdf

 

Vygotsky, L, 1978, Mind in Society, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

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12 Comments

  1. Troy:

    We run a similar learning teams in Stage Four at my school. As a team leader I have cross KLA team teachers, we meet each week, discussing teaching and learning across KLA, but also planning structures to support literacy, numeracy, Indigenous education…There are so positive things happening due to the teams, but it is a constant battle to promote the positives, and sadly a constant battle to get teachers not just at meetings, but involved…

  2. Hi Dracy
    Looks like the way to go. Finding the time in the timetable for the meetings is the only way this has worked effectively at our school since 1998 when we first trialled middle schooling, but without the requisite time allocations for staff it quickly failed.

    When we remorphed into a collegiate model, yes one of those multi campus schools that were a late last century DET NSW eduflavour, GLC implemented timtabled Year 7 Team meetings in 2003.

    They have since assisted the 5 core staff on each Yr 7 class to meet for an hour a fortnight and discuss learning, welfare, our R.O.A.R program, SMS, (Student Merit Scheme, not texting)parent contacts as needed and any issues surrounding class managment or learning issues such as GATS.

    The Team meeting is minuted and email distributed to all non core class teachers, executive plus other relevant specialist staff.

    STLD, LST or SC recommendations are collectively completed during the meeting and ROAR, roll call and Year Meeting TEAM awards decided on. K-6 records are reviewed as a group and previous linkages minutes and core stage 3 staff are invited to attend term 1 team meetings so we can share knowledge.

    We are currently reviewing class placements 7 into 8 for 2009 as the Yr7 learning teams now makes recommendations based on academic, social and other evidence which is then reviewed by our YA’s and the HT IC of each year group and finally the whole executive.

    Staff have mostly found these meetings to be helpful in supporting cross KLA dialogue developing “middle school type” units and making stage 4 students the focus of our campus.

    In depth professional development is also integrated in selected teams as a yearly theme. We have had special focus classess like QTL, technology, literacy or other classes based on special grants our HT T&L applies for to trial emerging pedagogy or new trends.

    Teams are an excellent PD providing the team leader keeps the meetings focussed on learning and NOT an endless behaviour debate.

  3. darcymoore:

    Thanks Troy and Tony. I can take much from your posts, on a number of levels and hopefully, an ongoing dicussion will evolve about LTs. I suspect our Connected Classroom (in operation since last week) will allow us to set something up at some stage with a number of schools interested in PD on Middle Years. Interested?

  4. Troy:

    Tony, I am also at a Campus, within a College, and our whole school is aiming towards forging a community. We are also ‘currently reviewing class placements 7 into 8 for 2009 as the Yr7 learning teams now makes recommendations based on academic, social and other evidence…’ By the teachers, for the teachers, …
    Also as I am HT T&L (as well as a team leader) I am bringing Mindmatters, Kagan, Langford, QT into the team environment. While the team meetings explore pedagogy via discussion and sharing resources, we are also showing each other, opening up our classrooms to other teachers.

    We have a connection classroom, and one more coming (my room!), so we would be very interested!

  5. tonysearl:

    Our district has an extended Learning Community encompassing all DET NSW K-12 schools. VC is now installed in many of them and CCP is now live in 2 of our 3 school campuses, non for our TAFE, yet, and our last school CC is coming next term. My room received the first discretionary IWB and SU,Maths and Science have expressed some interest in the next purchases.

    We have filtered Mindmatters etal QTL into all 7 to 10 classrooms through our Campus Learning Logs, SOAR stage 5 and ROAR stage 4 programs and are currently preparing our Year 7 QT and Technology Team focuses for 2009. Looking forward to both these innovative programs as well as our ‘Just in Time Learning Team’ and ‘Drop in Drop Out Wednesdays’, two ICT/Tech/PD initiatives we are trying to develop. Happy to share whenever and however with all learners.

  6. Hi Darcy,
    Student success in learning during Years 5 through 9 is vital for retention to HSC and best results for each student.
    Apart from effective learning in preschool and early childhood there is no more vital time.
    Effective TPL underpins everything.
    IMHO, it should be about consistent and shared language (QT) and strategies, focus on explicit teaching of literacy and numeracy skills and effective feedback on agreed, most effective teaching practice. All subject to regular review.
    Latest web2.0 tools will assist if the learning purpose is made clear first.
    Elaine

  7. Andrew FitzSimons:

    Dapto HS is in the midst of complex thinking about how Learning Teams might promote better learning . Good to read of other schools having success.

  8. Great Job.
    Keep On.
    Tony.
    荔枝角卓越迷你倉
    香港仔時昌迷你倉

  9. Lyntiernan:

    I read the brief and comments with interest Darcy. And it got me started thinking about piloting a learning team approach with my Year 7 class next year. I’ve found it is useful at my school to start small and build, so depending on the interest of the other subject teachers on my Year 7 class I would like to explore the possibilities. We have a Connected Classroom (my room) and am interested in any projects you might be developing.

  10. Peter Johnson:

    Learning teams sharing ideas and information about improving learning for students, student welfare issues, teaching strategies etc is the way to go. We’ll get there Darcy!

  11. David Lewis:

    This has made me hitch-hike my thinking about where engagement needs to head.
    Thanks for pointing me somewhere I would not otherwise have considerd heading.

  12. Sharon Moran:

    I’ve been working within the learning team project with Darcy for the past year. I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from out team meetings we have. It gives us an insight into cross faculty content and pedagogy practices. Not only do I find the benefit to myself, but especially the students. I hope to continue playing a role within this project in the years to come. Especially incorporating the IWB into more lessons next year! Thanks Darcy.

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