ALARM (A Learning and Response Matrix) #1

When Max Woods distilled the core of his presentation about ALARM (A Learning and Response Matrix) for the 200 teachers at the Chifley hotel this week to – this is all about ‘learning how to learn’ and sharing – he certainly won my respect.

Ostensibly the two days of professional development were about improving HSC results, using a matrix that addresses both ‘learning’ and ‘responding’ needs, by scaffolding the teacher’s approach to teaching content, skills and concepts. Perhaps, in some respects, the more important message is to do with how much can be achieved when we focus on collaboration and learning, led and well-supported at a regional level; and by principals. Our Regional Director, when she addressed the conference, was clearly excited and enthusiastic about the potential of ALARM (and I will blog in more detail about the matrix in a later post).

The conference had a Twitter hashtag and an Edmodo group for sharing. I noted School Education Directors supporting these initiatives and ongoing collaboration via video conferencing has been arranged. Loreta Kocovska and her colleagues are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm and excellent organisation. I note that Karran Williamson is also having good success with encouraging colleagues to develop PLNs, something that I have been trying to have colleagues on the South Coast do for some time too.

It is clear that ALARM is a process that will work for learning per se, not just in a HSC or exam based world. It draws upon the best of our pedagogies and has the advantage of not just scaffolding writing but allowing teachers to explore a process that is pedagogically sound and encourages learning how to learn. I particularly enjoyed chatting with James Gordon, an English teacher who presented on ALARM in his classroom. His presentation was very useful (more on that later). Gail Perry’s passion for teaching English was also very evident and appreciated. I hope both will consider presenting at the next NSW English Teachers Association conference.

The principal of Freshwater Campus, Frank Pikardt, certainly appreciated (and spoke highly) of Max ,the work and passion of the other teachers implementing the changed pedagogy and his team at the conference, including Kathleen Fulcher and Hasan Shanal.

What was truly intellectually interesting to reflect on is the construction of the process (matrix) by Max, a very experienced teacher, working with countless students over many years trying to work out how they would finally  ‘get it’. What would motivate and assist them to learn? What is it that would make the penny drop? His inspiration has clearly motivated colleagues to explore the nature of learning in their classrooms in a much deeper and holistic manner. ALARM will prove very useful but the model of a classroom teacher reflectively so deeply, idealistically and practically is the real model that should be spread far and wide.

In coming weeks I will try to articulate more about ALARM, as my understanding deepens, in an attempt to share what our school endeavours to do to improve learning.

Anyone who attended the conference or has other experiences of ALARM like to comment?

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by splic3



  1. Andrew FitzSimons:

    My second helping of ‘ALARM’ [ I waas first introduced at a ISER SPC meeting] once again set my brain to work. This is both a straight forward approach and a marvellouslly layed/complex/confronting/sophisticated challenge.

    The ALARM narrative offers a concrete method of assisting teachers and students to talk the same language about the classroom collaboration. Dapto HS looks forward to working with colleagues to engage with ALARM influenced pedagogy.

  2. Angela Byron:

    The huge response to the ALARM training (every secondary school in the region except 2) shows that this kind of professional learning around the HSC is long overdue. It’s a great program that has a strong evidence base to show it works.

    I look forward to seeing how schools across the region in their different contexts, and faculties within each school, respond to putting the learning into action. ALARM is one part of a wider strategy aimed at improving HSC results to give our students more choices beyond their schooling. It will be interesting to monitor our HSC data over the next few years and see what impact these strategies have.

  3. Loreta Kocovska:

    In  2009, I had the pleasure of meeting Frank Pikardt and Max Woods when they presented ‘ALARM’ at a Senior College Conference. As an experienced senior high school teacher, I was extremely excited about ‘ALARM’ in that it provided me with pedagogies that scaffolded my students learning and enabled my students the opportunity to develop skills to effectively respond to specific questions. To me ‘ALARM’ means explicit quality teaching and learning, explicit ongoing feedback and importantly teaching students how to learn. I incorporated ‘ALARM’ at my previous two schools within various subjects and observed immediate positive results. Thank you to our ISER Regional Director, ISER School Education Director Curriculum for enabling the opportunity for our teachers to engage  with ‘ALARM’. Darcy, thank you for this blog, I am looking forward to reading your followup blogs on ‘ALARM

  4. mel:

    I’m worried about the acronym with its shock nature but like Darcy hope that teachers will present for the English Teachers Association so this reaches a wider audience. It is not just a NSW issue but nationwide as we can see from Richard Teese’ analysis of Victorian students’ final results ( in Creating an Australian Curriculum for English, ed by Doecke, Parr and Sawyer).

  5. Amanda:

    Hi there,
    I’ve been reading a bit about ALARM and would really like to attend a conference/ workshop/ get some more information about it as it sounds really worthwhile. Any advice on how I can find conference dates? I seem to be going around in circles searching online.


  6. Anita:

    is there a book on ALARM please?

  7. Carol Hourigan:

    Request code for Edmodo group for ALARM

  8. Gillian Hollingswort:

    Hi Darcy

    My colleagues at Warilla High are asking me about the ‘other verbs’. Can you help me with this problem? How do we incorporate the other verbs (that are similar in complexity) in the original matrix?

  9. David Croft:

    Hi Darcy,
    I’d love to get access to ALARM Edmodo group. Currently the DEC email service is falling over (script error – do wish to continue running scripts from this page?) when I try to find your DEC email.

    I am [email protected] if that helps.


  10. Aodhan:

    Hi, I am an HSC student this year and have to say that while I can see the advantages of the ALARM system, I have personally found it difficult to adapt to, having not been taught with it throughout my schooling career. I have spoken to other students at my school who are in the same boat and they have agreed that we would probably not be in this situation if we were taught with ALARM during our Prelim year and not just our HSC year. I understand some people adapt really quickly, but unfortunately that is not everyone at school. So if the ALARM system is to work, it should be implemented earlier on in schooling so that students are good at using the system by the time they reach the HSC year.
    Thankyou for hearing me out.

    • Darcy Moore:

      Hi Aodan,

      Thanks for your post. At our school we agree with you about starting earlier with this ALARM system. Many faculties are introducing to Y7 next year and others have already started this process.


      • Ruth:


        I am looking at how ALARM could work with our GATS Big ideas programs. I think they work well together. Would you please send me the edmodo code?

  11. Melinda Waddell:

    Hi Darcy
    Can you please send me the Edmodo code as our school is currently implementing.

  12. Bernadette Virwani:

    Hi Darcy,
    Could you please send me the Edmodo code as I am interested in implementing it as part of our Literacy strategy.

  13. “ALARM (A Learning and Response Matrix) #1 – Darcy
    Moore’s Blog” genuinely enables me personally contemplate a little bit further. I actually loved each and every individual component of this post. Thanks ,Micah

  14. Jenny Pickering:

    Could I also have the Edmodo code please? I am currently the Professional Learning Coordinator for a group of schools keen to adopt the ALARM approach. I would like to find out more myself. Thanks

  15. Tristan Heron:

    Hi Darcy,

    I was wondering if it were still possible to get the code to the Edmodo group? If possible, can you please email it to my DET email.


  16. Celia F:

    HI Darcy, did you ever do the follow up here?

    • Darcy Moore:

      Celia, Every week, sometime daily, I send teachers the code for joining Edmodo group. ALARM is used widely at our school but I have not written a follow-up blog post. Could you reply here telling us what happens at you school with ALARM etc.?

  17. Margaret Kelly:

    I am very interested in ALARM,
    Could I please get the code

  18. Christina Attard:

    I am a maths teacher who is really interested in developing matrix learning with my students. I have just discovered ALARM- heard about it at an in service day. Could I join you Edmodo group. By the way I have just read your blog about living for a while in Old Bar – it is still a great place to live!

  19. Tony Tooma:

    I have just discovered ALARM. Interesting what is in this blog. I am a career changer so just recently got into teaching in the last 3 years as a maths teacher. I am trying to get my head around it. I would appreciate if you could send me the login to edmodo please.

    Bu the way I really enjoyed your Prague pictures. I love that city in my previous career I spent a total of 3 months over a couple of years in the IT industry. I like yourself has rekindle my joy of photograpy in a new purchase of a DSLR Olympus which I have had since my old Pentax SLR.


  20. Shannon Monro:

    Could I also have the Edmondo code? I’m new to alarm and have had some success in implementing it but would like to share and gather more ideas.

  21. Lynda CLarkson:

    Sorry Darcy – may I also have the edmodo group code for alarm – many thanks

  22. Craig Day:

    Hello Darcy,
    Our school in Albury is investigating ALARM and I believe that they are trying to get Max down for a presentation. Could you please email me the code for the Edmodo group. Much appreciated.

  23. Megan Davies:

    Hi Darcy
    Can I get the edmodo code please? Thanks in advance.

  24. Julie Thomas:

    Hi Darcy,
    I noticed that a lot of teachers were asking questions about ALARM following your initial post about it. Jennifer English had a similar situation and has now written a series of blog posts and included information about watching Max Woods Youtube explanations. Her posts can be found at
    Some of your readers may be interested.

  25. Lara Gulliver:

    Could I also have the Edmondo code? I am rally interested in applying this approach.

  26. Krystyna Schouten:

    Hi, could I also have the Edmodo code?

  27. Angela Heath:

    Hi Darcy, if it’s still possible could you please send me the Edmodo code. Thanks so much Angela

  28. Tracy Samuels:

    Darcy can I please get the code to join this group?

  29. Marion Silk:

    Hi Darcy,
    Could I please have the code to join the Edmodo group for ALARM. Thanks. My email address is: [email protected]

  30. Kristie Baxter:

    Hi Darcy,

    Can i please have the Edmodo code for ALARM.
    Regards and thanks

  31. Kiri Farrell:

    Hey Darcy,
    I’m wondering if this Edmodo is still active? And if yes, could I get access? My det is [email protected]


  32. Lisa burnett:

    Hi Darcy , I am also wondering about the Edmodo code ? Thanks

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