Programmes for Students: building long-term capabilities

Issue: Volume 94, Number 14

Posted: 10 August 2015
Reference #: 1H9crs

In the third and final part of our series on Programmes for Students (PfS), we use the voices of our school leaders to highlight the positive impact Accelerating Learning in Literacy (ALL), Accelerating Learning in Mathematics (ALiM) and Mathematics Support Teacher (MST) have had on their primary schools.

In our first two articles we looked at how ALL, ALiM and MST work and their success at accelerating students’ learning progress. In this article, we look at some of their broader, ‘spin-off’ impacts.

In researching this article, we were delighted to find there is no shortage of schools ready to share their experiences of ALL, ALIM and MST and the positive impact they have had, not just on their students, but also on their colleagues and the broader school community.

School leaders have enthused about how ALL, ALiM and MST have been instrumental in transferring teacher knowledge and innovative teaching strategies and actions right across schools and have been a catalyst for creating schoolwide systems for accelerating student achievement.

Transfer of teacher knowledge and actions

First and foremost, ALL, ALiM and MST have proven to be highly effective at delivering on their primary purpose: accelerating the learning progress of students below or well below expectations for literacy and/or numeracy.

Central to the working of these supplementary supports is the principle of ‘teaching as inquiry’. Teachers and leaders critically review their own teaching practices to see what they could do differently, what works and what doesn’t work for some students and why. These learnings then contribute towards the school’s Curriculum and Achievement Plan (CaAP) and so are made available to colleagues and the broader school community.

In school leaders’ own words:

“The teachers involved inquire into their own pedagogy and practice, research effective teacher practices and implement changes in their teaching approach based on their new understanding. They use their improved craft knowledge and pedagogy when planning and teaching for their own students.” (Keith Street School)

“Teachers are planning together to provide programmes that focus on acceleration of achievement levels for students. They become experts on topics in small group settings and confidently transfer their knowledge and skills into classroom settings.” (Verdon College)

“Teacher inquiries to raise student achievement are now more effective. Teachers are more informed on analysing data and then looking at next steps to inform their teaching practice. Finding what works for different children, building relationships with students, parents and whānau. Professional readings, teacher conversations and collaboration are now more integral.” (Tolaga Bay Area School)

“Teachers now understand that if there is limited or no improvement in achievement for particular students, then they have not used the right teaching approach for that child, and are much more open to seeking other ways to lift achievement.” (Central Normal Palmerston North)

“We’re moving from individual planning to collaborative planning, and from streamed abilities to mixed ability. What has been the big thing for me is we’ve got to stop remediating and start accelerating.” (Westmere School)

“There is a buzz in our school, both from teachers who are experimenting with new approaches, and from our students who enjoy success. As a school we are inquiring into effective practices for acceleration which have become embedded as how we do things in our school.” (Stanley Bay School)

Schoolwide systems for accelerating student achievement

Schools’ involvement in ALL, ALiM and MST has improved how they respond to the needs of their students. By evaluating and reviewing current school practices around interventions, schools have made wiser resourcing decisions. This allows the school to constantly challenge their progress and achievement systems and practices. One outcome is a school CaAP that reflects these decisions.

“Through ALL we have developed a coordinated intervention plan for literacy. There is a strategic focus on designing and implementing a coherent, whole school plan focused on targeted support for students and teachers towards improved outcomes for a diverse range of learners. A key component of this intervention plan is the school’s CaAP which has been designed during the time we have been involved in ALL. Our CaAP is used to identify what achievement is and to identify what student learning behaviours and achievement outcomes might trigger a need for supplementary support.” (Mangapapa School)

“Sharing of research as part of our Supplementary Inquiry Team (SIT) meetings has challenged our thinking to try different things. Forming the SIT team has provided an opportunity to build mathematical leadership capacity within our school. This complements our three to five year strategic vision to ensure sustainability across our school.” (Cambridge East)

“Teachers can clearly articulate the specific teacher actions that have caused acceleration to occur. We have found that ALL has provided our Intervention Inquiry Team with extended knowledge that they have been able to pass on to the rest of the staff. Since starting ALL, we now use a comprehensive tracking system that allows us to monitor student progress.” (Central Normal)

Growth over time (enabling schoolwide coherence)

Through engaging in ALL, ALiM and MST, schools have been able to develop a pathway of change or ‘step up’. This has been particularly marked where schools have participated in ALL, ALiM for more than one year. By continuing the process of collaborative inquiry central to ALL, ALiM and MST, schools have been able to build on their learning about effective and coherent intervention practices to sustain student acceleration.

“The step up has been the opportunity to involve more teachers in the process and of course more children.” (Manurewa West)

“I think this is going to be quite revolutionary with how we choose to teach in the future going forward. It’s been a wonderful mechanism to look at how we teach, in other new environments, collaborative new environments.” (Westmere)

“The school is developing and embedding a culture of collaborative inquiry. Over the past three years there has been a shift in teachers’ belief from knowing to inquiring. For teachers, engaging in inquiry is a process of developing collective professional agency.” (Mangapapa)

ALL, ALiM and MST use a combination of school-led capability and Ministry of Education support through funding, workshop provision and mentor expertise. It draws on current research, Ministry of Education support material and the strong leadership skills of schools. The impact of committed leaders is validated by the reflections they have shared in this article.

“This building of capacity has been one of growth in professional capability and school capacity. No other intervention or service has enabled this to happen. Michael Fullan calls this ‘slow knowing in context with others’ which is the PfS journey in a nutshell.” (Makauri School)

“I’ve taken a quote from the latest ERO indicators: ‘School improvement research shows that changing depends on internal capacity and new learning. It requires motivation, orientation towards improvement, new knowledge in the development of new schools, dispositions and relationships. In particular it requires skill in using data, creating cultures in inquiry, engaging deep and challenging conversations about practice, and changing long-established beliefs and patterns of practice.’ To me that’s what PfS is doing for our school!” (Westmere)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 4:56 pm, 10 August 2015

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