Saturday, February 25, 2017

Learning is More Than Passing a Test

Our aim at St Joseph's is for teachers, parents and students to develop a love of learning. To do this, we need to first have a conversation about what learning is and isn't.

What is learning? One train of thought is that is easy to measure, that data in the form of results can show learning and that we base success of learning on this data. I would hope that we view learning as much more than this! As Will Richardson states, "Learning is much more than what is easily measured." 

The challenge is to make our beliefs of learning as more than test results the focus of the work of teachers and parents in schools. Will often quotes that "kids are increasingly disengaged from learning and not ready for the world of work and learning past school. He says that we are "missing the boat."

"Learning makes you want to learn more" Seymour Sarason.  He believes that learning needs to be based on student passions, interests and should motivate them to pursue it at a higher level. On the contrary it should not be limited to studying, taking a test and then never think about it again. I would argue that the latter, is what learning has been characterised by in the past.

How do we respond to this in our schools, given that testing such as NAPLAN, obsession over 'reading levels' and standardised testing hovers over and in some cases, dominates the learning agenda? Will Richardson says that a change in focus from teacher organised and delivered education to student determined and directed learning based on passions and interests.  

Professor John Hattie of Melbourne UNiversity proposes that the answer lies in making our schools more inviting places to come and learn...  He suggests in his article Shifting away from distractions to improve Australia’s schools: Time for a Reboot (2016)  that high quality and passionate teachers is the place to start. The moment by moment decisions that are made in the heat of learning, in the context of the classroom; and the size of the effects of teacher expertise towers above the structural influences (class size, ability grouping, private vs public school et al.). It is teachers working together as evaluators of their impact, their skill in knowing what students now know and providing them with explicit success criteria near the beginning of a series of lessons , ensuring high trust in the classroom so errors and misunderstanding are welcomed as opportunities to learn , maximizing feedback to teachers about their impact. The mantra of Visible Learning relates to teachers seeing learning through the eyes of students, and students seeing themselves as their own teachers.

In the primary schooling arena, explicit learning of the basics of literacy and numeracy coupled with a focus on well being and dispositions for learning unlocks learning as described above. The introduction of the follow deep learning competencies are also key to success for learning in the 21 century and beyond. 

  •           Citizenship 
  •           Communication 
  •           Critical thinking and problem solving 
  •           Collaboration 
  •           Creativity and imagination
  •        Character education 

(A Rich Seam – How new Pedagogies find Deep Learning, Fullan & Langworthy 2014)

St Joseph's is on the journey of making schooling more welcoming and student- centred and where learning is measured, not just by scores, but by student engagement and desire to learn more.


A Rich Seam – How new Pedagogies find Deep Learning, Fullan & Langworthy (2014)

Shifting away from distractions to improve Australia’s schools: Time for a Reboot, Hattie (Oct, 2016)

What is Learning? Modern Learners - Will Richardson (2017)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Reading is the Door to Success

In my opinion, reading is the most important skill a person can develop. It is a determining factor to success and well being in life. A love of reading is instilled into children by parents from when they are infants and is further developed at school.

At St Joseph's, we believe that it is our moral imperative for all children to learn to read so that they can read to learn. We have an intensive focus on learning to read (phonemic awareness and phonics, decoding and encoding) from Prep to Year 2 and then further developing fluency, comprehension skills, vocabulary in texts of increasing complexity from Year 3-6.

Before learning to read, reading for pleasure is paramount. Human connection, the development of security and special time with adults can be achieved through reading with and to our children.

"The benefits of reading for pleasure are far reaching. Aside from the sheer joy of exercising the imagination, evidence indicates reading for pleasure improves literacy, social skills, health and learning outcomes. It also gives people access to culture and heritage and empowers them to become active citizens, who can contribute to economic and social development." ( "Reading for Pleasure - a door to success")

It is commonly known that reading enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. This highlights for us at St Joseph's, the reason that reading for enjoyment at home is our only mandated nightly homework.

International research strongly suggests frequent reading for enjoyment correlates with increases in reading achievement. (Clark, 2011, Clark & Rumbold, 2006, Clark & Douglas 2011, PISA, 2009)

Reading at home as a part of homework has the purpose of increasing enjoyment in the activity. We therefore do not send home books of a difficult level. In the event of this happening, it is important that the parent reads the book to the child. The instructional aspect of teaching reading is not the job of parents; this is done at school through the SSP approach by teachers.

"...reading for pleasure was more important for children's cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents' level of education. The combined effect on children's progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree." Dr Alice Sullivan

Once children can read, then potential is unlocked to achieve across all areas of formal learning and in life generally. The article mentions the positive correlation of reading online and a variety of hard copy sources and increased literacy scores and academic success.

Along with overall improved well-being, findings included increased empathy, greater knowledge of other cultures, reduced symptoms of depression and dementia, and improved parent-child communication and social capital for children, young people and adults. It also found that people who enjoy reading and choose to do so in their free time are more likely to enjoy all of these benefits.( "Reading for Pleasure - a door to success")

Reading also provides pleasure and stimulation of the imagination. The article explains the link with reading and the development of empathy, pleasure and empowerment. Reading can activate parts of the brain as it would if experienced in real life.

At St Joseph's we are future focused. We are changing practice and learning spaces to ensure that our children are prepared for the real work of the future. This article supports reading as a part of this when it states:
"Adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st C will need to read and write more than at any other time in human history. They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives. They will need literacy to cope with the flood of information they will find everywhere they turn. They will need literacy to feed their imaginations, so they can create the world of the future. In a complex, and sometimes dangerous world, the ability to read can be crucial." ( "Reading for Pleasure - a door to success")

I hope that this assists parents to see that their role in reading with their children every night for pleasure, is invaluable.It compliments and provides foundation to the 'teaching of reading' that we do at school. We can't do it on our own so let's continue to work together!

for the full article visit "Reading for Pleasure - a door to success"