Tracking coverage and learning across a school
Teachers at Columba College are implementing new systems for tracking coverage and learning across the school. Dorothy Hutton has found that these systems are proving simple and effective – and that they have helped them:
- effectively track learning and coverage
- integrate technology with other learning areas
- focus on gathering evidence for making sound judgements
- plan next steps in learning.
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Dorothy Hutton is teacher-in-charge of years 0–6 technology at Columba College, Dunedin. The school is currently implementing a three-year technology education plan, so Dorothy’s role includes ensuring that the plan is implemented and monitoring progress. The plan covers all the strands and components for levels 1–2 and 3 and part of level 4.
At Columba, some technology education activities are part of integrated units of work; others are one-offs. For descriptions of some of the activities, see the following teaching snapshots:
- Technological systems in a toys context
- Is food a technological outcome?
- Exploring technology with junior students
- Technological modeling in tie-dyeing
- Technological practice and producing a newspaper
This year, in addition to teaching from their regular teacher, year 3–6 students have been taught for a period each week from a senior school technology specialist. Dorothy has also continued to be involved as Beacon Practice teacher.
Given the variety of inputs, Dorothy thought it timely to carry out an audit of curriculum coverage. All involved would then be able to evaluate progress on the implementation plan and see if there were components/indicators in need of further attention.
To support the audit, staff needed a way to track coverage and student learning. A system was developed by Cheryl Pearson, a teacher at Columba College who was also involved in the Beacon Practice project. The system consisted of the level 1–3 indicators copied and pasted into a compact document, which would then be duplicated so that teachers had one for each of their students.
Teachers would use a highlighter pen to identify the indicators that described what a student knew and was able to do. They based their judgments on the evidence found in activity sheets, bookwork, and final outcomes, and on classroom observations.
Dorothy went through the teaching plans for the last five years and collected information from the other teachers to see what contexts and components had been covered with each class of students. As she did so, she transferred this information to a modified version of the indicators sheet.
This was a huge job, but when it was complete, she knew with some confidence what technology learning each student had been exposed to. Dorothy then created a template for each class (with the covered indicators highlighted in blue) and gave the teacher a coloured copy to go in each student’s portfolio.
Because coverage and learning can be two very different things, it was decided that teachers would maintain the templated sheet using two different highlighter colours: blue for coverage and green for learning. The idea was that, for all further technology teaching, teachers would highlight the indicators/components that described what the student now knew and could do. As before, they were to base their judgments on the evidence found in activity sheets, bookwork, and final outcomes, and on classroom observations.
The boxes could be highlighted partway across where a student had some understanding but not enough to satisfy the indicator. Part shading meant that the student had further learning to do before they cold meet the expectation; full shading meant that they met the expectation and had a reasonable level of confidence in their own understanding.
The specialist teacher was to follow the same process when he finished his part of the programme, providing a unified record of coverage and learning for each student.
Teachers have found this to be a very efficient and effective system, providing a quick overview of each student’s progress. Now, when a new teacher takes on a class they can see which students have gaps in understanding and where, and also who has a good understanding of certain components and is in need of extension.
Integrating technology learning with other areas of the curriculum
The individual coverage/learning record makes it much easier to integrate aspects of technology learning with other areas of the curriculum. The tracking sheets help focus teachers on the technological aspects of the learning at the same time as they provide a means for capturing student learning on a unified, cumulative record.
Dorothy has now revised Columba’s three-year delivery plan and ensured that the technology is integrated into “best fit” units. Having taught all three strands in the preceding three years, she had discovered that technology is often a natural fit with science and the social sciences. It is also a huge part of general literacy, including oral language.
Dorothy has encouraged other teachers to make links to technology even in units that do not have a technology focus. For example, her own class recently completed an integrated unit in which the primary focus was art: creating papier-mâché gumboots to display during the spring service. Now that they are engaged in a unit that focuses on the technological products component they can draw on their experience with the gumboots when considering what materials to use, given their particular properties.
In another example, Dorothy showed a colleague how to get her students to reflect from a technological perspective on a cushion cover project that had not turned out as anticipated. They had created some very attractive top panels for their covers but some of the designs extended right to the edge, meaning that part of the design inevitably got lost in the seam. With Dorothy’s support, the teacher and students used this experience to grow their understanding of brief development, planning for practice, characteristics of technological outcomes and technological modelling.
See some of the simple resources that Dorothy suggested to help structure the technological learning in this project:
Dorothy has given each technology teacher a pack that includes integrated unit plans, instructions on how to use the curriculum coverage and learning tracking sheets, and their personal copy of the three-year delivery plan for technology.
The tracking sheets have definitely helped teachers focus on next teaching steps. Now there is an ongoing discussion about the most efficient and effective tools for gathering evidence on which to base sound judgments.
Next term, Dorothy and her teachers will revisit the implementation plan and review what progress has been made.
Meantime, her own students are currently learning about objective and subjective measurement and technically and socially feasible outcomes. Manipulation of materials will also need to be covered.
Next, they will move on to technological systems. Dorothy is aware from research findings that students generally have very limited understanding of this component.
"I am very excited about the teaching ahead – systems technology at this level includes the “black box” concept. And we will be able to look into other systems to expand their growing knowledge of nature of technology."Dorothy Hutton