Tracking learning progression and curriculum coverage across a school
Teachers at Columba College implemented systems for tracking coverage and learning across the school. Dorothy Hutton found that these systems are proving simple and effective.
They have helped teachers:
- effectively track learning and coverage
- integrate technology with other learning areas
- focus on gathering evidence for making sound judgements
- plan next steps in learning.
This case study is an example of assessment for learning.
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Dorothy Hutton is teacher-in-charge of years 0–6 technology at Columba College, Dunedin. The school was implementing a three-year technology education plan. Dorothy’s role included ensuring that the plan was implemented and monitoring progress. The plan covered 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 programmes of learning; 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 characteristics of technology: Producing a newspaper
In addition to teaching from their regular teacher, years 3–6 students were taught for a period each week from a senior school technology specialist.
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 and 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. The system consisted of The New Zealand Curriculum levels 1–3 indicators of progression and each student's name in a document. This system meant teachers could track the progress of each student quickly and efficiently. They could do this as the observed and reviewed evidence of learning.
Dorothy went through the teaching plans for the last five years and collected information from the other teachers to see what contexts and components were covered with each class of students. As she did so, she transferred this information to a modified version of the indicators document.
When the audit of curriculum coverage was complete, Dorothy knew with some confidence what technology learning each student had been exposed to. Dorothy created a template for each class with the covered indicators highlighted in blue. She shared a student copy with the teacher to go in each student’s portfolio.
Coverage and learning can be two very different things. It was decided that teachers would maintain the templated document 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, final outcomes, and on classroom observations.
The document cells could be highlighted to show a student had some understanding but not enough to satisfy the indicator. Comments were made to show that the student had further learning to do before they could meet the expectation. If a cell was filled with a colour, it 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 they finished their 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. They can also see 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 in a unified, cumulative record.
Dorothy revised Columba’s three-year delivery plan and ensured that the technology is integrated into “best fit” programmes of learning. 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 encouraged other teachers to make links to technology even in programmes of learning that do not have a technology focus. For example, her own class completed an integrated programme of learning in which the primary focus was art: creating papier-mâché gumboots to display during the spring service. Now that they are engaged in a programme of learning 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 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 gave each technology teacher a pack that included integrated programmes of learning, 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 documents have definitely helped teachers focus on next teaching steps. Now there were ongoing discussions about the most efficient and effective tools for gathering evidence on which to base sound judgments.
In the next term, Dorothy and her teachers revisited the implementation plan and reviewed what progress was made.
Dorothy's own students were learning about objective and subjective measurement and technically and socially feasible outcomes. Manipulation of materials would also need to be covered.
Next, they moved on to technological systems. Dorothy was aware from research findings that students generally have very limited understanding of this component.