Introducing shared planning and recording from year 7
How can we plan for cohesion between the technology programmes at the high school and at the technology centre?
At South Otago High School Christine Elder and Kathleen Hepburn found that working collaboratively across the technology faculty and the technology centre helped teachers:
- grow their understandings and confidence
- streamline work processes
- clarify expectations for students.
South Otago High School is based in Balclutha and includes a technology centre that provides technology education within specialist classrooms to ten client schools.
Kathleen Hepburn was appointed Head of the Technology Faculty at the high school in 2012. Christine Elder has worked at the technology centre since the introduction of the technology curriculum and was participating in the Phase 3 Beacon Practice project.
Programmes at the high school had traditionally focused on technological practice and skill development, with each specialist area operating independently.
But Kathleen had previous experience in planning collectively and wanted to establish this at the centre.
Christine wanted to work with the high school technology faculty to ensure cohesion across their programmes.
At the high school, Kathleen had begun development meetings with the technology faculty. Each teacher was given an opportunity to explore a specific component and was asked to develop resources that could help the group. The initial focus was on year 9 programmes, with plans for a review of year 10 in the following year.
On reflection, Kathleen realised this plan was ambitious because they were all still extending their own understandings of the curriculum. She could see that they needed streamlined systems and support to manage the on-going work of growing their own knowledge and their technology programmes.
At the technology centre, Christine was incorporating a focus on all of the components across the year 7 and 8 programmes. Levels 1 and 2 were covered at year 7. The goal was for students to be at level 2 by the end of year 7. For year 8 students, the goal was to reach level 3. All of the strands were covered within each year.
Kathleen and Christine could see the value of working with technology staff in both the high school and the technology centre to share their curriculum understandings and to develop a planned approach to curriculum implementation.
Working collectively, the technology centre and the high school have developed a revised plan for curriculum coverage in years 9 and 10.
When students reach year 9, the expectation is that they are at level 2 of the curriculum and heading towards level 3. The aim is to have students achieving at level 4 by the end of year 9.
Students have four eight-week rotations in the following specialist areas – digital, wood/metal, textiles, and food. Two components are covered within each rotation – one from the technological practice strand and another from the knowledge strand or the nature strand.
For each of the two initial rotations, Kathleen and her teachers created and shared activities to develop understandings of the components, with adaptations for subject-specific requirements.
Teachers were concerned that if a component is the focus of teaching and learning at the beginning of the year, and is assessed at that time, then the levels of achievement students demonstrate might be lower than the levels they could achieve at later in the year. So they decided that while all rotations would include technological practice components and formative assessment, summative assessment would be carried out in the final rotation.
In 2014, the focus is on revising and developing the year 10 programme according to a similar plan.
The students are timetabled into technology for all of year 10. During the year, classes focus on technological practice at least twice, with some teachers opting to work on it four times. The students are formatively assessed at the end of term 2 and summative assessment occurs at the end of term 4.
Further plans for the year 9 and year 10 programmes
The year 9 and 10 programmes focus on growing student understandings from levels 3 to 5. The nature and knowledge strands are covered according to each student's individual achievement plan and include pre-developed resources that can be adapted to make sure that they are relevant to specific subject areas.
Christine plans to re-organise the order in which the components are covered, too. So that students have more time to develop their understandings of technological systems, this component will be a focus early in the year rather than in the last term, when students can be out of class more often. The last term will have a focus on brief development and planning for practice.
The staff could see that there was a need for clear and consistent records of teaching and learning and assessment. Students and teachers both required workbooks for each rotation that clearly showed the components, the curriculum level, and the associated indicators that they were being taught and assessed against.
As part of her Phase 3 Beacon Practice work, Christine had developed student workbooks that clearly outlined the curriculum level and associated indicators that year 7 and 8 students would be covering in each of the rotations they participated in at the technology centre.
Kathleen and staff at the high school use student booklets. Assessment and progression to the next level are shown clearly at the bottom of the assessment page so that students can see where they are heading in terms of understandings.
Originally, Kathleen modelled the type of student booklet staff could develop. Teachers modified this for the specialist area they were working in.
To allow for ease of marking, the booklets have been redesigned for next year to separate the teaching and learning and formative assessment from the summative assessment area.
The teachers all contributed material to the booklets throughout the year, developing an updated version for the following year.
Assessment, tracking progress, and reporting
There was a clear need for a shared process for carrying out and recording curriculum-focused assessment. Students’ progress needed to be tracked and made available to students, teachers, parents, and the wider school community. A school-wide digital recording system was developed for trial the following year. The teachers are looking forward to having digital records of student progress.
At the end of term 4, Christine carried out a vocabulary test on all students at the technology centre. This information will be used to inform the next steps for teaching and learning. It has also provided an opportunity for a conversation with the client schools on their technology curriculum implementation.
The end of year test on vocabulary is passed on to Kathleen to share with teachers in the high school. The test gives information on students with low levels of understanding of the vocabulary and also highlights very capable students.
In some of the student booklets used during the year, Christine recorded vocabulary specific to the context for the term on the front cover. She plans to do this again with all booklets next year because it makes the students more aware of the terms and context.
Christine has been trialling strategies for assessing how much students have retained from their prior learning at the beginning of the rotations. One of these strategies is to begin a rotation by asking students to analyse a technological product or technological system. The questions she has used have focused on specific vocabulary and understandings related to a component she expects them to be familiar with.
Interviews with client schools
Christine has traditionally held interviews with the client schools at the beginning of the year but she is now trialling holding them at the end of the year. She had found that at the beginning of the year many of the teachers had only seen the students for two weeks and were not able to provide detailed information.
The interviews are also an opportunity to understand the technology projects and contexts at these schools. This will help Christine to provide continuity for students when they attend the technology centre.
Two schools have been interviewed so far using a series of focused questions. The information gathered at these interviews suggested there may be a limited focus on the technology curriculum at some schools. Christine plans to offer the client schools assistance with planning for learning in technology and with growing teachers’ technology curriculum knowledge.
In 2012, Paul Neveldsen, Phase 3 Beacon Practice facilitator, offered support, advice, and encouragement to the technology faculty staff.
The staff met intermittently on Tuesday evenings to explore curriculum components. Kathleen saw that this was one effective way of offering extra coaching on the curriculum outside of the busy teaching day. She notes, however, that the teachers gave up a lot of their own time to grow the technology programmes. She plans to investigate the possibility of incorporating some PLD initiatives during the school day.
Kathleen and Christine have seen a noticeable increase in teachers' and students' understandings.
Professional learning and development meetings with staff at the end of the year showed a significant growth in teacher confidence, with increased ability to contribute to conversations around curriculum concepts. Teachers will now consult with each other and reflect on their teaching strategies for the various indicators and components.
Teachers can see work processes being streamlined and the efficiencies gained from this.
Students now have clear outlines of the expected achievements. When asked, they have been very positive about the clarity of expectations.
Some of the initiatives staff are considering for next year include:
- streamlining their unit planning and determining a common approach to this
- using the Solo taxonomy developed by David Biggs to help improve students' ability to write in depth (this is a school-wide initiative)
- collecting exemplars of students' work to use for moderation within the department to ensure consistency in assessment
- exploring the possibility of collecting student evidence of understandings through filming
- developing further strategies to determine student retention of knowledge and using this to inform teaching
- collecting and using data on student achievement to inform teaching and learning
- working together to develop understandings of evidence, making judgements, and the depth and breadth of evidence necessary to meet indicators.
Senior technology classes run in textiles and digital technologies and are assessed against achievement standards. However, in the senior technology standards in food and in building and engineering, unit standards are used to assess the students' learning. In 2015, achievement standards will be introduced to give students access to merit and excellence grades.
There is a school-wide plan to bring enquiry learning to the forefront to support students. This will give the technology faculty a new framework within which to develop courses.
CAD and CAM will be expanded into more courses to increase students' awareness of these technologies. This will require PLD for all teachers of technology.