Sunday, 16 June 2019

We Like to Move It, Move It!

As we are adapting our Junior courses into an integrated curriculum next year, we also need to consider how we are going to adapt our methods of assessment. Rather than giving students grades that are inconsistent across departments and within departments based off of Achieved, Merit or Excellence (which can be subjective even with a marking criteria), another major shift next year will be assessing students based off of levels of the New Zealand Curriculum. This is going to be a challenge for us, and for the students, especially when we are going to need to design the rubrics for these levels for each of our integrated units!

As practice for this method of assessment, this term we utilised the NZC levels to assess our Year 9 Movement Education unit. The purpose of this unit is to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones and to learn some new skills for dance, gymnastics and parkour. This new method of assessment the students are unfamiliar with, hence we started by co-constructing what these levels actually looked like in action, see pictures below. 

Once we had discussed these levels and the purpose of the unit, I asked my students to select one emoji to represent them throughout the term. We regularly had mini discussions about what level the students thought they had been demonstrating throughout the lessons and why. In addition, students moved their emoji to the self assessed level. See alongside the progressions from the beginning of the unit to the end of the unit - it's interesting to see how many students fluctuated, but also great to see so many students sitting at or above the expected level of a Year 9 student!

This method of assessment definitely required some more prep, and a more conscious effort to embed within the teaching and learning, but I think was a great way to have more consistency of grading and also students had more understanding of the why and how. I enjoyed discussing with students why they were moving (or not) their emoji, because most of them were able to give detailed responses related to their demonstrations, with examples. 

Some stand out comments from some of my students about the overall unit include the following;

"I think it is a very good thing to do it has definitely helped my confidence and it was heaps of fun once I got into it."

"I learnt a lot of new skills and things I couldn't do and I learnt that if you commit to something you can most likely do it."

"The dancing impacted me because it pushed me out of my own comfort zone to try something new and kind of scary. I don't enjoying doing dances in front of other people but it wasn't that bad once I was doing it with my friends."

"My main challenges were in the parkour where I was not getting too involved in the whole thing only one part of it but I thought I should give it a go so I could get up a level and try to enjoy it more and doing that helped a lot."

Moving forward into our next unit which will also use this method of assessment, I would like to have more discussions with students throughout the lessons, rather than just at the end when they are moving their emojis. I found this time I was only able to talk to each student once or twice throughout the unit, and obviously the more often, the greater students can demonstrate their understanding. I think that this is important, as next year we will have 75 students to assess against the NZC levels, rather than about 25. Additionally, I have previously learnt that gamification is a tool which many students positively react to - so I think I need to refer to moving up levels more often as a challenge for students to reach (as the last student voice has suggested).

Thursday, 23 May 2019

2020: Some Sort of Structure

As blogged earlier in the year, in 2020 our school is moving into an integrated timetable for Years 9 and 10. Over the last couple of months we have been working in our groups to start to develop some ideas/concepts/unit designs. The 16 groups/units have different topics and an overarching value of the curriculum as the focus. Our value is respect and the overall topic of our unit will be sexuality education, integrating with English, Media and Digital Technology.

I am really excited by the changes because I believe it is great for the students but also great for us as staff. We are starting to learn a lot more about the achievement objectives from our curriculum, but also from other strands/subjects of the curriculum. I love to learn, so gaining new knowledge is a major benefit for me. 

I do feel though, it is a lot harder than expected. There is a lot of thought, research, discussion and work to put into creating these integrated units. Working alongside 5 other teachers, all with different agendas, different personalities and different experiences makes for rich, insightful and creative discussions, but also makes it difficult to come to a conclusion on where we are heading. Fortunately, we have a responsive group, and school is providing time for us to develop these units. 

Last term, our group were relieved for 3 periods to have a decent chunk of time to get our brains ticking about our unit. The below picture demonstrates where we finished after this 3 hour period. Essentially, there are 4 subtopics (Hāuora, Pubertal Changes, Communication and Safe Relationships) which will be modules for students to complete over the first 4-5 weeks, and once these are complete the students will create a project (TBC).

We decided to have modules because we believed there were some specific skills and content knowledge we wanted students to have the understanding of and ability to demonstrate before pursuing their own projects. Each module will have a series of rewindable learning resources and tasks for students to access and complete at their own pace, with a mixture of skills/knowledge from the 3 curriculum strands. Once they are comfortable with the skills/knowledge from one module, we envisage some sort of formative assessment such as a video creation, interview with the teacher or mini presentation to demonstrate their understanding. From there, the student can move onto the next module until they have completed all four. This structure will enable students to learn at their own pace and give choice in what resources/tasks they would like to complete within their set module (2 key parts of Ako Orewa).

A large change to accompany these integrated projects from what we currently do, is assessing students based off levels of the curriculum. So rather than give a child a grade of NA, A, M or E, their grades will directly reflect the level of the curriculum they are working at, related to specific achievement objectives next year (Levels 2-6). Currently in Year 9 PE we are trialling this way of assessing - I plan to blog about this in a few weeks. 

So, once the student has completed their 4 modules, the teachers (there will be 3 teachers with 75 students) will then discuss and determine whether the student is meeting the expected level of the curriculum, based off of what they have completed throughout the modules. If they are meeting/above the standard, they are then able to design their own projects. If the student is below the standard, the student will revisit modules where they are a lower level in their skill development or demonstrations for one week. After this week, they then may design their own project, or be supported in a more teacher directed project with options to choose from. We hope that this timeline will support students sitting at all levels of the curriculum to be successful, and especially not allow some students to fall through the cracks or some not to be challenged.

Kayleigh, one of our awesome group members, used the sticky note timeline, to then create the below digital version of this draft unit outline (which we will keep adding to/adapting).

Moving forward, we have a Teacher Only Day next Friday to continue to develop our ideas. Until this week we thought our unit was going to be for 9 weeks, however this has now changed to 18 weeks. Clearly this means a lot more brainstorming, planning and creating to be done, but also means a lot deeper learning within the unit than before for our students. Thus, the TOD will be a great opportunity to regroup and delve back into where we ended up after our 3 hours together! Watch this space...