Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Student Success in Sexuality Standard: Small Steps

From the 2018 Year 12 Health students, there was lots of feedback around workload for assessments. Many found there was a significant amount to do, and as a result some became demotivated. This was particularly evident in the Sexuality and Gender assessment, because many students did not hand in the assessment at all, or did not complete it (reducing their potential grade), and this was mentioned several times in the end of year feedback.

The assessment had 3 tasks in 2018. 3 tasks that required lots of evidence to support their explanations. SO. MUCH. MARKING. Using student feedback, and my desire to decrease teacher workload too, this year I reduced the assessment to 2 tasks, with less questions than previously. I cannot recall actually creating an assessment task before, aside from during uni, but by using examples from other schools, TKI, and NZQA exemplars/clarifications, I felt confident the students had the potential to meet any levels of achievement to demonstrate their learning, even with less than 2/3 of what they were previously asked to do. As a safety barrier, and a confidence booster, I asked Rachael Dixon from NZHEA to have a read through, to double check the task was suitable before the final step of the standard moderation process. 

Not surprisingly, there was an increase in the number of submission of assessments, as well as the motivation to complete the assessment tasks this year. With less to do, and the same amount of time (as well as emphasising they were lucky to have 2 tasks instead of 3), I feel overall the reduction of workload for the assessment made a positive difference. This is from my own interactions with students; the conversations I have with them, as well as as the below data (see another post with data/results comparison here). 


There has been a considerable increase in the amount of students who are passing with an Achieved, rather than Not Achieving when compared to last year. This is a win for me! The next step is to increase depth of understanding to encourage more students to achieve with Merit or an Excellence. To do so, I would like to spend time getting students to mark exemplars from previous years, and justifying why they gave that mark with the marking criteria. I didn't do this in class for gender and sexuality this year, but I did do peer marking with a practice scenario (the kids struggled grading their peers though, in case they hurt each other's feelings). Students marked and justified grades for the external, and were really engaged, as well as accurate with their grades and justifications, so I think this may help with understanding of what to do to meet each level of achievement for the gender and sexuality assessment next year.

Interestingly, when I compare the feedback from 2018 students to 2019 students, majority of students said their favourite topic and assessment was gender and sexuality last year, but this year the favourite topic was spread evenly across the 4 units/assessments. So even though many rated the unit lower for enjoyment than last year, there was still a greater pass rate. I'm looking forward to seeing next year how the cohort engage with the content, and seeing whether the results continue to grow!

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Behaviour Management: Conversation Over Confrontation

Late last term, Adam reminded us of the importance of attempting restorative conversations. These are a behaviour management strategy, which focuses on the repair and rebuild of relationships, as opposed to a punitive approach. The aim of developing confidence to create restorative chats with students, is for the students to gain closer connections with others and become more empathetic and aware of others thoughts, values, feelings, decisions. 

Learning how to hold a restorative conversation, and practicing how to complete them, are important for the future of the student's relationship with you and others, but also their long term behaviour. I leant a lot about these conversations at Tamaki (see here and here), but as I was so new to teaching, I found these conversations very difficult. Throughout this year I have been attempting to have more, because I think they are significantly more beneficial for the student's learning than punitive measures like writing lines and detentions (which I unfortunately still give, as they are part of the school system!), because the students are likely to learn more from a personal, honest chat as opposed to copying words onto a page or a confrontational grilling!

I decided to write this post late last term, when Adam asked the department if we are open to learning. If we are open to discuss the things we are challenged by or things that are not working. It is of course much easier to write a post about things that are going amazing, but we are obviously more likely to learn from reflecting on and thinking about the not-so amazing stuff. For me, two  things I am struggling with are having these conversations with students, but also having challenging chats with my colleagues (I plan to read a lot more about the latter and write a post in a few weeks).

The most recent attempt I had at a restorative chat was with a Year 9 student late last term. This student had repeatedly been disruptive throughout the lesson, disrespected others and was not getting involved the activities. After several reminders of how to talk to others, he threw a racquet forcefully at the ground for his own entertainment. By that point I'd had enough, and asked him to sit out. He went and sat on a chair a few metres away from the class game and a couple of minutes later I sat on the floor in front of him. I attempted to maintain the WARM layout for the conversation (as previously linked and alongside), and keep a calm voice. He was able to explain to me what'd happened throughout the lesson and who may have been affected by some of his decisions. He agreed that these needed to change. What actually emerged from the conversation was that his mum was really sick, and it was unexpected. He was angry about this. Why did his Mum need to get sick? Why couldn't he help her? So every time he was bugged by someone or something, that was pushing him closer and closer to the edge. We both felt a lot better after our discussion because he knew that I was more understanding of how his actions came about, and he was more understanding of how some of his behaviours were unacceptable. Moving forward, I hope to see more positive choices from him, to see whether this conversation did have an impact on him!


I watched the above Ted Talk which explores restoratives practices to resolve conflict and build relationships. Some of the key points I took away from the talk were;
- Students may not understand what they have done is incorrect or wrong, so it is important we educate them about why it is not ok. If they don't understand why it isn't, the behaviour may reoccur.
- Katy used a 'time in' instead of a 'time out' - when students were deemed as 'misbehaving', instead of sending them out of the class, she had designated a 'time in' zone, where she asks the students to go, to then have a chat with them.
- Before having the conversations, consider how whatever had happened leading to the chat, and the chat included, could have actually contributed positively to the future.
- Be honest and empathetic
- Understand why the restorative conversations are important in the bigger picture.
- Use I statements rather then saying You, to avoid blaming or accusing.
- Consider and attempt a discussion about why the student made the decision(s) they did - what is going on in their lives, did anything possibly trigger it etc.
- But also avoiding the use of the word why when possible
- Talk with the student, not at them!