Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Associate & Student Teachers - Partners in Growth

Last term I was an Associate Teacher for a student teacher for 4 weeks. Because of being involved with the MDTA, I was observed and given feedback regularly. As a result I feel I grew quite quickly and gained confidence in my practice and my appreciation and ability to use criticism/feedback to grow. I was excited to have a student teacher because this was a great opportunity to continue to grow, as well as reflect on how far I have come in 3 and a bit years. 

I feel, like a student teacher, I was completely thrown in the deep end as I was given no 'how-to' guide or suggestions of how to actually be an AT. Of course this has disadvantages, but I tried to embrace it. Using the information from the university handbook and discussions with my student teacher, I feel I did pretty well to support him in his first placement, even though he was only with me for one Senior class. He had already identified goals for himself, and had actually already taught a couple of years overseas, so we decided straight away he would join me in the deep end quite quickly - this is something upon reflection he said he was grateful for, to just get in there as soon as possible and actually teach. This was something I also appreciated when I was a student teacher - AT's who essentially handed their classes over but were supportive in the process.

He also said he appreciated the honest feedback and feedforward I gave him. After each of his lessons I took time to comment on his strengths and identified possible work ons. I felt proud when he took the feedback on board and strengthened both his strengths and weaknesses in future lessons. If I were to have a student teacher again, I would like to have these post lesson discussions as more of a conversation. I feel I could have facilitated a conversation, by asking probing questions to encourage further reflection, rather than the student teacher listing their strengths/work ons and then me doing the same. Next time, I would like to guide the student teacher to consider additional work ons than they initially identified and then we could discuss how and why that area could be adapted (as opposed to me describing how and why). 

I think only being with him for one class was quite difficult, as this meant we didn't have many opportunities for conversations unless they were planned. Having more time with a student teacher would have supported me to give feedback on their growth, see them teach in different lights, as well as further possible impromptu conversations. I also think it would have supported the student teacher to develop a closer relationship with their AT, which may have encouraged more open/honest questions and discussion.

Observing his teaching really made me notice everything I have learnt along my journey so far. Things I take for granted that I consider naturally, and have forgotten that I do (albeit how well!). Transition times between activities, the use of open ended questions, and the use of student names for instance. The biggest thing I realised, was the understanding about and of NCEA I have - I should have spent more time explaining what NCEA actually is, and the importance of assessments and hand in protocols for example (I certainly did not understand any of this information as a first year teacher!). I certainly still have a long way to go as a teacher myself, but having a student teacher increased my confidence in my own growth and was a great reminder of some of the basics. I can't wait to have another in the future to support this growth further, and not to mention learn further activity ideas and resources!

Friday, 19 April 2019

Student Data - More Than A Summative Grade

In addition to my goal of wanting to increase connections with whānau, another goal this year (and my inquiry), is to reflect more regularly on student achievement and data within my practice. This is something that was discussed in my end of 2018 appraisal, as well as my first term appraisal this year.

A couple of simple things I have already implemented are checkpoints for my Year 12 Health class and offering lunchtime tutorials. The checkpoints have definitely helped so far to hold students accountable, but to also start discussions with them about how they are going and where they are heading next. I have been able to make time for each student individually to support them, but also to contact home if I am concerned they are falling behind (although not positive connections with home, still more connections than last year). I have offered 2 lunchtime tutorials for my Year 11s and 2 for my Year 12s, but only one student has shown up so far. At the end of the day though, I am trying to encourage students to take more responsibility for their learning and be self managed, and many seek help from me outside of school hours through emails and Google Doc comments for instance. I will continue to offer these tutorials, so I know I have offered the time if students need additional help.

To support my inquiry, I have attended a webinar on data to support teaching as inquiry (hosted by Darcy Fawcett and The Education Hub), watched this seminar about data to improve teacher practice (Dr Aaron Wilson and The Education Hub) and read this blogpost by My Study Series about how to best utilise the flipped learning platform (have used with 11PE so far and will use with 13PE next term). I have some thoughts after reading/watching these sources of information.

Using data to inform teacher practice is useful, is important, is pertinent. BUT, we must ask ourselves whether the learning is relevant and authentic. Are the children actually learning? Their test results may be high, but are there valuable learning experiences? Finally, are you judging your teacher effectiveness (or other teachers' effectiveness) based off their academic results? 

Throughout my dissertation, and Aaron reminded me in the seminar, that data does not just have to be related to academic results, does not have to be quantitative (we can use other sources of data, not just academic results). I am guilty though, as are many others, of feeling disappointed that we haven't given our best, and responsible when our results aren't as high as we had hoped. I had a discussion with another teacher last week about grades, and they said they were embarrassed when they had lots of students with the grade 'Not Achieved'. Though it may be difficult to see low academic results, the important thing to ask ourselves is 'did we do everything we could to help this student achieve?' 

Aaron discussed the importance of not just comparing the mean result though, because it may not be an accurate comparison. The bar graphs below show two sets of classes and student results. When the means of the two sets were compared, they were near identical, but it is clear in these graphs there is a considerable difference in individual  student results. Therefore I will need to reflect on students' results like this when comparing 2018 and 2019 results, not just the overall mean.

In addition to the quantitative achievement levels of students, when seeking/collecting/analysing data, we should be considering student progress. Students may be making significant progress but achieving poorly, or may be making little progress but achieving highly. Hence the importance of checkpoints, feedback opportunities, one to one conversations, and other forms of qualitative data. Moving forward I need to be completing more of the aforementioned, as well as providing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge, to relate their learning to other contexts, to utilise learning most relevant to them and to discuss their learning and ideas with others. These will provide opportunities for me to 'collect' informal data, and formatively assess student progress.

As previously blogged about, at Orewa registered teachers do not complete teacher observations, but instead complete Ako observations (which are essentially conversations with students about their learning journey in that class). Aaron identified, as can be seen alongside, some of the problems with completing teacher observations. These are some of the reasons why I value the Ako observations, as I feel they are more authentic and we don't go in with any preconceived ideas or judgements. I did not have anyone come into any of my classes to complete an Ako observation last year, which was disappointing, so hopefully I have some this year as I believe it would be invaluable qualitative data to have the student voice to reflect on.

I have a lot to continue to reflect on and look out for as identified throughout this post. If you are interested to learn further about data in teacher practice, I do recommend watching Aaron's seminar.