Long time, no post.
I must say this term has run away quickly…and there has been much to do, as per usual, at the start of a new year.
Just wanted to point out a couple of things that came my way this last week.
(1) The article Is Time Up for Ability Grouping? by Doug and Barbara Clarke in Curriculum Leadership journal dated March 7. It starts with “Our observations, conversations with teachers and students, and our reading of the research literature have convinced us that ability grouping in mathematics is a major impediment to the mathematical learning of students and their beliefs about themselves as mathematical thinkers. Any benefits which accrue from ability grouping are only to very high achievers. For average and low-attaining students, ability grouping has a largely negative effect, cognitively and affectively”
I have to say I was amazed – and somewhat distraught – at the number of teachers at the mathematics Summer School who vehemently supported ability grouping classes in their schools.
(2) The Independent Schools Queensland Briefings article from the Jan/Feb issue: Teachers Make a Difference – The Central Role of Teachers in Top-Performing schools. The abstract says: “The article considers three major texts that examine strategies to improve student performance. The first text is a recently published report by McKinsey and Co evaluating 25 national school systems. It found ‘no measurable improvements in standards of literacy or numeracy’ in England’s primary schools, despite extensive reform. It also found that the charter school movement in the USA has significantly improved only ‘the best schools’. Across OECD countries, reductions in class sizes were found to have raised results only in very early grades. Three characteristics distinguished school education in top-performing countries. The first was the deliberate attraction of high-quality candidates to teaching. Top-performing systems limit the number of places available in teaching courses. As well as controlling the quality of applicants this measure makes the profession more appealing to high-performers by reducing struggle over jobs. It also raises the status of the profession, attracting further strong candidates. Strategies found to attract high-quality candidates to teaching included good starting salaries, measures to encourage non-teaching graduates into the profession, measures to remove low-performing teachers from the classroom, corporate marketing and recruitment techniques, and exacting entrance requirements for teaching courses. The second characteristic of top-performing systems was high-quality instruction of teachers and student teachers. Measures included ‘moving teacher training to the classroom’, coaching existing teachers, ‘enabling teachers to learn from each other’, helping teachers recognise their own weaknesses and general mindset, modelling best practice in real classroom settings, and using measures beyond material incentives to motivate teachers. Thirdly, the top education systems ensured close attention to individual students’ learning, including early identification and quick responses to learning problems, setting high expectations, focusing on numeracy and literacy, and establishing effective ways to evaluate schools and systems. The second text reviewed is an article by Brian Caldwell in the Sydney Morning Herald December 2007, proposing ways to implement the McKinsey recommendations in Australia. The third text is a paper by John Hattie given at the 2003 ACER Research Conference, presenting research evidence on the nature of excellent teaching based on a very extensive synthesis of education studies. The article includes a table ranking the effect size of different influences on student learning”
I briefly blogged about John Hattie in a previous post about my Summer School experiences and how impressed I was by both his presentation AND the knowledge contained within it.
Spread the word – the more people that read these, the better outcomes for our students.