On the couch with Professor John Hattie

Today our team read and discussed an article on the AITSL website where Professor John Hattie was on the couch discussing his first 100 days as AITSL Chairman.

After reading his responses about helping practising teachers to increase their impact on student learning at a large scale, I started to think about how we as a school are working across levels to implement best practice. John Hattie went on to say  that

‘Teachers must be supported to implement practices that have been shown to improve teaching – evaluating their impact, seeking feedback about their practices, working together, and engaging in effective professional learning.’

In the junior levels we have been working hard to ensure that we are implementing the WLA approach as best as we can however I think the whole school needs to be involved in a conversation about how the learning experience in Investigations is helping or hindering our students as they move up the school. We know that the WLA has been proven to help student learning but is it the best way we can positively impact our students? I know as a 1/2 team we have been discussing whether it is effective for all our students and trying to weigh up the positives and negatives. It would be interesting to take John’s idea as working as a team to our school and look at a whole school approach and work in teams to create a cross-level plan of learning and student expectations for each new year.

What have we found?

Our Question:

Will developing our provocations help children become more engaged and motivated in their own learning.

What have I found out?

As I only started my PARTS project  seven weeks ago I feel as though I am still figuring out the big idea of Investigations. In terms of provocations though I have found that not all students are using them effectively and deepening their learning. Through our discussions we looked at how this may be due to every child being at different developmental stages. We can still engage every student in the provocations by using those who do use them effectively as freebies, sharing their thinking and investigating strategies with the others.

I have also found out that a provocation can be just about anything as long as it has clear purpose and is placed in a way that will spark a child’s curiosity. Through our project we have included provocations such as ‘You Can Do It’ puppets, dice, books, planners and most importantly teacher questioning. I think working together on developing provocations definitely made a difference to how engaging they were as we able to brainstorm what would work and how it should be placed as a team.

What’s next?

Hopefully next will be starting to put regular routines in place in terms of working together to help to make the Statement of Intent, learning spaces and provocation planning easier and more effective. For the students, I would like to push their thinking deeper still by consistently adding purposeful provocations and challenges to each area so they are encouraged further to investigate and explore. By doing this I would hope that they are still working with past learning intentions as well as the new focuses. I think in the future for me personally I want to focus on getting to know the whole Walker Learning Approach better so that I can better understand how the children will best be engaged.

What else?

Following up from last week and our lists of classroom provocations, today we met to walk through each room to discuss what provocations we actively put in certain areas and possible ideas for further inclusions. We also discussed the idea of including a provocation basket in our rooms, packed with resources that we can easily pull out during tuning in and reflection time. That way we have easy access to resources and can inspire the children to take up the provocations. We are hoping that this will build links between Investigations and our formal learning. For example if a student wanted to research bugs we could reach into the basket and pull out a report planner that they could record their information on and discuss how they could then develop a report to share with the class.  Tanya and I worked on building up our baskets today and will begin to trial it in investigations tomorrow.

As a follow up from solo taxonomy I have also started to discuss with my students the concept of red, yellow and green thinking. They have picked up the idea quickly and can see that green thinking is a deeper level that builds connections to other areas and involves teaching others, creating and innovating. I will continue to work on developing the language and working with the focus students to stretch their thinking to the next level.

What’s up next?

This week we were working on creating a list of new provocations to match our week 7 and 8 planners. Working together, using Google Drive, we were able to create a list of linking AUSVEL content and the parallel learning intentions and success criteria. Using that we created a list of provocations for each of our investigation areas. In maths, for example, our Intention is to develop a deeper understanding of 2D and 3D shapes. Using this as a prompt we will place different shaped cookie cutters for play dough to allow the children to engage with different shapes. These provocations should also help to guide our reflections with the children as we can draw their attention to the shapes they have used and their features. Our next step we be  adding these provocations to our investigation areas in a way that will engage the students

Creative Thinking

This week I have been thinking about Solo Taxonomy and how we could use that form of thinking to help our 1/2s in Investigations. Through the couple of weeks I have been working with Provocations we have seen that not many of the students are developmentally ready to use the provocations effectively. Tanya has said that while she can see her children aren’t using the provocations they are still engaging in learning that interests them and so she isn’t worried about forcing the provocations. Having thought about this and after Sophie Murphy’s presentation about Solo Taxonomy I started thinking about new ways we could encourage deeper thinking and learning in Investigations, without having to push the provocations.

The idea of including red, yellow and green levels of thinking is one that I think my students could pick up and run with in Investigations. The language involved in this ‘traffic light’ model is easier than using the formal language and allows children to start to think about where their thinking is as well as how they could work towards the next level. Hopefully through these conversations we can also encourage our students to use the provocations to get them to that next level of thinking. This would also allow us to follow the advice from Yong Zhoo about allowing our children to create and explore their unique differences rather than always focus on the curriculum or the set learning intentions.

Fitting it all in!

This week our team discussed how well we are reaching our students through implicit teaching in literacy and numeracy. After looking at the ACARA standards for teaching and learning time in these areas we felt that with Investigations taking up so much of the morning block we weren’t fitting in as much as we thought. With this in mind we revisited our timetable and began to throw around some ideas of how we could better spend our time teaching implicitly. We decided that we needed to work towards  a model of Investigations that would best suit the needs of our children rather than one that fit perfectly with Kathy’s model. We discussed how their developmental stages can affect engagement in investigations and whether this can impact on the students use of provocations. After talking to Christine also about some of our concerns she helped us to see that we need to monitor how many of our students we can see engaging with the provocations and decide if we believe the learning is worthwhile for the majority.

After lots of talking it through we decided that we would trial only doing investigations three times each week so that we can work towards a better literacy block that has clearer focuses and explicit teaching. Through the coming week we will monitor how the kids respond to the new timetable and groups. In my class also I want to discuss with the children how they can work towards being more focussed in Investigations.




Provocations: What are they?

This week we explored what ‘provocation’ really means. From reading Kathy Walkers, ‘Play Matters’ (2011), a provocation is shown as a tool that is placed with a learning area that relates to learning intentions and children’s interests. These include the developmental objective, target learning outcomes and the children’s or schools’ current events and interests. ‘Learning to Teach in the Primary School’ (edited by T Cremin & J Arthur, 2014) extends on this saying that it is vital that the teacher works towards including provocations that will excite students curiosity without needing teacher intervention. In comparison to this Jan, from Early Life, has said that she believes that a provocation is ‘something that a teacher uses to spark questions, interests, ideas, theories, discussion and debate.’ Through this definition she also shares that materials can include questions, media, resources or even the teachers themselves.

After doing some research on the term provocation we decided that it was broader than first thought and covers a range of materials. As a team we came up with the following definition:

‘A provocation is a tool that is intentionally placed in a learning space to engage and extend the child’s thinking’.

Setting up Provocations

Today was my first chance to work alongside our Level 2 team to set up some Provocations within our Investigation stations. We are working towards linking the learning intentions into each area. Coming in half way through the year I haven’t got a strong understanding of Walker Learning yet and so the opportunity to work alongside the others has allowed me to begin to build on my own learning.  Tanya has been working on including Fractions into her Dramatic play area while I am looking at including aspects of recounts and reports into our mini beasts And sensory area.