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In last week’s Calling I spoke of the College’s pedagogical framework, which is Dr Robert Marzano’s The Art and Science of Teaching. This was a focus in 2015 and will continue into 2016. Last year we implemented Design Question 1, which required us to set clear Learning Goals for all work studied. It also involved using student results or data to track student performance. This will continue in 2016.

The logical extension of Design Question 1 for St Patrick’s in 2016, are Design Questions 2 and 3:

Design Question 2 is titled:

What will I do to help students effectively interact with new knowledge?

Delivering new knowledge does not seem to be an issue. Developing an understanding of this knowledge does appear to be problematic. As such, our focus on data analysis in 2016, leads logically into Design Question 3.

What will I do to help students practise and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?

As such, our curriculum focus for 2016, will constitute an analysis of data regarding student performance in both internal and external assessment, where we will utilise the criteria contained in The Art and Science of Teaching Design Question 3. In so doing, particular attention will be paid to the following Elements:

  • 14. Reviewing content
  • 15. Organising students to practise and deepen knowledge
  • 16. Using homework
  • 18. Examining errors in reasoning
  • 19. Practising skills, strategies and processes
  • 20. Revising knowledge

Design Question 3

What will I do to help students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?

This Design Question allows us as educators to work with students in order to develop the initial understanding gained from the activities to assist with the interaction of new knowledge (as per Design Question 2). An initial understanding of content will not suffice in the pursuit of the long term retention and use of knowledge. Unless students are provided with opportunities to practise new skills and deepen their understanding of new information, knowledge that students initially understand will not be retained.

Providing students and classes with opportunities to develop new skills or ways of thinking is the key to developing this Design Question. Our objective through Design Question 3 is to create a new awareness, through repeated exposure to knowledge.

Repeated exposure to knowledge relates to reviewing and revision. Marzano’s research contends that students require approximately four exposures to new informational knowledge in order to integrate it successfully. These exposures should have no more than a two day gap. The Art and Science of Teaching suggests using different types of activities to develop declarative knowledge. The first activity is that of revision. Over time, with extended exposure, the learner adds to his knowledge base. To be successful, such exposure requires structure and guidance. Students add new information to the topic, correct errors and clarify distinctions.

One of the most effective methods of ensuring quality revision is through the implementation of homework. Our 2015 staff survey on homework indicated that teachers supported the importance of a regular setting of homework. Departmental areas will work on updating their own homework policies in 2016.

I have included below some of the information presented on homework in The Art and Science of Teaching.

  • “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence at hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement” (Cooper, Robinson and Patall 2006)
  • Time spent is not the most important factor. Small amounts of well-structured homework may produce a positive effect
  • One – two hours per night after which the benefits decreased
  • Seven – twelve hours per week produced the largest effect
  • The total amount should not become inordinate. Requires coordination among teachers.
  • Parents are provided with clear guidelines to their role
  • Parents are not expected to act as experts regarding content
  • Parents ask clarifying questions that help students summarise what they have learned.
  • Set tasks which require students to show or explain their work to parents
  • Interview parents to gain opinions or information relating to parental experience.
  • Homework should be structured to ensure high completion rates
  • It is not the time rather the quality of the homework that is important
  • The younger the student the less homework.
  • The amount of homework should not become a burden to parents and students
  • Homework should have a well-articulated purpose- e.g. it is a means of effective revision.

I will talk more about the ASOT Framework in next week’s Calling.

Mr Chris Campbell - Dean of Teaching and Learning