For some time now, I have been writing about the College’s Curriculum Framework, The Art and Science of Teaching (ASOT), where our focus lies firmly upon the pedagogical practices behind the way we teach at St Patrick's. Put simply, ASOTprovides direction and insight into how we present our lessons.

Last week, I addressed the teaching staff about an important section of the Framework, which will be a continued focus throughout 2016. This was ASOT’s Design Question 3 (I have written in previous articles, that there are nine key Design Questions in ASOT). This question challenges teachers to think about ways they will assist students to deepen their understanding of new knowledge.

When it comes to students working with new material for the first time, the easiest part of this process is to present the material. This could be done by showing a short film, or using a PowerPoint. A teacher could give out an article to read or refer students to an activity in a text book. But what if, after doing this, the student does not understand the work? In some cases the student may need to apply himself with more intensity. However, this is not always the reason for under-performance.

I am sure most parents could relay an encounter with their son, where no matter how hard he tried, he just wasn’t grasping key concepts. As such, ASOT’s Design Question 3 is an essential tool in any educator’s kit. In designing units of study the effective educator is aware that presenting a PowerPoint or providing a detailed board summary may only be a first step in a long journey. It is this challenge that will concern staff throughout the remainder of 2016.

One of the most important ways of laying a foundation when it comes to providing new information to students is in the type and frequency of delivery. ASOT argues that a student requires at least four different exposures to a new concept, before there is any real chance of the idea being cemented into his mind. This is an important step and is one that parents can assist with at home. If for example a teacher is introducing a History unit on the causes of the First World War and shows a class a PowerPoint that day, it would then make sense for students to look for other ways of accessing the same information. This could include going online and watching a YouTube clip or accessing the “Lib Guides”, which is a section on the College website containing data bases that provide information on a topic. I could also include going to the text book and reading the chapter summarised in the original PowerPoint or having a conversation at home if the topic is something that parents or older brothers and sisters know about. The information may be the same, but the exposure to it in different ways is the key.

Assessment tasks often require students to think and work at a cognitively high level. Tasks will ask students to evaluate, or create. Activities in class will require students to develop these skills. The first step is a clear definition so that the students know what a term means. The second is to immerse the class in smaller activities that allow the teacher and class to practise so that they develop a level of understanding.

This week we had our first parent/teacher meeting of the year. There will be a second evening next term as well. If your son is experiencing difficulty understanding his school work, it is important to contact his teacher as soon as possible.

Mr Chris Campbell - Dean of Teaching and Learning