Category Archives: Student outcomes

Know your stuff – the importance of depth of subject knowledge

Brainy School Kid Reading A Book

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Today’s teacher is pulled in many directions – from the focus on teaching the curriculum, to results and endless paperwork.  Where is the time for keeping yourself up to date and developing a true depth of knowledge in your subject area?  And why should you bother?

Here is what some of our presenters think:

1.  Greater teacher confidence

Greater knowledge of your own subject area is generally linked with greater teacher confidence – and job satisfaction.   Dr Karen Lambert, Lecturer in PDHPE at The University of Sydney offers advice to teachers in the early years.  “Master your subject area and get even better at it.  Mastery is very important.  It is important to see you are good at your subject area.  And also to know you will get better and better as you go.”

2.  Better student engagement

“The world has changed.  The quality of what we teach and the way we teach needs to be different if we want to engage all our students,” says Anita Chin, maths teacher and consultant working in schools across Australia and New Zealand.

“What students value has changed…Knowing specialist content for your subject area and knowing your students [will help] to engage your students.”

3.  Improve student outcomes

Student outcomes will always benefit from teachers’ own depth of knowledge.  “In my experience,” notes Ken Webb, History and English HSC teacher and TTA presenter, “kids feel confident if their teacher knows what they are talking about.  There is no short cut – you need to read and research yourself.”

“If teachers don’t know the content in depth, in terms of developmental teaching sequencing, they can’t cater as well to the wide range of needs in any classroom,” says Anita Chin.

In the middle years, for example “…the challenge for high school teachers is that they need to know primary content and be able to go back [if students have gaps]…and ask how do I implement primary content in a high school content.”

How to achieve deeper subject knowledge

  1. Collaborate and draw on the knowledge around you.  There will be a wealth of knowledge in your own staffroom.
  2. Ensure that at least some of your professional development is centred on your own subject area, particularly for those teaching in secondary schools.
  3. Change your focus.  If you are doing too much of the hard classroom work yourself, is the balance right?  Can you work smarter not harder?

 

“The people who should be working hardest in any classroom are the students,” are Darryn Kruse’s wise words.   Darryn is the Principal of Williamstown High School, history teacher and expert in the area of the Inquiry Classroom.

“As a primary teacher – we don’t specialise but rather work across lots of areas so it is about connectivity.  It is about teaching literacy and numeracy within the context of say history.  So as primary teachers we need a deep understand of how things are connected… of how learning happens…Content is important but the pedagogy should come first,”  argues Jo Blannin, ICT specialist and primary teacher.

And finally, a message for leaders:  teachers need the time and space away from their classroom commitments in order to continually keep their subject knowledge up to date.  How about Ken Webb’s idea? Allow teachers to get out of the classroom for periods of time – perhaps in the form of a sabbatical in another school – so they can add significant value for themselves and other teachers.

 

To read more about these presenters and the courses they offer, visit their profile page on the TTA website: Darryn Kruse, Anita Chin, Ken Webb, Joanne Blannin, Kery O’Neill, Karen Lambert

TTA offers over 300 fully accredited, high quality practical professional development courses for teachers, delivered by over 200 experienced presenters across Australia via face to face or online.  www.tta.edu.au

Improving student outcomes (Part 2)

studentsWe asked 6 of our presenters, what they believe are the most important elements for improving student outcomes.  In the second part of this blog post, we here from our other 3 interviewees, all experienced classroom teachers and TTA presenters:

 

Ken Webb

Stage 6 teacher, Government and Independent schools in Modern, Ancient and Extension History. Senior marker for the NSW HSC, Member of the Independent Schools Examination Committee. Highly regarded author of History texts and Study Guides Australia wide.

In Stage 6, what has always worked for me is to focus on general planning and organisation.

For example, map out every lesson of the year.  Start by knowing exactly how many lessons you have in a year, the topics, number of lessons per topic, how many lessons will be personal research, how many will be video and so on.

You can also be spontaneous; but being anal about planning means that you can ensure variety in your teaching – and that helps kids.

And talk to people – share ideas…you will pick up great ideas – sometimes quite simple ones.

 

Anita Chin

Mathematics Consultant, K-8, across Australia and the USA.  Secondary teacher. Lecturer The University of Sydney.

For maths, the starting point is improving teachers’ knowledge of the content.

Student’s results will naturally improve if teachers better understand how the curriculum fits together across the years, because in any classroom students will span.

This is particularly evident in the middle years, where it is common for children’s learning to regress or appear that way, for example, with fractions and algebra.  In some Year 7 classrooms, only ½ the class will be learning at a Year 7 level.

Student outcomes could be improved if primary teachers had a better understanding of where students are coming from and going to – for example a year 5 teacher needs to know Year 3 and 4 content, as well as the content for Years 5,6 and 7.  Student outcomes would also be improved if secondary teachers had a better understanding of the Stage 2 and 3 curriculum.

 

Darryn Kruse

Principal and teacher at Williamstown High School, Victoria.  Teacher of history, social education and English Years 7 – 12.  Widely published author in the area of The Inquiry Classroom.  Experience teaching across Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and USA from Year 3 to university level.

  1. Understand individual learning goals for students
  2. Have a never-ending focus on growth; not merely completing tasks
  3. Ensure opportunities for students to discuss and throw out new ideas, to make mistakes and to take risks with learning in order to refine their ideas.  Mistakes are really good.  They are gateways to learning and growth if followed by reflection.
  4. Provide opportunities for students to reflect and synthesise new material, so they connect prior knowledge with new understandings

 

To read more about these presenters and the courses they offer, visit their profile page on the TTA website: Darryn Kruse, Anita Chin, Ken Webb

TTA offers ver 300 fully accredited, high quality practical professional development courses for teachers, delivered by over 200 experienced presenters across Australia via face to face or online.  www.tta.edu.au

Improving student outcomes (Part 1)

kids in huddleWe asked 6 of our presenters, what they believe are the most important elements for improving student outcomes.  Here are their answers:

 

Joanne Blannin

Primary Teacher in France, England, America and Australia.  ICT Coordinator, Laburnum Primary School, Victoria and currently undertaking a Doctorate of Education focusing on the use of ICT in education

The research shows that engagement is the most important key to a student’s success.

Students may be motivated to win a sticker or prize but that is not enough.  Teachers need to find tools that are engaging and that deepen the learning.  Examples include online quizzes or blogs with a share and comment function.  These are engaging for students and therefore achieve outcomes although the topics discussed are not that different.

 

Kery O’Neill

Veterinary surgeon. Research scientist. Science educator at primary, secondary, tertiary and community levels. Post Graduate Certification in Brain Based Training.  Previously a Senior Biology Teacher and HSC marker.

Know the children in your class well and work with their wellbeing.

  1. Keep in mind the big picture and help students to see and understand what the big picture looks like for them.
  2. Take the time to understand why education is important for the individual students you teach, and help students to see and treat education as a gift not a punishment

 

Dr Karen Lambert

Lecturer in Human Movement and Health Education, University of Sydney, HSC marker, PDHPE Specialist

Learners will have better outcomes when students have greater control over their learning and they are inspired with it.  For me, the key elements are:

  1. Engagement and connection
  2. Variety and creativity
  3. Authenticity
  4. Transmitting inspiration and motivation for learning.

 

Look out for Part 2 of this article with comments from 3 other highly respected educators.

To read more about these presenters and the courses they offer, visit their profile page on the TTA website: Joanne Blannin, Kery Neill, Karen Lambert

TTA offers ver 300 fully accredited, high quality practical professional development courses for teachers, delivered by over 200 experienced presenters across Australia via face to face or online.  www.tta.edu.au