Teaching across the Band Levels

Written by Jesse King Charles Darwin University S193157

Teaching across the band levels Written by Jesse King Charles Darwin University S193157

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A Modern day classroom contains children from all walks of life. Some are privileged, some are not. Some are gifted and some need to work hard just to grasp the concept. In any classroom in Australia you would be hard pressed to find a year group of children who are all academic equals. As nature and environment would have it, children develop both physically and mentally at different stages in their life. It is only common sense to know that as a teacher in today¶s world you are going to be teaching across a broad range of levels within a group of twenty-five students. Teachers are required to engage students at the level their age and current curriculum document suggests they should be at, guide and extend gifted students and grow and nurture low-level achievers. It can be quite a juggling act. This essay will highlight the current problem in the Northern Territory of the broad range of learner ability and some strategies designed to assist the teacher in dealing with this current education dilemma.

Each State and Territory in Australia has a standard Curriculum Framework (CF). CF¶s contain the guidelines that schools and teachers must follow as set by their Department of Education. CF¶s detail the levels students should be achieving at, indicators to prove this, essential learning¶s that need to be developed and the progression in a student¶s school life from preschool to grade 12. One example is the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework (NTCF) which contains eight different stages in a child¶s development. Students are traditionally expected to progress through each level in the NTCF every two years. Students begin their school life at Key Growth Point 3 (KGP 3) Emerging and should finish Year 10 as Band 5 Solid.

Teaching across the band levels Written by Jesse King Charles Darwin University S193157

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With the current Australian Government investing in an ³Education Revolution´ a more standardised system is being developed. Brady and Kennedy (2009) argue that while government funding brings in more funds, it also creates more scrutiny. This is the reason for current standardised testing and the 2011 National Curriculum Framework that will be implemented into schools. Every school in Australia will be following the same framework and students will be tested against the same criteria the country over. This enables students learning to be monitored and compared nationally and creates more accountability for the school and ultimately the teacher.

Learning is an ability that is unique to each person. There are a plethora of learning theories that have been developed by scholars over the last century that aim to explain, describe and frame how people learn. Each classroom in Australia is going to have a mix of learning styles, with each individual student at different stages from the next. Currently, student reports often display three stages that students are achieving; achieving below expected level, achieving at expected level and achieving above expected level. When the NAPLAN results are made available to students and teachers, it is often found students in one class room can be separated by up to four different band levels across the different area¶s of assessment. As teachers plan their unit, contingencies are needed to build lower order students up to their expected level, extend their higher order students and give every student the best possible chance of achieving the outcome. Teachers will often find a big part of their classroom management plan is how to spend the maximum amount of quality teaching time with students.

Teaching across the band levels Written by Jesse King Charles Darwin University S193157

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In theory, each student should get the exact amount of teacher-student time as the next. In reality this is not the case. Teachers find that they spend a big chunk of their time working with students at lower levels. Students at lower levels within the classroom need support, structure and time. There are usually a number of different reasons as to why a student is not achieving at the expected level ranging from learning difficulties to home difficulties. When planning for these students it is important to scaffold practically and sensitively and always have them achieving something by the end of the lesson. If the work is too hard they can quickly become bored and disrupt the class. If the work is too easy similar problems can be expected. Likewise if a student doesn¶t achieve something tangible throughout the lesson or week, they can lose interest in the subject, or even in school itself. Schools are usually able to gain funding for certain lower level students which may place a tutor in your classroom at stages throughout the week. It is important that teachers utilise tutors as much as possible as they are a valuable resource and students respond better to explicit one-on-one support. The objective for low level students is to get them to higher order thinking and maintain them at that level.

High level students in the classroom require support and guidance in the classroom as they are normally attempting work that is above their expected level. High level students usually relish a challenge with their work, yet, like low level learners, if the work is too easy they can fall into disruptive behaviour out of boredom or become frustrated with work that is too difficult. Finding a happy medium is the key to continually engaging students.

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As the students tend to have a good grasp of higher order thinking, self-centred learning is a much more successful activity then when attempted with lower level learners. While a quick check is usually all that is needed to make sure they are on the right track, it is also good to make sure that the students don¶t get too enthusiastic and either clutter their ideas or lose sight of their original outcome.

Teaching in the Northern Territory (NT) is a challenge. Results from the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for 2008 were not flattering for schools in the NT. Across all areas and ages tested; the NT had approximately 30% of students below or at the national minimum standard compared to other states that averaged between 9% and 15% of students below minimum standard (NAPLAN Summary Report, 2009). There are a wide range of obstacles that schools, students and teachers face in the NT including but not limited to attendance, location and access. With results such as these, teachers in the NT will find that they are constantly teaching across the band levels.

Bill Harding is a teacher from St Joseph¶s School in Katherine, NT. Mr Harding has over thirty years teaching experience and has taught in the NT for the last seven years. Mr Harding agrees that teaching in the NT is very different from teaching in other states in Australia. He highlights that a high turnover rate of staff has a negative effect on schools and students from a lack of consistency. Mr Harding currently teaches Year 9 and 10 English with students ranging from Band 2 to Band 5. He admits that while ³you have always had mixed ability classes, but it is definitely more pronounced here (NT)´ (B. Harding, Personal Communication, November 27, 2009).

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Mr Harding states that during his time in the NT, the range of student¶s abilities has dramatically widened. He understands that while you have to adjust your outcomes and teach the class irrespectively, he feels that students are not getting a fair go from the current situation. Even with 35 years of teaching experience, he has never been taught explicitly how to teach lower primary English, which he now finds himself doing. Mr Harding believes that having a more holistic school approach to this problem rather than individual classroom approaches is the beginning of a positive outcome to this problem. One of Mr Harding¶s Suggestions was vertical modular grouping, also know as streaming. By offering classes at each band level, children could then select or be placed into the class they are currently achieving at. He did agree that while this is an administrative nightmare, but ultimately you are giving the students the best chance at achieving the outcomes.

Philip Tipene has only been teaching in the NT for a year at Katherine High School. He originates from New Zealand (NZ) where he has taught for ten years. His experience includes teaching in low level and high level schools in NZ. Mr Tipene also agrees that teaching in the NT is very different to schools in NZ in structure, location and environment. He currently teaches Year 10 SOSE at Katherine High and deals with teaching across the band levels. His current levels are Band 3 to Band 5. Katherine High uses streaming when organising classes. Mr Tipene believes that streaming has its advantages and disadvantages. When students are streamed, lesson planning for the teacher is easier and students are able to focus better on their individual outcomes.

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However, Mr Tipene believes that when students are streamed valuable opportunities for peer modelling are lost and students can quickly become disengaged by viewing themselves as the ³dumb´ class.

Individual needs in a classroom are a major factor when teaching in a diverse learning environment. Some students will require more one-on-one time while others may work better within a group setting. An expert understanding of how children learn is required by all teachers. One important learning theory is Multiple Intelligences. While some teachers might think that this means planning eight or nine different lessons for each topic, Gardner, Kornhaber and Moran (2007) state that ³what you really should be doing is designing rich learning experiences that nurture each students combination of intelligences´. Gardner, Kornhaber and Moran (2007) also argue that ³Intelligences are not isolated; they can interact with one another in an individual to yield a variety of outcomes´. This is also true when utilising key learning theories and teachers should use a variety of approaches when planning and delivering classes.

An alternative to streaming classes is Ralph Pirozzo¶s Learning Matrix (see attachment A). Pirozzo¶s matrix combines Blooms Taxonomy and Multiple Intelligence theories into a table that assists teachers when planning units. By combining the two learning theories, students are given more opportunity for self centred learning with Merritt (as cited in Holden, 2005) claiming that the matrix is ³designed so students of all ages and abilities remain actively engaged in their learning´.

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Planning a unit using Pirozzo¶s matrix gives the teacher the opportunity to cover a broad range of learning abilities and learning styles. As children complete tasks across the matrix there is a Real Assessment Task planned into the higher order learning area of the matrix. A strategy when using the matrix is to give each task a weighted score that adds up to a total that will reflect on the student¶s grade for the unit. This gives the children a chance to choose their assessment task and engage their preferred learning styles. By nurturing students preferred learning styles, they have a better chance to achieve the learning outcomes set out by the teacher.

Using Pirozzo¶s matrix within schools can be an effective way to deal with mixed ability students. In a primary school setting teachers can use the grid to teach one topic across all areas and give students the opportunity to build on all areas of their learning without also having to relearn different topics. When used in the middle school setting it puts more onuses on teachers from different subject areas to communicate and plan together to help the students achieve their outcomes. The broad scope of the matrix allows for students of all abilities to develop a self-centred learning approach and

Teaching across the band levels is something that teachers from all parts of the world and probably all moments in time have faced and dealt with. It is human nature for people to be stronger in one area and be challenged in the next, to learn better one way and struggle with another¶s interpretation. When teaching across band levels schools and teachers need to be flexible and holistic in their approach. While there are a myriad of different teaching methods, strategies, programs and research.

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Using techniques such as streaming and strategies like Pirozzo¶s Matrix may benefit one teacher or one school but have no use to the next. Ultimately it is what works best for your class at that particular time.

³In a µperfect world¶, an inclusive classroom that was equitable for all students and which suited all learning styles would be the ideal solution. Until that time, I recommend we maintain a range of effective and up to date strategies that capitalise on students¶ learning potential.´ Scholz, 2004

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References
Brady, L. & Kennedy, K. (2009). Celebrating student achievement: assessment and reporting. (3rd ed.). Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Pearson Australia Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M. & Moran, S. (2007). Multiple Intelligences: Building Active Learners. Teacher: The National Education Magazine, 177, 26-30. Retrieved from A+ Education Database. Holden, S. (2005). The Matrix. Australian Council for Educational Research, July, 29-30. Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs. (2008). National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy: Summary Report 2008. Retrieved from http://www.naplan.edu.au/verve/_resources/NAPLAN_Summary_Report.pdf Scholz, S. (2004). Ability Groups: ineffectively or effectively used?. Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom. 9 (2). 29-31

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Attachment A

PROMOTING LEARNING INTERNATIONAL (56 GRID) PLANNING MATRIX
(This matrix was devised by Ralph Pirozzo in 1997 & updated in 2004) UNIT OF STUDY:_______________________________ LEVEL:_________
Promoting Learning International www.pli.com.au

YEAR

Bloom¶s Taxonomy: Six Thinking Levels
PreKnowing Knowing Understanding Applying Analysing Creating Evaluating

Verbal
I enjoy reading, writing & speaking

Mathematical
I enjoy working with numbers & science

Visual/Spatial
I enjoy painting, drawing & visualising

Kinaesthetic
Teaching across the band levels Written by Jesse King Charles Darwin University S193157 12

I enjoy doing hands-on activities, sports & dance

Musical
I enjoy making & listening to music

Interpersonal
I enjoy working with others

Intrapersonal
I enjoy working by myself

Naturalist
I enjoy caring for plants & animals

Learning Outcomes/Objectives:_________________________________________________________ This unit has been created by

Promoting Learning International
TM

www.pli.com.au

ralph@pli.com.au

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