Monday, 31 August 2015

The Quest for Effective Teacher Practice with Sanity in a Digital Learning Environment

As we continue to look for the affordances that produce accelerated learning outcomes in our learners, we become more precise in the identification of the items that make a difference.
We are assisted in this process by our Research Partners from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre of the University of Auckland.

The identification of the 'change making' items and the 'topography' of the classrooms in which they are most significantly occurring produces valuable clarity for development and practice change. At the same time this produces significant tension between the 'teaching conscience' -the desire to do as well as humanly possible for our learners and the need for teachers to retain their sanity as they innovate in an environment where the artefacts for the leading of learning all need to be custom built for multiple groups in 3 different subjects.

Just as we discovered during the years of Schooling Improvement, its abundantly obvious that appropriately differentiated small group Direct Instruction is one of the 'Game Changers'. This item of quality teaching is actually no different in the digital age from what it was in the analogue age of teaching. What is different is the affordance of provision to the learner and learning partners outside of the time of direct instruction some notion of direction and focus that is connected to an associated learning activity that can be carried out independently or collaboratively. This notion of the learner and learning partners not always having to wait for, or have the presence the teacher, is an absolutely new affordance and adds significant value to the 'Differentiated, Direct Instruction Game Changer'.

The other significant Game Changer which adds on to the 'Leading of Learning' is this artefact providing a high quality learning activity which links to and consolidates the learning from the Direct Instruction. The more effectively these artefacts are linked and are effective in embedding the learning from the Direct Instruction, the more we see High Cognitive Engagement and accelerated achievement outcomes.

As we pursue this effective, differentiated linkage there is a direct effect on teacher workload, especially at the beginning of this creative journey as almost all of the artefacts for leading or consolidating learning are custom builds. Fortunately the workload reduces as teacher proficiency and efficiency increases and teachers become more effective at creating 'leading of learning' artefacts that can be generically applied across levels within a learning discipline.

The piece in the middle, seen again here below, remains critical in the teacher planing cycle
Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.10.59 pm.png as it is during this phase that all this 'hard graft' of planning and preparing for learning and teaching takes place. 

What this means practically for Pt England School is that as a staff we discuss:

  •  how much differentiation is too much and how much is the right amount
  • how to most effectively link learning activities to direct instruction
  • the balance between generic learning activities and custom builds with level specific WALT focus
I'm happy to report that whole staff is actively engaged in this learning and that we can celebrate huge success, both in implementation and in visible improvement in learning and teaching.


  1. Two questions here Russell. What do you mean by "accelerated achievement outcomes" and "differentiated direct instruction"?

    1. Actually "differentiated small group direct instruction"

    2. Gidday Darren,
      1. In brief, acceleration in learning communities like ours, means children making in excess of a year's progress in a calendar year.
      You can view the longer answer in my February Blog Post

      2. Differentiated small group direct instruction, means carefully levelled and targeted, precise instruction in a very small group who all the need the same help in order to progress. In a Y1 class, in our school this would typically be a group of 3 for around 10 mins at a time receiving very carefully focused instruction. Our teachers manage constant rotations like this for the 1st 3 hours of the day, in Reading, Writing and Maths whilst the other learners work on related embedding or consolidating tasks.