Sunday, November 25, 2007

Learning, Teaching, Leading:Best Evidence Synthesis for School-wide Improvement.

We were privileged to attend a preview of the BES for School-wide Improvement last Friday at the Faculty of Education. Thanks to the work of authors Professor Viviane Robinson, Dr Margie Hohepa & Claire Lloyd, Professor Helen Timperley, Aaron Wilson and Heather Barrar, Dr Graeme Aitken and Dr Claire Sinnema.

As introduced by Viviane Robinson, simply put the challenge is... "How to teach diverse students in the same class?" The variance in achievement scores for New Zealand as reported OECD (2001) Knowledge and skills for life reflects the challenge for New Zealand education in terms of providing high quality and high equity outcomes for diverse learners.

Some key messages from the BES preview included...
The synthesis is not a collation of evidence but rather it explores a range of evidence and explains why some strategies seem to work better than others. It is also focussed on both cultural and social outcomes and explains the evidence about what works for diverse learners, through a range of outcomes. As knowledge building is iterative so too is the synthesis, which will be redone. The IBES is not directly to do with best practice but rather a resource for best practice. As such it is recommended that it is referenced and contextualized within individual schools. Professional judgment is still needed along with professional inquiry - asking questions about the relationship between teaching and student outcomes. As such the quality should not be judged by competing claims but rather the validity of the claim (Viviane Robinson).

Key findings from Dr Graeme Aitken and Dr Claire Sinnema in Social Sciences explored what we need to know about promoting student learning and highlighted what they had learnt about what it means to be evidence informed as teachers. Attitudes towards evidence should include an inquiry stance, an openness to ideas from all sources rather than being bound by context ( because a strategy might be successful in one context doesn't mean it will be in another). They also identified four 'causal mechanisms' that teachers can use to inform their inquiry into the relationships between teaching and learning;
  • Making connections to students' lives
  • Aligning experience to important outcomes
  • Developing and sustaining a learning community
  • Designing learning expeiences that interest learners
Also the work by Helen Timperley, Aaron Wilson & Heather Barrar on "What We Need to Know About Promoting Teacher Learning" was very relevant in terms of my work and the outcomes for the ICT PD cluster programme of professional learning for teachers. As well as sharing their "teacher inquiry and knowlege -building cycle to promote valued student outcomes" (will be included in the BES ) they also highlighted the following as effective contexts for promoting teacher learning.
  • Time and frequency
  • External expertise
  • Prevailing discourses are challenged
  • Not necessarily school based
  • Participation in community of practice
  • Active School Leadership
Thanks again to the team for sharing so much of their work with us. Not sure when the exact publication date is however the BES publications can be downloaded from here

Publications Download Link for BES (Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis)

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