Ashcroft High School is a comprehensive, coeducational high school located in south western Sydney. The school has a population of 600 students, 50% of whom are of Non -English Speaking Backgrounds. Of these the major groups are Pacific Islander, Arabic and Vietnamese. Aboriginal students make up 7% of the school population. There is 60 teaching staff, with 20% in their first or second year of teaching in 2006.
The school is included in the Priority Schools Program (PSP). Literacy has been a focus of school programs for a number of years, with ELLA data showing consistent improvement in student learning outcomes.
There are strong links with feeder primary schools through the LINKS program. Amongst other initiatives, a stage 3/4 program is written every year with a particular KLA focus.
The school has a long history of excellence in sport and the performing arts and has received a Director General’s Award in performing arts. The school has also received a Director General’s Award for Aboriginal Education programs.
There is an established and active SRC and student views on curriculum and welfare programs are regularly sought.
P&C and Indigenous Education Direct Assistance (IEDA) committees meet regularly and are coordinated by a Community Liaison Officer (CLO) and an Aboriginal Education Assistant (AEA).
In 2004 the Quality Teaching journey began. Four KLAs were targeted to undertake comprehensive professional development in the Quality Teaching model with a focus on Intellectual Quality. The remaining KLAs were incorporated into the process in Semester 2. Key personnel from the Learning Support Team were also inserviced on the Australian National Schools Network protocols, the tuning protocol and the consultancy protocol, in order to enhance their skills as trainers. A consultant was employed to train staff in the knowledge and understanding of the Quality Teaching model.
In 2005, it was expected that assessment task coding and backward mapping tools, developed in 2004, would be put into practice in all faculties, with the aim of raising Intellectual Quality and student learning outcomes. An Action Learning Plan was developed by the Teaching and Learning Team to facilitate and coordinate the aim of embedding Quality Teaching principles into the culture of the school. The plan’s objective was to link Quality Teaching principles with existing school practices. A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis was undertaken and an action plan developed.
A key feature of the school plan was the identified professional learning for all staff around the QT model. The staff turnover in 2005 was significant with 11 new additions to the school teaching community. Eight teachers were new scheme teachers. The changes needed to be addressed before the whole school could fully embrace the principles of the Quality Teaching model.
Training continued within faculties in Quality Teaching principles conducted by the Literacy coordinator and members of the literacy support team. This model of professional development has been successful in the past when implementing the State Literacy Strategy. Consultancy support for Creative Arts, Mathematics, HSIE and English was coordinated by Christine Glover.
The early career teachers’ induction program incorporated an introduction to the QT model and how to apply the model to the backward mapping of assessment tasks. Each new scheme teacher produced a backwardly mapped unit of work, linked with the evidence gathering for demonstration of NSW Institute of Teachers Professional Teaching Standards at Professional Competence.
Lesson observations of all teachers were linked with the overt evaluation of Quality Teaching principles to be demonstrated by observed teaching staff.
Experienced teachers who had undergone extensive training in the QT model in 2004 were paired for peer lesson observations and evaluation.
Four backwardly mapped units of work were developed in 2004 were trialled and evaluated by staff and students. The school applied for and received substantial regional consultancy support in English, Creative Arts, HSIE and Maths.
A key factor of the school’s plan for Quality Teaching was the appointment of a Head Teacher Teaching and Learning who worked closely with all faculties on action learning plans. Dr Wendy Amosa from The University of Newcastle acted as a critical friend and academic partner to lead and advise the school as they engaged with the Quality Teaching model. Staff were trained Training in Authentic Pedagogy evaluation tools. Staff then evaluated student work samples from assessment tasks. The strategy of “A day in the life of year 7 classes” was undertaken where Year 7 classes were observed all day, with their classroom experiences coded using A classroom practice guide and fed back to faculty teams.
Stage 4 students evaluated each unit of work with an understanding of elements of the Quality Teaching model.
There was a focus on early career teacher professional learning. Experienced teachers were paired with early career teachers for lesson observations based on Quality Teaching.
A SWOT analysis has been done and a strategic plan developed for this year. Features include:
All new scheme teachers have produced at least one backwardly mapped unit with a Quality Teaching focus. They have been enthusiastic and welcomed support from in-house experts on from the Learning Support Team. There has been a discernable measured shift in culture learning within a number of faculties. Many staff recognise the benefits of Quality Teaching for student outcomes and are continuing the process of incorporating Intellectual quality into their programs. Teaching staff are actively seeking the support of the Learning Support Team Members.
61% of staff had their lessons observed in 2005 and 45% of these demonstrated a clear understanding of Intellectual Quality elements and incorporated them into their classroom practice.
Student evaluations of units developed in 2004 showed that students understood their work, had a deep understanding of the main concepts taught in the unit, had the opportunity for substantive communication. There was increased enjoyment of units by students, as a variety of learning styles were catered for. Students recognised there was intellectual rigour within the unit, metalanguage was taught and understood, and teacher expectations were high and explicitly articulated in the classroom and in assessment tasks. A link between class work and assessment tasks existed. Lessons showed significance by building on students’ existing knowledge. In 2006 many staff are incorporating student evaluation into new units.
There has been some staff resistance to the Quality Teaching model. Time constraints make focused commitment to QT difficult for some staff as the initial use of backward mapping is time consuming.
Quality Learning Environment and Significance have not been formally addressed. This has been necessary because of the entry of a large number of new teachers who are focusing on developing classroom management skills.
There is a need to re-focus on staff understanding of problematic knowledge and extend student understanding of metalanguage. Higher order thinking is strongly evident in assessment tasks but not necessarily in classroom practice.
More expertise in evaluation methodology is required.
Lesson observations will continue and coding will be added to the observation proforma which will allow effective teacher reflection and dialogue to continue. The early career teachers’ program will include observation of experienced teachers whose classroom and assessment practice reflect the QT model.
Faculties will work more systematically with the Head Teacher Teaching and Learning. The QT program will extend to include the dimensions of Significance and Quality Learning Environment. Authentic pedagogy evaluation tools will be developed to support the review and refinement of programs and tasks. The academic partner will guide and support staff to develop authentic pedagogy evaluation methods.
© 2006 NSW Department of Education and Training