Videos

On this page you will find short videos featuring NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott, in conversation with principals, teachers and students, to explore how the 'What works best' practices are being adopted in schools to drive better outcomes for students.

Each video focuses on one of the eight 'What works best' themes.


Assessment with Rooty Hill High School

Rooty Hill High School and assessment

Mark Scott:              

Chris Cawsey, Rooty Hill High School – there’s a lot of focus on the
way you approach assessment there. You run a big, complex, comprehensive secondary school. If I listen to you talk about that thoughtful and strategic approach to assessment, how do you, in a sense, operationalise that at the school? How are you assured that that’s the practice that’s rolling out in all your classrooms, and then how are teachers using that to inform their teaching practice?

Chris Cawsey:          

So I think that the easier way to answer that is to go back and say that if you’re looking at how do you put that in place and ensure it, you really need to come back to the notion of the assessment-centred classroom. Language that’s come out of the research, really in the last 20 years, is that it won’t work unless assessment drives the design of learning and assessment drives the delivery of that learning with, and accommodations for, particular students.

The three ways we do it, essentially, in the short cycle is that we use John Hattie and others’ work around having really clear learning intentions tied to syllabus outcomes, and that includes skills and knowledge, and then having a success criteria against which students can make a judgment for themselves and teachers can make a judgment. In the medium cycle we use capability-driven assessment a lot.

But to really ensure that this happens, you need the longer-term cycle for your professional learning and your professional staff. And we use outcomes-based accountability. We want to know how much we’ve done, how we’ve designed lessons and all those sorts of things, how well we have done it. Did it work? Was that lesson effective? And we’ll get that information from the feedback that students give us and the feedback we give them. And then, has it made any difference? And that’s where we do need to have external evidence, whether that’s in critical and creative thinking or literacy or numeracy – all of those kinds of things. We need to actually know that we’re making a difference in the learning design that we’re putting in place.

Mark Scott:               

It just strikes me, Chris, that, you know, there’s so much, in a sense, deliberative planning and thought that you’ve clearly done there with your leadership team to be able to embed assessment as a central part of your learning programs there at Rooty Hill.

Chris Cawsey:          

I’d like to be able to say to you, Mark, that this happens when a leadership team leads. But in fact, this actually happens when you can design high quality professional experiences for your staff and the whole staff learn together, and the whole staff work together, in order to embed this practice. And one of the absolute beliefs of Rooty Hill High School is that teacher assessment, school assessment, student assessment needs to be on the agenda constantly, where we’re looking at how do we design the kind of learning that the students, the staff and the school needs in order to be able to put this in place in every classroom.

Mark Scott:              

So let’s talk about the student experience of assessment at Rooty Hill. Some of the big assessments that we have, like NAPLAN and the HSC, they get a lot of media attention too, and there can be pressure about it. But you seem to be indicating that at Rooty Hill, assessment is really just part of the way of life and going to school. And it’s a regular part of the way that you learn there.

Chad Zahra:             

Yeah. We like to use a little thing called My Learning Hub. So it allows the students to, like, apply evidence from their own work and to reflect on how well they’ve done for that specific subject. So they’re able to apply the evidence into our website and then write a reflection on what they did in that class, how it worked, what it is and how well they think they did it effectively.

Mark Scott:

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Podcast

Listen to the full conversation with Mark Scott and Rooty Hill High school on the 'What works best' theme, Assessment.

Effective feedback with Homebush West Public School

Homebush West Public School and effective feedback


Mark Scott:               

So, Estelle, tell us why feedback is so important at Homebush West Public School.

Estelle Southall:      

 Well, Mark, you know, the research is absolutely crystal clear, including all the meta-analysis of the research. Feedback is a powerful – has a powerful impact on student outcomes and achievements. If we’re going to be implementing practices that are effective – practices that are the most effective – then it’s really worth investing in a culture of feedback to ensure that our students can really leverage learning gains.

 

Mark Scott:               

So what’s the key to providing effective feedback? I think, you know, most organisations, most businesses would say that it’s one of the hardest things to do. How do you create a culture of effective feedback?

Estelle Southall:       

Well, you’re absolutely right. Effective feedback is really nuanced. It’s not praise, it’s not superficial, and it’s certainly not simplistic. Some keys to effective feedback include ensuring that feedback is timely, that feedback is targeted and individualised, and that it’s ongoing and frequent, specifically related to the skill or task that the learner is engaged with, and that it moves each learner forward in their current learning.

 

Mark Scott:               

I’m really interested in how you create a culture of feedback amongst a staff so that you’re confident that there are good feedback practices that are taking place in every one of your classrooms.

Estelle Southall:       

Sure. Well, I think most critically is the teachers at Homebush West work collaboratively and collectively to continually improve and understand their practice. So what’s been really critical has been classroom observations and the practice of reflecting on research and sharing strategies.

One of the things that’s really interesting about embedding a culture of feedback is, of course, that students come to seek feedback and really value it, but also they become quite adept at giving feedback. And one of the things I really value most is that our students here are quite adept at giving me and teachers feedback on the design of their learning, assessment tasks, things we could do to improve the school, and of course our leadership as well.

Mark Scott:               

So let’s talk to the students. Can any of the students there today give me an example of when you’ve received good feedback and how that feedback has helped you in your learning?

Devashri Shah:        

Hi, my name is Devashri and an experience I’ve had with feedback is fortnightly we get random English assessments where we write narratives or persuasive texts. When we finish our work, our teachers mark our rubrics and – to show us which level we’re at, and we – and show us where we need to work towards.

Chinmayee Kemisetti: 

Good morning, I’m Chinmayee and one of the experiences I had with feedback is – well, we have this program every Friday which is called Lightning Writing, which is where we have 15 to 20 minutes to write a piece of writing about a certain topic. One of the experiences I had is when I’d written my piece of writing, I took it to the teacher and she said, “You can use the bump it up or another resource like the complexity rule,” to bump up my work. 

Mark Scott:               

And did you find that that helped you?

Chinmayee Kemisetti: 

Yeah, it did.

Mark Scott:               

And how did it help you?

Chinmayee Kimesetti: 

Well, in the bump it up rule we have, like, levels. And so each time we have it, we try to tick off the level we’ve done.

Mark Scott:               

I love the idea that you seem so hungry for feedback. You want to get advice and tips on how to improve, and even if they’re small tips, it’s all about a step towards staged improvement.

I think most adults would say giving feedback is hard, receiving feedback is hard. And I think it’s just wonderful at Homebush West that you’re really developing these skills about giving feedback and receiving feedback, and it’s all about the commitment to improvement. And, you know, our researchers here say that at Homebush West you’re doing this as well as any school we can see anywhere in the state. So I want to thank you for putting feedback on the agenda of all our schools in NSW, and thanks for letting us all learn from your experiences today.

Mark Scott:               

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Podcast

Listen to the full conversation with Mark Scott and Homebush West Public School on the 'What works best' theme, Effective feedback.

High expectations with Trangie Central School

Trangie Central School and high expectations

Mark Scott:               

Well, I’m speaking today with Principal Anne Holden and the students at Trangie Central School about the ‘What works best’ theme of high expectations. So, Anne Holden, welcome. What does it mean to have high expectations for every student at Trangie Central School and why is it important?

Anne Holden:           

What it means to have high expectations at our school is that the expectations for every student are the same and they are equally high. And what we do is that we make sure that the expectations don’t get lowered for individual students. What we do is we raise the support where it’s necessary so that every student feels equal because their expectations are equal. The expectations are clearly communicated and we voice a philosophy of the values.

Mark Scott:               

So, Anne, I think we can all aspire to a culture of high expectations, but actually developing it and sustaining it over time – that must be a real challenge. How have you gone about developing and sustaining that culture and what has been the impact of that approach?

Anne Holden:           

We analysed very carefully our own situation. And I’ve been here 11 years now, and 11 years ago it was a very different picture. We analysed, warts and all, what our problems were and what we aspired to, and then we worked steadily at achieving those goals. We work as a team and so every single member of our staff has a position of decision making, and so everybody’s included, and so we make sure that every single person is on the same page. So we all aspire to the same things and we all use the same common language to communicate that to our students.

Mark Scott:               

How do you know that that approach has been successful over your 11 years? I mean, what do you see in the running of the school now and in the student experience now that’s different?

Anne Holden:           

What we see is that all of our students, regardless of ethnic background – and 50% of our students are Aboriginal – we see that all of our students stand tall. We’ve come from no Year 12 at all 11 years ago, and last year – we’ve doubled our numbers for a start, and last year, nine of our 12 HSC kids got accepted into university. We’ve got kids doing engineering, electrical engineering. We’ve got four maths teachers being trained, and some of those are Aboriginal children. We think that it’s important because they have a right to a good education.  And if we don’t expect a lot of them, then they don’t expect a lot of themselves.

Mark Scott:               

So, Stacey, you’re in Year 12. How have your teachers kept on challenging you and kept you focused on the classroom, you know, this year and every year when you’ve been at Trangie Central?

Stacey Whitney:       

Well, I think that at Trangie Central School our teachers are preparing us for success in the future. And although this starts in the classroom Trangie Central offers so much more.

I think teachers give us feedback on ways to improve. One way they do this is through the ACE scores. ACE stands for ‘attitude, commitment and effort’. Twice a term, all of our teachers will give us an individual mark out of 10, and this will be combined to give us an average score. I like the ACE scores because I like a challenge and I like challenging myself and my friends to see who can get the higher mark. And I also like it because it’s not always the smartest person in the class who gets the highest mark, so it’s fair.

I also think because Trangie is such a small community, out teachers know  us a lot better and they’re able to tell when we’re upset or overwhelmed. Because a lot of our teachers are also our soccer coaches or our netball trainers, or we might babysit some of their kids, so they know us quite well. I think Trangie Central is more than just a school. It has so many different things to offer each individual. So it’s kind of – it’s easy to stay focused because I know I’m surrounded by teachers who have a passion for what they’re doing and I have the tools to succeed.

Mark Scott:               

What about you, Cam? Cam, how do know that your teachers expect you to always do your best?

Cam Broughton:       

Because my teachers know my best so they constantly push me to work towards that. They engage in our learning and they motivate us to keep working harder. They tell us to strive towards our goals and they are honest about things we need to work harder on and things that we haven’t done as well and that we might have to try again on.

Mark Scott:               

Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for sharing the story of high expectations at Trangie Central School with me today. I’ve really appreciated it, and so will all the other teachers and school leaders who are watching this video.

Mark Scott:               

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Wellbeing with Cecil Hills High School

Cecil Hills High School and wellbeing

Mark Scott:               

Well, today I’m speaking with Principal Mark Sutton and students at Cecil Hills High School about the ‘What works best’ theme of wellbeing. Mark, you run a big high school – 1400 students. How do you ensure that every student is known, valued, and cared for in a large, comprehensive high school?

Mark Sutton:            

So one of the main ways is through our Connect program. Now, that is a rollcall program we implemented a few years ago, and essentially students at our school will have the same rollcall teacher from Year 7 to Year 12. And in a large high school where we have about 250 students in each grade, we don’t want anyone to be just a number in the system. We don’t want anyone to be lost in that. So the role of the Connect teacher is to, as the name suggests, connect, succeed, and thrive with those individual students from Year 7 all the way up until Year 12.

Part of what they’re able to do is to track data on their class. So we were nominated for a T4L award for our Connect app, which is something that we developed in-house. Basically what it allows our teachers to do is have a look at that important data that supports wellbeing first thing in the morning. So they can have a look at lateness, they can have a look at behaviour, they can have a look at attendance. They can have a look at uniform, diary, whether students are bringing their device, and we capture all of that data so that we have that information available.

Mark Scott:               

Mark, we know that wellbeing and students’ wellbeing is a value and importance in its own right, but do you see spin-off effects from this focus on wellbeing as far as student progress is concerned, student engagement, and then finally student achievement?

Mark Sutton:             

Yeah, so, look – I mean, students do have to be happy little vegemites. In order for them to be successful at school, we’ve got to get those basics right. It is essential that we focus on the basics: getting them to school; making sure they are ready for learning; making sure that they are engaged in their curriculum; and making sure that they have a pathway, whatever that pathway is for them.

There is a part of the SEF that does talk about having a planned approach to wellbeing. It’s important for every school, I think, to have an idea, a scope and sequence in terms of when the welfare events are going to be happening. So our welfare team is very clear from Year 7 to Year 12 when all of those events are taking place, and we also plan from Year 5. So when students are in Year 5, that’s when we select the year advisors. We’re undergoing that process right now for our 2022 cohort. With our year advisors and the welfare team, they do have a long lead time in terms of when they are able to access help within the school.

Mark Scott:               

So, Jessica, how does the school there support student wellbeing? What’s been your experience of it?

Jessica Narvaiza:     

Our school supports student wellbeing through lots of ways. We have lots of facilities, including Stymie, which is basically like an online resource which students can anonymously talk about issues with other students, anonymously so they don’t feel pressure to tell someone in person. We also have ‘Tell Them From Me’ survey, which is a survey, basically, for students and how they’re feeling with each subject and teachers and their homework. And we also have our Connect classes – so, like, our rollcalls, where they have one teacher from Year 7 to 12, which can basically give them a sense of someone who’s constantly there for their whole high school career, someone they can lean on with more day-to-day issues.

Mark Scott:               

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Explicit teaching with Northern Beaches Secondary College, Balgowlah Boys Campus

Balgowlah Boys Campus and explicit teaching

Mark Scott:               

So today we’re talking with the Principal, Paul Sheather, and the Deputy Principal, Ben Seldon, and students at Northern Beaches Secondary College Balgowlah Boys Campus. And we’re going to talk about explicit teaching, which is one of the eight effective teaching practice areas identified in the ‘What works best: 2020 update’. So, gentlemen, what are the key features of explicit teaching at Balgowlah Boys? And why is it so important to use explicit teaching with all students?

Paul Sheather:         

I suppose why it’s important is because it’s been very, very effective with a full range of students. Both the performance data and the value-added data emphatically support this. The full range of students of all abilities seem to perform better under explicit teaching. The school has, I suppose, experimented with a gamut of teaching strategies over the last 10 years, and explicit teaching has evolved to be the core, or the nucleus, of the way we deliver at Balgowlah Boys.

The key features of this mode is, firstly, teachers map out the learning outcomes, and generally this comes backwards from the HSC outcomes. So the concepts build accumulatively and systematically. These outcomes are very visible to the students. And secondly, most importantly, the teachers work to develop explicit models to deliver to the students. To enable this, teachers work collaboratively in teams to develop the very best model, answer or product they can. And in these teams, they also deconstruct the model so that when they’re in front of their class, they’re on song, confident and ensure that the best exemplified learning outcome is presented to the boys. And probably this is best exemplified in the English faculty, Ben?

Ben Sheldon:            

Yeah. Look, we noticed quite a few years ago after coming back from the HSC marking that the boys were lacking the specific language that was required to leave high outcomes in the HSC, particularly in advanced level English. So what we realised then is that we needed, as classroom instructors, to exclusively teach that language to the students.

So we created a sentence scaffold, which is beguilingly simple, but it allows students to create very, very complex sentence structures and to manipulate multi-clause sentences very, very confidently. And we introduced that in Stage 4, and it’s taught consistently through to Stage 6, where the boys develop it. And it gives them an enormous amount of confidence, and we’ve had an enormous amount of feedback from students who go on from leaving our school and say, “Thanks for teaching me how to write.” It's a fascinatingly simple tool. It’s a very interactive process.

Mark Scott:               

Do you find, Ben, this has been a key to student engagement? I mean, as you take them through this process, that kids are leaning more into learning?

Ben Sheldon:            

Absolutely. English is a very, very popular subject, and there is a mindset that students have that if they don’t know quite how the subject works or what they’re supposed to do, they get a feeling of disengagement. And what this does is it breaks it down. It makes it very, very simple. It’s like putting a Lego model together. And the boys, they become empowered. We’re able to say, “Those sentences that you put together in Year 8 replicate the kind of grammar that you use in Year 12,” and we can show them a Year 12 essay, show them what they’ve done, and the boys realise, “Wow, I’ve got this.” And that’s incredibly confidence-building for them.

It also, as Paul eluded to – it’s very empowering for the teachers. So they go into the classroom with that exemplar in the back of their mind and are able to speak from a position of confidence and clarity. They can give explicit feedback about what kind of language the boys are using. They can give explicit feedback about what’s working, what isn’t working, and how to tweak that, and they use the whiteboard to show the boys how to put those sentences together. And the boys in the class sit there and say, “I have confidence in this process because the teacher there is doing it. They’re showing me how to do it.” 

Mark Scott:               

Charlie, Sebastien, Luke, thanks for joining us. We want to talk about what it’s like to learn at Balgowlah Boys. Tell me, how do you know what you’re going to learn, and where you’re headed in your learning, and whether you’ve been successful? How do you know about the learning journey that you have in classes there?

Charlie Longmore:   

It’s honestly a really easy process when it comes to objectives in English. Going off of knowing when you’ve been successful, the scaffold provided creates a structure for us to build off. If what you’ve produced is similar to the standard set by the teacher, or even better, then you definitely know you’re on the right track, and the teachers pick up on it. It really helps to have a sort of bar to reach when in class or at home. And you know where you’re headed and what’s next, because as you progress through different units in English, you pick up new strategies and tips, and it’s very easy to see the improvement from when we first started in Year 7.

Mark Scott:               

So what are some of the practical ways that your teachers show you what to do, and to show you how to be successful in your learning?

Luke O’Donnell:       

In the classroom, in the lessons, going through scaffolded responses, and the teachers usually prepare pre-written texts – pre-written deconstructions of the texts – at a really high standard, so we know what we can achieve and what we can aim for. And it’s kind of like an, “I do, we do, and then you do” approach. She shows us exactly what she wants us to do and we do it together so we understand it, and then we have homework set so we can go and do it ourselves and put those skills into practice.

Mark Scott:               

Brilliant, thanks everyone.

Mark Scott:               

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Use of data to inform practice with Berry Public School

Berry Public School and use of data to inform practice

Mark Scott:               

So today we’re talking about how schools use data to inform their practice, which is one of the eight effective teaching practices identified in the ‘What works best: 2020 update’. And I’m here with the Berry Public School Principal, Bob Willetts, and the school’s Assistant Principals They’re going to talk about the ways they use data to improve teaching and learning at their schools. Bob, what type of data does Berry Public School collect and how do you use that data to inform teaching and practice?

Bob Willetts:             

Well, like all schools, Berry Public School is data rich. We collect formal and informal data on all areas of the curriculum, with a really strong focus on literacy and numeracy. And we also collect extensive data on social emotional development and wellbeing of every student in our school. Formally, we use the ‘Tell Them From Me’ survey and the ‘Be You’ surveys for parents, for teachers, and for students, to collect data on wellbeing. And we use the data to inform teaching and learning on a macro level, to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching and learning programs and our teaching practices. And of course, we use the data then at the most granular, individual student level to provide effective feedback for students and to inform where to go next in their learning.

Mark Scott:               

One of the things that we can see in the SEF is that when schools identify areas that they most want to work on and need support, the number one area is actually the use of data and the use of data effectively. How do you support staff to not just have a lot of data available, but to really be able to mine it well and to use it well?

Bob Willetts:             

So we say data is our friend here at Berry Public School, and we celebrate the strengths – and our ‘wins’, we call them. And we also use the data to work on our weaknesses, and we work on those until we can celebrate the progress in all the areas. So we have frank and fearless conversations about our data as a direct reflection of the effectiveness of all of our programs and our initiatives and our programs and our practices. So teachers here complete a wide range of professional learning, both on a whole-school level, a stage level relating to all of their programs, but also on an individual basis as well. And they’re supported – particularly our beginning teachers are supported by our executive team, who are amazing instructional leaders, and also our learning and support teacher, to develop their effective use of data in their programs.

Mark Scott:               

So, Keely, Peter, Jess, Assistant Principals at Berry Public School, tell us why data is important for teachers at the school.

Jess Snell:                

Data is important to teachers because it’s at the core of everything we do. I think sometimes it sounds like teachers walk around and consistently formally assess students and hand out surveys to parents, but that’s not the case at all. Data needs to be a balance of qualitative and quantitative data, and sometimes you just need to know where to look. So, it could be as simple as an observation or a work sample or a walk through the playground or a conversation with staff, and all those things together are data.

Often we get a comment at our school when people walk into our school about how positive our culture seems, and that’s not a happy coincidence; that’s because we use our LST (Learning Support Team) data, we look at our attendance, we look at our ‘Tell Them From Me’, and all those bits and pieces make a puzzle for us that we are consistently assessing. Recently we did our NCC (Nationally Consistent Collection) data and we noticed there was a huge shift for us in the social emotional category for our students this year after 2020, so that was something we analysed as a staff and we prioritised a wellbeing program. As a teacher, that’s really important, because our students aren’t going to come and learn if they’re not happy and feeling safe in that environment.

So, then, at a classroom level, data’s just as important, because it helps us monitor student progress, give effective feedback, group our students. It’s at the core of everything we do in a classroom, and you can’t be effective without using data.

Mark Scott:               

So, specifically around student strengths and areas of development, what particular data are you going to be diving into to help you identify strengths and areas of development?

Peter Burney:           

So we delve into all data. You’ve got to think about data as not ‘teaching drives the data’; the data drives the teaching. So, by that I mean everything we do is based on data. So when we do a program, we analyse it using the data and say, “Okay, that program needs tweaking, because the data is showing us this.” So, data comes across many levels, how we use it. So it starts right at the individual student, going back to an ILP (Individual Learning Plan). And then that data – which a lot of schools get caught up with, and we try to avoid – is the data being used the same way for everything.

Keely Hallowell:      

We have a lot of programs at Berry Public School that work really well. But as the years move on and the cohorts change, it’s a lot about looking into those programs and the data that we get from them, and seeing, “Is this still working or is it something that we need to change?”

Mark Scott:               

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Collaboration with Blue Haven Public School

Blue Haven Public School and collaboration

Mark Scott:

Today I’m talking with relieving Principal Dale Edwards and Substantive Principal Paul McDermott and staff at Blue Haven Public School. We’re talking about the ‘What works best’ theme of collaboration. So what are some of the ways, Paul, the teachers of Blue Haven use professional collaboration to enrich their learning practices and how do you think it impacts on student learning?

Paul McDermott:

Collaboration has been used extensively across our school Mark, have been really pivotal to our turn around success. We’re firm believers that great teachers don’t happen they’re developed here at Blue Haven so we’ve really tried to build a culture around collaboration and sharing of best practice. Some years ago, we had isolated pockets of excellence. So in order to see systemic improvement across the school, we decide that we needed to work together and we needed to build capacity amongst all of our staff so collaboration’s been hugely effective in helping us to tear the walls down, we all want to be great teachers and the best way to do that is to share our best practice across the school and across the system. So some of the ways we’ve done that effectively here at school, we’re inducting new staff for example, we have teachers that visit one another and share best practice, we have teachers that will actually take all of their class and go and sit in on another teachers’ class so they can see what great teaching and learning looks like, we have lots of opportunities for providing and receiving feedback, extensive coaching and mentoring through our structural leaders, our Wellbeing Assistant Principal as well.

Mark Scott:

How confident are you that any school can learn from this collaborative experience?

Dale Edwards:

Yeah I think that absolutely something any school can take up. In fact we’ve had a number of schools contact us to work with us at different times, we’re more than open to that and we’ve had a number of schools come pre-COVID do visits with us and post-COVID do Zoom sessions where we’ve been able to share a bit more detail to our journey and what we’ve been doing and expand that collaboration beyond our own school into other schools and be able to support them with those processes. I think one of the really big keys for what we do is about removing those barriers for all schools and teachers because we don’t want it to be a system of monitoring; the collaboration needs to be owned by everyone. And by allowing everyone to own their collaborative engagement with each other, then they have that autonomy and they have that motivation and drive to succeed and just to follow on with what Paul was saying, we hear the conversation, they are so excited by different processes that they are in control of that they want to tell us and they want to let us know. So they’re always talking to us about what they’re working on and coming up with new ideas around, particularly in the areas of PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and things like that, to share how they can move forward and it’s absolutely something that any school and pick up and run with.

Mark Scott:

So Cathy, as a teacher at Blue Haven, what are you seeing as the benefits of teacher collaboration?

Cathy Dawson:

I think teacher collaboration has really engaged and motivated us as a staff and it’s helped us to build really supportive and trusting relationships with each other. I think working closely with our colleagues allows us to utilise the expertise that we already have within the school. We’re able to upskill each other in areas that we may feel we need support or improvement in. Another really big benefit of working together is that shared responsibility that it creates over student outcomes. I think when we are working together each day to create programs, we are reflecting on assessment and data, we’re engaging in planning days and just having that regular discussion and dialogue about where our students are and where to next, then we create, we all have ownership over student progress. We are able to come together to problem solve and we are able to come together to celebrate and acknowledge student achievement.

Mark Scott:

What are the challenges about doing collaboration in practice? I mean in a way, it’s a great piece of research by CESE that says collaboration is the hallmark of a great school. Paul and Dale can talk about it being a cornerstone of the success at Blue Haven which a lot of people have commented on, it kind of sounds easy ‘well lets collaborate’, but in practice it’s probably hard to execute on a daily basis in the school. What are the challenges you’ve had?

Amy Quilty:

I guess I was really lucky I’ve been at the school for a very long time, initially I had those relationships I didn’t have to necessarily establish them because people had been in my classroom before I was an instructional leader and we’ve had lots of collegial conversations. So I was lucky to start off with, but I guess that challenge comes when you’ve people you haven’t established that relationship with. So I guess when you are collaborating, ensuring everybody is given the opportunity to have a voice. And that can be tricky when you’ve got new people to the school who are going to try and share your pedagogy which might be unfamiliar. So making sure everybody has the opportunity to share their voice but also making sure that you’re giving them the skills required to feel comfortable in this environment because it is very different to other schools.

Mark Scott:

Well thanks for sharing that story and thanks to everyone from Blue Haven it’s really one of the great stories in NSW education.

Mark Scott:

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Classroom management with Strathfield Girls High School

Strathfield Girls High School and classroom management

Mark Scott:

Well, I’m here talking with Angela Lyris, the Principal of Strathfield Girls High School, and students from the school, about classroom management, which is one of the ‘What works best’ themes. And we’re going to talk about how classroom management looks in practice at their school. Hi, Angela. Tell me, what does a well-managed classroom look like, and why is classroom management so important?

Angela Lyris:

Hi Mark. Firstly, I’d like to start by saying that a well-managed classroom has a positive learning environment that inspires all students to achieve their personal best in the learning process. Also, it’s about every student maximising their learning time in every classroom where every teacher ensures that every student in the classroom is engaged and actively participating in the lesson. I strongly believe there are some key factors that you would see as a casual observer in any classroom where well-managed classrooms exist. And one of the first things that you would see would be a clearly defined learning intent from the outset of the lesson; the teaching having established the learning context; the students understanding clearly what is going to be achieve during the lesson.

But the most important thing that I think as educators, and what I strive for as leader at Strathfield Girls High School to do, is to build those positive relationships where the students and the Teachers are working together to achieve the best for the student.

Mark Scott:

How do you know if students are actively engaged in learning? And how do the teachers at Strathfield Girls address student disengagement?

Angela Lyris:

Like every school, we have a discipline policy, and it is our expectation that our students engage. We call it “commitment to learning.” So, at the beginning of every academic year as Principal, I take every cohort through our expectations.

We used the traffic light system where green means the student has achieved growth, and we’ve used the amber system which means there has been some growth but not sufficient. And the red means that we need to put some intervention strategies in place and we need to get our specialist teachers to support us in providing that additional support for students who have not at the moment progressed in the learning process as we have expected.

A lot of our students in today’s society, they come to school, school’s the only safe place, and they want somebody to be able to support them with the other issues that they are currently facing. How you communicate that information effectively to the rest of the staff where a student doesn't feel in any way that everybody knows what is happening in their life, but they are able to engage in the learning process after you have addressed the wellbeing issues.

Mark Scott:

Let’s talk about learning at Strathfield Girls. How do your teachers create and maintain a positive learning environment?

Annabelle Knight:

So, the teachers at Strathfield Girls High School are extremely dedicated and enthusiastic in their subjects. They go above and beyond to provide us with opportunities to excel, and they like to make sure that we understand the content and skills taught in class really well. The teachers at Strathfield Girls High School, my teachers, are so supportive and encouraging, and they put so much effort into making sure each and every single student in the classroom feels like they belong. So, for example, the teachers will often encourage girls to speak up and express their own personal opinions, and by doing this, they cultivate individual development and they can create meaningful conversations within the classroom.

Mark Scott:

How do your teachers work to keep you all on task on the job at hand, the work at hand, the work that needs to be done?

Sofia Nolan:

At the end of every topic we do, our Teachers normally get us to do an evaluation of what we thought we liked, what we enjoyed, what we might want to change next time, and what we really found interesting. So, for the next students and the next topic we can do, they will add those points in to the curriculum. So, everything is quite tailored to us, so we know what we’re doing and we can enjoy it a lot.

Mark Scott:

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.


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