Building the scaffold for success

Explicit teaching has led to a significant and sustained lift in student outcomes at Balgowlah Boys Campus.

06 October 2020
Three male students wearing school uniform sit next to each other inside a room.
Image: Students from Balgowlah Boys Campus share their journey of learning improvement with Secretary Mark Scott.

Explicit teaching has been the “core” strategy that has underpinned more than a decade of sustained improvement from “a full range of students” at Northern Beaches Secondary College Balgowlah Boys campus.

Principal Paul Sheather and Deputy Principal Ben Seldon spoke with Secretary Mark Scott on the CESE What works best podcast about the school’s approach to explicit teaching, particularly in the area of English.

The school has gained attention over the past decade for its excellent academic results, most notably in English.

“We noticed quite a few years ago coming back after HSC marking, that the boys were lacking the specific language that was required to achieve high outcomes in the HSC,” Mr Seldon said.

Teachers map out learning outcomes and collaboratively work to develop explicit models to help students understand what is expected in their learning.

“As classroom teachers we need to be very specific, like maths teachers, very explicit in talking through how you put sentences together,” Mr Seldon explained.

Teachers create a simple sentence scaffold that allows students to create very complex sentence structures and develop and replicate that writing skill over several years of learning, helping keep students engaged.

The strategy has proven successful with Balgowlah Boys High sitting within the top 10 for Band 6 results in HSC English over the past four years.

Mr Scott said Balgowlah Boys had “a remarkable and sustained life in educational outcomes over the past decade or 15 years”.

"It wasn’t just a sugar-hit effect where you had a good year or two; you lifted it and you’ve sustained it over time,” he noted.

Mr Sheather said that reflected the school’s decision to introduce explicit teaching practices beyond the English faculty with teachers across the school delivering a consistent process in all classrooms.

“Teachers in all faculties are now working in collaborative groups to hone their skills in being able to develop the best possible model, and their skillset enables them to deconstruct and deliver it in the classroom,” Mr Sheather said.

“That’s enabled us to ensure that with a growing school, the new and less experienced teachers across the school gain this skillset and ability to model in their faculty area.”

Hear more about Balgowlah Boys Campus approach to explicit teaching and listen to students speak about their success in learning on the What works best podcast.

Resources are available online for teachers to explore the What works best themes in more detail.

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