Transcript of Inspiring mastery across the creative arts
This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the Inspiring mastery across the creative arts podcast (41:10).
Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Curriculum Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education.
As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played. For they have performed age old ceremonies of storytelling, music, dance and renewal and along with all Aboriginal people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and the hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us also acknowledge this living culture and its unique role in the life of Australia today. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our Elders past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.
Welcome to the Creative Cast. The official podcast of the New South Wales Department of Education Creative Arts Curriculum Team. My name is Jackie King and I'm a Creative Arts Project Advisor with the Department of Education. Today's topic of discussion is where to from here, inspiring students across the creative arts and I'm lucky today to be joined by two of the instructional leaders from Linfield Learning Village to discuss mastery and trans disciplinary learning featuring the creative arts. Please welcome Amy Murphy and Shae Dunbar from Linfield Learning Village. Hi Amy and Shae. Thanks for joining us today.
Amy – Hello, thank you for having us.
Shae – Thanks for having us.
Jackie – Could we start off by just introducing yourselves a little bit to our listeners and tell us a little bit about your teaching background and your current role. So Amy, I might get you to go first.
Amy – Yeah sure thank you. So, this is my 12th year of teaching in the Department of Education and my subject areas are English and Drama. Prior to being at Linfield, I was at James Ruse Agricultural High School in a variety of roles but I finished their as Head Teacher CAPA which was a really beautiful and enriching experience. But my current role at Linfield is 0.5 Head Teachers, Secondary Studies and 0.5 DP Instructional Leader. And it means that I get to lead and facilitate and collaborate really heavily with teachers and on whole school projects and priorities to make sure everyone feels really good in their roles but to also empower teachers to move from best practice to next practice.
Jackie – Oh I love that, I love that you're making sure everyone's okay in their roles. I think that's so important in teaching and best practice to next practice. I think that sounds really cool as well.
Amy – Yeah, it's very exciting.
Jackie – Shae, can I ask you the same question, just a little bit about your teaching background and your current role.
Shae – Sure. So, I've been with the Department for close to 12 years as well and during that time I've worked at three schools. I started off my career actually at Rooty Hill High School in the history faculty. My background in teaching is predominantly business studies, commerce, geography and history and then I started as a Head Teacher of HSIE at Plumpton High school and from there have come over to Linfield Learning Village and was one of the foundational members of the 2019 team which has been an absolutely fantastic learning experience. I also just stepped out briefly to work with the Department in critical and creative thinking on a project there. So, I've been really lucky across the schools to have different experiences, but also working with whole school pedagogical frameworks, particularly around critical and creative thinking.
Jackie – Yeah, fantastic. So, onto what we're here to talk about today and that's creative arts and how that fits within what you do at Linfield Learning Village. So, before we get onto that, can we talk a little bit and get a bit of background on Linfield Learning Village and what you do there? So, who would like to take the reins on that one?
Amy – I can for a bit if you want. So, Lindfield is in its third year. So, we opened as a brand-new school in 2019 and all teachers that were going to work at Linfield had really been selected at the end of 2018. So, some of us had two weeks together to reimagine what education might look like, knowing that we would have to do that process again with kids. So, our principal Stephanie McConnell, is very much about giving kids voice and choice and agency in their learning and to ensure that they really are empowered in their space because when they are empowered, they have buy-in and then we get beautiful levels of engagement and motivation and self-determination in our learning environments in space. So, third year in, it's been a massive journey to build a school from scratch. We're obviously a Department of Education school that operates from K to 12 and this year is our first year 12 cohort. So, they've had a tricky year to engage in their HSC, but they're so resilient and Shae and I really think that the kids who graduate this year, if we did a longitudinal study, will come out on the other end with so much grit and inspiration and lessons for the world. So, we hold tightly to the fact that they will be courageous and brave human beings. We are building the new education model for the Department of Education and that's really exciting and you know, we're heavily grounded in research and that allows us to go really deep into practice, but make sure we pick the best bits of practice that suit our learners and our context. It's very much an individual experience at Linfield for the students. We meet them where they're at and then try and push them beyond their wildest capacities or dreams and hopefully we'll be at capacity probably over the next 2-3 years and capacity for us is about 2100. We’ll next year will be about 750. So that has really allowed teachers to build and research and refine practice, you know, as well as engaging really personally with all of our kids in the space and seeing what education means to them. We're very lucky to be located in the old U. T. S. Ku-ring-gai campus, which means that our facilities are just absolutely beautiful. We're surrounded by a national park. We've got three amazing theatres to work within as well, which is lovely in the creative arts space, 12 breakout rooms for music in terms of practice. So yeah, we're very lucky, we know that that resource is unbelievable and the spaces themselves are truly inspiring. But you know, another complexity is how do we make the best of this space from a learning perspective, how does pedagogy and space really intersect to allow our students to have agency but then also engage in explicit teaching and master classes and things like that. So, it's been a really beautiful journey to get to this, 3 years in. So, as we continue to grow, we continue to bring more staff into the space and that helped shift and shape our values and our culture.
Jackie – Sounds amazing. Did you have anything to add to that Shae?
Shae – Yes, sure. We have worked really hard over the last three years to very much incorporate into the everyday learning opportunities of our students, opportunities for them to really develop their learning characteristics, really providing them with the capacity to be able to work collaboratively, creatively and build their repertoire of being able to learn who they are as learners as well, and how that's actually contributed to their overall learning journey at school, but also beyond school as well, and really preparing them for that. So that's a key feature of the school which is really exciting to have seen, develop and just how that really links in with even students own intrinsic motivation to learn about themselves as learners.
Jackie – Through our Statewide Staff room meetings this term, we've started to explore with you what mastery in the creative arts looks like, and obviously giving the students that agency like you're talking about and finding themselves as learners I think fits really nicely into what you've shared with us in regards to mastery at Linfield Learning Village. So, Shae could you tell us a little bit about the Lindfield Learning Village model for assessing mastery?
Shae – Yeah, absolutely. So, we have integrated into our quest, we call them quest but it's really trans disciplinary learning, opportunities for students to be assessed at different points of their learning journey and we actually help them to be assessment capable learners whereby we integrate self-reflection peer feedback, and that opportunity too for them to get teacher feedback as well. So, with feedback comes that opportunity to really build on their products that they're creating and to embed that feedback to extend upon their own capabilities so that they can actually reach mastery and the way that we have set it up is also through really articulating, through the use of our syllabus outcomes, ‘I can’ statements which are actually mapped back to a five point scale which would be commonly known as the A-E scale, but we've actually reframed that to be the novice to master scale. So we're already from the very beginning have introduced the concept of mastery to students through the use of that scale and you know, we have within that descriptions of what mastery is so that it's really explicit with the students as to what we would be looking for in terms of them actually reaching mastery capacity or capability I should say.
Jackie – The thing I love most about those ‘I can’ statements is we get so many questions about being able to write assessment rubrics etcetera in language that's accessible to students and just turning around the syllabus outcomes to those ‘I can’ statements I think is a really easy and genuine way to write an assessment rubric that is of language that's accessible to the students. Amy, did you want to break down the ‘I can’ statements at all?
Amy – Yeah, sure. So as Shae referred to, we've got a master to a novice learning continuum and so for every outcome across every K. L. A from K to 10. All teachers have broken down their ‘I can’ statements into the five-point scale. So, within each one we break down the outcome and with the arts, because our syllabuses still haven't been rewritten, we're about to launch into that process really soon, we've still got the beautiful learn to and learn about and there's actually, when you go back through those, is such depth and complexity that really helped to unpack what that outcome is wanting or driving our learners to do or shifting our teaching practice. So, we delved into the depths of those and then obviously match them from the master novice continuum, focusing on what kids can do at each level and then what kids need to do in order to improve and move their learning forward in each of those areas as well. So that element, that's another level and layer of feedback that sits within Lindfield Learning Village is that it's really clear on those next steps in order to really move things forward. At Lindfield with mastery and assessment, we've really always had the view that kids can create their own assessments in a negotiation and co construction with the teacher and we're really hoping to hone in on that next year where we have a Must Should Could scaffold. And the good aspect of that scaffold is really about student teacher negotiation to pull all of that learning together, but they get to create their final product as long as we can really map it to outcomes and these ‘I can’ statements and the kids are certainly becoming more vocal in understanding their ‘I can’ statements and using the language really beautifully to drive their learning forward. So yeah, I cans have been unreal and they also serve a different benefit which is our reporting system. So, Octopus draws all of the data out of our learning management system which is Canvas where I can statements are housed. And Octopus provides online 24 7 continuous reporting to our parents which are mapped to the ‘I can’ statements. So it means no reporting for us because it's automatically done.
Shae – As Amy mentioned before, in terms of the ‘I can’ statements being really descriptive around moving students forward, embedded in that too is ‘I need to’. So we have little mini ‘I need to’ statements within that. So, in terms of the automated aspects of the reporting system, it's still really meaningful for students to be able to see where they’re at, talk with their parents about how they're going and we have student led conferences too where they unpack how they're going with their parents and with their learning guide. But the ‘I need to’ aspect is really important in being able to help students be able to see a pathway to mastery as well and move forward.
Jackie – Yeah, I love that. So, let's get on to creative Arts. What does secondary Creative Arts look like at Linfield Learning Village, Amy.
Amy – Yeah, great question. It's good fun. It's exciting there. We have wonderful teachers who are experts in their field and you certainly operate at a professional level outside of the school, in the arts community. And so that allows us to draw on so much rich, authentic experience to make sure that we are also providing that to our students. It's a really open environment at Linfield generally. So, any teacher would be more than welcome to walk into any class to either participate or to observe, to learn or to add to the learning that is happening in that space. But the arts in particular are always inviting people in and I guess that's just part of who the arts are. Forever seeking feedback because we know perfection is a myth. Seeking feedback to drive deeper, richer work is really powerful, but it's an open invitation for everybody to come in. And only the other day, actually Friday, I've been invited into the year 12 Visual Arts progress checkpoint for their Body of Work. And the first round of assessment from Music On. Music One made us cry in the audience to see how far these kids had come and the work that their teacher had really been able to drive with them and collaborate and teach them the ins and outs of really beautiful, strong performance was so evident and so clear. And then the panel that we were part of for the visual arts body of work checkpoint was rich but it was only enriched by the kids around us in that class, who also very much added to the questioning and the idea generation and process that was happening for kids’ body of work. So, it's a very united front at Linfield across all subjects, but particularly the arts and our major works. And heading into 2022, we have a major work plan where all of the subjects completing major works come together once a term to share where they're at.
So, we've got one coming up in week 11 where kids present a body of work or whatever they've done, draft iterations, feedbacks, confusions, questions, complexity, and the whole school will walk through that gallery space. The kids who are driving their major works can ask questions for specific feedback if they want. But it's about certainly, you know, the village raising the child as well. We know that we really need to lean on one another to get rich nuance in our creative arts work in year 12 and year 11. And obviously before that the arts sit within trans disciplinary units to we solve problems, complex social problems for the world. We hope through the arts, we know the arts is such a driver in creating solutions to what might be a better world. And so obviously too, within our creative art spaces in our individual classrooms in Stage 5, in elective, we sit within a larger pedagogical framework and that pedagogical framework at Lindfield is about best practice shifting to next practice. So, there is certainly a real restlessness in our teachers to keep making learning better, looking at new research to really drive what works and what doesn't and getting the feedback loop happening with our kids so we know that we're doing things that they really want to tap into in order to start shifting perspectives within the world. But at a base level, it's very noisy, it's very fun, it's very exciting. Teachers are very passionate and the kids are, they just produce some really beautiful things and because we're in a design-based thinking philosophy and process, there's so much drafting, so much feedback, so many iterations and that really allows for deep work and skilled practice within the arts too.
Jackie – You mentioned trans disciplinary learning. So, Shae, can I ask you what is trans disciplinary learning? How does it work? And how does the creative arts fit into that?
Shae – Great question. With trans disciplinary learning, it really is about that authentic opportunity to explore real world issues and problems and as Amy said before, those complex social issues and actually providing our students with space and the space to be able to play around with different solutions to these what we call wicked problems. So, a wicked problem doesn't have an easy answer. And that is actually where you get the strength of that trans disciplinary approach because you are using a range of disciplines to really unpack the wicked problem and play with different possibilities in being able to solve this problem that has been posed. It is highly conceptually driven. So, we have arranged curriculum in terms of within a quest, which is what we name our trans disciplinary units of work, within a quest, we have an overarching concept or big idea and that really funnels down into a wicked problem and then it's through the use of the different disciplines and the depth that we explore in those different disciplines to be able to then solve this problem. And students of course come up with different ways to be able to solve this problem and really, it's about the process of them testing and trialling and evaluating their possible solutions and then also communicating those solutions with an authentic audience. So really, it is about preparing students to love learning and also to prepare them for life beyond school as they build those really fundamental skills that you do need in the workplace, but also beyond the workplace in your own personal relationships in your own way that you choose to live your life. You know, it's really drawing on those skills that they develop over time and in terms of like how does it work and relating it back to the creative arts, as I mentioned before, you know, I'm from a HSIE background, but I've had the great privilege of being able to work with creative arts teachers and I've learned so much from them and just how the creative arts is really so integral to how we do go about solving a lot of these problems or issues that come up and especially with students and their interests, being able to add all those layers and depth that the creative arts offer. From a HSIE perspective and from other disciplinary perspectives, it's just added to my own kind of practice as well. So, there's a lot of drama pedagogy that I wouldn't have even known existed unless I had actually had the opportunity to co teach with drama teachers for instance. So, it's been great to see how the different disciplines work together to really provide a basis to solve problems.
Jackie – So at the start of a wicked problem, do the children get to choose which subjects they're going to focus on? Or is that something that you as the teaching staff decide before going into the project that we're going to focus on music, HSIE, and another subject for this project. How does that work?
Amy – That's a great question. And your solution to that, Jackie is like five years in the future. So that's in our plan that kids will be able to draw from different areas to solve that problem. But at the moment where we're at in regards to trans disciplinary learning is we do a design-based thinking sprint based on what are all of the necessary ingredients that we really need to hit in our syllabus areas and to make sure that we are covering everything and that we are NESA compliant? And then it's from those big concepts that we pulled different subjects in that have really authentic links in order to drive that particular learning and that unit of work and that wicked problem. But in saying that the wicked problem is something that we've only introduced last week. So, we were sitting with driving questions and complex social issues and then as we delve deeper into the research, of the current research about trans disciplinary learning, the idea of wicked problems kept coming up. So that is our new driver for learning is create the wicked problem first, we were driving question, and then the subjects come in almost like magnets come in to sit within those wicked problems. So, it's a really exciting area to drive forward but kids will have agency in I guess the final products that they decided to create and develop to find a solution to the wicked problem that is on offer in term one next term.
Jackie – And Shae, you sort of touched on the outcome for teachers in being able to learn about the other subjects and particularly our precious drama pedagogy which I think is almost becoming the basis of 21st century learning. So, can I get you both and I'll ask individually to sort of touch on what the outcome for teachers is. Is this more work for teachers? Is that less work for teachers? How do the teachers work together? And then what have you seen in your students? What is the outcome for the students? Amy I might get you to go first this time.
Amy – You know, it's a really good question because there's a lot of fear, I think, that sits with losing your syllabus or losing your subject, particularly in the creative and performing arts because drama for instance, it's as an elective in most schools, it might not be taught in year 7 and 8. So how do you ensure that you still build the beautiful rich practices of drama to make sure kids have an area or a space they are deeply passionate about or simply interested in it. So, for us at Linfield, we've been really lucky because we've established from the get go what collaboration is and how we collaborate and also what collaboration isn't. So, we have our own code of collaboration that we've all decided upon, but that's something up for review next year as we bring more teachers into the space and that I guess allows teachers an emotionally intelligent response to working across disciplines and subjects. And that's key in order to drive in this sort of learning forward, we don't necessarily all have to agree and it's best that we don't because there's a richness in disagreements. As long as we evaluate those, what those disagreements are to get the genius of the room through that collaboration. But it has actually becomes less work once you've set up your initial scope and sequence across all of the faculties in Stage 4 and Stage 5 as well. But that we did through design based thinking it'd be awesome if you don't have a design-based thinking expert in your school to get one in to be able to really start that process. Because external facilitators are also really important, in joining our connections and noticing what is going on in the room as well between subjects and ideas and who might have more voice. Some subjects are more prescriptive than others.
So how do we best make that all work together so that everybody feels really good going into their teaching. We have a really solid process for the TDU from creation to being within the term to then the evaluation. But that has taken us three years to really get there and when you divide and conquer your roles as opposed to just your normal classroom teacher role that looks after 30 kids only that feeds into the main unit, you're doing all of your own data analysis, you're doing all of your computer upload, you're doing all of your marking, all of your feedback. A lot of it's really isolated. So it now brings the team together and you actually in the end have less work. The time that goes into it though in terms of co creating really great learning is probably a little bit more because we want a richness and we want the learning to be really rigorous and robust but that's also the fun part because that's the creative part that you love about being a teacher. But all of the administrative stuff has really, really been lowered in how we've managed to divvy up the roles for who's in charge of what and it also has reduced our cognitive load. So, within a TDU at the moment I'm in a democracy TDU with HSIE and English. And drama has come into that because they're exploring how we might improve declining rates in democracy and adolescents across the world and they're using chorus and as their medium in order to communicate that to an authentic audience. But in being in that, at the moment I'm really in logistics and then I dip in and out of designing student learning. Shae has been in assessment land embedding, making sure we've got embedded literacy and numeracy practices within that. Which means that I don't have to think about that because she is doing it. I have to think about logistics and making sure everyone's on task and meeting their deadlines and you know organising our planning meetings, but that actually reduces my load, then Shae up skills us in how we embed literacy and numeracy in this unit so that it's meaningful and authentic and will feed back to us on data that's coming through with our checkpoints for assessment as well. So, and then there's other people who update the learning management system on Canvas. So, you're not doing everything that you ordinarily do as a siloed subject teacher. And there is such richness in that for teacher wellbeing.
Jackie – Yeah, it would be. And Shae, can you answer the second part of the question on the outcome for students.
Shae – Yeah, absolutely. And I think actually all the learning that you get from working collaboratively with your colleagues is such a massive benefit to students and it actually enhances their outcomes. Because when you are working in a trans disciplinary fashion, I think sometimes there can be a little bit of a misconception that you don't get to the greater depths of your own subject discipline, but in fact you really do, especially if you design it in that way where you can. We refer to it as the T structure. So, we might have like the breath of the concept and then the depth of the discipline. So being the subject expert, you know, you are drawing on your own understanding and deep understanding of your syllabus and then you're sharing that with your colleagues and then they actually have that opportunity then to speak with students when they might be, you know, in English or in science and because teachers are aware of different subject disciplines and their syllabus is because you've really discussed it and unpacked it together, students can actually see that shape conversations in different classes, if that makes sense. So, I think students actually really get the benefit of seeing how the disciplines do come together to complement one another with different skills as well and just alluding back to or referring back to the checkpoints. We're very careful in making sure that the syllabus outcomes are embedded within purposeful checkpoints that students do receive feedback on. So, in terms of their own skill development in particular subjects, students are always getting that feedback in relation to their checkpoints, which then contributes to towards their final product, which really blends everything together. But, you know, they still can see the relevance of what they're learning within different subject disciplines and then brought together really in the final product. The final product as well, you know, obviously a really important part of the process, but we actually value the process as much as the product and you know, having students see that. We've even really discussed in the next iteration of our trans disciplinary units, we're actually not going to mark the final product because really that's their opportunity to communicate their learning and because of the authentic nature of the audiences that we're bringing in for those final products to be, I guess, shared with, there's not the onus on getting a mark for it, it's not about the mark it’s about the learning, but in saying that too with our checkpoints in the way that we have designed the formative assessment aspects, students are still definitely getting the feedback based on their syllabus outcomes that they're achieving.
Jackie – Yeah, I love that, it's the process that's important, that's where the learning happens. Love it. My final question today links back to our theme for our podcast, Where to from here. So, for our listeners, thinking about what you've said in terms of mastery and the ‘I can’ statements, ‘I need to’ statements or trans disciplinary learning, in thinking about where to from here, how do you suggest a teacher or a faculty approach exploring mastery and or trans disciplinary learning, I think they kind of go hand in hand, but mastery and trans disciplinary learning at their school?
Amy – This is a great question, it's such a big question and it's a tough one. I would actually start with ‘I can’ statements. It gets you to understand your syllabus at such a deep level. And everybody who wrote ‘I can’ statements in 2019 were certainly experts in their syllabus and their area, but wow, their knowledge increased exponentially after they really delved into the syllabus. So, I would start there even with one outcome and I if you really wanted to explore it with your kids, you might even be able to co construct it together on the master the novice or the A-E common grade scale as well, but I would start small. So, even if you want to start in your own classroom, you can start by the ‘I can’ statement work, you can start by co constructing an assessment task with your kids as well, so that they can identify to you what they see mastery is for a particular performance task or rehearsal even. If we're looking at making in drama, what does a solid rehearsal really look like? How do we know that we've nailed this? So, if you have that common knowledge and dialogue, everyone can hold one another accountable and really work towards a common goal on achieving mastery in making as well. And then if you really want to explore the trans disciplinary aspect, inherently creative and performing arts are trans disciplinary, you know, it's really hard to teach drama without delving into history and exploring context and values as to why a play might have been written or to why a theatrical movement really got off the ground and that we know because art doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists very much in the world that draws on real things in the past and now and moving into the future with art making practice or whatever art subjects that you are in. So you can start there by trying to employ the wicked problem that you want to solve in your music classroom and then consider a Must Should Could scaffold for your assessments. Consider ‘I can’ statements, consider kids driving that learning, being brave enough to see where they really want to go within a framework. Constraint is really important because an open-ended canvas can sometimes really paralyse kids, so constraints make them a whole lot more creative too. And then also I would say, you know, look at exploring and assessing characteristics or dispositions. So, what do you really value in your classroom? Our syllabuses are really important and they certainly embed the characteristics, but to be really explicit with how do I focus, how can I create, how can I be resilient and how can we tie all of those key skills that we know our kids need now and when they leave our schools, how can we tie that into their learning and how can they map that and track their growth and how can you and them assess that too. So, I would suggest go for it, but start small if you need to.
Jackie – Fantastic. And Shae do you have any last words of advice for our teachers?
Shae – I think that was just so eloquently put by Amy and I think absolutely that idea of starting small, you know, bite sized pieces but really being mindful in explicitly sharing with students what mastery looks, feels and sounds like in your classroom and sharing what mastery is and why it's important and really also taking that wider perspective around what skills, knowledge and dispositions would be needed to demonstrate mastery in this unit of work or concept or project that you might be sharing with the students and them co constructing. That is really powerful because then they actually know what is expected of them in terms of mastery.
Jackie – Amy and Shae, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to chat with us about mastery and trans disciplinary learning and what the creative arts looks like at Linfield Learning Village. Every time I get to speak to you, I feel a little bit more excited. I really love the idea of ‘I can’ statements and the ‘I need to’, I think when I was teaching that would have made my life so much easier in terms of writing those rubrics and having the children understand what it is that we were wanting to get out of an assessment task and how they can move forward and yet the trans disciplinary learning I really love as well. So, thank you again for sharing your journey again. Thank you for your time.
Shae – Thank you.
Amy – Thank you, lovely chatting to you.
Jackie – I'm sure our listeners have been able to get a lot out of that.
This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team of Curriculum Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our Statewide Staff room through the link in the show notes or email our Creative Arts Curriculum Advisor, Cathryn Horvat at firstname.lastname@example.org . The music for this podcast was composed by Alexander McWhirter of Coonabarabran high school and the promotional tile designed by Kaitlyn Scott from Winmalee High School.
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