Transcript of Unpacking the new Stage 6 English syllabuses

Unpacking the new Stage 6 English syllabuses

Presenter: Jake Handler

Hi, everyone. Just before we kick off, in about five minutes, I thought I'd explain to anyone who's already here... Well, first of all, you can all hear me, right? Can anyone... Suppose if you can't hear me, you won't know I'm asking. Great. Great. Just for everybody who's here already, there are some files down in the bottom left files pod for people to download, if you're interested, so there's a copy of each of the syllabuses for each of the new courses... well, each of the courses, and a copy of the PowerPoint slides that I'll use in today's presentation, so you don't need to make notes, make copious notes, on the slides. There's also a copy of the Stage 6 prescriptions down in the files pod as well, just for ease of access. Of course, all of that's on the NESA website as well. Anyway, we'll start in a few minutes. And just sit tight until then. Thanks, Mel. Good. Sorry. So, for those of you who don't know me, I'm Jake Henzler. And I am usually at Killara High School, but I am working at the moment with Prue Greene in a state office at Oxford Street, working on units for... sample units for the new syllabus for Stage 6, so we're working with the writing teams who are writing those units, which is quite exciting. The series of Adobe Connect sessions that we'll be running over the next few weeks is really just an introduction to aspects of the syllabus that you might not have had time to look at, and it's also an opportunity to ask some questions, so that you can get a bit more clarification, because sometimes the documents themselves aren't always as clear as you need them to be, so it's part of our job to address some of those issues.

As I said at the beginning, for anybody who has just arrived, all of the files that you might want related to today's presentation are down in the left-hand corner. There's a copy of a syllabus for each of the courses, but there's also a copy of the prescriptions document here and a copy of all of the slides from the presentation. So if you... if you missed the...or if there's something that you miss and you want to go back to, you can have a look at those slides at the end. If you have any questions along the way, there's a question-and-answer pod over to the right here. Just drop your question in and Prue or I will get to it. And...yeah, we'll... We'll hopefully be able to answer all of them, and everybody can see all of the answers as we go. So, today's presentation is just on generally unpacking the structure of the courses and looking at some of the features of the new syllabus. The first thing I thought we'd do is go over a general overview of the structure of each of the Year 11 and 12 courses offered in English so that people can get a sense of how they relate to one another and any new content or changes.

So... The first one we're looking at here is English Studies. And this is across, obviously, Year 11 and Year 12. You can see that the English Studies course has the mandatory module in the first part, and then the second component is a series of elective modules, which are chosen by the teacher, based on the needs of the class, or the needs of the students at their school. And I've put a link there to all of the module options that are available in the syllabus, if people are interested in looking at those, and those elective modules, quite interestingly, carry across from 11 into 12, so that the modules can be studied in either Year 11 or Year 12, and that's... And, as I say, you can do two to four in each of the years. The other interesting feature is that there is a Common Module in Year 12 here that relates to the Standard and Advanced courses which is the Texts and Human Experiences. So I've marked in purple any of the Common Modules, things where there's a content... there is a piece of content that overlaps with another course, just for sort of ease of reference. OK.

In this English Standard course, we have also now got prescribed modules in Year 11 - not prescribed texts for those modules, but prescribed models themselves. And, again, there's a Common Module at the beginning of each of those courses that's... relates to the Advanced course, although the Common Module for Year 11 Standard is the same as Advanced, but it's not the same as Studies. Studies doesn't have the Common Module at the beginning of Year 11. So the three courses, the three modules, in Year 11, and then on to four in Year 12, to match, presumably, the more time that's allocated to it. One of the other interesting things to note is some of the linking that's going on between the Year 11...the new Year 11 modules and the Year 12 modules, so you can see, for example, the Close Study of Literature that occurs in Module B is clearly meant to be some sort of preparation for the Close Study of Literature that's going on in Year 12, and you'll see the same thing with the Advanced course, that the Critical Study of Literature there is meant to be preparing students for the Critical Study of Literature in Year 12. But there's also this new focus on writing, particularly on students producing their writing and learning how to write well, and that comes through in that Reading to Write course that's common here and The Craft of Writing course, which, although it appears in both Standard and Advanced, is not technically common content.

So, on to Advanced, where we have, again, the Reading to Write, the Texts and Human Experiences that's common, The Craft of Writing, the same unit, but not common content. That critical study links in from Year 11 into Year 12. And then the newish unit, Narratives that Shape Our World. It's...might be similar to things we've seen before, but it's new in terms of the way that it fits into this syllabus. One of the other things that... one of the other features of the Standard and Advanced courses that I've tried to show here is that that Module C, The Craft of Writing, can be a concurrent unit, so it doesn't need to fall at the end... It doesn't have to go Common Module, Module A and Module B in Year 12. The syllabus is pretty open about the way that you can incorporate The Craft of Writing into your teaching and learning, so... I put it here as an example across all of the modules, which might be one approach to doing it. You might choose to study first the Common Module and then run each of A and B alongside C. It runs the whole time. You might choose another... another approach to it. But the syllabus seems to leave a fair few options open there.

With the EAL/D course, there are three modules in Year 11, none of them common with the Advanced, Studies or Standard courses. And there's also the option for teachers to develop their own module at the end of Year 11, I guess, to tailor the work specifically to students and the needs of the students at their school, and so the hours of each of the courses, of each of the modules, sort of varies to allow for that. And then, in Year 12, the unit down the bottom here is called Focus on Writing, and that is actually determined to be a concurrent module, but that should be taking place across the whole year, that it's not something to be done at the end, and that's, I guess, why The Craft of Writing unit for Standard and Advanced is able to be done in a similar way. There's also some of the courses... Although this one says Texts and Human Experiences for Module A, and that is actually the title of the common content for Standard and Advanced, it's not common content for the course. So at no point will students be assessed on the same marking criteria or the same tasks as students in the other courses... And then we can see some familiar names for units as well appearing in that EAL/D course, which seems to be bringing it more in line with some of the other content from Standard.

The English Extension I course is... Text, Culture and Value is its Year 11 module, but a new feature of that course is this related research project, which is supposed to have a certain amount of time in the course allocated to its study, and this is really about handing the responsibility of learning over to students and making sure that they're investing a lot of time in understanding the ideas of the course and finding texts of their own that suit the module. And then in Year 12, there's a Common Module, and it runs for the whole year. This research project doesn't exist in the same way, although we'll look at some of the assessment details in a minute, but students study a Common Module called Literary Worlds that goes over the whole unit, and as a way of studying that Common Module, each teacher picks an elective and students study the elective for the module. So, it sort of... There is a lot of content that's very similar, but the elective is like a stream of content for the Common Module.

And then, for Extension II, there are sort of four components listed in the syllabus that make up this course. As I'm sure you're all aware, the Extension II course doesn't have a teaching content, as such, and so it's really about the students completing their own major work and about the composition process of that work, and so these are the four aspects that are identified by the syllabus as being important. The only difference, or the very... the only very big difference for this course, is that the major work is not going to be assessed in-school, that all of the assessment modes are set down for that course... the internal assessment weightings and modes are set down for that course, and we'll look at that in a moment.

So, I guess the key messages that I'm seeing that we can take away from some of the changes to structure here are that there is some increased commonality between the two-unit courses, that there seems to be a move to make some of the courses look more like one another so that they're considered a bit more comparable, and that could be quite a positive thing. And the second is that there's an increased focus on the explicit teaching of writing skills, so... And we see that in the Reading to Write unit, Focus on Writing, The Craft of Writing, which are units that are specifically dedicated to learning to write better, and that's something that we haven't seen in the current syllabus. Writing has always just been an understood component of all of the other parts. But it seems that NESA is looking to put more emphasis on that very explicit teaching of writing and very explicit assessment of writing skills too.

Alright. I'm sorry. My ticks have turned to pie symbols in this chart. But just imagine that they look like ticks, and this is a chart sort of to explain the way that prescribed texts look in each of the units. So, there are no prescribed texts in the Year 11 course, in any of the Year 11 courses. Those are all selected by teachers. The... And, again, this chart is just for Year 12, but there are no prescribed texts that need to be selected for English Studies, except in the... There are no, sorry, text type requirements for Studies. There is only one prescribed text that needs to be set down, and that is in the Texts and Human Experiences Common Module. In EAL/D, these... the three text types here apply, same for Standard, and then for Advanced, the top three, and then this fourth category, non-fiction, or film, or media, or one of the above, so if you would prefer not to teach a non-fiction film or media, then the fourth text type that needs to be covered is another one of the categories above. Then, the next two layers are sort of other parts that need to be covered that aren't necessarily the selection of prescribed texts. This one here, at least two additional short texts for The Craft of Writing or Focus on Writing. So, for those writing units, the syllabus says very explicitly that two additional short texts must be taught by the teacher there. That's going to be pretty easy to cover, but that is another requirement. And then the last one is just that one prescribed text needs to be studied in Texts and Human Experiences, but there also needs to be one related text that's covered. And it's not made clear if that's intended to be the related text that students find themselves or if it's meant to be a related text that teachers teach, but, of course, it's likely that both of those things are going to be happening in most people's classrooms anyway. And I've just put down here, "See the prescriptions document for full details." So that's the one down in the files pod down here.

There's been quite a shift in terms of related material requirements. Related material has been very much contained to the Common Module, rather than across different modules in each of the courses, and so for English Studies, English Standard and English Advanced, it says that assessment of the Common Module must integrate related material, and that is... for Standard and Advanced, it's "student-selected related material". That's how the syllabus terms it. And for English Studies, it actually says that it can be related material selected by the student or it can be related material selected by the teacher, which presumably means, you know, related texts that are taught in class. And so the key messages that I think we can take away from that related material and prescribed texts are that there are fewer prescribed texts in total because there are fewer modules being studied that require the close study of particular texts, and that gives us an opportunity for a bit more depth of study of those texts, hopefully. There's greater flexibility in some of the text choices that you make, because the text types aren't as limiting. They are still, I guess, some people might say limiting, but they are not... they're not as limiting. And, just as I was saying, that the related material is more contained, so rather than students having to find related material across multiple modules, it's just in the common content that that's required. Sorry, yes.

Mel has just said down the bottom, "Two related texts in Extension I as well." And that's true. I've not included that. OK. I apologise that this slide's a little bit dense with the detail, but what I'm trying to show is that there are some common aspects across each of the courses and that if we can understand the common aspects, then it gives us a better sense of where maybe the direction of all of the courses is headed. So, in Year 11, for Studies, Standard, Advanced and EAL/D, all of these dot points apply, so three formal tasks. The tasks have a minimum weighting of 20% and maximum of 40%. There's an optional written exam for all of those courses and there's a mandatory multimodal presentation. The only slight difference for EAL/D here is that that mandatory multimodal presentation must include the mode of listening, which means that at some point, there has to be a listening component put into the presentation, either post-presentation or pre-presentation, or during, I suppose.

OK, and then in the Year 12 course, that goes up to four formal tasks. The tasks have a different weighting limit of 10% to 40%. There's an optional written exam still. And then for Standard, Advanced and EAL/D, there is a mandatory multimodal presentation, but there is not one for Studies. Instead, in Studies, there's a mandatory classwork portfolio. And the only other difference is that, again, EAL/D's presentation must include a listening component. The dot point that I've added down the bottom here is for Standard, Advanced and EAL/D, just that there's a mandatory Craft of Writing or Focus of Writing task worth a minimum of 25% weighting. So that is currently in the syllabus, but... We have to assume, I think, that if students are going to be examined externally on The Craft of Writing, which is one of the options in the exam specs survey that's open at the moment, if they are going to be examined on The Craft of Writing, then there's probably not going to be the same requirement for them to be assessed on it at 25% value in the in-school assessment schedule. So, we have to wait and see what the determination of the survey is and what the eventual exam specifications are to see if that will hold up or not. OK.

In Year 11 Extension I, again, three formal tasks. The tasks are 20% to 40%. Optional written exam. And this optional written exam feature of a lot of the courses... Some of the officers from NESA who came to speak to us at the mEsh conference said very clearly that there is not a requirement to have an exam, and although a lot of schools tend to want to have a yearly exam or the trial HSC exams, but these things are not necessarily a part of a good assessment schedule or that those things can occur but they don't necessarily need to carry with them formal assessment weighting. So... I know that's probably a frightening thought to a lot of people, because that gives a lot of structure to courses and it often is a great motivator for kids to try in those exams, but those exams are not mandatory components of assessment. And just for Year 11 Extension I, there's that mandatory multimodal presentation on the independent related projects that they do. And, again, it's got a maximum value attached to it. And then, in Year 12, there are still only three formal tasks, the same weighting limits. There's an optional written exam with a maximum of 30% weighting and a mandatory creative response. So that's one of the features that isn't in Year 11 that does appear later in Year 12.

English Extension II. So these are the set weightings, the new set weightings of assessment, that these...there will be three tasks in the Extension II course. The first is the viva voce, with a weighting of 30%, a literature review, with a weighting of 40%, and the critique of the creative process, with a weighting of 30%. As I was saying before, you'll see that the task itself, the major project that they write, does not get assessed in-school, but that and a reflection statement will likely form the full mark in external marking.

So, the key messages here across all of those assessment notes is that there are fewer formal assessments across all courses, at a maximum of four in most of the two-unit courses in Year 12. There are fewer restrictions on assessment modes, so your assessment modes can be more varied, more creative, if you like. There's an increased focus on formative and informal assessment. And what I mean by that is, NESA seems to be pushing that schools should be, if they like, creating more tasks that give students opportunities to demonstrate their learning and to learn tasks that will generate their learning itself without necessarily formally assessing those particular tasks. And the last is just that there's an increased focus on multimodal texts, but...multimodal texts, but also the multimodal presentations that students are giving, so multimodal assessment as well. Just for everybody... That's sort of the end of all of the information that I'm going to deliver. And the last thing I wanted to remind everybody of is that there is the exam specification survey out at the moment that NESA is asking teachers and faculties to respond to, and this is really our last opportunity to say, "We believe that the model you're proposing for examination is effective," or, "We do not believe that it is, and here is the feedback we have for you." And I would encourage anybody who hasn't already done that to get to it soon, please. It's a really good opportunity to have your say. So I guess I'll leave that up.

And... Are there any other questions that have come up during the presentation? Has anybody got any questions arising from any of the information? No? Alright. And then the last thing just here is that the Adobe Connect sessions, the three that follow this one, are on... The first one's looking at the Common Modules and content. The second one, Multimodal Tasks and Assessment. And the third one, it's the Reading to Write unit and The Craft of Writing. Yes, Lara. You just asked about if the recording will be available. It will. It'll be available on the front page of the room. So, if at any point, you miss one of the sessions and you'd like to watch it, you can just log back into the room and there'll be a link on the front page to each of the recordings.

That's an interesting question, Lin. It is strange, I think, that there isn't a Common Module at the beginning of Year 11 English Studies. If the intent is that students would be... We have to probably assume that some of the reason for the common content across multiple courses is that students might still be adjusting to which course they should really be in. There's a lot of course changing going on. And it might have seemed sensible to put common content at the beginning of Year 11 English Studies as well. I'm not sure why that's not there. Might it lend itself to a manipulation of the modules in Year 11 to support their work in Year 12?" I don't know. The fact that the modules are available to be taught across the two years is interesting as well. I guess that's going to have to be clarified a bit in terms of the examination and what students are allowed to write about in the examination. I suppose just as a last note, is there anything that people... in terms of the upcoming sessions, is there anything that people would like more clarification on or think would be particularly useful that maybe Prue and I can work on before we give those presentations, so that we can address some of the information?

I can, Anne-Maree. So there is a definition, I think, of 'multimodal texts' given in the syllabus and possibly in the... It should be in each of the core syllabuses, I think. But, to my mind, 'multimodal' means that it is operating in more than one mode. So, in terms of a multimodal presentation, then you have the term 'presentation' built in, it would suggest that there's some sort of live delivery being given or some sort of recorded delivery that happens in multiple modes, so it's more likely to be audio and visual, but it could also be a representation of sorts. It could be partly a visual representation. But multimodal, in terms of a multimodal text, means that it's occurring in two of the expressive modes, so it might be audio visual or it could be written and audio, any combination of those.

OK. Well, that's certainly something we're hoping to cover... Is it 'Tamera'? Sorry if I'm saying it wrong. ..in the third session. That wasn't the plan, Kiah. I think we were going to look at... across the courses that have that Common Module in Year 12, but certainly if that... if people are keen to understand the way that the Common Module and the electives are likely to work in Extension I, we could look at that. Again, Justine, maybe that's something we will be able to look at in one of the sessions, yes, and if not, then it's certainly something that we'll be able to clarify. These are all good questions too for the writing team, so that when we have those sample units come out, hopefully, the way that the assessments and the units are set up will really clarify the way that those things could be approached by teachers.

Melissa, I think the questions are visible only once they're answered, maybe. Sorry. But... If people are interested to see answers to some of the questions, we should be able to write some answers after the session's ended. So, Christopher, you have asked down here, With an external exam still at the end of the course, is it a good idea for schools to still run trial exams as a formal internal assessment"? That's really going to be up to each school to decide, I think. I can see ways that it would work to not have a formal internal trial exam, but I can also see why a lot of schools would think that that's still a very valuable task. Pamela. You raised your hand. No worries, Melissa. OK. Well, that is all of the questions. I'll type in some answers now. And I'll be back again next week with the next session. Thanks, everybody.

End of transcript

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