Nicki Chaffey discusses the implementation of instructional leaders roles and the impact of innovation at her school.
Preparing students for their future Narranga means place of learning in the Gumbanyggirr language and at Narranga Public School learning is at the centre of everything we aim to achieve. As part of our strategic planning, we identified that learning in the 21st century certainly looks different to ways things had been traditionally done. In particular, our innovations focused on collaboration – among teachers and students, integrating technology into classroom practice and the importance of financial literacy. The pace of life continues to accelerate and the skills that we need are constantly expanding.
Narranga Public School, under the leadership of Principal Michael Trist, provides extensive educational opportunities for approximately 620 children in the west Coffs Harbour area. Students work, play and achieve with the support of highly skilled staff, parents and community members. The school is set in manicured gardens and well maintained playing fields. The school curriculum has particular emphasis on literacy and numeracy. The school is actively supported by its local community and through this partnership has developed excellent educational facilities. Students work within a positive environment which has its focus on individual and team accomplishment.
Challenges In 2016, largely due to the increased Gonski funding model, Narranga appointed myself and another Assistant Principal, Melissa Fenton, into a school self-funding instructional leader (IL) role for one semester each. Although some team teaching and lesson planning occurred in the previous two years, the IL model was new. Most teachers welcomed the opportunity to work with another teacher in their room, but some questioned the need to improve their practice. Also, with no formal instructional leader training, such as those ILs trained through Early Action for Success, I also wondered about what my role should be and how to maximise the investment that the school had made in improving practice.
There was some resistance to formal evaluation. Staff were surveyed about their ideas, and while mostly positive, one experienced teacher commented:
I would be very disappointed if we were to implement the formal model proposed at the beginning of the year because that looked and sounded more like an official appraisal, slightly ominous and out of character with the culture we desire to build in our school of building morale in our staff as well as our students.
Building teacher capacity
Based on NAPLAN results and school-based assessment, writing was identified as our prime teaching focus for the IL model. Underlying this was the aim of improving teacher confidence and quality via the adoption of improved classroom practice. Early in the year, the two ILs and our Deputy Principal, Diane Blevin, produced an observation proforma incorporating the quality teaching documents, the CESE What works best document, continuums, visible learning documentation and many other readings on exactly what ‘good quality 21st century learning’ looks like. This proforma was not designed as a checklist, but rather as something to aspire to and help us to guide discussions with our colleagues. The focus has always been on building teacher capacity to benefit students based around individual teacher needs.
Melissa and I undertook many modelled lessons, team teaching, joint lesson planning, feedback conversations and, finally, some formal observations. The process taught me so much about exactly what teaching in the 21st century really needs to be. At Narranga it was not a one-size-fits-all model, but was guided by the needs of each teacher and, of course, each student.
We surveyed our teachers at the conclusion of the Instructional Leader program and found that 100% of teachers felt their own teaching, and their students’ writing had improved in 2016. Importantly, 100% strongly agreed with the statement that the process had been supportive. Our 2016 NAPLAN results and school-based assessment reflected growth in student writing outcomes, and we look forward to our 2017 results for a clearer indication of our progress.
The strength of the IL model is reflected in this comment by the experienced teacher, whose concerns were cited previously:
Being able to work collaboratively with another teacher based on this model is invaluable for sharing ideas, comparing observations and developing further lesson experiences designed to promote further progress in our students.
Integrated into any discussion of what expert teaching looks like is the concept of access to technology. We were slowly moving from technology being taught once a week in the computer lab, to being integrated into all our teaching and learning. 2016 saw a major leap forward in this regard.
Having physical access to technology is key and with 24 classes to manage this is a large task. As well as the computer labs and classroom computers, all years have access to banks of iPads, with Kindergarten and Year 1 choosing to primarily base their in-class usage on these. From Years 2 to 6, classes now have at least doubled their access to trolleys of laptops. 2017 will see a trial of BYOD in Year 6.
The Instructional Leader project highlighted, that for some teachers, technology integration was a key area for improvement. Melissa and I worked with teachers and students to look at exactly what writing looks like in 2016 and beyond. With another teacher, Mitchell Johnston, we team-taught lessons using the Office 365 and Google classroom suites. Allowing students to collaborate across the classroom, and across the Coffs Coast after hours, increased engagement, motivation and learning.
Coding and robotics
2016 also saw advances in coding and robotics. Our coding efforts were introduced by our computer teacher, Rodney Bullivant, and further extended through the use of an external provider. Through the urging of Stage 3 teacher, Jessica Wilson, the school purchased Lego robotics with Kindergarten, Stage 2 and Stage 3 students being involved. Jessica and Stage 3 students presented their work at the North Coast Principals Conference. Financial literacy The final area of innovation came out of a personal passion of mine, financial literacy. I was successful in receiving the Premier’s First State Super Financial Literacy Scholarship based on a long held belief in the importance of financial literacy being taught early to students. Prior to becoming a primary school teacher, I was a Certified Practising Accountant and had seen first-hand the importance of having a good understanding of consumer and financial concepts.
US Secretary for Education Arne Duncan believes in the importance of teaching financial literacy, stating that:
Young people, to be successful, to secure retirement, to take care of their families, and to not be in poverty, have to have a level of financial literacy that 30, 40, 50 years ago maybe wasn’t required. Today it’s an absolute necessity.
Financial literacy is increasingly being called essential learning in NSW primary schools. The National Financial Literacy Strategy 2014-17, states that it is ‘critical to start financial education at a young age and school is the most effective place for this learning to occur’.
Supporting this direction, Melissa and I had the opportunity to become MoneySmart facilitators. Many practical ways teachers and parents can introduce financial literacy to their children right now can be found at the MoneySmart website. With our principal and executive team’s support, we have introduced MoneySmart Teaching and units across Narranga, as well as, to other Coffs Harbour schools
Some of the highlights in 2016 of this have included Stage 2 students planning, budgeting, purchasing and preparing breakfast, and Kindergarten students conducting fundraising stalls.
Additionally, we are incorporating and expanding current quality practice that can further enhance students’ financial literacy skills, for example regular market days, Kids in the Kitchen, in conjunction with the school canteen, and fete stalls. We have partnered with the Smith Family to provide financial education to parents.
During 2017 as part of my scholarship, I will visit Institutions and schools in Australia, the United States, Hong Kong and Shanghai. I will make observations and conduct interviews about their programs against set criteria. I will participate in 21st century teaching and learning conferences to develop my understanding of the latest research in preparing students for a successful financial future.
My focus question is:
What common criteria do successful early financial literacy programs exhibit and how can we ensure that these are emulated in all NSW primary schools?
Further, it is my proposal to promote Narranga Public School as a demonstration school for excellence in financial literacy education and share our experiences and expertise throughout the Coffs Harbour district and potentially beyond. My aim is to take a lead role in advocating for financial literacy education at a school, regional and state level.
Narranga Public School is only beginning on our journey to help prepare our students for their future. I have outlined three main areas that we have been involved in 2016, with collaboration being the key between all of them – our Instructional Leader model, integrating technology and financial literacy.
A collaborative environment is essential for whole school team innovation and positive change. Innovation is not something that is done and ticked off, but a mindset. I look forward to being part of our team as our innovation continues in 2017 and beyond.
References and further reading
Blancato, C. 2012, ‘Assisting students to be Moneysmart’, Scan, vol.31, no. 4, pp 42-45, accessed 28 February 2017.
MoneySmart Teaching resources, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), accessed 28 February 2017.
MoneySmartAu 2016, ‘Making the connections – mathematics and consumer and financial literacy’, YouTube, accessed 28 February 2017.
Moore, J 2016, ‘Teaching and learning - writing focus at Narranga Public School’, Filmpond, NSW Department of Education, accessed 28 February 2017.
The National Financial Literacy Strategy 2014-17, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), accessed 28 February 2017.
How to cite this article: Chaffey, N. 2017, 'Innovation at Narranga Public School', Scan, 36(1), pp. 26-29