Effective Classroom Practice - Sustaining and Growing

Blue Creek Public School has an enrolment of 450 students and is located in South Western Sydney. The school community is diverse, with 79 per cent of students coming from a language background other than English and there are 30 different languages spoken. The school has an average FOEI of approximately 120.

Screen shot of first page of Blue Creek case study

School type Domain Self-assessment Element Case study Data sample
Blue Creek Public School Teaching Delivering Effective Classroom Practice

Blue Creek case study (PDF, 870 kB)

Blue Creek data sample (requires login) (PDF, 870 kB)

The school has about 30 staff with a range of experience: 70 per cent are accredited at Proficient, and almost 50 per cent of staff are on part-time or full-time temporary contracts.

The school’s strategic directions for 2015-2017 are to:

  • Implement a curriculum that meets the needs of all students
  • Foster innovative teaching practices
  • Increase engagement with the community

The school has linked its strategic priorities to the School Excellence Framework and has in place evaluation structures to monitor progress through its milestones.

1. Reflect on the statement of excellence

Effective Classroom Practice

> In schools that excel, all teachers are committed to identifying, understanding and implementing the
most effective teaching methods, with a high priority given to evidence-based teaching strategies.

2. What are the practices in our school that support Effective Classroom Practice?

School Plan:

The school team identified the following processes that are focussed on improving effective classroom practice:

  • establish a Quality Teaching Teacher Mentor position
  • embed, formative assessment, feedback and ‘Write to Learn’ strategies
  • implement a shift to collaborative practices as teacher professional learning
  • introduce explicit strategies for mentoring and coaching, and
  • enhance the focus on the use of data to inform programming.

The school has utilised RAM funding to establish the Quality Teaching Teacher Mentor position and fund coaching and mentoring time.

Other school practices:

The principles of Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) operate across the school with clear and explicit expectations to ensured ordered classrooms. There is a focus on catering for individual learning needs with detailed progress for students regularly documented within Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) and Personal Learning Plans (PLPs). ILP's and PLP's are shared with key staff and monitored by the learning support team.

3. Where will we find the evidence of impact? What data will we use?

The school has embedded ongoing evaluation of student data in five week cycles through milestones which includes regular monitoring of learning cycles and ILP/PLPs. Student learning data is collected and analysed by stage teams. The Quality Teaching Teacher Mentor documents the time spent engaged directly in mentoring and coaching, and in class development, as part of a regular reporting process.

PBL, attendance and suspension data are regularly reviewed by the school executive. Teacher programs are regularly annotated and include responses to formative assessment data and feedback from students. They form the basis of teacher reflections with supervisors. The annual professional learning schedule, including the Lesson Study implementations, demonstrates professional learning linked to the School Plan’s vision for effective teacher practice. Professional learning is evaluated and the feedback from professional learning sessions informs future plans and adjustments to milestones. Lesson study observations provide evidence of teacher practices and student interviews provide further insights into the use of feedback between teachers and students. A survey of all teaching staff was used to monitor the impact of both the Quality Teaching Teacher Mentor and the implementation of the Lesson Study approach.

Sources of data analysed

Other Sources of data that could be used

  • Professional Development Plan data
  • Classroom observation data
  • Collation of teacher professional dialogue, via social media (eg Twitter, Edmodo)
  • Videos and photographs of learning environments and classroom practice
  • Tell Them From Me surveys
  • AP coaching/mentoring notes (eg GROW scaffolds)
  • Programs and lesson plans
  • Staff meetings (eg minutes, agendas)
  • Collaborative inquiry observation data (eg Instructional Rounds, Spiral of Inquiry, Action Learning)

4. When we analyse our data, what does it tell us?

The school’s analysis indicates:

  • The school is prioritising embedding evidence-based teaching practice and teachers are using data to inform programming and reflect on practice.
  • The leadership team reviews the data collected through a regular collection schedule. In every stage, teachers have used student data to create five week learning cycles. The data is recorded on the data analysis sheets, and is used by teachers to shape programming. Data is used to discuss the cycles of learning on teacher learning days (release day from face-to- face teaching for mentoring).
  • ILPs exist for 13 per cent of students; all student goals are regularly and thoroughly tracked. There is varied achievement of student goals (from 50 per cent to 100 per cent), which is being addressed through ongoing learning and support refinements and professional learning.
  • PBL negative behaviour trends have decreased by more than 20 per cent from previous annual data (average 51 K-6, per term), including reduced classroom referrals (average 21 K-6, per term), and positive referrals are increasing. This correlates with significant reductions in suspension data and indicates that classrooms are productive spaces for learning.
  • The Quality Teaching Teacher Mentor survey results demonstrate changes in teacher practice, as an outcome of professional learning and Quality Teaching Teacher Mentor support. These include; increasing teacher reflection, improving understanding and use of formative assessment strategies, delivering higher quality teaching and learning (almost 50 per cent of teachers per item).
  • Quality Teaching Teacher Mentor survey results also indicate limited impact of the lesson study approach (approx 20 per cent of respondents value and credit improved practice to this approach currently), a result which will be investigated further.
  • The balance of Quality Teaching Mentorship time for Assistant Principals is increasing, but has not yet reached the initial target of 25 per cent (currently 50 per cent administration).
  • There is evidence that explicit Learning Intentions and Success Criteria (LISC), pre-post assessments, exit slips, and student reflections are being used in classrooms across the school.
  • There is evidence that teachers are using LISC to provide students with timely feedback on learning.
  • Results of student interviews show that more than 50 per cent of students interviewed were able to speak about the use of formative assessment strategies in their classrooms. The majority of these students shared examples of improved understanding of content when LISC are referred to.
The school’s analysis shows that the use of evidence-based instructional practice is becoming a regular feature of classroom practice, and that decisions being made are based on both student data and feedback. Learning intentions with success criteria are in place and teachers are providing feedback to students to improve student learning.

5. What can we reasonable conclude about our school?

(Making judgements using the School Excellence Framework)

Why is this school beyond Delivering?

There is evidence that the school reviews and revises teaching and learning programs. In fact, the school's regular data collection processes and collaborative planning approaches demonstrate that these are practices that lift the review of teaching and learning to a level that is driven by regular reflection on student performance using a range of sources. The well-established PBL approach and analysis of data means that classrooms are places of learning.

Why is this school Sustaining and Growing?

The school has in place well established practices of gathering and reviewing student performance data to evaluate their own practice. Lesson observations also provide feedback to teachers on the implementation of a range of strategies being targeted across the school. There is evidence of ongoing priority being given to the use of explicit evidence-based strategies across the school. Formative assessment exists across the school and both lesson observations and student interviews demonstrate that teachers are providing feedback to students.

What does the school need to do to Excel?

To excel, the school needs a more consistent demonstration of instructional leadership as the focus of the work of the leadership team. There would also need to be evidence that demonstrates how teachers review learning with students and how the feedback provided is improving learning outcomes. Feedback from students would demonstrate greater incidence and impact of effective practices. More teachers would be implementing effective practices, more confidently, with greater consistency.

To see the descriptors for this element, view the School Excellence Framework (PDF, 620 kB).

6. Planning for the future - what do we need to do next?

Strengthening Practice

  • Deepen knowledge and understanding of evidence-based approaches to teacher observation and feedback to improve practice.
  • Explore use of lesson study further evaluating current implementation methods and how this aligns with research and best practice. Form or join a Community of Practice with other schools.
  • Enhance coaching and mentoring skills across the leadership team.
  • Expand teacher and student skills and strategies in using feedback to improve learning.
  • Expand data skills and use to include for example, data walls, use of the literacy and numeracy continua.

Strengthening Evidence

  • Ensure explicit, routine processes for analysing and sharing lesson observation findings and feedback including use of ICT platform (eg Edmodo).
  • Capture and analyse samples of student work for evidence of practice.
  • Conduct regular focus groups with teachers and students to explore student understanding and use of effective practices, capturing and analysing video footage of these group interviews.

To developing effective classroom practice schools could consider the following*

Practices Evaluation

7. Sharing evidence of practice and external validation

Blue Creek leadership team shared their findings and future directions with staff. In the meeting they revisited the research on lesson studies and teachers collaboratively developed a classroom observation scaffold.

Blue Creek was nominated for external validation. The school’s validation team used their self-assessment, to write the executive summary. Their strongest, annotated, critically analysed evidence was submitted to support the conclusions they reached about their achievements in relation to the School Excellence Framework elements, categories and descriptions.

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