Monday, 19 March 2018

Building the foundations of self efficacy...


Building self efficacy with learners who have more disconnections than connections to a learning area is a challenging task. Having decided that this is the direction I will be following this year I have spent a lot of time analysing the way I deliver writing instruction. I could see from an earlier analysis of the e-asTTle attitude responses that 62.5% of my focus group do not like writing at school. None of these learners feel that they are good at writing, and more sobering from my perspective, is the fact that 75% of this group believe that I don't think they are good at writing. All statistics that need to be changed if connections are to be strengthened and shift to be accelerated. 

Positive learning conversations, or simply affirming 'talk' is the way forward. I used the content from the writing samples in my class to help my learners notice all the aspects of explanation writing that they had mastered, and to help them identify the 'gaps' that will become our areas we need to learn. The DLO I used to reinforce the vocabulary is embedded at the top of this post. All the content is specific to my class and the content of their writing samples. This lesson only focused on structure. I chose to word the questions as 'Do you have...' or 'Did you...' so that it was easier for my students to see their success and gaps in a positive light. To make this more accessible I reminded them that the areas we know how to use will become the skills we will practise, and the parts we didn't include or get right will become our learning. In doing this I drew on a strategy I learnt many years ago when I trained as a dyslexia support teacher in the UK. 

We were shown how using a flexible times-table square will allow students to see the tables they already know and highlight the ones they need to learn. Once connections had been made (ie: if you could answer 2 x 5 then you knew the answer to 5 x 2). Once the tables that have been mastered are folded over the smaller grid left (the outlined square on the image) shows students the tricky ones. This square is a lot smaller than the whole grid and gives them confidence as they can visualise the challenge ahead is now more manageable.

When applied in our context I knew everyone had included a title and had an introduction in their explanations. This meant that we were all able to put a tick beside the T and the I of the TIIC (Title, Introduction, Information, Conclusion) acronym (borrowed this from Rob Wiseman's Class on Air lesson from 2017). There were definitely smiles all round as my learners could see they had used some components of the structure of an explanation correctly. These are now our 'practise' areas. Our gaps were definitely evident in the 'information' and 'conclusion' parts of the structure. Rather than having a mountain to climb my learners saw that they 'only had two parts of the structure to master', however the reality is that we definitely have our work cut out here.

To help build connections to the vocabulary needed to understand how to structure and write an explanation I used a grid of content words. To help fill our knowledge baskets we had races in pairs to say these words, and share which ones we already knew. This is on slide 4 of the DLO. It also provided an opportunity to identify the words we didn't know or understand. I will be able to revisit and repurpose this slide as the year progresses.

+Karen Ferguson observed this lesson so I was in the lucky position of being able to reflect on the lesson through two sets of eyes. The link to Karen's blogpost is here. My takeaway in my quest to build student self efficacy is to remember not to assume I can identify the owners of the work I am sharing. Despite having permission to share one student's introduction, I was unaware he looked embarrassed while I was sharing his example of great work. My plan now is to find out ahead of time if the owner of the work I am sharing is happy for me to identify them, or if they would be prefer their work to be shared anonymously.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Collegial Observations... 2018

Last week +Karen Ferguson and I were talking about ways we could help our learners access and connect to the content language they need to be able to find success in their learning. Today Karen came to observe a literacy lesson in my class. The link to Karen's blogpost is here. 

I am currently exploring new ways I can help my learners see, hear and use the content vocabulary they need to strengthen their connections to the learning, so it was great to see what my lesson looked like through another person's eyes. I look forward to seeing how her takeaways from today are applied with older students and plan to reciprocate the visit to see this in action. On my part sharing the thinking behind the strategies I used was very powerful as it encouraged me to reflect on my practise at a deeper level. Thank you Karen.

Image courtesy of +Karen Ferguson 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Analysing the data (February)...

I have chosen to measure student self efficacy levels in writing using the self evaluation attitude questions asked of them at the start of the Writing assessment. 'Very Unlike Me' is the weakest indication of the attitude domain, so it is marked as 1. 'Very Like Me' is the strongest indication of the attitude domain, so it is marked as 4 (e-asTTle help site).

This data shows is that my learners don't like writing at school, they don't believe they are good at writing and worryingly, most think I don't think they are very good at writing. While it is affronting to read, the data gives me a great starting point to help shape the changes I need to make in my teaching practise to increase student self efficacy in writing.

'For Reading, Maths and Writing there are multiple sets of attitude questions available. You can choose which set you would like during the test creation process. The relationship between motivation, interest, self-regulation, and engagement towards a subject, and the achievement in a subject is valuable information that you can use to further understand some of the factors that make up your students’ learning' (e-asTTle help site)In searching for further information on these questions I discovered a wider selection of questions (link here) that I will ask my learners via a google form. It will be interesting to see if their opinions change outside of testing conditions.

The Research and Work Programme Summary Attitude Domains in e-asTTle paper is a downloadable PDF that explains these domain this further.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Make sure the readings answer your inquiry question...

I was reminded of something today that I wanted to share...

With my new inquiry in mind I had been searching for readings to grow my own content knowledge. There is a wealth of literature available and to be honest I felt a bit overwhelmed trying to absorb it all. During a conversation with Dr Rachel Williams (WFRC) today I was reminded that it is important to 'make sure the readings answer my inquiry question'.  Sometimes it takes someone else pointing the obvious out to you for you to sit back and breathe out. 

Seeking clarity and embracing advice...

I had an idea of where I wanted to go with my inquiry this year but was unsure of which research pathway to walk down so I contacted Dr Rachel Williams for some advice. After a discussion with her colleagues at the Woolf Fisher Research Centre, she suggested I explore ways of building student self efficacy. This makes so much sense to me as my target group are all students I have worked with for a year, but despite my previous efforts to nurture, scaffold and develop their skills in writing, they are still achieving well below the expected norms.

When considering the language in abundance lens, I now know that I need to change my inquiry question. I am moving away from 'looking at ways I can use talk to strengthen connections and raise achievement in writing for my priority learners', to 'looking at ways stronger connections to content specific vocabulary can help overcome hindered student self efficacy in writing'.

In searching for a definition of self efficacy, I found this sabbatical report from Ted Benton (2014). In his report, Baker defines self efficacy as being, 'the strength of an individual’s belief that he or she can successfully perform a given activity or task'. This definition resonates with me as I know this is the historical barrier to learning that I need to breakdown. 

In my previous post I identified the fact that many of these learners find writing 'boring' or 'too hard'. From an inquiry perspective, if I am to accelerate achievement in writing for this group of priority leaners, I need to be obvious in my belief of their ability. They need to be able to see the partnership between my belief in their ability and my expectations of what I want them to achieve. Making this conscious change in my practise is one area I will be putting under the microscope. 

Ensuring I provide opportunities for these learners to hear, explore, understand and use a wider variety of vocabulary is another avenue I will be exploring. “The extent of a student’s oral language resources has an enabling or disabling effect on his or her... writing... In the classroom when talk.... is an integral part of literacy.... writing is enriched and expanded.” Dr Jannie van Hees, (2007)  With this in mind I plan to use oral language (talk) to build on the familiar and help these students embrace the learning.

My immediate next step will be to use the e-asTTle attitude matrix to identify how these learners feel about writing and how they perceive others (including me), feel about their writing. By gathering this data now and comparing it with the end point data for 2018 I hope to show a shift over time in self efficacy. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

Noticing, connecting to and using the words around us...

Written words are all around us in a school but how many of these words do our learners have a connection to? How many of these words do they notice and use? During a class discussion I discovered that although most of our class could say our school whakatauki, I quickly realised personal connections to the meaning behind these words was missing. This made me think about how I could help my learners to notice, understand and use the language around them.

During our first CoL meeting this year Dr Jannie Van Hees reminded us of the rich language opportunities available to us in our local area. Our own school seemed like the perfect place to start building my learner's vocabulary kete. After unpacking our school whakatauki by looking at the history and purpose behind these words I introduced combination of think-pair-share and small group discussions to allow my learners to use the language in an authentic context. Working with a buddy to search for other whakatauki and the meaning behind them, resulted in connections and comparisons being made. 'Manaaki whenua, Manaaki tangata, Haere whakamua' are no longer simply words we see and can say. 'Care for the land, Care for the people, Go forward' are all words that each of my learners understand and have formed their own connections to. We captured this learning by creating DLOs to reflect our understanding and grow our print rich learning environment. Jeremiah is happy for me to share his example. Jeremiah's blog


Following on from this we looked at a phrase commonly used at our school, 'Agents of Change'. I know that I have personally unpacked this phrase each year with my learners as it is a powerful way for them to grow their leadership. This year we looked at how we could become 'Agents of Change' in our own 2018 learning journeys. This was goal setting wrapped up in the language around us. It provided an authentic purpose for my learners to strengthen their connections to these words by using them in a personalised context. Jack is happy for me to share his example. Jack's blog


We took this a step further by bringing the language, personal to our school, into our assembly time. I have been working with our student leaders when they write their assembly scripts, so together we have begun to weave our PBS language into their weekly reports. After all we learn best when we learn with and from each other, and who better to grow this learning and sense of ownership than our own student role models.