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Design decision making framework - Conditions for learning

How flexible are the learning opportunities?

Drama (in an urban Pasifika school)

I see a class as a community and everyone in it as a resource. Valuing each other as people, as individuals, and as a community is my first principle. Finding out what it is that each one of us can bring to our learning is part of that. However, it can be hard because many students come from very challenging backgrounds.

You have to have love and you have to have grace. By that I mean, seeking the best for all students, even though sometimes the students are very negative. You have to have love and empathy because some of the things that our students come from are really challenging and that shapes who they are.

Knowing the students is important when it comes to drama. Building relationships and enabling them to connect with self as performers and creators, each other, and audiences is essential. Creating learning environments to facilitate those relationships and connections is very intentional. For example, it is the reason we start with individual and collective mihi at the beginning of the drama course.

Creating a learning community through different forums is equally important. Facebook is one forum that is used at all year levels and is used as a place for discussion, feedback, sharing, and collaborative space.

Because we work a lot collaboratively, I consider the nature of the groups a lot, particularly how to make groups that fit the purpose of the task, and it really depends on the class. Sometimes they are made randomly, sometimes selected by the students or I choose them, it really depends on what the class is like and the time of year. For example, if I can see that relationships are pretty tight amongst most people and there’s a lot of strength throughout the whole group, then they are random. The main idea is to be an active thinker and responsive to student needs at any given time.


Visual arts (in a rural year 7–13 co-ed school)

As the learning programme is personalised, each student often self selects their assessment options. For some students this might mean in order to experience success in visual art, he/she might only do the internal achievement standard assessments. I also discuss with students what we think are their best options, so they are involved in the decision making. For more able students at year 11, flexibility to complete an additional external folio submission at level 2 is possible.

There are some challenges with school structures, when operating in this flexible way in only one department. Some of the students may not be ready to do an internal assessment when the school has set out a time frame for internals to be done. So I have had to be quite dogged in arguing the case that students sit the internals when they are ready, and not to an external time frame.

The role of ongoing formative assessment was pivotal to managing the clash between a student-centred programme and systems-centred school policies. Reporting is informed by formative results that are updated to summative achievement on the school learning management system early in term four. This enables assessment to continually reflect the progressive nature of students’ ability to acquire and demonstrate skills in the visual arts. There seems to be a growing awareness of assessment for learning within the school.


How culturally responsive is the programme?

Dance (in a large co-ed urban school) 

I try and achieve cultural responsiveness through differentiated approaches. For example, I consider ways for Māori students to experiment with and explore within the learning context, themes, ideas and content which is uniquely Māori. A recent example of this is in a choreographic unit I have developed around the theme of peace and protest through movements from history.

Students have researched the Parihaka land wars and Te Whiti o Rongomai, his passive resistance movement. Some students already have an understanding or a prior knowledge generated from learning in other subjects from previous year levels, or they have whānau who have stories or knowledge that they can recall. 

My training and experience in the Te Kotahitanga project and the three years of observation, critique and shadow coaching cycles, has had the biggest impact on my teaching and learning practice. The principles of the effective teaching profile, became really influential in terms of the way I interact with my students and the way that I think about the importance of what I am planning for, or teaching them.

Being culturally responsive is about providing the right learning conditions and environment for the students, and that is derived from a foundation of manaakitanga; modelling and exemplifying the idea of mana motuhake, which is striving for high expectations in both behaviour and achievement. These two values then combine really effectively to foster ako and the ability for them to share, and co-construct, and work at tasks together without me needing to really be involved at all, at times. 

From the beginning, I promote the idea that all students in my class have a responsibility to themselves and are accountable to the others in the class. Equally they know they have a responsibility to the others and are accountable to themselves, which hopefully creates a sense of individual agency, but with and for the collective in terms of learning outcomes.

There are three key branches of cultural responsiveness that are essential to my practice to make sure that success occurs.

  • Making sure that in those first few weeks of the year, that they trust my role in supporting them to achieve success. They will know that I am going to push them and expect a lot from them.
  • Getting to know my students as young people, and individuals, at the start of the year. Who they are as people; what they have done in the past etc. Later in the year it’s getting to know what they what they do outside of the class that is important to them.
  • Fostering kotahitanga or togetherness in the class is important and is enabled through the concept of ako, making sure that all of them can see a way to learn from everyone else. They build the confidence to lead each other and respecting the skills that everyone else in the class has.


Drama (in an urban Pasifika school)

I try to be responsive to a broad notion of cultures including Māori and Polynesian ethnicity but also youth culture, South Auckland culture, Otara culture, modern teenager culture, Generation Y culture, as well as their parents’ cultures. The contexts for learning in each unit are mostly very broad but very connected to our students. For example, the mihi unit in level 6, which is about introducing yourself so the content is on who the students are. It focuses on their identities from the beginning and the value of that knowledge in a learning context, and teaches them who and what they bring to the classroom is what drama is all about. It gives them that sense of ownership and belonging.

Our students really thrive in that kind of environment. They achieve best when the learning process is scaffolded, when they can work as part of a big group and develop skills in those areas, then extended into smaller groups and then solo work later. The universal nature of the themes enables all the students to locate themselves culturally and that may include references to ethnicity, gender, whānau etc.

There are other learning contexts that are more explicit in relation to ethnicity such as the year 13s who are performing Macbeth, but set in ancient Polynesia. Level 7 across the school explore themes associated with Matariki, like celebration, whānau and looking forward. This culminates in a cross curricula performance event across the arts.


Music – sound arts (in a large co-ed urban school)

A wide range of musical styles are used to engage all learners, as we use music as the medium in which to teach tolerance, create cultural understanding, and affirm their analysis skills using the musical elements.

We also attempt to expose our students to new and different experiences. We have taken 100 students to the opera: “Marriage of Figaro”. For some students, not only was this their first experience of theatre but the first time they had been in downtown Auckland! We prepared them for what to expect, such as, reading a ticket to find the right door entrance, the story of the opera, the noise at the beginning as the orchestra tuned. They were great! They made the music department proud in the way they responded to the challenge of a totally new experience.


What are the assessment opportunities?

Integrated (in a large urban co-ed school)

Ongoing assessment is mostly based on qualitative data - student reflections and teacher observations, and discussions with students. Evidence is gathered at an individual and a group level.

Students have to meet deadlines in order to get the magazine published on time.

I can see who is participating by going onto the project’s Facebook group. All but one student (who doesn’t have a Facebook page) belongs to this group. This is a useful extension of the classroom (24/7 learning, which has its advantages, but needs to be appropriately managed so it doesn’t take over). I capture screen grabs as evidence of progress.

Based on what was learned in 2012, 2013 assessment for qualifications (NCEA) has been more “shoehorned” into the standards than was initially hoped - so some tasks are set that are more specifically related to the demands of particular internal standards. This helps students prioritise and gather the evidence required for the standard.

This programme provides ample evidence of students developing key competencies, particularly managing self and relating to others. It relies on them actively using these competencies. Without them the programme simply would not work. They have deadlines they constantly have to meet. They have to set up and establish relationships with artists. They have to work as a team to produce the magazine, write the articles, design, maintain the Facebook page etc. It has been interesting to observe how well developed these competencies are in the students who are in their second year of the project in 2013, particularly when compared to those who have just entered it.


Visual arts (in a rural year 7–13 co-ed school)

As the students are on individualised programmes they have taken more responsibility for their learning. They also understand that in order to move up levels on the curriculum there are prerequisites they must have to progress. So they are aware of the number of achievement standard credits they need to move to from one level to the next.

Also, as students are working at different paces through the programme it has allowed some to just focus on the internal assessments and others to complete a level 7 programme over more than a year and achieve level 2 NCEA qualifications in visual arts. This has taken the pressure off some students, who might have given up in the past. But now they are experiencing success in the visual arts.

Talented students are also able to extend themselves, particularly curriculum level 7 (NCEA level 2), by completing an additional external assessment (folio submission) without having to commit to an additional option line of art. This is challenging in terms of time for students, but allows them to enter level 3 NCEA.


What evidence do you use to monitor effectiveness of the programme?

Dance (in a large co-ed urban school)

Student voice has become a dominant source of feedback and reflection for me and that’s part of developing and maintaining the reciprocal trust in the learning partnership. There are lots of different ways that I get that information from them.

In most lessons I get the students to articulate what they have achieved in relation to the lesson activity and what the expected learning outcome was. They might produce the feedback through writing in a reflective journal or note it down on their iPhone. We use Facebook as a space for discussion and feedback. It supports the trust relationship and goes back to the notion of being both responsible and accountable to the group and ourselves.

I use assessment data, from both within class learning and achievement data from other classes that I consider has natural and relevant connections to dance. For example, the sociocultural understandings and skill developed in social sciences and English are really valuable learning skills and knowledge and are aligned well to the learning demands in dance.


Drama (in an urban Pasifika school)

Formative assessment is a big part of learning and the monitoring of learning. One example is what we call ‘showings’. Students make something and then show the rest of the class and we give feedback, for them to go away and work on further. It provides a good way of identifying the readiness of students for assessment and the implications for my teaching.

Student voice is a big part of getting feedback on the programme and my teaching. I don’t usually use written forums, like written evaluations, because our students tend to just write one word or one sentence things. I tend to engage with them one on one or as a group through talking. Other times I refer to achievement results, and I will use that as the basis to talk with the students. Having good relationships with them gives you that bridge to engage.


Last updated September 5, 2013