Thursday, August 02, 2007
A school on the move!
It was great to be able to visit Woodleigh School recently, taking with me visitors, to see what the teachers there had been achieving. We visited to see quality room environments and weren't disappointed.
Woodleigh is school that has had a new Principal for five terms. It was obvious that the new principal had ideas he would want to share but he is quick to state that the school was in great heart and any ideas he is introducing would be to 'add value' to current achievements. Having observed the 'new' principal as class teacher over the years his expertise would , when implemented with agreement of the staff and BOT , be of great value.
After spending most of his time taking stock of where the school was at, and reviewing school strengths and weaknesses with the staff, BOT and community, a new Charter was written to reflect a focus on, 'Creating a Quality Learning Environment'. Job and appraisal descriptions are aligned to reflect these new agreements.
The principal believes it will take the school 5 to 6 years to achieve the 'Master Plan' and, until it is achieved, the school will resist pressure to try involve itself in ideas imposed from outside of the school.
The agreed five point development plan is as follows:
1 It would be a whole school development.This to be based on strengthening teamwork to ensure consistency of direction, methods and goals. Creativity, risk taking and innovation would also be encouraged.
2 Focused teaching. Focused goals would be negotiated for individual students, by classes and for the whole school. These goals to be displayed and reviewed with students.
'Foundation skills' of literacy and numeracy would be defined - building on previous contracts the school had been involved in. Advanced problem solving thinking skills, emphasizing strategies, would be taught by 'scaffolding' assistance to develop students as 'responsible and independent learners'.
'Scaffolding' teaching introduces students to process steps until students can use them independently.
Classrooms would also emphasize enriched studies ( 'quality learning/authentic experiences') where the emphasis was to 'doing less but doing it well' - students studying 'rich' topics in depth.
Students would be taught to reflect on how well they were achieving the goals and tasks. Teachers to begin and end the day with a reflective period to share and review goals, highlights and achievements.
3 School wide standards. A consistent approach to discipline introduced to develop positive attitudes and values based on helping students learn to make the 'right choices'. Students to learn to reflect and to consider what they might do 'next time'.
Blackboards and whiteboards to be used so they can be actively used by students to aid their learning by displaying current learning intentions, daily timetables and group tasks. Student book design/presentation to be developed covering setting out, presentation and content. Quality work tables to be developed to display quality student bookwork to encourage 'personal excellence'.
4 Information and Communication Technology. This an area the school needs to build on. Ideally it is to be integrated into students research and presentation tasks as a natural part of current studies.
5 Quality room environments. High quality displays based on current studies and other area of the curriculum to be a feature to celebrate and demonstrate student creativity. Qualify displays of student generated work across the curriculum and displays to include headings, explanation of the process, learning intentions and 'next steps'.
The 'master plan' outlines agreed school wide initiatives.
Already the teachers have risen to the challenge and a sense of quality is beginning to pervade the school. Professional development is to be targeted to achieving the 'master plan', including visits to other schools. The emphasis is to 'unclutter the curriculum' and to 'work smarter not harder'.
Expectation of what students can do is to be continually challenged.
The staff have been told 'don't panic' - the intention is to work away at the 'plan' in 'manageable servings!'
The focus has been placed on teaching and learning and on the future capabilities the school wants their students to achieve.
The emphasis on focused classroom practice is helping teacher 'works smarter' by the greater sharing of agreed ideas with each other. Many of the ideas in themselves, may seem unremarkable but when implemented, in a unified and integrated way, the results speak for themselves.
The BOT staff must be well pleased with the progress the school is making.
I look forward to future visits to admire the schools progress on it 'quality learning journey'.