Case Study:

Kelly’s 2018 units

Teacher: Kelly
School: Woodville Gardens School
Year: Year 6/7

Context

If her seventh year of teaching, this is Kelly’s first year at the site. She took up the opportunity to undertake this research, having previously taught in a country site with 85% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) students. In her initial years of teaching Kelly had developed a passion for working with ATSI students and improving learning outcomes for students who had become disconnected from education. Being accredited in Accelerated Literacy and being a pilot teacher for John Fleming’s I Do, We Do, You Do teaching cycle, she was familiar with trialling new approaches to quality teaching and learning. At Woodville Gardens, she is one of five Year 6/7 classroom teachers.

Woodville Gardens School B-7 was formed in 2011 and is a Public Private Partnership school managed by Pinnacle Education. The consortium is made up of private companies along with the Department for Education and Child Development. It is registered as a Category 2 school in terms of Index of Disadvantage. The school’s vision is for, ‘a cohesive community of lifelong learners’ with values of ‘respect, responsibility and fairness’. The school had 10% Aboriginal students, 67% English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD) background students from 40 cultural groups, 12% Special needs students, 60% School Card.

The Blue Building consisted of five 6/7 classes, with approximately 140 students in total. These classes operated as a collaborative learning hub with five full time teachers. Classes were conducted individually, but sometimes ran in mixed groups or with two classes at once. Classes used See Saw and Edmodo as tools to communicate with varying levels of interaction on a case-by-case basis.

2018:

Room 1006 consisted of 28 students, including 2 ATSI students and 4 NEP students. Students represented the following cultures: Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Liberian, Filipino, Indian, Khmer, Congo, Vietnamese, Maori, Bosnian, Sudanese and Benin.

2019:

Room 1006 consisted of 28 students, including 6 ATSI students and 5 NEP students. Students represented the following cultures: Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Filipino, Indian, Khmer, Vietnamese, Maori, Bosnian, Chinese and Liberian.

The pedagogical challenge

The pedagogical challenge faced was a disconnect from families of students (generally except for reactive behavioural situations), teaching for diversity (both ATSI and EALD) and having content related to local community and local sites. A key aim was to involve families more, with information about learning before, during and after units are conducted. Families coming into the learning space at an opportunity to showcase the students’ work was also a central focus. Aboriginal perspectives were incorporated in teaching and learning, as well as other cultures. Inclusion of the wider community was a central focus, with opportunities to present learning to a wider audience.

Theoretical Basis

Two theoretical resources were used by Sharon to frame a research question that would address her pedagogical challenge. Previously, she had engaged with the work of Aboriginal scholar Tyson Yunkaporta, who advanced the ‘8-ways of Aboriginal learning’ pedagogical framework; this informed her approach. She also drew on the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools.

Links to the five key ideas

The focus for action research came from previous Action Research in 2017, conducted by Kelly Blandford and Skye Miller, in response to the research of Professor Irabinna Rigney and Professor Robert Hattam.

  1. High intellectual challenge
  2. Strongly connected to the life-worlds of students
  3. Recognition of cultural difference as an asset
  4. Activist Orientation
  5. Multimodal Literacies
  6. Public Performance

Retrospectively, this case study addressed:

  • High intellectual challenge

All three units required students to meet a high intellectual challenge. In the Dance unit, students were tasked with learning and using choreographic terms, which stretched their knowledge a long way. The English unit requires an historical narrative, assessed against the language and Literacy levels, offering stretch at every level. The History/English/Music unit challenged students to write song lyrics or a poem, which was not an easy task, but one that required a deeper level of thought.

  • Strongly connected to the life-worlds of students

The units allowed students to connect to the work in their own way. The Dance unit encouraged sharing of culture and meaning in dance, the English unit encouraged the sharing of personal family stories and then the lyric unit had students writing about an aspect of Australia’s history that they connected to the most. Allowing students to share their own or family to tackle challenging tasks meant students felt more connected to the work they were producing.

  • Recognition of cultural difference as an asset

All units built on student culture and heritage, rather than working around it. Students were not disadvantaged if they didn’t feel strongly about their culture, however those that were, were able to capitalise on it.

  • Activist Orientation

The English/History/Music unit was the most activist orientation one of the three. This unit challenged students to understand an aspect of Australia’s history since federation, from an Aboriginal perspective and then respond to this by creating their own poem or song lyrics. Students were able to choose challenging and confronting topics, focus on change and writing lyrics that could help bring a positive shift in the wider community.

  • Multimodal Literacies

All units incorporated multimodal literacies. Students were exposed to videos, songs, Key Notes, readings, websites and had multiples ways to showcase their work. In the Dance unit students watched videos, listened to music, read about techniques and then performed live or recorded. The English unit exposed students to a range of example texts, videos of readings, audio books and then challenged them to write their own short stories, presenting them in print, digitally or orally recorded on iPads. The English/history/music unit involved listening to songs, watching You Tube clips, listening to live performances and then creating their own songs or poems. They were able to present their songs live, record themselves or print their lyrics.

  • Public Performance

Public performance was a key element of all three units. The dance unit required performance to peers, teachers and parents. The survival stories were again shared with peers and teachers. Those who desired, could also share with other staff and the whole school at assembly. The English/history/music unit was the most focussed on public performance, with students aware that at the end of the unit, they would be presenting their work not only to the whole class, but at a showcase event with six other sites.

The action research question

How does providing high intellectual challenge, strongly connected to students’ life worlds and showcasing culture as an asset, engage a highly diverse class of students. Kelly was hoping that by doing this, and using multimodal literacies and public performance, that wellbeing and learning outcomes in English and Dance, will be improved.

Doing the action research

Focussing on the above principles was the most important change. The students at this site had not previously been taught in a Culturally Responsive way, so this was a new approach to them. Kelly had used this approach in the year prior so was looking to embed this approach into her practice. The biggest change was to try an awaken students, engaging them in learning, rather than ‘doing’ learning to the students, as is the case with more traditional classroom approaches. For me high expectations, public performance and multimodal delivery are already embedded practice.

Cultural difference as an asset and linking to life worlds is something Kelly had been developing over her career and more specifically on the previous year. Kelly was exploring activist orientation and wanted to be more responsive to students, reflecting and responding to what students bring with them more than previous years. Kelly prepared take students on this journey with her, letting them know what she was doing and why, inviting them to be researchers as much as she was.

Data collection included:

  • Assessment Results
  • Parent Feedback – their observations about student engagement and interest at home
  • Student Survey or interviews – their interest in the unit, reflections on their work and effort
  • Teacher reflection / observations

Student outcomes

Teacher outcomes

The broader picture

DANCE UNIT: Analysing and Choreographing Dances

Students were immersed into dance choreographic devices and the meaning conveyed through dance.  They analysed dance/choreography, from ancient to contemporary and literal to abstract.  They then worked in a team to choreograph and perform a dance, choosing ancient, traditional, family or an original concept negotiated with the teacher.

ENGLISH UNIT: Survival Stories (non-fiction)

This unit was created to respond to the number of students who have their own story of survival, on their way to where they are now. Many of the class had refugee backgrounds, difficult backgrounds, or inspirational family or friends that were significant to the children. This unit assessed student ability to create a text, and was a chance for them to share a personal story or research someone else’s story that they felt a connection to. Student created a narrative text, and adapted it to two audiences: adults and junior primary students.

 

2019

ENGLISH/HISTORY/MUSIC UNIT: History Through Lyrics

Students analysed song lyrics significant to Australia’s Indigenous people post-colonisation. They then wrote song lyrics or a poem to represent a particular person or event from Australia’s post-colonisation history from an Indigenous perspective.

 

DANCE UNIT: Analysing and Choreographing Dances

Students were immersed into dance choreographic devices and the meaning conveyed through dance.  They analysed dance/choreography, from ancient to contemporary and literal to abstract.  They then worked in a team to choreograph and perform a dance, choosing ancient, traditional, family or an original concept negotiated with the teacher.

HASS UNIT: Indigenous Rights Since Federation in Australia and Compared to the World

Students investigated an inquiry question (written through negotiation or set by the teacher). The general focus was a HASS topic, with a specific focus on: Rights and Responsibilities of Australian citizens, continuities and change over time, the impact of significant people and events, or the world’s cultural diversity and interconnections. There was also three smaller summative tasks, which will cover History (timeline), Geography (Venn) and Civics (Quiz). There was also some formative assessment through pre-assessment, recording video responses and conferencing.

The Woodville Gardens School Site Improvement Plan (SIP) focuses on a vision to create a community of lifelong learners, fostering curiosity and creativity for our learners. All of these units were planned to contribute to this vision, with student encouraged to explore, challenge, create and problem solve. The three site goals of improving oral language skills, writing skills and student self-efficacy were closely linked to the units.

Kelly’s pedagogy now incorporates:

  • High intellectual challenge
  • Strongly connected to the life worlds of students
  • Recognition of cultural difference as an asset
  • Activist or socio-political orientation (including classroom democracy)
  • Multimodal approach
  • Public performance

Kelly believes in this pedagogy, especially in schools with similar contexts to Woodville Gardens School. She has embedded it in her class in 2018 and 2019. Kelly is now looking forward to leading others in understanding and using CRP to better student outcomes.

The students:

The students bonded as a group better and created a sense of team. They improved their engagement to these tasks, but also to other curriculum areas. Students felt a stronger connection to Kelly and continued to share more of themselves with each other. Parents were involved more in the learning, through their child sharing their learning, talking about what they were doing and engaging more than they generally did. Students began to question how the classroom was structured and had more say in work, assessment and feedback. They seemed empowered and knew Kelly was advocating for them and wanting the best for them on a genuine level. Another overall benefit was that students became better global citizens, later helping nursing home residents and problem solving through personal inquiries.

Classroom Research:

Academic research was useful to Kelly in introducing the pedagogy, and then actually enacting CRP in a physical classroom cemented her understanding and belief in it. Until she saw CRP in action it was hard to understand its full impact. Having Aby in to see the lessons in action helped by making Kelly more reflective and getting another perspective on things. Undertaking classroom research added another level of depth and belief to the theoretical readings.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy:

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy gave Kelly confidence in teaching a highly diverse classroom successfully. It helped her engage students more and also engaged Kelly more in her practice. This pedagogy improved outcomes from an academic and wellbeing perspective, and also helped parents connect with their child about learning.

Kelly will continue to embed CRP in her classroom, across all curriculum areas. She will try to lead others to use CRP, she already ran an information session at the school to share her findings after the dance unit and some staff have already seen its benefits and want to trial it in the future. Kelly will continue to reflect on her practice and adapt to need the needs of the individuals in her class. She will continue to build a student-centred curriculum and maximize genuine democracy in the learning space. Understanding that diversity is only going to increase, teachers need to find ways to use that to their advantage, rather than trying to work around it. Engagement brings real results, not compliance and Kelly will continue to build engagement in her class. She strongly believes that CRP improves student outcomes, but is also rewarding for teachers too.

 

Video Resources

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Teacher testimonials

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David Cole, Monarch

“Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Sed molestie, velit ut eleifend sollicitudin, neque orci tempor nulla, id sagittis nisi ante nec arcu. Fusce porta bibendum convallis. Morbi fringilla sollicitudin scelerisque.”

David Cole, Monarch

“Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Sed molestie, velit ut eleifend sollicitudin, neque orci tempor nulla, id sagittis nisi ante nec arcu. Fusce porta bibendum convallis. Morbi fringilla sollicitudin scelerisque.”

David Cole, Monarch

“Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Sed molestie, velit ut eleifend sollicitudin, neque orci tempor nulla, id sagittis nisi ante nec arcu. Fusce porta bibendum convallis. Morbi fringilla sollicitudin scelerisque.”

David Cole, Monarch

Research in practice

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