In the third session of the day we had the pleasure of hearing from highly engaging and passionate leader, Leila Kasprzak. Not only is Leila a deputy principal but she’s also the president of the Lead Teachers Association of South Australia and an assessor for those wishing to apply to be H.A or lead.
Leila’s focus, in this session, was very much on introducing the purpose of the standards to us. To ask us to understand how to identify when a student teacher was operating at the Graduate level and to show us how they might go about gathering evidence to support that for their e-portfolio.
With all the work I have done at Flinders and with Edufolios with regard the AITSL standards much of this learning was not entirely new for me. However, it was fascinating observing my peers and their reaction to this learning. After we unpacked what the standard represent for our profession i was hearing from those around me that these standards are not seen as a priority in some sites. That the vision of teachers helping each other to grow and learn through observation and shared practice was not equally shared by all leaders of sites. Some teachers are still feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of words in the standards and didn’t really know where to start with them. In that sense, I suspect that this session was amongst the most valuable of the day. The professional journey that the standards represent is, I believe, a very important one for all of us.
Where do the APSTs fit – according to DECD?
Leila took some time to explore where the standards fit within the cultural context of the department of education for South Australia. She described them as representing the “who” of teaching. It is the umbrella under which all other practice is measured.
The why part was, again, an interesting discussion. The Melbourne declaration was mentioned as was the need to be accountable. I offered the idea that they were a way to help teachers position themselves as learners. The chief learner in their classroom. I have always held the belief that to be a good teacher you have to be a great learner. The standards are, effectively, our curriculum.
I really loved the card activity that we undertook next. In it, we were given several statements – based on the standards – and the three domains. We were asked to sort them into columns. This was a fantastic way to familiarise ourselves with the main themes and content and to discuss awkward elements that may have fitted in several places. This is something that I feel all of our student teachers should do as they familiarise themselves with the standards throughout their degree.
What does Graduate evidence look like?
Leila discussed how the language changes as we progress up the career stages. Graduates are asked to understand but Proficient students are asked to adapt that understanding to the context of their classroom setting.
This is something that I have tried hard to build into my teaching at Flinders. I have designed assessments specifically to allow students to place their understanding into a given or imagined context. I often provide them with imagined classroom briefs which entail different learner types and learning barriers. It’s actually quite hard to teach them to avoid being technocentric without this context from which to derive a pedagogical approach. Having Leila mention this thinking at this point affirmed my decision to allow for growth in this way. This is a challenge for my students and I like how it forces them to think like a teacher 😉
When we started exploring how to know what evidence to look for she introduced me to a fish. I’ve been known to use fish for writing to argue but I’ve never used one to break down a descriptor before.
This technique asks you to highlight key words in the descriptor and then map them out in the shape of the bones of a fish. In doing so, I was able to see the connections between the ideas, the kinds of evidence that i might need and from whom I would need to gather it. This is definitely something I will add into my courses! It will help students to contextualise the learning and connect the theory to the practice. It would also be a great way to introduce standard 4.5 in my numeracy and ICT course.
As we worked on this, I loved hearing those around me realise that the language in the standards repeats – a lot. They began to see them as far less overwhelming or consuming and could see the patterns throughout them. Great work! There was a lot of growth happening around us.
Evidence isn’t something you make up! It’s an artefact of real teaching life.
The next section of the course focused on evidence and the kinds of things that students should be collecting and placing into their portfolios of practice. She made it clear that the process of supporting students to gather evidence is an important part of mentoring role. Again, that evidence can also be used by the mentor teacher as validation against H.A. so it works both ways!
She shared stories about the kinds of evidence that students should gather and spend some time focusing on the topic of annotating evidence. This is such a key discussion point on campus at the moment and it would be wonderful if the students were getting advice and feedback on this from the practising teachers who are mentoring them. Leila shared the CARES acronym for feedback. I have written about STARS on Edufolios which is very similar. I liked the way she had added an S to the end of STARs to draw attention to the need to focus everything on the Standards. I guess, within an Edufolio, you’re prompted for your ‘S’ but it might be nice to add that to the post I wrote here.
We certainly need to teach our pre-service teachers to be strategic when gathering evidence. They need to make sure that they are clear about what permissions are evident in regard to using video and images in their portfolios. In itself, navigating such policies is firm evidence of standard 4. The evidence they gather needs to be selected so that they can demonstrate all 37 focus areas in the Graduate career stage. I wonder whether this is something that we can embed in the modules we teach in other areas of the degree. There is certainly plenty of space for that in Educ9404 and I shall make sure that I help them use CARES or STARs as part of a recurring reflection process as we work together. It might make a good plenary task for my workshops.
Actions to take forward:
This workshop helped to affirm some of the assessment decisions I have already implemented in 9404. It has also given me some new strategies to add as formative assessments. I strongly believe it’s important that this style of reflective practice is encouraged and modelled as often as it can be. I look forward to blogging about the impact of adding some of these techniques.
I will also write a blog post for Edufolios with tips in it for Pre- service teachers and their mentors. We often only focus on one party and I haven’t yet explored how working together like this might benefit both parties. It also fits well with the collaborate feature and gives me some ideas around additional features that may be added into that area.