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‘Society and Culture’ Category

  1. Research

    4 April 2015 by shartley

    20150404-220801.jpg

    Image source: author’s own textbook

    I’m currently studying EDCN800 Introduction to Educational Research at Macquarie University.  It is the only compulsory subject in my course but I put it off to last because it seemed so dry, and well, boring.  I have my regrets, however, since it would have been quite useful to know what I should be doing before I submitted abstracts on behalf of my team to international conferences.  When we were accepted to these conferences I had to write academic level articles on the basis of haphazard and amateurish research.  One of these articles was for a peer-reviewed journal and one of the two peers who assessed the paper slammed it for not being written in the acceptable academic format.  I had avoided the more academic format because I didn’t want to pretend that the research was formally conducted.  I have now resubmitted the piece into a more acceptable format but it still awaits final approval.

    More recently, I have been trying to support a friend who has been designing real proper research under the guidance of a university professor.  The professor’s critiquing of the attempts to write a research question and plan the research methods was a painful process but the frustration was worth it in the end because I think there is a very valuable research project currently underway.  As I do this course I can, in retrospect, see more clearly what was required and if I had completed this subject before this year it might have been a much less painful process.  Now, as I study the ethics of research I wonder how much more should be done to cover ethical considerations in my friend’s research.  It is also giving me more depth to my knowledge of research methods for when I teach Society and Culture.

    In the first semester of my Masters of Education I chose one subject (curriculum) because a friend was also doing it and another subject because I felt knowledgeable in that area (pedagogy).  I had enrolled in the course just so I could obtain the piece of paper and letters to look good on my CV but within a couple of weeks of participating in these two subjects I was enjoying myself immensely and did quite well as a result.  However, the one aspect that I was continually criticised about was the negligible evidence to support my (soapbox) statements.  I have improved a lot in this area since then.

    Now as I study EDCN800 I expect high achievement from myself but I’m not succeeding. I’m engaged in the subject because of the afore-mentioned application but despite being quite numeracy literate I struggle with the statistical concepts and analysis of data.  I only received 65% for the first of five assignments.  Today I battled with the concepts of reliability and validity with all their different coefficient measurements.  The concepts in themselves are fine but when I have to apply them to a technical academic article it becomes all muddled up and difficult to navigate.  Not only do I need to understand these concepts for EDCN800 but I am also writing a literature review for EDCN806 which requires an examination of the reliability and validity of the articles I am including in the review.  It is all driving me insane and I question my ambition to complete a PhD down the track.  As a result I’m feeling a fair bit of empathy with my students at the moment.

    Anyway, that’s enough complaining, I need to attack a question about evaluations using numerical ratings and then write some of my own questionnaire items to assess student experience in studying the Masters of Education.  It is so much easier to help my students design their research for their Personal Interest Projects (PIPs) in HSC Society and Culture than to do it myself at a university level.  But here I go…

    Stay tuned.


  2. Evil Email

    20 February 2015 by shartley

    Sure, email can be evil, especially the way the inbox is like a cup that runneth over and left a stain on the cloth.

    But today I’m going to write about good email.  The negative title grabs attention and has a nice alliteration and rhythm about it.  The email examples I’m providing are only from today.

    Not that we use textbooks much in Year 7 Geography, but part of my checklist of ensuring the students have everything they need to learn is that they have online access to their textbook.  Enough students were saying that there wasn’t one with their order that I knew something was wrong.  Like many schools, we use an online supplier to, well, supply required textbooks and equipment to students (parents) just before they commence the school year.  For Year 7 Geography they had the option of a combined physical/digital textbook or just a digital version.  It appears the majority of my class went for the digital version but some never received the email from the supplier with the access code (I suspected it was in their spam folder).  I was just trying to persuade someone with a little more power to do something about this when two emails from the same parent arrived.  The first email was that there wasn’t ever a Geography book on the order and then the second corrected that and said that she had “sorted it” and now had the access code.  I replied a thanks for both emails, that she wasn’t alone in the predicament, and by the way, how did she “sort it”.  A response was quite prompt that she was glad she wasn’t the only one and that she contacted the supplier and they admitted that they had overlooked sending the email out.  A discussion with the Head of Faculty and he called the supplier who quickly sent out the access codes for all our students.  Problem solved.  Yay!

    Today I was also checking the first piece of work Year 7s completed on a Google Doc.  A precious boy listed with Learning Support as having literacy needs had the most atrocious spelling I had seen in a very long time but when you looked closely it was phonetically quite accurate: koockaburra, oxegen, visical, envirament.  He also happens to be one of the more disruptive elements in the class.  I shared via email the Google Doc to the Head of Learning Support for some advice and she responded within minutes.  Awesome!

    The Head of Social Sciences Faculty and I emailed each other quite frequently today.  We seem to have opposing timetables which makes it hard to see each other in person , although we also managed to meet during lunch today.  The emails were mainly to notify of where particular students are up to in their PIPs for HSC Society and Culture, Year 7s with technology issues and other student matters.  They also serve as action prompts when they are flagged.  I think these emails save time rather than create problems.

    A Year 11 student emailed this afternoon to say her photo of the homework on the board turned out to be a little blurry, could I please send her the last two questions.  Easy!

    Finally, emails of a broadcasting nature when directed to the correct people are very useful.  On Monday I’m attending the ‘U-Turn the Wheel’ Driver Training Program with Year 11.  An email was sent with the instructions and itinerary for the day to those involved.  This saved the need for calling a meeting, an impossible event to organise to coincide when all teachers are not on class, nor playground/bus duty.   A perfect use of email.

    Well there you have it, my simple 28 minutes of writing on a Friday night.


  3. But Why?

    19 February 2015 by shartley

    I love the curiosity of younger kids.  I love toddlers who ask “But why?”  I don’t like that by the time they arrive at high school many have lost their enthusiasm.

    In Year 7 Geography we start with ‘What is Geography?’  I have some beautifully enthusiastic boys who are keen to contribute, one in particular is quite earnest.  The other 20-something students already view school as a chore.  Which is sad.

    What is also sad that their answer to ‘What is Geography?’ just focuses on knowledge and understanding.  I spent several minutes this week saying, “but why?”, to encourage further thought and development.  It was painful, but eventually we arrived at:

    • To care for the world
    • To solve problems like global warming and floods
    • To prepare for the future

    The next day I revisited the question and it still took a while to arrive at the why.  When did children stop thinking about the why?

    In Year 11 Society and Culture this week we discussed the differences between interactions they have at home with their family, with their friends, with people they know at school who aren’t close friends, with people in their sporting clubs and how they may be influenced by media and government.  Again, I had to be persistent with asking, “But why?”  Thankfully this is a class of thoughtful students.  I can almost see the cogs turning in their heads as I probe for more and more and their fascination increases as they learn more and more.  This is a class that will bring me joy.

    Even in HSC Business Studies I was asking, “But why?”  Why do businesses need to monitor, control and look for continual improvement?  Why do they want to offer after-sales service?  Why are stores laid out certain ways?  I’m tired of students thinking that all they need to do is make comprehensive textbook summary notes to achieve well in the HSC when synthesis and problem-solving are also important.  A couple of my more diligent students were reluctant to think about the type of customer service a bicycle shop could offer their customers at the point of sale and beyond, and thus wrote a single sentence response so they could tick the mental box that the task was complete.  When I had the discussion with them to push their thinking further they came up with some brilliant suggestions.  The trick now is to transfer that thinking into a pen and paper exam.

    But why is it such a struggle to push students beyond a memorising mindset?


  4. One More Mark

    15 February 2015 by shartley

    We recently had an assembly at my school to celebrate the students who received an ATAR over 90 in the HSC last year.  There was a brief introduction from the Principal, a guest speaker who was surprisingly entertaining and in-depth about having respect for yourself by demonstrating respect for others, a speech from an all-rounder from the class of 2014 and a speech from the student who achieved the highest ATAR in 2014.  The students’ speeches consistently referred to balance but also a commitment to study.  The Head of Curriculum spoke about “one more mark”.

    I am currently finishing my Masters in Education with a plan in place to do a literature review as one of my last subjects in preparation for a Masters of Research as a lead-in to a PhD.  A long road is marked ahead.  For my PhD I plan to examine the increasing emphasis on marks as the main goal instead of marks being a mere measure of learning.  Sometimes the learning component of 13 years of formal school education is lost in a single number.  Too many times I ask students what they want to do when they leave school and they have no idea.  When I ask what they want to achieve at school they say a good mark in the HSC.  I ask why and more often than not it is to please their parents.  I ask what interests them in what they’re learning, and they say not much, they are just aiming for good marks.  How sad is that?

    The “one more mark” speech implored students to ask their teachers what they could do for just one more mark.  You see, data analysis of the school’s HSC results revealed numerous 88s and 89s in individual subjects so the aim is to push students into Band 6 (90+) because we have more Band 5s than the average school, shouldn’t it be easy to push them into Band 6 with a one more mark philosophy?  I think not.  I think the underlying problem is more associated with a culture of teaching to the test and spoon-feeding, of memorising and regurgitating, not just in my school but across many, many schools.  Band 6 is about demonstrating high-order thinking skills, critical thinking, problem solving and the like.  Remembering one more fact will not push an 89 to a 90.

    Now as much as I am an advocate for learning to be a focus over the memorising for tests, part of my job is preparing students for the HSC and its testing regime.  In Society and Culture students need to know, understand and apply some core concepts.  We drill the eleven main definitions underlying just about everything studied in Society and Culture.  My Year 11s recently sat their first test of these eleven definitions.  One student perfectly provided the first six but then left the remaining five blank.  She didn’t want to even try to use words from her own understanding, she only wanted to give the precise words of the syllabus.  Again, how sad is that?

    This weekend I marked a practice HSC Business Studies extended response I had given as holiday work.  They were a long way below the standard I expect from these students.  I believe the majority didn’t do them over the holidays but the night before they submitted it.  The question was How can different sources of funds help a business achieve its financial objectives?  Both the sources of funds and financial objectives listed in the syllabus were handed out when the question was issued at the end of last year but many students failed to refer to them, probably because they just took the question from the ediary entry.  Most of those who did use these syllabus terms, did not link them to show how different sources of funds help businesses to achieve financial objectives but merely provided textbook definitions of each term and tacked on introductions and conclusions.  Needless to say, it was a disappointing marking process.  However, despite my reservations about the “one more mark” speech I am going to hand these responses back with marks and an expectation of how many more marks they are to achieve in their second attempt.  I feel like I’m going against my principles but that it could be a good way for them to see that their poor attempt at the only bit of homework I set over seven or so weeks of the holidays just isn’t good enough.  The increase of marks expected have been determined by my gut instinct based on having spent a year with these students and thus knowing what they can achieve.  Some students are being asked for just two more marks, some ten and a whole range in between.  Wish me luck!


  5. A-Z

    11 February 2015 by shartley

    Sometimes the timing of something perfectly lands an idea right in your lap.  Cathy Wilcox’s Australia Day A-Z cartoons in the smh did exactly that.  When I first saw it just a few days before I was to start teaching Society and Culture to a new bunch of Year 11s, I knew this was my hook, my illustration of society and culture and the various concepts we use in the course, to be specific: society, culture, persons, environment, time, power, authority, gender, globalisation, identity and technologies.

    After showing  Cathy Wilcox’s cartoons to the students, talking through how they linked to the course concepts, the students were required to do an A-Z to represent the culture of the school.  This turned into a particularly interesting social exercise for the class because in Years 7-10 only boys attend, meaning all the girls were brand new to the school.  Groups were organised with roughly 2 boys and 3 girls in each to allow the boys to explain some of the significance of what they wanted to include.  The students took about half an hour to come up with the A-Z ideas (at end of the first class where I showed them the Australia Day versions) and then an hour (the next lesson) for the ideas of the drawings and actually doing them.  They had a lot of fun doing it, they learned a lot about each other, the school and the course.  I enjoyed watching the relationships develop and seeing them grapple with the concepts and how they relate to the school.  So far, they appear to be an interesting and interested class.  I hope the enthusiasm and thinking brains stay focused.

    I’ve uploaded in SlideShare (and embedded here) a combined ‘A-Z of our school‘ of the three groups to illustrate the result:


  6. Perfection

    9 February 2015 by shartley

     

    I have worked for over 20 hours this weekend on preparing units of work, mainly for the new Society and Culture syllabus for Year 12.  Popular Culture was in the old syllabus but there are some pertinent changes.  We do a focus study on Social Media which I developed two years ago as a workbook based on an existing format that had been created before I had arrived at my current school.  I used the workbook as a basis because I didn’t want to stomp on toes within the first few weeks of starting.  I am also taking the opportunity to move it into Google Drive, make it current and increasingly an interactive learning experience.

    Water Management for Year 9 Geography was the other main area I was preparing.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the most frustrating aspect of teaching Geography for me is that the resources are boring.  Not being my area of expertise or even interest, I find it harder to find quality resources for Geography than for Economics or Business Studies.  When I teach Geography I prefer to do it in PBL style and for NSW Geography that means following the Research Action Plan laid out in the syllabus, not mere secondary research and regurgitate.

    So as I was thinking about what I would write for this blog tonight I thought about my striving for perfection.  Upon a quick Google search I discovered 14 Signs Your Perfectionism Has Gotten Out of Control and straight away I want to correct the word ‘has gotten’ in the title to be ‘is’.  I’ve reduced the original list down to the ten most appropriate for me:

      1. You’ve always been eager to please
      2. You know your drive for perfection is hurting you, but you consider it the price to pay for success
      3. You’re a big procrastinator
      4. You’re highly critical of others
      5. You have a hard time opening up to other people
      6. You know there’s no use crying over spilt milk…but you do anyway
      7. You take everything personally
      8. …And you get really defensive when criticised
      9. You’re never quite “there yet”
      10. You have a guilty soul

     

    I wouldn’t say I’m eager to please but I’m eager to do the best for my students because I don’t want to let them down (1).  I’m constantly surprised that other teachers don’t have the same drive and inside my head I am highly critical of them even though I can see their perspective, I just can’t relate to it (4).  It hurts me because I don’t sleep or exercise enough as a consequence (2) which I feel guilty about, and the lack of time I spend with my own children (10).  Yet I am a HUGE procrastinator, sometimes taking all morning to surf the Internet for trivial things rather than start a project I know will take all day (3).  I take just about everything that happens personally, in the emotional sense (7), even though logically I know most events around me are not actually about me so when I am actually criticised it hurts incredibly deeply and I am defensive but the words to my defence may not be spoken (8).  I used to cry a lot (6).  About everything and anything that I perceived as having gone wrong.  But the tears have dried up.  I think the tears of release were better because now it feels like a huge weight inside.

    Given all this, I probably shouldn’t be a teacher because there is no finished product.  The Geography lessons I’ve been preparing are for 30 students and it is just impossible to have it perfect for every single one and they aren’t finished products to be packed up and sold, they are constantly developing human beings.  Concentrating on me, I feel I am never “there yet” as a teacher (9).  I am constantly striving to be a better teacher and to help others to improve.  It’s incredibly frustrating that there is no obvious end goal.  And don’t say students’ results are a measure of a teacher’s success because they aren’t.  Sometimes success is keeping students interested enough to simply stay at school and not drop-out.  Sometimes it’s just helping them to find some pride in their work.  Sometimes it’s just a positive conversation about learning or life itself.  These little moments are what makes the experience worth it.

    I am well and truly over my 28 minutes so I’ll end this here.  Except, the one frustrating aspect of this #28daysofwriting is that the time restriction and the commitment to post every day means I don’t have time to truly perfect the writing and I feel guilty about some of the drivel that has been posted from this process.  So sorry!

     


  7. The Unmeasured

    6 February 2015 by shartley

    As HSC scores and ATAR results roll into the school’s conversations and the media coverage, we find ourselves evaluated and judged on the basis of these.  The media only has access to the Band 6 (90 and above) results of students in each subject so schools are ranked on this basis.  In this post I want to discuss the unmeasured outcomes.

    In Year 12 Society and Culture today I was meant to be covering the dot-point in the syllabus about the future directions of the country we had chosen to study for the topic of Change and Continuity.  We have been studying Vietnam.  In class, students were organised into small groups and were supposed to use all that they had learned about Vietnam to predict what would happen in the next 5 to 10 years.  They had spent several weeks studying Vietnam at the end of last year and had a refresher lesson and a half this week.

    However, they struggled to focus, which could partly be because it was Friday, at the end of the first full week back, on a day of an assembly that went for over an hour and that they are keen to move onto the next topic, Popular Culture.  Every bit of pleading and guiding failed.  So I let it go.  I decided to give myself a break for 10 minutes and leave them to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss.  The group that most interested me included a girl who suffers from anxiety and the most chilled girl going around.  They run in completely different social circles but they were using this time to find out about each other and their attitudes towards school.  It was fascinating to eavesdrop on the conversation as Miss Chilled gave Miss Stressed advice and Miss Chilled learned how much other students care about results and doing their best to perform at school.  Miss Chilled expressed how much she loves school because she lets all the hard bits just wash by her.  Miss Stressed couldn’t believe that people like Miss Chilled exist in the world.  What I was most fascinated by was how much they listened to each other intently and learned about different perspectives and attitudes towards the purpose of school.  And isn’t that what Society and Culture is all about?  Yet this conversation will never be measured or recorded except in this blog and possibly in their own memories.

    All up, the three groups came up with some good basic fundamental future directions for Vietnam but mere bones which need a lot more flesh.  I’m frustrated that I feel the need to do one more lesson to expand their ideas when my schedule says we should be starting Popular Culture.  How often do we ignore learning opportunities because of our plans based on content driven syllabuses?  Thankfully in Society and Culture we have more scope and space than most other subjects except for the timing requirements of the Personal Interest Project (PIP) but I’ll save discussion of the PIP to another day.

    The assembly today was a celebration of the 2014 HSC students who achieved an ATAR of 90 or more.  It was a well ran event with one of those students performing a piece out of the musical Chess, a guest speaker, the Head of Curriculum speaking and two of the 2014 HSC students speaking, ending with the student who achieved the top ATAR mark for the grade.  Both the students spoke about balance and tried to provide advice for how to approach the HSC, study and school life in general.  They had both very thoughtfully constructed speeches directed at their peers.  The seeds they may have sowed today will never be measured because the cause and effect of HSC results to speeches like these are not measured.  My daughter is in Year 12 this year and a similar event occurred at her school and the highlight for her was similar advice from a past student but her outward behaviour will not change in any detectable way. I’m a big believer in sowing seeds that may blossom immediately or may take an age to show life.

    Today I had 10 minutes with a colleague who is resistant to change and having to learn new things but she is thrown into a circumstance where she must.  I showed her how to use the technology required for our Year 7 program and provided some tips along the way to make it easier and more efficient.  All these little moments of teachers learning are not measured; it seems that only the big registered courses that count in the teacher accreditation process.  The 10 minutes snatched here and there are precious in the teaching world but are not valued enough.  Teachers learning from each other, planning together and even teaching together is vital for the modern age but there isn’t enough of it.

    Ah, my 28 minutes are up.  I’ll sneak in here at the end stuff about my last class of the week with Year 7, my second ever Geography class with them, with both lessons having a focus on the technology set-up rather than the subject itself, and that’s fine.  While they were learning about the technology and some basics of high school Geography, I learned about them.  I learned how a boy interrupts me mid-sentence every time he had something to say (and I wonder if he is allowed to interrupt his parents at home), how another could not stop talking no matter how hard he tried, how some boys have patience and resist the hardships being dependent on technology can bring, while others want to give up at the first sign of difficulty.  I learned how strongly independent some students were, and they weren’t who I expected.  I learned that most of the students started the year with a concept that Geography is all about nature and that the human element is a perspective of Geography many hadn’t considered before.  I don’t know all the students’ names yet so I don’t have comprehensive notes of all this but this information is invaluable for deciding my attitude and approach to teaching them.  How can this sort of thing be measured?

    At the end of the school day I gave my congratulations to Year 7 for making it through their first full week of high school and was very corny by asking them to give themselves a pat on the back but they were happy to do so.  I imagined giving myself one too.  Survival, resilience, resisting temptations, and letting go of control…these things are hard to measure but are so important to life and learning.  When are we going to start valuing the unmeasured more?


  8. One of those days

    5 February 2015 by shartley

    LoveHartley

    I had one of those days but I still feel positive about it.  It has been over a year since I last had to teach all five lessons in a day so I was a little wary of the load before me as I arrived at school and felt a little under-prepared for my Year 9 Geography class after they achieved more than I expected yesterday.  I arrived at school at my usual 8am, just 20 minutes before I had a meeting, so after checking email and other notices I opened the PowerPoint that was listed on the program as what I should be teaching Year 9 today.  It was a horrendous PowerPoint of four slides: a title, a map and two covered in text.  I quickly spread the text over a few extra slides and then searched for images and interesting tid-bits on the Internet to accompany the slides.  I was about half way through this exercise when I had to go to the meeting.

    Meeting completed, Home Room done and then Period 1 Year 11 Society and Culture where we went through the Fundamental and Additional Concepts, followed by Period 2 Business Studies where students looked at an airline/tourism case study regarding goods and services and then examined Domino’s Pizza Operations Report from their 2013 Annual Report.  All this went without a hitch.

    At recess I skipped returning to my staff room so I could have some time to set-up for my first proper Geography lesson with Year 7 and steal some time to finish the PowerPoint…ambitious for a twenty minute break.  Even more unlikely when a colleague grabs you for a conversation en route.  Absolutely impossible when you arrive at the Year 7 classroom and realise you left your computer cords in your regular classroom.  A quick trot back and forth and it was almost time for the students to arrive.  Two of the other Year 7 teachers arrived and there was talk of classroom swaps.  I bowed out graciously and continued my set-up.

    The Year 7s were quite good and 27 of 30 students successfully copied the worksheet from the original into their own newly established Geography folders in Google Drive.  The other three were unsuccessful due to internet issues.  However, being Year 7 they had loads of questions and I ran late to Year 9 Geography back in my regular classroom.

    When I arrived the Year 9s were making a lot of noise outside the class.  When I let them in we had a talk about appropriate behaviour and my eyes scanned the room detecting the lock box as opened with the remote for the IWB missing.  I kept looking and some of the boys said a teacher had told them to tell me she’d put it on…something.  They obviously hadn’t heard her clearly but couldn’t be bothered to clarify.  The remote couldn’t be found so I sent a boy to the teacher who was then off class.  She said another teacher who she named may have taken it.  I sent a kid to that teacher and thankfully he came back with it, without a message to accompany it.  Right, now I could show the PowerPoint, half improved.  But no, in the meantime my computer had encountered an error, had restarted and I couldn’t find a recoverable file (stupid me hadn’t saved the half-improved version) so in a bind I ran with the boring original.  I surprised myself with how much I knew about reading a map and making it interesting for the students but then we hit the text.  Groans.  I handed out post-it notes for students who finished first to write ways people could reduce water usage and just single notes as the slower writers finished, to fill the gap of catch-up as students finished writing.  I rarely use PowerPoint and this is one of the reasons why.  More groans with the second slide of text.  Four boys had passively resisted working and just didn’t write or type most of the material so were kept in to finish at lunch.  One of those four had “I love Ms Hartley” on a post-it note on his forehead, his friend had one with “Hit Me” written on it but just on his desk (at least my name was spelt correctly).  I’m guessing that originally they were put on students’ backs.  Mr Forehead Guy now has to see his Dean about it since I passed it up the line due to the personal nature of it.  The Deans are really good at dealing with the boys who are pushing at boundaries like this.

    Despite this boring text writing lesson and the resistance to work from a handful, I think it went well.  I’ve worked out I don’t like teaching Geography because I’m not passionate about it but also because the resources in programs at both this school and my last one are incredibly boring and I become tired of reinventing the wheel every time I’m placed on Geography.  I was ashamed today to put up such a boring PowerPoint and the boringness was reflected in the boys’ behaviour.  So I can do battle with the resources before going to class which generally takes two hours for every hour of teaching it or I can just battle disengaged students.  I prefer to do the former normally.  The four boys I kept in were quite friendly and understood that it was caused by their own actions (or lack thereof) and didn’t hold a grudge, or even some begrudging respect for recognising their resistance to work.

    After a short lunch last period was Year 12 Society and Culture where one of the students conducted a focus group for her PIP.  She hadn’t thought through seating arrangements so it took her a while to work that out and then the class was argumentative and loud but she handled it well.  I stayed out of the whole thing to maintain the integrity of it being her focus group.

    At the end of the school day I had to chase down some printing I lost the previous day, wrote up the demerits and merits for the day and then did that PowerPoint even though I will probably never use it, simply because I had been half way there and the websites I had used were listed in my History.  I left school at 5.30pm, half an hour after my self-imposed time limit for this year, and last to leave in my section of the school, but pleased that I had managed the day calmly and reasonably successfully despite the hurdles and hiccups along the way.

    HomeTime


  9. Who Are We? Teaching ‘Personal and Social Identity’ in Society and Culture (a reflection)

    28 June 2013 by shartley

    This topic was introduced with the above Prezi towards the end of Term 1 2013 to both of my school’s Preliminary Society & Culture classes.  I teach one of them.

    Students were then launched into a PBL style unit with the Who Are You Project (pdf).

    To further explain the elements of this project:

    • Explore: This is a summary of the syllabus content
    • Answer: Students were required to respond to these questions
    • Reference: Students were to consult at least one resource within each of the reference categories listed
    • Compose: Students needed to communicate what they had learned about their personal and social identity
    • Present: An edited version needed to presented to the class – the cone of silence refers to the agreement that anything of a personal nature that’s discussed in Society & Culture does not go beyond the classroom

    It was a very successful project with most students engaged and deeply involved with the process. A minority took the more self-directed style of learning as an opportunity to do little.

    Other issues included:

    • The word ‘explore’ – students didn’t understand that these were the concepts needed to be investigated, even after verbal explanation – this will need refinement for next time
    • Explicitly asking questions meant students were inclined to approach the project as a typical Q & A worksheet, answering the questions superficially because they hadn’t investigated the concepts first
    • Some of the items on the reference list did not have a clear link to the project at hand – conducting background research to place subject into context needs to be taught clearly
    • Many students decided to do a PowerPoint (not listed) but generally did it well, some learned how to use Prezi for the first time, some did scrap-books, others did blog posts and the work avoiders wrote out a speech.

    Overall, they really learned a lot about the concepts and terms in a meaningful way because they applied it to themselves and there is nobody they know better.

    I was then away with my Innovative Learning Team on and off for a couple of weeks so during this time students completed more traditional textbook and video worksheets.

    They also watched Yolngu Boy (link includes comprehensive educational resources), followed by an essay completed in test conditions.  The students’ attitude towards this essay made me quite irate.  Many held the opinion that since it wasn’t an assessment task “it didn’t count”.  That earned them a little lecture on what school and education and learning was about.  A singular focus on HSC marks makes me mad!  Despite this attitude or because of my tirade the students produced some excellent essays.

    Finally, for this unit, students were given a Research Assessment Task to perform primary research (questionnaire or interview) to compare their identity development to others (questionnaire) or another (interview).  Unfortunately many students completely forgot all the concepts they had learned from the Who Are You project, the textbook, the videos and from the Yolngu Boy essay in which students had included concepts quite well.   All these tasks had been scaffolded so the concepts were reasonably clear but the link of the concepts to the title of the unit, Personal and Social Identity, obviously hadn’t been made strong enough.  These research assessment tasks were mainly written as if personality equated to identity.  *sigh*

    All that been said, I still think the program is a good one.  Next year the plan is to make the Who Am I project and the Research Assessment Task into one big assessment task with some tweaking.  I want to drop the textbook part altogether but part of the reason it was included was to placate a parent that believes my teaching methods lack the rigour required for the HSC.  You see, I made the mistake at parent-teacher night of saying we had been having fun in the course and hadn’t taught to the test (the first assessment task).  Obviously I should wash my mouth out with soap!

    We are all human, students, teachers and even parents.  I know my students have learned much about themselves and others from this unit.  Hopefully their learning will also be reflected in HSC results in a year and a half’s time.

     

     


  10. Cabin Fever Ramblings

    26 June 2013 by shartley

    TheOffice

    I’m fond of looking at my life from the perspective of an alien on a fact finding mission on the behaviour of Earthlings.  This concept served me well in a Year 12 English assignment that a good friend continues to cite as the moment she knew I should be a writer.

    More than 20 years later and I have written little, in the literary sense anyway.  If an alien had been observing me the last few days it would think I was a sloth, moving only from bed to toilet to kitchen to couch repeatedly.  The toilet visits are quite frequent due to the copious cups of tea and glasses of mountain stream water, delicious straight from the kitchen tap in my holiday cabin.  However, the kitchen visits are also for the naughties I bought for this stay the tiny town of Talbingo.  I consumed half a family-sized packet of lollies the first day and half a packet of Mint Slice biscuits the second, the remainder being consumed by my husband and children who actually earned the calories by skiing each morning at the Selwyn Snowfields while I stayed holed up in our cabin.

    FrozenCar

    My alien watcher would see me flit from phone to book to papers in what may seem a fruitless shuffle.  There is no phone coverage from Optus in Talbingo so I can’t text but through the magic of a wifi dongle I still connect around the globe, even to my dear Twitter friends attending the enormous International Society for Technology in Education Conference in San Antonio, USA.  Other Twitter friends attended a TeachMeet in my home town, Sydney, last night but the commute was too far from here for me to attend.  As they went to a TeachEat afterwards, my family and I walked to the Talbingo Lodge for the All You Can Eat Pizza Night, which was surprisingly pleasant, helped by a bottle of red wine.

    The Talbingo Lodge had been locked up for about a year, looking for someone to love and care for her.  Three months ago a new owner came along, a regular holiday maker in Talbingo, originating from Cootamundra where he has a similar establishment.  Perhaps I should interview the owner, for a general piece of writing, or for a Business Studies case study for my class or for an EdAssist article.  The Talbingo joint is eclectic with various paraphernalia stuck around, like caps and hats hanging above the bar, skis and golf clubs stuck on walls and ceiling, a games room for the kids, including an X Box with a car racing game which won my son over.  He played against a kid he’d never met before.  The Mum approached my thirteen year old to explain the loud competitive eight year old boy was autistic and my son volunteered that it was fine by him because he was autistic too.  The owner was concerned about the loud behaviour of my son’s new friend because people were trying to watch the rugby.  Well, sort of.  It wasn’t a big deal of a game.  That’s tonight.  We’re returning to the Talbingo Lodge tonight for the Stage of Origin, booked our now favourite table, by the fire, in front of the large TV screen.

    Marking

    So here I am, having completed the essential marking of 45 Society and Culture essays in two days, giving myself a reprieve before I tackle the less essential marking.  I’m reading ‘The Office’ by Gideon Haigh and it could be describing me as it provides the history of clerks working irregular hours, fitting in their own writing as much as possible a la Dickens.  Except I seem to do a lot of thinking about writing but not much writing in itself.  I completed a Masters of Arts recently, majoring in writing and literature and discovered I had a gift for script writing (thanks Deakin for the HD).  Unfortunately for my students I’m also excellent at Editing, another HD subject.  I have a couple of scant plots mapped out for scripts but I just can’t seem to find the oomph to dedicate some real slabs of time at it.

    Instead I tend to focus on the here and now, so I end up immersing myself in all things related to school.  This year I am teaching six subjects and am on the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) which is currently constructing a report about the future direction of pedagogy and technology in the school.  The ILT is saving me from being downtrodden by my numerous classes – I’ve never had so many before.  Plus I’ve stepped down from management positions to start afresh at a new school so I’m not used to facing so many students in recent times.  It’s a hard slog!  I’m constantly being encouraged to keep being innovative and try new things in my classroom by two of my four superiors.  One of the others is remote and simply trusts me and another prefers old school, but that’s OK because I just balance traditional with my ‘keeping it real’ style in Business Studies anyway.

    I have volunteered to speak for 7 minutes at a TeachMeet in a month’s time on Chaos Theory, planning for it to be about my Year 10 Geography class where I have a class of 30 boys, most being quite boisterous in nature.  This class was noisy when they were arranged in rows and given traditional worksheet learning so now I conduct it more like Project Based Learning (PBL) and it’s slightly louder.  Less evidence of learning is being produced and they probably won’t perform as well in an exam as the other classes but I believe they understood the concepts much better as a result of the PBL style.

    TMCoast

    The ILT is grabbing my real passion as I like to push students to achieving their best but not in the traditional sense of scoring well in exams.  Since I have a broader goal for students I am a bit of a trumpeter for changing the ways of teaching.  However, I am about balance, having just left a school that was going too far in the one direction, in my not so humble opinion.  Two aims I have just jotted down in my steadfast companion of a notebook are probably not achievable in the near future but I think, wouldn’t it be great if I could help students to map out their own educational path, mentor and guide them, plus help each student create a portfolio of their achievements.  I’ve only looked at a couple of online programs that would do that but they didn’t tickle my fancy.

    One of the other activities I have flitted about on is consideration for my son’s education.  He attends that school where I previously taught and I’m trying to conceive a plan for him to fit into the school, achieve traditionally set school goals and achieve some goals of our own.  Today I emailed a reply to his Case Manager (due to his autism) about a meeting for next term.  I’m hoping to present a mildly radical plan of action for the rest of the year, involving dropping Art and arranging self-directed project time for him instead which he would need to report in the form of Tumblr or the like.

    So here I am, having just spewed out 1000 words in what should be organised into several different pieces of writing.  I’ll let this sit for a while and return to it later.  Perhaps this afternoon, perhaps tomorrow, we’ll see.  I am a procrastinator.  And besides, it’s time for food and a cup of tea.

    [I ended up being distracted by the Rudd/Gillard PM leadership battle and the Texas filibuster so nothing productive occurred this afternoon]