Teacher Staffroom Episode 50: Teacher planning

This podcast from Teacher is supported by MacKillop Seasons, whose Seasons for Life project supports schools with loss and grief following a suicide and other loss event.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Teacher Staffroom, where we catch you up on the latest evidence, insight, and action. I'm Rebecca Vukovic.

In today’s podcast we’re going to be talking about teacher planning, drawing on 3 articles written by educational leader Michael Rosenbrock. In the first article, he looked at how teachers can pro-actively plan to tackle student misconceptions in STEM. In the second instalment, he discusses evidence on the importance of deliberately planning to support students to build and use their vocabulary, and what this could look like in practice. And in the third piece, published just yesterday, he explores how teachers can best plan to make effective use of manipulatives and representations to help students build understanding. We’ll be taking a closer look at each of these articles in the episode, as well as some of the other highlights from Teacher this month. Let’s jump in.

Let’s start with the first article from Michael Rosenbrock that explores student misconceptions in STEM. His article draws on the best available evidence to support maths and science teachers to effectively plan to address student misconceptions.

Michael says that students bring their existing understandings about the world to every lesson. In science and mathematics, these self-constructed ideas do not always align with the concepts, models, language, and processes used within these disciplines. Commonly referred to as misconceptions, these can lead to systematic errors that can build over time and impact further learning. He suggests that pro-actively planning to address misconceptions is vital to ensuring that every student develops a strong understanding that they can build on over time.

After reading the article, make sure you check out the new resource being developed by Evidence for Learning, that focuses on putting evidence to work in STEM. I’ll link to it, as well as all the articles I mention today, in the transcript of this episode on the Teacher magazine website.

Michael’s second article discusses evidence on the importance of deliberately planning to support students to build and use their vocabulary in science and mathematics, and what this could look like in practice. In the article, Michael poses several questions for educators. I encourage you to pause this audio now to read the article, and then come back to consider these questions:

  • Where might you find opportunities to collaborate with colleagues to prioritise key vocabulary to be explicitly taught?
  • What approaches will you use to provide students opportunities to proactively engage with vocabulary and revisit it over time?
  • Are there whole-school vocabulary approaches to consider when addressing vocabulary in your planning?
  • How can you ensure that your planning accounts for words which have more than one meaning which may impact student understanding?

And in the final article in this series on teacher planning, Michael explores how teachers can best plan to make effective use of manipulatives and representations to help students build understanding. In the article, he writes: ‘There are many concepts in maths and science – such as the multiplication of fractions or the behaviour of subatomic particles in the atom – that require either abstract understanding, or relate to a scale or context that is beyond our experience of reality. To address this, teachers frequently use manipulatives or representations to support students to build understanding. Planning to do so effectively can have a positive impact on student learning’.

After reading the article, here are some questions that Michael poses for educators to consider:

  • Where do you currently use manipulatives and representations to build student understanding?
  • How can you ensure students make connections between them and the concept?
  • Where within your planning might it be beneficial to build in opportunities for students to compare them or consider their limits?
  • Are there opportunities for building student capacity to draw on manipulatives and representations when they get stuck in their learning?

Coming up, we’ll be taking a closer look at some other highlights from Teacher this month, including a podcast episode with Professor Anne Castles. But first, here’s a quick message from our sponsor.

You’re listening to a podcast from Teacher magazine, supported by MacKillop Seasons, whose Seasons for Life project supports young people affected by suicide and other loss events throughout Australia. Free for Australian high schools and based on the strong evidence-base of the Seasons for Growth change, loss and grief education programs, the Seasons for Life project, builds wellbeing, resilience, social and emotional coping skills, and strengthens supportive relationships.

Earlier this month, Teacher editor Jo Earp sat down to record a podcast episode with Professor Anne Castles, Australian Research Council Laureate Professor at the Australian Centre for the Advancement of Literacy at the Australian Catholic University. She’s also a Keynote speaker at ACER’s Research Conference next month in Sydney. The conference theme is ‘Becoming lifelong learners’ and presenters will be examining research around how to improve continuity of learning in the first 12 years of a child’s life. The title of Anne’s keynote is ‘Ensuring a safety net: Supporting low achievers in school contexts’. In the episode, Anne talks more about her work, discussing some of the research on learning to read, and gives listeners a taste of what delegates can expect from that Research Conference Keynote.

Here’s Anne discussing why learning to read or reading instruction is such a controversial area of research:

… particularly in primary school, reading is just so prominent. You know, if a child is struggling with reading then, you know, it's very evident, it gets in the way of all the other things that they might be doing in the classroom. And, as a result of that, both parents and teachers are very, very focused on literacy. And the fact is all children are different. Some have wonderful skills in maths but might find it more difficult to learn to read. Others are completely the opposite. But I think literacy gets a focus because of the fact it's seen as so important to success in accessing the curriculum and then, down the track, in all aspects of your life. I mean, if you can't read well that limits you so much. And I think parents become terribly concerned if they think their child is falling behind in something that's so important.

The next piece I’d like to tell you about is the latest instalment of our Teacher’s Bookshelf series, this one features an extract from Building a World-Class Learning System: Insights from some top-performing school systems, by Professor Geoff Masters. In this new publication commissioned by the US National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) Geoff – who is Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research – focuses on learning systems in 5 jurisdictions that have long performed well on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. In the book Geoff explores what the education systems in British Columbia, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong and South Korea have in common, the strategies they employ, and the decisions they are making to support students now and in the future.

After reading the article on Teacher, consider these questions:

How do you identify individual learner’s needs in your own school context? What strategies do you employ to address these needs? Do you monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies?

And finally, we launched series 2 of the School Assembly podcast this month. Jo Earp headed out to Truginina to meet with Jo Camozzato, who’s the principal of Bemin Secondary College, a new build school that is set to open its doors to students at the start of the 2024 school year. In this first episode, they chat about Jo’s experience as an educator, what led her to school leadership and also what’s happened so far in terms of the new secondary school.

Here's Jo Camozzato sharing what her proudest achievement has been so far in this process.

I think the proudest achievement was that 3 weeks ago we had what I call an informal meet and greet opportunity for the families, and we really had limited ways to advertise that. We just sort of sent out, you know, a digital flyer if you like to the local schools, to the local community centre, we didn’t even have our school Facebook page at that point. And we were really hopeful that some families would pop into the local community centre to just meet us to let us know what part of the world their family originated from, to give us their view on the uniform pieces we had on display, and it was really great. It was well over 100 families came in, over a period of 3 or 4 hours – so they could come when it suited them, before or after dinner – and that made me feel really excited. And I thought ‘wow this actually worked with limited publicity’, that there is a word of mouth and people are curious and interested. So that would probably be the proudest thing.

That's all for this episode, and you’re now all caught up on the latest evidence, insight and action. Links to all the content and the resources I’ve mentioned will be in the transcript of this podcast available over at our website, teachermagazine.com.

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You’ve been listening to a podcast from Teacher, supported by MacKillop Seasons, Seasons for Life, supporting schools and young people affected by suicide and other significant losses. Visit mackillopseasons.org.au