“My teacher training, from which I graduated in 1981, actually put me off teaching”, says Aurelia Cole, Head of Swan Christian College Junior School, with a reminiscing smile.
“Growing up, I never had any opportunity to be around children and I was not at all comfortable with the behavioural management side of teaching, so I pursued a fruitful career in the printing industry.
It was only when I had my own two children, that I naturally became very involved in our daughters’ schooling. I started helping with practice lessons and before I knew it, I was offered a Pre-Primary placement to cover long service leave. This lead to me providing long-term relief at a different school every term. As this was in the early 2000’s, at the time of the implementation of the new curriculum, it was the best possible on-the-ground refresher training I could have wished for.
Due to the desk top publishing and computing skills gleaned from my prior career, I progressed firstly into the fields of teaching talented and gifted students, and then later worked with students at educational risk.
And then I got a job with Valerie Campbell at Midland Christian School and my life changed.
You see, although I was raised as a Christian, it was only when I joined Midland Christian School - and was surrounded by a network of strong Christians - that I saw what it really meant to live Christian life.
I had a few years away from SCEA during which I now see that God was preparing me for my current role. In that time I had two jobs as well as studying a Masters in Educational Leadership! I was working for the Digital Curriculum Service, writing the K-3 maths and literacy curricula for long distance schools, in addition to doing pre-service teacher lecturing at ECU. God had His hand on me and I felt very energized learning new things.
I applied for the role of Head of Junior School, just as a chance and when I was told I was the successful candidate, I just couldn’t believe it! It is very humbling and every morning I seek the Lord, asking Him to prepare my heart and mind for the day ahead, trusting that the Holy Spirit will correct me as needed as I learn. My dedicated, strong and spirit-filled staff is a huge blessing.
During my degree I was inspired and influenced by the teachings of learning leaders such as John Hattie, Andy Hargreaves, Michael Fullan and Lyn Sharrat. The importance of using student data is something I am passionate about and so in Term 1 we implemented a data wall in our staff room at the Junior School.
We know that there can be up to 7 years of differentiation in ability range in every classroom and that if we teach to the middle, we disadvantage both the higher and the lower performing students. Our goal is to best serve the needs of every child equally. Again, the experts tell us that differentiated teaching and learning is the solution and a proven strategy for school improvement is using a data wall. By being data informed, we can better tailor our teaching to the point of need.
How it works is that we have mapped every one of our 480 students on a big wall. To ensure that we don’t lose the personal element of the data, we use each student’s image. We have chosen to create a wall for reading, using the Lexile and Reading Recovery frameworks. You could start with any subject but to me, reading is the basis of learning all other subject areas.
Each year group is colour-coded which allows you to instantly see that there are indeed students from several year groups at any particular Lexile level.
The purpose of the wall is not to compare kids but to track progress and growth, with our goal being at least one year’s learning per year for every student. So at the end of every term, teachers set a Lexile placement test and move their students along the wall accordingly. That way over time, we can see exactly what learning has taken place. If there hasn’t been the expected learning, then we know that our teaching hasn’t had the desired effect.
We are in the early stages of using the data wall and there are so many exciting ways to use this information. In future, I’d like the teachers connected to the students at any one level to collaborate and discuss strategies for targeted teaching to move those students to the next level.
Also once you know a student’s ability in reading, you know that other subject textbooks and content should also be at that particular level for that student. The good thing is that there are lots of resources available. Reading A-Z is one of my favourites.
We are blessed that technology gives us so much data at our fingertips. It is now about using it to check that our teaching is effective."
This article from the Gratan Institute provides further reading on Targeted Teaching and use of data to improve student learning.
Aurelia will be delighted to answer any question regarding the data wall when she returns from LSL in November.