Jervois Primary School is a small school of 106 students from R-7 approximately 100km outside of Adelaide, SA in an agricultural area and has an ICSEA of 971. Due to the small-town location, many students travel in from surrounding areas and participate in the five operating classes for literacy and numeracy and four classes of other curriculum areas.
In 2016, Jervois PS established four foundation areas: being happy, safe and belonging; stop and think, learning and leading; and The Learning Pit. Their priority was established around creating students who are self-regulated learners, who embrace challenge and demonstrate cultures of thinking and lifelong learning beyond relationship rescue.
Jervois PS had state-wide and site-specific data which showed students had low resilience in learning and that staff were motivated to implement practices which addressed classroom passivity and treated learning as active.
Jervois PS identified their challenge of practice was to develop expert learners, students who could show and explain their thinking in multimodal ways. This continues to compliment the current challenge of practice around reading comprehension and achievement in maths as the school talks about and navigates learning and learner behaviours and actions.
What happened during the project?
In order to build collective efficacy in teachers, Jervois PS leadership needed to create the spaces, structures and time to enable this. Initiatives included strategies of de-privatising classrooms, staff meeting allocations for PechaKucha presentations, team personal development meetings and release time to observe/co-observe each other in focus areas.
Jervois PS identified innovative practices through research, which were then implemented across the school by providing personal development opportunities for staff and students. These opportunities included the South Australian Department for Education’s Teaching for Effective Learning (TfEL) framework, How to Learn Math from Jo Boalar (Stanford University), learning mode and performance mode from Professor Guy Claxton (Winchester University), Creative and Body-based Learning (CBL) from Professor Katie Dawson (University of Texas), and Creating Cultures of Thinking from Ron Ritchhart at Project Zero (Harvard University). In order to embed and maintain consistency of their approaches to thinking, learning and engagement at Jervois PS, school leaders evaluated their methods, including mapping R-7 expectations of explicitly teaching/incorporating visible thinking routines, CBL, discussion starters and reciprocal reading.
Initially, Jervois PS engaged all staff and students in CBL, while creating a whole-school understanding of curriculum layering with a range of CBL strategies and high-challenge learning. This involved an increase of pedagogical approaches in learning which have students moving, sharing and thinking. Throughout the project, there were challenges to creating a shared understanding and engagement in the CBL pedagogy which was addressed through whole-school involvement and engagement in articulating the learning experience. Jervois PS identified productive struggle and stretch learning as integral to achieving active learning and shift thinking from teachers to students, which saw students become part of the co-design and contribution to practice.
Key changes for Jervois PS have included the development of a consistent approach and language of learning across the school. This has impacted on teachers’ language, pedagogy and learning design as they have modelled the language of learning, including reference to The Learning Pit and stretch and challenge. Teachers have designed opportunities for dialogic meaning making, multiple entry points and multiple modes for students to show what they know, can do or understand.
Jervois PS also implemented initiatives which focused on student voice. They continued to engage students with the student learning community across the partnership and conducted whole-school Monday meetings where students and teachers co-learn and co-lead with a focus on thinking and learning, developing shared understandings, language and practices. Students were also given opportunities to attend and co-present at teacher personal development meetings. To achieve this, school leadership had to address timetabling and resource efficiencies.
Jervois PS had access to Samsung technology thanks to SVA’s partnership with Samsung Electronics Australia. This included a Samsung Smart TV which has been used by student leaders and staff during Monday meetings as they led the learning, providing opportunities to share visuals as prompts for thinking and explaining. The TV screen was also used to display the reading focus for CBL as students selected images from the texts to support reading skills of predicting and inferring, and again during assemblies, intervention groups and classes. It can connect to laptops but importantly is used to mirror devices to show student thinking and learning. It can be used to model a visible thinking routine with a visual like ‘I see, think, wonder’, and can show frozen images that students produce to share understandings through CBL.
In 2019, Jervois PS was able to map out ways to promote thinking, engagement and understandings and independence for all learners. This has provided clarity in what they can include in the learning design across classes, enabling teachers to know what strategies or routines to explicitly teach or use to support curriculum, learner engagement and achievement. Teachers can also talk about how to use these strategies and routines with formative assessment.
School leadership has identified that teaching and learning has become more streamlined and purposeful and connections are being made between different learning areas via a whole-school approach using CBL and thinking routines. They have shared this work across the school’s SVA, regional and state partnerships, as well as internationally.
What changed for the students?
The impact of these strategies on students has included increased student engagement in learning and increase of metacognition. Students are showing and explaining their thinking to peers and there is increased self and collective efficacy of students and teachers to talk about and share the learning process and journey.
SLC students continue to co-design and co-lead in CBL and Thinking Routines, which has built high student engagement. Students competently co-designed scope for most of a unit of work using text and then led this learning across ￼the partnership to other SLC student members and teacher/leaders. It was then shared at a whole-school Monday Meeting, ensuring new learning and review of learning for students and teachers in CBL and aligned to reading comprehensions skills of predicting and inferring. CBL and visible thinking routines used across the school have increased student learning and development, such as reading focus routines being used to increase comprehension skills.
Where to next?
Jervois PS plans to continue with whole-school approaches, such as Visible Thinking routines, discussion starters for dialogic meaning making, creative body-based learning, reciprocal reading and teachers deprivatising their practice. The school will focus on strategies that provide a shared language, consistency of practices, and approaches for learning that consider the cognitive load and achievement of students.
They will continue to explore and engage in teaching and learning to maximise student efficacy and outcomes, for example, play and nature-based learning approaches in the Reception/ Year 1 class.
The school will also build on self-regulation and metacognition across the school as they take steps towards all students being key participants in the management of their reading goals/phonemic awareness, that are aligned to specific reading skills and behaviours.
Jervois PS learned the following were important for success:
- Collective strength – A “we” approach is better than a “me” approach. There’s a need to maximise connection opportunities for leaders, teams and students both within local settings and beyond.
- The language of learning/leading, expectations and shared understandings/why – Threads of this were woven through provocations, site visits and many table and break conversations. It is the what (content) and the (how) and approaches that are tight but loose (clear with flexibility).
- The opportunities and challenges of connecting with community and partnerships in different contexts – Some remarkable partnerships have been shared, such as with Prospect North and Rotary with STEM, and with schools such as Stirling North, Mt Burr, Merrylands East, and Granville East.
The importance of collaboration
Q&A with the School Principal
Q: What has made SVA a productive partnership for your school?
SVA has provided time and opportunities for sharing and learning with and from others. This has included inspiration, tools and approaches for effective leadership, and support in articulating our work for our own community, state partnerships and beyond.
We’ve formed connections with quality leadership and sites beyond our state system, as well as connections with philanthropy and business.
We’ve enjoyed multiple opportunities to be challenged and nudged through research, case studies and high-level leadership and educators, both from within our systems and further afield. Meanwhile, there has been no shortage of keynotes and provocations to either affirm or challenge our understandings and practices.
There have also been opportunities to develop deeper understandings and practices through system ￼influencers, e.g. AITSL, ACARA, Spiral of Inquiry.
Q: Outside of SVA itself, what has been the most productive partnership you’ve developed through your SVA project? Why has it been productive?
Although not directly related to a Thought Leadership Gathering (TLG) or our PAP, Music Match has been a partnership that has provided benefits to student learning through experiences. Through this relationship, our students have had access to high quality music experiences, and teachers in the music curriculum have had the opportunity for personal development. I have personally seen the professional learning of teachers transferred into their practice as they designed music lessons for students. ￼This partnership has also built stronger ties between Jervois PS and other partnership schools, as often other schools are taking part in the same student experiences and teacher PD.
Our connection and upcoming opportunity with Schools Plus has provided funding and mentoring to be used in 2020 to build on our ‘Powerful Play’ pedagogies in junior primary.
We have also maintained and developed strong connections between Mypolonga Primary School and Murray Bridge High School as a cluster hub in SVA.
Contribution of another school to your journey
We have learned from all other partner schools, either through their presentations, conversations, approaches, or visits, and have made strong connections with the SA Star Hub group.
Sunshine College shared their work on reciprocal teaching with maths at a TLG and this influenced our Wave 2 intervention for maths and complimented our reciprocal reading approach.
Adam Wilson, principal of Stirling North Primary School, offered an open classroom with Walker Learning, which was supportive of next steps at Jervois. Then Victor Harbor R-7 School leader, Emma Hayward, continued as a great support with her knowledge base and leadership of the introduction of the Walker Learning approach with her R-3 team.
Our connection with Victor Harbor was further embedded when Emma Hayward took on the principal role while I took some leave. She had already shared knowledge and resources with us around the implementation phases of Walker Learning from her own school but was able to go deeper with us when she was on site. During this time, she formed positive working relationships with staff and progressed Walker Learning and teacher understandings of learning intentions, success criteria and learning progressions in maths.
‘I tapped into the expertise and resources and Emma helped to refine programming, planning, tuning in and reflection times. Learning intentions and programming were focused and purposeful and themes were tweaked so that activities became more student driven and not so teacher-led.’ – Teacher
Emma and I have further plans for 2020, which include staff from both sites attending Walker Learning professional development and connecting informally to build on this work together. There is another opportunity for Emma to be principal at Jervois PS for three to four weeks and I hope to continue supporting the development of her leadership as well as our learning at Jervois PS.