Monday, 26 October 2015

New initiative for acceleration and challenge (2015 Term 4 Week 4)

Over the last few years, one of the major priorities for the school has been to ensure that every student achieves rich and deep learning outcomes. A key strategy in achieving this goal has been working with the teachers to differentiate the curriculum to deliver appropriate levels of challenge and support to all students. For most students, this appropriate challenge and support is provided through the professional practice of the classroom teachers. 

Over the last three years the formation of the K-12 Learning Enrichment Team, consisting of staff specialising in both learning support and learning extension, has enabled us to deliver on this priority. The Learning Enrichment Team have developed a common framework, language and processes to help ensure that student needs are recognised and that staff are supported and equipped in their professional practice. I am deeply appreciative to Dr Lye Chan Long and, before her, Mrs Debbie Williams, for their leadership of this team. The team is significantly larger now than it was at its formation and it will be increasing again in 2016 as part of our quest to improve student learning outcomes.

In 2016 we are undertaking a number of initiatives that are specifically directed towards helping high-achieving students to thrive further in their learning. We already have a number of students who are accelerated in one way or another. A number of Junior School students learn with older students in various Key Learning Areas and withdrawal groups continue to provide additional challenge. From time to time consideration will also be given to grade-skipping students as a way of ensuring that they do experience the appropriate level of challenge; any actions of this sort are informed by the data and particular circumstances of individual students. 

Acceleration also takes place in the Senior School, most notably seen in individual students moving to complete elements of their HSC earlier than is the normal pattern. This is more appropriate, and easier accomplished, in some subjects rather than others. Over the last three years individual students have accelerated through the Software Design and Development course, achieving excellent results. Likewise a Year 10 student has just achieved the top results in the Year 11 Music 2 course and a Year 9 student has just topped the Year 11 Mathematics and Mathematics Extension courses. We will continue to identify opportunities for individual students to accelerate, based on their ability, their interest and the opportunities.

However, In 2016 we are introducing two new options to accelerate a group of students through their pattern of study. First, we are commencing an accelerated course in Studies of Religion, whereby students in Year 11 who are doing either Extension English or Extension Maths, will be able to accelerate through the 1-Unit Studies of Religion course in one year. This will enable them to experience an HSC exam while still in Year 11, 'bank' one unit and thereby reduce their overall study load in both Year 11 and Year 12. This pattern of study has been attractive to a number of our most able students and we are confident that it will help them to achieve strong results.

Second, we are also beginning a long-term commitment to accelerating students through the Maths syllabus. Early in 2016 we will identify a class of high-achieving Year 7 Maths students and accelerate them through both Year 7 and Year 8 maths. This will place them a whole year 'ahead of schedule', enabling them to do their HSC Mathematics while in Year 11. It is our expectation that accelerating a class in this way will be our ongoing practice. 

It is important to note that this pattern of acceleration does not disadvantage other students. It will still be possible for students to do their maths study at the normal rate and to achieve excellent results. 

Acceleration is not necessarily the best path for all students and it is not a necessary path either to validate ability or to achieve excellent results. In the significant majority of cases, appropriate challenge in learning is available to students through extension and enrichment opportunities. However, having reviewed the curriculum and the constraints within which we operate, it appears that these two significant new whole-class acceleration initiatives are a good way forward to build our culture of academic excellence.

1 comment:

  1. Hah! Hopefully this is giving James* greater insight into the academic focus of the school...

    (* see the comments in last week's blog)