Archive of ‘Professional Development’ category

Differentiation for Learning in STEM Teaching

Differentiation can be in terms of:

Task: How we allow appropriate access to the learning for the students.

Outcome: How students communicate their learning.

Intervention: The roles undertaken by the teacher and others doing the learning.

Route: Allowing students different journeys through the learning.



In a study by Steven Boyle and others, the following were identified as potential ‘good learning behaviours’ of students:

  1. Tells teacher when they don’t understand
  2. Asks teacher why they went wrong
  3. Tells teacher what they don’t understand
  4. Checks work against instruction, correcting errors and omissions
  5. When stuck, refers to earlier work before asking teacher
  6. Checks personal comprehension of instruction and material. Requests further information if needed
  7. Seeks reasons for aspects of the work at hand
  8. Anticipates and predicts possible outcomes
  9. Plans a general strategy before starting
  10. Explains purposes and results
  11. Checks teacher’s work for errors; offers corrections
  12. Seeks links between adjacent activities and ideas
  13. Seeks links between non-adjacent activities, ideas and between different topics
  14. Independently seeks further information, following up ideas raised in class
  15. Seeks links between different subjects
  16. Asks inquisitive but general questions
  17. Offers personal examples which are generally relevant
  18. Seeks specific links between schoolwork and personal life
  19. Searches for weaknesses in their own understanding; checks the consistency of their explanations across different situations
  20. Suggests new activities and alternative procedures
  21. Expresses disagreement
  22. Offers ideas, new insights and alternative explanations
  23. Justified opinions
  24. Reacts and refers to comments of other students
  25. Challenges the text or an answer the teacher sanctions as correct





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Differentiating for Learning in STEM Teaching

Points to explore further:

  • encouraging/ structuring opportunities for students to pose more questions
  • I see, I think, I wonder
  • hinge point questions
  • fingers, thumbs, mini whiteboards – visible thinking
  • Can you – identify, explain, use a diagram, draw/ write your own…
  • Concept cartoons – could I develop these from student reflections and common misconceptions?

Concept cartoons:




Identify how to calculate volume of different rectangular prisms – Here are a variety of rectangular prisms. Calculate the volume of each. Check your answer. How accurate are you?

Explain to someone else how to calculate volume of different rectangular prisms – Write or orally record how you calculate the volume of rectangular prisms.

Use a diagram to explain how to calculate volume of different rectangular prisms – Draw a diagram to your ideal piece of fudge, how many pieces would fit in the package and a diagram to show the dimensions that the package would need to be. Calculate the volume of the single serve and the total package.

Write your own problem involving the calculation of volume of rectangular prisms. Record it for others to challenge themselves with.


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Putting Faces on the Data – Sharratt, Fullan

The 14 Parameters

  1. Shared beliefs and Understandings
    1. Each student can achieve high standards, given the right time and the right support.
    2. Each teacher can teach to high standards, given the right assistance.
    3. High expectations and early and ongoing intervention are essential.
    4. Teachers and administrators need to be able to articulate what they do and why they teach the way they do.
  2. Embedded Literacy/ Instructional Coaches
  3. Daily, Sustained Focus on Literacy Instruction
  4. Principal Leadership
  5. Early and Ongoing Intervention
  6. Case Management Approach: a) Data Walls, b) Case by Case Meetings
  7. Professional Learning at School Staff Meetings
  8. In-school Grade/ Subject Meetings
  9. Centralised Resources
  10. Commitment of District and School Budgets for Literacy Learning and Resources
  11. Action Research/ Collaborative Inquiry
  12. Parental and Community Involvement
  13. Cross-Curricular Connections
  14. Shared Responsibility and Accountablility
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Maths PD

Needs to focus on efficient planning and programming strategies
Clear indicators of learning progression
Identifiable evidence of learning – depth of understanding
Meet needs of learners and teachers

4 key principles of Maths PD
1. Identify what is the mathematics that needs to be improved
– the number skills
– strategies
– relationship between concepts – How can I use strategies?

2. Broad range of teaching strategies and learning activities – social constructivist framework to ensure positive disposition toward mathematics
3. Assessment informs practice
4. Teacher Reflection – what worked, what does student learning highlight, misconceptions evident, successful strategies, what needs to be changed

Baseline data determined by prior knowledge activities. Be clear about what you want to find out. Clear purpose for the learner too. For example to find out a student’s understanding of fractions, proportional reasoning use different number lines. “Put 5 numbers along the following number lines, without using decimals.”


Decide what it is we want to improve.
– fluency – Quicksmart, intervention program,
Skoolbo, practice for all
Multiplication facts
‘Secret Code’ strategies for efficient mental computation
– more students in higher bands
Develop problem solving skills
Depth of understanding
Recognises patterns and makes generalisations
To develop Proficiencies (refer to verbs) as well as conceptual understanding choose a chunk of mathematics eg. Fractions

Collection model
Partition model
Comparative model

Relationship to decimals

Steps forward
1. Identify needs through analysis of PAT maths and NAPLAN data. Aspects of mathematics.
2. Prior knowledge activities to establish where understandings are, and identify misconceptions. (Place value, fractions, decimals in years 3-7. Number skills and strategies Secret Code in R-2, as well as practical problem solving in areas of measurement, data collection, and student initiated investigations.)
3. Explore concept, identify how conceptual understanding develops.
4. Provide a range of teaching strategies and learning opportunities for teachers to implement at different levels.
5. Analyse work samples, processes used, observations and reflect on successes and aspects that need to be changed. “How do these inform future teaching/ learning?”

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Rich District, Poor District: Common Sense Practices to Maximise Resources and Improve Student Outcomes – Howie Knoff

Common Sense Practice #1 (Leadership)
7 C’s of success:
formal and informal processes that facilitate:
among school staff and district staff

Committees – reflect the research-based components of effective schools and schooling

The School Leadership Team (all committee co-chairs are members)
The Curriculum and Instruction Committee
The School Climate/ School Discipline Committee
The Professional Development/ Teacher Mentoring and Support Committee
The Family and Community Outreach Committee
The Student Assistance/ Multi-tiered/ Early Intervention Committee (made up of the best academic/ behavioural assessment/ intervention specialists in or available to the school)

All professionals regardless of their department or administrative assignment, are organised in cross-collaborative teams that focus on the following outcomes:

  • Students’ academic learning, mastery, and application
  • Students’ social, emotional and behavioural self-management and interpersonal success
  • Teachers’ effective instruction relative to student academics and self-management outcomes
  • Meaningful professional development and staff support to facilitate effective instruction and multi-tiered intervention resulting in successful student outcomes
  • Community and family outreach to maximise their support, collaboration, and involvement in educational processes/ activities at the district, school, and student levels

Common Sense #2 (Instruction)

Differentiated Instruction will not work when there are too many different skill groups in a classroom, or when teachers do not know the functional skills levels of their students.

Organisational suggestion for setting up classes – not too much of a range in abilities (skills based learning clusters)??? Possible?

Knowing the Zone of Proximal Development level of all students

* Use PAT-R, PAT-M, Running Records, etc.

* Data management system to pass on information from teacher to teacher essential.

Refer to:

Common Sense Practice #3 (Assessment):
Every year level (or course) needs developmentally-appropriate curricular maps, that identify the knowledge, content and skills needed by students, along with the criteria for student mastery: and for every teacher to have the skills, materials, and opportunity needed to effectively differentiate and teach, assess, and monitor students’ learning and mastery.

Yes!! I feel that the most success we have had this year in terms of Professional Development has been developing a clear understanding of the skills and understandings needed by students in terms of reading comprehension. Analysing the PAT-R descriptive continuum helped to understand what students needed to be taught. Using this assessment tool helped teachers to identify the Zone of Proximal Development of each student from Year 2-7. From here clear goals were established for student learning, and instructional opportunities were planned to scaffold students’ learning.

Question: How closely are the PAT-R tests aligned with the Australian Curriculum?
This process need to be done in relation to the Australian Curriculum year level expectations.

Common Sense Practice #4 (Services and Support):
Share Resources
SWOT Analysis
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Interdependent Audits:

  • Strategic Planning, Organisational Stability and Data-driven Decision Making Audits
  • Academic and Health/ Mental Health/ Wellness Curriculum, Curricular Alignment, and Curriculum Selection Audits
  • Technological Hardware and Software Curriculum, Instruction, and Intervention Support Audits
  • Professional Development, Supervision and Staff Evaluation Audits

Completing and sharing these audits allows everyone to know the resources available (and not available) and how they can be utilised.

Resources must be used to support needs of students. Communicating what resources are available, and sharing these across the school are important.



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Effective Supervision by R Marzano

5 conditions that must be met to systematically develop teacher expertise: 1) a well-articulated knowledge base for teaching, 2) focused feedback and practice, 3) opportunities to observe and discuss expertise, 4) clear criteria and a plan for success, and 5) recognition of expertise. These will in turn translate into enhanced student achievement.

A Well Articulated Knowledge Base for Teaching
Domain 1: classroom strategies and behaviours
Domain 2: planning and preparing
Domain 3: reflecting on teaching
Domain 4: collegiality and professionalism


Focused Feedback and Practice
For feedback to be instrumental in developing teacher expertise, it must focus on specific classroom strategies and behaviours during a set interval of time.

Opportunities to Observe and Discuss Expertise
Opportunities to observe and discuss effective teaching are an important part of developing expertise among classroom teachers. If teachers do not have opportunities to observe and interact with other teachers, their method of generating new knowledge about teaching is limited to personal trial and error.

Clear Criteria and a Plan for Success
The ultimate criterion for successful teaching must be student learning.

Recognition of Expertise

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Making Thinking Visible

When we place the learner at the heart of everything we do, our focus as teachers shifts in a most fundamental way.
* from the delivery of information to fostering students’ engagement with ideas
Instead of covering the curriculum and judging our success by how much content we get through, we must learn to identify the key ideas and concepts with which we want our students to engage, struggle, question, explore, and ultimately build understanding. Our goal must be to make the big ideas of the curriculum accessible and engaging while honoring their complexity, beauty, and power in the process. When there is something important and worthwhile to think about and a reason to think deeply, our students experience the kind of learning that has a lasting impact and powerful influence not only in the short term but also in the long haul. They not only learn; they learn how to learn.

We have two chief goals:
* creating opportunities for thinking
* making students’ thinking visible

David Perkins “learning is a consequence of thinking. Retention, understanding, and the active use of knowledge can be brought about only by learning experiences in which learners think about and think with what they are learning…Far from thinking coming after knowledge, knowledge comes on the coat tails of thinking. As we think about and with the content that we are learning, we truly learn it.”
When we reduce the amount of thinking eg ask of our students, we reduce the amount of learning as well. We need to remember that thinking may still be invisible to us. To make sure thinking isn’t left to chance and to provide us with the information we needin order to respond to students’ learning needs, we must also make their thinking invisible.

Enabling students to show thinking gives the teacher insight into understanding and misconceptions.

Good “essential questions”:
What’s the story?
What’s the other story?
How do you know the story?
Why know/ tell the story?
Where’s the power in the story?

Students’ questions all the more important: “I judge my students not by the answers they give, but by the questions they ask” Paul Cripps Wyoming

“What makes you say that?” – a non-threatening way of eliciting thinking process.

We make students’ thinking visible through our questioning, listening and documenting so that we can build on and extend that thinking on the way to deeper and richer understanding.

The section ‘As patterns of behaviour’ gets to the crux of an idea that has been milling around in my head recently. The notion that it is the routine, daily things that teachers set up in their classroom that create habits and effect learning powerfully. That is why I have been developing a Daily Planning tool, which tries to highlight and synthesise the key aspects that we are focusing on as a school, and place them front and centre in all of our teachers’ minds. I realise though that the aspects I have highlighted so far are the ‘what’ of the curriculum, and the routines set out in this book address the ‘how’. I will need to come back to explore this section in more detail.

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