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Murrays Bay Intermediate – Curriculum design and review

Murrays Bay Intermediate considered many aspects during their curriculum development:

Murray's bay logo.

Create an environment that understands why we need to change, e.g. present and understand what 21st century learning means at our school. Share this with parents in newsletters and enrolment evenings.

Create an infrastructure that enables the vision to be implemented, e.g. establish every class, progressively over three years, as an e-class (comprising 12 thin client computers and one full client; remove all desks and create an interactive environment around catering for digital literacy.

Develop and establish a "School of Teacher Development" where specific staff are given responsiblity to plan strategically a programme of personalised professional development.

Ask staff, at a full staff meeting to  develop a school-wide understanding of what comprises "informed teaching practice". We then link this to our appraisal system. Surveying staff in relation to their knowledge about the qualities of good teaching practice. For example - Multiple Intelligences, Learning Styles, Thinkers Keys, Blooms Taxonomy, Learning Centres etc. Using the "experts" to teach others at subsequent staff meetings.

We asked for three volunteers to create an initial group of staff who developed programmes centred around the ideas of the new draft syllabus. This grew by volunteers each year for the next two years and then all the staff asked to be included. There was no mandating!

Several Ministry contracts were springboards to providing quality professional development which also promoted the motivation and enthusiasm for ongoing development. Contracts were: Learning Pathways (centred on trialling the intended new syllabus), ICT Professional Development, Literacy Contract, Health and PE and the Formative Assessment Contract. We are now leading an EHSAS contract examining teacher pedagogy and working, using an "Observational Analysis" tool to discern actual teaching practice and promote and encourage a more 'informed' understanding of how to teach best.

We created a whole school environment which we call 'an invitational school'. This involves strategies that empower our students to operate at maximum potential to action 21st century learning. It involved the desystemising of the school - all stakeholders (in this case being mostly the students) being able to use all resources (even those labelled for teachers), all stakeholders using photocopiers, e-mail, the internet, cell phones, the library at any time, classrooms from 7-30am until 4-30pm and so on. Students are able to move to design studios or other like spaces without being supervised as long as they hold a 'trusted person' status.

Incremental staff meetings allowed teachers to construct new understandings of how best to teach and could share and design innovative programmes around fertile and rich questions that had a built in resource centreing around an 'action learning' model. Staff attended conferences taken by Adam Lefstein in regards to fertile questions. Adam being a contact for us via email to bounce ideas and query the validity of our questions.

We established a professional development budget of $46,500 which is above the money for professional development resourced by the many Ministry Contracts that we lead. We also created a "scholarship fund" of $4000 that allowed staff to consider specific studies for any innovative new learning that would impact positively on educational outcomes for students.

We embraced a programme that supported staff through any stressful change they might find challenging - ideas such as the creation of mentors, a staffroom that had jigsaws, a choice of topical relaxation magazines, a multiple choice coffee and chocolate machine that is free to staff, a T.V. network that enabled communication to staff and students to be consistent and ensured that everyone received the same message; the removal of most of the school bells replaced by classical music which is less institutionalised.

We provided a smorgasbord of resources, both digital, on-line and a library of resource books that resourced possible programmes for classrooms.

Purchased and installed 'smartboards' and other 21st century technology that enabled staff to respond to the needs and requests of staff. Again this had a cascading effect on motivation of staff as students in these classes were so "switched on" to learning. Teaching and learning was easier, very visual, interactive and far more exciting for all!

Staff meetings continued each term to share ideas, resources, positives and what needed to be improved for the upcoming term.

Group of Murrays Bay students.

At the end of the first year we decided that we needed to focus specifically on two questions that were very Science based (dilemma with a fertile question being ethical, moralistic with the nature of science), and two very Social Studies based; with a focus on key ideas and concepts for the first five weeks of the term, followed by the line of inquiry for the remainder of the term. This allowed the students to ask far better questions following a "knowledge attack."

Activities encompassed authentic learning experiences that were relevant and highly motivating for students. Mini Schools developed each questions' planning, created resources and learning centres and were able to provide these for subsequent Mini Schools to build upon. This fostered a real collegiality within teams. Teams at the end of each term shared inquiries and experiences with parents and the rest of the school with 'Travel Expos', "Invention Conventions,' pamphlets that were useable within the school environment.

We also developed a better planning format with the help from Adam Lefstein which encompassed key ideas, concepts, online learning resources and controversies that allowed for more indepth thinking from staff before we launched into the gathering of resources for activities. Our rubric has evolved and changed over time as the Key Competencies have evolved. For each fertile question we now include the relevant competency along with the key ideas that we assess students on.

In relation to the above, our report format has had to change. This is also incremental to inform our parents of what our students are learning and why this is important. We refer to the core skills and curriculum level as well as skills learnt (in relation to Key Competencies) and examples of personalised inquiries.

curriculum design and review

Updated on: 12 Jun 2011