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Clayton Park School

Clayton Park School, a large multi-cultural school in South Auckland, built a community of learners by exploring ways for children to be more in control of their learning and engaged in classroom research.

As teachers we need powerful tools to engage all students. This includes the minority group of disaffected students with critically low literacy and numeracy skills and a destructive self-image, in some cases with a lack of commitment to fellow human beings, as well as the high-achieving students with a love of challenge and great caring for others. We need tools which meet the needs of both kinds of students simultaneously – tools for diverse teachers.

Trish Holster, Clayton Park School

Classroom research into enterprise learning

Trish chose four students to observe more closely, monitoring them and recording her observations. "Student A was chosen because his key competences are critically low which creates a significant barrier to learning. His commitment to others is still quite low, but improving", says Trish. "In addition, I feel he has a great capacity to change because he has shown a great openness to new experiences, provided they don’t require him to write".

"Student B was chosen because I want to see how Education for Enterprise can support a child whose difficulties seemed to be largely a result of very low self-esteem", Trish says. "The last two in the group table, Student C and D, are two highly motivated girls who began with a strong set of enterprising attributes, attributes that can describe the key competencies". Trish’s motives were to see what Education for Enterprise could offer both lower and higher achieving students.

Building the language of enterprise through enterprise

Trish says that prior to the enterprise learning focus, students were not able to realistically evaluate their own competencies because the language in the enterprising attributes and key competencies, on the whole, wasn’t meaningful to them.

Trish began by introducing the enterprising attributes through shared reading using two humorous journal stories Lord Darflung’s Challenge and Craig and the Sister Catcher. The children readily identified when and how characters were:

  • working with others and in teams
  • using creative ideas
  • planning and organising.

Trish noted that "they enthusiastically wrote several sentences about how they used one of the enterprising attributes in their lives outside of school and shared their writing with others. Even the reluctant writers showed enthusiasm". Enterprising attribute vocabulary was displayed on the wall and spaces were created for children’s writing about these attributes.

By the end of the first week, students already knew three enterprising attributes. By week two they also knew about:

  • using creative ideas and processes
  • monitoring and evaluating
  • planning and organising.

Now it was time to put these attributes into practice. "Our theme for the week was "Why volcanoes erupt"?, Trish says. "Our first experiment to create an explosion didn’t work, but the next day students used Alka-Seltzer tablets instead of baking soda. The students were delighted with the explosions." Trish says that in this real context, children were picking up the enterprising attributes vocabulary more quickly than she had thought they would. Again the students wrote about their own experiences of applying enterprising attributes.

Next Trish introduced some of the enterprising attributes into general classroom life, starting with "planning and organising". Children accepted responsibility for setting up their table groups before class.

In week three Trish introduced students to the "Fizzing Fun" unit by bringing in four bath bombs which the students tried out in water. Each bath bomb reacted differently and students began to generate vocabulary to describe what they saw.

"I asked the students if they thought we should make a bath bomb each for someone special", Trish says. "Their reaction was one of incredulity! Are we really going to make one"? the class asked. A practical child also asked, "Where will we get the materials from"? Some students wanted to know why baking soda in powder form reacts differently to Alka-Seltzer tablets.

In week four and five students revisited their failed experiment in Week 2, and acids and carbonates were introduced into the learning. The enterprising attribute "collecting, organising and analysing information" fitted nicely here. The students’ collection sheet included a graphic organiser, learning intentions, criteria for success and core vocabulary needed to think about and discuss what they saw happening.

Again the students loved the hands on experimenting. "My formative assessment feedback to students was largely designed to help develop norms of how we work in this kind of science. I focused on how students are working in groups, how they are managing materials, and how they use their graphic organiser to collect, organise and analyse information – developing scientific language, skills and attitudes", Trish says. Students began to focus on scientific conceptual understandings – generalising that acids and carbonates make a gas when mixed. Some children gained understandings about why some volcanoes explode and others "ooze", and initial ideas about why we have different kinds of rocks from volcanoes.

During this experimenting phase Trish concentrated on students developing and using precise words to describe what they saw when combining acids and carbonates, orally and in written text. This focus supported the development of the enterprising attribute, "collecting, organising and analysing information".

A really significant aspect of the two lessons was the use of ICT to record "soft data". This included visual examples of children using the enterprising attributes and key competencies:

One photo I particularly valued was Student A and Student C working very well together, absorbed in their experiment. I did quite a bit of thinking out loud while photographing, reinforcing the enterprising attributes I was seeing. This is the sort of image Student A needs to see to help change his self-image as a learner. Now the students are taking the camera to capture these images.

From here the students explored, followed, and compared a range of recipes for their bath bombs. Students worked in groups with agreed roles. The group followed each step in their recipe and compared recipes.

Classroom research supports shifts in best practice and learning 

Student C observed that the enterprise learning was "interesting and cool because it helped us work as a team and plan and organise". She noted that she encouraged people to do things and to plan. Students C and D developed their skills in working interdependently with diverse students.

Student B’s confidence and self-image as a learner continued to develop through this learning. He is now more assertive in his group, and is being treated as an equal by students C and D. Trish says that recently, he pointed out that Student C failed to achieve her goal because she wasn’t willing to take advice from anyone. "I believe he has a lot more potential to discover in himself", says Trish.

"Student A has made huge progress in developing all of his enterprising attributes/key competencies, and his relationships with other children are so much better", says Trish. "His participation, speaking and active listening in the group/class discussions is now very satisfactory. He is on task about 90 percent of the time (from 5 percent before enterprise learning)". "Student A’s writing sample recounting his experience of racing his "Grand Prix" car really took my breath away", Trish says. "The spirit of his involvement was really captured and it was a full level above what he usually writes at".

Trish says, "I now write written reflections about lessons, with a ‘where to next’ element, after formally recording the evidence I expect to see, and did see in the classroom (Teachers’ thinking and planning tool). This really helps me focus on the enterprising attributes. From time to time, recording formative assessment dialogue with students is also great. Now the enterprising attributes/key competencies are at the very heart of my thinking, teaching and assessment. Previously they had a fairly minor part in my planning".

Post script

Trish says that in the following year "Student A came back with the key competencies/enterprising attributes still intact – to my surprise. He continued making gains in this direction and was one of my BEST classroom leaders! Isn’t this fantastic", she says. Student A continues this progress with his next teacher. "When he moved into the next team his new teacher commented that he was one of her higher-achieving students, and a role model for others. Transformations like that are so rewarding", says Trish.

Published on: 27 Mar 2015


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