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Teaching and learning at Halsey Drive School

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The staff at Halsey Drive School have been developing a concept based curriculum which features a process of learning (inquiry) and a language of learning (SOLO). In this video staff explain what teaching and learning looks like at Halsey Drive School, highlighting their inquiry learning approach, and an emphasis on the children's involvement in planning and assessment.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Making connections to prior learning and experience

The New Zealand Curriculum states (p34):

"Students learn best when they are able to integrate new learning with what they already understand. When teachers deliberately build on what their students know and have experienced, they maximise the use of learning time, anticipate students’ learning needs, and avoid unnecessary duplication of content. Teachers can help students to make connections across learning areas as well as to home practices and the wider world."

  • What practices at Halsey Drive School align with this statement from the NZC?
  • What do you do at your own school to bring this statement to life?
  • What could you do to ensure that this characteristic of effective pedagogy is further embedded?


Teaching and learning

Lorraine Sauvarin 
The reason that it is important to look at changing your approach to teaching and changing what you do is improving learning outcomes for children, It is all about improving the teaching and learning process for the children.

So when we plan inquiries the planning framework was devised after trials of differing formats and the language of solo is embedded throughout our plans to remind teachers to use solo as a tool in their classrooms to develop children's thinking and to get higher order learning.

Rowena Pearson 
We work together in our teams to develop long term plans that are grounded in the NZC and we incorporate our schoolwide approach to inquiry and we personalize the learning again through the use of solo taxonomy.

When we consider solo at every stage we ensure that there is consistency of language across the school and we ensure that the children are building upon their knowledge of the language of learning and so that every year they are not beginning at the same beginning step.

We take the overall concept and the context for the learning from the curriculum overview that the staff have planned together already and the teams then refer to the curriculum document to tease out the relevant achievement objectives that they can then incorporate into the plan. The teachers identify learning intentions that will address those achievement objectives and the learning intentions, learning experiences and assessment tasks that we plan are all developed to include the different levels of solo so everything is aligned and the children then develop their understanding of the full range of language of learning. So the long term plan that we develop is just the starting point. The teachers plan the possible pathways that the children could take for guided inquiries and then when the children actually get to asking their questions there is a little framework there that can support the teachers and support the children.

Like I've taught my children how to plan. My children, when they get to the individual inquiries now, Even thought I plan that pathway that sits in behind the planning to provide support, I've actually modeled the planning with the senior students so they now have a model of how to plan those individual inquiries and personalize the learning for themselves, so they can do it for themselves. It is about what they are wanting to learn.

Assessment tasks are built into our planning from the outset and are aligned to the solo stages. It means that a range of thinking levels are covered and that students have the opportunity to demonstrate a range of thinking within their learning outcomes. The students are able then to level their work against a rubric and identify their next learning steps so that they are able to improve their learning outcomes.

Bridget Casse 
We, earlier in the year, interviewed a cross section of students across the school to found out what they understood solo taxonomy to be, how it helped them and what they used it for. Overall it was really pleasing to find out that many of our children were able to speak much more confidently about the way they use solo, about the maps, the tools they can use, give examples of when they can use them, and to find out that they have a deeper understanding of rubrics as well.

From conducting these evaluations we've been able to then think okay where too next. So obviously always thinking about what can we do to improve our student learning outcomes, what can we do to help support teachers further. We surveyed the teachers at the beginning of the year to find out what maps they were confident with using. We used that data to for the curriculum team to further support the teachers and to find out exactly where we wanted to target our PD this year too. So our curriculum team have been in classrooms supporting teachers, helping them with examples. And that has I think, really helped the teachers to become more confident with trying different maps to use within the classroom, different tools to use within the classroom with their students as well.

We have asked teachers to present things that they are not so comfortable with, so step outside their comfort zone so that we are able to help and support them. So asking them to do things where they actually do want your help. We have in class support visits that are a regular part of learning teams, and we have discussion groups, people from different levels of the school, because you are doing the same concept so you get a global understanding of how the children will progress as they move through the school because they will revisit those concepts.

You can see the children becoming more engaged in their learning, becoming more independent learners. And that is just so critical as they get older and that is just so exciting to see.

Published on: 07 Feb 2011