Make change and monitor its impact in your professional learning community

Hear from Brandon Park Primary School's PLC and how they introduce a change in practice, measure and monitor its effect on student learning.

In the Implement and Monitor phase of the FISO Improvement Cycle, schools spend time evaluating the impact of their interventions by collecting and analysing feedback and evidence from multiple sources, especially student learning data.

At Brandon Park Primary School, teachers use their Professional Learning Community (PLC) time to use student achievement data and their feedback to identify gaps and emerging needs in their classrooms. These gaps signal the next steps for the PLC to make changes to their teaching practice and critically reflect on the outcomes to ensure their students have a quality experience.

School leader Janice Corbett, PLC Instructional Leader Alana Spizzirri, and Teacher Ashleigh Coombes explain the process their school took to implement and monitor the interventions they developed in their Year 2 PLC.

Problem in practice: Learning About Place value in grade 2

After completing a unit on place value, the Grade 2 PLC conducted a summative assessment task that measured the knowledge students had learned in the unit.

'In Year 2, according to the curriculum, the students need to learn numbers to 1000 and there was a group of students who didn't seem to grasp those concepts,' explained Alana.

Alana is the leader of the Year 2 PLC and made these students the focus for an inquiry cycle, which would explore how teachers could differentiate lessons to support their learning needs.

Regularly evaluate how you support these students

'Initially, what we did was spend ten minutes each lunchtime working with those students,' said Alana, 'but worked out that was not having enough of an impact on their learning.'

After discussions within the learning community, they identified a new approach to meet these students' learning needs in this foundational numeracy skill.

'We decided as a team that we were going to dedicate fifty minutes a week for those students to work on place value.'

Ongoing critical reflection on teaching practice is essential

The intensive sessions on place value were always finished with formative assessment in the form of exit tickets, where students complete a 'ticket' with an answer to a maths problem or articulate what they have learned during the session.

One-on-one conferencing between teachers and students and games were also used to assess students' knowledge and understanding.

'There were instances where [students] did not understand the concept so [the teachers] had to take a step back and look at what we'd done and what we had to do differently,' said Ashleigh.

In the end, it was the regular use of a wide variety of evidence that helped teachers to not only monitor student progress but also critically reflect on the changes they were making to their own practice.

PLC members realised that they needed to innovate in the strategies they were using to teach the concepts. Using the High Impact Teaching Strategy of multiple exposures, the teachers changed from using only blocks to teach numbers and place value to alternative ways for students to visualise this concept.

Offering advice to other PLCs, Ashleigh notes that patience and determination are necessary when implementing a targeted teaching approach as they had.

'It's been a hugely successful program and it really benefited [students] but it did take about five weeks,' said Ashleigh.

Embed successful trials as part of your ongoing practice

The use of the FISO Improvement Cycle has been particularly useful to guide the work of teachers in PLCs at Brandon Park Primary School.

As a result, all PLCs in the school are being encouraged to regularly engage in disciplined cycles of inquiry to improve student outcomes. It also means that teachers can link their learning in one inquiry cycle to the next.

'Because the structure's in place and there's that consistency across the school… we're looking at fine-tuning our reading program by introducing phonics and it dovetails beautifully in what already exists,' said Janice.

The use of an inquiry cycle has further embedded an attitude of continuous improvement in the teaching staff, making them receptive to change and evidence-based innovation.

'[If there's] anything you want to change, you've got the framework… now get the [staff] mindset, it makes change a lot easier.'