Putting FACES on the DATA to FACE up to Literacy Issues

How to put faces on the data, that make teachers face up to literacy issues?

 During this term all staff have participated in a collaborative focus on unpacking and implementing the Literacy Continuum. Our primary aim of this PLT focus was to provide staff the opportunity to develop a greater awareness and ownership of our data wall. 
 

However, what we discovered was more than just an issue with putting faces on the data.

We discovered the following issues:

1. Assessing literacy is difficult

As an example, many pre-service teachers find it difficult to make judgements regarding student assessments in specific subject areas, unless they are using a very structured marking scheme. This is often due to lack of experience and subject knowledge.  

Interestingly, during this PLT many experienced teachers found it difficult to make judgements on student work against the continuum. Comments were often made that they were ‘guessing’ student levels. As a result, the continuum was often identified as the scapegoat for the confusion, rather than an opportunity for teachers to improve their knowledge and skill set in literacy learning. Just like pre-service teachers this confusion or guessing highlights a lack of depth in understanding of key literacy aspects that definitely impacts on the learning of students at our school.

2. The WHY is often lost with the WHAT

Considerable time at the start of the PLT was spent on explaining to staff that aim of this PLT was to allow staff to own a living data wall for students in yrs 7-10 throughout 2016. However, in the process of collecting, judging and discussing student work, many staff lost sight of the WHY and become fixated on WHAT we were doing. 

This also may have been the root cause for many of the collegial discussions on literacy learning to be sidetracked regarding house keeping and logistical issues.

3. What happens after diagnosis?

Many staff were able to diagnose literacy weaknesses by the end of the PLT. However, the development of appropriate intervention strategies was not easy for many staff. Especially, in the context of PBL, staff have found it difficult to implement appropriate literacy interventions imbedded into the project work that students are undertaking. 

This issue highlights a disconnect between the use of the data wall as an ongoing instrument to improve student learning and the implementation of appropriate intervention strategies. The video below gives a good insight into the need to have an ongoing personal measure of assessment:

 

Reflections

This PLT was confronting for many staff, however it has definitely opened a can of worms regarding their own literacy skills and ability to deliver effective literacy intervention. The next step is to ensure that the work undertaken in this PLT becomes part of teacher daily practices. The way forward should include:

1. At the start of every project, look at the level of students in your classes.

2. Plan appropriate literacy intervention activities to extend students at specific cluster levels. These may include small focused structures in a workshop environment.

3. At the end of every term discuss with your teaching team members the students in your classes and look at moving the students along the continuum.

Overall, I think this has been an excellent PLT that will improve the literacy learning of students in our school and continue to improve our outstanding academic results.

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