Advocacy for Student Learning

Project Leader

Laura Mullertz, Student – ACS Cobham International School


Collaborators

Bo Wood (Cobham)


 Research question

How do students entering high school benefit from an understanding of the neuroscience of teen brain development and learning theories related to learning differences?

In spring 2014, rising ACS Cobham High School junior, Laura Mullertz, approached the Centre for Inspiring Minds with an idea for a student-led project on ‘learning styles.’ Laura had learned about the ‘multiple intelligences’ work of Howard Gardner, had observed learning differences among young children she was tutoring, and had wondered whether older students’ understanding of this and other learning theories and their practical application could make them better advocates for their own learning.


 Research method

Not defined (at December 2015)


 Status (at December 2015)

A literature review was commissioned and completed in spring 2015.

Due to the demanding nature of this student’s chosen academic path, the research project has been paused several times to allow for concentrated focus on course work. This project is planned to resume activity in January 2016.

 

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Native Language Enrichment

Jane Fox, Project Leader, ACS Egham International School

How can we best support bilingual and plurilingual learners?

 

Introduction

Over the last 40 years, the ACS International Schools’ Native Language Enrichment programme (NLE) has grown. At its start, it provided native language classes for a small number of Swedish students attending ACS Cobham International School. At this time, the school’s education model was monolingual, serving U.S. nationals abroad who were planning to return to United States.

Since then ACS student demographic has changed significantly. We have welcomed increasing numbers of bilingual and plurilingual international students and have opened additional schools with an expanded approach to language learning. A native language enrichment programme offering has been developed at each of the four campuses.

When this CIM project began two years ago, its objective was to document and understand the unique structures of the NLE programmes at each of our fours campuses as a prerequisite to enhancing the effectiveness of the overall programme.

The project originally addressed the question ‘How does the provision of mother tongue support by ACS International Schools compare to best practice?” To answer the question it was necessary to:

  • Document and understand the structure of the NLE programme offering at each of our four campuses;
  • Build an understanding of the current research and best practice describing the conditions necessary in a school for bilingual and plurilingual students to reach their potential;
  • Distil principles of best practice in the provision of home language development and maintenance;
  • Examine the documented discourse surrounding home language;
  • Share the learning from this project with stakeholders, especially those in decision making roles; and
  • Contribute to ongoing discussions about the school’s language philosophy and language learning curricula by sharing the learning emanating from the project.

An unstated project objective was to gain a statistical overview of the extent of NLE service across campuses individually and collectively.

 

Method

Project Team
To answer the question and meet the project objectives a project team was formed. Team members included individuals with responsibility for the NLE programme at their campus, and therefore the team was always a maximum of four people, with others providing input as needed.

Audit
To gain a sense of the structure of the programme across all four ACS schools an audit was undertaken to capture the following information: general Admissions information; structure of the NLE programme; NLE curriculum information; student demographics; tutor demographics; parent involvement and/or partnership; NLE Policy and documentation; cost of the programme; and programme coordination information.

Literature Review
The project commissioned a literature review to gain an overview of current research evidence and key issues relevant to bilingual and plurilingual learners and the conditions under which these students may develop their full academic potential.2 The findings from the literature review raised important questions about the role of plurilingualism in international school education and ways we can best support our plurilingual learners.

 

What did we learn?

The literature review presented evidence suggesting that bilingual and multilingual students perform better across the curriculum. Exposure to two languages provides broader linguistic experiences and access to a wider range of thinking modes. Switching between the two languages exercises flexibility in thinking, and the conscious or subconscious comparison of two languages, resolving interference between languages, and using the knowledge of one language to advance the other. This results in a high level of metalinguistic skills.

The literature review suggested that careful consideration of education priorities is fundamental to framing the role of plurilingualism in international education and learning, and that this requires the participation of school policy makers, school leaders, practitioners, learners and parents. Research evidence suggests that bilingualism is a source of cognitive advantage so significant for one’s quality of life that it is not only an educational imperative to promote it, but also a moral responsibility.

The loss of home language is often presented as a natural language shift. Language loss is a loss for all who aim to achieve:

  • Better attainment across the curriculum
  • A better equipped workforce for a globalised world
  • Better self esteem at the individual level, and even
  • Longer dementia-free lives

 

Next steps

The literature review challenged ACS to reconsider how the school is utilizing and supporting bilingualism throughout the curriculum and school life. To better understand how we may do this a new research question has been defined. The new question asks, ‘What components of Blended Learning (including the flipped classroom model) can be used to improve student learning outcomes in the NLE programme at ACS?’

This project aims to produce an inventory of developed and evaluated blended teaching and learning approaches appropriate to the enrichment of home language for use as a resource for tutors and tutor training in the NLE programme and any future forms of mother tongue provision at ACS.

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Global Citizenship

Fran Bidwell, Project Leader, ACS Cobham International School

Research Question

To what extend do ACS International Schools address competencies for global citizenship?

Abstract

In its first year, this project engaged ACS International Schools practitioners and global citizenship experts from the Interchange Institute in a conceptual discussion about the nature of global citizenship. Among international schools, there is no agreed definition of global citizenship, or an agreed conceptual framework for its development in schools. This year, the project team will use published competency frameworks to develop an audit tool and audit current practice across ACS International Schools. The purpose of the audit is to identify existing good practice, and opportunities for future development, and to initiate a wider dialogue amongst ACS International School decision-makers about the potential role of global citizenship competencies in building a world-class international school.

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Technology Integration

Alexandra Read, Project Leader, ACS Cobham International School

How can the use of video increase technology integration in the classroom?

 

Introduction

In the first year of this project the project leader created a video archive of technology integration lessons in the ACS Cobham Middle School. While this resource provided a valuable tool for teachers confident in their ability to incorporate innovative uses of technology tools, it revealed differences in classroom practices between teachers who are confident and teachers who lack training or confidence in technology integration.

This phase of the project investigated the question ‘How can the use of video as a professional development tool increase technology integration in the classroom?’ IT integration specialists at each of the ACS campuses worked with self-selected teachers who were interested in technology integration, but lacked the training and/or the confidence to integrate emerging technology tools into classroom based learning.

 

Method

Project Team
IT integration specialists from ACS campuses were invited to join the project team. As well as having representation from each campus, the four team members each represented a different division, including Early Childhood, Lower School, Middle School and High School.

Project Delivery
Each member of the project team identified three teachers at their campus to work with to plan and implement a lesson/unit integrating technology.

Participating teachers were asked to anonymously complete a ‘technology integration’ survey, which was designed to gather information about their ICT practices and dispositions.

One-to-one training sessions were held between the IT integration specialist and the selected teachers. These were recorded with project team members recording short video bytes of the lesson and the teacher describing the lesson and/or planning. After the initial filming the project team members asked participants to reflect on their lesson/unit to identify any substantial change(s).

 

What did we learn?

The lessons were filmed because the video recordings have proven to be an effective tool for reflection and learning.

At the time of writing this report the survey results were still being gathered and analysed, however, initial results of the survey and the feedback from the video reflections suggest that technology is a valuable resource for teachers and students, and video is an effective tool for technology integration, and professional reflection.

 

Next steps

The captured video bytes will be edited and shared for good practice with all teachers in a video archive.

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Talking in Class (Student Dialogue)

Brianna Gray and Jacob Rosch, Project Leaders, ACS Cobham International School

How can we increase opportunities for quality student-to-student dialogue in order to enhance learning?

 

Introduction

Many teachers find it difficult to create opportunities for students to speak to one another in meaningful ways about class content. Research strongly suggests that when learners are exploring a concept for understanding, trying to answer a question, or trying to solve a problem, they are more successful if there is an opportunity to engage in dialogue with another learner.6

The Student-to-Student Dialogue (Talking in Class (TIC) project began three years ago when Jacob Rosch and Brianna Gray asked the following questions:

  1. Does implementation of student-to-student dialogue activities lead toincreased academic performance?
  2. How can the implementation of lessons incorporating the Core Skills(Elaborate and clarify, Support ideas with examples, Build on and/or challenge a partner’s idea, Paraphrase, Synthesize conversation points) increase and improve student-to-student dialogue?
  3. Do teachers feel increased student-to-student interaction builds students’ “academic
    identity?” Academic identity is defined as students’confidence in school, characterized by the ability to express their thinking in writing and a willingness to contribute to class discussions.
  4. Do students believe an increase in student-to- student interaction has an impact on their learning?
  5. Does using video technology to analyse the five core skills in lessons help with the future creation and implementation of student-to-student interaction activities in the classroom?

To answer these questions, in 2013-2014 they led a team of ACS Cobham Middle School teachers through a workshop aimed at building their capacity to increase opportunities for structured student conversations, and assess the effects of speaking and listening activities on student learning outcomes.

To build on the work at ACS Cobham, the project leaders led additional workshops for teachers at other ACS campuses and regional international teacher conferences. Aware that many teachers do not readily apply new teaching approaches to practice, the project was keen to learn, ‘What is the level of implementation of structured student dialogue in the classroom for practitioners who participate in TIC professional development such as workshops, conferences, presentations, and PLCs?’ So in 2014-2015 they undertook research to investigate this question.

 

Method

To investigate the new research question, ‘‘What is the level of implementation of structured student dialogue in the classroom for practitioners who participate in TIC professional development such as workshops, conferences, presentations, and PLCs?’, three sub-questions were explored:

  • Who is most likely to implement TI after attending a workshop?
  • How do companion materials affect the implementation of activities?
  • What barriers exist for practitioners in the implementation of knowledge gained through projection development in Talking in Class?

The project leaders designed and used the following resources to conduct their research:

  • Three Talking in Class professional development workshops, 90 minutes, 2 hours and a full day workshop.
  • Post Workshop Survey
  • Talking in Class Conversation Skill Activities book

These were in addition to the already published eBook, Talking in Class: Increasing the quality and quantity of student-to-student dialogue in the classroom, and the resources available on the Talking in Class website, www.talkinginclass.com.

The project leaders had the opportunity to deliver a 90-minute workshop at the ELMLE conference (in Warsaw, Poland), a two-hour workshop at the ECIS Annual Conference (in Nice, France), a 90-minute workshop to all Middle School faculty at ACS Hillingdon, and a full day workshop to HoDs and NLE teachers at ACS Egham. At the end of the workshops the project leaders distributed the new Talking in Class Conversation Skill Activities book, and collected participants’ contact details (email) so they could follow up with a Post Workshop Survey, assessing the extent to which participants had applied their new knowledge and its perceived benefits to student learning.

 

What did we learn?

The post workshop survey was sent to participants after each workshop, with participants at the ECIS Annual Conference omitted due to contact details not being shared. ELMLE participants were surveyed 1 month after the workshop, Egham participants 10 months after the workshop, and Hillingdon participants 13 months after their workshop.

The results showed:

TIC 1

Selected questions from the post workshop survey are presented below. They suggest that respondents who used the activities and ideas presented in the workshop observed increased use of communication skills, increased levels of student engagement and motivation, and identified increased opportunities for student-centred learning.

TIC 2

Respondents identified lack of planning time and the lack of opportunities to collaborate with colleagues as barriers to incorporating student-to- student dialogue activities in lessons.

TIC 3

 

Next steps

The project leaders will present a full-day Talking in Class workshop as part of the CIM Explorations series in 2015-2016, with a half-day Talking in Class Master Class to follow. The new Explorations series provides an opportunity for our ACS teachers to share their experience and expertise with other teachers across our campuses.

 

Download your free copy of the project’s iBook at https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/talking-in- class/id610335838?mt=11

Visit the project’s website at http://www.talkinginclass.com/

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Mission Skills Assessment I

Dale Taylor,Project Leader, ACS Doha International School

How do we measure the extemt to which we are cultivating well-rounded learners?

 

Introduction

In spring 2013, ACS Doha International School concluded a year-long process aimed at articulating a school philosophy and a set of expected school-wide learning results (ESLRs). The ESLRs were developed in preparation for an accreditation visit by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Each WASC-accredited school is required to have a set of ESLRs, as well as providing evidence of student progress.

While the school has established methods for measuring students’ academic achievement, it had not considered how it would measure the extent to which students were ‘confident individuals, responsible global citizens or effective 21st Century contributors.’ While a growing number of schools around the world recognize the contribution of these non- cognitive student attributes to success in life, few had developed procedures for documenting them in the curriculum and assessing them.

While researching information about how other schools are thinking about assessing non-cognitive learner outcomes, the Educational Doha Admin Team (EDAT) came across the Mission Skills Assessment (MSA).1 The MSA originated in conversations between the US-based Independent Schools Data Exchange group (INDEX) and the Educational Testing Service’s (ETS) Center for Academic and Workforce Readiness and Success. ETS drew upon it extensive experience and designed a multi- method assessment incorporating and triangulating student self- assessment, situational judgment tasks and teacher ratings – the MSA.

The MSA is administered to students in grades six, seven and eight at the start of the second quarter of the school year. It is a 60-minute, computer- based assessment that focuses on six skills – creativity, resilience, curiosity, teamwork, ethics and time management.

Scores are reported by grade, gender and school – not individual performance, and can be correlated with academic grades, standardized test scores, attendance rates and other existing measures.

There are now more than 100 schools using the MSA, although ACS Doha was the first of only two schools outside the United States to join the project so far. Schools use the MSA results to examine specific subgroups (for example, differences between boys and girls), track cohort changes over time, and compare performance to other schools.

 

Method

At the start of the 2014 – 2015 school year, the Early Childhood, Lower and Middle School principals at ACS Doha International School devised plans for introducing the six MSA skills in developmentally appropriate ways.

  • Early Childhood teachers introduced the skills and then used MSA skills logo stickers to acknowledge when children were exhibiting the skills.
  • Lower School teachers introduced the skills, used the same stickers to indicate where they were being addressed in their lesson planners, and encouraged students to address the skills in their reflective writing tasks.
  • Middle School teachers introduced the six skills to students and parents and administered the test to all middle school students in November 2014.

Draft MSA results were received in April, with an opportunity to provide feedback to INDEX and ETS regarding the data presentation methods. Final results were received in June 2014.

 

What did we learn?

The following summaries present selected MSA results.

Differences by gender
Boys and girls self-assessments of the six skills were quite similar, while teachers consistently rated girls higher across all six skills. In most cases, girls and boys both assessed themselves lower than teachers’ ratings.

Differences by grade
Regardless of grade level, middle school students self-assessed themselves similarly across all six skills. In most cases, teachers’ ratings were higher than student self-assessment.

Differences by life satisfaction by gender and grade
The data suggests that as grade 6 students have a higher self-reported level of life satisfaction, with incremental drops noted from grade 6 to grade 7, and from grade 7 to grade 8.  Overall, ACS Doha was below the INDEX average, but not in the bottom 10 schools.

School comparisons for six skills

  • For CREATIVITY, ACS Doha was above the INDEX average, but not in the top 10 schools
  • For CURIOSITY, ACS Doha was below the INDEX average, but not in the bottom 10 schools
  • For ETHICS, ACS Doha was below the INDEX average, but not in the bottom 10 schools
  • For RESILIENCE, ACS Doha was below the INDEX average, but not in the bottom 10 schools
  • For TEAMWORK, ACS Doha was below the INDEX average, but not in the bottom 10 schools
  • For TIME MANAGEMENT, ACS Doha was below the INDEX average, but not in the bottom 10 schools

 

About the testing process

The testing process was judged to be efficient, as careful planning had gone into laptop preparation and scheduling. As this is not a timed test, the testing period will be extended to 90 minutes in the future to allow EAL students additional time to read and respond.

 

Next steps

The Early Childhood and Middle School divisions will continue with the approaches they initiated in September 2014.

The Middle School will develop teacher training materials and resources aimed at building expertise in teaching and assessing non-cognitive outcomes, including documenting these activities in the written curriculum. The Middle School will focus on two key areas, which the data suggests offer significant opportunities for improvement – resiliency and time management. The MSA again will be administered to middle school students in November 2015, as the first step in building a longitudinal picture of the effectiveness of the school’s efforts to cultivate these essential dispositions and skills.

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Student Reflection

Deanna Milne, Project Leader, ACS Doha International School

How can the assessment of non-cognitive skills improve skill development?

Introduction

“Pause and reflection are often the casualties of our fast paced post- modern live. We have few opportunities to carve out space in our crowded schedules to reflect on who we are, why we do what we do, and who we should strive to become” (Bolin, 1999).

Reflection is one of the most important aspects of learning and can be argued to be one of the leading activities in contributing to the development of student’s non-cognitive skills. The importance of non- cognitive skills highlights the need for reflection in our schools, as well as the need to develop the skills necessary to create meaningful and evocative reflections that will lead to learning.

The International Baccalaureate Organisation also recognizes the importance of reflective practice, and in 2015 made changes to their IBDP Community Action Service (CAS) programme, shifting the focus of CAS from the number of hours of participation in CAS activities to the quality of student reflection. However, the IBDP stopped short of providing guidance for assessing the
quality of reflections.

This research project asked the question ‘How do we help students understand how to create meaningful reflections and how do teachers assess them?” The project’s aim was draft and test a rubric that would give students an overview of the skills required to create reflections, and how to use the rubric and rubric feedback to improve their reflective practice.

 

Method

Literature Review
A literature review, Service Learning and Critical Thinking7, was written by project leader, Deanna Milne, in preparation for an action research project, undertaken as a requirement of a Concordia University Masters degree in Education programme. Her initial action research project gave rise to her current research question, and the literature review informed both action research cycles.

One Day Workshop
A project team consisting of AS Coordinators for the IBDP Program from three of the four ACS campuses was formed to take this project forward. The team met for a one-day workshop to brainstorm what effective reflection ‘looks’ like. Starting with the big ideas the team narrowed their ideas down to the three things a reflection must look at: the what; the so what; and the now what.

The indicators identified to signify an effective reflection fell into four categories: descriptive, evaluative, interpretive, and communicative. Communicative was added to the typical categories of self-reflection because although students have a myriad of ways to reflect, and can be as creative as they like, the reflection must still effectively communicate the process, learning and next steps.

At the end of the workshop the team had created a draft rubric for assessing reflections that measured the quality of the reflection based on the four categories, with specific indicators for each. Reflections are marked on a pre-emergent, emergent, meets expectations, and exceeds expectations continuum.

Testing the Rubric
The team recruited additional teachers to take part in testing the rubric. To do this, the extended project team engaged in a moderation activity, sharing past student reflections and assessing them using the draft rubric.

For the next stage of testing the teachers randomly sample 10% of their population (Grade 11 and 12 students), assessing two reflections that were done prior to the students receiving the rubric, and two reflections that were done after the students had received the rubric. The revised rubric was introduced to the students at all campuses in a mini-workshop where rubric use was explained and students an opportunity to seek clarification and ask questions.

Over the next three months, students completed reflections and the project team used the revised rubric to assess the student reflections. It was agreed by the project team that because this was a pilot trial of the rubric, marks would be recorded in a ‘best fit’ for each of the criteria to see how much improvement students made overall within that criteria.

 

What did we learn?

The data gathered suggested that the rubric served as an assistive tool for students while creating reflections.

On the whole the data showed student progress in understanding the practice of self-reflection. The data suggested that as students develop their reflection skills conceptual thinking is more challenging, and that cultural differences may also play a role in the practice and representation of reflection.

In a few cases, students showed no improvement or reflection quality declined. This suggests that while the rubric may provide explicit information about what to improve, rubric use must be supported by additional teaching strategies that address how to improve.

In interviewing some students about reflection in general, the comments ranged from ‘It really helps me because I can see how my learning is progressing,’ to, ‘having to write a reflection doesn’t really make sense to me – it seems really American.’

 

Next steps

The team will be continuing with their research in 2015-2016 having proposed a related research question, ‘ How can a continuum (Lower School to High School) of reflective writing assessment and developmentally appropriate reflective writing tasks enhance student learning (defined as growth and developmental in knowledge and understanding, skills and dispositions) and meta-cognition?’

The new project will build on the experience of setting and assessing student reflective writing tasks for IB students, to develop a developmentally appropriate continuum for students reflective writing tasks and assessments in order to build the knowledge, skills and dispositions we want all our students to develop so that through learning, they are best prepared to make a difference.

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Outdoor Learning

Chris Hupp, Project Leader, ACS Cobham International School

What support and resources do teachers need to make the best use of outdoor learning opportunities?

 

Introduction

Research evidence3 suggests that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. Other research suggests that childhood outdoor learning experiences shape the awe, wonder and respect for the natural environment that forms the foundation of our understanding and practice of responsible environmental behavior as adults. 4Some forms of outdoor learning have also been shown to have a low to moderate, yet significant, effect on student learning and development.5

Outdoor learning is an approach to teaching and learning that uses the natural environment as the setting and often the focus of learning. It empowers children and
young people to take responsibility for their own learning and development, encouraging child-led learning and learning through play. Outdoor learning promotes holistic, individualised learning and development that is interdisciplinary in nature. The natural environment provides stimulus for all the senses, all areas of development and accommodates a variety of student learning differences. Outdoor learning also encourages emotional growth, self-esteem, confidence, and independence.

ACS Cobham has invested significant resources in the development of quality outdoor learning spaces, including the larch wood, pond and hide, Tom Tent, Jardine de Soleil, etc. and has identified campus-based landscape features that provide a range of learning opportunities. With perceived limited utilisation of the outdoors for teaching and learning, the purpose of this project was to provide teachers with additional resources aimed at making it easier to plan and lead safe, curriculum-linked outdoor learning activities, and increase the use of outdoor learning by Lower School teachers. The resources are linked to other key Lower School initiatives including mapping the curriculum using the Common Core English Language Arts standards, as well as the support of social- emotional development using the Responsive Classroom.

 

Method

The project was approached through the question, ‘How can additional resources to support the use of Outdoor Learning to enhance English and Language Arts teaching and learning, and the development of socio- emotional skills associated with the Responsive Classroom, benefit Lower School teachers and students?’

During the first phase of this project in 2013/14 the project had sought to remove any barriers that prevented the use of the outdoor areas available at ACS Cobham, this included simplifying the effort required to complete the health and safety risk assessments (developing templates for risk assessment). A map of the campus was created, which defines outdoor learning areas (based on distinctive ecological and built features) and suggests appropriate activity types for each area. Conversations are ongoing at ACS Cobham to put up signage showing the trails and other outdoor learning areas of interest.

The outdoor learning maps and risk assessment resources were made available to ACS Cobham Lower school teachers at the start of the 2014- 2015 school year. In autumn 2014, a survey was administered to Lower School teachers to understand current outdoor learning practice, interest in expanding the use of outdoor learning, and perceived barriers to outdoor learning.

To build on this work and the results of a survey, the project leader has focused on developing a project website that provides a comprehensive response to all things outdoor learning related, including curriculum- specific lesson plans and lesson planning ideas for English Language Arts.

 

What did we learn?

The survey undertaken by Cobham Lower School faculty found that the majority of the respondents see outdoor learning as being highly effective in achieving the following learning outcomes:

  • Making learning more integrated or multi-disciplinary
  • Providing for differentiated and/or enriched learning opportunities
  • Accommodating students individual learning differences
  • Motivating and enthusing students
  • Developing students’ self-confidence
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration
  • Improving subject learning (Science, Social Studies, English Language Arts, etc.)

When asked about their personal perceptions of and beliefs about academic learning in outdoor environments more than 75% of the respondents agreed with the following statements:

  • Learning academic content outdoors should form an important part of our students’ learning experiences.
  • Outdoor learning enhances teaching and learning in ways that are not possible inside the classroom.
  • Our curriculum should include more opportunities for and connections to learning outside the classroom.
  • Parents support or encourage outdoor learning as part of their child’s experience at school.

However, when asked to consider their recent teaching experiences and describe their experience and understanding of outdoor learning, although almost 90% agreed with the statement ‘I understand the philosophy of and rationale behind incorporating outdoor learning with academic training’, and almost 73% agreed with ‘I am familiar with the research evidence that demonstrates ways outdoor learning experiences can support student learning outcomes’, in many cases less than a third of participants agreed with the following statements:

  • I am familiar with differentiating instruction outdoors to meet the needs of diverse learners.
  • I am familiar with teaching resources (books, websites, training opportunities, etc.) that can help me to plan academic learning outside.
  • I have the training needed to be effective in teaching outdoors.
  • I am able to link the academic curriculum I teach to learning that happens outdoors.
  • I am confident planning and leading academic lessons outdoors.
  • I am familiar with techniques and strategies for effectively managing children in an outdoor learning environment.
  • I know how to gather evience of students’ outdoor academic learning experiences.
  • I am familiar with ways I can use outdoor learning to provide more integrated, multi-disciplinary experiences for my students.
  • I am familiar with ways I can incorporate ICT skills and mobile devices with outdoor learning.

The question relating to how many times have you or are you planning to use twelve identified outdoor areas for teaching and learning on the ACS Cobham campus resulted in a ‘never’ response from nearly 50% of participants against each of the identified areas.

The final question asked what would engage you more with outdoor learning in the near future and the following statements ranked the highest:

  • If more training or professional development opportunities for effective outdoor learning were offered, I would be interested in participating.
  • If there were ready-to-use outdoor learning activities linked to our academic or social-emotional curriculum, I would plan and deliver more lessons outdoors.
  • If risk assessments for outdoor learning were less time consuming, I would plan and deliver more lessons outdoors.
  • If there were directional graphics, signs, and way markers in outdoor areas, I would plan and deliver more lessons outdoors.
  • If I had more information (descriptions, flora and fauna, learning opportunities, etc.) about the various outdoor spaces, I would plan and deliver more lessons outdoors.
  • If there were detailed maps of the campus (trails, access to outdoor spaces, etc) I would plan and deliver more lessons outdoors.

The initial response to engage more teachers in using the outdoor spaces for teaching and learning is to provide them with the support and resources they need, e.g. maps, more information about the various spaces, ideas for lessons and lesson plans, risk assessment guides, etc., and this is the aim of the Outdoor Learning website that has been developed. Success and use of the website will be measured overtime, with a plan to conduct the survey annually to assess how perception and use is changing as a result of this new resource being made available.

 

Next steps

As a result of this project the project leader has formed the Outdoor Resources Advisory Committee (ORAC) to advise the school leadership team on outdoor learning development plans, and has also developed the Outdoor Learning website. Both these initiatives are now part of the ACS Cobham framework and will continue to operate as part of ‘business as usual’.

The project leader is expanding his thinking in Outdoor Learning and together with his Grade 3 colleagues will begin a new research project asking ‘How can we optimize student and teacher engagement through the delivery of an outdoor based collaboratively developed unit of instruction?’

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