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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Quick start guide

Literacy leaders around Aotearoa work in schools that are at very different places with respect to how open and reflective they are about their outcomes, systems and practices. Some may be very familiar with reflective inquiry and evaluative thinking, while others will be still developing their inquiry culture and skill set. In some schools there may be localised (or widespread) defensiveness and resistance to genuine reflection on the adequacy of learner outcomes and the effectiveness of teaching practices.

Before starting to engage school leaders, teachers and other staff in a reflective self-review process, it is a good idea to consider the following questions first:

  • How much experience has our school had in engaging in genuine inquiry and reflection on the effectiveness of our practices and the adequacy of the outcomes for our learners? Are we relatively new to this, or is it already infused in “the way we do things around here”?
  • What's been our history with inquiry and self-review? What has happened in the past when difficult truths were highlighted? Did we see pockets of (or, widespread) resistance to disappointing news, or did people generally engage in constructive problem solving to try and make improvements? If there was resistance, was it from relatively influential people or not?
  • What feedback have we had (for example, from ERO, or from external providers) about our capability for self-review, inquiry, reflection and continuous improvement?
  • Given the above, who would be the best three or four people to facilitate this self-review process? Is the principal willing to get directly involved in this role? Do we have senior literacy leaders on staff who are well respected and have the authority, credibility and experience to work through any resistance encountered? Can we keep this person professionally "safe‟? Would it be better to initially work with someone external to help get the ball rolling, for example, from MOE, School Support Services, or another provider?

Our experience in piloting this self-review tool was that resistance often pops up where it's not expected. Even in schools where resistance is not anticipated, you may wish to use some of the tips presented below to help maximise the chances of buy-in and a positive, constructive inquiry process.

Tips for a successful self-review and inquiry process

This tool has been designed for schools to use for themselves rather than being a Professional Development provider tool. Providers may suggest that schools use this tool and will be able to offer support with the review process where needed.

The experiences of the various schools involved in the trial phase of the project highlighted a couple of suggestions that helped get people constructively engaged in the inquiry and reflection process:

  • Rather than begin by showing people the rubrics initially, start instead with a series of open-ended questions to get a discussion going (we have some suggestions in this starter pack). From there, gather some evidence, graph or analyse it, then bring the group back together to consider the evidence alongside the relevant rubric(s) and come to a judgment about how well the school is doing on that aspect of meeting struggling readers‟ and writers‟ needs.
  • Rather than bringing all key stakeholders into one room for a discussion, talk separately to the different individuals or groups, get each of them to generate a rating and some reasoning behind their judgment, and then bring the groups together to discuss differences in their perspectives on effectiveness. [This helps ensure that conversations aren't overly influenced in the direction of the most senior or influential person participating and that different perspectives are well explored.]

Which rubric(s) should we start with?

Based on schools' experiences in the development process and pilot testing of the tool, the best place to start with the inquiry questions and rubrics is the following:

  • Rubric 9: Accelerated progress in literacy for students achieving below curriculum expectations in literacy

In other words, start with the biggest and most important question each school faces in this area: How well are we accelerating our students achieving below curriculum expectations in literacy, really? This will give your school a clear picture of how it's doing overall and how urgent and serious any shortfalls might be. It's probably the most important conversation needed to get the inquiry ball rolling.

Glossary of terms

  • Accelerated progress – progress that is faster than, that is, a steeper trajectory than, the expected rate of progress (not just faster than a particular student's previous rate of progress).
  • Assessment for learning – a two-phase process that begins with initial or diagnostic assessment prior to starting a topic to identify what a student already knows, as well as any gaps or misconceptions. As the unit progresses, the teacher and student work together to assess the student's knowledge, what she or he needs to learn to improve and extend this knowledge, and how the student can best get to that point (formative assessment). Assessment for learning occurs at all stages of the learning process. (Wikipedia)
  • Communities of practice – collaborative networks of teachers who rigorously and transparently examine their instructional techniques in order to raise student achievement.
  • Evaluation – a systematic process for determining the quality, value or effectiveness of an approach, intervention, programme, policy, service, product or other entity.
  • PLCs professional learning communities – an extended learning opportunity to foster collaborative learning among colleagues within a particular work environment or field. It is often used in schools as a way to organize teachers into working groups (Wikipedia). Effective PLCs have a focus on analysing the impact of teaching on learning and support participants to process new understandings and their implications for teaching (BES Teacher Professional Learning and Development).
  • Literacy Learning Progressions – a professional tool that shows what knowledge and skills their students need in order to meet the reading and writing demands of the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Students achieving below curriculum expectations in literacy – Students who are unable to adequately access the curriculum due to being substantially behind the reading and writing expectations for their cohort (as laid out in the NZC) AND/OR whose rate of progress in reading and writing is too slow to achieve this.
  • Transient students – students who change schools frequently and whose schooling is disrupted by this. More specific definitions exist but are varied. Most consider "frequent‟ moves as being at least two or more changes in school every year or two.
  • The team around the child – the group of parents, teachers, other school staff, extended family and involved professionals who work together to support a child's learning and development.

Published on: 01 Apr 2016