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2 years? Really?!?!

As part of the ongoing AITSL standards (and best practice), I’m supposed to reflect on classroom practice and professional development.

*looks at blog*

Better get cracking then.


2 years ago, I had not even begun to contemplate that I would undertake this journey.

1 year ago, I had only just received an offer from the university and was anxiously awaiting the start of what was to be a challenging and rewarding experience.

On Monday, I start my new career. I expect it to be challenging. I expect a very steep learning curve. I expect I will forget to reflect on this experience as I get bogged down in the details.

I also expect to enjoy myself.

The amount of new material that is being introduced this year is large and the emphasis on ICT is quite high. I hope I am able to incorporate these things in a way that engages the students and does not become monotonous or irrelevant.

For my junior classes, I am starting with a topic that I am not entirely familiar. Already I am wishing that I had more resources to hand and that I could recall a worthwhile, inquiry-based activity. I find myself *already* relying on the published subject outline and standardised curriculum. Even before I have started, I find myself reflecting on the way I can adapt this topic to meet the needs of my students. I have, however, come to an abrupt conclusion.

.. I really need to meet them first.

CLASS: Year 8 Level 1 – Deductive Geometry

TODAY’S TOPIC : Revision of last lesson – adjacent angles, angles at a point, vertically opposite angles.


Revision questions. Algebraic exressions -factorisation; Percentages. Adjacent angles, supplementary angles, angles at a point, vertically opposite angles.

These were a good quick way to informally assess retention from previous lesson. Need to be clearer when drawing diagrams – sometimes angles at a point can look like supplementary angles if not careful.

Set text book questions. Also a continuation from yesterday

This is probably not the best strategy for an afternoon lesson. Obvious motivation and engagement issues were starting appear about 15 mins before the end of the lesson. In hindsight, I should have had them take a break, or change the direction of the lesson.

Some ideas for afternoon lessons

  • maths games
  • quick focusing exercise (such as marking what you have already done)
  • IWB tools, animation or video that has a fun, real world application.

Challenge for the term: Engaging all students who are obviously not interested in Math.

CLASS: Year 9 Advanced Maths – Coordinate Geometry

TOPIC: Distance between 2 points


Revision questions for trigonometry, pythagoras and algebra. Written on board (answers added after 5 min).

These questions are designed to increase retention of previous topics and link these to the current lesson. The questions used need to be more difficult next time, especially for trigonometry and pythagoras. I think I will stick to the text books next time (but not the one they have). Make sure instructions are explicit – state how many decimal places that you want answer stated to.

Mark homework that they should have done the previous night. Read out answers (verbal).

Took about 5 minutes (which was a good thing). Noticed students who were ‘pretending’ to mark answers – especially towards the end of the set.

2 points A & B are plotted on the cartesian plane, and the formula is derived using pythagoras’ theorom.

Need to remember to model what I want the students to draw in their book. Cartesian planes require scales, numbers and direction arrows. Asking “How do I find the distance?, can get from this introductory question, right through to”Pythagoras!” (which is were I wanted to be later in the lesson). Need to to be able to engage these students while still going through all the steps that the rest of the students need.

Modelling is again required for board work. State explicitly that A(1,5) is (x1,y1). It is important that students write out each step out in their books for future reference.

Work through an example – what is the length of each side of the triangle ABC?

This question was an interesting one taken straight from a text that I thought was interesting. I didn’t follow my step-by-step lesson plan at this point, and I drew a triangle on the board and put points on, immediately realising it was wrong. Once I asked the students to calculate the sides with the formula, they also realised this.. This was a good opportunity to teach them about the difference between a representation to demonstrate a question – and plotting it on the cartesian plane and ‘seeing’ what it looks like (and to not believe everything you see). This strategy seems to be useful for the advanced class, but I definitely wouldn’t use it for any of the others!

Modelling again – make sure correctly plotted diagram and equation are used on the board for EACH question you demonstrate.

Handout – a page of practice questions.
Extra – hand out marked assignments
Extra – collect homework books

Do not hand out marked assignments when you want students to work..


Generally good. While demonstrating on the board used the stand still and wait approach. This worked well, although I need to work on projection and tone of the voice. Need to work on strategies to refocus a group that are doing individual work.


This was a good first lesson. Pacing was a little faster than planned, but it is still important to model correct reasoning and exactly how we want students to write it down – some students learn this way.

Need to develop strategies to refocus the group while doing individual work, as the noise level can start to creep up occasionally. The distraction of the assignment did nothing to focus them on what I wanted them to do!

Year 8’s up next!

The following is a critique of the current research on Open Source Software (OSS) and Open Education Resources (OER). It was written as one of the formative assessments for the ELPCG1 unit of the Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching. I have presented it here as written, but I may change the format at a later date.


Open Source Software (OSS) and the Open Education Revolution

Open Source Software (OSS) is any computer program that is released under the OSI license that allows the free creation, modification and distribution of the software (OSI Definition). Many of the software packages available are tailored for educational purposes, either to supplement instruction or in learning management. Open Education Resources (OER) is an educational philosophy based on similar principles to OSS. It allows the creation and distribution of academic material without the restrictions imposed by traditional publishers (Hylen 2007).

Currently OSS is used is used in schools, mainly in the networks and servers that support a school’s IT environment. This is slowly changing, and there have been case studies (Open Source Schools) in Europe where schools have successfully implemented OSS into their desktop computing environments. As this is an emerging field in education, there are not many published academic studies on the influence of OSS and OSR on education. What research exists, generally focuses on either technical aspects (OSS) or on the philosophy of open education (OER), usually in the context of tertiary education.

The principles of OSS and OER can be related to the constructivist’s (Snowman Ch10) approach to pedagogy. This promotes the construction of knowledge by the student, and encourages collaboration and community engagement. These two principles lie at the heart of the ‘Open’ movement. OSS and OER are now the technology tools to support this philosophy and allow us to implement it in secondary schools.

The Advantages of the OSS & OER Philosophy in High Schools

 One of the main advantages of OER is the collaboration of knowledge from a community of peers. When a problem is presented to the community, there are many people who construct their own solution and then share this. It is common for these solutions to be similar and/or complementary. Gurrel et al. describe the advantages of problem-based pedagogy in their 2010 paper. In open education, there is a pedagogical focus on teachers as facilitators, self-directed learning and critical thinking. Together these motivate the student’s life-long learning (Kolesnikova p5).

This focus mirrors the constructivist approach to education (Snowman p341) that scaffolds construction of knowledge when a student is presented with a new problem, encourages the collaboration of the solutions, and then compares this to current knowledge. The student then has ownership over their own learning and is theoretically motivated to extend this learning to other areas of their life.

The provision of OER to high schools also supports the idea that knowledge is a dynamic identity (Barnjuk & Burris p30), an idea that is opposed by the traditional use of textbooks in schools. While they do have their place, textbooks are a static information source that requires schools to purchase new copies every few years when the content is updated. OSS supports the provision of OER materials with up-to-date information, visual materials and interactive technology activities that support the latest pedagogies (ibid p31), without the high financial costs usually associated with textbook use.

Disadvantages of OSS & OER in Schools

 While access to the latest information is seen as an advantage of the OER model, the authenticity of the available information is of concern. How do we know that the information is correct? Take an example like Wikipedia, where the information is collaboratively constructed and is technically ‘peer-reviewed’. How do we know whether these peers have the educational or industrial knowledge required to understand and evaluate the issues fully (Baranjuck & Burrell)? A classroom environment can take advantage of this by teaching students to evaluate their own information from their own knowledge, and consequently developing research skills that will allow them to find other sources of information that will either support or contradict the initial source.

If the previous scenario is presented at the initial stages of learning (e.g. at the start of a subject), there is a risk that students will focus wholly on the acquisition of background knowledge and will not use higher level skills (Gurrell et al.). It is preferable to guide the students’ learning toward the required outcome and encouraging students to use visual cues (e.g. mind-mapping) to express their own research process.

When implementing OSS tools in a classroom, there is a divide between the software that most students are using at home, and that used in the school. While these differences may only be superficial, they can cause a significant psychological block to the software’s use. This can be overcome by using software that has an obvious connection to the teaching outcomes and is used to demonstrate these outcomes to the students. For example, a OSS word processing package should be presented for the characteristics it brings to the classroom, and not as a replacement for the commercial package.

Future Uses of OSS & OER

 Open Source Software (OSS) and Open Education Resources (OER) are the technological tools to further support the constructivist approach to education. They should allow teachers to guide learning, construct knowledge and motivate and engage students in their own life-long learning. These tools should be used in schools to supplement traditional instruction and resources, to increase access to resources and the community of learners and to encourage the development of the higher order critical and analysis skills.

Uptake of OSS and OER is currently greatest in the academic, tertiary education sector, as a way of delivering content without the restriction of geographical, social or temporal restrictions of traditional education (Kolesnikova p5). In the future, these tools will have a greater application to secondary schools where the lower cost and constructivist approach are a significant advantage. Currently, there is a lack of academic research into this area of open education, specifically what effect it has on remote and lower socio-economic areas of the community. The quantity of academic research should increase as the advantages of open education are revealed to a wider audience, and the authenticity of the information produced is recognised within academia.

By using OSS & OER, teachers are reinforcing the concepts of self-constructed knowledge and encouraging our students to develop the problem solving and research skills required to process the vast amounts of digital information. In doing this we are giving them the tools they need to engage as digital citizens of the future.


 Baranjuk, R. G., & Burrus, C. S. (2008) “Global Warming Toward Open Educational Resources.:, Communications of the ACM, Vol.51 Iss.9, p.30-32

 Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godhino, S., Johnson, N.F., Keddie, A., Letts, W., Mackay, J., McGill, M., Moss, J., Nagel, M.C., Nicholson, P. and Vicl, M. (2011) Teaching. Making a Difference, John Wiley & Sons, Australia

Gurell, S., Yu-Chun, K. & Walker, Andrew (2010) “The Pedagogical Enhancement of Open Education: An Examination of Problem-Based Learning.”, International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, Vol.11,Iss.3, p.95-105

Hylén, Jan (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. p.30. retrieved from

Kolesnikova, I. A. (2010) “The Prospects, Challenges, and Risks of Open Education”, Russian Education & Society, Vol.52 Iss.6, p.3-20

Open Source Schools, Case Studies, retrieved from

Snowman, J. …[et al.] (2009). Constructivist learning theory, problem solving and transfer (Ch. 10). In Psychology applied to teaching (1st Australian ed.)(pp. 334-371). John Wiley & Sons Australia.

The Open Source Initiative (2011) The Open Source Definition, retrieved from

Teaching Tips Poster created for Education Foundations

  1. Some thoughts on how Wayne’s scenario relate to Intelligence theories –> Teachers as Learners
  2. Stan’s classroom and the humanist approach –> Ed Founds Learning Journal

Education Foundations – Module B Human Development

Jane’s Scenario

Returning to Jane, a first year teacher in a rural secondary school. In addition to student and community engagement issues, Jane has found that some of her students are not at the stage of physical development that she would expect while other students are remote both geographically and socially. In this post, I will relate these observations to the physical and cognitive development of the brain that was introduced in Module B.

Neural Development

During the time that students are attending secondary school, they are undergoing the many physical changes associated with puberty. In the brain, old neural connections are reorganised and new neural connections are formed (Churchill p88). The work that Jane has set is not stimulating the formation of these neural connections and so the students are not engaged in the classroom. To increase engagement, Jane needs to find the correct ‘hooks’ in the brain that will connect prior knowledge to new knowledge (Churchill p83). In other words, Jane needs to make the material relevant to her students so that new neural connections can be formed and the correct neural pathways strengthened.

Stages of Cognitive Development

According to Piaget, children attending secondary school should be in the formal stage of cognitive development. In this stage, students should be able to use their existing knowledge to deduce what might happen in a hypothetical scenario (Woolfolk & Margetts p46). Critical factors affecting this level of development involve the physical maturation process, interaction with the environment and social influence. If the child has not experienced any one of these three things, their ability to reach the formal stage is limited and these children will most likely be in the concrete stage (ibid p47). Students require new situations to promote the disequilibrium that is the stimulus for learning (ibid p52).

The student that are physically underdeveloped are most likely the ones that will be still in the concrete stage of learning (as they are not as developmentally advanced). Jane needs to scaffold these student’s so that they can progress from observable (concrete) to formal (hypothetical) ideas while still retaining the students’ interest. Her student’s that live on remote farms have limited social interaction. Piaget’s theory predicts that these students will also experience developmental delays as they do not have the same environmental and social stimuli that other students have.

Social Learning

In Vygotsky‘s model of cognitive development, knowledge is constructed from the child’s social interaction with those who are more experienced than them (ibid p53). Jane’s more remote students are not getting the social  interactions as they are isolated from the community and spend their time with peers or with the same set of adults. A variety of social experiences is required to transfer knowledge from the wider community to the child. Relevance is also key here. If Jane was able to provide a connection with the community’s local culture, this would help increase both student and community engagement.


In using these models of cognitive development, Jane is reinforcing the idea that we as teachers, teach students not subjects (provocation 7). The models outline provide us with an understanding the many things that influence learning, and also a framework for adapting our teaching to the different developmental stages and learning styles that are present in the classroom.

Treating teaching as an intellectual pursuit (provocation 8 ) allows us to learn more about our students, the way they learn and how to we can promote future learning so that they can become successful members of their  community.


Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godinho, S., Johnson, N.F., Keddie, A., Letts, W., Mackay, J., McGill, M., Moss, J., Nagel, M.C., Nicholson, P. & Vick, M.   (2011) “Teaching: Making a Difference.” Milton, QLD, John Wiley & Sons Australia

Wikipedia, Jean Piaget, retrieved from

Wikipedia, Lev Vygotsky, retrieved from

Woolfolk, A & Margetts, K. (2010). Educational Psychology. Pearson Australia

STS1 Reflective Journal Post 3

Assessment is the process of discovering what our students have learned from our teaching. Many assessment tasks are rigid and only tell us what our students can not express within a given time frame. Gauging a student’s understanding is an ongoing process and one that is usually informal.

Informal assessment according to Churchill (p. 398) is an approach “using activities, class discussion and group interaction [that] can provide a more accurate assessment of ability”.

What if we apply this to provocation 2, “Will I be allowed to be the teacher I want to be”? Formal assessment and standardised testing are an integral part of modern schooling. They provide a way to compare students and schools results. However, it may not be the best way to determine if our students have an understanding of the subject. Instead, informal assessment can be used as a form of formative assessment, or assessment-as-learning. It can help us determine what the students know, so that we can plan future teaching and increase our students understanding.


Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godinho, S., Johnson, N.F., Keddie, A., Letts, W., Mackay, J., McGill, M., Moss, J., Nagel, M.C., Nicholson, P. & Vick, M.   (2011) “Teaching: Making a Difference”  Milton, QLD, John Wiley & Sons Australia

It’s not about me..

STS1 Reflective Journal Post 2
One of the main themes that emerged from the Experience Teacher Panel (STS 24th March 2011) was the importance of reflective practice in teaching. Each of the teachers recounted anecdotes of students that they had taught. Although challenging at the time, reflection on these events have made them better teachers.

Gibb's Model of Reflective Practice (Source: Deakin University)

Nearly all of the provocations can be related to these situations, but the one I though of the most was “Should we teach student students or subjects?”. Each of the experienced teachers obviously cared about each student that they taught and by taking an interest in the student and their needs, the outcomes for this student were improved.

Provocation 8 (To what extent is teaching an intellectual pursuit?) also comes to mind when using reflective practice (an example of which is shown above). It gives us a way of using the situations that occur in a classroom and use them to stimulate both student learning, and our own life-long learning.

The title of this post comes from a member of the panel. As teachers, we need to have confidence not only in our pedagogical and subject knowledge, but in ourselves as people. Students will aim their frustrations at the teacher, but it is important to realise that it is not about us personally.