Improving Student Learning, One Teacher at a Time

Improving Student Learning, One Teacher at a Time

In July 2010, VSSEC hosted Dr. Jane Pollock to present the professional learning program, Improving Student Learning, One Teacher at a Time (ISLOTT). Jane Pollock is the Director of Learning Horizons Inc which specialises in teaching & supervising learning and long term work with schools worldwide to improve student learning, teaching and supervising practice.

She is also the author of several books, Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time (2007) and Improving Student Learning One Principal at a Time (2008) and is the co-author of Dimensions of Learning Teacher and Training Manuals (1996), Assessment, Grading, and Record Keeping (1999), and Classroom Instruction That Works (2000).  Her current projects include two new publications: The I-4 Principle, about using technology in the classroom, and Minding the Gap, about improving learning for ELL and special education students.

At VSSEC, the (ISLOTT) program involved 30 teachers. Who were guided through the implementation of the nine high yielding teaching strategies outlined in the book Classroom Instruction that Works (Marzano et al), (CITW) using the G.A.N.A.G Lesson Plan Schema

The G.A.N.A.G Lesson Plan Schema:

G = State the GOALS (or standards) intended for the lesson.

A = ACCESS prior knowledge that relates to the lesson.

N = Introduce NEW information or concepts.

A = ANALYZE/APPLY the new information or concepts.

G = Summarize or restate the GOALS learned in the lesson.

Goal setting and providing feedback is the seventh of nine strategies outlined in CITW. This strategy can yield up to 23% points gain in achievement when utilised correctly.  The research tells us that instructional goals narrow what students focus on, should not be too specific and encouraged students to personalise these goals. Feedback should be timely and corrective in nature; be to a criterion specific and allow students to provide some of their own feedback.

Accessing prior knowledge is crucial in identifying student’s preconceptions and firing up the students neurologically at the beginning of the lesson. As teachers we are trying to get the brain to associate by making analogies and comparisons. CITW provides teachers with specific strategies; the use of non-linguistic representations, cooperative learning, cues, questions and advance organisers can improve student achievement on average by 23.33% points.

Before introducing new information, a teacher must make a distinction between declarative and procedural knowledge. Declarative knowledge comprises what a learner knows and understands, and procedural knowledge is what a learner does with that knowledge. Students must have multiple experiences with declarative knowledge because declarative knowledge is stored in long term memory through a complex process that involves the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex (CITW, Marzano et al. 2001).The teacher must plan for the use of specific teaching strategies so that the learner will use and retain the new information. CITW suggests the use of summarising and note taking when dealing with declarative knowledge, homework and classroom practice of skills when dealing with procedural knowledge. Occasionally, a lesson might emphasize declarative or procedural knowledge exclusively, but usually lessons employ a combination of tasks (ISLOTT, Pollock 2007). With procedural knowledge, research shows it takes about 24 practices for someone to learn a new procedure at a level of competency (CITW, Marzano et al. 2001).

One of the aims of good instruction is to teach the learner to use declarative and procedural knowledge effectively in the classroom and in the “real world”. When applying declarative knowledge, thinking skills (e.g. comparison, analysis) can help the learner organise and reorganise facts.

Applying thinking skills can be done in an effective way as outlined in CITW. The use of instructional strategies like, identifying similarities and differences, generating and testing hypothesis, and using cues, questions and advanced organises are skills that must be taught to enable the learner to apply and analyse new knowledge successfully.

How you end the lesson depends on how you began it. Setting the learning goals at the beginning of the lesson and explaining these goals is a very important process in allowing students to take ownership of these goals (personalising the goals). At the end of your lesson you must have a set of goals or goal to revisit, and give the students time to generalise or summarise. The instructional strategies that apply are cooperative learning, non-linguistic representations and generating questions. When students have to summarise or generate a question as a summary, they are more likely to retain the information (ISLOTT, Pollock 2007).

VSSEC is continuing to work with Jane to ensure all curriculum material and programs produced by VSSEC reflect these strategies and maximise learning outcomes for every student.