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 By David Lynch and Richard Smith  [(2013) Assessing and Reporting the Classroom curriculum in the Knowledge Age]

The LMDP represents a rethink of the various curriculum development models that are commonplace in the teaching lexicon of classrooms (see Brady, L., & Kennedy, K. (2010). Teachers fundamentally use the Learning Management Design Process (LMDP) for three inter-related reasons.

First, to embed themselves in Learning Management, second to develop their classroom curriculum and third, to appraise themselves of its global performance. We use Figure 3.1 to show the relationship Learning Management has to the LMDP. The foundation layer of Figure 3.1 is the theory and practice of Learning Management. The second layer comprises the Learning Management Design Process, based on eight design based questions which, when answered in plan form, become the classroom curriculum ready for teaching, assessment and reporting.

Table 3.1 The Traditional teachers approach to learning management elements contrasted to that of the (new) Teacher (the practitioner of Learning Management)

 

Learning Management Capability Element

Traditional Teacher Approach

New Teacher Approach

Knowledge Base

Broad general knowledge of disciplines

Expert knowledge of disciplines

Latest fads

Evidence based strategies

Favourite preferred approaches to teaching based on assumed needs of students

Approaches aligned to required student learning outcomes and student profiles

Pedagogy is based on individual teacher creativity

Creative uses of evidence based pedagogy

Mindset

There are ‘Smart kids and dumb kids’

‘Students with diverse abilities’

Teachers can make a difference when circumstances are right

Teachers create the right circumstances and make a difference

Problems require school ‘admin’ intervention

Problems generate analysis and innovative responses

Experience is the benchmark for performance

Expertise relies on continuous learning

Responsible for curriculum delivery

Accountable for student learning outcomes

Strategic Creativity

 

-Innovation

Risk Averse

Traditional approaches

Maintain the status quo

Calculated risk taker

Researching and seeking new ways

Experimenting

-Design

Content specific

Situational Analysis

Instruments developed that indicate when content has been covered

Pedagogy is not outlined in design documents 

 

Content specific

Evidence based learning design process

Evidence that student learning outcomes have been achieved

Approaches aligned to required student learning outcomes and student profiles

Pedagogy is made explicit in design documentation

-Diagnostics

Not known nor applied

Part of the teaching process

-Execution Capacity

Relies on what the system provides

Creativity as expertise

Seeking out and exploiting opportunities

Teaching Expertise

-Entrepreneurship

Classroom Centred

Staffroom friendship groups

 Stakeholders informed

The classroom is part of a larger learning industry system

Networked

Stakeholders engaged

 

As Chapter Two outlined, Learning Management is a combination of a knowledge base, a teacher mindset and strategic creativity. Taken together these three capabilities form the context and substance of Learning Management and show what the personal capabilities required of a teacher are in a 2000s teaching world. These three capability domains are the enablers for developing a robust teaching plan:  what can be termed the classroom curriculum. Put simply, in the absence of Learning Management, the LMDP will illicit responses biased to the traditions of classroom teachers and which are an anathema to the ‘all students making the required learning gains’ agenda and the profile of the Knowledge Age as previous chapter discussions have highlighted. Table 3.1 uses the three Learning Management capability domains to contrast the response of the traditional teacher with the practitioner of learning management, as discussed in Chapter Two. In reviewing this table we want you to be conscious of how an understanding and an embracing of the theory and practice of Learning Management forces you to act and react differently as a teacher. Let us reiterate some key points previous in the book before proceeding.

We have claimed that curriculum development and established teaching models assume, or take for granted, that teachers can actually ‘teach’. Whether the models emphasise mere ‘planning’, or how the curriculum ‘should be’ implemented, creativity remains the underlying premise of ‘teaching’ or ‘learning activities’. If we ask the question “Why does teaching end up the way it does?” we realise that there is a ‘black hole’ between curriculum content and learning outcomes. This is because traditional teacher education, aside from being distracted by various pet theories, has to date, wrongly viewed teaching as an innate artist quality:  a quality that apparently appears in the classroom when the conditions are right. The adage “all teachers can teach but not all students can learn” was used to explain the inability of some to learn and thus gives insight into the prevailing teacher mindset. Learning Management aims to remove this black hole! (Smith and Lynch, 2010).

If you reflect on your own teacher preparation you will likely report having learnt many theories about various aspects of ‘teaching’ but the actual learning to teach part --- the demonstration of theory in action or of various teaching techniques, the coaching, mentoring, application, feedback, and practice, practice, practice --- was either hit and miss, disconnected to the ‘main on-campus teacher education regime’ or relegated to a third-party practicum. In this type of circumstance being as creative as you can be appears, to most trainee teachers, the most logical stop-gap measure and in post graduation appears no less relevant. It’s all to do with fitting the prevailing mindset about and of teachers that says:  I’ve taught it but they just haven’t learnt it! (see Smith and Lynch, 2010; Fullan, 2007; Cochran-Smith, 2002).

The available evidence (see for example: Hattie, 2009; Marzano and Brown, 2009; OECD, 2007b; Fullan, 2007) is that while desirable, creativity is not sufficient to solve the black-hole problem if the agenda is for all students to make the required robust and sustainable learning gains. Contemporary knowledge about how people learn, and what effective teaching is, adds further pressure to existing curriculum development models. The Learning Management Design process is an attempt to overcome these difficulties, but also to provide explicit guidance as to what’s required when developing the classroom curriculum. The process is a component of Learning Management as Diagram 3.1 illustrates. The Learning Management Design Process (LMDP) has three developmental phases:  Outcomes, Strategy and Evidence (see Figure 3.2). Each phase has a series of design questions (examined in detail in Chapters Three and Four). The teacher develops a classroom curriculum by engaging with each phase and its questions and recording ‘findings’ (or answers) in plan form (using a prescribed classroom curriculum template: see Chapter Twelve).

Each phase contains focal questions that provide the teacher with the material to develop a classroom curriculum. The Learning Management design process is analogous to building a house. There is a vision or a desire for what is to be achieved; for what the house will look like; how the internal and external arrangements will be configured to meet the vision or construction brief and so on. This series is a parallel to setting outcomes.

Once the outcomes have been specified, the builder enacts a set of strategies that reflect the standards of their profession and the circumstance of the building site in order to achieve those outcomes. This phase can be termed strategy. Once built, the homeowner ascertains whether or not the house has been built to the required specified standards. This process we can term the collection of evidence. The amalgam of these three phases becomes the plan, the classroom curriculum in teaching parlance. The plan is then followed logically, despite inevitable difficulties from the environment and probably resource constraints, to achieve the outcomes as set. Should the finished house not meet the outcomes, either during construction or after construction, then a process of diagnostics is employed to ascertain why there are apparent defects or the house has failed to meet the set outcomes. We examine the diagnostics element in Chapter Seven. Let us now deal with the three phases in the curriculum development context.

The Outcomes Phase

There are three elements that inform the outcome phase:  the syllabus, the type and the hierarchical nature of knowledge to be taught and benchmarking.

The Syllabus

While the house-building context gives the homeowner licence to design the house as they want, there are set standards and regulations that govern house building and to which the owner must adhere. In teaching, there are regulations also that govern what the teacher has to do and achieve. Government legislation relies on acts of parliament to regulate what occurs in schools and what schools and teachers have to teach to their students. Despite the fact that such syllabi are always contested by community interests that have alternative visions of what should be taught, the syllabus encapsulates the government perspective [i]. The syllabus defines, through learning Stages or Year Levels, what the teacher is employed to teach their students.

The agenda of each syllabus is for all students to make the required learning gains. Students however have a range of learning abilities, achievements and interests, personality peculiarities, learning and behavioural problems and idiosyncrasies. The teacher is faced with designing a classroom curriculum so that all students are taught the prescribed syllabus, taking into consideration each student’s profile.

 

The Type and Hierarchical Nature of Knowledge to be Taught

Teachers teach knowledge to students. Normally, the syllabus prescribes a series of learning outcomes- which signal the knowledge to be learnt. These outcomes are supported by ‘foundation statements’ and ‘indicators’ of achievement. Syllabus documents usually provide program resources to support the teacher. In teaching a specific syllabus-learning outcome the teacher selects specific knowledge that the student is supposed to learn. This knowledge will always be either declarative or procedural in nature.[ii]. Each is taught differently (see Marzano and Pickering, 2006, for more specific details). Putting procedural and declarative knowledge up front for you at this point is important on four fronts (see Table 3.2 for an account of what these knowledge types include).

Table 3.2 Declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge detailed[iii]

Declarative Knowledge: Knowledge that is based on what one knows and understands. This knowledge type is organised as:

·         Organising Ideas: concepts, generalisations, principles

·         Details: Cause/effect sequences, time sequences

·         Vocabulary Terms and Phrases: Facts, terms.

Procedural Knowledge: Knowledge that is based on what one is able to do. This type of knowledge is organised as:

·         Processes: procedures that involve the execution of interrelated component parts that have subcomponents

·         Skills: A set of steps that may or not have to be performed in a set order.

 

 

 

First, a syllabus-learning outcome is often developed as an amalgam of knowledge and skills that are to be achieved, in some cases, over an extended period like two years. For term or lesson based instructional purposes, these syllabus learning outcome statements are too broad. They need to be broken down into instructional bits or what is termed ‘instructional learning outcomes’ (This process is explained in greater detail in the Appendix). While perhaps a cumbersome process for the novice teacher, the process is fundamental if the teacher is to understand and appreciate what they are actually, having to teach and thus achieve in each student.

Second, when a teacher aims to achieve a learning outcome in their students they are focused on teaching ‘knowledge’. Note, ‘knowledge”=’ (See Table 3.2) can be facts, propositions, principles, algorithms, performance skills, time frames, attitudes, thinking processes such as historical investigation, deductive thinking, comparing and contrasting and so on. The teacher therefore has to work out which knowledge is to be learned first, second and so forth, to fulfil the learning outcome(s) and at the prescribed level.

Third, the importance of the declarative and procedural distinction is that the teaching strategies for each are different. For example, skills need to be demonstrated, shaped and practised, and takes time to be established. Conceptual knowledge, in contrast, needs to be linked to previous knowledge, elaborated and applied to be meaningful. Fourth, conceptual knowledge must have proceeding or background knowledge sets on which to build. Imagine trying to teach algebra to a student who has no understanding of number or teaching reef ecology to someone who has never seen the sea. These scenarios illustrate how students have to know certain things before they can learn something new or increase the depth of existing knowledge while they are at school, college or the university. As Marzano puts it:

“…the research literature supports one compelling fact:  what students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content… the reported average correlation between a person’s background knowledge of a given topic and the extent to which that person learns new information on that topic is 0.66” (Marzano, 2004, pp. 1-2).

In simpler terms, this means that in about 66% of teaching episodes, the individual student who has a relevant knowledge background is more likely to be successful in achieving the desired learning outcomes.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking is defined as the use of a standard by which something can be measured or judged. In the context of education, a benchmark denotes student achievement specified in a syllabus and its stated learning outcomes or ‘standards’. In the LMDP, benchmarking is used to ascertain a student’s readiness for instruction and as the evidence phase explains, to report student achievement.

The process of benchmarking has two concerns:  what the student has learned so far and to what standard. In completing a process of benchmarking the teacher’s aim is to ascertain as far as possible if each student is ready for the next stage of instruction or is requiring special consideration to reach the desired outcomes. The implication is that teachers are always faced with potentially multiple curriculum plans. Adopting an ‘At Standard’ or ‘Requiring Special Consideration’ stance, the teacher has a pragmatic organising mechanism when developing curricula in a classroom context. How the teacher will achieve the defined learning outcomes, in a context of the identified knowledge and student benchmarks, is the focus of the strategy phase.

The Strategy Phase

The strategy phase is concerned with achieving the learning outcomes as defined during the Outcomes phase. The Strategy phase is specifically concerned with the selection of evidence based teaching strategies that are appropriate for dealing with the selected knowledge so that the defined learning outcomes are achieved. The accumulation and manipulation of human and physical resources form a context for this process.

Physical and Human Resources

The process of teaching is both humanly and physically resource intensive. Schools, as the organising unit for education services, embody various physical (e.g. science, equipment, art supplies, books, etc) and human resources (teachers, teacher’s aides, occupational therapists, guidance officers, librarians, etc) that are available to support each classroom teacher deliver on their curriculum obligations. During the strategy phase, it is important to determine the resource requirements and the scope of the resources available to support planned instructional designs.

Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice means teaching practices that are supported by research findings or can be demonstrated as being effective through a critical examination of current and past practices (Hattie, 2009; Groundwater-Smith, 2000; Davies, 1999). A key theme in this book has been the notion of a pedagogic void. Traditional curriculum models have left the deciding of ‘how’ to achieve the defined learning outcomes to the creative endeavours of the teacher.  In this phase of the LMDP then, the teacher makes decisions about the knowledge content to be learned by students and selects teaching strategies that are fit for the purpose.

NOTE:  these teaching strategies are then outlined in specific terms in the classroom curriculum for future teaching guidance and reflection.

For example, cause-effect relationships such as how the solar system remains in place and concepts such as “globalisation” require the teacher to provide opportunities for the student to construct meaning, to organise their knowledge and perhaps memorise it. In contrast, adding, subtracting and writing a critical essay require modelling, shaping of the skill and internalisation so that the skill becomes automatic. There are significant time implications of skill and procedure development that limit the amount of content that can be attempted by the teacher. Moreover, the actual classroom teaching strategies for each kind of knowledge are different and expert teachers have these strategies at their fingertips (Marzano, 1997). If you want to read more about ‘evidence based practice’ we recommend the following text:

  • Marzano, R., & Pickering, D. (1997). Dimensions of Learning Teacher’s Manual. Mid-continent Regional Education Laboratory, Colorado, USA.

And the following supplementary texts:

  • Marzano, R. (1998.) A theory-based meta-analysis of research on instruction. Aurora, CO: Mid-Continent Regional Education Laboratory.
  • Marzano, R. J. (1992). A Different Kind of Classroom: Teaching with Dimensions of Learning. Alexandria, VA.: ASCD; What is "Dimensions of Learning" and how is it used at Central Queensland University and schools? Retrieved November 26, 2010 from http://www.cqu.edu.au/dol/
  • Dimensions of Learning Hub. Retrieved November 26, 2010 from http://www.nsn.net.au/hubs/dimensions_of_learning_hub
  • Marzano, R. J. (2004). Building background knowledge for academic achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Marzano, R. J., & Kendall, J. S. (2008). Designing and assessing educational objectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

The Evidence Phase

The evidence phase, while known colloquially as assessment and reporting, is concerned with the collection of evidence that informs the teacher, the student and the community about the extent of student learning. The defined learning outcomes set out in the outcomes phase, drive the type and extent of evidence required. In a loop back to the outcomes phase, the evidence collected is used to guide the setting of the next phase of learning outcomes. A process of benchmarking, as outlined in the Outcomes phase is also used in the evidence phase to report student progress.

Summary

This chapter has expanded the Learning Management concept to a curriculum development model that identifies what needs to be in the classroom curriculum development process with emphasis on the evidence-based teaching strategies that fit. While teacher creativity is important in the development of teaching strategies, it is not sufficient if the agenda is for all students to make the required learning gains, as research done by Hattie (2009) reveals. We elaborate the LMDP further in Chapter Four

 

 

[i] Syllabuses are normally developed by collaborative teams established by curriculum authorities with representation from stakeholders such as teacher professional associations, teachers’ unions, Government, Independent and Catholic schools, academics, Indigenous groups and increasingly, the private sector. Syllabuses, therefore, tend to be consensus documents.

[ii] There are many different ways of identifying knowledge. We choose this one for its simplicity and the fact that it is strongly supported by the documentation of Dimensions of Learning.

[iii]  Taken from Marzano and Pickering (1997)