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Inside Teaching : August 2010
Inside Teaching | August 2010 PROFESSION 14 Developing action research to measure the effectiveness of online professional learning is a challenge. It’s a challenge at Huntingtower, a coeducational independent school in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs; mind you, it’s also been a challenge for the team at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. In 2007, Huntingtower became a Teaching for Understanding School. Our aim in introducing inquiry learning from Prep to Year 12 through Teaching for Understanding was to focus on improving teaching and learning by providing educational approaches that increase our students’ depth of understanding. To support that focus on improving teaching and learning, we’ve undertaken professional development modules provided through Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Wide-scale Interactive Development for Educators (WIDE World) program to help us to integrate research- based strategies in our workplace. Having completed a number of WIDE World courses – Teaching for Understanding 1 and 2, Action Research for Educators, Differentiating Instruction, Coach Development and Leading for Understanding – I began working with school leaders from the United States, China, Jordan, Singapore and other Australian schools to analyse the effcacy of the Teaching for Understanding Framework to meet our 21st- century learning vision. Whole-school pedagogy There are four main elements of a Teaching for Understanding unit that planning teams address. First, planning teams design generative topics to open up connections to prior and future learning. Second, teachers share understanding goals with students, typically as questions that frame their inquiry. Teachers also provide more formal written statements to delineate for students the scope of the goals. Third, teachers identify and introduce particular performances of understanding. These are designed to be active assessments, since students demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways. There are three stages in the assessment sequence: initial performances which link to prior knowledge and connect to other learning; guided performances which systematically cover each of the understanding goals; and culminating performances which ask students to apply their knowledge in a new or novel situation. Fourth, since this assessment program is formative, teachers plan ongoing assessment that incorporates self, peer and teacher assessment based on clear criteria. Whole-school professional learning By using the Teaching for Understanding Framework we’re able to promote and maintain purposeful professional conversations in a way that will be sustainable over a number of years and that gives teachers permission to innovate. Up to this year, 93 per cent of our 60 teachers have taken a Teaching for Understanding course, with 44 having completed Teaching for Understanding 1, and a further 12 having completed Teaching for Understanding 2, which offers reinforcement of FIONA GORDON reports on her collaborative school-based action research investigating the effcacy of online professional learning. Online professional learning EVALUATING