Standard 1 – Know students and how they learn.

Focus Area 1.1 – Physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.
Graduate level: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students and how these may affect learning.

Focus Area 1.2 – Understand how students learn.
Graduate level: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of research into how students learn and the implications for teaching.

Focus Area 1.4 – Strategies for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Graduate level: Demonstrate broad knowledge and understanding of the impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background on the education of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

On placement, I delivered part of a unit (Artefact 1) that integrated literacy within science – learning about threats to the Great Barrier Reef to a diverse Grade 6 class.

I chose this topic as my placement coincided with an excursion to the Reef (Artefact 2) which gave me an opportunity to create meaningful learning experiences which are important for children to enable them to make connections, build upon prior knowledge and make sense of new information (Churchill et al., 2022) (1.2).

The lessons foci were threats to the Great Barrier Reef and the cultural significance to First Nations peoples (1.4). Sociocultural theory of cognitive development highlights the importance of social interaction, community and peer work for meaning making in learning (McInerney, 2013) (1.2). The reef is a vital part of the Cairns’ community, and all students were given an opportunity in the learning experiences to contribute on what the reef means to them personally. They were asked to work in pairs and small groups – research has shown that cooperative and collaborative learning has multiple benefits especially in a diverse cohort (Laal & Ghodsi, 2012) (1.2). Peer relationships are extremely important in the social-emotional development of this age group (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018) and I used my knowledge of the class to place the students in groups that I perceived to be well balanced for skills and personal dynamics (Artefact 3) (1.1).

I was conscious that one student in the class had ADHD, and I had noticed from earlier observations of the cohort that keeping the students engaged would be important as many had challenges with holding attention. Research has shown that in middle-childhood supporting working memory can develop attention skills (Oberauer, 2019) and strategies to do this were incorporated into the lessons (1.1) such as keeping the learning vocabulary familiar and tasks clear and simple, providing graphic organisers for each step, and scaffolding the learning.

To understand the Indigenous cultural significance of the Great Barrier Reef I consulted a local elder to gather information before developing the lesson (1.4) and then showed a video to the class from the perspective of a local Gimuy young person. (Artefact 4) During these learning episodes the 8 Ways Pedagogy framework was used (NSW Department of Education, 2014), with opportunities for storytelling from students when they described the meaning of the reef to them and deconstructing and reconstructing facts about how the Reef was created (1.4).

Artefact 4

The results were positive as I improved my own knowledge and used this in the classroom to embed Indigenous culture, identity and linguistic background. Using my knowledge of students’ intellectual and social development in this age group, the strategies I implemented had good learning outcomes which I assessed by observing understanding of the topic during the group presentations. My mentor teacher gave me good feedback on the lessons (Artefact 5) noting that they were engaging and authentic, demonstrating that I used knowledge of how students learn and applied it to my teaching. One thing that did not work was my group allocations. I underestimated the importance of peer relationships in this age group and the strategy I chose of allocating the student groups before the activity did not work. The class rebelled and we worked collaboratively to redesign the groups with the students’ input which was a valuable learning experience for me.

Artefact 5 – Mentor teacher feedback

Reflecting on this learning episode and the academic and social results made me understand that I need to learn a lot more about First Nations culture. I am working on building different connections in Cairns who are happy to share their knowledge and support me in this journey and have recently discovered the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji Elders Aboriginal Corporation who offer support and educational resources and training. I also need to be more mindful of social-emotional development of students in this age group and improve my own collaboration skills to be able to pass this on to students.

References

  • Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2017). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. https://www.aitsl.edu.au/standards
  • Churchill, R., Apps, T., Batt, J., Beckman, K., Grainger, P., Keddie, A., … & Shaw, K. (2022). Teaching: Making a difference. John Wiley & Sons Australia.
  • Duchesne, S., & McMaugh, A. (2018). Educational psychology for learning and teaching. Cengage AU.
  • Laal, M., & Ghodsi, S. M. (2012). Benefits of collaborative learning. Procedia-social and behavioral sciences31, 486-490.
  • McInerney, D. M. (2013). Educational psychology: Constructing learning. Pearson Higher Education AU.
  • NSW Department of Education (2014). 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning. https://www.8ways.online/
  • Oberauer, K. (2019). Working memory and attention–A conceptual analysis and review. Journal of cognition2(1).