Today I attended the Northern Sydney Region Gifted and Talented Conference at Miramare Gardens. Such passionate educators took the stage it was hard not to get inspired.
Dail McGilchrist talked about working with students at a conceptual level and focussing attention on student leadership. Working with students as learning designers these are two key areas that I have found are challenging and rewarding aspects of teaching. Working with concepts is about the ‘ability to understand a situation or problem by identifying patterns or connections and addressing key underlying issues’… and the ‘ability to integrate issues and factors into a conceptual framework.’ Carol Tomlinson (1998) She also talked about the fact that making these connections helps the brian create networks of organisation and that this is useful not only for gifted students but also for the rest of the class.
Manoj Chandra Handa from James Ruse Agricultural High School then provided a clear and explicit framework for teaching at the conceptual level. The foundation of which is:
- a focus on learning rather than teaching
- a focus on teaching from the whole to the parts
- and, a focus on explicitly teaching outcomes and how they are linked to activities
He shared with us many examples of how students were given the curriculum planning documents including the links to learning strategies and general capabilities at each point of the curriculum and how learning outcomes could be ‘bloomed’ to include higher order thinking skills. It was refreshing to see how curriculum planning can be integrated with teaching students thinking skills. He also talked about the teacher fading and blending into the classroom environment as the students took control of their own learning. He also stressed the importance of peer assessment in this process.
One of the most relevant teaching strategies he shared was a task he set for the students to design a unit of work, the best of which would be chosen to be taught as the classes unit of work for that term. The students created a comprehensive website complete with outcomes, evidence of learning and resources. Amazing work.
Listening to Manoj reinforced that the ‘Student as Learning Designers’ project does focus on many of the aspects of curriculum planning that are appropriate for gifted and talented students including:
- differentiation across outcomes, content, process, evidence of learning and the learner environment
- we do focus on things like moving at a faster pace
- encouraging risk taking and tolerance of ambiguity
What we should do more of is:
- continually work with students to achieve a conceptual understanding
- use peer assessment opportunities to provide opportunities to look at higher order thinking skills
- ask students to collect evidence of their own learning and annotate their work to show exactly which bits achieve which outcomes
- provide simpler and more effective scaffolds for students both in terms of supporting their processes and the success criteria they should be working toward
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- Helpful Websites for Gifted Students (brighthub.com)
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