Monday - 1st Year Focus Teachers (Early Years Group)
In the morning session the early years group looked at why our partnership has the focus on executive function. The conversation was around how the ELL project is using maths is the vehicle for building executive functions, but improved maths outcomes is not the only destination.
We looked at some of the charts and tables from the Dunedin Study which followed a group of about 1000 people born in the same year from the year of their birth, right through to their mid-thirties, and looked at all the different aspects of their life such as health, wealth, relationships, careers, incarceration, etc and found a strong relationship between strong inhibitory control and stronger life outcomes. We also looked at an article from Adele Diamond regarding the impact of executive functions on all aspect of our lives. So although we are looking at how to improve mathematics learning, we are probably more accurately looking and developing their dispositions towards learning in every subject area and looking at how we can develop problem solving and reasoning skills both in school and beyond it.
We then had a conversation in small groups reflecting on their growth as a result of the ELL project. They were asked to reflect on three questions which were
People shared a lot about their journey with the project to this point but there were a few key threads that came out of it.
These responses really spoke to the need of the focus teachers to develop their on executive function as they are implementing a greater focus on developing them with their class.
We then moved into a discussion of what would happen in the lesson, as an introduction to this they were shown the video below that comes from the Adventures of You series of videos. This is a video that was going to also be shared with the children during the lesson.
After watching the video there was some discussion as to whether the development of executive function follows the same process in the video where different executive functions are at different levels. The executive functions are not in different levels as stated in this video, they are a set of intertwined skills that all impact on each other, however it was also mentioned that inhibitory control is normally the first step. It is very difficult to focus on your working memory or on thinking flexibly if your are not yet focused enough on the task by using good inhibitory control, it is also hard to think flexibly if you cannot keep enough in your working memory. So by developing one executive function we are also impacting on the other two. It was explained that the lesson would start with children thinking about how their brain works then then working on a small maths task at the end of the lesson. During the lesson the teacher were asked to look for evidence of:
In the lesson with the children we showed them the video and then asked them to think about all of the different things in their head that their brain controls. They were asked to use a post it note to write down all of the things that is stored in their brains, with one thing per post it note. They then put these on a piece of brown paper to see how how "full" their brains are. The images below show some of their work on this.
They were then ask to think to try and think about something that is not there yet and there were a number of children who went and checked the paper to see if they could come up with something that was not there.
We sat around the paper and they were asked "How does all of that fit into your brain?" Some children said that when you talk about an idea or write it down, it lets an idea out of your brain so you have space for new ideas. This stems from their believe that your brain only has a finite capacity to store information, they feel once your head is full you cannot learn anything new. One girl in particular had a particularly insightful idea on this and said that all the little parts or ideas join together to make bigger ideas. This was a very strong articulation of how learning works and was used to build on the task they would be doing next.
The next task was to give the children an appreciation of the extent of the connections occurring in the brain. Deb scrunched a piece of paper into a ball that would fit in their head, acting like it is a substitute brain she then unscrunched it and we took lines with a texta following the creases left in the paper, with each line representing an idea or thing we have learned, we showed how the ideas cross over or connect to each other and also showed, as per the images below, just how many connections there are between ideas. They used this as an idea to think about what they do when they learn new things
Following this Deb unveiled a brain shaped jelly she had made out of coconut milk and talk to children about how the creases in the paper look like the creases in the brain. Children had an opportunity to taste the jelly if they wanted too.
Tuesday - 2nd Year Focus Teachers
In the morning session the 2nd year group looked the video on maths anxiety blow and then had a deeper look at maths anxiety which was defined to be;
We looked at the difference between stress and anxiety. Stress being defined as being caused by an existing stress causing factor or stressor whereas anxiety is stress that continues even after the stressor is gone. For example if someone was scared of spiders, then while they see a spider, it is likely to cause them stress, but once the spider is gone, so would be the stress. Anxiety is different in that the person would still feel the same when the spider is gone, it continues to play on their mind.
In the 5 years that the ELL project has been operating across the Port Augusta / Quorn Partnership there have been clear gains in achievement and engagement in relation to numeracy learning. However over those 5 years the impact of the project has also extended beyond the partnership. The information below comes from Professor Martin Westwell and is about the ripples of the project, the how and where this project is spreading it's influence.
The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) chose to highlight our work as the first case study in their annual report. The case study for the partnership is below as is the entire report.
The Australian Research Council has also picked up this story and will feature it in a publication highlighting the impact the research they have funded has had in every discipline.
The SLRC will be holding an International Conference in Brisbane in September with academics and education leaders from around the world. Flinders University in conjunction with the Port Augusta / Quorn Partnership have been invited to give a workshop specifically about the Pt Augusta work and write a chapter for a book that will come out of the conference. Below is a link to the conference website.
The model that the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century has developed with the partnership has been the basis for their work various schools and a successful large grant application to the Myer Foundation. This grant will allow Flinders to work with three other partnerships across South Australia. The Myer Foundation see this as a proof of concept at a larger scale so that education systems around Australia might be encouraged to adopt the approach.
Professor Westwell also notes that he talks about the work with the partnership at almost every one of tne numerous keynote presentations he gives. Some of the audiences for these include partnership pupil free days or interstate and international events. Earlier this Year he was the IB Schools Australasia visiting speaker and talked about the project to teachers and leaders from IB schools in Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland and Adelaide.
Monday - 1st Year Focus Teachers (Middle Years Group)
In the middle years group one of the first tasks for the day was for the focus teachers to work with a partner to play naughts and crosses. After several games they were then stopped and the rules changed. This time they had to play again, but they had to try to deliberately lose. Playing this game was a reminder from the sessions last term where it was discussed that in order to develop tasks that target the development of kids executive function skills, often all it takes is to tweak an existing task, rather than designing a whole new one. In working with this task the focus teachers talked about how this task really focused on their impulse control, they had to consistently resist the urge to try and win and to think flexibly about how to lose. One talked about having to try and trap the other person into winning.
Next the focus teachers were asked how their thinking has changed over the course of term 1 until now. Some of the responses given were
In looking at how children engaged with this task it was clear that they found it very difficult to place the first number. Many commented on how they were used to using a 1 to 100 grid and therefore the numbers on this grid were not where they are used to them being. Often it was they case that they didn't realise the first, or first few numbers, were in the wrong place until they came across one that was a contradiction to the ones that were already there. It was also interesting to see how the strategy changed as they went through. With the first number they mostly addressed it in relation to place value. by counting down the number of tens and across the number of ones. However once a few numbers had been place in the table they switched to a strategy of counting on or counting back by tens and/or ones from numbers they had already placed.
The second task that they did was the coded 100 square activity from NRICH. This is a task they had done previously so this time the task was changed to more strongly target children's understanding of place value and also target their impulse control. Previously with this activity children try to complete this activity by fitting the pieces together like a jigsaw, they don't focus on the symbols on the pieces which tell them exactly what to do. Even when their attention is drawn to they symbols and where they may place them, they resort back to trying to put it together like a jigsaw. To help overcome this they were given this problem again but with two pieces of the jigsaw missing. The pieces that were missing are shown by the red crosses in the image on the left and in the gaps in the image on the right. These pieces were chose as they remove some clues, these clues are shown by the green circles in the image on the left. in the bottom piece in the right hand image contained the number 100 and was removed, that is the only three digit number and therefore would be placed very easily providing a lot of information for what goes next to it. The piece at the top removes the number 2 and therefore more strongly relies on having to use the piece with the 1 on it to be able to successfully notice the place value pattern.
This was a task that the student's found more difficult than last time however they were able to successfully complete it. To extend the task they were then asked to draw in the symbols for each box that would correspond to the pieces missing.
Tuesday - 2nd Year Focus Teachers
The morning with the second year teachers focused on developing a stronger understanding of working memory.
This was used to help explain the psychology of Powerpoint. When you have a slide full of text you are activating the verbal short term memory, and when you talk about what is on the slide you are also activating that verbal short term memory, therefore you can't attend to both, you can read and not listen or you can listen and not read. However if you have a strong visual on the slide with limited text whilst you are talking then you are activating two different types of short term memory and therefore processing this is easier. The central executive is what controls your attention, does the higher level processing and interacts with the short term memory systems
In the second session we looked at a task that was brought up by Deb and Kristin. The task involved a large map of some London streets. We were given a range of data for the area including the location of pubs, schools, hospitals, water pumps and factories (shown by the paper cut outs in the images below. We were also given data one how many deaths there were in each square of this map as a result of a particular event in history.
With this task we had to try and hypothesise what happened to these people, to cause all the deaths. The initial part of this was to talk about what we noticed and what we wondered before starting to bring those noticings and wonderings together to form a cohesive argument for what happened.