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Improving reading and writing in Years 5-9, the Australian Writing Survey and possible applications of quality practice and support for schools

The Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education is partnering with the State Schools Division (Queensland Department of Education), in hosting a series of four panels leading to a Think Tank in November 2018 on school improvement related to the teaching and monitoring of Years 5-9 students’ reading and writing skills. The overarching question of the series is: How do we know what we know about using data for reading and writing improvement in Years 5-9?

Facilitated by Professor Jim Nyland, Associate Vice-Chancellor (Qld), ACU

How do we know what we know about using data for reading and writing improvement in Years 5-9?

Presentation 1: Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith, Institute Director ILSTE, ACU & Ms Christine Jackson, Research Project Officer, ILSTE, ACU
Re-framing the 「Middle Years Slump」

The middle school movement emerged during the 1990s as an acknowledgement of issues that specifically related to this period of learning for young adolescents. Underachievement was at the heart of the movement coupled with a commitment to investigating how to best teach and engage students in the increasing complexity of skill requirements when transitioning into secondary schooling. A significant investment in research ensued, with engagement in longitudinal studies of how teachers and students work in schools and classrooms.  These studies explored the nature of supportive environments, addressing adolescent disengagement, and pedagogical prioritisation that ensured learning experiences were commensurate with contexts appropriate to the needs of early adolescents, yet were intellectually engaging.

The research highlighted the importance of the middle years, galvanising policy and warranting a focus on 『enhancing middle years’ development’ as one of the eight areas for action in the 2008 Melbourne Declaration. The focus on the middle years reflected how this phase is critical for academic success and for supporting young people’s wellbeing, creativity and engagement with learning.  However, 10 years later, according to NAPLAN results, the middle years are reflective of a steep decline, particularly in the writing domain.

This presentation draws on multivariate analyses of responses from 600 Queensland teachers who completed the Australian Writing Survey (AWS) representing all years of schooling and a wide range of subject areas.  We show how the oft talked about middle years 『slump’ may manifest as a decline in performance, but at a deeper level, it reflects a 『slump’ in the practices that teachers value and prioritise in the teaching of writing in their classrooms. The presentation looks to definitions of progression and plateau in the context of stage schooling junctures of Prep-2, Year 3-6, Year 7-10 and Year 11-12 against key areas of ITE preparedness; Time and opportunity to learn; Time and sustained writing/length of writing; Assessment, standards and goals; Expertise and Writing as a policy priority.

Presentation 2: Ms Pascalle Burton, Principal Project Officer Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, State Schools Performance, Department of Education
State Schools-Performance: strategies, tools and resources to support writing improvement

This presentation is an overview of the strategies, tools and resources that have been developed by Curriculum Teaching and Learning, a unit of State Schools-Performance Branch, which are used by state schools to support the improvement of students’ writing in the curriculum.

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