Over the last few weeks, the gender based learning that’s been happening at our school has been under the spotlight with an article in our local paper and now the TV news story above from the ‘Today Tonight’ program. This isn’t something that I’m particularly comfortable doing! But, I believe in the work we are doing in this area and am glad that we can be a part of the discussion.
My co-teacher in this program, Aimee Aparicio, and I both worked in a single gender program in my last school, Hackham East Primary. After attending a workshop with Ian Lillico, an Australian expert in boys education, another colleague, Rebecca Hepworth and I started trialling some of our new learning. Drawing heavily on Lillico’s work and that of Michael Gurian, we were supported by our school leadership to build a strong single gender program that still exists there today. At our peak, we had single gender and mixed class options from year 2 to year 7.
In our new roles at Woodend Primary school, Aimee and I can see that the needs of boys and girls at Hackham East aren’t unique. in fact, world wide data suggests that programs like these would have value in any school anywhere.
The program that we are running now is a great start. We have been able to tackle some topics around gender stereotypes and masculinity. An important part of this for us is that we are seeing the students becoming the drivers of this learning. They want to spread the message within the school community. This post from a student last night is a great example of that.
This is great to see. Students empowered to make a difference in their communities. What we are doing isn’t difficult. It just takes a willingness to try something different. The conversation around the individual needs of boys and girls in schools is happening and we look forward to seeing where it goes.
In last weeks Messenger Newspaper, Amy Moran wrote an article discussing the idea that gender education is the key to reducing domestic and sexual abuse statistics. After a discussion about the article on Twitter, Amy asked if, colleague, Aimee Aparicio and I would be a part of a follow up story looking at the gender learning program we have started with our classes. It’s always an interesting experience to be involved in something like this but the article is a positive one, and we are glad to be a part of the discussion.
Teacher feature segment with myself and Selena Woodward (@teachertechnol) from 2013
This interview was recorded as a part of the Ed Tech Crew Podcast number 228 – released 2013-07-18
This week, myself and three other staff at Hackham East have been involved in filming an “Illustration of Practice” for the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). Based around our boys education program the filming took place over two days, aiming to create a 20 minute documentary looking at classroom management.
In theory, the idea of having a film crew follow you around is terrifying. In reality, it’s even more terrifying! Once the fear subsides however, the process becomes extremely valuable.
This filming opportunity came at the same time I decided to turn my blog into a Profesional Learning Portfolio. Both of these processes involved me needing to unpack the AITSL Teacher Standards. For those who are unfamiliar with the standards, the following is from the AITSL website:
The National Professional Standards for Teachers comprise Seven Standards which outline what teachers should know and be able to do. The Standards are interconnected, interdependent and overlapping.
The Standards are grouped into three domains of teaching: Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement. In practice, teaching draws on aspects of all three domains.
Within each Standard, focus areas provide further illustration of teaching knowledge, practice and professional engagement. These are then separated into Descriptors at four professional career stages: Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead.
Exploring the standards has helped me to reflect more clearly on my teaching practice. It has shown me the areas that I reflect on naturally and highlighted those that I take for granted. It has challenged me to think critically about how I do my job and in doing so has improved my teaching.
In our job we can never be ‘good enough’. As teachers we need to be continually improving. I believe that the Teacher Standards are a powerful tool to help us do this. To use this tool effectively, however, we need to open ourselves up to critical self reflection and to the honest feedback of others. For me, this has been a challenging but rewarding process.
While AITSL were filming at Hackham East, I was also asked to film a “Teacher Feature” about our class use of social media. They also took photos of our classroom to share on the AITSL Facebook page. The photos can be found here, and the ‘Teacher Feature” is posted below.
In 2008, the school decided to take a gamble by introducing its first single-sex classes after hearing a talk by an expert in the field.
It has never looked back.
Founding teacher Jarrod Lamshed said behavioural issues immediately subsided, attendance picked up and the boys participated more actively.
“Basically, it comes down to better meeting the needs of boys in schools,” Mr Lamshed said.
In South Australia,the education gap between girls and boys has increased.
Last year 98 per cent of girls who started Year 8 in 2007 made it through to graduate, but only 78 per cent of boys did. That was a difference of about 20 per cent, compared with 15 per cent in 2000.
Almost 90 per cent of girls who completed the SA Certificate of Education last year earned a university entrance score, compared with 81.4 per cent of boys.
A recent review of the new SACE revealed the compulsory subject – the Research Project – provided an “inherent advantage” for female students, most of whom achieved As and Bs, while almost half the male students received Cs.
During his 30-year career as a teacher and school leader, the issue of boys’ education became a passion for Ian Lillico, the expert who inspired teachers at Hackham East Primary.
He left teaching to pursue research on the subject and now works with schools to help improve the performance of boys.
“The evidence internationally is that the separation of genders can be valuable for students who are 11, 12, 13 and 14,” he said.
Dr Lillico said the way boys learn was different to girls and that over the years changes in the curriculum had not been particularly “boy friendly”.
“In the past boys tended to do well at maths and science but now every subject is seen as a literacy subject and because they are wordy, boys are not doing as well,” he said.
“Maths should be maths, English should be English. If everything is done as a long evaluation or essay you will favour girls and boys will give up and think, ‘Oh, I can’t do this, it’s too hard’ even if they can.”
Dr Lillico did concede there was some danger in single-sex classes.
“Some of the most successful boys’ classes are often taken by two women or a man and a woman. It’s very important if a school decides to have single-sex classes not to make it too blokey,” he said.
As a Year 6/7 boys’ class teacher, Mr Lamshed said he could more easily tailor the classroom program to individual learning needs.
“Having the boys together reduces the number of learning styles in one classroom,” he said. “We found in that first year we had kids who were writing only a few lines but when the girls were not around they were writing more, and better. A lot of the social issues disappeared.”
To better cater for the more practical learning-style, the physical set-up of the classroom was transformed, with rows of desks replaced by sofas, round desks and coffee tables with cushions on the floor.
“The traditional classrooms are about sit, be quiet and you will learn … with the boys we’ve gone the other way because we want them together and talking,” Mr Lamshed said.
Principal Robert Thiele said the school’s six single-sex classes were popular in the community and some families from outside the area were enrolling especially for them.
Michelle Poldervaart has four children at Hackham East – three are in a single-sex class including her eldest son, Toby, in Year 7.
“He was doing quite poorly before then and once in the boys class (which he started in Year 5) he just thrived,” she said.
“He was behind by about three years in his maths and now he’s come along really fabulously.”
While single-sex education is popular in private schools, it is still fairly uncommon in the public schools.
SA Primary Principals Association president Steve Portlock said the creation of single-sex classes was a local school decision that needed to be made in the best interest of students.
“It might be a school has seen the need for a particular group of boys to work together and has designed a specialist curriculum,” he said.
Association of Independent Schools of SA executive director Garry Le Duff said the variety in the private sector catered for parents looking for either single-sex or coeducation.
“I think one of the emerging issues in recent times is what are the ways to help boys improve retention and participation rates in learning,” Mr Le Duff said.
Original Source – Adelaide Now – Adelaide Advertiser – http://bit.ly/PSNaiQ