Learning specialist Leonie Haggett discusses how Lyndale Greens Primary School has used the VTLM to improve student learning outcomes.
After six years working as a classroom teacher, and one year as a Professional Learning Team Leader in 2017, Leonie was appointed as a learning specialist in her school. Leonie's curiosity about the role, and her eagerness to learn more, led her to explore ways to ensure consistency of teaching practice across the whole school through the VTLM.
Now Leonie lives by the mantra: 'As a learning specialist, you are there to support, mentor, challenge, implement, innovate, and sustain best practice. You can be many things at once.'
Making the VTLM meaningful
To really understand how the VTLM was going to make an impact and be meaningful to teachers, Leonie worked closely with her principal and the School Improvement Team (SIT).
Unpacking each element and aligning it to our goals
'As a team, we unpacked the VTLM to understand how it could support our overarching school goals in the Annual Implementation Plan and School Strategic Plan,' said Leonie.
'The goals in our School Strategic Plan are:
- to maximise student outcomes and learning growth from Foundation to Year 6 with a strong and targeted focus on literacy and numeracy
- to improve all areas of school connectedness, engagement and motivation and maximise student pathways
- to support teachers to improve their individual and collective capacity to improve student literacy and numeracy outcomes
- to support all staff to build practice excellence through the application of the FISO improvement cycle.'
Connecting existing practice to elements of the VTLM
Focusing on the High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS), the Practice Principles for Teaching and Learning, as well as the Pedagogical Model, the SIT worked with teachers across the school to make connections between the VTLM and current practice.
Leonie explains that they 'focused on three of the HITS – explicit teaching, questioning, and metacognitive strategies.'
As a team they also focused on three of the practice principles:
- Principle 1 – High expectations for every student promote intellectual engagement and self awareness
- Principle 2 – A supportive and productive learning environment promotes inclusion and collaboration
- Principle 7 – Evidence-based strategies drive professional practice improvement.
'We used the pedagogical model in our instructional framework for literacy and numeracy. On a practical level we gather and analyse data, look at the curriculum, develop overarching learning goals, learning intentions and success criteria, then collectively plan the lessons or activities to apply in the classroom. We also evaluate, monitor and adjust,' she explained.
Grouping students based on their achievement data and targeting their teaching
In her role as a learning specialist, Leonie used school data such as NAPLAN, so as to identify areas that she could focus on with colleagues to build their capacity. Together they grouped students and differentiated the curriculum based on student data.
'I found there was a close alignment between what was needed, and elements of the VTLM. I wanted to make sure teachers were being consistent in their use of data and its analysis. To do that, I had to first look at what the student data was saying.'
'Unpacking the HITS resource was really valuable in identifying priority areas. Internal professional development enables all staff to hear the same message while accessing the same information,' said Leonie.
As a result of using the VTLM, teachers at Lyndale Greens Primary School are more proficient in the use of the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes improvement cycle. Staff have increased their data literacy and are using it more deeply to evaluate and diagnose the needs of students. The SIT also established 'how talks', which promote rich discussions on how staff can incorporate teaching strategies once the planning process has taken place.
'As a learning specialist, I can truly see that the learning intention and success criteria this is set by teachers. They are clear on what they're addressing, and all students are learning the same concepts', says Leonie.
Common language has made it easier for next year's teachers to build on the student knowledge, enabling smooth transition from one year level to the next.
'Planning processes for reading and writing are the same, and the NAPLAN results have indicated growth in years 3-5 due to consistent teaching practices.'
Leonie's advice to other learning specialists
Leonie suggests backward design as a working strategy, with the intended outcome clearly in mind.
'Establish what you want to achieve, and create manageable and measurable goals based on the needs of your students. Think about the steps you need to take, and work with your colleagues in a supportive manner to achieve these goals.'
She also suggests not attempting too much, too quickly.
'Hone in on the craft and keep building on that until you reach your goal,' said Leonie.
Explore the Victorian Teaching and Learning Model