Whole school approach to high-ability
In this short video, the high-ability practice leader (HAPL) from Brauer College talks about normalising high-ability and creating a culture where achievement and growth is celebrated.
A whole school approach to high-ability considers the needs of high-ability students at every level of planning. It recognises that all members of the school community have a part to play. This will ensure high-ability students can maximise their learning opportunities.
Planning a whole school approach to high-ability starts with school leadership. Established processes will ensure a responsive and consistent approach to high-ability. Embedded supports will form part of daily curriculum, pedagogy and assessment practices. School culture will promote and celebrate the achievements of high-ability students. These practices will ensure ongoing support for high-ability students, rather than ad hoc or one-off approaches.
Consider these broad questions:
- How are high-ability students identified at your school?
- What supports are in place for high-ability students?
- How effective are these approaches?
- How are teachers of high-ability students supported?
- How is your school community kept informed about your approach to high-ability students?
- How are high-ability students celebrated at your school?
Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO)
Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) provides a model that school leaders can use to guide the development of a whole school approach to high-ability.
The Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) is an evidence-based framework designed to focus schools’ improvement efforts on priorities proven to have the greatest impact on student outcomes. The FISO encompasses three elements:
- the FISO model
- the FISO Improvement Cycle
- the FISO Improvement Measures.
These elements can be used to guide and support the process to develop a whole school approach to high-ability.
The FISO model
The FISO model, outlines six dimensions that have been identified as high-impact improvement initiatives:
- building practice excellence
- curriculum planning and assessment
- building leadership teams
- empowering students and building school pride
- setting expectations
- building communities.
Each of these dimensions should be considered when planning a whole school approach to high-ability. Planning for high-ability can be done as part of the whole school improvement agenda. It is important that a whole school approach to high-ability aligns with other whole school approaches and practices, rather than being separate to them.
The FISO improvement cycle
The FISO improvement cycle describes four phases a school should work through to implement change.
These phases can be used to guide school leaders through a set of steps to establish a sustainable and efficacious whole school approach to high-ability. Prompt questions are presented at each phase and have been designed to guide school leaders through the four phases in a way that promotes a contextually appropriate response. It is important to note three key points here:
- A team of key people should be established to work through this improvement cycle.
- Time should be allocated to the process.
- The readiness of the school to adopt a whole school approach to high-ability should be understood.
Phase 1: Evaluate and diagnose
This step requires a self-evaluation of current practice to answer the broad question:
- How well are we addressing the needs of high-ability students?
A range of data and evidence should be collected about current practices within your school, in response to the following questions:
- Is there a shared understanding, across the whole school community, of high-ability?
- How are high-ability students identified?
- How are underachieving high-ability students identified?
- Are the four dimensions (intellectual, physical, creative, social) of high-ability considered?
- How are the academic and social needs of high-ability students supported?
- How are different cultural understandings of high-ability understood?
- How are high-ability students planned for?
- How capable are teachers in catering for high-ability?
- How capable are school leaders in supporting teachers to cater for high-ability?
- How are teachers supported to plan for the needs of high-ability students?
- Are there key people with responsibility for high-ability, for example a High-Ability Practice Leader (HAPL)?
- Are the HAPL roles clearly defined and understood by the whole school community?
- What does analysis of high-ability student data say about their current achievement levels?
- How do high-ability students feel about school?
- Are there processes for high-ability students to have input into their schooling?
- How is the school community involved in the support of high-ability students?
- What external resources/networks can be accessed to help support high-ability students?
- How are the achievements of high-ability students celebrated?
Phase 2: Prioritise and set goals
Once there is a clear picture of current practices, priorities can be established and goals can be set. The broad question to ask here is:
- What can we do better in addressing the needs of high-ability students?
It is important to develop identified areas of need, but to also build on areas of strength. Areas to prioritise may include:
developing a shared understanding of high-ability across the school community
- developing a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities for high-ability, including the HAPL
- processes for identifying high-ability across the intellectual, physical, creative and social domains
- processes and resources that increase teacher efficacy to support high-ability students, including access to quality professional learning
- processes and resources that support curriculum, pedagogy and assessment for high-ability students, including Victorian High-Ability Program
- processes that support teacher planning for high-ability students
- processes that facilitate and utilise the voice of high-ability students.
Phase 3: Develop and plan
With priorities set, the team can develop a plan for implementation. This is where it is important to factor in the readiness of the school community for change. When developing an implementation plan, there are some things to consider:
- Who is going to be involved in the implementation?
- What is the time frame for implementation?
- What resources are needed for the implementation?
- How will student voice be included?
- How will teacher voice be included?
- How will community voice be included?
- How will this plan align with other school priorities?
- At what key points will the outcomes of the implementation be assessed?
- How will the outcomes of the implementation be assessed?
Phase 4: Implement and monitor
The team is now ready to implement the plan. At key points of the implementation phase, reviews will need to occur to ensure the changes being made are having positive outcomes for high-ability students. Data should be collected from a range of sources including:
- high-ability students
- the wider school community.
It should include both numerical and qualitative data. Questions to be answered using the data can include:
- Are more students being identified as high-ability?
- Are underachieving high-ability students being identified?
- Are outcomes for high-ability students across the intellectual, physical, creative and social domains improving?
- Has teacher efficacy in supporting high-ability students improved?
- Are high-ability students feeling positive about school?
- Does the school community have a shared understanding of high-ability and how it is approached?
If the answers to any of these questions raise issues, then the team may need go back to Phase 1 to interrogate the results in more depth. If the evaluation presents positive findings, then the implementation plan can continue. When the change is embedded in practice, the team can begin planning for new priorities or goals.
Further information about collecting and evaluating quality data for whole school improvement can be found on The
FISO Improvement Measures site.