How do we cater for our diverse learners?
Every year there are discussions as to how schools will structure classes, specifically parents preferring students to be in straight year level classes. One of the contributing factors is demographics. Year level numbers may be too high for one class but not enough for two. For example, a year level enrolment of 33 is too many for one class but not enough for two classes. In any given school year a scenario could be 40 students in one year level enabling two classes of 20 students whilst another year level may have 56 students resulting in two classes of 28 students. This would be inequitable for students and teachers.
Valid reasons for and against composite classes are explored but at the end of the day, decisions about class structures are based on best outcomes for student learning. Time and thoughtful planning goes into the decisions. So you might ask: How do we provide learning experiences that enable every student to meet the achievement standards for each area of the Australian Curriculum at each year level? How do we ensure students access learning that allows them to progress from where they are to where they need to go?
In any given year group there is a diverse range of achievement levels, abilities and capabilities across different domains. So whether it be a straight year level or composite year level class, teachers will cater for the range of learners in that group. Learning intentions are identified to target the skills and concepts needed to achieve the curriculum standards. Teachers plan for successful outcomes for all learners. They differentiate the learning by creating multiple entry points for tasks, using different teaching approaches, and varying groups to support and scaffold learners. We have additional teachers and Teacher Assistants in classrooms to provide interventions for students when needed. Every week teachers meet in their year level teams to monitor and review every child’s progress, using data to create groups for learning and make decisions about what will be the best approach to ensure every child makes progress.
If we become concerned about a child’s progress, we involve parents in discussions as to how we will address this. Professional support personnel who work in our school may become involved. Our Speech and Language Pathologist or our School Psychologist may use further assessments. Some students may have a diagnosis which informs us of specific needs and recommended approaches to support learning. Some of our children have high social and emotional needs and may access our Social Worker. Teachers write individualised learning plans to ensure that specific learning goals and effective teaching strategies are identified and then assessed. Teachers work closely with families to develop these plans and to assist any student with identified needs.
There are varied philosophies about teaching and learning, behaviour management, restorative practices and pedagogical approaches. There is sound research that supports our need to engage with a multitude of learning domains that impact the learner. How do we develop resilience? How do we engage learners? How do we prepare students for their future, including future education?
Our professional conversations focus on developing ways to meet the learning needs of all students. In our classrooms we differentiate to ensure progress and learning outcomes for all students. We provide a range of flexible programs beyond the classroom such as robotics, sewing, chess, drumbeat, gardening, choir, band programs, sporting options as well as extension programs in the academic domain such as Maths Olympiad. These varied opportunities develop the needs and talents of our students as, when and if needed.
During break times we carry out restorative intervention processes to engage students with social and emotional learning. Teachers discuss issues with students and use restorative conversations. This comes from the premise that we learn by our mistakes, and if others are affected then repairing the relationship is a critical life skill.
At Deloraine Primary we aspire to develop the holistic child and to provide each and every student with opportunities to
achieve to their full potential. Our teaching staff welcome conversations at any time of the year regarding your child.