A year of Teacher podcasts
Jo Earp: Hello, you’re listening to a Teacher podcast special. I’m Jo Earp.
Danielle Meloney: And I’m Dani Meloney
JE: This time last year, thinking back, we went live in May at the EPPC conference in Melbourne. Since then, we’ve spoken to some interesting people in the education sector for our podcasts, haven’t we?
DM: Definitely, Jo – educators from all around the world!
JE: So, to celebrate our first birthday, we thought it would be nice to take look back on some of our favourite podcast interviews from the last 12 months.
DM: Yeah, there are so many to choose from!
JE: I know... it was quite tough to narrow down, but I think we’ve got a good selection coming up.
DM: So first, let’s take a look at the very first podcast series we ran. Listeners who have been with us from the very beginning, so from May last year, will be aware of The Research Files. But for those who may be unaware, could you explain the background to the series?
JE: So the idea of The Research Files, is to really give people an overview of current research out there in the education sector. So each month we speak to researchers, they give us a snapshot of the findings, and the implications for teachers, principals, people working on the ground. We’ve covered quite a few topics since last year including teacher attention and attrition, and the effects of high noise levels on student learning outcomes.
DM: Which episodes stood out to you?
JE: Well they were all fantastic, but one that stands out for me was Dr Steve Zubrick. He spoke to me in August at the ACER Research Conference about a huge study in Western Australia looking at the link between attendance and education outcomes. Here’s what he had to say about one of the major findings.
Steve Zubrick: It was once thought that, well, maybe there's a certain amount of school that any child can miss without it affecting their performance. But the story is a lot easier to tell than that - it's not a 'threshold' effect, it's called a 'dose response' effect, so that each day a child misses school has a slight impact on their NAPLAN performance. Now, the thing that's really important about that is those effects cumulate over time. We were able to observe that absences that occurred two or three years prior to their NAPLAN results were still detectable in the NAPLAN results that the child sat in that particular year.
JE: Then there was the time where Julian Fraillon, from right here at the Australian Council for Educational Research, told us about the first international comparative study assessing the extent to which students know about, understand, and can use ICT. Here he is explaining why buying more technology is not always the answer for schools.
Julian Fraillon: There's also evidence in ICILS that [suggests] just providing more technology is not always the solution. It seems as though there's a minimal threshold and once that minimal threshold of access to ICT and the internet has been met, the challenge in developing computer and information literacy comes down to providing coherent and considered learning programs, rather than necessarily just providing more technology for the students.
DM: I think my favourite was Episode 9 – which only came out last month. Professor Peter Barrett spoke to us, direct from the UK, about the results of his three year study that looked at the connection between physical classroom design in primary schools and academic achievement. It was really practical.
Peter Barrett: Also, we came across classrooms where daylight wasn't being 'valued', if you like. ... Natural daylight is good for us in health terms and in some classrooms there were displays on the windows, there was furniture up against the windows, and the opportunity to have that natural daylight was being lost. So, those sort of things are important and do have an impact.
... The third area was level of stimulation. There's been a big debate about: Should classrooms be calm, so you can concentrate? Should they be visually complex so they're exciting? What we've found is ... it shouldn't be chaotic, it shouldn't be boring, it should be somewhere in the middle and that gives sufficient stimulation for learning without actually being distracting or confusing.
JE: Then there was our four-part series on teaching methods, and experts there gave us a run-down on what was involved with different methods of instruction, and the benefits.
DM: I think my favourite was the very first in the series – which was with John Fleming. He’s an advocate for the explicit instruction teaching model. Here’s what he had to say.
John Fleming: ... But the evidence-based research is crystal clear. You go back to 2000 to the National Reading Panel, 2005 to the National Inquiry of Australia, the Rose Reports in the UK - they’re all saying the same thing: that explicit instruction is the way to go, that it needs to be skills-based and we need to virtually provide kids with the stepping stones on a continuum for kids to achieve success in reading, writing.
What I would advocate is that the research is clear on what we should be doing. We need to teach those strategies to teachers and we need to support them in implementing them in terms of ongoing feedback, coaching.
JE: And, of course, we can’t forget when Andrew Douch explained to us the benefits of the Flipped Classroom.
Andrew Douch: ... The idea to me of the Flipped Classroom is that by automating the things that are able to be automated, we free up time for the things that can't be automated, and those things that can't be automated tend to be the things I think in which teachers bring the most value to their students in the classroom. ... Things like, I guess, wisdom and experience and being able to link concepts together, ask probing questions that encourage students to think at a deeper level, giving quality feedback.
... Just because a teacher's recorded a video to explain a concept, doesn't necessarily mean that students have to watch that at home - they could be watching that in the classroom while the teacher's working with another student on something that can't be automated. And that can all be happening simultaneously, which I would still call Flipped Learning. Although, it’s probably not the traditional view of the Flipped Learning where students would go home and watch a video, then come to class and do the homework.
DM: And for our other podcast series, we actually based it around school improvement. With this one we interviewed educators who have been the catalysts for change in their schools. These were schools where student results were lower than average, where behaviour may have been an issue, so someone needed to step in to make a difference.
JE: The first one in the School Improvement series was a chat with principal Karen Endicott about her time at Sarah Redfern High School in New South Wales. She’s led several changes that are aimed at building staff and student capacity there. She had a few words of wisdom for colleagues who are looking to do the same thing.
: ... So the one thing I say to people, whenever you’re implementing change, is that you have to understand how to manage complex change – you have to have the evidence, you have to have the tools, to not only drive change on data, but you also have to have the tools to drive change on changing people’s mindset and changing people’s culture.
Step by step we [analysed what existed] ... we reflected on things that were happening in the school that we didn’t like. What were we doing well? What weren’t we doing well? Because, [and] I think it’s really important, you can’t go into a new environment and make a judgement. You’re not part of their history, you’re not part of their culture, so that’s why it’s really important that they are the ones that analyse what exists. But then you also have to give them the opportunity to look into the crystal ball, about what they would like the place to be. ... Then people start to see, well, maybe we can do this.
JE: Then in November last year, principal Ray Boyd, from Western Australia, elaborated on the school improvement journey at West Beechboro Primary School in Perth – again one of my highlights from the last 12 months. One of the things that made an impact for their school was implementing a culture of observation and reflection.
Ray Boyd: Initially we got teachers into the process of having another staff member actually watch them, watch them teach. And it wasn't for the teacher to critique what they were seeing, it was actually for the teacher who was observing to reflect on their own practices.
... The teachers were very used to having my administration team in their rooms every day and through their rooms observing, so it was just actually the next step. What we then did was, I say 'we', my Associate Principal Gayle Higgins, then took the teaching performance standards from AITSL, looked through all those and then [went] 'Okay, how can our teachers demonstrate these within the context of West Beechboro Primary School?', which was really critical - we didn't want them jumping between two documents, so we've created a school document and within that there's key things that we will observe when we go into a classroom for a formal observation.
DM: So it’s been a very busy year, hasn’t it?
JE: Yeah actually, listening to all of those it has. There’s still more to come though, Teacher listeners. We have a new podcast series now, Global Education, where we chat to experts about issues affecting the global education community. Episode 1 of that is already out.
DM: So don’t forget to head to www.teachermagazine.com.au and check it out! All of our podcasts are available on the website including the ones you’ve heard today.
JE: Thanks to everyone who has listened this year. For now, it’s goodbye from the editorial team!
DM: Be sure to get in touch if you have any potential story ideas, we are always keen to hear from our listeners.
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Did you have a favourite Teacher podcast from the past year that we didn’t mention? Tell us your favourites by tweeting @teacheracer, using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayTeacher.