The role of Curriculum Coordinator

Just some notes I wrote up in trying to identify what I feel are key aspects of the Curriculum Coordinators role in schools.

Curriculum Coordinator


Quality V Quantity – HSC Exam practise

In preparing students for the HSC Examinations, their ability to write quality responses is crucial. Students can have an excellent understanding of the content but if they misread a question or are not able to address all aspects of a question clearly then this will impact on their results.

Most teachers therefore spend considerable time on HSC practise questions and my approach is to work on quality rather than quantity, particularly in the early stages of preparation.

Focusing on quality for me means that we can spend a whole lesson on a 3-5 mark question in breaking down the question, developing a response, marking / critiquing this response and then reattempting. Students will always be involved in marking these and providing feedback for each other before I collect these and mark them myself. Students will be expected to generate a top mark response before we move on.

This process of peer marking also involves a lot of scaffolding and specific instruction. We mark as a class and go step by step through what we are looking for. Eg: If a question asked students to evaluate then they would need to highlight or underline where they had made a judgement. If they cannot do this then it becomes clear they have not answered to question appropriately and addressed the key term. I find it useful to have a prepared answer to help with the marking process that we can all mark together and show key features of a response that we are looking for, particularly when students first begin marking responses.

After students have marked these I then look at these and can see which students have not only answered the questions well but provided good feedback for others showing they have a good understanding of the marking process (and more importantly those who have not understood and need further assistance). Students can just put their name at the bottom of a response to indicate they provided feedback for the response.

I will always start with relatively simple questions to build students understanding of structure before moving to more difficult questions. I also try to avoid setting students too many questions initially as this can effect the effort they put into the responses and also mean that I cannot provide the feedback required to improve the responses. If the responses are not up to scratch then they generally require a lot of feedback to improve and if this is not provided then students can be reinforcing bad habits and wasting their time and mine.

Once students have developed good technique and knowledge of what is required in a quality answer I find their responses require less feedback and it is more manageable to have them complete more practise questions. It is only at this stage that students would be encouraged to complete a higher quantity of responses.

As we get about 8-10 weeks out from the trials we are having an Exam practise lesson once a fortnight where we complete the peer marking and detailed analysis of questions and students are then given a few questions due the following week for homework.

While this may be seen by some as teaching to the test it is a reality of the system we work in and a responsibility of teachers to best prepare our students for these tests. Whether we like the HSC or not (I don’t so much) we have a responsibility to our students to help them prepare and I think that Exam practise is crucial in helping students achieve what they are capable of in the HSC.

talking about teaching

As part of our term 2 workshops on HSC Teaching we hope to post some of the materials and discussions that take place here. Attached today is one of the stimulus documents used for discussion in our first workshop.

Quality teaching at the HSC
What matters to students? A high achievers perspective from 2010.
What makes a difference to students_

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Professional Accomplishment – annotating the standards

As I have begun annotating the standards I have realised just how many there are and for each standard a range of evidence that is required. I have recently changed my approach from working through standard by standard to picking some key activities or pieces of evidence that I will use, and mapping these across the standards first.

I have just added these as key pieces of evidence on one of the first pages of the document and will go through and map these out to the standards from here.

This is what is recommended anyway but I have learnt the hard way. I think that this will be the more efficient way to cover the standards and help maintain a broader more holistic view of the standards in doing so.


Professional accomplishment – first steps

The first term was a bit of a blur really. Having done the job for a year it was easier in a lot of ways but I am not sure it was any less busy. I think it just enabled me to spend a little more time on some areas that I think have a lot more impact in the longer term but there is still plenty more I would like to have done. (That is teaching I guess – work in progress and do the best you can at the time. Don’t lose heart over the things you could have done better. That is for next lesson/week/term/year).

The term finished with a professional learning day with others from the Wollongong Diocese who are working towards the higher levels of the NSW institute of teachers – professional accomplishment and leadership. It was great to be able to discuss with others the requirements of   the process and it certainly helped me clarify a plan of attack to move forward.

Part of the plan of attack is to try and keep most of the process and documents I will be using as shared documents and public documents so that others may benefit and I can refer to them later if required to help others through the process. A key theme of professional accomplishment is sharing and working with other teachers so I think this approach is appropriate.

I aim to use the support document as a guide and annotate to show the evidence I am thinking of using. By linking documents to this I think it can provide a good framework to organise the resources and evidence I intend on using. Hopefully this will be useful to others also in the long run.

Concerns – It appears to be a huge process to show that you meet each of the 7 standards and 42 elements and require evidence that you are consistently meeting these standards over time (not that it should be easy and I see merit in it being a rigorous process). While I feel they are things that I am doing regularly the task of organising this evidence will take considerable time.

Referee’s are required to validate some of the standards and this still to me is a big ask of other people. (Max 250 words per element you ask them to be a referee – (4 elements = 1000 words!) They also need to register in the Institute site for a number to be able to act as a referee. Bit of a hard sell here I think!

I guess going through the process early may assist but I think over time this will be a big ask of  other teachers, particularly Principals who appear to be required as referee’s for all people working towards accreditation at the higher levels. From what I have seen, Principals are pretty busy already. I wonder how sustainable this model may be? Not that it is a bad process but I can see issues moving forward as more people work towards these levels.

My concerns are not outweighed by the potential benefits and professional learning I anticipate by going through the process so I am approaching this in a positive manner.

My goal over the holidays is to annotate each standard with my ideas for the evidence I will use and hopefully include one piece of evidence that will be fully annotated for a range of elements.

See how we go.

Challenges of professional accomplishment

I think the idea of professional accomplishment and teaching standards are very worthwhile but there are some challenges in ensuring validity.

I think one of the difficulties of going through the process of professional accomplishment is the idea that you need to prove to a few people that you meet a whole raft of criteria without knowing exactly how to demonstrate this. By this I mean the depth of information required and level of documentation that is sufficient to show that you meet these criteria. I am confident that if someone could trail me for a term they could see I meet the criteria but a day or two’s worth of observation is likely to lead to a ‘demonstration’ type lessons that may not reflect the regular classroom. How much detail is needed for documentation at the professional accomplishment level? (Hopefully I can answer this for you soon!) I must say that their support documents are very detailed and will be very helpful but it would be great to see some examples of other acceptable evidence.

In reality determining whether someone meets these criteria is not something that can be done with a few days of external observation. Referee checks provide further depth but again place a large responsibility on other teachers to justify your cause and to me this seems a fairly onerous task to other teachers. This is probably my greatest concern at this stage as asking someone to be a referee appears to be quite a bit of work for them.

I can see the process needs to be rigorous but initially I have to say it seems fairly overwhelming. I am sure as I get into it it will appear more manageable but initially this seems like an awful lot of work!


Visible learning for teachers – John Hattie

I have just received John Hattie’s latest book which aims to explain how to apply the principles of his previous book to ‘any classroom anywhere in the world. I will keep a summary of some of the points he raises I think are useful and keep them at the link below. Hope they might be useful to you also.

“Know thy impact”