5. Recommendations for the ENET Scheme
5.3 English Panels as Collaborative Teaching Teams
With the introduction of the new curriculum and assessment regime, there is a need for
and inadequacies in language development are identified and remedied in order to obtain better student performances on examinations. This is common among the comments of the students who differentiate the approach of the NETS and the local teachers. NETs are encouraging the use of oral language and are not fixated on errors but encourage development and practice. Local teachers typically focus on and correct errors. The implications of a shift from a deficit model to a developmental approach would mean a change in teaching orientation with a corresponding move to encouragement of development. NETs can play an integral role in this shift. One objective would be to encourages teachers to use data within a developmental framework to improve the English language performance of all students. The teachers would work in a culture where evidence is challenged and discussed rather than one where there is only mutual endorsement of shared teaching strategies. They would become increasingly skilled in the theory and application of assessment and the developmental language constructs they are teaching and better able to link evidence of student learning readiness to targeted intervention.
The strategy has been employed with success in Australia (Griffin, Murray, Care, Thomas, &
Perri, 2009). In this work, collaborative teams of teachers were led by the schools’ language arts coordinators. The team members engaged in discussions based on challenging peer evidence of learning and links between intervention and learning outcomes. In particular, gains in comprehension were compelling (Griffin et al.). Building on comments made by local English teachers who responded to surveys, this approach to collaboration between local teachers of English and NETs may act as a powerful support to the work of the English Panels either through Panel meetings or regular Form-level meetings of teachers.
For the ENET Scheme, the premise is that teachers who use a specific style of evidence-based teaching, and operate within a developmental learning paradigm, will have a more positive effect on student learning outcomes. The role of collaborative teaching teams (within the framework of the English Panel) in the use of data to enhance teacher decision-making needs to be enhanced in line with the suggestion of the local English teachers and the NETS. Pilot work in Australia suggested that, with a data-driven, evidence-based approach to teaching and learning, teachers could manipulate the learning environment and scaffold learning for every student, regardless of the student’s development or intellectual capacity (Griffin, 2007).
Internationally teachers were shown how to differentiate between deficit and developmental teaching and learning approaches. The relationship between teacher behaviour, knowledge and values and student learning was a key issue addressed. The criterion in Hong Kong of English proficiency can be measured using standardized tests developed by the HKEAA. The effectiveness of the intervention could then be measured and would depend on teacher knowledge and understanding of how best to use assessment data to improve learning outcomes. In examining this relationship, teachers need to be assisted in interpreting data and in linking their interpretation to targeted intervention in a differentiated instruction framework model (Perkins, 2006). There is a convergence of research that this is an effective practice in improving teaching and learning (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998; Taylor, Pearson, Peterson &
Given the test and examination culture of the Hong Kong system, there is an excellent opportunity to use the tests in slightly different ways to inform teaching and thereby improve learning. Merely having and using tests, on their own, is an insufficient condition to inform teaching and improve learning (Halverson, Grigg, Prichett, & Thomas, 2005). Ways to access and interpret test data in an evidence-based approach to teaching and learning appears to be central. Using standardized assessments formatively requires that tests can provide sufficient information to profile students’ learning and to identify the zone of intervention for individual students. It also requires teachers to link their interpretation of data, at both group and
individual levels, to teaching interventions, in order to examine and explain any improvement in student learning. This has been enhanced by a process of critical and collaborative analysis and discussion of data (Griffin et al., 2008). The common theme among these studies has been that it is essential to have a process by which teachers can be engaged in interpreting assessment data, linking the information to their own teaching, and testing the links using the discourse of evidence and accountability among peers. Many teachers do not link their teaching to student achievement, and attribute learning outcomes to factors beyond their control such as student home background or to the predominant Band level of students in the school. In some of the school visits there was a resignation to the fact that the students would not enter further education and the motivation to learn was lost. This resignation was repeated many times despite the international evidence that teacher/classroom effects can account for up to 60% of the variance in student achievement (Alton-Lee, 2004; Timperley &
Robinson, 2001). Improvement of teaching can and does lead to improved student performance and the systematic use of assessment data can and does lead to improved teaching. The success of the ENET Scheme can thus be linked to its ability to support teachers in their use of the large amount of assessment data to improve and inform teaching strategy, whether local English teachers or NETs, as they incorporate system-level innovations into classroom practice and strive to improve language proficiency for their students. An appropriate level of intervention to effect change in Hong Kong secondary schools is via the leadership of the Principal and the Panel Chair, and through the meetings either of the full English Panel or smaller collaborative teams of teachers working under the aegis of the English Panel.
Teachers need to understand their own practices and how they affect student achievement.
This point was made in different contexts by local teachers of English, NETs and English Panel Chairs, who spoke of the need to link decision-making about the English program and NET deployment to outcomes for students. In particular, teachers need an understanding of the developmental nature of the English language and this must precede or underpin their understanding of developmental assessment. Collaborative discussions, where teachers test their ideas about the links between evidence and strategy, are an important vehicle for this. In addition, team-based models are an effective form of professional development in comparison to traditional workshop models. This would be substantially enhanced by he presence of the NET. Change in teaching practice can occur when teachers are engaged in examining their own theories of practice (Deppeler, 2007). The Australian project emphasised this approach which, for the ENET Scheme, could be implemented in a trial set of schools that enrolled Bands 1 to 3 students in EMI and CMI schools
There is growing evidence of the link between teachers’ collaborative reflections ad their link to improved student achievement (Phillips et al., 2004; Griffin, et al. 2009) and changed teacher perceptions (Timperley & Alton-Lee, 2008). Collaboration in professional learning teams have been shown to enable teachers to have access to a greater number and divergence of theories to test their own against, particularly if the team draws on differing expertise, but it also can be a slow and painful process of cultural change (Ladson-Billings & Gomez, 2001). A peer approach to accountability within the team, can be shown to enable teachers to draw constructively on the expertise of their colleagues (Griffin et al., 2009). Larger teams of teachers, school leaders, policy-makers and researchers appeared to accelerate learning when they were involved in rigorous examinations of teaching and learning, rather than simply sharing ideas (Robinson & Lai, 2006). This could be emulated by the inclusion of RNCT members across networks of schools in the ENET scheme. The shift from sharing to
from a teacher-centred focus to one based on evidence of student outcomes and a concentration on evidence of student learning outcomes.
Deficit approaches to student learning focus on the things that students cannot do and the correction of errors and failure. These include inaccuracies in language pronunciation or syntax that are commonly corrected in schools in Hong Kong. In particular, they focus on a
‘rescue’ package for lower achievers. By comparison, developmental models scaffold existing knowledge bases of all students. They focus on readiness to learn and follow a generic thesis of developing the student. For this approach the expertise of the teacher, both in content and in developmental learning and assessment, is critical (Wilson & Draney, 1999).