One of our TV current affairs programs, The Project featured a clip about Jihad Dib who had taken a western Sydney school and turned it right around. The clip takes about 3 minutes and in that time you can see how well Mr. Dib has put the Personal and Social Capabilities to work. You could have the assessment rubrics out and tick every box for him and you can look at this video and know this is what the Personal and Social Capability looks like in action. As Rita Pierson said in her TED talk – every kid needs a champion and the Personal and Social Capability offers us a way of championing students in a very comprehensive and life changing way.
The social capability is about recognising the worth of others and being able to work with them. It is also about being a good communicator and being able to notice the social setting you are in and its requirements. Schools should be diverse and vibrant. Teachers should be good communicators and be able to transfer those skills to their students by working in partnership with them. We do need opportunities and encouragement to grow so that we can blossom!
You are welcome to download the document for the year 8s: PASYear 8. I have put all the indicators for Year 8 under the elements and on one sheet. Since I introduced the personal capability to my year 8s I have wanted to remind them of it, but as a teacher, I also need to keep an eye on the social capability because it is where I want to lead them this semester. Having it there for ready reference, I can stick it on my desk, have it in my folder , show it on the board in class if I need to and know I am using what the Australian Curriculum says and not my version of it. If we all use the same language, this is going to work really well.
Forty years in the classroom shows. Rita Pierson can speak with such clarity, such honesty, such confidence and such knowledge. She is a jewel. Her talk is all inspiration because 40 years in a classroom has made her capable of understanding and knowing that it all comes down to relationships and connections. It is the stuff of the personal and social capability. Students will enable themselves when they have a champion. They will do better, try better and achieve more when they have someone who knows how to get the best out of them. The personal and social capability is about this: communication, developing leadership skills, understanding relationships, becoming confident and resilient, recognising personal qualities and achievements. Rita Pierson’s words can ring out and resound because she has spent 40 years in a classroom and she knows what she is talking about. As she speaks she is connecting with her audience and teaching them too about personal and social capability. We are educators. We can do this.
My image via befunky.com
I have worked with the indicators of the personal capability since I introduced them to my Year 8s. I now consider the time I spent to explain what they meant and for us to have a common understanding of the indicators to have been time well spent. When you are in a group or organisation , it is really good to know you are all marching to the same beat and interpreting things in the same way. The common ground established through agreed understanding is important to self-regulation and for helping others to be team players. My belief is I need to do this at the beginning of the school year with all of my classes. It would be good for all students to have the same explanations at the beginning of a school year so that we are all using the same language for the personal and social capability. Once you have that understanding and common ground the conversations seem to flow very easily. So, my belief at this stage , about teaching the Personal and Social capability is that it creates some real advantages because the common language across a school means:
1.Personal capability is connected to social capability is connected to ethical behaviour is connected to achieving or not achieving as an individual or group
2.There is a common language and understanding which a group can use for self- regulation
3.There is a common language which an individual can use to get help and support
4.Individuals can understand how relationships are formed
5.There is a logical and agreed way for managing self and others
Today’s self assessment with the year 8s on self-management went better than the self-awareness one. It only took 20 minutes to complete. I used different headings next to the indicators. This time I used :
Goals (to sustain strengths)
Key actions to build
and review date which we made Term 3.
Next week we are goal setting for the self-awareness and self-management elements. They didn’t like the by whom? and they couldn’t differentiate well between the Goals and Key actions. They worked much more readily with the headings I gave them last time:
say whether it applies to them or not
give themselves a mark out of 10
say how they can improve
say whether they need help
The students came up with some really good responses to the self-management indicators though. What seemed to be a recurring theme was the need for a proper night’s sleep and to be calm. The also mentioned things like getting fitter and working on their health and using exercise to help manage a more positive lifestyle. That was really rewarding to see those sorts of responses. Having done these two elements, though, I realise it will be very difficult to look at all the other general competences and assess them as well as what I am teaching by way of subject content. I am more inclined to think now that some of the competencies need to be the specific responsibility of certain curriculum areas and that all teachers look at addressing some of the elements in different competencies as they teach their subject.
One of the great things about this clip by Roger Reece is we have a practising classroom teacher teaching and explaining what self-awareness is. I wish I had seen this clip before I had tackled my self assessment sheets with my year 8s. In the end I got through to them but had I seen Roger Reece teaching this, I would have been able to explain it all more efficiently and effectively to my year 8s. Teachers do need to get on the Net. They do need to share their knowledge and skills. We can support and underpin each other professionally as we do this. Roger Reece is calm, clear and very good at making sense – meaning. Instantly you know what he means. His focus is well defined and , admittedly, he is teaching adults and not younger children , he sustains this focus.
I was thinking I should be able to work on self-awareness with my whole year 8 class, as I previously posted and then self-management with some individuals. I also thought it would be as easy as creating an assessment grid with the indicators and then working on an action plan for that. I have realised this is not going to be possible to do – to assess all the general competences and my subject content as well. If you want to assess against the indicators then it would be far too time consuming. As it stands I need to follow this through on the self awareness with my year 8s so I can get an idea of what really happens. They are not going to understand the indicators. I shall have to interpret them. I decided against paraphrasing them since this is the national curriculum and we have to assess against what is written into it and not how we interpret it through paraphrasing. Monday I plan to get my students to fill out these sheets in class and then next step will be to create our action plan. I am curious to see how it goes. For each indicator I have asked them to
say whether it applies to them or not
give themselves a mark out of 10
say how they can improve
say whether they need help
We are following Dylan William’s guidelines for building a teacher learning community and so I have to submit an action. At the moment the plan is a bit out of kilter with what we were discussing in our group yesterday because we were looking at exploring an element and seeing how that would play out in real life in our classrooms. I think in the end the two will mesh quite well. I am using my year 8 class to look at self-awareness and self-management. I shall then blog about it and in the mean time look at things which will help fulfill the goals on my plan:
Teacher Learning Community Australian Curriculum foci:
What is one thing that you will find easy to change in relation to the Australian Curriculum capability or cross-curriculum priority that is the focus of your TLC?
I have looked at the P&S capability quite closely. Much of it comes from what we were doing in student wellbeing which is part of our core teaching strategy these days. Much relates to TeFL and I am getting to know that pretty well. It is also something I have had to address in depth as a year level manager and member of school services team.
What difference do you expect it to make to your practice?
I think I will attend to details better and it will encourage me to keep the student teacher feedback loop going. Much of it lends itself to good classroom/individual discussions around social and personal issues and gives you a way of talking about these things more directly because it is there as part of a national expectation. I see it as a very positive approach. It might escalate workload if we have to assess 32 students and a number of classes in these competencies.
What is one thing that you would like to change that will require support?
What help will you need?
I have found with Wellbeing and now with my Personal and Social Capability blog that it is not something which particularly has traction in the blogosphere or on the internet. The world does not want to know about social development and wellbeing as such. It is seen as alternative and a bit silly. Hard to believe, but it is a fact. I need to find ways of giving it traction and that will require support to find out what Netizens respond to. Mark McCrindle will probably be of help. He has a good online image and can make these sorts of things work online.
What other changes would you like to make later on in the year?
What help might you need?
I don’t know. This is a voyage of discovery and will need to be journeyed and journaled. I need to know we are interpreting the indicators in the same way and that we have a sound understanding of what we mean when we talk about the elements. I also want us to know that the indicators for each element really do apply to that element. That kind of clarity and agreement are essential if we are to teach these things across the nation. I am also wondering if there is a difference between if we apply them to individual students and then to whole groups/classes. Every student has to be able to attain these capabilities so I am assuming it is done individually but there is justification in working on them as a class approach.
There are 7 general capabilities and according to the ACARA site they are addressed explicitly in content and there are icons to identify them in content descriptions. The ACARA site explains their reason for being in our national curriculum in this way:
“General capabilities, a key dimension of the Australian Curriculum, are addressed explicitly in the content of the learning areas. They play a significant role in realising the goals set out in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) – that all young people in Australia should be supported to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.”
It will take time to redescribe and reformat curriculum in this way but in the end it means we have properly described and identified what we actually teach and within this framework students are also encouraged to develop learning along these lines so that it can be accounted for and assessed. In other words, students have an opportunity to participate as active learners and gain a deeper understanding of what learning actually entails. It is a demanding task to identify the components of a curriculum and as we go along we may find out we have missed something. The Australian Curriculum is comprehensive but perhaps we have overlooked something. Given we have this format of content and capabilities anything which needs to be addressed will be able to be included relatively easily I should think. We also need easy access to those logs because to put visual markers on curriculum and content documents is a good thing. It breaks up the swags of text which people no longer like to see. I’d like to think we could have an electronic way of addressing these general capabilities so we could enter things online and select the logs and then come up with a finished document. That would be an interesting challenge!