Curriculum Differentiation

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Contents

Rationale

Challenging Learning

Curriculum differentiation at St Andrew's is an outworking of Challenging Learning of the Learning Model.

Curriculum differentiation has developed from the idea that learning occurs in different ways and at different rates and thus teaching should reflect a recognition of these differences.

Differentiated lessons and differentiated units or programs provide experiences which challenge learners at their differing levels of development. Students in the classroom who need support in their learning require different levels of challenge to those who are working at a core level or those who are capable of working beyond the core level of learning.

Assessment of student understandings and skills prior to teaching allows appropriate adjustments to be made to ensure all learners begin their learning experiences at a level relevant with their learning readiness.

Proven, research-based models of curriculum development in the process of differentiation ensures that teaching and learning experiences are beneficial to the educational development of all students. For example, Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, Williams’ Model and Maker’s Model.

In 2014, English will begin reporting differentiation levels in Stage 4 and 5, Maths in Stage 4 and Science in Year 9.

Levels of Differentiation

There are three formal levels of curriculum differentiation which are used in programs, assessment tasks and semester reports:

(i) The Structured level is one that meets the needs of students with learning difficulties. It comprises of activities that assist with the development of foundational skills.

(ii) The Core level is one that meets the needs of most students.

(iii) The Extended level is one that meets the needs of gifted students and is comprised of higher order tasks and independent learning.

Forms and Methods of Curriculum Differentiation

All subject areas use forms of curriculum differentiation.

Assessment

All faculties differentiate assessment tasks where possible and practical. English, Mathematics and Science adopt more formal methods of differentiation, as stated below.

English

In 2014, Stage 4 and 5 English have assessments and exams that are differentiated to three levels of Structured, Core and Extended levels. Each differentiation level reflects the different abilities of the students. The different tasks have different mark allocations. This means that most assessment tasks and sections of exams have different mark allocations with Structured tasks, Core tasks and Extended tasks

Maths and Science

In 2014, Stage 4 Maths and Year 9 Science have formal common assessments tasks comprising of two sections. Students attempt either the Core and Structured sections or the Core and Extended sections. The Core section is common across all classes in the year group. The Structured section is for students who experience difficulties with Mathematics. Questions in the Structured section assess foundational skills and are scaffolded. The Extended section is for the more mathematically able students. Questions in the Extended section assess higher order mathematical skills and tend not to be scaffolded.

Reasons for Different Mark Allocations

  1. As the three differentiated levels are not separate courses, students can be compared to one another. This allows students then to attempt different level tasks at different times. If the differentiated levels were courses, students would not be able to attempt higher level tasks.
  2. A student may attempt a higher level task to access the added marks.
  3. A student may choose to attempt a higher level task in an area they feel they are strong at and choose not to do so in an area they feel they are weak at.
  4. Higher level tasks are made more challenging, and harder to achieve the added marks.
  5. In the past, assessment tasks were often designed for the 'average' student - too hard for some and too easy for some. Each differentiated task is designed at three different ability levels. This means that the differentiated tasks address students at their different ability levels. The tasks are challenging, yet achievable at all levels. Students should achieve best in a task commensurate with their ability.
  6. If the tasks all had the same mark allocations there would be little incentive for students to attempt more challenging tasks. This would disadvantage students struggling in the subject, as other students would be achieving easily in tasks that struggling students find difficult. Students should feel encouraged to attempt higher order tasks in areas they are strong at, rather than attempting a task that holds little challenge.
  7. Every differentiated task is given an allocated set of marks that the task is out of. It just means that there are more marks to possibly achieve to higher order tasks. Higher order tasks are often longer, more complex and require more depth. Therefore, there are more elements to mark. Ultimately, the more higher order the task, the more marks can be earned. However, these added marks become more and more difficult to earn, the more higher order the task.

Outcomes

Students should be assessed by the same outcomes on a task. However, higher level tasks have more complex criteria for each outcome.

Attempting a different levelled task

A student studying at the Structured or Core level should be able to attempt a task of a level higher if they choose. For example, a student studying at the Structured level could attempt the Core assessment task or the Extended assessment task. Any such attempt should be negotiated with the class teacher.

Students should not attempt a task one level lower. For example, a student studying at the Extended level should not attempt the Core assessment task. The strictness of this point will be up to different faculties to decide.

Reports

Reports remain in the standard format except that faculties will have an indicator of which differentiated level(s) was attempted by the student that semester.

Mathematics Differentiation

Mathematics classes in Years 7 and 8 are graded. Classes in Year 7 are initially determined by standardised testing conducted at the end of Year 6 then regraded according to performance on the first formal common assessment task. Year 8 class placement is determined by students’ performance on the four formal common Year 7 assessment tasks.

In Years 7 and 8 all classes in a year group study the same topic at the same time but the activities are tailored to address the learning needs of the students in each class. To better enable students to demonstrate the extent of their mathematical knowledge and skills, formal common assessment tasks will be differentiated.

Formal common assessments tasks will comprise of two sections, each section will contribute 50% of the mark. Students will attempt either the Core and Structured sections or the Core and Extended sections. The Core section is common across all classes in the year group. The Structured section is for students who experience difficulties with Mathematics. Questions in the Structured section assess foundational skills and are scaffolded. The Extended section is for the more mathematically able students. Questions in the Extended section assess higher order mathematical skills and tend not to be scaffolded.

In Term 1, all Year 7 classes will attempt the same formal common assessment task. In Terms 2, 3 and 4, classes 7MAT.1, 7MAT.B1, 7MAT.B2 and selected students from 7MAT.G will attempt the Core and Extended sections. Classes 7MAT.B3, 7MAT.B4 and the majority of 7MAT.G will attempt the Core and Structured sections.

Classes 8MAT.1, 8MAT.2 and 8MAT.3 will attempt the Core and Extended sections for the four formal common assessment tasks. Classes 8MAT.4, 8MAT.5 and 8MAT.6 will attempt the Core and Structured sections.

Students who attempt the Core and Structured sections who perform well on the Core section will be asked to attempt the Extended section. This will enable promotion to occur if warranted.

In Years 9 and 10, students follow one of the three pathways: Stage 5.3, 5.2 or 5.1. Placement in a pathway will be determined by a student’s performance on the four formal common Year 8 assessment tasks. Students who have attempted the Core and Extended sections in Year 8 will be placed in Stage 5.3 or Stage 5.2. Students who attempted the Core and Structured sections will be placed in Stage 5.2 or Stage 5.1.

Science Differentiation

Differentiated assessment aims to give choice to student assessment and to allow student learning to be evaluated against their ability. The Science department will, in general, be offering assessments at the following levels:

  • Core-Extended
  • Structured-Core

The Core section of each assessment task will be common to both levels and will act as a point of comparison as needed. The Structured and Extended components will assess the same outcomes but at differing levels of attainment. The Extended component will generally require highly detailed and thoughtful responses to questions and may require abstract thinking and high level problem solving skills, whereas the Structured component will be noticeably more scaffolded and limited in terms of breadth of knowledge and understanding.

We recognise that the Core-Extended level will require a higher level of scientific understanding and knowledge than that for the Structured-Core. Accordingly, students who complete the Core-Extended level will be able to access grades C-A of the common grade scale where as those students who complete the Structured-Core will be able to access grades D-B. Grade E is reserved for those students who demonstrate only an elementary level of understanding of the subject matter and could be accessed by students sitting either level of assessment. For reference the common grade scale is:

  • A: An extensive understanding
  • B: A thorough understanding
  • C: A sound understanding
  • D: A basic understanding
  • E: An elementary understanding.

As a guideline, students who received an E, D or C grade overall in previous tasks should attempt the Structured-Core task while those who were awarded a B or A grade should attempt the Core-Extended task. Students should however set themselves challenging targets and it would not be unreasonable for a “C-grade” student to attempt the Core-Extended version of a task if they chose to do so. Students who perform particularly well on a Structured-Core task may be invited to undertake the Extended component in addition. This would have no negative impact on the grade awarded for the task.

Results for a particular task will be reported as a common letter grade, component raw marks and a common scaled mark from (0-100).

We hope that this system of assessment will improve your child’s engagement with assessment tasks, their confidence in their own scientific abilities, and their desire to set and achieve for themselves personal academic challenges.

English Differentiation

English classes in Year 7 are determined by standardised testing conducted at the end of Year 6. In Years 8, 9 and 10 class placement is decided by students’ performance in the previous school year. In these three year groups there are two equal top classes, mixed ability classes and one support class.

All classes in a year group study the same topic at the same time but the learning activities and assessments are adjusted to address individual learning needs of the students in each class. This also applies to common formal assessment tasks. In order to support student learning by making assessments achievable and challenging for all students, English tasks in 2014 will be differentiated at three different tiers - Structured, Core and Extended. All tasks will have a Core component to be completed by the majority of students. Students who find the core work too difficult to complete will be allowed to attempt a more Structured task instead. Tasks will also have an Extended tier where students seeking a challenge can extend themselves. Each tier will have a different maximum mark to reflect the level of complexity.

Teachers will recommend an appropriate level for their students, but students are allowed to attempt a more demanding task if they so desire. Students can move between the tiers during the year as teachers become more familiar with their abilities.

Gawura: The Differentiation of Gawura Programmes

Data is the critical driver of class programmes within Gawura so that we can most effectively meet student needs. Assessment strategies are ongoing and incorporate both quantitative and qualitative measures. Student progress is monitored though an Individual Learning Portfolio (ILP) and Personalised Learning Plans (PLP’s), and tracked longitudinally.

In essence, data/data analysis provides a window into student achievements and forms the cornerstone to differentiation and student success. Individual adjustments within Gawura target student outcomes, content and product as well as including strategies such as the pacing of tasks and the level of teacher support across the dependence/independence continuum.