Developing deeper thinkers and creative writers in primary students

Teachers and researchers work together to guide deeper learning by students. Part One written by Anna Moore, Anita Wilson and Lisa Kapa⎮3 min read
Developing deeper thinkers and creative writers in primary students

This is Part One of a three part series written by Anna Moore, Anita Wilson and Lisa Kapa who discuss how teachers and researchers worked together to guide deeper learning by students and how the teaching intervention they implemented impacted students creative expression.

In an effort to empower teachers through meaningful professional learning, staff at Genazzano FCJ College participated in the ‘Science of Learning’ through the University of Melbourne Schools Partnership Program in 2017 and 2018. The College also engaged an expert consultant to guide deeper learning and the translation of theory into practice. 

Teachers identified what they wanted to achieve, influence or affect in classrooms and implemented a micro-project through which the impact of the intervention could be measured and the findings shared. 

Many of the projects teachers chose to conduct in their classrooms stemmed from practices that had already been intuitively implemented. The micro-project gave staff the opportunity to document their work and measure its impact. The following project is an example of the work that was done in the Junior School. 

Risk taking! Too scary?

Our school aims to shape writers who have their own unique voice and take risks in their work. However, the teachers of the Junior School had identified a trend in students making ‘safe’ choices when writing. Our particular demographic saw students who were reluctant to take risks or be too ‘different’ from the crowd. This trend was visible throughout many year levels. So, how could we modify this behaviour? To begin with, we identified our desired outcome, then decided on an intervention. 

We wanted to see …

An improvement in the student’s ability to create a detailed descriptive text (in poetry and recount).

So we tried … 

Providing students with a thinking routine to activate and enhance their ability to generate creative ideas.

PEN Principles - Psychology, Education and Neuroscience interacting

We based our research around a principle from the Science of Learning Research Centre’s PEN Principles: ‘PEN Principle #12: Pre-activate strategies to guide learning.’ This strategy was selected as we anticipated the experience would act as a ‘primer’ for the upcoming task. This principle says that once an individual determines how to respond to a stimulus, this pattern will guide future behaviour to additionally presented stimuli - even if these stimuli differ from the original (Science of Learning Research Centre, PEN Principles, 2019). Teachers have used 'tuning in' activities for years. However, this gave us the opportunity to measure the effectiveness of these activities.

Throughout our project, we found that many of the Science of Learning principles interacted easily with one another. For example, we took into account PEN Principle #4: Spacing out practice increases memory as well as Principle #8: Embrace error to improve learning

Our aim was also to utilise the learning trajectory in this strategy. We wanted to move from surface to deep learning, then eventually to transfer learning, resulting in the ability of the students to utilise the skills they had acquired across different text types. 

The process was simple …

In Part Two of the series, Anna, Anita and Lisa demonstrate how theory was translated into classroom practice.

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