Who can believe it’s October already?
Five months have passed since our last update and those months have been jam-packed!
In Term 2, the 11 teachers in our semester one cohort completed our Accessible Pedagogies program of professional learning, which brought the participation of these hard-working teachers to a close.
Our team observed their classrooms at the beginning and end of term, and interviewed some of their students. We saw students behaving in responsible and caring ways towards their teachers, and we marvelled as their teachers soldiered on through broken ankles, Covid infections, and wedding preparations.
In Term 3, our semester two cohort, comprising another 11 teachers and two Heads of Special Education, commenced the program. These amazing educators have just switched to the Accessible AfL program and will complete this by the end of Term 4.
All this work happened despite 2022 being one of the most difficult years for school educators in recent history.
Many have us have pondered why 2022 has often felt worse than the previous two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and, while the jury is still out, here in Queensland, the feeling is most likely due to the combination of lockdowns, followed by outbreaks, followed by floods, followed by outbreaks — all seemingly without let up.
This has all occurred at the same time as a nationwide teacher shortage which is affecting schools well beyond what you read in the media. Our teachers have been engaging in these 8-week programs of professional learning on top of teaching four or sometimes five lines.
They’ve worked hard to read the content we’ve provided, to participate in fortnightly online professional learning communities, to engage in professional conversations every other fortnight, while at the same time trying new (or refining old) strategies during the high-wire act that is teaching General English in Year 10.
Their enthusiasm for learning and commitment to their students have made these educators an absolute joy to work with and we are looking forward to sharing what they have achieved and how that has impacted their students next year.
Speaking of achievements, back in May, we calculated the number and type of data collection activities this little research team has completed.
As of October 1st, we have amassed:
317 reading comprehension assessments
438 student engagement surveys (underway)
63 language and attention assessments
197 eye-tracking and interview check-list sessions
151 student interviews
14 student focus-groups
32 teacher interviews
90 hours of classroom observations
4 half-day professional learning workshops
12 professional learning community meetings
We have also been working hard to analyse and publish these data.
PhD student, Julie Arnold, has published her first paper from her doctoral study, which is investigating students’ experiences of Assessment for Learning (AfL). This paper is a scoping review of existing research and makes a big contribution to the field by highlighting how rarely students with a disability have been a focus of AfL research, and by offering a cogent theorisation of student experience.
PhD student, Haley Tancredi, competed in QUT’s Three Minute Thesis competition, which is a nail-biting month-long saga in which PhD candidates must explain their complex 3-year project to the general public in just three minutes (and without sending them to sleep). Haley won both the C4IE and the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice competitions, and her #3MT video is helping the world to know why Accessible Pedagogies are so important.
Both students will be presenting at the first Accessible Assessment Forum on November 4, as will the co-leaders of this project, Professor Linda Graham and Associate Professor Jill Willis.
This forum will focus on preliminary findings from the first 18 months of this project where we eye-tracked Grade 10 students as they read their Term 2, 2021 English assessment task sheet and then interviewed them immediately afterwards.
We crunched those data and then worked with the English Heads of Department from each school to revise their respective Term 2 task sheet. The aim was to eliminate barriers to comprehension, as much as we possibly could, so that the task sheets were simple, easy to interpret, and easily digested.
The aim was not to “dumb down”. In fact, our challenge was to retain the intrinsic intellectual complexity of the task, while eliminating complexity that was extrinsic to the task. We drew on principles of accessibility across three domains that we had developed in the work that inspired this major project.
These three accessibility domains are:
- visual (how complicated it looks)
- procedural (number and alignment of parts), and
- linguistic (how “wordy” the task is).
At our November 4 Forum, we will go through the evidence to explain why these accessibility principles are important, describe the collaborative process that we worked through to redesign the task sheets, showing where we started, where we ended up, why and what we would still change if we could.
Our three pioneering English Heads of Department will talk through their experiences of the process and what they learned both about task sheet design and about the benefits of accessibility for teachers and students.
Later in the day, we will hear from participating English teachers who either used the revised task sheets in novel ways, saw true engagement from some students for the first time, and/or ran with the principles to redesign other assessment task sheets in their school.
Then, we will take a preliminary look at some hard(er) data. We have many questions to answer, like:
- What did the kids say about the new task sheets, and did we see different eye-tracking patterns?
- What do those patterns suggest?
- And what more do we need to know and do to embed these accessibility principles easily and simply into everyday teacher practice?
We hope that you can join us at our November 4 Forum.
The event is being hosted by QUT’s Centre for Inclusive Education at the Kelvin Grove campus, as well as being live-streamed nationally.
We can’t wait to share this innovative research taking place in diverse Queensland state secondary schools, to celebrate the work of the teachers, and to acknowledge the support of our partners.
Don’t forget to follow us!
We have set up various platforms for making sure the project is visible to the world:
- Check out the Accessible Assessment ARC Linkage website to learn more about the project, read about the research team and research partners, and access free resources for parents and teachers,
- Watch our introductory video to find out why this research is so important and what we are doing
- Follow us Twitter
Please share links to our website, video and Twitter handle widely 😊