Monmia Primary School is a state school situated in Keilor Downs, Victoria. The school has students ranging from the preparatory level to Year 6. Aside from the two preparatory classes, students are placed in composite classes, each comprising of two year levels.
Monmia Primary School is characterised by diversity, with students from over 48 countries. Two thirds of students are from low socio-economic backgrounds. Interestingly, 66 per cent of students come from outside the school zone, a fact that staff ascribe to the large number of students whose primary carers are grandparents who live within the zone.
Monmia is committed to providing innovative programs that stimulate and challenge each student to develop lifelong learning skills and strategies.
Monmia has long engaged in enquiry into the impact of changed practice on student outcomes, and this has seen a number of new initiatives. The most recent shift in focus took place in 2012 when the leadership team participated in a study tour to New Zealand. The tour provided an opportunity for school leaders to visit New Zealand schools that had successfully implemented the principles of Visible Learningplus. Inspired by what they saw, Monmia’s leadership team returned with a vision that their students should become assessment-capable, visible learners. The school embarked on a Visible Learning journey that has seen impressive gains in student achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics.
Monmia Primary School has always understood the connection between improved outcomes for students and the professional learning outcomes it needs to achieve for staff. In this instance, the team realised that if students were to become articulate visible learners, then a priority for staff would need to be the provision of effective feedback. This was the missing piece they were seeking in their drive for improvement.
Along with the twenty-two other schools in their network, Monmia’s leadership team took part in the three-day Visible Learningplus Foundation series. A guiding coalition was established, consisting of the senior leadership team and the leaders of the schools’ professional learning communities.
Monmia wanted students to talk about their learning using the instructional feedback model, in relationship to the three feedback questions. The questions and the concepts that relate to them are:
- Where am I going? This is articulated in learning intentions, goals, and success criteria.
- How am I going? This is explored through self- assessment and self-evaluation. What progress has been made? Refer back to goals set.
- Where to next? What needs to be done to achieve further success? Reflect on the goal.
The leadership team shared its professional learning with the entire staff. They also took staff along with them as they gathered and analysed the evidence in relation to the Visible Learningplus School Matrix.
This created much discussion as staff saw what the students thought about learning, feedback, and their teachers.
Despite the robustness of the research, teachers wanted to see the visible learning model for themselves before attempting any change.
Modelling by the school-based coaches provided another opportunity for teachers to see what effective feedback looks and sounds like.
The coaches used the Visible Learningplus tools to collect evidence that could be used as the basis of conversations about the levels of feedback being provided and the usefulness of the information being conveyed.
Monmia, in partnership with three other primary schools, has continued to focus on feedback through a combined curriculum day where teaching teams and education support staff collaborated on effective ideas and resources. This resulted in new practices being implemented at each school. Following this day, the schools embarked on cross school visits where teachers observed feedback in the classrooms. Through this observation, they were required to gather samples of the four levels (Task, Process, Self-Regulation, and Self/Praise) that are articulated clearly in the Feedback That Makes Learning Visible workshop. For each sample of feedback, teachers observed and recorded what the feedback looked like, sounded like and felt like for learners.
As a result, the teachers created the demand to have further opportunities to inquire about feedback with their colleagues. The results of an after-school meeting in teaching teams provided evidence of teachers as learners of feedback based on research that became highly visible in the classroom environment. This gave all staff across the four schools the shared language of giving and receiving feedback.
A feedback culture has developed at Monmia where teachers regularly provide students with feedback and students provide it to each other. Feedback walkthroughs demonstrated a shift from feedback being only praise to include feedback at the task, process and self-regulation level.
The school leadership team is adamant that the improvements can be ascribed to the school’s participation in an initiative that is based on solid research, along with a collaborative enquiry approach where evidence, committed leadership, and a culture of learning drive change and improvement.
Corwin is the exclusive provider of Visible Learningplus professional learning and development, based on Professor John Hattie’s research, in Australia. For more information, visit au.corwin.com.