A Curriculum and Software Design Scaffolding Goal Directed Teaching in Classrooms

Morten Misfeldt, Jeppe Bundsgaard, Marie Falkesgaard Slot, Thomas Illum Hansen, Mikkel Jespersen

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper/skriftligt oplægForskningpeer review


This paper presents a newly developed tool for scaffolding goal-oriented teaching, and develops a framework for discussing design intentions when developing such tools. The tool is developed in relation to a recent curriculum reform for the Danish primary and lower secondary school which transformed the national curriculum to a number of competencies which is further divided and detailed into pairs of knowledge and skills. Together with this curriculum reform there has been a government initiative to promote goal-oriented teaching, and a complementary need to scaffold the teachers own more concrete plans and goals for their teaching. The governmental promotion of a certain kind of teaching and the professional need for scaffolding concrete plans and goals forms an actual challenge and a basis for developing a digital tool for mediating between curriculum and pedagogical practice. The motivation for revising the national curriculum and developing digital tools supporting teaching is partly based on evidence that the previous national curriculum was not used to any particular extent by teachers (EVA 2012) hence the curriculum has been rebuilt with basis in recent trends in school development and curriculum research suggesting the importance of a competence framework, learning goals and aggregation of classroom data to efficient teaching (Earl & Fullan 2003). Learning goals are supposed to support the student’s pace and sense of progression, inform classroom decisions, structure teachers’ planning and support the dialogue between teachers, students and parents (Hattie 2009). With basis in these concerns we have developed a technology called “The Goal Arrow”. The intention of developing a goal arrow is to support teachers sketch lesson plans and set associated situated learning goals, relating these to the national curriculum, and to be very specific about indicators of learning and progression. The objectives and the specific indicators are used when teachers and students assess how the individual student performs in relation to the goal. Data for each student is collected over a period of time and in relation to several goal arrows, making it possible to sketch out a student achievement profile, a class profile, and a profile of the curriculum areas covered in the period. These profiles provide an overview statement about student progression in relation to curriculum levels. The tool is currently being tested with approximately 100 teachers and 2000 pupils. In the paper we outline the design of the tool and the curricular structure it builds upon. Furthermore we discuss how the design of the tool tries to accomplish a balance between teachers setting up their own learning goals and teachers choosing between a set of predetermined goals. We conclude with a number of questions to be addressed empirically around teachers’ use of the tool. Keywords: Curriculum technology, classroom tools, goal directed teaching, visible learning. 1. Introduction: Curriculum reform, goal directed teaching and visible learning In 2012 a report from the Danish Evaluation Institute claimed that the Danish national curriculum was not used to any particular extent by teachers, and that the national curriculum was considered advisory rather than something to be meet by the teachers (EVA 2012, p. 42). The report had some impact on the Danish public discussions on teaching, and contributed to the political decision to implement a curriculum reform as part of a thorough reform of the Danish primary and lower secondary school system (Undervisningsministeriet 2014). The curriculum reform was inspired of international experiences with developing competence based curricula, e.g. the Ontario Curriculum (Rasch-Christensen 2014), and was intended to be short, easily understood (for both teachers, students and parents), systematically built and usable in the daily teaching practice. The result was a three-level structure. Each subject has a general goal described in use-oriented and contextualizing terms (e.g. “ [...] The subject [Danish] should promote the students’ ability to empathize, and their aesthetic, ethical and historical understanding [...]”). On the next level each subject has up to four competency areas. On each group of grade levels (e.g. 1st through 3rd grade) a competence goal is expressed in relation to each of the competence areas (for example is the competence goal for Text Production in the first level of grades (1st through 2nd) in Danish: “The student can express him or herself in writing, in talk, and in sound and image in near and well-known situations”). On the third level for each competence goal a number of pairs of skills and knowledge goals is expressed under a common headline (e.g. under the headline response: “The student can use templates in response” and “The student has knowledge of text structure”). The curriculum can be presented in a number of graphical modes, e.g. in a matrix or in a hypertext structure. The curriculum reform was implemented in order to promote a goal oriented teaching and learning practice based heavily on research around data driven teaching and teachers as data managers (Earl & Fullan 2003; Hattie 2009). This new curriculum is the outset of the project presented here intended to support the use of digital resources to support goal- (or objective – we will use these terms interchangeably) oriented teaching and learning. The concrete product of the project is a digital tool for teachers to use to express learning goals and evaluate the progress of students, while simultaneously it was a tool for the researcher to gather data on goal oriented teaching. Thus the tool intends to address three challenges: (1) linkage of curriculum, situated objectives, learning materials and resources, (2) representation, translation, transformation and concretization of curriculum objectives in order to design targeted learning, and (3) follow-up, progression and differentiation. In the remainder of the paper, we present the ideas behind the tool, the tool itself, and selected findings from qualitative and quantitative studies in the project. 2. International trends in goal oriented and data driven teaching The Danish curriculum reform builds on recent trends in school development and curriculum research suggesting the importance of a competence framework, learning goals and aggregation of classroom data for efficient teaching. There is a strong international evidence for the importance of learning goals in education. Such goals should be visible and known for students, teachers and parents (Hattie 2009, p. 161 ff.). Goals can support the student’s pace and sense of progression; inform classroom decisions, structure teachers planning and support the dialogue between teachers, students and parents. Another influential trend is, that the detailed description of future competences have in recent years increasingly been done as transnational mapping and framing (OECD., 2010; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009), and competence oriented teacher plans. Such framing enables a detailed comparison of competences with many-dimensional parameters (Chesler N.C. D’angelo C.M., Bagley E.A., Shaffer D.W., 2013). In the paper we presents a technology and our visions for the technology. We discusses the balance between the teachers need to set up their own learning goals for the classes and the their tendencies to choose pre-produced learning goals when it’s possible. Furthermore briefly we describe how we are currently investigating teachers’ understanding of learning goals with and without the technology that we develop. 3. The Goal Arrow and the design process In order to address these concerns we have developed a technology “The Goal Arrow”. The intention with the goal arrow is to support teachers in describing lesson plans and expressing associated situated learning goals, and relate these to the national curriculum. Each learning goal has to be specified into three objectives, which can be identified in students’ performance, i.e both in actions and products. The descriptions, goals and objectives can be used when the teacher communicate with the students about the goals of the course. The objectives are used as yardsticks when teachers and students determine how the individual student performs in relation to the goal. Data for each student is collected over a period of time and in relation to several goal arrows, making it possible to sketch out a student achievement profile, a class profile, and a profile of the curriculum areas covered in the period. 3.1 Interface The teacher interface support that the teacher’s didactical reflection is grounded by the specific goals set for each student and supports the teachers collection of data on how each individual student performs on those goals. Simultaneously the student’s own assessment of competence is collected. These data contribute to a student profile and a class profile. In the planning view the teacher sees and develop teaching sequences. Each teaching sequence is a collection of learning goals all shown as arrows. Figure 1: The teacher connects a goal arrow to a date and a course. The green color of the arrow in the center indicates that the arrow is active, while the gray arrow mark that the arrow is not yet activated. The pencil at the right makes it possible for the teacher to edit the goal arrow. The teaching sequence and learning goals are set up in a view as the one below, where materials, timeline and milestones for the teaching sequence is laid out on the left part of the page and the learning goals on the right. Each learning goal consists of a headline, an overall learning goal, and three objectives with different levels of goal achievement. Figure 2: at the left side of the screen the teacher can assign meta-data to the teaching sequence, on the right side to the specific learning goals. There can be several learning goals in a teaching sequence. The teacher must plan a learning goal and three signs of learning. The teacher selects and connects each learning goal to the national curriculum goals through a pop up window (red marked box) at the bottom. A control mechanism reminds the teacher to select a curriculum goal (red line at the top of the view). Figure 3: In the curricula matrix, teachers can assign targets to the goal arrow. This interface offers the teachers a good insight into the goals of the curriculum, while working with a concrete goal oriented progression. The students can then be assessed according to the learning goals set up by the teacher. Figure 4: test class with only four students The green color visualizes the teacher’s estimate of the competence of each student; moving the cursor to a certain level of expected learning outcome makes the teacher’s estimate. Right above the arrow the theme is presented as well as the signs for learning. It is crucial that the signs for learning are articulated in a way so it is possible for the students to understand the expectations and to estimate within the horizon of this understanding. Figure 5: each class and each student aggregates a learning profile as a result of the teacher’s estimates. The green color represents class distribution of fulfillment. The " average " shows the extent to which education has given students the opportunity to acquire a particular subject area, and the degree to which the students and the class have learned what they needed in the process. To sum up, the Goal Arrow is independent of specific teaching methods and is linked to the national curriculum. In this way the teachers’ systematic use of the tool, will allow them to investigate the potential for improved academic and social inclusion, as well as describe and assess the qualities of learning. At the same time, The Goal Arrow can potentially contribute to creating visible learning goals, forward oriented feedback, and metacognitive consciousness for both teachers and students. 3.2 Data structure The data structure is based on the NoSQL method. This means that instead of the database being structured into strict components with predefined parameters, it is structured as a loose JSON structure, which can be edited if it is needed. For example, if a new parameter is necessary for a student, then the data structure allows the main application to add such a new data field directly into the DB without having to change underlying DB schematics that would usually lock the structure (the SQL method). This allows flexibility, particularly during iterative development, as the DB structure doesn’t need to be changed every time a new feature is added to the application. For this particular project, the data structure is based on 6 main groups, each containing various data and references to other groups. All ratings are saved under the individual pupil. The model below shows the groups, and their rough relations. 4. Between fixed and free learning goals After introducing the context and the tool we continue by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of choosing learning goals from a pool of predetermined goals, versus when teacher writing their own learning goals. In the goal arrow we have chosen a combination where the teacher has to write down quite concrete objectives related to the context of their teaching, and chooses elements from the national curriculum that are related to these learning goals. However this design is an attempt to balance several concerns. We could have chosen to design a tool with a number of predetermined learning objectives that the teacher could pick and choose among and hence align the teaching to some high quality, well developed, learning goals. Another route could be to create a tool that allows the teacher to set up their own objectives and follow-up and track if the students meet these goals. The system that we have developed is an attempt to mediate between these two choices and create a tool where the teacher are allowed to set up their own learning goals but also has to relate them to the national curriculum standards. In this discussion we will look at the advantages and disadvantages with all these three choices; predetermined objectives, free text objectives and the combination we propose. We will compare these choices on a number of parameters presented below. The first parameter that we investigate is teachers’ clarity. By clarity we mean unanimous and easy to understand. A learning goal could point to many different practices and levels of expertise. Therefore it is an important point, that the more clear and understandable a goal is, the less diverse types of practices will fulfill this goal. A clear goal is understood in the same way by different teachers and students. The second parameter we look at is evaluabillity. An evaluable learning goal means a goal where it is possible to identify if students have fulfilled the goal or not. The third parameter we look at is legitimacy. That is the level of leverage the goal has with the governance discourse and national standards, but also with the broader vision of teaching and the goal of schooling as enacted by the teacher and acknowledged by students, management and parents. The fourth parameter we look at is workload. The workload involved in the documentation of teaching is how much effort needed in order to perform this work, but this should be viewed in relation to the benefit and saved time in other aspects of the teaching profession, and hence also the level of reusability of this work. The dimension of ownership is the fifth aspect we address and it signifies the level in which teachers and students relate to the goals, finds them personally engaging and relevant. The sixth parameter we will look at can be called “situated relevance”. By this parameter we mean how much the learning goal are relevant in specific teaching situations. Broad and abstract goals are less “situated relevant” than specific goals directed unanimous towards a situation. However the situated relevance of a very concrete learning goal is challenged if the goal is directed towards a slightly different situation than the enacted one. The last aspects that we will look at is how learning goals can support communication and collaboration, as well as how the goals supports flexibility in the sense that they embrace or suppress the new possible directions that teaching can take in the classroom. 4.1 Predetermined goals Predetermined goals have a number of strengths in clarity, evaluability, and legitimacy. Predetermined goals will often be developed by experts, publishers or by some stakeholder in educational governance. Furthermore there is a tendency for such predetermined goals to be developed in more or less consistent systems, which supports clarity and legitimacy. However predetermined goals have to cut across contexts and in that capacity they have a tendency to become either slightly abstract or related to a different context than they are enacted within. This fact can challenge the clarity and evaluability of the goals. Ownership can be a problem with predetermined goals, the extent to which teachers adopts the predetermined goals, invest in them and hence have some ownership over them might differ greatly from teacher to teacher. However predetermined goals might be alienating to some teachers. In terms of legitimacy, the predetermined goals do have a huge advantage over other more free form approaches. If all teachers relate their planning and documentational work to the same authorized framework, comparisons are supported and secure documentation for learning can be provided. Choosing predetermined goals are very likely to put less demand on teachers’ effort in preparing and enacting the documentational work. Hence the workload with this approach can be limited. On the parameter of situated relevance, the predetermined approach is likely to run into problems because of the abstract or trans-situational nature of such goals. In relation to collaboration and communication, the abstract nature of predetermined goals have pros and cons. If teachers are all relating their teaching and lesson plans to the same set of learning goals they might easier align and leverage their work, but the lacking context information and abstract nature of the goals, will likely make it necessary to provide a large amount of context information to support the translation between official goals and actual teaching. I relation to flexibility all written goals are tightening the span of possible routes to take in a classroom. Orally formulated or mental goals are much more flexible. Hence both predetermined and self-formulated (free text) learning goals can have the effect of collapsing the diversity of relevant routes for the teaching. 4.2 Free text goals Goals formulated by the teacher in free text might be the most work intensive solution, because the teacher has to keep track of which parts of the national curriculum she has worked with in her class, and because formulation of free text goals puts high cognitive demands on thinking from a general and abstract level to a concrete situated level. Given the high situatedness, free text goals might also be rather difficult to re-use. Goals formulated by the teacher herself on the other hand has the advantage of being easily understandable by the teacher, and therefore communicable by the teacher to the students. When the teacher has free hands to write goals in free text, it obviously gives the teacher ownership over the goals, and given that the goals are produced by the teacher for each lesson or program, end up in situated and relevant goals. The situatedness on the other hand, might make it more difficult to collaborate and share learning goals. I a way, having no pre-produced learning goals when entering class, is the most flexible way to work with learning goals. When a teacher has mentally or orally formulated learning goals, sudden inspiration or events can easily be caught in the situation and result in mentally or orally revised learning goals. Revising written learning goals is more laborious and if it needs to happen before the teaching and learning takes place, the teacher might end up passing the teachable moment. Free text learning goals might be easy to evaluate, but not necessarily in relation to a common standard or shared goals. This challenge is connected to the legitimacy of free text goals. Not having a clear method to relate the free text learning goals to shared or national learning goals, might lead to objectives that are not legitimated by overarching frameworks. 4.3 A combination of predetermined and free text goals Brousseau (1997) introduces the term external and internal didactical transposition, meaning respectively transforming the contents of an academic area to a general school curriculum, and transforming the general school curriculum into local curriculum and teaching for one particular class. The goal arrow concerns the internal didactical transposition, and helps the teacher keeping a relation between the general curriculum and the local curriculum by making the teacher write situated goals in free text, and relating them to particular goals in the national curriculum. Thereby one could argue that the goal arrow integrates the advantages from the two above-mentioned approaches to defining goals in education. The goal arrow keeps a close relation to the legitimacy of the national curriculum by connecting all teacher-produced goals to one or more goals from the national curriculum. The teacher-produced goals could be seen as a translation of the national curriculum into situated and contextualized goals, that are also more clear, and experienced as more relevant by the students, as well as by the teacher herself, and in addition to this lets the teacher remain ownership of her teaching choices and practices. On the one hand this method could be seen as putting a double workload on teachers, both demanding them to choose goals from the national curriculum, and to formulate their own. On the other hand the goals from the national curriculum might very well direct and scaffold the teachers free text formulation of goals, putting the workload somewhere in-between the approaches of predetermined and free text goals discussed above. The workload might also be relieved by the easiness in sharing and re-using goals, even making it possible to minimize the workload in preparation of lessons by teaching the same content in parallel, and collaborating by dividing the preparation of tasks between colleagues. The clearest advantage of taking the combining road of the goal arrow is found in relation to evaluation of students' progress and the possibility of keeping track of how the curriculum is covered. The goal arrow helps the teacher in registering student performance, following their progress, and aggregating the data into overview of the class. And at the same time, the goal arrow uses this data to give the teacher an overview of which areas of the national curriculum, which has been covered up until now. One of the possibilities and dangers of supporting the production of data in teaching practices, is that aggregated data can be used for decisions on higher levels (e.g. by the school principal to supervise the teachers). This is not possible with the goal arrow. The data which is produced with the goal arrow is mostly tied to the context. The teacher produces situated learning goals and scores the students achievement related to the learning objectives. Conclusions and further work: A goal directed didactic intervention at 10 Danish schools In this paper we have described a design for mixing fixed curricular objectives with free text learning goals. We have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of free text, fixed and combined learning objectives. The technology has been implemented in a beta-version. To be able to scaffold the teachers’ work with the goal arrow we have developed an intervention that serves the purpose to evolve the teachers’ work with competence and teamwork when talking about goal driven education. The didactic intervention has taken place on 10 primary and lower secondary schools in Denmark from January 2015 to May 2015. Teachers and experts in diverse didactic subject fields have participated in implementing the intervention, where we have focused on the teachers’ planning of learning goals. The intervention investigates three main questions; (1) How do the different users perceive digital compatible learning goals? (2) Which qualitative influence do these goals have on the work with student learning? (3) Which causes can be observed and used to support or challenge the interventions’ main hypothesis? Answering these questions belongs in another paper building on the empirical data gathered in the project. References Brousseau, G. (1997). Theory of didactical situations in mathematics : Didactique des mathematiques, 1970-1990. Dordrecht (Holand): Kluwer Academic Publishers. Chesler N.C. D’angelo C.M., Bagley E.A., Shaffer D.W., A. G. (2013). Design of a professional practice simulator for educating and motivating first-year engineering students. Adv. Eng. Educ. Advances in Engineering Education, 3(3). Earl, L., & Fullan, M. (2003). Using Data in Leadership for Learning. Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(3), 383–394. http://doi.org/10.1080/0305764032000122023 Danmarks Evalueringsinstitut. (2012). Fælles mål i folkeskolen : en undersøgelse af lærernes brug af Fælles mål. Danmarks Evalueringsinstitut. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning : a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London; New York: Routledge. OECD., C. for E. R. and. (2010). Educational Research and Innovation; The Nature of Learning Using Research to Inspire Practice. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved from http://www.ucm.eblib.com/EBLWeb/patron?target=patron&extendedid=P_589368_0& Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2009). P21 Framework Definitions. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 1 Massachusetts Avenue NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001. Tel: 202-312-6429; Fax: 202-789-5305; Web site: http://www.p21.org. Rasch-Christensen (2014). Eksperten om nye Fælles Mål. Located on March 27 at http://uvm.dk/Den-nye-folkeskole/Udvikling-af-undervisning-og-laering/Maalstyret-undervisning-og-laering/Faelles-Maal/Eksperten-om-Nye-Faelles-Maal Undervisningsministeriet (2014). Lovgrundlag. Located on March 27 at http://uvm.dk/Den-nye-folkeskole/Lovgrundlag.
StatusUdgivet - 2015
BegivenhedECEL 2015 - Budapest, Ungarn
Varighed: 7 sep. 201511 sep. 2015


KonferenceECEL 2015