Dr. Jenny Hammond – Authentic ESL Education in the Australian Curriculum
Casual Academic, University Casual AcademicsCore Member, Centre for Research in Learning and Change, University of Technology Sydney
Notes from paper presented at the: ‘Powerful Pathways to Authentic Learning’ conference held at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on August 15 and 16, 2011
Theme: Authentic Teaching and Learning
Present research based on high challenge + high support (‘authentic’ pedagogy)
Authentic Learning Literature:
First theme: learning beyond the classroom,
  • teaching and learning engaged with real life challenges and applying these skills in new situations.
  • DarlingHammondand Snyder (2000) quote – capacity to apply is important)
Second theme: High intellectual challenge
  • Fred Newmann et al 1996 (Authentic pedagogies) taken up in Qld, NSW and Catholic Ed NSW – theoretical underpinning of authentic learning.
  • Emphasis on intellectual challenge in education (in relation to deep knowledge)
  • To question and challenge – problematize – higher order thinking
  • Substantive conversations and metalanguage also emphasised.
Issues: Slippery issues of authentic – whose perception of authentic counts?
  • Authentic learning can be seen as a continuum, how do you tease out what that looks like
  • Can inauthentic tasks, or less authentic tasks work towards authentic learning.
Jenny’s work – ‘Authentic’ learning in the Australian Curriculum
  • High opportunity for authentic learning and higher order thinking
  • Strong emphasis in Shape of the Curriculum in aiming high for all students (p.8)
  • Specific rejection of alternative and simplified curriculum for disadvantaged students.
Research into EAL/D student educational needs:
  • Why /purpose of research – simultaneously learning English while learning through English.
  • Greatest difficult for them is learning academic English – get them to support fully in high challenge activities with differentiated support.
  • Intellectual challenge – high order thinking, authentic learning, high challenge tasks
  • Quality learning environment – safe, supportive, students able to take risks, engagement, student self-regulation etc.
  • Supportive Learning environment (done well in Australian schools)
Tools: - essential questions, rich tasks, backward mapping, substantive conversation.
The methodology to develop and implement these.
Notion of Essential Questions:
  • Questions that address the key concepts of the topic being covered (i.e Vision eg.)
  • Questions that address relevance taking up issues of treatment and difference in quality of service for people from different countries.
What are Essential Questions?
  • Purpose to enable you as a teacher to identify the key knowledge constructs that are important to this topic (asks what is the point/importance of this knowledge)
  • Different to goals which relates more to the content you will learn to build those concepts
  • Your teaching goals helps to identify whole area you need to address to be enable your students to engage with that content. (eg’s of goals)
  • Some similarities and some core differences between essential questions and goals (goals something we are use to doing – hard to ask why are we asking students to engage in this course, what relevance will this have into their future).
Notion of the rich task:
  • Linked a high order thinking task to the essential question (goals) demonstrates their understanding of these key concepts and of the relevance of this information (see slide examples).
  • Rich tasks pick up on the essential question and that students work across a unit of work
  • Need to plan the scaffolds you will need to give the students the skills they will need across the unit to complete the task.
What are rich tasks:
  • Draws directly on productive pedagogies literature
  • Educational outcomes of demonstrable and substantial intellectual value
  • Problem based
  • Of relevance beyond the shool (authentic tasks)
  • Recognised as significant and important by students, teachers and parents.
Backward mapping:
  • Work from where the students are at to your final taks,
  • Scaffold and build students support – the language structures they will need, the reading abilities etc to build complete the rich task?
  • Is a place to build basic skills is important – but taught at a means to an end – so students can draw on them and engage in the bigger task.
  • How you build a learning of curriculum content + build to completion of the Rich Task?
Scaffolding – defined
  • Need to think carefully about what you mean by the notion of scaffolding (can be simplistic – work sheet to very detailed
  • Neil Mercer – definition of Scaffolding – help to accomplish a task that they would not be able to accomplish on their own.
  • Vososky – the zone of proximal development – where you can push them just beyond their comfort zone but with supports to get them there.
  • Emphasis is that this scaffolding should be temporary – put it up just as long as it is needed, take it away to demonstrate their developed understanding, skills and abilities.
  • Handover notion – hand responsibility for learning over to students as needed.

Designed in’ scaffolding Vs contingent or interactive scaffolding:
Designed in: scaffolding - that happens before teaching started/acknowledging students prior learning and curriculum designs.
What looked good in classrooms that were doing this well:
Sequencing task, participant structure, abundancy messaging.
  • Select and sequencing the tasks that would enable students to complete the rich tasks that were part of assessment (yr 6 example – eg. Discuss processes and outcome, group library research, negotiation of questions etc – process tasks).
  • In addition to preparing the tasks they then also planned the participant structures – decision about group work related to nature of task.
  • Systematic shift between whole class, group and individual – it is at this point that differential levels of support can be provided for that group of students,
  • Mantra of Tesol education, group work is a good thing but needs to be purposeful and targeted, students need to have a clear sense of why they are doing it and why
  • Mercer again says unless students have support in doing group work and know what and why they are doing it that it becomes purposeful.
  • Layer on top of this planning of task steps + Participant structure opportunities for message abundancy (to come at the same content a number of times – to reinforce that content).
  • Physical activity of making meeting, the oral interaction between students and teacher and students and their was the note taking and writing (several ways of taking/making meaning)
  • Use of vocabulary to discuss experiments, recounting/summarising what happened, cycling and recycling of scientific content/concepts.
Importance of language and literacy:
  • Explicit teaching of language and literacy needs to be taught for each curriculum area (ie. science language, vocabulary, grammar, text types and structures, spelling and punctuation) not just taught in English.
  • Task linked to Language and Metalanguage tasks – using the language and talking about how we use the language.
  • Importance of meta-language – opportunities for students to reflect on and talk about the language (eg. How you structure cause and effect questions, research how you do it how you use index of that book)
  • Other important meta-discussions – talking to students about the purpose/why we are doing these tasks, what will this enable you to do, its relevance.
Questions we are left with:

Consequences of not implementing high challenge/high support (authentic) programs for high need students?
  • Puts pressure on teachers to identify on what we though was important in the program (to have a deep knowledge of curriculum areas);
  • Pushed by notion of why are we doing it – stand back and look at the unit as a whole to identify key learning tasks;
  • Hard to define a task that would encapsulate the key learning and would be challenging and engaging to the students.
  • Once it was achieved it helped to focus their programs and provided opportunities for students to talk about the content (allowed students to have substantive conversations);
  • Found we were working between levels of abstraction – not just focusing on the experiment from concrete to abstract – in order to get out the key learning concepts.
Implications of high support:
  • Emphasis on language teaching an important way this was provided
  • Message abundancy also an important aspect – to re-use, re-speak these concepts.