Published on March 8, 2014
Linking SSE and the new Framework for Junior Cycle This document outlines the manner in which a school could use the School Self-Evaluation (SSE) process to support its curricular and pedagogical development within the new Framework for Junior Cycle. At its heart is an emphasis on the six-step SSE process which has been introduced to schools since the autumn of 2012. As schools look at their current Junior Cycle provision, the SSE process will enable them to gather evidence regarding how they currently deliver the curriculum, including how they help students to acquire key skills including literacy and numeracy. SSE should help schools to analyse the evidence they gather, to draw conclusions about what they do now and identify strategies and targets to help them plan for and derive optimum benefit from the roll out of the Framework. Ultimately, the school improvement plan will assist in planning for the implementation of the new Junior Cycle programme and improving teaching, learning and assessment in classrooms, adjusted and monitored over the course of the Framework’s implementation. 1. What does the SSE process look like? The six steps of the SSE process are as follows: Step 1: Gather evidence Step 2: Analyse your evidence Step 3: Draw conclusions Step 4: Complete the self-evaluation report Step 5: Develop a school improvement plan Step 6: Implement and monitor 2. How can schools use SSE to assist in preparing for the new junior cycle programme? The SSE cycle is very well suited to evaluation and planning for the new Junior Cycle programme. SSE provides a systematic approach to a school’s evaluation of teaching, learning and assessment within its current junior cycle programme. It will help schools identify their strengths and areas for improvement in teaching, learning and assessment in junior cycle (by using, for example, criteria in sub-themes such as Teaching Approaches, Learning to Learn or Assessment). The key question is to identify how the SSE process can support schools in evidence gathering (i.e. looking at the school’s present curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment through the lens of the requirements of the Framework for Junior Cycle), analysis (i.e. comparing it with the Framework’s requirements), and planning for improvement-oriented change, which will include aligning their teaching, learning and assessment with the Framework The SSE process will support schools in placing appropriate emphasis on the integration of key SSE foci (e.g. literacy and numeracy, teaching and learning, assessment) with the Framework for Junior Cycle. Since there will be a phased introduction of subjects, starting with English in September 2014 the Framework roll-out will involve rolling review and decision-making each year over the four years from 2013, and monitoring over the four years from September 2014. The SSE process requires schools to focus on literacy and numeracy in the first four-year SSE cycle. This will assist schools to evaluate strengths in their current development of literacy and numeracy skills and to agree and implement strategies, within the junior cycle, to improve these skills where necessary. 19-04-2013 1
3. SSE process Step 1: Gather Evidence on current learner outcomes, learning experiences and teachers’ practice Current supports for transition from primary to post primary and from junior cycle to senior cycle Requirements of new curriculum including statements of learning and time requirements Current curriculum – subjects on offer, what is core, optional Current teaching and learning practice – approaches in individual subjects Current assessment practice – approaches in individual subjects Gather Evidence Views of teachers subjects for examination, short courses, other learning experiences, modes of assessment Current time allocation for each subject and other learning experiences Views of students, parents – subjects for examination, short courses, other learning experiences Resources – teachers, facilities Using the SSE process a school could Look at the current curriculum in light of the Framework’s principles, key skills and statements of learning. o The whole-staff might discuss how the school can devise a junior-cycle curriculum that would deliver on the twenty-four statements of learning and the eight key skills. This will enable consideration of the statements of learning across a number of subjects o The whole-staff might discuss how a cross-subject/short course approach might be implemented in order to meet a number of the statements of learning and key skills o Each subject department might examine the current syllabus and identify what statements of learning are being met. English will have new 19-04-2013 2
specifications available in September 2013, which will outline the subject’s links to the statements of learning o Each subject department could determine what current student learning experiences, if any, assist in the development of key skills, including literacy and numeracy o Each subject department could determine what current teaching approaches, if any, assist in the development of key skills, including literacy and numeracy Ascertain how much time is currently given to core subjects each week (Irish, English, Maths) - based on 33.4 weeks per year (i.e. include in-house exam time) Determine how much time is currently given to all other subjects each week (including PE, SPHE, CSPE) Establish what time, if any, is given to other learning experiences each week, (such as Guidance, Pastoral Care, non-examination RE) Look at resources available to deliver each statement o Teachers – qualifications, strengths, interests o Facilities Ascertain current assessment practices in each subject o The whole-staff might discuss possible modes of assessment that could be implemented in line with the Framework for Junior Cycle and National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) guidelines. o The whole-staff might discuss the purpose of homework, types of homework assignments allotted, how homework contributes to and consolidates learning in class o Identification of and discussion on current assessment approaches used in Transition Year might take place o All members of subject departments could identify the range of classroom assessment practices undertaken (for example, teacher questioning, student self-assessment, peer assessment, student tasks, orals, practical activities) and share with colleagues o Each subject department could share with the rest of the staff their practices with regard to Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning o As revised subject specifications are developed, subject departments should identify what changes to practice are needed to meet the specifications Obtain views of teachers, parents and students: o What subjects they feel should be offered on the curriculum, including students’ attitudes and motivation to study such subjects? o What subjects they feel should be for examination purposes and how many? o What short courses and/or other learning experiences they feel should be offered on the curriculum and how many? o A sample of senior cycle students could be asked to reflect on how their three years of junior cycle enhanced their personal development (for example, communication skills, creativity, confidence, independent learning skills, critical thinking skills) Gather information on short courses (teacher discussion): o Will the school design its own short courses? o Will the school use NCCA devised courses? o Other bodies such as GAA, IRFU are designing short courses and learning experiences – do they meet requirements of any of the statements of learning and will the school use any of these short courses? o Could current Transition Year (TY) modules be further developed and used as short courses or learning experiences? Gather views from teachers and school management on how the cohort of students who start post-primary school in September 2014 will be assessed in the school. 19-04-2013 3
Gather views on the current supports provided to students for transition from primary to post primary and from junior cycle to senior cycle. The whole-staff might discuss possible approaches to providing a concentrated module to support transition from primary school. Step 2 Analyse evidence Compare the current time allocation for core subjects against requirements in the Framework for Junior Cycle, relevant circulars and new subject specifications as they come on stream Benchmark the current curriculum against relevant evaluation criteria under subthemes such as Attainment of subject and programme objectives and Learning to Learn Compare the current time allocation for other subjects against that required in the Framework and new subject specifications, including time for short courses Identify what teaching resources and facilities are available Analyse views of parents, teachers and students regarding subjects to be offered, including short courses and learning experiences. Check these against requirements of the Framework for Junior Cycle and statements of learning, and against the school’s realistic capacity to fulfil all such proposals Examine current teaching and learning practice and benchmark against SSE evaluation criteria for sub-themes such as Teaching Approaches, Students’ Engagement in Learning and Learning to Learn Examine current assessment practice and benchmark against: o SSE evaluation criteria for the sub-theme Assessment o Proposed NCCA assessment guidelines for each subject as new specifications are developed o NCCA and State Examination Commission exemplars which assist in ensuring appropriate standards Examine current assessment approaches that are used in TY and or in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme with a view to adapting them for use in assessing short courses and other learning experiences. Analyse the current supports provided to students for transition from primary to post primary and from junior cycle to senior cycle Step 3 Draw conclusions Make decisions about: How current curriculum provision compares with requirements of the Framework for Junior Cycle. How needs/wishes of teachers, students and parents meet requirements of the Framework for Junior Cycle (for example, principles and statements of learning) How needs/wishes of teachers, students and parents can be met within available teaching resources and facilities How current teaching and learning practices assist in the development of the key skills, including literacy and numeracy How current teaching and learning practices impact on learning outcomes for students How current assessment practice compares with requirements of the Framework for Junior Cycle o Assessment for learning strategies o Strategies for assessment of learning 19-04-2013 4
How assessment requirements of the new subject specifications compare with the assessment practices of the current syllabuses How useful current assessment approaches (assessment for and of learning) that are used in TY and or in LCA would be in assessing possible short courses and learning experiences Those short courses which would be for certification and non-certification (if any) What forms of whole-staff continuing professional development (CPD) on teaching methodologies and assessment (assessment of learning and assessment for learning) are required Whether the current support provided to students at times of transition is appropriate Whether first year would be used as a year for some subject sampling or a year concentrating on some key skills and supporting the transition from primary school. In this instance students would/may have different subject and short course choices, and learning experiences, across the three years. Step 4 SSE report Complete SSE report recording findings in the following areas: o Strengths of school’s current curriculum provision, teaching and learning and assessment practice which meet the requirements of the Framework for Junior Cycle and which meet the needs/wishes of students, teachers and parents o Areas of current curriculum provision, teaching and learning and assessment practice requiring development/change to ensure the schools’ new curriculum will meet the requirements of the principles of the Framework and the 24 statements of learning and will support the development of the eight key skills, including literacy and numeracy o Areas of current curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment requiring development/change to ensure the schools’ new curriculum will meet the wishes/needs of students, teachers and parents taking cognisance of the school’s ability to meet those needs Step 5 Devise school improvement plan The school improvement plan will assist schools in moving from current practice in Junior Cycle to implementing the requirements outlined in the Framework for Junior Cycle. When gathering evidence the school will have established: What is good about current practice in Junior Cycle (curriculum, teaching, learning, assessment) What needs to be improved or further developed with regard to the curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment. When devising the school improvement plan schools will need to set targets which will improve outcomes for students, taking cognisance of the underlying principles of the Framework for Junior Cycle, the statements of learning and the eight key skills. Having set the targets, the whole staff will agree on actions to reach the targets. These will relate to teaching, learning or assessment, for example o Agree a small number of strategies or approaches to improve teaching, learning and assessment 19-04-2013 5
o Arrange CPD which might involve sharing practice across subjects and departments about teaching, learning and assessment, including formative assessment o Agree at whole-school level a range of assessment and moderation approaches that could be used across the curriculum in junior cycle. These should be in line with the Framework for Junior Cycle. The NCCA Assessment Toolkit may be useful in this regard. o At subject department level select for implementation a number of the agreed strategies, including assessment approaches and components that have been agreed at whole-school level. These will comply with the requirements of the subject specification in use each year. o There may, in time, be potential for consideration of the outcomes of national standardised testing in second year. When developing the curriculum, consideration may be given to the following: o Subjects offered o How subject choices are organised o Number of subjects o Possible short courses o Number of short courses o Other learning experiences o Meeting required time allocations for subjects and short courses o Identification of possible differences between the number of subjects or short courses studied and the number submitted for assessment o Identification of potential for supporting transition in first year in areas such as linking primary and post-primary experiences and developing key skills. The school improvement plan should include a 3-year timeframe for realising the targets Step 6 Implement and Monitor Depending on the targets set and the actions agreed in the school improvement plan the school will monitor and review: How curriculum implementation, teaching, learning and assessment are working each year and particularly at the end of the first cycle How curriculum implementation, teaching and learning is enhancing the key skills, including literacy and numeracy How agreed assessment approaches are enhancing students’ learning The range of assessment components being used to ensure they meet the requirements of the new subject specifications, as they are introduced. 19-04-2013 6
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