Over the last 4 weeks we have engaged the SMTs of a number of schools to discuss the question-by-question analysis of the Maths papers of the 2013 Annual National Assessments. It is the 1st time we delved into the results in this way; per question, per class, per Grade, across the Phases. And the journey has been most insightful.
Firstly, such dissection requires a level of maturity in teachers - they literally have to suspend their thinking about the reflection on themselves and allow colleagues to ask the tough questions: why did learners collapse in a specific question? How did you teach the concept? Did you provide the class with sufficient practice? Did you respect the time that should've been allotted to the work? How did you explain the work? Did you ask the learners for feedback? How will your teaching change given the empirical data? Are you only focussing on the work you enjoy? You get the picture.
Its tough! On both the school managers as well as the teachers. But they, en masse, responded to the challenges at everyone of our engagements. It is enthralling to be inside this circle of courage; this journey that sees teachers squirm, having to answer direct questions from their peers, whilst we gently lead the process with probing questions.
Secondly, all these exchanges brought staff to similar conclusions - impacts are felt across the school, inputs at Foundation Phase does influence the Intermediate Phase, and the Intermediate Phase in turn impacts the Senior Phase. There has been a general realization that collaboration across-the-school is a non-negotiable, and that to enhance the teaching and learning environment, we must focus on the finer detail - global conversations have limited impact!
Another insight gained over the many two-hour, afternoon sessions: not one educator brought up context, poverty, substance abuse or parental neglect. For once the conversation focussed on the happenings inside-the-classroom, and that if efficiences are raised there, alongside appropriate management and district support, sustainable results are achievable.
I'm looking forward to the ongoing engagements in this regard. I have a hunch something special awaits all of us "on-the-other-side" of these exchanges.