The Learning Progression Framework for Writing – a great starting place… But then what?
The Learning Progression Framework for Writing is a fantastic tool for describing and showing the significant stages a writer progresses through as they develop independence and control over how and what they write for different purposes. Through targeted and focused PLD, teachers and leaders see value in having writing across the curriculum illustrated with clarity. It has been a welcome change to consider what the writer can do, rather than what they should be doing at a particular year level.
As teachers become more familiar with the seven aspects of writing, and what progress in them looks like, the conversations inevitably turn to ‘I need to do a bit more of this or stop doing so much of that’. On my next school visit, I often hear what the teachers have changed immediately. This could be something reasonably quick, like recognising that they haven’t modelled a variety of processes for thinking or organising ideas, or they hadn’t given students any choice in what text type might work best for a particular writing purpose. These easy changes I refer to as ‘low hanging fruit’. Teachers also look at what opportunities they have or haven’t yet provided in their teaching and learning programmes and start considering what purposes for writing they could integrate across the curriculum to ensure students get multiple opportunities to learn. Teachers start thinking about:
- the learning conversations they could have with their students
- how they can become more explicit with their teaching
- and how they might foster confidence and independence in their writers.
While the framework is fabulous in clarifying what behaviours, knowledge and skills writers need, it doesn’t tell us how teachers can create learning environments that support these behaviours and build knowledge and skills. It shows us what progression looks like, but it is over to the teachers to inquire into what effective teaching and learning strategies and conditions work best for each of their learners. As teachers well know, no student progresses in the same way as another - their pathways of learning are unique. How best to do this is a fantastic inquiry for professional learning.
One school I have been working with this year has looked closely at what teachers and leaders could change or improve in order to lift achievement for all learners and to reduce the disparity between those who do well and those who haven’t been succeeding in writing. With a group of focus students in mind, and using a model of inquiry (Timperley et al), we looked at what knowledge and skills the students need, and therefore, what skills and knowledge do the teachers need. The writing progressions was the starting point to identify students’ strengths and needs. Teachers then worked to build a writing profile for their learners. This included forming stronger connections with whānau to find out from students and their families what their passions are, who the significant people are in their lives, their culture, their identities, and how they saw themselves as a writer. The information gained through student and whānau voice was rich, and provided leverage for more strategic teaching decisions.
The inquiry approach we took had deliberate and frequent evaluative cycles. This supported the teachers to see what made a difference, how they knew, and what the next deliberate act of teaching would be. We designed a PLD plan that included staff meetings focusing on deepening professional knowledge, professional readings, videos, and activities that emphasised research and proven effective teacher practice. Teachers used this knowledge, along with what they already knew about their learners, to consider the specific strategies or conditions they could change to best meet the needs of the focus students.
What is different for the teachers?
A focus on the impact their inquiries had on student learning was key. During syndicate meetings, teachers talked for 15 minutes each, bringing evidence of change and success to share and celebrate. Collaboratively, they built their shared understanding of the strategies that were working to accelerate learning and invited each other to analyse their practice. They investigated how much student choice was offered in writing and became very clear about what was being learnt and why.
Now when I start planning I go to the writing framework first. I use this to ensure my lessons are exposing students to the next significant step in their learning. The Effective Literacy Practice Handbook is a great supporting document with the framework. Between these two documents, I am confident that I am providing students with a wide range of opportunities to write and practice their skills within the many areas in the framework.
- Jo Wedlake, deputy principal.
What is different for the students?
Students are now better at knowing what they need to do to improve, with some non-negotiable writing goals and specific scaffolds to get them feeling like writing is no longer such a mystery. They talk about what ‘good writing’ looks like, and use rich texts like poems, picture books, newspaper articles, short stories, and ministry-provided resources as models for good writing. They are also always mindful of the reader. Success is celebrated regularly. Teachers have changed the way they give feedback, facilitate classroom dialogue, and effectively activate other students as teaching resources in the classroom.
Effectively using the Learning Progressions Framework for writing
Teachers have been using the Learning Progression Framework for writing before planning, looking at the writing profiles of their learners, and the patterns they can see across groups of learners in their classrooms; thus becoming more deliberate in what and how they teach. Teaching as inquiry is the process teachers use to dig deeper into what works for their focus students, and what teachers need to learn more about when developing student learning pathways.
PLD on effective writing practice through the Learning Progression Framework has helped develop my understanding of what is required at these levels to be a successful learner. Although at New Entrant level the main focus for writing is predominantly encoding - the progressions have given me lots of ideas for new ways to expose my beginning writers to different genres and key learning steps.
- Tracy Kelland, new entrant teacher
Deprivatising practice and inviting honest critique from colleagues has supported teachers’ capability to evaluate their responsive practice. The Learning Progression Framework for writing not only identified the strengths and needs of learners, it provided the base information for powerful in-depth inquiry that has resulted in accelerated learning for students.