The importance of progression and continuity
As students move from primary to secondary schooling, it is essential that you ensure they experience a curriculum that will allow them to develop their knowledge and skills as they grow older and mature.
Unlike other subjects where this is also necessary, ICT capability is just not a subject in its own right but is a tool for learning that permeates all subject areas.
In the Australian Curriculum, it is recognised as a 21st century skill or general capability and is embedded throughout all Learning Areas, whereas in the UK ICT curriculum it has significance in the teaching of ICT.
Therefore, as the coordinator you need to consider “continuity in the allotted slots for ICT in the timetable and to recognise that the new intake of students need to develop ICT skills to support their learning in all subjects” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 166).
It is crucial that students learn to use more sophisticated software and techniques to support their subject learning as they progress through school.
Planning a liason
One of the many challenges that students face when transitioning to secondary school is the change in teaching strategies.
A liaison with secondary staff can ensure that students won’t be left to feel insecure in their own learning.
In the UK, the Local Education Authority (LEA) is partly responsible for ensuring that this occurs by providing schools with an analysis of data for use in relation to target setting.
However, Australian teachers can take responsibility at both the school level and subject level.
For example, it is possible to meet with the heads of departments who have shown their support and involvement in this activity. Here they can be made aware of any issues and ways to overcome them.
At these meetings it is essential that continuity is a regular agenda item for departmental and whole school meetings.
Cluster group meetings are also a good way to overcome any obstacles to progression. These meetings should involve representatives from all contributing primary and secondary schools.
Although more common in the UK, this methodology should also be trialled in Australia and should initially involve the head of the department and thereafter, yourself as the ICT coordinator of the primary school.
These meetings should achieve the following:
- Strengthen the conviction that all are working as partners in the education of young people;
- Share expertise in teaching strategies, management of resources and computer skills/knowledge;
- Discuss the impact of different teaching styles and strategies on students’ learning; plan for curricular continuity in specific areas (e.g. use of spreadsheets) rather than trying to do everything at once;
- Plan joint projects to bridge the transfer and facilitate the tracking of students’ progress;
- Decide on a policy of transfer of information (what type of information, how much, when it should be transferred, to whom it should be transferred, how it will be used);
- Discuss samples of students’ work, to reach a common understanding of standards;
- Discuss how assessment data can be used to plan for progression;
- Review the contexts in which ICT is used within the primary and secondary sectors;
- Review schemes of work, looking for opportunities to reinforce previously learnt information and where new knowledge, concepts and skills should be introduced to students.
(Kennewell et al., 2000)
Using schemes of work to build the curriculum bridge
Much of the work mentioned in this book is derived from UK-based research and I do apologise for that. However, in Australia we have much to learn from them in relation to progression and continuity in student ICT capability.
Discontinuity in learning is a big problem and can be solved here as it is in the UK. Kennewell emphasises that educators should take advantage of the well-established social bridge between primary and secondary schools.
A simple example might be inviting students from a nearby primary school to use the ICT facilities on a weekly basis.
The result is that it helps student to become familiar with the computers and other ICT devices available in addition to providing in-service training for the primary staff.
Another way is to recognise that there will be discontinuity and plan to take advantage of the different teaching strategies in each phase.
Primary school teachers will then know how far they are expected to take ideas and secondary teachers will know what experiences their new students have had.
This helps primary teachers by allowing them to focus on “enabling as many students as possible to reach the relevant stage, knowing that secondary teachers will build from this point” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 169).
As mentioned, we do have a lot to learn when it comes to progression and continuity in student learning.
Unless you work in a P-12 school, there exists a lot of discontinuity in student capabilities in ICT. Although, these strategies are UK-based in Australia they can be applied and they are all achievable in my view.
There should be liaisons between schools and discussions should be started about building curriculum bridges and connecting pedagogies in ICT. If your school already does this, let me know it would be interesting to hear what you can add to this conversation.
Also, if you agree with anything discussed here please like or leave a comment. It represents a small part of my new online PD for primary ICT coordinators - Guide to Leadership and will be part of its ebook content.