> Why

Why we did it

Our key beliefs were:

  • Good pedagogy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is good for all of our students
  • Positive relationships are pivotal to learning
  • Scaffolded pedagogy ensures success in learning
  • Whole school – every class, every teacher – has a commitment to building a common language and high expectations of all learners.

We have seen the English skills of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students develop due to this highly structured, scaffolded approach and our goal was to replicate that success in Mathematics. We are also supported by a depth of theory and research that supports the use of scaffolding pedagogy, particularly the work of Brian Gray with Aboriginal students in Alice Springs.

View the presentation below to find out more about the theory behind the pedagogy:

Accelerated Literacy pedagogy is based on strong theoretical foundations:

  • Vygotsky’s social constructivism: all learning is social, learning occurs for students beyond what they can do independently within the zone of next development with the support of a ‘culturally informed other’. Teaching practice underpinned by social constructivism recognise the importance of building common knowledge, in this case mathematical knowledge, and the language for realising that knowledge, amongst all learners in the classroom. This shared knowledge becomes a resource for supporting students as they internalise and begin to apply their learning.
  • Bruner’s scaffolding: the adult does what the child cannot do, expecting that the child will take over, and handing over as the child shows that they are ready. The principle of scaffolding stands in sharp contrast to ‘discovery’ learning where students are sent to solve problems for themselves without the necessary linguistic or cognitive tools to successfully do so. Teachers using scaffolding pedagogy recognise that students require support when engaging with Mathematics, when the logic, the language, the purpose and the intent are all unfamiliar.
  • Halliday’s systemic functional linguistics: the grammatical analysis from this theory provides a language and framework to support students in explicitly teaching grammar in context. Halliday argues that concepts are construed through language, and realised through language. The language becomes a tool for further development of conceptual understanding. The implications for this project are that students should not just be able to demonstrate conceptual understanding, they have to be able to use the language related to those concepts in a coherent and fluent way.  In this project, teachers understand that they need to be clear about the words that they want to come out of students’ mouths, because this becomes the target text into which they will scaffold students.
  • Gray’s questioning sequence: a central scaffold introduced by Gray is a counter-intuitive questioning sequence. While the ability to engage with ‘display’ questions is an end goal of learning, successful involvement is very difficult for students whose contextual understandings are not aligned with the teacher. In other words, they can’t read what’s in the teacher’s head. In order to build this common knowledge, AL teachers are trained to precede questions with preformulations which orient students to the teacher’s intentions and let them know what to attend to. If this preformulation is successful, all students should be able to successfully answer a question. This is followed by a reconceptualisation that broadcasts to the whole class the significance of that answer to their learning. This questioning sequence is a scaffold which is gradually removed until students are able to display what they know with very little prompt from the teacher.

From this theoretical basis, the following principles have been identified in applying AL pedagogy to the current project in Mathematics:

  • Analysis to synthesis: students need to be involved in careful analysis of a task or learning before they will be expected to take it on
  • The language that accompanies activity needs to be explicitly taught
  • The learning is not finished until students are able to explain what they have done and why
  • Students and teachers need to have an understanding of the mathematical world and its values to see where their learning fits
  • Students will be scaffolded towards successful learning, not left to flounder when they don’t have the linguistic or cognitive resources to discover on their own.