Introduction to the Unit
The Unit being analysed is a 10 lesson History unit on Gold Discovery in Australia. The Grade 5 unit begins with learning the time line of events and they take a journey through the different lifestyles seen on the goldfields and significant events witnessed during this time. This Unit is linked to the Year 5 Australian Curriculum History element of 'The impact of a significant development or event on a colony'. I taught this lesson when I lived in Canberra, Australia and in the back of my mind I always knew that it could have included more information and be delivered in more of a 'hands - on' approach. You will see in the Unit that I have included links to the ACT document (Every Chance to Learn) to show to you how it was originally linked to the curriculum.
Gold discovery was an important part of Australian history. This unit helps students to realise this importance and explore what life was like on the goldfields, including the impact of the Chinese during this time and explore their culture. This unit focuses on the people involved, time, lifestyles, society and history. It encompasses a wide range of teaching strategies and approaches to widen the student’s knowledge about the goldfields.
One alarming feature of this Unit is that there is a Special Needs student in the class but the only solution was for her to complete the same task - but just not to the same level as the other students and furthermore, there has been no effort to adapt each lesson to suit her needs -- Eeek! This is one major recommendation for the New Design - to make sure she is catered for.
The unit is based around a focus and contributing questions:
How did the discovery of gold impact Australia's development?
1. What was life like on the Ballarat goldfields for women, children, miners and Chinese?
2. What effect did the coming of the Chinese have?
3. What was significant about the Eureka Stockade?
English, Maths & Music
By the end of the Unit, Students would have been exposed and developed the following outcomes:
To teach this unit there needs to be a variety of approaches implemented and you will see that the original unit lacked a few theories and Inquiry approaches. This assignment will show how the amended unit has fixed these issues and is now a unit full of inquiry approaches and hands-on activities. A few of the approaches that will explored in the new and edited unit will be Blooms Taxonomy (New Model), Inquiry model framework, summative and formative assessment and hands-on ideas based on John Dewey.
Also, the original unit lacked a variety of assessment tools so in amendment, the following approaches to assessment will be taken (in the new and improved unit)
For the students (New and Revised Unit) Assessing facts, concepts, generalisations, skills competence, thinking skills, reflective thinking, decision making and citizen action (Marsh, 2008, p. 175).
For the Educator (New and Revised Unit) Self- evaluation checklist (prior and post)
All of the above improvements, additions and changes that you will see in the new unit will be attached and discussed in the 'New and Improved Design' page.
Analysis & Recommendations
One of the positive aspects of this unit is the overarching questions for the children to investigate throughout the unit. Although they are strongly teacher directed, it at least gives the students a vision of where they are heading and what they will have learnt and investigated on their learning journey - ultimately, showing them a clear path of learning.
Although not directly mentioned, the unit appears to loosely flow to Kuhlthau's model of Guided Inquiry. Please see the table below which outlines an analysis of the unit and how it has connections to Kuhlthau's Guided Inquiry approach. You can clearly see that this Unit has big gaps in the inquiry process and whilst it does make a few connections to each stage, there are areas where there is room for a big improvement in creating more of an inquiry focus and therefore, enabling it to become a much stronger inquiry based unit.
Levels of Inquiry Continuum. Image & Table created by Mandy Lupton. Screen Shot edited by Author
Whilst there are some connections to each stage of Guided Inquiry, it is clear the links are weak and display no signs of making deep connections between the students' real worlds and what they are learning. This unit is already predominately teacher directed and the levels of inquiry do not appear to be a balance between Guided, Coupled and Open (Bell, R., Smetana, L., & Binns, I. 2005). Figure 1, 2, 3 & 4 show examples of how many of the questioning, reflecting and assessing tasks are all set by the teacher and provides evidence that there is not a huge amount of room for student input.
Figure 1. A screen shot taken from the Author's Unit. Image created by Author
Figure 2. A screen shot taken from the Author's Unit. Image created by Author
Figure 3. A screen shot taken from the Author's Unit. Image created by Author
Figure 4. A screen shot taken from the Author's Unit. Image created by Author
As you can see above, the balance of the levels of inquiry continuum are unbalanced. A majority of the unit is teacher-focused and there have been limited opportunities for students to select their own paths and pose questions they are pondering. The results are confirmed and known in advance and the teacher has posed all the inquiry and focus questions. Even the topics that students are to base their presentation on have been chosen by the teacher and the presentation is based around questions on a worksheet and booklet from the Eureka excursion, therefore, proving to be an extremely structured unit.
There are limited chances and time for the students to explore and continue to ask questions that have come from their learning and whilst Lesson 9 and 10 are based around reflecting on the lives of people living on the goldfields, there are no opportunities for peer and teacher feedback. It appears that students finish the unit with a presentation and then move on to the next topic for the semester. Furthermore, there is no evidence of a rubric or marking scale for the students to refer to which is extremely important so the students know what is expected and from the beginning of the unit know what to work towards and cover in their presentation.
Screen shot showing an example of lower order thinking skills taken from the Author's Unit. Image created by Author.
From the evidence in the image above, it is clear the Bloom's Taxonomy thinking skills (image below) are positioned in the lower to mid range bracket and focuses on mainly Remembering and Understanding. As you can see below, only the last three lessons of the unit incorporate any sort of 'Applying' thinking skills to the lesson and during no time in the unit are students given opportunities to analyse, evaluate or create. The new design unit will ensure each step of Blooms Revised Taxonomy will be taken into account and assigned to each lesson plan which will ensure students are given enough time to reflect and develop higher order thinking skills.
There is a potential within this unit to emphasise and include higher order thinking skills by changing the focus and essential questions. At the moment they are all 'What' questions which implies there is most likely only one real answer and by making the questions structured around the 'How' and 'Why' will encourage students to think deeper, think of solutions and challenge opinions. The Thinkers Keys in Lesson 8 are a great example of how to spark the students interests and see things from different points of views, however there is room for this to be utilised in a deeper, more student driven activity.
An interesting aspect about this Unit is that it makes reference to the fact that by the end of the unit, students will:
These two teaching and learning skills above that have been made reference to in the Unit Overview can be closely linked to the outcomes and can be achieved by incorporating GeSTE Windows into the Unit. These windows are a fantastic way to ensure students are being exposed to Information Literacy in the best possible way and by making sure that the 4 windows are intertwined and all being utilised within each other enables them to enhance their thinking skills and build on from simply using a standard procedure.
Upon reflection and endless examination of this Unit, it can be said that it is mainly situated around the Generic Window and on a couple of occasions, utilises the Situated Window.
Generic: Within this Unit, all the information we need to know about the Gold rush is technically mentioned, however the scope of information it is very limited and how it is to be found is also limited. For example, in all the lessons where research on behalf of the students is required there are 2 or 3 websites that are mentioned to the students and they are the only websites and research tools the students are to use. The information is also tangible and codified which is evident in this unit because all the information is already set out and 'out there in the world' for the students and already given to them in the form of websites, it just needs to be found by them - which ultimately requires no research and information literacy skills on behalf of the students (Lupton, 2016).
Situated: There is evidence of this Unit merging into the Situated Window, however it is very limited to the last couple of lessons. During Lesson 8 - the students are given an opportunity to write in a diary from the perspective of a person living on the goldfields, however there is a list of people the students have to choose from - for example a women, man, Chinese or child. Lesson 9 also encompasses the Situated Window by allowing students to go on an excursion to a famous gold rush area, where characters and actors are walking around in traditional clothing. This gives students the ability to find the information by asking, observing and picking up on clues by kinaesthetic, affective and embodied means as they are letting the information come from internal information and ideas. In saying this however, there are many more opportunities this unit has to incorporate more of the situated window aspects.
Transformative: There are no opportunities for students to question or challenge the status quo in order to empower oneself, transform oneself or society. There are also no activities to get students to 'read between the lines' and look at what meaning is implied and form their own ideas and opinions about what happened. Critiquing is an important part of this window and unfortunately, this unit comes short of allowing for students to critique information and question what happened as well as to come up with solutions.
Expressive: This window is not nested within the others, but more parallel to the transformative and branches off. This Unit does ask students to write a journal on behalf of a person on the goldfields but there are no opportunities to talk about how this unit and topic makes them feel and no time put aside to let students express this information through their own means such as art, dance, writing etc - essentially no time for 'making meaning'. There is also no reflection on the unit - which will be a big recommendation for the new design unit.
Please see below for am overview of these points in the form of a mind map.
Mind map of GeSTE Windows. Created by Author with Bubbl.us
As mentioned above, there are not a huge amount of opportunities for students to express themselves and the information literacy through their own means such as Art, Drama, Dance etc. The only evident integration of other subject areas are Maths (Timeline), Music (Songs from the goldfield) and English (Writing, Poetry & Research). Incorporating Integrated Inquiry into the Unit is essential and there have been many distinctive disciplinary and integrated inquiry approaches. There are a range of necessary inquiry thinking skills to be included in a History Unit and outlined below, is a table relating to each integration of these skills and how they relate to this unit.
Historical Skills from the History Teachers Association of Australia. Table created by Author
Recommendations (see above table plus below)
Development of Inquiry Skills
This Unit was based around the ACT curriculum and had not yet been strongly tied with the Australian Curriculum. Whether we like it or not, the curriculum, to a certain extent, needs to be a starting point to our unit plans and teaching outcomes. As educators, we are held responsible to ensure our students are meeting curriculum standards and are all on relatively the same page as the rest of Australia for each specific age group. ACARA backs up this theory by stating that 'the Australian Curriculum sets the expectations for what all young Australians should be taught, regardless of where they live in Australia or their background' (ACARA, 2016). In this unit it appears there were only a few curriculum connections made, perhaps before the official Australian Curriculum History Unit was finalised. Mandy Lupton (2016) has done a fantastic job in linking the Australian Curriculum History Units with Inquiry skills and as you can see in the above table, there is a potential for these inquiry skills to be linked to this gold rush history unit.
Currently, this Unit linked with the Grade 5 History Unit which has an achievement standard of :
What is interesting to note about the History stages of Inquiry learning is that it lacks the 'reflection' stage. It is unclear as to why this has ben left out of both ICT and History, especially when in many of the other subjects students of Year 5 level have the ability to self-reflect and think on a deep, emotional level. I certainly know when I teach History and every other subject, the reflecting stage is integral to my teaching. I think it is safe to say that even though it is not included in the curriculum, it should not mean we leave this element out.
The following dot points show how this unit has achieved some of the F–6/7 HASS Content Descriptions
Inquiry and skills:
Not only can content descriptors and inquiry skills embedded in the Australian Curriculum be relevant, but in order to really see the Inquiry Skills of a unit, standards and continua need to be considered. Relevant to this Unit is the Australian Curriculum Creative and Critical thinking learning continuum. These steps are vital as ACARA points out that "Thinking that is productive, purposeful and intentional is at the centre of effective learning" and to help achieve this goal, we need to integrate this learning continuum into our units of work.
Between Level 3 & 4 is where this Unit would typically sit and the core ideas are based around:
This unit covers the first layer of this continuum, however it falls short in all other areas. The unit includes areas for students to organise and process information as well as identify and clarify ideas, however from then on in there is no room for metacognition, imagining alternatives, considering problems and solutions reflecting or drawing conclusions.
To help with this issue and to maintain a high level of creative thinking, questioning frameworks can be utilised to ensure students are developing the necessary skills to question the world and to come up with solutions. This particular unit is geared more towards the 'Essential' questioning framework as it is structured around big questions that frame the inquiry. Please see the below table for a comparison between the four questioning frameworks and where there elements are reflected in the unit.
Questioning Frameworks: Table created by Author
Kathy Schrock (2016) points out that 'one of the most important information literacy skills for students is learning how to critically evaluate information found on the Web'.
Unfortunately, this is one of the major disadvantages of this unit as there is no opportunities for students to build on their skills and/or teaches them how to evaluate the sources they have been given, or found.
This unit encompasses a lot of website sources as the main form of research and it would be beneficial to include into the unit Kathy Schrock's 5 Ws of website evaluation to enable students to learn about the importance of evaluating the sources they are obtaining their information from. This could be slotted into a lesson of its own, or used as part of their final assessment where they analyse, discuss and present their sources and relate all their learning back to the 5Ws of website evaluation so they are able to critical evaluate their learning journey and which website sources helped them and were most reliable.
Using this method of website evaluation, it would mean students would be entering a more advanced GeSTE window of Transformative and also start encouraging children to use deeper questioning techniques/frameworks such as the Evaluative Framework - which currently is non exist in this unit (as observable in the above table).
Image of Kathy Schrock's 5ws of website evaluation. Copyright - free to reproduce for educational purposes (see the above image)
You will see on the next page that I have set out the changes in a table format so you can see exactly what the recommendations where, why they were proposed and how and where I made changes. Underneath each table there will be an example taken from the unit.
Miss Megan Elizabeth
Australian living in Johannesburg, Primary School Teacher, IT Teacher, World traveller
The Yogi of Inquiry Learning and Re-search
Intro, Analysis & Recommendations