Class above in learning

THEORY AND PRACTICE: From left to right, KHS students Max Henshaw, Madi Shone, Mr Dan Garner (Head Teacher Mathematics), Wil Cromarty; Abby Amodio, Lachlan Pfieffer and Mrs Roseanne Abbott (Head Teacher English).
THEORY AND PRACTICE: From left to right, KHS students Max Henshaw, Madi Shone, Mr Dan Garner (Head Teacher Mathematics), Wil Cromarty; Abby Amodio, Lachlan Pfieffer and Mrs Roseanne Abbott (Head Teacher English).

Head Teachers  Roseanne Abbott (English) and  Dan Garner (Mathematics) discuss pedagogy (the method and practice of  teaching) in these key areas as Kotara High School moves into the future.


Head Teacher Roseanne Abbott

Kotara High School’s vision for the future is Inspire to Excel – We Aim High.

Our School Plan focuses on cultivating intellectual potential through explicit teaching underpinned by a commitment to the pursuit of excellence.

In English, we have orchestrated explicit systems to optimise critical learning for all students in an aspirational culture of continuous improvement.

The 5Es of English (Encourage, Engage, Enlighten Enrich, Empower) are an explicit, informed and cohesive practice of teaching and learning based on faculty action research and data analysis.

English programming of the 5Es intertwines ALARM (A Learning and Responding Matrix), Visible Learning (Hattie) and Visible Thinking (Harvard) into pedagogy for success.

Pedagogy focuses on problematic knowledge with significant and driving questions to facilitate improvement in moving from the observation level to the critical evaluation skill level.

Explicit scaffolds in critical reading and extended writing embed critical learning into daily practice.

Learning intentions and success criteria are made transparent to all students.

At Kotara High School English students are empowered to confidently respond to and create a range of complex texts through critical and reflective thinking strategies.

In direct response to the Premier’s Bump It Up initiative, we authored a registered 24 hour MyPL course for all staff, Kotara High School – Empowering Students to Exceed Their Potential.

We devised a suite of initiatives to engineer critical thinking through Evidence Based Practice, ALARM, Visible Learning and Newman’s Prompts. This has catalysed a commitment by all teachers to a compelling vision based on professional collaboration.

Kotara High School’s 2017 NAPLAN data for reading and numeracy highlights students confidently responding to a range of questions and texts through critical learning strategies that achieve genuine and identifiable impacts on student learning.

The Bump It Up initiative has empowered all students and staff to sustain innovation and improvement in literacy and numeracy with the aim of critical learning for life.


Head Teachers Dan Garner

The philosophy for Kotara High School over the next three years is to inspire students to exceed their potential. 

In Mathematics, this has led to a deep strategic focus in three broad areas:

Evidence-based practice

The key to achieving the greatest impact in teaching is to embed systems and practices that focus on areas of greatest need for our students.

We have developed a process of unobtrusive diagnostic assessment in order to identify the knowledge base and skillset of students in order to drive our teaching programs.

We are moving to a model of teaching without a static program but which directly responds to the needs of our students.

We are also in the early stages of a policy for formalising a stream of consistent feedback in order to measure students’ understanding and apply teaching interventions early in the learning process.

Explicit Teaching

Through the analysis of historical student performance across all faculties, both at NAPLAN and HSC level, constructing critical responses and problem solving techniques have been identified as skills in which our students can improve significantly.

In 2018 – 2020, teacher professional development will focus on applying ALARM (A Learning and Response Matrix) as a writing scaffold and adapt Newman’s Error Analysis as a tool with which to decode problems across a range of contexts.

In Mathematics, this has led to an explicit focus on effective note taking, continual summarisation, action-focussed student reflection and a step-by-step approach to solving complex problems successfully.

In return, students are expected to take a greater ownership of their learning and engage with the teacher and their classmates more regularly for feedback.

Technology in Teaching Delivery

With the exponential growth of electronic and media platforms which seek to make learning more user-friendly, students have never been more bombarded or confused with the expectation to be familiar with multiple sources of information, both at school and at home.

We are seeking to de-clutter the technology space by providing a consistent, ‘less is more’ approach to student access to learning in Mathematics.

Our philosophy is simple – provide 24/7 access to learning in a way that allows students to focus directly on the knowledge and skills without barriers.

For this reason, we have minimised the number of platforms used in our day-to-day teaching to only those which we believe will have the greatest impact on student outcomes.

In all three spaces, there is significant strategic detail which is continually being evaluated and refined over the next three years.

Kotara High School is a comprehensive co-educational high school with just over 1000 students located in the city of Newcastle.