The Lang Lang cluster began as a group of three primary schools in the towns of Lang Lang and Wonthaggi, VIC between 85kms and 130kms south-east of Melbourne. All three schools – Lang Lang Primary School, Wonthaggi Primary School and Wonthaggi North Primary School – are in lower socio-economic areas, with ICSEA scores of 965, 996 and 934 respectively. The collective vision of the cluster is to achieve the highest potential for every student underpinned by each school’s core values.
The partnership was initially formed in 2016 during the Victorian Department’s Primary Maths Science Specialist initiative (PMSS). Working closely together, the three schools with six numeracy learning specialists aimed to improve numeracy learning outcomes of students through teacher collaboration, coaching, professional development and best practice principles as outlined by Tom Lowrie in ‘Educating Spatial Thinking for STEM Success’.
Towards the end of the PMSS initiative, and as a result of this work, the cluster was invited to partner with SVA as a STEM Hub school. This enabled school leaders to continue the work they had started with PMSS and pursue the following:
- Refine their focus regarding how to include technology in their numeracy approach
- Develop teacher confidence and current knowledge of STEM
- Increase STEM resources through SVA’s connection with Samsung Electronics Australia to improve teaching and learning
- Develop collaborative practices both within and across their schools
- Connect with other STEM Hub schools, sharing approaches and successes.
The leadership team across the cluster was excited at the prospect of moving from being great schools to excellent schools and being exemplars of STEM practices for the system.
What happened during the project?
The original intention of the project was to develop a digital portfolio of numeracy teaching and learning resources, conduct professional learning across the three schools, and develop assessment tools and best practice STEM models to engage staff, students and the wider community.
The main activity undertaken by the cluster was engaging in professional learning both within and across the three schools. This included:
- Whole staff sessions, team sessions, individual coaching
- Establishment of teams
- Building leadership capacity
- Focus on STEM practices
- Development of digital resources that allow easy access for all to best practices
- Focus on peer observation and feedback related to best practices.
Throughout the partnership with SVA, significant changes occurred at all three schools. These included staffing and funding changes. This led to the focus of the project changing to how to best use the technology from Samsung to enhance teaching and learning.
What changed for the students?
Key changes as a result of this project include strengthening rather than changing the cluster’s numeracy STEM approaches and refining and documenting their maths approach. Work has created consistency of teaching and a common language and approach across each school. There has also been a shift towards problem solving and strategy-based thinking, increasing engagement in numeracy.
Regarding the use of technology, the schools are starting to bridge the digital divide by increasing the quantity and quality of technology. There is a focus on how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning, rather than being used for the sake of it. And, as technology is being integrated into learning, students are sharing their learning more effectively and efficiently.
‘I like that you can do work [on the Samsung Flip interactive whiteboard] and it’s got lots of storage so you can go back to what you’ve done. Sometimes if you work on the whiteboard, it will get wiped off so you can’t remember what you did before.’ – Student
‘I like how you can connect the computers that we are using [to the Flip board] which makes sharing work you’ve done much easier. The Flip is bigger than a computer so everyone can see it. It helps me with my learning as I can see what everyone is doing.'
Where to next?
Consistent teaching is already impacting learning in all classrooms; however, the technology isn’t efficient in all classes. The school would like to find funding for the technology in all classrooms.
The Samsung Flip has had significant impacts on effective and efficient teaching practices, including gathering evidence of learning and improved student engagement and thinking processes in one classroom. The school can see the potential of the Flip board in every classroom but self-funding this tech is difficult. Connecting the Flip board to their school network has been a tricky task, so seeking additional tech support is crucial.
The plan moving forward is to continue professional learning within and across schools to further enhance STEM teaching and learning approaches and implementing technology including the Flip into lessons to enhance teaching and learning.
Staff still have more to learn about how the technology can be leveraged, such as using the camera in the Flip board and collaborative learning online.
The Lang Lang cluster learned the following were important for success:
- Commitment – For a cluster to work, all team members and principals must be committed to the project. Cluster agreements should be put in place outlining the commitment from all parties involved, with contingencies in case members of the cluster change or can no longer be involved.
- Dedicated time – Members of the team/cluster need a nominal amount of dedicated project time outside of the classroom/their teaching workload to ensure it’s managed productively.
- Flexibility – Staff should be flexible to allow for the direction of cluster-based projects to change and evolve as circumstances change.
- Aligning priorities – Aligning key school priorities such as the schools’ Annual Implementation Plans (AIP) with the project and allocating funding appropriately.
- Relevant professional development – Professional development throughout the project should match the action plan and needs to support schools to implement their project.
Q&A with the School Principal
Q: What has made SVA a productive partnership for your school?
The partnership with SVA has allowed us to connect with technology partners that we wouldn’t normally have access to and technology that we would potentially never be able to afford. It has also increased our exposure to technology that could enhance teaching and learning in our schools that we wouldn’t have been aware of without this partnership.
Our relationship has created opportunities to explore teaching and learning involving new technologies with other colleagues. It has also reinforced to us that our numeracy approach encompasses 21st century skills and current best STEM teaching practices.
Q: Outside of SVA itself, what has been the most productive partnership you’ve developed through your SVA project? Why has it been productive?
Resourcing limitations made connecting with other SVA schools challenging. However, we were able to connect with Sunshine College, Wallarano Primary School and the Mount Burr Primary School around innovative STEM practice over the duration of the relationship with SVA.
Contribution of another school to your journey
It was affirming to observe Sunshine College implementing a similar STEM teaching and learning approach to numeracy.
Outside of SVA webinars, we took inspiration from other schools’ STEM approaches, such as Wallarano Primary School’s introduction of the Digital Sandbox to immerse students in STEM technology. This is something our schools are aiming to do in the future.
We also connected with Mt Burr Primary School regarding Flip boards and Google Classrooms. We believe this connection may continue after the project, as they are keen to learn more about the use of the Flip board and how to utilise Google Classrooms.
Looking back on the project, we realise that we primarily looked for connections in areas reflecting our strengths. In future we feel it would be more helpful to look for connections with schools that may have some success in areas we are yet to address.