Accelerated Learning Pathway

A. Purpose

  • To clarify some aspects of this program that are sometimes not fully understood
  • To document a number of refinements that have been agreed upon over time to address some identified concerns and increase the effectiveness of this pathway
  • To answer several questions that are raised from time to time


B. Key Features about Learning (refer to the document HW 290 for more detail)

  1. All students can learn and as a result, progress along the Victorian Curriculum continuum (K-10) throughout their schooling
  2. Students learn at different rates with their total learning increasing like compound interest eg. the gap between a faster learner and an average learner increases over time
  3. Schools can cater for this increasing gap by using two basic strategies:
  • Acceleration (faster progress along the curriculum continuum
  • Enrichment (the standard speed along the continuum but with different levels of depth)
  1. The aim is to have each student working at their own optimal point of learning, also referred to as their zone of proximal development.
  2. At Fairhills we provide acceleration for virtually all students in two different ways:
  3. All students choose one of the 40+ VET courses at year 11 level when they are chronologically in year 10. We are consistent with many other schools in providing for year 10 students to do one year 11 subject
  4. However in addition we also provide acceleration for the SEAL/Enhanced class in English, Maths, Science, Humanities and Japanese while the M/S classes cover these subjects at the standard speed.
  5. Then we differentiate by dividing all classes (accelerated and M/S) into 3 groups, each with different levels of depth to approximate the learning rates of each individual student within the class
  6. Research indicates that personal maturity also grows like compound interest, so that by Year 10 most students in the accelerated pathway are close to a year ahead in personal maturity (as well as academically) compared with an average student of the same age. There may be a few exceptions but this would be true for most of the accelerated class. (See sections C + D below for the ways we provide targeted social support for all these accelerated students).
  7. John Hattie’s Meta-analysis research indicates moderate learning benefits from enrichment and very high benefits from accelerated learning (compare a coefficient of 0.88 for acceleration with 0.39 for enrichment). Consequently our overall combined strategy across all subjects is more effective than just one or the other. This is much better than most other schools that provide mostly enrichment with some year 10 acceleration but only in one subject).
  8. In recognition that higher ability students need to be extended, the Department has recently created a ‘Student Excellence Unit’ to support schools with their strategies for extending higher ability students. We now receive an extra $9,700 in our SRP to cover the time release of our Learning Pathways Leader (now called a high ability practice leader HAPL). From term 4 2020, the Department is about to provide Victorian High Ability Program (VHAP) specialist programs for the students we have in our accelerated classes. Fairhills has been forward-thinking with its accelerated program and already has the structures/experience in place to make good use these Department initiatives.


C. Our Basic Structure (and how students relate to each other within it)

  • 7G students cover all of the Year 7 curriculum plus half of Year 8 in EN, MA, SC, HU, JA and PE (which includes social development). The accelerated and M/S students are mixed in the Arts
  • 8G continues with the second half of the Year 8 curriculum and all of Year 9 in a similar way to 7G
  • 10G students are now ready to commence the Year 10 curriculum a year early. They continue to be in the same class together for MA, EN, JA, SC and Tutorial (pastoral care) and mix with the M/S students by being in some classes with both accelerated and M/S students for HU, PE and Arts
  • 11G, the accelerated students remain together for Tutorial (pastoral care) and choose their preferred Year 11 VCE elective classes which are all a mixture of accelerated and M/S students (who are a year older).
  • In their second VCE year, the rest of their age cohort from the M/S pathway join the accelerated in their Year 11 subjects but they remain together as an accelerated group for Year 11 Literature. They also choose two Year 12 subjects and continue to share classes with the older M/S students they have got to know over the last two years
  • In Year 12 they are mixed together with their original age cohort M/S students and benefit from having studied a wider range of subjects and getting bonus ATAR points for their fifth and sixth subjects.

 

  1. Flexibility (to avoid a one size fits all approach)
  • At the end of term 1, in Year 7 the allocation of students to accelerated or M/S classes (and Bridge) is reviewed by the Pathways Coordinator and any proposed changes discussed with students and their parents
  • This is repeated at the end of each semester in Years 7 and 8 to ensure that all students remain well-matched to the pathway they are in
  • At the end of Year 8 the 8G students mostly move directly to Year 10 but our structure allows for a small number (usually about 5) to consolidate their learning by transferring to a Year 9 M/S H/G if this is what the parents want
  • At the end of Year 10 any accelerated student who has not progressed as far as expected can choose to do a VCElink course which allows them to include both Year 11 subjects and some Year 10 subjects (and still gain most of the benefits of the accelerated pathway)
  • All of this has been designed to importantly provide both support and flexibility as accelerated students move through the school
  • However, there is an EBA requirement that class sizes be limited to 25 so pragmatism sometimes places a constraint on implementing whatever the ‘ideal’ arrangement is seen to be at the time:

(a) When finalising the year 7 pathway allocations – We use a Nelson score of 80 (top fifth of students state-wide) as the cut off for the SEAL pathway. We fill the rest of the class (up to 25) with enhanced pathway students who ‘ideally’ have a Nelson score of over 66 (top third of students state-wide). At this point there are a few adjustments made to the H/G lists so that there are similar numbers in each of 7A, 7B and 7G to balance out the class sizes for teachers (similarly with the allocations to the Bridge pathway where we limit the class size to no more than 15).

(b) When reviewing the student pathway allocations at Easter and then at the end of each semester.

If there is a student transferred from Accel to M/S to better meet their learning needs, we try to provide an opportunity for a M/S student to reciprocate the swap and move into the accelerated class. For pragmatic reasons this cannot always be done.


E. Refinements incorporated into the program over a number of years

  1. VCElink for any Year 10 student who is not fully ready for Year 11 (applies to both accelerated and M/S students)
  2. Accelerated students in their second VCE year can have the number of Year 11 subjects reduced from 4 to 3 to give them more time to concentrate on their two Year 12 subjects because they are externally assessed.
  3. M/S students also have the opportunity to accelerate (in one subject) by selecting a Year 11 VET subject (choice of ~40) while they are still in Year 10
  4. The Pathways Coordinator each year organises two or more P/L activities to help teachers of accelerated classes in Years 7, 8 and 10 to incorporate T&L strategies which are targeted to the needs of accelerated students and visa versa for M/S classes (see HW 145).
  5. The Pathways Coordinator each year organises two or more P/L activities to help teachers of accelerated classes in Years 7, 8 and 10 to incorporate Pastoral Care strategies (eg. consideration of maturity issues) which are targeted to the particular needs of accelerated students
  6. Year 12 accelerated students can study a University subject in one of the Year 12 subjects they have already studied while still in Year 11
  7. Year 12 accelerated students can further improve their subject scores and their ATAR score by concentrating on four rather than 5 subjects if they wish.
  8. Originally students were recommended to the accelerated pathway mainly on their learning potential (Nelson) scores. However we came to recognise that a student’s learning rate can be enhanced/slowed down by the student’s work ethic and/or the richness of their home culture.  Teachers of ‘underperforming’ accelerated students are now expected to try various strategies to help them to improve their work ethic rather than just accept it (this can often be successful). However, we recognise that it is unlikely that the school or the teachers can do much to improve the home culture.
  9. As a consequence of this point, we now consider placing a students who is a little below the Nelson cut-off score but has a good work ethic and/or strong home culture support into the accelerated class because they can make better progress than a student with a higher Nelson score but who even after extra encouragement/support doesn’t improve their work ethic.
  10. The school has joined the Association of SEAL schools to facilitate targeted P/L and the sharing of resources/ideas for our teachers of accelerated classes.
  11. In term 4 we will be introducing to our accelerated classes, opportunities to participate in:
  • Victorian Challenge and Enrichment Series for high ability students– 2 hour activities delivered by 20 specialist organisations in and out of school hours in a range of subject areas
  • VHAP 10 week on-line extension courses in English or Maths

 

  1. Commonly asked questions

Q1.Do the M/S students also benefit from this multiple learning pathways structure?

A1.There are various benefits including:

  • Bridge students have extra help with literacy so they will have the basic skills to progress more quickly in all of their M/S subjects.
  • Teachers can concentrate their time on their M/S ability students without having to spend a lot of time catering for the higher ability students as they would in heterogeneous classes.
  • M/S students can develop their skills as role models and with leadership responsibilities when they often don’t get the opportunity in heterogeneous classes.

 

Q2 Isn’t having an acceleration pathway elitist?

A2 No! The heterogeneous classes are actually anti-elitist because they usually slow down the faster working students (see HW290 for more details about this issue)

 

Q3. Why don’t we let students accelerate in just their best subjects?

A3. All students need to put more effort into subjects that don’t come naturally to them so the accelerated students who are generally able to learn faster are treated the same as the M/S students who do all their subjects including the ones that don’t come naturally to them at the standard rate. This is a realistic and fair thing to do. What we do instead is to provide differentiation in all classes (both M/S and accelerated) so that students can progress at the rate that suits them in each of their subjects.

 

Q4 What eventual outcomes do we get in year 12?

A4.Here is an example. In 2019, of the top 18 subject scores in VCE, 17 went to the students who followed the accelerated pathway and one to a M/S student. One of the top scores was for an accelerated student who was still in year 11

 

Q5 Do many of the accelerated students drop out between year 7 and year 12?

A5 The whole multiple learning pathways program is designed to be flexible so that students can transfer between pathways in both directions when this is seen as appropriate. Potentially, a small number of students can transfer from accelerated to M/S and visa versa at any semester break. Particularly, at the end of year 8 about 3-5 accelerated students may choose to go into year 9 rather than year 10. Again this is done as seen appropriate at the time. Typically we start in year 7 with 20-25 accelerated students and by year 11 there are 15-20 of these still in the program

 

Q6 Is the accelerated pathway expensive to run?

A6 No. it is a lot less expensive than the various supports we provide to students with learning difficulties. In fact, the accelerated pathway allows us to save about $100,000 by running one less class in year 9. This money is invested in providing more subjects in years 11/12 which is a benefit to all students, both accelerated and M/S

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