Focus Groups: How Larrakeyah Primary Consistently Meets Targets
We’re immensely proud of how our school community, our students, and staff have led Larrakeyah Primary from strength to strength – the most recent example of such progress being demonstrated in achieving a “High” to “Outstanding” result in all areas of our 2020 School Review.
Today, we want to share one of the mechanisms that form the foundations of our continuous improvement. Let’s take a look at Focus Groups.
What are Focus Groups?
Focus Groups are teams of teachers working together on a singular area of focus. There are four Focus Groups – Innovation, Literacy, Numeracy, and Data.
The goal of the groups is to identify areas of improvement within each area of focus, and develop strategies, programs, and initiatives to produce a measurable change.
Each of these areas align with our school plan and overall school targets.
Through dedicated teams, we see greater improvement across the board because each team can concentrate on its own area of focus – rather than getting caught up in the interaction between focus areas.
What’s the purpose of each focus area?
- Innovation: focuses on challenging the status quo across the school to ensure we are consistently implementing better ways of developing student outcomes.
- Literacy: a core area of learning that influences every aspect of student development, the Literacy Focus Group aims to explore and implement projects and frameworks to improve student results.
- Numeracy: similarly to Literacy, the Numeracy Focus Group aims to develop improvement to mathematics outcomes in line with school targets.
- Data: how does the school collect, analyse, and derive insight from data to ensure we’re on track to deliver student outcomes and provide a positive learning environment? That’s what the Data Focus Group is all about.
The groups are given the freedom to explore and ideate on the best ways to meet their identified goals, and this can lead to many different strategies and solutions. Commonly, the activities of each group can take the form of:
- professional development
- workshops and lesson plans
- new learning programs
- the development of learning spaces and environments
- implementation of new technology and software
Focus Group Example
It’s often easy to see the results generated by Focus Groups, but difficult to understand how they take a target, design a goal, and take action to achieve that goal. Let’s explore an example of such a journey.
Literacy Focus Groups Introduction of BrightPath
In 2019, school targets in literacy were focused on improving NAPLAN results in Writing – especially in the gains between the two years of testing (between Years 3 and 5) – and in engaging teachers in the analysis and use of data in literacy.
This led the Literacy Focus Group (LFG) to support the introduction of Brightpath, an assessment software tool designed to provide better feedback to allow teachers to evaluate their programs based on the needs of individual students.
The LFG took a 3 step approach:
- Actively supporting the introduction of Brightpath and helping teachers become familiar with the tool.
- Provide relevant professional development and resources to staff and integrate the use of Brightpath with TRIADS (peer review of teaching) to improve the consistency of teaching literacy.
- Use Brightpath to collect and report on data across school year levels to measure progress towards targets.
This three step approach then evolved into many individual workshops, assessment tasks, and working collaboratively with the Data Focus Group across 2019 and into 2020.
An uncommon structure with massive results
If you’ve never heard of a Focus Group, within a school context, that’s not surprising – it’s an uncommon and innovative approach to consistent improvement. It breaks away from the purely hierarchical structure typically found in a school, and engages the teachers to be more involved in the development of programs.
The results are undeniable. Creating an environment for teachers to drill down into a specific area of focus and ask “there must be a better way” has produced innovations not possible without such a structure.
Focus Groups continue today, and we look forward to sharing new initiatives, programs and approaches that stem from this year's groups over the course of the semester and beyond.