Newsletter 105 Classroom Pedagogies


The following series of newsletters (1-20) are based on a fantastic guide teaching classroom pedagogies, teaching and learning strategies for teachers in the classroom.







A guide to...

Productive Pedagogies Classroom reflection manual

This booklet has been adapted from the Classroom Observation Booklet by New Basics Branch and the Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study (QSRLS) commissioned by Education Queensland


© The State of Queensland (Department of Education) 2002


Teachers should use the Productive Pedagogies framework to consider:

• Are all the students I teach, regardless of background, engaged in intellectually challenging and relevant curriculum in a supportive environment?

• How do my teaching and assessment practices support or hinder this?

• What opportunities do I have to critically reflect upon my work with colleagues?


This manual may be used to assist teachers with:

• reflecting on current classroom practices

• generating a professional language

• designing curriculum and learning experiences

• making intelligent decisions about individual students’ needs.


SUMMARY OF PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICE (You can follow the topics 1-20 across the four dimensions)



Intellectual quality

Higher-order thinking (1)

Deep knowledge (2)

Deep understanding (3)

Substantive conversation (4)

Knowledge as problematic (5)

Metalanguage (6)


DIMENSION 2 [7-11]

Supportive classroom environment

Student direction (7)

Social support (8)

Academic engagement (9)

Explicit quality performance criteria (10)

Self-regulation (11)


DIMENSION 3 [12-16] Recognition of difference

Cultural knowledge (12)

Inclusivity (13)

Narrative (14)

Group identity (15)

Active citizenship (16)


DIMENSION 4 [17-20]


Knowledge integration (17)

Background knowledge (18)

Connectedness to the world (19)

Problem-based curriculum (20)



DIMENSION 4 - Connectedness

The [Connectedness] dimension of Productive Pedagogies synthesises a common concern that emanates from diverse interests and research findings. On the one hand, a general concern of students in Australian schools is a need for school studies to be more ‘relevant’ (Walker, 1986). On the other hand, studies of cognition, curriculum design, and school restructuring all question the degree to which classroom practices address issues or problems which have salience outside of the school (Rogoff, 1991).

Topic 17 - Knowledge integration

Does the lesson integrate a range of subject areas?


Integrated school knowledge is identifiable when either (a) explicit attempts are made to connect two or more sets of subject area knowledge, or (b) no boundaries between subject areas are readily seen. Topics or problems that either require knowledge from multiple areas, or do not have their basis in any clear subject areas in the first place, are indicators of curricula that integrate knowledge from a variety of school subjects. Non-integrated school knowledge is typically segregated or divided in such a way that specific sets of knowledge and skills are (relatively) unique and discrete for each specified school subject area. Segregated knowledge is identified by clear boundaries between subject areas. The less evident the connections are between knowledge in different segregated subject areas, the stronger are the boundaries between them. In the extreme, such boundaries prevent any interconnection between different subject areas.


Growing enrolments at a high school necessitated increasing the number of houses by two for various inter-house sporting events. To accommodate this change, two extra lanes had to be marked on the running track in time for the school athletics carnival. This prompted a group of Year 8 teachers from different disciplines to work together on an integrated unit with a single group of students. An HPE teacher worked with the students to design the new track and athletics field so that it would accommodate the extra competitors. Extra areas had to be allocated for the new house groups, for more marshalling space, and for specialised events such as discus and long jump. A Maths teacher worked with her class to determine the actual lengths of the new tracks and the position of the starting blocks for events over various distances. An English teacher worked with his class to draw up programs, advertising material, results lists and signage. A Computer Studies teacher worked with her class to construct a website for the carnival and keep this website up-to-date. In this example, integration occurred around a common topic while the subject boundaries remained intact.


Topic 18 - Background knowledge

Are links with students’ background knowledge made explicit?


High-connection lessons provide students with opportunities to make connections between their own background knowledge and experience and the topics, skills and competencies they are studying and acquiring. Their background knowledge and world view may be derived from personal experience of their community and local area, from their linguistic and cultural heritage, and/or from the media and popular culture. Low-connection lessons introduce new content, skills and competencies without any direct or explicit exploration of any prior knowledge students may have of the topic. Neither do these lessons attempt to provide key background knowledge that might enhance students’ comprehension and understanding of the ‘new’ material offered.


Year 7 students were asked to create the ideal country. They were asked to consider what elements compose a country. After brainstorming ideas they formed groups in which they had to reach consensus in justifying choices of resources, geographical features, industrial infrastructure, government, industry and cultural composition, customs and laws. Students drew heavily on their own background knowledge and experiences in making choices and justifying decisions to the rest of the group.


Topic 19 - Connectedness to the world

Is the lesson, activity or task connected to competencies or concerns beyond the classroom?


Connectedness describes the extent to which the lesson has value and meaning beyond the instructional context, making a connection to the wider social context within which students live. Two areas in which students’ work can exhibit some degree of connectedness are: (a) real-world public problems or (b) students’ personal experiences. Students might confront an actual contemporary issue or problem, such as preparing a report on homeless people to the local council by applying statistical analysis; or the lesson might focus directly on, or build upon, students’ own experiences or situations. A high level of connectedness can be achieved when the lesson entails one or both of these approaches. A lesson with low connectedness has little or no value beyond the classroom; activities are deemed important when success is achieved only within the school context and for no other aspects of life. Students’ work has no impact on others and serves only to certify their level of competence or compliance with the norms and routines of formal schooling.


A Year 10 English class was provided with the opportunity to conduct an independent unit of work. The only requirement was that the students had to provide a written product and present their project to the class. The criteria for the unit were decided in collaboration with the students. Some of the topics the students covered in this class were ‘How to do a PowerPoint presentation’, ‘How to maintain a bicycle’, ‘How to do sign language’, ‘How to take good photographs’ and ‘How to do Japanese cooking’. In each case the students saw the topics as having value outside the class. There was a suggestion, for example, that the students learning how to do PowerPoint presentations would be able to conduct in-service training for some of the staff. The students learning sign language suggested a number of uses to which they wanted to put their newfound skills. And the two students who were creating a manual on how to maintain a bicycle were discussing ways in which they could market their booklet in the community.


Topic 20 - Problem-based curriculum

Is there a focus on identifying and solving intellectual and/or real-world problems?


A problem-based curriculum is one in which students are presented with specific practical, real or hypothetical problems (or sets of problems) to solve. Problems are defined as having no single correct solution, requiring the construction of knowledge by the students, and requiring sustained attention beyond a single lesson.

Problem-based curriculum is not evident when students are presented with a large body of facts and recall is expected with only one given answer accepted as correct.


A Year 8 Health and Physical Education teacher was working with the class on a unit about building a raft. Teacher-directed discussion and negotiation ensued about what skills the students would need to build the raft, and what outcomes they wanted from the exercise. The students decided that one skill they needed to learn was how to work effectively in groups. In response to this, the teacher had the students play a game in the gym where they were allowed to throw balls in all directions, with the aim of keeping the balls constantly in motion. There was frenetic movement of balls around the class. The teacher stopped the game and asked how it could be modified to work more effectively. There was extensive discussion about rules. Much of this discussion was extended to take in questions about rules in society – who created them, why, whether they were able to be negotiated, whether everyone had the same opportunity to create the rules, and so on. The game then continued under different sets of rules. The students themselves constructed the rules, argued why they were appropriate and looked at their effects. This one lesson was treated not as an isolated incident, but as focusing on the development of a skill needed for solving the larger problem. This teacher conducted a number of other interesting lessons, all of them directed towards the problem of constructing a raft. All of the lessons were designed to build upon the skills and knowledge perceived by the students and the teacher as necessary to solve this larger problem.

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