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Teaching and Learning Resource

This resource is designed to provide further advice on teaching and learning theory, principles and strategies for teachers working with the Victorian Essential Learning Standards sample units.

Teachers seeking additional advice can access Principles of Learning and Teaching P-12 located in the Department of Education and Training Student Learning website.

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The activities in the sample units provide examples of varied teaching and learning approaches and contextx that meet individual learning needs of students. This resource outlines some planning models and frameworks including:

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an active learning approach that involves students in solving problems similar to those they may find in life. In a PBL environment, teachers act as facilitators and coaches, enabling students to take responsibility for learning and developing higher order thinking skills. Further information can be found at:
Central Queensland's Problem-Based Learning Web Portal

Bloom's taxonomy is a useful model for ensuring that higher order thinking tasks are included in curriculum planning. It was revised by Anderson in 1999 and is based on a six-level classification of cognitive development:

Further information can be found at:
oz-TeacherNet-Teacher helping teachers
Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences describes learning styles in terms of different kinds of intelligences. Teachers can refer to these to support them in constructing units which cater for a range of learning styles:

Further information can be found at:
Multiple Intelligences

The thinker's keys are a range of question starters developed by Tony Ryan in 1990. They are designed to engage and motivate students in divergent thinking activities and provide a framework for teachers when developing units of work. The thinkers keys include:

Further information on this framework can be found at: Publications by Tony Ryan

The six thinking hats and the CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust technique) programs were developed by Edward de Bono.

The six thinking hats are a model for the direct teaching and practising of parallel thinking. Each hat represents a different type of thinking and students are initially formally taught the meaning of each hat and the rules for their use. The six hats are:

The six hats are used widely to assist students' thinking and learning, and support the strategies embedded in the collaborative and personal learning sections.

CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust Technique) is a technique which is developed in six parts. The focus is placed directly on different types of thinking and tools which are used deliberately. Each of the parts includes 10 lessons. The first part focuses on the broadening of perception. Further information on the de Bono models and programs can be found at: Edward de Bono's Authorised Website.

Inquiry-based learning is a student centred or active learning approach that takes as its starting point the natural process of inquiry, building on this to develop information processing and problem-solving skills. The focus is on 'how we know' rather than 'what we know', with students actively involved in the construction of their own knowledge. More information on the inquiry-based learning can be found at: Inquiry-based Learning: Explanation

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A range of different teaching and learning strategies is described briefly to provide some ideas for actively engaging students in their learning and engaging higher order thinking. Planning a range of challenging activities for students requires an understanding of their stage of cognitive development and knowledge of their preferred ways of learning. There may be significant differences in the strategies used to create a positive learning environment for students at different stages of development and schooling. It is important that students are taught how to use these tools and the purpose and thinking focus they reflect. When students have developed their knowledge, confidence and competence in using these tools and strategies they will begin to use them independently to improve their learning. Most of these strategies can be used with all students but will require different levels of support and scaffolding for different age groups.

The teaching and learning strategies outlined are also supported by the Key competencies and Enterprise skills, which in turn provide a framework or outline for curriculum planning and personal reflection and learning.

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Taking into account the various theories of learning and the students' stages of development, Bloom's taxonomy and Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence can be combined in a grid to help plan selection or modification of activities, or to record what was done. It is unlikely that any one unit or section of work will offer a full range of activities addressing all learning styles, student attributes and competencies.

The sample matrix planning document, however, provides a useful reference for checking the range of different learning styles, key ideas and concepts covered over, say, a term or semester.

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Unit: ___________________________________________
Level: _____________















Logical/ mathematical


Insert the activity


























Interpersonal (social)







Intrapersonal (self)














Further information on developing matrices for curriculum planning can be found in Infusing thinking into the Middle years by M. Pohl 2002 Hawker Brownlow.

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Brainstorming is an individual and collaborative process which is used to generate a large number of ideas and encourage creative thinking.

For brainstorming to be effective a safe and supportive classroom culture is essential. Rules, protocols or agreements as outlined in Collaborative learning are essential.

DOVE guidelines

Teachers may wish to teach and use the DOVE guidelines for brainstorming as a protocol for these activities in the classroom. The DOVE guidelines for brainstorming call for all students to:

D – defer judgement on any one else's ideas or comments
O – opt for the unusual and creative
V – generate a vast number of ideas
E – expand on the ideas by piggy backing off others.

These guidelines can assist in the creation of an environment where all ideas are valued and where students listen effectively to others' and value each others' opinions.

Teachers may wish to make A4 posters of these guidelines to place on the tables of all groups as a reference.

With all brainstorming activities it is important for deep understanding that all groups have the opportunity to report on the outcomes of their discussion and that teachers ask questions focusing on why they came up with those points, what the thinking was behind the responses, and what was learnt from the activity and how. Further detail on the types of questions that can be asked in these situations can be found in personal learning.

Further information on brainstorming can be found at: Step by Step Guide to Brainstorming

Useful tools and strategies for brainstorming are:

This strategy encourages students to think first and then discuss their opinions with a small group of people.

In groups students consider a question or issue. They begin by reflecting on their opinions and ideas on the topic and recording them on a template, pairing up with the student next to them to discuss their ideas and opinions. The next stage of the process requires the team to come together and share their ideas and collate a group response. This should then be fed back to the class as a whole.

A Y chart is also known as 'looks like, sounds like, feels like' and encourages students to think outside of the square while brainstorming. On a large sheet of paper teachers or students draw a large Y shape and label the different sections as shown below. The results can be displayed around the room. Possible follow up activities could include all class members walking around the classroom, considering the responses given by each group and how they varied from their own.

example of a Y chart

The placemat is drawn on a large sheet of paper. The page is divided so that each group member has a section to write in with a square or circle in the middle to record the group response. Students are given an issue, topic or question to consider and they begin the process by considering their responses and ideas. Responses are recorded in their section of the placemat. Students share their perspectives and a team response is recorded in the middle of the sheet. Possible follow up activities could include all class members walking around the classroom, considering the responses given by different groups and how they varied from their own.

This process involves the collection of knowledge and ideas from all class members in the one process. Students are encouraged to use coloured markers to make the wall interesting.

Large sheets of paper or rolls of paper are placed on the walls of the classroom. Students write their responses, draw pictures and record their thoughts on the given topic on the graffiti wall.

The sunshine wheel is used to brainstorm ideas in groups. The central topic is written into the middle and then the arms on the outside are used to record student responses. They could be emotions associated with a word, components that make up an object or thing, adjectives to describe an object.

Depending on the developmental level of students, teachers can easily adapt this tool to make it more challenging and extend thinking in a particular direction. Teaching this tool is also a possible beginning step in introducing students to the process of mind mapping.

example of a sunshine wheel

Using the A to Z proforma in groups, students brainstorm and research words and terminology associated with a topic that begin with the different letters of the alphabet. Answers are recorded on the sheet next to the relevant letter. Depending on the developmental level of students, teachers may wish to extend the task by requiring students to find a greater number of words or by challenging them to think outside of the square by listing adjectives or synonyms. Dictionaries and other reference materials can be consulted for the activity. Teachers may adapt this strategy to encourage the drawing of diagrams and pictures next to the relevant letter. Students need to be able to explain the meaning and relevance of any word placed on their sheet.


Place instructions for students in here




























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Graphic organisers are tools that may be used to plan activities and investigations or to assist with reviewing and reflecting on progress, understanding and skills. Students are able to visually organise their information, ideas and research using these tools. Graphic organisers are also highly effective in extending students' thinking by encouraging in-depth thought on topics and issues.

Graphic organisers can be given to students as proformas or templates when being introduced for the first time. Teachers need to formally instruct students on the purpose and use of the graphic organiser and the type of thinking being targeted in the activity. Students can also be taught how to develop their skills in using and developing graphic organisers using software such as Kidspiration, Inspiration and Visio.

Additional graphic organiser samples and ideas for their use are provided in Using cognitive organisers in the middle years by David Brown on the VCAA website.

Sample graphic organisers and their applications are provided below.

Concept maps show relationships between ideas or concepts. Concept maps can be used to identify students' prior knowledge and understanding, to summarise concepts and to organise information. Beginning with the central idea or theme in a middle box students then consider four to five components or sub ideas to this theme. Teachers could ask students to concept map a story they are writing. The central box contains the title of the story and then each of the outlying boxes could comprise components such as characters, plot, beginning, middle, climax. From each of these outlying squares students make brief notes about what will happen in their story.

Mind maps are completed on plain paper and visually record students' thinking. Information may be recorded on the map as words or as images. A mind map has a central image which depicts the topic or issue being mapped. From the centre a series of coloured stems emerge which reflect the components of the topic. Beginning with a stem, students draw a series of branches which show the interrelationship and connections between the ideas. Mind mapping can also be a highly reflective revision tool to evaluate the depth of students understanding in a topic or concept and their ability to make connections between ideas.

More information on mind mapping can be found at:
How to do a Mind Map
Buzan Centres - Mind Mapping
Inspiration Software, Inc.

Venn diagrams help make comparisons. Similarities are shown in the overlapping area and differences are shown in the areas that do not overlap. For example, diagrams A and B below.

2 examples of venn diagrams

Issues map

An issues map can help identify the different dimensions or perspectives that relate to a particular event or topic of concern. It is often helpful to have issues phrased as questions as these can be answered differently depending on the point of view held by those who suggest an answer. The responses can then be categorised as positive or negative.

example of an issues map

Flow diagram

Flow diagrams sequence ideas, procedures or events. They can be used for preliminary planning or, with appropriate annotations, they can represent a timeline or final action plan.

example of a flow diagram


Storyboards show pictorially the sequence of ideas, procedures or events. These are similar to flow diagrams but are pictorial rather than text-based and provide students who are visual learners with ways to demonstrate their ideas visually rather than in print.

The fishbone diagram is an analysis tool that provides a systematic way of looking at effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects. Because of the function of the fishbone diagram, it may be referred to as a cause-and-effect diagram. Teachers can modify this diagram to incorporate a different de Bono thinking hat at the end of each stem to direct students' thinking in problem-based learning.

example of a fishbone diagram

Further information can be found at
Fishbone Diagram A Problem-Analysis Tool

The lotus diagram supports students in engaging in creative thinking and critical analysis as they explore new ideas. Students develop deeper understanding by examining a variety of related areas by breaking broad topics into components. The steps involved are:

Lotus process

chart illustrating the lotus process


Gantt chart

A gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart which provides students with an illustration of a schedule to assist with planning, coordination of, and tracking specific tasks in a project.

On the horizontal axis the total time of the task or activity is placed using either days, weeks or months to show duration. The vertical axis outlines the tasks to be completed in that time.

an example of a Gantt chart

Cause and effect wheel

A cause and effect wheel is also known as concentric circles. This organiser assists students in understanding the relationships between cause and effect, action and reaction.

Students begin the process by drawing a circle on a large sheet of paper and writing in the issue to be explored. They proceed by making further circles building on the original cause in the middle. Each of these circles focuses on exploring the effects in greater detail. Students may also consider relationships between ideas not directly connected or reflect on what might happen if the links were reversed.

example of cause and effect wheel

Affinity diagram

The Affinity diagram is designed for groups of students to collect data and to sort it in a short period of time by looking for similarities and relationships.

example of an Affinity Diagram

The pluses, minuses and interesting (PMI) tool can be used to assist students in evaluating and unpacking the details of a product, piece of writing, text or issue. This tool encourages students to look at all sides of the topic and recognise the strengths and weaknesses rather then focusing on their immediate emotional reaction. This organiser also assists students to evaluate their own work, the work of others and reflect on their progress and learning.

Students sort data into logical categories based on their relationship. Teachers may choose to collect the data on sticky notes as a brainstorming exercise. The teacher acts as facilitator and groups the data to show the relationship between the issue and the category.

Plus / Minus / Interesting













The K-W-L-H organiser provides students with a framework to explore their prior knowledge on a topic and consider what they would like to know and learn. This organiser can be used as an individual or group strategy but is most effective when students are given the opportunity to reflect individually before sharing with others.

K – Stands for helping students recall what they KNOW about the subject.

W – Stands for helping students determine what they WANT to learn.

L – Stands for helping students identify and reflect upon what they have LEARNT at the end of a topic or activity.

H – Stands for HOW did we learn it and aids metacognition by assisting students to reflect upon what they have learnt and how they have learnt it.


What We Know

What We Want to Find Out

What We Learned

How Did We Learn It











This organiser is called a T chart as it looks like the letter T. Across the top students write their topic and then either side of the organiser can represent opposing sides such as opinions and facts. The nature of the sides is determined by the teachers and students depending on the type of thinking to be undertaken, for example, critical, analytical, creative etc.

example of a T chart

Spider Map

The Spider Map can be used as a planning or brainstorming tool. Students place the central theme or idea in the middle circle and then list a main idea along one of the spider's legs. This idea is then further teased out in the section at the end of the appropriate leg.

example of spider map

Force Field Analysis looks at all of the forces for and against a decision by looking at the pros and cons. By undertaking this process students strengthen the areas supporting their project and reduce the possible impact of opposition to it.

Driving (pros)

Preventing/restricting (cons)






SWOT Analysis is a tool for auditing issues, work, products or processes and assists students to focus on key issues and make informed decisions.











Students explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats using a template such as the one above. By looking at the pros and cons of a topic, students are required to consider the whole picture and not to narrow in on their immediate reactions and emotions.

Deployment flowcharts

Deployment flowcharts are used to outline the steps in a process and to show which person or group is involved in each step. This organiser can be used when students are planning a project to outline the different components, individuals and groups involved.

Flowchart: Process: Time correlation (if applicable) example of a deployment flowchart


Further information can be found at Sample Flowcharts

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Questioning supports students to develop deep understanding of both concepts and of their own learning. Students need support to practise and reflect upon their questioning techniques and to develop skills in identifying different types of questions that may be framed to obtain a more comprehensive response. Teachers formally teach the art of questioning and provide regular practice to improve students' skills and confidence in this area.

Closed questions

Closed questions require specific information which can usually be answered yes or no. This questioning technique is also known as Skinny Questions.

Open questions

Open questions require deeper thinking about the answer. They are also known as Fat Questions. To successfully answer this type of question students will need wait or think time where the teacher gives them a period of time to consider a response before giving it.

Hypothetical or scenario-based questions

Hypothetical or scenario-based questions require a thoughtful and considered response. 'What would you do if there were an argument in the school ground?' These questions can be combined with a problem-based learning activity and workshopped in teams or groups.

Socratic questioning

Socratic questioning is a technique to explore concepts in greater depth and breadth. This technique, using the examples developed by Richard Paul, assists students to think critically and to probe each other's understanding.

The following table has been adapted from:
Paul, Richard 1993, Critical Thinking: how to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Foundation for Critical Thinking.

Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

Questions of Clarification

Questions that Probe Assumptions

Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

What do you mean by ____?

How does this relate to our problem/discussion/issue?

What are you assuming?

Why would someone make that assumption?

What would be an example?

How do you know?

Questions about Viewpoints or Perspectives

Questions that Probe Implications and Consequences

Questions about the Question

What effect would that have?

What is an alternative?

How can we find out?

How could someone settle this question?


Reflective questioning is a technique teachers can use constantly throughout lessons and activities to determine students' engagement and the development of deeper understanding. When framing reflective questions teachers develop questions based on three broad categories which focus on students' understanding and thinking, interpersonal development and personal learning.

Thinking/content questions

Thinking/content questions focus on the content covered and the concepts learned. Students reflect on their thinking and the skills used during the lesson or activity. Questions such as 'What did you learn from the presentations given today?' or 'Why is being able to solve a problem an important skill?' are examples of these types of questions.

Interpersonal or collaborative questions

Interpersonal or collaborative questions focus on students' interactions with other members of the group or class. Questions such as 'What did you learn about your partner?' and 'How well did your group work together and why?', 'What support did your group members provide to each other and how did it affect your group?' assist students to think about their learning outside of content.

Personal learning questions

Personal learning questions focus on the individual learner and encourage them to think about their learning and skills development. Examples of personal learning questions are 'How did you feel when you had to share your ideas with the group?', 'What did you learn about yourself during this activity?', 'What role did you play in your group', 'How did you assist your group to achieve their goals successfully?'.

Question Matrix is a matrix of 36 question starters to assist students in developing their questioning and skills and thinking about the types of questions they are asking. There are many variations on the question matrix, such as transferring question stem starters (for example, what, where, which, who, why and how) onto the sides of a dice or onto a spinner where students spin the mechanism and then develop a question from that position.

The 5 Whys

The 5 Whys is a technique used to uncover the root cause or position on a question and can assist student understanding of an issue. Beginning with a central question such as 'Why do we come to school?' students reflect on the answer to this question and then repeat the steps five times.

5 Whys example:

'Why isn't the data gathered through the staff survey being used to inform plans for curriculum planning?'

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Students need to be taught the skills, tools and strategies to work effectively with others. Effective collaborative learning needs thoughtful and gradual integration with a range of other strategies to be truly effective, with planned, direct teaching of targeted skills and development over time. Before undertaking cooperative learning tasks teachers need to consider the skill level and range of strategies that students are proficient in and then plan units of work which draw on these skills or strategies. Some units will require the direct teaching and practising of new skills before students undertake the unit.

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Before individual learners can collaborate and learn effectively with others, a safe and supportive classroom culture is established through the use of strategies such as protocols, norms, or agreements. The establishment of a classroom culture and expectations enables individual accountability for learning and for group members to be supportive of the learning of others. For effective interpersonal learning to take place students also need a range of social, communication and thinking skills. Without these they cannot effectively collaborate with other group members.

The teacher plays a vital role in modelling and participating in cooperative learning tasks. Teachers actively participate in these strategies and activities while modelling the thinking, social, communication skills and class protocols for their students.

Further information on these processes can be obtained by investigating the following processes and initiatives:

Quality Learning

Quality Learning is a program which has been developed by David Langford. Quality Learning combines quality management tools, techniques, theories and philosophies to chart and improve the learning process.

Team/Small-Group in Australia and Protocols

Team/Small-Group in Australia and Protocols are initiatives of the Australian Schools Network and are processes and structures through which people interact, work together in teams and resolve conflict.

Tribes – A New Way of Learning and Being Together©

Tribes is a democratic whole school process to enable the establishment of a positive learning environment and a supportive culture which promotes human learning.

Restorative practices

Restorative practices were developed by Juvenile Justice to support teachers in changing their thinking about classroom management and in developing strategies such as conferencing to address issues within the school and classroom. Restorative practices support teachers in developing the skills to become facilitators in their classrooms.

International Institute for Restorative Practices
This website contains an e-forum to facilitate discussion on restorative practices.

Responsive Classroom Online Bookstore website is an online bookstore with resources to support teachers in developing positive, caring and safe classrooms.

Youth Research Centre: Restorative Practices

Other useful resources are:

Beyond Monet; the Artful Science of Instructional Integration by Barrie Bennett and Carol Rolhesier – explores the notion of an endless number of teaching and learning processes, the instructional possibilities to improve student learning and the skills, strategies and tools which can be integrated to improve student learning.

Cooperative Learning by Dr Spencer Kagan 1994 – has created simple structures which enable teachers to guide the cooperative learning of their students, while enhancing social skills, self-esteem and a positive classroom environment. His book Cooperative Learning outlines these structures and how they can be integrated into any lesson with ease.

Joan Dalton is an Australian author who has written and developed resources with a focus on improving student learning and the establishment of classroom norms to support a positive learning environment.

Teacher aids and further resources to support students in identifying strengths and weakness when working with others can also be found at St Luke's Welcome Page

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To enable effective collaborative learning, classroom structures need to be flexible and fluid to enable a range of alternative structures to be put into place to enable collaboration and face to face interaction. Small table groups, whole class groups, pairs, triads and teams are some of the different group structures which can be utilised to support and encourage collaborative learning.

It is important that students are given the opportunity to work in all of these structures and have the opportunity to work and learn with a wide range of people.

There are a number of quick and fun techniques for putting students into groups. Matching shapes or numbers on playing cards, coloured pieces of paper and putting together the parts of a jigsaw can all be used for random groupings of students.

Some useful structures can be found at: Classroom Structures that encourages student participation

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To ensure effective collaborative learning students need to be aware of and assume designated roles. Roles may be negotiated within the group or allocated by teachers. Roles should be rotated ensuring, that over the course of a term or semester, students gain experience in developing a range of capabilities. Some possible roles are:


Time keeper


Resourcer/materials manager


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Inside/outside circles

Students are placed in two circles. Students in the inner circle face outwards, directly facing another student in the outer circle. This strategy enables discussion between students while encouraging movement and interaction.

Four corners

Four corners is a strategy for developing students' collaborative skills, encourage reflection and for developing empathy for other people's points of view.

The corners of the classroom represent strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. Students reflect on their response to an issue, statement or questions and which of the corners best captures their perspective and opinion. Students move to the relevant corner and pair up with another student in that corner to discuss their perspective on the issue. Students can also be paired with a student from the opposite perspective to discuss the issue with their partner.

Three step interview

Students are encouraged to interview class members, share their thinking and ask questions on an interview topic. Students are divided into teams of three and are assigned a role as an interviewer, reporter or interviewee. The roles rotate after each interview. At the completion of a unit of work students can use this process to share and learn more about each others' topics. Students might, for example, interview each other about their thoughts on a book they have just read.

The jigsaw strategy is used as a random and socially sensitive way of forming students into groups. For example, a group of 28 students is to be divided into groups of 4 in order to conduct different aspects of an investigation:

The jigsaw strategy provides teachers with an equitable way of dividing and changing group roles and dynamics, and gives students the opportunity to work in different groups. Teachers can work with small and larger groups according to the requirements of the activity, observing students and facilitating progress.

Fishbowl is a strategy for discussion. A number of students are engaged in the discussion, debate or activity with 'observers' (the rest of the class) sitting behind and around in a fishbowl arrangement. They observe, think about and feedback on the progress of the participants.


Debate this strategy lends itself particularly to analysing issues and expressing different points of view. Students need to be aware of the rules of debating and to cooperate in establishing a respectful environment.

For further information on the rules and roles in debating: Your own Debate


Discussion provides opportunities for students to discuss in pairs, small groups, teams or as a whole class helps clarify their understanding. As with debate, protocols, norms or agreements need to be established by the class to ensure discussions progress in a focused way.

Role play and drama can be a positive way for students to work collaboratively to research and express their ideas. Role-playing scenarios and strategies, for example, can help students develop collaborative skills and deeper understanding.

To ensure that groups and teams are effective, students begin an activity by discussing the task to be undertaken, setting goals to achieve the task successfully and norms or agreements for how they will cooperate within the group.

To assist groups with planning and staying on task during cooperative learning tasks groups can develop an action plan which outlines the following areas:

Simple action plan


Time (dates)

What has to be done?

Whose responsibility?

Resources needed?











Review/ check point


Monitor progress













Final review





Classroom meetings

Classroom meetings are a democratic process where the whole class meets on a regular basis to discuss and develop solutions for problems and issues which may be occurring within groups. Students can also share and reflect on learning tasks or discuss social issues that may be occurring in the classroom or school ground. Students are actively engaged in the process of running, organising and developing strategies in the meetings and assume the different roles required to run a meeting.

Classroom meetings should be run in a circle with students sitting facing each other to facilitate discussion. There are different types of classroom meetings and the type of meeting to be run is influenced by the topic to be addressed. Teachers can use the meeting to evaluate students' progress, understanding and engagement with a task. An open-ended meeting allows students to agenda items to be discussed as they see fit. The meeting may focus on one particular problem or issue that is to be addressed. Further information can be found at:
Classroom Meetings
ruMad: Classroom Meetings
Classroom meetings (PDF)

This strategy is designed for groups and whole classes to vote on a particular topic to eliminate the least supported ideas. Brainstorm to compile a list of options or ideas under the topic heading. Students are given a number of coloured sticky dots. Each dot is worth a diminishing number of votes. The first vote may be a red sticker worth 5 points. Students decide which item they would like to give the most points to down to the least and place the relevant dot next to that item. The number of votes are then tallied and the most popular idea revealed.

Nominal Group Technique

This is another strategy for groups to vote on and explore issues and ways to make improvements. Students are asked to list their views on a topic or issue. These are then collected and listed on the board with similar items being clustered together. Each participant is then allowed six votes and may choose to place all of the votes in one place if they feel strongly about it.

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As with collaborative learning, students will need to be formally taught the skills and strategies to effectively develop their understanding of how they learn and understand, set and reflect upon learning goals. Depending on the age and skill level of the students scaffolding and support will be required until they become more confident and competent at reflecting on their learning.

To facilitate their personal learning students can use strategies which support metacognition. Some strategies outlined below are able to be run quickly at the end of a lesson or embedded in the ongoing nature of the lesson. Other strategies may take longer, and particularly with older students, can take considerable time.

A safe, supportive classroom culture is vital if students are to feel confident and safe when engaging in these strategies. Refer to Collaborative learning and establishing the classroom environment for advice on how to develop a productive classroom culture. It is also vital that the teacher models personal learning and provides opportunities for students to share their strategies and thoughts. Due to the personal nature of the thinking taking place in these strategies teachers should invite students to share their thinking and reflections rather than demanding it of them. As students become more confident and the classroom more supportive they will begin to openly share and discuss their learning. Younger students will find the opportunity to use aides such as smiley faces, colours and illustrations as effective tools to record and contemplate their learning.

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Reflective Questioning

Reflective Questioning is a powerful way to engage students in thinking about how they are learning new concepts and skills. Teachers can ask these questions at various points during the lesson to support student learning. A description and examples of reflective questioning are included in the question section of this document. Teachers need to regularly ask students 'What did you learn?', 'How do you know that you have learnt it?' and 'How will you use that learning again?' to ensure that students make the connections between their learning in one situation and the wider world.

Share time

Share time is a common strategy used in primary schools in Literacy and Numeracy blocks. By encouraging students to think about and share their learning and the strategies applied in learning, students consolidate their understanding and learn other effective strategies from class members. Sharing can take place in pairs, teams or as a whole class.

Reflection circles occur when the whole class sits in a circle facing each other. The teacher is an active participant in this process. The reflection circle needs to have a focus which can be drawn from the reflective questions examples, learning goals or share time. It is important that class norms or protocols are established to ensure that all class members' opinions are valued and that the culture is supportive. Students take it in turns to respond to the questions asked or to share their learning. They also use this time to ask questions of other students.

Reflective journals are used to record students' reflections, progress towards learning goals and growth as learners over time. For students to be successful in completing meaningful reflections about their learning they need to be provided with guidance and direction. Reflective journals are meaningful and support student learning when they are completed on a regular basis, are integrated into the curriculum, form the basis of other tools such as learning journals, portfolios or triangulated interviews, incorporate learning goals and are valued by the teacher and student.

Teachers can use the reflection questions or enterprise competencies as a framework to guide students' thinking and reflections. In the reflective journal students can record their feelings, thoughts and learning and look ahead at areas for improvement and how to develop their skills as a learner. To make the writing of a journal more engaging students can also be encouraged to illustrate their thoughts or to use metaphors to encourage more creative thinking. Teachers may also wish to use a continuum where students can place themselves on a line and then seek feedback from others as to where they would place them on the scale. de Bono's six thinking hats also can also support personal learning.

Capacity matrix

Capacity matrix describes, documents and assists students to monitor their learning. They can be used for peer and self assessment and assist the learner to identify what it is that they wish to learn and then track the learning over time.








The Humanities/History







The Humanities/History







The Humanities/History







The Humanities/History

Study skills

Note taking





The Humanities/History

Study skills






The Humanities/History

Study skills

Summary skills





Learning journals are a commentary on the learning and development of the student over time. Entries are dated to show the student's progress and achievement of goals over time. The journals often contain samples of the student works, photographs and evidence over time of the students' development as a learner. Learning journals can contain student comments, reflections and teacher annotations. Peer and self assessments can also be included. Students can record their learning goals and provide examples of their progress towards these goals. Teachers may elect to send these journals home on a regular basis for comment and feedback from parents as well.

Whole brain learning

Whole brain learning is a model developed by Ned Hermann to assist students to identify their own thinking styles and how this may influence the way they learn, the tasks/roles they prefer to take on, and the way they relate to others. Students are encouraged to set goals to assist them in developing less preferred areas of thinking and to maximise the use of their strengths. Further information can be found at: The Alpine School.

Habits of mind

Habits of mind are dispositions to act intelligently when confronted with a problem or dilemma. The 16 habits have been identified and developed by Costa and Kallick and are widely used in Australian schools.

The sixteen habits of mind are:

Further information can be found at Habits of Mind

Goal setting is the process of setting and evaluating targets and is a central part of personal learning. Students think about, plan for and document what they want to achieve and how they are going to get there, step by step. Goals can be specific in terms of knowledge or skills to be attained or broader to encompass the wider community.

Goals can be set on a daily, weekly, monthly, term, semester or yearly basis depending on their purpose and the age of the student. To assist students keep their goals on track teachers provide students with the time to reflect on their progress towards their goals and to modify goals when required. Goals should be documented and recorded in learning journals, reflective journals or portfolios. To support students in doing this teachers may chose to use a tool such as the stairs or step approach. Students determine their goal and then unpick the steps or stages to achieving this goal. Students can mark off each step as it is achieved on their way to their goal and recognise and celebrate when these have been achieved.

A design brief is a statement that contains an outline of a context, problem, need or opportunity, and specifications that apply to the problem. It is a means by which students can develop and apply knowledge and skills to solve problems. Design briefs can vary in the amount of information they provide and the way in which this information is presented. Both of these are usually determined by the level at which the students are working. Design briefs can be developed entirely by the teacher, or with varying degrees of student input.

Problem solving

Problem solving can centre around a range of issues including, for example, production problems, workplace conflict or quality control. Students will find the following problem solving steps useful:

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The Key competencies and Enterprise skills promote the kinds of learning approaches contained in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards and provide students with the opportunity to develop and demonstrate real life skills and gain a sense of the relationship between school and the wider community. This relationship is further supported by the knowledge, skills and behaviours outlined in the three strands of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards.

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The 1991 Finn Report was the first national development in training reform to influence school education, recognising the need for a greater variety of pathways for school students. In particular, it argued that students needed to be better prepared for work and recommended a number of work-related competencies all young people should acquire.

The recommendation was accepted by the Australian Education Council which set up what became known as the Mayer Committee. The committee consulted widely with governments, business and industry, teachers, parents and union representatives. Its final report, Putting General Education to Work (1992), proposed a set of seven generic key competencies that young people need for effective participation in emerging forms of work and organisation, together with principles to provide for nationally consistent assessment and reporting of achievement of the Key competencies. (from Key Competencies in Teaching and Learning, 1997 Board of Studies, Carlton).

The Key Competencies are as follows:

1. Collecting, analysing and organising information

The capacity to locate information, sift and sort information in order to select what is required and present it in a useful way, and evaluate both the information itself and the sources and methods used to obtain it.

2. Communicating ideas and information

The capacity to communicate effectively with others using a range of spoken, written, graphic and other non-verbal means of expression.

3. Planning and organising activities

The capacity to plan and organise one's own work activities, including making good use of time and resources, sorting out priorities and monitoring one's own performance.

4. Working with others and in teams

The capacity to interact effectively with other people both on a one-to-one basis and in groups, including understanding and responding to the needs of a client and working effectively as a member of a team to achieve a shared goal.

5. Using mathematical ideas and techniques

The capacity to use mathematical ideas, such as number and space, and techniques, such as estimation and approximation, for practical purposes.

6. Solving problems

The capacity to apply problem-solving strategies in purposeful ways, both in situations where the problem and the desired solution are clearly evident and in situations requiring critical thinking and a creative approach to achieve an outcome.

7. Using technology

The capacity to apply technology, combining the physical and sensory skills needed to operate equipment with the understanding of scientific and technological principles needed to explore and adapt systems.

(The Mayer Report, Mayer, E (Chair) 1992, Key Competencies Report of the Committee to advise the Australian Education Council and Ministers of Vocational Education, Employment and Training, on employment related Key Competencies for post-compulsory education and training. Canberra.)

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Students need to be prepared for the dynamic environment of the workplace. Enterprise skills enable students to apply work related competencies, attitudes and practices to work situations. Enterprise skills overlap with the Key Competencies identified by the Mayer Committee. Some examples of enterprise skills and attributes are listed below:

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