How the conceptual approach began
The English Textual concepts approach to programming for learning in English began in 2008 when a series of workshops for teachers called ‘How to write a quality unit of work’ was devised. The workshops were informed by the New South Wales Quality Teaching framework which states that
The intellectual quality dimension builds from a recognition that high quality student outcomes result if learning is focused on intellectual work that is challenging, centred on significant concepts and ideas, and requires substantial cognitive and academic engagement with deep knowledge… the first thing teachers will need to do is select and organize the essential knowledge, understandings, skills and values from the syllabus around central concepts or ideas. Once lessons are focused on these concepts or ideas, the main task of teachers in those lessons is one of developing the students’ deep understanding of the selected knowledge, understandings, skills and values and of the connections among them. (Quality Teaching in NSW public schools, 2003)
In the workshops teachers were encouraged to change their form of programming from one that centred on particular texts, themes and topics to concept based units of learning that focused on the enduring understandings of subject English – the textual concepts.
In 2012 when the NSW English syllabus for the Australian Curriculum was implemented teachers requested that the conceptual approach be explored through this syllabus. They wanted further information about textual concepts and how they were expressed in syllabus content and outcomes so they could design units of learning and lessons of high intellectual quality.
The English Textual Concepts collaboration between the Learning and Teaching Directorate, NSW Department of Education and the English Teachers Association NSW began in January 2014. The 1006 content points K-10 of the NSW English syllabus for the Australian Curriculum were each analysed and aligned with textual concepts and processes for learning. This rigorous approach called on experts from primary, secondary and tertiary English teaching contexts to critique the work as it progressed. The work of and suggestions by Dr Brian Moon, our critical friend, were particularly constructive, especially in formulating the descriptions of the concepts and the learning progressions.
The draft resource was presented for consultation, refined and subsequently trialled across the state in 2015. At each stage teachers expressed enthusiasm and appreciation for the insights and direction offered by the resource.
2016 has seen the publication of the final documents in this online resource and teachers K-10 have participated in a round of professional learning events.
The Textual Concepts approach is being presented at national and international conferences in 2016.