Scanning: Tools and approaches

Ideas you can choose from and adapt for your situation.

General suggestions 

  • Use available data, such as office referrals, but make sure you get underneath the data to find out what is going on for those learners who are referred.
  • Watch how learners interact in a range of settings – this can tell you a lot about social relationships and emotional connectedness.
  • Survey students about their social, intellectual and emotional engagement.

Scanning for effective learning environments

Scanning can involve analysing how well the learning environment reflects what is known from current research.

The 7 principles of learning 

The seven principles of learning from the OECD’s work on innovative learning environments are a good start. They are summarised in the 2012 OECD publication The Nature of Learning: Practitioner guide (PDF).

The 7 principles are:

  • learners at the centre
  • the social nature of learning
  • emotions are integral to learning
  • recognising individual differences
  • stretching all students
  • assessment for learning
  • building horizontal connections

This chart is one way to scan using the seven principles.

Student collages

One secondary principal described how he scans the learning environment by asking students to create a collage to illustrate what learning looks like from their perspectives. The collages are displayed around the school and in classes.

“I can use the collage as part of classroom observations, as an observation sheet where it is part of the look and the feel, and the sound of the learning. …. I actually asked the kids, ‘What are you learning? Why are you learning it? Have you been successful?  How do you know you’re successful? What’s the next step in your learning?’  And they’re normal questions for us to be asking for them to be engaged in learning. So the student learning culture is about learning and students’ ownership of their learning. The culture is it's quite normal for kids to talk to you about their learning.”

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Scanning with written surveys

Written surveys can be very helpful in getting learners’ perspectives. One example is Me and My Shool, designed by NZCER, which can be used with year 4 to year 10 students. It explores learners’ perspectives about the extent to which effective pedagogy is used in their class, and their engagement in learning.

As with any kind of survey, it’s important to follow up with learners to find out why they answered the survey in the way they did and what lies underneath.

Me and My School survey – NZCER website

Me and My School case study – NZCER website

Scanning Pasifika students’ experiences in literacy learning

Rae Si’ilata recently completed a thesis on raising Pasifika learners’ achievement in English-medium classrooms. She suggested the following dimensions were important to investigate in relation to Pasifika learners’ experiences, as the basis for helping them to accelerate their literacy learning.

  • Learners’ levels of English language and English literacy.
  • Learners’ aspirations and values.
  • Extent to which in-school relationships build students’ agency.
  • Home languages and cultural funds of knowledge together with the extent to which Pasifika learners are helped to make meaningful connections between these funds of cultural knowledge and their experiences with texts.
  • Extent to which Pasifika learners are helped to transfer knowledge, languages and literacies from one context to another.
  • Extent to which teachers collaborate with Pasifika families in identifying student learning needs and valued outcomes.
  • Extent to which reciprocal relationships are developed with Pasifika families and community expertise to build knowledge at school.

Thesis Si’ilata, R. - Auckland University website

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Scanning for learners’ metacognition

Being metacognitive about one’s own learning is associated with high learning gains (Pelligrino & Green, 2013). If you want to find out about the extent to which your learners have metacognitive understanding, ask them the four questions under the Number 1 rule for scanning, but you must be curious about their answers – this is not a test.

Four key questions that matter template - noii website (PDF)

Some additional questions might include:

  • Do you know what success in this task looks like? [name task]
  • Why are you doing this task?
  • Who are you doing this task for?

Metacognition also includes social-emotional learning, so questions can probe this area as well.

  • What do you do when you feel [angry, sad, happy]? Why do you do this?

Canada's School District No. 85 developed a pamphlet to help families understand and use the four questions with their children.

Scanning for cultural responsiveness

A school in Tai Tokerau was turning itself around to be more culturally responsive to its high percentage of Māori learners and their whānau. They decided to review all their documentation from a cultural responsiveness and inclusiveness lens. At the same time they asked their Māori learners and whānau how they thought the school viewed them.

They engaged a professional development provider with deep knowledge in the area. They found that this exercise helped to surface many of the cultural assumptions embedded in the policy documents and in how they organised their school.

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