‘Classroom teaching best way to bring change’ says award winning teacher

An award winning Auckland teacher says he won’t be leaving the classroom despite a flurry of opportunities which have come his way since winning the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize.

Steve Martin of Howick College won the 2010 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize for his ‘Virtual Lesson Project’ and has also applied SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) in his classroom involving developing different learning levels of increased complexity to help students of all abilities understand science.  This application of SOLO is based on work developed by Pam Hook and Julie Mills at Hooked on Thinking. He went on to win the Most Inspiring Individual award and the People’s Choice award at the 2011 New Zealand Innovators Awards.

The 42-year-old classroom innovator has authored a new educational resource which provides teachers with an easy-to-follow framework for maximising student achievement in science.

Using SOLO as a Framework for Teaching – a case study in maximising achievement in science’ was published this month and is being marketed to teachers throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

The book offer from educational publisher Essential Resources was one of the opportunities that came Martin’s way as a result of winning the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize.

The book details the process other teachers can take to replicate Martin’s work. “It provides a framework to help students realise success, to see what success looks like and show them how they can succeed,” says Martin.

He says conventional teaching methods do not provide a suitable level of challenge for all students and breaking a lesson down into different levels of thinking and learning gives greater clarity around what is to be taught and learned.

“For the teacher, my book clarifies what level of information, questions and activities they need to provide so that bright students are not held back and struggling students have access to information at a level that suits them and do not become demotivated,” says Martin.

Internationally respected University of Auckland Honorary Professor of Education, John Hattie, writes in the foreword to the book that he is impressed with Martin’s abilities to engage students in the complexities of high school science, and how students of all abilities and dispositions, from disruptive to gifted, become turned on to Steve’s passion.

“It is so much easier to sit in my academic office, pour over research evidence, build models, and test theories.  It is so much harder to take the outcomes of these endeavours and put them into practice – and then to evaluate the impact of these ideas on student learning,” writes Professor Hattie.

“(Steve Martin’s) success rate in the national assessment system is renowned – not just by enhancing the engaged and effective students who come into his classroom, but also by engaging the dispossessed, the disgruntled, and the disinterested students. This is the true success of a teacher,” says Hattie in the foreword.

Martin, 42, has a Bachelor of Science (Hons) and a Masters in Education leadership and management. Since being awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize, he has been in demand as a spotlight conference speaker, been a professional teaching fellow at the University of Auckland, completed the first of two books, is providing input into a new book by Professor Hattie, and is in line for several high-value research grants.

Martin would eventually like to study for his PhD but also wants to stay in the classroom.

“I want to stay in schools and build a robust model to share with other schools. If I moved away from the classroom it would devalue what I’ve achieved. I need to remain involved if I want to bring about an effective change.”

Howick College received $100,000 as a result of Martin’s win which it has used to buy class sets of netbooks and a range of other IT equipment. Howick now holds Microsoft Pathfinder status as one of 70 of the most innovative schools in the world.

Further Information:

Steve Martin, Howick College.



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