Guaranteed by the subject group: ATL skills, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a four-part series on ATL skills implementation. If you missed Part 1, read Part 1 here.

Part 2 Subject specific skills
(The vertical curriculum)

Starting with the subject group for ATL skills implementation is probably the path of least resistance for Coordinators and subject teams. The disciplinary ATL skills are the skills we use as practitioners of our subject discipline and the skills we are most familiar with.

In the criteria of each subject group we find the disciplinary skills that, taken all together comprise the disciplinary methodology of a subject

Let’s take an example. Over eons of scientific inquiry, scientists have refined their own ways of knowing and doing, so the skills essential to the sciences take their birth from what scientists do in order to perform sound scientific inquiry.

When we look at the criteria for a subject group, we can easily create a list of essential disciplinary skills that are embedded in the criteria of that subject group. Look at the snippet of Individuals and Societies criteria for Year 5, below.

Individuals and societies Criterion B for Year 5. From the I/S Subject Guide, 2015.

In the Criterion B Year 5 example, the I/S team might find these discrete skills embedded in the criterion descriptors:

  • Comprehending terminology 
  • Applying terminology accurately
  • Communicating appropriately with terminology
  • Communicates knowledge of content
  • Demonstrates understanding of concept by describing, explaining and using examples to illustrate

On their own these are still somewhat abstract. There is a lot of language that needs to be discussed by the team to get to the specific, concrete clarifications of what each of these mean in terms of performance.

And, there is sometimes an invisible layer which we can discern and tease out from a single strand.

Take this descriptor for example, “Demonstrates understanding of concept by describing, explaining and using examples to illustrate.”

To describe, the learner must also “Understand the benefits and limitations of personal sensory learning preferences when accessing, processing and recalling information” which is an ATL skill in Research.

To explain, the learner might also “Recognise unstated assumptions and bias” and “Evaluate evidence and arguments” which are Critical thinking ATL skills.

To use examples to illustrate, the learner might need to “Consider ideas from multiple perspectives” and later, “Revise understanding based on new information and evidence,” because recognising a non-example is just as challenging a critical thinking task as identifying an example.

As the subject group team examines the subject criteria and sifts out the essential disciplinary skills, there may emerge a list of essential skills for the subject group to address explicitly in units of inquiry.

Some significant questions the team can ask while sifting for skills are:

  • What do our students need to succeed in this discipline?
  • What do they already know how to do?
  • What do they not yet know how to do?
  • What will we use to help them acquire the skill?
  • What will we do when they struggle with the skill?

Inquiring into these questions as a team helps the subject group to maintain disciplinary integrity in their planning, instruction and assessment.

The subject group can easily produce a vertical alignment of discipline-based essential skills through thorough reflection and collaboration. Clarifying what skills are embedded in the criteria helps the subject group understand what the subject group needs to guarantee that the students will gain as they progress through the subject instruction. Reflecting on the specific students in the subject teachers’ classes at this particular time ensures that the layers of skills students need right now to succeed are also addressed along with the disciplinary skills.

For more discussion on ATL skills, visit these colleagues’ blogs:

Rafael Angel Mendoza’s ATL Skills Museum 

Stephen Taylor’s The Tempered Learner

Alison Yang’s Developing learning agility

In Part 3, we will look at interdisciplinary skills or the ATL skills across the grade level curriculum.


Featured Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Author: alavina

Cognitive CoachSM and professional development leader at large. Writer and editor at http://learnertoolbox.com.

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