Physical, Personal and Social Learning
The AusVELS curriculum has been developed to ensure that curriculum content and achievement standards establish high expectations for all students. Every student is entitled to enriching learning experiences across all areas of the curriculum. Students in Australian classrooms have multiple, diverse and changing needs that are shaped by individual learning histories and abilities as well as cultural language backgrounds and socio-economic factors.
The objectives of AusVELS are the same for all students. The curriculum offers flexibility for teachers to tailor their teaching in ways that provide rigorous, relevant and engaging learning and assessment opportunities for students with disabilities.
Most students with disabilities can engage with the curriculum provided the necessary adjustments are made to the complexity of the curriculum content and to the means through which students demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding.
For some learners, making adjustments to instructional processes and to assessment strategies enables students to achieve educational standards commensurate with their peers.
For other students, teachers will need to make appropriate adjustments to the complexity of the curriculum content, focusing instruction on content different to that taught to others in their age group. It follows that adjustments will also need to be made to how the student’s progress is monitored, assessed and reported.
For a small percentage of students with disabilities, their learning will be well below the AusVELS Foundation standards. Most of these students have a significant intellectual disability. ‘Towards Foundation Level AusVELS’ provides this cohort of students with access to curriculum content and standards that enables students to move toward the learning described at Foundation level.
For AusVELS English, Mathematics, Science and History, the ‘Towards Foundation Level AusVELS’ materials are integrated directly into the AusVELS curriculum and are referred to as ‘Levels A to D’. These materials include learning area-specific level descriptions, content descriptions and elaborations, achievement standards and scope and sequence charts.
About Levels A to D (Students with Disabilities)
Levels A to D (Students with Disabilities) focus on progressing students from a pre-intentional to intentional engagement in learning. They support students to develop their independence as they explore, participate and engage in the world around them. As students’ progress through these levels, the amount of support decreases as they proceed towards becoming independent learners.
‘Levels A to D’ are not associated with any set age or year level that links chronological age to cognitive progress. Rather the learning descriptions for levels A to D are structured by the following continuum:
Level A: Beginning to Explore
At this level students experience a range of learning activities that will assist them to attend to and explore the world around them with as much independence as possible. Experiences are designed to move students from a pre-intentional level of responding to a level where the response indicates beginning intention. Students need high levels of coactive support and focused attention from the teacher to help them initiate and refine their responses. Students demonstrate some awareness and recognition of familiar people and routine activities.
Level B: Active Exploration
Students at this level become less reliant on high levels of coactive support and become more reliant on verbal prompts and gestures to facilitate their learning. They begin to explore their world independently and engage in simple cause-and-effect play activities. Students are able to focus on structured learning activities for short periods of time. They respond to familiar people and events and begin to use ‘yes/no’ responses.
Level C: Intentional Participation
Students at this level are less dependent on coactive support and respond more consistently to prompts and simple clear directions from the teacher to support them in their learning. They are displaying the first signs of independence and becoming more peer focused. Students participate in structured learning activities with others and they begin to use pictures, photos and objects to communicate personal interests and experiences. They start to use and link some familiar words and images to construct a meaningful communication.
Level D: Building Independence
With teacher support and curriculum scaffolding, students at this level participate cooperatively in group learning activities. They express their feelings, needs and choices in increasingly appropriate ways and combine and sequence key words and images to communicate personal interests and to recount significant experiences. They indicate beginning understanding of social rules and expectations and are beginning to reflect on their own behaviour.
Specific level descriptions for AusVELS Science are integrated with the AusVELS curriculum, i.e., see http://ausvels.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Science/Curriculum/F-10.
For more advice in regard to curriculum provision and students with disabilities, please see the AusVELS Students with Disabilities Guidelines (PDF). Additional advice and support is also available from the DEECD Abilities Based Learning and Education Support (ABLES) website.
Many students in Australian schools are learners of English as an additional language (EAL). Learners of EAL are students whose first language is a language other than Standard Australian English and who require additional support to assist them to develop English language proficiency. While many EAL learners do well in school, there is a significant group of these learners who leave school without achieving their potential.
EAL students come from diverse backgrounds and may include:
EAL learners enter Australian schools at different ages and at different stages of English language learning and have various educational backgrounds in their first languages. For some, school is the only place they use English.
The aims of AusVELS Science are ultimately the same for all students. However, EAL learners are simultaneously learning a new language and the knowledge, understanding and skills of the science curriculum through that new language. They require additional time and support, along with informed teaching that explicitly addresses their language needs, and assessments that take into account their developing language proficiency.
A national EAL document is being produced that will support the AusVELS curriculum. It will provide a description of how language proficiency develops, and will be a valuable reference for all teachers. It will allow teachers of science to identify the language levels of the EAL learners in their classrooms and to address their specific learning requirements when teaching, ensuring equity of access to the science learning area for all.
In the interim, advice about how to use the curriculum with EAL students is available here.