Reflections from (near) the top of the SAMR Ladder

Earlier this year I blogged about my attempts to integrate a SAMR ladder effectively into a unit of work for Year 13 Geography. A couple of weeks ago my students sat their school examinations – the results of which were the first indication of the success, or otherwise, of this approach. Below are my final thoughts around this approach:

Upon completion of teaching, and assessing student performance in this standard it is an opportune time to reflect on the impact that the teaching changes implemented in this inquiry have been effective. This evidence will take two forms; first my own reflection, and secondly student feedback in the form of a short survey.

The original aim of this inquiry was to implement a clear SAMR ladder approach to the teaching of this unit. This happened to a certain extent, though unfortunately (as I think perhaps was to be expected) when the pressure off examinations arrived it was the redefinition task which was neglected.

Positives: The Spatial Variation component of this unit was particularly successful. Because students spent much less (almost zero) class time copying down note, I found that I could dedicate a week of class time to the activity. It was a great way to allow students to discover for themselves. I blogged about the success of this teaching here. In the student survey the class was asked “During the teaching of 3.2 you used Google Earth to investigate the Spatial Variation of TD in Queenstown. How effective was that activity?” Student responses are below:

  • very
  • Because we could keep this for our final exams and keep referring back to it
  • Yes it was very helpful for providing a physical representation
  • Was very effective. Helped to remember where everything was located
  • very effective
  • Really effective!!!!
  • very helpful visualises a better picture of qtown
  • it allowed us to clearly see how attractions and features were dispersed through the Queenstown region
  • yes as it is going to help me with my external study
  • Somewhat helpful, was good seeing the content at the time making it although have not found it incredibly useful in revision.
  • Very effective, clearly showed us the spatial variations
  • Effective, but I felt like if I got behind or missed one listen I would struggle to catch up.
  • Very effective

I think that this is very good feedback and shows the effectiveness of this activity. I was also encouraged that the other two Year 13 Geography teachers invited me into their classes to do the same thing with their classes, and gave positive feedback about the effectiveness of it, it also a positive.

Impact on assessment results:

The original aim of this inquiry was twofold. On the one hand I wanted to more deliberately implement the SAMR model as a ladder during a whole topic. As discussed above I believe that I partially fulfilled this aim.

Secondly, this standard has traditionally been one where there are high numbers of SNA and N grades in the school, and NCEA examinations. This was something I wanted to address. By actively incorporating the SAMR ladder more deliberately, I was hoping to engage students in the content, and have more time to actively prepare them to achieve to their potential.

Obviously, it is always difficult, and potentially misleading to compare academic results across years. the dynamics, prior experience, and academic ability are always different, and it is hard to get a clear control group, in most cases. despite this, I feel that the results of the students so far – even when compared to the PEP for the standard; my students have performed well.


Although the Merit and Excellence grade numbers are lower than I would like – I feel very positive that there were no students who either did not attempt, or did not Achieve, the paper. It is these students who most often will choose to SNA the paper – so them tasting some success in the school examination should hopefully relate to a zero SNA rate in the NCEA examination later this month. As shown by the PEP below, this standard has relatively low rates of M and E anyway. (reminder than the SNA grades are not included here – so a PEP is always biased towards the performance of more able students.


Future Steps:

In 2017 I think that this approach is worthwhile continuing with. I think that students in my classes are beginning to respond to meaningful use of technology to support their learning. Next year I will focus more on implementing the higher order activities, and I will attempt to implement some such tasks that are incorporated into the unit, rather than as a summary task. Being a summary task this year meant that it was realistically unlikely to be completed under the time pressures of the end of the academic year – it was simply easier to return to a more tried and true revision program.

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