Literature and Reflection

15 Feb

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Throughout the year, I have been fortunate to read multiple articles, books, and blogs. As I start the year here were some of my favourites from the summer

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

5 Ways To Promote Student Agency
By Ross Cooper

The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others
By Kristi Hedges

7 Things That Happen When Students Own Their Learning
By John Spencer

Leadership Lessons From LEGO
By Ken Perlman

I think these will help me as a leader. Not content with this I have already lined up my next batch. After reading these I have reflected on my on practice again. In any position I think the following reflection questions are key as we start the academic year.

  1. When do I intentionally plan for “White Space” in my schedule?
    Do I have time scheduled to commit to reading, writing, reflecting, and investing in myself?
  2. Where do I archive the notes from articles, blogs, and books that I read?
  3. What are 3-5 books or articles that I plan to read in 2018?
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Flipped Learning

12 Feb

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As educators we should ask ourselves “what would we lose if we put all of our lecture notes online, or made them available for students online?” Would we lose interaction? Collaboration? Contribution? If education is more than the transfer of information, what is it? I have been doing a great deal of thinking at present about the change we need to make in teaching.

This week I have been doing some work on Microsoft Teams. This is a great tool and it had lead me to think about the work of Eric Mazur who I was fortunate to listen to last year. Eric Mazur claims we’d lose very little dialogue, very little interaction if we shared our notes with students. I agree with this looking at my evidence this week. I saw an interactivity in learning.

I really enjoyed Mazur’s approach to this in his writings. Mazur’s clever use of the physics problem of what happens to the hole in the middle of a metal plate when it is heated demonstrated very powerfully the way we can increase learning power when we turn on the innate learning curiosity of our learners. The exercise moved from a focus on the fact, to the reasoning – he ignited the fire of the audience curiosity! His point was powerfully made with regards to how we need work with students in our classrooms. Mazur’s use of this approach has been researched to demonstrate the impact of this on student retention – the significance here being the difference between simply transferring information (focus on facts) to the engagement in creating knowledge (emergence of reasoning).

The Flipped Learning environment offers such richness for a learning point of view.  There is more student accountability and agency for gathering information so we can better help them assimilate it.

There is a change the idea of delivering and transferring information for the learner. It puts the learner in charge. There is a transmission of knowledge vs construction of knowledge. We need to allow time for the brain to process the information – not simply ‘remember’ it. Moreover, but involving students in sharing among themselves, the learning is no longer an isolated experience. Education, deep down, is a social experience – not an isolated one (reference here to Vygotsky’s theories here)

 

Leading Change in 2018

10 Feb

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Education doesn’t change the world. Education changes people. People change the world and people who can change the world were sitting in the auditorium.       Paulo Freire

Our curriculum documents in Aotearoa – the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and Te Whāriki – all offer excellent starting points for driving innovation. Comparison with OECD reports (such as The Nature of Learning, 2010) that have been published since these curricula were introduced only serve to highlight that our national guidelines are still world-leading in the way they offer us permission to innovate learning.  ERO has highlighted that our challenge now is to focus on ensuring that the future focused values and vision intended by the curriculum documents drip off the walls for our learners every day (ERO, 2016).

As teachers we need to be ready to embrace discomfort, and acknowledge that our colleagues see different things in data and students’ stories. We need to seek diversity, but do this systematically. We should find out who sees things differently from the way we do, and learn from them – to challenge our biases, so we can look fairly and objectively at student learning and not end up in an echo chamber. Every school has a vision for learning and every single part of our school systems is designed to lead to an outcome that reflects that vision for our learners. Any new changes or strategies should be designed to change the desired outcome for learners. For some, change has been ad-hoc and not systematic, and in some cases, we’ve designed learning for our students that has created barriers and excluded groups of students.

 

Motivation

6 Feb

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I have been a big fan of the author Daniel Pink since I read his book over summer Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I loved the book, as it was reminiscent of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s ideas on employee motivation — how the best path to success comes through tapping into peoples’ intrinsic motivation instead of trying to bribe them with rewards or financial incentives.

I share here a video online of Dan Pink talking at the TED Conference (18 minutes) about his book and the important ideas within.

He states if you want people to perform better, you reward them – that’s the American Way. Sounds too simplistic, right? Pink, in the video, makes the “evidence-based case for rethinking how we run our businesses.” Citing various psychology research studies, Pink shares evidence that suggests that financial incentives actual HARM performance for anything requiring the least bit of cognitive skill. “Incentives dull thinking and block creativity.” Rings a bell for our own education system in New Zealand.

Pink says the three building blocks for intrinsic motivation are:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

This matches so neatly with our own curriculum. What do you think?

Andragogy

2 Feb

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It is important to understand things are changing in our classroom. Central to this is the way learning takes place. I am doing a great deal of reading about andragogy. Andragogy refers to the methods and approaches used in adult education and is directed towards self-actualization, gaining experience, and problem-solving. In contrast, pedagogy is an education method in which the learner is dependent on the teacher for guidance, evaluation, and acquisition of knowledge.

Things are changing and that is why we need to adopt a an anthropological approach to our teaching.

One of the most obvious differences between pedagogy vs. andragogy is the motivation of the learner. Our tamariki require extrinsic motivation: They’re usually learning because an authority figure tells them to, or because they’ll be penalized in the classroom otherwise.

Adults, on the other hand, come to the table self-motivated and interested in understanding new topics and ideas because they know that doing so can positively affect their earning potential, community standing, or personal development. In short, to motivate adult learners, you need to highlight how learning benefits them personally and directly, rather than a “because I said so” mentality.

For better or for worse, kids approach learning as blank slates: They don’t have much experience with most topics, and even when they’ve had experience, it’s been on an academic level only. Teachers and instructors don’t necessarily need to connect learning experiences together for children to understand new concepts.

Things have changed though. Our students now bring so much more to the table.  We must acknowledge they’ve had the benefit of learning and experience. They know what has worked for them in the past or have habits that affect the way they learn and act. Because of this, approaching new topics with a traditionally pedagogical strategy could leave them disengaged and uninterested. Instead, andragogy inspires instructors to do a better job connecting learning experiences to what adult learners already know. Allowing for opinion, better pacing, and knowledge checks and re-checks helps adults leverage their life experience as valuable information.

Those who teach according to traditional theory might not realize the importance behind relevancy as part of the strategy. Our tamariki want to understand why they’re learning a new topic. Not only should it be applicable to either their current position or a position they’d like to achieve, but topics should be hyper-relevant in the moment. They see irrelevancy as a waste of their time, so whether they’re already familiar with a topic or they simply don’t see how it applies to them, you could lose learners if you don’t take the time to highlight the “what’s in it for me right now?” behind any topic.

It’s a common mistake and one that might seem like no big deal, but mixing up pedagogy and andragogy makes your teaching less effective. When teaching your tamariki, don’t patronize them with childlike learning strategies. Indeed do so at your peril.

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Remember at the start of the year..

1 Feb

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I am reminded that at the beginning of the year it is important to celebrate milestones and success. I was inspired the other day when one of my PLN shared her learnings from 20 years teaching. It is important to celebrate and recognise we do things well. As I start the year I remind myself of the following as I begin:

  • If you want to squeeze everything out of life and discover your true potential, you have to be prepared to make some mistakes along the way. Mistakes are ok.
  • When you are going, well people will put you down. This seems to be part of kiwi culture. However, there are those there that are cheerleaders, who celebrate every little win you have even when you cannot see it. Look out for them.
  • There is absolutely nothing that beats a winning day. Enjoy it.
  • There is always more in you than you realize.
  • I have found two things that are so important: resilience (getting up when others wouldn’t) and curiosity – an overwhelming need to know if you can do it.
  • When times are good you will be able to reward yourself with nice things but they will never truly reflect the hard work and sacrifices that has gone in that no one saw.
  • There is nothing that will replace hard work. Nobody can do that for you. There are no short cuts.
  • Most days you will not get everything done and that is ok.
  • My tribe is important. Look after them. They are there.
  • Always remember it is the little things that count.
  • Reach out to your teams and remember we are all alone together! This is best expressed by my own whakatoki this year He waka eke noa. A canoe which we are all in with no exception.
  • The more I learn the more I change but deep down I hold those same values as I did back as a little boy.

Have you had time to reflect before you get into the busy work for the year?

Can you tell me Why?

30 Jan

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Explaining what we do is a lot simpler than putting our why we do it into words. It is also less effective. One book I read last year was Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. In his book, Sinek talks about how successful individuals and organizations communicate. Instead of explaining what they do, they start with why they do it. “There are only two ways to influence human behaviour,” Sinek says, “you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

This entire practice  of asking “Why” is relevant for all of us not only educators. As a school leader I need to be crystal clear about the value of the change and make sure everyone within the organization understands the why driving the change. I must ask some of the following questions:

  • How will it improve the students’ experience as learners?
  • How will it free teachers to spend more time on the aspects of their job that they enjoy?
  • How will this create more dynamic and relevant learning?

If leaders are clear about their why, teachers are more likely to buy in and take risks. Similarly, teachers will be more effective if they articulate their why for themselves and explain their why to students.

So as I start the year I am asking this “Why” questions a great deal more. How about you?

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Professional Reading January

29 Jan

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I know there are lots of books out there on creativity but Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert has a great deal to say. Gilbert writes that one of the biggest roadblocks to creativity is fear. Whether it’s the fear or failure or the fear of rejection, staff must be encouraged to speak up because often they won’t because they’re scared that their ideas won’t pass the test. As a leader, it’s up to you to communicate to employees that creative ideas are welcome and encouraged. A way to do this effectively is by clearly communicating that ideas are encouraged, and failure is not shunned, but instead viewed as a learning tool. We are teachers after all. Lifelong learners.

It can be hard to let your people make mistakes, but the same failure that stops them in their tracks can be the failure that helps them develop a stronger solution or idea. Instead of expecting perfection, good leaders inspire their employees to fail quickly and makes them feel safe enough to share and try their ideas. We do it with our students so why not with staff?

 

Leading in the Age of Change

22 Jan

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As school leaders looking to lead complex change, must clearly define and articulate the vision for a staff to get behind it. Such leadership is central to keep our schools relevant. We must do more than talking and spouting phrases such as we are future focussed.

If we expect an instructional pedagogy to shift, the learning space – must also shift. Shifting instructional practices requires shifting spaces. No longer is the desks-in-rows, easy-to-clean set-up relevant for a personal approach to learning. If we expect collaborative work focused on higher-order thinking skills and problem solving, the learning space must reflect the desired pedagogy. All staff must reflect his also.

For our students’ future success, teachers must utilize high quality pedagogy, accelerated by technology, to unleash the needed skills. The teacher-centric, industrial-age model of classroom instruction will not prepare tomorrow’s students for a world of work where automation and robots have removed many of today’s traditional, low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Tomorrow’s workers must be able to problem solve, collaborate, and think creatively. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction doesn’t create the needed learning opportunities for tomorrow’s workforce.

Above all else our relationships are so important. Building dynamic relationships helps transform culture, laying the foundation for instructional shifts to occur.

As I reflect on our curriculum inquiry I was fascinated in this resource this week.

 

Classroom Walkthroughs

17 Jan

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Conducting classroom walkthroughs is not a new concept. This year as a Leader of Learning group I would like to pursue these further. These can be powerful tools but only when used correctly. Here are some of my thoughts on these:

  1. Do it together.

It is a partnership. Classroom walk-throughs are not meant to be conducted in isolation. Have staff walk through classroom. This way, the teachers conducting the walkthroughs can debrief after each visit, discussing what strategies the teacher was utilizing. Make it safe and relational. You want staff to embrace and discuss the data, not be defensive. It can be stressful so to avoid this concern, leave a post-it note on the teacher’s desk at the end. Pick out one positive instructional element and praise them for it. This will put them at ease and open the door for future conversations.

  1. Purposeful and Authentic

Classroom walk-throughs need to be a priority. Time must be scheduled to do these. It is important that these are at different times of the day.

  1. Share the Data

Like in any case collecting data will not be of any service to anyone unless it is shared, analyzed, discussed and acted upon. Remember to be clinical, not critical with the analysis. Use the Data To Make Change. Remember data is useless unless you do something with it. Once the data is analyzed, discussed, and digested, use the data to decide where you need to go with professional development.

Have you had much success with classroom walkthroughs? Have you any tips for me as I go forward with these?

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