Improving Pedagogy

21 Jun

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In my opinion the best way to improve pedagogy is to speak to the students who are in the classrooms. Recently our students provided the followed recommendations to us through the curriculum survey which I thought were worth sharing:

  • less teacher talk: which we are thinking about making this a class challenge: How can we give you the student more opportunities to just get on with it AND make sure you have the instructions you need?
  • More hands on: they just crave opportunities to make and create. Make tasks relevant.
  • Clarify what “progress” means: students don’t seem to understand the role of activating prior knowledge and that learning is evidenced by growth from that base line (this may mean we have to also vary the way we collect this prior knowledge)
  • Continue the learning assets (e.g. self managers): students understand and can articulate these as they give a framework they use to improve and set goals – maybe include these in the letters students write to their new 2015 teachers.
  • Maintain the excursions as they love them for the powerful information and shared experience they provide.
  • Keep connecting to the community: they enjoy learning from experts in the community. Again see the point regarding relevant learning and assessment tasks.

Failure is OK

12 Jun

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I play a You Tube Clip to our students leaders on Leaders Day in January all about failure. It is a process many of them have not had to deal with.  All the great success stories, from Michael Jordan to Steve Jobs to James Dyson, are steeped in failure. Most successful people will tell you that you absolutely must fail in order to succeed, and that failure is essential for growth. Many great innovations were born out of failure. Failure, then, is not bad, but rather something to be expected, embraced, and learned from.

I have been thinking that students’ intelligence is determined by how well they succeed, and those who fail are deemed inferior.

Students are celebrated for their successes and punished, teased, or rejected for their failures.

Rarely, in a traditional classroom setting, is failure used as a pathway to innovation.

So our students enter the workforce having grown fearful of failure, believing that any failure will prove them unworthy, and many workplaces prove them right, unwilling or unable to foster an environment where failure is okay.

But if we know that on the other side of failure potentially lies innovation, growth, and discovery, then we need to practice failing, and failing big.

So, how can we change the current mindset, both in ourselves and others, that failure = bad?

Top companies like Google, Toyota, EXXON, Apple and AIG all encourage failure by staff by highlighting the following:

  • They make sure people don’t feel the need to hide or cover up failures, because they make sure their staff know they won’t be fired for the failure—instead they understand that the more quickly they own their failure, the more quickly it can be learned from and built upon.
  • They celebrate failures, sometimes as literal celebrations with beer and wine and sometimes just as public opportunities to say “Great try! We’ve learned so much from this”.
  • They require employees to fail big in their first three months of employment.
  • They actively practice a “no blame” culture, where those who make mistakes are not publicly shamed or blamed, but rather the entire team looks at the mistake and what the next steps or opportunities are.
  • They see mistakes or failures as just that—opportunities for something new or unexpected.
  • They understand that if their team is actively trying things and failing, they will eventually discover something great.
  • They see failure as a beginning not an ending.

Do we advance failure? How are we responding to this now? This week I will remind my staff and students alike that it is OK to FAIL>. 

IT PrObLeM and Solution

10 Jun

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I was writing reports this week and like those around me the tension was building. Errors creep in . Here is a common one and it was my learning this week. .

PROBLEM: having to retype text when you have left your CAPS LOCK on?

SOLUTION: quickly change the text typed in capitals back to the proper case without having to retype it.

If you accidentally leave your caps lock on while typing it’s not a train smash.  Thankfully it’s an easy fix.

  1. Select the text.
  2. Press SHIFT + F3 [keep the Shift key held down while you press F3 as many times as required until the text is displayed in the case you require], or from the Home tab in the Font group click the Change Case command and then select the case you require.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

Friday Thought: June 9

10 Jun

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This week I have been thinking about how I can stay on task. That is keep our year long inquiry going. Sometime it can be difficult especially in June, its cold, people are extra busy with reports and coughs and colds are kicking in.

How to Stay focus on your goals then, it could be about the following?

  • Concentration

If you have set many goals, focus on the important one first. Don’t bother yourself with the other goals. It is much better to set 1 goal at the time. 

  • Create a big picture

Cut out pictures that will remind you of your goals- gather them and paste them on a board, wall or poster.

  • Take a break

Feel the air- breath! If you feel you have given too much, then take a break, pause for a while.

Don’t stress yourself so much. Take it easy. You will reach the end. I am sure of that as long as you have started it.

 

Friday Thought: Be Reflective

2 Jun

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I was told this week Andrew you must reflect more on your practice. It was a timely reminder. I have heard a few times recently when discussing the importance or reflection as part of the school improvement process. When digging deeper into what is meant by this, I have found that in some cases there is a lack of understanding as to what it really means to be a reflective teacher. Too often, when we think about being a reflective practitioner, the reflection process is limited to evaluation; what went well and what did not. In some instances, reflection may include what might I do differently next time. A peer tells me often it is about process.

Being reflective is much more than that. Reflection must involve action. True reflection in education cannot happen without the the thoughts of what might be done differently next time actually translating into planning for action and taking action. There is no point saying that all teachers are reflective if there are lots of thoughts but no action. How does that really improve student learning?

Collaboration is an important part of being a reflective teacher. Reflecting on your own can have its limitations in terms of having other people to bounce ideas of, having other people to challenge each others viewpoints, having other people to give us the necessary feedback to critically reflect and, most importantly, other people to share our journey with. I recognize my own PLN here.

Restorative Reflection

29 May

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In my work this week I have been trying to get my head around restorative and relational practices. I have been thinking what makes effective practice and how we can apply this in my own environment. The question I am posing then on mountain2surf is just what does creating a Restorative Culture within a school or other community look like?

Positive relationships form the basis for any healthy community. For a Restorative Culture to develop, it is essential that community- and relationship-building be intentional. Relationships of authentic trust between adults and youth, and within both staff and student cohorts, are the foundation of the connections that will be restored through the use of RJ practices. We must first form these relationships, then, in times of trouble, there is something to restore. So building good relationships is key.

Reflection is something I believe we do not do enough of. It is essential to a restorative culture. Prayer in Catholic school provides an ideal opportunity for this. When students “act out”, do we examine our own contribution to the situation? What feelings and beliefs do we bring to the circumstances? In our busy and challenging position as educators, have we really done all we can to meet an individual student’s needs or is there something else we could try? Out of our best intentions, have we given some students so much slack that, without realizing it, we have set the bar too low and inadvertently sent them a message that they are not capable? This type of deep self-reflection and willingness to examine one’s own feelings, biases, pre-conceived notions, and actions is not easy, but it is one of the essential keys to establishing a Restorative Culture in schools.

But where should this self reflection take place. Now for self-reflection to take place and to build positive relationships, a safe space must be provided. Safe space encompasses not just physical well-being but also emotional and intellectual safety. Are behavioral and academic expectations clear? Are standards upheld consistently? Is the aftermath of making a mistake free from shame? If I take personal responsibility for my actions will I be met with compassion and a willingness to listen, rather than a quickness to blame and punish? Does the community embrace and validate different experiences, beliefs, and perspectives and allow for them to be expressed?

 

Just some initial thoughts.

 

Thought for a Friday May 26

25 May

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My leadership style I have learnt sometimes depends on the situation. You can head into a leadership position with big dreams and the best intentions, and then remember you have to work with people who may not be on board with those big dreams, and suddenly lose those best intentions.

Other times as a leader you go into the situation ready to move forward, but because of mandates, rules and the politics of distraction (Hattie. 2015) you can become insecure and not sure what to do first. As leaders, when we have so many choices of where to start we sometimes choose not to choose at all. Understanding our current reality is important, but what should be on our radar is not always so glaringly obvious.

Leadership is not for the faint of heart…

Personally I always go back to Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People he showed us with 7 habits that all successful people have, and taught us that with some hard work we can adopt those habits too.

Be proactive – Anticipate and act, no matter how difficult the situation.

Begin with the end in mind – What do we want out of leadership, and what should we want as a school community?

Put first things first – Drop the politics of distraction, understand our current reality, and take actionable steps to achieve that goal.

Think win/win

Seek first to understand then to be understood – Leaders should listen more than they talk, and try to understand where the other person is coming from before they try to move forward.

Synergize – This is all about collective efficacy, which Tschannen-Moran, M., & Barr, M. (2004) says,“refers to the collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.”

Sharpen the Saw – Know when to take a break. Schools with initiative fatigue never sharpen the saw.

Head of Faculty Inquiry

24 May

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I am finding Maslows model useful in my own inquiry. It considers what the teachers need from the leader and outlines “a set of knowledge, skills and dispositions required for meeting those needs”. During the leader’s ascension, toward the apex there are key checkpoints, questions that leaders need to ask themselves for the vision realised. This is my simplified version of Knuth & Banks strategy:

First Level: Your actions match your words
Leaders model core values and principles. You are able to inspire trust and articulate vision. Principle-centred leaders inspire trust by displaying consistency between core values, words and actions.

Leader Checkpoint 3: Is your internal compass in or out of alignment?
If your words and actions don’t match there’s no need to go any further.

Second Level: My physical and material needs matter to you
The work environment is clean and attractive. Sound, air-quality and safety needs are considered. Teachers have the resources they need to do their job well.

Third level: I am appreciated for my contribution
Leaders actively foster a sense of belonging. Encouragement and recognition is personalised. They put a human face on policies and systems.

Checkpoint 2: Is it your priority to ensure the basic needs of your people are met?
Without valuing people, clear systems, policies and training for staff, a leader’s energy is consumed by chaos or disorganisation and probably interpersonal conflict.

Fourth level: We’re on a journey together
As a community we own the vision, good systems are in place and we are able to direct our collective energies to our core mission.

Checkpoint 1: Do you feel like settling?
It’s all humming along nicely now, let’s just enjoy this. The fourth level is considered the ‘false apex’.

The Apex: Higher order change
This is rarely linear, rational or comfortable. It is disruptive, chaotic and tested by ambiguity. Leaders here demonstrate adaptive leadership skills. This is where the disruption happens. Remember: it isn’t actually an end point.

Fullan & Langworthy (2014) – A Rich Seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning
(Ch 6 The New change leadership)

Maslow’s Hierarchy

22 May

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We just can’t add technology, or add new furniture and hope for the best. We cant just change the timetable or go to semesters and cross our fingers. Effective and lasting change in schools, or any organisation for that matter, is a result of a strategic process, designed to meet the needs of the school, rather than ‘sending a couple of teachers off to a workshop’

If we believe in enduring change for the good of society, then the iceberg metaphor applies. All the hard work happens beneath the surface that makes change go the distance. We are in an era of unprecedented change in education, one in which disruption is necessary in education, for a generation unlike those who have gone before. In their report for A Rich Seam, Fullan and Langworthy (2014) outline ‘new pedagogies’:

They explain that a new process of change is required, called “inherent change”, an almost organic process, “built around humankind’s need to… be doing something intrinsically good and… to do it socially”.

This ‘new change leadership’, necessary for these new pedagogies to take hold is not considered to be either top-down or bottom-up, it needs to be,“both and, it is also sideways. Ideas and energy flow vertically and laterally…. The role of leaders is to simultaneously help the organisation ‘let go’ and ‘rein in’”.

The Essential Leadership Model, outlined by by Knuth & Banks (2006) is based on Maslow’s Hierachy.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity.

Thought for Friday

19 May

checklist

Research into Professional Learning supports the view that schools can no longer afford the luxury of separating professional development activities from the ongoing realities of teachers’ work (Johnson, 1999, p.13.) Teachers need to adopt a learning approach that is ‘relevant’ for our time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. As leaders and teachers we must clarify our learning needs.

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