Archive | August, 2018


31 Aug


This week I have been writing a Faculty Review and looking at developing units of study and the matching assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. In the review I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” I note that we are well in the 21st century. I know that the learning skills essential for students today are certainly divergent and the teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the data gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

We need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. To do this I would like to see more student “talk” time. With the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that students today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. They can spend an hour with a peer the previous night on their devices, but hardly muster a morena at school when they pass each other in the hallway. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. I am seeing in many classes students knowing answers but unable to explain how they got there. Asking students to explain their solutions (not just the why but also the how) is foreign to some. I love the why question. It creates deeper thinking and responses.

This will mean less teacher talk timeand more collaboration between students. This will require a shift from what I call the right/wrong dichotomy that many of us experienced in our school careers. There was one answer—the right answer- and everything else was, therefore, wrong.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “beautiful noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom. Teachers know the difference between disruptive and non-productive noise. Do you here that sound in your school?

Reflections of a Classroom Teacher

30 Aug


Some kinds of assessment raise achievement, and some are time fillers. This week I am getting back to business and working my craft in the classroom. Recently I have been distracted by the many other projects that complete my day.

The assessments that researchers have found most effective at raising achievement are those that teachers make minute by minute and day by day in the classroom and then use almost immediately to adjust their lessons. For example, teachers who walk the aisles to check on what the class needs to work on next are gathering more helpful data than they would if they used the same time to help two or three individuals with specific problems.

I have been working on asking good questions. Open ended ones. Asking questions is another way to find out what students do and don’t know. A simple technique like an exit question (a question every student answers before leaving class) can help me know how many students have grasped a basic concept or skill and whether to reteach the concept the next day.

Asking every student to choose one of several answers is another way to make sure students are engaged throughout the lesson. Research shows that the more students think and talk in class, the more they learn. But questioning should not be scary, nor should the approach. I have had great success with online discussion groups. It has met the needs of all the learners.  If the student answers “I don’t know,” a good reply might be, “I know, but if you did know, what would you think?” The point is that no student should be able to “choose not to think.”

Classroom instruction matters most in boosting achievement, and improving questioning and feedback techniques will improve the effectiveness of teachers.

Professional Development for all

26 Aug


When I lead PLD I often begin with the question describe your most memorable learning experience. How many of us, as educators, have been asked to ponder this? After a group discussion about memorable learning experiences I then ask staff to consider the implications for our own classrooms. What elements can be replicated in our classroom? What makes lifelong learning? Why do we remember one learning experience over others? And why are so many other learning opportunities forgotten?

Often the best experience has nothing to do with school. Why is that the most memorable learning experience has nothing to do with a teacher or a classroom, a textbook, or an assessment? And, why should we pay attention to what the answer to that question means for our classrooms? What is it about informal learning that leaves such a lasting impression? How can we integrate informal learning into our curriculum while still meeting benchmarks?

By taking staff/students out of the physical confines of the classroom with just a few tweaks to your curriculum through integrated learning and can inspire your students through informal learning.

Reading paintings, objects, and photographs can engage staff/students with new content or deepen understanding across disciplines. Paintings, objects, and photographs tell stories and getting to those stories takes a lot of critical thinking. It encourages students to build connections, examine perspectives, and build empathy. Museums are making it easier than ever to access collections online and even sort and curate your own collections for use in the classroom later.

When I use paintings, objects, and photographs I start with observation. Ask learner to point out what they notice. It’s pretty challenging to only focus on observation. They want to jump immediately to inference. We move to inference only after deep observation and then on to questioning and reflection.

I love visiting Puke Ariki our local museum with my daughter. Museums excel at interactivity. Make your classroom interactive. I am not talking about using collaboration or technology tools. Find areas in your classroom for students to open a drawer and learn, lift a flap to find out more, or slide and see. It doesn’t have to be high tech to be effective.

Few people know that museums will let teachers forego the typical school tour and use their space as a classroom outside of school. Museums are not stuffy. They are dynamic learning environments. You know best what your students need and how you want a museum visit to connect to your content so why not use museum collections to your advantage and teach in the museum space? It takes a bit of planning and a visit ahead of time, but it is well worth the effort.

By the way what was your most memorable learning experience?

Growing a Positive Mindset in Assessment

23 Aug


This week I have been doing a great deal of planning around the 2019 academic year. Looking at student courses and special conditions. Confidence is the thing that will help students see possibility and hope It’s this intrinsic state of being that will ensure interventions lead to high achievement. It is important to establishing a positive mindset to develop confidence for students.

Framing intervention in terms of learning is vital. Verbally frame every intervention in terms of what students need to learn more about. Ensure learning targets and essential standards are written and posted on assessments. Convey to students in words and actions that the work they are doing is about learning, not just compliance or completing work. Every student should know what they are learning more about. Intervention should not be about just completing work; it needs to be about gaining skills.

The following has been a successful method for me to establish this.

1. Accurately interpret assessment evidence

Ensure that the assessment evidence that led to the intervention is thoroughly analyzed so that those facilitating or conducting the intervention with students understand the misconceptions leading to students needing this intervention. In the absence of interpreting the assessment evidence, students may get the wrong type of instructional intervention.

2.Teach and facilitate self-assessment

Ensure students are reflecting on their assessment evidence and are seeing that the intervention is helping them learn what they are strong in and also reveals what they get more time to work on. For students in the beginning stages of achieving this essential standard, they may need more support in making the connections between the assessment evidence and their learning. This must be built into the intervention process to ensure that students’ perceptions are framed around learning.

3.Use assessment evidence to check the intervention effect

Ensure that the assessment evidence used to determine the effectiveness of the intervention accurately gathers information on achievement (the essential standard) and student confidence (student perceptions). Check to see if students learned more during the intervention and also check to see if their confidence grew.


Inclusive Learning Environments

19 Aug


This week while attending the Careers Expo I had a rich conversation with staff around what it means to support struggling students by creating inclusive learning environments. I started with the whakataukī: He waka eke noa. A canoe which we are all in with no exception.My first reaction upon in the discussion was to focus on the word inclusive, and I thought of LGBT students and inclusive environments. Our Catholic schools are all about being inclusive. As Pope Francis has recently written we as a church need to greet all with empathy and comfort rather than with unbending rules and rigid codes of conduct. Our national curriculum, NEGs and NAGs all demand it. Creating inclusive environments are essential not only for learning but also for growth and development.

As a restorative and PB4L school we acknowledge schools that allow parts of the student body to feel unsafe, unwanted, or unknown do a disservice not only to each child’s development but also to the learning process and culture throughout the entire school. You cannot have a school where everyone is included in learning or develop a culture that is inclusive of learning unless you are also inclusive of all tamariki.

The word inclusive can and does mean more than creating environments that are supportive of all. It means evolving environments that are inclusive of all and inclusive of learning. Our school should be creating a culture of manaakitanga and whanaungatanga.

We can develop environments that are safe and connected, but we must also establish environments that promote, expect, and enhance learning. That is acceleration for all students. Schools and their classrooms must be environments in which the aim of learning is clear. They must be spaces where students understand that getting something wrong is part of the learning process. Its ok to fail is an important message. Where it’s OK to speak out and suggest answers. Where a culture of inquiry is the norm. I read recently that learning is a culture. It starts as a culture with the students as human beings needing to understand their environment. And it ends as a culture with students taking what we give them and using it in those physical and digital environments they call home. . culture of learning is a collection of thinking habits, beliefs about self, and collaborative workflows that result in sustained critical learning.

The term inclusive can also mean that students are included in the learning. Not merely inclusive of learning but included in what gets taught and how it gets taught. Inclusivity brings people together and places us all inside the process. Whether we are discussing personalization, differentiation, student at the centre learning, we are talking about learning that is inclusive of learning styles and interests.

Granting students more agency over their learning may seem like a leap in faith, but  it will become infectious. Teachers will begin to realize the full potential of their students and how much they had previously underestimated them. Furthermore, once students are empowered teachers will truly understand who their students are and what they really need.

What do you think? Is your school an inclusive school? What are you doing to promote this in your classroom?


Leading Curriculum Change

12 Aug


Currently we are looking at curriculum change and a great deal of has to do with trust. I have learnt a great deal this week an made some mistakes. As a school leader I need to understand that change can only be made by people, not the leader, and when more people are making change, the organization is accelerating change.  Here is guide that as a school leader we must consider if we want to make change and make it rapidly.  The better we get at employing these accelerators, the more change and the more sustained change they will see.

Here are 8 strategies that great leaders employ to get substantial change.

  1. How you treat people,
  2. How you listen to people,
  3. How you create a system of continuous improvement,
  4. How you invite people and new ideas to the table of change,
  5. How you empower others to lead change with you,
  6. How you communicate the positive growth along the way,
  7. How you reflect, refine and revise change along the way.
Change is hard, but it’s really hard in a negative culture.  Change is implemented easiest when leaders remember that they’re not there to change an organization.  Th

Twitter and my PLN

10 Aug


This week I was again involved in my global PLN. Social media makes it possible to draw on the expertise and experience of a global audience. It’s reciprocal in that you can post questions, observations and ideas. You will invariably get a response from a like-minded educator. Which spurs you on to the next inquiry. And that’s how you grow professionally. Please read the link here


Office of Ed Tech. (2013). Connected Educators. Retrieved from 

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from

Education Council.(2012). Establishing safeguards. Retrieved from


8 Aug


Kia ora tātou,

It’s the second week back and the list has been busy. But first, have you done anything about the NCEA review? This is a question to everyone reading this blog. How the last three years of high school are assessed, impacts what happens in education at Primary, Intermediate and afterwards at Tertiary level. Have you ever talked about the support of Arts in education? Here is a chance to officially state your thoughts to the Ministry of Education. Take 20 minutes to respond.

As an NCEA ambassador I have been closely involved in delivering and encouraging discussion. On this blog I will later share my own thoughts on this. No matter where you sit on this important issue it is important we all have an opportunity to share.

Inspiring Your Tamariki

6 Aug


Grit. Perseverance. Tenacity. Growth Mindset. These are term that we use in schools.

We all know we need these qualities. We all know that students need them, too. Admittedly, each term has its own nuances to it, but when I look at them, they seem to be in the same family of characteristics that I want students (and myself) to have.

But for as much as we talk about these in our schools, it sure can seem like it’s hard to find them at times. In some educational conversations, I grow tired of the same, well worn paths being covered over and over, but not with these. Even the repetition of these ideas doesn’t bother me. In fact, it’s probably what I need most. What I need to do is remember the things that are too easy to forget.

Things like Angela Duckworth’s reminder that, “Grit is living life like a marathon, not like a sprint.” Things like the value of a growth mindset. Stuff that’s really simple, but when lived out causes a profound impact. Here are some resources that I have used with my students.

Spirit to Soar is about Charlotte Brown, a Texas high school pole vaulter whose vision has deteriorated to the point that she is legally blind. Yep. You read that right. She’s a blind pole vaulter. Undaunted in the face of what many would consider insurmountable challenge, Brown’s story is pretty incredible. It’s a great one to share with students as they approach the end of a semester, and part of the story really lends itself to conversation about what we listen to and what we allow to distract us. I think those are always conversations worth having.

Catching Kayla is another track and field story, but this one focuses more on the power of relationships and the ways we can support students as educators. Kayla excels as an athlete, but she does that in the face of medical conditions that allow her to continue to compete, but prevent her from even having the strength to stand after finishing her races. It’s a great reminder of the power of giving it our all and the importance of knowing our limits. I think it’s a great reminder of the value of having someone who is there to help when we have given all we have. A great lesson for students and educators alike.



Great Lessons

5 Aug


You don’t have a second opportunity to make a good first impression. If you get a bad feeling after meeting someone, it’s going to take a lot for that person to change your general feelings about them. In other words, you better spend time making the best impression the first time, or you’ll have to spend lots of time thereafter convincing them that you’ve got it going on.

If the learners don’t develop a good impression in the first 5 minutes of the lesson, you’re going to experience a lot of problems convincing them to stay with you. Great lessons can die in the first five minutes. It’s not because they weren’t planned well. It’s because they didn’t make a good impression on the student in the first few minutes. Have you ever had a lesson that included technology, and the technology wouldn’t work?  Minute by minute the student engagement morphed into passive disengagement and eventually into disruptive bedlam, and as a result it took three times the time to reengage the students as it did to lose them in the first place.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Look at the first 5 minutes as the foundation for learning.  A house built on a sandy foundation won’t last long, but a house built upon a rock will last forever. Having homework turned in and materials ready for instruction is not enough to motivate learners for learning in the first five minutes. So how do great teachers create a great foundation for learning?

Here are five ideas for this that I have trialled, and it has worked successfully:

  1. Pose a problem on the board that is tied to your achievement objectives.
  2. Padlet– Students can use their cell phones or tablets to respond to a thought-provoking question.
  3. Google it – Pose a term or concept for students to research through a Google search.

The first five minutes of instruction is all about igniting minds. It’s about connecting what students know to what you want them to know. If students aren’t connected to your content, it is kind of difficult for you to create that interest through a lecture or presentation.   The pathway to rigor starts with cultivating a desire to want to know more. If the first five minutes of instruction should inspire a student to want to know more. Do you have any ideas?





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