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A Changing Classroom

18 Dec

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With a number of reviews taking place there is no doubt we are working in an exciting but also a scary time for education. These reviews are challenging a great deal of what we know to be true. There was a time I had very specific ideas about learning and teaching. Some of these preconceived notions were based on my own experience as a student. There was a time until very recently I believed students should sit in rows, quiet classroom is an effective demonstration of classroom management. Students in the same class should do the same assignments and this is best demonstrated in test or essay format best exhibited with a pen and paper. Don’t smile until for six weeks or you will lose them. Most of all as teacher I possesses the information. I would impart my knowledge. The truth is things have changed and I need to relearn how to be effective. The professional standards provide me a guide to do this.

Students create their own learning environment. You don’t need seating charts and students can be moving around to ensure their space enhances their work, whether it is individual or collaborative. In fact some days students in my class never enter the room and the learning is just as effective. My classroom is operative but it is not quiet. Indeed at times it is chaotic.

The idea that every student in a classroom should be required to complete the exact same assignment strikes me as a little silly. Of course their assessment is well with NCEA rules but it learning that our tamariki find is linked to their learning journey or inquiry. Students are at wildly different places in their learning. Their assignments should be customized to appeal to their interests and meet them where they are at in terms of skill level. This can be demonstrated in many ways not only a pen.

Don’t smile for six weeks? Our tamariki indeed just find this strange. By not smiling I think you lose the students. I had a student come up to me the other day and ask ‘what was up with Mrs X’ as she appeared unhappy. Our world has changed. We are more relational and restorative. The relationship is as important as the content.

I am not the only “expert” in the room. Indeed with Google in the room and more informed students I am no longer the source of all that is true and correct. I try to have students investigate and inquire, research, dialogue about what they created, and korero with each other.

These changes have made me think. They have made my staff think. What changes have you observed recently and more importantly how have you adapted?

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Student Agency 2018

9 Dec

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Knowing your students is the cornerstone for teachers to build relationships needed to personalize learning. Providing opportunities for student voice and choice within the classroom is the most critical element to engage and develop independent learners. Voice and choice that allows students to drive their own learning and make instructional decisions is fun to watch. Yes, it must be aligned with standards and benchmarks but, when done properly, students demonstrate an ownership not seen in traditional classrooms.

Providing students with this voice requires flexibility which teachers including myself find hard. Flexibility within the classroom allows teachers to group students in multiple ways and to use classroom space in ways not imagined. However, developing flexible mindsets is the most important aspect of this element. Dweck (2006) points out that students who have a growth mindset will have greater student agency and efficacy leading toward independence. A staff member in our recent curriculum experiment told me her group “raised in self-confidence” when permitted to extend their learning and have voice on their learning. Her thinking around student agency for students became flexible and was based on what they mastered and demonstrated their best work.

Supporting Middle Leaders

5 Nov

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To talk about teaching without considering what is being learned, is just strange. Curriculum leaders provide a system that supports teaching and learning. In the absence of a system, students will enter class each day, participate in lessons, and at the end of the year, each student will be promoted to the next grade level. Instructional leaders must strive to identify the focus for each grade level or course and then work collaboratively to ensure that each student is challenged and provided with scaffolding as needed. Hattie suggests that principals are engaged in instructional leadership when they “have their major focus on creating a learning climate free of disruption, a system of clear teaching objectives, and high teacher expectations for teachers and students” (2012, p. 83).

The word ‘curriculum’ derives from the Latin ‘currere’ meaning a race or a course on which a race is run.  The Latin verb ‘currere’ means to ‘run’ or ‘proceed’.

I like this idea of running for many reasons. First, it underlines the importance of the journey: to take a short-cut would be to miss the point. The specified ground must be conquered or the race can be neither run nor won. All the running matters. If we tell the runners to practise only the final sprint, we not only miss the point of the whole race. In schools we seem to miss this point. We are always rushing to the assessment. Second, it reminds us that curriculum is not a mere aggregate of things. Its character is a key. Curriculum is content structured over time. Third, it points to the curriculum as continuous. Not just a sequence it’s much more like a narrative.  Curriculum is content structured over time with all the parts talking to each other.

So often our curriculum is not coherent and lacks a smoothness. How does this absence of curricular focus happen? And what can we do about it?

It happens because at the level of a whole school, the pull of the generic is strong and understandably so. Schools must be led and managed as coherent enterprises. Parity must be found across a school’s spheres. To ascend the ladders of school leadership, subject specialism must, to some degree, be transcended.  Whole-school leaders contribute in vital ways that transcend subject. They must communicate strategy, distribute resource, facilitate collaboration, align systems, review pupils’ progress across differing spheres, build policies for behaviour… In short, they must create the best environment possible for all teachers to make things happen.

Therefore, built into the culture of staff development is a sense of subject specialism as transient.  Each subject area empire building. Built into the structure of a school is an imperative for common proxies – from assessment to resourcing – removed from the actual substance what is being taught and learned.

How easy, then, to slide into the assumption of equivalence, especially with generic terms such as ‘learning’, ‘progress’ or ‘skills’. Senior Leadership Teams need to provide leadership talking about teaching and attainment, a language which, because of its curricular character.  Such a language cannot be empty of substance. It must be rooted in a shared knowledge base, one that makes curricular communication possible.

I have learnt this year to support and grow our middle leaders. When curriculum leadership becomes the priority for our kura student understanding will grow. A kura without clearly defined pathways for these people is like a ship without a rudder; it lacks direction and a slight wind could easily blow it off course (Wiles, 2009).

Communicating to tamariki

17 Oct

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The best way to find out what type of communicator you are is to record yourself on audio or video. I prefer video because you can see the response of your students to your communication. Yes I know that we all hate to listen to ourselves speak, but this topic is too big not to investigate. If you have a kid that is struggling in your class, don’t you want to know if the student is even listening to you?  That might be the first step in intervening for the student. If you have students that are being loud and disruptive, don’t you want to know if your loud communication style is setting a poor example for how students should speak in your class or if your quiet tone is being ignored each time your correct?  If students are zones out in your class, don’t you want to know if some of your students perceive you as that teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”?

If you want to improve your instruction, one of the first steps to start with is evaluating your own communication style toward students. Delivery of content is completely dependent on the manner in which you verbally communicate to your students.  How you speak sets the foundation for learning, and it is critical to know if you have a solid foundation for learning.  By evaluating the tone, cadence, and passion within your communication, you can ensure that every student, especially Charlie Brown, learns in your classroom.

Growth (Acceleration)

10 Sep

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Growth or Acceleration is on my mind as I design pathways for students for 2019. Growth is a personal endeavour, and it happens differently for every person.  Some people start physically growing before others do, while others don’t grow at all and then overnight.  There is one inevitable truth about growth, and it is this. It will occur.

That is why it is important that we remind our students and staff that it is not always best to compare ourselves to others through the lens of standardization especially when it comes to their current state or proficiency in learning.  It is, however, very healthy for students to analyse their unique progress over time and determine if they are making the necessary growth that pushes them toward mastery in learning.

One thought that we must always remember about growth is that it’s not a race.  It is, however, a journey.  Some will grow faster while others will grow slower.  Furthermore, we must convince our students to believe that growth shouldn’t be based on speed, but on their commitment to owning their growth and personal development, for that is how we ensure that we convince kids to set their sights on making lasting growth instead of growth that is fast and more likely unnecessary or even unsustainable.

Growing a Positive Mindset in Assessment

23 Aug

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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.

 

Twitter and my PLN

10 Aug

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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

 REFERENCES:

Office of Ed Tech. (2013). Connected Educators. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=216&v=K4Vd4JP_DB8 

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/8482/thesis.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

Education Council.(2012). Establishing safeguards. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49216520

More LwDT

22 Jul

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Last week I left my phone at home and the day at school was difficult. A little, like this.

Think about this. When was the last time that you left your cell phone at home? If you left it at home, did you go back home to get it? My students are bringing their devices to school everyday, so there is not a question of whether or not to have BYOD, Bring Your Own Device.  Our school is a BYOD school because parents have equipped their children with devices. I have seen different ways that we have embraced BYOD. It reminds me of the SAMR model.

  1.  Negative Embracement

For fear that students will use their devices for inappropriate purposes, teachers ban them altogether.  They institute fine systems for pulling them out in class; therefore, students learn to use personal devices in a very secretive way. The result of this form of embracement is negative in every way: time wasted correcting students and negative student perceptions of school.  Even worse, there is a negative impact on learning because students will find a way to use their device regardless of punitive tools at your disposal.

  1. Dispassionate Embracement

Because school staff know that devices are everywhere, and they can’t eliminate them, they choose to put policies in place that tolerate cell phones. Students are allowed to use them at times where learning does not occur such as during class change, during lunch or during “free-time” at the end of class. In this system students are conditioned to believe that devices carry no real potential to enhance learning. They are explicitly taught that personal devices are for personal business and nothing more. The result of this form of BYOD is negligible.  Time isn’t wasted, but it isn’t really maximized either.  Learning isn’t really enhanced either.  The status quo keeps pretty much everything stagnant. This form of embracement puts learning in neutral.

  1. Constructive Embracement

Since the potential found in devices is limitless, schools are finding unique and innovative ways to incorporate technology into every aspect of their system. Schools are eliminating announcements in place of using social media to communicate with kids. Research is being conducted on screens instead of in books. Technology is being leveraged.  Positive effects are abounding because with proper procedures and training for staff, students are more engaged, more connected and more focused. Their learning becomes more relevant, more purposeful and more productive. The more successful the integration, the more positive rewards students will reap from their learning.  Positive embracement of technology occurs only when technology is infused into areas where learning is expected to take place.

Take time to quietly reflect how is your school approaching this? Which category do you really sit in?

 

 

Mentoring is Crucial

7 Jun

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Spending time with staff pays off—not just for them, but for me and the entire school. The question of how much time can be explored in a Fast Company post, “Why Managers Should Spend Exactly 6 Hours A Week With Each Employee.”

By spending time mentoring it makes staff feel valued, calm and helps make the school more efficient and innovative.

 

What good is all of this great mentoring and coaching if it’s never applied? Advocating for employees implies action. Advocating is time not spent with employees, but for them. Effective leaders hear and discuss employees’ new ideas with them, and afterward, work to put them into action. When employees receive new training or knowledge and are eager to apply it to their jobs, advocates make that happen. Advocates inspire their employees to keep learning and contributing, as they feel like their contributions are valued and applied. Without this final investment of time, employees feel undervalued and underutilized.

A small investment of time and following up with action creates a positive, supportive school culture. Our goals this year has been to grow middle leaders. T train leaders to invest time in their team with mentoring, coaching and advocating create a healthy working environment beneficial to the employees and the success of the students.

Learning Objectives

5 Jun

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At their core, learning objectives should be three things: Action-focused, learner-focused and consider of existing learner knowledge base. You should be able to clearly specify which learning objectives are informational only, and which require a change to overall behavior. By categorizing objectives accordingly, you can better map how to reach that objective based on the resources available to you and your learners. Past that point, it’s up to you to drill down on learning strategy, using these five tips.

  1. Assess Prerequisite Knowledge. Don’t plunge blindly forward without knowing more about your learner. By offering a pre-test or survey, you can get a better handle on what your learners know and can map based on both objective and current knowledge base to avoid bored learners.
  2. Write Learning Objectives. Use actionable words to describe just what you want out of your program or curriculum. Don’t forget to include supporting objectives, or steps that need to take place in order for learners to reach the goal or objective.
  3. Keep it Concise. While it’s tempting to stuff your curriculum full of content.  it can be a case of “too much of a good thing.” Whenever possible, keep your mapping and your content concise by always focusing on the most important tenants of content. By simplifying the content, the way to your learning objectives is less muddled by “noise.”
  4. Utilize Knowledge Assessment Tools. Ask any seasoned road-tripper: The only thing worse than going the wrong way is going the wrong way and refusing to turn around. By using knowledge checks and assessment tools throughout the process, you can see what’s working – and perhaps more importantly, what’s not. Knowledge checks ensure your learners are “getting it” and are on their way to reaching learning goals.
  5. Evaluate Performance. So, did you reach your final destination? Performance evaluations allow you to assess whether or not the material gave you the results you wanted, as mapped in your learning objectives. Asking learners directly is always an effective course of action, but you can also go for surveys, post-program assessments and even webinars to gather intelligent data and ensure you were on the right track.

Mapping helps you stay on track and avoid any unnecessary detours on your journey to reaching objectives.

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