Tag Archives: Critical Thinking

Whirea te tangata

1 Mar


Lots to think about this week as I continue my Te Reo journey on a Wednesday morning with staff. Below is a beautiful karakia, which I am learning this year. Richness of the language always humbles me. It has made me reflect on my Māori learners this week.

Māori students’ educational needs are not homogeneous as Māori identity is diverse (Durie, 1995). It is no secret NZ school students are high performing on a world scale however, the achievement gap between its highest and lowest performers (predominantly Māori) is one of the biggest from all of the countries surveyed (ERO, 2010b). Such research although alarming is not new as ERO (2010a) states: “Although many Māori students have been successful in education, research and national and international testing data continue to show significant disparity in the achievement of Māori and non-Māori students. Improved Māori student achievement has been a key government priority in education over the decade” (p.1). Despite national reports continuing to indicate disparity between Māori and non-Māori students, of the programmes, initiatives, and resources that have been implemented over the last twenty years there have been several successful initiatives such as Te Kotahitanga (Bishop, 2008) and He Kakano (University of Waikato & Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, 2010).

The question I continually ask is how relevant is my schools curriculum for Māori and students? That is cultural identity – every day, everywhere, from policy, the processes, assemblies, hui, through to practice. It must be more than having a Kapa Haka competition.

Culture cannot be left to all students doing Te Reo for 6 weeks in Year 9. It is about critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is not a sense of critical thinking, it is a movement. You need to be in it…culturally sustaining pedagogy. It is NOT about leaving our identity at the gate, which we pick up after school. Rather, collaboration throughout the day, where students can be Māori first, Indian first, Australian first, Pasifika first, and work in ways which are successful. We want our learners to be able to think universally, AND culturally strong.


This is reflected in Tātaiako – Cultural competencies for Teachers. The Tātaiako – Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners supports both Ka Hikitia strategies and aligns with the Graduating Teacher Standards and Registered Teacher Criteria developed by the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC, 2010). The main objective of the document is to improve teacher pedagogy and capacity to effectively teach students, particularly Māori learners. For school leaders the focus is on leading and engaging educators in a way that affirms Māori culture while providing the resources to enable this to happen. The document provides five competencies that include a set of indicators and outcomes that differentiate between a graduating teacher and a registered teacher. The five competencies Tataiako (MOE, 2011 p. 4) identifies are:

  • Wānanga: Describes participating with learners and communities in robust dialogue for the benefit of Mäori learners’ achievement.
  • Whānaungatanga: Expresses actively engaging in respectful working relationships with Māori learners, parents and whānau, hapu, iwi and the Mäori community.
  • Manaakitanga: Refers to showing integrity, sincerity, and respect towards Mäori beliefs, language, and culture.
  • Tangata Whenuatanga: Explains affirming Mäori learners as Mäori. Providing contexts for learning where the language, identity and culture of Mäori learners and their whānau is affirmed.
  • Ako: portrays taking responsibility for their own learning and that of Mäori learners.

How relevant is your schools curriculum for Māori and students? Whirea te tangata. Weave the people together




Friday Reflection: October 20

19 Oct


Our students need the skills to know when they are being manipulated so they can take control of their learning and their life. They also need to know that if they get a recommendation from a company to purchase something, they don’t have to buy it. They need to be able to spot fake news. They need to be critical thinkers. They need to be sceptical, curious, and critically consider what will be best for them. That’s our job as educators. It’s about encouraging learners to have a voice and choice so they are intrinsically motivated to want to learn.

Let’s help them navigate the new world of what some call “personalization.” But let’s be clear what that means for teaching and learning and fight for our students so they are the ones personalizing their learning experiences with teachers guiding the process not a company that is using their data to tell them that they know best how they learn.

We need students that are not “compliant” following the leads from a company based on clicks. They are so much smarter than we give them credit. We need to encourage learners at a very young age to learn how to learn, to reflect on their learning and to be the ones in control of their learning so they are lifelong, self-directed learners.

Encourage the Critical Element

20 Jul


As I lead my team this year I must consider this idea more. As educators, we want our students to be critical thinkers—to question and show skepticism. We teach them to cite data to support their opinions and to test theories and hypotheses for evidence that supports a claim. But when it’s time to implement school change, we often don’t appreciate these same qualities in our colleagues. Wouldn’t it be better if all teachers just followed suit, never offered any criticism, and made the job of the leaders easier?

Actually, if our fellow teachers are questioning our ideas and making change efforts difficult, someone along the way has done an excellent job of promoting critical thinking and skepticism in those teachers. But how do we both value constructive critique and move an initiative forward at a pace that leads to implementation in less than a decade? The key may lie in what Intel calls “disagree and commit.”

The conditions for great teachers to thrive

2 Nov


As curriculum leaders we must create conditions for our students and teachers to thrive. Here are some thoughts on getting your team to thrive.

Growth: Great teachers are learners; they want to move forward. Usually, they have mastered the key skills in teaching and are looking to refine their practice or explore innovations of various forms. They want the space and time to grow professionally. However, this has to be seen in the context where all teachers are working collaboratively, forming larger groups where the levels of expertise will vary. This is the challenge.

Recognition: This is a key motivating factor but we are not talking simply about financial reward. Maximising pay is important but salary increments never do justice to the additional value really great teachers deliver. It is also often the case that very strong teachers are self-effacing, don’t want a fuss made and don’t court public affirmation. What matters is often simply that their work is recognised, acknowledged, appreciated, and not taken for granted. Beyond the rigmarole of formal lesson observations and examination postmortems, there needs to be a culture where excellence is acknowledged on an individual basis and celebrated publicly. This isn’t to create divisions – it is to identify where we have role models, to have exemplars for others to follow and, crucially, to ensure that the exponents of great teaching get the recognition they deserve. If you have a lot of teachers like this, then you need to apply this to them all. Do I do enough in this area? No… but I must and will do more!

Care: Finally, it is important to create a culture where teachers are looked after as people. Great teachers often have a touch of the ’tis but a scratch’ attitude. High performing people are not immune to stress or the usual array of health or personal set-backs. I’m a great believer that you get more from everyone by being conspicuously supportive with personal issues. Whether this is taking a flexible approach to part-time working, returning from maternity leave, enabling people to see children in their primary assembly or graduation, helping people to look after elderly parents or simply get to the bank.. it pays to be generous and flexible. I always say ‘family first’ because that is how I feel about my own. If you want people to give their all, they need to feel that the trade-off is worthwhile; the community spirit fostered by a strong family-first approach, nurtures loyalty, commitment and the determination to strive for success.

Visible Learning: John Hattie – Measuring impact

22 Aug


John Hattie’s work provides an important insight into the nature of educational research and the notion of measuring impact.  The idea that some strategies can be shown to have had more impact on average over time relative to others is crucial and his general message about the implications for teachers and the profession is very strong.  This video,gives a very good idea of Hattie’s thinking.  Of course, the effect size concept is problematic and is open to misinterpretation. This will create more discussion. What do you think?

A Special Shout Out…

12 Apr


I wanted to mention the outstanding CORE Education GROUP that ran their roadshow in New Plymouth last week at Sacred Heart. Please follow their newsletter or link as PD run by them is well worth it.


Technology has become very important in our daily lives. Many of us couldn’t function on a daily basis without our cell phones, laptops, and iPads.  In any case I couldn’t. In addition, our children are overly exposed and stimulated by video games, cell phones, and television on a daily basis. My daughter who is four already writing photo essays using here iPod Touch. With the big boom of technology in today’s societythere is a need to integrate technology in the 21st Century classroom. The term blended learning is a common one.


School Leaders must understand Learning for the 21st Century Classroom emphasizes:

  • Digital  literacy – using communication, information processing, and  digital research tools  (email, presentation software, Internet)
  • Critical thinking/Problem solving-using spread sheets and design tools to solve complex problems)
  • Interpersonal Skills-using personal development and productivity tools to enhance one’s life (e-learners, time managers, and collaboration tools).

The 21st Century classroom combines old content with new skills to create more rigor and relevance for students. Learners are encouraged to take creative risks in this environment while teachers are provided with more opportunities to foster creativity in their instruction. When students look at core knowledge through real-world examples, they are being prepared to compete globally by developing interpersonal communication skills while learning content.

There is some debate amongst educational thought leaders about this learning model.  Some argue that technology does not aid in the retention of core knowledge for students, and the 21st Century Classroom Model focuses on teaching students how to “use” technology with less emphasis on core content.  The “old school” way of teaching affords students a better chance to learn and master the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic). While there are those who oppose, the fact still remains that; children born in the 21st century are digital natives, and many American graduates are entering the 21st century workplace unprepared.

So do you integrate technology into your classroom?

Lesson One

8 Feb


This week I have been thinking about the importance of the first day of class. What happens that day sets the tone for the rest of the year. Outlined below is an activity for using that first day of class to emphasize the importance of learning and the responsibility students share for shaping the classroom environment. I first used these while teaching Year 7, many years ago, but they have been successful right through to Year 13.

Best and Worst Classes – I love this quick and easy activity. On one section of the blackboard I write: “The best class I’ve ever had” and underneath it “What the teacher did” and below that “What the students did.” On another section I write “The worst class I’ve ever had” (well, actually I write, “The class from hell”) and then the same two items beneath. I ask students to share their experiences, without naming the course, department or teacher, and I begin filling in the grid based on what they call out. If there’s a lull or not many comments about what the students did in these classes, I add some descriptors based on my experience with some of my best and worst classes. In 10 minutes or less, two very different class portraits emerge. I move to the best class section of the board and tell students that this is the class I want to teach, but I can’t do it alone. Together we have the power to make this one of those “best class” experiences.

“I learn best in classes where the teacher ___”
“Students in courses help me learn when they ___”
“I am most likely to participate in classes when ___”
“Here’s something that makes it hard to learn in a course: ___”
“Here’s something that makes it easy to learn in a course: ___”

Students are invited to walk around the room and write responses, chatting with each other and the teacher as they do. After there are comments on every flip chart, the teacher walks to each one and talks a bit about one or two of the responses. If you run out of time, you can conduct the debriefing during the next session.


As I have started with my classes this year and considered items such as learning plans I have thought about what makes a good teacher. Secondary students often talk about what characteristics of a teacher have the most positive effect on their learning.

Some reading to reflect on:


Thoughts and Observations from Edward Roads

Danielle Anne Lynch

Music, Theology, Religion, Education

Learn To Love Food

Food Fun For Feeding Therapy and Picky Eaters

Enseñar a pensar

Metodologías de innovación educativa


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