Tag Archives: culture of learning

Changing Our Culture

4 Jun

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I found this a brilliant reflection this week.

 

 

 

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Being Excited

19 May

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Confident, excited teachers make for confident and excited students. Jim Knight (2007), an expert on instructional coaching, suggests, “When people talk about learning, the experience should be exciting, energizing, and empowering.”  Assessment has the potential to generate all three of these conditions when designed and used in the service of learning.

What kind of assessment practices generate this type of culture? What kind of professional learning experiences contribute to teachers developing their assessment practices? I want to share a couple of conversations and experiences I have had in the past few months that focus around the question: How can assessment build confidence and excitement that leads to higher achievement and more investment by both teachers and students?  Three big ideas emerged from these experiences.

  1. Believe 

When we focus our efforts, and protect ample amounts of time for reflection and application, we will see results. This act fosters a sense of efficacy, signalling that we believe our teachers have the capacity to do amazing work.

At a recent professional learning, our Leaders of Learning group strived to do just that. The intent of the session was to create higher quality assessment and courses that better reflected our curriculum document. As teachers talked with colleagues about what they wanted students to learn and what kind of meaningful student work might help them gather information on the extent to which students had learned, there was energy in the air. I posed a few ideas around quality assessment design-precision, action, and student investment.

  1. Build 

In what ways can students be co-designers of their learning experiences? Co-design can happen in constructing quality criteria together. As students examine strong and weak samples of work, a co-constructed list of criteria offers students a sense of what quality looks like and a clearer vision of expectations. This leads to higher quality work.

Students might even co-design experiences to learn a concept. What if students were posed something like the following: We are going to focus on learning about the impact of war on the environment. What might be the ways we can learn about this?  Work individually or in pairs to research and design an activity or two to guide your peers in learning about war’s impact on the environment.

The co-design process works beautifully to empower teachers. As schools and districts aim to improve the quality of their assessment practices, why not ask teachers to co-design the process and the products that will help assessment create this culture of learning.

  1. Provide 

Creating a culture of opportunity and possibility begins with the tone and spirit with which we invite students and teachers into conversation and continues through the types of feedback offered. Feedback and the tone and setting in which it is provided generates confidence or shuts it down.

At the core of learning conversations, making people feel energized, excited and empowered is ample time to create, involvement in a co-design, and targeted feedback in the context of deliberate practice. These practices create a space where listening is central –people (students and teachers) feeling listened to and believed in. The road to achievement and confidence is paved with creative time, an ongoing commitment to co-design, and deliberate practice with targeted feedback.

Culture Again….

1 Nov

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Culture is fundamentally about relationships. Technology is a critical component of all learning environments. However, learning without human rapport and interactive relationships is a poor ecosystem for human development. A landscape in which the foundation has not been prepared to adapt to change, to embrace what is best for students, to accept that risks, constant change and uncertainty are the order of the day, is one in which initiatives will ultimately fail.

A healthy culture is immediately discernible, though perhaps difficult to define: “A collaborative culture feels a bit like family: Although individuals may not always get along, they will support each other when push comes to shove. A collaborative culture is a strong culture in which most people are on the same page.” (Gruenert, Whitaker)

A collaborative culture also leads to higher levels of trust and respect among colleagues and translates to improved student learning. Empowered learning requires investment in technology. It requires talented teachers who are supported. But too often the infrastructure and the investment are as far as the planning goes.

The best schools and the deepest learning are characterized by one simple truth. The work is about individual learner needs, not systems. It’s about the ecosystem and a humane environment that permits teachers to work for the students, not the system. Being relational. As everything becomes digital, school culture matters more than ever.

Gruenert, Steve & Whitaker, Todd. School Culture Rewired. 2015.

Culture vs Strategy

19 Sep

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Is culture really more important than strategy to an organisation? Peter Drucker’s oft-quoted appreciation for the importance of culture is rooted in his strong belief in community. But surely a company that places greater value on culture over strategic planning is doomed to failure? I don’t think so. In fact, when it comes to schools, I think culture devours everything it encounters.

While places of learning need to be strategic, nothing is more important than school culture, what Michael Fullan refers to as “the guiding beliefs and expectations evident in the way a school operates”. Culture is all about people. Therefore it follows that the single most important thing a great school needs is great teachers

We know that placing the latest cutting edge technology in the hands of a weak teacher will do little to improve learning. And so it is in a school with a great strategy and a weak culture. School leaders need to pay more attention to recruiting the very best teachers then supporting them in a collaborative, supportive environment that enables them not only to embrace change, but to lead it.

Friday thought on Culture

28 Aug

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A collaborative culture also leads to higher levels of trust and respect among colleagues and translates to improved student learning. Empowered learning requires investment in technology. It requires talented teachers who are supported. But too often the infrastructure and the investment are as far as the planning goes. Government agencies and district leaders are left frequently bewildered by the lack of impact of huge investments. This vital message is, in many instances, ignored: it’s the culture, stupid.

Michael Fullan has long championed the critical importance of transforming school culture and writes extensively on the topic. His perspective is also clear: “Structure does make a difference, but it is not the main point of achieving success. Transforming the culture – changing the way we do things around here – is the main point.”

The best schools and the deepest learning are characterized by one simple truth. The work is about individual learner needs, not systems. It’s about the ecosystem and a humane environment that permits teachers to work for the students, not the system. As everything becomes digital, school culture matters more than ever.

Fullan, Michael. Leading in a Culture of Change. 2007.

Reflection Today

14 Feb

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Today’s world is vastly different from that of 50 years ago. And the pace of change is accelerating, with increasing globalisation; advances in technology, communications and social networking; greatly increased access to information; an explosion of knowledge; and an array of increasingly complex social and environmental issues. The world of work also is undergoing rapid change with greater workforce mobility, growth in knowledge-based work, the emergence of multi-disciplinary work teams engaged in innovation and problem solving, and a much greater requirement for continual workplace learning. The school curriculum must attempt to equip students for this significantly changed and changing world.

However, many features of the school curriculum have been unchanged for decades. We continue to present disciplines largely in isolation from each other, place an emphasis on the mastery of large bodies of factual and procedural knowledge and treat learning as an individual rather than collective activity. This is particularly true in the senior secondary school, which then influences curricula in the earlier years.What is your school environment doing to respond to this change

Head of Faculty Inquiry

18 Jan

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We talk a great deal at school about creating students with our dispositions (ako, manaakitanga and wahine toa).  This year the main body of our work is looking into our curriculum. Asking the question is what we are teaching meeting the needs of our students?

The purpose of the New Zealand education system and here at Sacred Heart is to equip our students with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens. Educational curriculum should meet the needs and current demands of the culture, the society, and the expectations of the population being served. To achieve this vision, the Government directs what students should learn through its national curriculum.

Continually updating school curricula helps equip the next generation to contribute effectively in our rapidly changing world. In New Zealand, there are concerns that school curricula may not be developing the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the challenges of the future. There is concern about a lack of financial education, that participation and performance in science and mathematics are decreasing, and that there is a need for teaching in citizenship and environmental sustainability areas. There is also discussion as to whether languages such as Te Reo Māori should be compulsory.

In our rapidly changing world, continually updating school curricula ensures that the next generation is fully equipped to function well in society. There is a growing need for specialised training for certain career pathways, which requires more formal training. This has created greater demand for greater thought to be put into vocational pathways in secondary school, to help ensure a smooth transition into on-going education, training or work.

The New Zealand Curriculum is the statement of official policy relating to teaching and learning in New Zealand schools. It sets out the vision and principles that are the foundations of decision-making in school curriculum. Schools are required to base their curriculum on the principles of the Curriculum, to encourage and model the values, and to develop the key competencies at all year levels.

Under the National Administration Guidelines, the national curriculum is compulsory until Year 10, so schools are required to provide subjects that relate to the learning areas above and are compulsory for all students. Currently, secondary schools in New Zealand provide a mixture of compulsory and elective subject choices.

Schools must keep up-to-date with the continuous evolution of knowledge and technological change, so students and fully equipped to function well in society.

Specific issues perceived as being important to address include:

a lack of financial education.

failing participation and academic performance in “core” subjects such as science or mathematics.

ensuring students have the skills to keep up with rapid technological innovation.

Lets see how the journey goes.

All on the Waka Together

12 Dec

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Over time, I believe as a leader and teacher I can have the capacity to improve the whole-school culture through excellence in teaching. Our dispositions of Ako, Wahine Toa and Manaakitanga have their foundation in the generous impulse to assist students and colleagues. If we are true to the Manawa Mission philosophy here at Sacred Heart staff fundamentally influence others without generating resentment. Staff are consistently working to benefit the school, so he or she is not in competition with others. We are on the waka together.

In the end, only way to stay the course throughout one’s teaching career is by discussion with great teachers who motivate, inspire and remain connected to the classroom. In the company of others, teachers can uncover the best work being done in our schools. This links a little to last week’s post. Dedicated to their own professional development, all staff are capable of improving teaching and learning despite the many other mandates. This is critical to their continued enthusiasm. Through the retreats and professional learning communities, colleagues enhance their own teaching and further the practice of others. Thus we are living the mission together.

Culture of Learning: Part Two

15 Jan

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I have been thinking a great deal of culture of effective learning in schools. Authentic Tasks are central to this. An Authentic Task asks students to use their ability to analyze and solve real world problems. Authentic tasks are often framed by an Essential Question which guides understanding. Essential Questions have more than one correct answer and they help students connect what they know to the answers they are searching for. An authentic task is not a worksheet or a multiple choice test. Both of these can be found classrooms, but are rarely seen in the workforce. Employers seek leadership, teamwork, communication skills, problem solving skills, analytical skills, initiative, and adaptability. Authentic Tasks provide students with the opportunity to practice these skills multiple times. Too often, schooling is a series of tasks that students must complete in order to move to the next grade level. If tasks seem to have little or no connection to the real world, students become disengaged. Do you agree? Any thoughts on this?

Culture of Learning: Part One

10 Jan

As I walked my daughter to her holiday programme this morning I got to thinking about the learning journey we are on. I started to think of the culture of learning we insist upon in our schools.

Students enter  kindergarten full of questions, ideas, curiosity, and imagination. By the time students reach intermediate and beyond, many of them are bored and do not enjoy school. For many schooling teaches students to memorize and recall the correct answer, learn because ‘this will be on the test,’  or ‘you will get credits for this’ and avoid risk taking because failure means a lower mark.

More often than not students will choose the books they know how to read rather than those they cannot as they do not want to fail. Successful students are rewarded with accolades and unsuccessful students are told to try harder. Our schooling system is designed to move students from one level to the next. Once students earn enough credits, they are rewarded with various levels of NCEA.

Schooling focuses on teaching. Some schools in our nation are moving away from this and towards a culture of learning which focuses on the whole child and student understanding. A culture of problem solving. A culture of resilient young people who will continue to lead our nation to great things.

But what is a culture of learning?

Purchasing a laptop or tablet for every student will not transform traditional school. While technology has the ability to transform teaching and learning, teachers still need to focus on learning goals, authentic tasks, transfer of understanding, student voice, and student contribution. Learning with digital technology is a student-centered approach to creating a learning experience whereby the learner interacts with other students.

A well-designed flipped classroom experience  organizes content, support materials, and activities.  Communication and collaboration are necessary functions of this approach. Because formative assessment is embedded throughout learning events, the learner assumes responsibility for his or her learning.

A characteristic of a culture of learning is where students are using a computer as a tool to learn or if a flipped classroom is part of their classroom experience.

What do you think?

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