Tag Archives: Curriculum

Term Two Planning

28 Apr

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When teachers are confident in their ability, persistent through challenge, and innovative in their practices, students can really benefit. This is to the forefront of my thinking this week as we evaluate of courses at school. Are we meeting the needs of students? Are we supporting the needs of teachers as they meet these needs?

According to Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie, collective teacher efficacy has the greatest impact on student achievement—even higher than factors like teacher-student relationships, home environment, or parental involvement.

At the heart of this is PLD. Nothing feels more counterproductive than useless Professional Learning Development (PLD) meetings. A school’s staff members are all at different points in their careers, possess varying levels of experience, and have likely sat through many workshops on any day’s meeting’s topic. When teachers receive PD on topics over and over, they can feel unrecognized and stagnant, lowering their sense of efficacy.

I have discovered another way. Utilizing the experience of staff and allowing teachers to self-elect PD topics, run training sessions, and share their own work can lead to teachers who are active participants in their development, rather than passive receivers. Here the PLF Café was born. This builds a culture of efficacy amongst staff who genuinely work together to improve their practice.  So, what can I as a school leader do to build teacher efficacy in their school? As I do this this some of the areas I am focussed on the following:

Empower Staff

Empowering teachers to take on leadership roles gives educators a voice in their school. When teachers have a role in making important school decisions, feel their voices are heard, and can actively participate in building school culture, efficacy is raised. Top-down, overly evaluative leadership models can lower teacher self-efficacy and ultimately demoralize teachers, negatively impacting classroom achievement. When staff work together toward mutual goals, so grows a shared belief in the direction of the work and the ability to effect change with students.

Praise You Like I Should

Effective praise in schools is authentic recognition of a teacher’s hard work and the resulting student successes. It’s also about sharing that work with others as a model of excellence. Teachers who feel valued and see positive outcomes for their students are more likely to persist in their efforts. A school that routinely recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of its teachers builds a community that believes in its members, collaborates, and continually pushes to do more.

Stop, Collaborate and listen

Building a collaborative environment is key toward building collective and individual teacher efficacy. Teachers need to know what’s happening in other classrooms to build trust and confidence in each other’s ability to guide students to success. They also need time to share their ideas with each other and to work together toward building school-wide best practices. Leaders can assist by providing co-planning time, exhibiting models of excellence, and hosting norming exercises for teachers to build and revisit a collective school mission. And of course, it goes without saying, when teachers are sharing their ideas with you, actively listen; actively show that you care about their insights and opinions, and ask questions.

It is hard and it is scary

The demands of teaching can be overwhelming. It’s easy for educators to feel like they’re drowning in paperwork, lesson planning, grading, teaching multiple courses and the many extracurricular activities they generally take on. A leader who truly understands and acknowledges the workload helps teachers feel like they’re not just endlessly treading water. When a leader doesn’t assist teachers who feel overwhelmed, they can lose their sense of efficacy. They may feel like they’re failing, and may blame themselves for not keeping up. Resentful of SLT, Classroom instruction and staffroom culture, in turn, is sure to be affected. How you can help: empathize with your teachers, listen when they ask for help, and do what you can to help them manage their responsibilities.

 

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Key Questions Around Assessment Review

22 Apr

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Involving students and teachers in an active assessment process where they can take information, interpret it, and move forward is the key to finding success in the classroom. When we think of assessment as the learning instead of as an endpoint, it creates a continuum rather than a sequence of starts and stops. Assessment is learning.

How is the word assessment perceived in the eyes of students? Is it viewed as a tool such as a test, paper, or project, or a process to gather information? Furthermore, how is it perceived in the eyes of teachers? It is critical to get everyone on the same page about the perception and purpose of assessment.

When assessment is learning, it is an active process. It moves beyond the tools used to gather information about student learning to a place where students and teachers can take information and feedback to grow. Assessment becomes a conversation between students and teachers, as well as among classmates. It reveals where students are to progress with their learning. As a student myself, the word assessment was associated with the type of activity we were going to engage in instead of being a spark to light the fire of learning.

What can be done to realize the idea of assessment as learning in our classrooms?

Involve students in the assessment process.

Tamariki need to feel part of the assessment process. Assessment becomes a much less fearful process when it is done with students, not to them. Students may not make these important connections on their own; they can be made plain through classroom dialogue and discovery. Students engage in assessment and learning when relevant associations are made among all happenings in the classroom. They should easily be able to answer the question “Why am I doing this?” Student investment is also built through seeking feedback from students.” Feedback is not a one way street. When students are part of the feedback loop, the teacher and the student share a more robust picture of achievement and a more precise path forward.

Infuse assessment into daily classroom happenings.

The learning process feels very disjointed when everything stops for assessment. Assessment practices should be infused in the process of teaching and learning so neither the student nor the teacher stops to give pause when it is happening. The pause comes when it is time to make decisions about next steps. Note that this is a pause, not a stop. It is a quick moment to make an informed decision and then move on. Assessment should be a familiar part of what happens when we learn. The less students feel like it is ‘time to be assessed’, the less high-stakes assessment becomes. The practice of finding out where students are with their learning, knowing where they need to go, and making choices based on those two pieces of information is a natural routine in the classroom, but the impact on learning is monumental.

Show students how to interpret feedback and assessment results.

Students will not automatically know what to do with the feedback provided to them.

Continuously learn more about assessment practices to support student learning.

Assessment practices are constantly evolving, and different ideas for classroom application abound. There are times when I feel in a rut with my assessment practices. The challenge is not about finding the new ideas, but rather, determining the method that is the best fit.

Work together with students to find success.

Learning is a collective and collaborative process. I cannot describe how much I learn from students each year I work with them. The focus of this collaborative process is success.

 

 

 

Curriculum Inquiry: Easter Reflection

18 Apr

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The focus of our HOF Inquiry is curriculum development. If teachers develop a high-quality written curriculum, but fail to implement it then their work is the equivalent of motion masquerading as progress (Parker, 1991).

Curriculum development is much more than an inquiry, unpacking standards, or meeting once a week. If teachers spend their time focusing on the taught curriculum they will be able to greatly impact student achievement.  “When school staff have a more informed conception of curriculum, a teacher’s daily decisions about how to deliver instruction not only affect student achievement in that classroom but also future student achievement, for it is assumed that students will be entering the next classroom prepared to handle a more sophisticated or more expansive level of work” (Zmuda, Kuklis & Kline, 2004, p. 122).

Our inquiry should be about answering questions. “If you want to make discoveries, if you want to disrupt the status quo, if you want to make progress and find new ways of thinking and doing, you need to ask questions” (John Maxwell, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, 2014). Here some key questions for HOFs that I have come across.

  1.  What are the key concepts we will address in this course?
  2.  What are the key skills we will address in this course?
  3.  What are the priority standards for this course? How will we ensure that these standards are emphasized throughout the year?
  4.  If I had a daughter enrolled in this course, would I be satisfied?
  5. How will we implement the 4 Cs (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity) in curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment(s)?
  6. Will we use LwDT to support teaching and learning? How? What are the goals?
  7. Are there opportunities for student-led lessons or is every lesson dictated by the curriculum and teacher-led?
  8. Are there multiple options for personalized learning throughout the course?
  9. Does the course incorporate student-led questions which deepen student understanding?
  10. How will we measure student understanding?
  11. Are we designing authentic tasks for students?
  12. What is the role of formative assessment in measuring the written, taught, and understood curricula?
  13. Do we have a plan for when students don’t learn?
  14. Does our learning space support student understanding of the key skills, concepts, and soft skills that our staff has identified as important?
  15. How often do we meet to discuss teaching and learning?
  16. Do we analyze career readiness indicators? What is my role in supporting college and career readiness?
  17.  Do teachers have the opportunity to provide ongoing feedback regarding the school curriculum?

 

 

Head of Faculty Inquiry Part Two

20 Jan

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Here are some more thoughts on our inquiry.

Reasons for compulsory subjects

Compulsory subjects exist because the learning areas in which they belong are regarded as fundamental to building the key competencies of students. Some reasons for making some secondary school subjects compulsory include:

The perception that many students do not always know what might be best for their future learning or employment. This is highlighted by the shortage of skilled professionals in certain employment areas, and the comparative over supply in others. A high level of knowledge in these learning areas is essential to developing a career in some professions. It is important that a “foundational” knowledge is developed at secondary school.

Reasons for freedom of subject choice

Subject choice in schools is consistent with the principle of “self-directed learning”, in which students decide what learning areas they have an interest in and would like to develop further skills and knowledge.

Greater freedom in subject choice in linked with greater student satisfaction, and higher performance at secondary school.

Somethings that need to be considered:

What key competencies and knowledge will students require to be successful in the modern workforce?

What key competencies and knowledge will students require to ensure they will be able to make decisions about complex social, economic and technological issues?

How important are subjects such as science, maths, digital technologies in modern society?

Should more subjects be compulsory? If so, which ones?

Should students have more choice about the subjects that they take currently? If so, which subjects shouldn’t be compulsory?

Lets Be Connected

22 May

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Ka rongo, ka wareware

Ka kite, ka mahara

Engari, mā te mahi ka mōhio.

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, but through doing, I know.

 

Last year while on secondment to NCRS I did some presenting to groups and reflecting on teaching practice. Everything I did centred around our teachers raising student achievement. It reminded me about the importance of being a connect educator. I hope I brought this back to my own environment.

Overall a connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to grow as a professional and to empower each other and their students to build their own personal learning networks to learn using the technologies that are available. Much is learnt from each other, with each other, and with the classes that they teach.

As part of my appraisal, one of my guiding principles is Whangaungatanga or connectedness, Kaitiakitanga or Guardianship and Manaakitanga or Generosity of spirit. These all deal with connectedness.

Kaitiakitanga – Guardianship

Ensuring sensitivity and thoughtfulness of actions in environments both local and distant.

A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to build their community of practise that has active participants like guest speakers and where everyone co constructs knowledge. A great example of this is uLearn16 or #edchatnz or subject associations meetings.

Whanaungatanga – Connectedness

Being connected requires learners to develop a secure sense of their own identity and agency to think and work towards where their potential might lie.

Sacred Heart Girl’s College is already a strong learning community that collaboratively constructs knowledge to form a foundation for learning. A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to use the managed online tools to find people and how to connect with them. They think carefully about the dynamics of interactions.

Manaakitanga – Generosity of spirit

Developing the ability to walk in others’ shoes which includes seeing issues from others’ perspectives and thinking carefully about the dynamics of interactions.

A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to use and take the tools from their kete to move their practice forward. They know how to get the learning needed to improve the craft of teaching. A connected educator at Sacred Heart Girl’s College knows how to use pedagogical eTools.  They know how to bring back what they have found and learnt online and share it with their school community via a reflective educator blog. Personal learning is transparent, visible and accessible by all.

Ka rongo, ka wareware

Ka kite, ka mahara

Engari, mā te mahi ka mōhio.

 

 

 

 

 

Culture of Learning: Part Two

15 Jan

Leadership-Success

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?

Curriculum Reflections

11 Oct

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What comes to mind when you hear the term curriculum leader?  Do you have a vision of your HOF standing at the back of your classroom observing teaching and learning?  Do you see the instructional leader as the building principal conducting three-minute walk-through observations?  Is the curriculum leader the department chair? How many curriculum leaders can one school hold?

Curriculum leadership should not be determined by a person’s title or years of experience.  Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school. Strong, intentional leadership in curriculum development is a necessity for strong instructional leadership.

Curriculum leadership is complicated because leading curriculum development meetings involves working with fallible, imperfect human beings.  A second reason curriculum leadership is difficult is due to the school schedule and a lack of extended time for teachers to discuss and revise existing curriculum documents.  I know in my environment the complexity of documents can seem confusing. While it is difficult to ask for each teacher’s input, documents that are top-down rarely receive as much teacher buy-in as documents that were created by the teachers who are required to implement the curriculum.  Curriculum leaders must work together to create a culture of trust where teachers and administrators can agree to disagree.  Furthermore, leaders must develop quality time and create schedules which provide time for creative thinking and reflection, rather than scheduling early release days when teachers complete fill-in-the blank curriculum worksheets.

Five Reasons Why Schools Need Curriculum Leaders:

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides clarity.

What should every student know and be able to do?

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides opportunities to develop and empower future leaders.

Curriculum leadership is not a solo act.

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for continuous improvement.

Schools should be learning organizations.

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity to establish goals.

Goals provide teachers and students with something to aim for.

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for improved alignment.

Curriculum Leaders are Key

11 Oct

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Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.  Curriculum leaders have played an important role as our school set their strategic plan. They have the ability to create curriculum individually and with a team of teachers.  I have witnessed teachers from our school share strategies with teachers across the country.  Curriculum mapping, alignment, and revision require strong curriculum leaders.  When teacher leaders are involved in designing and revising curriculum, you will have a strong product. High performing schools have multiple curriculum leaders. They are the SLTs of the future. I advocate they should be developed and grown. What do you think? What are you doing to support these people?

As a staff here are some key questions to reflection on:

  1.  What do you think of when you hear the term curriculum leader?
  2.  Are you a curriculum leader?  What makes you a curriculum leader?
  3.  Are there additional reasons why schools need curriculum leaders?

Student Achievement and Curriculum Development

16 Sep

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Curriculum development should not be left to chance.  Too many schools hope that teachers will find time to work together.  With the loss of staff development funds, changes in school calendars, the emphasis on ‘less is more, and initiative fatigue, some schools no longer make time for authentic curriculum development.  Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether the role is carried out by a principal, deputy principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.

Curriculum development is a rewarding process which enables teachers to have professional conversations about the intended and taught curriculum. Conversations about what is real. Pedagogy.

My personal experiences with curriculum development and observing the work of teacher teams in multiple school systems and academic research  has led me to identify the following five barriers to curriculum development: Time, Process, Tradition, Competition, and Motivation.  With proper planning, scheduling and support from school administrators, each of these barriers can be removed.

What have been some of your barriers?

Where are the Curriculum Leaders?

19 Aug

Leadership

Go onto Twitter or Facebook or any such site you will find people having their say on leadership. Thousands of books have been sold on the topic of leadership.  I have brought many of them. When you visit the library or search for an e-book, you can find topics about business leadership, military leaders, great sporting leaders, leadership wisdom from presidents, ethical leadership, and the list is limitless.

The field of education needs more curriculum leaders.  People know about curriculum leadership and some educators do a great job of leading their class or their team.  Curriculum leadership involves working with multiple people to ensure that the curriculum is aligned both horizontally and vertically.

When educators think of curriculum development and curriculum alignment, they often reflect on a time when teachers meet and discuss the nuts and bolts. What our system needs are people with greater vision. A flavour-of-the month approach to curriculum development will not support students or teachers and it creates a disjointed curriculum. It creates a culture amongst the team of yes “this will come and go, it’s only a fade.”

We need curriculum leaders who will challenge and advance pedagogy. We can all serve as a curriculum leaders. Ask yourself the following questions about your department:

  1.  What is Curriculum Leadership? (Clue: Its not about making sure everybody has textbooks)
  2.  Who are the Curriculum Leaders in our school?
  3.  What goals do the Curriculum Leaders have for this school year?
  4.  How will we measure progress towards the goals?
  5. How are we progressing right now with these?
  6. Do these meet with the school wide goals and my own personal goals as a teacher?

Lots to think about here but worth but worth putting these aside for a Departmental or Team meeting I think.

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