Tag Archives: design learning

Learning Environments

10 Oct

 

eotc

Ma whero ma pango ka oti ai te mahi

With red and black the work will be complete

Being innovative with curriculum is more than just moving desks. Or is it?

Like many other schools we are looking at learning spaces and how to use them. At the same time, we are doing some work on integrated or collaborative learning projects. It has got me thinking about What if teachers from different learning areas worked in the same office space?

Schools houses staff from the same learning areas in faculty or department offices. Within these areas each has head who has their own office. There is no doubt these spaces are a buzz of activity in which much is accomplished within a specific learning area. These are how schools have always been. These remind me of cells in religious houses of centuries past. Crude but effective

In our innovative curriculum experiment I have observed by teachers working in cross curricula teams something special has occurred. I wonder if they worked in an open plan together all the time something similar would occur. Teachers in a community represent a cross-section of learning areas from across the curriculum. When you put a group of people into an enclosed space they are going to interact. Reality television flourishes on this fact.

I have observed this term that when you place several staff from different learning areas in the same space, conversation and collegiality is created. Conversations quickly turn from uniform, bell times and the length of time the principal speaks at assembly to pedagogical views, our own learning and use of inquiry. OK there were still some conversations around lateness to class by students but there has been a shift.

I have observed this also:

  • more meaningful meetings however some meaningful meetings have gone by the wayside
  • we are no longer working in silos
  • that students benefit because teachers are exposed to different views and perspectives
  • the sharing and conversations about teaching and learning
  • the conversations around the challenging of the traditional way
  • everybody is exploring different approaches to teaching and learning rather than just the early adaptors. As a results colleagues really sharing best practice

If we are wanting our tamariki to be confident, connected and life-long learners we need to model it ourselves. How better than in this environment?

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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.

Messy Play

20 Aug

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Much of our professional growth comes through those ‘Aha’ moments or Messy Play in the classroom with our students. We may have heard from a colleague that “The lesson was not going so well but then I tried this and all of a sudden things changed.” By chance, and some design, the teacher changed something or seized upon a moment to engage and challenge our students. It is good design, however, that ensures that many of these ‘Aha’ moments get shared with others in the team, so that all teachers in the team can learn and grow from each other. It is a shame when these key teacher moments are not shared – I think our students would want them shared for the benefit of all concerned.

It is clear that learning by design trumps learning by chance, though those chance moments can be particularly powerful for both teachers and students, even more so when they are shared. In saying that, it is worth contemplating whether student learning is more akin to winning a prize in a raffle or whether our schools are taking every success to minimize differences in classrooms that are no conducive to optimal learning for all students.

Teaching in a Multi-level classroom

24 Feb

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Teaching multi-level classes is an issue which is becoming more common in our ever-changing environment. Differentiating instruction may mean teaching the same material to all students using a variety of instructional strategies, or it may require the teacher to deliver lessons at varying levels of difficulty based on the ability of each student. Formative assessment is an essential ingredient of this method.

Teachers who practice differentiation in the classroom may:

  • Design lessons based on students’ learning styles.
  • Group students by shared interest, topic or ability for assignments.
  • Assess students’ learning using formative assessment.
  • Manage the classroom to create a safe and supportive environment.
  • Continually assess and adjust lesson content to meet students’ needs

Do you have any tips or strategies that have worked for you?

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