Tag Archives: Learning

Personalized Learning

23 May

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Personalized learning is a hot topic in education. Educators agree that each learner is different with unique interests, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Of course, it would be ideal if teachers could work with individual learners to identify learning goals, co-create learning experiences, and track progress. I honestly don’t know how realistic the idea of personalized learning is in the context of education in New Zealand as it exists today. Happy for you to challenge me on this.

As long as teachers are juggling large class sizes, seeing five classes a day for less than an hour each, and have limited access to resources, personalized learning or tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs, and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when, and where they learn may feel unattainable.

Instead of talking about personalized learning, as if it is a destination I have reached. I am reading about using the verb personalizing a lot in my work with educators. It signals that personalization is a journey. Just because we cannot personalize learning for every child every day does not mean it is not a worthy goal to work toward.

Perhaps we could move towards a homeroom experience like in the primary sector?

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Getting everyone on the waka in 2019

21 Feb

 

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The year has started and as senior leaders we have well thought out ideas regarding new projects for the year. But them come the resistors or slow adapters or high maintenance staff.

When we encounter resistance to a great idea, we often find ourselves mentally criticizing the people who oppose it. We conclude that those who are resisting are unwilling to change, lack a strong work ethic, or have misplaced priorities.

It might be more productive for school leaders to think about times when they’ve resisted others’ ideas—for instance, times when they told their child he could not have a begged-for toy (or tattoo!); or when they told their physician that a particular treatment was not for them; or when they told their spouse that it was not the right year to take a big vacation. When people think about why they’ve resisted others’ ideas, they usually realize that their reasons were good ones. For instance, parents say no to children to keep them safe, patients select treatments that will best fit their individual needs and approach to health, and spouses want to be good stewards of the family budget.

Similarly, when teachers resist the ideas or initiatives of new school leaders, their reasons make perfect sense to them. For instance, these teachers might have worked hard to develop their current practices and view these practices as best for students. They might believe that a proposed change would be too demanding on their time, or they might think that a new idea reverses the trajectory of school programs of the past few years. When school leaders understand resistance from this perspective, they avoid judging teachers negatively. Instead, they tune in to better understand what teachers are thinking. This process has the potential to create a productive dialogue, enabling teachers and leaders to approach problem solving and planning together to address school needs.

 

 

Religious Education in schools

17 Feb

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Yes, RE is sometimes brilliantly taught, and is essential to the curriculum; but its quality is too often undermined by a range of factors. The Religious Studies or Education community cannot allow these factors to continue damaging the subject’s quality: we need support around professional development.

My vision for RE is that it produces pupils who are religiously literate and who function well in a theologically and philosophically diverse world. Imagine an OECD or MOE survey report on RE in 2025: it reports that 7 out of 10 teachers are clear that the core purpose of RE is to promote religious literacy; that teaching is usually good or outstanding and based on a clear progression pathway; that there is excellent support for primary and secondary teachers of RE; that local bodies help to resource RE and national expectations are consistent and clear; and that RE is an entitlement for all pupils up to 16, parents having accepted the nature of RE and seeing no need to withdraw their children.

I want a Religious Studies course which has real intellectual integrity, reflects the reality of religion and belief in the modern world , and makes an excellent contribution to pupils’ education. It needs the structures that can deliver this. I am not critical of the people who operate in the present structures. I am only able to teach and to present these ideas because of the great work done by leading  people in the past and present. I owe them my thanks. It is the system that is broken and indefensible, because it is not serving teachers and pupils well enough. I appreciate that change is a challenge for people who have invested time, talent and reputation in the present system. To go for change may well feel like a betrayal, or a risk. But surely the greater risk, the greater betrayal, would be to recognize that our structures are failing, and leading our subject to weakness and irrelevance, to know that we could do better – and to do nothing? What will the teachers who come after us say to us then? The historical moment is on us now. It is dangerous to do nothing and left the situation drift. I hope we will have an informed and inclusive conversation in order to shape our future.

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.

Leading Curriculum Change

12 Aug

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Currently we are looking at curriculum change and a great deal of has to do with trust. I have learnt a great deal this week an made some mistakes. As a school leader I need to understand that change can only be made by people, not the leader, and when more people are making change, the organization is accelerating change.  Here is guide that as a school leader we must consider if we want to make change and make it rapidly.  The better we get at employing these accelerators, the more change and the more sustained change they will see.

Here are 8 strategies that great leaders employ to get substantial change.

  1. How you treat people,
  2. How you listen to people,
  3. How you create a system of continuous improvement,
  4. How you invite people and new ideas to the table of change,
  5. How you empower others to lead change with you,
  6. How you communicate the positive growth along the way,
  7. How you reflect, refine and revise change along the way.
Change is hard, but it’s really hard in a negative culture.  Change is implemented easiest when leaders remember that they’re not there to change an organization.  Th

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.

Appreciative Listening

23 Mar

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Lots to think about this week. One of the things I did notice was the idea of listening.

Listening is complicated. It is the sign of a good leader. This week we have done some work on this skill.

Active listeners are listening both with an emphasis on enhancing the interpersonal relationship and to gather information. People have natural listening styles or ways that they process what they’ve heard. A Comprehensive listener will listen to gather information and put it together to create the big picture. An Evaluative listener is automatically judging the information they are listening to. Discerning listeners have a natural style that sifts and sorts fact from fiction. An Empathic listening style helps the listener tap into the feelings of the person they are listening to.

Listeners who have an Appreciative listening style listen for the entertainment and enjoyment of listening, not necessarily to gather information. Understanding our own personal listening strengths and our opportunities for growth is tapping into the power of listening. Almost everyone who experiences being listened to appreciatively, reports that it feels good to feel so deeply heard and respected.

 I find like most leaders, talking is what characterizes our days. Answering questions. Setting direction. Speaking with people about what needs to be done.   It is not unusual for a leader to want to find the “speed up” button when people are speaking or to be multi-tasking.   This links me back to the social discipline window which I am now using a great deal.

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Consequently, it is not uncommon for leaders to feel impatient with speakers and to view listening only as too passive a form of influence in their busy schedule.

However, Appreciative Listening is not passive. It is a highly active, totally focused form of attention.  It is not active listening, repackaged. Unlike in active listening where you’re expected to repeat or confirm that you’ve understood what’s been said, appreciative listening asks you to show that you understand the person.

What is Appreciative Listening?

It is listening with the sole purpose of identifying qualities, strengths and values of the speaker that you respect.

Your commitment to do this only needs to be 3 to 5 minutes of focused time.

The payoff is high in terms of increased understanding, improved rapport and in building a more positive work relationship.

The consequences will be that everything begins to work better simply because you have a better understanding of what really matters to the other person.

Appreciative Listening Opens Door to Changed Relationships

Appreciative Listening offers two profound benefits:

  1. It increases the common ground in all your work relationships– even the ones which feel least susceptible to any positive change.
  2. It changes you the listener.

How do you rate as a listener? What role does it play in your work as a leader?

Leading in the Age of Change

22 Jan

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As school leaders looking to lead complex change, must clearly define and articulate the vision for a staff to get behind it. Such leadership is central to keep our schools relevant. We must do more than talking and spouting phrases such as we are future focussed.

If we expect an instructional pedagogy to shift, the learning space – must also shift. Shifting instructional practices requires shifting spaces. No longer is the desks-in-rows, easy-to-clean set-up relevant for a personal approach to learning. If we expect collaborative work focused on higher-order thinking skills and problem solving, the learning space must reflect the desired pedagogy. All staff must reflect his also.

For our students’ future success, teachers must utilize high quality pedagogy, accelerated by technology, to unleash the needed skills. The teacher-centric, industrial-age model of classroom instruction will not prepare tomorrow’s students for a world of work where automation and robots have removed many of today’s traditional, low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Tomorrow’s workers must be able to problem solve, collaborate, and think creatively. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction doesn’t create the needed learning opportunities for tomorrow’s workforce.

Above all else our relationships are so important. Building dynamic relationships helps transform culture, laying the foundation for instructional shifts to occur.

As I reflect on our curriculum inquiry I was fascinated in this resource this week.

 

Lego and Learning

4 Dec

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Invention was the key to Lego’s appeal for me growing up. The fun of building, breaking, and rebuilding. Using pieces of that were not lego because we had lost a piece. So of those pieces were gems. That was where the challenge lay. We learnt through trial and error, through testing and refining. More wheels don’t make things go faster – the increased friction actually slows them up. The walls of buildings need to interlock with each other occasionally or they fall over. I may not have grown up to be a mechanic, a bricklayer, or a vet, but I gained some valuable understandings about how things work.

Contrast that with today’s experience of building a Lego set. Certainly there are still valuable skills and experiences to be gained: following instructions with care and the sense of satisfaction upon completion. But the words “I’m finished” are not something I have ever associated with Lego. Had we ever uttered them, our parents would have simply said “Well, build something else.” Today, many children would consider it sacrilege to convert their immaculate Jedi Interceptor into a homemade bulldozer or their Hogwarts Castle into a skyscraper. In many bedrooms, ‘completed’ Lego models sit on the shelf, an end unto themselves.

From creation to replication – therein seems to lie the change in Lego. Teaching our children to be artisans who can recreate objects, carefully and methodically crafting them from a template, is a useful skill. But encouraging them to be artists, with the confidence and creativity to create and refine original designs, may be more useful still.

Which leads to the other sneaky change – from collaborative to solo pursuits. Learners memories are communal; they are of competition and co-operation. There were highest tower races, last-car-standing demolition derbies, joint construction projects and endless haggling as my brothers and sisters and I bartered for pieces from each other’s piles. It is true that, once built, a modern day themed set does provide the basis for interactive play. However, does it replace the life-lessons of building together?

Having recently seen the Lego Star Wars Wii game being played in virtual reality on a big screen, I should be glad that the solid little plastic bricks of my childhood still even exist. Nevertheless, I challenge parents to the following next time you are cleaning your child’s room:
1. ‘Accidently’ drop two or three of their completed Lego models on the floor
2. If they still have the original instruction sheets, hide them
3. When they get home from school, tell them to rebuild. It builds resilience
4. Better still, challenge them to build something completely different

Mentoring and Successful Schools

10 Nov

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As school leaders, we recognise that appraisal an essential process that exists in schools. The evidence gathered in the process is central to the ability teacher registration. However, because the process is often seen as mechanical, and in some cases is not seen as a significant driver to assist school improvement, a real opportunity is missed for developing potential and bringing out the best in others.

As I work on my own appraisal and appraisal meetings I note the importance of self-accountability and growth. With growth comes an increased sense of one’s own potential. When one has both confidence and a true sense of what could be, then a space is created for the individual to try and test out new behaviours.

When mentoring is placed firmly at the heart of the appraisal process, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation. At the heart of these must be the PTCs.

When school leaders are skilled in using the principles of mentoring to assist their appraisal, meetings they help to create a clear path for creating a school culture where individuals to make things better.

Mentoring accepts it as a process for accelerating the achievement of school targets (that is annual goals and strategic plans) through:

– Creating alignment between organisational and personal goals

– Growing and developing others

– Enabling others to step outside of their comfort zones

– Supporting others to achieve their full potential

When opposite beliefs and attitudes exist about the purpose and value of performance management, school cultures are created in which individuals:

– Struggle to take responsibility for their own actions

– Become dependent on others for solutions and place limitations on their own ability to problem solve

– Lack the internal motivation and desire to succeed

– Weaken their ability to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

The truth is, when systems for appraisal exist that do not develop an individual’s sense of self-worth, a void can be created between the individual’s perception of self and what they feel capable of achieving. In such environments, individuals either consciously or subconsciously limit what they give both to themselves and their school.

Individuals come to see more fully their unique role and the contributions they can make towards bringing about improvements in their school. Rather than seeing it as something that is done to them, they begin to understand what it means to be accountable to themselves and others and they start to own the process.

 

 

 

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