Tag Archives: Student Learning

Student Voice

30 Jun

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For many years I have developed and warmed to the idea of student voice. I must admit I have not always been sold on it. My sister went to a job interview where students not only sat on the appointments committee but asked real questions. At the same school students go to every faculty meeting.This is very innovative.

We all evaluate our teaching and have student voice. Last year a student wrote this to me in her evaluation: Hey Mr Murray I like your class and you entertain us and we learn stuff but you know when you give us those surveys about your teaching I notice nothing in your teaching really changes #justsaying.”

This was definitely a reality check.  As a school we are now regularly seeking avenues for student voice and increasing teachers’ capacity to learn from students. The aim is to grow students’ responsibility for their learning and for teachers to gain new insights that help refine teaching programmes, pedagogy, and assessments, and inform future learning. This is part of our goal to be collaborative and innovative.

How do you use student voice? And once you have the data do you use it?

Girls in Science

26 Apr

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I often wonder why we have such a problem involving girls in more Science and Math classes. It is not my area of expertise but I have a real interest in it. My daughter loves Maths, unlike her Dad. Indeed so does her Mum. I was speaking to a past student the other day who is studying Maths/Science at university. Her classes are filled with males while the females in the class number in single digits. The scariest part of this is, that as enlightened as we like to think we are, we have been promoting change for ten years yet nothing really has.

In 2014 Ministry of Education published the strategic plan A Nation of Curious Minds – He Whenua Hihiri i te Mahara that identifies three specific goals for the project over the next ten years. Those were:

  • More learners who are competent in science and technology and more who go on to a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related jobs.
  • A more scientifically and technologically engaged public and a more publicly engaged science sector.
  • A more skilled workforce and science and technology that is more responsive to New Zealanders needs.

This was followed up by a major push for girls to achieve in the STEM subjects. Let me be clear, there are many, many women who are successfully and prominently involved in Science and Math. But our girls in schools are not seeing enough positive role models in Science and Maths. My own environment have powerful role models demonstrating wahine toa and this is demonstrated by our outstanding results. Still nationwide this not the case.

I guess it still comes down to the obvious. If we are to change the system, we need first to change the culture. I guess if we worked as hard to put a woman on the moon as we did for a man, things might be different today.

5 Mar

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Many of you may remember i have had great success with this tol. I thought it was about time I reflect on it again. Kahoot is great because:

You can introduce a New Topic or Unit – have students participate in a Kahoot quiz to gauge their prior knowledge. I suggest turning off the “points” for a game like this so students aren’t intimidated to make a mistake.

Create a Survey – Kahoot also allows teachers to create surveys and discussions through the platform. This gives students an active voice in the classroom, helping them to feel important and involved.

Springboard a Class Discussion – Powerful learning can happen after a quiz, so explore together the correct and incorrect answers on Kahoot. Ask students “why?” as a follow up question. Students will gain deeper levels of understanding and teachers can receive insight into the data.

Student-Made Quizzes – The students love making their own.
Spice Up that “Boring” Topic – Each class will have that one topic they just don’t get into. Kahoot has generated interest in some very dry work.

Share with me a tool you have used that has worked.

Class Sizes

1 Feb

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As a student at school my classes were small. My teachers knew me, and their doors were open to discuss my essays and lab reports. As resources have declined in recent decades, class sizes have got bigger. Does this matter? With the flipped classroom and blended modern learning environments it hardly matters. Or does it?

Well it certainly matters in schools where, as class sizes increase, teachers behave differently, learners behave differently, attitudes to learning change – and attainment goes down markedly. Average school class sizes are used in international league tables as indicators of national commitment to schooling.

The effects of class size are greatest for younger pupils and least, but still substantial, for those of 18 or over. Studies of what goes on in higher education discussion classes, as they get bigger, still reveal a predictable pattern of fewer students saying anything at all, and the little they do say being at a lower cognitive level (for example checking facts rather than discussing ideas). Students in larger classes have been found to take a surface approach (only attempting to memorise) to a greater extent and a deep approach (attempting to make sense) to a lesser extent.

It might be argued that classrooms, and their size, are less influential in higher education, after all students are supposed to spend most of their time studying independently.

Logistics play a key part in class size effects. Two of the best predictors of student engagement, and hence learning, ‘close contact’ and ‘feedback on assignments’, are much harder to arrange in large classes.

These are ‘cohort size’ effects rather than ‘class size’ effects: they are about how students change the way they study on large enrolment courses. So size still matters in higher education, and cohort size is strongly negatively correlated with student performance. This may be one of the reasons that some schools outperform much more established institutions on various rankings of teaching quality – they tend to be much smaller and their class sizes are much smaller.

In very large classes social processes start breaking down and students can become alienated. This matters because retention is improved by social engagement.  Learning gains are known to be improved by social learning processes – and they are harder to arrange and much rarer in large enrollment.

All these negative ‘size’ effects are not inevitable. For example ‘formative-only’ assessment – assignments with feedback but no marks – is known to be important to learning, but has disappeared from some courses. Often this happens because resources – and especially teacher time both in and out of class – are not allocated pro rata as classes get larger.

Just a thought then. Does class size effect the quality of your teaching? What do you think?

Faculty Review

18 Mar

This week I have been conducting a faculty review. It was an opportunity to review paperwork and look at classroom teaching. I came up with a list of things I’d like to see in every classroom beyond a bi-cultural learning environment that illustrated special character. Perhaps this will get you thinking.

  • Deeper learning through relationships between all learning parties.
  • Students employed collaboratively and working together in small teams/groups. Lots of key competencies being displayed here.
  • Physical movement by both the students and the educator in the classroom.
  • Frequent and specific feedback to students as they work toward their learning goals. Feedback from students and teachers is most improved and increased when students are getting descriptive feedback on their learning.
  • Great questions being asked and a focus more on questions than answers.
  • Differentiation evident. This means kids working at their level at their pace and unless you’re really lucky, that can’t be happening too often.
  • Learning targets and learning objectives clearly posted. I really enjoy the task of asking students what they learned and what the lesson sequence was.

Iwi Partnerships

5 Oct

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This term we celebrate our Maori and Pasifika students with their own special Year 13 graduation. It is something I am most proud of at our school. For all this success though I do wonder how many iwi has been asked whether they want to be partners in education? Or if we doing it right? I just presumed they want to, or should do, and therefore created a “partnership” thrust through school, by which teachers must adhere?   Ko te kai a te rangatira he kōrero?

The New Zealand Curriculum openly encourages schools to engage with families, whānau and communities. Parents are engaged at our place and we are consistently asking “Is there a better way?” We are encouraged to engage between te kura, te whānau, te hapū, te iwi me te hapori of the student. Where’s the bit that emphasises what iwi want? Are they happy by saying nothing? What do iwi stand to gain by working alongside schools? Is there a partnership? Koha mai, koha atu?

I must note an annual goal for next year again. Why do schools find it difficult to engage with iwi? Some institutes don’t know where to start looking. I know that I feel this way often. I have increased my understanding, interviewed and surveyed but still I feel we could enhance our engagement.

There’s presently a big focus on lifting achievement for priority learners in all sectors. And a strong suggestion that schools should “engage” with iwi and communities of Māori learners. After my NAPP study in 2013 I still am asking but how do we do this? What is the big secret? The answer I believe is that there is none. Like with any of our learners. All we can do is maintain relationships.

Something to reflect on with staff this week:

 

Flipped Classrooms

2 Oct

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My peers (especially the Maths Department) have got me thinking about the concept of “flipped classrooms” now for a while and the great thing about holidays is that it frees up time to do just that – think and in this case write, share and hopefully promote further discussion. My class website has taken off in recent year to the point I am considering a podcast in 2015.

I found this summary of flipped classrooms for the uninitiated.

The flipped classroom describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, discussion or debates. (Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching. University of Queensland.)

Thanks to a writer in my PLN I came across an article by Shelley Wright who was talking about flipping Blooms Taxonomy of learning, it’s worth sharing:

I begin with having my students write a paragraph, either in response to a prompt or their own free writing. Next, students, working in small groups or pairs, evaluate several master texts for the criteria we’re working on. How does the writer use punctuation or voice in a particular text? What similarities are there between texts? Students then compare their own writing with each text. What did they do correctly or well? How does their writing differ and to what effect?

As a class, or in their groups, we analyse the pieces for similarities and differences and group them accordingly. Only then do I introduce the concept of run-on sentences, comma splices, and fragments. Essentially, through this process, my students identify the criteria for good writing. From this, we’re able to co-construct criteria and rubrics for summative assessments.

Students then apply what they’ve learned by returning to their own writing. They change elements based on the ideas they’ve encountered.

Students further their understanding by either listening to a podcast, or engaging in their own research of grammar rules. Finally, as the knowledge piece, students create a graphic organizer/infographic or a screencast that identifies the language rules they’ve learned.

I think the best flipped classrooms work because they spend most of their time creating, evaluating and analysing. In a sense we’re creating the churn, the friction for the brain, rather than solely focusing on acquiring rote knowledge. The flipped classroom approach is not about watching videos. It’s about students being actively involved in their own learning and creating content in the structure that is most meaningful for them.

It got me thinking. The flipped classroom provides opportunities for all students. Fundamentally the student should be doing the work of learning which a dynamic process is and the activity and or use of technology will influence this process. Again the technology is but a tool.

Video Clip:

Teachers need to be educators—guides, mentors, encouragers, and providers of deeper learning and understanding, while allowing students to access basic knowledge in a variety of other ways.

Eddie Obeng makes some powerful observations in his excellent TED Talk, “Smart failure for a fast-changing world”:

 

 

Creating a Winning Culture

30 Sep

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Winning cultures aren’t just about affiliation; they are also unashamedly about results and relationships. Results and relationships are key to great schools.

Goals set and results achieved rather than simply talked about around a management table where people sit idly and then go back to their teams and implement nothing.  The other ingredient which is hard to buy is passion.   How do you instill passion in staff? Passion drives success culture and helps build high performance by virtue of the staff who have the passion to want the best in everything they do.  I find in the schools I work in many teachers have a passion for teaching and learning and the great teachers are the ones who can impart this love and passion for learning to their students.

Linking performance to strategic direction is important too.  What drives individuals every day in their job?  The answer is linking to a bigger picture called strategic direction that all great schools and systems have.  Consider this great summary from the Harvard research into the top seven characteristics that build high performance culture:

  1. There is high integrity in all interactions, with employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders;
  2. Performance-focused. Rewards, development, and other talent-management practices are in sync with the underlying drivers of performance;
  3. Accountable and owner-like. Roles, responsibilities, and authority all reinforce ownership over work and results;
  4. There’s a recognition that the best ideas come from the exchange and sharing of ideas between individuals and teams;
  5. Agile and adaptive. The organization is able to turn on a dime when necessary and adapt to changes in the external environment;
  6. Employees push the envelope in terms of new ways of thinking; and
  7. Oriented toward winning. There is strong ambition focused on objective measures of success, either versus the competition or against some absolute standard of excellence

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/the-definitive-elements-of-a-winning-culture/

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