I have been doing some thinking and reflecting after my learning tour on the Ten Educational Trends as noted by CORE in 2016. A link to these is here.
So, I thought might make a point of reflecting on each of these over the next few days. I would like to begin however with one trend from 2015 which has been on my mind.
What is it then?
The idea that education is the process through which learners become capable of independent thought which, in turn, forms the basis for autonomous action, has had a profound impact on modern educational theory and practice. One way of thinking of learner agency is when learners have “the power to act”
Why do we need it?
There is a significant and growing demand for learners to be able to do more than receive instruction, follow a learning path designed by educators and complete problems and assignments presented to them by an teacher. Learners need to develop the capacity to shape and manage their learning without over-reliance on the direction and control of others. Too often teachers treat children as though they are incapable of making decisions or holding valid opinions. As children advance through the system, they develop a form of “learned helplessness” that keeps them from advocating for themselves. The process for learning and the role learners play must be different than most teachers experienced.
The current educational system was designed for teachers to control and manage the learning. This continues today because teachers are the ones held accountable and responsible for the learning instead of the learners. As educators, we must nurture, coach and build in learners more capacity to initiate, manage, and maintain their own learning. Learning will be a constant and high-priority activity throughout their lives and they will need the skills and tools to manage this process.
Teachers need to shift their thinking — away from youth as student to youth as learner and partner and resource for their own learning and others. We must make the crucial shift from preparing proficient students to developing skilled learners. The result will be learners who can play an active role in personalizing their learning and building their capacity to be successful productive citizens regardless of what their futures hold.
As teachers, we need to consider understanding the connection between good strategy, effort and use of resources to develop learner efficacy. We need to continue to help learners understand how they learn best and how they can support their learning. The role and importance of learner voice and choice is an issue ERO is guiding schools in with their review process. By building learner ownership of their learning this can only in increase student achievement and engagement.
This is a link to a document that I have been thinking a great about.
Self reflection often creates that moment helps you in the classroom. Collaborative reflection is even better. Collaborative dialogues held between teachers, between a teacher and students, or among students cause participants to share their reflections and outline their progress toward the increase of student achievement.
Time should be set aside at the end of a learning sequence—lesson, unit, school day, or year—for participants to question one another about what they have learned and how they can apply their knowledge and skills in future settings.
In an atmosphere of trust, well-crafted questions allow participants to reveal their insights, understandings, and thought processes: As you reflect on this semester’s work, which dispositions were you most aware of in your own learning? What meta-cognitive strategies did you employ to monitor your progress toward your desired outcomes? What insights have you gained that you will use in the future? The resulting dialogue allows staff and students to model and practice listening habits characterized by understanding and empathy, to communicate clearly, and to compose powerful questions.
I have found providing sentence stems might stimulate more thoughtful reflections during portfolio conferences (where reflection can be modeled) or as an option for those who need a “jump start” for reflections:
- I selected this piece of writing because. . . .
- What really surprised me about this writing was. . . .
- When I look at my other journal entries, I see that this piece is different because. . . .
- What makes this piece of writing strong is my use of . . . .
- Here is one example from my writing to show you what I mean. . . .
Developing habits of continual growth and improvement requires self-reflection. As we as individuals, staffs, and organizations reflect on our actions, we gain important information about the efficacy of our thinking. These experiences let us practice the habit of continual growth through reflection. With meditation, trust, consistent modeling, and practice, we and our students learn to listen to the internal and external voices of reflection, and in the process, our school communities truly learn by doing.
What are you doing for self reflection in your learning environment?
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?
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.
When preparing lessons or staff meetings I often spend hours sorting through videos, in search of a high quality one. Check out the following:
YouTube for Teachers : A collection of playlists of videos that align with common educational standards, organized by subject and grade. These playlists were created by teachers for teachers so you can spend more time teaching and less time searching.
YouTube Education: An area within the larger YouTube site that restricts access to only videos from well-known organizations like Stanford, PBS and TED as well as from up-and-coming YouTube partners with millions of views, like Khan Academy, in addition the TV3 and TVNZ websites are rather good.
Google also has a Google For Teachers‘ Section with advice on how to search more effectively with Google.
The site offers quick access to resources for:
–Using the Google Apps
–Creating and using YouTube videos in your classroom
They are just getting started with a Lesson Plan Search Engine but it needs a bit more development before it will be particularly useful.
TED – Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing site has the same overall theme as the TED conferences but has ideos geared specifically for use in the classroom.
Leadership Lesson from the Week
Over the course of the year in my NAPP inquiry and in this blog I have written about a range of issues but the central theme has been about learning and teaching in a contemporary and connected world. The more I reflect on this, the more I recognise that improving student learning is about improving teacher quality. It’s not pie in the sky stuff, it’s achievable when we get teachers working and learning together, opening their practice up to critical reflection and setting high benchmarks for themselves and their students. In this process I have found it useful to use the student voice and ask hard questions.
I know this has been the road less travelled in our profession for the past hundred years and I suppose it can be difficult to imagine how teacher practice could change. Opening your teaching up to comment is a huge risk but when done in the spirit of continuous improvement, the rewards can be great.
Clyde Piercy Sabbatical Report 2012
On the subject of student voice I enjoyed this report this week. The subject to explore the extension and building of the role of student voice when building ‘learning – focused’ relationships. In an inclusive and integrated curriculum environment, what are the successful strategies in engaging learners right from the new entrants in building their ability to own their own learning and have their voices heard in the development of their school’s curriculum and culture?
Week two of the holidays and it seems strange to be at school and have no students. It made me reflect on a book I read last year The Global Fourth Way: The Quest for Educational Excellence (Corwin, September 2012) that ‘Without students, there would be no teachers. Their voices matter a lot.’ I might be getting a great deal done but what a strange place a school is without students.
The authors admit that while students are targets of school reform and change, they are not often empowered to be agents of change despite having a good grasp of the things that help them learn.
Earlier in my blog this year I asked the question ‘what makes a good teacher’:
- knows how to teach and knows their subject
- can communicate – gets all students involved by asking questions
- knows the students and they are able to understand who the teacher is
- doesn’t teach from the text books
- uses eLearning
- good sense of humour
Interestingly enough similar themes here reflected in Ka Hikitia. I wonder what my students in ten year time would say. I think it would be the same. Personally I believe good teachers have deep discipline and pedagogical content knowledge (knows how to teach and knows their subject), adapt to the capabilities of students (can personalise learning) and can communicate with a good sense of humour (builds respectful relationships).
For me, it is confirmation that these qualities stand the test of time and learners. We know what teachers want but how often do we ask or know what students want from their schooling experience? I often experience teachers telling me they understand student voice but do they? Especially if it’s not what they want to hear. Just a thought.
The Best Evidence Synthesis has just been updated. This is well worth a look.