Monday, March 30, 2009

Open Wings

I continue to be delighted every day as our vision concept of 'empowerment' begins to be realised.  The five year old who suggests that the corner school sign should say 'Have a happy weekend' suggests that it ok to put ideas forward.  I spoke to a parent this afternoon before the bell rang at 3.00pm,  she had great delight in telling me what her 7 year old daughter had to say about self talk.  'Mum today when my group was talking next to me I self talked to tell myself to keep focused on my learning and don't get distracted by them'.  How wonderful to think that students are being intentionally and explicitly taught strategies to encourage ownership in learning.  
As I walked on through to a year 6 class they proudly showed me the s-t-r-e-t-c-h poster they have been creating to help ensure the right kind of stretch is happening for the in their learning.  H = hard, S = simple and e in the middle = exactly right.  It continues to fascinate me just how 'on the button' kids are when we give them the opportunity.
Teaching learners explicitly about learning to learn strategies and constantly giving teacher permission to take time to have rich and deep learning conversations are key strategies in ensuring learning is our organizations CORE BUSINESS.
It is so refreshing to slow down and listen to the influential voices (students, teachers and parents).  Let the 'voice be heard from the floor'.  I was influences by a well respected colleague today he said 'change needs to happen from the floor'.  I tend to agree

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Embedding Thinking in an Inquiry Process

We should be well past creating thinking skill programmes or thinking tool boxes.  Thinking skills are an integral part of learning and need to be embedded in the learning process.  Although in the last blog entry the 'powerful learning model' looks simplistic it is far from it.  Sitting behind the model is a selection of thinking skills based on 'solo's taxonomy' of thinking.  The model was designed to serve the needs of our learners ' to know how to use a learning process when they have a question they want to answer, something to investigate or a problem to solve'.  Secondly it was designed as a model of effective pedagogy to give teachers clarity about how learning can be designed for students at varying levels of sophistication.  At the 'get it' stage one is involved in observing or describing, important yet quite low level thinking tasks.  through to 'use it' being of a greater level of sophistication with students having to justify or create.  The model can be used in a multiple week long inquiry or simply a 40 minute numeracy lesson with a group of students.  Understanding where you are teaching and being able to justify why is characteristic of a teacher who as Hattie would put it 'activates learning'.
Developing students ability to think in a wide range of ways and various complexities is a key 21st century disposition.  As Costa has stated 'there are no easy answers to future problems'  We need our learners to think and to think well with purpose.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One who makes one reflect - Pam Hook

How refreshing, have just arrived home from an after school/evening session with Pam Hook.  She is a wonder woman!  Within 5 minutes I was provoked, challenged and caused to reflect deeply about ones current thinking and assumptions.  We explored how our powerful learning process - get it, sort it, use it could be enhanced further by unpacking each thinking verb embedded in the process using the solo taxonomy visuals to build understanding and complexity.
Lots of where to next steps thanks to the powerful facilitation and provoking Pam is so good at.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Does What We Value Get Assessed?

There is a positive shift and move towards a broader notion of intelligence - or put in another way what equates to success or being successful.  The OECD research and feedback has influenced   the inclusion of the five key competencies in the recently redrafted NZ curriculum.  A welcomed change some would agree.
How can we communicate a more holistic picture of a students learning?  How do we richly show growth in areas of competency to acknowledge and share a broader view of achievement?
Secondly how do we get teachers to value assessments in areas such as 'Managing self' as much as they value doing a reading probe or numeracy snapshot.  What do we abandon to make this task manageable and realistic?
How do we collect such qualitative data?  How can we work smart around collecting reliable, valid and timely data in areas of competency?
Many more questions than answers as you can see.
The end point is to present and communicate a far more balanced assessment picture of student achievements to learners themselves and their parents.  That is valuing the traditional achievement results in core literacy areas and secondly sharing the learning capacity of the individual.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ken Robinson - Are you in your element?

I was searching around the blogs I follow and came across this video clip on Think Beyond (thanks Cheryl) Ken Robinson asks are you in your 'Element' are yo doing what you love doing?  Am keen to share this with colleagues, am convinced it is an important contributer to well-being and fulfillment.
Click on the link to take a look

Monday, March 16, 2009

Teaching Strategies = Learning Retention

The following triangle model has been reproduced in various formats.  Source is National Training Institute - Bethel and Maine.   The essence of what it represents is significant in informing what should be going on in classrooms.  Students can spend quite some time sitting on the mat watching and listening.  How do we intentionally increase teacher modeling time to increase student participation through opportunities to 'discuss' with a neighbour or provide opportunities for small groups to 'teach each other'.  As you can see from the model retention rates increase significantly the more the student is an active participant rather than a passive observer.  
What percentage of a learners day is spent where on this triangle?
How can one's instruction be modified to increase the learning potential in the classroom by teacher predominantly in the bottom part of the child.  
It resonates with what we believe around locus of control - the more the student is in the driving seat the more the student owns the process and the more powerful the learning. 
Keen to ponder on this some more.  Your thoughts?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Digital NZ - Check this out

Have you checked out Digital New Zealand.  It aims to make NZ content easy to find, share and use.  It includes content from a range of content repositories.
Click here to start searching

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Performance Management - Have we got it right?

If our beliefs about assessment are about informing the learner about how they are going? where they have come from?  and what their next learning steps might be, how does that align with what how we conduct appraisal for adult learners.  It has so often been an event, something you work up to as a teacher to put on the show for who ever is coming in to visit.  We all naturally like to perform well, however in a one off hour window anything can happen as we well know!  
How do we adopt the definition of formative assessment outlined above and ensure there is rigor around goal setting, professional learning, feedback and evidence gathered to ensure real learning for our teacher learners.  
Importantly our visits to one anothers classrooms need to be valued and occur frequently.  Opportunities to reflect and dialogue with one another to question and shift practice is essential.
The next question I guess is "What do we collectively look for when we observe one another's practice?  What signs do we look for that show a depth in the learning occurring.  We can quickly identify colorful walls, quiet child, busy learners - doesn't always mean deep learning is occurring though.
As Tony Burkin stated at a PD session "We are great at stoking one another as teachers" The strokes don't always provide the reflection and where to next steps.  We are currently working on developing a common understanding and clarity around what it is we might look for in relation to what we have identified as effective teaching practice when we visit one anothers classrooms.  We believe if we can gain clarity we can capture patterns and evidence over time that will enable more effective feedback to our colleagues.  Will keep you posted on developments.

I think our Pedagogical practice has changed somewhat from this example Ma and Pa Kettle

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tools to Enhance Teacher Effectiveness

I am convinced teachers wake up everyday and come to school to do the best possible job they can.  What has got me wondering in the last year or so is how can we be more transparent and give clarity to what 'great' teachers do.  How do we move good teaching practice to great teaching practice?  We have learnt huge amounts from professional learning and readings in recent years such as Assessment for Learning PD (ATOL, AFL) and 'The Best Evidence Synthesis'.  These learnings have been significantly influential in developing a one page continuum incorporating both teaching responsibilities and teaching practice.  The indicators are deliberately on a continuum not a matrix.  The purpose of the tool is to stimulate reflection, dialogue and form the basis of goal setting - we are reluctant to box people.   We want to flag how am I going?, where am I going? and where to next steps for teacher learners.   
In using the tool for the first time today with teachers I think we are headed in the right direction.  The key from here is to ensure that the use of the tool is formative, ongoing and not an event.  

Monday, March 2, 2009

Leadership - Tools to enhance leadership capability

In reflecting on 21st century leadership models a colleague (Kathryn Hodgson) and myself sat down to brainstorm the key dimensions of leadership.  Our notion of leadership at the time was not restricted to adult leadership, it was also encompassing of student leadership.  During the synthesis we arrived at 6 headings (Change agent, Big picture, Communicator, Nurturing talent in others, Decision maker, Continuous learner).  The next challenging step was to create a tool to stimulate reflection and trigger shift in leadership effectiveness.  Key indicators were then described to give clarity to emergent, shallow deep and profound level of leadership under each heading.  The idea was to create a continuum not a limiting matrix that tends to box individuals.
We are keen to receive feedback - any comments greatly received.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Assessment - Thinking about John Hatties 'Visible Learning'

In the last 12 months I have been doing some serious thinking about assessment.  Our assessment methods at times seem so 20th century.  Our notion of intelligence continues to broaden which is heartening however our strategies and tools to show growth in what have been categorized as soft areas are in infant stages.  It is critical to get parent buy in to 21st century approaches to learning, however this is challenging when we are just starting to experiment with and create means to show growth and progression in key competencies such as 'Managing self' and 'relating to others'.  It has been said time and time again 'what is assessed is valued.'  We are currently grappling with ways of sharing assessment data with parents in a timely manner.  More importantly the assessment information we are keen to share with parents is broader than the traditional information shared around curriculum content knowledge.  We hare starting to find the greater the students assessment literacy the more self motivated the learner becomes.  No more 'guess what's in the teachers head',  these kids know what they are learning, why they are learning it and how they will know they are successful.  The clearer we are with students about the progressions in foundation areas of learning the better.  Students can take more charge.  As Hattie puts it 'When students SEE themselves as their own teachers.   The teachers role is fundamental and must be acknowledged.  Importantly John Hatties 2009 research points out that teachers are far more powerful and influential when they are activators of learning not facilitators of learning.  Learning occurs when teachers understand their learners and '`See learning through the eyes of the student.
Some important messages to reflect on when undertaking an assessment review to see if practices align with beliefs!
Hatties latest book Visible Learning makes for good reading.