Monday, April 27, 2009

Assessment - Communicating a Balanced Picture

My previous blog entry talked about having a clear and easily articulated 'end in mind' for the students leaving our school.  The bit we are working on and haven't got quite right yet is what are we communicating to our parent body about how students are going according to the 4 major outcomes we would like students to leave our school equipped with.  For so long we have been so preoccupied with reporting on levels of achievement against curriculum areas.  What we have not been so good at is communicating a students ability to 'know what to do when they don't know what to do' or share a students level of competency in say their ability to investigate.  I think we need to take a hard look at current assessment practices.  A far more balanced picture needs to be presented to students and parents about what equates to success.  At the moment success in school and success in life look quite different.  Let's not let outdated assessment measures and methods hold back innovation.  A fresh approach is required to develop tools and e portfolio spaces that students own and manage.  As I was reminded of recently by a colleague, teachers come and go each year in a students education, parents hold the historic overview and students have the greatest potential to positively influence their learning.   When the necessary scaffolds are in place for example progressions that show students in 'kid speak' where am I and what are the next learning steps are.  Secondly when we grow students assessment literacy to know how to answer, how am I going?, Where am I going? and where to next?, students have huge learning power to achieve to their potential.  We need to strive towards communicating a balanced picture to encompass achievement as we know it and include a dispositional overview of an individuals learning capacity.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Leader Vision or Collective Vision - Our Story

A vision is not a collective one unless all stakeholders are heard, difference appreciated and valued. We began by working collaboratively with the teaching staff of our school. There was the Board of Trustees, parent community and students themselves to share in the process. I believe we are often guilty of doing this well.
Our Board questioned us deeply about the chosen concepts and did not disagree with what the teaching staff had come up with they did however point out that we had missed a very important concept that the school had stood for historically. That was the word achievement.
A representative parent group was consulted with. If we had our time again would we have consulted more widely amongst the parent community? Was it representational of the whole community?
Our students were not consulted – this was a mistake. If we had our time again this would be changed. I think given what we have since learnt from our students we would consult them first.

One said 'Wisdom'

How refreshing today as I was striding around the neighbour on an afternoon walk I bumped into a past secondary school teacher.  It was lovely catching up after so many years.  As we are both in education the conversation soon led there!  We talked about how so much in education tends to over complicate matters.  We agreed that sound practice is common sense.  I then shared that simply there are 4 things we want students to be equipped with in our primary school environment.  He asked what are those 4 things?  I said we want students to; 
  • Know what to do when they don't know what to do
  • Know how to learn on their own (be literate)
  • Be able to relate and connect with others and the world
  • Have a process that helps them problem solve, answer questions and investigate.
My previous teacher said 'that's wisdom'.  Such a statement took me back - hence caused this blog entry.
These four holistic outcomes are very much based on the School's Vision.  They form a clear direction or what some might term an 'end in mind'.  It is far easier to plan strategically to ensure such outcomes are achieved when you are realistic, context specific (what's appropriate for a primary school environment) and that the outcome is manageable and achievable.  

Lovely bumping into you today Mr Mac - Teachers do make a difference!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Creating Wonderment and Awe

What a fun day I have had.  I joined colleagues to attend the Primary Science Conference today at Auckland University.  'Active learning: Science talk from the classroom to the dinner table'  The theme of the day has been very much about how to create talk around Wow! experiences.  How do we lead into science learning without 'filling in tables and following instructions?'  Many ideas and practical experiences have been presented as a motivating hook for stimulating questions, thinking and talk.
The use of Concept Cartoons (example above) was shared as a great way of engaging students in their own thoughts and explanations.
Steve Spangler - a must see website, certainly makes one go Wow!
I had great delight after the conference popping around to my sisters to show my niece and nephews how bubbles could be bounced when wearing gloves.  The amazement on their faces was priceless.  As I gave them time to play and explore the questions started coming!  The investigating was well under way.
Looking forward to tomorrows session - more on this then


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Designing Understanding

Have been pondering in the last wee while about how ones knowing about something moves to understanding that something.  Am sure it's not as simple as having it knocked into ones self by  being dragged head first down the stairs like poor old Pooh!  How can learning and teaching be designed to intentionally deepen and support the construction of understanding?  It was incredibly refreshing to listen to Lane Clark last week as she talked about the layers of 'knowledge and comprehension' that are required for students to ask good questions, be able to analyse or pull apart wholes or see wholes as bits and ultimately 'synthesize' (Her definition of apply new ideas) and to achieve far transfer ('what is needed to solve future problems and make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others'). 
Simply in the powerful learning model we have developed 'The Hub' at the core of the Powerful Learning process has 4 key words - reflect, dialogue, question and imagine.  I believe these are key in slowing the learning process down to talk about, reflect on or question for example the matrix that has been completed on ......  
Through taking the time to use the hub students are given opportunities to make sense or meaning of their experiences, prior knowledge and the facts and ideas they are being presented with.  Is this surely not ensuring enduring understandings are acquired?  Is there much more to it than that?
Lots more wondering to happen in this area - your thoughts?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Learner Centered Leadership

In reflecting about a presentation I have been asked to deliver I decided to do some 'googling' to see what was out their on the topic of 'Learner Centered leadership'.  I came across the following article by Danzig et al.  Well worth a read outlines the qualities, beliefs and principles underpinning such leadership.
Chris Dolan writes about Learner Centered leadership.  Synthesizes what the literature says about leadership capacity and capabilities.  A short article well worth the read .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Leadership Change

What brings about change in someone's leadership?  Generally speaking people who move into leadership positions have been identified as effective classroom teachers.  Historically feedback such individuals  received as classroom teachers was affirming and positive.   They have typically achieved success by climbing the leadership ladder.  How do you give feedback to colleagues in leadership positions that does indeed cause reflection, challenge the way in which one does things and is rigorous?  
What feedback as a leaders have you in-turn  received that indeed goes beyond the 'stroke' and critically challenges ones thinking?  
How can such feedback mechanisms for developing teacher effectiveness be introduce at a leadership level.  What tools or strategies provide a springboard to 'reflective dialogue that moves leadership practice forward?
I was pleased to hear recently from a fellow colleague that the leadership matrix (previous blog entry) formed a basis for such dialogue to happen with her leadership buddy.  I think we have a long way to go however great to have a framework to trigger thought and reflection on ones leadership practice.