Sunday, September 18, 2011

Student Voice, Making Next Steps Visible.

Our team sat down last week to discuss the growth we had recently observed after collecting another round of student voice on video. We have been dialoguing and wondering ever since about how might we effectively provide individuals with feedback that would continue to 'Build their Learning Capacity' Chris suggested we have a go at videoing individuals watching themselves being questioned about what they do to be a successful learner. It was my task to to interview a few individuals to see what would happen. I was quite amazed at what then happened. I started with a 6 year old girl her sat and watched a 1 minute clip of herself describing what good learners do. She explained that they're determined and don't give up amongst other things, then she said they connect. I said what does it mean to connect? She paused and said I don't know. When she had finished watching herself on video I asked her what she thought she did well as a learner. She immediately said I didn't know what connect was and now I do! She proceeded to give me quite some explanation on what learners need to do to connect. She had been videoed probably 10 days prior, what struck me was she didn't need intervention to inform her last step, rather the opportunity to listen to herself and reflect on what might be her next learning. This has seriously got me thinking as to how we provide more opportunities for learners to get feedback from themselves by viewing where they were and where they have come from to inform what might be their next step.

What Should our Learners be Learning?

David Perkins Interview from 21Foundation on Vimeo.

A refreshing clip of David Perkins questioning what's worth learning? What's worth learning now, in the next 10, 20 years? A critical question that deserves much thought and pondering.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Student Voice

Quite recently our team spent some time capturing another round of student voice around strategic goals areas. We asked questions like What makes a good learner a good learner?, what do you do when you get stuck in your learning?, what is your reading learning goal?, what is your next learning step?,
We were reminded what a powerful thing it is to spend time doing. It clearly highlighted progress made since capturing baseline student voice, it quickly highlighted next steps and illuminated assumptions made.
In summary It is fair to say we would believe it to be one of the most powerful things you can spend time doing. It causes and enables change.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Learner Led Conferences

It's been some weeks since our Learner Led Conferences and a promise to communicate how they went. Now that our community feedback has been received, via survey monkey, we can be evidenced in feeding back how they really went. The survey confirmed that 85% of conferences lasted for at least an hour. Children were in the driving sheet to share their learning and achievements. Each hub had created agendas of 'must dos' and 'can dos' to help structure the conference. It was wonderful to walk through the learning hubs and see a variety of learning experiences in action, these included experiences such as learners teaching their parents a maths games, using Success Criteria to do an observational drawing or self assess a writing sample using criteria together. Regardless of the power-cut and internet dropping for a period of time the learning continued to be shared.!

We value our parent feedback and voice - a glimpse of some feedback ...

'It was nice to have our childs input & ownership on the evening. We found we left knowing & understanding were our child was at, instead of attending a 15 min interview still unsure of what we needed to do to help improve his learning.'

'The interaction with our child, seeing him explain to us where he is at and what his goals are to get to where he needs to be'

'The time to spend in the Hub, moving around, led confidently by my child, having some one on one time with the guardians, it was interactive, interesting and insightful. We were really impressed, thank you.'

As a staff we have reflected on the process and thought about how we might continue to further improve the process to ensure that our learners truly led their conferences and parents leave feeling totally satisfied about 'how their child is going, and what their next learning steps are.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Learner Led Conferences - Encouraging Student Ownership

We are leading up to our first round of Learner Led Conferences this week and I am told by the Guardians in Hub 1 that the children (5 years old) are really looking forward to it. The children can't wait to show their Mums and Dads all the wonderful learning they have been doing this term. Their agendas are set with what they want to share with their families over the hour they will be in the learning hub. Each individual shares with pride how they are going in their reading, what goal they are focused on and where they want to end up on the Bee Hives. I love nothing more than having one of the learners bounding up to me and saying Miss M I've moved hives!

We have incorporated the mid year reporting in the Learning Management Space that most of our parents are already an active part of. The call on whether an individual is at, above or below is placed in the artifact box,the student reflection beneath, each teachers comment focuses on the progress made, what has been achieved and next steps. At the Learner Led Conference there will be an opportunity for the parents to connect with the Guardian and decide on the best way to help at home. This will sit in the Parent box. This report can be printed, it can also live beyond the Student ed Conference and be a virtual environment where the learning continues beyond the event. Ww will watch with interest.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Modern Learning Environments - Some more benefits

Some of the benefits of working in an open, modern learning environment we have started to surface are;

The shared ownership of the learners. Pooling strategies and ideas to further support learners, bouncing ideas to better meet targeted students needs.

The learning happening between adults that has a direct impact and influence on ones practice is remarkable. We have termed this incidental professional learning. The environment is so visible and transparent that much is learnt from ones colleagues operating in he same space.

I heard a teacher say some days the bell goes at 9.00am, I'm on duty, getting the next learning set up at lunchtime and before you know it it's 3.00pm and I haven't spoken to another adult all day, it can be lonely. The interactions and celebrations that can occur day to day between learners and adults in open, collaborative spaces are numerous. You are not alone.

We tend to be grouped according to age two times in our lives, to be educated and when we are on our way out in retirement villages! Open office spaces are becoming more of a reality globally. Individuals and groups selecting a space or environment that it fit for the given purpose. We learn so much more with and from others. Shouldn't School be more aligned with this approach. I got a fright when I googled classroom images last week. Try it!

Having recently gathered as a staff to moderate mid year achievements against expectations it became quickly apparent how easy the task was when you were making judgments with the other professionals teaching the same children. The collective ownership over all the children in the learning hub was evident.

PLG - Modern Learning Environments

It was great to kick off our first Professional Learning Group dialogue for Schools using more open environments and collaborative approaches to teaching and learning. We had three Schools represented at our first gathering on Thursday. We began to surface the expected and unexpected positives in working in modern learning environments. It was also refreshing to share some of the challenges. The biggest challenge seemed to be our own mental models. Thinking beyond the industrialist educational model that has lived for so long. In challenging how we have always done things quite innovative practices have come to the fore for each School.

We are keen to grow the PLG community and welcome anyone interested in attending the next dialogue.

Modern Learning Environments - Open, Social, Real

What a buzz it was this week to walk through one of our learning hubs during 'Break Through' time. The depth of engagement, range of learning occurring and student ownership struck me as I walked from group to group.
A robot was being programmed by one group, a guitar being strummed by another, a website created on the history of Stonefields, video animation being learnt from an expert, an individual absorbed in learning about the splitting of the atom, research into the local wetlands and the list goes on. Each knew what stage of the inquiry process they were at and the thinking and learning they were involved in to progress their learning. The learning was real for the individuals as they had ownership over what they were learning about. The learning was open - individuals and groups had access to the necessary resources, IT tools and space to enable the learning. The learning was social - only one individual was pursuing their inquiry on their own. The interactions, dialogue and negotiations between group members was apparent.
Our Break Through essence statement is;

Learners who Break Through are self aware of their talents.  They are determined self starters who are motivated and committed to achieving mastery or personal bests in learning.
They feel fulfillment by actively seeking break through opportunities and realising future learning possibilities.

Our students look forward to break through time. The time being invested once a week to Break Through learning is paying dividends. If we get lost in time doing the things we are naturally good at, intrigued by and have autonomy over surely that leads to fulfillment and happiness in learning.

Our wonderings continue - How do we get as much leverage as possible off this 'Break Through learning'? to benefit other aspects of each individuals learning.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Open Spaces - You are not alone!

It struck me this week when I was working with a group of students in maths just how neat it was to be working in an open learning space with other adults. I was really proud of the progress this group was making, Miss Rennie happened to walk past and I asked if she had a minute to celebrate with these learners achievements. Well these kids smiled from ear to ear as they proved to Miss Rennie just how great they were.

There are many other positives bubbling to the surface as a result of working in these shared and open spaces. The incidental professional learning opportunities occurring day to day is significant. Teachers are learning from observing their colleagues in action because the learning is so visible and transparent. A shared ownership of all the students is apparent, discussions within each learning hub are focused on moving individuals or groups of students and collectively thinking about how their needs are best met. The teachers expertise is pooled to best move the learning forward. Why has teaching been such a lonely task in ones single cell classroom for so long!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Timely Assessment Information

We have had lots of fun over the last few months thinking about how to share timely assessment information with parents and caregivers. We pulled out Julia Atkins (What, Why, How) model to surface our beliefs (What) about assessment, the principles (Why) surrounding those beliefs to make informed decisions about the assessment practices (how) we might use. What became apparent was we believe the learner needs to be at the centre or heart of any assessment practice. Hattie's top effect size (1.4) is self grading - how are we utilising this knowledge in our current practices?

Much of our dialogue of late has been to question how the mid year summative call on achievement is presented to learners and parents. We asked a group of year 5-8 students about what they liked about their previous School reports. One individual said 'I like the general comment because it says nice things about me'. That made me think should students have to wait until half way through the year and the end of the year to hear nice things about themselves? Another comment from a year 6 child was 'I like to know if I am where I should be'. You can't argue with that, however why again should students wait till half way through the year to know if they are on track. We have listened to parent voice too to understand what they want to know and how they like that information presented. The general consensus is I want to know if my child is where they should be, putting effort, had friends and is happy at School.

So how timely is our assessment information to parents? Is it ok for parents to wait several weeks for the hard copy portfolio to go home at the end of a term?

Recent changes to the way we report to parents is the inclusion of next steps and ways parents can help their child at home. The challenge is to ensure these types of conversions last beyond the event of sending the report home or co-constructing 'ways to help at home' at a student/parent conference. We believe the space for such reporting needs to be online. All three relevant parties have a view and edit capability to add to the report. If a hard copy of the report is required it can be simply printed. If the conversation needs to continue it can continue and more next steps and ways home is supporting the learning added as time goes on.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sincere Collaboration - Got me Thinking

During the Emerging Leaders Conference a group of interested participants got thinking about the notion of Collaboration. It was certainly a theme that arose from the time spent with people at the two days. Our group looked at the potential of scaling Collaboration to create positive momentum for Educational change across Schools and sectors throughout NZ. We surfaced some barriers that often disable collaboration. Competition between Schools is an area that we felt needed to be addressed and overcome.

Some of the potential ideas shared to increase collaboration were;
Term or year Sabbaticals between Schools for teacher leaders.
An add on to tki or the likes to share and pool tried and true resources. (There are some legalities around Creative Commons that need to be addressed here).
What about TOD or non contact days, Afternoon PLGs across Schools on shared themes to share successes and narratives around what different Schools are doing, what's working. (I am now motivated to start a PLG on the use of more open learning spaces - so that we can learn more from Collaborating with other Schools who are in the same boat.)
A collection of digital stories exemplifying success stories in the classroom
Having expectations tied up with Teacher Standards around teacher, leaders Making a contribution. Dan Pinks The Surprising truth about what motivates people suggests it's something that drives most people.

I think the world as a whole is just starting to move beyond accepting the power of collaboration to sincerely valuing it. What I have observed in one short month at Stonefields School in the learning hubs where teachers are having to work visibly and intimately work along side one another in the same learning space, great things are happening. Let us learn, let us share beyond our School gate. NZ is small, together we have the potential to achieve greatness.

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline. Jim Collins

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Emerging Leaders Conference

It was wonderful to be able to attend the Emerging Leaders Conferences organised and held at Albany Senior High on Thursday and Friday last week. There were many highlights, I have reflected a little further on the format of the two days.
The structure and dialogue techniques used throughout the 2 days were incredibly engaging, far more than the many conferences I have attended that present at you. I found I left the two days sincerely knowing participants at a deeper level and now feel more inclined to continue the contact and networking due to the nature of the conversations that were encouraged. There were unconference sessions (opportunities to share and dialogue on topics on shared interest, pecha kucha technique, and what Albany Senior High terms 'Speed dating' (a way of talking one on one about the challenges, thoughts and reflections individuals had following the pecha kucha presentations. I also lost time dialoguing with many interesting and knowledgeable people from different sectors during the 'World cafe' session on effective leadership. I can see many uses for the 'World cafe' and are keen to try it out with our staff and students.
Why is it that so many conferences seem to talk at participants yet we know the brain learns best when being active participants.

Just wanted to say thanks to all the people at Albany senior for making it happen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Future Learning Spaces - The benefits

We have been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting throughout the term to surface what are some of the added bonuses of having more open, fluid and social learning spaces. There have been many positives, however one that was not necessarily realised as being so powerful was the incidental professional learning that occurs within the space that two or three teachers reside in. The daily ongoing professional learning is becoming more apparent as the learning is so visible throughout the space. One teacher might be a support teacher in a learning session and one taking more of a lead role the bouncing off one another is wonderful to watch. Teachers are openly learning from one another as they for example watch how a shared book is introduced or observe their peers questioning. It is a powerful learning environment for not only the students but the teachers themselves.
Another positive bubbling up from working within more open and agile spaces is this notion of 'they've got my back'. Teachers say they feel more supported in the space as there is always another adult if needed. Be it an individual who needs that little extra one on one learning time or an individual you can't quite get to the bottom of a learning need, there is a community approach to inquiring into what the individuals next steps might be.
Pooling teacher strengths and talents is another positive - in a space students get the best of both worlds as they are taught be any of the two or three teachers in the learning hub in a given day.
There are some key structures and scaffolds that sit behind the design of the learning hubs to ensure their success. More about that next time.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Think Big, Be Brave!

I have been reflecting about what stops us from being brave? As a leadership team one mantra that was at the fore front to aid much of the thinking and planning of Stonefields School was 'Think Big and Be Brave". An example of where this came into play was the process we went through to select and decide on the furnishings for the learning hubs. It would have been quite straight forward and easy to order 5 tables and 28 chairs for each teaching space. Instead we began to read, reflect and think about the furniture that would ensure learners were comfortable, that the furniture was fit for the given learning (fit for purpose), agile, allowed for individual quiet space, collaborative spaces and large spaces to dialogue and ensuring that the environment as the third teacher was maximised.

We were influenced by an incredibly timely trip to Melbourne where we saw 3 Schools that were challenging the industrialist, single cell model of Schooling. These visits indeed added to our bravery, particularly the time we spent at Silverton Primary. Mary Featherston a friend of Julia Atkin helped us to understand the complexity of ensuring space is partitioned appropriately, caters for the various learning scenarios and has sound flow in and between spaces. We left appreciating that less can be more. We have observed many over furnished learning spaces in our travels.

Our investigations resulted in cafe height tables, taller tables, knealers, tables that could be pulled apart for smaller groups, beanbags, stools that wiggle, high stools for the learners who like to survey, ottomans and soft furnishes to add comfort to the learning environment.

Now we have our learners we are enjoying seeing where individuals gravitate for certain learning. The teachers are experimenting with their learners about what furnishings are fit to best serve the learning being undertaken. I am looking forward to gathering more student voice this week.

I am pleased we were brave, although it's early days I can already see it's paying dividends. Learners appear engaged.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dialogue or Discussion - What's fit for purpose?

It feels refreshing to post my first blog for 2011 on a strategy that has certainly helped our staff make some important decisions in the last few days. I hope I acknowledge the source correctly - Joan Dalton talks about being clear about flagging the type of conversation you intent to have. A dialogue is used when surfacing everyones ideas and are wanting to have an open conversation around a topic,problem or decision to be made. A discussion is about arriving at a decision.
An example of how we have flagged whether we were entering into a dialogue or discussion last week was when we attempted to collectively agree on what the dispositions would be under the School vision principle of 'Building Learning Capacity'. We began by using open ended questions to surface individuals ideas around what makes a good learner? We started the conversation by saying that this was a dialogue and that it would continue over the next few days before making a decision on the dispositions for Stonefields School. Today we flagged that the conversation had transformed into a discussion as it was decision time.
A helpful strategy as we continue to move forward in ensuring the conversations we need to have, have the airtime they require and deserve.
I think this could be used just as well with our students.