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