Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Are we being responsive?

One of the challenges to the "mental model" teachers and leaders have is that staff should be very well planned. My question to this is, "how is this possible?"

If we are to be truly responsive to the needs of our students we cannot be over planned.

When designing immersion, I believe you can be strategic in what you design for students to help them develop a deeper understanding of the learning, eg if you have a science based immersion, the teach the students what a good procedure is, and why they need to know.

The link between the why and the how needs to be strong for students to retain that knowledge.

The real purpose for learning needs to be at the heart of what you are sharing with students.

Learning being linked/blended is important. Jane Gilbert talks of the fact that, "learning cannot be codified into disciplines." And yet, schools often run timetables that say maths, reading, writing. Isn't it all learning?

At Hobsonville Point, I ask staff firstly to design learning, not plan. I ask them to think about the natural links between a big concept, the dispositions we want our students to grow and then create clear connections to the NZC learning areas.

The result is a responsive learning design with a mix of just in time learning and learning designed for the immediate future needs of the students based around a real purpose.

Understanding, from a position of leadership, that staff will be on this journey at different rates is important. Knowing that the journey from novice to expert will be a challenge. Knowing the importance of 'rule governed behaviour' (scaffolding) in terms of providing support for staff on that journey. Leading staff to have PPK (Personal Practical Knowledge) means that you can watch the magic happen.

For me, it is a huge amount of fun watching staff challenge their mental model of planning and think responsive design instead.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

High Support and High Challenge or Warm and Demanding

One of the joys of working at Hobsonville Point Schools is the ability to sit back and watch. The PPP model (not a charter model) means that we have no property to manage. This allows me to be one of those annoying principals who hangs about, watching learning occur. I can ask questions, I can have learning conversations, I can make assumptions and I can engage with the learning.

This leads me to the title of the blog. One of the great benefits of two schools, with one board is the ability for us to learn collaboratively with staff from the secondary school. I am in the privileged position of having a weekly learning conversation with Maurie Abraham. Maurie often talks about the need for warm and demanding situations. I have always called them "high challenge and high support." I think I like Maurie's term better.

The freedoms I have mean I can create warm and demanding conversations with staff. The mindset needed is a growth one of course, and that is not always present at the start of their journey here, however it does shift with the more conversations we have. Kristyn, Lisa and Sharyn are working on a walk through and coaching model that will enable us to continue these warm and demanding conversations as we grow in numbers. It is a very exciting place to be in our journey.

As a leadership team we went to EduTECH a couple of weeks ago. For me this was a warm and demanding event. From the amazing Keynote speakers we had many warm moments of affirmation of what we are growing at HPPS for our learners. Creating an innovative, engaging and inspirational setting for learning to occur. The demanding part came when we thought collectively about how do we grow this with the sector. The advent of more MLE's, the need for more MLP, means we have to support other schools in developing new ways of learning. Change is needed and it's needed now.This is reinforced by this quote from the conference.

No generation in history has ever been so thoroughly prepared for the Industrial Age as the current generation.

David Warlick

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Planning Learning or Designing Learning

When we look at "what is powerful learning?" and "what is powerful to learn?" it is important to think about what are we trying to achieve.

As teachers, we often plan for our students, creating learning we think they need. By doing this you have to ask are we missing out on an opportunity? That opportunity been one of being responsive? By being over planned we can be drawn into being the teacher who has full control over the learning journey of each child. We miss student voice, we miss student choice, we miss the opportunity to respond to the needs of our students. The Best Evidence Synthesis talks of, "teaching being responsive to student learning processes." If we just plan learning can we do this?

Designing learning has a different spin. Designing learning allows you to manage the learning process to both meet the needs imposed on you as well, and more importantly, meet the personalised needs of the students.

In designing learning our job is to provoke wonderings and questions through engaging immersion. This immersion should start the day and link carefully with the NZC learning areas and the essence of those (I talked about the essence of learning in another post). When you design learning you allow for links to be created between experiences and ideas. It allows us to engage with the curriculum at a more purposeful level, creating links to deepen understandings. Designing learning creates clarity around responsibilities and shows the importance of relationships.

Designing learning means that application is happening all of the time. Dr Jane Gilbert talks of knowledge happening in real world problem based contexts. This happens naturally because of how you manage this.

Staff at HPPS are in the process of designing the next learning process for the students in their cohort (mixed age for a number of reasons). This designing is based around the deep reflection from the last design, the use of space as the third teacher, mixing values and dispositions into the design and having deliberate acts of teaching to allow for deeper understanding and application of the experiences. Staff are also designing the key learning outcomes and assessment tools needed to move the students forward as learners and ensure that they maintain the understandings they have been immersed in.

It is really exciting to be sitting back and watching the level of design happening now compared with this time last year. The movement in thinking, practice and learning design is still developing and long may that last.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Essence of Learning

The Oxford Dictionary says the essence is....

As a staff, we have been exploring the essence of learning through the NZC. 

Some questions that we asked were:

  • What the learning areas really are? 
  • What is powerful to learn within these areas? 
  • What should we teach?, and 
  • How do we capture the true essence of these learning areas to enable strong engagement with them?

So, what did we do?
First, we identified the areas within the NZC that we were passionate about. It was interesting to see the strong feelings towards some learning areas over others. We broke into small teams attached to a learning area, that those people were passionate about, and this allowed us to create a brief statement that captured feelings so as to sell it to others.

Sharing these statements allowed us to place ourselves in the shoes of the learner and imagine learning through the essence statement. This created a lot of dialogue for us, we challenged, celebrated and re-designed these statements to fully connect with our values, dispositions and thinking about learning.

The result was draft statements for all the learning areas, these statements were then used as a reflection tool for us to look at our practice and make changes to live out what we believe about learning. Great actions took place!

It has been a start for us in developing our localised curriculum to meet the needs of our learners.