Monday, 28 July 2014

The Why and the Practice

Learning and teaching is often a balancing act. How do you continue to grow a students world and also honour their voice? Taking students into the 'world they don't know, they don't know,' (John Holt has great stuff on this) is an important part of our job.

This then comes down to the importance of, 'WHY.' Why do we do what we do? Have we ever sat back and reflected on this? Do we constantly question ourselves?

Having never been a big researcher, the question of why has led me to read a lot more. Jane Gilbert's work around skills for the 21st C (we are after all, 14 years into it) as well as revisiting the NZC and honouring the Key Competencies. Recently, a great read on the development of the KCs was posted here.

The 'Why' I find easy however when I was involved in the start up of Discovery 1 School in Christchurch it was far more problematic.  At that time,  the research wasn't there to back up open spaces so we focused a lot on constructivism. Now, we have plenty to support the notion of student negotiated learning.

So, with the pedagogy in place the focus shifts to the question 'What is the andragogy?' More importantly, what is the practice? I believe now we can all access all the 'why' for both students and teachers however the practice is more challenging.

The conversations around practice are key. How do we honour the negotiation of a learning pathway and also honour the NZC? How do we impact on learning as an educator without putting out the fire? How do we look for progress in our students in a differentiated model? What is powerful to learn?

Asking these questions are the key in growing understanding around how practice can be challenged and changed. However, if you haven't looked at what you value about learning, it may all be in vain. My next post will be around "Learning Values" and how they drive change.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Students or Systems?

A constant battle going on with my thinking is what do we start with? Systems or students?

Students are important?

Do systems support students or make life easier for staff?

It always comes back to "what will impact more positively for students?" How is this using a growth mindset? What are we thinking?

Over the last few weeks we have been doing a lot of self review. This has included reviewing our induction for staff, induction for students, reporting to parents, SENCO and pastoral care.

The challenge for us has been around the systems that usually dictate how these areas function. From our first conversations as a team, we were determined to challenge everything we would usually do, and not start with teacher or management driven systems.

The rational behind this was that generally systems are in place to support staff. Often they have no impact on students learning or growth. With this in mind, everything we have developed has come from a student centred approach.

This approach has caused some angst, however, starting with the students and forgetting about how it will impact on staff often leads to great conversations. It leads to co-constructing the systems or strategies together as a team. Looking for ways of impacting on the students the most with our practice.

An area we have just realised we need a stronger system around is tracking those students who aren't "at" the SENCO level but need challenge or support. We co-constructed a way of identifying the students and created a clear pathway for the practice of the staff to impact on these students. The system fell out of a need rather than driving it without a clear purpose. With a clear purpose, the buy in from staff improves and the use, fits the need.

Creating systems to meet the needs of students has been challenging, but, so rewarding, to still see the students being the key focus. The work around this is not more, it's just different.

ERO this week, maybe that will clarify some of the thinking?