Making Connections to Prior Learning and Experience

It’s Week 2 of the school year. We have set up a supportive learning environment so next we go about finding out what students already know. This will include results from last year, other data we can access but will also likely include other in-class activities. We already have our curriculum and course guides in place, so why do good teachers spend time finding out what students already know? This post looks to explore the research behind our practice.

Students learn best when they are able to integrate new learning with what they already understand. (pg 34 of the New Zealand Curriculum)

Image from pg 71 “Hidden Lives of Learners” by Graham Nuthall

This figure is Graham Nuthall’s explanation of how our brains make sense of new information. All experiences, learning activities, discussions etc. are stored in our working memory which then attempts to make connections with our prior knowledge and related experiences. The working memory then evaluates this information, integrates the new experience with our prior knowledge and changes (or maintains) our understanding. (Hidden Lives of Learners, 2007). Continue reading

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Effective Pedagogy and the NZC

This year as part of my portfolio as Deputy Principal at Lynfield College, I have been asked to look into how well the learning taking place here is reflecting the intent of the New Zealand Curriculum. I am really excited about this, as curriculum and learning design is a real passion of mine.

To get my head into this for 2018, I am starting by going back to have a close look at what the NZC actually says about teaching and learning. Whilst, this is primarily to help shape what is happening at Lynfield College, there is plenty of this investigation that may be helpful for all teachers (in New Zealand but also globally). Hence, I will write a few posts over the next while sharing what I find.

Looking forward to spending some more time unpacking my coffee stained NZ Curriculum

Continue reading

A Spiral of Brain-Hurty Questions

Last week our Specialised Learning Leader team had a Planning Day together, gathering momentum on how learning design will occur in 2016. A big focus of this day was how things will look/act/be different for the Qualifications years (Yr 11 & 12) as compared to our Foundation curriculum (Yr 9 & 10). The part that has really stuck with me over the next few days though was a discussion on what our Theories of Knowledge are at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Image courtesy of agsandrew

Image courtesy of agsandrew

As the main influence on our Learning Design at HPSS is the New Zealand Curriculum, my initial response was to start thinking what the theory of knowledge behind the NZC is. Quickly finding myself out of my depth to extract this information, I turned to some more learned colleagues asking them questions by various forms of messages. Continue reading

Provoking Thoughts Every Week

My role at Hobsonville Point Secondary School is called Specialised Learning Leader. Acknowledging that to most others outside our school, this title means nothing: the crux of the role is around curriculum and learning design. One of the tasks I have had in this role this year is to provoke staff thoughts around learning design each week. I have done this through sharing a weekly provocation: a reading, article, video that could prompt thoughts around designing better learning experiences for our students at HPSS.

Image courtesy of Brian Talbot

Image courtesy of Brian Talbot

Any of you that regularly read this blog or follow me on twitter will know that I read voraciously. This is a big part of my growth as an educator and this weekly provocation is aimed at encouraging all staff to grow by regularly reading and considering the implications on our practices.

The readings are shared via email each week and paper copies are placed on tables in the staff room. This means that we are providing for those happy to read on their laptops and for those who prefer hard copy to read or who may pick it up to read while having lunch or a coffee.

Initially starting with any article that linked towards our school’s vision for teaching and learning, we soon adjusted it to fit with our current SLL team focus: Continue reading

Ungoogleable Questions Update

By far and away my most read post on this 2 year old blog is a post on Ungoogleable Questions from almost 2 years ago. I have been meaning to update this for quite some time and #28daysofwriting has finally given me the prompt to do so.

Since I ran the workshop with staff and generated the questions shared in my earlier post I have focused on helping students develop their ability to inquire into ungoogleable questions (major shout out here to Ewan McIntosh who set me on this journey). I have used a variety of prompts, provocations and question development frameworks over these last 2 years. I have continued to read blogs (Kath Murdoch and Bo Adams blogs have pushed me in this) and books (Can Computers Keep Secrets by Tom Barrett, The Falconer by Grant Lichtman and A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger being the most influential for me) to further my thinking and practice and it is about time I share my tips now. Continue reading

Constraints Causing Creativity

I first came across the idea of enabling constraints when investigating Complexity Theory for my thesis. The book Engaging Minds gives great examples of how the right level of constraints are required to truly cause creativity to occur. This was echoed recently in a post by Tom Barrett in his post about setting the right level of constraint for learning in your class.

As this school year started, Hobsonville Point Secondary School was entering it’s 2nd year of operation and that brings new levels of constraints. 2 Year levels to plan for so double the students and some (nowhere near double) new staff on board. So, how to evolve our structures.

First of all, the 3rd generation timetable:

Snip20150204_22

Specialised Learning Modules are co-taught by 2 teachers and last year had 2 teaching blocks, we wanted to deepen this so worked a way for each to have an extra hour this year. We also wanted to leverage teacher-student relationships more to enable learning so students will stay with the same teachers for a semester (2 terms) even though the focus concepts shift in the 2nd term from Culture and Diversity to Relationships. Continue reading

How Might We Best Manage the Tension Between Personalisation And Curriculum Coverage?

Day 1 of my Questioning Quest, is a question constantly in my mind this year.

I truly believe the tension between personalisation and curriculum coverage can cause amazing creativity to occur in learning. Our vision of Personalised Learning must also ensure students have the required skills and understandings to succeed as seniors. To do so we are currently developing tools and checks to evaluate student coverage and progress amongst the high level of choice students have in their modules.

Many schools are investigating personalisation as a future focused curriculum or modern learning practice. How do you negotiate this tension?

Authentic Challenges

Another full on week at HPSS where I really focused on continuing to make sure the learning was authentic. This was the next step up as I try to continually improve the learning occurring and much of what happened in the week was due to what had occurred the previous week.

The Galileo Educational Network have an awesome inquiry rubric that I regularly refer to. This image below is of the section on Authenticity that I have looked back on whilst reflecting on the weekend:

Galileo Authentic Inquiry Rubric

Galileo Authentic Inquiry Rubric

Continue reading

HPSS Modules Iteration 2

We are currently completing the second iteration of our module development and selection process. Personally, I believe that our great Term 1 Modules have been given far more relevance and rigour this time round through the introduction of small refinements to our process.

The concept for Term 2 is Place and Space and each Learning Area, when planning over the 2 year framework, had already designated their threshold concepts and skills for this:

Term 2 Threshold Concepts and Core Skills

Term 2 Threshold Concepts and Core Skills

The module design process this time started with student voice. Representatives from each Hub met to say what they had learned previously about Space and Place and to provide ideas of what students would like to learn about. Their ideas poured out and a 4 page document was then shared with staff to provide a 2nd launching pad to the designated concepts and skills.

Each Learning Area then met together to discuss the possibilities this term when focusing on their specific aims and how the student voice ideas matched. This would allow the focus skills and concepts to be presented in a way that was relevant to our students. Continue reading

A More Powerful Inquiry

One of my core educational values is Curiosity. Yet, in the past I have fallen into the trap of Inquiry = Research instead of a more open curious discovery process. One of the biggest pedagogical changes I have made was when I shifted to an inquiry approach that was about allowing students more time to dwell, think and discuss their questions on whatever the topic of study was at that time.

A lot of this had been intuitive practice so I was stoked when I first came across the Galileo Educational Network website and their intro to Inquiry (thanks Karen for the link!):

Intro to What is Inquiry from Galileo Education Network

Intro to What is Inquiry from Galileo Education Network

Prior to this I had usually thought of inquiry more as the information literacy type of inquiry where you are purposely following a series of steps in your investigation. Two of the best versions I had seen of this that had influenced my practice were: Continue reading