Starting Collaborative Inquiries

When I arrived at Lynfield College last year I found a school with a very strong Teaching as Inquiry culture. All teachers across the school were inquiring into the impact that their teaching was having on their students. This was enabled by some great scaffolded templates to help teachers who were newer to the process and time was built into the meeting schedule to help these inquiries progress.

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Disce Vivere: Learn to Live

Last year two members of our staff were discussing how many students were leaving school without some of the skills that would really set them up for their future. Conversations like this probably happen regularly in school staffrooms around the world. What makes this story a bit different is that these 2 teachers decided to do something about it.

In May last year, Bronwen Wilson and Kat Wells set up a meeting with me to pitch the idea of a Life Skills Programme. Their staffroom discussion had developed into a shared document where they put together a proposal. The proposal was to combine the skills of staff at Lynfield College with outside specialists to deliver a programme covering topics such as mental health, careers, digital citizenship and sexuality which were considered useful for student’s lives but which they might not get the chance to be developing through their normal curriculum.

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Principal Steve Bovaird sharing his Time Management tips

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Neuroscience & Adolescence

This afternoon we were privileged to have Nathan Mikaere Wallis at school to talk with us (our staff plus some staff from other schools in our CoL) about neuroscience. This post is sharing my notes from the session (so please ignore grammatical errors etc. as Nathan is highly entertaining and moves at great pace!).

 

He is a highly entertaining speaker and the 2 hour session sped by. If you get the chance to see Nathan seak, then make sure you take it!

Nathan said we were trying to cover 6 hours of material in 2 hours. So, here are my notes to summarise it even further. Some of my thoughts on the implications of all of this follow at the end. Continue reading

What does Student Centred look like?

Student Centred is one of those vague buzzwords that is used regularly but never really defined in practical terms. This post (based on an Ignite talk I gave last week) attempts to paint a picture of what student centred practices actually look like, both in the classroom and from a leadership perspective.

For me, the key to student centred practices is empathy. Truly seeking to understand how students are experiencing their learning, where each student is at and what their individual needs are, so you can help improve their learning. Student centred practice is focused on doing what is needed to help each student understand and excel in their learning.

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As I have written about previously, data is a great place to start in getting to know your learners, but there is a whole lot more to do if you want to understand them. Achievement data, personal data, surveys, observations and good old fashioned conversations should all work together to help you empathise with your students.

Student centred teaching is not just about what they like but about thinking how what they like/are interested in links with what they need to understand in class. How can their interests be used to help them understand the key concepts and skills from the curriculum. Continue reading

From Knowing to Empathising

The start of a new school year brings with it a whole bunch of new students to get to know. Principals around the country will be urging their staff to get to know their learners and reminding them of the importance of relationships to enable learning to occur. So what does this actually mean? How do we get to really know our learners?

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Agency and Ownership

Last week I attended uLearn15, an epic conference in Auckland with 1700 teachers and 250 sponsors and exhibitors. On the first day I ran a Breakout session called Agency and Ownership: Why the How? Initially planned as a smallish interactive workshop, it proved very popular as people chose their sessions so it grew into a large presentation to around 250 people with a lot more of me talking from the front.

Core Education filmed this presentation and streamed it live from their conference website. You can watch it here (jump to 11.50 where it actually starts):

Or, if you don’t have an hour and a half spare, this post will cover the highlights.

We have all heard the terms Learner Agency and Student Ownership of Learning. We all have the same vague understandings of what these are about. This presentation was focused on working out they actually look like in the classroom. What the practices are that we as teachers can implement to enable and empower students to truly own their learning.

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Sir Gateway?

Many people may get annoyed with this post, in fact it may even be considered sacrilegious by some. Sir Ken Robinson is extremely well known, liked by many and revered by some. His TED talk from 2006 has been watched almost 35 million times. Yet on finishing his most recent book I was left with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

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A Catch Up

I have just had my largest break from blogging since I started 2 and a half years ago. Blogging is a big part of how I reflect and progress but priorities have shifted a bit lately with family circumstances. I have still reflected, tweeted, discussed with coteachers, critical friends and colleagues; but the blog has sat here much quieter than normal. That said, here is what has been happening in my classes lately:

Learning Hub

The early part of this term was focused on students’ IEMs. This is a 3-way conversation between students, their parents and me as their advisory coach. The highlight of this day is being part of genuine learning conversations. Celebrations and challenges are shared, discussed and implications considered.
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Empowering Learners Through Common Language

It’s hard but that’s okay because you keep trying and then it becomes easier and then it becomes fun. That’s how you learn.

This cool little quote is from my 5 year old daughter after ballet practice yesterday. Apart from the glaringly obvious growth mindset that she has at the moment, it made me start thinking about how my students would describe how they learn.

At HPSS we have our Learning Design Model that was developed out of our deep exploration of the New Zealand Curriculum. This is the language that we use to describe how learning occurs.

HPSS Learning Design Model

HPSS Learning Design Model

We envision learning as cyclical (not circular otherwise you go nowhere – in Di Cavallo‘s words!) rather than linear. Continue reading

Student Echo Chambers

Yesterday I wrote about breaking out of my echo chamber, so of course my thoughts then turned to my students. Are our students operating in echo chambers and should this be something we worry about?

Well yes, I believe this is something to be concerned about and here’s why. Deeper understanding is developed through:

  • encountering multiple perspectives
  • confronting cognitive dissonance
  • empathising with situations different to our own

If students are constantly interacting with people with similar opinions to themselves, how are they going to do any of the above? Continue reading