Enhancing the relevance of new learning

It is not surprising to see relevance of learning in the effective pedagogy section of the New Zealand Curriculum. A lot of research was undertaken in the 1990’s in New Zealand on this and hence teachers in New Zealand have long discussed how relevant and meaningful learning will increase interest, engagement and motivation for learners. What is of interest here though, is that the NZC explanation expands from just relevant contexts for learning to include ideas such as curiosity and learner agency.

Effective teachers stimulate the curiosity of their students, require them to search for relevant information and ideas, and challenge them to use or apply what they discover in new contexts or in new ways.

Curiosity is a bit of an enigma in schools. Speak to any teacher and they will say they value it, but often it is not high in our priorities when designing learning experiences for our classes. Susan Engel’s research found that students’ curiosity decreased as they grew older. She does believe that adult influence is a factor in this. This paper by Engel suggests 4 ways that educators can help students become more curious again.

Sparking curiosity in Science

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Providing Sufficient Opportunities to Learn

This is the 3rd post in a series exploring what the New Zealand Curriculum says is effective pedagogy. The first posts were about Creating a Supportive Learning Environment and Making Connections to Prior Learning and Experience.

Now that we know our students and where their knowledge is at, we can think about our learning design.

Students learn most effectively when they have time and opportunity to engage with, practise, and transfer new learning. This means that they need to encounter new learning a number of times and in a variety of different tasks or contexts. (NZC p34)

Graham Nuthall’s research in the early 1990’s found that students needed to encounter information 3 times to understand a concept. This also applies for skills based subjects as the Maths BES states: “To achieve fluency, meaningful practice opportunities include significant variations each time, providing students with a sense of the range of possibilities in a topic” (Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics Best Evidence Synthesis, p125).

“The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit and the stronger, faster and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.” (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)

Neuroscience supports this by explaining how the more often we practice a skill, the more myelin grows around our nerve fibres. Continue reading

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

Creating a Supportive Learning Environment

It’s the start of another school year and we are running around organising getting to know you type activities, collaborating on class rules etc. Why?

  1. we are people and people like to make connections with others. 
  2. because research has proven that creating a supportive learning environment has a positive impact on student learning.

This is why creating a supportive learning environment is included in the Effective Pedagogy section of the New Zealand Curriculum. This approach recognises that learning takes place in a social and cultural context.

From a student perspective this means that learning occurs best when they:

Positive relationship building and active learning happening as Year 9 students enjoy their first days at Lynfield College this week.

Effective teachers will: Continue reading

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

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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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Why Leave My Dream Job?

Early in 2013 I attended an Information Evening about foundation teaching applications for  Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I had always liked the idea of being part of the foundation staff at a school and getting to develop the culture of the place, so was quite excited about attending this and finding out more. The meeting was everything I hoped for and more. Maurie, Lea, Claire and Di set out an exciting vision and I was amped about what this school was going to look like. So amped, I was ringing my partner before even making it back to the car, to tell her I needed to get a job teaching at this school – it sounded like my dream job!

Thankfully I did get the opportunity to be part of the foundation staff at HPSS and it has definitely been my dream job. We have hacked the New Zealand Curriculum; created meaningful learning design and curriculum principles; and I have thrived teaching and learning in such an innovative environment. But now, just 2 1/2 years after starting here, I am leaving my dream job.

Just feel the Sunset/Sunrise imagery is appropriate with this post...

Just feel the cheesy Sunset/Sunrise imagery is appropriate with this post…

I knew this day would come at some stage but after 5 or 6 years, not after 2 1/2 years. So why leave my dream job at HPSS? Continue reading