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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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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Lessons from Term 2

While playing with family over the first week of these holidays I have been reflecting back over last term. This reflection has led to me finding 5 key takeaways to remember in future.

1. Name the Elephant in the room

If you can name the issue/concern that is bugging you at the time it arises it allows your team to move forward together much quicker. An effective team has healthy working relationships and can deal with these situations, not get stuck on taking things personally.

2. Take the time to get students defining the problem

An extremely important step in problem solving is actually defining the right problem at the start. So often students are given the problem by the teacher. This term Pete McGhie and I really found out how powerful it is to get students defining the problem themselves. More time consuming but incredible learning ensued!

3. Teach less and teach it better

Page 34 New Zealand Curriculum

Page 34 New Zealand Curriculum

Continue reading

How Might We develop a culture of critique?

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I regularly try to develop my students’ ability to critique each other’s work. If collaborative learning is to work effectively, this ability to praise the right parts and challenge other ideas is critical for progress to be made. But, I am now wondering if we as adults are even modelling this for students?

Two tweets from people whose thinking I greatly admire have raised this point recently:

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I have written previously about how empowering the New Zealand Curriculum is. There is however, the flip side of this where as schools adapt the NZC to fit their needs, do not take the chance to think critically and just make it fix what they have always done. The Education Review Office add to this as they congratulate different schools on their interpretation of the NZC even as they have interpreted it wildly different – from Grammar style schools doing things very traditionally to Hobsonville Point Secondary School redesigning things and everything else in between.

This to me, says the critique of the New Zealand Curriculum must first happen by looking at how it has been implemented. This means that teachers and schools must develop a culture of critique towards each others’ practice and external visitors must be able to join in that critique to remove the blinkers. Is there a gap between the espoused approach and the reality in classrooms (or open learning spaces as the case may be?).

My approach with students to critique has been along the method of Rose, Bud, Thorn

And I really find this is a great method for starting critique: It encourages you to find praise points, opportunities and to be critical. If any of these are missing then I don’t believe you have set your bias aside to truly critique.

Now, how about we get started on really critiquing each other for the benefit of the education system and especially for the benefit of our students futures.

 

This post was Day 7 of my Question Quest.

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?

Personalised Learning at HPSS

After many months of planning, today was the day that personalised learning really took flight at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. We have tussled with the tension between curriculum coverage and personalising learning for the past few months and today students saw what this has resulted in.

Most New Zealand Secondary Schools place students in form classes for the “core subjects” (English, Maths, Science, Social Studies and Physical Education/Health) whilst allowing some measure of choice over the “option subjects” (Technology, Languages and The Arts). All of these Learning Areas are compulsory up to Year 10 in the New Zealand Curriculum, so we had set out to avoid the ancient hierarchy of subjects that dominates NZ schools.
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Enabling Constraints

Snip20131031_3Seeing your Principal send a tweet like this is so incredibly affirming and validating of the work you have been undertaking. Especially when it comes on a day where your team is sharing the outcome of weeks of work putting together the structures for learning to take place in your school.

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The time spent on the vision, values etc. last term was the foundation for the structures coming into place over the past 2 weeks. All our decisions in putting these in place are well grounded in the school vision and values. Then in one day this week we introduced the staff to all the structures supporting the delivery of our curriculum: Continue reading

Exploring the Threshold Concepts of the NZC

Our aim Friday was to explore the core concepts of the New Zealand Curriculum to start focusing on what learning needs to occur next year.

The first major point of interest to emerge was how differently each learning area is organised within the curriculum. Many learning areas were organised by concepts but others focused on skills, dispositions or a mix of the three. Nevertheless we were able to help each other understand how to extract the threshold concepts from each of the areas.

By focusing on one learning area each and extracting the concepts from the curriculum, we soon got our initial impressions of the 8 Learning Areas. Then as a group we discussed what had been gathered during the first step. At the end of these discussions we had the core of what the learning area was aiming to achieve and the threshold concepts that learners need to develop to be able to achieve that core aim.

As an example of this Social Sciences has the core concepts of Society; Issues; Active Citizenship; and Relationship between Society and the Environment. The threshold concepts to reach this core were: Economy; Environment; Organisation and Systems; Biculturalism; Place; Change; Perspectives; Continuity; Identity; Culture; Sustainability; Community; Diversity; and Social Action.

This meant we ended the week with the threshold concepts of the entire NZC up on the wall of our “Hacking Cave”

NZC Threshold Concepts

NZC Threshold Concepts

There are some clear cross-overs that were noticed during the process and next week we will get to focus in on this aspect – where are the opportunities for authentic integration?