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

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Does Design Thinking Work For Students?

Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of teachers talking about Design Thinking. Previously unheard of, it is now fairly commonplace to hear the term used in online conversations and at education conferences. For my eFellowship research this year, I investigated whether the student experience of Design Thinking matched up to why teachers were implementing this approach in their classes.

Over the last 2 years I have read about Design Thinking, applied it to creating structures for our new school and then used a teaching approach within my classes. It has felt like a more powerful version of inquiry through it’s focus on developing empathy, students iterating their understanding and then having to use their knowledge rather than just remembering information. Many of the teachers starting to use Design Thinking in New Zealand, Australia and the US have experienced a similar feeling or hunch of Design Thinking’s effectiveness. As a relatively new approach to teaching there has been very little research done on how effective it is as a practice.

The hunch of many is that Design Thinking is effective, but is it actually working for our students? source: Wikipedia

I set out to see whether this hunch of effectiveness was actually right. Whether the teacher aims for starting to use Design Thinking are matching how the students actually experience it in class. Continue reading

How will I inquire into Design Thinking?

A while ago I shared my thinking behind why I was going to focus on Design Thinking for my eFellows inquiry (see this post here). This post is about sharing my methodology for this inquiry.

For those who don’t wish to go back and re-read my old post I have also included my aim so that you can see where this is coming from:

Aim

This research project aims to gather the student perspective in regards to Design Thinking. It will then provide a comparison with teacher aims and perspectives on using Design Thinking as a pedagogical approach. Continue reading

Why inquire into Design Thinking for my eFellowship?

This year I am part of Core Education’s eFellowship program. The purpose of this scholarship is to “inspire transformational practice through inquiry.” For my inquiry I am looking to explore Design Thinking which, for those who read my blog or follow me on twitter, is something that I have been passionately using lately. This year for me is a chance to put a critical eye on its use.

At our first meeting of the year in late January, we got to explore the purpose of our inquiry and here is what I managed to generate:

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Through reflection on this, more reading and a skype session with Louise Taylor who is in charge of our research from Core Education, I have put together the following plan for my inquiry: Continue reading

Open Spaces Filling Up

Yesterday I had the joy of visiting 2 open learning spaces: first of all as a team, the Leaders of Learning visited Albany Senior High School and then in the afternoon Maurie and I joined a group from the Ministry of Education in visiting the construction site for Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

I have been to Albany Senior High School before, but that was for Ignition Unconference in the holidays so this was the first time I had seen it full of students and in full swing. Anyone who struggles with the idea of how open the modern learning environments are should visit a school in action. The noise level is in effect lower than what you would find in many classrooms as the staff and students are aware that any loud noises they make will have an impact on lots of others and so self-regulation seems to emerge.

More importantly, I was impressed by 2 major factors here: the tutorial system and how research driven they are as a staff. We arrived half way through one of their 2 one hundred minute tutorials that occur each week. In this time each teacher (including DPs) is with their 15 student tutorial group – 5 yr 11, 5 yr 12 and 5 yr 13. This time is like a study period for the students where they decide what they are working on but the tutor teacher also uses it for catching up with individual students. The small nature of the groups means that strong relationships emerge and tutor teachers can track, challenge and nurture the students in their group.
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Research Access Success

Two weeks ago, I sent an email to a group of people high up in the Ministry of Education and put it online in this post asking for access to academic journals as a teacher. I have had a range of conversations with people over the past 2 weeks about this and today had a successful outcome to the email.

The obvious message over the last 2 weeks has been that there are lots of teachers out there craving access to research so they can challenge and improve their practice. Everyone I have spoken to has been interested in what the outcome would be. Either because they also want more access to research themselves or because they see the value in it so much they are currently undertaking research or study and want to know where they can read once their study finishes. Continue reading

Academic Journal Access

This post is a copy of an email I sent this week to the Ministry of Education:

Kia ora tatou,

I am in my 11th year teaching in New Zealand secondary schools. For much of this time I have either been involved in various research projects or undertaking further study or research myself towards a Masters in Education degree. This has meant that a majority of my professional development has been informed by the most recent educational research. I have now, however, been out of university for 18 months and am finding it incredibly difficult to access academic research.

Research has shown that teachers who reflect critically on their practice improve learning a lot more than many other initiatives. It is very difficult if teachers don’t have access to academic journal databases to be able to critically reflect on the quality of our teaching as we are not being exposed to the latest research and ideas.

The Education and Science Select Committee Report “Inquiry into 21st Century Learning Environments and Digital Literacy” also highlights the importance of teachers engaging with current research thinking. The importance of evidence-based decision making and upskilling people for 21st century learning in this report supports my argument that teachers require access to academic journals.

The Education Counts website provides a great synthesis of research ideas and the staff are obviously well connected with the research as I have personally received some of the articles in support of the publications when I have enquired further. These ideas, however, need to be accessed on a more regular basis.

Is it possible to gain access to the academic journal databases that the Ministry of Education subscribes to? I feel this would allow me to continue to pursue improvement in my teaching which will result in better outcomes for my students.

I look forward to your response,

Regards,

Steve Mouldey

What do you think? Am I expecting too much? Am I placing too much emphasis on access to research as a form of professional development? Should I be paying for my own access (note here: One journal wanted to charge me $39.95 just for one article this week!)? What chances of anyone from the MoE engaging in conversation with me on this?

UPDATE 25/6: I have heard back from the Ministry and now have access to their library services. This is available to support teachers and principals in our practice, I encourage you all to read this post about what I can now access or just head to the Ministry of Education Library to find out more.

What would do most to improve the status of the teaching profession?

This post is written as part of the May 2013 #blogsync click here 
to read more of the blogs in this series

Teaching is New Zealand’s 11th most trusted profession. This shows that we have a long way to go in the eyes of the public. This is quite critical as in our decentralised power system where Boards of Trustees are the governors of the school, it is the public that we are actually responsible to.
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Key Competencies and Effective Pedagogy

A new section has been added to TKI focusing on Key Competencies and Effective Pedagogy. It focuses on a tool developed by NZCER and University of Waikato who worked with teachers to see what the key competencies looked like in different learning areas. This has led to the 3 sections on the website: a self-audit tool, 14 learning stories and Insights into aspects of the key competencies.

The self audit framework could be used by a teacher, syndicate, department or whole school to inquire into how well the key competencies are embedded into learning rather than an afterthought. The framework is developed around the concepts of initiative, connections and challenge. Initiative is really about student agency – student voice, learning to learn etc. Connection is about meaningful links between activities, experiences and/or learning areas. And Challenge is about using, transforming, critiquing, and generating knowledge for purposes that students recognise as worthy of their effort.

I personally have found the framework to be an effective self-reflection tool (as I was lucky enough to see earlier drafts of the framework) and I would encourage you to utilise this if possible, particularly when planning out or reviewing a unit of learning. Continue reading

2012 was a big year

2012 was my tenth year teaching and seemed to be a watershed year for me. I had many big changes and got involved in lots of new projects.

The first of these was finishing my thesis. I had been working on my Masters in Education for a few years part-time and handed my thesis in at the end of March to complete this. It was on “Using service learning to prompt the emergence of new conceptual understandings” and was a large part in my evolution as a teacher. I have always had a real interest in fieldwork and get frustrated that much of the fieldwork that occurs now is the same as decades earlier. The research in thesis allowed to pursue other forms of field work and in many ways foreshadowed my involvement in other projects later in the year.

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