Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Teachers learning through dialogue -the power of learning conversations.


A jazz group is an ideal metaphor for an innovative school - all playing the same tune but each contributing as required to make a distinctive sound. Each player is expert in the chosen instrument and is trusted to contribute as the situation takes them . Improvisation is an important skill. A good school, or individual classroom, shares many things in common with a jazz group. Fluid, creative but all working within agreed beliefs: consistent creativity.

Learning through dialogue or learning conversations.

‘We know more than we know we know’ Michael Polyani

‘An ability to take a fresh look at the taken for granted seems equally important: without this ability most of us remain submerged in the habitual.’ Maxine Greene

‘The problem is never to get new innovative ideas into your mind, but to get the old ones out.’ Dee Hock (founder of Visa)

The 'new' New Zealand Curriculum provides the motivation to 're-frame' our programmes to ensure all students become 'confident, connected, life long learners' able to, 'seek, use and create their own knowledge'. Ironically the imposition ( and associated confusion) of National Standards will distract and distort schools from such an exiting challenges.


1. What are the problems with teaching and learning as you see them?
In small groups ‘brainstorm’ issues. Then list them with no judgemental comments from others. Combine similar ones but only if people who suggested similar ones agree. Then use a 10:4 voting system to gather the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’. With this system members in turn placing their 10 points over three rounds – placing up to four points any round. From this we might establish an agenda for the day or for future inter school research teams.

2. Consider your own interests and abilities – the things that make you special (your ‘identity’). List things you like doing that you feel are above average – don’t be modest.
Think about Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Select one and consider how you developed your ability. Share with others in your group. You might think how come you were ‘turned off’ some areas of learning.

Possible group dialogue / learning conversation topics.

3. Considering the changing and unpredictable world our students will enter what future skills, competencies, or disposition will our students need to thrive? What metaphors for a learner can you think of? ‘Brainstorm’ individually and then make up a composite list. From this develop an image of a successful student – what you want your students to leave your school with. You might refer to the vision pages of the NZC.

4. Think about what would make up a ‘dream school’ for teachers, students and parents. Combine individual ideas and write a descriptive paragraph to present to the whole group. Ignore your present school situation – see if you can ‘sell’ your dream school to other groups...

5. Challenge: we have decided to personalize learning so as to ensure all students develop a positive learning identity. Such a personalized learning approach values each student’s feelings, ‘voice’, talents. interests, culture, ideas, questions and theories with the idea of leaving students feeling it is their learning the school is interested in pursuing. Make a list of teaching strategies to achieve this.

6. In our transformed ‘dream school’ all learning is based on an inquiry model.
There are ideas to consider in each of the Learning Areas in the NZC. Outline for your group an agreed process of inquiry – the stages most learners will have to go through.

7. In our transformed school we need to ‘re frame’ literacy and numeracy to contribute to the inquiry programme – the inquiry programme is to be the most important aspect of the day. The NZC requires school to ensure all students are able to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’. How can we integrate literacy and numeracy programmes so they contribute to in depth afternoon inquiry? List ideas. Think about how we can develop a positive ‘feeling for’ or attitudes towards maths and reading.

8. In our transformed school, where we value students’ creativity and empowerment, what is the role of the teacher? What metaphors, or images, come to mind? How do we help students ‘turned off ‘, or disengaged from areas of learning?

9. In transformed schools/room environments, where student inquiry and in-depth understanding and personal expression are central, what would you expect to see? In such schools the message is to ‘do fewer things well’ in depth is understood by all. List criteria to assess rooms.

10. In groups develop five beliefs to base your transformed schools teaching on and list a few ‘we will do’ ideas for each.
These beliefs will form the basis of ongoing School Self Review, Teacher Appraisal and Professional Development.

The agreed beliefs provide consistency between teachers but also encourage creativity of each teacher; an environment of ‘no excuses’.

(1) A phrase to sum up the role of literacy and numeracy – a metaphor?
(2) A phrase for the kind of learners – another metaphor?
(3) A phrase to sum up the role of the teacher – another metaphor?
(4) A phrase to sum the school approach to the curriculum
(5) A phrase to sum up management and room environments.


11 In the last 30 minutes we will list ideas from today’s dialogue to follow up the remainder of the year (maybe another 10:4 voting?) and develop some inter school Action Inquiry Teams to research and later to share with all schools at a later date? See teaching as inquiry in the NZC.

12 Assessing children’s attitudes. Back at school list all the activities and Learning Areas and the ask each students to assess how they feel about each – using a 1 to 5 scale maybe using sad to smiley faces? Run through the list with the class to show that when you were their age you had different feelings about various areas. Repeat later in the year to see growth in attitudes.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Be interested to see how the day works out but some very good ideas for interactive staff meetings.

Pervaiz said...

Thanks for sharing this.
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Thanks.

Bruce said...

I felt good about the day but the proof will be in the eating - and only time will tell. But the dialogue questions would be useful for other schools who really want to change.