Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New minds for a New Millenium

Time for a rethink about the role of education
 in a democratic society.

A crisis in education

I write this in a week primary teachers are to go on strike for better pay.  Concerns about the  excessive workload expected of teachers is just as big a concern.

Time for new thinking
Both issues need to be sorted if teaching is to become an attractive career – a career that values teachers as the professionals they once were.

If conditions are not resolved then improving salaries will not solve the issues of workload and associated stress. As one wise old rural adviser once said, ‘teachers need to protect their time and energy, if this is wasted on b/s then they will have no time left to teach.’

With this in mind the following is a look into a possible future.

It all began with Tomorrows Schools

The workload and associated stress has increased dramatically since the introduction of the competitive Tomorrow’s Schools reforms of the late eighties. These reforms were part of the dramatic political changes of the times based on a belief in ‘market forces’, individual responsibility and choice (for parents) would encourage greater initiative. It hasn’t quite worked out to plan

As part of the reforms a New Zealand National Curriculum was introduced along with documents for every learning area that outlined learning objectives to be achieved and assessed.  requirement placed impossible demands on schools and eventually, with a change of government, was replaced 2007 by a revised New Zealand Curriculum which did away with the problematic Learning Area booklets with their  impossible assessment demands but before this could be implemented another change of government saw the introduction of the reactionary National Standards in literacy and numeracy which required greater  intensive assessment and reporting to parents and as a result a narrowing of the curriculum.

And now a new government has been elected and, by removing National Standards, have signaled a return to the highly regarded (but side-lined) New Zealand Curriculum.
The techno- rational model is the problem

The past decades have seen a techno-rational model of teaching replace an earlier more creative holistic humanistic developmental model. Sadly current teachers have only experienced the current techno rational model based on standards, testing, levels, outcomes, targets, hyper assessment, measurable evidence and a narrow focus on literacy and numeracy. Teachers now have an opportunity to escape the pressures created by hyper assessment and evidence based teaching.

Time for new thinking

Time now for some fresh thinking and to place the focus on creating a ‘high trust’ environment
A 'high trust' culture
to allow teachers to get on with teaching guided by the vision of the innovative 2007 curriculum

This of course is not to say that there are not teachers and schools already involved in developing more imaginative and creative approaches to teaching and learning. It is to such teachers and schools ‘we’ ought to turn to for inspiration and in the process share their ideas in a more collaborative future environment.

Need for a 'high trust' environment

For schools to be developed as learning communities, premised on creative teachers and active learners, all current workload expectations need to evaluated, streamlined or abandoned. Teachers need to have a 'high trust' environment  for them to be able to use professional judgement to assist their students.  The current stressed and overworked teachers are a sign of an unhealthy system 'low trust' system.

Learning is an innate disposition.

The basic premise that teachers need to hold in mind is the belief that all students have an innate desire to learn and that, as educational psychologist Jerome Bruner has written, ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation' to ensure all students are positively engaged. Sadly, as
Jerome Bruner
teachers well know,  many children  arrive in class (at all levels) with their desire to learn damaged from early experiences placing ‘learning recovery’ a priority for such learners.

Authentic learning – and the ‘artistry’ of teaching

The challenge for teachers is to create a ‘tempting’ environment to capture the innate curiosity of their students.  Active learners need authentic tasks that require them to use inquiry ‘how to learn’ skills making use of appropriate learning areas.

Teachers need to come alongside the learner (s) to help as required – making suggestions, challenging student preconceptions and helping sort out necessary resources.  This is going well the fast changing future requires of future citizen’s creativity, imagination and individuality to achieve this students need to ‘go beyond’ what is expected.
Valuing students ideas
beyond current formulaic standardised ‘best practices’ such as ‘learning intentions’, ‘success criteria’ and WALTs. Such practices infer that teachers know what students require and this too easily results

Teaching teams could devise provocative topics or themes for students to explore that relate to, or combine, the various strands of the New Zealand Curriculum. This would not preclude topical studies that ‘emerge’ that students might want to study. Themes could cover language and mathematical studies and, as well, these areas will be integrated into all studies.

The future emphasis will need to be on inquiry and talent development rather than the current literacy and numeracy.

It might be possible for workshops (at various levels of expertise) to be offered to the students selected from the Learning Areas – drama, music, cultural experiences, mathematical explorations, ecological studies –the possibilities are endless  Students could get credit for their achievements level
and outside expertise could also be involved if required.

At all levels students could keep learning journals  expressing personal ideas as well as content from learning areas covered – such journals  could be kept in electronic portfolios or developed as personal blogs

Need to value the ‘voice’ of all students.

Teachers need to value the ‘voice’ and identity’ and areas of personal interests of all students as central to all learning. Students need to feel their questions, concerns and their lived experience are the vital ingredient in all their learning. Schools needs to provide opportunities for students value their strengths rather than have their weaknesses identified.

The teacher’s role is to provoke students to ask their own questions, to encourage to work collaboratively, to allow them go at their own pace and to value the diversity of their students. This is the essence of personalisation  . Over time identified talents would be amplified, new areas recognised and  recorded on their learning profiles and included in the portfolios.
Value multiple intelligences

Personal writing journals could be also kept to record student’s inner thoughts and shared with teachers if agreed to by the students.

Need to dig deeply into curriculum

The curriculum, whether arising from student’s interests or negotiated by the teacher needs to assist students dig deeply into  areas chosen and result in worthwhile learning artifacts. It is important to do fewer things well to achieve the students ‘personal best’.

The curriculum is itself a search for meaning and a mean for students to expand their perspectives, to challenge their thinking and to provide opportunities their potential talents to be recognised.

Students as active learners

When students are treated as active learners (the 2007 NZC states that students should be ‘seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge’) they will, through their actions, discover the value of craftsmanship and honest work and in the process provide teachers and parents with authentic assessment of their achievement.

As students work together to solve problems their combined efforts creates a true democratic learning community where all the diverse voices are valued and appreciated.  We are talking about classrooms in which the students are moved to imagine, to extend and renew their ideas creating in the process their own learning community.

Student achievement can be assessed by means of demonstrations of knowledge, exhibitions and displays, presentations and portfolios of completed work.

A creative role for teachers

Teachers have a vital role in creating such learning communities by providing opportunities for students to express their ideas through exploring a range of media. Teachers help students realize their own images, their own vision of things helping them develop ideas they never (nor the teacher) knew existed. This creative pedagogy empowers both teachers and students and prepares all
involved to thrive in what will be an exciting and ever changing future.

All interactions with students provide opportunities for evaluating achievement and, if necessary, students can be withdrawn for ‘catch up’ help and then returned to the tasks at hand.

Ideally schools need to appoint teachers with a diverse range of talents for enable them share their talents with their students including teachers with special qualifications in helping students with particular learning difficulties.

Class and school organisations

The shape and organisations of such learning communities will challenge the creativity of teachers.  Classrooms (or work spaces) need to be envisaged as an amalgam of an artist’s studio, a science laboratory, a media centre/workshop, and exhibition gallery. 

A class /school could be imagined as an educational version of a modern art gallery/museum such as Te Papa – with students researching topics and creating interactive displays for visitors encouraged by their tutors. Such schools already exist to some degree.

Industrial age remnants

Today’s classrooms all too often reflect a past industrial age with students moving from subject to subject or , at the secondary level, from room to room following a set timetable. This fragmentation is further fractured with the use of ability grouping (usually only in literacy and numeracy) and further fragmented by isolating such things as phonetic instruction in language. As a result it all too often is hard to see evidence of real creativity and student ‘voice’.

Re-imagining the school day

It will require a dramatic mind set to re-imagine flexible new organisations. It would be possible to block times for certain activities (as long as they were integrated with current study topics) and, as
Valuing imagination
teacher and students skill develops, times for various activities could be negotiated with the students – some schools currently do this.

With time students could take responsibility for arranging their own timetables determined by requirements for their negotiated individual learning plans – a form of contract learning.

An imaginary visit

 A visitor entering such a learning community, particularly if they reflect on their own more traditional school experience, will be in for a real surprise , particularly if the school is an open modern learning environment with no traditional classroom spaces

Visitors (provided with a student guide) would be amazed by the quality and the range of the work on display. If visitors have attended a science, maths or technology fair, combined with an arts festival, in the past, they will get the idea. The majority of the displays will interactive and involve the use of a range of computer controlled activities.

Nothing is new -the future is already here. 

We already have teachers and schools at all levels well along the way; it just needs for the ideas to spread throughout our education system. There are plenty of educationalists to provide inspiration such as Sir Ken Robinson who has stated that ‘creativity is as important as literacy and numeracy’ and Guy Claxton replaces Sir Ken’s ‘creativity’ with ‘learnacy’ in a similar quote,

The diverse programmes outlined tap into the ‘multiple intelligences’ ideas of Howard Gardner and also Eliot Eisner who, echoing Gardner, writes that we all interpret the environment with different ‘frameworks’. It’s time to face up to the issue of student disengagement for far too many students.

Elwyn Richardson
In the 1950s pioneer teacher Elwyn Richardson developed the genesis of such a learning community of scientists and artists.  It is timely that his inspirational book, ‘In the Early World’ has been recently republished by the NZCER.

It was John Dewey who wrote over a century ago that ‘children grow into adults as they live today’, that they learn through doing and reflecting on their experiences and that, if we want to ensure democracy endures, we need to have democratic schools.

If such a transformed ‘high trust’ education system were to eventuate (combined with appropriate salaries) talented individuals will want to become teachers and to be part of the unfolding adventure of learning; what better job could there be?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Personalized learning / school culture / Finland / and NZ's pioneer creative teacher

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Why Are We Still Personalizing Learning If It’s Not Personal?
‘As an ideal, personalized learning aims to provide instructional experiences tailored to each learner’s preferences and interests, and at a pace appropriate to their needs.But despite our good intentions, personalized learning in practice often falls short of those ideals. And that’s due to a number of misconceptions that persist around personalization.’

These Educators Are Using Personalized Learning to Think Differently About Teaching
‘Students have more agency in their education and are becoming creators and contributors in the learning process. The goals aim to ensure that learning is still focused on rigor and hitting the standards, but that students are also learning soft skills and advocating for their own education and needs as learners.’

The Role of Advisory in Personalizing the Secondary Experience
‘The goal of an advisory is to help students figure out who they are, where they’re headed and how
they’re going to get there. Through an advisory system, each student has an adult who knows them and helps them navigate high school so that they leave with a meaningful, personalized plan and are prepared for post-secondary options.’

3 Challenges for the Future of Education
Thanks to Michael Fawcett for this article.
‘I was recently sent an email and asked to identify some of the challenges I see for the future of
learning in education. These are things that I have noticed through my travels and after countless conversations with educators, and things that I have seen in my work. Although I am providing challenges, I am not necessarily giving solutions but am using this space to work out some of my ideas.’
 What Makes a Good School Culture?

Thanks to Tony Gurr for this one.
‘As she explains, researchers who have studied culture have tracked and demonstrated a strong and

significant correlation between organizational culture and an organization’s performance. Once principals understand what constitutes culture — once they learn to see it not as a hazy mass of intangibles, but as something that can be pinpointed and designed — they can start to execute a cultural vision.’

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: Why I want arts and culture integrated into all areas of NZ society.
Maybe she needs to have a quiet chat to Minister of Education Chris Hipkins…
‘Art and wellbeing, the idea that creativity and joy should never be just the domain of the privileged few, but accessible to all, isn't new, but hopefully it's coming of age. Peter Fraser was onto it back in the 1940s when he was Prime Minister. He knew that creating a foundation to allow the seeds of art and culture to take root was a key ingredient in establishing a sense of identity.’

Beyond Recess: How to Explore the Forest as a Kindergarten Class
'American kids are spending less time outside. Even in kindergarten, recess is being cut back. But in
one small town in Vermont, a teacher is doing something different: one day a week, she takes her students outside - for the entire school day.
It’s called Forest Monday.’

Sis key principals that Finnish schools excellent.

‘So, what makes Finnish schools consistently excellent? A curriculum reform adopted by the Finnish National Agency for Education in 2016 set key goals that I think are clear reflections of the Finnish approach to education.’

LISTEN: Dylan Wiliam on the role of research in your classroom
‘The acclaimed academic offers his thoughts on growth mindset, cognitive load and how research can be used in schools.

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Elwyn S Richardson 1925 -2012 Creative teacher
Elwyn’s educational philosophy was based on the belief that all real learning must be anchored in
personal experience. It was this conviction that provided the foundation for his developmental approach to education. Central to this was his theory of integration, a personalised process whereby children moved from one expressive medium to another, between all subject areas.’

Experience and Education -John Dewey 1938
‘John Dewey's ideas have all but been lost in our current system particularly as students reach higher levels and, because of this, we now have such worrying problem of dis-engagement of learners.’

Friday, August 03, 2018

Developing a pedagogy for Modern Learning Schools / the power of drama / and the artistry of teaching

Education Readings

By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. We welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Drama the pedagogy of hope  
‘The importance of drama as pedagogy and as a way of resisting threats to participatory democracy was affirmed by an international conference of drama educators and researchers in Auckland last week.’

Opinion: Peter Lyons – the modern tyranny of metrics
Peter Lyons is dubious when it comes to setting SMART goals to hold teachers accountable.
‘I loathe the modern mantra of management which entails the need for metrics to measure performance and ensure accountability. To prove your worth with a
quantifiable measure.’

Place-Based Education Empowers Students to Make Change
‘Place-based learning engages students in solving problems in their communities. In the
Brightmoor neighborhood of northwest Detroit, one of the biggest problems is lack of water–ironic in a state surrounded by it. The issue resulted from a 2015 decision by the city to shut off water service to 23,300 Detroit homes in a crackdown on delinquent accounts. Brightmoor residents were left to collect water from their roofs using rain barrels, but the water was not safe for drinking. How’s that for a challenge for students to take on?'

Can the ‘Not-School’ Movement Help Kids Re-Engage with
‘An Australian researcher asserts that the alternative educational approach known as the “not-school” movement can lead to greater learning outcomes for children who are struggling in traditional school.’

Carol Dweck Explains The 'False' Growth Mindset That Worries Her
Carol Dweck
'Dweck explains all the ways she sees growth mindset being misappropriated. Her complicated psychological research has gotten boiled down to, "praise the effort, not the outcome." Dweck also explained what she means by a "false" growth mindset.’

Finding the joy in learning. Harnessing the power of ‘What if…
‘I know many schools are moving towards, or already include this style of learning with extended periods of time via project/problem-based learning, genius hour, inquiry learning, etc., but what if all students at all levels could feel as engaged and as excited about their learning as I did about mine today? Today, I experienced being lost in the joy of learning that is too frequently denied many of our students.’

Here’s a selection of articles looking at how secondary schools can be run to meet the needs of today’s students. Sadly many/most New Zealand secondary schools don’t appear to have moved beyond the late 19th century factory model.

How does a new secondary school ‘become’? Claire Amos
‘So how do a new school’s leaders turn a vision into reality? Evidence on what it’s like to make a new school from scratch is hard to find. What is scarce is information that helps us understand what it takes to develop a school culture, systems, pedagogical and pastoral practices and the like from a vision and empty new buildings. Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) gave me access to learn a little of how this particular school found its feet.’

My HPSS Journey - reflecting on an awesome five and a half years - Claire Amos
Claire Amos
‘I believe HPSS is genuinely beginning to reimagine what secondary schooling needs to look like and I can tell you, having lived it for the last five and half year, it is the most exciting and most challenging job an educator can have. Experienced teachers feel like they have their training wheels permanently fitted, genuinely living out what it means to be an adaptive expert.'

Impact Projects - Prototyping an innovation project
‘So when I had the opportunity to offer an Impact Project I knew I wanted to see how I approach it as if developing an Innovation Curriculum. I began by thinking about what Innovation might look if it were to become a stand alone subject. I decided that I would be best offering a project that was less about subject expertise  and more about focusing on supporting students who came with their own ideas and were more in need of a project/innovation coach.’

Patea Area School receives UNESCO Award

Nicola Ngarewa presents the exciting developments of Patea Area School at New Plymouth TED Talk.
‘Ngarewa closed the show with her captivating plight to "disrupt the education norms".Born from along-line of educators, Ngarewa's talk detailed her time as a principal at Pātea AreaSchool, which
was a low-achieving school under statutory management when she first stepped into the role.She spoke about how through shifting mindsets and tackling education with an innovative approach, she was able to radically improve the school's academic results and increase both its roll and its attendance rate.'
Aotea Canoe Patea

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Transforming Secondary Education – the most difficult challenge of all.Thoughts from a past age – ‘Young Lives at Stake’ by Charity James
‘Charity James believed it was important to get secondary education right if all students were to leave able to take advantage of the exciting opportunities the future might offer.  The challenge remains. Secondary schools need a radical reappraisal to ameliorate the effects of obvious social and cultural disadvantages and also to develop the needs, talents and gifts of all students.’

Artistry versus conformity in teaching.
Today 'best practice' rules supreme as teachers follow suggestions to try to direct their students'
learning by the use of defining intentions, negotiating 'success criteria', or something called WALTS. Teachers are too busy providing 'feedback' and 'feed forward' all too often unconsciously removing student intuition and imagination in the process.'

Friday, July 27, 2018

Creativity's role in education / digital education / students choice / personalized education / and modern flexible classrooms ..

Education Readings

Time for creative thinking
By Allan Alach

Every week Bruce Hammonds and I collect articles to share with teachers to encourage a creative approach to teaching and learning. I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

10 Characteristics of an Innovative Classroom
‘If your goal is to engage and educate students to the greatest extent possible, you need to consider the benefits of an innovative classroom. An innovative classroom will possess several key traits, including:’

Flexible Classrooms: Research Is Scarce, But Promising
‘An ambitious study of 153 classrooms in the United Kingdom provides the best evidence that flexible spaces can boost academic performance.

Te Akau ki Papamoa School Cultural Inclusiveness
‘Te Akau ki Papamoa School is a mainstream contributing school in Tauranga. It has a thriving sustainable eLearning programme and has been recognised as NZ’s first Apple Distinguished Primary School. Culture, identity, and te reo Māori are reinforced everyday to 680 students through the innovative use of ICTs, expertise, and collaboration.
Principal Bruce Jepson shares his kura’s vision and journey in becoming one of New Zealand's leading mainstream schools in normalising the delivery of te reo Māori and cultural competencies and the positive impacts on student achievement, school, and community culture.’

Real world maths

7 Real-World Math Strategies
‘Math used to be all rote memorization and pencil-to-paper equations disconnected from the real world, but more and more teachers are realizing the importance of making practical, relevant connections in math. We asked our audience of educators: How do you use the real world to teach math? We’ve collected some of the most interesting answers, ways teachers are connecting math to the everyday lives of their students.’

Five Ways to Succeed with Personalized Learning
Thanks to Tony Gurr for bringing this to our attention.
‘Educational leaders want their staff to embrace and routinely practice personalized learning. But what’s the best way to make that happen?'

Pearson Education: Should this big global company be part of a billion-dollar NZ research fund?
No! No! No! No!
‘The central concern for both of these issues is to do with Pearson Education’s profit motive. In countries with public education systems, Pearson’s success has involved privatising components of the sector. A reporter for the New York Times once wrote that an “American child could go to a public school run by Pearson, studying from books produced by Pearson, while his or her progress is evaluated by Pearson standardized tests. The only public participant in the show would be the taxpayer.”’

Habitually barefoot kids have better motor skills
NZ kids should have a big advantage then!
‘A new study, published in the journal, Frontiers in Pediatrics, discovered that being barefoot as a child positively impacts motor movements. Children that always wear shoes (are shod) displayed worse jumping and balancing skills compared to those who are perpetually barefoot.’

Student Choice
‘During the last three weeks of Term 2, I was given the opportunity to spend an hour and a half each
week engaged in professional development around a topic of my choosing. In my application for this internal release time I stated that the focus of my work would be to: “Understand  the concept of Student choice and identify ways to practically apply it in an early years classroom.”

Consequences Of The New Digital Childhood
‘The 21st century childhood is different. A 2010 Kaiser Foundation Study found that the average
elementary school aged child spent 7.5 hours daily using entertainment technology, and 75 percent of these children had a television in their bedrooms. Of course, the widespread use of technology is only increasing, and new forms of digital entertainment are introduced regularly.
So how does the new digital childhood impact our kids? Let’s take a look.’

Are you teaching ‘zombie’ lessons?
‘How many times have you been gathered together with your fellow teachers, exhausted after five
hours of teaching, only to have someone excitedly reveal the next "big thing" that you all need to start doing the next day?
Now take another moment. How many of those things have you ever directly been told to stop doing? How many times has the person come back to say “Sorry, we got that wrong…Please stop”? I’m willing to bet that this list is a lot shorter than the first one.’

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Observations of an imaginary creative classroom
‘Imagine a learning environment dedicated to ensuring that the diverse creativity that lies within every learner is realised. One of my overriding thoughts has aways been what if we were to capture the innovative ideas that I have seen that are spread across school and, from them, developed a really creative school?’

Creativity – its place in education - Wayne Morris
‘The sheer volume of facts to be digested by the students of today leaves little time for a deeper interrogation of their moral worth. The result has been a generation of technicians rather than visionaries, each one taking a career
rather than an idea seriously. The answer must be reform in our educational methods so that students are encouraged to ask about “know-why” as well as “know-how”. Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.”’