Media Pathways and Journalism

An opportunity to visit Massey University’s Journalism room and hear from one of the country’s leading tertiary voices in this subject field, Cathy Strong, was a excellent opportunity to reflect on pathways and how they impact on our teaching. A summary of the content of the workshop is here.20161123_165641

I have been left pondering the disconnect that exists between Industry focused institutions and Secondary School. I’m making an assumption about the wider issue here, but certainly this visit has made me reflect on how important these connections are and why more events like these aren’t held. Good on Massey University! First, the fantastic Arts21 conversation, and now this great initiative to get the Wellington Media cluster on site and working with their lecturers.

NCEA in Context reflected on how University Entrance requirements hinder the opportunities for innovation and change in the delivery of the curriculum. I feel more visits like this can help to create dialogue in both directions that can better serve our diverse akonga. A natural flowing curriculum that bridges transitions between institutions could be a really positive shift.

Leadership and Diversity

An interesting reading by Marianne Coleman. She applies a definition of diversity as “categories of difference in individuals to which value judgement stereotypes are consciously and unconsciously applied, bringing advantage to dominant groups” (173). This has strong connections and implications for work with LGBT staff and students that I’ve previously discussed. The chaKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERApter asks two reflective questions at its conclusion:

  1. As a leader in education what do you consider to be the key values relating to leadership and diversity in education?
  2. In what ways might your institution ensure that diversity is fully considered in policies and practice?

The ideas in the chapter helped clarify some thinking around these provocative questions through examining leadership theory. In particular the idea of value-led leadership: “If valuing the diversity of individual students and staff is a key part of the ethos, this should feed through to every aspect of their leadership” (178). Important to this is examining bias so that an authentically inclusive environment can be created and sustained.

Another layer of the chapter I found persuasive was the notion that “the behaviours of school leaders have a greater impact on pupil performance than school structures or leadership models” (173). This speaks of the importance of interweaving diversity based values into the fabric of the school so that these values are naturally occurring. The natural presence of these values need to be balanced with the interrogation of assumptions to ensure that awareness remains high and our “value judgement stereotypes” are regulated (173).

Coleman, M. (2011) ‘Leadership and Diversity’ in Robertson, J & Timperley, H. (eds) Leadership and Learning. London: SAGE Publications. Pp. 172-185.

The Challenges and Opportunities in Creating Queer-Friendly School Cultures

Earlier this year, Angela King and I presented at ILGA Oceania on behalf of the PPTA Rainbow Taskforce. This was to share what we have learned about changing school cultures to enable queer young people to be safe and welcome, something I wrote about for the PPTA News. PPTA, as the union for high school teachers in New Zealand, has been providing materials to schools on affirming diversity of sexualities and gender diversities since 2001. Over the last five years the Taskforce has delivered whole-staff professional development at about sixty schools, ranging from large urban secondary schools to small rural area schools. The workshop will consider how successful this work has been, and what more is required to ensure that all schools in New Zealand are queer-friendly.

PPTA Rainbow Taskforce Feedback

Our presentation (accessible here) gave and overview of the work that the Taskforce does, but opened up the dialogue around what the needs are for our presentation to tackle. This padlet captures the responses that the group made to the question: what’s missing? What does the presentation lack? How can we bring it into current thinking? Their responses represent the enormous amount of work that is yet to happen on a large scale in this area.

Arts 21 – Relevant, Engaged, Contributing

Hosted by Radio NZ’s Bryan Crump, Arts21 at Te Papa considered the contributions that the arts make to our society and economy in the 21st century. It contained a keynote by Vice Chancellor Hon Steve Maharey, and a panel discussion with Professor Paul Spoonley (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Massey University College of Humanities and Social Sciences), Nicola Legat (founding publisher, Massey University Press), John Milford (Chief Executive, Wellington Chamber of Commerce) and Hannah August (writer, reviewer and commentator). The thoughts and reflections below are ideas that I gathered throughout the event – particularly from the excellent keynote.

  • We live in a globalised knowledge economy world where the arts have found it tough. STEM subjects receive natural bias and BAs are the butt of endless jokes. So the Arts have to explain itself. Explain it’s position in society. It’s reason for being. The arts are very good at doing this to the already converted, but wider conversation is necessary to re-frame education values.
  • “Knowledge earned through the Arts can set you free” – Steve Maharey. In our post truth era in politics (it’s wider than just politics) knowledge, attitude, competencies and skills from the arts – make us more likely to inquire and not just accept without thinking. Education in the arts essential to navigating a post truth world that is increasingly globalized. There is serious danger of moving towards a tribal world that does’t engage collectively (see the warning sounded in the recent film: Arrival). It is important to recognise the humanity in those of who you disagree with.
  • One of the key qualities that you get from an arts education is the ability to listen and to hear. This idea from Steve Maharey was expanded to thinking about learning to operate in environments with diverse views. There is a strong parallel here to the opinion economy that I’ve written previously about. Curiosity, communication, connections, appreciation of diverse views are other core qualities of an arts education. It prepares students to practice humility, tolerance and self criticism. Also to take on the challenge of how to take in thoughts of people that you disagree with and give their views respect.

If the world was a car, the Arts are the steering wheel – Callum Marra

The panel discussion followed with presenting wide ranging ideas. Some that stuck included:

  • Importance of exercising the responsibility of being citizens and not dismissing alternative views. A failure of engaging with questions and understanding that which we agree with and that which we disagree with is reflected by the issues faced in the USA and Britain. Something to note is the lack of wide media in NZ. There are very few places to go to gather diverse views.
  • We denigrate young people to easily. On the whole they are engaged, they are just communicating differently and navigating a very complex world. It is too easy to say they are apathetic, but the truth is far more complex.
  •  Steve Maharey spoke about what education needs to do: hang on to a curriculum that teaches students everything. Don’t succumb to the narrow vision of the curriculum that National Standards promotes and instead aspire for a broad range of knowledge. Languages being cut and dropped from the curriculum represents this narrowing and it’s something we have to fight against.
  • There is a balance between the specific skills for a job and the wider knowledge and life-skills required for success in 5 different industries and 17 different jobs (the new average apparently!).
  • Government had a lead a shift in discourse that sees value as economic value. We need to widen the discourse of value. Economic input doesn’t have to be economic output.


Guidance Professional Learning Day

The Guidance Professional Learning Day is now an annual event for the guidance team to take a PL approach to our positions. Deans PL is usually deferred to learning-on-the-job and internal support, so having this day to stop and examine our practices and be introduced to new ideas is so valuable.


Presentation from Marc Mulholland as our guidance counselor. Talking around helping student to slow down think less and rationalise through mindfulness. Mindfulness is:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Marc suggested the importance of taking time out and time to focus during our days. He took us through an exercise where we were instructed through a meditation process. It was a  time out and a chance to focus on the moment. He talked about the importance of taking time to stop and notice things in our environment that we don’t notice everyday.

We were introduced to six mindfulness exercises you can try today:

  1. Mindful breathing
  2. Mindful observation
  3. Mindful awareness
  4. Mindful listening
  5. Mindful immersion
  6. Mindful appreciation

Mindfulness is training the brain to have focused attention and increased emotional regulation. Data to support the implementation of a mindfulness programme is part of this TED talk:

Conversation then turned to how this might be incorporated into our current programmes. Initial feelings were positive and this is a discussion worth continuing.

Cross Sector Agency Perspective on Vulnerability 

Jo Brider – Lead Adviser: Social Sector Partnerships | Sector Enablement and Support

Jo spoke about the introduction of the Vulnerability Children’s Act 2014. The impact on schools and professionals and the actions we take to support these students. Vulnerable children are defined as:

Vulnerable children are children who are at significant risk of harm to their wellbeing now and into the future as a consequence of the environment in which they are being raised and, in some cases, due to their own complex needs. Environmental factors that influence child vulnerability include not having their basic emotional, physical, social, developmental and/or cultural needs met at home or in their wider community.

What do we do as professionals?

  • Sometimes something as simple as asking “are you OK?”
  • Trust your instincts – be professional
  • The need to share information, pass on disclosures
  • Sharing of information is absolutely vital

Further reading: The White Paper for Vulnerable Children and a FAQ.

Research on Student Wellbeing

Julia Davidson – Principal, Wellington Girls College | Woolf Fisher Scholarship 

With Julia’s scholarship she targeted visiting high performing schools and how they are dealing with mental health and wellbeing of their students. Her findings pose interesting challenges to the way in which we are supporting student wellbeing in these increasingly complex times. The first part of her session was reporting back on her findings. Most of the following examples come from Ontario:

  • Integrated and holistic approach to wellbeing – part of the vision, annual and strategic plans, comes from the top.
  • Curriculum integration – health compulsory until students are 15/16
  • Incredibly well resourced including this website: Well Ahead Canada
  • People involved are generous and collaborative, with additional staffing in place (the US system Julia encountered doesn’t have guidance counselor, broadly speaking they are under resourced careers advisors)
  • Ontario just started walk in mental health clinics

What action is possible for schools?

  • Learning environment: ‘climate of care’; responsive classroom model
  • Curriculum: health; wellness days (teachers not involved, student managed, external providers) and pop ups; reduction of credits 15-19; quality not quantity; NCEA policies around withdrawal and assessment clarified and emphasised; no exams Y9/10 or homework; flexi-block of time in timetable.
  • Pastoral care: form time (swap for more focused mentoring? Smaller groups?) Tuakana teina instead of peer support – 1:1 matching; wellness theme in assemblies with student voice.

Evaluation of Multi-Level Media

This post is a chance to collate a lot of complex thinking around how my multi media studies class ran this year. The purpose is to evaluate and reflect with a focus on next steps for developing the course.

I proposed a multi level media course last year, which manifested as two 31-33 classes with a fairly even mixture of Y12 and Y13 students in both. I developed an approach to the course by moving away from the Achievement Standard and looking at the core curriculum seeds from which assessment could grow. I was looking for the core concepts and learning objectives that had commonalities between the year groups. I developed a plan which saw the year split into three areas:

  • Production
  • Genre
  • Research

Each of these areas had specific curriculum links to focus on during these thirds of the year, and potential achievement standards that students could opt into.course-outline

According to Hipkins, Sheehan and Johnston “standards are not…designed to be treated as a basis for time-bounded, sequential teaching units” (46, 2016). They suggest that courses structured by chunks of Achievement Standards typically contain problems of fragmentation. Their suggestion is to compile a comprehensive compilation of what is worth learning for each curriculum area and design courses from that.

The delivery of this course was a big shift as well. My planning was around identifying the key concepts or key learning that needed to take place for success in each standard to meet – stripping the multiple week units I had taught in the past right back to their core. I split these learning topics over the course of weeks, attempting to create one idea or topic per lesson. Given the design of this course has student agency at its heart, I never made teacher time compulsory. Learning outlines were shared and students could opt in to taking part in the tutorial-type structure which left me working with a small group in a teacher directed way. To support this structure resources were developed for each learning area to guide students through in a self directed way. To develop this I need to:

  • Create student opportunities to run tutorials with peers
  • Refine the approach to the breakdown of the course so that tutorial time is effective
  • Develop the self directed resources to further emphasise learning, not assessment.

To support this, students were put into critical quartets (groups of four sometimes five multi-level with a range of individual needs). Each week we would have 10 minutes for each group to discuss three or four reflective questions:

  1. Share one piece of significant learning for you in the past week.
  2. Check assessment plan together. Outline what you are doing for each piece of assessment for the remainder of the year.
  3. How can your learning be supported for the rest of the year?

The purpose of such a time was to focus on the principles of the class which I regularly articulated:

  • Ako – grounded in the principle of reciprocity
  • Collaboration – learning together
  • Reflection – engaging in continuous learning
  • Whanaungatanga – positive relationships
  • Me Whakamatau – work had to achieve together

Hand ins for assessment were not as naturally occurring as I would like, but an improvement from my approach in 2015. I had a go at zero deadlines last year with mixed success. While I feel that achieved some deep personal learning for a number of students, I didn’t really have the data to be able to continue with that approach. Students that we would not typically define as ‘high achieving’ struggled and administration of this approach proved challenging.

This year I set up four deadlines across the year. For each one a student needed to submit one assessment. This effectively reduced the amount of credits in the course (although students were welcome to submit additional assessments, although only seven students across the two classes took up the option). The following statistics capture the picture at the time of writing:

  • Prior to external assessment (where additional credits could be gained) the average number of credits per student were
    • 10.4 credits – line one
    • 10.1 credits – line two
  • When outliers are removed (i.e. international students not working towards NCEA, students that did not engage due to horrific absences) the averages were:
    • 10.7 credits – line one
    • 11.4 credits – line two
  • When broken down between Y12 and Y13 the difference is clear. Reflecting the difference between the uptake in the external and :
    • Y12 – 10.9 credits
    • Y13 – 13.2 credits

Overall, this credit attainment is lower overall than previous years. When there was a structured course design Y12 contained 17 internal credits and Y13 contained 16 internal credits. More student choice has led to less overall credits. More analysis needs to take place of the level of achievement gained as my hypothesis is that less coverage has led to deeper content – and therefore an increase in the number of Merits and Excellences.

However, more pressing is the consideration of whether this course design has led to deeper learning in terms of the vision of the school and the front half of the curriculum. In terms of data to measure this, firstly, I have taken surveys of the students throughout the year to self reflect on the development of their understanding and application of the key competencies. This data can be built on when gathered next year after implementing those key next steps.

Furthermore, student voice has been gathered which capture some of the perspectives of the class. These quotes firstly establish the positives of this approach:

Having a choice with what internals to do and when to do them by was a very important learning step for me. I feel it got me prepared for the mindset and the self motivation skills I will need next year at university. In saying that, it was fairly difficult to get into the habit of this especially since it was the first year where we really got a choice on what we do.

There shouldn’t be any boundaries with learning and I think that everyone should be able to study together, it lets people connect and share more ideas with each other no matter the age or year difference.

It worked good because being self directed meant I set more goals

I think this has worked for me in a way where I got to get into discussions with peers that I otherwise wouldn’t talk to, especially with the discussion opportunities. The classroom being an overall friendly environment that allows growth has helped me a lot with my learning and understanding.

And these perspectives offer some insight into the challenges going forward:

I thought that this was good for my learning becaue it meant I could do things I enjoyed and was interested in but I think I would have benefitted from some more structured lessons around how to do certain things.

I didn’t particularly enjoy having a mixed class were everyone was doing different stuff. I’m not very good at working in an environment that is not teacher directed. I did however enjoy when we did class discussions.

At first I was lost and didn’t know what I was meant to do / what I was doing. Even when I was giving help I never really understood what I was still supposed to do.

My interest here is in the difference between what I thought I was doing and how what I was doing was seen by the students. There is plenty of feedback here to keep developing my approach. I believe the core data here speaks to a continuation of the principles of the class, but refinement of the method.

The Teaching and Tracking of Key Competencies

Over the course of the year I took the approach of measuring key competencies and collecting data on the development of key competencies. This was a consequence of my inquiry into how much my teaching was focused on assessment rather than learning. The importance is captured by this idea straight from the NZ Curriculum:

Key competencies matter because they support dispositions that will enable young people to learn well now, and to go on learning throughout their lives.

The approach I took was to include more explicit teaching of key competencies in my teaching and to have students complete three self-assessment surveys that asked them to rate themselves (a general question – problematic in retrospect, but still gives usable data), share an example of where a key competency was applied, and finally set a goal for the next term around the development of that key competency. The data has allowed me to reflect on this area of my teaching and develop an action plan for taking this area further.


The data here shows an increase across the year, but a curious drop off in term three and four. This is reflected in the other key competencies, and I would suggest both the increase in sample size (in term two the motivated students were more likely to complete the survey) and the nature of the school year, whereby by term three many realise they have achieved their goals/the necessary credits and therefore coast to the end of the year. I found this a problematic part of such a student centred course, as self motivation was key to success – but I don’t feel like I explicitly addressed this enough.

The shift in the written responses provided some interesting insight. Some of the responses in term one represented some quite basic understanding of the idea of thinking as a key competency:

Thinking skills like guessing what people are saying? Yeah i use it all the time.

I used thinking skills when I was developing the concept: I wanted the concept to be entertaining to the audience and spark a conversation about genders, this meant that I needed thinking skills to make these work together.

It took me a while to think and come up with an idea and then develop it.

But later in the year it was clear this understanding had developed as more insightful and reflective responses suggested a deeper understanding of this key competency:

I was able to look at topics and go beyond what was there to reach a higher level of thinking.

I particularly remember the time while talking about Modern Family and Mr Cargill went and flipped perspectives on the show. This was a light bulb moment on how there are always two sides to each perspective and something to discuss in between too.

Throughout term 3 and 4 I have tried to extend my thinking to the wider world and incorporate these ideas into my assessments and general thinking when I approach something. Not just thinking about passing or in the moment but the further thinking and effects.

Critical thinking was a focus of term three whereby I would often assume the role of devil’s advocate or mediate a debate with the class on a contentious topic or issue.

Using Language, Symbols and Texts

This was generally a key competency that the students struggled to understand. Over the course of the year, this increased in the sense that a connection was made between this competency and expressing knowledge and understanding. This led to one reflective response that I found interesting:

Using the correct terms and skills when it comes to external and internal assessments. I understand and know the skills I’m just not distributing it in the right places

This captures the concept of communication as multi-faceted. This student is reflecting on the fact that they understand the ideas that they wish to communicate but that the representation of their ideas did not meet their level of understanding.

To develop this area further I think I need to take more explicit steps around teaching this area for students to be able to recognise the learning they have developed in this area. They have all learnt about visual storytelling, as well as communication in media form (as I would estimate 90% of them have submitted an assessment using a blog or weebly etc.) They have all developed writing skills as well with the concentration of conveying higher order thinking and learning new terminology a regular focus. But all this needs to be explicitly conveyed to the students.

Managing Self

This represents the same trend of improvement, but no significant shifts to speak of. The agentic style of the course has offered the chance for students to reflect on how they approach this aspect of their personal development:

This term I learnt from my mistakes where I started my assessments earlier

I set mini deadlines for my film production that I could make.

My self management was extremely poor in term one, hardly doing any work at home and talking off topic in class.

This gave them the opportunity to identify areas of growth. These included:

I am hoping to keep a consistent and balanced workload throughout the term for the future assessments so that I can do my best work.

I should probably get feedback from the teacher if i’m unsure about something because he has a different view on things.

I hope to possess more self motivation to complete tasks earlier in order to be highly successful.

However, the question that remains for me, is while I am giving them the opportunity to self-manage, how do I ensure as a teacher that they are maximising their learning from this opportunity? I’m absolutely sure I haven’t got the balance between freedom to delve and checkpoints to conform right and I know that this balance needs to be differentiated from student to student.

Relating to Others

This competency shows a visible shift. The main focus for this year was about capitalising on the multi-level aspect of the class using the principles of ako, collaboration, reflection, whanaungatanga, and me whakamatau.  This manifested in weekly critical quartet times where the students were organised into groups to reflect on prior learning and use each others experience to develop deeper understanding and outcomes. During this time I was able to observe the groups and their dialogue and support them in developing skills around how to navigate a deeper discussion through asking questions and promoting opportunities to contribute. This was reflected in the comments:

I related to others I don’t really talk to when we had our critical quartet sessions.

I applied these skills in our critical quartets where we helped each other develop some ideas and give feedback.

In my creative quarters I was put with people I wouldn’t normally communicate with and I talked to them about my script and my opinions and problems I have/will encounter during the production of it.

There were further efforts to create a collective environment where the priciples of ako were visible, but I don’t know that I could claim that I’ve truly capitalised on the potential of this. I am considering how to further integrate the year groups so that there are more opportunities to develop skills for this competency. From quartets to trios? Or learning peers? Finding more connections between the learning areas or more cross content? More student voice operating in a teaching capacity? These thoughts need further exploration.

Participating and Contributing

I tend to frame active involvement in the community as participating in the online global community. For this media studies course this usually meant creating work that contributed to the online knowledge economy or creative products that could achieve a wide audience. Like using language, symbols and texts I don’t believe I explicitly taught this skills well enough for this feedback to provide much insight. Some interesting comments did emerge:

Unfortunately my contributions community wise have been low with my film not being up to par, not attending 48hrs and in my opinion my learning and work as a whole have not come been up to anything notable which for me being a person with high hopes in this industry is a little bit of a bummer.

Having to actually avoid saying too much in class, because it’s more so for the people who don’t understand it. By myself answering so much, it doesn’t become as beneficial to those who don’t understand it.

I have really tired to voice more of my opinions and contribute

These responses (and many others in a similar style) show that clearly the explicit teaching was missing, but also that there are interesting student assumptions in play. It is worth considering how the students value knowledge and contribution of knowledge – and then how to shift this to something that is more valuable to them as lifelong learners.

Overall, collecting this data has been highly valuable, but next year some changes I need to investigate to develop my teaching in this area include:

  • Integrate more explicit teaching of the competencies into my class design
  • Use the data proactively throughout the year to address individual learning needs
  • Integrate the key competency self-review process with the critical quartets (or whatever system that might look like next year)
  • Review the gathering of quantitative data on key competencies – at the very least I need to rephrase my questioning.
  • Inquiry into self motivation – by following through on 2016’s goal.