Personalised Learning – The Continuum of Choice

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In reading this article on personalised learning trends, this graphic stood out. Originally introduced by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey, it presents the opportunity to reflect on where we are at on this continuum of choice. It got me thinking about my classroom design, and how we can evaluate not just individual lessons/classes, but also different parts of our practice:

  • Drama class: students are participants and occasionally designers
  • Media classes: students are co-designers at first, but upgrade to designers once the expectations are set up
  • Active Learning: they have the opportunity to be advocates and entrepreneurs
  • Deaning: provides students the opportunity to be an advocate, but historically would say I’ve treated the students as participants.
  • Leading Professional Learning: my colleagues are participants.

This graphic offers a really accessible visualisation of the role of the teacher in learning, and a way of creating meaningful goals and next steps. For instance, I think I can do a better job at leading professional leading whereby my colleagues become co-designers in my focus group. By giving the teachers a greater role in the group they will need to examine their purpose for learning more which will make the sessions more valuable. They can learn from experiencing this approach and potentially take it into their classrooms.

I would add that what I plan to do with this illustration is share it not just with colleagues, but also with students. It will help to communicate what I want from them and their learning and part of the ‘why‘ of what we are doing in the class. I feel transparency around the intentions of student-centred learning is essential to making it successful.

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Sage on the Screen – Education and Media Technology

sage-screen_webThis interested book written by Bill Ferster organises itself through chronological developments in technology. Ferster captures each development as a history of progress and relates it to the growth of modern pedagogy. The contents pages looks like this:

  1. Traditional Media
  2. Interactive Media
  3. Hypermedia
  4. Cloud Media
  5. Immersive Media
  6. Making Sense of Media for Learning

The temptation here is to see such a structure as a rubric that we are moving through. One could argue that traditional media for instance could be prestructural on the SOLO Taxonomy, and immersive media is the extended abstract. This notion led me to reflect on my own practice, which I would argue fits in the cloud media space – streaming media, MOOC’s, flipping, are all embedded in some way into what I do. From the rubric perspective, this book gave me an insight into what education is moving towards.

The historical approach to this book led to some interesting evaluative comments about the introduction of media technology into education. In the formative years, as cinema, radio and television all emerged, application of these mediums into education settings appears to be ineffective coming from the perspective of transformational pedagogy. The case study put forward here of American Samoa where congressional funding was used in the early 1960s to create instructional televised lessons which were used for up to 30% of the learning time. “The top down, autocratic nature of the American Samoa experiments is typical of how many educational technology projects are implemented” (36). Professional capital was absent from this approach, and therefore the technology – at best – only substituted the teacher’s practice rather than enhanced the learning.

the_samr_model

The book then documented the attempts of technology to create learning experiences that were not passive, or linear in their implementation (42). Learner agency developed with the introduction of more interactive media, but needed to move in alignment with developments in pedagogy. Where traditional media, like films, offered teachers a break, the shift to interactive forms of media required a different set of teaching skills (70). The disconnect between the technology and the implementation had begun – something which is visible now in a BYOD environment where students might still be experiencing no fundamental change in the instruction because pedagogy has not moved alongside the technology. (Represented by the first level of the SAMR model).

When exploring hypermedia, Ferster argued that “using multiple (but appropriate) forms of media together can often be more effective than any single media form alone” (88). This was supported by Richard Mayer’s research into the principles of multiple-channel learning:

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This research presents  a compelling argument for blended learning, but what technology to blend? The media technology that could potentially feature in classrooms has never been more diverse. This is evident in the immersive media chapter, where virtual reality and augmented reality are explored. The challenge in laid down in the final sentence: “if instructors can come up with compelling uses for the new capabilities these tools afford, immersive media may indeed join the pantheon of instructional media forms” (158).

My major takeaway is that the human element is fixed element in any pedagogy. Many media products “assume that all students come to instruction with the same amount of preexisting knowledge and learn at the same pace;” however, a good teacher can optimise this tool and create learning opportunities for the right students, at the right time and the right place (171). The human element is the most important factor in learning, and no modern media or medium can replace it… yet.


Ferster, Bill. Sage on the Screen: Education, Media, and How We Learn. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, Maryland. 2016.

Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School

fullen20drawingMichael Fullan delivered a memorable keynote at uLearn16, discussing the new pedagogies for deep learning. He was persuasive in claiming the role of the middle in education transformation is most important. He proposed that the role of leadership was to:

  • Respect and reject the status quo
  • Be an expert and an apprentice at the same time
  • Experiment and commit

During this presentation he talked about professional capital. I had little prior understanding to hang this on, but having now spent some delightful time in Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves’ book Professional Capital things are a lot clearer.

51d5demgijl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Professional capital – the systematic development and integration of three kinds of capital – human, social, and decisional – into the teaching profession (xv)

In exploring these three areas – human, social and decisional capital – the overwhelming trend I read was the need for autonomy and trust in order to build knowledge, understanding and capability. The five C’s of professional capital that enable the teaching force to become highly effective are a good start:

  1. Capability (or expertise)
  2. Committment
  3. Career
  4. Culture
  5. Contexts/Conditions of teaching

There was a step that Fullan and Hargreaves addressed first which was around attracting the right people to the teaching profession. They unpacked systematic differences between countries and looked at reasons for capable teachers leaving the profession after only a few years.

If you want a high performing school system, a competitive economy, and a cohesive society… we need the best, most highly qualified teachers who have a deep and broad repertoire of knowledge and skill in the schools that don’t have the luxury of screening out children (79).

Effectively, this acts as a contradiction to the current direction of the NZ government. When it came time to talk about the culture of schools, there were some fascinating insights:

The arbitrariness of culture is a curse and a blessing. As soon as you grasp that, you realise that it’s just when things are completely fixed that they are actually most open to change. (103)

This non-committal way of defining culture makes a lot of sense in practice. Efforts to create a culture, often bring voice to the opposition, but naturally developing culture shifts are – for better or for worse – are often achieved without significant interference. Understanding the different types of work cultures in educational setting helps to flesh this out. They presented the two main categories of professional cultures and four subgroups:

#1: Individualism

Individualism is created by architecture (isolated classrooms), evaluation and self-preservation (associating help with evaluation and “collaboration with supervision and control” [108]), guilt and perfectionism (high expectations in environments with poorly defined limits), pressure and time (closing the door to collaboration in order to successfully meet obligations).

In the best professional learning communities, we will see, strong collaboration and distinctive individuality go together in vibrant communities of innovation and growth (111).

Individualism is not ideal for a culture of learning. Individualism “undercuts the possibilities of developing and circulating professional capital” (106). But individuals are essential to any workplace ecology.

#2: Collaborative Cultures

“Collaborative cultures not only can be informal but they also must always be informal” because for collaboration to occur in an authentic way it must be embedded and not forced. This powerful idea challenged my understanding of leading collaborative change. To unpack it, the authors describe and unpack four different types of collaboration:

  • balkanisation (clusters of collaboration, usually departmentalised; often there develops conflicts between clusters and poor continuity across departments)
  • contrived collegiality (danger of forcing cooperation, needs to be a patient development journey, authentic collaboration is doubtful when based on external agendas)
  • Professional learning communities (space for inquiry and learning together; challenges emerge and self-direction evident through ownership of the problems and the solutions)
  • Clusters, networks, and federations (school to school networks; systemic connection opportunities, co-operation – friendly rivalry, support)

Within effective collaboration there is a clear understanding of collective responsibility. “Collective responsibility is not just a commitment; it is the exercise of capabilities on a deep and wide scale. It encompasses positive competition: challenging the limits of what is humanly and professionally possible” (142)

Thoughts I am left with:

  • Collaborative cultures are based on trust and relationships and are not forced or contrived. Informal work is the basis of a collective culture. However, this needs to be balanced with arrangements that allow the emergence of this kind of social capital that are deliberate and structured.
  • A balance is needed as well between the pushing of new ideas and change and pulling: “by the excitement of the process, the inspirational feeling of the engagement, the connection to people’s passions and purposes” (130).
  • Change leadership is a series of balances: “confident and humble, resolute and empathetic, collaborative and competitive” (136).
  • The fundamental goal “is to do things that bridge the chasm, reach for partnership, and replace polarization with integration – in ways that make every effort to respect each other’s positions without capitulating to them” (154).
  • I am reminded of the opinion economy – a concept introduced to me by David Buckingham. Finding the space, the balance, the commonalities, between two opposing ideas or concepts is important to navigating forward effectively. This connects to the principles of change which require professional capital.

We can treat teaching as just a short-term investment of business capital, and finance the present by mortgaging our children’s future. Or we can make teaching a sustainable investment for professional capital, and give birth to a world of many happy returns to come (186).


Fullan, M. & Hargreaves, A. (2012) Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. New York: Teachers College Press.

CTU Out@Work Conference

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The CTU Out@Work Conference was an opportunity to share the work of the PPTA Rainbow Taskforce as well as develop dialogue and network with other unions to hear about their work around sexuality and gender.

The keynote on the second day was delivered by Jack Byrne, a trans* activist. He made a range of points across his story filled presentation. Some of his key points were summarised by his tips. Firstly, the tips others have taught him:

  • Know your own struggle first
  • Look for groups that share a commitment to human rights
  • Listen to local community priorities and then identify what you can offer in support
  • How does your work empower those you are supporting?
  • Bring others with you
  • Be willing and eager to learn from emerging movements

Things to avoid:

  • Assume that activists in another country want or need your support
  • Making promises
  • Assume the needs and wants of another country

Things we can do from NZ:

  • Stand up from international human rights standards on Sexual Orientation Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGISC).
  • Sign on to NGO petitions and encourage general human rights groups to do this too e.g. the independent expert on SOGI is still under threat
  • Use UPR, CEDAW ILO and other reports to highlight SOGISC issues
  • To be honest about what we do well and share what we have learnt
  • Know where we lag behind and learn from others
  • Provide opportunities for activists and from other regions to share their knowledge and experiences

Some key points that have stayed with me – and that may have challenged the room -included the idea of being stuck in our own bubble. I think this was a striking point to make in a Union room. Like Karen Meluish’s uLearn keynote, the idea of the echo chamber does not helping us to move forward. Secondary, he made a strong argument for the need to link community research and community research together. Some of this research he showed us, and exploring these links is a big next step for me.

Another session titled ‘Pride, Politics and Power –lessons and legacy‘ involved a panel of speakers talking about their experiences in activism. Huia Welton spoke beautifully about the impact of language and how we can harness the power of words as a community. Her example was the Marriage Equality journey. The tenor of that campaign it was framed as about human rights and equal rights. Then there was a shift in language from rights to love. The argument put forward was everyone is created equal and everyone should be able to marry the person they love. Of course the campaign was more complex that this, but the shift in language made a big difference. It is harder to argue against love, than it is to argue against rights.

This teaches us about emotion, and teaches us about the importance of aspiration. In campaigns like this we articulate how life can be better and we speak to the values of society. We are much more able to take people on a journey of change by appealing to these values.

Finally, Kirsty and I delivered a workshop on the work of the PPTA Rainbow Taskforce titled ‘Changing Workplace Cultures’. We argued the work we do in schools is vital for a future focused attitude towards the next generation of workplaces. Some of the takeaways included:

  • Language in the presentation needs to be updated: sex characteristics is a better was of talking about intersex identities.
  • When discussing the need for a collected movement, gender expression is a commonality across the LGBTIQ+ spectrum and can help to bring people together.
  • The PPTA is leading the way in terms of queer activism in workplaces. Our workshops and presence was a strong support to others who are making headway in their own unions and workplaces.
  • The connection made with NZEI was important as the combined force of our unions can make a real difference to the shape of NZ schools. For NZEI to not have formal rainbow representation is an outrage, but this is slowly changing as leaders in this area are emerging.
  • Their remains a tension between the work of a union and the greater good of queer activism.

In conclusion, the conference offered an opportunity to navigate my discomfort with the union movement, by realising the importance of the voices we have the opportunities that the collective has created.

 

 

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.

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.

uLearn16 – Keynote #4 – Karen Spencer

‘Beyond the echo chamber: The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession’

Karen will take you on a provocative journey to explore the rapid rise in innovative professional learning. From ‘done to’ staff meetings to collaborative, agile investigations into what’s happening for our learners, the way educators improve and grow has evolved rapidly in recent years. She’ll explore new insights into professional learning, best ways to embrace change, and invite you to think about how we can transform what we do for our learner.

In many ways this was a perfect closing to uLearn16: synthesising the key themes of the conference and drawing together some superb advice for working in praxis. Karen acknowledged poetically the essence of teaching, affirming that getting better at what we do is part of our DNA and that methods matter. She also affirmed that the greatest difference to student achievement is teachers. Teachers’ beliefs are fundamentally important.

The approach that will make the greatest difference to students is self-belief in teachers to collaborate and to be effective

If we are to surround ourselves with only voices that agree with us then we can end up operating in a filter. It’s vital we keep our views being challenged and engage with dialogue with alternative viewpoints. There is no one idea, so we must hold our ideas lightly.

The key note stuck to a central theme of embarking on change. This was fitting, as come the end of the conference with so many ideas boiling at the surface, the how was never more important. The three considerations before embarking on change:

  • Find the urgency
  • See the story behind the data
  • Embrace discomfort

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1. Find the Urgency

With so many initiatives and ideas surrounding us, a continual yearn for solutions and constant educational designing; it is hard to have deep meaningful change. So we need to focus on the most urgent area that students need most. Find the urgency. giphy

Go slowly into innovation and take the time to ensure it is deep and meaningful, not a band aid solution. Focus needs to be spent on the things that are urgent. There’s no such thing as small change. The answers are not at the next exit – because it is a fluid process. Look for the alignment between the vision and what is happening for the students.

Pause before you leap into the next innovation…

how-to-hire-a-cfd-consultant-maslow-71405b732. See the Story Behind the Data

Data is one thing, but the story is as important. Listen to your learners. Make it be OK for it to be safe for them to offer us their feedback. Their voice is so important, but it has to be genuine. They have to have the space for their voice to be heard authentically.

3. Embrace Discomfort

Being a modern educator means having our biases being gently exposed. You need the diverse views in order to realise where you are making assumptions. We all see things differently and being open to alternative points of views is fundamental to success across the board in education. Our challenge sometime sis finding ways to hear diverse perspectives.

Naturally there is pressure to conform (last clap) and agree with colleagues. Devil’s advocating and seeking diverse views can help – read a blog you don’t agree with. John Cusack rule:

I have one rule: keep the fear off the set

Five Actions

  1. Compare the school’s vision and curricula
  2. Explore the story behind the data
  3. Walk around all the information
  4. Resist ‘solutionitis’
  5. Agree on the strong signals before you test and trial

The learning we do together is not the extra thing we do on the plate, it is the plate. Education doesn’t change the world. Education changes people and people change the world.