Media Studies – Class EduCamp

I often preach that the students in my class have the experiences, knowledge and understanding to teach me as much – if not more – than I am capable of teaching them. This year I tried a new way of walking the talk by taking the time to run an in-class EduCamp. We took the time as a class to understand the EduCamp, un-conference style of learning and each prepared a slide for the smackdown:

To listen to the students talk about their area of interest and their questions about the world was fascinating. It was authentically student centred and it revealed more about some individuals than any google form could.

The class responded to the topics and contributed postits to the board with things they wanted the opportunity to explore further. We made a timetable based on these areas of interest and voted with our feet – at one point all migrating into the one room for a tutorial on how planes fly.

The sessions contained fascinating conversation about road ranging topics including how schools can best support mental health issues, the nature of leadership, photography and drones, film and empathy, doing exchanges to other countries, and using the science of microwaves to transfer data from Wellington to Auckland. The opportunity saw several students have a chance to facilitate, jump on the whiteboard, share their knowledge and have their understanding and experience validated.

This to me speaks volumes about not only the value of student voice, but also the EduCamp structure as a means of creating space for it. That’s my highest possible endorsement on the eve of #EduCampWelly17.

What Great Teachers Do Differently – Part II

41204q11wal-_sx313_bo1204203200_In a previous post on Todd Whitaker‘s excellent read What Great Teacher Do Differently I captured his first 7 of 14 points about what effective teachers do. The following post details the next seven along with a few thoughts that those chapters provoked.

8. Don’t Need to Repair – Always Do Repair

Two big aspects of this chapter that I value and will takeaway:

  • Effective teachers don’t use sarcasm, make cutting remarks, issue smart retorts, or engage in banter that could be harmful. Be I do – and probably quite often. It’s something I haven’t been challenged enough on. The potential harm to relationships and learning is too great to continue with this risky behaviour.
  • A scenario Todd describes in some detail is about building a repairing conversation with a student who has fallen out with another teacher. He suggests preparing them for an apology before any further action can be taken by using the analogy of the highway patrol man giving someone a ticket. How can the driver best get out of that situation: be nice. In practice this means helping the student to understand what their best next steps and giving them the language to support them to do this.

9. Ability to Ignore

Sometimes acting on an observation only serves to escalate something into a situation that requires handling. Sometimes not acting on an observation loses a teachable moment. Finding a balance and fine-tuning professional judgement is the key here.

10. Random or Plandom?

In an effective teachers classroom, design will play into maximising every potential learning moment. This includes the planning of the programme, but also the design of the space and who collaborates with who. Doing things by design, but not actually looking like there is a design is the goal.

11. Base Every Decision on the Best People

This tenet challenges the idea of instigating a rule or regulation because one person has done the wrong thing. The idea relates to the staff room as well and the way that staff are treated. I can think of examples where signs have been put up, or conditions put in place that have led me to question my own actions, despite how I was not contributing to the issue in the first place. This feels to me like a seed that could grow into professional capital is explored further.

12. In Every Situation, Ask Who is Most Comfortable and Who is Least Comfortable

This chapter contained a confronting idea for me that has got me thinking about the way feedback is gained and acted upon. The argument here suggests that approval of a system by a majority isn’t a measure of a success – it is who is comfortable or uncomfortable with it. Looping back to the previous chapter, it is what the best people think that matters most. For example, if 5% of the effective people are uncomfortable with a new idea, then that needs to be addressed. If 25% of the ineffective people, then this isn’t so much of a problem. If people feel uncomfortable, they will change their behaviour, for better or for worse. I’ve extrapolated a bit there, but the idea is quite a challenge to my assumptions.

13. What About These Darn Standardised Tests

The central debate in this chapter doesn’t interest me much, although Todd makes some excellent points around navigating it. What I am interested in was the overarching point of the chapter which is: “effective teachers don’t let hot-button issues shift their focus from what really matters” (107). As mentioned previously in these posts, it’s the students that are at the centre, and the goal is to prepare them for life, not for the next test.

14. Making it Cool to Care

“Students care about great teachers because they know great teachers care about them” (122).

What Great Teachers Do Differently – Part I

The difference between more effective teachers and their less effective colleagues is not what they know. It is what they do (xiii)

41204q11wal-_sx313_bo1204203200_What Great Teacher Do Differently was a super summer read from Todd Whitaker. This blogpost is just a capture of his first 7 main points (the books is subtitled ‘the 14 this that matter most’) and a few thoughts that those chapters provoked.

1.It’s People Not Programmes

Improving teachers or getting better teachers are the best ways to improve a school. People make the biggest difference. But people are all different, and what is effective to one person isn’t going to be effective to someone else. I am a remarkably different teacher to the colleagues that I work most closely with. To pick up a programme or a plan of theirs and take it into my classroom is a mistake. People make the difference: not just myself as a practitioner, but the students in every class are different. No programme can be the solution; people have to be at the centre.

2. Power of Expectations

The start of the year is the chance to set the tone and to frame positive expectations of the behaviour of the students. The book doesn’t mention it but I kept thinking of the ‘don’t smile until Easter’ mantra that some of my colleagues still mention (and possibly even employ). I couldn’t think of a worse way to create expectations than not smiling. That kind of approach leads to setting rules (being responsive to behaviour) rather than expectations framed as positive and welcoming statements.

3. Prevention Versus Revenge

My takeaway from this chapter was the reframing of the toolkit of behaviour management strategies. The point Todd made here was that every teacher has a list of options they may take when a situation arises (eye-contact, send to the Dean, praise another student for the correct behaviour etc.). However, the point is which of the list of strategies always work? Answer: none of them. So what makes an effective teacher is being able to select the right strategy at the right time. Also: never use sarcasm and never yell.

4. High Expectations – for Whom?

Todd points out that high expectations is not a variable between ineffective and effective teachers: all teachers have high expectations for students. However, great teachers have high expectations for themselves. “If the students are not focused, great teachers ask what they themselves can do differently” (34). Sometimes I find myself articulating this idea through asking whose actions are you ultimately responsible for, so therefore whose actions can you actually change?

5. Who is the Variable?

The empowering approach of accepting that you yourself is the one in control can raise teacher efficacy which will trickle down to the students. A focus on self, on responsibility, on how we respond and on what – at the end of the day – we can control will lead to success. I would challenge the binary that Todd suggest here however. I do feel there need to be a balance managed between reflecting on our own actions as teachers and attributing success of lack of successto the actions of students. We need to be cautious about attribution or causation when thinking about pedagogy.

6. Ten Days our of Ten

The challenge for all teachers is not to be positive and upbeat some of the time – it’s to create a positive atmosphere of mutual respect all of the time. Todd explains a number of aspects to this, from arguing that you don’t have to like all your students – you just have to act as if you like them, to the ins and outs of praise: effective praise must be authentic, specific, immediate, clean and private. And finally, you can never have too much nice.

7. The Teacher is the Filter

As teachers, we are responsible for the tone of the class. When we sneeze, the class catches a cold. Our focus becomes the students’ focus. Meetings are an opportunity to make “the teachers more excited about teaching tomorrow than they were today” and lessons a chance to make the “students to be more excited about learning tomorrow than they are today” (57). Filter out the negatives that don’t matter: they don’t do good to anyone. Instead share a positive attitude and watch that spirit become infectious.

CTU Out@Work Conference

ctu-out-at-work-conference

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Mindset Next Steps

The previous mindset day I spent at Carol Dweck and Susan Mackie is captured in this previous post; however, the purpose of this post is to emphasis the follow up and next steps arising from this day.

Firstly, presenting this material in Dean’s Assembly. The science of character video that preempted the day provides a fantastic core for this. It offers an accessible way into the argument that we can change and grow, asking “who do you want to be?”

This can work alongside an introduction to the growth mindset and a general discussion about failure. The Michael Jordan clip provices a way in for this:

The next area of follow up focus is my language in the classroom. This includes:

  • Using “what are you struggling with?” as a approach to conversation rather than “how are you going?” or equivalent. I wonder whether this is quite a negative framework to apply – however, in a space where failure is de-stigmatised this type of approach is not focused on negativity, it is focused on growth.
  • Which leads to the familiar emphasis of Carol Dweck on praising the process. I’ve written on this before in regards to active learning, where there is a challenge around focusing on the process instead of the content or the outcome.
  • And another familiar Dweck emphasis: using “yet”. By using “yet” or “not yet” in feedback, the focus is on growth and process. Not achieved is not a finale, but not achieved yet shifts the focus to something that is ongoing, a process by which the students can grow and develop from. This supports embedding the idea with the student that they can learn and they can improve.

And finally, I need to make errors. Modelling the error correction process is an important part of shifting to a growth culture. Letting students see this happen and being open to conversations around it help to emphasis a growth environment.

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