What a privilege

I had my final year 9 class yesterday.

This year, I have actively tried to take a more ‘interventionist’ approach and purposefully used formative assessment more often, engaged students in more peer-peer teaching, openly discussed approaches to learning such as mindset, garnered feedback through Google Docs survey tool and used focus-intense resources (even using mime to illustrate what a radian is with Beethoven’s 5th as background) to ‘hook’ students in and reinforce the idea that knowledge had to be made by them (and guided by me) amongst others…

Throughout the course of the year I talked about the importance of risk-taking, of accepting the difficulty and the promise of challenge, of continually reflecting on errors in order to use them to support further learning and the importance of extending one’s reach.

I was therefore very moved, and extremely humbled, to have the following responses from these students. One drew me a Venn diagram showing three intersecting sets – one labelled “Pleasure”, one “Learning” and one “Opportunities”. The part of the diagram that represented the intersection of all three sets was labelled “Our Class”. I responded with my own Venn diagram. My sets were called “Humour”, “Intelligent about their learning” and “Willingness to Explore” and again labelled the intersection of all three as “Our Class”.

One student gave me a card. I cannot describe the thrill I received from reading that she believed I had taught her that getting 100% is not the goal for learning; that there are more important things. Even better was the statement that she had been inspired to be a teacher of mathematics.

In another card, a student thanked me for extending her knowledge base and making her want to find out more.

The thing is…it’s not me. It’s them. These young people have all this potential, enthusiasm, capacity and hope within them. We are just the privileged ones who get to see it and work with it and share it around.

This is what makes teaching such a joy…and why it matters so much.

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Change – the Fullan way

Michael Fullan

Spent yesterday working with colleagues from my school and Michael Fullan.

The title of the session was Change – making it happen in your school and system.

Lots of thinkering.

He started with asking us to articulate our goals for change, identify the causal pathways and talk about those and look at the drivers that could get us started. He emphasised the importance of being able to articulate all of these, as a way of clarifying the essential elements of what we are trying to do and why to both ourselves and to others. Clarity of intention and how we intend to get there.

Interestingly, when talking further about what he meant by ‘drivers’, and the difference between good and bad drivers, he mentioned his recent work with the Victorian government, particularly relating to the recent paper released titled Towards Victoria as a Learning Community. An interesting exercise is to read this paper in relation to the list of wrong versus right ‘drivers’ of change below. Right drivers have been shown to produce effective change and involved four criteria:

(1) Foster instrinsic motivation

(2) Engage teachers and students in continuous improvement

(3) Inspires collective teamwork

(4) Affects all teachers and students

 Wrong Drivers


Individual teacher and leadership capacity

Technology (for its own sake…must be driven by changes to pedagogy)

Fragmented Strategies

Right Drivers

Capacity Building

Collaborative work


‘Systemness’ (going from ‘my’ students to ‘our’ students)

More on this idea of drivers can be found in Michael’s paper here.

This concept certainly struck a chord with me as I have seen many of these aspects of change management in my experience and have certainly come to the belief that punitive accountability measures work in delivering effective change in neither adult learners (teachers) nor students. I think schools have largely accepted this in the case of improving student learning and behaviours but have yet to come to this realisation with regard to teachers. There seems to be a culture of managing change by ‘checking the teachers are doing the right thing’ by putting in place various accountability processes. And this is precisely the problem. It manages the change, it doesn’t lead the change…and it will be short-lived and episodic, depending on the strength of the people who put these measures in place and the processes by which this accountability is demonstrated. It also diverts teachers’ precious time and effort into processes that do not directly improve student learning.

Far better, in my view, and affirmed by a number of studies in change dynamics, is to work with teachers’ motivations. The large majority of teachers are motivated to adopt practices that demonstrably improve student learning. (I have blogged previously about this YouTube video on what motivates people but place it here again for reference). If change is to be effective, and lasting, in schools, then the teachers need to believe in it. We must put a causal pathway in place that works with teachers’ beliefs. This may involve what Fullan refers to as the ‘push, pull, nudge’ approach to change, as certain instructive leadership actions may need to be put in place in order to develop teachers’ practices. But this is what good teachers do for their students –they have clear learning intentions, they determine prior knowledge and work with them to develop their knowledge from each individual starting point. We should accept no less for the way in which we work with teachers. Just like our students, we want teachers to internalise a continual improvement approach to their practice, to self-manage this in a professional sense. The longer there are punitive accountability processes put in place, the more teachers are alienated from being leaders of self and thus the more we reduce their capacity to sustain and maintain a positive, upward spiralling approach to professional learning and further development. It’s about teachers wanting to engage in a continual, collaborative and committed competition ..”I want to do better next time..”

Too often I have seen the deficit model of learning applied to teachers, instead of an authentically developmental model. Something at which we would deservedly cringe when it comes to our students.

I was also interested to hear Fullan talk about ‘the moral imperative’ behind change. In schools this MUST be to improve student learning with passion and commitment. Everything needs to be filtered through this lens. He spoke of the prettiest plans being the least effective, almost as if the plan was for the self-congratulatory benefit of those who created the plan, rather than think about the effectiveness of the ‘implementability’ of the plan. Surely the goal is to realise the plan in practice? This means the plan needs to be written from the viewpoint of the implementers. Why should they implement it? How can they easily implement it? Tend towards the ‘skinny’ plan rather than the ‘fat’ plan. What should we focus on? What are the essential elements?

One of the most interesting activities (and quite confronting to share with one’s school colleagues) was to articulate one’s own moral imperative, how closely this aligns with the school’s moral imperative and what my progress was to date.

Fullan said that we have to live with policies but do not have to live with the mindsets that created them. Look for what can be positively utilised in a policy. He made a point about the difference between alignment and coherence. Alignment is about structures, coherence is about mindsets. System coherence then becomes a matter of shared mindsets. Any tool is only as good as the mindset using it. Yet again, this reinforces the idea that we need to work with teachers’ beliefs and motivations, in addition to looking closely at systemic aspects of a school’s processes,  in order to develop this coherence. Do all have improved developmental learning, for both students and teachers, at their core?

So…what works when it comes to leading change in schools?

(1) Focus

(2) Capacity Building

(3) Consistency of practice

(4) Learning from each other (use the group to learn from the group)

(5) Leadership that obsesses with the above four

And the plan to lead this change?

(1) Develop and seek out expertise (purposefully link people together in the community)

(2) Non-threatening climate

(3) Tie it explicitly to learning

(4) Identify what’s working

(5) Use the group to change the group

(6) Link to student achievement and engagement

(7) Leadership that stays on top of the above

“Effective change leaders cause people to act their way into new ways of thinking. The effective sequence involves mobilising new practices that in turn lead to great clarity and commitment. What does work is looking inside yourself and your practice as a full-time endeavour – and at the same time learning to relate to other people’s realities while fostering collective capacity and identity”

Posted in Pedagogy, Systems, Technology, The profession, Uncategorized, Vision | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Observing Learning

I have been involved in a trial process for what it means to be a Highly Accomplished Teacher in Australia, what a Highly Accomplished Teacher would look like and how to gather ‘evidence’ to support the determination.

As a part of the process, my classes have been observed by peers within my school and an assessor from another school.

In the recently released (August 2012) Teacher and Performance Development Framework document released by AITSL, it states (p6): “There are some forms of evidence that are particularly important in reviewing teacher performance. Evidence of student learning directly captures the outcomes of teaching, and must have a central role. Research
shows observation of classroom teaching, linked to timely and useful feedback that focuses on improvement, is a particularly useful tool for teacher development, and is the most commonly used form of evidence across OECD countries. Beyond the classroom, evidence should also demonstrate a teacher’s impact on colleagues and the performance of the school”

However, when I started investigating ways in which classroom observations are being documented in various countries, I was not happy with what I found. Many focused on evaluating the teacher, rather than looking at what learning was occurring in the classroom. Some focused on guiding a discussion about the lesson rather than giving teachers opportunities to develop their practice as a result of the discussion (ie ‘next steps’ were missing). Some missed the need (in my view it IS a need) for instructional feedback.

And so I have attempted to construct my own. Linda’s Discussion Guide for Classroom Observations Please provide feedback. It is my first draft and has not yet been tried out in a classroom setting. No doubt it will need modification and reviewing. That should be the nature of any educational pursuit.

I will let you know how it goes…

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A Postscript

Thank you Stephen Dinham.

I have just read The Conversation – Why We Are Never Satisfied with Teachers

THIS is why I felt so bad after the ACER conference. Whilst I am a great proponent of the continually improving teacher practitioner, it was the message that I basically had to be perfect to be considered ‘good’ that depressed me. There was a deficit model in play, instead of a developmental one.

I think I can move on now.


More power to you!

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ACER research conference 2012

I attended this conference in Sydney recently.

Its focus this year was School Improvement: What does the research tell us about effective strategies?

Below are my notes on the sessions I attended. PowerPoint presentations of Conference Proceedings can be found here.

I have to admit that I was not inspired by this conference. Nor was I encouraged. I held up a mirror and the ensuing reflection was not one I was happy with. I have had a number of days feeling as if I was a fraud, believing erroneously that I was doing good work in my school. It was a week that ended darkly and began darkly.

I am not quite sure why this conference had such an effect on me. Maybe it was the relentless bar lifting expectations. Maybe it was frustration that we now know what things make a difference to improving teachers’ practice but the elements needed to make this a reality just are not in place, and may never be in the current financial climate. Maybe it was the realisation that the entire system really needed to move in order for my individual changes to have a sustained effect on improving student outcomes. Maybe I began to think that I could realistically only affect the students in my classes, and not even all of them. That the work I was doing with teachers could not maintain effectiveness in the long term without whole school change. That it all just seemed too big a problem?

Anyway, that all sounds more than a weeny depressing, and I so want to retain hope for the future. I look forward to my mojo returning.

1. Geoff Masters- Continual Improvement through evidence based practices

There is a push for school improvement from governments.This push is usually seen in the rhetoric as ‘driving’ improvement.How? Through rewards and sanctions
Why? To improve ‘effort’ by employees..then all will be OK and expected results improvement will be able to be measured using appropriate metrics. The assumption is that teachers are just not working hard enough and that rewards and sanctions will be able to fix this and motivate them to work harder.
A couple of things emerge.
1. How does one measure school improvement?
2. Teachers are working quite hard now. They are at their limits of capacity. They don’t know what it is they don’t know. It is not a matter of motivating them through rewards and sanctions to work harder…it is more about professional learning that will enable them towards instructional practices that have more bang for their buck. See this paper
Whilst researching for this report, Masters found that the research suggested that test-based incentive schemes were not producing benefits in student achievement, in fact they were actually distorted classroom practices such as exaggerated test taking practice, narrowed the curriculum etc.
The results students attained in high stakes testing were not replicated in other testing so were not always a true reflection of what students could make, do, understand and know. The incentive-reward-sanction motivating factor only affected the targeted testing, not long term benefits for students learning.
Additionally, Masters pointed out that these incentive programs have not been successful in other areas such as hospitals, businesses etc Hospitals tended to not accept risky patients so that their death rates did not rise, businesses hid financial records…
Psychology also tells us that people are not motivated by incentive schemes. People are motivated by a complex mix. See this YouTube video for what motivates people, a talk by Dan Pink.
Incentive schemes undervalue capacity building.
There is a need, in addition to the focus on results, to build internal capacity and the well being of systems.
Teachers who aren’t given the tools and knowledge to increase their reach, ther’s not much point.
In other professions such as medicine, they don’t say “you are professionals. You do your own thing, sort it out yourself. Be creative, there’s no silver bullet, you are the experts..go talk to each other”
Evidence based teacher practice is not antithetical to teachers’ professionalism but we have protected our right to ‘use professional judgement’ and spun a belief system that teaching is context dependent to resist change.
So…what do we actually know about highly effective teacher?
What do we know about highly effective school leadership?
What do we know about highly effective system leadership?
And how do we align these three aspects?


1. Have an explicit management agenda that the leadership team has established and is driving
2. Have measurable improvements in student outcomes
3. Timelines for the improvement plan have been set
4. Strong and optimistic belief of all school staff that further improvement as possible

1. priority is given to school wide analysis and discussion of data on student outcomes
2. School has a plan for systematic collection, analysis and use of student data
3. High priority given to building teachers’ and leaders’ data literacy skills

1. school ethos is built around high expectations and commitment to academic excellence
2. Happy, optimistic feel to the school
3. Interruptions to teaching time is minimal

1. school applies its resources in a deliberate way to meet learning needs
2. Staff deployed in ways that make best use of available expertise

1. shared commitment to understand what effective teaching looks like
2. Levels of pedagogical content knowledge high and expert discipline knowledge
3. Teachers and leaders take a personal and collective responsibility for improved student learning
4. School leaders place a high priority on on going PL for all staff
5. Teachers plan, deliver and review effectiveness of lessons in collaborative ways

1. clearly documented curriculum
2. A plan that makes explicit what and when teachers should teach and what students should learn
3. Attention to vertical alignment across the years of school

1. leaders promote differentiated teaching
2. School recognises that some students require significant adjustment
3. Regular data gathered about where each student is at

1. School leaders have accepted personal responsibility for promoting improvements in teaching
2. Leaders have well-known positions on what they want to see in classrooms
3. All are committed to identifying and providing feedback to improve teaching practices

So..how does a school start?

The same way we do with students: Where are we now? What comes next?
See The Teaching and Learning Framework by Geoff Masters.
This has a set of indicators that schools can use in order to improve in all of the eight domains of highly effective schools listed above.

We already know:

1. The kinds of evidence based school practices that promote improved classroom teaching
2. How to monitor and improve practices to move schools to be highly effective

2. Professor Stephen Dinham ‘Walking the walk: The need for school leaders to embrace teaching as a clinical practice profession’

“I can’t understand why people are afraid of new ideas. I’m afraid of the old ones” (John Cage)

What does it mean to be an evidence based profession?
3 spheres of influence:

1. Pre service education
2. Ongoing PL
3. Informed, committed leadership
Considering pre service education..

* Every review done over the last 30 years has reached the same conclusions and put the same recommendations forward but little has changed
* Programs are overly theoretical and not sufficiently integrated with classroom practice
* It should not be merely about techniques but also big picture thinking about diagnosing learning and prescribing future strategies to improve learning, a clinical approach
In the past, teachers teach the class, teach groups then teach individuals. This needs to be turned on its head.

It is iMportant to break the cycle of teachers teaching as they were taught and having new teachers get drawn into this culture.
There is a need for a data driven, evidence based, student centered approach to student learning.
We need to be able to identify students’ strengths as well as what they are ready to learn.
At Melb Uni, in the M Teach program, pre service teachers have to focus a case study on one particular student, diagnose their learning and then design an monitor an intervention plan. The emphasis on reflection and reflective practice allows teachers the opportunity to change as they go along.
If real change in teachers’ clinical assessment and interventionist capabilities is to occur, school leaders must be informed , supportive and equipped to assist in this processor changing the way teachers engage in their practice.
Leadership OF and FOR teaching.
Instructional leadership is 3-4 times as effective as transformational leadership.
We must pace the individual student at the centre of the school.

3. Professor David Hargreaves – Endgame : A self improving school system

There are three sectors who currently decide and set the agenda for school systems

1. Political policy makers
2. Academics
3. School leaders and their staffs
The first in this list has the majority of the power at the moment and the last has the least.

In order to create a self improving school system, the school leaders and their staffs need to be the ones who set the agenda.
We need to work as communities of schools, not stand-alone schools.
To improve teaching and learning, a continual cycle through practice and theory needs to be maintained so that knowledge and skills of teachers is upgraded in sustained ways…an upwards spiraling effect.
Learn about some theory, put this into practice, reflect on this, revise the theory, put this into practice, compare against the theory etc.
Hargreaves spoke about a ‘theory of case’. Do leaders have a theory of case wrt schools and school systems? Do they know the theories and where they want to take schools based on these theories?
He spoke about how the above mentioned cycling leads to an enriched theory of case.
Teachers learn best from other professionals.
Through the collaborative sharing of resources in a school cluster, what knowledge each school has can be shared amongst all for mutual benefit.
Collectively, these clusters can meet all student needs, all teachers’ PL needs. they can distribute innovation and transfer knowledge.
A deep partnership between schools can be manifested in three key aspects:

1. Professional development( joint practice development- like action research or akin to Japanese lesson study-talent identification, mentoring/coaching, distributed staff integration)
2. Partnership competence
3. Collaborative capital
What is joint practice development? (his key message)

2 or more teachers work together on a particular classroom practice in order to develop that practice. Eg questioning
It is systematic tinkering in a sustained way.
Collaborative capital is about not protecting our knowledge but giving it away. It is about reciprocity.

In a good system-

* There is a conviction that leaders should strive for success of other schools and their students, not just their own
* Schools actively work with, and in, other schools to help them become more successful
* Everybody is committed to realizing the success of all students in all schools
* Teachers are developed to extend their reach..a need to evaluate and challenge teachers in order to achieve this. Disciplined innovators. Creative entrepreneurs. The need for teachers to have innovation skills.

4. Patrick Griffin – “Teachers use of data to monitor student learning and curriculum implementation”

Patrick started by lambasting those of us who promote the sharing of practice at meetings.He says we should stop this forthwith.
He says that it promotes a culture of endorsement, that if colleagues take up the activity or strategy then that gives the presenter an authority and a satisfaction …but it doesn’t actually lead to improved learning unless that practice has been critically evaluated for its impact on learning.He urges us to not just accept a good idea – does it change what students can make, do, know and understand?
He would rather see a culture of challenge rather than endorsement..all ideas be challenged. It is not about challenging the person, it is about challenging the idea.
The driving force for any adopted practice or any critique of current practice is : what changes will eventuate in students Learning by what you as teacher are doing?
And how will this be measured?
We all know about the intended curriculum v the implemented curriculum v the achieved curriculum.
We need to build in ways in which we can accurately assess where students are at and move all forward in their learning.
He talked about a project he has been involved in, in which students are tested – not for grading purposes- so that the online system adjusts itself according to how pupils perform. If they get a high result, the system recalibrates and gives them ten harder questions, continuing this process until students are at their readiness to reach level and are actively learning new material. If students do poorly, it recalibrates and gives them ten easier problems until it reaches the same point as mentioned for the more able students. In this way, students’ entry level is established and each receives an individualized improvement pathway that challenges them. It is a way of determining where the Intervention level is.
Griffin said he would prefer the terminology of ‘learning readiness’ instead of ‘learning needs’.
The former he sees as a developmental model but the latter is a deficit model.
in the work he has been doing with schools, the data collected is showing a worrying trend, one also borne out by the PISA data. We are failing our stronger students. The top 25% of students are not improving as they reach secondary school, in some cases they are actually going backwards. We have been very good at improving our weaker students – their learning is improving.
In four classes that he looked at more specifically at the same year level in a school, one teacher could improve both groups, the higher ability students at a faster rate…which he claims is what we should expect from those who are more cognitively capable.
He, sadly, believes that the slogan of ‘Close the Gap’ has done just that. The gap between the highest ability and lowest ability students is coming together..-and it should be widening in a way so that all students improve if we want to improve the learning for all. He would prefer we talk about closing the opportunity gap rather than the achievement gap.
In the other three classes, however, whatever the teachers were doing was not improving the top students and one class had the top students moving backwards. This is being repeated throughout the country. As this data is very new he has not yet explored what strategies are different between these teachers.
Griffin recommends that we follow the mantra of Collaborate, Challenge, Check.
That we hold PL meetings in which the common agenda is: share experiences, review practices and challenges made of these, set new targets, develop resources and strategies, talk about next steps.
in summary:

1. ‘my class’ to ‘our students’
2. Evidence rather than inference
3. Set high expectations for all students
4. Intervene for all students
5. Development, not deficit, models of practice and belief

5. Dr Michele Bruniges – ‘Developing and Implementing an explicit School Improvement Agenda’

The challenge is to improve the quality of education of young people throughout their schooling.It starts with the teacher.
The quality of the system cannot exceed the quality of the teachers within it.
See paper produced by the NSW government – Great Teaching, Inspired Learning
What we know about great teachers:

* Know their subject content
* Understand the learning process deeply
* Use varied and targeted strategies
* Value collaboration
* Know how to use data to intervene and improve learning
* Never stop learning themselves
Michele wanted to make three points (the backbone of the latest NSW government campaign on educational quality):

1. Teaching must be an inquiry based profession with strong school culture of collaborative planning and reflection
2. Teachers need ready access to latest evidence about effective teaching and we need to systematically identify and disseminate this
3. Lesson observation allows teachers to learn from each other and is critical to understanding and improving teacher practice
Interestingly, she also mentioned the tendency we have had to allow teachers to operate separately and to view another’s teaching style as somehow sacred and up to that teacher to decide about.

She also said that the data we collect to inform our next steps with students should not just be test results, it needs to be broader..approaches to learning, engagement etc
She said we can view tests such as NAPLAN as big blips on our radars but that there are many other things on that radar screen.
She also mentioned research that says if teachers have a focus on student learning, coupled with a commitment to ongoing prof learning, the improvement effect on student learning is tripled.
School leaders can assist by:

* Clearly articulating targets
* Focussing on student and teacher learning
* Facilitate feedback to teachers and constant evaluation
She also quoted some data from NZ schools in which the best of intentions can have the opposite effect to what was intended. She described how schools tried to match teaching style to learning style of Maori students..eg. More concrete learning activities. This in fact denied them the opportunities to partake in higher cognitive learning that, in turn, denied them opportunities to improve and break out of the solely concrete experiences.

What implications does this have for indigenous students?

6. Lynette Virgona – ‘ Teachers are the key : Strategies for Classroom Improvement’

A cognitive iceberg.
Research is clear that students do not learn as much as they could by sitting with their friends.
Moving kids can produce discomfort and a little resentment. But we need to keep the long term goals in mind…quality learning for all.
Lynette talked about how classroom management was essential if teachers wanted to successfully implement practices such as cooperative learning.
She started with talking about the nuts and bolts of things such as managing transitions in a class:

1. Signal the beginning, a cue to start
2. Visual or minimal verbal eg ” OK, Year 9″
3. Active pause, during which teacher scans the class to see what to do next – continue on, start again, consider proximity to those who are not on board
4. When – eg. ‘do not move until the whistle blows’
5. What
6. Who eg. ‘you will be working in pairs’
7. Signal to begin
8. Teacher scans the class in hyper vigilant mode
She then enacted a no hands up activity in which she asked a question, asked for hands up then said to those who raised their hands: thank you.

‘Now, I want you all to turn to the person beside you and talk about this question and I will then ask anyone in the room to answer it’.
She said this gave the culture of ‘not learning is not an option’. No opt out.
In order to make students feel safe to offer a response that might be incorrect, however, she says we need to build rapport and relationships first. There will not be cognitive engagement if kids do not feel safe to make mistakes in front of their peers.
In order to have this cognitive engagement, there needs to be this safe classroom but also a measure of accountability of all students.
Kids read teaching styles pretty well and try to avoid ‘work’ if possible.
Scale: permissive, democratic, authoritative, punitive.
Eg if a teacher’s style is more on the ‘punitive’ side, students will prefer them to lecture so that their cognitive load is not increased. If the style is more towards the permissive end, they like it to be floppy and will engage with busy work.
Lynette talked about teachers moving through the following stages in their careers:
Unconsciously unskilled, consciously unskilled, consciously skilled then unconsciously skilled.
In order to share effective practice, there is a need for teachers at the upper end to be compelled to articulate what made them at the consciously skileld stage.
Her WA program of classroom strategies improvement consists of 4 classroom visits for 20 minutes to observe and record what was seen in the classes. The conference after this focused on what was seen to be working.
She cautioned that observing and providing feedback to teachers can be damaging if done badly.
The conferencing after observation was confidential and not used in an evaluative manner.
Done well, it is a powerful tool for school improvement.
Doing is different from knowing.
She urged us to learn how to open classrooms to professional dialogue and reflection.

7. Ms Valerie Hanson- ‘Innovating a new future for learning : finding our path’

Valerie said that she was more interested in learning than in schooling.She said that there were a number of drivers impacting on organized learning in our current climate:

* Globalization
* Demography
* New technologies
* Financial climate
* Environmental considerations
Technological change is accelerating.

The speed of the uptake is literally exponential.
Medical education is coming on board with reacting to digital realities but schools have not reacted sufficiently quickly.
The world financial climate means there are deep problems with public funding.
The impact of globalization:

* Integrated world markets
* Jobs quickly transferred from one side of the world to the other
* Researchers look across the world for the best
* Higher order skills are at a premium
* Education is globalising, students are mobile, distance/online learning, competition, sometimes collaboration, between providers
* Understanding identity, core values and cultural practices is more important than ever
The impact of demographics:

* Many currently in school will live into their 100s
* In the underdeveloped world, such as India, there is a youth bulge
* In the developed world, we have an aging population, new dependency ratio, workforce crisis
* We need to mean what we say in the rhetoric of lifelong learners
* In the world of the 21st century, a person could have up to 15 different jobs in a lifetime and need breadth and depth in a range of fields
The impact of the environment:

* We are becoming more urban
* We do not know how to deal with this – ecologically illiterate
* Increase in natural disasters
* Concept of ‘leading a good life’. What does this mean now?
Valerie would advocate for a split screen view of the future of learning – if we only look to improve the current system, we may miss the opportunity to transform it in innovative ways. Think about both at the same time – how can we improve the system and how can we transform the system?

Transformation means fundamental shape-shifting changes in:

1. Time
2. Pedagogy
3. Partnerships
4. Place
School could be the mother ship, base camp..to which learners return to recalibrate the next steps in their learning journeys.

The school terms are still based on the agricultural society on which they were based. Do they need to continue in this way?
What of the shape of the school day?
She, like Will Richardson, wants to see more inquiry based, project based learning.
She would like to see partnerships formed with others in the community who have interests in learning.
Instead of being suspicious and fearful of the Pearsons and the Microsofts, why not see them as opportunities to do things differently?
For a change model, we need to

* Confront reality
* Awaken possibility
These contribute to a living vision for change which then feeds and helps to define an emergent strategy from change.

We need to rethink about our fundamental goals in teaching and learning.
The evaluator’s and the innovator’s dilemma is to know when it is time to stop trying to improve a system and when it is time to transform it.
As wella s a mindset there is a learning set.
There is a need to consider transformational capacity as well as a plan for improvement.
Factors to consider when differentiating leadership of improvement v leadership of innovation:

* Intense knowledge of your sector and a preparedness to look outward and beyond
* Attitude to data – interpreting indicators of discontinuous change
* Attitude towards research
Leading generic change, managing innovation, developing education practice


1. An inspiring vision for lifelong and engaged learning, with aims beyond personal wealth and economic competitiveness
2. Low barriers of entry for new providers
3. Incentivizing student led curriculum development
4. Greater transparency for learners about the range of opportunities available
5. Coalition building
6. Investment in, and encouragement for, disciplined ‘inovation’ zones

Posted in Pedagogy, Students, Systems, The profession, Vision | Leave a comment

Evidencing Professional Practice = Improving the Profession?

I have recently been pondering on the question of what should constitute sufficient evidence of highly accomplished practice and how one goes about assembling said evidence in such a way as to convince someone who does not know me or my practice.

And whether it means anything to do so.

I have been engaged in a trial, looking at how teachers can meet the National Professional Standards at the higher levels, ie. how teachers can demonstrate high performance. The AITSL standards for Australian teachers are ‘live’ in 2013 and I heard on the radio recently that annual performance reviews would be required of all teachers.

There are 37 dotpoints associated with the 7 overarching standards. To demonstrate high performance, I am being asked to provide evidence (via a Case Study or Narrative approach) on a set of distilled elements from these 37 dotpoints, these being called “The Eleven Essential Elements” (see below)

ImageIt is taking a LONG time. Not only time to try and tease out what some of these elements actually mean, but then how my practice relates to them and then how to show that I am addressing them in a deliberate, authenticated and purposeful way in relation to student learning. I am quite enjoying the writing part, I have to say. I have always written my way to understanding what I really believe and feel about something. I use writing as a way of processing and analysing. I write my way to truth.

But I have queried on many an occasion – is this all worth it?

What is the ‘it’ I am heading towards?

Yes, it is about pay. It is about kudos. It is about a pay structure for teachers based on merit, not merely years of teaching. (And experience does not necessarily bring excellence with it). But I can’t help but feel the time and the angst I have put into this project could perhaps have been better spent actually working with teachers and students…something ‘real’.

And then I had a conversation with another teacher who was doing something similar for an internal evaluative process and she said what I had been thinking : “Is all this effort I am putting in worth the end result?”

And my immediate gut response was “Yes”. And so I stopped to tease that out. Why, given my own current experiences, did I react immediately and so firmly with that ‘yes’?

Because ultimately this process is not about the individual teacher. It’s about the profession. It’s about taking what teachers do and celebrating that and making it more transparent to those outside the profession. It’s about showing the community at large that it is a complex and complicated role that requires expert domain knowledge, expert knowledge of learning and how to engender, monitor and improve that learning for every single student, and how to do all of this with excellence. It’s about showing that not just anyone can teach.

And it is for this reason that I will keep going with it. With all its hassles, its over-reaching in abundance as to what can realistically can be achieved in the long term, its controlling little boxes in an attempt to standardise the process.

I will try and keep the horizon of hope in my view.

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All Flipped Out

I have been meaning to write a post about the flipped classroom and its use, particularly, in mathematics classes, for a while.

After a week’s leave in Outback South Australia and then a week dealing with the flu, I have finally found that space in which I can.

I was interested to read of the “Khan Criterati”, as Dan Meyer calls them, in this post.

Apparently a video that addressed the mathematics of negative numbers (which I have not seen) created a bit of a furore.

Dan Coffey, one of the main critics of the Khan Academy videos is described as saying:

But as Dave Coffey explained on his blog,  it is the pedagogy of the lecture model and Khan’s emphasis on how to complete the mathematical procedures he’s explaining instead of the conceptual framework behind those procedures (the why of education) that is at the heart of the criticism.

I have a great deal of empathy with this view. I think there is a reason that mathematics was the first discipline to feature videos as part of a flipped classroom…it is seen as a discipline that mainly involves learning procedures and processes and ‘answer getting’. If you learn the process, you learn mathematics. Regular readers would know that this view is anathema to me.

For example: the teaching of solving simultaneous equations. The ‘big idea’ behind simultaneous equations is a strategic problem solving technique, that of breaking down a larger problem into manageable ‘chunks’ by considering one aspect of a problem at a time. That is the transferable idea. To teach to understand that idea, one can introduce it in a number of ways. The aim is not merely to be able to ‘solve’ the two equations in two variables. To teach simultaneous equations as just the technique is to teach ‘answer getting’. This is not mathematics.

My strongly held belief is that the teaching of ideas should be the determining paradigm in the teaching of mathematics. These big ideas are the peaks of the landscape, the things we look out upon, appreciate for their beauty and use to guide our journey forward. Looking at, and placing, where we put our feet are the skills and processes of the discipline. The metaphor can be extended.

One can scale the peaks by following in the footsteps of another, having porters doing the heavy lifting and carrying and setting up camp where others decide. The journey is not easy, even with all of this. Take away the porters, take away those that showed the way, take away the determined paths and put that same person in an unfamiliar landscape. Could that person undertake another journey in the landscape using their previous experience? Is that important?

I happen to think it is.

Education should not just be about learning about the ‘known’. We need to ensure students are educated to deal with the unknown. One recent tweet I read (cannot recall who said it, I’m sorry) indicated that education is not about ‘preparing’ students, it’s more about learning how to ‘be’ in the world. We can no longer educate for particular professions. We need to teach students how to think for themselves and to self-manage…to take control over their own learning.

I think that the non-discriminating use of videos to instruct students in the ‘how to’ of the skills and processes of mathematics contributes to a shallow view of the discipline, reinforces a ‘lecture style’ of instruction that detracts from a more active learning pedagogy and implies that there is one set process that needs to be learnt. It can take away creativity and independence of thinking.

I have kept an open mind with respect to the flipped classroom and tried out a couple of flipped lessons. I gave my Y9 class a video on scientific notation with some associated follow-up questions and it worked very well. I could walk into the following class, check for their understanding of what scientific notation meant and whether they could use it then move onto more important ideas.

I am not saying that the flipped classroom has no place in the mathematics class. What I am saying is that the teacher needs to think very carefully about what the essential learning is that is desired to be engendered and then consider the appropriate pedagogy that will give students the greatest opportunities for them to learn it. Sometimes a video is not going to be appropriate. Students need to have the discussion with each other, they need to make mistakes and learn from them and they need to grind their way through the thinking in order to embed the learning in their own brains by connecting to previous knowledge.

To assign a video lesson to ‘instruct’, without thinking carefully about it, is criminal in my view.

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