Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Leadership and Legacy: Part 3

#tearsinmyeyes moment during our Student Council meeting today which confirms many of our Q3 (Year 13 students) are thinking about their legacy in terms of their leadership. In my last 2 blog posts I described some examples  of how some students were doing this.

During General Business today one of the students shared his belief that as Student Councillors they needed to be more deliberate about being leaders throughout the school; that to be a Councillor they had to do more than merely attending meetings. It was good to see all those around the table nodding their heads.

This led to another student saying that, in her experience, making the small effort to notice a student by themselves at break time and going up and introducing yourself and sharing a little bit could be the one thing that gets the student to go home and talk about their neat day and who they met and talked with. She went on to encourage her colleagues to seek such connections with students of all 'types' as it contributed to your own understanding of the diversity around us. I was impressed with her insight.

At that point I talked with the students about how natural it is to want to stick with your own peer group and/or sub-group, especially in break times. I shared how uncomfortable I found it to mix widely in groups of people, especially when I didn't know them well. I also talked that this was one of the challenges of true leadership; to push aside your own uncertainties and social inhibitions and to show you can connect with a diverse group.

After the meeting one of the students remained to talk with me about how that day she had been talking with a new senior student and discovered that this student was struggling with our model of learning, particularly in one of her modules. This made the student who was talking with me realise that because she/we were familiar with the model and had, in fact, been with it throughout its development, not everyone understood it immediately. The new student talked about the confusion she was having with one module, so my senior asked who the teacher was and encouraged her to come with her to talk with the teacher. The new student needed some encouragement but it happened right there and then and the Student Council member moved on after having connected them.

By themselves, they may seem like small actions but collectively they are blowing me away and this type of student leadership will become the legacy of these foundation students.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Leadership and Legacy:Part 2

My last post featured the example of one of our Q3 (Year 13) students who had responded to my challenge of making 2018, their final year as Establishment/Foundation Students, one of Leadership  and Legacy. How were they going to show leadership and, more importantly, what legacy would that leadership leave.

There have been another couple of great examples of that. One of our younger students has been experiencing anxiety about attending school and part of that is because of conflict she is having with one of her peers, which at times makes her feel unsafe. During one lunchtime last week I went to check in the social space where I knew she hung out to make sure she was OK. I needn't have worried as one of our male Q3 students was aware of the situation and was hanging out with her ("engaging her in conversation to keep her mind of things" was what he told me.) His decision to do that was leadership and the use of calm and caring presence by a student's peer when seeing a need is his desired legacy.

At another time during the week a female Q3 student came to meet with me to discuss a number of issues around supporting students. She spoke of her struggles in her first couple of years at our school when she was trying to support a friend who was struggling with quite serious personal issues. She obviously didn't have the skills to solve her friend's problems but she has realised that the skills she needed were to support her friend to access the right specialist support.

I suggested she think further on the topic and then make contact with our Guidance Staff to see what could come about. A coupe of days later she copied me into her email she sent to Guidance Staff which included this paragraph:

I would like to float the idea of forming some kind of initiative within the school, working with the Wellbeing Habitat, to help raise awareness about how to seek help and also give people the skills to not try to take on the problems themselves but convince them to talk to someone who can. I believe that this will make a massive difference as it will help everyone affected.

Thinking about this topic, coming to talk with me and then synthesising her thoughts before contacting Guidance staff is an example of her leadership. The initiative that she will design with the Guidance Staff and the student Well-being Habitat will be her legacy.



Monday, February 19, 2018

Leadership and Legacy

It's continuing to be an exciting time at HPSS on our establishment journey. This is the beginning of our 5th year with students, so not only will it be the first year with all 5 Year Levels, it will also be the final year for those students who began as our true foundation students in Year 9 in 2014. 


  

The above visual shows our original thinking about our cohorts once we were complete. While some of the terminology has changed through that journey it still largely reflects our situation. As we develop personalisation and increase specialisation our students move through the Foundation Years, into the Qualification Years and then their Launchpad or Pathways Year. That first group has reached that final stage.

It takes many years to build a sustainable culture, certainly no less than 5, and we are now at year 5. Those initial foundation year students have 1 year left to leave their legacy. My message to them over the years has always been that I know what sort of school I want, but the school we’ll get is the school they create!

I’ve asked them to think about their legacy. Is it to be some sort of foundation art work or trophy or similar taonga to stand in our school or is it the taonga of a sustainable respectful culture.

So many of our Q3 (Year 13) students have taken up this challenge. Last week one of our students organised senior buddies for the Year 9 students in her Learning Community and got the Year 9 students to complete a 'Rose, Bud, Thorn' exercise about their initial experiences of our school. They did this with the support of their buddies. Out of this exercise she was able to identify students who were feeling a bit alone and connect them with others. She was also able to help some sort through some personal relationship issues that had emerged. Following on she has collated all of their responses ready for feedback.

This is an example of her Leadership.

The Legacy component has emerged from her Learning Community Leader working with her to have a Buddy/Year 9 session included in the weekly Learning Community programme. I expect this model to endure in this Learning Community and may well spread to the other Communities.

Our focus, as a school, for the year is on developing a sustainable respectful culture and our focus for the term is developing whanaungatanga. This student has embraced these areas of focus while displaying leadership and beginning to create her legacy.



I really want our Q3 students to be practised and ready for their lives in a very short 12 months when they’re out there! Í’d love to have then coming and going as they please determined by their learning needs! I know that would work for some of our learners but also not for all. This creates a tension. I’ve talked with them about starting the year with a tight hand on the rudder and my desire to have conversations with them as the term and year unfolds re loosening the hand on the rudder for individuals, groups, or the whole cohort.

If the majority of our Q3 students embrace the challenge of Leadership and Legacy in similar ways to that described above, the hand will become lighter on the rudder quite quickly, which, in turn, will be a great legacy that they leave for future Q3 cohorts.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Whanaungatanga: 3 cool things that happened at school today

Our first 2 weeks at school concentrate on forming and (re)building relationships. We all know teaching and learning is a relationship-based activity so it is important that each new year allows the time and space to do this meaningfully. In fact, our theme at Hobsonville Point Secondary School for our Learning Hub and Learning Community focus for the whole of Term One is Whanaungatanga.

Today 3 cool things were happening to bring this focus to life.

1. Staff koha to new staff.
At this morning's Tuesdays With Maurie (yay at last I got a Tuesday!) our 7 new staff had groups of existing staff randomly allocated to them. After being reminded of our strong and visible principles of personalising learning, powerful partnerships and deep challenge and inquiry group members were invited to share as their koha their strongest or most memorable example of when they had supported the personalising of learning, facilitated learning partnerships for their students from outside our school and witnessed students involved in deep challenge and inquiry.

HPSS Staff Offering Koha to New Staff
It was very cool to see and hear such great sharing. Just quietly, I  was pretty pleased to come up with this contingency plan when I walked in in the morning to find our servers etc were down and I couldn't go ahead with my carefully prepared presentation and had to quickly come up with this (and it was much better than I had planned anyway!)

2. Senior student koha to new students
Throughout the day senior students who had volunteered attended a workshop so that they could prepare to welcome and support our new students. They explored the notion of student leadership and planned in their Learning Communities so that they could run a relationship-building and getting-to-know-our-school programme for the rest of our students- especially those new to our school. They also focused on how they would take the lead at our Learning Community overnight camps which will be taking place next week.

Senior HPSS Students Preparing Their Koha for New Students
Our vision talks  about empowering young people to contribute confidently and responsibly. This group of  Q2 and Q3 (Years 12 and 13) students were bringing that to life in spades and creating a strong legacy for the school they have helped create.

3. Student/Parent/Coach Individual Education Meetings (IEMs)
As has  become traditional at our school, teaching and learning doesn't start until the important players in a young person's education (themselves, their whanau and their Learning Coach) (re)connect and start getting to know each other. This is  the most powerful of the powerful partnerships we espouse at our school and I'm very proud of the time and space we give to this.

Our Year 9 students have had us  visit them in their contributing school, have visited us with their school, enrolled with their parents at a meeting with myself or a member of the SLT, and attended a full day Orientation Day. The IEM  is the next step in that important transition to secondary school. By concentrating on the relationships and taking our time the transition is much more doable.


It was a very cool day! Whanaungatanga everywhere!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Deep Learning and Well-being (students and staff): A Way Forward for NCEA?

Claire Amos Steve Mouldey and Gerard MacManus have inspired me to get my blogging going again. As well, over the summer I read Grant Lichtman's latest book Moving the Rock and was reminded by his belief that connectivity empowers innovation, that innovative thinking doesn't occur in an isolated space, but in a connected setting. So if I want to keep up with the innovative thinking I'd better keep practising and modelling connection - one way is through my blog.

At the end of the summer holidays I was interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ Nine to Noon. I had been asked to talk about the motivation for and principles behind our decision to bypass NCEA Level 1 and send our Year 11 learners on a 2 year journey to a quality Level 2. We'd been talking this talk for a number of years and our 2017 students were the first cohort to move through that journey.

The decision to follow this path was based on our principle of Inspire through deep challenge and inquiry. If we wished to remain true to this principle we did not feel we could subject our Year 11 learners to a year of surface learning in a bid to chase in excess of 100 credits to gain NCEA L1, which is a qualification of very little currency. All of us on the staff had seen many examples of over-stressed kids in Year 11, losing all engagement with deep learning in their pursuit of credits. We had certainly seen and experienced the huge demands on teacher workload supporting students in this pursuit. As a result, in designing our approach to delivering NCEA the first principle we decided on was reduce stress.

We couldn't be happier with how things have played out at our school. Our students, at the end of the calendar year, have achieved NCEA L2 to a level expected by students from schools such as ours and the level of Merit or  Excellence endorsed qualifications was higher than expected.

What is more pleasing is the largely calm manner in which our students went about compiling their quality NCEA L2. I had learning conversations with most of our Year 12 students as the year drew to a close and 2 things stood out:


  1. The low levels of stress and anxiety many were experiencing as they explained their progress towards their quality qualification
  2. One student, in particular, reminding me that there was no panic or alarm that he was on track to achieve 'only'  70 of the credits he needed for Level 2 to be awarded in 2017 because he was coming back in 2018 as a Year 13 student and would pick up his Level 2 as he moved towards gaining his Level 3. This was a reminder to me to wind back the level of stress around NCEA.
I began to think about how we set our students on a 2 year journey to their quality qualification and that we didn't get hung up on reporting where they were at at the end of the Year 11 calendar year. Now that our narrative is changing to a 3 year journey towards a quality qualification I am wondering why we get hung up on where  every kid  is at at the end of the calendar year, while at the same time wondering what our school will look like in League  Tables which look at results over a calendar year.

With the upcoming review of NCEA, which has some great thinkers involved, I've been thinking about how our experience could influence the outcome of that review.

How about this  as a possibility?


  • A single qualification is awarded when a student graduates from secondary school.
  • The level of the qualification is determined by each student's best, say, 80 credits achieved over their last 1, 2 or 3 years at secondary school.
    • If a student knows they will be at school until the end of Year 13 and will be achieving the equivalent of NCEA L3 they shouldn't have to be jumping through the hoops and continual qualifications assessment required of Level 1 and 2. They could be spending those years engaged in deep learning as they bring together the evidence of this deep learning.
  • Published levels of school achievements would simply be the level of qualifications achieved by students as they graduate.

I'm only a country boy and there will be lots of fish hooks in my suggestion but if the starting point is the promotion of deep learning and student and staff well-being it might be worth considering.



Friday, June 30, 2017

Urgency. Transformation. Optimism. The way for schools.

During my sabbatical visits all school leaders spoke of the 'parent push-back' they encountered. While many spoke of having the confidence of the large percentage of their parent community they had to spend a lot of time dealing with small groups who wished to move their schools back to more traditional models. This is despite all parents knowing what the schools were like before they applied for their child to attend.

I am of the view that expecting and dealing with this type of push-back is an essential part of the leadership of a school contributing to the transformation of education. I also believe that we at HPSS have the confidence of the majority of our parents. Most of them see their kids wanting to be at school, being engaged in their learning, and developing excellent dispositions to prepare them for their present and future.

The frustrations I experience are with groups who do not have a connection with the school forming a view of our model without investigating it. Some of our parents tell me that some of their friends tell them we are a school where kids can do what they like, where there is no testing etc. While we are doing things differently, both of these are far from the truth.

Over the last few days I attended a Minister of Education Cross Sector Forum at which the new Digital Technologies Curriculum was introduced and have read some articles on future schooling etc. All of this has strengthened my resolve for how we are approaching education at our school. But, more importantly, I am feeling for the first time a groundswell gaining momentum and a shared sense of urgency.

It started at the Cross Sector Forum where a group of Lynfield College students from their Robotics Club spoke of their experiences. Even though they ae national and world champions they spoke only a little about their robotics. They talked about how the type of learning they experienced through their interest in robotics "taught them how to lead and taught them how to teach"! They talked about how they were knees deep in breaking down gender stereotypes. They also noted that the fun and passion they experienced in their robotics learning was not replicated across the rest of their learning. That's the challenge for us. If students are motivated enough to spend hours of their spare time having fun, exploring their passion and learning deeply about not only technical skills but inter-personal and self-regulation skills as well, surely we as teachers and schools can be motivated to make this possible for all learning.

This was followed up by Education Minister Nikki Kay who spoke of digital fluency as an essential life skill and that we were now moving past the structure provision phase to the people moving phase. She acknowledged issues of teacher workload and stated that if assessment is a major cause of workload then that was "an easy fix". I love the sound of that. You can read a recent blog post from Claire Amos on an innovative approach which removes high stakes assessment from schools and teachers so we can concentrate on deep learning and supporting students to collate evidence of learning.

Frances Valintine, an Education Futurist (think MindLab), then painted a clear picture of the world not too far in the future that we need to be preparing students for (something which I firmly believe conventional schooling is not doing). She spoke about:

  • moving from 'using digital' to 'being digital'
  • now time to hack education
  • the largest group in the world are Generation Z (currently in schools) and largely being taught by Baby Boomers and Generation X - are we holding them back?
  • entrepreneurship is in the DNA of Gen Z
    • they see the digital revolution as creating jobs (Baby boomers talk of it destroying jobs!)
While the Digital Technology curriculum is only a part of what a school delivers (though gaining increasing prominence) the messages from the Minister and Frances have filled me with hope. Have a listen to Claire's interview on Radio NZ which captures the excitement and optimism many of us feel.

I really enjoyed seeing one of Frances' slides which captured how schools could lead in this new environment.
 The last 2 points resonate as they ae central to the vision at our school:

  1. Create a delightful education experience. Contextualise all learning in real-world scenarios.
  2. Develop a student-led environment


This morning I came across this article in the Sydney Herald. It identifies the importance of literacy and numeracy as key skills, but it also identifies the need for the development of another range of skills conventional schools are not necessarily bringing to the fore:

  • resilience
  • growth mindset
  • capacity to fail and try again
  • empathy
  • collaboration
  • creativity
It also, quite correctly, acknowledges great teaching will never be obsolete and that "the relationships teachers form with students, to inspire them and lead them to greater things, will be more important than ever." It doesn't, however, hide the fact that teaching has to be different to be great in this new environment.

And picking up on the workload issue of assessment, we often frame this as a negative impact on teachers (which it is) but this morning I also read this article which describes the impact on a particular student.

So there are plenty of reasons to support the transformation of secondary schools. I am not comfortable with a model of learning and assessing having such a impact on the well-being of the young people we are supposed to be serving. Solutions to this issue will also have positive impacts on teachers. And we can't escape the digital revolution which is occurring right now.

There are certainly pitfalls ahead of us but if we invest in our young people, get out of their way a bit and concentrate on the development of dispositions and ethical behaviour I'm more optimistic than pessimistic.

We also need strong national leadership which partners with us to bring our communities with us. Right now I have confidence in our Minister to play her part and hope she maintains a strong partnership with thinkers like Frances Valintine and listens to the voice and questions from leaders such as Claire Amos (and the many others doing great stuff in our schools).

The future is in the hands of these Gen Z in our schools. I know none of the ones I work with would sell citizenship to the highest bidder or accept that it is OK for people to live on the street or factor in poverty as an inevitable outcome of how we do things in our country.

More optimistic than pessimistic!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Implications for HPSS - Part 2 - Challenges

My previous post concentrated on the aspects of my sabbatical which provided affirmations for what we are already doing at HPSS. This post attempts to capture what I see as the areas of challenge or further development.

Student Self-Regulation
I have been critical of conventional secondary schools which complain that their students are not independent, self-regulated learners but give them no opportunity to be so. In most schools, up until the age of 18 students are closely regulated by external factors: timetable, bells, rules, teachers. While such factors can make schools more ‘manageable’ and lead to great academic results, they do not promote self-regulation and, quite possibly, contribute to our high university drop-out rate.

I have always wanted our school to be one in which students were given daily opportunities to self-regulate. A simple representation of this is by having no bells. Another layer has been our Floor Time (originally MyTime) programme. It originally allowed students to opt into up to 3 workshops a week to “do whatever I need to do know, where I need  to do it and with whom I need to do it.” It has now become a more regulated time on our timetable with less self-regulation.

My visits have reinforced my view that we need to look for more ways for students to self regulate. I have reflected that too often we may not ‘loosen the leash’ and provide opportunities for self-regulation because not all students will cope so we end up tightening things to accommodate those students. I’d like to flip that and provide more self-regulation opportunities but have arrangements to accommodate those who are unable to manage.

Following are two examples I have been thinking about and want to explore with my staff:

  • Learning Hub time be voluntary for Year 13s (and possibly Year 12s.)
    • I think a large group would still attend and another large group would make excellent use of their time to continue their learning. A small group would waste the opportunity.
    • With the Year 13s (and possibly Year 12s) this would give an opportunity for the senior Hub students (Year 11 or 12) to have a formalised leadership role in the Hub.
    • This has the advantage of providing more time in a senior student’s timetable to determine how to use their time best to progress their learning.
    • It would also give more opportunity for Learning Coaches to concentrate on developing our Foundation students and preparing them for self-regulation.
    • I can’t think of a worst case scenario if this was implemented that would keep me awake at night.
  • Non-staffed class time for Year 13 students.
    • If a student had 3 blocks of time allocated in a week to a subject/module only 2 of these would be staffed. Direct teaching and support would occur in the staffed blocks and students would continue through the programme, independently, in the non-staffed block. Many programmes delivered at NYC iSchool were delivered in this ‘blended’ approach with access to resources and support made available on-line (as we do now).
    • The added advantage would be that students could determine how they would use their 5 non-staffed blocks (assuming they were doing 5 subjects/modules) at any given time. Because of workload demands they might use 2 (or more) unstaffed blocks to work on one subject in one week.
      • This provides further opportunity for self-regulation and moves closer to how they have to manage their time at university.

Students as Partners in Learning Design
There is no doubt that when I saw students engaged as true partners in the design of their learning, engagement levels were at their highest. This was sometimes at the level of choosing project topics but moved through the continuum to include planning a full project inquiry, with teacher support, determining the learning context and the product of or evidence of learning. I saw many examples of deeper than expected learning and all schools had excellent attainment levels in statewide assessment/testing.

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we attempt to involve students in co-designing their learning. Before each semester’s module planning we get students to explore their understanding of the overarching concepts (Identity, Space and Place, Citizenship, Systems and How Things Work, Relationships, Cultural Diversity, Innovations and Transformations) and then to suggest contexts for learning (eg How Did The Universe Begin? How Serious is Climate Exchange? Why Are There Refugees?). Teachers then collaborate to plan modules to offer students. As well, within each module students have a part to play in designing their learning (see blog post comments included in previous post.)

I am finding myself asking how we could both embed and extend this concept further. What does a school look like when students are authentic partners in learning and schooling in general?

At this stage my plans are to:
  • Carry out a stocktake of the current situation of “Students as Partners in Learning Design”.
    • Explore the concept with the Learning Habitat and gather their views of the current situation
    • Gather some staff voice via ‘Kitchen Table With Maurie’
  • Explore further areas of opportunity to have students as authentic partners.
    • Begin with Learning Habitat and then cast to wider student group.

Some opportunities I have been thinking about include:
  • Ambassadors to host touring groups
  • Involvement in staff appointments
  • Formalise student involvement in feedback to staff re their teaching
  • Involvement in restorative practice processes so that impact of behaviours and outcomes on wider student body is taken into account

Parents as Partners
A neat outcome of increasing the strength of partnership with students will be in supporting us to bring parents and the wider community on board. All schools I visited spoke of the challenge of ‘parental push-back’ in relation to their attempts to transform secondary education. This occurred in all schools, despite their vision and models of learning being well-known before families enrolled their children (in fact, most, if not all, of these schools were over-subscribed and had waiting lists).

In discussing this issue at each school the responses were similar. Julie Abraham, at Design Tech, captured the common message with “being unalterably clear on what we are about” and having the courage to stay true to the vision. I have often spoken of the need for a school leader to have a clear moral purpose and the courage to see that carried out. This was a common message from the schools I visited.

I am of the view that the most powerful and effective ambassadors of any school are its students. Because they are immersed in the daily life of a school and continually breathe the air of the culture of the place they know what a school is about and if it is the right place for them. Because I see our students interacting with our many visitors and I hear them talking about the school and their learning I know most of them are fully on board. More than one student has told me that their parents “now understand” and that while earlier on there was a risk that they would be removed by their parents they feel the relief of that increased understanding.

By increasing the opportunities for authentic partnership with our students, I believe they will be even more powerful and effective ambassadors for our school in their own families and the wider community.

Currently we have many practices in place to partner with parents. They include:
  • Start the year with Individual Education Meetings (IEMs) and repeat throughout the year
  • Waitangi Whanau Celebration in collaboration with Hobsonville Point Primary School
  • Fortnightly Newsletter, Facebook updates and School App communications
  • Hub Coach communication home
  • Parent workshops/conference
  • Morning Tea With Maurie


Later this year I plan to focus my collection of parent voice on the effectiveness of the current parent partnership opportunities and ask what else we could do to make it more effective.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Sabbatical Implications for HPSS - Part 1 - Strong Affirmations

What Are The Implications for Hobsonville Point Secondary School?
Affirmation
During my sabbatical I attempted to visit schools that would challenge my thinking and provide direction for further development and innovation for our school. In choosing the schools I consulted with Grant Lichtman, an internationally recognised thinker on innovative schooling, colleagues who had visited schools for the same reason as me, and searched lists such as “100 Most Innovative Schools”.

While my thinking was challenged in many ways, I cannot escape the conclusion that our school is at the leading edge of innovation. What was most pleasing was that the principles that we had decided on to drive learning design - Innovate by Personalising Learning, Engage through Powerful Partnerships, Inspire With Deep Challenge and Inquiry - were very similar to the common principles I saw in the schools I visited - Personalisation, Authenticity, Connection, Inquiry.

Our school is still very early in its development journey and we are certainly disrupting the conventional schooling model. The affirmations I received do provide the confidence to continue  to build on our foundations and to persist with our approach to learning design. This view was reinforced by a staff member’s comment on one of my recent blog posts:

This "They could then invite students to suggest which example of migration from across history, or in the present, they (individuals, small groups) would like to explore to increase their understanding of this concept." is very motivating for students I believe. This term we have had students carry out the generic research process into a biological issue. This started broadly with students collectively exploring what makes something an issue in general, with examples and some debate, ultimately ending in a challenge of could there actually ever be anything that wasn't an issue or potentially an issue!! Students were then given a very large list of biological concepts and ideas and were able to pick one of these or some other of their own design, in which they were intensely interested, to research. This is a Q1 course with students being assessed on their biological understanding of the issue (for bio) and also their research capabilities (for eng and bio). The teaching and learning and assessment of these ideas have been carried out over a period of 6-7 weeks, with multiple checkpoints along the way. We insisted that the students chose something they were intensely interested in, so they felt motivated to manage their time effectively throughout this extended time and work purposefully throughout. Anecdotal student voice around this suggests that students have enjoyed having choice in what they are researching and have been motivated to continue through the process. Currently students are seeking feedback on their work...I am pushing them to add more depth and to refine for deeper understanding. Students think this is to ensure they meet the standard at Level 1. Ha...some of the work is what I would have seen from L3 students in the past.... So choice, I believe is intensely motivating, as is investigating into something that an individual is intensely interested in. Previously in another school the bio is taught and assessed in one context only eg should NZ use 1080? Fine if this floats your boat but not fine if you are not interested in this particularly. Students in this class have chosen topics such as "Should we be concerned about the bees?", "Should abortion be funded by the state?", "Should smoking be banned?" "Should society allow designer babies?", "Why is ocean acidification a problem?", "What is the impact of endangered animal trafficking?, "What is the impact of habitat destruction?", "What is bioaccumulation?", "Is Donald right about global warming? and so on....I am really looking forward to finding out what the students have found out!!

In an earlier blog post I published a draft Elevator Statement in an attempt to capture the essence of what I found was common across the innovative schools that I visited. This is what I came up with:

If we want learning to be personalised, authentic, and connected and to be preparing students for their lives in the 21st century, learning must be centred on high-interest projects, drawing on a range of specialist subjects, with opportunities for hands-on application and partnering with the community. There should be a genuine outcome from the learning and students must be partners in designing the learning.

After writing this I revisited the Elevator Statement that we wrote in December 2014 in an attempt to capture the particular essence of our school:

The HPSS model of learning truly engages learners by drawing on their interests and has deep challenge and inquiry at its centre at a time when our country and world need people who are engaged learners, able to work in teams of diverse people, solve complex problems and who enhance their own well-being by contributing strongly to the betterment of their communities.

While there are many similarities, I like, in the more recent iteration, the more overt statement of connected learning (“drawing on a range of specialist subjects”), the partnering with the community, rather than “contributing to the betterment of the community”, and the identification that “students must be partners in designing the learning”.

A further area of affirmation was for the work we are doing in developing a dispositional curriculum. All schools had a form of Learning Advisory (ours is known as Learning Hubs) but none had the same allocation of time or the planning scaffolds and rigour that we are working on developing. Any investigation of the way to best prepare young people for their rapidly changing world identifies the importance of certain dispositions.

As well, while I saw processes of learning design, time did not allow me to delve deeply into each school’s model. I did come away proud of our model. The way our Learning Design Model drives Learning Objectives linked to each Learning Area’s key concepts, skills and content and draws on student voice to determine learning contexts which all determines the framework for identifying progression is sound and rigorous.

Teaching as Inquiry is second-nature in New Zealand schools and it drives teachers to continually inquire into our practice and to be continually asking about our impact on student learning. My main focus during my visits was on cross-curricular, inquiry learning, and I did not come across a similar emphasis on teaching as inquiry during my visits,  which is not to say it was not there. School leaders I met with were impressed with our model of critical friend and spirals of inquiry.

Implications

  • Work collaboratively with a range of groups to design an amended Elevator Statement that captures the essence of what sets Hobsonville Point Secondary School apart.
    • Use this work as a platform to work with BOT to revisit Charter
  • Continue the ground-breaking work on developing the dispositional curriculum so it is very clearly part of the learning “we do around here.”
  • Keep our Learning Design Model at the centre of teacher and student collaborative design processes and activities.
  • Ensure the teaching as inquiry processes are resourced so that they continue to be central to teacher development and growth.

In my next post I will present what elements I see as ongoing challenges for us and areas on which we might need more focus to continue our development.

Monday, June 19, 2017

What Could Schools Do To Promote Personalisation and Authenticity

In this next post on my sabbatical I provide suggestions on what schools could do to explore PBL and make learning more personalised and authentic and forming connections between learning areas.

What Could Existing Schools Do To Reflect These Principles?

  • Explore models of Project-based learning. A clear model that all staff understand and commit to and through which students are scaffolded is essential to provide rigour and prevent low quality experiences and outcomes. The following links could be a good place to start:
  • Make every effort to provide opportunities for learning to be connected across subjects. Even with a traditional, single-subject timetable it’s not difficult to change mindsets and school practices to enable students to establish connections.
    • Schools could start by determining common themes that could drive learning contexts across the whole school or particular year levels. This would, at least, allow all subjects to connect to the common theme.
      Grade level Themes at SLA
    • Meeting structures could be turned on their head and regular meetings for the common teachers of each class to discuss how learning could be connected across more than one subject. Students could work on high-interest projects which they have had a say in creating in classes timetabled for 2 or 3 of their subjects. Completing one piece of work, drawing on several subjects and being supported by several teachers will not only result in a quality outcome and deeper learning, but reduce workload for students and for  teachers. Perhaps Departments could be required to find times to run their meetings when necessary, rather than having them scheduled. This reinforces that the focus in our school is on collaborative practice rather than subject silos.
  • Teachers in all classes could share with their students the responsibility of determining the context in which learning could take place. Teachers would still take responsibility for developing the important learning/achievement objectives but invite students to be design partners in determining the context.
    • Rather than informing a class that they are studying Migration and that they would do this by learning about Victorian English people and their migration to and settling in New Zealand, a Social Studies teacher could explore with students the concept of Migration and establish its worthiness of study. They could then invite students to suggest which example of migration from across history, or in the present, they (individuals, small groups) would like to explore to increase their understanding of this concept. Teachers and students would design activities together which allowed the important learning objectives to be met.
  • Wherever possible, provide multiple opportunities for students to provide evidence of their learning.
    • If all students have to write an essay to show their understanding of an important science concept, then those who are poor essay writers will not do well, despite perhaps having a high level of understanding of the science concept. As long as the learning objectives can be met allow students to show their understanding, whether it be by essay, piece of art, spoken word etc.
  • Include some contact or experience with the community or expertise from beyond the school in all planning of learning programmes.
    • At the very least, this could be a guest speaker/facilitator but can include off-site visits, individual/small group mentor relationships, on-line communication and connection with expertise, or a client relationship.
  • Encourage the public sharing and discussion of student work.
    • At the very least, this could be presenting findings back to the class with high expectations of how to make a quality presentation and how to provide quality feedback but can include presenting to students from outside the class or at another school, parents, and mentors and clients who have been involved in the learning.
    • Think about where these presentations should take place.The school might be appropriate but so might a community space (library, parks, malls), a conference or place of work.

I hope these suggestions show how schools, no matter their context, can bring life to the principles of personalisation, authenticity, connection and collaboration.