Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Courageous Sharing at HPSS

This afternoon my co-DPs and I had the opportunity to share our curriculum structures at EdChallenge (a PLG for senior leadership teams organised by the Albany Senior High School - thank you for including us!). It was awesome and terrifying to have an opportunity to attempt to articulate a year's thinking in a little over 20 minutes. A few things struck me. For one, we have done A LOT of thinking and we have come along way. It was great to hear Di and Lea share their journey with their teams in developing and realising visions for our Learning Design and Learning Relationships respectively. Their leadership has resulted in some incredibly deep thinking. 
Interestingly, we have remained true to our original thinking in Term One and indeed Maurie's and the BOTs vision from the year prior. However, on closer inspection, we have absolutely grown and built on these initial plans as we have welcomed on more and more of our team on board. There was a real sense of collaboration and leadership driving what was presented today (see above).

What was also evident was a sense of a thinking journey. We began the year with a period of convergent thinking - developing as a small team a strong nucleus or core to our structure. Then as teams were introduced we entered a phase of divergent thinking so as to develop different strands such as specialised learning, learning teams, project learning and professional learning. We now seemed to have come full circle with a need to become convergent once more so as to streamline our thinking and our taxonomies. This cycle will undoubtedly repeat itself as we continue to evolve, and may form a useful structure for 'leading as inquiry' process over the coming years. Converging to locate our next focus or priority and then diverging to explore solutions and opportunities. This echoes an interesting cycle of collaboration and autonomy - a cycle which seems integral to collaborative leadership being sustainable in the longterm.

Another thing that struck me as I left for home (only slightly traumatised by such an act of unbridled and uncensored sharing), is that we are bloody brave. In fact we are all brave at HPSS. Throughout this developmental foetal like stage we have basically been sharing our ultrasounds with the world! Guts and all, we have shared our thinking, our ideas, our challenges and and our excitement (not looking at anyone in particular Mouldey). 

This is awesome and something we should remember to celebrate. For this reason, I would like to dedicate this post to my courageous colleagues who have been sharing their learning and thinking online and face to face. 

And here we are, warts and all, the HPSS bloggers:

Senior Leadership Team

Specialised Learning Leaders

Learning Team Leaders

Project Learning Team

Professional Learning Team

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Futures Thinking and the Future of Education

Warning - this is long! It was originally written for my Organisational Development paper.


“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed - it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” (Robinson, 2009, p. 238)

Currently many schools can still be described as fitting the so-called ‘factory model’. These schools were born out of the industrial era and for the most part have failed to adapt to the needs of learners who exist in what can be defined as the knowledge or creative age. There are a number of areas that schools can develop so as to better meet the demands of the 21st century learner. But as Ken Robinson states it is not simply a matter of subtle change or reform, the education system needs to be transformed.

Schools in the modern era need to become increasingly student-centred, providing student choice and developing 21st century skills through blended learning modes and flexible spaces and structures. This transformation requires collaborative, student centred leadership, committed to a continuous cycle of improvement and change underpinned by inquiry.

A new context – the knowledge age

One of the central reasons we need to transform how we deliver education in the 21st century is the fact that we are living in a new age – the knowledge age. In the text 21st Century Skills, Trilling and Fadel (2009) look to the recent past to establish a timeline: agrarian age, industrial age and knowledge age. Acknowledging that whilst many cultures are still well grounded in the Agrarian and Industrial Age, the most developed are grounded in the knowledge age. McCain, Jukes and Crockett (2010) create a similar timeline in Living on the Future Edge, showing the world as moving through agriculture, working, and service to creative or knowledge age in the current day. Rachel Bolstad (2008) defines ‘the knowledge age’ as a new, advanced form of capitalism in which knowledge and ideas are the main source of economic growth (more important than land, labour, money, or other ‘tangible resources). New patterns of work and new business practices have developed, and, as a result, new kinds of workers, with new and different skills, are required.

New skills for a new age

A new age demands a new set of skills. These are commonly referred to as 21st century skills. In response to this, the school curriculum in the modern age has (or will need to have) an increasingly skill or competency-focused curriculum. The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies that have been identified as key skills for 21st century learners. These include thinking, using language, symbols, and texts, managing self, relating to others and participating and contribution. Similarly the American 21st Century Skills Partnership (see Figure 2) outlines a series of skills or competencies as the structure of effective learning in the modern age. Increasingly these competencies, rather than traditional curriculum content or subjects, seem to be informing curriculum design in the 21st century.

Figure 1: 21st Century Skills Rainbow

In considering the New Zealand Curriculum and what is identified in a range of literature there are some common assumptions about what skills are needed in the modern age, including complex communication skills, collaborative skills, critical thinking and problem solving skills well as highly developed information and media literacy.

Figure 2: 21st Century Skills

Effective schooling in the modern era

Assuming these skills are key to succeeding in the modern era, how we define an effective school will need to change also. There are many facets that make up the vision of what makes an effective school in the in the modern era (or knowledge age) such as having an increasing focus on developing powerful learning relationships, through inquiry and project learning in blended learning environments with increasing amounts of flexible or self-directed learning so as to deliver truly student-centred learning. There are a number of organisational structures or systems that will be required to support learning in the modern era.

Knowing the learner is central to a successful modern school. Organisational systems such as learner advisories need to be set up to ensure powerful learning relationships are developed and continue develop throughout a students time at school. A ‘learning advisory’ is a small group of students led by a learning advisor to provide both pastoral and academic guidance. This can include setting personal and academic goals and ongoing mentoring to ensure learners are making appropriate choices to ensure learning paths are meeting the needs of the learner. The Big Picture Schools website defines learning advisories as “the core organisational and relational structure … often described as the “home” and “second family” by students. A learning advisory within the Big Picture School system is made up of fifteen students with one advisor who works with the students throughout their entire high school career. This model has been in place at the Big Picture schools internationally for sometime. New Zealand Schools such as Opotiki College and Hobsonville Point Secondary School are establishing similar models to ensure powerful learning relationships can be developed between the student, teacher (or advisor) and home.

Learning advisories are a powerful mechanism for ensuring that partnerships are not only developed between teacher and learner, but also between the school and family and whanau. An effective school in the modern era may also look to connect with family and whanau in new ways such designing the school curriculum. As Hampson, Patton and Shanks (2012) of the Innovation Unit share in their text 10 ideas for the 21st Century, ways of achieving this are already happening in New Zealand:

“Discovery 1, a primary school in New Zealand, goes even further: the curriculum is designed by the whole community, with workshops taught by parents who have knowledge in specific subjects. Parents are seen as partners in schooling: families can choose to have days of learning at home, in addition to parents providing support and guidance in school to teachers and learners alike.” (p.23)

These kinds of initiatives see lines between school and home blurring, developing stronger connections with the community than ever before and helping to develop a sense of ubiquitous learning that can take place anytime and anywhere.

Student choice and opportunities to learn through passion projects or impact projects have been recognised as a way for students to experience authentic learning and an increasing sense of student agency. Passion projects allow learners to explore and build on personal interests. Schools such as Albany Senior High School already have ‘Impact Projects’ at the heart of their curriculum, as does St Hilda’s Collegiate, where all Year 9s connect to a person in the community through their Passion Projects. Project learning or ‘project based learning’ can provide learning opportunities that are authentic and support learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Project learning involves completing complex tasks that result in a realistic product, event, or presentation to an audience (Trilling and Fadel, 2009). Trilling and Fadel (2009) argue that the benefits from project learning include “increased ability to define problems, improved reasoning using clear arguments, and better planning of complex projects. Improvements in motivation, attitudes toward learning, and working habits were also found” (p.111).

Similarly, inquiry-based learning is central to curriculum and learning design that seeks to encourage student-centred learning. A wide range of future-focused learning theory cites inquiry as an important 21st century skill. As Trilling and Fadel (2009) suggest, inquiry and design learning methods, combined with traditional ways of acquiring skills “guided by caring teachers and parents and powered by today’s digital learning tools” (p.94) are at the centre of a 21st century learning approach. Inquiry based learning sees the learner taking the lead with their learning as they inquire or research a topic. Learners may be provided with a framework or s series of questions to guide their inquiry, or may design their own framework or questions to develop an increasingly self-directed model of inquiry.

In the modern era, if schooling is to be truly student-centred, learning should also be rich in differentiation so as to meet the needs of diverse learners. Differentiation is about providing different ways for learners to achieve a particular outcome. As Tomlinson (2001) states in her text How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms “kids of the same age aren’t all alike when it comes to learning, anymore than they are alike in terms of size, hobbies, personality, or likes and dislikes” (p.1). Assuming this to be true, coupled with the increasing diversity of future career paths it is important that teaching and instruction is differentiated to meet the needs of diverse learners (and diverse futures). Tomlinson calls for a need to differentiate instruction for learning style, interest and readiness. She suggests that the teacher can also differentiate the content (or context), the process used to learn and the product that is created to demonstrate the learning that has taken place. Differentiation, like student choice and passion projects, provides a way to achieve an authentically student-centred learning to better meet the needs of the learner in the modern era.

Digital competency is also central to learning in the modern age. As Trilling and Fadel (2009) state “technology and the digital devices that fill a knowledge worker’s toolkit” (p.25) are increasingly important as learning enablers in the modern age. Therefore, blended learning delivered through richly integrated digital technologies are key to enabling many of the aspects outlined above that come together to meet the needs of learners in the modern age. As modern learning environments evolve to allow open and flexible use of learning spaces, so too does ‘bring your own device’ policies, robust Wi-Fi infrastructures and sophisticated Learning Management Systems support learning to become flexible and ubiquitous making learning available anytime, anywhere.

As Mitra (2013) states “unlocking the power of new technologies for self-guided education is one of the 21st century superhighways that need to be paved.” (pg.1). The concept of increasingly self-guided learning and flexi-time is also central to learning in the modern era. This is of course enhanced by inquiry learning and blended learning as learning becomes less bound to specific time or spaces. The Coalition of Self-Directed Learning Schools in Canada has been developing a model of self-directed learning with students enjoying full days of ‘self-directed flexi-time’ for over 40 years. Within New Zealand Schools such as Ormiston Senior College and Hobsonville Point Secondary School also providing students with opportunities to become increasingly self-directed during extended periods of “flexi-time”.

How you would develop it to meet the needs of students in the future

Making the necessary changes to create effective schools for a modern era require schools to become learning organisations that can sustain ongoing change. For a school to become what Senge (1990) refers to as a ‘learning organisation’, so as to meet these needs of learners in a modern era, it is important that the entire organisation is underpinned by inquiry. Teachers will need to be able to cope with increasing rates of change and will need to become what Darling-Hammond (2009) refers to as ‘adaptive experts’ so as to be responsive to the needs of learners in an increasingly student-centred learning environment.

Learning organisations will need to be structured in such a way that that they can accommodate increasing levels of self-direction and look to be developing student agency. This will include redeveloping structures such as timetables so as to set aside time for self-directed learning or flexi-time, as well as allowing time for project learning and the pursuit of passion projects. Learning design is the key to providing the ‘enabling constraints’ that make flexible, self-directed learning manageable and meaningful.

Ensuring that there is direct leadership focused on learning relationships will also help learning organisations to meet the needs of learners in the modern age. Learning advisories and powerful school/whanau relationships need a wide range of organisational structures to ensure the can be effective. Timetables need to provide time for advisories to take place and professional learning needs to focus on teachers developing strategies for getting to know the learner and learning how to support leaners in setting robust academic and personal goals. Systems also need to be put in place to support ongoing school-family/whanau communications. This may include developing online student portfolios that encourage peer and parent feedback, or systems similar to those seen in the self-directed schools in Canada which included fortnightly student/advisor interviews that were summarised online and emailed home to parents at the time of the meeting. Reporting structures will change to become less formal and more regular updates and more likely a triangulated conversation between advisor, learner and parent.

Just as communication and reporting systems will change, so to will assessment. Personalised assessment will be needed to measure personalised learning. NZQA have already shared their ten-year vision for providing online, anytime, anywhere examinations in a bid to meet the need for increasing personalised means of assessing learning. In speaking to SPANZ, NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi (2013) outlined the plans for our national assessment approaches will change to meet the needs of learners in the modern age.

"Phase 3, the Transformation phase, will go from years 6 through to 10. This is when we expect it all to come together, and NZQA will deliver assessment to anyone, anywhere, anytime, online and on demand.”

It is changes such as these that will enable transformation of how we deliver education possible. It is a reality that, in a secondary environment at least, assessment directly impacts on curriculum design. Therefore, anytime, anywhere assessment will be an important step in transforming the current curriculum design norms.

As Trilling and Fadel (2009) state in ‘21st Century Skills – Learning for Life in our Times’ “Technology and the digital devices and services that fill a knowledge worker’s toolkit – the thinking tools of our time – may be the most potent forces for change in the 21st century” (p.25). Indeed, each of the aforementioned organisational systems is enabled, or at least enhanced, by the integration of ICT and blended learning design. Seamlessly integrated digital technologies and ubiquitous access to learning and assessment requires careful strategic planning. Planning needs to firmly based around the needs of the learner (see Figure 3), ensuring the necessary infrastructure (network, Wi-Fi, Internet provision, provisioning, single sign-on etc.), teacher professional development (supporting teachers to change pedagogical approach through teaching as inquiry), designing integrated Learning Management and Student Managements Systems and developing Digital Citizenship of teachers and learners to ensure systems are reliable and robust and the approaches are pedagogically sound.

Figure 3: Strategic Planning for ICT Integration

Appropriate leadership capacities and strategies in what is inevitably a change-orientated environment

A collaborative culture is central to a 21st century learning organisation. As Schein (1992) suggests “culture and leadership are two sides of the same coin in that leaders first create cultures when they create groups and organisations” (p.137). To develop a collaborative culture within a student-centred learning organisation requires a collaborative student-centred leadership model. As Robinson (2011) states in Student-Centred Leadership, future-focused schools recognise the need to build a team who can collaboratively support the five dimensions of student-centred leadership: establishing clear goals and expectations, resourcing strategically, ensuring quality teacher learning and ensuring an orderly and safe learning environment.

Robinson (2011) also identifies three capabilities needed for student-centred leadership: applying relevant knowledge, solving complex problems, and building relational trust.

However, in an age where transformation is called for, future-focused leadership is required. Future-focused leadership is about change management and becoming a genuine ‘learning organisation’. As Senge (1990) states “the organisations that will truly excel in the future will be the organisations that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organisation” (p.151). In order to ensure organisational leadership is responsive to the needs of the learner, it is important that leading change is central to the organisation. There are three levels of leadership central within an effective learning organisation: governance, school leadership and teaching. Each aspect can be adaptive and responsive if underpinned by a continuous cycle of inquiry.

As Ministry of Education website (2013) states “Schools in New Zealand are self-governing and managed within a national framework of regulation and guidance…National Administration Guidelines (NAGs) for school administration set out desirable principles of conduct or administration in schools.” To insure these are met school boards are required to develop charters and annual plans in order to meet these requirements and report their performance accordingly. Taking a ‘governance as inquiry’ approach involves applying an inquiry cycle to the governance process.

Similarly, effective leadership needs to be underpinned by a cycle of inquiry to ensure that leaders are continually reflecting on the needs of the school and learners and adapting their practices accordingly. Research and reading focusing on future thinking often talk of the increasing rate of change (and even ‘hyperchange’) and for this reason it is important that leaders and teachers see themselves as adaptive experts and as Darling-Hammond (2009) states “Adaptive experts also know how to continuously expand their expertise, restructuring their knowledge and competencies to meet new challenges.” Taking a leading as inquiry will support leaders to be responsive to need whilst also continuously expand their expertise.

Governance and leading as inquiry represent how leading change can be managed on a macro level, this change needs to be echoed on a micro level within the classroom. Teaching as inquiry focuses on how the day to practice of the teacher can be responsive to the needs of the learner. Now, more than ever, teachers need to see themselves as life-long learners who are adapting to changing needs of students (Bolstad et al. 2012). As Timperley (2007) states “an essential element of this inquiry is that teachers see themselves as agents of change - for their students and their own learning” (p.xliv). ‘Teaching as inquiry’ allows a teacher to align their learning to meet the demands of their curriculum and the needs of their specific students. This assists in making the professional learning authentic and personally meaningful in a way that initiative-focused sporadic professional development does not. Teaching as inquiry also allows staff to work with and learn from one another, and as Southworth (2000) states “persistent self-renewal, which is becoming more and more crucial to a school’s success is strongly associated with developing the capacity for staff to learn with and from one another” (p.191).

In this change orientated society it is important too, that the learning organisation appreciate the need for cyclical ongoing improvement and understand the importance of leveraging by making changes in periods of growth. As Sigmoid Curve Model suggests greater overall improvement is achieved when organisations make time of growth or improvement rather than times of decline.

Figure 4: Sigmoid Curve Model


As Mitra (2013) asserts the traditional educational model is a robust system, as it successfully manufactured generations of workers for an industrial age. But, as Gilbert (2005) states “the production-line model of education is a one-size-fits-all system” (p.61) sorting people according to their likely occupations that historically included primarily task-driven, labour or managerial roles. This is no longer good enough, with our focus now on what Gilbert describes as “diversification, on developing new industries and “adding knowledge” to our existing ones” (p.62). This calls for a new approach to education in New Zealand and beyond.

In conclusion, schools need to make a number of changes in order to meet the needs of learners in the modern age. As Mitra (2013) asserts schools today are the product of an expired age; standardised curricula, outdated pedagogy, and cookie cutter assessments are relics of an earlier time. The ‘factory model’ may well have been a good fit for the industrial age a new approach to schooling is required to meet the needs of the ‘knowledge age’ in which we now live. Schools need to become increasingly student-centred, providing student choice, developing 21st century skills through blended learning modes and flexible spaces and structures. This transformation requires student centred leadership, committed to a continuous cycle of improvement and change underpinned by inquiry, because as Mehta, Schwartz and Hess (2012) state in The Futures of School Reform “If we keep doing what we are doing, we’re never going to get there” (p.1).


Bolstad, R., & New Zealand Council for Educational Research. (2008). Disciplining and drafting or 21st century learning?: Rethinking the New Zealand senior secondary curriculum for the future. Wellington, N.Z: NZCER Press.

Bolstad, R., & New Zealand. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning & teaching: a New Zealand perspective. Wellington, N.Z.: Ministry of Education.

Center for 21st Century Skills — Redesigning education for the 21st Century through the convergence of art, business, creativity, innovation, engineering, and science. (n.d.). Retrieved September 2, 2013, from http://www.skills21.org/

Egan, K., & ebrary, Inc. (2008). The future of education reimagining our schools from the ground up. New Haven: Yale University Press. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/waikato/Doc?id=10315716

Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the knowledge wave?: the knowledge society and the future of
education. Wellington, N.Z: NZCER Press.

Hampson, M. Patton, A. and Shanks, L. (2012). 10 Ideas for 21st Century Education.

Innovation Unit. Retrieved October 7, 2013 from http://www.innovationunit.org/sites/default/files/10%20Ideas%20for%2021st%20Century%20Education.pdf

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. New York. Routledge.

Jukes, I. McCain, T. & Crockett, L. (2010). Living on the future edge: Windows on tomorrow Corwin Press, A SAGE Publications Company.

Mehta, J. Schwartz, R. & Hess, R. (2012). The Futures of School Reform. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard Education Press.

Mitra, S. (2013). We Need Schools... Not Factories. Huffington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2013 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sugata-mitra/2013-ted-prize_b_2767598.html

Robinson, V.M.J. (2011). Student Centred Leadership. San Francisico: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Robinson, V.M.J., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Wellington: New Zealand. Ministry of Education

Schein, E. H. (1992). Organisational Culture and Leadership (Second Edition). San Francisico: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Senge, P. (1990). The Firth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. New York: Doubleday.

SigmoidCurve.jpg (JPEG Image, 817 × 529 pixels) - Scaled (58%). (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2013, from http://blogs-images.forbes.com/rebeccabagley/files/2013/01/SigmoidCurve.jpg

Southworth, G. (2000). How Primary Schools Learn. Unpublished Paper.

The New Zealand Curriculum - NZ Curriculum Online. (2007.). Retrieved September 23, 2013, from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-documents/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum

Tomlinson, C. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (2nd ed.). Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/waikato/Doc?id=10044807

Trilling, B., & Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2009). 21st century skills: learning for life in our times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Video Presentation - Futures Thinking and The Future of Education

Here is my rather earnest *cue serious voice* overview of the what the future holds and how we need to adapt our education models to suit.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My name is Claire Amos and I am a 'mentor whore'

Today we did an exercise with our Learning Team Leaders which got us to reflect on a key mentor or coach who had made an impact on us. We then had to reflect on the qualities of that mentor, then compared our lists with others to come up with a top 5. It was clear that a pattern was forming. Lots of mentions of powerful relationships, passion, high expectations, support/guidance and the celebration and recognition of success. This was a great intro into what qualities we would be looking to develop as Learning Coaches. 

It was through this process of reflecting on people who have influenced, coached and mentored us that I had an incredibly revelation - it would appear that I am a mentor whore. 

Okay, that might sound less than positive. Maybe I am a mentor collector. A mentor magnet. Maybe I am just lucky, because if I look back over the last twenty years (from when I knew I wanted to be a teacher) I have a whole lot of people who I consider as mentors, people who have shaped my career and will continue to do so for years to come. And after today, I would like to thank them!

Brace yourselves for the Academy Award acceptance speech...

First up there are two key 'Teacher Mentors' (Carol Don and Brian Lamb) who were my Art History and Classic teachers respectively. These two are the reason I decided to become a teacher. Their passion for their subject areas and their ability to make a group of teenagers equally passionate for learning ignited what has been 16 year love affair with teaching. Their flamboyant delivery and ability to sustain discussion and debate was magic. Both teachers commanded respect, they developed 'warm but demanding' relationships that made you want to succeed for them. Even when I returned to Rangitoto College as a beginning teacher they continued to provide both inspiration and support.

I have also been lucky to have a number of 'Principal Mentors' (Alan Peachey, Simon Lamb, Madeline Gunn and Maurie Abraham). Each, for different reasons, have been pivotal in my career trajectory. Alan was a polarising character, strong in his beliefs and values and determined to make a difference. I still remember walking into his office in my first week of teaching to tell him I was going to be a Principal and asking he how he got there. He was probably amused, but was utterly supportive and forthcoming with sage advice. In my second year he supported me becoming HOD Drama and continued to back me for years to come. He saw my determination and rewarded it with high trust and equally high expectations. Similarly, Simon Lamb provided support and opportunities for growth both as my HOD English and then as my Principal at Takapuna Grammar. Both men welcomed me barging through their office doors declaring my career aspirations and both supported me by providing opportunities to prove myself as a leader - trust, support, guidance and high expectations were key for my professional growth and were offered up in spades. Madeline Gunn is another who gave similar opportunities, again putting up with my aspirations, taking them seriously and encouraging me to grow. She gave me opportunity to lead, provided support whilst making it clear that I was accountable and that expected me to deliver. Again the phrase 'warm but demanding' comes to mind with each of these mentors. Funnily enough it was my current 'Principal Mentor' Maurie Abraham that got me on to that term and already is delivering on it himself. Another Principal who puts up with me harping on about my career plans and providing me with just enough guidance and just enough freedom and professional trust to grow professionally.

And if that wasn't enough, I have also had some kick-ass 'Professional Mentors' too. These are the wise ones who I have connected with through professional opportunities outside my school. Leanne Webb and Mike Fowler in the English world who looked after me and provided many experiences and opportunities for professional learning and growth. Both shared their knowledge and encouraged me to grow and share mine. Ann Sturgess my national ICTPD facilitator who challenged and encouraged me - she is the very definition of a 'critical friend' - sharing her knowledge and unafraid of challenging in order to make you think more deeply about the 'why?'. Then there is the lovely (late) Vince Ham who guided and supported me through my e-fellowship - unerring warmth, encouragement with the occasional kick up the butt was incredibly powerful. A quality he seems to share with his Core Education colleagues Derek Wenmoth, Nick Billowes and Michael Winter, each of whom continue to provide guidance and support in their own way.

More recently I have also come to value what I refer to as 'Mentor Friends', those people who we meet through our profession that prove to be equal part mentors and friends (even if they don't realise it). People like Mark Osbourne, Karen Melhuish Spencer, Nat Torkington, Stephen Lethbridge and Andrew Cowie. People who can provide support, sage advice and give you shit all at the same time. These people aren't to be underestimated in their value. 

So that brings my raving to a close. What was the point of all that you say. Firstly it was to recognise and thank my mentors. Secondly it was to acknowledge that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Thirdly it was to highlight the importance of support, guidance and the power of 'warm but demanding' relationships. 

I also realise, on reflection, that it is no accident I have so many mentors. In fact I suspect I have often cultivated them. I cultivate mentors by asking for advice. I cultivate mentors by listening to advice. I cultivate mentors by barging through their office door and declaring my aspirations. I cultivate mentors by simply noticing how others have influenced and supported me. 

Heck, I am not a 'mentor whore', I am  a 'mentor horticulturist'. 

I suggest you be one too.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Teaching as Inquiry: A mechanism for leading meaningful and manageable pedagogical change

NB. This was first written as a position paper for Waikato University, hence the 'novel-esque' lengths. 
Source: http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-documents/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Effective-pedagogy
An important leadership issue that exists at a micro (school) and macro (systemic/national) level is that school-based, episodic and initiative-focused professional development does not support meaningful and manageable pedagogical change to occur.

This is particularly important as many New Zealand schools have been expected to design and implement a school curriculum based on the New Zealand Curriculum from 2010 and Te Mauratanga from 2011, whilst also introducing National standards from 2010 and the newly aligned NCEA standards from 2011. At the same time a number of schools have also been working on implementing e-learning across the curriculum.

My position is that pedagogical change can and must occur. With the ‘right tools’ school-based professional development can result meaningful and manageable pedagogical change. I believe one of the most effective ways that leaders can help educators to achieve the required pedagogical changes is through the implementation of ongoing school wide professional development framed around the ‘teaching as inquiry’ cycle.

Literature Review
Recent educational literature highlights both the issue of episodic, initiative-focused professional development and the position that ‘teaching as inquiry’ can support teachers in achieving both meaningful and manageable pedagogical change.

In the summary section of the ‘Teacher professional learning and development: best evidence synthesis iteration (BES)’, Timperley (2008) highlights “the strong, mostly anecdotal, evidence that much professional development has not been effective in terms of achieving change in teacher practice” (p.x). PPTA President Robin Duff (2007) also suggests in the BES that the current professional development is not enough, stating, “For many teachers, one-day workshops are all the professional development they experience because of the cost and unavailability of better options. These are not the ideal form of PD, although they may still have their place to share new information or to enable teacher networking.” (p.xii).

Timperley (2007) also suggests the importance of setting up conditions that are responsive to the way that teachers learn. She emphasises the need for teachers to define and monitor their goals and progress towards them. Now, more than ever, teachers need to see themselves as life-long learners who are adapting to changing needs of students (Bolstad et al. 2012). As Timperley (2007) states “an essential element of this inquiry is that teachers see themselves as agents of change - for their students and their own learning” (p.xliv). ‘Teaching as inquiry’ allows a teacher to align their learning to meet the demands of their curriculum and the needs of their specific students. This assists in making the professional learning authentic and personally meaningful in a way that initiative-focused sporadic professional development does not.

Another reason ‘teaching as inquiry’ provides such effective professional development is its focus on student learning outcomes. Alton-Lee (2003) and Timperley (2007) promote the importance of clear learning outcomes as goals, which then inform teachers’ learning goals which ensures the focus is on the student from the outset. This is reinforced by Fullan (2001) who states that “the key to system-wide success is to place educators and students at the centre” (p.1). He highlights the importance of educators focusing on the student and not just the educational initiative of the moment. This also means that teachers can appreciate the links between how and what they teach, how learners respond and what the students actually learn for ‘teaching as inquiry’ to be effective and actually lead meaningful change (Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, & Fung, 2008).

One of the key reasons that pedagogical change is often challenging to achieve in schools is due to the way schools deal with the introduction of ICT tools and strategies as a singular focus. As Fullan (2011) states “no successful country became good through using technology at the front.” (p.5). Without the focus on pedagogy and student outcomes, technology has the potential to become a distraction (Fullan, 2011) detached from the student’s learning. Using a ‘teaching as inquiry’ model to support ICT professional development ensures the focus remains on the student outcomes, not ICT tools in isolation. Noeline Wright (2010) highlights the importance of embedding “technological tools into the natural flow of schooling” (p.14). Educators need to use the ‘teaching as inquiry’ cycle to ensure they are examining the effectiveness of ICTs and online learning (Means, 2009). Similarly, Alton-Lee (2003) highlights the need for “curricular alignment: The use of resources, teaching materials and ICT is aligned with curriculum goals to optimise student motivation and accomplish instructional purposes and goals.” (p.ix). ‘Teaching as inquiry’ becomes increasingly important as it supports educators to trial new teaching interventions and measure the impact that teachers have as knowledge-generator (Robinson, 2003).

One reason why episodic initiative-focused professional development fails to result in meaningful and manageable change is because there is often inadequate time and support provided. As Aitken (2008) states “while research and inquiry can powerfully illuminate the impact of practice on students and take us forward, the process may involve discomfort” (p.31). Timperley also (2007) highlights the importance of organisational conditions and support, suggesting that teachers are unlikely to engage in inquiry if these are not present. As Alton-Lee (2008) states “the challenge for us all is to create systemic conditions that support teachers in their learning and inquiry” (p.31). Therefore, for learning and inquiry to be meaningful and manageable, school leaders have a responsibility to develop and sustain a school-wide learning community and are responsible for supporting and sustaining a continuous culture of learning amongst staff (Bolstad et al., 2012). The 2012 Education Review Office (ERO) report on ‘teaching as inquiry’ also reinforces these ideas, observing, “effective practice was seen where school leaders had worked with teachers to build an understanding about ‘teaching as inquiry’. They had progressively established systems to support inquiry, and were monitoring how effectively inquiry was impacting on learning.” (p. 9). However, ERO also highlighted that this was happening in only a few schools, which would suggest that whilst ‘teaching as inquiry’ has been identified as a meaningful and manageable way to enable pedagogical change, schools still struggle to make it a priority. As Justine Driver (2011) states in her thesis “teaching as inquiry is a tool for implementing change within schools and managing change is challenging for school leaders and teachers” (p. ii).

Assumptions, justifications and the larger educational picture
My position is that ‘teaching as inquiry’ is a process that has the potential to facilitate pedagogical change. However, one assumption is that appropriate time and support is important in making the inquiry successful and effective. Aitken and Sinnema (2008) highlight that teachers need to inquire into the impact of their actions on their students and into interventions that might enhance student outcomes. The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) also states that effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students. ‘Teaching as inquiry’, if implemented across the school, can be an effective way for teachers to evolve their pedagogical practice whilst focusing on the needs of their learners. This process also addresses school wide goals, which often focus on improving student learning and achievement.

Findings gathered from a study I undertook (having implemented a school wide professional development model framed by the ‘teaching as inquiry’) support the assumption that appropriate time and support is important in making the inquiry successful and effective. During 2011 and 2012 I was responsible for leading and reporting on a school wide ICT professional development contract for over 150 teaching staff at Epsom Girls Grammar School (a large girls secondary school located in Epsom, Auckland). It was during this time that I observed first-hand the pressures teachers felt due to the simultaneous implementation of the NZC, newly aligned NCEA standards and the introduction of ICT tools and strategies. This process provided a range of new understandings of the issue and it was during this time that I also saw first hand, how ‘teaching as inquiry’ could be used as a mechanism for achieving meaningful and manageable pedagogical change.
Figure 1
Arriving at the end of the first year of a three-year school-wide ICT PD contract, feedback from the teaching staff suggested (as assumed) that teachers were feeling overwhelmed by ‘yet another’ educational initiative (ICTPD) that had been added to an already busy professional development programme. There was also a level of frustration with the first year of the professional development being sporadic and having focused (as it does in many schools) on the ICT tools and strategies in isolation, highlighting the issue episodic, initiative-focused professional development. It was therefore necessary to change the focus to their students’ learning outcomes, not just the ICT tools and strategies alone. The way this was achieved was through the development of an ‘E-learning Action Plan’ (refer to Figure 1) that used used the stages of the ‘teaching as inquiry’ cycle to inform an action research project which was completed by curriculum based professional learning groups (PLGs).

The aim of this inquiry process was to provide all curriculum teachers, with a process to guide their integration of e-learning tools and strategies that was directly related to student outcomes and aligned to school-wide and personal learning needs. This provided a mechanism for pedagogical change that felt both manageable and meaningful to both the teacher and learner. The contextualisation and personalisation that ‘teaching as inquiry’ allowed meant that teachers could also focus on implementation of the newly aligned NCEA standards within the same cycle, which added to the sense of achieving pedagogical change (by introducing ICTs tools and strategies) in a way that was meaningful (as it was focused on the student) and manageable (as it integrated student learning outcomes, NCEA and ICT needs to be addressed in a single contextualised cycle) way.
Figure 2
It was in the second year of leading the school wide professional development that feedback was gathered that further justified the assumption that manageable and meaningful pedagogical change can be achieved using ‘teaching as inquiry’. This time the model was adapted to more directly address the demands of the NZC (with a particular focus on thinking, collaboration, differentiation) as well as focusing on the implementation of ICT tools and strategies. It was this adapted model that highlighted how ‘teaching as inquiry’ could be used to address the many challenges teachers are facing, including the implementation of the NZC, the demands of the newly aligned NCEA achievement standards as well as the need to be integrate ICT tools and strategies. The use of ‘teaching as inquiry’ allowed all of these topics to be aligned within a single cycle of school wide professional development. (refer to Figure 2)

The feedback from teachers was again very positive, with many highlighting how this process made implementing aspects of the NZC and introducing ICT tools and strategies manageable and ensured that the focus remained on the student throughout.

The experience at Epsom Girls Grammar School, I believe, reinforces how effective ‘teaching as inquiry’ can be in supporting teachers to navigate their way through the demands of the NZC, assessment and ICT tools and strategies that results in pedagogical change that is both meaningful and manageable. This however, can only be successful if the school provides the time and structures to enable inquiry and learning to take place.

Over the last two years I have also shared this strategy, through platforms such as EdTalks, NZC Online, Ulearn and a series of national conferences and online communities. Several schools have now adopted this model and feedback would suggest that this approach works well across the wider New Zealand educational landscape. There are a number reasons why I believe through using teaching inquiry, professional development can be meaningful and manageable in today’s learning environment. Firstly, it is based on effective pedagogy as outlined in the NZC. Secondly, it can be personalised to meet teacher professional needs and to encompass a range of educational initiatives. Thirdly, it can be contextualised into any curriculum area. It also provides a plan of action that provides structure and a level of accountability (if plans are shared and reported on). The final reason I believe ‘teaching as inquiry’ is so effective, is that it puts the focus on the student outcomes, not just the initiative of the moment.

Adaptive experts also know how to continuously expand their expertise, restructuring their knowledge and competencies to meet new challenges. 

(Darling-Hammond, 2006)
In a time when teachers are juggling a number of demands it is important that we provide them with strategies and processes for becoming adaptive experts who can achieve pedagogical change in a manageable way. As Earle (2008) states, “action research and focused inquiry both contribute to professional learning for teachers” (p.11) reinforcing the idea that ‘teaching as inquiry’ can be used, at both a micro (school) and macro (systemic/national) level, to guide not only professional learning but can also become a mechanism for achieving meaningful and manageable pedagogical change.

Aitken, G. & Sinnema, C. (2008). Effective pedagogy in social sciences/tikanga a iwi: best evidence synthesis interation (BES). Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.

Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling: best evidence synthesis. Wellington, N.Z.: Ministry of Education.

Bolstad, R. & Gilbert, J. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning & teaching: a New Zealand perspective. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Ministry of Education.

Driver, J. (2011). Teaching as inquiry: Understandings and challenges towards a professional way of being. Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from

Education Review Office. (2011). Directions for learning: the New Zealand curriculum principles, and teaching as inquiry. Wellington, N.Z.: Education Review Office.

Education Review Office. (2012). Teaching as inquiry: Responding to learners. Wellington, N.Z.: Education Review Office.

Fullan, M. (2011) - The wrong drivers.pdf. Retrieved from http://elearn.waikato.ac.nz/pluginfile.php/523311/mod_forum/attachment/1235832/Fullan%202011%20-%20The%20wrong%20drivers.pdf

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning. London, U.K.: Routledge.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. London, U.K.: Routledge.

NZ Curriculum Online. (n.d.). National Standards. Retrieved July 18, 2013, from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/National-Standards

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development & Education Review Office. (2010). OECD review on evaluation and assessment frameworks for improving school outcomes: New Zealand country background report 2010. [Wellington] N.Z.: Ministry of Education.

Schleicher, A. (2011), Building a High-Quality Teaching Profession: Lessons from around the World, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264113046-en

NZ Curriculum Online. (n.d.). Teaching as inquiry. Retrieved July 18, 2013, from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-stories/Case-studies/Teachers-as-learners-Inquiry/Teaching-as-inquiry

TeachThought - Learn better. (2013). Retrieved July 18, 2013, from http://www.teachthought.com/

Timperley, H. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: best evidence synthesis iteration (BES). Wellington, N.Z.: Ministry of Education.

Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2008). Teacher professional learning and development. Retrieved from http://www.orientation94.org/uploaded/MakalatPdf/Manchurat/EdPractices_18.pdf

Wright, N. (2010). e-Learning and implications for New Zealand schools: a literature review. Wellington. N.Z.: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/77667/948_ELearnLitReview.pdf

Monday, August 12, 2013

To LMS...and beyond!

A couple of months ago I was pondering the BIG question - to LMS or not to LMS? For those of you who are not down with the edu lingo, LMS stands for learning management system, which is a term for an online environment or platform that is used as a means for managing learning online...funny that.

Well, ponder I did, and still do, asking myself if we are actually in a post-LMS world. Part of me was convinced we are, that the concept of a LMS was singular and restrictive and quite frankly a bit 'yesterday'. But then, mid-ponder it struck me. I was asking the wrong question. It was not a question of 'To LMS or not to LMS?' It should have actually been the question - 'How do you we evolve the LMS to best meet the changing needs of schools and learners? It was not a matter of 'throwing the baby out with the bath water', it was more about teaching that baby to swim!

So how is the LMS evolving (or does it need to evolve)? The evolution for me is that it is no longer about a single solution. It is no longer about Moodle, or Moodle and Google or even Moodle, Google and MyPortfolio. It is about using one LMS (such as Moodle) to provide an architecture or framework for bringing together any number of LMSs and platforms. It is about someone or a team of educators curating and gathering a number of platforms and bringing them together and creating a mashed up whole, integrated seamlessly into a single experience through single sign-on. Many may argue this isn't necessary, but I do. A school is a community, a learning hub. So a school needs an online community, an online learning hub that can support and enhance a blended learning environment, blurring lines and connecting school, home, local, global communities to create a learning community that is tangible and easy to identify and connect with.

This of course is nothing new, and many of you are already mashing up and using a whole raft of LMSs and learning platforms. I guess what I needed to do is just shift my focus - from 'Do we need a LMS?' to 'How are we going to manipulate and mash up all of the environments we want to use?'. More importantly, how are we going to make this online space dynamic and engaging? 

In case you are wondering, we are going to use Moodle - but not just any old Moodle. For one, it will look good! Moodle will provide a front door and and will become the virtual home of our online learning hub - 'HobsOnline'. Moodle with be the place where students login to their single sign on environment that will give them easy access to Moodle, Google, MyPortfolio, the library LMS, eTV, Kamar student portal and hopefully N4L. Staff and students will be encouraged to use 'core platforms' as much as possible, but not limit themselves, as everyone (students and teachers) will be encouraged to constantly inquire and to use the best tool for the job or learning outcome. The challenge will be in establishing a range of common core platforms and practices that are used enough, that a genuine online community is established and common practices are shared and valued...but that everyone also feels free to explore and be creative in their online practice. 

So I guess the answer to the original question is - 'to LMS'. No question.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Looking for the Library Leader of the future!

Hobsonville Point Secondary School are looking for an innovative Library Leader for our future-focused school - sound like you or someone you know?? This will be an amazing opportunity for someone to develop their dream library for our school in state-of-the-art facilities and with a fabulous team of educators. 

Are you:
      passionate about future-focused pedagogy
      committed to supporting student and teacher inquiry

Role Description                                                             
We seek a librarian who is confident using many modern learning tools and has a clear vision of how a future-focused library can support and foster the use of e-learning across all subject areas. A library qualification is preferable, with experience in library systems and an interest in working with teenagers. Personal qualities we seek include being approachable and people-focused with an interest in supporting teachers to access a wide range of relevant and useful resources and information and to develop their use of e-learning to provide authentic learning experiences. You will also have the skills and enthusiasm to initiate new ideas, establish a vision for the library and lead a small team.

Position Profile                                                                     
We are looking for a Library Leader with the dispositions which display that they have:
      A clear understanding of a future-focused pedagogy in a Modern Learning Environment and the role that a library has within it
      A commitment to leading Digital Citizenship throughout the school
      An optimistic and agentic mindset
      The skills and desire to work collaboratively to strengthen practice
      A mindset for innovative thinking about library practice

Job Goals
      To ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information
      To empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information
      To instill a love of learning in all students and ensure equitable access to information
      To collaborate with teachers to design specialised learning modules, and support project learning
      To provide the leadership and expertise necessary to ensure that the school library is aligned with the mission, goals, and values of the school and wider community, and is an integral component of the teaching and learning programme.

      Describes the importance of the link to the community in terms of maximising the educational experience for students
      Possesses a global view of education that is not confined to ‘four walls’
      Sees the importance of learning that is authentic and across curriculum areas

      Is a supportive, challenging and collaborative colleague
      Expects excellence of self and others
      Displays passion, enthusiasm and a desire to see all of our learners succeed
      Has a sense of humour
      Sees listening as an essential component of being a good communicator
      Can create and sustain a new learning culture
      Is committed to the principles of restorative practice
      Develops a climate of high relational trust

Work Experience
      Displays a strength in student-centred teaching and learning
      Is able to contribute to significant projects

      Participates in professional learning communities to strengthen teaching practices
      Develops students to become independent and lifelong learners
      Is a reflective practitioner who actively seeks out professional learning and promotes sustainable change
      Is open to taking risks and is committed to overcoming challenges and difficulties
      Creates strong, positive relationships with all learners (staff and students)
      Engages in culturally responsive practices

Interested? Send me an email and I can send you an information pack and application form. claire@hobsonvillepoint.school.nz