When we first start out with a new skill – whether it is a swimming stroke, writing, mapping or playing an instrument – we always struggle/make things a bit worse before we start to see success. Then we improve, iterate based on feedback – either personal or from others. As we improve on this skill, we start seeing/making an impact – faster times, more fluent writing, accurate maps, beautiful music.
I have recently been wondering if this is what is happening with humans now? With many a head bow to David Attenborough here – we are now living in the Anthropocene. The age of humans. For most of life on Earth, nature has determined our existence, now humans determine nature’s existence.
The Industrial Age was the start of when humans had more influence over nature. Our technological advances gave us great societal advances but what we didn’t realise at the time was that it also had other consequences. Now we have global awareness that we have put ourselves into the pit. Gradually, over the last few decades, we have noticed and received feedback about our impact on the world. Think Ozone layer, Great Pacific Garbage Patch and of course, Climate Change – or in fact Climate Crisis now organisations like The Guardian are calling it. Continue reading →
Term 1 had been extremely busy as we developed new curriculum structures and collaborative ways of working all whilst continuing to design great learning experiences for our students at AGE. Our teachers at AGE were starting to feel the strain of this as we approached the end of term. In recognition of this, I shared Te Whare Tapa Whā with the staff and talked about the need for maintaining all aspects of our wellbeing.
Image via Te Ara
For the holidays, I set a challenge for us all to think of what we could do to work on our physical, spiritual, mental and social wellbeing. Here’s how I set about rebalancing my hauora/wellbeing over the recent school break.
Taha Tinana – Physical health
The trusty steed parked at work
In the first week of school holidays I took advantage of the long end of Summer/fine start of Autumn to ride my bike to work each day. Having a bit less time pressure made this an easy way to add more exercise into my week. It isn’t a long bike ride to work but I really enjoyed starting and ending my day by cruising past clogged traffic as I rode along a mix of roads and bike paths to reach work. Now, I just have to find a way to make this happen more during term time! Continue reading →
This blog has been quiet for the last few months as I have jumped feet first into leading a new school. In January of 2019, I started as Principal of a start-up school in Takapuna, Auckland. The school had started in 2018, discovered the challenge of opening a new school and ended the year doing some work on re-visioning what they were really about. This new vision aligned perfectly with my view of education and so I leapt at the chance to take on the Principal role. Term 1 has seen rebranding to match the vision, a new website designed, curriculum structures developed, a learning model created and many evolutions of our timetable as we strive to create the best educational experience possible for our students.
Getting to live my dream
Now that a lot of the initial ground work has been completed, I’m excited to start sharing with you all our journey as we develop and grow our school. Continue reading →
Last week, I attended the first Learning Spaces Aotearoa conference put on by Learning Environments New Zealand (thanks to winning a ticket through their facebook page). It was a really inspiring day and the conversations were slightly different than normal edu conferences because of the mix of people present – teachers, Ministry and architects. Across the speakers I heard, conversations I had and the site visits that I experienced, there were some key themes to emerge from the day.
Welby Ings opened the conference with a provocative keynote, with key points that resonated across the rest of the day. By the end of our schooling, students have learned in more than 30 formal classroom spaces all of which impact our cognitive, social and emotional reactions to learning. As people are neurodiverse, we will all interpret and process information differently within these spaces. Welby set out 3 key themes to consider when designing learning spaces, which apply whether it is a traditional 4 walled classroom or a newly built innovative learning environment.Continue reading →
Inspired by the use of te reo by educational leaders such as Mark Osborne and Maurie Abraham, I have taken on the wero/challenge to increase my use of te reo this year. After a long break since my 4 years of te reo at high school, it was time to regain my ability to speak Māori.
I have recently finished an online course through Te Wananga o Raukawa (https://www.wananga.com/certificate,portfolio,,39,Certificate+in+Huia+Te+Reo.html) which was a great way to increase my reo. This has increased my vocabulary with many words and phrases which I can use in my day to day life (My daughter is not so impressed that I can now tell her to go straight to sleep in both English & Te Reo Māori) and enabled me to confidently whaikōrero on behalf of our school during pōwhiri. Thanks also here to Whaea Jennifer Leauga and (Aunty Whaea) Kiri Turketo at Lynfield College for your encouragement, support and pushes in the back to speak at each of these events.
As this is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori here in New Zealand, I thought it would be an appropriate time to try to write a blog post in te reo (with translations provided).
Tena koutou, Tena koutou, Tena koutou katoa
E ngā kaiako, e ngā akonga, e ngā kaipānui
Haere mai ki Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. Continue reading →
New Zealand as a nation has some very concerning statistics about the wellbeing of our young people. Whilst there has long been talk about our teen pregnancy rates and heart breaking ability to top youth suicide rankings, in 2017, Unicef still found major concerns around aspects of wellbeing including work prospects, suicide, health and bullying (https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/RC14_eng.pdf)
New Zealand, far down the list in terms of childrens’ wellbeing
This is the next post in my series on effective pedagogy from the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum. These have all been written for the purposes of provoking thinking at Lynfield College.
The 2007 New Zealand Curriculum introduced Teaching as Inquiry as an important teacher practice. It stated “Since any teaching strategy works differently in different contexts for different students, effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students.” (NZC, pg 35)
This is supported by Graham Nuthall’s (Hidden Lives of Learners) research that showed how students assimilate new information differently because of their prior learning and experiences. It also links well with the adage: “Just because you have taught something, doesn’t mean the students have learned something.” Essentially, we should be taking notice of how each individual learner is progressing through their learning programmes.
The NZC then set out the following diagram as to how this inquiry could be visualised:
It is not surprising to see relevance of learning in the effective pedagogy section of the New Zealand Curriculum. A lot of research was undertaken in the 1990’s in New Zealand on this and hence teachers in New Zealand have long discussed how relevant and meaningful learning will increase interest, engagement and motivation for learners. What is of interest here though, is that the NZC explanation expands from just relevant contexts for learning to include ideas such as curiosity and learner agency.
Effective teachers stimulate the curiosity of their students, require them to search for relevant information and ideas, and challenge them to use or apply what they discover in new contexts or in new ways.
Curiosity is a bit of an enigma in schools. Speak to any teacher and they will say they value it, but often it is not high in our priorities when designing learning experiences for our classes. Susan Engel’s research found that students’ curiosity decreased as they grew older. She does believe that adult influence is a factor in this. This paper by Engel suggests 4 ways that educators can help students become more curious again.
Now that we know our students and where their knowledge is at, we can think about our learning design.
Students learn most effectively when they have time and opportunity to engage with, practise, and transfer new learning. This means that they need to encounter new learning a number of times and in a variety of different tasks or contexts. (NZC p34)
Graham Nuthall’s research in the early 1990’s found that students needed to encounter information 3 times to understand a concept. This also applies for skills based subjects as the Maths BES states: “To achieve fluency, meaningful practice opportunities include significant variations each time, providing students with a sense of the range of possibilities in a topic” (Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics Best Evidence Synthesis, p125).
“The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit and the stronger, faster and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.” (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)
Neuroscience supports this by explaining how the more often we practice a skill, the more myelin grows around our nerve fibres. Continue reading →
“What do you think will change for schools under the new Labour Government?”
I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked this question over the summer. The immediate response of teachers online was joy but it’s not going to be an open cheque, so really I don’t think much will change.
Political ideologies may have indirect impacts on schools by the social and economic policies they enact and the impacts these have on learners’ lives, but the pedagogical approaches of teachers have so much more of an influence in schools. Teachers and schools have always looked at the constraints placed upon us by governments and then continued to design curriculum and learning in the best way they see fit.Continue reading →