HPSS Teacher Only Day May 21st

Will attempt to update this post as we go throughout the day today. My first attempt at “Live Blogging” but will be more a regularly updated blog today.

Maurie started us off by sharing some of his recent reflections:


  • nightmares of traditional timetables
  • re-reading his application for the job and how proud he is that our model is matching what he set out in his original vision
  • ERO 2012 report that argued innovation, creativity and responsiveness should be the norm for all schools – yet they give outstanding reports to schools to who are not doing this?
  • Finding that he had not made up “Warm and Demanding” – in fact Bill Rogers had been using it for years.
  • What Warm and Demanding looks like in Leadership and Learning. We have got there for Leadership but challenging us that we need to nail the demanding for Learning. Our next big challenge is to track whether our authentic, relevant, personalised, inquiry-based, co-constructed learning is getting students ready for NCEA assessments.
  • The tracking will be extremely important as we move towards our vision of students undertaking NCEA when ready rather than when at a chronological age.
  • The need to restructure some of the ways our teams are meeting so action groups can be formed around SOLO rubrics, co-construction etc.


After a starting provocation of an image (later we found out it is an artwork in a series called the topography of tears) and what questions does it provoke for us, Di Cavallo then started a workshop on Inquiry, Questioning and Provocations.

Questions on the image being shared on Post-its

Questions on the image being shared on Post-its

This began with a short presentation on Inquiry vs Research vs Recipe. We discussed some definitions provided by Sharon Friesen at the Galileo Educational Network and the articles written by Sally Boyd and Rose Hipkins of NZCER.

Principles of Inquiry for us at Hobsonville Point Secondary School:

  • robust questioning
  • authentic exploration
  • academic rigour
  • guided discovery
  • active engagement in learning
  • bias to action and creation of new knowledge

These principles stemmed the heart of Di’s presentation about using provocations to launch inquiry and the difference between research, puzzle solving and problem solving.

Provocations to stem inquiry could be: images, statements, the surrounding environment, a trip, news articles… Provided with 5 provocations to focus on, my group (Kylee, Liz, Bryce and myself) chose to focus on the 1 word provocation: Flux. We then had to write what thoughts that stemmed for us. We had a mixture of definitions and questions written down.

The next step was using this question grid and dice to generate questions about our chosen provocation:

2014-05-21 09.40.37

Rolling 2 dice we then chose the relevant words and had to write a question about our provocation starting with those words. Our groups questions:

(1,2) Who did the most recent research on flux?

(3,3) Where can flux be used/observed/encountered?

(6,2) How did flux influence 21st Century thinking?

(4,3) Why can I not see flux?

Cindy then took us all through a task categorising the questions generated from Di’s original provocation. Different groups categorised their questions in different ways: context, shallow to deep, type of question, words at start of question. Cindy has been using this with her students this week and pointed out that by categorising the questions we are getting the students to immediately reach deeper thinking to analyse them and work out the categories.

Cindy also brought up one of my favourite words in questions – should – and how this can be added to the grid above. This immediately brings in an ethical dimension to the question. By generating original questions and then getting students to think how their first questions can be improved, the depth of student inquiries improves.

Essential questions:

  • compelling
  • intriguing
  • connective
  • at boundary of known and unknown
  • reaches beyond itself
  • engages the imagination and wonder
  • allow us to explore knowledge
  • invite perspective

Our final task was question mapping. Start with topic in middle (for us Plants). Then write words that relate around it (e.g. soil, food, oxygen, sunlight, aesthetically pleasing). Draw lines between the topic and words placed around it and write as few words as possible in between to create a basic statement e.g. Plants need sunlight. Plants produce oxygen. Plants are aesthetically pleasing. Share your statements and write wondering questions around the outside (e.g. do all plants need sunlight to grow?). Finally write your challenge question (or essential question) on the very outside – these are the inquiry questions. This is a task adapted from Michael Pohl’s Learning to Think, Thinking to Learn.

Integrating Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy

Sally‘s workshop was on how we help support students to undertake assessment tasks. We can’t just expect students to be able to hit into open inquiry straight away, we need to scaffold them into it. Sally has a clear vision from her previous work at NZQA to see us working towards when we are undertaking NCEA assessments with our students.

She had created an assessment template that we then used to apply to a module we are currently teaching. It takes us through from the Term concept; learning area concepts and strands the assessment task focuses on; the Learning Design phases that will be in play in the task; highlights tools that will be used and places up front the rubrics that students will be assessed against. It also brings in some of the sub-headings used in NCEA tasks like conditions and resource requirements so students get used to this right from the start.

Is it in a perfect state right now? Probably not, knowing us there will be iterations and improvements as we put it into action. BUT it provides a great launching pad for us to develop consistent assessment practices across our whole school in a form that will scaffold students into their “high stakes” (Sally’s favourite phrase) assessments later in school with NCEA.

Evidencing Student Learning

Claire started off talking about allowing multimodal evidence of learning. Does it have to be all written? Spoken? Can it be open to various forms of evidence? And how does HobsOnline (our moodle) allow for this to occur?

1) The power of Moodle forums – peer and teacher feedback, can upload/embed/add any type of evidence; can choose how many times students are allowed to respond; prompt can be written, video, anything; all responses collated in one place regardless of written or media artifacts.

2) Google Forms Variety of way evidence can be collected: Quantitative data through check boxes etc. and/or Qualitative through deeper paragraph style responses in the same form. Can see results quickly and visually. Paste text answers into Wordle to see patterns. Create self marking tests with result emailed to students.

3) Moodle Assignments – instructions with deadlines. Can set variety of response numbers and mechanisms – write in assignment box, upload document, link to google doc/drawing/presentation etc. (files from Google Drive are better if published online then embedded or link shared). Feedback can be given in the same place. The evidence and feedback can also then be embedded across into their portfolios. You can set it so assignments can be resubmitted after reading feedback so they improve.

4) Blog as a module portfolio Chronological portfolio of their writing. Gives students a sense of ownership and authorship. Public, raises the bar. Easy for students to share with each other. Can embed media. Limits you to brief, succinct feedback. Can put back into draft mode and put your feedback into practice then republish.

5) Using Google Sites as a Portfolio Create site as a template and they can copy it. Or set up a site for your module and give each student a page. Using Announcement page setting means their page will work like a blog but gives you more control over what is happening (if you feel the need to control it a bit more).

Are you considering all modes of evidence: Written, Visual and Oral? Are your students publishing their work to raise the bar? Posting online – youtube, blogs, lulu, vocaroo etc.

Then we had to head off and learn a skill/website/e-tool and teach another on our staff how to use it. I have never used podcasts in any form so headed off on my own to investigate the possibilities here for recording verbal/oral evidence of learning. I headed to PodBean and soon realised I needed to download some recording software to make the recording in the first place. So, off to finally download Audacity about 4 years after I remember my old Head of Faculty Henry Hollis using it – on some things I am a slow learner ok!

Already confident with recording written and visual evidence (including imovie, youtube etc.) I am feeling now like I am better set up to help students record evidence of their learning in a verbal fashion.


Megan and Lisa then ran a workshop on Solo Taxonomy with the staff. As a staff we are all aware of what Solo is and what the various levels are. After this, however, we are all at very different levels of understanding – in a way ranging from Multi-structural to Extended Abstract in our understanding and use of Solo.

Explanations of Solo levels via Belmont Teach

Explanations of Solo levels via Belmont Teach

After sharing how we have been using SOLO so far it became obvious that there are 2 levels of use: Assessment of learning (co-constructing rubrics, summative assessment criteria) and Assessment for learning (self evaluation, feedback/feedforward, levels of understanding, refining work etc.).


Teachers that have been using Solo regularly in class then shared their practice to give (inspirational) practical examples for the rest of us to follow such as turning the taxonomy on the side as a paragraph structure: Give your relevant examples, explain how they link and then add your higher conceptual/insightful/reflective comments. Also a great rubric shared by Martin that he is using for practical skills in the workshop: this was great for me as I understand how to use it with ideas but was struggling to see how to use it for mapping skills. Thanks to Cindy, Lisa, Ros, Martin and Megan for sharing their awesome practice! (see Megan’s recent blog on her use of Solo for more and I highly recommend checking out the Global Solo blog for LOTS of shared resources).

Focusing on using Solo for Assessment for learning, Megan set us the challenge to use Solo in the next week to do one of 4 things: Prior Knowledge, Differentiation, Gathering Evidence or Levels of Understanding. We are lucky to have some great staff to call on for help with this such as Lisa, Megan, Cindy and Claire. But the great thing if you don’t have people onboard at your school is that twitter allows everyone to access this level of help!

Our school cafe foyer area looks empty but great when it is only staff hanging out for lunch:

2014-05-21 13.57.57


The afternoon session was an unconference where these were the final options available:


Of course, I am heading off to the Workshop!



A great way to end an awesome day of learning and sharing with staff!

Final Reflection

A great teacher only day that really showed the strength of our staff. Whilst there were a few leading the workshops they also took the chance to highlight the work that others are doing in their modules as the examples to support their point.

I really feel we are now better equipped to develop better inquiries with our students and collect (multi-modal) evidence of their learning to support this. This collection of evidence will allow assessment to more naturally fall out of the learning occurring. As we develop the students (and teachers) abilities with this over the next 2 years it will undoubtably place us favourably for developing this style of assessment in the senior school – learning as the primary focus with assessment as proof of what they have learned. Where appropriate we also have a template for end of unit research/project style assessments that will develop further as we use it. I look forward to using Solo more regularly in my classroom practice and also to ensure students know (and co-construct) the rubrics for what they will be assessed on well ahead of their actual use. My feeling here is that I will still give the diagnostic qualitative feedback on summative assessment first and only after they have reflected on this will I give final grades.

A timely injection of thinking, ideas and tools for us to use as we further develop our ability to empower learners. Not sure I have ever felt this inspired at the end of a teacher only day before. Thanks to all involved (and to those of you who have managed to read this far into an extremely long blog post!).


7 thoughts on “HPSS Teacher Only Day May 21st

  1. Really enjoying your blog Steve and particularly the innovative way you are approaching curriculum. Very useful for feeding into our new school here and also what we are doing online at NetNZ.
    One things that strikes me is some of the reference to “assessment tasks” and “NCEA Assessments”. How are you planning to ensure the tail doesn’t wag the dog? So many schools have let high stakes assessment drive curriculum – what’s the plan with for hpss?

    • Hi Darren, thanks for the comment! Sally’s session today was about assessment tasks when modules are setup with learning frontloaded followed by an assessment. Claire’s session afterward was then about how learning evidence can be collected throughout a module so assessment naturally falls out of the learning process. This way we are preparing for both ways of looking at assessment. A team formed last term to focus on our approaches to assessment and today was led by them to get the rest of us up to speed with their view of where we are headed. Talk was all definitely about focus on learning and assessment will occur naturally but making sure we have rigour underlying our personalised approach.

      • That is good to hear. There will be so much naturally occurring evidence that students will be able to pull together when they are ready to be assessed. Keep up the writing and sharing.

  2. I am also really interested in how you make NCEA work for you. We, at AC down in Manurewa, were determined not to buy into credit collecting, kids with 150 credits, etc and to keep the focus on learning, etc.

  3. Awesome, thank you for this great insight into your Professional Development. It certainly was an interesting day looking in from the outside. Do you have a link to the ERO Report that you mentioned at the start?

  4. Pingback: How Might We create the learning experience of a conference more regularly? | Steve Mouldey

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