How Might We help students develop empathy for distant issues?

I see empathy as a key step in gaining a deeper understanding of issues and it is something I am trying to develop in students in my Social Studies (and Geography when I get back to teaching senior students again!) classes. When focusing on local issues or the local impacts of global issues, this is a step that is straight forward to implement. Exploring, observing, interviewing, listening etc to how it is affecting people. How do we do this effectively though for issues or case studies that don’t have such a local impact though?

Films can sensationalise and/or trivialise the impacts on people

Documentaries can be extremely biased

Role plays (thinking land mine victims by tied up legs etc.) are well meaning but do they really get students truly feeling what it is like – have seen plenty of giggles and laughter while doing this, definitely not how a true victim reacts.

Distance, time zones, language and cultural barriers can reduce our ability to interview, survey etc. whilst cost severely limits our ability to observe and explore the area.

In Geography and Social Studies we rightly study issues from all around the world. I want my students to be able to develop the deep understanding of these global case studies. How might we help students develop empathy for distant issues?

 

This post is Day 17 of my Questioning Quest.

How Might We develop a culture of critique?

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I regularly try to develop my students’ ability to critique each other’s work. If collaborative learning is to work effectively, this ability to praise the right parts and challenge other ideas is critical for progress to be made. But, I am now wondering if we as adults are even modelling this for students?

Two tweets from people whose thinking I greatly admire have raised this point recently:

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I have written previously about how empowering the New Zealand Curriculum is. There is however, the flip side of this where as schools adapt the NZC to fit their needs, do not take the chance to think critically and just make it fix what they have always done. The Education Review Office add to this as they congratulate different schools on their interpretation of the NZC even as they have interpreted it wildly different – from Grammar style schools doing things very traditionally to Hobsonville Point Secondary School redesigning things and everything else in between.

This to me, says the critique of the New Zealand Curriculum must first happen by looking at how it has been implemented. This means that teachers and schools must develop a culture of critique towards each others’ practice and external visitors must be able to join in that critique to remove the blinkers. Is there a gap between the espoused approach and the reality in classrooms (or open learning spaces as the case may be?).

My approach with students to critique has been along the method of Rose, Bud, Thorn

And I really find this is a great method for starting critique: It encourages you to find praise points, opportunities and to be critical. If any of these are missing then I don’t believe you have set your bias aside to truly critique.

Now, how about we get started on really critiquing each other for the benefit of the education system and especially for the benefit of our students futures.

 

This post was Day 7 of my Question Quest.

How do you know that your school structure is working for this year’s students?

Our school structures are different than other NZ secondary schools. We have no subject departments, our courses are organised differently and our timetable looks different than most:

HPSS Timetable

HPSS Timetable

A question we get often is how do we know that this is better than traditional school structures? My answer: we don’t YET. Our principal Maurie recently turned this around on the questioner by asking how he knew that his school’s system was working for that year’s students. Not last year’s students but the group in your classes right now. The fact is none of us can answer this without putting clones of students into 2 different systems so that you have a consistent base to start from.

We are collecting lots of data and talking regularly with students about evidencing their learning. Our students can tell you exactly what their curriculum coverage is like after 2 terms and have used this data to inform their Term 3 module choices. We are doing our best to start developing a tool so teachers, parents and students can easily check progress against the NZC and hope to have it up and running soon.

The next step I want to see stems from this awesome post by Bo Adams from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. In it he outlines how they are using Learning Walks and Instructional Rounds to gather data and study their own school.

How do you know that your school structure is working for this year’s students?

 

This post is Day 2 of my Questioning Quest (even if I completely blew the 60 word target…)

Problem Finding and Student Ownership

This term I have been co-teaching a module with Pete McGhie that has had students focusing on our developing neighbourhood, Hobsonville Point, as a place. By investigating this place we have looked to find a need facing residents and then design a product that would improve their life here.

After initial lessons focusing on developing an understanding of how place, food and culture interact as concepts we went out to explore our surroundings:

After this exploration we focused on generating as many problems as possible that we saw in the neighbourhood.

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Once we had brainstormed, shared and discussed the possible problems it was time to start defining the core problem as each group saw it. Continue reading

Improving Awesomeness in Iteration 2

Week 1 of Term 2 and Week 1 of #HackYrClass. I entered this term excited about the possibilities and also by the challenge set by Claire Amos to hack our classes. 2 aims for Hacking my classes came naturally – they were already my goals for my teaching this term: becoming student centred and increasing the use of design thinking.

Goal 1: Becoming more student centred

On Monday I sat in each of the Big Modules being taught in our school and filled out empathy maps for what it is like being a student at our school. Continue reading

Developing the Characteristics of our Heroes

Entering this term I had set myself the goal of improving in my role as a Learning Coach as I felt this was the area of of teaching I was least proud of in Term 1. Our Learning Hubs at Hobsonville Point Secondary School are a version of Learning Advisories as seen at Big Picture Schools and we see our students every day ranging in time from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

In these hubs we are developing students’ Hobsonville Habits (our learning dispositions) their metacognition (which we are using Hermann’s Brain as a focus on this) their hauora (wellbeing) and also being an active advocate for students in their learning. I had done all of these things well in Term 1 but thought that I could make this more powerful for them by personalising our activities to be more meaningful for these specific students.

The activity I describe here took place on Tuesday morning when we spent 2 hours together and is based heavily on an idea from The Falconer by Grant Lichtman (see my full reflection on this book here). Continue reading

Monday Module Magnificence

On Mondays I teach in a Big Learning Module called the Museum of Mihi. This is a cross curricular (Social Studies, Health and Arts: Drama) module which I co-teach with Megan Peterson and Sally Hart. We have 3 x 90 minute blocks during the day with the same 37 students. The module has been based on exploring students’ personal identity through the artefacts and interests that represent them. Students are then generating their own museum exhibitions to share their identity with peers, parents, staff and invited guests.

Today we started with a reflection exercise on defining personal identity and shared identity; describing their personal identity and then explaining which aspects of their identity they would focus on for their exhibition. Then we were off to our Maker Space to generate their exhibition artefacts.

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Continue reading

Ready, Set, Go!

After all that time deschooling, deconstructing and designing we have finally crossed the start line this week. Monday was our official opening day as Hobsonville Point Secondary School became a real school!

Most of the first 2 days has been spent with my Learning Hub of 9 students (for a great description of Learning Hubs and how they operate see Megan’s post). These are the students for whom I will act as academic and pastoral mentor for the next 5 years and I am rapt to have such an awesome bunch.

My Learning Hub, now known as Reweti

My Learning Hub, now known as Reweti

Continue reading

Curiosity and Inspiration

Last night I bought, downloaded and read Can Computers Keep Secrets? How a Six-Year-Old’s Curiosity Could Change the World by Tom Barrett. Stemmed by all the questions his 6 year old son asks, Tom then delves into how we could maintain this natural curiosity that is with all youngsters but seems to disappear as we grow up.

I have long wondered at which point do we stop questioning the world like a 6 year old? When do we start to have more anxiety than curiosity?

Loc 176 of 489 on kindle Edition

These questions struck me as both an educator and a parent. Continue reading