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  1. Education Systems – ACEL Forum

    11 May 2017 by shartley

    How High-Performing Systems Shape Teacher Quality

    a forum hosted by ACEL

    at NSW Parliament House

     

    The Hon. Rob Stokes MP (current NSW Minister for Education)

    Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli (former NSW Minister for Education)

    Ann McIntyre (ACEL NSW President)

    Aasha Murthy (ACEL CEO)

     
    ACEL
    is the Australian Council for Educational Leaders

    ‘Parliament House c.1829’
    Flickr, Government Macquarie account
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/sydneyhistory/6634269541

    This was an evening about handing over the baton, one education minister to the next. Both were humble and gracious. Both presented as remarkably intelligent, demonstrating much depth in their knowledge of education and education systems.

    The forum commenced with the President of ACEL NSW, Ann McIntyre, introducing the context of the forum title. The topic stemmed from a study led by Linda Darling-Hammond, conducted over three years in several education systems/jurisdictions in Canada, China, Finland, Norway, USA and Australia. The subsequent book, Empowered Educators: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teacher Quality Around the World, thus provided the forum its title. There is also a version that focuses on the Australian part of the study, Empowered Educators in Australia: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teacher Quality. Both books were co-authored by Ann. Somehow, Ann managed to summarise the findings of the study quite neatly (provided here as a mixture of verbatim and paraphrasing).


    The key to education improvement is:

    1. Teacher quality
    2. supported by policies and practices established within the system
    3. with a balanced assessment system
    4. and a progressive needs based funding model

     To enable this to occur the research showed school systems need:

    1. Good recruitment procedures
    2. Teacher preparation/training for deep knowledge and pedagogy
    3. Timely and quality professional experience and mentoring
    4. Continuous professional learning
    5. Opportunities for professional feedback, focused on growth/improvement
    6. A career and leadership development program

     To achieve all this, schools need resources and opportunities for collaboration.

     Key features of NSW and all the other jurisdictions studied in this research project were:

    1. High social regard for teaching (disputable in NSW)
    2. Selectivity into the profession
    3. Deep financial support for preparation of teachers and professional learning throughout career
    4. High integrity in professional standards
    5. Preparation and induction grounded in very well defined curriculum content and how it is taught
    6. Teaching that is research informed
    7. A collaborative profession, not operating in isolation
    8. Professional learning across a continuum
    9. Well-developed leadership that captured and foster the highly skilled teachers
    10. Systems focused on equity and excellence, as seen in the Melbourne Declaration 

    All this doesn’t happen randomly. It must be through systematic, coordinated reform and innovation. It is important to invest in teaching so that it transforms not just some but all students.


    Ann then handed over to the former and current NSW ministers of education. Rob Stokes spoke first, prefacing his talk with a lawyer-esq disclosure that what he was about to say were his thoughts about education, not yet fully formed.  He then proceeded to provide an intellectual, although brief, consideration of his philosophy of education. He supports an Athenian model over Spartan model, as in developing the whole person rather than educating for the mere purpose of producing people who can contribute to the state. He believes education should be inclusive and be about preparing learners rather than the didactic delivery of information. He concluded by saying he does not have a reductive view of education but an expansive view so, for example, he is not about merely developing ideas to put into existing classroom situations.

    Adrian Piccoli spoke briefly, I suspect to keep the emphasis on Rob Stokes as the current minister. In summary, he said the role of the minister is to facilitate education by providing the right environment, dollars and people to make it function. The minister also needs to be constantly aware that education reform could drift and thus be at risk, although what this risk entailed was not made clear.

    Ann then facilitated a Q&A session. Both Rob and Adrian were obviously comfortable in each other’s company, sharing the stage with ease. They were respectful of each other and the audience. The questions posed were pertinent but they were very considered in their responses, even as to who would be most appropriate to answer first.

    The themes that emerged from this discussion were:

    • Children are at the heart of education.
    • Valuing teachers
    • Systems vs People

     

    Children are at the heart of education. Rob and Adrian are very proud of NSW having needs based funding and even though they can see flaws with the amount of funding dollars out of the Federal Budget this week, they are pleased with the needs based model on which it is based. Relieved, even, that it is now a bipartisan policy. I suspect Adrian Piccoli has had many fights within the coalition about that. On the other hand, there was some regret expressed about the amount of financial contribution to education coming from the federal government.

    Valuing teachers more was another recurring point. Rob made the astute observation that at the local level, those actually involved in schools, particularly parents, mainly have great respect for teachers. That said, Adrian suggested parents don’t know enough about what happens in school and that they need to know more about the importance of growth instead of raw scores. He also pointed out that there is a cultural perception hard to remedy, represented partly by the attitude towards teachers having so many holidays, and that someone with a 99 ATAR wastes their intellect on becoming a teacher. He believes this has stemmed from complacency rising from consistent economic success and that accessing university education has become easier. He offered that the best way to help teachers is to buy them more time to think and to collaborate. Easy to say now he’s no longer making such decisions. But he’s right.

    Systems vs People is how I would summarise the rest of the discussion. There is a constant struggle in education of quality teaching being hampered by requirements of the system, where the system includes standards, curriculum/syllabi, testing regime (eg NAPLAN and HSC), policies and funding. It limits the freedom of principals to focus on learning over administration and operations, it makes it difficult to be equitable for students with disabilities and in low socioeconomic areas, and testing crowds out more genuine learning.

    Generally the discussion was philosophical. Rob returned to the Greek idea and said the purpose of education was to prepare children to make a living and make a life but the social aspect of this being almost impossible to measure. He drew parallels to his previous role as Minister of Planning that a development proposal can measure economic impact but much more difficult to assess social impact, in quantifiable terms. The relational aspect of education is what makes it particularly hard to measure. Adrian suggested that teaching is an art form, not a science. For instance, if you teach two kids exactly the same way, you will still achieve two very different outcomes.

    Rob and Adrian were political in their responses when it came to the amount of testing in our schools. Adrian cited the removal of the School Certificate and better understanding of NAPLAN data reducing the misuse of it as success under his watch. He supported the Year 9 NAPLAN becoming a compulsory hurdle for the HSC due to the importance of numeracy and literacy. Rob added that it was important for students to take school seriously earlier and not wait for Year 11 to step-up their efforts. A member of the audience pointed out that NAPLAN is so separate from the day-to-day syllabi that it is perceived as an extra burden, on both students and teachers. I don’t think many politicians and other people outside schools see the level of stress a testing regime places on students. It also places more value on mark obtainment through memorising over learning and thinking skills in a more general sense.

    Throughout the discussion I was very impressed with the deeply considered responses Adrian and Rob provided. However, Rob as the current minister and seasoned politician already has his three word slogan for education: equity and excellence. Equity, in that every child matters, and excellence by teachers being exemplars. It told me that he will be putting increasing pressure on teachers. Yes, there are some teachers who ride through with minimal effort but I believe the majority are working extremely hard for their students to achieve and thrive as living human beings.

    A tweet from a principal recently stated that senior leadership (but really applies for schools as a whole) is about “keeping young people alive, challenging [their] lifestyle choices and navigating conflicting stories, setting them up for life beyond school but mostly keeping them alive”. She added, “The heart of school is about caring for our young people and bringing out the best in them”. This is what people outside schools need to understand. The system should change to allow more time for teachers to meet the needs of their students and for society to understand what schools are really about, and it isn’t merely an ATAR. Society, the system and schools need to stop treating the HSC and the ATAR as the one and only goal of education. This includes NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) continually promoting a “Stronger HSC” ad nauseam. It is a marketing slogan, not a description of what education should be about. We need politicians and government representative bodies to be more vocal about the worth of teachers, schools and education in general, and reduce the rhetoric that overly stresses the importance of the HSC. If Rob Stokes truly believes the philosophy of education he presented at this forum, he needs to speak it proudly and loudly, without caveats.


  2. Mind the Gap: Research and Schools

    1 November 2016 by shartley

    217048717_08e3e922f1_m

    Image by Mikel Ortega at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikelo/217048717

    Last week I attended the AIS Education Research Symposium.  When I worked at Oakhill College I was part of the team that created and implemented REAL (Relevant Engaging, Active Learning) and then we researched its impact.  Unfortunately I left Oakhill before the end of the two year research project but thankfully I remained involved to an extent.  We designed REAL to create a paradigm shift in the teaching and learning environment at the school through a transparent curriculum in a detailed but clear (student-friendly) format, structured for students to know each lesson or week:

    • What is to be learned
    • How it is to be learned, and
    • The evidence of successful learning

    The research project examined the impact of REAL on student outcomes but effectively discovered the effect it had on teachers too.  The research revealed REAL as a significantly successful program, although teachers found it hard to adapt their practices, and I’m proud to have been associated with it.

    But this post is about the symposium.  The main participants at the symposium are from schools that have received a funding opportunity from AIS and are at the start, middle or end of a two year research project.  It is also for any other teachers who are keen to make stronger links between research and teaching practice.  And the first keynote speaker, Dr Stacey Waters, was exactly on this topic.

    It is extremely hard to make a cultural shift in any institution, let alone a school which has so many entrenched perceptions of what it should be like.  Nearly everyone in the world experiences school and our experiences are reinforced by pop culture’s representation of it, this image being a teacher up the front instructing students sitting in rows, resisting the learning process (except when they have a superstar teacher like Michelle Pfeiffer or Robin Williams).

    This is not the one best way to learn.  Academic research has indicated this repeatedly, yet many schools resist changing (much like their students resist learning).  I think part of it is the conflicting voices dominating the discourse of how schools should operate. As mentioned before, there is the entertainment industry image but there is also the political viewpoint that schools must do better, meaning better at publicly published score achievement (PISA, NAPLAN, HSC).  In education conference circles there are a few (mainly men) who have a certain popularity, often stringing out their one concept stories for decades (I’m thinking the hole-in-the-wall story and the idea that schools kill creativity).

    The academic voice is often lost in all this.  There are some who are picked up by politicians and/or the media. For example, John Hattie and his Visible Learning ideal is lauded by politicians and the media.  However, even the John Hatties often remain ignored in the day-to-day classroom, for a number of reasons.

    Personally I think it stems from a dominating need of isolated teachers in their classrooms to have control and order.  Control and order is easier if learning is considered to be the mere accumulation of knowledge.  It casts a dark shadow on education.  Teaching is better if it is collaborative, learning is better if it is collaborative, but it is much harder to maintain control and order in a collaborative environment when there isn’t a desire to learn in the first place, by teachers or students.  It is harder to know what individual students are doing in a collaborative environment and if it is known that they are not participating in the learning process, it is hard to know what to do about them.  There are plenty of theories, methods and systems that can be put in place but really, it all comes to dealing with individual motivations and desires to learn.  And to be honest, the better learning environments take more time and energy to plan and monitor.  I love an active collaborative learning environment in my classrooms but boy, it’s hard work a lot of the time.  

    Prof Ruth Deakin Crick shared this quote as part of her presentation about the use of technology to change school culture from exam-driven teaching to a learning culture with dynamic pedagogy and engagement (image, however, was clipped from elsewhere):

    screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-6-05-25-pm

    Teachers are so busy and comfortable with what they know well and what they’ve been rewarded for in the past, they don’t want to become even busier and take risks that result in lost control and disapproval.

    So now we can see why some resistance to change exists, let’s return to the academic voice and other reasons why it is difficult to implement research findings into school practice.

    To be able to research in a detailed, scientifically credible manner, academics focus on narrow areas to reduce multiple confounding factors in their study. They generally want to discover a cause and effect, and the size of that effect, but to be specific and certain they can only concentrate on one cause and one effect at a time, whereas education is much much more complicated than that.  It is like reducing economic modelling to two products in the market.  It illustrates a concept but an economy with just two products is not real life.  This is why Hattie’s study is so appealing, it throws hundreds of studies into the mix and calculates which causes have the most effect.  However, one point worth noting, is how long this all takes.  A research project can take years, and then months to write and publish in an academic journal, and then even longer to garner the attention of those who it really affects, people in schools.  I’m not sure of the age of the studies Hattie includes in his meta-analysis.  Due to the narrow focus and time-lags the question was raised at the conference as to whether the academic rigour should be sacrificed, to an extent, to allow more pertinent and practical studies be undertaken in a more timely manner.  I don’t know the answer.

    The publish or perish pressure on academics is a significant factor too.  The money associated with grants often comes with a proviso of what must be researched. Dr Stacey Waters also referred to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) system which awards points according to the category of grants.  To be published, it helps if the research is something new and different, rather than going deeper into something that has already been examined.  The dream situation for an academic though, is selling books.  And books sell if they have something novel and easy to implement.  We all know how hard change management is, but just how many books advocate just ‘x’ number of steps (eg Kotter’s 8 steps) like it is a simple linear process?  It’s not.

    Even if academics find something that is commonly considered important to implement in schools, the process is slow and usually ineffectual. Researchers are already balancing teaching and research and then they need to market their findings so that schools will take their ideas on board, when so many ideas are already present.  Dr Stacey Waters says that publishing and even training people is not enough. One of her presentation slides said:


    Implementation is most successful when…

    • Practitioners receive training and coaching
    • The organisation provides the necessary infrastructure for training and coaching and regularly evaluates
    • The community is fully involved in the selection and evaluation of programs

    (Fixsen, Naoom, Blasé, Friedman & Wallace, 2005)


    She argued that schools should build relationships with universities and establish a research culture by providing easy access to academic journals and having a forum to discuss what these journals have to say.

    Before Oakhill obtained the research funding opportunity from AIS, we asked some universities to help us perform academic research.  We discovered that not only did they want to be paid consultation fees, that some even wanted to virtually take over the whole process.  We backed away quickly and were relieved and grateful to receive the AIS funding opportunity.  As part of the inaugural recipients of research funding there was only minimal guidance but still, some important structural requirements, including an academic advisor.  However, we ended up only spending 50% of the budgeted amount we allocated for the advisor. He was extremely helpful for implementing research that produced quantifiable data and how that data could be used, but partly due to how late we were and partly due to the lack of need, we didn’t use as much of his services for the writing part as we thought we would.

    So here we were at a conference that was bringing together academics and teachers, albeit those already interested in research. As Terrie Jones tweeted, “Teacher practitioner researchers in partnership with academics bridging the research practice divide? This room. #AISRandD16”.  One of the sessions I enjoyed the most was about Case Study as a form of research.  From what little I have been involved in research at a tertiary level, I have found case study methods frowned upon because it is not appropriate to extrapolate something that works in one circumstance as being applicable to a wider range of circumstances.  Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn argued that yes, three case studies are better than one, but much can be learned from them and proceeded to demonstrate how powerful they could be but also recognising their limitations.  I tweeted that I’d love to work on a case study with Dr Kimberley and she responded with a “Let’s talk” which I will probably take her up on some time next year (see screen grab below).  However, I’m not looking to do research like this until at least 2018.  I started a Master of Research (MRES) at Macquarie University this year but stopped just a few weeks in due to lack of time. I’m currently not working full-time so I can help my son through his HSC (he has autism and anxiety issues).  I considered studying also during this year ‘off’ but I need to make him the priority, not my own work. After that I’ll be open to all sorts of projects!

    screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-6-30-03-pm

    The people at this conference are the core people of their organisations interested in learning and continuous improvement.  What we actually need to learn as researchers within schools, is how to gather-in colleagues to a learning mindset and join with us.

    When we first attempted researching the REAL project ourselves, we applied to present at academic conferences in Seville, Spain, and New York, USA, and were approved for both based on our ‘abstracts’.  This was before the AIS research funding program even existed and we were without any support from universities.  We then had to write papers for these conferences, the New York paper being subject to a peer review.  It failed one reviewer but the other advised us to change the format significantly, which we did, and it was then published <http://shanihartley.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.264/prod.58>*.  We also had to review other papers which was a great learning experience for us.  At these conferences there was much said about education at all levels but over 90% of the presenters were from universities.  Universities seem to take a more hit-and-run approach instead of working in tandem with the schools they research.  It would be nice to see or even experience more collaboration between schools and universities in the research process at academic conferences.  Perhaps we were better off without a university’s own agenda. We were unusual in being school teachers conducting and presenting our own research.  There should be more of it.  

     

    * Despite numerous emails to the publishers, the bios of the authors were not corrected.
    This post is also found at http://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/mind-gap-research-and-schools.html

  3. TeachMeet: Solve For x

    20 October 2016 by shartley

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting. I'm the one waving up the back.

    Phillip taking a selfie before presenting.
    I’m the one waving up the back.

    * This blog post is also found at http://squibsandsagas.blogspot.com.au/2016/10/teachmeet-solve-for-x.html

    I have been to several TeachMeets.  This particular TeachMeet was held at Google headquarters in Sydney which was one of the main attractions for me.  I missed out on one two years earlier and as I searched for the Twitter hashtag for this evening I found an exchange that occurred about the use of #TMGoogle – the issue being that TeachMeets are supposed to be teacher ran and teachers as presenters, no sponsorship.  However, to host a TeachMeet in a cool location such as Google HQ there is a trade-off.  Tonight I felt the trade to be rather unequal.  The hashtag was not #TMGoogle but perhaps it should have been. It seemed every second speaker represented Google and was promoting something, useful somethings, but advertisements nevertheless. An extra grating factor was that teacher presenters were held to their time limits, albeit poorly, speakers not being deterred by soft Star Wars toys being thrown at them when their time had expired, yet Google presenters had limitless time.  And trust me, the teachers were much more interesting than the Google employees.

    The stated theme of this TeachMeet was ‘Solve for x’, thereby promoting problem solving in education, that students solve whatever issue ‘x’ represented for teachers and/or students. The evening was officially launched by Kimberley Sutton through a YouTube video to explain the concept: Moonshot Thinking: Solve for x @ Tribeca Film Festival. Our first teacher presenter linked a goal to this theme nicely.

    I have known Phillip Cooke through TeachMeets and Twitter for many years.  He is a passionate secondary school educator and declared this evening that his moonshot concept is teaching for life instead of for exams, a policy I am also passionate about.  I have enjoyed seeing Phillip present on this theme in many variations before. He is always interesting because not only does he and his colleagues come up with the ideas but they actually implement them, although I’m sure he wish he could implement more.  Phillip was intricately involved in the complete rebuild of his school, a school often seen in the industry as an alternative option for the misfits in our education system and thus had a poor reputation for a long time for drugs and disruptive behaviour. However, its hands-on practical approach to education is becoming more dominant in industry discourse and it has featured on a TV show for doing things a little differently.

    Phillip’s attitude towards authentic learning is borne out by some of the initiatives he has shared:

    • Establishing an annual Creative Careers Day where the future implications of their learning come to life through the people operating in creative enterprises
    • Implementing cross-curricular activities, such as Design and Technology with English and Drama to create wearable art costumes for a production of Othello, “Students didn’t just read Othello – they lived it
    • Printing art designs of students on tea towels and selling them, simple but effective (also make great thank you presents at Teach Meets)

    If I was to give my own moonshot for teaching and learning is that I desperately want students to be thinking for themselves. As a senior school teacher, I hate how much teaching is about preparing for HSC exams, such as artificial artifice that it diminishes authentic learning.  This is why I always like what Phillip has to say.

    Dominic Hearne set the tone of his talk by quoting Gary Stager, “Schools have a sacred obligation to introduce children to things they don’t yet know they love”. In line with this philosophy, Dominic’s school has introduced a series of compulsory critical thinking courses, which I absolutely applaud. These include:

    • Future Problem Solving
    • Visions of Leadership
    • The Art of War / The Ethics of Peace
    • Epistemology (how do we think, why do we think, what influences our thinking and perception)

    My daughter is currently studying International Relations and Human Rights at university. She would have loved the opportunity to examine some of these topics at school.  Her response being:

    screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-3-03-05-pm

    One of the students undertaking this course used several sources to investigate the Jewish holocaust and, as might be expected, referred to movie representations of the holocaust such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He also had access to his grandmother’s letters and other documents depicting her time as a Jew interned by Hitler.  The result was not just a well researched product but the rest of the class had a new insight into the atrocities.

    Nick Brierley hooked me by not only emphasising the thinking skill of problem solving but linking to the TV show Stranger Things, where the children in the show are constantly having to solve problems, not always successfully. He advocated the use of BreakoutEDU, a resource for creating engaging problem-solving games in classrooms. This is definitely a tool I will investigate further.

    Technology definitely has a role to play in developing students’ critical thinking skills. A primary school teacher, Alfina Jackson commenced with the statement that she hasn’t heard students say they need PD before they can use technology, so if they can do it, teachers can do it too.  Glib, but mostly true. I have come across many teachers who are so ingrained in teaching the same way, with the same worksheets, year after year, that they truly struggle with making more than the occasional change to their regular modus of operation.

    Alfina has her own YouTube Channel, mainly consisting of videos made by K-2 students.  These videos demonstrate learning in an authentic and meaningful way for our modern age.  Without many of us realising it, children are learning all the time through YouTube.  Actually many adults too.  I recently used YouTube to learn how to cast-off my knitting.  Alfina is therefore not only teaching students a particular topic, she is teaching digital responsibility.  Creating public videos also motivates students through the hands-on activity and real audience feedback.  All of this requires several higher-order thinking processes.

    Another initiative Alfino implemented was Year 1 completing book reviews on Google Slides. For the content, the teacher taught students to use three simple sentence word-starters:

    • I liked the part…
    • I disliked the part…
    • I would change…

    However, after a quick introduction to using Google Slides, the students worked out for themselves and taught each other the various creative features of using the slides.  After the first drafts were completed the teacher provided feedback through the comment feature which prompted students to comment on each other’s reviews, leading to a discussion of how to write positively, particularly in a public domain.

    On the other hand, I don’t believe technology should be used for simply its own sake.  Alfino showed how students learning to write could trace the letter on an iPad.  I’m not sure how this particularly improves on the pen and paper version except simply for the hook that it is on an iPad.

    The highlight of the evening was the dynamic Kathleen O’Rourke. Kathleen is learning to become a Primary School teacher at Macquarie University after a decade or so in the workforce. She is passionate about many things and her LinkedIn profile reveals she is not only an advocate for education and the marginalised but she walks the talk.  At first I thought she was also going to emphasise technology due to her tagline, “Is it OK to ask students to do something that we are not comfortable to do ourselves?” Instead, Kathleen answered that question with, “If we don’t pursue our x’s how can we expect our students to?”

    As part of being a pre-service teacher, Kathleen decided there wasn’t enough professional development on offer, beyond the regular uni courses and practicum experience so out together some events and now the concept has exploded.  As a full-time carer for her grandmother, Kathleen found it difficult to access working disabled toilets, particularly in medical institutions.  Consequently, she has an aim to develop an app that lists and user-rates them. I spoke to Kathleen at the end of the evening and found just how determined she is to put theory into action. Earlier that day she had been at a school presenting to teachers and discussing with them a university assignment. This was not part of the set work.  She has also tutored primary-aged students who are newly settled refugees on a volunteer basis.

    I was not the only one who thought Kathleen was amazing. This was the reaction on Twitter:

    screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-15-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-30-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-25-47-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-28-48-pm

    All in all it was worthwhile attending this TeachMeet.  I learned about some new Google products and enjoyed hearing how other teachers are implementing problem solving and other critical thinking activities.  However, I’d prefer it if future TeachMeets adhered to the no sponsorship ideal, even (especially?) if it means returning to the pubs and clubs where they began.


  4. Naive Idealist

    8 April 2015 by shartley

    I’m starting to realise I’m a naïve idealist.  I want to teach in a way that benefits every single one of my students.  I want all my students to learn and achieve as well as they possibly can.  I want all my students to enjoy learning, embrace their positive passions and have a fulfilling life.  That’s all.

    I started studying my Masters of Education just for the piece of paper at the end but fell in love with the course with the very first two subjects, Curriculum and Pedagogy.  I was lucky enough to be well versed in the language of current thinking in these areas.  However, what kept biting me was the amount of rhetoric I was inclined to use without evidence.  Now, I’m so into what I have been learning for the last year and a half I want to just keep on going.

    It felt like I started my PhD this year but technically that’s a long way off yet.  When I finish my M.Ed., I enter the second year of a Masters of Research and then commence my PhD at the end of that.  These last two subjects of my M.Ed. are proving a bit of a stumbling block though.  One, a Literature Review, is meant to help me gain some background knowledge on the area I’m going to cover in my PhD but my grand ideas of writing about some of the big concepts in education keeps being narrowed down and down to a manageable size.  Of course I want my studies to be manageable but I also want to make a big difference.  I don’t think it’s an ego thing but instead I am driven by trying to find what’s the best we, as teachers, can do to help our students.  My other subject is the one I wrote about in my last two posts, an Introduction to Educational Research (EDCN800).

    Only three of the usual crowd of twelve or so turned up for EDCN800 last night, yet I came away more confused than when I arrived and wondered if it had been worth it.  Before arriving, I had a clear idea of what I was going to do for the next task (design a qualitative research study) and had received 3/3 for my proposal (my only 3/3 for our first task) but alas, no more.  You see, I made the mistake of making it an authentic task, something I could see myself doing in real life but really, all we have to do is go through the motions.  My idealism protested somewhat.  I want my learning to be meaningful and practical during the process of doing it.  I’m not just after the marks or even learning this now for some research I might do in the future; as I learn about how to design qualitative research, I want to be actually, in reality, authentically, designing qualitative research.

    However, a piece I have to write within three weeks for a uni assignment is not reality, particularly when talking about designing qualitative research; it normally takes much longer than that.  The literature review I am writing within one semester cannot contain every single article that I need to read to produce a doctorate thesis.  I am struggling with these limitations!!!

    How much more then, are we struggling in high schools to make learning authentic?  How can we help our students think they have something to contribute to the world when we have such short times on any one task, any one topic?  Some say school isn’t real life, that it is a false, socially constructed institution and that we should just accept that it is a mere addendum on real life.  How can we make secondary school learning authentic and meaningful if we can’t make it about the real world?  Do I ask too much?

    PS

    Perhaps my next post will need to be about the benefits of learning for the accumulation of knowledge rather than for practical application because of course, I see a place for that too in our curriculum.  For instance, I know many teachers and students who love learning about Ancient History for the sake of mere interest.  I love novels for what they say about the human condition.

    PPS

    My literature review has morphed into the question:

    What do we know about the connection between ‘assessment for learning’ and the self-regulation of students in secondary social sciences?

    My qualitative research design will be probably based on the question:

    How have teachers responded to change?


  5. Support

    8 February 2015 by shartley

    Daniel

    Daniel Dawes at Record Crate, Glebe, 7 Feb 2015

    Rachel

    Rachel Collis at Record Crate, Glebe, 7 Feb 2015

    Tonight I travelled to a small venue in Glebe to see a former colleague and a (different) former colleague’s wife perform in a double act. At the gig, I was hoping to see many of my colleagues from my former place of employment but other than my close friend and one other they were sadly absent.  My friend and I like a bit of adventure and apparently crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a bridge too far for most.  We once went to Fairfield RSL to see a completely different colleague perform with his band and it seems that it was too far west for the rest of our colleagues.  Tonight was a lot of fun – both of the performers are excellent musicians, and we even bought their CDs!

    I was once berated for not doing enough for the school I was working at.  It came out of the mouth of someone high up the sport hierarchy at the school and because I didn’t coach a sporting team, he figured I needed to become more involved.  I asked if he knew what I actually did for the school and he avoided the question.  In that particular year I coached a debating team, presented at three different major conferences in three different cities for the school, interviewed potential students on a weekend (and had my car smashed when I was rear-ended on the way home), ran professional development programs, wrote articles for journals as a representative of the school and more.  But because I didn’t coach sport, I was considered to be not contributing enough.

    Colleagues need to support each other.  Not just in the staffroom when someone’s distress is right before your eyes or when a manager forces you into a meeting together, but as a courtesy, a responsibility, as a team.  I’m not saying that every weekend you need to go out with a different colleague but when opportunities arise for a little adventure, to try something different, find out some other aspect about a colleague, take it when you can.  It’s like when you go to the school musical and you find the brat in the corner of your classroom who if isn’t being disruptive, is falling asleep, has an amazing voice and the reason he falls asleep is that he is out performing every night to pay for his Mum’s medical needs.

    My son is in Year 10 (not at my school) and he has mild autism and anxiety issues.  He doesn’t pay much attention in class and combine that with literacy needs he tends to be a low performing student.  It is a constant struggle at home to explain why it is important to do as he is asked by teachers and to pay attention.  Last week he came home from the Swimming Carnival quite pleased with himself because he was the only entry in the IM 200m for his gender and age and he was told this week that he was runner-up for age champion.  He thinks he will be going to the zone swimming carnival for the first time ever but none of us are sure of the rules.  Another first, is that he is keenly paying attention in assemblies for announcements and constantly checking the sports noticeboard.  I wonder if there are any teachers who see him differently now or if they just don’t care.

    It is important they we see our students and colleagues as whole people and that teaching and working with others should be a holistic experience where we connect in a more profound way than our superficial exterior roles demands of us.  We talk about schools as being a community but there is so much more we can do to help make it a truly supportive community that nurtures and cares for all of its members.


  6. Pedagogy

    13 October 2013 by shartley

    PowerToolReadingCooking

    Photos by author

    I have recently been immersed in a wide range of activities learning about curriculum, pedagogy and technology in schools.  As a consequence I am attempting to write a series of related blog posts. Yesterday I wrote about IT Infrastructure.  Today I’m writing about pedagogy with a focus on research by Kalantzis and Cope, as seen in their New Learning website.

    I don’t have a single pedagogical model to call my own.  I am deeply cynical and resent prescribed models dictating a single way of teaching, yet this week I had to present on 21st Century Fluencies because this is a the model I’ve been training teachers in PD sessions at my school, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team. Solution Fluency is just one style of Project Based Learning (PBL) and PBL is just one pedagogical practice. What I like about PBL is its focus on process as much or more than the product.

    I believe teaching should be a balance of a whole variety of methods and be flexible according to circumstances, with circumstances being anything from the students themselves to the weather.

    Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.86) describe today’s typical learning environment accurately, “We have in our classes today a generation of young people who will be bored and frustrated by learning environments that fail to engage every fiber of their intellectual and active capabilities”.

    I hence also like how Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.84) advocate for traditional teaching “to be replaced by new notions of ‘learning design’”.  In some ways planning for learning is my favourite part of teaching because Plan A is for a perfect world where students behave according to expectations and technology works as it should and I’m excited for its potential.  It is then a case of Plan B, Plan C and so on as all the possible variables come into play.  Plan A generally focuses on “addressing the big questions” (p.84), much in line with the programming model my school follows, Understanding by Design, not that I think this needs to be followed strictly either.

    I would love to see schools that Kalantzis and Cope (2012) call “sites of energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86) and my previous school was trying to do this but at the expense of other aspects of education, such as nurturing students.  I think this community centre of thinking is almost science fiction idealism but I dream.

    Back to class, I like students to be active in their learning, meaning I am student centred in my pedagogy.  I’m not so fond of the term student-directed because I believe, in the main, students still need to be provided with direction, although there should be a place for passion projects.  This why I’m against open-plan learning but support flexible learning spaces so that learning can occur at a cohort level, large groups, classes, small groups, triplets, pairs or alone.

    Technology must have a role in Australian education because it is so integrated into our daily lives and is engaging for students.  It also allows for a wider audience and collaborators outside textbooks, schools and teachers’ own knowledge.  Thus learning is more connected to reality.  Students therefore need to be literate and discerning with technology.

    My pedagogical model is a mixed bag but my motto, Keeping it Real, is what’s closest to my heart.

     

    Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B.  (2012) New learning: a charter for change in education, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, pp.83-94


  7. Who Are We? Teaching ‘Personal and Social Identity’ in Society and Culture (a reflection)

    28 June 2013 by shartley

    This topic was introduced with the above Prezi towards the end of Term 1 2013 to both of my school’s Preliminary Society & Culture classes.  I teach one of them.

    Students were then launched into a PBL style unit with the Who Are You Project (pdf).

    To further explain the elements of this project:

    • Explore: This is a summary of the syllabus content
    • Answer: Students were required to respond to these questions
    • Reference: Students were to consult at least one resource within each of the reference categories listed
    • Compose: Students needed to communicate what they had learned about their personal and social identity
    • Present: An edited version needed to presented to the class – the cone of silence refers to the agreement that anything of a personal nature that’s discussed in Society & Culture does not go beyond the classroom

    It was a very successful project with most students engaged and deeply involved with the process. A minority took the more self-directed style of learning as an opportunity to do little.

    Other issues included:

    • The word ‘explore’ – students didn’t understand that these were the concepts needed to be investigated, even after verbal explanation – this will need refinement for next time
    • Explicitly asking questions meant students were inclined to approach the project as a typical Q & A worksheet, answering the questions superficially because they hadn’t investigated the concepts first
    • Some of the items on the reference list did not have a clear link to the project at hand – conducting background research to place subject into context needs to be taught clearly
    • Many students decided to do a PowerPoint (not listed) but generally did it well, some learned how to use Prezi for the first time, some did scrap-books, others did blog posts and the work avoiders wrote out a speech.

    Overall, they really learned a lot about the concepts and terms in a meaningful way because they applied it to themselves and there is nobody they know better.

    I was then away with my Innovative Learning Team on and off for a couple of weeks so during this time students completed more traditional textbook and video worksheets.

    They also watched Yolngu Boy (link includes comprehensive educational resources), followed by an essay completed in test conditions.  The students’ attitude towards this essay made me quite irate.  Many held the opinion that since it wasn’t an assessment task “it didn’t count”.  That earned them a little lecture on what school and education and learning was about.  A singular focus on HSC marks makes me mad!  Despite this attitude or because of my tirade the students produced some excellent essays.

    Finally, for this unit, students were given a Research Assessment Task to perform primary research (questionnaire or interview) to compare their identity development to others (questionnaire) or another (interview).  Unfortunately many students completely forgot all the concepts they had learned from the Who Are You project, the textbook, the videos and from the Yolngu Boy essay in which students had included concepts quite well.   All these tasks had been scaffolded so the concepts were reasonably clear but the link of the concepts to the title of the unit, Personal and Social Identity, obviously hadn’t been made strong enough.  These research assessment tasks were mainly written as if personality equated to identity.  *sigh*

    All that been said, I still think the program is a good one.  Next year the plan is to make the Who Am I project and the Research Assessment Task into one big assessment task with some tweaking.  I want to drop the textbook part altogether but part of the reason it was included was to placate a parent that believes my teaching methods lack the rigour required for the HSC.  You see, I made the mistake at parent-teacher night of saying we had been having fun in the course and hadn’t taught to the test (the first assessment task).  Obviously I should wash my mouth out with soap!

    We are all human, students, teachers and even parents.  I know my students have learned much about themselves and others from this unit.  Hopefully their learning will also be reflected in HSC results in a year and a half’s time.

     

     


  8. Saying Thanks

    7 August 2010 by shartley

    DSP 147: Thank You! 2007-10-11

    David Truss (@datruss) has written a blog post called Thank you and no thank you.  I wrote a comment on his post and he DM’d on Twitter a lovely thanks and then suggested in a public tweet that my comment should be a post in itself.  So I’ve reproduced my comment here:

    In my first year of teaching it often felt like a thankless job. About half way through the year a new student joined two of my classes and he thanked me at the end of each lesson. It raised my morale incredibly. I worried that the other students would be a bad influence and he would stop thanking me and stop contributing positively to class discussions. In fact, the reverse occurred. This one boy had an incredible influence on the attitude of the class and many began thanking me at the end of each lesson.

    Now, 6 years later, as a better teacher and improved culture in my school, most students thank me at the end of each lesson. I was even thanked at the end of a lunch when I kept students in to complete homework not done.

    Thanks for your post Dave. It’s nice to think of the positives in the world.


  9. What’s the buzz?

    7 August 2010 by shartley

    Lattice

    There’s a buzz in my Business Studies class that is hard to explain but I believe it stems from a situation of mutual respect.  Early in the course I introduced a concept of the boardroom discussion (briefly mentioned in an earlier post).  I would break the syllabus points to be addressed into the form of a meeting agenda.  A student acts as chairperson and they find from the class what they already know.  I simply act as an external consultant, or as the phone-a-friend option.  This gave the students confidence that they actually already knew a lot about Business Studies.  All they had to do was learn to use the language, write in an appropriate format and fill in some gaps, but together they know the bulk of the material.

    We also do a fair bit of group work where I try to give them as realistic business scenarios as possible (also mentioned in a previous post).  At the moment they are individually working on their business plan assessment tasks but often as a class we brainstorm ideas for each others’ plans.  They are actually willing and genuinely interested in helping each other.  My mantra is Keep It Real.

    To ensure they do cover each of the syllabus points there is an activity on Moodle, one for each syllabus dot-point.  These activities can be drawing diagrams, internet research and much more.  One of my weaknesses in teaching is the monitoring of work completion.  I know my students very well from my interactions with them but sometimes I am caught out when their written responses don’t match what they have demonstrated verbally.  Therefore I have been making a concerted effort to check every item uploaded through Moodle and giving some very quick feedback.  The most basic feedback is by selecting one of the following Moodle options:

    • Resubmit
    • Satisfactory
    • Substantial
    • High
    • Excellent

    (One of these days I will develop my own words to replace these.  For instance, it is only now, and I have been doing this all year, that the students have asked which is better between Satisfactory and Substantial.)
    Lately I have been doing this feedback process while they are going on with their work.  I have found this very useful to do in class for the benefit of immediacy.  For instance, yesterday I noted that Mr R was not only completely up to date (at last), he had moved from being consistently Satisfactory to consistently Substantial. One piece of work was better than the majority of the class.  I commented on all this in front of the class, and his chest puffed out with pride.  I am trying harder this term, Miss, he said (paraphrased).  I’m not sure I can keep it up but I’m giving it a go. I did the happy dance inside.

    This is a class of 13 boys and 3 girls.  The vast majority of the boys are athletic rather than academic, there is a boy with learning difficulties, a couple of really quiet boys and a boy who was known to have behaviour difficulties (I only see it every now and then).  There is a girl who often places a target on her back with her loud and attention-seeking ways but she has a heart of gold.  A couple of the boys find it very hard to resist going for that target but we talk about it openly.  I might say, Miss L, stop putting that target on your back.  Mr R, please resist the temptation to hit that target and they laugh and we move on.  One student has been sent an N Award warning letter for not completing an assessment task and another has been sick and away for sporting events regularly and has not completed any work for approximately six weeks.  I still need to monitor these situations quite closely.

    This class takes a lot of energy.  Yesterday, second last period on a Friday afternoon, I didn’t feel I had the energy to give but the buzz enlivened me and in the end I was actually energised by it.  It is a colony of working bees that relies less and less on their Queen Bee for discipline and knwledge.  The hard yards made in establishing this hive is really paying off.  Yay!


  10. Pulled every which way

    9 April 2010 by shartley

    Twitter has inspired me as I see other teachers passionate about what’s best for students.

    It has depressed me as I realise how little I know compared to many others.

    I want to investigate every which way of teaching but I would find the process overwhelming.  I want to read the hundreds of blogs I have found through Twitter.  I want to use nearly every resource I discover.  But time, sweet time, prevents me.

    Twitter has connected me to other parts of the world.  One highlight of this is a (private) blog between my Society and Culture students and students at the UN International School in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Blogging is something I am trying in a variety of contexts in class (eg see http://saclife.edublogs.org) but also a little as a teacher and anonymously as a writer.

    The last few days I have been following #ACEC2010 (Australian Computers in Education Conference) on Twitter.  Two of my colleagues have been presenting there, Stephen Collis (@Steve_Collis) and Chris Woldhuis (@cwoldhuis) and I’ve watched via U Stream.  I have been addicted to all this, yet I have learnt nothing new since it has all been discussed before in my PLN on Twitter and through what we do at my school anyway.

    I had allocated today to completing a university assignment for my Editing subject as part of my Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) through Deakin University.  I’m just over half way through this course and I’m really enjoying it.

    My other subject this semester is Script Writing.  I spent Easter writing a monologue for it.  You see, I want to be a writer, probably a fiction writer.

    I am already published as an educational writer but that is just to gain a name for writing before I hit the real deal.  I must admit I enjoy the exercise though.  At the end of each year EdAssist send me a list of topics I could write on for BusiDate and generally I choose something that would interest me, or is most relevant to what I’m teaching, or most recently, what I know a lot about and can write with minimal research.  I then write the article during the summer holidays.

    My educational writing started when Grant Kleeman came to my practicum class during my Dip.Ed. at Macquarie University and asked who had a finance background.  I’m actually a degree qualified accountant who used to work in funds management.  For example, for three years I was the Accountant for the Cash Management Trust at Macquarie Bank.  Through Grant I ended up writing three chapters of Commerce.Dot.Com.  Grant then passed my name onto EdAssist.  EdAssist also invited me to deliver lectures on Business Studies to students in holiday workshops, which I did for two years.  I have also lectured for Economics and Business Educators (EBE) as a result of an article on WorkChoices I wrote for EdAssist.  I enjoy doing all this.  But the time!

    For the last six and a bit years I have been teaching at Northern Beaches Christian School.  It is quite a ride.  Once I muddled my way through first year blues I now find the classroom quite an enjoyable and exciting place.  I’m not great at differentiation but I do see students as individuals and treat them as such in my relationship with them, just less so in the teaching process.  I think my passion for teaching and most of the subject matter is contagious and my students generally like class as much as I do.  They also love going on journeys with me learning new ways of learning.

    I also do a lot of online teaching.  I think it is very suitable for Commerce and Business Studies but HSC Economics I still wonder about.  This year I have some very enthusiastic Economics students but personal interaction is necessary so I have Skyped with one and driven to Scone for another.  Workshops are too far apart and not always convenient for the students.  My school is very gung-ho with technology and mostly I am on board.  We have an institution as part of our school called Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) which is constantly looking for new ways to educate better.  I don’t always agree with some of the decisions our Principal makes, such as our focus on Matrix learning in the middle years and teaching students en masse, a lot of the time with several classes in the one large space.  I’m not fond of that level of clashing noise.

    What I’m currently keen on to do through SCIL is collaborating with other schools in my area, sharing ideas and producing quality resources, preferably online.  For instance, I’d like to develop a focus study on social networks for the Popular Culture topic in Society and Culture.  I think it would benefit from lots of input from a variety of people, not just teachers.  The problem is, I’m having trouble finding Society and Culture teachers on Twitter.  My next step will be to talk with people in the Society and Culture Association, via email or, heaven forbid, phone (so old-school).

    I love to read, both for pleasure and to keep up with current events.  I have about 40 unopened Sydney Morning Heralds in my lounge room and 100 unread emails from the New York Times, Crikey and The Punch in my inbox.  In my bedroom I have dozens of books waiting for me to read them, goodness knows when.

    I also have two gorgeous children, a supportive husband and a dog.  I am trying to lose weight and become fit through Fernwood and a personal trainer there.  I attend Turramurra Uniting Church and meet with friends from there a lot less frequently than I would like.  I used to volunteer as a Youth Group leader but as a teacher by Friday night I am simply too sapped of energy.  I still haven’t completed my tax return from last year, embarrassing as an ex-accountant.  I have a small group of friends who I neglect too much.  Some of them I stay in touch with via Facebook.  I enjoy tennis, wine, restaurants, movies, classical music, opera and theatre but don’t have enough time or money for all that I want.

    I dream of living on a bit of land in the Southern Highlands with high ceilings and an open fire place with cups of tea and just writing the days away.  But I also know I will continue to be tugged by all my interests.  And I’d miss the classroom.   I plan to teach for another 6-8 years, which is when my children are due to complete their schooling, and then reassess.  However, I don’t think I can keep up the current pace for that long.

    I need to give some of my interests away.  But what?


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