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Posts Tagged ‘21st century education’

Playing the Whole Game

April 4th, 2012

Work in the field of 21st century learning talks of the need for students to not just ‘receive’ knowledge but to produce it. As an ex- primary school teacher I am curious about what providing students with opportunities to produce knowledge actually means in practice. How do we provide opportunities for seven-year-olds, for example, to produce knowledge and what does it look like when they do? I found David Perkins’ book Making Learning Whole helpful in answering questions like these.  You can hear David Perkins talking about some of his ideas here.

In this book David Perkins argues that we need to provide students not just with opportunities to practice skills in isolation, but with opportunities to ‘play the whole game’ of different learning areas.  Using baseball as an example, he describes how teachers might go about doing this in the context of school learning, suggesting that for beginners what we need is a good junior version of the game.  According to Perkins, organizing learning around a ‘whole game’ involves engaging learners in some kind of inquiry or performance and producing something such as a solution, an image, a story, an essay, or a model. This got me thinking ‘How is this different from what I already did as a teacher?’, at least in the areas I felt most proficient, such as art and subject English.

You might like to watch this video of Rose Hipkins discussing our plans for a session on this entry point at the upcoming Shifting Thinking Workshop 2012.

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Dealing with complexity

April 3rd, 2012

Dr. Jennifer Garvey Berger talks about how we might develop our capabilities to work with complexity, and  what to expect from her session at the 2012 Shifting Thinking Workshop.

You might also like to check out Jennifer’s recent book Changing on the job: Developing leaders for a complex world

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Contribute to research on “21st century teaching and learning for New Zealand students”

September 15th, 2011

It’s been a while since my last shifting thinking posting, but rest assured I have been quite busy. You may be pleased to hear that planning is underway for the 2012 Shifting Thinking workshop, and we hope to confirm dates within the next month or two  - stay tuned.

In other news, I am leading a new project called Supporting 21st century teaching and learning for New Zealand students. The project aims to develop a vision for what future learning might look like for New Zealand students and to contribute to educational futures thinking and policy development. Further details about the project can be found on NZCER’s website.

If you are involved in education in New Zealand you may be able to contribute to this research.
We would like to hear from New Zealand principals, teachers, and others who work with school-aged learners (approx 5-18 years old) about their innovative educational practices and ideas for teaching and learning for the 21st century.

From mid-September 2011 we are inviting New Zealand schools that teach in English-medium, and others who support these young people’s learning, to contribute their stories of innovative practices and future-focussed thinking  through an online submission form , where you can also read more about the kinds of practices we are most interested in hearing about.

I also hope to contribute further blogpostings about the research as it evolves!

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Students “mapping out their own futures”

November 10th, 2010

I’ve neglected to check my pigeonhole at work for a while, and hence I almost missed seeing this  Education Gazette article about learning pathways at Hauraki Plains College.

This is a pretty exciting article for me, partly because the the school’s approach was “significantly influenced” by a book Jane Gilbert and I wrote, Disciplining and drafting, or 21st century learning?

The article describes how the school has taken some of the ideas we talked about in the book (and talk about often on Shifting Thinking), combined with their own analysis of their students’ needs, and re-created the way they think about timetabling, coursework, pathways, and student support. This quote illustrates the school’s vision for its students.

As students understand their strengths and abilities they are supported in shaping a purposeful direction through their learning which fits with their aspirations for a life beyond the school gates. They see their time at school as relevant to their future and they can plan for it.

How, precisely, do they do it? Read the whole article here.

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Wondering what’s next

March 8th, 2010

Ally and I have finished up our current round of data collection on the Teachers’ Work project, and are just trying to decide what might be next for us. We thought maybe we’d bring some of our questions and our thinking to this group to see if anyone else wanted to think alongside us.

When this project began, we were interested in how teachers made sense of their work, especially how teachers who were interested in 21C ideas made sense of it. We wanted to know how real teachers were thinking about what 21C education might be, how they were teaching in their schools, how they made sense of having ideas in the first place. We’ve done some of that, decided other bits were too big, and been confused and enlightened along the way. Now we’re trying to figure out what might be next for us.

We’re interested in the way that individual teachers make sense of their context and their aspirations for the future, and we’re interested in how that sensemaking actually shapes the context and what is possible for the future. We’re interested in how leaders shape their school contexts—and are shaped by them. We’re interested in where the power lies in the system—where the shifting thinking could be most useful, most likely to make a big change in the way kids experience teaching and learning.

The question for us now is: what’s the question for us now? We know that we have not found answers to this big question about leverage points, and we know that very many other things are already known about teachers and how they think and work and schools and why they are so hard to change. But given all that we know, what would be useful for us to explore together? What’s the key missing question?

Now, Ally and I enjoy theory enormously. But this is a practical undertaking we’re discussing here. We want a practical way to understand how schools can change, not a theoretical model of how change might possibly happen. Usually if you’re a researcher and you want to understand something practical, you need to go out and look at something. We’re not aware of schools that have really made it in this regard, schools that everyone knows have transformed teaching and learning so that younger people and older people (inside and outside the local school) experience a different kind of education. You readers might know about those schools, and might be able to say, School X has totally transformed. We’d like to hear from you about School X.

What we’re more familiar with, and we’re guessing you’re more familiar with, are schools that are trying to change. We could name dozens of schools with fantastic older and young people, who are trying to reshape the way teaching and learning and schooling happens. We know of communities where this is contentious, communities where this is invisible, communities where this is deeply supported. But all the ones we know would say that they’re on a journey, that 10% or 40% or 60% of the students/teachers/community members are on board. But we don’t know anyone who has arrived, and we don’t know anyone who isn’t fighting madly along the way.

So, if there are no models to say “this is where we’re going,” we can’t research those.  Indeed, what Ally and I think might be true is that we’re on a journey for which there is no “arrival,” no 100% on board.  We’re moving into an unknown future, trying to take a whole bunch of people who care a lot about schools along with us, and we don’t really know where we’re going. This makes for a tricky research question.

We wonder if you might help. We have an unresearchable question like: “How do you support yourself and others to move into an unknown future?” Now we wonder what questions you have about this whole topic that we might be able to engage with in order to figure out how we’re thinking about things and what we might do next. This is a question that needs a lot of heads thinking together for us to ask just the right question. Will you lend us your head, your questions?

Future focussed issues, Shifting research, Shifting schooling, Teachers' work , , , , , , , , ,

NZ Curriculum in Action PD Day

February 3rd, 2010

NZ Curriculum In Action was a professional development day created for two purposes:

  • To bring together the isolated pockets of educators already working in the direction of the new curriculum, and connect them with educators looking to develop their teaching in that direction but wanting to be inspired by what was possible.
  • To build a professional learning community that fostered interest in the theory and practice of 21st century teaching ideas.

Originally envisioned in a traditional workshop model, the organisers soon realised that it would be incongruous to run a PD day looking at 21st century ideas in a very traditional, 20th century way. So we adapted the concept of the World Café to give us an opportunity to run the day in a very different way.  Gone was the single presenter lecturing to the audience. Instead the room was set with five table clusters, and each presenter session saw five different presenters, one per table, leading a more intimate group discussion of what they were about, enabling more questions and discussions to occur than during a traditional style presented session. Flat screens were available to make anything on laptop easy for the group to see. These sessions were interspersed with discussion sessions around provided open-ended questions. The questions were designed to enable thought-provoking discussion and debate about some of the philosophical ideas underpinning the direction that the new curriculum allows education to go.

In order to minimise as many barriers as possible to people attending, the day was provided at no cost. The venue was generously made available by the Foundation Studies Dept of Manukau Institute of Technology, tea and coffee was generously provided by Team Solutions, and all participants were asked to contribute a plate of food for an ongoing buffet table that people could help themselves to whenever they wanted. There was a structure and timeframe to the day, to enable workability, but the overall intention was to create an atmosphere of inclusivity, flexibility, and connection, to encourage people to communicate what was important to them about the direction of education, and to learn from each other.

Held on November 26th, the day was promoted through email contacts, the most productive email lists were the Team Solutions Secondary Science list and the Specialist Classroom Teacher list. I hope to find access to other similarly effective contact lists to be able to reach more teachers in future. The original aim was the secondary sector, but across all subject areas, as the concept of inclusivity and connectedness between learning areas is one aspect encouraged by the new curriculum that I find particularly encouraging. However, as the planning for this day went on, it soon became apparent that building the connections and understanding between primary, secondary and tertiary sectors is as important as building the connections and understanding between subject areas in secondary schools, or between syndicates in primary schools or departments in tertiary institutions. I was pleased to have presenters and participants from all three sectors of the education system, and hope to be able to have a more balanced representation of all sectors in future events.

How did this day dream itself into being? I was in the early stages of a community leadership course run by Landmark Education, and had already selected a project to create, when I was introduced to the new curriculum in such a way that I actually saw it for its full potential.  For myself I saw the way to bridge the gap between my personal philosophy about what education should be, and what I instead would find myself putting into practice in my classroom – a disparity that I always felt but had little idea how to do anything about, and so had always ignored and made the best of. More importantly I also saw that the paradigm shift required to move from the traditional concept of education to what the new curriculum makes possible is not going to be easy for a lot of our colleagues, and so this gift to education could so easily fail to achieve its potential. And so I became determined to do something to help encourage forward thinking and action. My original project idea was shelved in favour of what became known as NZC in Action. What I was surprised by was the so very positive response to this professional development day, right from the outset. It then evolved and grew into something bigger and more valuable than my original idea, and the proof of this pudding was the 50+ presenters and participants that travelled from up to two hours away to attend, the large numbers of positive comments people made to me in passing across the day, the energy present in the room, and the wonderful feedback and supportive suggestions made on our survey forms. Even before the day itself, I had people contact me to say that they couldn’t make that date but wanted to be kept informed for the next one.  People clearly saw a need for an opportunity like this.

What was presented? In no particular order… Kate Slattery (M.I.T.) - Higher order thinking and questioning strategies that get students thinking for themselves; Dr Karen Dobric (One Tree Hill College) - school structures and qualification pathways and what needs to be addressed to allow us to better meet the needs of our students; Larraine Barton (Pakuranga College) – the thinking and planning behind how the Science Dept at Pakuranga College developed their new and different programme in Junior Science;  Melanie Wiersma (Clendon Park School) - using digital tools extensively and to very positive effect to develop independent learners in the classroom; Ang Whitlam (St Mary’s College) - using ICT in innovative ways to support learning in Science; Sarah Painter (Team Solutions) – integrated and contextual learning, cross-curricular teaching; Oriel Kelly (M.I.T.) - using the internet as a teaching tool; Sharra Martin (Alfriston College) – what’s been happening at Alfriston College; Sandy McGivern (One Tree Hill College) – the Shifting Thinking Conference for those who missed it; Anna Gibbs/Harold Russ (King’s College) – integrated units and Harvard’s Teaching For Understanding; Diane Hartley and Toni Shaw (Albany Senior High School) – what’s going on at Albany Senior High School; Jenny Pope (Team Solutions) - Empirical vs Rational Thinking, educational philosophy;  Libby Slaughter (Monte Cecilia School) – Enquiry-based learning.

Where to from here? The survey showed an overwhelming enthusiasm for more of the same, the two most popular suggestions were a blog site and a continuation of the NZC in Action days, at the frequency of once a term. A large number of people signalled their interest not just in attending again, but in being a part of bringing the next PD day into being. I will be getting in contact with those generous people in the New Year so that we can put together the next NZC in Action day with many hands making the job effortless.

My particular thanks to the key supporters and organisers, Mike Stone, Harold and Linda Russ, Sarah Painter,  Anna Gibbs and Jenny Pope, and the numerous people I met and talked with from Team Solutions, Shifting Thinking, M.I.T, and schools around Auckland who answered my opening question of “So who do you know that’s doing edgy and innovative things that I can show to the world?” with great enthusiasm and support. And finally to the group of presenters, who were the embodiment of NZC in Action, generously sharing their ups and downs, breakthroughs and hiccups to help support and encourage others as to what can be done. You really made our day!

Note: This really was much easier to bring into being than you’d think! And so rewarding, being part of building a community of like-minded people. If anyone wants to see something similar happen in their area, please get in touch with me, I’d love to help support other similar professional learning communities getting underway, in other parts of the country!

Sandy McGivern

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Thinking together about future focused education

November 26th, 2009

Over the last couple of years several of us at NZCER have been working with schools and thinking and talking about family and community engagement in education. Schools put time and effort into “engaging” their communities for a whole range of reasons. In this blog I focus on some strategies that schools are using in an attempt to provide opportunities for whole school communities to engage with “future focused” ideas about education. I’m going to very briefly sketch out some of these strategies and raise some questions. We invite you to add to the strategies here and tell us what is working for you and your school community, and also add your thoughts about some of the questions raised. This is new territory that needs everyone thinking together.

Some schools are using current forms of communication, such as newsletters (whether hard copy or electronic), to “drip feed” ideas about how society is changing and what this might mean for education. Other schools have some information on their school websites. Several schools have run focus or discussion groups for parents where these ideas are discussed. Often these discussions are linked to the NZC document, especially to its vision and the focus on competencies.

Several schools have brought in outside “experts” to talk to parent audiences. In the words of one principal, “If you really want to shift people you need to bring an expert in who doesn’t have those everyday relationships that we do, who deals purely with ideas and who is able to present powerful ideas and research.” An obvious difficulty with this approach though is how do schools access these “experts”, especially small or isolated schools? Do we have enough “experts” to do the work, if we decide this is a desirable option? An alternative some schools have tried is screening You Tube clips or Ted Talks at parent evenings, or providing links to websites. What other resources are available? Is there a need for resources that have “future focused” ideas about education in accessible language? If these resources were available would parents access them? I’m mindful of the words of one parent who said, “I worry about getting three loads of washing dry…I don’t have time to get involved.” (I also think about how minimally involved I was with my own children’s secondary schooling).

We heard about a couple of schools where parents were facilitating discussions about future- focused ideas. At one school parents ran discussion groups in their own homes, in another school the “Friends of the School” group was very proactive in connecting with new parents of the school and although their focus was not engaging with future focused ideas about education – perhaps they could be a useful vehicle in the future.

Some schools are using individual student’s learning as a way of connecting their families with C21st ideas about education. This could be in the form of three way interviews where students talk about what they are learning and why this is important or it could be by parents having electronic access to their children’s learning programmes and records of progress.

Even though schools in this study have been trying out a variety of ways of engaging families with future focused ideas about education, all were concerned that they were still only connecting with a certain section of the school community. If we really believe it is no longer OK to leave education just to the “professionals” we need to think hard about how we most effectively make this change. Is it better to go deeply into these ideas with those who are already interested, or is it better to put energy into trying to engage as many people as possible, at whatever level? Should teachers have the opportunity to engage with these C21st ideas before parents are invited into the discussions, or should everyone be learning and thinking together?

Many of the schools in this study that are working innovatively with their communities are led by principals with clear, well articulated visions for how education needs to change. One challenge voiced by some of these principals was getting the right balance between inputting ideas and energy, and not being too directive. Another, issue they raised was about sustainability. Where is their energy most effective targeted?

Jane Gilbert suggests the following are key features of C21st education: personalisation; building learning capacity; competencies; foregrounding general intellectual skills such as higher order thinking skills, thinking for oneself, tolerating ambiguity; doing things with knowledge; new ideas about achievement and assessment; and equity – getting everyone tertiary ready. How do we engage the community with these ideas? We invite you to tell us about your successes and challenges in engaging your school community with ideas such as these, and join with us as we try and think our way through some of these issues.

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Delicious, dastardly dilemmas

October 6th, 2009

At the ShiftingThinking conference, we’ll be thinking together about the various things which get in the way of our transition to the future of schools and schooling. Our read of the 21C school literature shows us that if we’re really going to invent schools for the new millennium, we’ll face changes in all kinds of different ways. We’ll have to really think through issues like:
•    Purpose: What is the most important purpose of schooling in the 21C? What current purposes are you willing to give up?
•    People: Who are the people in these learning spaces and where do they come from? How are the older people qualified/grouped and how do they interact with each other and the younger people? How are the younger people qualified/grouped and how do they interact with each other and with the older people?
•    Process: What happens over the course of the day? How is the day defined and organised?
•    Place:  Where does this thing called “school” happen?
•    Content: What is the learning content of schools and how do people engage with that content? How do we know when people have mastered that content? Who gets to decide what the content is?

We’re guessing that from this set of questions, a set of dilemmas will emerge. You could take just about any question from the above list and imagine that people might have very different answers to them—and that those differences might expose competing commitments right down into the fabric of our society. On this rainy school holiday day, for example, one of the core purposes of school seems to me to be: Get the children out of the house and in some supervised activity where they’re not bored all day and driving me crazy! Now, in my life as a teacher and an educational researcher, I would never put “child care” on the list of major purposes of school. But if I am really honest, in my heart-of-hearts I have to say that I know that if the “child care” component of schooling were absent, that would be a big problem for me as a mom.

At the ShiftingThinking Conference, we’re going to be looking at some of these core dilemmas and why they’re so hard to change (see my thinking about one issue here). We’d like readers to contribute what they see as some of the most difficult and intractable (and thus most interesting and important) dilemmas which face us in the Shift to 21stC schools and thinking!

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Communities learning together

September 23rd, 2009

Our school is participating in the Families’ and Communities’ Engagement in education research project. In this blog I describe the “lever” we are using to generate opportunities for community engagement.  Our school’s research has been around investigating further what our student researchers meant when they said “ learning happens if you feel confident”.  Our intention has been to work with three different student groups in the school to firstly define confidence, to identify ways it is already built in school and to investigate how it might be developed further. The students will then report their findings back to their parents and others in the wider learning community. The purpose of this forum is to create a focus for discussion about the learning capabilities parents would like their daughters to develop –in particular around confidence and resilience. We are hoping parents will have ideas about the strategies they use to help develop confidence and how we might work together to build and maintain confidence. We are also hoping that by discussing a specific capability that the parents ( in earlier research)  have also identified as being important we will be able to more readily engage them in discussions around the changing needs of learners of the 21st century.

In our Wellington discussion workshop Jane Gilbert spoke of the importance of collective decision making given that the ‘knowledge experts’ may no longer exist. The intention of our ‘confidence forum’ is a first step in modelling communities learning together.  

During this research project we have also read widely around concepts of confidence, why it is important and how it might be demonstrated both in and outside the classroom. Of course the best information has come from the students themselves. 

 We also decided to use three different research methods to collect the information. With the Year 13 students we presented them with the Year 9 findings from the year before and asked them to develop a series of survey questions that could be given to two tutor groups (approximately 45 students). They trialled their first survey on their own tutor class. This highlighted the need to ask less questions and to eliminate redundant questions. At this point we asked Josie and Rachel (NZCER researchers) to advise us. The second survey was then given out. During the analysis sessions that followed they quickly realised that their survey still needed further refining. The initial data from these surveys was not as reflective/deep as we had expected from Year 13 students but it did indicate clear trends, some of them unexpected. The discussions about the data with the research group was much more useful.

With the Year 10 group (student researchers of 2008) we interviewed them as a group using similar questions that the Year 13 group had designed. The information gathered from this was more as we had expected – deeper and more reflective – probably because there was opportunity to ask further questions. There was certainly some obvious similarities about the responses but also some interesting differences highlighted between the experiences of the two age groups.

The third group of Year 12 students (student researchers of 2007) we simply presented  with the summarised findings of the other two groups and asked for comment. Their responses were more far reaching, less structured and therefore probably more genuine than the other two groups because they were not constrained by giving expected answers to given questions.   

So in summary: Research Process Evaluation

  • Writing survey questions is more difficult than it seems! It is often not until you see the results that you begin to understand what questions really needed to be asked. These questions need to be constantly refined.
  • Data gathered from surveys is often interesting because it highlights possible trends and may provide some unexpected issues but only really becomes enlightening after opportunities to discuss and reflect on results is given.
  • Sometimes the unexpected data highlights a group of students whose experience is different to the majority and this could lead to the need for further research to explore what made their experiences different to others.
  • Gathering data through focused discussion and interview provides deeper analysis. 
  • The most genuine response came from presenting the group with summary findings and asking for comments, rather than responding to set questions. This seemed to be because the questions weren’t already leading the responses. There were no expected answers.
     

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Talking with families about learning

September 17th, 2009

Some researchers at NZCER are currently working with a group of school leaders to try and answer this question: “How can whole school communities (staff, students, families) be provided with opportunities to engage with future focused ideas about education?” This project began with a workshop where school leaders and researchers talked about what things about school might need to change, and which school practices might be effective levers in bringing about this change.  Each school is now thinking about which particular lever they want to focus on over the next year or so.

Two schools have already decided on using three-way interviews as a lever for getting the whole school community to think about future focused ideas in education. One school has not done three-way interviews before. The principal decided to try this lever having listened to others at the workshop talking about the potential they thought these interviews had.  She is hoping that at these interviews teachers will use assessment data to talk to parents about their children’s progress in literacy and numeracy and then the (primary aged) students will show their parents examples of work that they think are evidence of what the teacher is talking about. The hope is that this will help the children become more involved in their own learning and at the same time make the “teacher speak” more accessible to parents in this diverse community.

We would really like to hear from anyone who has used three-way interviews in this way or who may have ideas about what leads to successful three-way conferences. What support do teachers/ children / parents need to make these interviews successful? Remember the focus of this project is on how to engage whole school communities in future focused ideas about education. All input welcome!

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