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Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

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.

Knowledge generation , , ,

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

Shifting schooling , , , , , ,

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.
     

Community engagement , , , , ,

Opportunities to engage with 21st century ideas

August 17th, 2009

The NZ Curriculum has 8 principles. These principles are supposed to underpin all decision making in schools. One of these principles is about community engagement and one is about future focus. At NZCER we are running a project (Families’ and communities’ engagement in education) that is looking at what opportunities whole school communities (students, teachers, families) have to engage with 21st century ideas about education. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that families (and the wider community) have access to some of the current ideas about schooling and how it might need to change to meet the demands of our rapidly changing world?

Recently a group of principals (and other school leaders) we are working with met to talk about what current school practices might be useful for engaging families with future focused ideas about education.  How might parent-teacher interviews for instance be structured differently to serve this purpose? What messages do parents currently get about what is important to learn, from looking at their children’s homework or  school newsletters? What role do (or could) students themselves play in challenging the way the adults around them think about education?

What future focused ideas do you think your communities need to engage with? Why these ideas?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Community engagement , , , ,

Responding to change and uncertainty

June 24th, 2009

In a recent Teachers Work project we provided a small group of teachers with a professional learning experience that aimed to encourage them to become more conscious of their existing tacit beliefs about education. In this project we noticed that despite the similarities between what the different teachers said about this professional development,  the teachers seemed to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity in a  range of ways.  This made us wonder about  the personal and biographical factors that influence how different individuals respond to change. We tried an activity with the teachers based on the Thinking Object: Change and Growth.  When reflecting on change in their own lives most of the teachers mentioned a “sense of belonging” or at least the support of others (both within and outside school) as being important factors that influenced how easily they coped with change.

It seems to me we talk quite a lot about the importance of students feeling a “sense of belonging” to school but maybe this is just as important for staff. Do we create learning environments where teachers (as well as students) feel they belong – so that they are secure enough to be able to take risks, try out new things, be open to new ideas? What are the factors that encourage risk taking and innovation? What are the best ways to support teachers (who after all have been conditioned by 20th Century ideas about schools) to try out new ideas and model the sorts of learning behaviours we want for our students?

Teachers' work , , ,

Key competencies: Is anything different?

June 15th, 2009

There is something niggling at me about the key competencies – but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. This somewhat rambling blog is an attempt to clarify my thinking. Any comments/ insights will be most welcome – I do hope my confusion isn’t infectious though!

When the revised New Zealand Curriculum first appeared I was really enthusiastic about the key competencies and excited by what I saw as their potential to transform education in NZ but now I’m not so sure about how powerful they really are.  The key competencies are described in the NZC as “capabilities for living and life long learning”. As such they are closely connected to the vision, “Confident, connected, actively involved life long learners.”  This presumably means that the development of these competencies should be the goal of education and if they are the goal then may be we need to think  differently about what we are doing in schools.

It seems to me, that we don’t really have a way yet to think and talk about the key competencies without treating them either like another content area, or a set of generic skills. What is the relationship of the key competencies to the learning areas? How are they really different from the Essential Skills of the previous curriculum? We talk about competencies being broader than skills – that they embrace attitudes, knowledge, skills and dispositions – but do we think about them differently from how we think about skills? We talk about including key competencies in planning, and incorporating  them into or weaving them through learning areas as though they were objects. It seems to me that regardless of the intent of including these competencies in the curriculum, the result is that the only way we can make sense of them is to make them fit with how we currently think about what we do in schools. Perhaps the key competencies are taking the shape of the container they have been poured into (and now I am treating them as things!)

If we were to ask ourselves how each learning area contributes to the development of confident, connected life long learners  and focus our teaching on that wouldn’t we be developing key competencies (even if they didn’t appear in the curriculum document)? After all, the essence statements (in the curriculum document) for each learning area seem to embrace the competencies people need to function effectively in society. Does it matter then whether they are developed through science, or social studies or art? My gut response is that yes a broad curriculum is important for all students, and that each learning area will contribute in a particular way to the development of the key competencies, but is that more important than learning something in depth? Does breadth or depth better serve the purpose of developing the capacity of an individual to participate fully in society? If the purpose of public education is to develop these competencies in all students, might it be that different students would develop these competencies through different pathways? Are there really core subjects (learning areas) that all students need to be exposed to?

I do think that all the different learning areas have the potential to develop the key competencies as long as we are teaching them for that purpose. What I’m not so sure about is how comfortable I really am with the idea of a learning area simply being the vehicle for developing key competencies! I seem to carry within me some deeply held, but barely conscious beliefs about what’s valuable in education. These beliefs are sometimes in conflict with what I know at another level to be important ideas. I know these beliefs are there because they sometimes surface when I think about new ideas about education in relation to my own children!  I doubt that I am alone in carrying these deeply held, yet seldom accessible beliefs. Perhaps it is these belief systems that are the real barrier to educational change as we subconsciously subvert new innovations to  fit with what we already know.

If this is so, perhaps the real function of the key competencies is to remind us of what should be important in our teaching. I think the challenge  is how we use them to help us think differently, rather than squeeze them into something that is familiar to us.

Shifting schooling , , , ,

Shifting parents

May 19th, 2009

The questions on this blog site about community and family engagement in education are timely. Having been lucky enough to be paid to think about these education questions for a number of years now, and more lately having two children on their way through schooling it is becoming clear to me that schools and their communities are in something of a rut in terms of how they can collectively work to enable the learning of young people. This is not a great start point for shifting thinking.

Over recent years in education there has been a strong focus on quality schooling – schools getting better and more focused on enhancing learning outcomes for all children. Observers note a new professionalism in teaching, and effective educational leadership has been strongly harnessed to teaching, curriculum and indeed learning. There have been big moves to enhance literacy and numeracy teaching across diverse schools and some impressive gains.  The notion of a teaching community of practice has found favour and teachers are becoming more inclined to be critical of each other and themselves. Reflective practice is everywhere. Formative assessment is taken seriously and there are tools in place to support it.

I think parents and by extension communities are being left behind in the new professionalism. Most school parents I know in my decile 9 community have little grasp of the reforms presented in the paragraph above. At the same time I pick up an unhealthy amount of parent stress around schooling. Confusion, mixed messages from teachers, fluctuating assessment results, unrecognised talents, apparently different teaching standards in different classes etc… Nothing new here perhaps but what really concerns me is that there is a lack of open dialogue between parents and schools about these concerns. They fester.

Why? One theory is that as teachers have raised their professional status parents have become stragglers. Really not much has changed about being a school parent across a generation – odd considering that in in the past 20 years the schooling system has been radically overhauled in its administration and national curriculum (twice!), not to mention the rise of the digital education age and a completely new secondary assessment system. Teaching communities of practice have created stronger bonds between teachers, and in some classrooms, between teachers and students, but this learning community has not bridged to parents. Its language and operation are pretty mysterious to parents and I think teachers struggle to see this, as well as how their new professionalism can dislocate them from parents, even in very subtle ways.

But of course this blog is about shifting thinking, looking ahead. Is it good that parents have been left behind because we need to start practicing differently anyway? I don’t think so because engaging parents in discussions about what is valuable to learn and know in the 21st Century has to excite a passive and disengaged group. This is a community development task – a vastly different proposition to most of the current school tools of parent engagement.

I think there are good models out there and one of them is some of the practice in early childhood education. Open and engaging formative assessment combined with a resolute view of all children as capable and competent learners, and a view of the family and community as fundamental assets to the learning of these children, has established a more purposeful family-ECE link that empowers parents as it values their contributions.

In talking to schools and early childhood educators about engaging families meaningfully, some have literally described the need to ‘de-professionalise’ themselves. They do not mean this in the sense of playing down to the audience, but they recognise the fundamental importance of relations of trust between teachers and parents to getting things happening for children. Perhaps some also appreciate that uncomfortable parents are the product of decisions of history that saw the outsourcing of the education of the community’s young to an institution. Over time that institution has changed and improved with very little influence or direct input from families. It has become more sure of itself which reinforces that taking children away from their families and the factories and into schools was the right call.

So to address one of your questions:

If schools are to become more future focused, what sort of support or information does the community need to be able to participate fully in debates about educational issues?

What is needed is a pathway of re-engagement for each school. I think each school needs to look at their current family and community strengths and opportunities to see the way forward. Who are the movers and shakers, the connectors in this community, and what already works to engage parents in the school? Last week I heard of a single Pacific women in one secondary school that got 130 parents to a school meeting in 2 weeks. Today I shivered with a smattering of parents at cross country; six months ago I sat in a packed hall for a school quiz night.

But then what? How can relations of trust grow between teachers and parents. What seems to have worked for early childhood educators is to reinforce that parents are an asset to the teacher as well as their child. If parents learn through real experience with teachers that their ideas, histories, skills, stories, and everyday activities, are part of the stuff of good pedagogy, and that they are not merely backing up the real professionals this could create a more fertile platform to have a genuine community conversation about the future of learning and schooling.

It’s not simple I admit.

Community engagement , , ,

Dispositions and development

May 12th, 2009

I’m back from the NZCER curriculum conference in Wellington on Friday, where we did a lot of thinking and talking about what’s next—in the new curriculum, in teaching and learning, in 21C education. I was thinking, of course, about all of these in relation to this blog space and the questions we have about 21C education. Then layer Ally’s musing about service, Rachel and Josie being back from AERA where they spoke and listened about service learning, and the whole idea of dispositions. Throw in Chris’s idea that all 21C teachers need to be learners themselves (how did I miss this important idea?! that’s why we’re thinking together…) and suddenly I’m bewildered about what, in fact, a disposition is in the first place and how we increase the stores of teachers who somehow have these mystical things.

Chris wanted to know things about those of us writing here, wanted to know something about who we were and what made us tick. Well, I’m a developmentalist–I think about the changes in adult sensemaking over the course of their lives. I think about how to create contexts that welcome adults in their current sensemaking and also enable them to reach beyond their current thinking if they’d like to. I care about how these contexts make new things possible for people –in their thinking and in their practice.

So the thing is, what is the connection between development, context, and disposition? Suddenly I’ve fallen into a red hot panic that this thing that we’re trying to study—“21C teacher dispositions”—isn’t a THING at all. Have we checked to see what our particular vision is of what a disposition is? Is a disposition something that an individual is born with? Is it something that an individual develops? Or is it something that is an interaction, not held by an individual per say but reflected by individuals?

I’m thinking here about Richard in our study (all the names we’ll use are pseudonyms, although those in the study reading this might want to contribute in some way, and might recognise themselves). Richard was one of the most 21C teachers I’ve ever met. He had each of the ways of think-ing and be-ing that I wrote about in my last blog, AND he was made up of all the curiosity and love of learning which Chris reminded us to value. He sat in a room with us, and he talked about education and his context, telling us about his pathway to education (multiple subject area expert, picked his content because of the process of teaching that was most interesting to him), his goals for the kids (all process-based—no particular content goals), and his orientation to the world (to learn learn learn—and to push his ideas up against very different ideas to learn from them). But therein is the issue. Richard was in a context—with colleagues who valued him and learned from and with him, students who followed his lead, parents and community members who let him be the kind of wacky guy he was—that enabled the full expression of these ideas. He was part of an on-going group of teachers who had conversations to push ideas around. This group, decades old, had changing membership and purpose, with the constant force the conversation people had together over time.

So does Richard have particular personality traits that enabled this way of being in the world? He was open and curious and passionate. Did he have the perspective of being developmentally sophisticated (more on development on another day)? Or did he have a context that allowed him to be in the world in this way? Or do these three things create each other? And where do we intervene in the system to help more teachers become as alive and passionate as Richard, as filled with not only 21C ways of looking at the world but also 21C ways of INHABITING the world? Do we create contexts—using schools and the new curriculum and technology and other pieces—that allow teachers to BE different? Do we look for teachers who have these sorts of traits in the first place? Do we seek to develop these dispositions (and how do we do that)?

At the Curriculum Conference, when we were talking in tables about all the things that get in our way of enacting these 21C ideas—timetabling, NCEA, needs for teachers to cover classes, money, etc.—I had this serious vision that there were some relatively simple answers just out of view. I think these answers will require us to change everything we think about, but once we’ve made that change, a future vision will slot into place relatively quickly. I can nearly see it out of the corner of my eye. But what about Richard? What about you, Chris? Can you see it? Can others? And is it a thing to be discovered, or is it a thing to be developed, or is it a thing to be co-created? All of these? None of these?

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” (Albert Szent-Gydorgyi)

Teachers' work , , , , , ,

21st Century teaching and social responsibility

April 30th, 2009

I had intended to look through some of the data from the Teachers Work project by now and see what I could find that either supported the dispositions Jennifer identified in her blog or suggested new ones. However – somehow the time has got away on me and I haven’t done that, not yet anyway!  I have been thinking hard though about another teachers’ work project I am involved in and as part of that thinking I have been re-reading “Learning as Transformation” (Jack Mezirow and Associates). One chapter in that book that particularly grabbed my attention is one by Laurent A Parks Daloz about Transformative learning for the common good. When I was reading that, it struck me that there might be similarities between C21st teachers and the individuals he describes who have committed their lives to the common good.

The reason for wondering about the connection is that when I have asked teachers (in various projects) about what they think the purpose of education is nearly all have said something that includes some ideas about producing citizens who contribute to society in some way. The NZ Curriculum also talks about students becoming “contributers to the well-being of NZ” , which I guess is hardly a surprising goal for a state funded education system. So it seems to me to be only a small step from this to expect teachers to be driven at least to some extent by a sense of social responsibility. However, social responsibility through a 21st Century lens might look quite different from social responsibility through a 20th Century lens for example. For Parks Deloz a commitment to the common good is not a final product but a “stance of openness to necessary and on-going dialogue with those who differ or may not yet be full participants on the commons”. This sounded 21st Centuryish to me!

He also defines social responsibility as the capacity to identify one’s own self with the well-being of others. He says that we all have the potential to reflect on the formation of our own selves and through that develop a larger sense of self that identifies with all people and ultimately with all life , but whether or not we do that depends on the particular conditions of our lives. In their study on people who had committed their lives to the common good Parks Daloz and colleagues found that these people  had at least some of these key characteristics in common – they felt recognised and valued as children, they had at least one parent who was socially engaged, they grew up in diverse communities and they were mentored. What all had in common was what he describes as a “constructive engagement with otherness” ie  a significant relationship with someone who was in some way different. The important thing about the relationship was that both the differences and the similarities were acknowledged and the interplay between them. Anyway this is all a very long way of wondering whether any of those characteristics would resonate with teachers in this study? (I don’t think we have currently got data that would shed any light on that but perhaps some of the participants in the study might reply!) Are there particular life experiences that contribute particularly to producing 21st Century teaching dispositions? If there are can we replicate them (or at least their essence) in some way for others? What is the role of diversity/ otherness (I’m not sure what term to use) and our orientation to it in 21st Century education? The more I think about this, the more confused I get! (Perhaps if we muddy the water enough, Jennifer, we can ask the fish what water looks like!)

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