The teacher inquiry and knowledge building cycle critically ask us: What are our students learning needs?
- What do they already know?
- What sources of evidence have we used?
- What do they need to learn and do?
- How do we build on what they know?
In our data driven, numbers rule, National Standards world the answers to these questions run the risk of being data driven and reducing students to a numbers game. Thank goodness for the final question prompt: How do we build on what they know? This squarely directs the focus back on to the student as an individual and opens up learning to be personalised and build on student voice and identity.
This was the focus of our most recent literacy PLD session which targeted our underachieving writers. More specifically it broke it down into 3 sub questions, leading us towards thinking about the impact this would have on our teaching practice:
- What are our students strengths?
- What are our students needs?
- What are the student practices that may contribute to underachievement?
It proved to be a worthwhile activity which focused directly on the learner with not a percentage sign or OTJ in sight. I took this back to school and adapted the context to fit in with the work we are doing unpacking and the reflecting against the cultural competencies as outlined in Tataiako.
With a focus on critically examining how well we know our Maori learners staff noted and articulated their thoughts. This is what it looked like, sorry just the template due to student privacy:
I have already mentioned that I thought this was a valuable exercise, especially as teachers have already taken some of the discussion outcomes and put them into practice.
However on deeper reflection, what it lacked was a more thorough focus on the ‘impact’ to teaching practice and simply going on what we know as a teacher would be the ‘next sep’. So below is a new updated version for the next session.
Added in are 3 columns which align to our teacher’s inquiry into practice:
- Craft Knowledge: What ideas and strategies you know as a teacher
- Mentor Knowledge: What ideas and strategies your mentor or an expert knows
- Research Knowledge: What ideas and strategies research tells us works
With this extra layer of thinking, proactive engagement in professional dialogue and research, a teacher should have a range of approaches to explore and implement to better meeting the needs of their learners.
Together as a whole staff we had the privilege of visiting two schools in Palmerston North today. Throughout my career I have highly valued the opportunity to visit other schools and have been lucky enough that the schools I have been involved have also valued this and have embedded it into their school culture and professional learning.
Firstly a huge thank you to the schools we visited. We were warmly welcomed and impressed by your openness to deprivatise your practice. Our focus was looking at deliberate strategies to raise achievement in literacy and we came away with lots to think about.
School A shared with a specific school wide approach to lifting achievement in literacy known as the Daily 5 supported by the Daily Cafe. What struck me about this was the cohesive and consistent approach of the Daily 5 across the whole school. There was a common language seen, heard and followed in all classrooms. Staff had clearly agreed to implement this approach across their school, deliberately setting specific expectations and explicitly teaching self-management approaches. Great stuff.
Contrastingly School B stated their belief that there wasn’t a one size fits all approach to teaching and learning. Teachers had the professional autonomy to adapt their teaching to best suit the learning needs of their students. While there are agreed upon guiedlines and expectations, teachers had the ‘freedom’ to adpot strategies, use resources and group children as appropriate.
Now both approaches are successful, both schools are well led, both have effective management teams and self-review in place. Both approaches can find a strong base in research and best practice e.g. professional autonomy is a recognised feature of the highly ranked Finnish school system. I was impressed by both schools but as I reflect on the day the contrast between the two approaches, while over simplified in this post, made me think a little deeper and out rose a number of questions…
- Do you need consistency and cohesion before you can go to a state of autonomy? i.e. Do you need to ‘enforce’ a state of consistency to embed behaviours in teaching and learning thus laying the foundation for professional autonomy? What happens then when new staff transition in to the school?
- Can the two coexist within the same school/team and they still function effectively? i.e. Do you need to be consistently consistent or consistently autonomous? Or is being flexible the name of the game because there is no one size fits all for our teachers? Or… is there a consistent way to implementing an autonomous environment?
- Is the experience of a teacher a factor that determines their ability to manage an autonomous classroom? Similar to the first question… Could a beginning teacher hit the ground running and operate autonomously?
- Is it simply a case of teachers teaching to their preferred teaching style? e.g. Not a school decision but a personal preference to operating and managing a classroom of learners. Or is professional autonomy the preferred ideal approach?
- To what extent does school leadership influence the consistency/cohesion or teacher autonomy approach? A school principal has a strong influence over the direction of a school. Is their belief structure reflected in the schools approach, their confidence in the staff, their leadership style? Is it not about that at all but the student demographic?
Too many questions. What are your thoughts?
I have been asked to present some thoughts about what it means to be literate today to an EHSAS cluster conference involving Ashurst, North Street and Roslyn schools from the Manawatu.
The presentation is not designed to provide a list of what is required to be literate in the 21st Century but instead to prompt thought and discussions regarding some of the trends and issues in educating students today all based loosely on what it could mean to be ‘literate’.
I remember a discussion we had on the eFellow forum about this very topic. One can argue that there are no skills or literacies specific to the 21st Century learner. I agree with this to the better part and my main message to come out of the presentation (hopefully) is that we do need to change how we teach to incorporate new technologies and existing literacies that will enhance the ability to create and share new knowledge and understanding. This blend will effectively set our students up for success.
Better explained by the experts, as in the CISCO publication, Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century (PDF link) describes:
…a key component is the integration of technologies that can fuel new forms of teaching and learning, nurture 21st century skills, and prepare learners for participation in the global economy of this century.