Tag Archives: teaching as inquiry

Learning Maps and Professional Inquiry

I have been a bit of a fan of Learning Maps ever since I was first introduced to the concept 4 or 5 years ago. They were introduced alongside the concept of student agency and putting the students in the driver’s seat of learning. I reflected on the use of the maps then and after recently attending a workshop with Infinity Learning, have appreciated how the concept has grown and developed over the years as teachers and Infinity have fine tuned the approach and worked on how to make them as effective as possible in contributing to the agentic learning we all strive for.

Attending the workshop also made me ponder how this could also be used with teachers and support their developing agency, as well support them to identify an area to work on in terms of an appraisal/professional inquiry goal. When using learning maps with the students we ask them to identify an area for change, what they will do to make these changes, and who will support them in this change. This is the very same process that teachers to go through as the initial part of their inquiry, after they have identified their target students.

So a plan was hatched and I asked teachers to create a learning map that was focused on how they meets the needs of their priority learners to help them identify what they do, what resources and tools they use, and who they seek out support from. Prior to them drawing the maps, teachers had already collected a range of assessment data to identify a group of target /priority learners. The process I used with teachers was the same as what we would use with students which is outlined via a link at the bottom of the post.

Here are some examples from teachers, complete with a few blurred out bits to make them as anonymous as possible. We used a template from Infinity which provides the prompts and scaffolds to support creating the maps and the conversation that need to be had.

The arrows are important to show the interactions between people, tools and places. After attending the workshop earlier in the year we starting using a new arrow, the zig zagging challenge arrow, which we also used when working with students. The challenge areas lead the way to identifying next steps and areas to work on. This is how we have encouraged the use of arrows to add more meaning to the maps.

A little bit of learning =
A lot of learning =
Learning comes in to me, and I give it back =
A challenge in my learning =  

Once the maps were created, they were shared with a colleague prompted by; What is the same? What is different? What are their challenges? before identifying an area for change.

  • What would you like to change to help you in your learning?
  • What would you want to do differently?

This is followed up by a conversations with me to clarify the area for change (not to change it as this takes away from the teacher owning the goal and the process). This in turn helps to identify the expected outcomes/indicators for their professional inquiry goal included in their appraisal.

I guess you could argue that it is quicker just to skip the map and go straight to the conversation to identify the goals and expected outcomes. However I think there is huge value in creating the maps; it puts the teacher in the driving seat, recording how they see their learning and the interactions, or lack of between all the different areas, and from that identifying areas for change. The visual nature of the process and outcome makes seeing gaps and successes straightforward. When two teachers/learners share their map and discuss the similarities and differences, and expand on their challenges together, the collaborative nature of inquiry is highlighted and utilised. The conversation with me just formalises the decisions that have already been made.

We have also used this process with the leadership team in terms of helping to clarify their leadership inquiry goal, although in our case, these had already been set with our external facilitator. The process for me was still worthwhile, it helped to clarify the people, networks and tools that currently supporting my learning in this area and most importantly reinforce what I new are the challenges – an ever growing list. I find the process of drawing very reflective in itself and once completed provides a great source for reflection and conversations. Here is my map, related to my goal of getting to know my learners.

So what next? Like with our students, we will revisit our maps and add to them throughout the year so they are a living record of how we progress and adapt to catering for our priority learners. These updates will again be shared and discussed with colleagues, referenced in our PLGs, and used as a resource for appraisal purposes.

For those who may be interested, here is the guide we developed when creating maps with our students, feel free to use as required, however I really do encourage you to go to a workshop or have one completed in your school by the gurus at Infinity Learning. It will provide you with all the missing theory and pedagogy behind the maps which has only been skimmed over here.

Teacher Inquiry – have we got the right timeframe?

We made a deliberate decisions this year to split our professional inquiries into two distinct parts, aligned to the professional development we were engaging in as a staff. Term 1 & 2 – an inquiry focused on literacy, Term 3 & 4 – an inquiry focused on maths. As we have wrapped up our literacy inquiries and transitioned from one inquiry to the next, the conversations have centred around the legitimacy of short term inquiries vs annual inquiries and whether either of these approaches are an authentic approach that really enables teachers to inquire into an aspect of their professional practice and result in embedded change. The question I pose is:

Are we limiting the effectiveness and impact of our inquires by constraining them to set timeframes?

Some background first… When I reflect on the professional inquiries I engaged in as a teacher, these were tied into the annual process of appraisal, starting in Term 1 and concluding in Term 4. The following year a new inquiry commences and so on. Similarly, as a principal I have facilitated teachers inquiring into their practice on an annual cycle as part of their performance management. I would suggest that this is a common approach in many NZ schools.

Constraining learning to time limits is a habit in education… but one that is increasingly being challenged in a more flexible and personalised approach to learning and how learning is managed. Not sure what I mean? Just think of your classic daily timetable in a classroom, 10 minutes silent reading, then 45 mins for reading, followed by 15 minutes of handwriting after which we go out for 15 minutes of fitness. Or perhaps think of the times your students are so engaged and focused on their learning only to be interrupted by the bell or ‘needing’ to move to the another area.

Sometimes time is the enemy, it constrains or limits what we can do. What we can learn.

Let’s transfer that thinking to our professional inquiries which generally go from Term 1 to 4, aligned to a similarly scheduled appraisal process. It makes sense, an individual inquiry is often focused on a target group of students which are in your class, its relevancy is based on the now, related to recently collected and analysed data. Its convenient, it fits with how we organise the school year, works with fixed term positions, allows us to come together as teachers on the same pathway and summarise our findings at the end of the year.

I just wonder though that we are pushing through inquiries too quickly and that changing the focus on an annual basis takes away what could be a richness and depth of inquiry leading to greater outcomes of effective teaching and impacts on student learning. That is not to say that a Term 1-4 inquiry does not have depth and impact, it is a prompt to consider what would happen if we keep building on our developing knowledge over time and at the saturation point we move on, not just because it is the end of the year.

So this may lead to a diversity of inquiries, with agentic teachers driving and managing their own learning. There would be multiple inquires, starting and finishing at different times, adapting to needs, responsive to mastery.

Sounds pretty much like our expectations for learners and learning in our future focused classrooms…

More questions than answers here but a good space for further thinking and investigation. Thanks to Bede for a conversation that prompted some of the thoughts above.

Teacher Inquiry, Appraisal and Portfolios for Staff

This year we have recrafted our approach to teacher as inquiry (TAI) and its relationship to the school’s performance management process for teachers. There had always been a relationship between the two but now rather than being two separate systems and/or sets of documents, they are one in the same with a professional blog/portfolio being the container for all the important bits such as reflections, evidence and next steps.

Why have we done it this way? The approach is based on the underlying philosophy that a well planned and responsive TAI allows all teachers to demonstrate, first and foremost, the attributes of being an effective teacher of their students, and secondly, to show how they are meeting the various Professional Standards, Registered Teacher Criteria and Tataiako Cultural Competencies. So our starting point for an effective performance management process is an effective TAI, not a checklisty/compliance approach. It is strongly embedded in a ‘teacher agency’ professional autonomy approach too.

What does it look like? We retained all the successful things that were part of the previous inquiry approach. These included:

  • Three in-school PLG meetings each term dedicated to teachers sharing progress towards their TAI targets
  • Funding for each staff member to purchase professional texts and resources to support their TAI
  • Personal Learning Opportunity (PLO) release for staff to research and/or visit expertise and sites of best practice related to their TAI

We also added in some additional components to inform our theory of action:

  • Release for staff to deliberately gather student voice.
  • Videoing of teaching for analysis.

Finally, we clearly set out the timeframe so that Term 1 was put aside for the focusing and teaching inquiry, terms 2 and 3 for the learning inquiry, and term 4 is all about summarising, sharing and celebrating progress.

You can check out this diagram to see what the process looks like over the first couple of terms in the year.

What did we get rid of? Nothing has been removed completely i.e. appraisal meetings, observations and walkthroughs still feature, it is just that hese have been streamlined and aligned to TAI. The major change that we have made is that the focus of the teacher’s TAI is the focus of their goals – their are no unrelated goals. Additionally, the term ‘goal’ is used quite broadly – there are no actual documented goals, rather there is a theory of action and falling out of that are the actions (i.e. goals) a teacher is working towards achieving.

So how does fit with performance management/appraisal? Individual teachers still have an appraisal document (overseen by the school’s  Teacher Performance Appraisal Procedure) which like any, summarises the process, their position at the school and provides a timeline. But that is all it does, everything else, including reflections, observation notes and professional learning  is in the portfolio.

The ‘usefulness’ of the TAI blog i.e. its ability to show how teachers are meeting their inquiry expectations, professional standards (PS), registered teacher criteria (RTC) and cultural competencies (CC) – all for their ongoing development, appraisal and registration purposes, is based on the approach that every time they post to their blog (evidence, a reflection, student voice etc), teachers critically reflect on which of the PS, RTC, CC they are meeting and show this in their blog.

This is done by using the labels feature in Blogger (our logical tool as a Google Apps for Ed school). Labels are like tags or key words related to a post. Teachers can use labels to show which of the PS, RTC and CC they are meeting. By approaching and setting up a blog in this way, teachers will essentially create an index, allowing them and their appraiser the ability to find evidence of progress and achievement against the PS, RTC, CC as well as their inquiry. The appraiser can also jump in there and add comments, post observation narratives, images and video too.

Tbroughtout the process, teachers need to ask themselves these questions:

  • What professional standards am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What Registered Teacher Criteria am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What cultural competencies am working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What aspects of TAI am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?

There is a full breakdown of how to set up a blog as described above and also how to make it private and readable by only those you choose.

What are the implications? This process puts the PS, RTC, CC into the everydayness of a TAI. Therefore teachers need to have a good grasp of what the PS, RTC, CC  are, what they mean and what they look like in practice. For us that means unpacking certain elements of these and listing the everyday teaching and learning approaches and strategies that reflect that areas to bring them to the forefront of consciousness.

To date the other major implication, which is not at all exclusive to this context, is the questioning of staff to each other to encourage us to continue, to force us to be honest, to suggest alternative interpretations and to prevent us from getting stuck.

Finally, this has not been an issue at all for us, part it has been questioned how this system would work if there was a question of competency with a staff member. While this has not been tested I do not see it as an issue. The process includes a ‘measure’ against the professional standards and other relevant criteria and when combined with the day to day observations and conversations that take place in a school, there is plenty of scope to identify an issues of competency.

What have been the outcomes to date? Here are a couple of screen shots of the portfolios to date.

What next? The system is established and time is required to allow the portfolios to develop and show their potential as teacher use them to show progress towards their TAI targets.

The challenge for me is to ensure that I regularly get into the blogs and provide encouragement and feedback/feedforward to teachers, supporting them and acknowledging the great work that they are doing.

Getting to Know our Learners

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:

Inquiry Cycle What are our students learning needsI 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.

Inquiry Cycle What are our students learning needs v2

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.

Draw Me a Picture – Reflecting on Literacy PLD

This year Kumeroa-Hopelands School is involved in range of literacy PLD opportunities working alongside Papatawa, Makuri, Ballance and Mangatainoka schools and our facilitators from CPL.

I am leading this development within our school and as such attend all sessions and bring back to school any new learnings and lead staff through any associated inquiry into our current practice.

The first sessions focused on how well we know our learners with a particular focus for us at KHS on our underachieving writers. To help facilitate these conversations with our students we were first asked to visualise and draw what writing looked like in our class. If you were a fly on the wall, looking down on writing in your classroom…

  • What would you see?
  • What people interactions would there be?
  • What tools would you see being used?
  • Where would the data trails be leading from and to?

Taking this back to school, how would the teachers visualise their writing teaching? How would the students? Would they ‘look’ the same? Here are a couple of examples of teachers drawing their writing ‘time’.

Some common characteristics of their visualisations:

  • Cyclical in nature
  • Teacher modeling and sharing of examples/exemplars
  • Writing is planned by students with opportunities to discuss ideas as a group, with the teacher, among students
  • Feedback/feed forward from teacher and peers
  • Sharing of writing (reading to class, traditional publishing, online) is part of the process

All in all these characteristics form a positive snapshot of writing processes and include some essential elements for effective teaching. Do the students agree? Are there similarities? Here are a few:

Characteristics of the student pictures:

  • Conferencing an questioning with/to teacher
  • Use of technology to share exemplars/examples of writing, search for information and to print/publish writing
  • Using dictionaries to help edit writing
  • Learning talk amongst students

So similarities between student and teacher pictures. Teachers are much more complex and students simplistic, no real surprises there. Great to seeing the interactions betwen students talking about an helping each other with their writing. What would the purest in me like to have seen more of? Self-assessing, some stronger reference to success criteria and more effective use of technology for sharing to name a few.

So where next?

  • This approach to unpacking perceptions and perspectives of teaching and learning was new to me but really worthwhile. There are many other contexts you could use it in to show people, systems, interactions, relationships, tools and data. For example with teachers:
    • Draw me a picture of what success for Maori looks like in your class.
    • Visualise your elearning classroom.
    • What would I see if you drew a picture of your community engagement?
  • This process has also reinforced to me that importance of a school having an agreed upon ‘What an effective writing classroom looks like’ set of criteria that guides teachers and sets up common beliefs and practices across the school. KHS’s version of this is up for review this term. Timely.
  • The most important outcome though is the value of knowing our learners and small wake up call in terms of how well we really know them. The concept is not new, it is at the heart of Ka Hikitia and integral to the deeper notions of student voice… but do we do it well enough and often enough? With teaching as inquiry kick started with the What are our learners needs? question this process actively gets teachers, through their students, to start digging deeper.

Walking the talk with Professional ePortfolios

The last couple of years have seen me do a bit of thinking and presenting in the area of eportfolios. Most of that has been when I am working alongside schools rather than in them. So now as a principal at Kumeroa-Hopelands School I am faced with the coal face of implementation. At this point in time we are not in a position to consider implementing eportfolios with our students. However as part of the school self-review, performance appraisal system was reviewed and updated which gave us a timely opportunity to have a go.

Step one was to co-construct with staff the relationships between teacher inquiry, the Registered Teacher Criteria, the Professional Standards and the cultural competencies as described in Tataiako. Staff created a model, using an inquiry model as central to their thinking and adding on the competencies and criteria to show how they all came together. This was a hugely worthwhile self-review process especially when teachers articulated the reasons why they placed or showed the relationships between the 3 areas. Justifying their choices painted a really interesting view on their beliefs about teaching and learning. An example of this is shown below.

As to the reason why we did this is pretty simple, I believe that an authentic and rich teaching as inquiry approach to teacher practice will demonstrate all of the registered teacher criteria and the cultural competencies and in doing so will provide all of the reflective evidence that teachers require to demonstrate their competency. Especially relevant when two of your teachers are PRTs.

KHS Performance Management Graphic
KHS Performance Management Graphic

Step two for me was to use the outcomes of the review clarify the processes, relationships and key areas of the performance management process. I think in pictures so created a graphic to show these relationships. Central to the performance management is teachers engaging in teaching as inquiry. This relates directly back to their performance agreement which in turn relates back to the annual and strategic goals in the charter which in turn relates back to the teachers analysis of student achievement data both formal and informal. The key relationships to me are that the whole process is supported by relevant professional learning and development and that all relates to improving outcomes for learners.

Step three saw this feed into a matrix which showed the relationship between the performance standards, RTCs, teacher inquiry and Tataiako (big thanks to Regan and staff at Koputaroa for some great work here). This provided a more linear and usable view.

Step four involved transferring the all elements to an online space which for us is a Google Site. This best demonstrated by having a look at the basic empty site template which illustrates the matrix and how there is an expectation that staff are aligning their reflections to the PS, RTC, TAI and Cultural Competencies.

So what have we learnt so far?

  • Having an online space to collate all of this documentation for both registration and appraisal purposes has many benefits including anytime, anywhere access, the ability for mentors to provide feedback, and the ease at which evidence can be linked to, uploaded or embedded.
  • That we have lots of ongoing unpacking to do around the relationship between our practice and the PS, RTC, TAI and Cultural Competencies. At the moment we are skimming the surface of acknowledging these in our practice and require more practice and support in getting this right.
  • Acknowledging that teachers reflect in different ways and through different methodologies. For example would you prefer to simply list the cultural competencies as outlined in Tataiako and reflect against these on a given schedule? Or would you prefer to reflect as and when required and then indicate if these reflections demonstrate or fit with the competencies?

And where to next?

  • Engaging external expertise, especially in the area of Tataiako, to deepen our understanding of the Cultural Competencies.
  • Develop some kind of micro self-review system so that we can clearly identify areas of weakness and where we need to develop further.
  • Review the whole set-up with staff towards the end of 2012.

Appreciative Inquiry

As a national facilitator for the ICTPD programme, I am in a privaledged position, seeing the best of what is happening in schools around NZ. In most schools, teaching as inquiry is used to guide practice, in varying degrees, from the casual “our teachers are constantly inquiring into what they do” to the formalised approach and expectations that the inquiry is documented, mentored and reflected upon.

I favour the formal approach, prioritising teaching as inquiry and embedding it within a schools PLD programme. We know that the NZC outlines teaching as inquiry as being integral to effective pedagogy, well supported by research and it shouldn’t be left to chance.

As teachers inquiry into their practice they focus on 3 questions:

  1. What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at?
  2. What strategies (evidence-based) are most likely to help my students learn this?
  3. What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for future teaching?

Often this is interpreted as a deficit model, looking at under achieving students or a weak curriculum area within a class or school. Without question these students are priorities for any school and the responsibility to progress these students is non-negotiable.

However, an alternative approach to this is appreciative inquiry, which when embedded in classroom practice has the same intent of raising achievement and outcomes, but takes a different approach:

AI is based on the assumption that organizations change in the way they inquire — an organization that inquires into problems or difficult situations will keep finding more of the same, but an organization that tries to appreciate what is best in itself will find more and more of what works well. Source

AI is framed around a four step process…

  1. DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well, focusing on strengths, best practices, and values.
  2. DREAM: The envisioning of future states and processes that could work well in the future, given the nature and capabilities of the organization.
  3. DESIGN: The planning, design, and prioritizing of processes and aspects of the organization that could realize the dream.
  4. DESTINY: Implementation planning of the proposed design and action planning to strengthen the capability of the system to sustain ongoing positive change. Source

This table compares a problem solving approach/deficit model to a AI approach, adapted here from a Wikipedia entry. The difference is in the way questions are asked about a situation, envisioning the future and building on what works rather than fixing what doesn’t.

Problem Solving Appreciative Inquiry
Felt Need: Identification of problem/s Appreciating: Valuing the best of what is
Analysis of causes Envisioning what might be
Analysis of possible solutions Dialoguing what should be
Action planning (treatment) Innovating what will be
Basic assumption: A problem to be solved Basic assumption: A miracle to be embraced

What could this mean for you as a teacher or school leader?

  • Both approaches of inquiring into practice have the same intent of improving achievement for both student and teachers.
  • Elements of AI can be embedded into a traditional inquiry into practice where  teachers identify their course of action i.e. What strategies (evidence-based = the best of what is… successful…) are most likely to help my students learn this?
  • AI is known primarily as a process for managing institutional change, so look at the potential of using it beyond classroom practice to the greater goals of the school i.e. appreciative inquiry could work brilliantly when visioning and looking at long term strategic direction for a school, complimented by classroom based teacher inquiries.
  • If you are a high functioning school and consistently have great achievement data try AI to really focus in on why this is happening and how you can build in it
  • Consider trying an alternating scenario where you have a more common deficit inquiry approach one year followed by an appreciative approach the next, or any similar schedule
  • Are your teachers lacking motivation or engagement in unpacking what they are not doing well…? Celebrate success through an AI approach to professional knowledge building

One ICTPD cluster has shared its approach to appreciative inquiry and drafted templates to mould the NZC teaching as inquiry into an AI framework. Have a look on the Te Apiti cluster site to find out more.

This post has only skimmed the surface of what is a really interesting and relevant context for approaching teaching as inquiry with direct links to effectively pedagogy. I would encourage you to explore it further.

Delicious is always a great place to start your search. Try the tags appreciativeinquiry, appreciative_inquiry and appreciative-inquiry & watch the video below:


More on Registered Teacher Criteria and Professional ePortfolios

In a previous post I discussed some initial thoughts around a potential relationship between the Registered Teacher Criteria and professional eportfolios. I mentioned teaching as inquiry in the post but not in any great detail about how it might work and look.

So inspired by conversation, feedback and other people’s thinking let’s make that step by taking the Teaching as Inquiry framework, central to effective pedagogy as outlined in the NZC to underpin the process. By starting with teaching as inquiry (TaI) and using it as the foundation for professional appraisal and teacher registration, we are reinforcing the core focus of teaching (and therefore the appraisal & portfolio) to achieve improved outcomes for all students.

Inspired by how Rocky mapped her thinking out I have played around with how the 12 criteria align with teacher inquiry shown below using the graphic from Timperley’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Educational Practices Series, p. 26-27). The orange text boxes are the original cycle, with the pink boxes the 12 criteria matched to the best fit stage of the inquiry. The exception being criteria 1, 2 and 3 which to me are more global and integrate throughout hence how they form a mini-cycle in the middle. (I like this graphic over others as it includes specific reference to role of leaders in schools.)


Secondly below using the slightly different cycle graphic from Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). Both of these examples are indicative only, and you could argue that some of the criteria fit better with another stage in the inquiry. Would be a good activity to complete with teachers if you were heading down this track…

TaI is a cyclic and ongoing process as teachers continually reflect on their practice within a whole range of levels from micro to bigger global objectives. The diagram is represents that way. I am fully in favour of formalising and in some way recording this process, integrating it into teaching and learning and the school’s professional learning programme. Appraisal systems in place are not always naturally ongoing, responsive, immediate… they are generally summative, ‘completed’ a couple of times a year rather than being living and formative. An exception to this would perhaps be the mentoring of a PRT

So I would want to use the RTC in a cyclic and ongong manner too… and reference it within a professional eportfolio.

So what might that look like in practice when it is captured and shared within an eportfolio?

You could take an approach similar to this Mahara/MyPortfolio template. While this approach is very functional and mirrors a traditional ‘filling out a document’ approach, its strength would be in the ability to provide feedback to the teacher within MyPortfolio but I have a lot of unanswered questions regarding its use. In a worse case scenario, this approach could just become something you complete when your rego is due or within the performance management process, you just share it with your appraiser when required. It doesn’t directly reinforce the benefits of TaI nor show an ongoing cycle of reflection and next steps.

If I were in a postion to lead this in a school then I would favour a blog/journal approach rather than a page. Whether using WordPressBlogger or the blogging capacity within MyPortfolio, the tool is not important rather the ability to tag (or label or categorise) your entries and display these tags as either a list or cloud. This then becomes your blog index allowing you to select the posts which relate to and provide evidence towards the appropriate registered teacher criteria.

What is also really important to note that in this approach you don’t go out and write a post on “how I have achieved and reflected upon Criteria 4”. Instead your ongoing reflections, inquiry into practice, involvement in professional learning and development, mentoring, obvservations, staff meetings, teaching practice and so on, are blogged/reflected on as and when they happen, and any association with the criteria is noted.

It also removes the ‘timed’ appraisal. The mid-year, end-of-year, or other times for appraisals are a bit old schoolish. It’s a bit like waiting until the end of term to receive your child’s portfolio, out of date and past its usefulness in order to really contribute to new learning…

To me it is a bit of a no brainer, one system that caters for a record of teacher inquiry, clearly linked to registration criteria, evidence, authentic appraisal and reflection. And just to add one more to the mix is how the culmination of all of this within a professional portfolio can be central to a professional network. Why is it that we tend to be so protective and private when it comes to all of this stuff… sharing it with an audience has so many potential benefits…

How does your school manage this/these process(es)? Silos? I am always or the look out for examples of professional teacher eportfolios, with reference to TaI and RTC or not. Do you have any to share?

More ePortfolio Big Picture Questions…

Further to a previous post I have added three new discussion questions to use when thinking about some of big underlying themes surrounding eportfolios.

I can’t take credit for the thinking behind these questions as they have stemmed from comments left on this blog or through face to face discussions when visiting schools.

So here is the first one:

Thanks to Jamin Lietze, who left this comment:

…what measures is the school going to put in place so that there are consistencies between classroom ePortfolios? Parents will compare and complain if one teacher is not perceived as doing much.

I don’t know if my question reflects exactly the point Jamin is making, mine is more related to surface features but will recraft it at some stage. Jamin refers to the content and makes a valid point. Often in schools we ask for consistency and commonalities in ‘school-wide’ approaches to teaching and learning. There are core values and beliefs that guide what we do. At a different level schools may develop guidelines that describe expectations for such areas as planning and assessment. Is it therefore necessary to develop guidelines for eportfolios, what goes in them and how often? Or would this defeat the purpose of a student directed, student owned eportfolio that supports the learner and instead become a prescriptive teacher directed product?

Question 2:

A conversation with Deidre Alderson, principal of Willowbank School prompted this question. We were discussing eportfolios and getting parents online and involved in leaving comments and giving feedback to their children in these online spaces. I outlined how in my research parents of year 3 and 4 students showed a much higher involvement than those at year 5 and 6. We discussed a number of reasons why this may be which I also discussed in my research. Deidre had a new perspective on this. She suggests that how students want to get feedback and the form that feedback takes changes over time. For example, a younger student may really respond to and deliberately seek out feedback yet an older student may only want feedback when they specifically ask for it and perhaps not from you as a teacher or parent at all. While the eportfolio is only one of many ways to give feedback to students, is the feedback we are giving online inline with what they want, regardless of whether it is technically correct (purposeful, specific, related to criteria, includes next steps etc).

Question 3:

Thanks to Kathy Paterson and Carol Brieseman who both felt this question was worthy to be mentioned.Kathy asks:

perhaps there could be a question directed at the use and management of eportfolios for staff journeys?

Supported by Carol:

Staff documenting their own learning as an e-portfolio would help build confidence that may not be there at present.

I agree. As simple as the saying ‘walk the talk’ is, no more could it be truer here. And what a rich authentic alternative to an appraisal checklist type approach to teaching competency. Not to mention the reflective practice involved in an eportfolio that sits hand in hand with the teaching as inquiry approach to knowledge building. Why wouldn’t you want staff to have their own?

So there we go. Three more questions to discuss if you intend heading down the eportfolio route or if you are in the process of review how you are implementing them currently.

Once again, would love to hear of any questions or areas that I have not considered!

Special thanks to:

Photo 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobalt/
Photo 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raigverd/
Photo 3: http://www.flickr.com/photos/torres21/

Laptops? Desktops? Making choices…

I am often asked my opinion about what to buy or how to organise technology in schools. I am in a privileged position working with 17 ITCPD cluster around NZ. That is a lot of schools I am lucky enough to visit and a lot of teachers and principals I converse with. I see an huge range of different set-ups in schools from the traditional computer suite to 1-1 programmes.

What works best and what would I recommend? Well that’s a really hard question to answer as I have seen every scenario work really well and allow for the integration of technology into learning but equally have seen the other side of the equation where the same set up in another school is not effectively used. We know that it is not the technology that makes for effective elearning pedagogy. Sure the access to technology is a factor but it is the understanding of and deliberate acts of teaching using technology that make it happen successfully and seamlessly.

It is hard to recommend any particular setup. Do you have 2 or 3 desktops in classes supported by mobile pods of laptops? Do you use netbooks as learning is increasingly happening in the cloud? Are laptops the only way forward? I know schools that only have 1-2 computers in each class that do amazing stuff, and then know schools that have huge almost unlimited access to computers who do pretty ordinary stuff.

What leading schools are clearly doing is projecting the way the want technology being used in classrooms in 2-3 years which is predominantly cloud based and increasingly mobile. If you look at the trends from Horizon reports, UNESCO or BECTA they support this direction as well.

My current line of thought is a little different. I am really keen on giving teachers the flexibility to makes these decisions themselves. i.e. If you have a clear budget, why not ask a teacher how they want to spend their allotment, so that the purchase clearly aligns to their pedagogical approach. They may choose laptops or even ipads, whatever. While this can be complicated and comes with lots of questions, is there really a one size fits all to a technology roll-out or should a teacher have the flexibility to choose what they use, just as they do with every other resource they use in their teaching?

Does every classroom need to have an equal share. I know that in the past I have certainly gone about strategic planning by stating, “Every class will have 3-4 desktops supported by a mobile pod of ten laptops for each team.” etc.

But should we have moved beyond this now?

I had a recent conversation with a principal who is establishing a new school. He can’t decide on IWBs or the flat screen teaching stations, so instead appointed staff will possibly get an allowance of $4000 to use either way they see fit. I think taht is just fantastic.

Sure there are lots of questions raised by using this approach. What happens when the teacher moves on? How do you manage and support a range of different technologies? What if a teacher makes the wrong decision? What happens if the need for a certain technology is no longer relevant? and so on.

But I am looking at it from this perspective: They whole process of deciding what to buy fits directly in the ‘teaching as inquiry‘ approach and would really make teachers examine their elearning pedagogy. The use/purchase of technology would be directly related to the needs of the students and the teacher’s approach/pedagogy. The teacher would be required to research, visit and answer any questions to reinforce their decision.

30 ipod touches may be a much better investment for students lacking fluency and comprehension skills rather than 6 laptops and a projector.

Have we depersonalised our teachers own elearning pedagogy by deciding what technology they should use?

What do you reckon?