26 November 2015

Achievement Data

Teachers have been busy testing and gathering data over the last 3 weeks. here we use easttle writing, PAT reading comp and maths, STAR, reading running records and GLOSS/JAM for maths. All of this obviously takes a long time to administer and a lot of training and moderation to ensure consistency.

Now this data is being used to help write reports for parents and to form reports for the school, community and MOE on achievement and progress.

So that teachers can measure the impact their practice has on achievement these results need to be broken down at class level. This is what we are working towards in our  Inquiry meeting next week.
Teachers have been asked to come armed with their reading data. They are required to list achievement levels at the beginning of the year, at the end on the year, and then calculate the shift made during the year. It could look something like this:

(not real names)

Then together we are going to manipulate the information in a spreadsheet to analyse our own class data by asking the following questions:
1. When students are sorted into reading ages from higher to lower is there a pattern of shift? Which groups am I shifting the most?
2. When girls and boys are separated is there a difference between achievement? What about shift?
3. Given that our school aim is to accelerate learning, what percentage of students shifted more than 1 year? What percentage shifted less than a year?

After this data inspection teachers are going off into their collaborative inquiry questions to discuss the Whys. 

Our inquiry  presentation in a couple of weeks can hopefully use this information to reflect on the impact out teaching, and the goals we set had on learning.

Teacher Collaboration For Better Results

"The power of collective capacity is that it enables ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things, for two reasons," Fullan writes in All Systems Go. "One is that knowledge about effective practice becomes more widely available and accessible on a daily basis. The second reason is more powerful still — working together generates commitment."

This term we are kicking off our collaborative Inquiry Meetings with an Agony Aunt session. Teachers are coming with a significant barrier or challenge their children have in learning, and are asking the group for ideas, advice and things to think about. 

14 September 2015

Developing our School Inquiry Cycle

At the end of each term our staff share where they are at in their teacher inquiry with other staff members. This reflects our Learn Create Share pedagogy for students learning .

Recently team leaders got a chance to give me feedback and ideas for going forward on the inquiry process we follow.  I have shared a summary of this.

3 September 2015

Professional Learning Communities

There has been quite a paradigm shift in regard to school wide professional development for teachers. The complexity of teaching and increasing accountability has moved professional development beyond the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Teachers are now in a duel role as teachers and learners of their own trade. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is one model that has evolved as a way of supporting this paradigm change.

We call our PLCs Collaborative Inquiry Groups at Pt England, but essentially they follow the same assumptions:
1. knowledge is situated in the day to day experiences of teachers and is best understood and reflected on with others who share that same experience.
2. active involvement in Collaborative Inquiry Groups will increase teachers professional knowledge and enhance student outcomes.
Vescio, Ross and Adams (2006)

The key here for me are the words 'active' and 'collaborative'.
Active involvement is a topic I shared with teachers in our end of term presentation (in a  previous post). Just as we want active engaged learners in our classrooms, we need to be active in our own learning.

Proponents of collaborative learning claim that the active exchange of ideas within small groups not only increases interest among the participants but also promotes critical thinking.There is persuasive evidence that cooperative teams achieve at higher levels of thought and retain information longer than learners who work quietly as individuals. The shared learning gives learners an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning, and thus become critical thinkers.
Hari Srinivas

 One factor that determines the efficiency of collaborative learning is the composition of the group. So far we have grouped teachers who have  a similar inquiry focus (Term 1) then in similar student age levels or curriculum disciplines (Term 2). Feedback from teachers is that they prefer the mix across age levels and disciplines because they get to hear from colleagues from other syndicates, and groups are more heterogeneous.

So in Term 3 we are back to our first model;different viewpoints but within the boundaries of mutual inquiry interests.

Choosing The Right Words

As a staff we looked at Choosing the Right Words, a chapter in Using Literature to Enhance Writing Instruction by Rebecca Olness (2006).

Olness refers to precision in the use of words, or wordsmithery, as a trait that shows a love of words, alongside skill choosing just the right words to convey the intended meaning.

I like her reminder that it is not about students choosing the biggest or most unusual words, but the one that suits the mood or topic best. It is a matter of using everyday words precisely, as much as it is having an exceptional vocabulary.

She mentions research that's shown vocabulary can be acquired through incidental learning (NICHD 2000) but the key word here is 'can'. Without being surrounded by rich oral language or being exposed to words through wide reading, a student' vocabulary isn't going to be as expansive.

If students are reading below standard they are encountering fewer words again, further compounding the problem. Karen Belt talks about this in her blog e-xplore. It is a case of the Matthew effect, where the more able you are, the more likely you are to have rich dialogic discussions around rich content, and be reading a variety of texts with elaborate vocabulary.

The answer?
Reading regularly to students from books that expand their vocabulary and critical thinking.
One or our year 2 teachers, Laura Nalder, has a blog post on this very thing. I totally agree with her focus on modelling a love of reading and books, and providing rich book language  especially to those students who can't access it independently.

4 August 2015

Learning Pathways in a Digital Environment

I've been looking at the inception of Learn, Create Share as a Manaiakalani teaching and learning pedagogy. Dorothy Burt has a series of wonderful videos explaining this, and the different parts of this process on the Manaiakalani blog.
I was one of the Lead teachers who set up a learning cycles to make learning more visible.

This is from 2009 and used the digital affordances we had available to us then - 6 class imac computers.

 The hook that Learn Create Share using technology, provided for our students, was so successful that we wanted every child to have access to their own device. Thus today we are a one to one school and technology isn't just integrated, it is just the default for learning. In the development of this new digital pedagogy many of the integration scaffolds such as this learning cycle were passed over.

But just recently I was considering whether a cycle of learning like this still has value in our classes.

This learning pathway assumes that there is a limit to how you proceed, such as the teacher's next worksheet, your turn on the computer, your conference with the teacher in writing time or the guided reading text the teacher provided your group. Now however students aren't limited by timing or resources. Through the use of the internet and a class site they can access their learning tasks, scaffolds, texts, rubrics and publishing options any time of the day or night. Instead of a linear path controlled by the teacher, learning looks more like a fountain.

This is the El Alamein Memorial Fountain in Sydney. I thought is showed quite nicely the idea of multiple learning paths.

Teachers Staying Up To Date with Research

     These got pushed around my plate quite a lot as a kid.                                                                                                
Brussels sprout

Then as I grew older  I learnt how good they were for me.
Did you know that 1 cup of brussel sprouts give you 130% of your daily recommended vitamin C? They are also high in fibre, low in calories, help the DNA repair of your white blood cells that fight off infection, are anti carcinogenic, give you 250% of your daily vitamin K that help give you strong bones...... the list goes on. In short they are good for you!

Then I started experimenting with how they could be cooked. Have you tried roasted with a little chilli oil and slivered almonds? What about pan fried with garlic butter or sauteed with bacon? It's all in the presentation (and avoidance of over cooking).

I think that staying up to date with research and recent publications and guidelines can be like this for our staff. If the purpose is clear, and readings are palatable, they can spark lively discussion and either add to or challenge teachers' understanding.

We looked at  Helen Timperley's teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES) and how it related to our Teaching as Inquiry  model. Different key passages were shown and after some time to think, teachers talked with those sitting near them about what this meant and how it related to our practice. We then shared as a group what the passages meant, and meant for us.

Here are the quotes we discussed.

These were only very short passages from the booklet but formed the basis of some good discussion and hopefully built a shared understanding about our inquiry process.

30 June 2015

What do you do when teaching inquiry is seen as just another thing to do?

Teaching inquiry
 Not another thing we have to do!

Teachers know that to get effective and learning for their students there needs to be collaboration, agency and visible learning.


This is the same for our learning as teachers. 

We can have professional development, time to improve our practice in class, then our appraisal, but without being active in our learning we are not going to make the gains in our learning and teaching that are possible. 
Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 2.54.39 PM.png

As part or our end of year inquiry sharing, I talked about this comparison between our students in class, and our learning as teachers. 
Of course being an active learner means you have a growth mindset and are ready to be challenged and to grow.


26 May 2015

Narrowing Down Inquiry Goals

I saw this hexagon planning frame being used as part of setting up an ALIM Inquiry and thought it was a great way of pin pointing what you are wanting to focus on as a teacher, and the steps to reach this goal.

In this first hexagon flower one of my PRTs I'm coaching put her Inquiry focus.
Around these we put what kinds of teaching acts and activities could possibly achieve this.

We decided on one of these to focus on first and put it in the middle of the next hexagon flower.

Around this we narrowed down even further what she could do to to reach this goal.

The activities and instruction were precise enough that some of them were put into action that week.

Here is an example of some of the statements that compared two well known characters.
The activity has been scaffolded by coming up with the statements together, and discussing as a class where they should go. Then students go away and place statements where they think they should go.

In SOLO terms this is multistructural - students can identify many relevant similarities and differences between the wolf and Little Red.

To get to Relational they will have to be able to give reasons why some of these elements are in the categories they have been placed in.

Shared with Author's permission

One of the teacher's next ideas in the hexagon planning frame was to colour code several of the statements so that students could orally record, then later write explanations. I am looking forward to following this development.

18 May 2015

What does all this PD have to do with my inquiry?

Presented this to staff to show how training and professional development contribute to their teaching inquiry.

11 May 2015

No, Not another Lecture!

Here we are in term 2 and our collaborative inquiry groups have had a re-shuffle.
We have 4 wonderful  PD providers whom I was able to book in for our meeting afternoons, so teachers have been regrouped to make the most of the professional development that suits them.

This is has become a very high PD input term, and not what teaching inquiry is supposed to be so heavily based on. I will have to make sure this is redressed next term. What is also a concern with top down PD, is the impact is has (or doesn't have) on learning for teachers.

This Learning pyramid (from the National Training Laboratory, Bethel Maine), shows different retention rates for training.

What we need to do is make sure that we don't waste teachers' time, and lose opportunities for learning by providing the wrong type of PD. This also applies to  the clever experts we bring in to support out teachers.

The different content areas for the collaborative group meetings include
  • Jannie Van Hees and her research into dialogic classrooms and explicit teaching or writing for year 5-8 students.
  • GaTE definitions and provisions from Core Education aimed at specialist teachers and middle-senior students
  • Junior Literacy acquisition for low decile schools
  • Rubrics for success with Dorothy Burt
This is also supported by PD provided to the staff as a whole in staff meetings on blogging, the SAMR model, and SOLO.

Our PD training is aimed at the top 5 levels, and we are lucky to be able to draw on wonderful trainers and experts from within the school as well as externally to deliver this. My challenge now is to ensure there is practise by doing and teachers sharing this learning.

Soooooo Proud

We finished Term 1 with everyone presenting their learning from their Inquiry into practice so far. There were some sighs, grimaces and jitters leading up to this. But there were also some proud teachers keen to share with the whole staff rather than just a small group.

Staff members were divided into mixed groups of 7-8. I tried to put teachers from different inquiry areas together so that we could all hear about lots of different stories from around the school.

While there were teachers who were used to presenting with edited wonderful movies, slides and tales, this was the first time standing up in front of peers for some of us. Hopefully this will get easier as time goes on.

Each group went off to a room and many shared on screens as they talked about their learning so far.

I had approached several teachers with inquiries I though would be interesting for the whole staff (and of course a couple of very keen presenters who offered) to share in the staffroom to all of us after the groups returned.

14 April 2015

Connected+ Presentation with Neale Pitches at GAFE Summit.

The Connected series is a science and technology focussed literacy series that is published by the Ministry of Education.
Neale from South Pacific Press is the inspiration behind publishing this amazing resource for New Zealand teachers online.

Assessable through TKI this integrated literacy/science/technology resource has:

  • Digital versions of each article are available on Google Drive using Google Slides
  • Most of the images, text, videos, audio and graphic elements are available for teachers and students to reuse for educational purposes
  • The digital version of the first article in each issue has additional digital content such as video, additional images, website links, animation and audio

My part of the presentation showed how we use this resource for reading and content follow up.

2 April 2015

30 March 2015

How Much Is Too Much?

Teacher Inquiry is the new black. There are a plethora of articles and advisors available to inform us all about why and how teachers should inquire into their practice. I have been consulting them left right and centre in setting this up Inquiry as a integral part of our professional development.
What I'm struggling with is timing and pressure! How do you keep up the momentum without causing a boil over?

Once teacher Inquiry goals were set up we have had ...

1. Collaborative Meetings:
Groups of teachers have met 3 times so far this term. The timetable for meeting this term looks like this:

The meetings have been in place of Staff or Syndicate meetings so that they aren't an extra meeting time for busy teachers. 

2. Sharing on our professional blogs

3. Professional development in staff meetings around gathering and analysing student data as well as student thinking and learning.

Now we are about to 

4. Share what we have tried and put into our practice by presenting to small groups across the staff

Timperley (2008) says "Continued forward momentum  depends on an organisational infrastructure that supports professional learning and self-regulated inquiry. It is difficult for teachers to engage in sophisticated inquiry processes unless site-based leaders reinforce the importance of goals for student learning, assist teachers to collect and analyse relevant evidence of progress toward them, and access expert assistance when required. "

Teachers are feeling the pressure. As the person fronting the Inquiry infrastructure I'm picking up on the sighing and drooping shoulders. Is this normal end-of-term-itus or are we going too fast?

I'm planning to get reflections from teachers at the beginning of next term when we are bright eyed and bushy tailed again on what they think about timing this term. What we are aiming for is enough focus to keep the momentum going for change practice, but not burst any valves!

20 March 2015

Mathematical Argumentation - difficult on your own

Another example of trying to get higher order thinking in maths for students working independently from the teacher.

This is created in Explain Everything where the numbers are movable but the triangle frame is locked down. This allows students to guess and check to solve the problem.

The beauty of this app is that I can use pages as templates. My triangle frame and numbers have remained the same, I just changed the target number to 10.

  Finally on the last page I've put a recording button to encourage students to describe their strategy for filling in the triangle.

How it went with students?
Not a complete fail. The fact that students could manipulate the numbers made this digital version easier than a paper one which would requires lots of rubbing or scribbling out and many templates to fit the numbers in. Students liked being able to try again.
The fact that students can same their work as images onto the camera roll and share with me meant that I could display different solutions (or nearly solutions) and these were visible for the whole group to see and discuss. It also meant I could scaffold those who had difficulty by displaying a partial solution e.g the corner numbers already filled in.
What didn't work was the recording. A 10 year old can spend a very long time trying, trying again, over explaining, sharing with others, being shy when the listen back, and deleting their mathematical thinking. Not only did it take a long time to get some students to finish recording, these recordings were very long and difficult to use for group discussions. Students went round in circles repeating what they did without challenge. The discussion came when we sat together as a group to share, question one another, challenge and justify our thinking.

The problem is mathematical discussion requires guided argumentation with others!

15 March 2015

Problem Solving in Maths

I have been experimenting with maths problem solving for students who aren't in a teaching group with the teacher. There are many practise equations we can give students, but how far can we go with problem solving?

This activity has been set up in Explain Everything for students to work independently or in pairs. Being able to copy pages in this app means creating activities like this quick and easy.

Students are able to record by typing or using the draw tool with a stylus (or even a finger).

But what really pushes the activity higher in the SOLO thinking taxonomy is the record button. This allows students to go beyond uni and multi lateral thinking of discrete ideas, into relational and extended abstract thinking. By recording what they found out about the relationship between the products, any patterns or observations they are having to think more deeply that just discrete answers.

The next learning step is for students to create their own Explain Everything problem page.

8 March 2015

Better Together

At Pt England I am working to develop a collaborative culture of inquiry into practice in order to improve teaching pedagogy and lift student achievement. The first element of this is collaboration.

In their book Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School Hargraves and Fullan (2012) talk about human capital, thats the skills, capabilities and qualifications we bring as individuals to teaching, and how it can be enhanced by social capital. Social capital is the capital we have together. We are stronger as communities when we trust each other, collaborate and work together to reach goals. Social capital adds value to human capital, so the relationships we have with our colleagues will improve our teaching performance over time.
Our collaborative teaching inquiry model follows this assumption that we are better together. We are aiming to build capacity through critical thinking and collaboration, that has a positive impact on our students.

To facilitate this collaboration teachers are in flexible groups that are created around their area of inquiry, level of experience, area of teaching and social connections. These groups meet together 3 times each term to share, learn, support and reflect together, then again at the end of the term to present what they addressed in their practice, and what impact it has had so far on student achievement.

These collaborative inquiry groups range in size from 3 to 10 and have a coach who leads their discussions and acts as a support person. As our teaching  inquiry facilitator I liaise with these coaches to set meeting agendas and provide external and internal expertise for their group’s needs. Just as our teaching pedagogy for our students, our own leaning cycle is a process of Learn, Create, Share.
We just met for the second time this week and I was excited to see the momentum some of the groups were gathering.  There were less confident teachers smiling and showing off the learning activities they had created collaboratively. What they were able to achieve with support was more than they were able to develop on their own.

Another way networking and collaboration is being facilitated, is through the professional blogs teachers are setting up to share their teaching inquiry. For some this itself is a challenge, and the function of the group has proved powerful in not just the practical sharing of digital knowledge, but also the feedback and support teachers are giving one another on their blogs.

Take a look at some of these to see what interesting inquiry journeys our teachers are on:

                 Goodwin Gold  


                  A Teacher's Journey

                  Initiative, Connection and Challenge

                 1 2 1 4 1 2 3

Teachers Make The Difference

Quality of teaching has the most impact on students achievement.

To see how big the difference was, (Hanushek, 2006)  took a group of 50 teachers. They found that students taught by the most effective teacher in that group of 50 teachers learn in six months what those taught by the average teacher learn in a year. On the other hand students taught by the least effective teacher in that group of 50 teachers will take two years to achieve the same learning.

Another study around this time showed that in the classrooms of the most effective teachers students from disadvantaged backgrounds learn at the same rate as those from advantaged backgrounds, while students with behavioral difficulties learn at the same rate as those without behavioral difficulties (Hamre & Pianta, 2005).

According to Dylan Wiliam (2011)
The most powerful teacher knowledge is not explicit
    • That’s why telling teachers what to do doesn’t work
    • What we know is more than we can say
    • And that is why professional development is not on it’s own, effective
Improving practice involves changing habits, not adding knowledge
    • That’s why it’s hard
    • And the hardest bit is not getting new ideas into people’s heads
    • It’s getting the old ones out
    • That’s why it takes time
But it doesn’t happen naturally
    • If it did, the most experienced teachers would be the most productive, and that’s not true (Hanushek, 2005)

Hargraves and Fullan (2012) define to the quality of teaching, and the quality of the teachers as professional capital. They refer to research that shows the US teacher judgement systems that concentrate on removing those at the bottom and rewarding those at the top hasn’t shifted the overall quality of teaching.

It seems we can make judgements on teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily improve teaching.

So how do we go about improving this professional capital when teaching is recognised as being unforgivingly complex?

26 February 2015

Making Sense of SOLO

We are looking higher order thinking as part of getting cognitive engagement for our students at Pt England School. This is a presentation I prepared as part of our staff PD to introduce SOLO as a thinking taxonomy.

17 February 2015

Teaching Inquiry

We are embarking on our inquiries for the year and the collaborative inquiry group I'm working with a group who are looking into follow up maths tasks. We know there's more that can be done to cognitively engage students when they aren't working with the teacher. The question is What?

At Pt England we have been working towards using a more problem solving approach in our teaching groups. Our flexible groupings encourage sharing of thinking and argumentation. But most of the time students are working independently.
Are the follow up tasks cognitively engaging?
Are they worthwhile?
Is what they do helping to lift maths achievement?

We want to trial different types of learning activities to help reinforce maths concepts and extend thinking.

To engage in professional inquiry that makes a difference for students, teachers need to learn how to identify the pedagogical content knowledge and skills they need to assist their students to achieve the valued outcomes. The core question is, “What do I as teacher need to learn to promote the learning of my students?”