Thursday, May 26, 2016

Broader Professional Context (Week 27)

Applied Practice in Context (APC) - Broader Professional Context

Activity 3: 'Contemporary issues or trends in New Zealand or internationally'

The New Zealand education context
New Zealand is among the high quality education performers globally, but also faces critical issues that need to be addressed. A report by the Education Review Office (2012) indicated that New Zealand’s education system needs to pay more attention to three key aspects including:
1. Shifting the focus towards student-centred learning,
2. Implementing a responsive and rich curriculum,
3. Assessment used  to know about, and plan for students’ learning.

Image retrieved from CORE Education Trends, 2015

'Each year, CORE Education’s experienced staff of researchers, educators, and digital technology experts pool their expertise and combine their understanding and evidence of the ways that digital technologies are influencing all aspects of education. The result is CORE’s list of the ten trends that are expected to make a growing impact upon education in New Zealand in the coming year.' (About CORE's Ten Trends, 2014, 2015, 2016)

During 2014 and 2015, their focus was very much on Learner Agency, which is the one I would like to concentrate on along with the focus towards student-centred learning.

Some important features of learner agency:
1. Agency (is about making decisions about learning) involves the initiative or self-regulation of the learner, but they must have a belief that their approach to learning is actually going to make a difference. Agency, however, is not simply handing control over to learner, but rather creating an environment where learners could be actively involved in the moment by moment learning
2. Agency is mediated by the classroom. It is definitely not about a learner doing their own thing and what suits them. Providing choices in learning (whether to work individually or in a group; whether to evidence learning through a piece of writing or technology) is an important factor in engagement, which in turn contributes to student learning and success.
3. Agency should include an awareness of one’s own actions, every decision they make and action they take impacts on the thinking, behaviour or decisions of others.

Another aspect of agentic behaviour is student voice. It is important to consider how it is reflected in the day to day decisions that are made around school. It should be exercised in more engaged and authentic ways that are about the students learning, rather than to simply satisfy ourselves that we have heard what students have to say.

We need to scaffold and develop the skills, attitudes, and behaviours required by this approach. This will then provide opportunities for students to own their learning through meaningful and relevant reflection and collaboration. It is my perception that we as 'teachers' should still provide structure, without being too directed.

According to ERO (2012), the number one issue is 'Shifting the focus to student-centred learning'. This [to me] sits neatly under the Learner agency 'umbrella'. However, no matter if you call it Learner Agency or Student-centred learning... the notability is on students becoming empowered to own their learning and the teacher becoming the guide.

International context
In the era of globalization, our professional context is no longer confined within the boundaries of a local community. Over the last decade, technology has moved so swiftly that teachers are increasingly connected across a variety of platforms and in a variety of settings.

21st Century learners are digital device and platform users. Their learning goes beyond passive receipt of knowledge towards actively seeking knowledge and their learning extends beyond the classroom walls to the digital learning environment. These changes in learning behaviour are a global phenomenon and not confined to a specific country or region. It is within this interconnected world that our context of practice needs to be able to respond to changes in technology and new educational paradigms.
The RSA.(2010, Oct 14). RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved from

In his talk about Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson explains how the educational system needs to go through some major changes. He goes further and states that not much has changed about school as a whole since the 18th century.

What really bothers me is that he talked about these issues back in 2010 and we are still not there yet. We are [still] having silo's in many schools and teach our students according to age. I will go further to note that in my experience it is easy for people to start playing the 'doubting game' instead of the 'believing game' when discussions around change are being brought up.

This made me wonder as to why change is not happening constantly. Is it because many teachers are used to teach the way they were taught or are they not given the opportunities to explore and change their pedagogy?

Without doubt, education needs to change...
I rate our NZ curriculum and its intent highly, but I do think that we have some way to go in implementing it to explore the full potential and to use it effectively as an example of how we [can] educate students for an unknown future where we do not know what kinds of jobs will be around when they finish school.

However, changing paradigms is not easy and takes a lot of effort. Taking small steps to achieve this change might be the solution. Maybe we should start with getting students to be more involved in their learning choices, rather than teaching them as if they are robots...

Image retrieved from the 'Partnership for 21st Century Skills'

CORE Education's Ten Trends 2014, 2015 | CORE Education. (2014,2015). Retrieved from

Education Review Office. (2012). Evaluation at a Glance: Priority Learners in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved 18 May 2016, from

The RSA.(2010, Oct 14). RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved from

~ “When you take the free will out of education, that turns it into schooling.”
- John Taylor Gatto ~


  1. I totally agree with you Marnel that education has to change and could argue that it does change, but as you point out not quick enough. In answer to your question on why it is not changing, many colleagues still believe that their way has worked for years and they have good results so why change. However, they are not aware of what our children really need for a future that we are uncertain about and as you say the doubting game is easier. I have still heard “this ICT stuff is just a fad and won’t last”. There is also the problem of leaders in schools not allowing for the opportunity to explore or change pedagogy; strict time tables when the whole school, or year levels should be doing this at this time and certain assessments need to be completed by this time etc. etc. These constrain learner agency and project based learning. As you mention “changing in learning is a global phenomenon” and there is some much research, talk, presentations on the need to change so our children have the ‘super skills’ for the future. ERO who report on schools and findings, give recommendations of changing to student agency, surely they are being listened to? With all this talk, reports, TV documentaries you would think the message would be acted on. Perhaps there has to be a total mind shift by all not just teachers, so it is fostered. I like the idea of communities participating in learning, organisations mentoring and learning apprentices who are involved in community based problem solving, where students develop the skills to become successful in their communities. Perhaps then all would see the benefits of changing learning and not still relate learning to a time when they went to school. I like the ‘Inside-out learning model’ by TeacherThought.

    Perhaps we need to close schools and rename them communities of learning with classrooms as ‘think tanks’ with facilitators rather than teachers on hand with no bells and no teaching to a specific age. Possibly a bit too drastic a measure, as you also say perhaps it is small steps that are needed and starting with learner choices.

    1. Hi Neil, Thank you for your comment and for sharing the TeacherThought link. I agree with what you said about teacher perceptions and what has worked for years, so it still should. However, it is important that learners' and teachers' roles are rethinkend, as learners need to be active participants in their own learning. I have been wondering many times if teacher training are keeping up with this change in our education system and if student teachers are not [still] getting the same 'lectures' as in the 'olden' days. Are they fully equipped to go into a school with say an ILE with confidence?

      Leaders do play an important role in change and I agree that many/some are not supporting teachers to explore and then change pedagogy. I feel that teachers should be trusted more as our intention is ultimately to better meet students' needs and the demands of the New Zealand curriculum vision of “young people who will be confident, connected, active, lifelong learners”. Teachers know their students and what works for them. When you interact with students, you can quickly see if an assessment is required (so why having to wait to complete assessments at a certain time, I have no idea). I have come to a stage that I am not strictly bound to a timetable anymore, especially if my learners are engaged in what they are doing and if I see quality learning happening. I am not stopping them and say 'right, the next learning is...' If we don't get something done, we [just] do it the next day. My data clearly shows progress in students' learning and it is evident that this approach is working.

      Learner agency is not going to happen overnight and careful thought and preparation is required to effectively transition in terms of pedagogies. Set realistic expectations for yourself and discuss the intention with management, so that they are aware of what is going to change/happen. It is important to make sure one has sufficient support and given leeway for risk taking and failure, otherwise it might happen that one reverts to pedagogies that have been used when we were at school or to “the way we’ve always done it”. The process of transition will take time and go through several phases. Firstly the initial “Why?” phase, where teachers need to see the value, reasoning and research behind the changes that they will be required to make to their teaching practice.
      This is followed by the “How?” phase, where teachers need time to work out the details, systems, routine and programme. This is the phase where there should be time allowed for experimentation, innovation, questioning, mistakes and constant reflection.
      Finally, the “What?” phase, where the focus should fall on the teaching and learning that is happening in the classroom.

      The following might be addressed in a team meeting and/or on a management level:
      What is your vision for schooling, for learners?
      What changes need to happen - at your classroom level, at your school level?

      I think our NZC is a powerful document and we have to use it to our 'advantage'.

  2. Great Blog, very informative about student agency. We are all on a journey aren't we. I am trying to take small steps to allow for increasing student agency in my practice.
    As a little collaborative problem solving activity my Year 5 class had a discussion about how our desks should be set up in the class. We discussed a few simple rules such as you can't sit outside or right in front of the projector screen. Every child had a chance to speak twice even if it was to say that they agreed with someone. Then I gave them 15 minutes to go for it.
    What they came up with can be seen at the class blog on a time lapse video

    So the kids went back to an industrial style arrangement of rows. I had to ask myself were they just conditioned to do that through movies etc. Or another reason? Our original arrangement was nothing like what they created, we had collaborative pods of desks.

    Even more interestingly, at the end of the day some whanau saw their desks and their overwhelming feedback was this is great (and they weren't talking about the student agency but the rows of desks). They thought it was the work of a teacher.

    So when we talk about 21st century learning environments and pedagogies, it seems that we all (kaiako, tamariki, and whanau) need need support as to where we are heading.


    1. Kia ora Paul, thank you for your comment. Yes, I agree, we are all on a journey and taking small steps is the way to go.

      Having a hand in designing their environment, is a particularly powerful and meaningful learning opportunity that becomes available to students when a learning environment becomes their "space of possibility". It is (as you have mentioned in your class blog post) about kotahitanga. Interesting though that the students put the desks in rows! Did you ask them why they choose to have it like this? I would be interested to hear their thoughts. Then, if they feel comfortable learning in this way, should we be trying to discourage them? Students need to learn to make decisions/choices for themselves. They [too] need that trial and error. 'Mistakes' are great as we/they can learn from it. The main part for me would be that students know what learning they’re going to choose to engage in according to purpose/goals and what to do to get there.

      If we want to place students at the center of their own learning, it will requires us, as teachers to step aside and become guides. However, it is not just handing over to students, we have to support them to know where they are at, what they need to learn and how they can make decisions/choices for themselves. These are the foundations I think we need to focus on.

      All the best with your journey!
      Kia kaha

  3. Schools do need to change, but no one knows exactly how to do this. It is interesting that the new model of Education put out by the ministry has no spot named "school" in it.

    You are also correct in that students need to be empowered to take ownership of their own learning and the new Digital Technologies do this. However, this is not a free for all. It does take time to explain and show all this to Whanau, students, staff etc.

    The problem is we are creating a new thing but we really don't know exactly what it will look like. We may well get some things wrong the first time we try, but then what we currently do gets it wrong a lot also, so isn't it better to try to change things than to do nothing? If we get it right the potential learning for our students will be huge.

    Have fun leading your school into new ways of doing things.

    1. Hi Ruth.I do agree with your point of view. This is new to many of us, therefore I think collaboration plays an important part in moving forward.


  4. Kia Ora Marnel thoroughly loved your post, totally aligns with the journey I am on with my staff. Your views on Learner Agency is spot on, it is not simply about a teacher handing over the reigns but creating the optimal environment in where the student or students feel empowered to take risks, make decisions for their own learning and that failure is only another opportunity. Collecting authentic student voice on their learning and what or who makes them learn more, is a powerful tool for teachers and leaders. This evidence allows for direction and specific approach to the "what next, how to, and when?"

    We are focusing on relationships-based learning approaches in our classrooms that will support teachers to know their learners better and their learning, have a more agentic approach towards student learning and whanau engagement, as well as being more confident to share power within their classroom as they become re-educated around how a child best learns. This is going to be an interesting journey for many of my teachers.

    1. Kia ora Rosina,
      Thank you for your feedback and for sharing what you are doing to support your teachers in their journey!

      All the best with leading your school into using a relationships-based approach to make learning authentic for learners.

      Exciting times ahead!