Thursday, January 26, 2017

Brave, Resilient learners & Change

Our school was fortunate to secure Anne Robertson for one of our Teaching Only Days. After posing the Key Question for this session: "How do we challenge the way that professional learning has traditionally been structured and make it more consistent with modern learning practice, that is collaborative, creative, daring and challenging and meets the needs of all teachers in your school?" we introduced ourselves and discussed what motivates us to learn. One interesting thing that came to the front was that learning styles can change and develop. Therefore, Professional Learning has to be meaningful, relevant and focused on how it is going to support our learners.

The first rule of learning is that people learn what they need to learn, not what someone else thinks they should learn” Peter M Senge: The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation

An exercise we had to complete was to think about three people on staff, think about their needs and put ourselves in their shoes when thinking about learning. It is vital that teachers should be considered in the same way we think about planning for our learners. We have to allow for different ways for teachers to engage in PL&D. One size does not fit all! Ownership and agency is essential if teachers are to engage positively.

Consider Knowles’ 6 principles of adult learning...
- Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
- Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
- Adults are goal oriented
- Adults are relevancy oriented
- Adults are practical
- Adult learners like to be respected

This can be easily applied to students as well, although not all of them might be motivated to learn, because they have to be in class / at school. What happens at home in the morning, might very well impact on how they learn...
Think UDL and cater for all learning needs in class, this however needs to be the same for teachers.

Image credit: Anne Robertson @robeanne 2016

Each of us had to think about our three teachers again while imagining one came across this small cave entrance with our three teachers... consider... What is my first instinct? What is their first instinct How would you feel if someone said to you - right we are all going to go into this cave now? Think about why your reaction is as is. What is it based on?
It might be hard for some to go in, having a fear of the unknown. This might be the same for people when having to learn new things. It might be easier to motivate kids, rather than motivate adults. Getting people out of their comfort zone. Tip for whānau engagement... think about cultural situations, think about that acting in a different culture could be quite scary.

We bring a whole lot of baggage with us when it comes to making decisions about what we do. Our Mental Model is shaped by the unspoken, unacknowledged, unrecognised assumptions we have just beneath the surface that guide our actions - positively and negatively.  Our prior experience plays a huge part as does our situation and context - age, gender, family situation, school setting. And mental models often resist change.
It is important to remember that we all see thing from different perspective, due to our experiences. This underpins our values/virtues and beliefs.

Enablers and Blockers challenge... 
What do we see as the ENABLERS to engagement in professional Learning at our school and what are the things that BLOCK people from engaging?

Sheryl Nussbaum talks about schools being “Future Ready” - there are 4 elements to being future ready. However, it is very important to consider as we develop Professional Learning programmes, that teachers are learners too.

An environment where the message is always ‘we are not good enough’ can be demoralising and counterproductive for all stakeholders. George Couros #Innovatorsmindset

ln the book “The Innovator’s Mindset” George Couros talks about the need for leaders to trust, to allow a positive space for people to grow and develop their skills, to focus on strengths not weaknesses. 
Something to ponder... Do we look at strengths of people or do we always look at the negative? Finding people's strengths is so important.

"When we build on our strengths and daily successes - instead of focusing on failures - we simply learn more” Tom Rath

Simon Sinek talks of how 'why' should be first, even before the 'how' and the 'what'. This seems a deceptively simple idea... But teachers also need a sort of personalised why… e.g. why should I adopt new practice. It has to be contextual to the way they teach and learn, to the students in their classes and the way that they are as teachers and learners themselves.
It is possible for the ‘why’ to evolve too and it doesn’t have to be static. However, you can’t just change the ‘why’ without a moral purpose or reflecting on it and considering why it might have changed.  Which is where Spirals of Inquiry come in…

Anne talked about an analogy that she heard of recently... consider a fire - what does it need to keep burning? (fuel and oxygen and space between the sticks for the fire to develop). If more sticks are being piled up on the fire, it collapses and has no space for the oxygen to keep fanning the flames so it suffocates and dies out. This is the same with teachers... they need to have space and time to keep motivated to learn and care should be taken not to overload them. 

One thing that came through strongly though was the idea of time for reflection and consolidation which is represented in the Poutama - the Maori representation of steps that symbolise levels of learning and that after each step there is an opportunity to consolidate, to take a breather (rekindle the fire) and assimilate skills learned before moving onward and upwards.

Key idea: We need to provide space for people to have inspiration. Don't keep on piling up... What can we take away... Allow teachers to take a step, and then have time to get an understanding and put learning into practice, before taking the next step.

Engagement in PL&D isn’t an option but leaders need to model good practice, be sensitive and respectful of the learners’ needs and be warm but demanding just as we are with the students in our classes…

Image Credit:

Building on the Poutama steps of knowledge acquisition with time for assimilation and consolidation of skills discussed earlier - and the spiral of inquiry - this idea of a spiral staircase that can provide space for teachers to focus on their practice and the needs of their learners, that encourages constant, ongoing reflection, and further inquiry is very powerful. A never ending spiral staircase of learning...

~ "You are never too old to learn. At no time ever say, 'It's too late to learn,' not until the day you die." - Kimani Ng'ang'a ~

Monday, January 16, 2017

Possibilities, Options and a Course of Action

I contemplated my one word for this year, as there are so many things twirling around in my head. As I am certain that I would [also] like to 'stand firm' mentally and emotionally, no matter where opportunities / challenges lead, my word will be...
prudent (adj) 'acting with or showing care and thought for the future'

Nathan Lang, Ed.D. wrote "Best practices change and adapt, because we change and adapt. They aren't an excuse to keep doing what we've been doing." Therefore, I do not want to be/stay comfortable of what I achieved thus far. I am planning to examine new possibilities and to further innovate to empower my students. I will be ready for challenges / bumps in the road and am prepared to change things to suit different conditions. Having a 'learning partnership' between and among students and colleagues will [undoubtedly] play a crucial part in transforming outcomes.

At uLearn16, Fullan explained that humans are innately wired to connect, create and to help humanity and stated that life and education can either amplify these innate characteristics or suppress and eradicate them. 'New Pedagogies for Deep Learning' (image above) emerged from his years of research and experience...

"The new pedagogies require students to create new knowledge and connect it to the world by using the power of digital tools" (Fullan & Longworthy, 2014)

My aim for this year is to keep Fullan's Six C's in mind:
"Character education — honesty, self-regulation and responsibility, hard work, perseverance, empathy for contributing to the safety and benefit of others, self-confidence, personal health and well-being, career and life skills.
Citizenship — global knowledge, sensitivity to and respect for other cultures, active involvement in addressing issues of human and environmental sustainability.
Communication — communicate effectively orally, in writing and with a variety of digital tools; listening skills.
Critical thinking and problem solving — think critically to design and manage
projects, solve problems, make effective decisions using a variety of digital tools and resources.
Collaboration — work in teams, learn from and contribute to the learning of others, social networking skills, empathy in working with diverse others.
Creativity and imagination — economic and social entrepreneurialism, considering and pursuing novel ideas, and leadership for action" (Fullan  & Longworthy, 2014. p.22)

How am I planning to accomplish my aim?
- Model good practice and continuous self-improvement.
- Respect and value diversity and continue to grow my awareness of our global interconnectedness
- Effectively using my PLN (Twitter, VLN, EduCampNZ, TeachMeetNZ) and colleagues to create productive working relationships by learning from others, asking questions to find out the thoughts of others and to reflect understanding. Communication is a two way street - we have to give as well as gather
- Using my knowledge to look at all angles to make the best possible choice, then test, revise and apply. Be open minded and always ask how something can be done better and apply what I learn to new situations
- Work collaboratively with colleagues in transparent ways
- Trust my efforts as a leader and learner and those of the team to achieve our goals

According to Zig Ziglar, F-E-A-R has two meanings: "Forget Everything and Run" or "Face Everything and Rise."
The choice is mine / yours...

Fullan, M., Longworthy, M. (January 2014). A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. Retrieved from 

~ "Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later." - Og Mandino ~