Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Professional Context (Week 26)

Applied Practice in Context (APC) - Professional Context

Activity 2: 'Current issues in my professional context'

Stoll places the importance of understanding school culture as the starting point for leading change towards school improvement. Some internal and external factors that shape a school culture include the school history, the student socio-economical background, external contexts such as national educational policies, and societal changes (Stoll, 1988).

Stoll and Fink (cited in Stoll, 1998) identified 10 influencing cultural norms of school improvement including:
'. Shared goals - “we know where we’re going”
 2. Responsibility for success - “we must succeed”
 3. Collegiality - “we’re working on this together”
 4. Continuous improvement - “we can get better”
 5. Lifelong learning - “learning is for everyone”
 6. Risk taking - “we learn by trying something new”
 7. Support - “there’s always someone there to help”
 8. Mutual respect - “everyone has something to offer”
 9. Openness - “we can discuss our differences”
10. Celebration and humour - “we feel good about ourselves” (p.10)'

The organisational culture is an invisible powerful force that influences the members’ behaviour. Hongboontri and Keawkhong (2014) show that the school culture impacts on teachers’ beliefs and instructional practices, but this relationship is also reciprocal.

In this post I will be exploring different aspects of my community of practice and how these impacts on us.

What are the current issues in my community of practice? How could we address them?
Parents/whānau/stakeholders do not view digital technologies (class and student blogs) as an enabling platform that can deepen their engagement with their children’s learning.

Although there has been little research undertaken on parent engagement with learning as opposed to parents involvement in schooling (Redding, Langdon et al. 2004), this distinction is a very important one (Emerson, Fear et al.) as the two have a completely different focus.
To elaborate, parent engagement with learning is differentiated from parent involvement in learning. Parent involvement in learning concerns the likes of but not limited to: sporting, cultural, and behavioural aspects of schooling. Whereas parent engagement with learning includes things such as: academic progress, learning conversations, and holistic pathways to activities adapted for increasing student learning outcomes (Militello and Janson 2008).

Partnerships plays a vital role in defining the positive relationship between school and parents/whānau and academic achievement, attendance and other. Also, as stated by ERO (2008): 'Partnerships with parents, families and the wider community enable the sharing of responsibilities and collective resources for children’s education.' p 45.

Parental involvement requires multi-level school leadership; parental involvement is a component of school and classroom organization; parental involvement recognizes the shared responsibilities of educators and families for children’s learning and success in school and parental involvement programs must include all families, even those who are not currently involved, not just the easiest to reach.

Therefore it is important to realise that school leadership underpins the approach taken in engaging parents and is therefore an important factor in the impact parents have on student learning outcomes in school (Militello and Janson 2008).

Bottom line... build strong relationships with parents/whānau and engage in ethical, respectful, positive and collaborative professional relationships with whānau and other carers of ākonga and agencies, groups and individuals in the community.

What are the challenges that I face in my community of practice? How to address them?
We are in the process of implementing our BYOD programme. According to Argueta, et al. a 'more personalised, student centred learning is often cited as a reason for BYOD'. (Alberta Education, 2012) (Argueta, Huff, Tingen, & Jenifer O. Corn, 2011).

Therefore enhancing areas of a future focus learning pedagogy is essential in moving forward with implementing a successful BYOD programme that will provide an opportunity for transformational changes to learning and teaching. However, many teachers are still not ready for this change and it would be a challenge to change their mindset as well as ensuring that there exists the required level of commitment and accountability at all levels.

One of the strategic priorities for 21st century skills and digital competencies stated in a report by the 21st Century Learning Reference Group is one of Creating future-focused learning environments. 'Design vibrant, technology-rich, cyber-safe learning environments. Make these environments flexible enough to serve multiple learning contexts, including one-to-one, small groups, collaborative and community learning. Put learning at the heart of the system.'  (Future-focused learning in connected communities, May 2014, A report by the 21st Century Learning Reference Group, p.5)

To address this, it will be needed to constantly emphasize the value of:
1. Connectedness + Collaboration in which feedback is rapid and collaboration becomes a natural part of the learning process
2. Agency where learners are empowered to make more choices about the direction of their learning
3. Ubiquitous Learning which empowers learners to learn anywhere, anytime.

All these are going to play a part in enhancing student interest and learning outcomes.

BYOD in Schools Literature Review 2013. Prepared by Bruce Stavert BSc DipEd MA. Retrieved from

Emerson, L., et al. (2012). Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research, Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau.

ERO (2008). Partners in Learning: Schools' Engagement with Parents, Whānau and Communities. Wellington,Wellington.

Future-focused learning in connected communities, May 2014, A report by the 21st Century Learning Reference Group. Retrieved from

Hongboontri, C., & Keawkhong, N. (2014). School Culture: Teachers' Beliefs, Behaviors, and Instructional Practices. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(5), 66-88. Retrieved from

Militello, M. and C. Janson (2008). "Socially focused, situationally driven practice: A study of distributed leadership among school principals and counselors." Jsl Vol 17-N4 17: 409.

Redding, S., et al. (2004). "The effects of comprehensive parent engagement on student learning outcomes." American Educational.

Stoll (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from

~ “A challenge only becomes an obstacle when you bow to it.” - Ray A. Davis ~


  1. Hi Marnel
    That's a big challenge you face!
    I wonder if part of the challenge around engaging our wider school community, particularly around digital technologies could be around empowerment and agency. As educators, we often talk about empowering our students and giving them agency, but do schools also empower the parents/whānau/wider community? Perhaps the community need to be shown how digital technologies can enable and support their own learning?

    As you can see, you've got me thinking about this from a different perspective!

    Good luck!

  2. Hi Nathaniel,

    Thank your for sharing your valuable insight. I totally agree with you and you [too] gave me something to ponder about regarding empowering the parents/whānau/wider community. I can now also look at this 'issue' with another lens.

    Thank you!

  3. Good comment from Nathaniel, especially as you say that your parents don't appear to see digital technologies as the platform they want to use to connect with their children.

    How do you connect with parents and is this an issue? You talk about its importance but not how successful you currently are as a school.
    Will this lack of engagement with digital tech influence how your parents support BYOD? Or has it - is it - showing that the only hang up is their own lack of confidence, as Nathaniel suggests?

    1. You've raised some valuable questions here, Annemarie and I thank you for it.

      Parent engagement is an area that most schools are struggling with, hence me looking at research and how to increase student learning outcomes through parental engagement in student learning in my literature review. This is being addressed further in my Teaching as Inquiry project plan. The reason for selecting this topic of inquiry is due to a point made by Hollingworth, (2015), who said that 21st Century tools, such as; shared online spaces can help to overcome some of the interwoven issues such as: efficiency of communication, and building capacity in ICTs.

      Militello, M., & Janson, C. (2008) go further to explain that school leadership underpins the approach taken in engaging parents. Therefore an important factor is the impact parents have on student learning outcomes in school.

      We need to ensure that [BYOD] devices are conducive to building relationships and that Māori whānau are comfortable with this form of communication. From this we can build a partnership between home and school. This partnership will form a reciprocal learning process, between the whānau, teachers and students.

      Teachers will be available to support Face to Face, and build understanding and capability through positive learning conversations until the parents/whānau feel comfortable engaging online.