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 ~

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