The pendulum

Prompt 13 in #edublogsclub challenge is the pendulum.

Over the last 30 years as an educator, I’ve seen many changes. That my friends, as you have heard before, is the only constant in education – CHANGE.

In the prompt, there is talk about learning styles -the fact that for many, many years we were told that this was the way to go – teach to the learning styles of students. Well, research now suggests that this isn’t the case and that in fact teaching to learning styles has not increased student achievement.

Now what?

I remember when I first read about it, I was devastated. But then I realised that what they were negating was not in fact what we first thought -or at least not what I first thought. You see I’ve been doing a lot of work in this area for many, many years and developed a program about learning styles that my colleagues and I implemented in schools.

The whole idea of research that debunked learning styles mainly talks about pigeon-holing students into one way of learning and allowing them to think that if teaching is delivered in this way they will learn. That was never the objective of my program. Rather, the idea was that students could learn to learn using their preference but then they would need to be challenged to explore different ways of learning, depending on the situation. This point was never fully understood with those in management positions. This was a most frustrating predicament, even the students with whom we were working understood the concept:

“I think overall learning styles is really helpful because you know how you prefer to learn and it really helps. I don’t think there is anything negative about learning styles because some people may have lots of trouble at school and maybe that is only because of the way they learn. I have learnt how to adapt to different ways of learning. It has really helped me.” (Yr 7 student)

via GIPHY

Everyone learns in different ways. This is a given. For me, it’s still about getting to know your students, only I challenge educators to go one step further: Learn them.

So, while in education, things are constantly changing, as educators we still need to think about how, what and why we teach but more importantly WHO we teach. Learning them is a requirement in my book, no matter which way the pendulum swings.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Do more than ‘know your students’: Learn them

I’d like to propose a leveling up from ‘knowing’ your students to ‘learning your students’.

So how’s it different?

It is similar to holistic education where the student has the possibility to be developed in all aspects of humanism. It develops their physical, academic, spiritual, social and emotional being. In ‘learning’ students then, it becomes an ability to really know them beyond what they like to do, how they learn and what they got on their last test result. It’s about being open, allowing them to develop, take risks and all the while the teacher is watching, listening and learning. Only after this can one act accordingly. In learning students, one is compelled to take action.

What are the steps in such a proposal?

  1. When greeting them at the door go one step further beyond asking how they are going. Watch their body language, listen to the tone in their voice and distinguish if it was any different last time you asked. Then act.

    Watch, listen & learn

    Watch, listen & learn

  2. Reflect on the last class you taught. Who are the students that made an impact -that is- asked the questions, interacted with the teaching and learning, those you had to remind to get back on task. Now, picture those who did not. Why not? Have they interacted more effectively in previous classes? What was different this time? How can that change for next time without making them feel exposed? Now act.

    Classroom interactions

    Classroom interactions

  3. Do you know what your students like doing outside of class? Do you make efforts sometimes to include aspects of these things in the teaching and learning? Let me give you an example: You asked your class and this particular one has quite a few that enjoy sports -don’t roll your eyes – I’m not keen on it either but just bear with me. Keep in mind while you do plan that there are undoubtedly some students who do not like sport – but maybe they like games… what aspects of sport and games could be included in your class? I encourage you to think outside the box here, include ideas about skills- dependent on what year level they are: Might you include some healthy competition, or adding by goal points, even creating open-ended problems related to sport but reflective of the skills you require? Is there a story about sport/competition/achievement/training/teams you could use instead? Just because students like footy, doesn’t mean you have to ‘do’ and ‘talk’ footy. Perhaps you can cover their love of sport via other related means. Now act.

    talents

    Students’ talents

  4. Are you comfortable sharing something of yourself? Of course, I would expect that it be relative to the content matter being presented. This is a great way to reveal your own humanism and might move your students into telling some of their own narratives. Your role here is to model respect and trust when and if they do, to listen intently and thank them when they finish. Everyone needs to know they have a voice in your class when they want to use it and will be respected accordingly. One last point – the students don’t have to ‘talk’ their narratives, there are plenty of other ways to ‘show’ them. There might be an opportunity sometime during the semester to ask them to complete … ‘I wish my teacher knew …’ Now act.

    Lacking confidence

    Lacking confidence

  5. Stop teaching the content and start learning students. We are always talking about how we don’t have enough time…but time spent learning your students is much more valuable than always thinking you don’t have time because there’s so much content to get through. Content will happen, as will learning (which is the whole point of education) if we do more to ‘learn’ our students. Have open discussions about learning – discuss with them how they learn, talk about the brain and how clever it is and notice how, when, where and what students do in your class when you set learning tasks. I encourage you to change the language used – instead of asking them to get on with their work… try “let’s get on with our learning”. It just seems to be more inclusive and less burdensome somehow.

 

Matthys, 2016

Matthys, 2016

Now act. Let me know how it goes. Why not share your ideas below so others may also learn.

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

Eat in or take away? Day 1: Evidence Based Teaching Summit 2016

Last week I was invited to chair a panel discussion on policy and practice at the Informa summit on Evidence-Based Teaching and with that came the opportunity to attend two days of professional learning. I gained some wonderful insights and follow up for my own research, but I also came away with many more questions. You’ll see them filtered through the rest of the post.

Angela Carbone from Monash University opened proceedings delivering a keynote on the

What is student success?

What is student success?

resurgence of evidence-based teaching. She spoke of the need for evidence in order to ‘bust’ educational myths. To increase student success, we need valid, reliable, rigorous, accurate and timely evidence. But what is student success? What does it look like in the diverse classrooms of the 21st Century?

The second keynote was delivered by Dr. V. Darleen Opfer from the US. Teachers need to use a data driven approach in order to improve student learning but how do we support teachers to do this? Dr Opfer’s presentation was very practical and I could easily imagine her 5 recommendations working in our schools. She suggested:

  1. Making data an ongoing cycle using a variety of sources.
  2. Teaching students to examine their own data and set their own learning goals accordingly.
  3. Establishing a clear vision for the whole school.
  4. Providing the type of support that fosters a data-driven culture.
  5. Developing a data system that incorporates data from multiple sources.
Change doesn't kill you...

Change doesn’t kill you…the difficulty is not in developing new ideas but in escaping from old ones  (reflections from case study on literacy program by Jeff Symms).

In making data an ongoing process teachers will need to be taught how to collect and analyse the data. This may be facilitated through the appointment of a data facilitator, who is not just a number cruncher but one who can organise, explain and disseminate the data. Teachers can then interpret, develop hypotheses and modify instruction to suit -well if they had time… .Dr Opfer advised that teachers collect a variety of data including classroom performance (formative assessment) regularly and to look for patterns.  Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have time and thus it often takes a back seat when in fact data should be out on the field, playing and contributing to the learning and teaching in schools. Hence the need for a data-driven approach to be established as a whole school endeavour.  What could we do without in order to make time for targeted professional learning, access to data and to developing a whole school culture?

The conversation continued in Chris Ramsden‘s presentation. He challenged educators to make a

Create the climate

Create the climate

difference and thought teachers need ‘actionable’ data that is tangible and accessible. He introduced the notion of practice-based evidence instead of evidence-based practice. Ramsden discussed the general capabilities and questioned whether they are indeed visible in the learning and teaching in schools. In making a difference do we challenge our students to persevere, to grow and be hopeful of the future? Are we arming them with strategies, modeling empathy and humility and displaying a growth mindset? After all, we do need our students to figure things out for themselves and hence the need to encourage risk-taking and the skills to deal with failure.

David Zyngier (Monash University) was up next to discuss the evidence on the issue of class sizes. Of course, there are many arguments for and against smaller class sizes. I’m sure most teachers would support having fewer students in their classes but what we don’t seem to understand is that reducing class sizes requires a different teaching approach, jut as lengthening or shortening periods in secondary schools require a change in mindset. Dr. Peggy Kern from the University of Melbourne and Janis Coffey from PESA presented arguments in separate presentations for positive education. To create ‘better’ learners said Kern, through a focus on positive psychology, a ‘thrive not just survive’ mentality of holistic education needs to be adopted in schools. With one in four young people diagnosed with a mental disorder and one in four teachers in Victoria suffering stress-related illnesses, Coffey believes that schools can make a big difference in this area.

A lively panel discussion with Kevin Donnelly, Peter Goss and Justin Mullaly followed provoked by my opening remarks:

Are policy and practice truly that separate and what role does research play in the scenario? In evidence-based teaching –what is the evidence on which we base our teaching? Does the evidence that tends to prove or disprove something become the basis of belief or disbelief? And what of belief, which is essentially an opinion or conviction, what role does it play in schools?

Can our judgements as educators be credible? Might the empirical evidence we see, hear and think emphasise a more informed approach to evidence-based teaching? In fact, can it be that instead of evidence-based we perhaps adopt an evidence-informed teaching practice?

As Dylan Wiliam suggested in 2015 “…the simple truth is that, in education, everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere.” So are we to continuously believe the headlines we read – homework is bad, feedback is good, funding is not making a difference in our schools, or will we ever be able to make and follow through on our beliefs based on evidence-informed judgements? Are we to continuously answer to policy driven practice? What changes need to happen to successfully marry policy, practice, theory and experience in education AND have it truly enhance this highly complex and multifaceted notion of effective pedagogy?

Again and again the importance of giving time to educators so they can collaborate, attend PD, collect and analyse data. Here the implementation gap between policy and practice appears. There is no one answer, yet I think we all agree that evidence of student progress is required to inform practice and influence what teachers do. Justin Matthys (Maths Pathways) uttered one of my favourite lines of the first day “What matters is growth along a continuum – not keeping up with the course.” I wish more teachers would take heed of this advice.

Know your staff...

Know your staff…

I have always maintained that to ‘learn’ your students is a most effective way to assist them in their own learning and to experience ‘success’. The same can also be said in this final message visualised here in a slide presented by Jeff Symms: Know your staff…

End of the first day.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 2 reflections here

“Cook dinner, don’t just supply the ingredients” (Tomlinson)

You know when you hear something that really gels with you? It’s that moment when culture meets a light bulb moment and suddenly you know. You know this is something that just has to be said.

That light bulb moment

That light bulb moment

The other day it happened to me, sitting in the ACEL conference listening to Carol Tomlinson talking differentiation. Now this was not the first or even second time I’ve had the pleasure to hear her speak in person. I had even heard the differentiated story she told, but it was the first time I connected with it in a new way.  It really brings to the fore the idea of readiness to learn. In order to learn, one must be open to learning. So when we teach, how do we know whether our students are ready to learn? How do we know if we are ready to learn from them in return?

Tomlinson at ACEL conference 2016

Tomlinson at ACEL conference 2016

Tomlinson compares the ingredients for dinner with that of curriculum. As ingredients, they stand alone but have very little to offer unless combined with other ingredients to make a meal. In fact, depending on the ingredients one can make a myriad of meals using them in different combinations. Let’s take similar ingredients to those that Tomlinson uses in her comparison:

 

Ingredients

Ingredients

The above, when combined, will make a meal (or 5 if you live at my place – if you want a list, I’d be happy to forward one) – the same as all the components of teaching. Teaching isn’t just one ingredient but should be a whole lot of ingredients which are combined to create a great learning experience. In combining the ingredients, however, one doesn’t necessarily have to use them all in every meal but they can be used in different combinations. Teaching is like this too. These ingredients on their own are not very inviting – but in combinations can make a number of really appetising meals.

So let’s compare this idea to teaching. What are some of the ingredients in teaching and learning?

Relationship? I suggest kilos and kilos of it. In fact, in my opinion, there is very little, if any teaching or learning that happens without this ingredient.

Curriculum – knowledge and skills?

Assessment – formative and summative?

Differentiation?

Environment – inviting and safe?

Emotional Intelligence?

Curiosity?

Imagination?

FUN?

Communication?

Collaboration?

Policy?

What else would you add?

Share the commitment to teaching and learning

Share the commitment to teaching and learning

In teaching and learning, there may be any combination of the above and more. Each class would need more or less of these depending on the needs of the students in that particular class. Even if one is teaching the same content to the same year level in two different classes, the ingredients would not be identical in both type and quantity. So when planning your next ‘cooking’ session with your class think carefully about the ingredients and combine them in such a way that really gels with your class. Take the time to ask your students, ‘What would you like for dinner?’ It will help you to become a much better cook, I guarantee it and ultimately they’ll enjoy the meal a whole lot more.

Dinner's READY!!!!

Dinner’s READY!!!!

 

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to revisit my #oneword2016

My word for 2016

My word for 2016

How far can #oneword go? It seems that it can travel quite a long way. On January 3rd I decided to get on the bandwagon and wrote a reflection on one word that would describe my journey for 2016. It is now May and time for me to review the journey so far…

My #oneword2016 is further’. I still very much love this word and it has, to date, served me well. There are five areas in my professional life in which I hoped to make progress during the year -to go ‘further’ and so far after 5 months I am really happy with where I’m at.

notes

Writing up my PhD proposal for confirmation

1. The PhD

The PhD is chugging along very nicely. In fact, I have just now received the email I was waiting for, “Jo I have just finished [reading] the final draft and am happy for this to go the panel now.” Of course that now means I am preparing for my confirmation -the 20 minute presentation to an academic panel who will feedback and hopefully give me the green light to go ahead with not too many amendments. I’ll let you know how that goes in a couple of weeks.

The second part of my PhD journey is continuing the #survivephd15 chat on twitter which has now morphed to just #survivephd and happens every first Thursday of each month at 8:30pm AEST. It’s not as fast paced as others but I’m happy to be able to extend the conversations beyond the themed questions. To date I have been following the same topics covered in the MOOC course last year but after next month that will end. So I’ll be looking for ideas from fellow PhDers on themes they would like to chat about. If you’re interested you can have a look at the storify from our last chat on BOREDOM.

2. Me as learner and teacher

IMG_0027

Oxford

 

Well I did say I wanted to go ‘further’ with this too and while I’m still doing some CRT work, I am also privileged to have a tutorial group of 2nd year pre-service teachers. They are currently on their school placements so won’t be seeing them for two weeks but trust me I have plenty to do, while they are out, marking their assignments. I have really enjoyed these classes watching them grow even in the short space of time, from when they first entered – only a few months ago – but in that time they have accomplished so much from being asked to teach a short session in a local school to getting up in front of their peers and running a half hour teaching session, to now finally completing assessments on reflective practice. I will miss them once the semester is over but hopefully there might be another opportunity in second semester to work again with pre-service teachers. Here’s hoping…

3. My coaching model

“In 2015, I was asked to work with a small team and develop a made to order coaching model for staff.”

Coaches in training

Coaches in training

The coaching model is developing well. We have now completed the initial training for our volunteer coaches and established a group of coachees ready for the pilot program which begins in August. Throughout the training we developed coaching contracts and conducted role plays in coaching conversations. We used multiple sources including AITSL coaching guidelines, GCI (see below), CEM, Group 8 Education, ideas from Instructional Coaching by Jim Knight, and reflections by Chris Munro,  to help develop our very own coaching model. We are also piloting different platforms for coaching conversations to happen including our own twitter hashtag #mlmccoaching, a private Facebook page and a Google classroom platform where we can share resources and give feedback. I intend pushing ‘further’ here and encourage the coaches take part in some coaching chats on twitter, most especially the Australian based #educoachOC.

I also decided that it would be beneficial learning for me in training others that I too follow this lead and signed up with Growth Coaching International (GCI) to learn more abut coaching and am currently in Phase Two working on telecoaching techniques. I am really enjoying reading the resources, making contact with peers and developing my skills. I hope to take this ‘further’ and sign up at the end of the next phase to become a qualified GCI coach!

In the meantime I’m preparing / developing the pilot program for my coaching school. The first two sessions will focus on building trust and relationships, without these there is no coaching success. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

4. Special needs advocacy

With the announcement by the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) earlier this year requiring teachers to attend professional learning specifically to assist and improve their capacity to teach learners with a disability, came many more enquiries from schools. I have also had a sharp hike in attendee numbers for my workshops with Critical Agendas. Last week’s session was over capacity with 47 teachers and support staff attending. Hard work, but I’m so happy that the message it getting out – certainly with a little help this area has gone ‘further’ as I have quite a number of workshops booked with schools across the metropolitan area and will continue my work in spreading the message that everyone deserves to be taught how they learn no matter where they start.

t-shirt logo

t-shirt logo

Continuing in the same vein of ‘special needs’ is the opportunity I have to work with a great bunch of people from the English Connect department and Monash University. I’m in the Peer Support group helping international students with written or spoken academic work. I’m loving this experience and the opportunity to witness our clients improve their grammar and pronunciation skills. I am so privileged to be teaching while at the same time growing as a learner myself, listening to their stories, and meeting lots of new people along the way.

5. Teaching the teacher

To date I have learnt so much already – completing my confirmation paper for my PhD was such a great learning curve and my main supervisor has taught me many new skills, as well as challenging me and supporting me in the process. I can’t wait to move into the next phase with still so much learning to do. My academic writing has improved – I am really chuffed at my skills of ‘crafting’ all my ideas into this paper. I hope I do it justice at the presentation.

The coaching model and training with GCI is something that I cherish and will continue to do so as I complete the training process.

Teaching and learning with my pre-service teachers was a career goal and hopefully I’ll have more opportunities to explore this ‘further’, along with learning at English Connect.

At the end of my post back in January I wrote:

My wish for 2016 is that I can go further but more importantly that as I go so it is that I am not alone, too far ahead or even too far behind. Will you take up the challenge with me? Are you willing to go … further?

Still stands….

Thanks for reading 🙂