Monday, May 22, 2017

The Silverdale Normal School Curriculum

Throughout the world there are exponential changes occurring that are going to impact on the lives of our learners. We need to be highly aware of these changes as we prepare learners for their future lives. The  three major factors are contributing to these changes:

Technology is changing our lives.  If you were to cast your mind back 10 years ago (before smartphones, Facebook and 3D printers) not even futurists were able to predict the advance in technology.  What will the next 10 years bring?  A wide range of technologies are influencing what the future workforce will look like.  At the time of writing this piece buildings are now being 3D printed overnight for a fraction of the cost of building, robots are completing surgeries and the first unmanned trucks have completed delivery of goods across America.  It is impossible to accurately predict what jobs will actually exist in the future.  
Population Growth
There are now more people on earth than at any time EVER.    
Can the planet sustain this?  Food, water, fuel, air…. How many people can the earth sustain.  Recent research has indicated that  if the average person consumed as much water as a person in India, the earth could sustain 15 billion people.  However if we took the average water use of a person in North America the figure would be 1.5 billion.  The current population of the world is 7.5 billion.  Never before have issues such as sustainability been so important.  
The world is shrinking.  As a result of technology people can communicate seamlessly in real time and travel is fast, efficient and increasingly affordable.  This provides more opportunity to collaborate and connect, but also creates pressures on the workforce.  It is now not good enough to be the best in your country, you need to be competitive on the world stage.  An understanding of cultural difference is now only a fraction of what is required of our learners.    There has never been more opportunity to collaborate and connect.  

Sir Ken Robinson believes that these pressures have some implications for curriculum design.  He believes that the purpose of education is:

‘To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens’.

He also believes that an effective curriculum is made up of two major parts:

The world outside us (of our skins)- history, traditions.
The world exists only because you do-  your world alone.   Learners inner world.  
Can we bring the learners inner world into the curriculum world...
Education doesn’t cater for the learners inner world…..

We believe that these two aspects are played out via our:
-Emerging curriculum framework which has sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, hauora and globalisation at it's centre.
-Our SNS Learner attributes.

We look forward to sharing more of our curriculum development at a parent evening or session this term.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Teacher Training in New Zealand

Last Week a number of the Normal School’s executive flew to Wellington to meet with the Education Council, Ministry of Education and Deans of the Universities to discuss Initial Teacher Education in New Zealand (how we develop quality teachers).  During the meeting with the Education Council we discussed a range of options for teacher education.  You can imagine my surprise when my wife brought the article (below) to my attention this evening which states that teacher education in New Zealand will become a purely post grad qualification. In the article below Dr Graham Stoop states that "That is a position that the council has thoughtfully adopted with the initial teacher education providers”. As a principal of a Normal School which works with a wide range of teachers (both pre and post graduate) and a member of the executive group of Normal School principals I am wondering if I may have missed Graham’s call…

I have a number of concerns of this direction in teacher training…

New Zealand is an ethnically diverse country (and becoming more so, by the day).  New Zealand schools need a diverse range of teachers and leaders.  Research over many years shows that the pathway that people take to become teachers are varied depending on age, gender, culture, motivation and socio-economic factors.  Do we want to block the pathway for some prospective teachers?  Post grad teaching degrees don't currently allow students to gain an allowance which I have witnessed firsthand as being a deterrent to potential teaching students.  Aren’t we already facing teacher shortages in some key areas in NZ?

University = Dollars
Waikato University has been known for many years as a lighthouse for teacher education in New Zealand.  As well as providing multiple pathways, the University has had a wide range of specialist educators, lecturers and relationships with Normal Schools.  These programmes have been recognised to work.... by creating great teachers!  Over the last couple of years these expert practitioners have been decimated as the University focuses on retaining lecturers whose motivation is research based (to raise University ranking points), whilst quality practitioners with real life school experience are lost.  It seems that $$ and rankings mean more to the new vice chancellor than quality graduates.  Does he understand what a quality teacher programme looks like and the resources it needs?

Why?  New Zealand Context
One of my previous blog postings questioned whether NZ education has actually considered what is right for the NZ context...  Yes, teachers in Finland have Masters level qualifications as a baseline, but what do Finland and NZ have in common?  The status of teaching in Finland is high, but not because of the Masters qualifications.  Do the All Blacks follow trends in the world of rugby?

Consultation-  in word only
As I mentioned previously, last week I attended meetings in Wellington with a range of stakeholders in NZ Education, including the Education Council.  At a meeting at the Education Council this direction wasn't mentioned.  You would think that the Normal Schools Association would be a major stakeholder in consultation considering that we work with a huge range and number of student teachers every year.  This gives me little confidence for any consultation...

A rich curriculum?
At Ms Parata's last cross sector education meeting she spoke (very passionately) about the importance of a rich curriculum for all learners.  How can teachers do this, without proper training?  Ten weeks in a classroom is not enough time to learn the craft of teaching, let alone learn how to develop relationships with staff, parents and learners (of all cultures). Dr Graham Stoop states in the article that "Every teacher in the country would have a bachelor degree in arts or science or commerce, law, whatever it happens to be. That would give us the content knowledge that we want them to have.  What a load of nonsense... Learning about another subject (say a science degree) and then a year's teaching is not enough.  Do we ask lawyers to learn about architecture before beginning law?  Teaching is a practice based profession.  Perhaps all politicians should study education before becoming ministers...

I urge anyone with a vested interest in education and learners to add their voice to consultation, if in fact the Education Council engages in this in a real, meaningful way.  I intend to add to this blog post to link to current and relevant research. And for the record, I have a MEd qualification (Educational Leadership). This is not a defensive post about qualifications....

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Learner Agency at Silverdale Normal School

The link (above) highlights the importance of learner agency for our learners futures.  Learner agency, simply defined as learners having 'control' of their learning.

At Silverdale Normal School there are many threads that, when woven together empower students to take charge of their learning (and lives).

Our SNS Learner Dimensions
The four categories and 16 dimensions of the SNS Learner were created by our community based on what we believe our students will need for success in their futures.  An example of this is inherent in our 'Taking Charge' category.  We believe that:
-Learners need opportunities to discover their talents, passions, interests and strengths.  We believe this can be a life changing event.
-Learners need to know how to turn dreams into realities.  Learning how to set SMART goals and being given support to reach them creates positive lifelong habits.  We provide many opportunities for guests from a range of fields to come and spend time with our learners to share their stories.

Our Key Concepts and Learning Model
Our conceptual curriculum has been designed thoughtfully to give our learners the opportunity to be exposed to key concepts that our community believe will be essential to understand.  This conceptual framework includes globalisation, citizenship, sustainability, hauora and enterprise.  Our learners are exposed to these concepts in spirals that increase in complexity as students grow.  Our learning model of Explore, Understand and Apply recognises that learning needs to be authentic and relevant to the lives of our learners. There should be no need to ask 'Why are we doing this?!'

Our Pathways
At Silverdale Normal School we have developed Academic, Sporting, Cultural and Service pathways for our learners.  This gives our students the opportunity to find their strengths, talents and interests.  An example of this is the opportunities that our Mandarin Language Assistant provides our learners teaching them Chinese culture and language.  Whilst we don't believe our children will become fluent in the language, it may light a spark for future years in their schooling at Berkley and Hillcrest High.

NZer that have made a positive difference
Each of our rooms is named after a NZer that our community has identified as 'Making a Positive Difference'.  We regularly talk about these people and the dispositions that they have displayed in their lives.  These provide some amazing models for our learners.

Our Values
Watch this space!  Community consultation is underway about how Silverdale Normal School can be the 'dream school' for it's learners.

I believe that learner agency is more than a statement or a sign that promotes lifelong learning at the school.  These threads, when woven together empower our learners to 'take charge' of their learning and therefore an element of 'agency' with their learning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Learning in New Zealand- being kiwi.

Education in New Zealand

In the 1970’s / 80’s New Zealand was seen as a leading light in education.  Visiting educationalists from around the world visited our shores to investigate the work of Marie Clay and the Reading Recovery Programme or the innovative work of Gwen Gawith in information literacy.  Now, despite New Zealand teachers and leaders still being in demand around the world politicians and decision makers in the New Zealand system are looking overseas for answers to challenges.  

This short reflection is going to consider whether initiatives from overseas are relevant in a New Zealand context and what implications this has for leaders.  

Masters Level Teachers
The Finnish education system has been under the spotlight in recent years for it’s stunning PISA results. How did a country with an undistinguished education system in the 1980s surge to the head of the global class in just few decades?  As a result countries have been dissecting their programme in a bid to replicate these results.  

An example of this is in Finland the entry requirement for permanent employment as a teacher in all Finnish basic and high schools today is a master’s degree.  This has resulted in New Zealand experimenting with one-year qualifications for post-grad students.  It is too early to say whether this attempt to replicate the Finnish System is going to be a success or not- however it is important to note that in Finnish culture teaching is a highly valued occupation.    Normally it’s not enough to complete high school and pass a rigorous matriculation examination, successful candidates must have the highest scores and excellent interpersonal skills. Annually only about 1 in every 10 applicants will be accepted to study to become a teacher in Finnish primary schools.  As a result the decision New Zealand initial teacher education providers have made to ‘fast track’ masters level students may not address the major reason why Finnish teachers are so successful (the Finnish Masters students study educational theory and practice over five years).  

National Standards have have been in existence in New Zealand since 2010.  The introduction of standards follows the ‘No child left behind’ model in the United States, key stages and league tables in Great Britain and Naplan in Australia.  This model of educational reform concentrates on a narrow view of the curriculum, usually focused on reading, writing and mathematics and in forming stages that children should be achieving within at a particular age.  

There is no evidence across all nations mentioned above that this initiative (and hundreds and millions of dollars) has made a difference.  An example of this is analysis completed by Lester Flockton of three years of standards in New Zealand (below).  

Community of Learning
I look forward to providing a detailed commentary of this after my trip to Toronto, where their community of schools model has been in operation for a number of years.  New Zealand’s Community of learning ideas is in a formative stage with many leaders questioning whether a collaborative model can fit on a competitive framework.  

What we can learn from Sport!
When things go well-  Kiwi’s as Kiwi’s

Late in 2014, Australian cricketer Phil Hughes was hit on the side of the head by a bouncer and killed sending world cricket into mourning.  At that time Brendon McCullum’s Black Caps were preparing for a test match versus Pakistan in Dubai.  The New Zealand debated for a period of time as to whether they should pull out of the game, with many of the team losing a friend.  It was decided that the game should proceed, with McCullum encouraging the team to relax and play ‘as kiwis’....  This became a watershed moment with the team playing excited, unrestrained cricket sending the team on a trajectory that finished in the final of the one day World Cup.  Up until that point the Black Caps had always modelled their game on the Australian model of competitiveness, intensity and sledging….. Phil Hughes taught them to play cricket as kiwis.  

The All Blacks are recognised as being one of the most successful sporting organisations in the world with a winning ratio of approaching 80%.  

This success has been based on the premise that the All Blacks play for the pride in the black jersey, developed over one hundred years of tradition, blood, sweat and tears.  The national team takes the strength of individuals, the weaving of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha into a truly formidable team.  Kiwi’s playing as kiwis…..

Can New Zealand Education learn from these sporting examples?  Do we truly consider the New Zealand context, our learners and community before introducing ideas?  I look forward to debating this issue in the coming months.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Why am I?

Over the past few weeks I have been using some of my spare time to few the fasinating four part documentary of the Dunedin Study, 'Why am I?' This was a landmark study that has closely studied the lives of 1042 pepole born in Dunedin in 1972 onwards.

The major quesiton of this study-  'what really makes us who we are'?

The findings of the study that were shared ask some real questions for education and learning in New Zealand school.  A topic that my blog has centred on regularly has been the essential nature of the Silverdale Learner assets (represented by our puzzle pieces).  Whilst this thinking is highlighted in the study, an area that grabbed my attention was the importance of our children's first years.

The study (highlighted in episode three) really considers the essential nature of wrapping support around our children.  A direct statement from one of the researchers was that nuturing for children is the water and sunshine.... what is in the environment when our children are growing up?

The Dunedin Study is directly challenging the life long argument of nature versus nuture....  by stating that our environment can influence how our genes operate.  A finding from the study is that a positive upbringing will benefit everyone- it is the best foundation for a happy life.

What implications does this have for education?

We want (need) to have our school to be about learning and fun!  A place where children are exposed to a wide range of experiences relevant and meaningful to their lives.  For example, two of our junior teachers are currently investigating what a 'mindful' classroom can look like....

The Minstry of Education's recent policy direction has been strongly influenced by neoliberal forces, and an attempt to 'cherry pick' the best ideas from countries around the world seen as being world leaders.  An obvious example is the Finnish education system (Masters level teachers and Pisa results), Singapore (use of technology and initial teacher education) and Canada (communities of learning).

What we seem to be missing is the level of thought to consider how this would translate to a New Zealand context and the philosophy, systems and structures that underpin the successful education systems in these countries.  

Let's take one example.....  in Finland students train for up to seven years to become teachers after rigorous entry screening.  This is a result of a culture in which teachers are trusted and in which becoming a teacher is seen to be a prestigous profession.  However it is in the start to Finnish children's lives that most fascinates me.  The Finnish government provides parental pay for the first seven years of a child's life and trains parents in the skill of being 'the first teacher'.  I would like to suggest that this is a huge part of what leads to success for Finnish children later in their lives (as would the Dunedin Study).

I look forward to considering the findings of the Dunedin Report and how they can influence decisions at Silverdale Normal School and national forums I am involved in regarding teaching standards and initial teacher education.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A published article

Today I was a very proud learner......  Everyday our team at Silverdale Normal School encourage our students to embrace learning opportunities and to understand that the main purpose of school is not the acquisition of facts, but the ability to learn how to learn!

Since completing my dissertation which was a requirement of our MEd (Educational Leadership) I had been encouraged by Kerry Earl at the University of Waikato to take some of my learnings and consider how they could be applied to school settings in New Zealand.

Today I am the author of my first published article 'Digital Technologies- From Vision to Action'.  The timing of this article is very opportune considering that this week the Ministry of Education has stated that it is making the first formal change to it's curriculum of 2007 by adding a computing framework.

My article considers how the integration of digital technologies can be effectively managed in schools with learners very much at the centre of the process.  I look forward to sharing some of my findings via this blog in the next few weeks.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Learning in New Zealand

This week has seen a sustained attack on education and teachers in New Zealand.  After twenty years involved in a range of teaching and leadership roles in New Zealand education I thought that it was important to form some response.

Firstly, bringing education to the forefront of New Zealander's consciousness is positive.  Everyone has been through the system themselves and has an opinion about what worked (or didn't) for them. Opening up debate about what a quality education system is (and all the components that make it) is worthwhile, as without sounding to corny-  our children are our future!....

Recently education in New Zealand has been focussed on 'so called' National Standards in which success for our children is based upon reaching NCEA Level Two by being presented by milestones to reach from entry to school at five.  This idea is flawed for three simple reasons:
-Children of different backgrounds, cultures, interests, genders and maturity don't come to school at the same stage.
-Children don't learn at the same rate and in easy bite sized chunks.
-Reading, Writing and Mathematics provide an essential base, but are by no means representative of what learners need to be successful in their lives.  See Gavin Clark's blog post on this

Above are two excerpts from Mark Treadwell's book Learning (2014).  Both graphs display real data from both the United States of America and Australia.  These countries, despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested in education and a sole focus on reading, writing and mathematics have done nothing other than speed up the rate in which students learn, with the end literacy and mathematics levels being almost identical.

What am I suggesting?
-The way we teach, how we teach and what we gauge as success needs to change.
-The way we connect with our parents and whanau needs to improve..... from engaging with the community to involving them in the learning life of their children.  I will cover this in my next blog post.