As Term 3 begins in New Zealand, I always think that halfway through the year is a great time to check how everything is going in your innovative learning environment. When teachers begin to collaborate, one of the bonuses is the frequent "check in" moments. Those quick discussions at morning tea or the after school sessions when you talk about your day.
However, I also think it is important to really stop and reflect on how teaching and learning is working in your class. When you're working in an ever changing, evolving environment it's important to assess how you are doing!
I wanted to share two tools that I think are really valuable to support teachers in doing this. They could be used alone or together. The best thing, is they are both free! The first is the Core Education MLE Matrix. This has been around for a while and is still an excellent tool to track how your school or space is progressing, towards sustainable and mature innovative learning practice. Depending where you are on your ILE journey, you would use different parts of the matrix. It's a great way of seeing how far you have come and what your next steps might be. The questions also support you to check if you really are where you think you are.
How could you gather evidence to support where you think you fit on the matrix?
Could you involve learners or whānau as part of this process?
There are ten dimensions to explore and five process elements. There are also guiding questions posed as success measures around ubiquity, agency and connectedness.
The other tool that I recommend looking at is the Grow Waitaha Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. Once again, this is free and available on the Grow Waitaha website. Permission has been given for adaptations to be made. For those unfamiliar, Grow Waitaha is a programme running in Canterbury, supporting education renewal in the area after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
The Monitoring and Evaluation Framework describes the areas that schools need to consider if a future-focused vision is to be realised. When in use with a school it effectively becomes a ‘tool’ that can be used to monitor progress over time. Its purpose is for schools to be able to evaluate, plan and monitor their progress throughout their build process to ensure that they will be in a position to maximise the potential of their new or redeveloped spaces.
Although designed to support schools through the building process, it could easily be adapted for use in your ILE. The framework identifies nine aspects that enable schools to advance with their transformation of teaching and learning practice. Schools can identify where they think they fit on a rubric, reflect and plan out next steps accordingly.
If you use these tools, it's important to remember that no ILE is the same and they are ever changing, evolving places. Changes in staffing, learners, community, leadership and buildings can all have an impact on teaching and learning. It's not a race to get to the "final column" of these tools and to stay there. Often, it's a case of forward and backward movement, revisiting something that has fallen by the wayside, deciding that you need to go back in order to move forward.
Two examples I have seen recently of this have included:
A teaching team who has moved into a new, purpose built learning environment. They have needed to revisit collaboration with their learners and really build some understandings about working together in their new space. They had done some prototyping of this in their previous environment, but the learners are struggling to transfer these skills.
A teaching team that has had several staffing changes. They have needed to go back and redevelop their shared vision for innovative learning, in order to make sure they move forward together as a cohesive team. They are also planning how to include their learners in this process.
Speaking of the learners, there is the other piece in this process. Half way through the year is always a great time to collect some student and community voice. Check out this previous blog post on Student Voice in the Collaborative Classroom for some tips!
How best could these tools be used in your space?
Could you include them as part of a staff meeting?
Would your collaborative teaching team benefit from looking at them together?
What other questions do you still need to ask?
I really enjoyed this quick read article by David Jakes about ideas! It's all about how teachers need to come up with better and more innovative ideas in order for change to occur.
"Change is dependent on generating ideas, and about creating ideas that have magnitude — and that really is the key. Big ideas, ideas that potentially position the organization beyond their horizon line, bold, creative, audacious ideas, and those that make you tilt your head, squint your eyes, and then slightly nod. And then smile."
This kind of leads to a Core Blog Post that I recently wrote based on the video "Beyond the Obvious". It's all about how we often hold back sharing our own thoughts because we don't think they're any good. How do we encourage others to share their ideas in order for collaboration to take things to the next level? How do we create the conditions for this in our schools?
"There’s a reason that collaborative teaching is often called “power teaching.” By collaborating with others we combine expertise. Interacting with a wide range of people lets us gain multiple perspectives. This in turn leads to greater chances of our ideas intersecting or colliding, increasing the likelihood of creativity and innovation. We can share ideas that may then evolve into transformative action."
Think about sharing these readings with your staff to build a dialogue.
Questions to consider:
Do you have a school culture that encourages all contributions?
Do you indulge in "blue sky thinking" that lets people think creatively?
Do you allow for collaboration within your staff?
Do you encourage multiple perspectives? Do you engage with student and community voice?
"Little ideas are easy. Big, potentially impactful ideas — not so much." David Jakes
Check out this awesome blog post from my colleague Mark Osborne. Some great strategies for creating a sense of belonging and including all when developing an ILE.
Many people worry about their children feeling lost as we move towards larger more open spaces. Great to see the issue addressed, rather than "glossed over" which can tend to happen. Take a look at the reflective questions and apply to your context.
Such a privilege yesterday to be able to see the brand, spanking new West Rolleston School! The school welcomed their foundation pupils with an opening ceremony and assembly yesterday morning, then allowed the general public to come along in the afternoon.
They have only been in the buildings for a few weeks, but the work they have done is amazing! There are still a few finishing touches to be made and some more furniture to arrive, but they are ready to go!
The story around the choice of colours and the development of the environment is just beautiful! Each learning studio represents the local culture through a direct link to colour and the environment.
One thing I found interesting - you could really see the thought they had put into designing learning spaces. I could imagine the pedagogical approaches they will be using just from the way the spaces are set up. Thank you so much to Sylvia Fidow and the team for taking the time for an open night, the day before school officially starts.
Check out some of the amazing flexible spaces!
Wide Open Spaces!
Break out spaces/ Groovy furniture.
So it is Summer Break here in New Zealand. Christmas and New Year is done and dusted once more! Of course, Summer will fly by and before we know it, teachers will start heading to school to get organised for their new classes! In a few short weeks schools will be buzzing with excited students (and parents). So what is going to be your focus for 2016?
Whenever I would head back into the empty school in January, I was always struck by two things. 1 - the quiet and 2 - the pile of "stuff" that I hadn't quite managed to deal with in the rush of finishing the previous year! It was always a great time to reflect on the successes and challenges of the past and to start thinking about the year ahead. As learning centred educators, we are always engaging in this natural form of "teaching as inquiry." Thinking about what engaged our learners and was successful so we know what to do more of, but also thinking about what wasn't working well so we know where to improve.
So to get you started, here are a few of thoughts about what is worth spending your precious time on as you start a new year.
1) Your collaborative relationships.
Do you have a new co-teacher? Are you co-teaching for the first time? Do you have new people coming onto your teaching team? However you are organised and even if you are working with the same people, it is key that you put in the time to find out about each other, your strengths and skills and plan for the way you will work together.
The fantastic Steve Mouldey(@GeoMouldey) has put this resource on The Pond - a questionnaire for getting to know your co-teacher. (PDF copy at the end of this post.) It could easily be adapted to a variety of settings. Also if you're not on The Pond or the Virtual Learning Network,maybe this is the year to join and start exploring some of the awesome resources and discussions that are on there!
2) Student Voice
Getting to know your new students and gathering student voice and input is key to establishing authentic positive relationships quickly. How will you quickly access information about your students' opinions, ideas and strengths? Is this maybe an opportunity to get rid of some of those tired first week of school activities and to try something different?
3 Organising your virtual space
Have you had a tidy up of your virtual space? If you are reusing parts of it ( and hopefully you are if it is a site or weebly ) have you checked for out of date information, archived old student work that is no longer needed and fixed broken links? Make sure you're working smart - moved rooms? You may just need to change your site address or class twitter handle.
4. Organising your learning environment
Here's a job to take off your list NOW! This is not your job! This is one of your learners' jobs! Sure, you might have some furniture to quickly move and a couple of posters to put up, but this is no longer your responsibility! I remember spending days setting up and rearranging my classroom furniture, but in the past few years it's been all on my kids! Once again - ditch that " All about me" poster and get the kids involved in setting up spaces for their learning. Document the journey and create a resource for the class. These blog posts have some ideas for starting out! CEM #2, Just like Starting Over
4. Start Scanning
From Day 1, this is the time to start thinking about Teaching as Inquiry for 2016. In the scanning phase of Spirals of Inquiry, we need to be genuinely curious about our learners and to stay open to all kinds of new information and insights. I often find that in these early days, you might spot something that leads to a "hunch" that may need further investigation as the year progresses. Just keep it on your radar.
5. Improve One Thing
Challenge yourself to make an improvement with one thing. Maybe your reading programme needs a revamp? Does your school have a professional development focus in a learning area that you could build on? Maybe you are never making it outside with the students to fitness? You might want to ask better questions. But just pick one area that you know needs improvement and focus some energy on that.
6. Try One New Thing
Ok, so number 5 features improving something that you already do. But what about trying one NEW thing? Maybe this is the year you become a tweeter. Maybe you've always wanted to write a blog? You might want to try students running their own learning workshops as part of your classroom programme? Seek some support from your colleagues if necessary - perhaps someone is a whizz at GAFE and you really want to upskill. Model being a learner in front of your students.
7. Set a self-care goal.
Don't burn out in the first three weeks! Remember to take care of yourself too! Teaching is one wild ride! Don't sweat the small stuff and focus on what's important - those excited kids coming through the doors ready to learn! Good luck!
This week I was lucky enough to go back to my old 'hood at Clearview Primary. I was catching up with Tori Wilby ( @miss_wilby, @Clearview7and8) who has been using Hapara Workspace with her Year 7/8 class.
I've long been a fan of Hapara Teacher Dashboard - such an amazing way to organise google apps, which let's you take the collaborative GAFE suite next level! Hapara Workspace builds on the features of the dashboard, by allowing you to create learning pathways/ sequences of work for your students. Students are able to easily access selected resources, complete activities in google drive, collaborate easily and receive and respond to feedback. If you already have Teacher Dashboard, you have Workspace available to you also.
When I visited, one of the Year 7/8 reading groups was in the process of finishing up working on the novel "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley. A challenging text, but the students were so engaged and told me how much they had enjoyed the novel. Most students had the novel as an ebook, and some had it as a graphic novel. ( Love this differentiation - following the principles of Universal Design for Learning.)
To support this novel study, Tori has run guided reading sessions, where there has been close analysis of selections from the text. Vocabulary development and comprehension have been they key focuses of these sessions. Student discussion and collaboration is planned for in these sessions.
Student learning activities have then been available on the "Workspace." Tori has added relevant resources such as videos and weblinks, then attached a range of google docs/slides/forms that the students need to access in order to complete their reading task followups. Workspace allows you to sort students into groups to allow for even further levels of differentiation. Some of the activities are collaborative, with a task shared amongst a group of students and some are for individuals.
When Tori opens Workspace, she can see all the learning pathways she currently has running.
This is what the "Frankenstein" workspace set up looks like. You can add learning intentions/ goals, rubrics and more!
Tori highlighted the key benefits of using workspace in her classroom and for this unit of work:
An added feature in Workspace is the ability to set due dates for assignments. Once a student has submitted their work, Tori is able to assess it. If necessary, she can send the work back to the student for editing. The newly added "see recent changes" feature in google docs lets her see modifications instantly once the students resubmit their work. When Tori is happy with the completed work, she marks it as assessed. Workspace then makes a copy of the work and puts it in a separate folder. This means Tori is now the owner of that piece of work and has a final copy from that moment in time. The students get their own copy back and could make modifications if they wish, but Tori still has the finalised copy. She can then easily download these as PDF's and will sometimes make into a class book - either by printing, or importing into a programme such as Book Creator or ibooks author.
It was great to touch base with the students and talk to them about their learning. Some benefits that they highlighted from this unit of work were:
A huge thanks to Tori and the Challenge Team for having me along to their class. And MIND BLOWN: Did you know that Frankenstein is NOT the name of the monster in the story, but the name of the monster's creator?? STILL SHOCKED. Maybe I need to add this book to my summer reading list. To end with, check out these amazing thoughts from the students - the slide show below is from their K-W-L slides that they had worked on throughout the novel study. These are some of the "L" learned slides.
Used with acknowledgement and cited below:
Introduction/ Executive Summary
The future that we face today is unknown. Often we are surprised! Mistakes and failures will happen and it is important that we fully understand these to create a context for learning and growth.
The world no longer rewards people for what they know. Being able to extrapolate from what we know and apply learning to new and novel situations is key. Creativity and Innovation are required.
Education is now more about ways of thinking,communicating and collaborating, using technology well and the development of social and emotional skills.
It will be more important to be a VERSATILIST - able to apply a depth of skill to a wide range of situations, capable of changing and adapting at a rapid pace and being able to reposition oneself in fast paced environments.
The focus is shifting from individual achievements, to acknowledging the power of collaboration to support innovation and development.
The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey found that 2/3 of teachers said their schools were "hostile to innovation." Innovative Learning Environments still remain the exception, not the rule.
Drivers for change include the penetration of technology, employer's interest in education, global connections and new learning providers.
Page 12, 13 of Executive Summary - A Learning System that that has a thoroughly integrated ILE framework will have:
Education has become more and more important world wide. Driver of this is economic and based around education's role in maintaining competitiveness in the world. Global interdependence has fuelled comparative measures. These have led to pressures to reform education.
Key issues - engagement of students, especially teenagers, perceived role of teachers in society and the value placed on the profession, slow pace of change in education, systemic change needed rather than isolated innovation.
Learning systems extend well beyond schools and to enact change, we must look beyond the traditional partners and structures.
Page 18/19 - Framework for ILE: The 7+3 model.
Page 20 - The C's! Common features of ILE strategies and Initiatives
Time - system change takes TIME. Time for relationship building, connections and interaction.
A system transformation - there will have been a matching shift in educator's views, knowledge and practice. Widespread use of social media and technology. Culture of evaluative thinking and self-review. Distributed leadership. Evidence based decisions.
What kinds of broader changes and conditions are needed in order for the "7+3" to become commonplace features of learning systems?
What will the indicators be?
1)Reduce Standardisation, Foster Innovation, Broaden Institutions.
Standard rules and procedures should not be barriers to innovation.
Allow for non-formal learning opportunities, both face to face and in online communities.
2) Accountability and Metrics for 21st century learning.
Page 25/26 - ALL these messages are key!
3)Promoting leadership, trust and learner agency.
Effective, distributed leadership is critical.
Learners must be active partners in their learning establishment's design, curriculum and decision making.
High trust environments and connectedness with all stake holders.
4)Widespread collaborative expert professionalism.
5) Ubiquitous Professional Learning.
Professional development opportunities in evaluation and evaluative thinking.
The real and virtual environments inhabited by teachers should be conducive to professional exchange and dialogue.
6) Connectivity and extensive digital infrastructure.
7) Flourishing cultures of networks and partnerships.
Horizontal connection and collaboration.
8) Powerful knowledge systems and cultures of evaluation.
There needs to be a culture of diagnostic expertise and evaluation.
Indicators of the widespread adoption of the ILE framework:
Chapter 3: Promising Strategies for spreading ILE's
From studies of 26 countries:
Culture change: more important than surface change, but much more difficult to realise.
Clarifying Focus: Don't have too many things going on at once. Innovate, but remain focused. Doing the "same old" has not improved student achievement and quality.
Capacity Creation: Knowledge and Professional Learning. Generate knowledge about student learning and how that knowledge will be acted upon.
Collaboration and Co-operation: Collaborative professionalism is necessary for innovation.Professional Learning Networks are key.
Communication and Technology Platforms - supporting the development of an ILE.
Change Agents: people who are able to provide influence on the ground and provide the expertise and drive to maintain innovation.
Chapter 4: Growing Innovative Learning through Meso - Level networking.
Chapter 5: Transformation and Leadership in Complex Learning Systems.
Sockburn School held their Professional Learning Group session this week. Marc, Rachael, Sarah and Lucy walked us through their journey so far with collaborative teaching and learning.
The meeting began with principal Heather Wilkinshaw discussing how in 2014, they modified some of their existing buildings in order to begin making some pedagogical changes. In 2018, Sockburn School will move to a new, purpose built site at Wigram Skies. To prepare for this move, all staff felt it was important to begin working collaboratively. Sockburn's vision is "Together we learn, Together we succeed," so working in this way very much supported this.
Rachael outlined how they got started. "In 2014, we had two archways cut out of our existing classroom walls. So 3 single cell classrooms became a teaching space for 2 teachers and a mixed year 1 and 2 class. We had to discover how to adapt and work together. We initially started with teaching our reading collaboratively, then expanded into other curriculum areas. We wanted to see how people were being creative with existing spaces, so we visited lots of other schools to see how they were operating. At the end of 2015 we were able to choose some new furniture which was really exciting. In 2015 we moved to a power of 3, so three teachers work in the space with around 60 children."
The Sockburn team now plan and teach collaboratively in this way:
The Sockburn team have the following recommendations to create a cohesive and connected team:
Be professionally reflective - in the beginning, things would sometimes change hour by hour, based on discussions and reflection.
Transparent conversations are vital.
Examine effectiveness - look at outcomes in a global way - relationships, social skills, achievement. Think about tracking a cohort.
Allow staff to be creative. Think about how you offer support.
Consider diverse learners. What modifications might you need to make for individuals?
Instant feedback for teachers allows for people to develop their own self-worth as educators.
Check out the Pohutukawa Team Blog to see their awesome learners!
The conversations following the PLG presentation were amazing. We toured the Sockburn team's learning spaces, had some wonderful kai and talked and talked! These PLG meetings are such a great opportunity to network and talk to others about their collaborative teaching and innovative practices.
Visit the PLG blog to register for upcoming events.
4 weeks has just flown by! Here we are in the final part of this series - Assessment and Monitoring. Remembering back to Week 1, the big question from a reader was: What are the teachers doing? What are the kids doing? How do you monitor and assess?
As I always say, there isn't any one size fits all solution for any school and the conversations that you have as a collaborative staff are key in making these important decisions. Once again, WHY you are assessing and monitoring comes first, followed by what you will do and how you will do it.
When people first start teaching collaboratively, it does feel different than a single cell class. I found it hard to keep track of all the children in my head. Sometimes I would forget who was in my reading groups and who was in my writing groups. Systems, timetables and lists became more important. After teaching 24 kids for EVERYTHING and knowing them really well, of course it's not going to be the same with 75 kids that you teach for SOME THINGS. To start with I worried that I was losing my connections and relationships with the kids and their families. But you know what? I adjusted to a "new normal". So maybe I needed to check a piece of data for a kid because it wasn't right there in my head - when I saw the huge increase in student learning, engagement and progress I could cope with that. I still had great relationships with my kids and their families - just now there was more of them and also another adult in the room who also knew them and who could share their insights with me.
Danger zone - Do be careful not to create unmanageable systems that means you're recording all sorts of information that no-one will ever go back and use! How you do set up your assessment and monitoring systems will also be influenced by the numbers of students and teachers in your team. For example, 2 teachers working together might have more informal systems than 4 teachers working together.
Of course, any country is governed by some formal regulations about assessment/ reporting to parents and in New Zealand we are no different. Whether you agree or not there are some things that just have to be done - so what is the best way to do them? ( This is my favourite blog post ever about reporting - worth a read!)
So here's some ideas featuring systems that I have seen work well in innovative learning environments. I hope there's something here that can work for you or that you can adapt.
Below are some examples of different formats for recording information. Identifying information such as name columns and personal notes have been removed, but hopefully you get the idea!
Tony Grey's (Kowhai School) sabbatical work this year has been fantastic! Start off Week 3 of #CENZ15 with a look at this great video about the benefits of collaborative teaching.
I really like this blog post by Greg Carroll from Core Education, which explains the difference between collaboration, co-operation and connections.
Collaboration - This is where people are so inextricably linked that they couldn’t function without the others. The effect is much bigger than the sum of the two parts. In MLP this is the thing that makes the difference. Teachers share and organise the programme in ways that mean you couldn’t split the ways of working back into its parts again.
As Greg goes on to say, true collaboration is still quite rare in our schools. Often there are aspects of it, but it is important to recognise real collaboration as opposed to co-operation. Of course, co-operation is required in the classroom all the time - "I'll get the PE gear - you get the kids organised into their teams." "I'll plan the inquiry unit header, you plan the maths unit header." The key difference here is that even though the co-operation makes things better, those teachers could do this on their own if they needed to.
Wondering: As you reflect on your past practices or current practice, how much is co-operative and how much is truly collaborative?
This week I'm looking at Collaborative Planning and ideas for getting started with this. As I mentioned last week, often when people begin co-teaching, they might begin just in one curriculum area and gradually expand on this. The same is often true for planning together. You might find when you first start that you just adapt one area of your planning, assessment and evaluating. It may make sense to both have copies of what you are doing, in place with your other planning documents.Then, as you progress, you may end up with everything being shared and worked on in one place. Some teachers still need to print out plans and write all over them. Others are happy to be in a totally digital world. It's important to cater for the teaching styles of everyone and see what suits different people.
Without a doubt though, collaborative digital tools such as Google Docs making working with others to plan, assess and reflect so much easier. Most schools who are doing well with this are using GAFE, Office 365, Evernote or similar to create living documents that are owned by everyone and accessible anywhere, anytime. Some are taking it next level and sharing planning with students and parents.
This diagram from the VLN shows ways in which collaborative planning might happen. What I would add to the diagram, is the powerful conversations that take place while collective planning is going on. It's not just about timetabling, but this is when those incidental teaching as inquiry type conversations happen! "What was that awesome activity your learners were doing in reading last week?" " Does anyone have any good ideas on the best ways to introduce fractions?" " Did you notice that studentx was really struggling with getting going with writing reports?" This is where the power of collaboration comes in.
I found that once in a co-teaching situation, the quality of teaching and learning activities increased hugely. For example, I went from teaching Maths in a single cell class to Stages 3, 4, 5 and 6 groups, to working in a power of 3 teaching 3 groups at Stage 5. Even though there were variances within those groups, my understanding of the concepts at that stage improved. As I taught concepts, I had the chance to reflect and analyse what had worked well, prior to teaching the same concept to my next group. When I compared the amount of work that my Stage 5 groups got through, compared to my single Stage 5 group the year before, I couldn't believe how much more I had taught in the co-teaching situation.
Take a look at these crowd sourced examples of collaborative planning templates and check out this thread of ideas on the Virtual Learning Network.
Recently I was at a workshop discussing a school's journey working collaboratively. One of the key misunderstandings from the participants was they thought collaborative planning meant planning every single thing together. They were thinking that all three teachers would sit and plan for 12 reading groups all together, same for maths etc. While that might work for some, most of us simply wouldn't have enough hours in the day! More often, what would happen is that teachers would discuss their reading programme, identify any barriers to learning, share good ideas and finalise their timetable for the following week. They might organise workshop opportunities, hot spot activities, motivating lesson starters and target group instruction.Then each teacher would plan their own lessons for the students they are teaching. They would link their planning to the collaborative document so that anyone could access. (Hot Tip - link a folder that you have filed weekly plans into, rather than linking to the weekly plan. This means that you can just duplicate the last plan and the link will remain.) There is definitely still room for individual teacher creativity and teaching to strengths.
Wonderings to Consider:
How will you start planning collaboratively? With one curriculum area or multiple areas?
How will you adjust your timetable to allow for multiple teaching and learning sessions?
Do you have a MATES agreement in place? ( See #CEM 1 blog post )
What are the best systems for your teaching team to use to plan, assess and evaluate?
How can you share your planning with students and whanau? What is appropriate to share?
How can you include student voice in your own planning? Can students be taking on teaching roles?
Are you working collaboratively or co-operatively?
I hope this post helps you with your journey. Stay tuned next week for Assessment and Monitoring and my final installment for #CENZ15. Feel free to tweet/ facebook/ email with any questions or comments or requests for future posts!
What is collaborative teaching? Blog post by Chris Bradbeer.
A typical day in a collaborative environment. Kathleen Morris
Part Two of Collaborative Teaching Advantages Tony Grey
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.