Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The climate of change and its impact on our perception of school

Wednesday June 10 2015

Last week I shared some of the ‘big picture’ detail on how our world, and our education system, is shifting. Today I want to start to bring it closer to home and talk about what will continue to look like - not just for the wider education sector, but for our own school! The quote below from Michael Fullan represents the influence of how far and how deep the step change to our current system and structure goes. The impact from his, and others research, is being felt in many ‘western’ countries around the world - including by our very own Ministry of Education. He has the ear of our Minister!
Some of that shift may not be as apparent locally (yet) outside our school but the trend, both nationally and internationally, is towards a more collaborative, digitally integrated and self regulated teaching and learning environment.
No other professional organisation or structure could say that by doing what it has always done it is appropriate and sufficient for today’s (and tomorrow’s) challenges. No Doctor, Lawyer, Electrician, Builder, Accountant etc uses the exact same systems, structures or practices to achieve the result desired for their client today. They would not presume, that if they did not renew and revise their skill over the next five years, that they would be ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

It therefore stands to reason that to expect a classroom, and the practice inside the classroom, to be what we think it should be (as we remember it or have seen in other schools) is not necessarily acceptable either. There’s a saying that goes “If you mimic the herd, you’ll regress to the mean. Aim to be the only one, not just another one.”
That doesn’t mean that we are following a fad or being a localised radical school. There is a collective shift, both nationally and internationally, that is challenging the playing field that is the education sector. Over the past six years we have been continuing to develop the professional philosophy of what effective practice for teaching and learning is centred on at our school. Thats our job and what you would expect of educational professionals. We have been active in not letting the DNA of an old school infrastructure or a traditional teaching structure hold us back. This school wide inquiry is based on research and identified best practice. We have developed our school vision into a learning vision of four key points. ‘Our why’ is then supported by identifying ‘What’ we need to develop to make that happen and ‘How’ we’re going to do it. (Click on the image below to view in a larger format.)
The journey began from this point with us investigating what e-learning and inquiry learning meant and looked like in our setting. The system inquiry from that moment on kept opening new doors as our staff wide investigation unfolded. Each step helped us to develop stronger understandings and connections into what our teaching and learning programmes were trying to achieve. Part of the real transformation across these aspects began when the different teaching teams began to investigate the potential of what working in close collaborative could enable. It remains an ongoing journey, but there is no doubt that the focus on the development of effective collaborative teaching and learning is contributing to transforming the way that both teachers and students learn at our school and the potential of those desired outcomes.
The biggest challenge in transforming spaces for learning lies in transforming the industrial era concept of schools, and this represents a paradigm shift - for teachers and parents. These shifts are notoriously difficult. There are several differences between this current cycle and the open classroom attempts of the 70s. There is a more sophisticated understanding of learning, information and communication technologies that lend themselves to enhancing and enriching learning and supporting personalised learning. Also, there is increased collaboration between the various professional groups that together are the agents for educational facilities design and development, for example, part of our revised capital works programme involves us providing evidence of how we are developing our site into a modern learning environment.

If you want further reading and research around this I am continuing to upload a list of references onto our website - tagged under ‘our why’ and ‘collaborative teaching’.
Your teaching team is an integral part of our continually evolving practice in what is this school. Their drive to be the best professional they can be for our school and our children is what makes what we do authentic and meaningful. Part of sharing what we do and how we do it is an important part of our partnership with you. Consequently, at the start of next term, as part of our mid year reporting process to you we will be offering opportunities for you to hear about the wider learning programme your child is a part of and then the personalised discussion around the learning pathway for your child.

The first one, with each teaching pair, will focus on what the programme looks like at their appropriate age and stage, and give opportunity for them to share how the programme is structured and why they do what they do. These teaching pair sessions will be on different days and each pair will hold their particular workshop at different times on their day (eg before school, after school, evening) so you can pick the time that suits you best.

The second opportunity is our more traditional followup to the mid year report and will allow you to opt in to an interview slot with your child's teaching pair and discuss the specific learning progress, achievements and needs of your child.

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