As we approach the end of the academic year, it is time to look at the overall data for my Year 11 class, generated through internal standards and the school exams. My hunch going into this TAI is that students should be provided with a variety of methods of instruction that suit a wide variety of working and learning styles. My main focus has been to further develop, tweak and adapt the blended and flipped approach which I started a while back. A flexible attitude helps, along with varied resources ranging from videos through to exemplars produced by my students, and a bit of everything in between. Students have been encouraged and cajoled into forging their own learning pathways. I’m happy to say that we have been able to work on a multitude of tasks and activities all at once, and no one has run mad.
The latest craze in my class has been Design Thinking. It gives group work impetus, meaning and drives the learning forward. However, I digress, as that will form part of next year’s TAI.
Comparisons are odious, but necessary for my TAI. My basis is always my year 11 class as they are, year after year, pretty much made up of the same calibre of student and have an even gender split. As far as the internal results go, there is not much to pick between the 2016 class and the 2017 class. This year’s class did marginally better, gaining 69% of their internal credits at excellence level. I feel far more comfortable with them driving their own learning at their own pace. And I sense a greater independence from them too, like they expect to find answers and probe for questions in their groups, before turning to me. Ako Orewa asks for student agency and this is not achieved overnight. But my year 11s have displayed a remarkable ability to self manage and generate some brilliant pieces of work independently, and their grades attest to this.
Next I analysed their school exams. Our school was part of the NCEA Digital Pilot exams. Not all my students did the digital exam, but a large portion did. So that does bring in a few variables compared to last year. On the whole the digital exams ran smoothly and I am pleased to say that NCEA sought feedback from the students, both before and after the exam. Their results? Up on last year with 40% of the class attaining excellence grades, compared with 31% last year.
A few points, as well as variables, to consider:
- Blended and flipped learning, with the independence it fosters, is not having a negative effect on students.
- I have stopped insisting that the videos be flipped out of class time. If their learning is to be ubiquitous, some of them will, and do, prepare before lessons, and others in the lesson. It generally depends on the amount of work from other subjects whether or not they want to buy time by pre-preparing work. Freedom to work their way is paramount.
- Maybe the fact that they could type their essays resulted in better grades.
- The digital exams were marked by external markers. Perhaps as a department we are stricter on our students than the external markers were?
A TAI was never designed to be scientific. My data has a number of variables. And I have not discussed all the spirals I have included over the year. But what is clear to me is that students need to be trusted to work independently, and work the way that suits them best. I have also advised my students to only do two of their three papers. With grades like these, who wouldn’t take advantage of the flexibility of NCEA? Hopefully in the years to come, externals will be optional.
My colleagues and I have returned from the uLearn17 Conference brimming with ideas and philosophies to teaching. These ideas came from the wonderful keynote speakers like Abdul Chohan and Brad Waid . Their message? Technology must be simple and reliable so that we can focus on teaching and learning. And the other great take away was when we remember that technology is powerful when students start to do things, create things. Linking all of these ideas was that the relationship with the student is more important than the tool- this won’t change. We also enjoyed the wide range of workshops. But the fantastic ideas were also sparked while in casual conversations with friends and colleagues.
I strongly believe that a dynamic, thought provoking conference has been a waste of time and money if we don’t implement something new and different in our classes. It might be something you’ve always done, but you add a new glossy edge to it. Or it might be a complete change in direction. Teachers of senior classes in New Zealand face two and a half weeks of revision before external exams begin. So I’ve decided that I’m going to apply the Design Thinking model to my revision lessons. I have to thank Richard Wells for the following graphic representation of this plan:
Next, it’s important to add time pressure, so I added these time constraints:
My plan is as follows:
1. Get students to form groups of four. Give them post-it notes and sheets of paper or white boards.
2. Give them the issue: a range of essay topics, a different one for each group.
3. Give them time to reflect on aspects of the issue, and then share their thoughts with their group.
4. Build up a series of facts (evidence) around the issue using the whiteboards. They will need their devices at this point to access their evidence.
5. Get students to think of ways to empathise with the characters or the themes. And then share these ideas with their group. In this way they can build up the idea of judgements and can look at the author’s intention: what impact did this issue have on them, on society?
6. Select what they think would work best to define the issue, with evidence.
7. Iterate the ideas that work best together.
8. Pitch their ideas to the class.
9. Get the class to critique their ideas.
In this way, instead of simply rote learning ideas for the exams which seems pretty fruitless and boring, they will be honing their key competencies, and at the same time learning, sharing and growing their ideas. I will put a time limit on each aspect of the activity. Pace and speed are important for innovation, so I’ll put pressure on the students to come up with solutions.
HOW THE LESSONS HAVE PANNED OUT:
The first important step was that I allowed students to work with someone of their choice, then I put pairs together, forcing them to talk to a new group of students. But more importantly, we discussed why this would be important and they came up with sound and logical reasons.
The result: I actually saw and heard students help and talk to students they had not interacted with previously. I did have to remind them after lesson one to draw out the shy voices, and perhaps shut the loud ones up. Lesson two worked far better in this regard. They seemed to “really get it” after trialling it lesson one. Today the classroom was buzzing and there were a number of positive comments. I had to remind myself that they were doing revision which is typically quiet, introspective and boring.
Next important step: Stick to the time limit given. For all nine steps, I gave a time limit. This was good as it made students work under pressure. And they produced some impressive solutions.
The result: We had FUN! Their pitch (stage 8) was the most pressurised of all. I gave them a time limit of 30 seconds to do their pitch. What I asked of them was: what is the one golden nugget you can give the class? What is the one thing that you really want them to take away? We haven’t heard from all groups yet as we ran out of time. But so far I’m pleased to say that each group has had a brilliant golden nugget. And one group actually got a standing ovation. From their peers. For revision.
Design Thinking is well worth doing, and can be adapted for so many curriculum areas. I had to really stop myself from over-using exclamation marks in this post.
In my Mindlab studies, I did my literature review on blended learning with a specific focus on flipped lessons. So I am aware of the various definitions for both. For my TAI I have favoured the following definitions:
- Blended learning where all resources are online and can be accessed anywhere anytime. But with face-to-face reassurance, reinforcement and real time collaboration.
- Flipped learning: Depending on the students, I use the traditional video-before-class setup. But I also enjoy using the in-class flipping as the students might require those particular self-help videos as they work in class.
HUNCH: I believe that we should use a variety of methods of instruction to suit a wide variety of working and learning styles.
My resources are varied because I do not believe that there is one way that suits all. Take me for example. When I want to try out a new dish I often watch a Jamie Oliver video because they are quick, easy to follow, and can be listened to while I’m busy with something else. But there are also times when I like to read a recipe, online or even in magazines. Why would it be any different for our students? So I provide longer, dare I say it more boring videos like this one, where I unpick and unravel an exemplar. In video format you do it once, then they can access and rewind as they wish.
I also provide shorter more snappy videos like this one. These are more instructional and give the students next steps in a very quick format:
Then I load up slides, links to NCEA information and exemplars in written format. It sounds like a lot of work but, because it’s all digital, once it’s done, you only have to do it once. In this way I believe that I am giving my students every opportunity to master the work. And it’s not a one size fits all approach.
METHOD: Create independence by placing the onus on students to drive their own learning.
I have really pushed the idea of independence. I say things like: I am only one person with one view. Get your peers, your parents, other teachers to read over your work. It didn’t happen so much at the beginning of the year, but now that we’re comfortable with each other I can hear meaningful and critical conversations taking place. One boy prefers to email his dad for confirmation. A few years ago this might have intimidated me: shouldn’t I be the go-to person? But no I shouldn’t. Students should be encouraged to check their progress in a number of ways before it finally comes to me.
One of my boys is particularly critical, and quite frankly I think he likes to play devil’s advocate. But he became quite sort after as a critical friend. A classic quote came from another boy in my class. I was feeling particularly superfluous one day and possibly asked one too many times if anyone needed my help. He replied with:
We’re fine miss, we’re independent.
It takes some guts to hand the reins over and trust teenagers to get the work done, without lecturing them. Of course there are times when I stop the lot of them because they’re all missing something. We have a teachable moment, and then move on. The difference is that it’s a moment, not half an hour or even as we perhaps did in the past, an hour of me talking.
RESULTS: This is based on the year 11 text connections internal assessment.
This internal is a biggie as it spans three terms and four texts. Students can make the mistake of overwriting because they simply have so much to say. So it was a process of getting their ideas formulated, and then spending a good chunk of time editing, which is a skill in itself. No-one, and particularly teenagers, wants to delete their own creations. This is where peer evaluation was critical. The results were as follows, based on the marking from a committee of teachers as is the practice at our school:
8 merits and 24 excellence grades. I was phenomenally proud of their efforts. And it was down to them. I give these students the freedom to work within a wide framework. But they need to put the effort in. They need to have the learning conversations. They need to establish their learning goals. They need to work out what works best for them and take charge of their learning journey. But they also know that I will support them along the way. I make it very clear that the blended, flipped approach is the way we work. They simply have to get on board. Results like these makes me think that they certainly did.
This will be my third post reflecting on an ADE Academy. I loved the first two held in Singapore and then in Berlin. 2017, hosted in Melbourne, lived up to all the hype and expectation. I learnt a lot, from both the product developers and my colleagues. I came back to school busting with good ideas. But I have given myself a cool down period to see if these ideas really have taken hold in my practice. And they have. What were these good ideas?
- 1. I loved the workshop on the app called
- This is a fantastic movie creation app. Think of it as a little sister to iMovie. It’s designed for quick, on-the-go visual story telling. Add voice-to-text, voice-over narration, photos, stickers and music in a few simple taps. Students love the instant nature of this app. I recently attended a course where we had to create some form of media on leadership styles and we were given 30 minutes to do so. Using CLIPS, my group was able to publish a slick presentation, and slip out early for a cup of coffee.
- 2. Next there was a workshop on Podcasts. These are reminiscent of the old school radio serials. But this workshop also reminded me that not all students want to create visual resources. Many of them like doing the voice-over and playing with accents, rather than being ‘actors on screen.’ So students creating their own podcasts gives them another avenue for self discovery. I have recently taught a novel and was not surprised at how many students followed the words in the book, while simultaneously listening to the audio version.
- 3. I gained real inspiration from two of my Dunedin based colleagues,
- They are actively pursuing cross-curricular task design in their school. They currently offer integrated studies to their year 9s, which means that one teacher offers a combined English- Social Studies curriculum. In addition to this, their drive for ensuring cross curricular links are established, has driven a collaboration between the science and English teacher. They have also established a media hub which means their students have an authentic audience.
- In addition, what really grabbed my attention was what they do with their year 9 and 10 classes at the end of the year. The year 10s are involved in a dynamic and hands-on film festival. They are given a few props, a genre, and three days of solid scripting, storyboarding, filming ad editing. To accomplish this, they are taken out of all classes for three days. This means that they had to get buy-in from a number of staff members. You can’t be the lone nut to get this one done. At the end of the three days, the films are showcased and there is a winner.
- The other really exciting initiative is that they debated the validity of year 9s doing end-of-year exams. When no one could come up with a really favourable argument in favour of exams, they replaced them with a social justice, cross curricular project. Students were given a week to brainstorm ideas for what they felt passionate about, and how they’d make changes in their community. It was no mean feat, with a developmental focus being followed every day. Again it required buy-in from a number of staff. But I think it is safe to say that the students learnt and grew far more than they would’ve if they’d been stuck in a classroom writing a two hour exam.
Finally it was time for the guest speaker, James Cuda. His story was not new. He struggled at school, not because he couldn’t understand the work, but that it simply did not appeal to him. He was an artist, a really good one. But growing up. teachers did not recognise this as a talent. Luckily he did not let this dissuade him as he went on to create one of the best art-based apps on the app store called Procreate. Not only does it allow students to add layer upon layer to create their artwork, it also runs a time-lapse in the background, capturing every brush stroke. So it is fantastic as a mind mapping tool, showing exactly where the ideas have leapt and journeyed to.
As I reflect on this ADE Academy, I believe it is the passion which we as educators instil in our students which results in committed, connected and in their turn, passionate students.
I have enjoyed the blended approach to teaching and learning for some time now. But this year, due to the new and improved Ako Orewa approach, I am actively giving choice and agency over to the students. For the writing standard in year 11, we have moved away from doing both creative and formal writing. And, unlike last year, I never gave the option of doing both standards. What I did ask is for students to dig deep and find what they are passionate about. And write about that. Ten students chose to do the Creative Writing standard. Six of them boys. The rest chose to tackle Formal Writing.
Asking students to dig deep and find what they feel passionate about does force them to take ownership of their work. When you have a teenager saying: “I think I’m good at creative writing” it almost forces them to prove their point by getting on with it. And doing a good job of it. So unlike in previous years, I found that students very quickly came up with plans for their writing. I was prepared to workshop ideas, but instead, for the most part, simply listened to their good ideas and then told them to get on with it.
With the formal writing I found much the same thing. I had students writing about Tibet, New Caledonia and the migrant crisis in Europe. And it took them no longer than a lesson to come up with their topics. When I dug a little I found that they all had a deeply personal connection to the topic. So what we were able to work on was personal teenage voice. This took the work from good formal, factual writing to another level as it was infused with an authentic teenage flavour. With some encouragement, I found that they were adding details like the following:
I am Tibetan, and my grandma was in Tibet when China took over and was there when they were under China’s rule. My grandma fled Tibet through the Himalayas to India and had to leave all her possessions in her home. She said that the Chinese once came and took all the males and said that they would help them, and so this left all the woman and gathered them into a group. This is when she escaped and went through the Himalayas with her children and a small amount of food, as they left most of their livestock back where they used to live. Many children on the road died due to malnutrition and so, because they were weak, they either died from malnutrition or they died from illnesses and diseases such as chicken pox. Due to the shortage of food my grandma and the group she stayed with went to villages and ended up trading expensive jewellery for simple cups of rice or flour. And when they had traded all their jewellery and what else they had left, they had to beg for food from the villagers. (Year 11 Student)
But the real test is always when the grades are returned. We do not mark our own students’ work which really helps with moderation and equity across the standards. Suffice it to say I had some pleased students with the following grades:
I found these students to be independent, resilient and happy to rely on feedback from people other than myself. They shared their work with family members and peers for both critiquing and feedback.
And in this age of concern over boys’ writing, I am pleased to report that out of the 14 boys in the class, 11 got excellence.
This video reflects my TaI plan. Mindlab has been so worthwhile as the assignments we have had to complete have been relevant to our practice and topical. This year I will continue to look at how blended learning and student agency affects, not only grades, but also enjoyment and engagement in my class.
- DEFINE THE COMMUNITY:
As a secondary school English teacher, I based my literature review on the impact of blended learning on secondary school students. However, while this review uncovered a wealth of research and investigation into tertiary students’ responses to blended environments, little was undertaken in secondary schools, (Sparks, 2015) and even less into the impact this teaching approach has on Kaupapa Maori students. I have some anecdotal evidence based on my own students and that of my colleagues, evidence to be found on our professional blogs. However, there is still a substantial gap in relevant New Zealand-based data which looks at the benefits and challenges of implementing blended learning. This includes whether giving students more control over their learning improves their learning outcomes.
To gather qualitative data, I will conduct an on-line interview with the English Head of Department. In addition, I will do a video recorded interview of the senior management team. It is important to ascertain the level of interest this teaching approach has with colleagues in order to determine their level of support. It is also important to get buy in from the senior leaders in order to drive the initiative through, particularly if it is going to benefit the student body. In addition, student voice is vital. Therefore, I will survey my two control classes to find out what they feel works best for them. It is important to remember that students have diverse talents and learning styles that should be respected and individualised by teachers (Kruger, n.d.). Probability surveys should give estimates from which findings can be concluded.
I am focusing on my year 10 and 11 classes because they have moved up through middle school where there is a lot more freedom and choice in how they approach their work, based on observations at the college I teach at. However, teachers tend to become more autocratic as students head into NCEA years, as the pressure to get credits tends to take precedence. My aim is to see whether giving higher levels of individualisation and independence with more senior students can lead to potentially higher levels of engagement. The potential impact of my findings could result in successfully attaining those highly sought-after credits.
The blended approach promises more one-on-one teacher contact, as well as peer-to-peer instruction. This seems to be in keeping with Kaupapa or collective philosophy and Mahi Ko tahi tanga or co-operation between students.
- TEACHING AS INQUIRY PROJECT PLAN: Description
The topic area of this teaching as inquiry plan is blended learning, with particular emphasis on secondary students in a one-to-one device school. If blended learning is said to combine the best of online learning with face-to-face contact, how does this impact on outcomes or results for secondary school students? I will examine how the experience differs from upper middle school, to their first year in NCEA. In particular, I will investigate the impact blended learning environments has on my Maori students.
In addition, I would like to weigh up the benefits and challenges of implementing blended learning in the classroom, given that these students have largely been part of a BYOD school for the past 4-5 years. How have their expectations in the classroom changed over the years? I would also look at what the contributing factors are that lead to effective uptake of the blended learning approach.
A branch of blended learning is the flipped approach which I have been adopting in my classroom for the past three years, to varying levels of success. Through the Mindlab course I have discovered that, not only are there a variety of methods of flipping course work, but also that blended learning is potentially more effective than flipped coursework. So what I would like to ascertain is if the blended approach is more readily adopted by students rather than the purely flipped approach.
Project plan: Justification in context
I have created an electronic book for each year level, which includes videos, presentations, tasks and reflective questions. I will put a link to this onto Google Classroom for each student to access and download. It will then be resident on their device and is not internet- dependent. This should facilitate access anywhere, anytime.
I will then share evidence, largely gained from my literature review, with my students of the benefits of blended learning in an attempt to show them an alternative to the traditional ‘chalk-and-talk’ method of teaching. This could be a new concept for them and it deserves a measure of justification and explanation. I have found one of the hurdles to new approaches in teaching is assuming students will simply adapt and accept. Students will be encouraged to take ownership of their learning and, through increased one-on-one contact, we should be able to adapt the projects and assessments according to their preferred method of working, as well as their varying ability levels.
Data in the form of surveys, interviews and grades will be analysed and shared with the relevant community. Data will be gathered at the start and end of term one, and then again at the start and end of term two. This should give a good reflection of what is working well, and what needs adjusting and improving. This data will be reflected on my professional teaching blog and shared with the relevant colleagues, Community of Learning teachers and the senior management team. Their input will also help with the reflective process.
Critical to my findings is the shift from student as consumer of knowledge and technology to student as producer of knowledge (Vickers & Field, 2015). So this focus, along with the impact on outcomes for secondary school students, will form the basis for the dual spirals of inquiry. Reflection and refinement will inform teaching practice.
- EVIDENCE OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
The communities I will focus on are:
Qualitative: Year 10 and 11 students:
Student voice is vital as they are the target group. So they would need to answer two surveys, one initially to ascertain their preferred way of working and gauge their understanding of blended learning. And then another near the end of term to ascertain how they feel they have progressed with their learning and enjoyment of this teaching approach.
I have taught both of these year levels for a number of years so I feel that I have data to compare to previous years. But more importantly, I will compare their responses both initially and then after each internal assessment or project. (See appendix 1 and 2)
A comparison of grades between last year’s classes and this year’s classes at the same stage of the term. While this is not fully credible data, it can give some generalised findings.
A comparison of the student’s grades from last year to this year. Again there are a number of variables but it could give an indication of the student’s progress, or lack thereof.
A comparison between my year 10 and 11 classes with that of other classes taught in a more conventional or traditional way will also give some insight. Estimates can be based on this sample of data.
The data will be analysed and put onto a simple, colour co-ordinated pie chart. I will post my findings onto my blog, being careful to exclude student names, classes and colleagues’ identities as the research must be ethical and responsible.
English department colleagues: It will be interesting to note the different approaches to similar topics. I will interview a range of teaching styles, going from traditional face-to-face approaches through to those at the start of their blended approach to teaching.
Community of Learning: Although my target group is years 10 and 11, I am also part of the Community of Learning (CoL) leadership team. Thus I would have small group discussions with the relevant teachers to get their insight and input on blended learning for their areas of expertise. This will further inform my own approach as it gives insight into how students are taught in the junior levels.
Senior leadership team and English Head of Department: It is important to discuss new approaches with the leadership team, particularly when it might have an impact on NCEA classes. Questions for interviews, as well as their responses, can be found in appendix 3 and 4.
Whanau: Instead of a survey, I will initially send an explanatory email home to parents, inviting discussion, questions and interviews if necessary. This is possibly the hardest group to engage and inform as generally I have found parents to be conservative in their approach to teaching, basing their views on their own experiences of school.
- REFLECTION ON EVIDENCE OF ENGAGEMENT
As an on-going reflection, I will record students’ collaboration and participation on a regular basis on my teaching blog. However more immediately I have reflected on the feedback given to me by Richard Wells, Deputy Principal at the college and Meryl Howell, Head of English department.
Reflection on how feedback informed plan
Having considered their responses, I feel that my plan might have too many strands. So upon reflection, I will spend the first term focusing on the changing pedagogical approach with both classes, making sure that all class members understand the blended approach. I will, with consultation with students, drill down to find the impact this has on Māori students. I will only address the merits of blended versus flipped learning at the end of term 2. Given that I will have more one-on-one time with my students, I should have a clear understanding of their preferred learning styles by the end of term 1 so that I can make any necessary adjustments to my course.
In terms of student outcomes, it is vital to go beyond grades to look at how empowered and confident students feel about their learning. While this is harder to measure, it can be reflected on in an anecdotal way.
Another aspect I feel I might have glossed over is that some teachers have a fixed mindset. So change like this blended learning approach might make them feel challenged and even have an emotional response against it. I need to be empathetic in my approach to colleagues.
Lastly, the point that Richard made about whanau is vital and should not be overlooked: blended learning has an impact on home life; learning should be seen as a social experience; perhaps whanau should be upskilled in order to fully understand this new approach to teaching and learning. These points will be addressed in my email home.
What I was encouraged by was that the respondents in my community did feel that blended learning was a pedagogical approach worth pursuing and that my spirals of inquiry were applicable to our students.
- POTENTIAL IMPACT OF FINDINGS
The outcomes of this project might benefit my community by creating greater understanding and communication between colleagues, not only at the college but also across the CoL. Through discussions, interviews and shared resources, the idea is to improve not only collegiality but also awareness of how students prefer to work. Initially it can be quite taxing to create the online resources in the form of video content and digital artefacts. However, once they are created and shared, it minimises the time needed to create resources in the future, particularly if there is buy-in from a few colleagues and a team effort is established.
This brings in the most important stakeholders, the students themselves. According to much of the research undertaken in the literature review, researchers indicated that teachers are freed up to support students individually and that blended learning removes classroom walls (Vickers and Field, 2015). When teachers make the work available online and allow students to communicate via social media, rather than being anchored to the front of the class, one-on-one time is more feasible. And with this, relationships improve.
John Hattie (2013) said that the biggest source of variance in schools is teachers. Surely it follows then that students experience daily, hourly and lesson-to-lesson variance. If this Teaching as Inquiry plan works, and not only outcomes but enjoyment, collaboration and engagement improves, surely this will have a flow-on effect into the school community as a whole? This should encourage colleagues to embrace blended learning over the tried-and-tested traditional approach many still cling onto.
Hattie, John. (2013). Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? [Video]. Norrkopping TedX. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch
Kruger, M. (n.d.). Students’ Changing Perceptions on the Impact of the Online Learning Environment: What about Good Teaching Practice? In Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning. 188-196.
Sparks, S. (2015). Research Uneven, Tough to Interpret. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/blended-barriers
Staker, H., & Horn, M. (2012). Classifying K-12 Blended Learning. Retrieved from http://www.innosightinstitute.org
Vickers, R., & Field, J. (2015). Media Culture 2020: Collaborative Teaching and Blended Learning Using Social Media and Cloud-Based Technologies. Contemporary Educational Technology, 6(1), 62-73.
As I suspect with most teachers, I have inquiries swimming around in my mind all the time. Looking for solutions to help students improve outcomes, that’s what we do right? And looking for ways for students to develop these skills independently. So for my inquiry I have to narrow it down to two aspects:
- How increased student agency can improve outcomes. And
- How blended learning helps facilitate this.
I am focusing on two classes, namely my year 10s and my year 11s.
My year 10s are a largely mixed ability class. They are self motivated and respond well to a relaxed environment with largely facilitation and small group discussions. They have responded well to both flipped aspects of the course, as well as in-class flipping. This helps with differentiation. I have provided them with all the course work in a book which I created in iBooks Author. Unlocking English includes tasks, videos and marking rubrics. It makes flipping aspects of the curriculum easy.
My year 11s are also self motivated and are largely driven to achieve good grades. That being said, they are a motley crew with a keen sense of humour. So although they are an academic class, they seem to be far more relaxed than classes of this nature in some previous years. They don’t seem to take themselves as seriously as I have experienced in previous years, for the most part anyway. And the biggest factor that I have noticed and that I will investigate more fully, is that they are far more independent and resourceful. I have also provided them with all the course work in a book called Engaging English. This also includes tasks, videos and marking rubrics.
So the scene is set for a student centred environment, where learning can take place in a differentiated way. Having the work in a variety of ways should facilitate learning anywhere, anytime, at any pace.
“Reflective practice is challenging, demanding and a trying process.” (Osterman and Kottkamp, 1993) If they had added enjoyable, informative and rewarding, it could have been a definition for the Mind Lab programme. For 32 weeks, you are constantly looking at what you do and reflecting on how you could do it better, with students at the heart of it all. And you come out the other side with, not only greater self-awareness, but also an awareness of the research that underpins our teaching practice. (Criterion 4)
Source: Image taken from this website
My literature review focused on blended learning and the impact this has on student outcomes. I have long been a strong advocate for the flipped approach to teaching and learning. But week 7 was a game changer. A revelation. An epiphany. I discovered that the classical model of flipping was not the only one. Add in-class flipping and the rotational model of flipping to the mix, and you take away so many hurdles that staff and students put up. I felt free to send students off to view the video, while others surged ahead because they had already done the preliminary work. This led to investigating blended learning more fully. What I found was that much of the research suggests that the online environment and the blended approach enhanced students’ self-efficacy and self-regulation. (Criterion 6) The research component of Mind Lab has enabled me to develop the blended approach more fully.
Working in tandem with the blended approach was Carol Dweck’s concept of Growth Mindset, discussed in week 5. Dweck reasons that, how we feel about things like learning, intelligence and failure, can ultimately impact our performance and success. I hooked into this immediately and discussed it with my classes the next day. I have since incorporated the Growth Mindset into my teaching practice and have Dweck’s posters around my class as a visual reminder. It is incredibly empowering to tell a child that they have the potential to succeed at something they are struggling with. “Not yet” is a simple, yet powerful phrase. Teenagers know that they are not all destined to get excellence for everything all of the time. But if they feel they have some control over the skills they are mastering, it becomes a great enabler. After I complete this stage of my Mind Lab journey, I will continue to foster and nurture the idea of “not yet.” (Criterion 7)
Source: Image from this website
Then there is the leadership strand. I have discovered that we all have a spectrum of leadership styles to draw on, depending on the situation. But I think one that resonates with me is transformational leadership. The idea of “walk the talk” I particularly like, or leading by doing. As a Community of Learning: Kāhui Ako leader, I have got the opportunity to work with both lower middle school and primary school teachers. Together we have started to look at the possibility of introducing basic coding into their classrooms. My dream future professional development (PD) involves taking this idea beyond the two schools that we have already targeted, to the rest of the community. As an English teacher, I was quite intimidated by the idea of coding which was introduced to us in week 5. But as I dug deeper, I found that there are programmes and apps that are quite user-friendly and can ‘hook’ students pretty quickly. Our students are avid consumers of technology. But it is important for them to become producers too. (Criterion 1)
Technology has a language. It’s called code. Learning to code teaches you how to solve problems and work together in creative ways.”
Even with basic coding, there is no “googling the answer.” To go to the next step, you have to problem solve, and doing it collaboratively helps. With Swift Playgrounds, you have to read and decipher the problem before going on to the logic of solving it. That is why I believe that this PD could potentially tackle the problem of literacy and numeracy, in a fun and interactive way (Criterion 12).
What this journey of reflection has at its core is that the student’s development remains central to all that we do.
Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/RefPract/Osterman_Kottkamp_extract.pdf
Zhonggen, Y., & Guifang, W. (2016). Academic Achievements and Satisfaction of the Clicker-aided Flipped Business English Writing Class. Educational Technology & Society, 19(2), 298-312.