My Case for Change

Today I was fortunate to attend one of AITSL’s Learning Frontiers Design Principles workshops facilitated by Summer Howarth (AITSL) and David Price (Innovation Unit – UK). The focus of the Learning Frontiers initiative is to bring schools, educators and other stake holders together to look at ways to increase student engagement.

It is disappointing to  hear statistics of high student disengagement and un-engagement. Australian research has found:

More of the statistics shared can be found via the online version of the design principles workshop here: 

Learning Frontiers Design Principles Workshop

Schools need to provide and education that prepares students to be problem solvers, responsible global citizens and effective communicators while cultivating a love of learning. (This list is by no means exhaustive – just a few things I was thinking about today.) If students are disengaged at school, research has shown that they are limiting their future success.

Solving the problem of disengagement is a daunting task; however as my group discussed today, we don’t have to know where the journey will end before we set off. In working together to improve the situation educators, as well as students, will be learning. As educators deeply engage in the learning journey new possibilities will be created and this is something I am excited about.


CSA Conference 2013: Reflecting & Connecting

The CSA SA Conference provided a reflective and challenging start to term 3. It is always encouraging to be reminded that teachers can make a significant difference in the lives of students. There is so much more to education than simply the transfer of knowledge.

I love this clip shared by one of the speakers, Andrew Dwight.

When you keep doing things the same way you will get the same results. It reminded me of the importance of looking for creative solutions to engage all students in learning.

The conference also provided a new experience for me. I led two workshops introducing teachers to the power of social media as a professional learning tool. I am by no means an expert; however I shared my experience since coming to this realisation myself in November last year. Hopefully some of the teachers who attended the session will have found a new way to make professional connections. Here’s the link to the Prezi used in the sessions: The Connected Educator.

Questions+Thinking+Curiosity=Engagement and Active Learning

Recently, I read the book ‘Making Thinking Visible’ (Ritchhart, Church and Morrison, 2011) and it challenged me to awaken curiosity in the students I teach about the world around them.

“when our curiosity is sparked and we have a desire to know and learn something, our engagement is heightened” (Ritchhart, Church and Morrison, 2011, pg. 13)

Curiosity and greater engagement will result in active learning. When students are actively engaged in their learning, learning outcomes are improved.


Active learners remember more of what they have learnt as well as developing higher order thinking skills.

So, what am I doing to increase active learning in my classroom? The first was to find out the kind of learners in the classroom.  There was one student in the class who believed he “didn’t like learning”; it is a shame to think that his school experience has led him to this belief.  His contributions to class discussions contradict his view therefore I think he was trying to articulate that he doesn’t enjoy copying notes from the board and not having a voice in his learning. Following this realisation I have tried to incorporate language in the classroom that encourages the students to see themselves as learners. This is something I will continue to do as I believe it is imperative for students to see themselves as learners to move from passive to active learning. It is my opinion that passive engagement is a result of compliance. To achieve active engagement students need to see themselves as learners and be enthusiastic participants in their learning.

I am also using facilitative questions as the basis for the explicit teaching, to get students thinking about what they are learning.  I want to “..switch[ing] the paradigm of teaching from trying to transmit what is in our heads to our students and toward trying to get what is in students’ heads into our own so that we can provide responsive instruction that will advance learning.” (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison, 2011, pg 35)

Finally, I encourage the students to ask the questions. What is it they want to learn about the topic? I hope that an increase in active learning will spark questions from an intrinsic curiosity so that students are motivated to pursue the answers for themselves, rather than waiting to be told what to do, when to do it and where to find the answer.



Two Things: Grades & Reflection

This week I returned to being a student, beginning my Masters of Education at Flinders University. So far, it has been a great experience. There are a number of points I have been reflecting on following my first class and here are some of my thoughts.

Firstly, I was reminded of the pressure we inadvertently place on our students in the learning process by grading their work. On hearing about the assignments that need to be completed for the course, my mind immediately went to the grades I hope to achieve. I realised this is often what students experience in the classroom. While achieving good grades is not a bad thing, it is not the primary motivation I want my students to have when learning. First and foremost I want students to be intrinsically motivated by the learning process itself, not the grade they achieve at the end of it. I can’t escape grades at present; however I aim to provide authentic learning opportunities that engage students, opening them up to the wonder of learning.

A second thing I was reminded of was the importance of reflection in the learning process. My class were asked to read the poem “The Fire” by Judy Brown. The poem outlines what is needed to build a fire and it is a fantastic metaphor for what is required for transformative learning. It is easy to be busy, doing and trying many new things; however if we (both educators and students) do not find time to reflect on what is being learnt the learning will be limited. The poem highlights the need for space to enable the flame to burn. If there are too many logs on the fire, leaving no space, the fire will suffocate and be unable to serve it’s purpose. Similarly, if we attempt to do too many things leaving no ‘space’ in our lives then our learning will suffocate.

Why I’m now loving Twitter

I joined Twitter pretty early on; however soon decided it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like being limited to 140 characters! I have had a change of heart thanks to Selena Woodward

and George Couros (Does Twitter Improve Education). I am now using Twitter everyday and professionally I’m getting A LOT out of it.

Through following groups, like CEGSA, and joining Sue Waters Australian Educators list, both on Twitter, I have been able to make professional connections quickly. In turn, this has resulted my twitter feed receiving numerous links to online articles and blog posts about current practice in education. I’ve included the links to a few of them below.

I’m looking forward to connecting and learning more through Twitter. If you haven’t signed up yet I’d highly recommend it. Hope to see you in the Twitterverse.

The Eight Personas of a Teacher – Dr Kevin Knight

Earlier this year I was privileged to head up to the Gold Coast to attend a conference titled ‘The Personal Teacher’. It was facilitated by the Compass organisation. There were speakers from the Compass group and also Dr Kevin Knight, on of the founding directors of the New Zealand Graduate School of Education. While all sessions were excellent, it was Kevin Knight who impacted me the most. He has since visited our school and worked with more of our staff who were equally challenged and inspired by his simple, yet unique way of breaking down the job of a teacher. I am excited that he will be returning to work with more of our staff in 2013.

Kevin divides the job of a teacher into 8 personas which form 4 antagonistic pairs:

  • The teacher as captain yet also relationship builder

This pair establishes the learning environment in the classroom. It is imperative for a teacher to quickly build positive relationships with the students they are teaching; however they must also be in charge. If teachers are not competent in this area then it will be very difficult to ensure learning is happening in the classrom.

Kevin had some very detailed forms that can be used to gauge how teachers are going in this area.

  • The teacher as scholar yet also analyst

This pair recognises the importance of knowing what you’re teaching – but it goes further than that. The teacher as analyst will know what their students need to learn and they will be able to clearly articulate the skills students have learnt.This information will be gleaned from pre-testing and assessment, both formative and summative.

  • The teacher as coach yet also as empowerer

There will always be times where the teacher needs to direct the learning (teacher as coach); however I was inspired to try and ignite passionate curiosity in my students so they enjoy their learning and take personal responsibility for it. Empowering students to direct their own learning is certainly one of my goals for the 2013 school year.

  • The teacher as an individual and also a colleague

This pair is fairly self-explanatory. Historically teachers have been excellent at working individually in their isolated classrooms; however this pattern is beginning to change. I know here at Temple Christian College our faculties regularly work collaboratively to develop units of work and create resources.

One of the reasons we are taking on Kevin’s model as a school is so colleagues can effectively mentor colleagues in all the personas to improve the teaching and learning that takes place here. Eventually, all our staff will be trained in Kevin’s model and be paired up to work with each other. This will involve visiting classes, and giving and receiving feedback to and from collegues. The feedback will then serve as a tool to self-reflect on current practice.

Personally, I found going through the model with Kevin to be some of the most valuable professional learning I have undertaken as a teacher. It certainly led me to reflect on what I’m doing in the classroom to ensure meaningful learning for all of my students.

Learning How to Blog

Last week I was fortunate to attend a couple of workshops and a presentation by George Couros. He inspired me, and many others, to blog as a public record of our professional learning and the things we are doing in our classrooms. As well as being a record it is also a reflective tool that can be used to refine practice and cement learning.

After hearing and seeing some of the ways that blogging is used at Parkland Area School, and having my attention drawn to this blog by pernilleripp via Twitter, I thought I would begin my blogging journey alongside my students.

The students have just finished reading the novel The Ink Bridge by Neil Grant. They are now going to be set a series of topics to blog about based around the themes from the novel. I have drawn up an assessment rubric that relates back to the literature and litercay strands of the Australian Curriculum. Students will be assessed on the following: their response to the theme as presented in the text and in a broader context; their ability to create meaningful text (including the application of word processing functions), and their interaction with other students through the posting of meaningful comments on each others work.

I am hoping that through blogging my students will gain the following skills:

  • to give and recieve constructive feedback from peers
  • create meaningful written dialogue
  • improved editing
  • view their own writing more critically
  • empathy

(adapted with permission from pernilleripp)

I, and my students, have signed up with edblogs; however as I and my class are new to blogging posts are not visible for the public to view. When I have finished the unit I may seek permission from some students to publish their work publically on the internet – but for now it’s just our class.

It has taken more class time than I would like to get everything ready to go; however all students started their first posts today and they are looking forward to reading each others work and discussing the themes of the text on the shared site. I’m looking forward to reading what they have to say.