Friday, 7 September 2018

Content, Knowledge, and 'Learn Create Share'

In 2005 Jane Gilbert redefined 'knowledge'.

Previously we had thought of knowledge as facts, as 'knowing stuff'. How many millilitres in a litre? How to decline french verbs? Solve a quadratic equation? Most of us have our memories of what 'knowledge' was meant to be.



But in 2005, in her book 'Catching the knowledge wave', Jane Gilbert redefined knowledge. No longer was it just knowing stuff, it now incorporated the idea of doing something with that stuff. In her words, 'knowledge' became a 'verb'. This was a fundamental ground shift in the educational landscape. I like this precis of the book:

If this book were a film, it would be rated M—with a caution that "some viewers may be disturbed by some scenes." In Catching the Knowledge Wave? Jane Gilbert takes apart many long-held ideas about knowledge and education. She says that knowledge is now a verb, not a noun—something we do rather than something we have—and explores the ways our schools need to change to prepare people to participate in the knowledge-based societies of the future.
Source: https://www.nzcer.org.nz/nzcerpress/catching-knowledge-wave-knowledge-society-and-future-education

I was prompted to set out my thinking by a recent blog post from American educator Eric Shenninger, titled 'The Purpose of content'.  Eric's post also makes it clear that we are not devaluing knowledge, in fact far from it.

The New Zealand curriculum lays out its foundations with its five key competencies :

  • Thinking
  • Relating to others
  • Using language, symbols, and texts
  • Managing self 
  • Participating and contributing
All three are important. We know from the work of others that soft skills are vital to our future.  My focus here though is 'Thinking', specifically critical and creative thinking. Having taught economics in the NCEA framework between 2002 and 2016, my professional opinion is that thinking is the key to the work that I did in class, and the foundation of excellence in the qualification.

But there are those critics who say that NCEA devalues knowledge, that we no longer teach 'stuff' to pupils. Let's go back to Jane Gilbert's 2005 work: knowledge is no longer just facts and skills.

You can't think in  a vacuum, you can't think without knowledge and skills. So it's not that content doesn't matter any more, it's that content is no longer enough. Modern society now needs and demands so much more from people than it did fifty years ago. Paraphrasing Jane Gilbert, today we need to 'know stuff', AND we need to be able to 'do something with that stuff'.

And here we are back again to our hardy annual theme: 'Learn Create Share'. Create means doing something with what you have learned. The value of that is the sharing with others. And all too often there is an assumption that 'Learn Create Share' is a strictly linear process. It is not. In a previous blog post I made the point that it is a messy business. As students engage in  'Learn Create Share' they are 'all over the place'. That is, these three components of learning may happen in any order. It may be that we begin with the act of creation, and sharing, and then on the basis of that sharing with an authentic audience and the associated feedback we learn something new. It could indeed be that we learn something new, and on the basis of that, we create and share. We could equally share some thinking, learn something new from the real world feedback, from which we create something which for us is quite new.

'Learn Create Share' gives us a practical pedagogical framework with which to address Gilbert's redefinition of knowledge.

One thing is for sure, content as in facts and skills is still as important as it ever was. But it's just no longer enough. If as a kura we are to make real progress towards our vision as 'A centre of creative excellence', then we need to embrace the new concept of 'knowledge', we need to accept that knowledge is a 'verb', not  a'noun'.


Tuesday, 28 August 2018

A complex messy business

Education is a complex messy business.


(Source: Creative commons https://pxhere.com/en/photo/968503)

It has always been so. We all have that desire to think back to former days with the belief that those were simpler times, easier times, happier times. And in education speak, there is a tendency to believe that we had it better in those earlier times.

Frankly we did not. We had a system that taught to those with specific academic talents. It left a large proportion of the population disenfranchised. The old school certificate system until its final days consigned 50% of the population to failure. Where is the justice in that? Where is the economic sanity in consigning half of our pool of human talent to a sense of failure because they don't hurdle a specific and narrowly defined academic barrier?

So it is that we push to evolve education. The evolution is driven by a number of things:

  • There are the economic drivers whereby business wants more productive units of human capital, or where the economy rewards innovation, new ideas
  • There are the social drivers as we see unemployment delivering a range of social evils
  • The moral imperative whereby we seek to create greater human happiness through education which, we hope, will create human beings who simply reach for that sense of fulfilment (perhaps Maslow was right)
  • The political imperative whereby successive generations of politicians would have us believe that our system is failing to perform, and so needs constant reform. Strangely, that reform pattern seems to be tied to our three year political cycle. Who knew?

Regardless of the drivers, education is a complex and messy business, much like creativity. For Hornby High School our driver is that moral imperative, that desire to see that our students and our whānau are as well served as they can be to lead fulfilling lives.

Our search for that continual improvement means that we have multiple 'work streams' on the go at any one point in time. In fact, if you wanted a visual image, you might think of our educational journey as being much like one of Canterbury's braided rivers, making education that complex messy business.


(Sources: https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/89196579/environment-canterbury-licences-11000-hectares-of-public-land-to-farmers)

The most obvious is our work shifting into the new spaces that we have. The planning has taken long hours, and the shift in itself has been a complex business. Staff have worked hard, and been pushed well outside their personal and professional comfort zones. That we are where we are today is testament to their professionalism and their resilience.

Then there is the work to reform the curriculum, to make the curriculum fit for purpose. This seems likely to see a curriculum that is more contextual, a curriculum in which learning takes place against real world problems and issues, learning that is driven by student passion, and goodness knows we see plenty of that.

Alongside that we are working on continuous improvement in our student reporting. Early efforts so far this year have been driven by two initial desires: to get us through a period of significant staff stress as we relocate the entire school, and the desire to report more often, and more effectively. Professor John Hattie's ground breaking work tells us that feedback is one of the most significant impacts on student learning and achievement.

This work on reporting is connected with our ongoing staff professional learning on how to more effectively engage in inquiry into how to improve student learning, and on how to make better use of data to do just that.

Student reading and writing skills have been a big focus for our work. We continue to accelerate writing at twice the national rates of improvement. Reading proves a little more problematic, and so we are trialling reading interventions that are already proving to have positive impact on reading levels. When a reluctant reader improves reading speed by 40% while holding 80% comprehension in just two months, you know something important is going on.

And then there is the issue of our graduate profiles, those specifications of what we think our learners should look like at Year 8 and at Year 10. It is our intention to develop a Year 13 graduate profile too.

Finally all of this is underpinned by our work to grow our understanding of our 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy. We want creativity to be our most critical driver, and we want the 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy to drive everything that we do.



There is a lot of work going on to make sure that 'Learn Create Share' is at the forefront of our minds and our work. And that is why our vision, our aspiration, is the be 'A centre of creative excellence He puna auaha".




Some might think that this work, under the Manaiakalani umbrella is a digital devices programme. But it is not. As the literature on digital learning often seems to suggest, place digital devices in the hands of learners without changing the way teachers teach and learners learn, and you achieve nothing. Change that pedagogy and the sky is the limit.

And in this regard student blogging continues to be the most important thing. The evidence that we have from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre (Auckland University) tells us that the 'Manaiakalani medicine' must be taken three times per week. That is, if a student writes three blog posts a week, then we will have this huge effect on writing, and on engagement and learning.

Excellence is what we seek. Last week's news that our senior girls basketball team won their division one final spoke volumes for the levels of student commitment to excellence in what they do, and to their search for creative excellence.

But for all that, I come back to my original comment: Education is a complex messy business.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Learn Create Share, blogging, and engagement

As educators, we know the power of authentic learning. We know it's impact on student engagement and motivation. We know that engaged learners can learn so much more. And as a Manaiakalani school we know that our 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy offers us so much opportunity to support learners to learn in authentic contexts. That authenticity comes in part from the capacity to engage with an authentic audience, an audience far greater than the teacher.

One of our Year 9 students, Nathan, is a passionate young man who is engaging with his world and forming his views of that world and how it should be. I encourage all students to think for themselves, to challenge the status quo, to reimagine a better world, and here is Nathan doing just that, testing ideas.

I assume that he was prompted by the topical debate around free speech that centred around Don Brash, and then the two controversial Canadian speakers, recently in New Zealand. Nathan wrote a blog post which began like this:


Being an enterprising young, Nathan approached Don Brash over social media to comment, and to his credit Don Brash did indeed comment. I am not aware than Nathan has any other personal connection with Dr Brash. Here is Dr Brash's comment.



Nathan also received comments from three teachers (myself included). These were good natured posts as you would expect, each of us in our own way testing argument, putting forward alternative views etc.

My post isn't about the content of the argument. It is about the authenticity of the learning. Nathan engaged with a significant person currently engaged in this very debate in the real world. He had an exchange of views with an 'expert', someone well informed on the topic (remember that you don't have to agree with their points of view).

This is an example of the 'affordance' of the digital technology. This is an example of a connection that would not have been possible without the digital technology (the Chromebook).

Good writing develops when it is purposeful, when it has a real audience, an authentic audience. Writing structures can be taught, but writing volume that reflects deeper thinking develops when real people are reading and responding to it. True learning occurs in authentic contexts.

This is why "Learn Create Share", explored in digital contexts, is accelerating writing at twice the national averages.

Blogging can be a powerful tool for learning. Student blogging incorporates all three components of the 'Learn Create Share' pedagogy. It needs scaffolding, it needs application and effort, it needs support and comment. Blog comments are the ultimate differentiated feedback for all of us, a great way to support individualised learning pathways for learners.

You can read Nathan's blog post, and the comments, here.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

"We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us"

At the beginning of Term 3 I gave the following address (in a slightly modified form) to all students and staff of Te kura Te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka Hornby High School at our student assemblies.

Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu
Adorn the bird with feathers so it can fly

Some wit once said “There are only two constants in life: death and taxes”. Another wit subsequently modified it to say that the three constants in life are “Death, taxes, and change”. The speed of change is certainly getting faster and faster. At Hornby High School we are in the middle of a period of change like no other in the 43 year life of our kura so far. Our new buildings give us the physical facilities you always deserved, and they have been designed to present opportunities for learning that may better equip you for the life ahead of you rather than the life behind us all, and it might start to look like this.


What do I mean by ‘this’?

Let me tell you some stories. Some years ago I had the privilege of attending a conference at which one of the keynote speakers was Professor Eric Mazur. Mazur is a professor of Physics at Harvard University, possibly one of the top three universities in the world. Now they don’t give Physics PhDs away in the breakfast cereal packets, and you don’t get to be a professor of anything at Harvard without good cause.


Mazur was talking about the changes that he felt needed to happen in education, changes that he has promoted in his own undergraduate course teaching at Harvard. He pushed two things (amongst many).

The first is what we call ‘flipped learning. At the risk of over-simplifying, this is where students learn the content in their own time (using resources provided by the teacher, of course), and do the practice exercises in class with the teacher, not a huge leap from our use of Google sites to flipped learning. So classwork becomes 'homework', and 'homework' becomes classwork. In our Manaiakalani pedagogy we add the phrase ‘rewindable learning’ where you can go back over things in your own time to improve your learning.

The second is the need for collaboration, working together with others. He believes that this is a skill that every student needs to develop. He gave this example. He said that at that time, as a researcher, he had been involved in writing more than 80 academic papers, and not a single one had he written alone. EVERY single one of them, he said, had been a collaboration with others. That is, he and others had combined their knowledge, skills, and thinking, to create and develop the ideas and write the academic papers.

In a non academic context, think about this. No one single person builds a house, or designs a car, sells a washing machine or runs a bus service. In every case there is some sort of collaboration involved. You have to work with others.

Here’s another part of the puzzle. This comes from an Education Review Office paper "What drives learning in the senior secondary school" which was published in 2015. In case you don't know, the Education Review Office inspects all schools in NZ and determines whether or not they are doing a good job. At its last inspection in 2015 Hornby High School was given a 5 year review. That is the BEST any school can get. It means that they are so confident in what is going on in our kura that they didn’t feel they needed to come back and inspect again until 2020.

In this research paper published in 2015, they were looking at what tends to happen in good schools. Put another way, what do they think good education can look like? This is worth quoting in full:

“What this study shows is that NZC and schools approaches to teaching and learning in secondary schools is often overshadowed by the requirements of NCEA and our current unit standards approach to assessment. This approach works against students adopting project based or collaborative styles of learning and minimises the emphasis on the NZC’s key competencies or values. Equally, the senior school generally limited opportunities for student directed learning. Yet these are the skills and strategies that will be required of most once they enter the workforce. What was of most concern was the way teaching in the senior schools tended to hold students back from pursuing their passions.” (my emphasis).

And what’s more they also said this:

“In several of the schools that ERO looked into, the key challenge was how to continue approaches that were working successfully in the first two years of secondary school into the senior school years.”

That is, the approaches that we are using more often in our junior college, such as the Business and Enterprise kete, or Project Based Learning, need to be pushed more into the senior school too. Why? Because they better represent the world of work that many of you will live in during your working lives.

WHY are we doing this? Why change?

Here is the third piece of our puzzle. This is the Employability Skills matrix, developed by the New Zealand Employers Association and others. This is what they want you to be like when you have finished school.

1. Positive attitude
a)    Is positive and has a “can do” attitude.
b)    Is optimistic, honest and shows respect.
c)    Is happy, friendly and enthusiastic.
d)    Is motivated to work hard towards goals.

2. Communication
a)    Understands, and reflects on, the way they communicate and how it affects others.
b)    Asks questions when unsure or unclear.
c)    Understands how employees, employers and customers communicate.
d)    Speaks, listens and shares ideas appropriately.

3. Team work
a)    Works well with others to complete tasks and meet goals.
b)    Contributes to developing new ideas or approaches.
c)    Works well with others of different genders, cultures or beliefs.
d)    Recognises the authority of supervisors and managers, and follows directions.

4. Self-management
a)    Arrives at work on time, with appropriate clothing and equipment to complete a work day.
b)    Understands, and reflects on, their own words, actions and behaviour, and how these affect others.
c)    Shows commitment and responsibility.
d)    Is dependable, follows instructions and completes assigned tasks.
e)    Is responsible for their own health and wellbeing, and follows health and safety guidelines in the workplace.

5. Willingness to learn
a)    Willing to learn new tasks, skills and information.
b)    Curious and enthusiastic about the job, organisation and industry.
c)    Looks for opportunities to work more effectively to make the business better.
d)    Accepts advice and learns from feedback.

6. Thinking skills (problem solving and decision making)
a)    Identifies and assesses options before making a decision.
b)    Recognises problems and uses initiative to find solutions.
c)    Thinks about consequences before they act.
d)    Recognises when they need to seek advice.

7. Resilience
a)    Adaptable and flexible in new and changing situations.
b)    Handles challenges and setbacks and does not give up.
c)    Able to seek support and help when needed.
d)    Recognises and accepts mistakes made and learns from them.

And finally the world of work and commerce is changing. Here is a headline from January this year:


A piece of NZ Institute of Economic Research published in 2015 suggested that 46% of jobs as we know them today might have disappeared by 2030. So doing what we have always done is no longer an option. If technology is replacing traditional jobs, what have we got to fall back on?

I’ll tell you what we have: our humanity. We need to develop and strengthen those things that make us human - our ability to collaborate, to work with others, our ability to empathise with our fellow human beings, to think critically and creatively, and our ability to communicate.

This is why our vision as a school is to be ‘A centre of creative excellence’ ‘He puna auaha’. In our new building we want no-one to be in any doubt that this is the main game we are playing.



That is why the learning of the future is more likely to look like this ...

  

.... than this ....

 


This is also why the pedagogy 'Learn Create Share' will continue to be central to everything we do at Hornby High School. And so similarly we also want no-one coming into our new building to be in any doubt about the importance of 'Learn Create Share' to our kura and the learning of our rangatahi.





We are creating new learning  .. our students too are creating new learning. Learning not only about content, and about more traditional academic, cultural and sporting skills, but now just as importantly about collaboration and connection, about creativity, about our humanity, about our cultural identity. Our individual and collective success is dependent upon the ability of each and every one of us to place ourselves in our own cultural worlds. We must value our own identities, we must value diversity. Our differences are our greatest strength.

Our new spaces have been designed with these ends in mind. It is Sir Winston Churchill who said "We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us". We have shaped our built environment to provide flexibility. It allows traditional direct instruction from the front, and it allows collaboration, it allows students to direct their own learning (we call this student agency, while also offering plenty of opportunities for support. It is designed to allow cross curriculum connections to be made between staff, and between learners. Now we need to allow time for these things to evolve.

Every student of Hornby High School is a part of this journey. I have challenged every student to be more than just a passenger in this journey. I have challenged every student to be an architect of this journey too. I challenge every student, and every whānau, to work with us to create this new future.

Hornby High School is one of a number of schools that are breaking new ground in New Zealand, and across the world. We are at the forefront of change and improvement in education, education for the brave new world. If you have never read Aldous Huxley’s 1930s Novel ‘Brave New World’, I challenge you to read it. It predicts a world that is increasingly looking to be frighteningly like the world you are inheriting. Be prepared to take control. Be prepared to challenge what you see, to think critically and creatively. Be prepared to live our aspiration, our hope, to be “a centre of creative excellence He puna auaha.” Help us to create this future.

YOU can do this. WE can do this.

Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu
Adorn the bird with feathers so it can fly

Robin Sutton
Principal

Monday, 9 July 2018

Does our secondary system sustain class structures and inequity?

Our secondary school system sustains our class structure. There. I've said it. We have a hierarchy of schools that seems to be based on little more than the oft quoted and rather spurious 'decile system'. The decile system? That system created many years ago as a means of determining nothing more than school funding. Except that as is so often the case there have been unintended consequences, not the least of which is that the system is most often seen by the community as a reflection of school quality. And our secondary schools validate that view, well the higher decile ones anyway, although in fairness I'm not suggesting that they set out to do that by design.

However validate it they do, sustaining the view that they are some how better than their lower decile compatriots. And communities are very ready to go along with those views, applying their own 'confirmation bias' to the question. Indeed sitting alongside racial perceptions there may be no better illustration of confirmation bias than that which exists around our schools.

What is confirmation bias? That thing that happens when we form an opinion about something, and look only as far as the first piece of evidence that supports our opinion before we stop looking. There is no critical evaluation of a broad array of evidence. It might go like this:

"School X is bad. Oooo look, a student from school X smoking in the streets. There, I told you so, that school is bad." You get the idea.

I've even heard of parental comment that teachers at low decile schools can't be very good because they work at a low decile school. Yet from personal experience I can honestly say that the work I see going on in low decile schools is the equal of anything I have seen anywhere else. On a daily basis I see the caring, the professional gyrations and acrobatics, the consumption of emotional and mental energy from staff as, seized by the moral imperative to create equity in education, they do everything in their power to support every child committed to their care. That's not decile based.

Schools run a 'hot game' at this time of year as they vie with each other in the recruitment game. Watch the school brag boards over the next few months to see what I mean.

Across our own Uru Mānuka cluster the data is very clear: we accelerate achievement by using our Manaiakalani pedagogy (Learn Create Share) which we magnify with digital devices. This is NOT a function of decile rating, nor is it a function of social class.

There is both a moral and an economic imperative to stop this nonsense.

Perceptions become our reality. We are what we continually think. So if students and whānau continue to think that School X is a poor performer, then they behave accordingly and it risks becoming the reality. The consequence? Think of the huge human potential that is lost when we say that. Think of the amazing talent in young people and communities that we fail to activate. Who is the loser? The entire community. How many wonderful musicians, or computer coders, how many amazing science researchers or social workers, how many great electricians or engineers, do we miss out on because of those community perceptions of schools? Because these perceptions stand in the way of success for schools.

This has a consequence for adaptation and change in our schools' offerings too. The argument might go something like this: Those higher decile schools produce better results, and so what they do must be better. Right? They produce those results by sustaining those nineteenth and twentieth century industrial model schooling systems. 'Sit down, shut up, let me fill your head with knowledge'; a little extreme, but again you get the idea. This closes our minds to the exponential change that is occurring all around us. A more interesting question might be: in this day and age, what more could they do if they adapted the way they do things, in the same way that with Manaiakalani we are adapting the way we do things too?

Now that is NOT an argument for removing content and knowledge from schools. That's an absurdity. My colleague Steve Saville from Rolleston College has put this very well in his own recent blog post titled "The disturbing debate". Thanks Steve, couldn't have put it better myself. And before anyone jumps on the bandwagon, neither is it an argument for eliminating direct teaching. Direct teaching is highly effective. It's just no longer enough, in the same way that knowing stuff is necessary, but no longer enough.

And of course schools are acting in their own best interests. The more popular a school and the more students, the more successful a school must be, right? And who wouldn't want to work at or run a school that is seen as highly successful? It's great for the ego and the pay packet. The system incentivises competitive behaviour from schools, so why wouldn't they? Larger schools get more resources (not per head, just more resources in absolute terms.. more staffing, more operational funding, more property), oh and the Principal gets a higher salary.

My question is: has the competitive model raised overall educational and social outcomes, or merely reproduced the status quo? My answer is 'probably the latter'. It undermines the democratic nature of education, it diminishes our ability to provide equitable outcomes, by sustaining a class structure that says that those on higher incomes are somehow inherently better than those on lower incomes, that those on higher incomes are somehow more deserving of better educational outcomes than those on lower outcomes.

As much as our work with Manaiakalani accelerates achievement, it is just as much about equity and social justice. In fact it's about 'liberation' if I may borrow the terminology of Mr Pat Sneddon, Chair of the Manaiakalani Education Trust.



In the face of institutionalised discrimination against those less well off in society through no fault of their own, this is discrimination that has been an unintended consequence of our near 30 year flirtation with market forces in education.

So don't try and tell me that our secondary system always supports equity. Don't try and tell me that our secondary system always supports social justice and a better society.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

What matters can't always be measured

The say that what you measure doesn't always matter, and what matters can't always be measured. I've been thinking a lot about that idea with reference to our school vision to be 'A centre of creative excellence'. This is a big bold idea, in part inspired by what Scottish educator Ewan MacIntosh calls a BHAG (A Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

So big is it (as it should be) that we broke it down into bite sized chunks (our strategic goals) which are currently:

1. To provide future focussed individualised learning
2. To create and sustain an inclusive learning community
3. To foster inspirational, risk taking and enterprising leadership in all members of our learning community

We felt that these were three key things that would need to happen if we were to progress on ur journey to being that centre of creative excellence. Each of these is then broken down into two annual goals:

Annual Goal 1: Embed the culturally responsive pedagogy ‘Learn Create Share’ to develop future focussed individualised learners.
Annual Goal 2: Assist every student to develop an appropriate individualised educational pathway

Annual Goal 3: To enhance staff and student wellbeing
Annual Goal 4: Increase community engagement

Annual Goal 5: Promote student leadership and followership capabilities
Annual Goal 6: Promote a growth mindset amongst students and staff

We have developed a series of measure for some of these things, but some are quite hard to measure. That doesn't mean that they don't matter though, and I have been quite taken by what I see as I move around our kura talking with staff and students.

Strategic Goal 3 is a great example. What does increased risk taking look like in a school? When I arrived at the school in 2016 I was told that students mostly didn't like to perform on the stage, or more generally in front of their peers. Having highlighted the need for all of us to take risks if we are to become more creative, what does this look like now? Every assembly has student performances. At the end of term 1 this year almost every year 8 and year 9 student was on stage performing. That looks to me like a culture shift amongst students. Putting yourself out there in front of people feels like a huge risk. What if they don't like me? What of they make fun of me? I could equally feel that way every time I speak in an assembly, or write a blog post. These fears are natural. What matters is being prepared to give it a go. And our students are increasingly developing the resilience necessary to do this.

And let's remember, taking risks by definition means there is a chance that we will fail. But that's OKAY as long as we try to make sure we don't make the same mistakes twice.

Similarly I try to encourage staff to take risks in their work. And again I emphasise that failing there is OKAY too. If we don't try new things, and experience failure every now and then, how are we to grow?

A number of staff have recently attended a couple of conferences, one in Christchurch, and one in Auckland. They all expressed the view, having listened to a wide range of presentations, that as a kura we are well ahead of many others in our development of better ways to cause learning (which after all is our prime purpose). This is affirming feedback for our staff who themselves are an outstanding group of professionals. 

Similarly I recently  attended a major conference in Melbourne. In the past I have sat in awe of our Australian and international colleagues. This time I felt that we had pushed our own practices, our own school cultures and pedagogies, well ahead of many of our colleagues.

Many of these things can't be measured, and that's my point. But focussing on what can be measured is often counter productive. Focussing on processes, or in our case on building strong relationships for learning, on good pedagogy (Learn, Create, Share), on encouraging responsible risk taking, on being culturally responsive in every aspect of our kura, these are the things that make a difference.

And does it make a difference? Yes. 

How do I know? When I look at assessment outcomes, I see NCEA results that continue to improve across all groups of learners (and yes I mean ALL). This is no chimera. This is real tangible stuff. Take your eye off results and focus on process. 

We focus on the things we can control. We expect the best of students and ourselves. Most importantly though we are focussing on things we can't easily measure. The results can look after themselves.









Tuesday, 13 February 2018

An idea whose time has come

They say that nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come, and Manaiakalani, and its pedagogy 'Learn Create Share', is an idea whose time has come. Teaching staff from right across the Uru Mānuka Manaiakalani cluster joined together for a shared 'Teacher Only Day' at the end of January 2018 before beginning their year's work with children. Our aim was to develop a better shared understanding of exactly what 'Learn Create Share' actually means, what it could actually look like, in classrooms across the whole cluster.

You see, collaboration, collective action, is such a powerful force for change and progress.



The day was a tremendous success. It's not very often that you will find over a hundred teachers from across six schools sharing, creating, learning in precisely the way we want our tamariki to learn, create, share in our kura. And why? Because we have huge disparities in New Zealand, we have become a land of 'haves and have nots', and providing equal opportunity is not the answer. The moral imperative behind what we do is what gets most teachers out of bed in the morning.

Manaiakalani is as much about addressing disparity as anything else, it is about accelerating achievement for those who have entered life with possibly fewer advantages than others, and most likely through no fault of their own. This image says it best:


And the results speak for themselves.  I've posted here before about the impact of Manaiakalani and the use of digital devices on achievement, with reading and maths achievement accelerated by 1.5x the national norms, and writing accelerated by 2x the national norms, over a period of three years. The impact is so profound the question that has to be asked is 'why wouldn't you?'.

But it's even bigger than that. Our school vision set in 2016, and reaffirmed by our forward looking Board of Trustees in 2017, is to be 'A centre of creative excellence'. It's NO coincidence that that vision aligns with the 'Create' that sits at the centre of the Manaiakalani pedagogy 'Learn Create Share'.

Another of our many challenges at Hornby High School is to build our shared understanding of what creativity looks like, feels like, sounds like, at Hornby High School. To that end, at the end of 2017 I gifted a copy of the same book to every member of staff (regardless of their role at the school). That book was 'Creative Schools' by Sir Ken Robinson.

Now I am a huge fan for Sir Ken, and you can see some of his thinking on creativity in schools here:


and here:



This IS out future. Artificial Intelligence is more and more rapidly replacing human beings at predictable routine tasks. Even such long revered professions as the law are not immune to this. So where does the future lie? We must focus in what makes us human, because that is what distinguishes us from the technology. At the heart of that, in my opinion, is our ability to empathise, and our ability to be creative.

So what is creativity in ur context? It can be the creative arts, but that is far too limiting a notion. It is about coming up with new solutions to problems, regardless of whether they are technological, mathematical, linguistic, or sporting. And by new we mean new to the learner, not necessarily new to all of humanity (although that would be a great bonus, and certainly isn't beyond the realms of possibility).

The willingness to do any of that requires responsible risk taking. No coincidence, yet again, that developing responsible risk takers sits as  apart of one of our strategic goals.