21 November 2016

Spark MIT 2017

Wonderful day spent with 2016 Spark MIT teachers at Spark headquarters in the city today.

I was very privileged to be part of the group this year in a mentoring role alongside Dorothy Burt.

Today teachers shared the impact of their inquiry both for their students and for their own teaching practice. There was some impressive achievement data shared as well anecdotes and personal voice from students showing the outcomes of innovation.

Many in the group talked about how they were building on their inquiry for next year and the model of teaching as inquiry was very evident in their mindset.

17 October 2016

Collaborative Inquiry Meeting - Give a Little Get a Little

This afternoon instead of our usual staff meeting our collaborative inquiry groups met together. 
Each teacher had to Give a little - a piece of advice, and get a little - come with a problem for others to solve.

Each group of 6-7 teachers went off to a room with afternoon tea and spent about an hour sharing.

Teachers had been forewarned to bring a gem that they had learned this year through their inquiry into practice. These came thick and fast. Some of the advice that was shared was in the form of warnings - what not to do. Others examples were from successful trials such as giving boys a short set times using a visible times to complete tasks or creating a bank of reading texts recorded by the teacher for students to revisit.

I thought this would be easier, we had a similar 'Agony Aunt' inquiry meeting last year that was very popular. This year, in the group I sat in anyway, teachers found it hard to define a problem for others to solve. There were general or broad issues such a 'the kids don't write enough' or 'kids are out of class so often' These needed to be teased out into exactly what were the gaps in writing or when are students out of the class and what are they missing out on. 

The possible solutions for these problems created great discussion. Having teachers from different ages meant junior teachers were able to teachers from older classes suggestions and vice versa. There was also a lot if input from the two beginning teachers in our group who had a new and different perspective on how things are done.

A successful format for an inquiry meeting as long as teachers have time to think about and prepare their pieces of advice and their problem.

23 September 2016

Reading Milage

In New Zealand teachers are able to select the length and number of texts they provide for their students to read in class, thus influencing reading mileage. 

In New Zealand we have both freedom and responsibility to select texts for students and are free to gather resources from far and wide, including the internet. 

There are so many decisions teachers need to make about reading mileage.

According to Duke and Pearson developing reading comprehension involves a great deal of time and opportunity to read. They explain that as with decoding in the earlier developmental stages of reading, all the explicit teaching in the world will not make students strong readers unless it is accompanied by lots of experience applying knowledge, skills and strategies during actual reading. There are several studies that indicate when an extensive range of reading material is available and students read a large number of books, their achievement accelerates.

How are our upper primary teachers managing to support this reading mileage?

8 August 2016

Getting Gains in Manaiakalani Schools


A summary of some of the research Woolf Fisher Researchers shared with Manaiakalani leaders about the significance of sharing and connecting visibly.

21 July 2016

Sharing our Teaching as Inquiry

Dorothy Burt led a wonderful Manaiakalani PLG for 'new to digital device' teachers in our cluster. In Term 1 and 2 the focus was Learn, the Create so this term we were looking at Share. 

One of the activities we did was to look at our own teaching inquiry and share with teachers from other schools what we did, particularly how we shared our learning.

Then teachers recorded some of their reflections, both from what they heard from others teachers, and about their own inquiry process. I was very interested in what teachers had to say about the sharing of their own learning.

"I like the idea of sharing my learning with staff, rather than just to the appraiser."

I liked this because it made me think about the affordances of technology that we know empowers our young learners by giving them a real audience as well as feedback from others.  

"My inquiry is a common problem - other schools are doing the same thing. Why are we not communicating cross-school to share what we are doing?

This one I thought was a great idea, what a wonderful model for our students!

"Maybe sharing the teaching inquiry with the students."

And this comment summed up how we should go about the process of teaching as inquiry
"Just that there are lots of different ways to do Inquiry and no single right way. Every school, teacher and student has different needs and it’s important we cater to those individual learning needs."

16 June 2016

Arrest the Summer Drop-off

Rachel Williams,a researcher at the Woolf Fisher Research Centre at the University of Auckland shared some of the research findings of her pilot study of a blogging programme that she developed to address the literacy slump that occurs during summer holidays.

She found that learners who participated in the Manaiakalani Summer blogging programme did not experience a significant drop off in their test scores as measured by the e-asttle writing test.
The blue line on the graph shows the summer bloggers test scores over the year. The red line shows a matched sample of learners who did not blog over the summer (matching gender, ethnicity and achievement) . Students who didn't participate in this continued learning over the holiday through blogging show the trend we are familiar with - that writing outcomes rise through the school year and slide over the summer break.

12 May 2016

Critical Friends

This term we are using a bonus reliever allowance we received to release teachers to observe one another during reading.

Teachers are in groups of 3 and each get release  an hour to visit their reading buddies during reading time. This a chance to see colleagues teaching at different levels and see some new ideas,. But most importantly it is to act as critical friends and support teachers inquiry into their own practice.

The time tabeling has been quite a mission but we have a schedule for the next few weeks for teachers from mixed syndicate levels (the colour codes) to visit one another.

The expectation is that your colleagues will be teaching reading during your visit of half an hour.

By the end of the cycle all of our teachers would have had 2 colleagues see their reading lessons.

In week 8 instead of our normal collaborative inquiry group meetings we are meeting just in our groups of 3 to act as critical friends for one another.

Feedback from teachers so far is that they are really enjoying seeing others teach. Apart from beginning teachers using their PRT release for observations, it is a rare opportunity to be out of class and observe colleagues.

I'm looking forward to the learning conversations that come out of these reflective meetings.

7 April 2016

Where are we up to?

At the end of Term 1 I shared with my inquiry group what looks different in my practice. My Inquiry is how to get our teachers effectively inquiring into their practice. and there are some things I learnt in 2015 that I hope will help.

4 March 2016

Inquiry Start-up For 2016

Into a new year of teaching inquiry. 

After feedback from staff last year we have made the start up a little later so it was this week, (week 5) before we met for the first time to share our inquiry in collaborative groups.
This slightly slower start was to take pressure off busy teachers at the beginning of the year and give them time to think about what they really needed to inquire into. It also meant that some of the beginning of the year testing we do, has been completed and has helped inform teaching and learning needs.
The other time pressure, was the time for me as inquiry coordinator to meet with all teachers to discuss their inquiry with them. Without getting teachers out of classes at this crucial time of year there were a lot of creatively squeezed in meeting times.

The Process so far:
1. Whole staff introduction to school wide focus

2. Develop understanding of formative assessment

3. Time for teachers to consider own, and learner's needs.

4. Meeting individually to formalise  teaching inquiry with a goal and action plan

5. Collaborative teacher meetings to share problem, evidence for problem, and ideas for solution

We have an umbrella focus for the whole school this year (another request from the teacher survey last year). This means that we are all working towards our school goals together, and professional development opportunities for staff can be more efficiently directed to where it is needed.
The whole school is looking at How to use formative assessment to improve reading and writing achievement. This was shared with the staff along with the school data showing the need for this.

Teachers have all started on their action plan.

I noticed a shift in teachers reflecting on learning needs rather than coming up with a 'cool project' they wanted to try. In our goal setting meetings teachers talked about their last year's teaching and achievement data, as well as anecdotal notes from this year, and early assessments. This formative data was the basis for setting the inquiry focus.

Some teachers still felt they had to gather a bit more information, which was great, but many had initial ideas already about how they wanted to go about addressing learning needs. Some teachers also recognised areas they needed to learn more about.

Instead of our usual Monday afternoon staff meeting we met for the first time in our collaborative inquiry groups to share
1. What the problem is for our learners and what evidence we have for this
2. Possible solutions to address this problem

Teachers also shared their inquiry on their professional blogs.

Take a look at our teachers inquiries for 2016.

11 February 2016

Focus for PES Inquiry 2016

In January this year as part of our teacher preparation day, we set the scene for our 2016 teaching inquiry.

Unlike last year when teachers followed any inquiry direction they liked, we have a broad, school wide umbrella, under which teachers follow their own particular inquiry needs. The school inquiry focus is: How can we accelerate progress in reading and writing through formative practice?

This collective focus was partly due to feedback from teachers about the inquiry process last year. teachers felt that not being so individualistic would provide a more collegial and supportive environment. It also allows for staff professional development from external experts to be more efficiently delivered. I also think that it has been a bonus to all be paddling the same way towards a common school goal.

Part of our discussion was round getting a common understanding of what formative assessment was.

The reading, referred to on the presentation, and the notes we made, formed a great discussion about the timing, range and depth of data we could collect.