Solution Saturday: 10 Ways to Shorten Long Meetings

A great read on meetings from Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak. Often there are too many meetings that do not have clear guidelines for what the meeting is trying to achieve or they are discussion meetings which often go no where except having a nice discussion – that’s probably not the aim of the meeting!

From Dan “Great meetings create efficiency. It’s Solution Saturday. The problem I’d like us to solve is spending too much time in long meetings. One CEO said she has to take her work home at night because her days are spent in meetings. “… one either meets or one works. One can not do both at the same […]

Making Questioning Count

Class Teaching

crane2The 15 minute forum tonight was led by PE NQT James Crane.  James started the session by telling us that since he had been teaching, he had quickly come to the conclusion that questioning was one of the most important aspects of pedagogy, and was essential to develop good learning.  It should be a  key feature of every lesson and is essential for judging how well students are understanding the work.  As such, it is a key planning tool – by asking good questions, you find out what they are struggling with and so which direction you need to take the lesson.  He also reflected on when it doesn’t go so well:


A scenario we will all be familiar with!

At DHS, questioning sits as one of our 6 key pedagogical principles:


The ‘so that…’ of questioning is key.  If done well, it makes sure that students are made to think hard, with…

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10 talks on making schools great

10 Inspirational stories from TED on hearing about what makes schools great. Great to use across a term in staff meetings or as part of your school PLC. Each one is unique and presents CHANGE as the leading theme or paradigm in each story whether it is talking about new designs needed for schools or making over the Maths classroom. The modern school is about connecting learners across the globe and hearing about the unlimited multifaceted changes happening in schools right now and how we each can learn from their stories. Schooling is no longer uniform one size fits all so the classroom that still exists in many schools needs to change and blended learning more the norm rather than an add on.

Student Wellbeing and Learning


Our School like many schools invest time in researching best practice and reviewing our learning and wellbeing models we offer to our students and parents.  We have spent the past 3-4 years focussed on research based evidence looking into learning and wellbeing for our students.  We have been building our own model of learning drawing on best practice from the field.  Just to namedrop two people most reading this may or may not be aware leading this discussion in Australia and the world are Professor John Hattie and Professor Donna Cross.  Hattie is giving us the data and evidence informed discussion and Donna Cross has helped us with the social, and emotional resilience building capacity of our students.  There’ll be a PhD later for someone to write up of our journey meanwhile………this has been and continues to be a long journey for the school, arguably longer than if the school had made the decision to purchase a ONE learning model off the shelf and dedicate the resources into training and then implementing this model in the classroom.

But this is no guarantee either of success with implementing change, especially when it comes to change in the field of education.  I have been in a school that once used Habits of Mind as it’s guiding pedagogical philosophy and upon entry to the school all new staff were given a Habits of Mind training manual to read of over 500 pages.  Needless to say as the original people who brought it into the school left, little was left of the program because all staff had not engaged and adopted the change in practices being called upon. Just posters on walls and manuals in the library handed to new staff!!

So the gradual, build it yourself model we’ve adopted has it’s place and reveals many characteristics for staff and school leaders along the way like resilience, persistence, collaboration, frustration, and failure that we ask of our students everyday to experience at school.  It has been exhilarating not having all the answers whilst also frustrating for many who want to have all the answers to the many questions our model of learning is throwing forth.  So we are now as a school getting closer to the end point of research, discussion and consultation and modification over the period to formalise our beliefs and implement our ideas through action and school programs.

We call our model LIBERATE.

Liberate Model of Student Wellbeing

Within our model there are 4 major pillars for effective wellbeing:

1. Resilience of the Learner

2. Social Capital for the students

3. Healthy and Safe Environments for all

4. Quality Teaching provided.

We have had large numbers of staff working as iLeaders (teachers of pedagogy/design with reduced class loads) for the past 3-4 years working across all faculties developing the capacity and programs of all departments to implement Liberate and build greater consistency and school frameworks across all area.  Stage 4 units have been our starting point initially and all units are organised in sections that match the components of the Liberate model.  Like many schools some departments have pushed ahead quicker and Liberate has already moved into Stage 5 and 6 programs.

Naturally the ‘sub components’ overlap and can apply to several if not all the pillars. For example ‘Positive Relationships’ ties closely to building resilience – ‘having supportive relationships especially with family members and peers’.  The same component also applies to ‘Social Capital’ – ‘networks of trust, responsibility, and support that exist between members of a group’.  Much like learning rubrics every department has one which is different or unique but the broad outline and shape is consistent.


​For ease of progression we have put the components most closely associated with each pillar under that pillar.  Please keep in mind that they would apply across all 4.

Each of the sections is divided into parts to help develop your understandings.

1. Prior Knowledge: Each starts with asking you about  your Prior knowledge.  It is important to list some samples so that others can gain a deeper understanding of what it means to various people who do this course.

2. Definition/s: Each sections contains a definition of the component or pillar according to an expert in the field.  We also add descriptions of how we see it in this school.

3. Expert in the field:  Where possible we have included and world wide expert who shares their views on the component.  Hopefully you will see that this model is based on research and views or leaders in the education field globally.  It is a framework for good teaching practice.

4. Definition in practice -Where possible we have included short video samples of either students in action, their thoughts or the thoughts of practitioners who are applying the Liberate model.  You can see a sample clicking on the link above.

5. Liberate pointers:  We have listed the most appropriate pointers in the hope of creating a shared understanding of the types of skills, action, environment qualities and leadership qualities that would apply in each component.

6. Research and links: Finally we have included links to quality research for each component.  This is by no means a definitive list but does offer some background and extension reading should you require it.


We’re not finished still plenty to do but many many positives to come out of this process of continual learning and growth for the school for parents, teachers and students as we move forward into our next planning cycle 2015-18.

Developing Metacognition Through Exam Practice

Great read on building skill sets for students through regular practice and feedback sessions whatever they might be. Regular feedback on students work helps get them thinking about their learning and where their improvement is.

Class Teaching


The 15 minute forum tonight was led by geography teacher Ben Crockett.  A few weeks ago, the ‘Blog of the week’ was this great one on metacognition by John Tomsett.  This resonated with Ben, who then wanted to look into it more and try it out with his year 11 class.

An initial Google search suggested that this might be quite a complex business:


A further search simplified it slightly:


Put simply, metacognition is about how we go about preparing and dealing with challenges that we are faced with – “its thinking about thinking!”. The Education Endowment Foundation rate it as a ‘high impact, low cost’ strategy – read more here.

When we reflect on this, great teachers encourage metacognition frequently:

  • When we come up with learning objectives and activities to reach these.
  • When we model the best and most effective strategy to complete work.
  • When we…

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HOT Paragraphs: A data-teams based whole-school literacy initiative

Blended Educator

Hot Paragraphs

The Why…

Three years ago, after interpreting our NAPLAN literacy results, we decided to implement a whole-school literacy initiative to improve our students’ ability to write effectively and their use of language conventions. We hoped that a whole-school focus might help support the students in their ability to construct texts, and improve their use of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

The What…

While we could have adopted a writing program available on the market, we decided that we wanted to develop our own approach to writing, with a focus on paragraph writing. One of the main reasons for this was that we had noticed that the language ou students used when referring to the structure of their work was inconsistent. What one teacher called a topic sentence, another teacher called a thesis statement an another an opening remark. So we developed our own approach, which we termed Higher Order Thinking…

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