Leading and Learning. Reflections on my first year at Highbury Grove

Why aren’t leaders reflecting more? Too busy? Not enough time to reflect? Low priority? I enjoy reading @headguruteacher posts because it seems a bit of a rarity to find a Head taking the time to reflect on his/her leadership journey. Much to be learned. Thanks for sharing always great to read from the other side of the world.

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Screen shot 2015-07-19 at 10.46.48 Our new website under construction…

This is my 300th blog post on headguruteacher.com.  It seems like a good moment to reflect on my first year as Head of Highbury Grove.  Without doubt, this year has been the most challenging and rewarding in my professional career.  I’ve never worked so hard in my life – I’ve been dragging myself through the last few weeks through a fog of deep tiredness that I don’t think I’ve experienced before.  I’m not complaining; most of the time, it’s been exhilarating.  I can’t imagine ever wanting a different job; I love it.  As this is my second Headship (and third if you count BIS in Jakarta), I arrived with a certain degree of self-confidence.  But, whilst my prior experience prepared me well for some key elements of strategic thinking and armed me with some well-tested leadership tools, the day-to-day reality of school life makes this a different job altogether…

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Insight for schools: Trends in university learning space design, big shift from lectures to collaborative learning

Environment leading the learning or the other way round?
Learning space is now more complex than one room, one teacher, one blackboard and 30 desks in rows with the naughty kids up the front!!
Modern school design requires creative thinking led by the learners.

culture | learning | design

For many school-based educators, one of the justifications for maintaining a traditional teacher and content focused culture is the need to prepare students for university. But what if universities are changing.

MUSE  Macquarie University MUSE at Macquarie University

There are many examples of tertiary institutions that understand the need for change. Information, lectures and resources can be accessed online, so why would they need to come into university. The MUSE at Macquarie University (pictured) is the transformation of the former library of the 1960s into learning commons and now more students are on campus, they have a place to go.

It has been interesting to read the chapter: The Further and Higher Education Campus in Design for the changing education landscape (2014) by Andrew Harrison and Les Hutton. There is significant insight for the school education sector from what is happening at the tertiary level.

The examples in this chapter are in a process of…

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Technology as a Tool in the 1:1 Classroom

Tech as a ONE tool to help open the world of learning!

Mr. Kamrowski

This weekend the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) kicked off their annual, larger than life, conference.  Thousands of people are in attendance.  It is held in Philadelphia, PA and will be in session until July 1st.  If you are an ed-tech nerd, as many are who read educational blogs, you are probably aware of this event.  If you are like me and unable to attend, you can follow along with the hashtag #notatiste15 and #iste2015 or go to this flip board page.  You will undoubtedly pick up some sort of new tech tool to use or be inspired to introduce more technology than you already may in your classroom.  I find it to be a worthwhile experience.

It is because of this event that I am reflecting on the one to one classroom and the commonly used phrase “technology as a tool.”  The phrase has been uttered…

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Designing spaces for learning: 10 questions to STOP asking and 10 questions to START asking for choice, flexibility & connection

A great read that surely reminds all in learning at what ever level that the needs of the learner should drive the learning space design that sets the tone for the type and quality of learning to occur.

culture | learning | design

Design for the Changing Educational LandscapeCurrently I am reading Design for the Changing Educational Landscape: Space, Place and the Future of Learning (Harrison & Hutton). The book was published in 2014 and cites research and white papers dating back to the early 2000s. People were having the conversations then, the same ones that we are having now. A quote in the book is from the Design Council (UK) “Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus: From the Inside Out Looking In” (2005)

The 2005 research showed low quality, standardised and institutional classroom environments and resources are not just uninspiring, they actually:

  • reduce the range of teaching and learning styles possible and affect interaction between teacher and student
  • undermine the value placed on learning
  • fail to adapt to individual needs
  • hinder creativity
  • are inefficient
  • waste time and effort
  • cost more in the long term

Too often the imperative of the urgent and the need to meet the budget stops school…

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If Coaching is the answer, what is the question?

I like this. Professional learning as a moral imperative for teachers to accept personal responsibility to embrace continuous improvement. Growth implies continuous improvement which is what all great schools are pursuing.

A Coaching Journey

A colleague and I will be presenting the story of our school’s journey into coaching at the 4th National Coaching in Education Conference next week. Attempting to distil a 2 year (and continuing) journey into a 30 minute presentation has provided the impetus I’ve needed to write about our experiences to date. I hope that the series of posts that I have planned will be of use to others who are grappling with the implementation of similar initiatives in their context. .

We’ve been asked to start our case study with what sparked our interest in introducing a coaching intervention to our particular context. Before I answer that question from our perspective, I should say that other interventions are available! In fact, the term “intervention” can perhaps suggest the need for some form of treatment for a problem. We have approached the development of coaching in our context from a different…

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Organising instruction & study: 7 recommendations to improve student learning

6b: Use tests and quizzes to identify content that needs to be learned – low level of evidence

Belmont Teach

This blog is a summary of a Practice Guide by Pashler et al. from 2007, which sets out to provide teachers with specific strategies for instruction and study.

I came across it in a roundabout way via this paper by Dunlosky et al cited in the “What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research” by Rob Coe et al.

The central tenet of this particular Practice Guide is that learning depends on memory, which can in turn be strengthened by concrete strategies. These strategies help students to master new knowledge and skills, without forgetting what they have learned.

A note on Practice Guides

The Health Care professions have been using practice guides for some time now to communicate evidence-based advice to medical practitioners.

The recommendations contained within Practice Guides are intended to be:

  • Actionable by practitioners
  • Coherent in their approach
  • Explicitly connected to the level of supporting evidence

Levels…

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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 […]

https://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/solution-saturday-10-ways-to-shorten-long-meetings/

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:

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A scenario we will all be familiar with!

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

6principles

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

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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.

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​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.

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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.