Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Student Profile and Tools/ measures/ approaches

Task: Describe the tools/measures/approaches you plan to use to get a more detailed and accurate profile of students’ learning in relation to that challenge. Justify why you chose these approaches and tools.

Challenge: Across the curriculum, how do we give children the tools and skills to become critical thinkers?

Profile of students' learning: Children who are reading at or above a level expected for year 5 learners, often still lack critical thinking required to be successful at their instructional level.

- Observation: I have observed this through several years teaching year 5 students. There tends to be two separate ability/ skill levels of children who are reading at or above their age: Those who freely make causal relationships and translate what they have read into their own words and those who can't yet do this. 

I want to focus in on those children who do not yet have all these skills/abilities. I feel that this group of children have not yet been a large focus for me. We are fortunate in our team to have Helen Squires supporting us with our children who are learning to read, with a focus on letter sounds. We are also fortunate to have Kelsey Parrant, a year 6 teacher who last year inquired into strategies to support those children who are reading at 7-9 years.

In this inquiry, I hope to be able to work with Sandy Lagitupu, who has previously looked into a similar challenge through the inquiry process. I hope my inquiry will provide a continuation of her inquiry.


Beginning of year and end of year running record - with a focus on how the children answer the comprehension questions.

Beginning of year and end of year blog comment - with a focus on the level of critical thinking in the comment in relation to the blog post.

Tools/ approaches:

- Teaching causal reasoning --> see Richard Anderson's research.
- Self-explaining (see article) across reading, writing and maths.
- Template blog post to encourage deeper thinking.
- Blog comment prompts to encourage deeper thinking.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Moving into Remote Learning

A week ago, I arrived at school to a class of 7 children. At 2:00pm that same day, we had heard that New Zealand was moving into level 3 of the Covid-19 response and schools would be shut to children by the end of the day. We are fortunate to be a 1:1 chromebook school for all children year 4 to 8 but we still had the challenge of getting these chromebooks home before New Zealand moved into level 4 on the Wednesday night. We managed it!

On Wednesday at 9am, we moved into our first day of remote learning, starting with a google hangout (also known as google meet) with our class. We pushed these hangouts out to the children via our school site.

Each of the teachers in team 4 now have their own remote learning page.

On this page (click the image above), the children can access their learning for the day as well as the links to the google hangouts which will occur throughout each day. The hangouts have been a chance for the children to connect, ask questions and to be shown their learning for the day.

While the children are working on their tasks, I have been opening up the google docs which they are working on and leaving comments to support them. When they post their learning to their blog, I have been leaving comments to encourage them and get them thinking deeper about their learning. 

I feel that the first three days of teaching remotely have been a real success. The children have been engaged, completing tasks and have picked up on the new structure of learning. Whānau have been highly involved and supportive in their children's learning too which has shown from the quality and effort being put into each of the tasks. 

A highlight of Friday was the holding of school assembly remotely. This was led by our Principal, Russell Burt. Routine and structure is so important and continuing to have all these normal school events is highly valuable to ensuring our children continue to learn throughout this isolation period. 

The Manaiakalani pedagogy has allowed us as a community to move seemlessly into this remote learning. Our children are continuing to learn, create and share whilst they continue to be connected with others, have ubiquitous opportunities, empowered in their learning and their learning being visible.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

How will my inquiry make a powerful contribution to the wider school and to cluster goals?

Collaborate with your school’s leadership team and colleagues to identify areas where your inquiry will make a powerful contribution to wider school and cluster goals.

Since our last CoL meeting, I have had opportunities to talk with Kent from Pt England School's leadership team, colleagues in a collaborative inquiry meeting as well as meeting with Robyn Anderson from Panmure Bridge School and Sandy Lagitupu from Pt England School. Below I will summarise what I have learned and got out of each of these discussion opportunities:

Meeting with Kent Somerville:

In my Inquiry meeting with Kent, I posed my chosen inquiry topic and action plan. My inquiry would be based around literacy (reading and writing). With writing tracking positively, my major focus would be on reading however, I wanted the learning to link to the ability for the children to be critical in the blog comments which they write online. The hunch I posed was that a purposeful focus on critical thinking and dialogue in class will develop children’s ability to think critically in an online environment.

Kent got me to think about whether I would consider doing an inquiry into maths, particularly with a school focus on maths for the first part of this year. I feel that there are enough resources to support me in my development of maths teaching, however less resources to support the teaching of critical thinking. I am still on the fence about whether to continue pursuing my current inquiry topic, to flip across to a focus on maths OR to see if there is a way I can incorporate maths into my current inquiry. 

Meeting with colleagues in our collaborative inquiry meeting:

In our school collaborative inquiry meeting, I posed my inquiry into critical thinking to my team. I still mentioned that I was on the fence regarding which inquiry was going to be more valuable. 

Meeting with Robyn Anderson:

I met with Robyn Anderson from Panmure Bridge School after we realised that our two inquiries actually seemed to match quite nicely. We shared some resources and thought about how we could support each other in our inquiries throughout the year. We decided that a good initial measure for the children in both of our classes would be a blog post written by the children around a common DLO (for the class). We decided this could create a good initial measure as the focus for the children would be on the quality of their blog post rather than of the DLO.  I shared with Robyn my interpersonal skill/ critical thinking rubric which I created (see previous blog post), and I encouraged her to make changes to it if she thought necessary. We decided we would use this, or an adaption of this, to assess these blog posts.

Robyn also shared their school writing rubrics with me which have been written to support children and which create a link between the e-asttle writing rubrics and the writing of blog posts and comments. Finally, Robyn shared with me a document with suggestions from other teachers as to how they ensure children are writing quality blog comments. This will be important to consider when I develop any innovative ideas for developing children's critical thinking when writing online. 

Meeting with Sandy Lagitupu:

I met with Sandy Lagitupu as she undertook several years of inquiry around using Paedeia seminars with the extension groups. The purpose of these seminars is to encourage critical thinking, making causal links and getting the children talking.

We discussed whether my inquiry, which would build on this idea, would be valuable to look into for our school. We agreed that there was a definite need for a group of children who were working above their reading level to learn how to make causal links and develop their critical thinking skills. Interestingly, this focus is not needed for all of the children reading above their age. We noticed this trend across multiple years.

I discussed with Sandy that it would be important to ensure my inquiry wasn't just a replication of what Sandy and other educators have previously done. It would need to have a difference. I am hoping that the connection to children showing critical thinking online would be this difference I could inquire into.

Summary of how/where my inquiry will make a powerful contribution to wider school and cluster goals:

To summarise, I have talked with people from within our school and wider to discuss the value of my inquiry. I feel I still have more discussions before I feel confident that I will be on track to undertaking a valuable and worth-while inquiry for 2020. I need to think about how my inquiry would be different to what people have already undertaken in previous years.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Inquiry 'stocktake' Reflection and direction for this year

Task: Use the ‘inquiry stocktake’ doc to reflect on and write about what you aim to learn about this year

1. Identifying valued learning outcomes (VLOs) to focus on:

Throughout last year, the inquiry framework/guidelines and step-by-step blog post suggestions that were provided to us from Woolf Fisher were highly useful to support us in developing and implementing an in depth inquiry.

It will be useful to have a similar framework provided to us throughout this year as a support to our learning and developing inquiry. It will also be useful if we can have time in our meetings to reflect on each others inquiries, leave comments or give each other suggestions/support.

2. Profiling students’ learning in those VLOs:

I found the profiling of students' learning really difficult last year as my topic branched from the key competencies rather than learning areas. Therefore, I had to create ways to assess the children in front of me, rather than use formative assessments which were readily available and tested.

Going into this year, I feel more confident with how I will be able to profile students' learning as I am confident that my topic will allow me to utilise readily available and tested formative assessments.

3. Generating hypotheses (especially teaching):

It was really important last year to discuss the data I found with teachers and experts in the field I was working with. I was also really fortunate to be a Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher last year which meant I had a group of teachers from around New Zealand who I was constantly networking with. With the MIT group, we did a lot of work on generating our hypotheses. This process resulted in quite a different focus to what I had originally thought I would focus on.

This year, I will not have this additional opportunity to support me in my inquiry. I would therefore find it extremely useful to have opportunities to bounce ideas off others in our CoL meetings. I will utilise the frameworks and ideas from MIT19 to ensure I create robust and thoughtful hypotheses. In addition, through sharing of ideas in our last CoL meeting, I learned that one of the other CoL teachers is going to be working on a very similar inquiry to mine in a year 7/8 classroom. We hope to meet with each other, bounce ideas of each other and ensure our inquiries can support and enhance each other's inquiries.

4. Testing hypotheses (investigating own teaching):

I want to ensure that I collect student voice more regularly throughout this year. I collected student voice last year however not very regularly.

5. Using research literature and other sources to identify more effective approaches:

Last year, we noticed that we were limited in our access to academic literature. It will be important to discuss this with people who can support us if it becomes an issue during research this year. Other resources I could possibly make more use of this year are Best Evidence Synthesis (BES). Another resource which could be useful to me is Sheena Cameron's book on oral language.

6. Implementing new approaches:

It was a challenge to implement new approaches without 'wasting' valuable learning time. It was really important that there was value in anything that was implemented. Last year, it was clear that the approach I implemented was engaging for learners and provided them opportunities to create and share their learning. This year, I am going to have to think about what implementation of a new approach will look like and how it will fit into our classroom.

7. Monitoring (and tweaking) new approaches:

Having a record of my inquiry through blog posts was really important so I could reflect, make changes, and go back to previous approaches or ideas. Hyperlinks on blog posts were also really useful for this.

8. Evaluate shifts in own teaching

9. Evaluate shifts in student learning:

I found this really challenging last year as my topic was not one which I could easily utilise formative assessment tools. Even at the end of the year, I did not feel entirely confident that comparisons of data were accurate and fair representations. I feel more confident coming into this year of evaluating shifts in student learning. I feel that the topic of critical thinking through reading and writing will be more easy to measure than critical thinking and interpersonal skills online. I have already begun by creating a more detailed rubric to measure blog posts.

10. Keep a clear and detailed record of all stages of inquiry:

The process of keeping track of each stage of the inquiry process was personally highly helped from having a professional blog. For someone who was looking at my blog and wanting to learn from what I did, the labels would have helped. For me, I found it most useful to use the label, CoL or 2019 to track my journey. This year, I will work with the CoL group to think of any other ways we can make following our inquiry more user-friendly.