Activity Five: **“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” Herman Melville

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I actually had fun with this one!

**Herman Melville’s quote comes from  http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/156835-we-cannot-live-only-for-ourselves-a-thousand-fibers-connect

This map shows my current connections. It begins in the middle- with me. My closest and largest connections- my fibres-are in green.These centre around my school community and link quite directly with the wider Catholic community, both parish and educational.The community of NZ primary teachers has far-reaching links in both support and in professional development.This year, one of my most powerful connections has been via Mindlab. From there, my connection links move out, with the outermost subsets being the benefits I currently gain from these connections.

 So, where and how am I currently using connections, and where will I connect next? What professional communities can I add to the borders of my connections?
Digital Communities: Thanks to the big shove from Mindlab, I am now a member of 100% more digital communities than I was this time last year (which was none!) Belonging to groups such as the Mindlab Google+ group  has opened up research, practices and resources. The immediacy of the search is one of the real strengths. If I need to do know something, a search can usually locate it relatively easily. However, I have been a taker, not a giver. In order to be more collaborative I need to become an active participant. The fibres need to stretch both ways. This is easy in a face-to-face community, but more daunting online. it opens me up,for better or worse,to the opinions and feedback of others.However, the potential benefits are beginning to outweigh the negatives. The ability to connect with educators, to share experiences and to receive quality feedback will push my reflective practice out of its one-school focus. First task: to open up this blog by joining the online community of Mindlab bloggers:
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Another of the potential benefits of digital communities is the opportunity it can offer my community of learners to extend their understandings through easily accessible Interdisciplinary learning.The New Zealand Curriculum summarises the usage of e-learning as assisting in” the making of connections by enabling students to enter and explore new learning environments, overcoming barriers of distance and time.(“Effective pedagogy,” 2007, p.36). Jacobs  defines interdisciplinary learning as a ‘knowledge view and curriculum approach that consciously applies methadology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, topic, issue, problem or work.”(as cited in “What is interdisciplinary learning?”, 2004.) If this is so, then the conscious component is important.The fibres which connect new and existing learning need to be real rather than forced. It is the fibres themselves which reinforce the strength of each discipline as a standalone entity, and it is exploring the connections which builds understanding. I want to explore the possibilities of resources such as  http://www.learnz.org.nz/.  It seems to me that this is a user-friendly way of exposing my learners to a wide range of experts and to an equally wide range of experiences.

Then, I want to move from digital to real-life experts by finding ways to use a resource literally right on our doorstep, the neighbouring secondary school.The possibilities of working to include the expertise of specialist teachers of science, languages or technology are exciting. Similarly, extending our connections across our parent and parish community,with their links to knowledge and experiences, allows us to draw on multiple talents and points of view in order for our learners to acquire deeper, more personal understandings (Mathison & Freeman,1997).

There would be challenges to overcome. Hardre, P. L.,et al (2013) discuss the importance of creating a collaborative community in order to enhance the value of interdisciplinary learning.This would need planning, professional conversations and time. Hardre et al ( 2013,p.410) go on to say that it is “getting out of familiar and comfortable spaces and immersion in novel and challenging experiences ” which facilitates deeper learning..An interesting video to watch which discusses interdisciplinary teaching, albeit in a secondary school, is  https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/collaborative-teaching-ntn. As one of the teachers featured in this says, “The real world is not siloed into disciplines.”It would be interesting to look at the impact, not just on learners, but on both primary and secondary teachers if we worked across the two schools.

References: 

Hardre, P. L., Ling, C., Shehab, R. L., Nanny, M. A., Nollert, M. U., Refai, H., …Wollega, E. D. (2013). Teachers in an interdisciplinary learning community: engaging, integrating, and strengthening K-12 education. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 409+. Retrieved from  http://libproxy.unitec.ac.nz:2048/login?url=http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/bic1/AcademicJournalsDetailsPage/AcademicJournalsDetailsWindow?failOverType=&query=&prodId=BIC1&windowstate=normal&contentModules=&display-query=&mode=view&displayGroupName=Journals&limiter=&currPage=&disableHighlighting=false&displayGroups=&sortBy=&search_within_results=&p=BIC1&action=e&catId=&activityType=&scanId=&documentId=GALE%7CA350677367&source=Bookmark&u=per_unit&jsid=d8e5a8bef76eae0bef3f6e00df19ffc8

Interdisciplinary learning in your classroom. (2004). Concept to Classroom.WNET Education. Retrieved from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/interdisciplinary/

Mathison, S., & Freeman, S. (1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago. Retrieved from  http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf

Ministry of Education.(2007). Effective pedagogy. Wellington, New Zealand:Learning Media. Retrieved from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum

Teaching Channel. (2015). Collaborative teaching for interdisciplinary learning. Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/collaborative-teaching-ntn

Activity Four: Communities of Practice: Kia mau ki te ako ko tou oranga hoki ia.

“Kia mau ki te ako ko tou oranga hoki ia. Hold on to learning, for it is your life.”

(Auckland Catholic Education Office, n.d.)

A community of practice consists of a group of people with a shared commitment to practice within a focus or domain. (Wenger-Trayner, E.,& B. 2015).

In this post, my intention is to focus on the most direct community of practice to which I belong, that of my school community, and how it fits the description of a community.

I teach at Marist School. As its name suggests, it is a Catholic school. It’s quite fitting that I reflect on this community in this post, as our school has just celebrated Marist Week,the week in which we remember our charism, our particular special character or lens through which we see our Catholicity.(  New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, 2014. p.13). In our case, our charism comes from the school’s founders, the Marist Sisters. This charism is central to our community’s domain, its relationships and its practice.

Imagine cogs, turning together in order to do what It is needed to fulfil their purpose-

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Who are the stakeholders and in what ways do they influence your practice?
The Families: The families who choose to enrol at Marist School make a real decision to do so. It is quite a process to become part of a Catholic school community. Families need to show a connection to the Catholic faith, they need to sign an agreement to pay fees and, in the case of our school as well as in others,there is a long waiting list for places.

Within this community of families- the students: The school has a roll of approximately 300.It is inner city and culturally diverse. The 2014 ERO report lists the ethnic composition as: Māori 5%, NZ European/ Pākeha 69%, Indian 9%, Samoan 5%, Filipino 4%, Chinese 3%, Tongan 3% and other ethnicities 2%. One of the challenges for our community of practice is how to acknowledge and affirm differences. The Religious Education programme acknowledges the importance of key aspects of the culture and spirituality of Maori and gives meaningful opportunities for integrating these.

 The Catholic Diocese of Auckland : This stakeholder funds all buildings primarily through attendance dues. The Proprietor, the Bishop of Auckland, has overall responsibility for ensuring that,

        “our students develop a Christ-centred faith relationship, when pastoral care reflects the sacredness of each  individual, when individuals are encouraged to know, love and respect themselves as children of God and              when a culture of excellence is fastened in the heart of the Gospel.” (Auckland Catholic Schools’ Office, n.d.).

The Staff: We have 28 members in our team.We are not all Catholic in faith, but we all share a commitment to valuing a faith- driven education. An ongoing challenge is ensuring that the special character of a Catholic school is not lost, whilst affirming the faith of all our community.

Our Community of Practice owes its stakeholders a real responsibility for doing our best to fulfil our point of difference, that is education within a faith environment.”As a Catholic school our Special Character is at the heart of all we do. Gospel values underpin our daily lives.”(Marist School,n.d.)

How do we work to achieve this? We keep this “special character” front and centre in our planning.Our theme this year, for instance, has been Light.This came from Pope Francis’ call,“Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets”( as cited in Kaufman, 2013).

So, for instance, this term our focus has been “Lighting a Fire for Others.” Our value has been Equity and our big question was,” How can we make a difference to other people?” As a school, we worked towards a market day as a fundraiser for a school we are sponsoring in Namibia. Research carried out in 2011 found that although many young people describe themselves as Catholic, there is a disconnection with faith in their daily life (as cited in  The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, 2014, p.8).Our focus on connecting across the curriculum is one way in which we can attempt to address this.

My practice, as part of this Community of Practice, is to help achieve what the Catholic Education Office states is the purpose of its schools – to enable young people to develop the attitudes, knowledge and skills to become active and committed members of the Faith Community and to contribute positively to the world community.

(New Zealand Catholic Education Office, 2002).

References:

Auckland Catholic Education Office. (n.d.)Catholic Schools – Radiating hope for the future. Retrieved from http://www.catholicschools.org.nz/

Education Review Office. (2014). Marist School (Mt Albert) 27/06/2014 Retrieved from http://www.ero.govt.nz/Early-Childhood-School-Reports/School-Reports/Marist-School-Mt-Albert-27-06-2014/School-Statistics

Kaufman, M ( 2013, July 13).Quotes from Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei. Retrieved from https://acultureoflife.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/quotes-from-pope-francis-encyclical-lumen-fidei/

Marist School Mt Albert (n.d.)Our Catholic special character. Retrieved from http://www.marist.school.nz/our-catholic-special-character/

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference. The Catholic education of school age children.(2014). Wellington, New Zealand: Author. Retrieved from  http://www.catholic.org.nz/_uploads/_cknw/files/Catholic%20education%20of%20school-age%20children%20-%20electronic%20version%20ISBN%20978-0-473-27170-1.pdf

New Zealand Catholic Education Office (2002, June). Retrieved from http://( http://www.apis.org.nz/media/resources/publications/schools-philosophy.pdf

Wenger-Trayner,E.,& B.(2015). Communities of practice a brief introductionRetrieved from http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/07-Brief-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf

Activity Three: Reflecting on reflecting

 reflective practice is understood as the process of learning through and from experience towards gaining new insights of self and/or practice
Image taken from http://theultralinx.com/2012/07/20-spectacular-macro-photography/

There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest. Confucius

 Wow- I have actually managed to add an image! You would not believe how long this simple task took me!
Back to the task in hand….
It’s Sunday afternoon. I am thinking about the week- last week and this week. What did we learn and how did we learn it? How can we move forward in our learning this week? What was effective and why? What wasn’t and what should I do about it? Which learners did I reach and which did I miss?

Is this reflective practice, or just what we do on a Sunday?

I think perhaps what we are doing is what Ghaye in 2000 called being brave enough to try to find a way to” work competently and ethically at the edge of order and chaos.” (as cited in Finlay)

                Or is that just my reaction to getting near the end of a very busy, very wet Term 3?

Finlay’s article is complex and took quite some concentration in order to make some kind of personal meaning.

I do think that Schon’s concept of the importance of a reflective practitioner, rather than the process of reflection as an end in itself, is an idea which rings true with me. His description of ‘reflection-in-action’ as well as ‘reflection-on-action’ appears very much to align with my experience. Reflection-in-action is the day to day work in progress, the almost instinctive modification that happens in learning when we as teachers find that what we had supposed, planned, decided is not where our learners fit.  Reflection-on-action is the Sunday afternoon  think spot, where we use our old friend hindsight to review, analyse and inform practice- much as we do when we work with our children to look at success criteria and to decide on next steps in learning.

Finlay continues on to describe Schon’s ‘experience of surprise.’ She likens it to what Boyd and Fales in 1983 called ‘a sense of inner discomfort.’ The Spiral of inquiry describes this as the ‘hunch’-assumptions and beliefs about practices (Timperley, Kaser & Halbert, 2014). I definitely know that feeling- the little nag in your head which keeps you awake at night. It’s when we just know that something is not working in the way it should for that child or that group.

This essentially introspective practice can be quite limiting if we don’t engage in both inner and external dialogue. It’s funny, really, because until I stood aside from my own practice to examine that self-same practice I hadn’t thought about the importance of the dialogue. When we discuss with our peers we explore more deeply, we re- re-examine, we thrash it out until we have the courage to take some action. Mann et al (2007) reinforce this by suggesting that self- reflection may result in less effective reflection than that which is shared, simply because of the opportunity to listen to and respond to a range of experiences and opinions. One way in which we can introspectively carry on an externally situated conversation is through reading and research. It opens us up to the thinking and experiences of others.

I guess what the Mindlab experience, particularly over the latter half of this year, has done is force my hand a little in this deeper conversation and reflection.Whilst  I am not exactly embracing Ghave’s chaos, I am pushing myself along that edge. I am trying hard to do what Boud and Walker suggest when they say that teachers who are really interested in reflection ” must confront themselves,their processes, and their outcomes” ( as cited in Finlay).

References:

Finlay,L.(2008).  Reflecting on reflective practice.Retrieved from  http://www.open.ac.uk/opencetl/files/opencetl/file/ecms/web-content/Finlay-(2008)-Reflecting-on-reflective-practice-PBPL-paper-52.pdf

Mann,K., Gordon,J., & MacLeod, A. (2007) Reflection and reflective practice in health professions education: a systematic review. Retrieved from  http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jill_Gordon/publication/5813985_Reflection_and_reflective_practice_in_health_professions_education_a_systematic_review/links/0c960517f54e18b6dd000000.pdf

Timperley, H., Kaser., L& Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Pedagogy-and-assessment/Evidence-based-leadership/Data-gathering-and-analysis/The-spiral-of-inquiry

Activity 2: It’s all about me.. learning about learning.

What have I learned about my own learning as I have undertaken the Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice?Some of the time it has been wading through mud……

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Image from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3007451/Not-exactly-clear-mud-Runners-trawl-necks-ditches-race-woodland-annual-10K-Muddy-Trials.html

I haven’t done any formal study since 1986…the last assignment I completed had the reference list underlined in pen… so for me the process has been hard work and many times I have doubted my ability to manage the critical thinking and the workload.

I’ve learned that I have a growth mindset and a reasonably high level of self-efficacy. I keep on keeping on. I became more and more determined as time went on and I quite enjoyed the challenges in my path (but don’t tell my family, who have had to deal with my tears and tantrums along the way!) I have found that I enjoy trying out new ideas and that is what I have done. I’m lucky enough to work in an environment where I have been encouraged to do this.

I am a collaborative thinker. Listening to the experiences and perspectives of others, as well as contributing my own, helps me to define and refine my thinking. Tinzmann et al (1990) say that “it is primarily through dialogue and examining different perspectives that students become knowledgeable, strategic, self-determined, and empathetic.’ If this is so, then the range of experience, teaching styles, age and cultural background in our small but diverse ‘Mindlabbers’ group of colleagues at school really helped me to develop powerful understandings.

I’m  a verbal learner. I like words. The reading involved in this study has been something I have relished. My old brain doesn’t assimilate as quickly as it once did and I procrastinate when making decisions about what to include in essays, but I have enjoyed the process of making myself reflect critically on texts with lots of “big words.” I have also had to push myself into new ways to present these words- the challenge of responding in video form was a big one for me!

What have I changed in my practice?

Firstly, conducting a literature review into mindsets and grouping unwrapped a mountain of research that contradicted the commonly used practice of ability grouping. For me, much of the research backed up what Timperley, Kaser & Halbert (2014) describe as a “hunch” that this was not always the best way to promote learning. My own research with my small community of learners pointed to a general belief that intelligence can be developed through practice and hard work, but also showed up aspects of fixed mindset. The word cloud below shows a summary of their responses to the question, “What do you think intelligence is?”wordle 2

I have had to think about my general habits in grouping as well as look for ways to integrate some growth mindset learning. I have had to consider my own instincts and experience, and now I have to back myself to make quite a radical change in my practice. That self-efficacy might come in handy as I experiment with alternative grouping systems.

Secondly, the concept of the ‘flipped classroom’ really intrigued me. The practicalities of our school situation are not yet conducive to this- we have a lot of exploring of these concepts to do as a community before we embark on this process. However, the idea of a blended approach was worth exploring, and I began doing this in Terms 2 and 3. I am using blended learning more and more in my own class, allowing me to increase the time I can spend with targeted learners while at the same time providing choice in both pathways and resources for the class as a whole. I believe that this  blended learning approach will  “not just supplement, but transform and improve the learning process.” http://www.teachthought.com/blended-learning-2/the-definition-of-blended-learning

Lastly, I don’t consider myself a ‘natural’ leader. In fact, I have spent much of my teaching career avoiding formal leadership roles. So having to consider my own leadership style as part of the Mind-lab postgraduate learning  has been a real challenge for me. I have had to really think about not just what I do, but why I do it, and what effects it has on others. Firstly, my challenge was to accept that I am a leader in my learning community, not just because I have more years’ standing than most others, but also because I do exhibit some of the traits of leadership. Having the opportunity to look into some theories of leadership meant that I had to pull apart my practice. I have discovered through the close analysis / sometimes painful viewing of myself in action that I am primarily democratic in style, whilst also exhibiting aspects of transformational leadership. I tend to lead by involvement and by working alongside my colleagues.

So what have I learnt about leadership? I am competent manager. And there is nothing wrong with being a manager. Sometimes managing gets done what needs to be done. But is management leadership? My learning and my thinking tells me no. At a seminar I recently attended an Australian educator, Brendan Spillane, said, “Mindful leadership requires both intentionality and commitment.” I believe I have both of those traits. Now I need to show them. Intentionally and with commitment! For me, this means not always taking the practical approach.  I have to create personal meaning and I need to be brave enough to share that

Brendan Spillane offered a clear definition of what high performing leaders- in any situation-do. He uses a diagram which looks a little like this:

                                                         Ownership

                                                         Acceptance

                                                         Responsibliity

                    ……………………………….The Magic Line………………………………………

                                                          Blame

                                                          Excuses

                                                          Denial

He says that in order to be effective, we need to take up our oar and get out of bed

My challenge in my practice IS to  get out of that bed, pick up my oar, and encourage others to pull themselves over that magic line along with me!

References:

Coleman, J. (2008). Framework 1: Rolfe et al (2001) Framework for reflective practice. Retrieved from  http://otreflection.blogspot.co.nz/2008/08/framework-1-rolfe-et-al-2001-framework.html

Timperley, H., Kaser., L& Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Pedagogy-and-assessment/Evidence-based-leadership/Data-gathering-and-analysis/The-spiral-of-inquiry

Tinzmann, M., Jones,B., Fennimore,T.,Bakker, J., Fine,C., & Pierce,J. (1990). What is the collaborative classroom? NCREL,Oak Brook. Retrieved from http://methodenpool.uni-koeln.de/koopunterricht/The%20Collaborative%20Classroom.htm 

Activity One: This is me.

I am a not-so-young teacher, practising (in more than one sense of that word ) for more than 30 years- when I say that aloud it sounds scary! I am a classroom teacher and that is truly the best part of my job. For me, teaching is about relationships, and it is a real privilege to be part of the lives of so many young people and their families. Nothing gives me more joy than having a gangly teenage boy raise his eyebrows in the classic boy greeting and grunt, “Hey, Miss!” as he passes me on the street!I love it when my former students pop in to update me on their lives.I really do think teaching is a wonderful career, with an opportunity to make a real difference, to be someone’s ‘safe place,’ to have a laugh and to never EVER be bored ! I am especially interested in mindsets, ability grouping and the inter-relationship between them- this is my inquiry focus in Term 4.

I teach in a Years 5 and 6 class in a Catholic primary school.I’ve been part of this supportive community in a teaching role for ten years. Prior to that, I was part of the parent community in the very same school, so it has been a very big part of my life for over 20 years.

In my other life I am married to a teacher, who is currently principal of a primary school. I tell him that I am his “Basic Scale Conscience,” always ready to pop some words of advice from the shop floor into his head!

I have three adult daughters, all lovely, funny and feisty. They make me proud because of the people they are. One of them has just started on her own teaching journey.

I read a lot, travel a bit and walk a little (not enough!)

I am totally new to the world of blogging, so apologies in advance for any mistakes I make. Of course we all know that mistakes are the key to learning!