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……

26EA0C0800000578-0-image-m-6_1427108781007

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 

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