This post is my application for a 2015 CORE eFellowship.
My application presentation can be found here.
Ok, so I’ve found it challenging to find the time (or, perhaps, more truthfully, prioritise the time…) to continue to read NZCER’s report “Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective”. But! I’m nearly through, so I thought I’d take the time to reflect on the five further themes which the report links to “contemporary views of learning for the 21st century: (p. 9). And as a reminder, the full six are:
I’m intrigued by the idea of ‘diversity’, which, as the report rightly captures, has been dominated in New Zealand schools by definitions of equity, or reducing disparity between different ethnic, in particular, groups. The report doesn’t downplay this approach, but rather, I think, shifts the focus from a negative to a positive perspective, calling for ways in which differences are seen as valued as they allow for ideas and problems to be seen in different lights, from different points of view. Overall, the concept of educating for diversity, I think is key. We must be able to engage with “people from cultural, religious and/or linguistic backgrounds or world views that are very different” from our own (p. 25), and we must be able to engage with a diversity of ideas (p. 25). I love this, and find it sits comfortably with my personal values and beliefs.
Theme 3 is centred around shifting the concept of knowledge from one of knowledge as “content or ‘stuff'” to “something that does stuff” (p. 31). I think this is a huge challenge for secondary school teachers, in particular, whose core business has been imparting knowledge – filling the empty vessel analogy. The idea of knowledge as a verb, or that “knowledge is about creating knowledge and using knowledge” (p. 32) may be comfortable in theory, but to put into practice is less straight-forward and clear-cut. This is where inquiry-based learning, learning how to learn, and learning how to work with ideas and people, seems to me to come into play. Working in a cross-curricula fashion in order to learn transferable skills will become important.
The fourth theme, focused on the shifting or rethinking of teacher and student roles, I’m gratified to see, is something I’ve considered already on this blog here. I actually really like that this entire report seems only to use the word ‘learner’. I think we should remember that this applies equally to ‘students’ and ‘teachers’ as we all seek to embrace learning about, in, and through a ‘future-oriented’ lens.
Indeed, this feeds well into the fifth theme of continuous learning. The NZC speaks of creating ‘life-long learners’, and many schools have adopted this into their vision for their students. However, equally, teachers must see themselves as ‘life-long learners’ – and not just in terms of their specific knowledge, or learning, area, but of pedagogy as well. “21st century teachers need to be able to think about knowledge as a tool to do things with” (p. 46). This strikes me as being akin to the extended abstract end of the SOLO taxonomy that Marsden has been working with for a number of years. Teachers, with their subject-specific expertise need themselves to be able to think in a meta-cognitive kind of way about their subject and the ways in which the knowledge can be accessed, categorised, and linked.
Finally (for now ;)) is the sixth theme of forging community partnerships. I like the two-fold rationale here – firstly around providing authentic learning contexts, but also because these school-community connections will help to stimulate “real community understanding of and support for future-oriented ideas” which will be needed “if schools are to achieve the required shift in focus” (p. 49)
This (along with the previous blog post) form my reflection on the six themes outlined. There’s still a wee bit more to go, so bear with me as I explore the final ten pages…!
Courtesy of Steve Wheeler, accessed 28/11/13
3 Principles that supports human life flourishing:
Other gems from this talk:
It would be interesting to see what the New Zealand Curriculum says about these three principles. My current understanding is that they are supported. The intention behind the NZC is for schools to create their own curricula which are in line with the communities and students they serve.
The three principles are also ways to measure the benefit of new teaching practices. Will they allow diversity, curiosity and creativity to flourish?
This is another concept which I need to spend more time thinking about – particularly: how does it relate to future learning principles? However, I definitely agree with the idea of universal design for learning – that students should be able to show their understanding in a way that best suits them. The principles of UDL seem to be around making knowledge accessible, and making the assessment fit the learning. I think English as a subject is particularly well placed to do this – we might have more freedom in an English classroom to allow students to present in writing, orally, or visually. This way we can assess both content knowledge and production skills. Success criteria therefore need to be flexible, or perhaps even co-constructed with students.
I do think that there is a challenge (albeit not an insurmountable one) to balance the concept of universal design for learning against the demands of meeting NCEA assessment criteria. Something we’re looking to try at Whitby next year is to focus on teaching key skills in the first half of the year, putting aside various pieces of student work as they go. Then, in the second half of the year, these pieces can be crafted into items for assessment, playing to the strengths students have exhibited. It will be interesting to monitor how this approach works towards meeting the needs of students.
As I came to appreciate at ULearn, and as this YouTube clip makes clear, it is about opening doorways for students – and technology has the power to do the same. Technology can be used to make knowledge accessible to students, and it can be used to help students show their understanding in a way that best suits them. The New Zealand Curriculum talks about ‘diversity’, and some of the reading I’ve started to do unpacks this idea to not just be about catering to students from diverse backgrounds, and not just a diversity of learning styles, as UDL can do, but it’s also about coping with and managing a diversity of ideas. In this way technology can be both a boon and a burden. Perhaps this is also where TPACK and careful, clever learning design comes into play – providing a specific context but flexible success criteria so that students don’t flounder and lose their way.
Today I gave my Year 8 students an independent reading assignment. Within reason, they can choose their own fiction book to complete the assignment on, and while I have given them a range of activities and questions to complete in relation to their chosen text, I have set them the challenge of finding a creative and original way to present their final product. They can complete it in their exercise book, as a poster, as a blog, as a podcast, as a YouTube video…it’s up to them. The girls have embraced the idea and are hugely enthusiastic. And while, yes, it will be interesting to see the final products, at least it has them excited about learning, and they feel they can attack the task. And perhaps that’s a real benefit of trialling something like universal design for learning.
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