Wednesday, 16 November 2016

5 ideas to broaden, challenge and inform teacher practice

 In November of each year I enjoy facilitating a professional learning day for my teachers designed to celebrate, challenge and inspire good practice.
Idea 1 – Celebrating change in practice
We began the day celebrating how we were reflective, open minded, risk taking, thinkers and inquirers and grew our practice in 2016. Recently, I met with each teacher and asked them the following:
Tell me about your growth as a teacher this year through your teacher inquiry focus

What has been the most valuable change to your practice this year?

What still challenges you?
I was humbled and amazed at their honesty and professionalism as they shared their inquiry journey, new learning’s and challenges. I later collated all their teacher comments into one document, ensuring anonymity and their approval, and presented it to them to read as a celebration of our professionalism and growth as teachers over this past year. We noted the synergies and connections of their individual teacher inquiries that together represented a whole school inquiry, school wide change in practice and positive student impact.

 Idea 2 – using our own strengths and talents to harness our students’ strengths
Next, in line with our focus on a strengths based education, we intentionally set out to discover our own talents and strengths in order to help our students do the same in learning and achieve optimal levels of personal excellence. I gave teachers the Myers-Briggs Sixteen Personality Types as a handout to help them define their own personality traits.

The teachers used a proforma, see below, to formulate their individual signature strengths and pedagogical gifts narrative that they then shared with each other.

 After recognising and articulating their own signature strengths the teachers were asked to brainstorm ideas on how to find out, harness and teach through the lens of their students’ strengths. They brainstormed:
We will ensure we know each student’s talents and strengths through ….
To ensure we approach learning from a strengths lens we will …
To stimulate their thinking I gave them an example from whatedsaid blog post full of reflective questions that would give a teacher great insight into their students strengths and passions, see below.

 Idea 3 – looking at my classroom through a socio-cultural lens
Next I took my teachers on another tangent but still related to learner-centered practice. I provided an article by Mark Osborne (CORE Education) who discusses the socio-cultural and pedagogical environment of our innovative learning environments. He includes a number of reflective questions teachers could ask themselves about their learning environments set out under the cultural competency headings. For example:
AKO - Are there enough writeable surfaces for all learners to be teachers and vice-versa?
Whanaungatanga – How does the environment foster the deepening of relationships and a sense of belonging and connection?
Teachers read, highlighted, reflected, connected to their own practice and discussed the article with their peers.

Idea 4 – a different perspective on student collaboration
I then challenged their thinking around COLLABORATION! I recently came across the Tedx talk Why collaboration is an individual effort (Emily Eldridge) that offers another viewpoint on student collaboration that resonated with many of us.
Watch it at: 

Idea 5 – clarifying our shared understanding of key terminology
Finally we grew our common understanding around key pedagogical terms. I used the World Café tablecloth model to facilitate our thinking. Individually teachers defined 4 terms:
Learner centered education, Learner agency, Learning anytime, anywhere and Personalised learning.
After they had formulated their definitions and shared with their group I then gave them a copy of the Practitioner’s Lexicon – What is meant by key terminology (Education Reimagined, October 2016). I asked them to review particular pages and check the definition offered and then edit/add to their own definition and re-share.

This is a technical document that clarifies key terms based on a vision for learner-centered education crafted by a group of ideologically diverse educationalists across multiple models, disciplines and perspectives. It can be found at:

How do you broaden, challenge and inform teacher practice at your school?

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