Despite the need to engage in rigorous processes to develop Learner Profiles for students, in mid December when HSC/VCE/SACE etc., and ATAR results are released, we will still see the media bombard us with league style comparisons of schools and their end of year results. There will also be many schools, promoting enviable ATAR results of students suited to an examination approach to learning. However, I remain positive that one day, and one day soon, each one of our students will leave each one of our schools with more than one number on one day and a certificate filled with only marks and bands. I look forward to the day, hopefully one day soon, where we will have a Learner Profile which showcases the very best of who a young adult is and what they can do so they can find their place of meaning in this rapidly changing world.
Some of this seems complicated, right? Problems of practice, theories of action, assumptions, success criteria, and program logic models all seem like a lot of work. However, what is more work is when leaders create a document in isolation that they never intend to use and never engage in conversations with teacher leaders about areas of focus they could work on together.
When working on a school improvement plan, or what some schools may refer to as an academic plan, it’s important for its creators to make sure that it is useful. How do we do that? We do that by:
- Making sure that we do not have too many priorities;
- Taking time to reflect on how many actions and activities we should engage in;
- Including teachers and staff in the discussion and not just creating the document in isolation;
- Not storing them away only to look at next year when we have to create our next school improvement plan; and
- Making the document workable and based on our needs.
I wonder about the user of the How Might We question to frame this theory?
After this we returned to our original groups and worked through the ‘How Might We’ task. This involves completing a prompt: how might we ACTION WHAT for WHOM in order to CHANGE SOMETHING. The purpose of this was to come up with a clearer guide for our moonshot.
It also has me thinking about the IOI Process in providing a structure to not only understand the intricacies of context, but help map out a path to change and innovation.
The use of artificial intelligence in schools is the best example we have right now of what we call a sociotechnical controversy. As a result f of political interest in using policy and assessment to steer the work that is being done in schools, partly due to technological advances and partly due to…
Ultimately, we suggested five key recommendations.
- Time and resources have to be devoted to helping professionals understand, and scrutinise, the AI tools being used in their context.
- There needs to be equity in infrastructure and institutional resourcing to enable all institutions the opportunity to engage with the AI tools they see as necessary. We cannot expect individual schools and teachers to overcome inequitable infrastructure such as funding, availability of internet and access to computational hardware.
- Systems that are thinking of using AI tools in schools must prioritise Professional Learning opportunities well in advance of the rollout of any AI tools. This should be not be on top of an already time-poor
- Opportunities need to be created to enable all stakeholders to participate in decision-making regarding AI in schools. It should never be something that is done to schools, but rather supports the work they are doing.
- Policy frameworks and communities need to be created that guide how to procure AI tools, when to use AI, how to use AI why schools might choose not to use AI in particular circumstances.
Not all of our lingo can or should be replaced with simpler words. Nor would everyone who criticizes it be satisfied with greater clarity. Nevertheless, educators, like other professionals, have a responsibility to communicate as clearly as possible with people outside their field. It’s a matter of basic courtesy to elucidate terms that may be puzzling to others even though we’ve come to take them for granted. And that clarity may also help more people to understand why traditional practices so often fall short and thus to build a constituency for change.
- ‘Vocabulary 7-up’ is a simple vocabulary game that encourages pupils to record as many synonyms as they can for common words (seven ideally!).
- ‘Word Triplets’ offers students three words to choose from, or synonyms, so that we can begin to shape their apt vocabulary selections.
- ‘Said is dead’. The use of ‘said’ is part of the fabric of academic writing.
- ‘Simple >< Sophisticated’. Teachers can quickly and repeatedly model apt word choices, along with the movement from simple to sophisticated, and the reverse when it is needed.
- Word gradients. A common approach is to have pupils discuss and select from a range of word choices – debating their meaning and value for a given task.
I am interested here as someone who realizes how much a) community, b) professional learning, and especially c) knowledge production arose from the particular context (including technological, political, personal, epidemiological, generational factors, etc) of 2005 to 2015. And I’m wondering where teachers–especially new teachers–will get that next.
I whipped up this game earlier this year to give my students the opportunity to practice calculating area and perimeter of rectangles. I wanted a game that included a genuine use for finding out bo…
Unfortunately, principals and leaders have limited options, but one thing they can do is guarantee that the classroom door remains ajar by ensuring effective teachers “leave well.” Leaving is not necessarily a reflection of the family or school environment; sometimes it is a result of certain circumstances or the need for independence, wellbeing, or personal growth. If they leave on a positive note, they may be enticed to return to the classroom or the school in the future.
Inspired by an ACEL presentation, “A synthesized model of teacher turnover” by Dr Hugh Gundlach, Andrea Stringer shares her thoughts on teacher retention. Gundlach and Gavin Slemp spent four years working on a meta-analysis on teacher turnover. One of the key take-aways is addressing those things that are within a school’s control by letting those who leave leave well. Associated with this, to help principals to better understand the situation, Gundlach provides some questions to consider in reflection:
- Was the teacher’s departure voluntary?
- Is the teacher’s departure a loss for the school?
- Could the school have done anything to prevent the departure?
Definitely food for thought.
It’s interesting to see how often teaching in TV and movies is characterized as:
- Easy for outsiders—perhaps even easier for outsiders than for insiders, the people who have studied and practiced teaching for years. (Dangerous Minds, School of Rock, Stand and Deliver, Kindergarten Cop, etc.)
- Individualistic—a profession where you’re successful in spite of rather than because of your colleagues, most of whom are weighted down by their antiquated traditions or their inadequate beliefs in the potential of their students. (The Wire, Blackboard Jungle, Stand and Deliver.)
- Sacrificial, indeed to the extent that successful teaching may require you to forsake your marriage (Freedom Writers) or your health (Stand and Deliver).
- An economic equalizer, where classroom success is the engine of economic mobility, rather than, say, wealth redistribution or a strong social safety net. (Dangerous Minds, Blackboard Jungle, Stand and Deliver.)
- Cultural discipline, a medium for transmitting cultural and social values from the middle class to the lower. (Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, Lean on Me, The Principal, Stand and Deliver, The Substitute, Blackboard Jungle, and on and on.)
I try not to give examples. (I learned a couple lessons here. The first lesson I learned the last time I did this is to ask a follow up question: “What’s your favourite answer”, to help guide my choice when I pick their response to go with the photo. The second, hard lesson I learned this time is not to also ask for a school goal in the same form… this resulted in a number of students focusing all of their answers on school goals.).
In a century that is being defined by flexibility in time, we no longer need to be held hostage by sacred school timetables.
If we value deep learning and human connection, then this should be explicitly built into the school schedule.
While flexibility in time and space will define the workplace in this century, students get little experience deciding how to learn, where to learn, and when to learn, because schools account for every minute. Schooling is predicated on the perception that busyness is good. Treadmill schedules leave little time for deep learning, quietude, or human connections.
- What does our allocation of time say about what we value in the teaching and learning process?
- How can we provide time to enable young people to take more personal responsibility for their own learning, in line with the adolescent predisposition to begin taking charge of their lives?
- If flexibility in time and space will define living and working this century, how can school best prepare young people for this?
He shares examples of schools that have more fluid arrangements that allow students to engage in deeper learning.
I am reminded of a piece from a few years ago from Michael Bond Clegg:
The good news about timetables? We’ve created them, so we can destroy them.
As I have said before, what intrigues me is how the technology helps and/or hinders any sort of change to timetables. I feel that the flip side of flexibility is accountability. For some the answer is things like RFID chips or AI driven facial recognition. I wonder what is done in some of the settings that are mentioned in this piece? I imagine that open spaces like those discussed by people like Steve Collis remove some of that stress. Like removing the weeping willows from cluttered waterways, I imagine that it is important that we place some other alternative in place for fear of erosion.
There is no shortage of things that could be added to this list. The revolution’s questionable taken-for-granteds (“equality of opportunity,” “choice,” schooling’s economic contribution) badly need re-examining. So does the habit of looking for silver bullets in other countries rather than trying to understand how Australia’s system has developed and what it can and can’t become. So also the endless talk about what makes a good teacher or a good school to the exclusion of what makes a good system.
But the point is not in a to-do list. The point is that the revolution has failed and so has its way of thinking. The first step towards unbeaching the whale is to start thinking outside that suffocating box.
The revolution’s one real success was in directing the attention and shaping the language of “policymakers” and “thought leaders.” They now have no other way of thinking and talking about schooling. Hence ministers declaring that yet another bad PISA result to be yet another “wake-up call,” hence more announcements about lifting teachers’ pay or entry scores, hence new tests to make sure that teachers can spell, and hence more looking at other countries to see what they are doing right that might work here — all less from conviction than from not knowing what else to do. Seen from the outside it comes close to a famous definition of insanity.
As a model, the notion of outcomes comes from health services. Ashenden posits that this is problematic as those doing the ‘working’ are in fact the students, not the teachers.
The most fundamental mistake lies in imagining that schools are essentially deliverers of the service of teaching in much the same way that hospitals and clinics deliver health services. In reality, schools aren’t like that at all.
Schools are sites of the production of learning, not by teachers but by a four million–strong workforce otherwise known as students. The big determinant of their productivity is not the quality of supervision but the organisation of their work.
As much as I agree with what Ashenden is saying, my fear is that we are all always already ‘inside the box’? I also worry about the metaphor of the ‘beached whale’ as some whales cannot be unbeached and are blown up, or simply left to decay, providing food for opportunistic seagulls and sharks.
Planning Tool that corresponds to the Diversity Wheel.
While browsing teacher TikTok, I’ve seen a small child in a polka-dot coat clap along to a rhyme in class and another group of young students do a choreographed dance to a Disney song. I’ve seen a teacher list out the reasons their kindergartners had meltdowns that week, and I’ve read poetry written by eighth-grade students. There is room for debate about the benefits and pitfalls of all of these videos, though no one yet knows how the students featured in them will feel as they age.
“It so greatly depends on what is being shown and why,” Sharkey says. “If the content isn’t helpful and productive for student engagement or content, it should probably be discouraged or prohibited, due to the potential risk to students.”
I feel that these ethical questions are not necessarily new, but I wonder if algorithmically driven platforms like TikTok only amplify this?
When will governments learn their lesson? Worksheets won’t fix workload crisis.
The clear and obvious solution to relieving pressure on teachers is an ongoing investment in additional staff: learning support experts, sports and arts co-curricular supervisors, and professional pastoral staff. Recognising teachers’ professional expertise as educators and giving them the time to do their core business well is the real answer to the teaching crisis, not handing out another worksheet.
Jo Lambert raises similar concerns responding to pressures around recruiting when there are still structural issues at play:
We have a teacher workforce issue without a doubt. We need more teachers urgently. But some of us are nervous about recruiting new teachers at the same time as we are sorting out their workplace conditions.
Gill Light also shares a teacher’s perspective on how to fix the teacher shortage, including career structure, raise the profile, change the model, and letting teachers’ teach.
We’re way better at making judgements of two things side by side than we are at ‘objectively’ judging a single thing in isolation.