Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
I wrote earlier about the Australian take on the 'accountability framework' – it seemed like publishing student/teacher results on a national website was bound to lead to league performance tables by any other means. A week later – and I'm sure my post had nothing to do with it – state Education Ministers were in Canberra, meeting to discuss 'school performance'. I happened to be in Parliament House at the time they were discussing it, and joked with colleagues that, if they'd let me in, I'd tell them to avoid league tables at all costs. Lo and behold, they seem to have reached that conclusion anyway, according to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald. The problem was familiar, the solution, unfamiliar – prevent the aggregation of individual school reporting into a national blunt instrument. Minister Gove, please take note.
And then there's the development of the National Curriculum. With the best of intentions, the Federal government had aspired to create a Finnish 'pared-down' curriculum, which would encourage flexibility. The consultation process, however, has spawned too much elaboration leading to criticisms of the draft curriculum as 'overcrowded and incoherent' . Amazingly enough, the government seems to be listening, and the intention is now to scale back in future drafts.
So, from a UK viewpoint, a familiar set of issues. But an unfamiliar response, in that people seem to be listening to school principals, teachers and – as in the event I attended last week in Melbourne, courtesy of Musical Futures school, Trafalgar Primary – listening to learners themselves. We (including our popular press) could learn a lot from the way schooling is publicly discussed in Australia.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Conversation from Penn State with Sir Ken Robinson: Education Innovation - Learning the true meaning of creativity
I woke up this morning to find I'd received the following email from Stephanie Williams from WPSU/Penn State Public Broadcasting:
As I'm sure you're aware, many experts believe the education system in the U.S. needs significant restructuring. WPSU-TV recently interviewed Sir Ken Robinson on a series called “Conversations From Penn State” where he discussed the problems facing the education system and suggests ways to improve it by promoting creativity. After reading through your blog, I think you and your readers may be interested in the interview. It can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tL0WW3tR8Kc and I have provided the embed code at the bottom of this message if you wish to share the video. Please let me know if you have any question or if you decide to post the video.Sincerely,Stephanie Williams
- People underestimate themselves
- The problem is the education system, not teachers and principals
- Transformation is what's required, not reform
- There's an obsession with Standardised Testing
- Schooling is resulting in "standardising" kids
- Reforms are focused on teacher-proofing.
What sparked your interest in education?
Many Government policy makers invest huge amounts of time, money and energy in attempts to teacher-proof the system through public accountability resulting in standardisation: teacher standards, leadership standards, standardised testing, public reporting of results comparing schools, common curriculum.
Students regularly comment that it is the teachers who were significant to them at school. It's teachers (or other mentors) who can result in students realising their passion, and perhaps their full potential.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
- Use multimedia
- Encourage student intuition
- Ask the shortest questions you can
- Let students build the problem
- Be less helpful.
"Maths makes sense of the world. Maths is the vocabulary of your own intuition."
"We need more patient problem-solvers!"
Friday, June 04, 2010
- Education dislocates people from their natural talents.
- Reforming education systems is of little use because it's trying to improve a broken model.
- What is required is a revolution that transforms the system into something else.
- Innovation is fundamental to the required transformation.
- We need to challenge what we take for granted.
- The Tyranny of Common Sense works against transformation.
- The Narrative of Linearity in education (ie. it starts here and finishes here) is an example of what is taken fro granted.
- "A three-year old isn't half a six-year old!"
- Education results in conformity through a fast food model.
- Passion is what excites the spirit and gives energy.
- Does education feed people's passions?
- Human flourishing is organic not mechanical.
- "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." -W.B. Yeats
- Everyday, education treads on children and young people's dreams.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Friday, May 07, 2010
The groups thinking has been informed by the work of Vivianne Robinson on leadership that has an impact on student outcomes and Helen Timperley on professional learning that improves student learning (teacher inquiry and knowledge building).
This learning meeting followed on from a successful staff development day for all the schools in the Learning Community. The principals and assistant principals brought along their thinking as to the goals for the year and key strategies the intended to use.
The meeting aimed to support these leaders in clarifying their goals, think about what their theory of action is to bring about the desired change and identify their learning needs as leaders.
My own reflections and learnings from the meeting are that:
- Developing precision around vision and expressing this as a couple of goals that are clear and unambiguous is hard work;
- Monitoring the effectiveness requires deep thinking in the planning stage; and
- engaging in open to learning conversations requires new skills and a shift away from monitoring, compliance and accountability mindsets.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
This isn’t the Part 2 I had intended – but I thought that it is an example of how the system may actually be getting in the way of improvement and transformation.
Yesterday I picked up a series of Tweets from Greg Whitby about a recent policy talk from NSW opposition leader, Barry O’Farrell on proposed education policy. It had all the usual suspects:
- Real choice for parents
- Flexible system
- Evidence-based policy reporting
And light on detail.
The identified policy problem was that there is
“one in five Year 9 students at or below the minimum [Australian National] standards in reading, writing and maths; it’s time to change our approach towards literacy and numeracy.”
More of the same. So what have we learnt?
The proposed O’Farrell plan for NSW focuses on investing in early intervention in literacy and numeracy and commitment to ensuring
“children develop the foundations for success in literacy and numeracy at an early age.”
No one can really disagree with this. It’s common-sense. And it's been a focus for improvement for nearly two decades now. (see Hill and Crévola (1997); Fullan, Hill and Crévola (2006); Fullan and Sharratt (2010)).
The proposed policy solutions appear to be about doing more of the same: providing more intervention teachers, more accountability, more measuring, national and international comparisons.
An old model, no structural change.
There is also an assumption that a focus on the early years and establishing strong foundations will solve the literacy and numeracy issues in later years.
How does this thinking contribute to the student learning outcomes we have? Where is the learning for the system? How have policy-makers, politicians and political cycles contributed to the educational outcomes we have? What have we learnt?
Are we asking the right questions?
At the school level we have come to understand what makes a difference to student learning:
- Teachers do make a difference. Some things make a bigger difference - use of data, feedback, explicit teaching (Hattie (2009), Visible Learning; Steve Dinham (2009), How to get your school moving and improving).
- Particular approaches to professional learning that are focused on student learning outcomes, teacher inquiry and knowledge building (Timperley (2009), Teacher Professional Learning and Development).
- Particular actions of leadership focused on student learning (Robinson (2009), School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying what works and why).
I have started to frame questions around these understandings.
- What is it about my teaching that leads to those student outcomes?
- What is it I do as a leader that leads to those student outcomes?
- What can I change in my teaching and leadership to achieve better outcomes and opportunities for students?
I use these questions when working with schools to open up reflection, thinking, analysis of practice and conversations about learning.
The same questions I think can be asked at higher levels:
- What is it I do in my work with schools that contributes to those student outcomes?
- What is it I have done as a policy maker that contributes to those student outcomes?
New thinking for new solutions
Doing more of the same, but more intensely, won’t address the issues of improving learning for all students; nor will it create the solutions we need.
Part of the problem is partisan politics within short-term political cycles. There has been very little inquiry into how policy-makers and politicians contribute to "one in five Year 9 students at or below the minimum [Australian National] standards in reading, writing and maths."
The complexity of the issues that face schools in the first decades of the 21st Century requires long-term solutions focused on deeper change. There needs to be a stronger focus on learning across the system - learning for students, teachers, school leaders, educational bureaucracy leaders and administrators, parents, policy-makers, politicians, and researchers.
The answer has to be deep engagement with other colleagues and with mentors in exploring, refining, and improving their practice as well as setting up an environment in which this not only can happen but is encouraged, rewarded, and pressed to happen.’ (Fullan, M. 2006: 57, Turnaround Leadership.)
Shouldn’t policy create those conditions that are necessary for the educational professionals to engage in inquiry, innovation, development and research that is focused on improving outcomes and opportunities for all students?
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Sometimes things are serendipitous!
Innovation has been on my mind. Not that it is never too far away from my thinking; but recently I have been thinking about innovation in schooling and why it might exist in individual sites and pockets but not systemically.
I work with leaders in a networked learning community. It seems to me that intuitively these leaders of schools and the principals’ consultant know what it is that needs to happen to not only improve schools but to transform them. The strength is in leaders working together to solve the problems that they face together.
Traditionally we tend to isolate school sites, their leaders and their teachers and expect them to find solutions to the professional problems that face them. System level support is more often than not isolated to individuals working in individual schools. Efforts to de-privatise practice seem to not deliver the improvements and transformations we might have hoped for.
This got me to thinking: Perhaps it is the system that gets in the way of improvement and transformation.
Schools are expected to improve and even transform to deliver learning for today; and yet systems don’t look to themselves to radically change. There might be external reviews leading to restructuring, but somehow things don’t change. Maybe schooling systems are more resilient than schools.
Yesterday two things happened that fed into my thinking:
Firstly, I met with one of my former Directors from Sydney CEO, Seamus O’Grady. In the course of the discussion we got onto talking about strategic management and annual team achievement plans that consisted of lists of what individuals might do to contribute towards the year’s strategic plan for the system.
That systems should provide structures and scaffolds that allows for the leaders across the system – school leaders and system (office) leaders - to work together as system leadership with a focus on system improvement rather than school improvement.
One of the ideas I have been playing around with is the notion of schools being held accountable to each other through peer to peer accountability such as principals being accountable to each other for the educational opportunities and outcomes of their schools.
Coupled with this is a re-thinking of accountability as being not just achievement based and competitive, but rather a for schools, by schools approach where it is as much in my interest for you to be successful as is for you to be successful.
This is counter-intuitive to market forces thinking.
Imagine schools working together for the good of our kids and society rather than competing for enrolments, achievement levels and funding!
Part 2 tomorrow: Looking for opportunities: “Greenfield” schooling.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Effective teachers have a gift for noticing—what one researcher calls “withitness.”