Posted in Standard 1, Standard 2, Standard 5, Teacher Registration, Teaching Standards

Can we truly personalise learning?

I have a dream! A vision of learners who are excited to come to school and learn because they have chosen what they will learn about and how they will do it. Their learning is totally personalised.

If I was at school today I would want to learn how to form a rock band, write and record songs, plan a tour and a marketing campaign. To do this I would choose music, English, business studies, design technology, fabrics (costumes are important!) and maths – eek!

How cool would it be to do subjects that you could see were totally relevant to what you wanted to do in life?! I realise that this is not an original dream or vision and that there are many schools already achieving this to some extent. But I feel like I can almost taste it, that it is just around the corner…but how do we get there?

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What is Personalised Learning?

Recently I decided to do some research into what personalised learning is and how it actually happens. According to The Glossary of Education Reform website:

The term personalized learning, or personalization, refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. 

A range of strategies and methods are employed to personalise the learning of each student. These strategies and methods include developing strong relationships with learners; mentoring; differentiated learning; creating learning portfolios; including student voice; passion projects; and inquiry based learning.

I was surprised to realise that many schools already offer a range of these strategies and methods. We are on the way to realising the grand vision!

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What do we already do?
In the English faculty at Whangaparaoa College, many of us use Project Based Learning as a teaching and learning style which gives our learners choice and voice. With our junior classes we add a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix in which learners collaborate to choose activities and then present their learning in a visually appealing format of their choice. This could be a slide show, a video, or a website.

Many of us gamify our junior classes by using Class Dojo or Classcraft to provide competition and motivation. Some teachers also create podcasts that are used to flip the learning so that learners can choose when they engage with the information they need.

We have a Creative Writing group which is run at lunch time for those who enjoy writing. These learners can choose to complete the internally assessed writing standard at either level 1 or level 3 as these are not part of the English programme. We also have a choice of English course at level 2 and 3. At level 2 learners can choose either a literacy heavy reading and writing course or the viewing and presenting course which is focussed on visual texts and a speech. At level 3, learners can choose a literacy course to catch up on missed literacy credits or the mainstream English course offering the usual subjects.

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As a school, we offer Academic Counselling instead of form classes or tutor groups. Academic Counselling is focussed on goal setting and reflection, creating digital learner portfolios, and preparation for the Learner Led Conference held in the middle of the year. The Academic Counsellor mentors each learner in their group by offering support and guidance. They will contact home and the learners’ teachers when necessary to advocate for their learner.

The Social Science faculty offer social projects where learners identify a social issue and plan a campaign to help. Recently a couple of our learners were on television and interviewed by John Campbell about the issue they had chosen. Our PE department have a Sports Institute that learners apply to become involved in and this has proven to be very successful.

Cross disciplinary personalised learning opportunities?

We have made a solid start towards the dream but I wonder about the following:

1. How do we move from where we are now to a cross disciplinary approach?
2. How might we involve the community?
3. How might we incorporate and value diversity?

The Heads of Learning at Whangaparaoa College have begun to meet regularly and we discussed personalised learning recently. We have created a spreadsheet and each added a page detailing what topics our faculty will be covering each term. We then looked at each other’s pages and identified areas where we could work together. For example, when year 9 social studies are investigating political systems they could write a descriptive piece for English based on a dystopian setting. It’s only small steps but its a start.

To really achieve the dream of truly personalised learning it is going to take a massive disruption to schooling as we know it. Timetables will have to go; faculty silos will have to go; year levels will have to go and that’s just the beginning!

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I’m up for it, are you?

 

References

http://edglossary.org/personalized-learning/

 

Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 4, Professional Development, Standard 2, Teacher Registration, Teaching Standards

Using asTTle in the English Classroom

The Call to Action

Today I attended Tania Linley-Richardson’s comprehensive and useful workshop: “Using asTTle in the English Classroom’. For a while now I have needed professional development on using asTTle but the opportunity has never arisen. As a Head of Learning, I have felt behind the 8 ball and a bit out of my depth when it comes to asTTle so when I received an email about this workshop earlier this year, I knew that it was time to take action!

CALL to action

Reading and Interpreting Data

What I liked about this course was that we started with the basics such as what the sub-levels of each level are; what curriculum levels you would expect learners to be at each year; and the skills that asTTle tests. Tania also advised us on the best skills that we should test based on her experience. She also shared ideas of how other schools were using data such as the Core Group model where core subject teachers meet and strategise how to use data for a year group.

Our first focus was the reading test and we looked at the different types of report that could be generated and how to read each one. This was explained to us and then we practised identifying key trends and discussing reasons for each.

We were given resources to use with our learners to unpack the next steps for them. This could be done with either the Academic Counsellor or English teacher. I think it would be a great reflection tool for our learners to look at after their 2nd asTTle test to see if they have progressed or not. Tania recommended that we test mid-year as well as at the beginning and end. I know that Tim Rea is keen to do this which would be helpful for our department so that we can share the workload. However, the lady I was sitting next to said they she had done this and the learners got ‘test fatigue’ and didn’t take it seriously. Something to consider…

After this we looked at and discussed the reports generated from the writing test. I’m not sure about doing the writing test, I worry about the marking load that doing this test would create. However, I did get the contact details of a retired teacher who is looking for work and is happy to mark the writing. Having one person mark would help maintain consistency and I would need support from the SLT in doing this as payment would have to be budgeted for.

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Creating an Adaptive Reading Test and Target Setting

Adaptive tests are on-screen only and adjust to each learner after they have answered a set of questions. According to Tania, this is the most accurate test and it can even work out when kids are guessing and make adjustments! The other bonuses include instantly generated reports and no marking. I had a go at creating one of these and it took less than 5 minutes – I was sold!

We were then shown how to set targets for our learners which was also easy. This would need to be discussed with each learner so that they are aware of the target and how to hit it. Another useful Academic Counselling discussion, perhaps after discussion with an English teacher to work out specifically what to do.

We were shown the Starpath Toolkit which has heaps of free resources to support the use of asTTle and also support Academic Counselling. One of these resources was a spreadsheet to enter data into which then produced charts of varying types to show different types of data.

Target setting

Strategies for Developing Reading Processes

“When students have difficulty reading and understanding subject area texts, they hit a “literacy ceiling” that limits what they can achieve both in the classroom and in their lives outside of school.”

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After very nice lunch we spent the last 90 minutes on literacy activities that could be used to help develop reading and writing skills. These included identifying roadblocks to reading and strategies to overcome these; the 3 level reading guide; and creating vocab toolboxes.

I enjoyed learning about these ideas and will create some posters of reading and writing strategies for us to put in our classrooms. I also plan to create a resource that can be used with all the ideas I have heard today. Our year 9 and 10 classes are split so these activities could be used by the teacher who sees the class once a week.

Concluding Thoughts

The day was well worth it and has resulted in feeling confident and up to speed with using asTTle. I now know how to create a test, interpret data and have strategies for adding value to our learners.

I'm happy now

Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 4, Criterion 5, Standard 2, Teacher Registration, Teaching Standards

2017 Goals

After a very steep learning curve last year, I am feeling much more relaxed about my role as HOL. I now know what is expected and how to complete each task. I am enjoying connecting with the people in my Faculty and helping them to realise their goals.

My goals for this year are:

  • To develop and grow as a leader.
  • To deliver PD and help others grow.
  • To learn how to use assessment information more effectively.
  1. Develop and grow as a leader

I have begun a Master of Educational Leadership and Management to help me to meet this goal. It will take me 3-4 years to complete this but I am looking forward to learning how to become a great leader.

The workshops for this course are in the holidays and over the term there are readings and essays to write. I went to a taster course for this programme at the end of last year and was very inspired. One of the first things we learn is what sort of leader we are before learning about how to connect with others effectively. Good skills to know!

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2. Deliver PD and help others grow

Since joining Whangaparaoa College I have been involved in delivering PD on the SAMR model and using WordPress to reflect on teaching and learning. Blogging is a great way to record evidence by linking to the Practising Teacher Criteria for performance management; this is strongly encouraged at Whangaparaoa.

I will continue to help with PD delivery this year as many teachers still need help setting up their blogs.

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3. Learn how to use assessment information more effectively

For several years now when asked what PD I would like, I have asked for help with AsTTle. Unfortunately, this never happened but, to be fair, I could have been more proactive.

A few weeks ago I received an email about some E-asTTle PD so I immediately signed up. As an HOL it is important that I understand how to use this assessment tool effectively so that I can guide others in the department. I’m looking forward to learning what I can do.

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I’m excited about the year ahead and all the great learning I will be doing. 2017 is going to be awesome!