Posted in Criterion 12, Criterion 4, Criterion 5, Standard 3, Teacher Registration

Leadership evaluation


Do I ask my faculty to evaluate my leadership or not? This question niggled at me for a week or two before I did anything about it. My reasons for doing included getting some feedback on areas that I was unaware that I needed to work on. I also wanted confirmation that I was doing okay and on the right track but I was a bit scared about the negative feedback that I might receive. However,  I was not expecting that everyone would think that I’m wonderful. So it took a bit of courage for me to finally ask the faculty for their feedback.

I did some research online to find a leadership evaluation that I could adapt. I found the Team Leader Evaluation Survey and adapted the questions into this Google Form. My evaluation consisted of 30 statements which were responded to using multiple choice or a linear scale. Respondents could strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree. I avoided having a middle option so that people could not sit on the fence. One member of the department commented that she thought the responses were too black and white so this could have been a weakness in my survey. Perhaps I could have made 3 options to respond to by including ‘slightly agree’ and ‘slightly disagree’.

7 people completed the evaluation and the results were largely positive with people either agreeing or strongly agreeing for the majority of the statements. Some of the questions only one person disagreed so I don’t see those as areas to work on. Two people disagreed with the following statements so I have identified them as areas to improve:

  • Creates a positive team environment
  • Builds trusting relationships
  • Is tactful, helpful and compassionate towards others

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! These are areas that I thought I was doing okay in! Ah well, I did ask.

Creating a positive team environment

According to, there are 12 ways to create a positive work environment. I got some good ideas from this and also recognised a few things that already happen in our department such as a motivational quote that one member puts up each week and birthday celebrations. Some ideas that I will adopt include sharing something positive that someone is doing at the beginning of our faculty meetings and giving positive reinforcement such as:

  • I appreciate the way you…
  • I’m impressed with…
  • I really enjoy working with you because…
  • Your team couldn’t be successful without your…
  • I admire the way you take the time to…
  • You’re really good at…


Building trusting relationships

This is something that is very important to me and something that I focussed on a lot last year. I think the people who disagreed with this statement are the ones that I need to further develop relationships with. According to the MindTools website:

Good working relationships give us several other benefits: our work is more enjoyable when we have good relationships with those around us. Also, people are more likely to go along with changes that we want to implement, and we’re more innovative and creative.

This website has a lot of good information with links to quizzes to help work out emotional intelligence strengths, manage boundaries, and assess your people skills. It also has great ideas about developing relationships. One tip that stood out to me was to avoid gossiping. This is a challenge and something that I know most people deal with. After a few Friday after work drinks with colleagues the conversation can often turn to workplace gossip.

Another tip when dealing with a difficult relationship was to “..try not to be too guarded. Ask them about their background, interests and past successes.” This can be difficult as sometimes I don’t even want to engage with my more difficult people! However, I do need to get over this to develop the trust needed.


Being tactful, helpful and compassionate

I believe that I am usually pretty tactful but sometimes I do say things without thinking and can come across as a bit rude. If I am tired or emotional this is more likely to happen. I do believe that I am helpful and compassionate so I will be aware of the disagreement on this but I don’t see it as an area to work on at this stage.

Once again the MindTools website had some good advice on being tactful. The tips that stood out to me were:

  1. Create the right environment and think before you speak. Listening before speaking and responding with empathy can help to connect with people and see things from their perspective.
  2. Never react emotionally. Understanding and recognising the triggers which make you react emotionally will help to control emotions.


So I have a few things to work on and have researched and discovered some helpful tips to get me started. Even though I was nervous about asking my faculty to complete the evaluation, I am pleased that I did as it has given me a lot to think about. I am also pleased that, overall, I am doing okay.

Posted in Criterion 12, Criterion 5, Criterion 6, Department TAI, Department TAI, Teacher Registration, Teaching As Inquiry

Motivation, Engagement and Consequences.

When brainstorming ideas for Teaching as Inquiry, our department focus became centred around how we could encourage our learners to complete their learning. This is a challenge that many of us face. We decided that we would link our TAI to some of the Whangaparaoa College school goals which include:

Objective 1: Challenge and support all learners to give of their best and achieve their best in their learning and the other areas that they pursue.

Objective 6: Further integrate eLearning into our curriculum in order to enhance the achievement of learning.

Objective 16: Ensure that self review becomes part of the culture of the College.

What is the current situation/problem?

The current situation is that many learners lose motivation and do not complete their learning. This has happened a couple of times throughout the year, especially if the assessment does not go on reports. It seems that if a piece of learning is not worth credits then learners are not motivated to complete it. We have found that if a senior learner has another subject’s assessment due then they will work on that instead! It’s like they’re cheating on English with another subject!

My intervention will be…


I have written about Classcraft previously in my post on Gamification and Assessment. It’s a game that is more appropriate for junior classes than senior ones. I trialled Classcraft over term 2 with my year 9 class and it has been very effective in helping to modify their behaviour.  Classcraft engages and motivates learners by rewarding specific behaviours with points which learners can use to level up or to buy powers and costume accessories for their avatar. I modified the point system to reward the key competencies and 21st century skills. I also gave points for some work completion so that my learners realised that it wasn’t just about playing the game.

What happened and how do I know?

The class took to Classcraft like the proverbial duck to water. They were excited about getting points and suddenly became very helpful and complimentary about my fashion sense. I’ve never blushed so much! Apart from the fun aspect, my learners’ grades either stayed the same or improved by one grade. Some learners had worse results where they either dropped a grade or did not submit.

  • Same = 6
  • Better = 10
  • Worse = 6 (2 did not submit whereas last time they did).

What does this data tell me, and what should I do next?

This data tells me that Classcraft is worth persevering with as most of the class either had the same results or got a better result than the previous essay. I have developed a very positive relationship with the learners and really look forward to seeing this class now. Previously, I had dreaded them a little as they were quite a challenge both behaviour and learning-wise. The class have really enjoyed playing Classcraft and the stories that I have told about its use have encouraged other people in my department to have a go at using it themselves.  Motivating learners to want to complete their learning is a positive strategy for dealing with this issue.

Discussing the importance of finishing well is also something that I will do with all my classes. The sense of satisfaction for a job well done is something that most of us enjoy and contributes towards living a life of integrity.

While I am in favour of rewarding positive more than punishing negative behaviour, there is a place for a negative consequence. Not all learners in this class have had a change of heart when it comes to their learning. Contacting the whanau when learning is not completed is something that will happen more frequently as, in my experience, it mostly gets good results. We are, however, on the right track towards all learners in this class completing their learning.

Posted in Analyse and appropriately use assessment information, which has been gathered formally and informally., Demonstrate commitment to promote the well-being of all ākonga, Mindlab reflections, Student Achievement Analysis, Use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice.

Contemporary Trends and Issues

Big Data

“‘Big Data’ and the use of analytics can provide insights into some of the gnarly challenges associated with improving equity and excellence.”(Data-driven organisations, 2016)

According to Core Education, the use of Big data and analytics is a contemporary trend that is influencing education in New Zealand and internationally. This can be seen with the use of Fitbits to measure and monitor health and fitness in PE; monitoring progress in gamification; and tracking academic progress. The reason for gathering this data is also to inform ‘next steps’. One of the assumptions associated with data use is that tracking numeracy and literacy and planning next steps will ensure success for the learner. However, the NZ curriculum states that a successful learner is a “confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learner.” Therefore as educators we need to consider monitoring more than literacy and numeracy to ensure that our next steps to help our learners are inclusive of other aspects of education such as a sense of belonging.

 “One collaboration found that the most powerful predictor of student success in College remedial mathematics courses is students’ sense of belonging to their mathematics class. The teachers have now been trialling different ways to improve students’ sense of belonging.” (Data-driven organisations, 2016)

The data that is currently most relevant to my practice is its use in the academic tracking of our priority learners. At every HOL meeting this year we have analysed data and evaluated the results. We have looked for patterns and reasons for low achievement. The data we have looked at is from year 7-10 E-Asttle testing in maths and reading. We have also analysed assessment related data for years 11-13.  Recently we also looked at other data related to extra curricular activities and attendance to see whether there were any patterns.

In our curriculum meetings I have presented this data to my department and asked each staff member to identify their priority learners and think about how they would help them. We then each completed a table to record our ideas. In our most recent meeting we collaborated on a Padlet to brainstorm specific ways that we could help our learners.


Collaborative Learning Approaches
According to the NMC Horizon Report (2015) collaborative learning approaches are increasing. This is not only between learners but between teachers, also. These approaches, which involve inquiry-based learning, gaming and global blogging, are proving successful, especially for less able learners.

Collaborative learning models are proving successful in improving student engagement and achievement, especially for disadvantaged students. (p. 12)

Combined with mobile devices and access to the internet, collaborative learning becomes possible anytime and anywhere. Teachers can encourage global sharing and learning also with Skype and quad-blogging. Many teachers worldwide are embracing collaboration between learners and also between themselves on social media platforms such as Twitter.

Bryan Bruce in his investigation, World Class? Inside New Zealand Education: A special report (2016) found that lower decile  schools that employed a collaborative approach to learning improved the results of their learners. He also found that Inquiry-based learning was instrumental in engaging and motivating learners to take ownership of their learning. However, even though this approach has proven successful, governments are still not mandating it as a preferred model for teaching and learning. This approach to learning has been outlined as something that will be happening in 2025! I find this a bit ridiculous as many teachers are doing it now, so why is the expectation set so far in the future?

Collaborative learning is relevant in my practice as I utilise inquiry-based learning regularly. I encourage my learners to collaborate in this way and also with teams in Classcraft, an online game which promotes 21st century skills. I also use shared Google docs to gather ideas and information for different projects in our department. Google Classroom is also used to share resources and discuss ideas.

Even though collaborative learning approaches are not mandated by our government, many in my department use this approach and we also share ideas of best practice, informally. In the various groups that I am involved in, collaboration is always encouraged.



1. Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

2. Data- driven organisations. (2016). Retrieved from

3. Bruce, Bryan (2016). World Class Inside New Zealand Education A special report (2016)  May 23rd TV 3. Retrieved from

4. New Zealand Education in 2025: Lifelong learners in a connected world.

Posted in Criterion 10, Criterion 11, Criterion 12, Criterion 2, Criterion 3, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Professional Development, Teaching As Inquiry

Gamification and Assessment


The research topic area that will be addressed is the impact of gamification on assessment results. In the reading that I have completed there is much evidence of improved engagement and motivation when game based learning and gamification are utilised in the classroom. “On the one side, experiment qualitative analysis suggests that gamification can have a great emotional and social impact on students, as reward systems and competitive social mechanisms seem to be motivating for them…” (Dominguez et al., 2013, p. 391). However, there is not much evidence to prove that these strategies improve higher order thinking. “…On the other hand, researchers have indicated that merely accessing learning content via playing games might not be sufficient to engage students in higher order thinking, such as analysis, evaluation, organization and creation.” (Hwang, G. J., Hung, C. M., & Chen, N. S., 2014, p. 130).

I have a very weak year 9 English class who have written essays that have not gained many marks higher than Not Achieved or Achieved. Higher order thinking is necessary for higher grades. I am hoping that the use of the game, Classcraft, will help provide motivation to improve engagement and the effort required to improve essay results. Classcraft is a gamification website in which learners complete their learning in groups that are set up by the teacher. Each learner can set up their own profile and choose to be a Mage, a Healer or a Warrior.

Points are rewarded based on the behaviours that the teacher wants to encourage. I have created a list based on the Key Competences and 21st Century skills.  In a study of the use of 1:1 devices to improve maths achievement it was found that, “…the use of 1:1 mobile devices showed promise to assist students in 21st-century learning skills…“ (Carr, 2011, p. 278).  One way of encouraging these skills is through gamification and rewarding their use with points. Points can be deducted for being late to class, not handing in an assignment and disrupting the class. Essentially Classcraft is a behaviour modification tool which extrinsically motivates learners to engage, work collaboratively and be motivated to learn. If getting a better result is about engagement, motivation and more effort then the use of Classcraft will be worthwhile. However, I have read that gamification is not successful for all learners, so it will be interesting to see whether it does lead to consistent engagement for all. “These good results don’t happen for everyone though… In some cases the system was even discouraging, as some students don’t find it fun to compete with their classmates for a rank in the leaderboard.” (Dominguez et al., 2013, p. 391).

21st century skills graphic


  • How might the use of Classcraft increase engagement, motivation and lead to improved essay writing results?
  • How might extrinsic motivation lead to consistent engagement and improve the results of less motivated learners?


  • Tino Rangatiratanga: The Principle of Self Determination

The skills rewarded in Classcraft that relate to this principle are persistence, managing self, and participating and contributing. These are the skills that are needed for self-determination and independence. Points will be rewarded for using initiative and learning independently.

  • Whanau: The Principle of Extended Family Structure

Classcraft encourages family involvement by providing a parent code for each learner so that the whanau can see how well their young person is doing. The data and evidence will also be shared with the whanau and they will be invited to respond and share any feedback they may have.

  • Ata: The Principle of Growing Respectful Relationships

Learners will play Classcraft in teams which will require respect, effort and energy, and discipline. Points will be rewarded for interacting positively with others and collaborating effectively.

  • Mahi Kotahitanga: Co-operation

Learners will co-operate and consider each other as they learn and play. Points will be rewarded for participating and contributing, interacting positively with others and collaborating effectively.

  • Ngakau Mahaki: Respect

This is a core value of Whangaparaoa College where learners are expected to respect themselves, each other and the environment. Points will be rewarded for respecting and understanding cultural diversity.


The communities that I will be engaging with in this project are my Year 9 learners, the staff in my department, and the whanau.   It is hoped that my Year 9 learners will see this as fun and therefore want to put in more effort to gain points and level up. They are mostly quite weak learners whom I have had difficulty engaging and motivating, especially with using their devices. They have mostly preferred to use pen and paper and a few learners did not bring their devices to school until they could see that many of their classmates were enjoying making websites to showcase their learning. From previous experience at Orewa College, I know that using devices is a key to better quality writing, especially among less able learners as they do not see it as such a chore and happily write 500 words in an essay where previously they struggled to write 200 words on pen and paper.  It is hoped that by teaching these learners to become more confident in using their devices effectively by participating in Classcraft,  that this will lead to better quality writing.

Secondly, I will also keep the staff in my department informed about what we are doing in the hope that if this is successful they may adopt Classcraft as a strategy to help their learners.  Many of my department have had limited experience with using technology to enable their pedagogy but they are mostly interested in how to do this. Showing improved results and the results of a Learner Attitude survey at a Curriculum meeting will help to prove the validity of gamification to those members of the department that are sceptical. I will invite those that are interested to come and watch how I use Classcraft with my learners.

Thirdly, Classcraft has a parent code for each participant so those parents who are interested will be able to see the progress of their son/daughter and encourage them in the game. This will enable parents to see firsthand what we are doing in class so that they don’t think we are playing games that don’t add value to learning.


I have data from the essays that were written in Term 1 which I will compare with the results from the essays written in Term 2. This data will show whether there has been improvement or not. I will observe my class and their interactions with the each other to see if they are talking about their learning, gaining points and taking steps to gain those points. During the term I will ask my class to complete a Google Form which surveys their attitudes to Classcraft and their learning in this manner.


I discussed this project with Lisa White, one of our Deputy Principals, and explained it to her and then asked for her opinion. Check out the video of her response:

One of the things Lisa suggested was to have points rewarded for progress along the way and the final product at the end so I have added in 3 new categories for receiving points. I think this is a good idea and I have made the point value quite high so that my less motivated learners will think that the task is worthwhile.

Lisa also suggested asking a group of learners their opinion on my plan. I haven’t done this as I had already started the game before our discussion but this is something that I will do in the future. However, I will ask them about the kinds of rewards and prizes they would like though as I do value their voice and would like them to take ownership with me.

I asked Lisa whether she thought other teachers might be interested in implementing Classcraft and she offered some useful ideas on how to share what I will do. Sharing what I am doing and the results from it will be the best strategy as having some examples and proof of effectiveness would be more convincing than just saying that learners are engaged.

The issue of learners doing the bare minimum to get points and not necessarily doing the required learning was something that I had not thought about so having this feedback from Lisa helped me think about ways to prevent this. Her idea of rewarding milestones along the way is one that I will implement.


The potential impact of the inclusion of Classcraft with my Year 9 class is that their essay writing results will improve through the extrinsic motivation of gamification because they will be rewarded for skills such as TRUMP, collaboration, problem solving, innovation, adaptability and other 21st Century skills. This will hopefully ingrain these skills into their mode of operating and will be carried over into all aspects of their learning in other curriculum areas. I believe that TRUMP and 21st Skills are essential skills for a successful career and life.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 1.38.16 PM

I am excited about this because I have been looking for a away to reward these skills for some time now and Classcraft seems to be a great vehicle for this. If the use of Classcraft is successful with my Year 9 learners then I will consider using it in my other classes. I’m not sure whether it will be as effective with senior classes as it seems to be aimed at younger learners but I could try it and see.

If this inquiry is successful it could be used by many other teachers to encourage and reward TRUMP and 21st century skills which are important for our learners’ futures as many report that the jobs our learners will do haven’t been created yet. Therefore, having these skills and being able to adapt to future environments is of utmost importance.


  • Assessing the relevance of my project

To assess the relevance of my project I will discuss it with Lisa White, one of our Deputy Principals, to gain feedback on what she thinks will benefit our learners and what other aspects I need to consider. I will also discuss it with members of my department to explain what I am doing and to get their feedback on how they think it will work.

  • Gathering the data/evidence

I will record the results from 2 essays that will be written in Term 2. These results will be compared with the Term 1 results to see whether improvement has been made. A survey of learner attitudes to using Classcraft will be completed using a Google Form and I will used the chart making part of this app to collate the data. I want to find out whether my learners found Classcraft enjoyable, helpful and motivating. This should show me whether there were any learners who did not find it engaging and motivating and the reasons why.

  • Sharing the data/evidence with relevant parties

Once my Year 9’s have completed 2 essays I will compare the results to the Term 1 essay results and then share this data with my class. The purpose of this will be to show them their improved results and explain how Classcraft was instrumental in helping them to gain these improved results. I will explain that TRUMP and 21st century skills are essential for success and tell them that these are the skills they were rewarded for. Because they demonstrated these skills, their results were improved.

The results and the data from the learner survey will also be shared with my department and Lisa White so that they are able to see the success of Classcraft in improving learner engagement, motivation and essay writing results. This may inspire them to try Classcraft with their own learners. Results and data could also be shared with parents in an email which would explain the whole inquiry. I would invite their feedback to reflect upon and consider for future use of Classcraft.


  1. Smith, G.H. (1990) Principles of Kaupapa Maori. Retrieved from
  2. Te Noho Kotahitanga (n.d.) Retreived from
  3. Carr, J. M. (2011). Does Math Achievement. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 11, 269–286. Retrieved from
  4. Dominguez, A., Saenz-De-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernandez-Sanz, L., Pages, C., & Martinez-Herraiz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers and Education, 63, 380–392.
  5. Hwang, G. J., Hung, C. M., & Chen, N. S. (2014). Improving learning achievements, motivations and problem-solving skills through a peer assessment-based game development approach. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(2), 129–145.
  6. VG Business (2010) Amazing Statistics. Retrieved from:
Posted in Criterion 12, Criterion 2, Criterion 4, Mindlab reflections

Recognising and celebrating TRUMP


How might teachers’ strengths in developing capabilities in thinking, using language, symbols and texts, managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing, be recognised and celebrated?

1. An inquiry into the explicit use of TRUMP could be one way of looking at developing capabilities in this area to see what impact it had on student achievement and well being. Results could be compared and contrasted with less obvious inclusion of TRUMP skills to see what impact the explicit referencing had. The inquiry could be shared with critical friends who would give feedback to recognise and celebrate the strengths developed. Feedback would also be given for further development.

2. Blogging about our successes and failures in the classroom is always a great way of being recognised and celebrated for what we are doing. Sharing ideas on developing TRUMP skills through blog posts can help by receiving feedback on ideas, reflecting on practice and then trying new ideas that may be suggested in a blog comment.

 How might students’ capabilities in thinking, using language, symbols, and texts, managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing, be recognised and celebrated?


Image credit:

Digital badges are a great way to reward skills and this could be a way of recognising and celebrating students’ capabilities in TRUMP.  Each task in a unit of study could have a TRUMP skill attached to it and each student would receive a badge on completion of the task if the skill has been demonstrated. This could be monitored by peers, self and the teacher to ensure that their is evidence of the skill being demonstrated.

I wrote a blog post on something similar a while ago. Check it out here:

Posted in Criterion 12, Criterion 2, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Personal TAI

Entering the Matrix

Over the past few weeks my Level 2 Viewing and Presenting class have been studying The Matrix(1999) directed by the Wachowskis. Students who choose to do Viewing and Presenting are typically students who find reading and writing a challenge so choose an option which focuses more on the visual aspects of English. This film study is an external standard so they will be sitting an exam at the end of the year.

The Plan

We viewed the film and then discussed the 2 main settings, the Matrix and the Real World. I did this to try and help the class understand the difference between what was real and what was computer generated. The class then completed a timeline of events from the film. I introduced an activity matrix to help students engage and undestand the various aspects of the film and provided an interactive ibook study guide for them to refer to. I created a planning document for students to keep a log of what they worked on each period. 

One of the themes in The Matrix is Fate vs Free Will. The computer programmed world of the Matrix is linked to Fate because everything is preplanned as it is a computer programme. The Real World is linked to Free Will because there are choices about the outcome of the future. I wanted my students to have free will when studying this film, choice about what activities they did and when they did them. The outcome was also their choice!

My intention was also to reduce the amount of time I spent at the front of the classroom and have my students create digital artifacts to demonstrate their understanding of the key aspects of the film. Their work would be published on their blogs.

What happened?

After 3 weeks on this unit, of which most of the class seemed to be happy and engaged, I introduced an essay and gave the class the option of working on their essay in class or continuing on their matrix activities. I gave due dates for both but they had the choice of what they would work on. I did this so that I could be available to help with the essay in class time as it was their first literature essay for the year.

After 3 weeks of checking their blogs, alarm bells began ringing. There was very little of their matrix work published. In class I had been roaming the class, asking if anyone needed help and giving it where needed. However, most didn’t seem to have completed anything fully. I asked them to begin posting their artifacts so that I could give them feedback but still very little work was posted. After the essay due date I checked theIr blogs again and only one third of the class had posted their essays. After threats of letters home and being kept in at lunch several more essays were posted but there were still 7 outstanding essays. I realised that social learning was a failure in this class. There was too much choice and not enough structure.


Where to next?

After much reflection, I made a few changes but I was still really keen to avoid chalk and talk so had to think creatively about how to move forward. This is what I tried:

1. I found some YouTube clips which analysed the themes, characters and symbolism in The Matrix. We watched these as a class and then had a class discussion after viewing.

My colleague, Mel Brown, found some research which found that students are more likely to absorb information from a  visual presentation than from simply listening to a teacher talking and I found that this was true. My students have repeated some of the video information back to me in later discussions. They also became more confident in completing their matrix activities. An article in Psychology Today supports this theory.

2. I created several Kahoot quizzes to test information given in the iBook study guide. The winner of each quiz received a chocolate bar. I reminded the class that I would be testing them on info from the study guide so that they could prepare but I don’t think many did. 

John Kleeman, a British software assessment writer, has researched the benefits of quizzes and explains it in his blog post, he emphasies the importance of feedback also.

Kahoot is great because you can see how many people got each question correct and then use this data to inform a later discussion or area to revise. Check out this post from Sam Gibson to find out more. The class really enjoyed the Kahoots and it did help their learning. As I was checking with a student what he was working on, I questioned whether he was familiar with the themes in the film and he replied that knew them because he learnt them from the Kahoot quiz.

3. I spent more time with small groups of students discussing ideas and also helping them get started on activities. A couple of students commented that the activities were too hard and that they weren’t smart enough. They complained that they had to think too much!

I had a conversation with one group and explained that in the past I had simply got students to copy notes from the whiteboard but that this method did not help them undertsand the content even though it may help them remember it. One student commmented that she liked copying notes but it was boring and that the way that we were learning was more interesting because if she didn’t know something she could look it up and find out for herself. 

4. I sent letters home informing the parents of those who have not been producing the required amount of work. Those parents will also be emailed just before our parent evening next term and invited to attend.

5. I gave the class a goal each period which was to publish at least one artifact. If they did not publish, I needed to see where they were up to and discuss when the artifact would be published.


Final Thoughts

These measures did result in an improvement in work ethic and helped me to realise that students who find the work challenging do need more structure. In the study guide there are Keynote presentations embedded with structured activities that I had initially planned to do before deciding to flip the class. I will do these instead of the learning matrix next time if I have a similar type of class as most of my students couldn’t cope with Free Will. Those students who are self motivated will have the option of working through the activities at their own pace as it is still important to differentiate and not let the ‘tail wag the dog’.

When I was on duty with a more experienced colleague we discussed the issue and she helped me to realise that it is great to have high expectations but it is also good to be realistic. A helpful way to go forward is to expect the work to be done and to expect students to work to their full potential. But sometimes, as some wise soul said, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.



Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 12, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Department TAI, Student Achievement Analysis

Using Learning Intentions & Success Criteria

As part of our department TAI I have experimented with getting my year 12 class to write their own Learning Intentions and Success Criteria. My aim was to see if it helped to improve results. They were completing the Close Viewing standard and their work was very much self directed. The following is a diary of how it progressed. 


Today in period 4  I asked the class to write their Learning Intentions and Success Criteria for the period. The learning intentions had to be based on gathering, processing and applying. I explained what this would look like before they started. During the lesson I asked some students if they found this useful and they replied that it helped them to focus on what to do for the period. They also liked writing their own learning intentions compared to being told what to do because they knew what they needed to work on and they also liked the choice.

About half way through the period I warned the class that I would be coming to check on their progress in 5 minutes. Most of the class had made progress but a few were still unfocussed.

At the end of the period I asked for a show of hands to see who thought they had achieved their Success Criteria. Less than half the class put their hands up. We probably need to get into the habit of writing these so that everyone achieves their Success Criteria.


 Today I have designed a SMART goal format for students to write their LIs and SC. I did this because when I ask students what their goal for the period is they tell me they are going to complete a huge amount of work that I can see will be unachievable. This is probably why many did not achieve their Success Criteria when I asked for a show of hands in the last lesson. Hopefully this will guide them to making more realistic goals.

At the start of the period students wrote their goals using the SMART goal format but some seemed to have trouble actually writing so I asked them the questions orally. This was a faster, more effective way of doing this. Those that wrote seemed to labour over it a bit and took much more time than I would have liked. I think that I will give them a time limit next time.

At the end of the lesson I asked for a show of hands to see who thought that they had achieved their goals for the period and more than half the class put their hands up. I believe that this was because the goals were more specific.

I’m now just wondering whether I should modify the SMART template further by adding the levels of thinking… 


I created a template which includes the levels of thinking but, after trialling it, realised that it is way too detailed! I ended up asking students orally so that they didn’t spend so long on it.



I trialled a simpler sketchnotey version which I had fun creating! Students didn’t spend so much time writing their goals for the period so this was helpful.


 I asked the class whether they found it too busy to look at and most said they did not. They seemed to like it. 


 Here’s the latest creation! I’m planning on projecting this each lesson.


LI & SC 


 The class have been using the above guidelines for a week or so now and we are at the end of the unit of work. I have created a Google Form to get some feedback on the use of LI’s & SC, especially opinions on whether writing their own ones was useful and why. I’ll get them to complete this in the next lesson. 


25 students have completed my survey, here are the results.

Q1 What is your opinion of having a Learning Intention and Success Criteria each lesson? 

 Most students sat on the fence on this question and ticked the middle box which doesn’t help me at all! 

 Q2 Do you prefer to write your own Learning Intention?

Again half of the respondents sat on the fence…maybe I offered too many choices and should of made it a yes or no question. 

 Q3 In your opinion, what are the benefits of writing your own Learning Intention? 

 Most people said that they had a goal for the lesson and it helped them to focus. They also liked having a choice about what to work on, they were able to finish tasks from the previous period and not feel rushed into doing a new one. 

 Q4 In your opinion, what are the benefits of a teacher directed Learning Intention? 

 Most said that you know exactly what you should be doing and what the teacher wants. Some said that you don’t waste time writing your own and that because it was on the board you could refer to it during the lesson. 

Q5 Does the Success Criteria help you to understand what you need to do in the lesson? 

 Only 3 people said that the success criteria didn’t help them and the rest of the class had varying degrees of helpfulness. 

 Q6 Did you find it helpful to link the Learning Intention to a level of thinking? 

 Most sat in the middle for this question which suggests that more could be done to help students understand how to do this.

Evaluation of Survey

On the surface it seemed that students didn’t seem to mind whether they had Learning Intentions and Success Criteria or not but when asked what the benefits were, they could list several. Therefore it is a useful exercise in helping students focus and know exactly what they need to do each lesson.

The next step is to see how their results are affected.

Results compared with last year (2014)

In 2014, I had a class of 16 in which 9 did not achieve, 6 Achieved and 1 got Merit.

This year I have a class of 19 in which 3 did not submit, 6 did not achieve, 9 Achieved and 1 got Merit.


My results have improved slightly as a result of my students writing their own Learning Intentions and Success Criteria so this is a worthwhile activity. I think that taking ownership of your own learning and making goals to succeed is always helpful. Reflecting on whether you have achieved your goals can help to maintain focus and also to plan for the following lesson.

When I initially compared the results I thought that there was no difference and felt disheartened but now that I have taken a closer look at them I feel inspired to carry on with this practice. Now I want to aim for more Merits. Onwards and upwards!

Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 12, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Department TAI

How does the use of AKO and mentoring/facilitating at senior level improve results?


Ako is defined as a common language of learning. This means that every department at Orewa College uses the same terms from Art Costa’s 3 story Intellect when writing tasks and assessments. These terms are discussed and explained to students. The levels of thinking from the 3 storey intellect are also explained and made explicit to students. For example, when introducing or reflecting upon a task students may be asked whether it is a gathering, processing or applying task. Learning Intentions and Success Criteria are expected to be visible and explained at the beginning of each lesson. The Success Criteria is referred to again in the plenary. We also use Pam Hook’s Filters for Thinking schoolwide so that our students become familiar with and know how to use these useful mindmaps across all subjects.

Project Based Learning

PBL is an inquiry based learning model which begins with a driving question to challenge students to solve a problem and come up with a solution. There are 8 elements to PBL which are as follows:

1. What is the driving question (TAI) looking at?

Our department inquiry will be investigating how AKO and/or PBL improve results at a senior level. To do this we will need to gather evidence in the following ways:

  • By interviewing/ surveying students and getting feedback about their attitudes to AKO and PBL. It will be interesting to see whether students believe that these 2 things improve their engagement and ability to improve their results.
  • By keeping a close eye on assessment results and comparing them with previous years’ results. Reflection will be needed at the end of each unit of work to record successes, failures and other interesting aspects.

2. What does ako mean to you / what elements are important?

AKO is a valuable way of ensuring that our students have words, phrases and common ways of learning across all subjects. To me, the important elements are the levels of thinking and the words/terms from the 3 story intellect. Helping students to be aware of the type of thinking needed encourages them to put more effort into specific tasks and produce higher quality results. The words and phrases from the 3 storey intellect are also used in assessments and exams so it is important that students are familiar with these. I like the filters for thinking but only use a few of them.

As we are a BYOD school I think we should look at what apps can be included in as part of AKO.

 It would also be useful to incorporate 21st Century skills and literacies such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, innovation, media literacy, digital literacy etc. 

This should be a useful and enlightening inquiry for our department. We have plenty to investigate and should consider a revision of AKO for use in our BYOD environment.

Posted in Criterion 12, Criterion 7


Developing a growth mindset
To me any satisfaction and success that you can expect in life will be influenced by a positive, can do mindset. I have learned that your attitude will determine your altitude.


Over the past couple of years we have been made aware of each of our colleague’s mindset with the introduction of compulsory BYOD. Richard Wells’ pencil illustration says it all and it has been a challenge for those of us at the lead end of the pencil to understand those who are not. Especially since we belong to the wonderful twitter community and at first we thought that the mindsets of the twitterati were normal for most teachers. We have had a wake up call, I tell you! However, this has lead to us having to modify our own mindset. These are a few things that we have learned:

1. Not everyone learns the same way.
Crazy-obvious I know and you would think that as teachers we would not have to relearn this. But adults are the same as students, some of us like to learn alone, some in groups, some like to be shown and some like to have stuff set up and go from there. Some learn faster than others. Linda Rubens wrote a post which explains her very effective solution to this. Those of us who are excited about the changes occurring in education have actively pursued new knowledge and worked out how to use apps effectively on our own. It was quite shocking to find this year that a minority of our colleagues did not know the basics after 2 years of having a device.

2. We need to be helpful, patient and kind.
Again, this is what we do with our students, why couldn’t we extend the same courtesy to our colleagues as easily? We expected too much too soon and, at times, became frustrated with people who complained about using devices. We realise that we needed to spend time working one on one with our colleagues and we also needed to build relationships to encourage them to keep positive and keep trying to make things work for themselves. It can be frustrating when technology goes wrong so we have helped them problem solve where we can.

3. There will never be a utopian school where everyone has the same positive mindset towards teaching and learning.
However, this does not mean we should give up the goal. The journey towards passion and excitement for learning with technology is more important than the goal. It’s the challenges that we overcome and what we learn along the way that have the most value. It has been really cool when a colleague who was previously negative about using their device has ‘seen the light’ and become excited about what they could do with it.


Developing a growth mindset is not easy for some, especially if they have become comfortable with doing what they have always done. But the world of education is evolving and we need to be willing to at least have a go at evolving with it. This is what someone with growth mindset would do.


Posted in Criterion 12

5 Things I Learnt from Genius Time

Early in 2013 I read about Genius Hour from @v_lees and was inspired to try it out myself. As there was not time in our already tight programme for year 9 & 10, I thought that it would be a fun thing to do at the end of the year after exams had taken place. For this reason it was named Genius Time.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”Genius Time ” target=”_blank”>Genius Time </a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Christine Wells</a></strong> </div>

Here’s what I learnt:

1. Students love the freedom to learn about what they are interested in.

Year 9 thought it was a brilliant idea and most embraced their projects and enjoyed the lack of limitations on their learning. Some of them came up with awesome projects from a proposal for a flying fox in the local bush to a fund raising website for leukaemia. The local council are very interested in the flying fox proposal and the group who proposed it are super excited!

2. It needs to be a whole year project.

Year 10 mostly did not take to the idea because they were tired and couldn’t be bothered. Many of them were away on the first week doing STAR courses so the remaining students thought that they should just be allowed to do nothing. If we had started this early in the year we could have built some momentum and used the final few weeks to polish and present.

3. Some students didn’t believe it was a ‘real world’ project.

One group decided to create a website using Jimdo to advertise local adventure activities. I thought that they would contact local agencies to see if they were interested in being on the website and then go from there. But no. These lovelies went ahead and created a really cool website with lots of FAKE activities on it. When I told them that the website they had made was actually real they were shocked. I realised that they thought that Genius Time was just a project that they made up but wasn’t for real. I need to be more specific next time and encourage them to dream big!

4. Having 1:1 devices made this super easy.

Our department is always used for NCEA exams at the end of each year which means that we have to use other classrooms for a couple of weeks. Having 1:1 devices was really helpful because the students could still carry on with their projects regardless of where we were. It also meant that I didn’t have to fight for a computer lab to use.

The devices also allowed the students to create polished presentations such as websites, iMovies, and Keynotes. They took greater pride in being able to present their projects well.

5. The Tall Poppy Syndrome is alive and well.

While we were watching the presentations I noticed one student calling out funny remarks. I let this go initially as they weren’t too negative but as time went on they became more facetious and another student joined in. This is when I saw red and had to have a talk to the class about being positive and encouraging about what others were presenting. The 2 students who were being ‘haters’ had done very little work on their own projects and this was their strategy to make themselves feel better. It’s important to set up each time of presentations with a little reminder to everyone to be supportive. Even when you’ve been doing it all year!

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”Genius Time brainstorm guide” target=”_blank”>Genius Time brainstorm guide</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Christine Wells</a></strong> </div>

So would I do it again? Maybe.