Friday, 27 May 2016

Week 27 - APC - Broader Professional Context

Global context
US National Intelligence Council (2012)’s “Global trends: Alternative Worlds” and KMPG International’s (2014) “Future State 2030” provide an insight into the megatrends that will shape the future of the world’s politics and enconomies. Understanding the global contemporary trends and issues will help you see the bigger picture your practice is situated within and the trajectory your practice should be heading toward.
One of the trends that both publications point out is the empowerment of individuals and the game-changing role of technologies in every aspect of society. In education, it is reflected by the ubiquitous presence of digital technologies integrated in the learning and teaching space.
International context
In the era of globalisation, your professional context is no longer confined within the boundaries of a local community. Over the last decade, technology has moved so swiftly that teachers are increasingly connected across a variety of platforms and in a variety of settings.
21st century learners are digital device and platform users. Their learning goes beyond passive receipt of knowledge towards actively seeking knowledge and their learning extends beyond the classroom walls to the digital learning environment. These changes in learning behaviour are a global phenomenon and not confined to a specific country or region. It is within this interconnected world that your context of practice needs to be able to respond to changes in technology and new educational paradigms.
The New Zealand education context
New Zealand is among the high quality education performers globally, but also faces critical issues that need to be addressed. A report by the Education Review Office (2012) indicated that New Zealand’s education system needs to pay more attention to three key aspects including i) students-centred learning, ii) responsive and rich curriculum, and iii) assessment used for students’ learning.
Suggested readings:
Supplementary readings:
  • 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 This report drawn from the panel of experts around the globe provides informative and easy-to-access reading around technology trends that impact on the educational practices and what plan and actions should be done to effectively address the changes.
  • OECD. (2016). Trends Shaping Education 2016. OECD Publishing:Paris. DOI: (this publication can be read online by following its DOI’s hyperlink): This document compiles the analysis of the global trends affecting education and raises relevant questions for education policy makers and practitioners to consider how to act towards those trends.
Activity 3: Contemporary issues or trends in New Zealand or internationally
After reading the Class Notes, create a blog post where you identify and evaluate two contemporary issues or trends that are influencing or shaping NZ or international education, which you find most relevant to your practice.
Elaborate in your own words how you would address those issues or trends in your context within your learning community or professional context.
Education Review Office. (2012). Evaluation at a Glance: Priority Learners in New Zealand Schools. Retrieved 18 May 2016, from
KPMG International. (2014). Future state 2030: the global megatrends shaping governments”. KPMG International Cooperative: USA. Retrieved from
National intelligence council.(2012). Global trends: Alternative Worlds. National Intelligence Council: US. Retrieved from

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Week 26: Issues facing our School Community

Visiting teachers love coming to our school and say that our staffroom is a happy and welcoming place.  What gives our school school its ‘feel’ as you walk in? Wilson (2016) defines this as the school culture or the ‘the beliefs and priorities that drive the thoughts and actions of the people in that place’. So what is it that we do and say that defines Springston School?

Wilson (2016) identifies the principal as the keeper of the beliefs, which are then echoed amongst the staff, pupils and wider community. He states that there must be unity and that staff feel empowered to collaboratively make their vision become reality. I believe this requires the building of strong learning relationships, which Stoll (1998) defines as one of the three dimensions of school culture.

Wilson (2016) lays out a simple process to clarify and focus our school culture…
Identify what I bring to the school because we are both influenced by and influence our community.
My belief system as a teacher has developed over 20 years and looks very different to when I started as at 19 years old. Honestly, my first priority was to survive and hopefully help kids learn.
After having taught in the UK for eight years, recently training in the Feuerstein Method and participating in the Mindlab Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice, I am beginning to clarify what is at the foundation of my pedagogy.

  1. Building relationships - with students and whānau that show value and understanding of culture.
  2. Modifiability: All students can succeed socially and academically because they are modifiable. We can identify the potential of students and use tools to build cognitive function. (Feuerstein 2010)
  3. Student independence: Focus on metacognition and strategies that grow a positive mindset and independence. (Dweck 2006)

As an individual I influence Springston School through my actions as I share resources, ideas, and ask challenging questions. I also blog frequently to share my learning journey, assignments and conference notes with my wider CoP. I bring a balance of experience and the benefit of eight years teaching in the UK as I also encourage colleagues to make wider connections through tools like Twitter.

Who we are as a school and what do we want to become?
This is the challenge facing Springston School. After having five years of huge change with a dynamic principal, we are now taking stock of what is working and what needs adjusting. We love some aspects with our Key Competencies being developed into the Springston A+ Learner but other aspects of ‘The Springston Way’ have fallen by the side.

A Springston Learner is  
Adventurous: “Take a risk”   ... because we value Curiosity and Challenge.
Accepting: “Respect and value others”  … because we value Cooperation and Diversity.
Articulate: “Express yourself” … because we value Effective Communication.
Adaptable: “Willing to change” … because we value Flexibility and Innovation.
Accountable : “It’s up to me” … because we value Personal Responsibility.

A new vision is being developed that focuses on excellence and success which is balanced by the characteristics that will empower our students into the 21st Century. We are committed to develop are A+ students but want them to aspire to excellence as we support them to success.

Make a plan to help Springston School become what we want to be.
So how does this vision become “the beliefs and priorities that drive the thoughts and actions of the people’? We need to embed it and spread it from the principal, through into the community. What does it mean to be a Springston Kid? What does it mean to be part of Springston School? What do we value?

Our initial steps have included the gift of our cultural narrative by Te Taumutu Runanga. We are developing an image in which to layer the A+ characteristics using a Māori lense.

As a school we already celebrate the development of the Key Characteristics but our challenge now is to develop an expectation of excellence and celebrate that alongside the Springston A+ Characteristics. Here are some initial ways we are focussing on success and excellence:
  1. Set up progress boards and individual action plans or ‘focus students’.
  2. Trial a new initiative to develop the cognitive function of students  - The Feuerstein Method.

Building a school culture and embedding beliefs and values in every heart takes time. This action is taking Springston School on the next step in our journey. We are aware of the areas we need to focus on and are taking action so that we can be described by Stoll (1969) as “Moving”. A school that works together to boost students achievement, knows where we are going and is developing a plan and the skills to get there.

Dweck, C. S, (2006). Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd
Feuerstein, R., Feuerstein, R. S., & Falik, L. H. (2010). Beyond smarter: Mediated learning and the brain's capacity for change. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hongboontri, C., & Keawkhong, N. 2014

Ministry of Education (2009). School Leadership and Student Outcomes: What Works and Why. Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES).

Friday, 20 May 2016

Week 26: Class Notes - Community of Practice and Situated Learning

Understanding the concepts of community of practice and situated learning, you will now consider the interaction and learning you have within your professional community and how to become an active participant who contributes to the shared identity of your community.
It is therefore important to explore different aspects of your community of practice and how these impact on you. Those aspects include shared assumptions, values, beliefs or, in other words, the organisational culture within which you operate socially and professionally.
School Culture
Stoll (1998) defines school culture as three dimensions, the relationship among its members; the organisational structure including the physical environment and management system; and the learning nature.
The organisational culture is an invisible powerful force that influences the members’ behaviour. Hongboontri and Keawkhong (2014) show that the school culture impacts on teachers’ beliefs and instructional practices but this relationship is also reciprocal. 
Stoll (1998) places the importance of understanding school culture as the starting point for leading change towards school improvement. Some internal and external factors that shape a school culture include the school history, the student socio-economical background, external contexts such as national educational policies, and societal changes (Stoll, 1988).
Stoll and Fink (cited in Stoll, 1998) identified 10 influencing cultural norms of school improvement including:
“1. Shared goals - “we know where we’re going”
2. Responsibility for success - “we must succeed”
3. Collegiality - “we’re working on this together”
4. Continuous improvement - “we can get better”
5. Lifelong learning - “learning is for everyone”
6. Risk taking - “we learn by trying something new”
7. Support - “there’s always someone there to help”
8. Mutual respect - “everyone has something to offer”
9. Openness - “we can discuss our differences”
10. Celebration and humour - “we feel good about ourselves”” (p.10)
So, as a teaching professional, how does the organisational culture affect your practice? and how can you help to foster a positive environment in your community of practice?
Suggested reading:
  • Stoll (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from In this work, which is recommended on the Ministry of Education’s website, Stoll points out the role of culture in school improvement. There is also practical advice to help practitioners and leaders observe and analyse the school’s culture and changing stages.
Activity 2: Your professional community
After reading the Class Notes, create a blog post where you provide a critical discussion of your professional community of practice in relation to any two of the following questions:
  1. What is the organisational culture (collective values/principles) that underpins your practice? How would you contribute to fostering a positive professional environment in your community of practice?
  2. What are the current issues in your community of practice? How would your community of practice address them?
  3. What are the challenges that you face in your community of practice? How would your community of practice address them?
  4. What changes are occurring in the context of your profession? How would your community of practices address them?
Lave, J. (1991). Situating learning in communities of practice. In L. Resnick, J. Levine, and S. Teasley (Eds.). Perspectives on socially shared cognition. [E-reader version](pp. 63-82). Retrieved from
Hongboontri, C., & Keawkhong, N. (2014). School Culture: Teachers' Beliefs, Behaviors, and Instructional Practices. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(5), 66-88. Retrieved from
Stoll (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from

Friday, 13 May 2016

Week 25: My Community of Practice

I'm @kiwiallana and have enjoyed growing as a teacher at Springston School for 10 years.

Who is my community of practice'?
According to Wenger, everyone participates in a range of communities of knowing or practice (CoP). They share a passion and interact on a regular basis to promote a common goal. This is where new learning is brought to challenge and develop the growth of the community. My CoP focus on education and include school, cluster, Wananga of Aotearoa, Twitter, Feuerstein, and colleagues on the Mind Lab course.

The purpose and function of my practice is education, including the promotion of Te Reo, effective use of ICT and best learning outcomes for students. Within school we discuss student learning needs but I find my most effective exchanges to be within groups that have formed for a specific purpose: The Feuerstein Method, The Mindlab Course and most effectivelly - Twitter.

While colleagues in my Twitter CoP are scattered around the world, they challenge me to question my practice, read current books and apply theories to improve my teaching with our common goal of improving outcomes for all students.
My best ideas come from Twitter and include Daily 5, Positive Mindset, The Learning Pit, and blogging. While I feel more like a lurker, I do share reflections, Te Reo Resources, conference notes and am becoming more active in discussions about educational issues. Twitter leads to great connections at the #educhatnz conference and #educamps - a place to meet many current Mindlab students.

So why reflect?
Part of being in a CoP is to reflect on my practice against the lense of colleagues and educational theories. Finlay (2009) suggests that being critically aware means identifying and challenging my assumptions - essential for lifelong learning. Schon (in Finlay 2009) suggests it takes place after an event but also when I actively reflect and adjust my actions during an event. This core belief fits well as I explicitly teach students to reflect using the language of learning. Reflection is the foundation of recognising that all cognitive function and behaviour are modifiable and that we can achieve anything that is broken into achievable steps. This belief system forms the foundation of the Feuerstein Method. My practice also depends heavily on Dweck’s (2006) positive mindset and utilising a range of learning strategies to help both teacher and student work their way out of Nottingham’s Learning Pit. (2013) The joy comes in seeing that the beliefs I have about effective learning for students also apply to my own life.

There are heaps more key belief systems that pervade my teaching such as Kaitiakitanga and building relationships, but we have run out of space to discuss them.

Reflecting in the form of a blog has always helped me organise my thoughts, be accountable for my intentions and share the journey with my CoP.

Dawson, P. Reflective Practice. Retrieved from
Dweck, C. S, (2006). Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd

Nottingham. J, (2013), The Learning Pit, in Challenging Learning retrieved Janurary 12, 2016, from the World Wide Web:
Wenger, E.(2000).Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246
Wenger, E., & Trayner-Wenger, B. (2015). Communities of practice: a brief introduction. April 2015, 1–8. 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Week 25 - Reflective Practice

Reflecting on practiceReflecting on practice is an active learning process whereby practice is analysed in its applied context. This is the point where theory and practice meet and are refined and developed. This reflective practice is underpinned by the notion of reflection-on-action, and continual learning for improved outcomes. However, Finlay (2008) called attention to the “bland, mechanical, unthinking ways” (p.1) of reflective practice, especially for time-constrained professionals. Without critical reflection, superficial thinking might simply reinforce existing assumptions. Therefore, it is important that reflective practice be cultivated and fostered to become effective. It can then be a “powerful tool to examine and transform practice” (Finlay, 2008, p.10). Critical reflection looks at individual concerns within a wider perspective, “connecting individual identity and social context” (Fook & Askeland, cited in Finlay, 2008). It should be done in a systematic manner, be challenged by differing angles and be informed with reliable sources. Adopting a suitable model of reflection could enhance the quality of your reflective practice. For example, Gibb’s six basic stages of the cycle of reflection (cited in Finlayson, 2015, p.726) has some similarity with the Teaching-as-Inquiry model from the Ministry of Education (2009). Alternatively, the more elaborate typology of reflection developed by Jay and Johnson (cited in Finlay, 2008, p.8) could guide you to scrutinise your practice through a more critical lens.
Keeping a reflective journalA reflective journal enables you to integrate knowledge and learning and analyse the significance and implications for your professional practice.
Collaborating through the creation of a reflective journalYour reflective journal may also become a space where you can start to gather thoughts, sketches, mind maps, diagrams you have created and collected and readings to inform particular interests you may have. This could become a useful resource for your research projects. Electronic journals are also able to be shared with others, so there are opportunities for you to share and create networks, whānau of interest, and professional communities of practice.
A reflective journal is an important evaluative learning tool for you as a learner and as a professional. Sharing aspects of your journal and working collaboratively in shared e-reflective journal spaces is part of the reflective process. The feedback you give and receive can be critical for further investigation, reflection, and change.
In this course, we ask you to create weekly reflective journal entries preferably in the form of blog posts. Each post will provide insights into different aspects of your practice.
Note: (Important)
Before you create a professional personal blog you need to consider the moral, ethical and legal responsibilities you have to your organisation with respect to the content you will create, post and share. Most employment contracts set out your obligations around the use of social media which must be considered when you are creating or sharing views on open online platforms.
You can find some helpful information on blogging such as the platforms to choose, the privacy concerns, the copyright license, the length and structure of a blog in this “How Should I Blog” blog.
Once you have created your blog, you can share the address with your fellow students by filling in this form. Even if your blog is private, you can always grant the permission to view later.
Defining your practiceBefore you can fully extend your practice you will first need to be able to define it. You can start your reflective journal by introducing yourself, articulating who you are and what is your professional community of practice. In order to be able to do this effectively you should consider the following aspects of your role:
  • What is my practice?
  • What is my professional context?
  • Who are my community of practice ?
Your teaching practice is based on a particular context within the community that you serve. Etienne Wenger first coined the concept of “communities of practice”, which are defined as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion or about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4). The members of a community of practice are bound by three distinct elements: the domain, the practice and the community. The community of practice concept is often coupled with the theory of situated learning (Lave,1991), a model of learning that occurs when practitioners interact within the community of practice. A community of practice differs from other group types in terms of learning and knowledge and practice sharing rather than management objectives. In the school context, this occurs through informal learning via daily conversations, lesson reflections and other exchanges (Jurasaite-Harbison & Rex, 2010).
When reviewing your practice, you should consider your specific learning community and how you are situated within your community. Consider how you communicate with, relate and respond to, and meet the goals and aims of your specific area of practice.
Suggested readings
  • Wenger, E.(2000).Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization,7(2), 225-246 (Available in Unitec Library). In this clearly presented paper, the author explains the concept of communities of practice and the application of this concept with specific suggestions.
Activity 1: My community of practiceAfter reading the Class Notes, create a post where you first define your ‘Community of practice’ with reference to Wenger (2000)’s definition and then provide a critical discussion in relation to any two of the following questions:
  1. What is the purpose and function of your practice? In what ways do you contribute to the community of your practice?
  2. What are the core values that underpin your profession? Evaluate your practice with regard to these values.
  3. What is your specialist area of practice? How does your specialist area of practice relate to the broader professional context?
  4. What are key theories that underpin your practice? Evaluate your practice with regard to these theories.
Fill in the 'Share your blog's address' form
Finlayson,A.(2015).Reflective practice: has it really changed over time?. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 16 (6), 717-730.
Jurasaite-Harbison, E., & Rex, L. (2010). School Cultures as Contexts for Informal Teacher Learning. Teaching and Teacher Education,26(2), 267-277.
Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press,

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Week 23: Using evidence

Jonathan Gray wrote a very useful piece for The Guardian newspaper on the limits of data. It is well worth a read and is available from:
Gray offers the following pieces of advice about data:
  • Data is not a force unto itself. It is what individuals (or groups) do with data that brings meaning and power.
  • Data is not a perfect reflection of the world. The choices we make about data, including what we choose to collect, how we collect it, how we analyse it and how we interpret our analysis all influence the findings and conclusions we can make.
  • Data does not speak for itself. It requires interpretation and analysis (hopefully by knowledgeable individuals). In education especially, it needs to be understood within its particular context. This might be in relation to a particular class, school, community etc.
  • Interpreting data is not easy. Really understanding what the data is telling us can be very tricky.
Despite these cautions about data, the evidence you collect as part of your teaching inquiry can be very useful.
The following blog post provides some good ideas of how different types of evidence can be used by teachers:
Resources to support you
The TKI website contains some useful resources to support you in using evidence to inform your teaching practice.
For a general overview of the principles of data analysis go to:
For more specific tools and strategies that you can use, go to:
For a good overview of using evidence in schools have a look at the article published by The Digest and uploaded to the platform.
Tasks for this week
1. Read the class notes on interpreting and using evidence.
2. Check out the information available on the TKI website:
3. For more information and detail on using evidence read the article from The Digest uploaded to the portal (also available from Digest/1636_The-Digest-Issue-3-08_final.pdf).