Professional reading Term 2 – 3 2016

I feel that I’ve had my head buried in educational books, readings, posts or reports this term. Which sets the pitter-patter of my edu-nerd heart a flutter. Themes this term have involved complexity theory, change leadership, connected learning communities, communities of learning, assessment for learning, and education leadership in general.

Here is a snapshot of what has influenced me recently:

Intentional Interruption:


Simple Habits for Complex Times:

The Change Leader by Michael Fullan

Assessment online 

It is a go to resource for me. I stumbled upon this site years ago and now work with the content manager, Adrienne Carlisle. 



My Day as a Year 10 Student

Amazing post from my great (former) colleague and friend Steve Mouldey (a.k.a @geomouldey)

Steve Mouldey

Many of you will know that I am at a new school this year and have made the step up to a Senior Leadership position. This meant that I jumped at the chance to take on the #ShadowaStudent challenge that was created by School Retool, IDEO and the Stanford d.School. What a great way to gain empathy for the student experience at Lynfield College – to really find out what it is like to be a student here.

I asked a student if I could shadow him for the day and explained why I was doing this. Let the teachers know why I would be in their classroom wearing a school uniform and got prepared for a day outside of my office!

Ready for PE period 1 Ready for PE period 1

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Things We Want Our Learners to Say

A great read for the start of the school year…

User Generated Education

One of the best indicators that I am doing teaching right is the spontaneous comments made by my learners. This qualitative information, for me as an educator, is a much better measure of success in the classroom than any type of quantitative information.  What follows are some comments I love hearing from my learners:

  • I really like coming to class.
  • Can I stay in the classroom (for recess, for lunch, after school) so I can continue working on my project?
  • Is it time to go leave already?
  • I am a good learner.
  • I love learning new things.
  • I feel like I have a real voice in this classroom; that what I say matters.
  • I know I wasn’t successful with the assignment but I am going to use that information to improve.
  • Our class feels like a family.
  • You (the teacher) haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid.

students say

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#TLT14 – Feedback Matters

Class Teaching

feedbacktlt1This weekend I attended the brilliant TLT14 event, organised by the equally brilliant Dave Fawcett & Jenn Ludgate.  It may have been at the end of a busy half term…and on a Saturday…but that didn’t stop hundreds of teachers turning up to share ideas.  What a great spirit.  This is a summary of my presentation.

feedbacktlt2Yes, feedback does matter!  This was a piece of feedback I received as an NQT (back in 1993) that I certainly acted on – I made a vow that I would never be that useless again!  Similarly, I used feedback to great effect over a decade ago in 2001 (following a massive defeat by the then world number 1 player, Eric Verhagen) to become Worthing’s number 1 Subbuteo player – knocking the reigning champion (fellow science teacher Craig Heward) off his heady perch!

feedbacktlt3So feedback certainly does matter!

hattie feedback

In his paper ‘The Power of…

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Mindset: The things we say

I love reading this blog and was most taken by the idea of struggle and panic thinking – particularly with what has been going on around me recently. Great post on mindset.

Class Teaching


I’ve written before (lots!) about growth mindset and why I think it’s important.  I think we need to be careful though.  If it’s really going to make a difference, we need to think very deeply about what it really means as teachers and leaders to be supporting a growth mindset in our schools.  Posters, assemblies and pictures are fine – but the way we will really make a difference to our students, in terms of developing their mindset, is the way we interact with them on a day to day basis – in particular, in the things we say to them.

mindsetbennetTo me, Tom’s description above nails it.  The problem is though, the more you think about mindset, the more you start to question the way we talk to students and the way in which schools operate.  A few examples follow (most of which I have used at some point in…

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Thinking About Mindset

The post gives great ideas on how to promote a growth mindset. Am going to try to integrate some of these at Hobsonville Point Secondary as soon as the term is back!

Class Teaching

mindset brainIn a previous post, I stated why I think developing a growth mindset with students is so important.  It makes students:

  • Have high expectations of what they can achieve and be inspired by the success of others.
  • Accept that hard work and effort is needed to master new ideas and achieve excellence.
  • Accept that they need to be resilient and so keep going when things get tough.

Whilst it is obviously important to develop this culture with staff, through their teaching and interactions with students, if it’s going to be embedded across a school, we need to get students thinking about mindset.  By getting them to think about mindset, we will encourage them to reflect on themselves as learners and then hopefully change their approach to learning.  There’s no quick fix here, but I think there are opportunities all around us in schools, that can be exploited for this purpose.

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Conferencing – a new, more appropriate way to report on learning?

20140305-074218.jpgReporting is a bug bear of teachers. I have had experiences of writing reports so far in advance of them being issued that the points made are either redundant or things have changed so drastically that you want to rewrite your comment. However, the reports needed to be proofed and edited, all spelling mistakes corrected, with ‘school approved’ grammar and terminology applied. The reports went through several sets of hands  and in the end, I still question the validity of what was written. Was it honest? Was it powerful feedback? Was it useful for learners? Did we speak ‘learnish’ or did we bombard students and whanau with useless teacher talk which was long but didn’t really say anything?

As a parent of a secondary school student, I often read the reports he received and thought – so what? Why bother retelling me the course outline or mentioning his results (which were printed above) or telling him he needs to study. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why reports are like this. Part of this is quality control – I’ve been involved in checking and rechecking the reports of other teachers and I can assure anyone that a consistent school-wide approach was needed – part of this is providing information for the parents about the students. However, part of this is that this is the easiest way for the teachers to communicate information.

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, we are focusing on personalising learning. That means that what is best for the students has to be at the fore in all decisions we are making. Powerful partnerships are key to the pedagogy of HPSS – that means partnerships between students, student and their learning coach, students, whanau and the learning coach, and students and others in the community (local and global). One way to ensure powerful partnerships is through regular conferencing between students and their learning coach.

This one-to-one meeting involves the student and the coach working closely around all aspects of learning. We are just about to embark on our third round of conferencing for 2014 at HPSS. By mid-term, coaches will have met with each student in their learning hub at least three times to look at where they are going, how they are going and where to next. This assessment is happening as they are learning, rather than at the end of their learning, or worse…several weeks or terms after it has finished. Parents and families are getting regular, meaningful and useful information about the secret life of schools and everything that they receive is targeted to their student. Our week 4 conferencing involved the students reflecting on their experiences in a new school and considering what help they needed. I was completely astounded by the depth if information we gathered in 15-20 minutes per student.

  • One student identified that he was struggling with the habit of being purposeful around his homework, so he and I set some clear goals and strategies around this.
  • Another was feeling bereft at his vague attempts to start a rugby team from the ground up, so we figured out a more aggressive course of action and he’s happily off liaising with our school sports co-ordinator.
  • Another student felt that she was really struggling to manage all of the parts of our single sign on online, so we worked together on who in our hub she would ask to help and then I caught up with her over a lunchtime to make sure that she was feeling confident and well-equiped.
  • Another student was struggling with one day of her timetable where she was physically active the whole day and she wants to work with our amazing PE staff and her mum (who is a trainer) on building her fitness so that this doesn’t become a problem for the future.

Each of these concerns and the goals and strategies we set around them was particular to each student. There is no one size fits all approach here. As a learning coach, I can reflect on each conference to look for themes and patterns so I can plan for responsive work during our learning hub times.

My favourite part was being able to email the conference summary, which had been co-constructed by the student and I, straight home to the parents/whanau. There was no delay. Parents were getting feedback about their child which was meaningful, in plain English and relevant for that day and that time.

In terms of school wide consistency of grammar and terminology, I had the best ever sets of eyes scrutinising my typing as we were figuring out what we were going to send home. I made typos and spelling mistakes, the students saw and giggled at lots of these! I failed in front of them and it was ok, failing is part of learning. I don’t think it matters whether each conference summary email is consistent. In fact, it would be detrimental to the importance that we place on personalised learning if they were.