A confession

This is my confession. Hi, my name is Megan and I am a hypocrite.
Why? I have been pushing with students at HPSS the importance of self-assessing and reflecting on learning, I stood in front of my learning community at Hobsonville Point Secondary and extolled the virtues of “looking back to look forward”, of the power of their voice as an assessment agent. Yet, I haven’t written a blog for well over a month and have instead attacked my “to-do” list like a marathon runner who can see the finish line in sight.
FYI – for me that is only a metaphor, having never been involved in anything that could resemble a marathon.


Where has my reluctance to reflect come from? I woke up early this morning and couldn’t get that question out of my head. I think that there are several factors. One has been the dreaded to-do list, and the reality that some of that stuff was very important and actually did need to get done, as a result I lost sight of why reflecting was important. That it is a valuable use of my time and an important part of my learning. Yesterday, I cracked a KAMAR related problem, with online help, which had been plaguing me and several other staff members for weeks. I was elated, that had been a good use of my time. I’m not going to apologise for all of the hours of planning, making mistakes, working with the KAMAR people that led us to this point. Instead, I am going to reflect on the fact that shorter, less exciting summaries of my learning journey – even at that point – would have helped me to process my thinking.

Another reason has been that I haven’t been able to trust my voice over the last term. I’ve really struggled with one of my modules, and have felt completely incompetent and useless, I wasn’t ready to write about that and share how I was (and to be honest am) feeling about teaching well outside of my learning areas, to have the realisation that all those academics were right, there is a fundamental difference between content knowledge (which I have) and pedagogical content knowledge (which I don’t). A lesson two weeks ago brought me to a puddle of tears as I stood there thinking “I don’t know how to help you” as students floundered and struggled to figure out the problem/challenge I had set for them (the tears came the next morning, did manage to keep it together until there were no students around). I have never been in a situation where I felt so incompetent.

Another reason is end-of-term-itis. For me, this has been impacted by my usual trick of leaving for the northern hemisphere a few days early (adding to the rush), of solving problems by reverting to my default position of “I can fix it so I know it gets done on time”, and of trading hours in the school term (weekends, late nights, early mornings) for the promised land of two weeks exploring, not working, and relaxing on my overseas holiday. I kept thinking, I’m going to reflect on this in the holidays, I’ll take my draft reflections which I have been storing up and turn them into something good that people want to read.

But I know that if I don’t reflect on my feelings around my teaching, or give reflecting the kudos and gravitas it needs, I will wallow in a pit. What brought me out of the pit? My wonderful critical friend at HPSS, the realisation that the awful module was nearly over (it is the end of the term), the fact that our students so honestly and thoughtfully reflect on their learning and, if they have bought into my vision around empowering students through assessment, why can’t I?

They are learning in a new way, in a new school environment. I promise that reflecting will help them. Yet I am no different, I am nearly one year in on my journey as a learner at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. I’m learning in a new way, in a new environment, teaching like I have never done before, using my time in completely new ways. Of course, I need to reflect.

Right now, I feel like less of a fraud. Over and out.



Knowing where you are going – Setting meaningful goals

Clearly articulated learning goals are the key to maximising learning by allowing for more purposeful learning to occur. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, learning goals allow for greater personalisation of learning across the three strands of our school curriculum – Big Projects, Learning Hubs, and Specialist Learning Modules.

Term one ended with student led individual education meetings (IEMs). During these meetings, students led their coach and their parents/whanau through their learning this term and used evidence of their learning to set new goals.

Prior to these meetings, I had led our learning community through some goal setting exercises. We started with the differences between learning goals and performance goals, based on Zimmerman’s research, and then collectively set learning goals. Setting a goal is in itself not enough – it is important to know the success criteria of the goal and the strategies needed to get there. The activity that I ran with the students is here.

Once the students were familiar with the learning goals, success criteria and strategies of goals, they worked in their hubs on a mix and match activity. Once they were happy with how they matched up the goals, they discussed the merits of each. Then it was onto business. They each set a goal based on their learning needs, established the success criteria for their goals, and devised some strategies. We used peer critiquing during this exercise – on the one hand, it gave the goal setter an extra perspective, particularly around the validity of the goals and/or strategies, and on the other hand the open discussions gave extra support for students who were struggling to set their goals. Once the goals were set, with clear success criteria and strategies, the students added them to their IEM summary document that they would be sharing during their meeting. Students in my learning hub mainly set two meaningful learning goals for term 2.

During the IEM, the student, coach and whanau all revisited the goals and looked at them in light of the learning conversation. Some goals were adjusted slightly, many had new strategies added to them in light of the assessment narratives derived by both the students and the teachers on the learning modules, some goals stayed the same. Each student’s goals are personalised and relevant. The final part of the IEM document that was shared with the student, coach and whanau was a set of agreed responsibilities in order for the goals to be met – the whanau, coach and student all stated what they needed to do to help in meeting the learning goals.

Examples of students’ goals:
To manage my learning so I am not rushed
To understand the full concept of place and space (key concept for T2)
To generate written reflections which are more detailed
To focus during the generating phase so I don’t end up being weary.
To take more risks in learning
To focus by identifying and planning to find more than one strategy or approach

Where to next?
It is one thing to set goals and another to have them as central to the student’s personalised learning path. The first step was to use these goals to help the students select appropriate modules for term 2. Module selection had to be completed the day following IEMs. As a learning coach, I was able to guide them in making module selections that would allow them to meet their goals and use the strategies that we had agreed upon as their goals were so clearly articulated and relevant to their needs.

The problem with goal setting in secondary school is how to communicate the information to all teaching staff – for HPSS that is going beyond the learning coach and sharing with big project guides, module teachers and extra-curricular leaders. My responsibility as a coach in many of the IEMs was to share the goals with all teaching staff. I am planning on using KAMAR to do this so that any teacher can see the goals of the students. I love the idea of empowering our teachers to know our learners and their learning needs, and for teachers to plan accordingly. I see KAMAR as being a tool for all teachers to provide feedback on students and how much more meaningful will that feedback be if they are aware of the learning goals.

However, that is not enough. I think that goals need to be visible so I am planning on displaying each students goals in our hub area – inspired by the wonderful teachers at HPPS – and using visual means to track progress towards the goal (watch this space!). Our student-coach conferencing in term 2 will focus around progress of learning, in light of these goals, and figuring out where to next.

Break on through to the other side

Thinking about thinking is one thing. Thinking about how to acknowledge and foster students when thinking about thinking is another. This is the conundrum of the LTLs this last week.

We spent this week looking at the needs of Learning Coaches at HPSS – from the structures that they need to support and guide students in their learning to the more specific aspects of the digital support that they need. I spent the week gleaning as much information from Kristyn from HPPS about how she is using the whole brain profile (Hermman’s Brain) to develop the whole student. I was really inspired when I was fortunate enough to sit in on a student conference in the senior learning commons. Hearing how Kristyn and the student discussed her learning, how they used the primary school learner profile to acknowledge the different ways that students can develop their dispositions and really engage with their learning.

We spent some time as a team discussing the potential of our online tools for our learner profile – how to use Moodle, KAMAR, My Portfolio and the Google apps to support our learners. I felt really lucky to have experience with all of these tools and know how my old school used them in the past, what the potential could be.  I was tasked with delving into KAMAR but, as we are still awaiting the access info, found myself exploring the whole brain dominance model and how this could be used for our learner profile.

The SLLs shared their unpacked, hacked, reconstituted NZ Curriculum. It is a brilliant model and provides more guidance than any inquiry/ design thinking based model I have come across. Ka pai to them!

On Friday we worked effectively as a team to really crack what the learner profile is going to be.  A dispositional curriculum should not use a similar model as a teaching and learning model. We love that our model will sit alongside, support and be supported by the model devised by the SLLs.  We are planning on using a model based around our Hobsonville Habits.  We are now moving into refining and testing the model that we have devised. Exciting stuff at HPSS.