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Karla Lister's discussion posts

  • Karla Lister 11 Apr 2017 8:42am () in Learner Agency

    Hi Heather,


    For me student agency looks like a number of things.  How engaged learners are with their learning, how well they know what they are supposed to be learning, how well they know the path that they are going to take to reach their learning goals, how well they are displaying the key competencies - just to name a few.


    Schools in Upper Hutt work together, really well, on learner agency.  Currently working from the definition (an evolving definition) :

    "Learner agency is the power to act. Learners make positive and informed choices to experience success" (Learners are confident, engaged, motivated, know how they learn and where they are heading, make choices, are supported)


    So for me - that is what student agency looks like, at the moment. 


    As for your second question: How do you know your students are taking more ownership of the choices they make in their own learning?  This question is a bit harder - there is no fixed measure like there is for, say, literacy.  For my students it was about both engagement and knowledge.  Are they more engaged with their learning? It's hard to measure but my 'gut' says yes.  Are they more knowledgeable about what they are learning and how they are learning it - yes.  But how do I measure those  - no real way that I can think of at the moment!

  • Karla Lister 06 Mar 2017 10:26pm () in Measuring growth and achievement...


    Wendy that sounds AMAZING ... any idea what the process was at the top of the school to see that happen... it's a pretty big deal to make such big changes. (Point number two mostly appeals to me and my thinking at the moment)

    Was it top down, bottom up, full staff buy in? How did staff react to removing assessment that was just there for the sake of assessment? How were the staff this was challenging for empowered to make change?


    It sounds like the board were pleased with the result in the end... what were they like at the start of the process.







  • Karla Lister 06 Mar 2017 8:08pm () in Measuring growth and achievement...

    I'm interested in Terry's comment in regard to changing the view of the parents also. I wonder if there are any recent studies done into what parents actually want their children to gain from their education.  

    I teach in a rather 'different' way - being that my focus is largely around the key competencies.  Last year I had a very behaviourally challenged class with very little in the way of self management skills, or respect for each other.  Almost all of our lessons tied back somehow to the values, key competencies and principles of the curriculum.  Now granted there was a lot more to it than that - but 100% of parents (a small sample group) said that they felt their children had been better engaged, and better able to articulate their learning in literacy and numeracy.  They also had ALL of the key competencies sorted (at their level anyway) by the end of the year and are functioning extremely well this year. 


    In addition comments about the style of learning included: 

    Significantly more, rote learning only works for so many people, application of learning is far more important than recitation without understanding.
    it was great listening to them explain their learning.Sure there is a time and place for lots of different methods ofl earning but have seen increased engagment
    I personally feel that this type of learning has been extremely effective. For my child it is the first time in his school life that he has even wanted to come to school never mind actually wanting to learn. For this reason I thank everyone involved.


    I'd be interested in getting to the bottom of what parents really want.




  • Karla Lister 06 Mar 2017 10:56am () in Measuring growth and achievement...

    I love this topic!  Good on you, Justin, for bringing it up. 

    I agree with what is being said. I have always thought of it as 'over testing'.  That we have so many tests to complete in a certain amount of time - that we spend time teaching what needs to be assessed, not teaching what needs to be learnt.  It's not necessarily what we are testing - but how much of it we need to do in order to make a 'judgement'. 

     It's a bit hard for us, as teachers, to change this at a bigger whole school level - because that takes a massive shift from so many people.  But we can change the culture around learning and understanding of success in our classrooms. We DO still need to have a focus on learning the subject related content - it is important.  It's  hard one to balance.  My current theory is -  reduce the testing - so that there is more learning time, and it can be spread more evenly across content/key competencies.  

    What sort of strategies are teachers using in their classroom to bridge this gap? I can share what I do - but don't have a heck of a lot of time just now.  So here are a few things to get the ball rolling. 

    * Be smarter with assessment.  As students learn something, have them record the evidence of that learning in place of a formal assessment. There is an extra hour in your unit time.  I have prove it folders.  I can direct them to their folder and ask them to complete "question 16".

    * Teach, once a term, what success is.  How all of the different elements work together.  Then have them measure their success frequently.  What do they still need to work on for overall success? Include these as comments in the report under the other "categories" if your school doesn't have a space to record them. Eg: Josh has made excellent progress with his punctuation.  He still lacks the confidence to ask for help from others. Josh has been working on asking "three before me" when proof reading his work...

    * Empower the students to engage with the key competencies by giving them purpose in the classroom. Do they know what they need to learn, why they need to learn it, and how to judge their own progress?  If they know their 'academic' goals - then they can use the key competencies - if they are getting everything handed to them on a plate and have no ownership of their learning, then they can't put those key competencies into practice no matter how much we ask them to. 


    My starting thoughts anyway - I'll try and be back!


  • Karla Lister 29 Jul 2016 11:58am () in Teacher workloads in I.L.E [ MLE]]

    I think this comes down to how well the change is managed.


    My experience is this...

    For my first 2 years in my ILE I did nothing different.  Then after a discussion with my principal I realised - I have the opportunity to make some amazing change. I got given 'permission' to give things a go, to experiment, and report back how I was going.  So this year I have put my all into it (don't get me wrong...I was always a 15 hour a day worker).  

    My work load has ultimately decreased.  It increased briefly. Most of term one was spent thinking.  Then at the end I finally knew what I wanted to do and went all guns blazing - I probably did 20 hour days for a fortnight,before flicking back to my normal 15 hours.  

    But my work load since then has significantly decreased, I rarely do over 10 hours a day work.  Over the last school holidays the only school work I did was write reports.  This is quite a miracle for me!  But through the use of the innovative learning environments I have also incorporated student agency. As a part of that I taught students to recognise their next learning steps, and how to plan their own learning.  This term they have planned the first 4 weeks themselves. I am there - but they have done it.  Yes, it takes away from some curriculum time - but I think the learning is JUST as valuable if not more valuable than sticking to what they would have traditionally been doing. Its important to remember that these students were taught how to do this throughout term 2, not just chucked in the deep end. 

    So, to answer your question: I think workload increased significantly then reduced significantly.  If it was well managed, this change could be longer term and more consistent and I think it would average out. I'm a bit of a "get an idea and do it" kinda person.  But I think if I had rolled the changes out over two years it would have still had the same effect, but not significantly increased the workload in the initial phase.  However, in saying that - I wouldn't change the way I did it if I had the chance again. 

    As for teacher collaboration...I have a little professional development group of 5 teachers.  We get an hour to work together a week where we share challenges of practice, and plan ways to collaborate in and across classes.  We have voluntarily added in after school meetings as well because we find that we get so inspired and make more progress with our work when we are doing it together. Weeks where we didn't have an extra after school meeting scheduled we would inevitably get to Tuesday and one of the group would email saying "please can we meet after school.... I need help with...". We have ALL at different times reported back to others "Our meeting is the highlight of the week".  

    What needs to go?  Maybe expectations...make an environment where teachers are free to dream big, and then implement their ideas....we're always so much more keen to put our hard work into something that excites us - not one size fits all.  That's what did it for us.  Permission (well...we were always allowed...we just didn't have the guts to go with it) to give it a go - if it doesn't work, you learn from that.  We haven't had 100% success...but we have had no shame in sharing our failures either - in fact, we even CC the principal into our failures, because we know we have learned from them. 

    Hope that helps.  Do it. Run with it.  If it's not working out you could always go back...(it will work out).


  • Karla Lister 06 Jun 2016 8:53pm () in Forum: How do schools ready themselves for modern learning pedagogies?

    Of course, you can start half way through a day if you want!

    First though, make sure you know what your learning intentions are (for whenever you start) as there will be people who doubt! 

    If it isn't at the start of a year I think the students should be prompted to make the change themselves 'oh guys, this just isn't working for us is it... How else could we set our classroom up?' That's a question I put to some year 9s recently. They got rid of 50% of the desks and put two chairs to a desk... Now we have 'lie down space'. I have three other classes... Not ONE has asked if the desks are coming back. 

    I am lucky enough to have an ILE, but not innovative furniture, so it was the best we could do. 

    As for the SEN students... Most will cope. If they have sensory processing disorders you may need to allow for that. A school I visited recently had a tent in the corner for kids who needed time out from the overload. A four walled corner "detention desk". 

    If it is a learning need maybe you will find they cope better? Maybe traditional doesn't work for them. Make sure they have buddies...a safe 'I'm not coping person'


    Key points

    * make sure your learning purpose is clear

    * environment is more than physical space


  • Karla Lister 06 Jun 2016 8:34pm () in Forum: How do schools ready themselves for modern learning pedagogies?


    Hi Erika, I want to assure you that there absolutely is scope to use your traditional teaching environment as a modern/innovative learning environment.  

    Start by thinking about what it is you would like your learners to achieve.  Then think about what it is that a ILE aims to provide for the learner.  I think what it comes down to is working with what you have - who says that innovative and modern pedagogies have to be physical?  

    Perhaps start with setting up 'action stations' within your classroom.  Shuffling the furniture to enable movement to take place. 

    The first time I played around with the environment was about 5 years ago.  There was this grotty old classroom and NO ONE wanted it.  I said that I would take it if I got pink curtains.  Sure enough my principal ordered pink curtains and the classroom was mine.  (I want those pink curtains back - they made all hard teaching days better) It was the same size as the average classroom, but it had great big panels on the wall where all the school computers had to hook into - it had a loud buzz and flashing lights.  

    I brought in on old Dell desktop computer from home, set it up in the corner.  A few weeks later my principal brought in his old desktop computer from home.  And that was the start of our innovative learning environment.  

    We got rid of the desks and raided the caretakers shed.  We found all the old staffroom furniture, and set the classroom up in much the same way as a staffroom.  There were lots of little groups with small tables that students could conference around.  

    As time went on we spent less and less time in the classroom - as once those boundaries of desks and chairs were broken the flexibility - to learn in the gym, the local bakery, the civil defence container, other peoples classrooms, the garden - started.

    Don't let "new" "glass" "open plan" get confused with "innovative" "modern" and "student focussed"