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Book Group #1: Key Competencies for the Future, with NZCER | from 3rd October

Started by Karen Spencer 14 Sep 2014 12:48pm () Replies (36)

NZCER Key CompetenciesWe are delighted that NZCER will be hosting the first NZ Book Group in Connected Educator Month this year.

The new publication, Key Competencies for the Future, will be spotlighted through webinars and online discussions. This is a wonderful opportunity for educators across New Zealand and beyond to come together online to talk to the authors and explore the themes in the book. Join Sally Boyd, Rose Hipkins, Rachel Bolstad and Sue McDowall as they share their thoughts on this popular new publication.

Recordings from the Book Group


Meanwhile, check out this video in which the authors, Sally Boyd, Rose Hipkins, Rachel Bolstad and Sue McDowall, talk about what some of their values are and how these values helped frame the discussions in their new book:



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  • Rachel Bolstad (View all users posts) 16 Oct 2014 11:17am ()

    "designed, everything is designed" - I love that. That's the kind of transformative learning experience that I think we should all be constantly searching for both for ourselves and the learners we work with. It's these sorts of moments where we - or students - can suddenly "step out of the matrix" and see the world in a different way - these moments are so powerful. Of course, stepping out of the matrix can be both emancipating and terrifying - and it's remarkably easy to slip back into the matrix if we can't find the support of like minds and new opportunities that let us work with our newfound realisations in ways that keep building and transforming us and our abilities to act on the world to transform it. I have probably overworked the matrix metaphor here but I do remember when I watched that film, I did think a lot about whether I would rather be out of the Matrix with Neo, or safely tucked away in ignorant bliss plugged inside the matrix in my warm bath...!! That nice warm bath has a lot of appeal sometimes...

  • Diane Mills (View all users posts) 16 Oct 2014 10:58am ()

    I am with you on this one Amanda.  If we begin to 'measure' things like key competencies, we start to narrow them down into more simplistic things that can be described easily for measuring.  We force students then to react and respond in certain ways to match the rubric we have created.  We need to be more adaptive and generative and look at ways that we can capture and celebrate student learning and the key competencies - just like the student reflection you mention above.

    I have to say, as I read all of the responses here, a TED talk by Diana Laufenberg: How to Learn - From Mistakes illustrates and supports so many of the ideas we are talking about.  Take a look and see what you think, it is a good conversation starter for PLD.

  • rose.hipkins@nzcer.org.nz (View all users posts) 16 Oct 2014 10:41am ()

    Thank you Amanda for the feedback

    You noticed something really important in the student response you described here. Isn't noticing and endorsing student's own self-awareness just so powerful?

    Watch this space re systems thinking - I'm doing some more work in this area right now. There is a new book out that looks really promising. I’m planning to download it over the weekend – will let you know what I think. 

  • rose.hipkins@nzcer.org.nz (View all users posts) 16 Oct 2014 10:31am ()

    That sounds great Terry

    Your idea and Camilla's post seem to have strong common ground, even though one is primary and one is secondary. I was prompted to recall a specific three-day learning episode at Alfriston College a few years ago. The teacher called it "The designed world". At the end of the three days one student talked about an epiphany as they were walking down the street, looking at cars, buildings etc. "Designed, everything is designed".  Kids who can look at the world in this way are on the way to being much more critical and creative thinkers about how we might set up better living conditions for everyone via our design thinking (or how lack of it can lead us to miss opportunities....)  

    Love the creative curriuclum thinking here 

  • Amanda (View all users posts) 15 Oct 2014 10:21pm ()

    I have loved this book and raved about it to all who will listen - a few of our staff have purchased it and I am already loving discussions with one colleague around the ideas in the book.  There are so many things that radiated or connected for me with this book.  Wicked problems, system thinking, rethinking just how much the Key Competencies really drives the curriculum and how much I have to learn even when I felt like I was working with the KC's in my classroom.  So much of this I am still digestion and processing and have attacked a blog post numerous times to get my ideas and thinking out!

    For me, I feel like if we get caught in the trap of measuring Key Competencies it can be a dangerous place for our students and ourselves.  I have enjoyed listening to and reading reflections from students that highlight where KC's are coming through and having an impact on their ideas and actions.  If students can talk about, articulate and reflect on these, isn't that what we want for lifelong learners? Do we really have to have a level that students reach on a scale?  

    For example reading a student's reflection about how he learnt 'how to let some of his ideas go in order to benefit the flow of the group', is huge for me as a teacher.  It shows me that the KC's are coming through and developing in my students through communication of learning and through crafted learning experiences that allow them to work in a range of experiences and KC's.  The questions we ask within the classroom when are kids are succeeding and failing tasks are integral to this - as well as allowing them to have time to reflect on these situations.

    There is so much to think about and add to this conversation and the others taking place in this thread.  I'm really enjoying the book and the conversations.  Thank you Rosemary, Rachel, Sally and Sue for sharing your thoughts and getting us thinking deeper about the KC's and how future focussed we are really being!

  • Terry Beech (View all users posts) 15 Oct 2014 8:38pm ()

    Thanks Karen for setting up this group.

    I agree with Anne Sturgess that this book is a must read. I have enjoyed the many conversations that I have had both with my PLN and my work colleague. The conversation @edubookchatNZ the conversation at #edchatNZ and the conversations I have had with Rachel as well as the webinar. This is all great traction, a traction that shows the importance of being future focusse.

    next year I am planning to start a year 9 class under the title of Design. It is not Technology, nor Graphics, this no-baggage start has many opportunities. Students will work in groups to identify problems and present their solutions. I think that introducing 'wicked' problems will be part of the journey; a journey that has no easy answers.

    Terry Beech. @beechEdesignz

  • Camilla (View all users posts) 15 Oct 2014 7:02pm ()

    Hi Steph, 

    I'm looking through the same lens as you as a junior school teacher. we are a PYP school, so for each unit of inquiry that we engage our learners in there is a central idea, they are usually pretty wordy and we then unpack the concepts within the idea, such as responsibility, function, perspectives etc. 

    Our central idea for term 4 is: 

    Public spaces provide people with opportunities to make connections and establish a sense of community.

    This was provoked by a 5 year old coming in and stating quite bluntly "the junior playgound is boring". This turned into a unit of work to convince the BOT that we would like to change it, what our community wanted and could we please have some money. To extend on our learning from becoming a stand alone project, the cental idea was formed for this term. Students will work on developing their understanding of what public spaces are, where they are, how people are responsible for them, how people use them and how they are important to communties. We will start locally, but can go further into national and maybe international (i was thinking about skype classroom maybe).

    When I reflected on this central idea, I wondered about wicked problems what I could tease out within this idea, that is appropriate for 5 and 6 year olds. 

    I brainstormed a few possibles, but i'm not really sure if they're wicked per se Innocent and some of them are definitely more 'senior school':

    - the financial/political and environmental impacts of public spaces (parks, maintanence, using natuaral resources to make things and reducing public spaces - Yogi Bear the movie sprang into my mind as a provocaiton here).

    - rights to public spaces - does everybody have equal access to public spaces (dogs on the beach at certain times etc., but also larger scale)? do all countries have some sort of public spaces?

    - increasing city sizes and population and the implications for public spaces, are they used for housing developments (Urbanisation sprawl) - Auckland

    - who has a say in what public spaces we have? Which groups (religious, ethnic, political) make the decisions (CHCH earthquake?)

    I'm still pondering all this and it will be interesting to see where the inquiry heads as we unpack the notion of public spaces more. One provocation we might do is next week split the class into a few teams and have them plan and re-arrange our classroom to think about how different people use our public space and how we might have different ideas about what is best - i'm sure we will have a lot of 'debate/falling out' over what is best. Another next step is the working bee domolition of our existing playground on the weekend...

  • Rachel Bolstad (View all users posts) 15 Oct 2014 6:42pm ()

    Hi Rose and Paul, this reminds me of a FANTASTIC question that Ray Burkhill dropped in around the 56-minute mark in the opening webinar for this book club chat 

    Ray Burkhill: Does there need to be some sort of measurable outcome to the KCs or is it enough to design a learning experience where the KCs can be expressed?

    What a great question!!!!!! Does anyone want to weigh in??

  • Karen Spencer (View all users posts) 15 Oct 2014 4:56pm ()

    We are a couple of weeks into our Book Group and there have been some wonderful contributions from a number of educators across NZ in response to the challenge of designing for wicked problems - and thanks to Rachel and Rose for their replies.

    Stories have been shared of students grappling and reaching for new ideas through meaningful inquiry and exploration of real-life issues. Rose also raised the question of assessing progress through backward mapping - has anyone done this and has a story to share?

    This week, we turn our attention to a couple of other interwoven ideas that were explored in the first webinar [you can access the recording here] and are also unpacked in the book.


    Students as citizens:  

    • How can we make a stronger connection with the social justice narrative underpinning the Key Competencies?
    • How do we position school learners? Are they citizens NOW?…with opportunities to work together and with people outside school, to make their world a better place? or are they citizens in preparation who are learning about how others have made a difference?



    Working with diverse others and ideas:

    Equity is no longer about bringing everyone closer to a set standard of success. Educating diverse students is about using diversity as a resource. It's also about educating for diversity - preparing students to work with diverse others and with diverse ideas.

    • How might this be happening, or beginning to happen, in your school?

    Feel free to share an idea, no matter how tentative - and do join us for the closing webinar on 23 October, 3.45pm.

  • rose.hipkins@nzcer.org.nz (View all users posts) 15 Oct 2014 4:09pm ()

    Hi Paul. It’s good to see that you are in this conversation. I’m jumping in belatedly after a few health issues put me way behind with everything – sorry everyone for my silence up until now.

    When you ask about the ‘capabilities’ I’m not sure if you are referring to key competencies in general – i.e. they are defined in NZC as “capabilities for living and lifelong learning” – which appears to treat the two terms as synonyms. Or are you thinking about the ‘science capabilities’ – which translate these generic ideas into something more subject specific? Perhaps you have seen the short article on the NZASE website that unpacks all this a bit more?

    I do agree with you that we need better ways of showing the relationships between overarching key competencies (which really each have so many layers and facets to them) and the specific capabilities that need to come together to achieve a particular task. The problem with saying that the mix is unique - specific to every context and task - is that teachers are left with a wide open blank space. This is not much help for curriculum thinking and impossible to reference on-the-fly as learning action unfolds. That’s one reason we went for a short punchy set of five capabilities for science. But we’d hate to see them reified as the last word in nature of science thinking. Hopefully they provide a handy action guide for planning and for recognising of-the-moment opportunities as these emerge – some feedback about their ‘usability’ would be great.

    As far as assessment goes, you’ll be aware that I’m not a fan of rubrics for key competencies. They just slip so easily into being judgements made by others about kids’ personalities and motivations – how dare we? They also have little value that I can see in terms of assessment for learning – isn’t the whole point of key competencies that they can be stretched and strengthened with the right learning experiences and support? Guided self-assessment seems to be one good way to go (perhaps think about the ELLI tool as just one model of how this can happen). But of course kids need to know what to look for (so do we come to that).

    What do you think of the idea of backward mapping – a bit like some people do for their curriculum planning in general? So after completing a rich inquiry about a wicked problem you could review it with students to help them identify areas where their capabilities have grown. Even as I type this I realise that some sort of framework to kick start such a conversation would be helpful... your thoughts? Has anyone reading my response done this?    

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