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Leading learning and responsive PLD at Ngatea Primary School | Where to from here? PT 3

In blog posts parts one and two we outlined innovative changes at Ngatea Primary school, that allowed teachers to engage in personalised PLD - to better meet the needs of their students. Nearly two years later, because of this model, some real educational value has been realised for both teachers and students.

 

Principal Neil Fraser is an advocate and role-model of pursuing professional learning both online and off. Neil recognises the importance of being an active learner, one who is willing to on-share with others. As well as participating in face to face (f2f) activities, Neil expects his teachers will grow in their capacity to be more visible 21st Century professionals as they continue to build new learning networks. If Neil believes the teachers need to be learning alongside the students, then he also has expectations of himself as a leader. He strongly believes in modeling by example, especially in all areas of leadership.

 

As a result of these beliefs, over time the PLD model at Ngatea Primary has changed to better meet the needs of the teachers and leaders. As well as continuing to connect with experts and mentors online, the format and structure of the PLD has also been adapted. IE: In term 3 this year, teachers found they wanted breakfast meetings (8.am – 8.45am) rather than afternoons sessions. The change better suited most teacher’s needs and the result was more uptake and attendance by teachers in workshops.

 

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At the same time, the learning foci shifts and varies based on need; between shallow and deeper learning. Students have become less involved in the PLD, where the focus has moved away from an emphasis on learning settings (classroom layout, furniture etc) has shifted towards more rigorous reflection on effective pedagogy and teaching. IE: What do want ours students to learn in the classroom? How do students learn? and How can we re-image this in the staffroom?

 

The way the teachers reflect on their learning has changed as well. In 2015, two pocket of teams (open-plan collaborative classrooms) engaged in collaborative inquiries. One group investigated iPads and boys learning and the other group explored Alternative ways of teaching without worksheets using digital technologies. As a result; there have been new insights into apps available to support learning, which has resulted in changes to teacher practice, that now integrates mobile technologies authentically where improved outcomes for students (ie: data on boys) have now been realised.

 

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Neil reflects the biggest benefits for teachers so far, has been a far greater sense of buy-in. Teachers demonstrate they want to participate with everything on offer, and rather than leadership saying, ‘this is what we’re doing, you all have to be there’, teachers attend workshops that they might not have normally wanted to attend if it was a compulsory expectation. Teachers have followed through on outcomes from their inquiries and there is a visible impact on teaching as shown through appraisals.

 

Through the process of collaborative inquiry, some summative data has been collected to show shifts for students while school-wide, observations about potential shifts and change have also also been realised.

 

“I’m reading the team reports to Board and things I can see that coming through quite strongly in that and just the way teachers are running their programmes and reviewing their programmes and all of that and it does have an effect on classroom.” (Neil Fraser, Oct 2014)

Ngatea Primary staff believe that they have moved ahead of their present Vision statement for learning (see references in parts one) where phrases like, "let...happen" are now modelled throughout the school as responsive and organic. Senior management in the school is aware of their role to help continue to create a learning culture where flexibility, creativity and innovation is a reality for staff as well.

 

Where to from here?

 

In 2016, Professional development plans will encompass a focus on five major collaborative inquiries (three core learning areas, deeper learning,  curriculum developments, leadership development, change management, change leadership). Teachers will join 2 to 3 inquiries. There won’t be staff PLD as such, but teachers will opt-in and meet together (some breakfast meetings), with access to different experts via Skype - to address collective inquiries.

 

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In addition to this, Ngatea Primary school has recently joined a Community of Learning. Neil reflects this may well affect the PLD plans, as the CoL may opt for different ways of working - ie; number and timing of staff meetings, TODs etc. However, the school intends to keep a collaborative approach to inquiry, as this creates better shifts for teachers and inevitably student learning. One key target is to address National Standards data within and between the schools, where target groups will be identified and data collected to support those learners. Ngatea Primary school is looking forward to reciprocal exchanges within the CoL, that will enable teachers and leaders to work together to build a ‘collective conscience’ of schools achieving together.

 

Considerations for the future, is that PLD continues to be reflective, personalised and more importantly, collaborative, which aligns with findings here and overseas about what makes professional learning effective for teachers. In addition to finding ways to evaluate the effectiveness of their PLD with potential impact on student learning, Ngatea Primary School will review the way they administer and facilitate staff and teacher appraisals. Because of the influences of technologies and social media, there’s an opportunity to use Twitter engagement and teacher reflections in existing blogs as a form of informal, on-going PLD. This is deemed important as teacher reflection and inquiry can become more on-going and transparent, as opposed to private, individual one-to-one meetings from a traditional model of appraisal.

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In summary

 

In the local context, Neil Fraser reflects teachers can be influenced professionally in many different ways (online, webinars, workshops, conferences) and sometimes it takes a while for new  learning to ‘sink in’. He believes that if you have a clear vision and philosophy and if it the PLD fits within those, then shifts and change can start to take place over time. It is paramount that there is synergy between the vision, the PLD and eventually the practice.

 

In a global sense, the hierarchy of learning has changed, where educators can network together socially or professionally to meet personal or common goals, through the use of web-capable mobile devices and social networks. As schools evolve into more networked organisations (within and beyond the school itself), teachers are adopting more collaborative, co-constructed approaches as part of the learning process. Neil says,

 

“That’s probably what I like about Twitter, there is no status on Twitter. Whether you are a student teacher or beginning teacher, or principal or professor your contribution comes equally, and it’s across all sectors. So we are communicating with, never before have we communicated with secondary teachers.”

Brokering and accessing a variety of e-mentors through blended means illustrates the potential of a non-hierarchical network  - where teachers can access information and resources without having a structure - within, between and beyond schools. This is also indicative of the research from, Future-oriented teaching and learning A New Zealand Perspective, NZCER which reads,

 

"Better community connections are an obvious way for schools to access the resources they need to provide 21st century learning experiences. Stronger engagements between the education sector and other sectors will also be needed if there is to be engagement by the wider community in supporting the kinds of changes and innovations that have been argued for across the future-oriented educational literature." (p 54)

We look forward to hearing from Ngatea School as they become part of a Community of Learning.

 

Are your leaders and teachers making the most of networked organisations and blended PLD or perhaps this is a goal for 2016?


Images sources: 1, 2

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e-Learning: Leadership

e-Learning: Leadership

Exploring leadership for change, vision, policy and strategy that integrates ICTs into learning.