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Southern Central Divide: Milestone 3 Reflection

What was important for us?
To develop communities of practice where teachers can support each other to develop blended learning opportunities for their learners.
To continue to develop our core group of teacher leaders so that they are able to act as elearning leaders within their own school and within their community of schools
To challenge school leadership to raise their own expectations of what elearning can offer to their learners and also establish the critical role of school leadership within and across communities of schools.

Why was this important?
Blended learning offers a means of engaging learners and encouraging learners to take responsibility for their own learning, provided that pedagogical styles support this approach. Additionally, by establishing communities of practice we aim to provide a support mechanism for teachers changing their pedagogy and also lever economies of scale to provide both pedagogical and time benefits to learners and teachers. The key role of school and communities of schools leadership is essential if any changes to pedagogy are to be sustained at a system-wide level.

What did we do?

  • We facilitated a three day workshop in December 2010
  • We facilitated a two-day workshop for 20 or so core teacher leaders in March 2011
  • We facilitated a 'leadership 'elearning' event for school leaders and we publicised the availability of financial support for teachers to form communities of practise across schools.
  • We reviewed the first two activities immediately afterwards.

What happened as a result?
The core group of 20 teachers met at the University of Canterbury, Dovedale Campus. The focus was the sharing of blended practice by a selection of teachers and to celebrate what had been a challenging, but rewarding first year.

The core group of 20 teacher leaders met in Hokitika a few weeks after the start of Term one. The teachers contributed greatly to the program for the two days. During the last 12 months they have developed in to a cohesive and supportive community who are willing to challenge any assumptions they have about teaching and learning. Additionally, the teachers are starting to articulate their own vision of elearning and understand that a key role they will play is in sharing this vision, both within and across schools. As an example of this greater self-reliance, the group has taken it upon themselves to organise their presentations at Ulearn later on this year.

The 'leadership event', held at Ashburton College during Term One attracted a large number of participants from both within and without our regional cluster, including representatives from local primary schools and other educational organisations, The long-term implications of this event, particularly on the rate of school change, are difficult to assess. However, feedback suggests that targeting school leadership was a worthwhile thing to do as it both informed schools about cluster activities and, more importantly, indicated that the role of school leadership in supporting pedagogical change is pivotal.

We advertised the funding available for groups of teachers to form Communities of Practice during the first week of Term Two. We will be reviewing the self-selected CoP's and allocating funding shortly, but initial analysis suggests that there are more potential CoPs than available funding.

What have we learned?
We have learned that professional learning, designed to give teachers ownership of their development and delivered over a sustained period of time is effective. Our core group of teachers have made quite enormous progress over the last year. While the demands on them (and ourselves) have been high, and some of the original core group withdrew from the project, we would implement the same model again. We have also learned that engaging school leadership is essential to make progress with the project at a system-wide level. Finally, seeding communities of practice was a result of realising that inter-school collaboration needed cluster initiation.

What are our next steps?
Our next steps are a logical progression of the project thus far:

  • Continue to develop our core group of teachers by providing opportunities for the CoP to reflect , plan and determine use of cluster resources - the core group will play an increasingly central role in cluster planning.
  • Hold another leadership event later on during 2011
  • Support the emerging cluster-wide CoP's.

Who are we: The Southern Central Divide Cluster consists of the 30 or so area and secondary schools that comprise WestNet and CantatNet, geograpically we are between Oamaru and Karamea.


Southern Central Divide

Southern Central Divide

The Southern Central Divide Cluster (SCD) is joint project between the CantaNet and WestNet eLearning clusters, spanning the Southern Alps (the 'Central Divide') of the South Island of New Zealand