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Three heads are better than one: How the Manurewa cluster work together collaboratively through learning communities

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What are we doing?

One of the initiatives of the Manurewa Cluster has been to set up learning communities across the three schools (Manurewa High School, Manurewa Intermediate School and Manurewa Central School).  These communities of 2-3 teachers from each school meet together once or twice per term for a block of about two hours as a professional learning community.  Within the community meetings staff share ideas, resources and strategies in order to improve student engagement and learning with and through ICT. There is also a leadership group composed of all three Principals, plus the director of the contract Daniel Wilson, and the cluster Facilitator Audrey Harvey.

How does this work?

  • Each school in the cluster takes a turn at hosting the meetings
  • Meetings are chaired by a different staff member each time
  • Experiences are shared of how they have integrated ideas from the last meeting
  • New knowledge and ideas identified to share with staff
  • Sometimes a visit to a classroom is part of the meeting

The cluster has found that in order for these learning communities to succeed a set agenda is essential, that covers five key focus areas:

  • What is on top – minutes from the previous meeting, and revisiting the vision and goals
  • New Learning – provided by one or more members of the group
  • Business of the meeting – expectations from each of the schools, and what evidence will be gathered
  • Reading – a short professional reading to stimulate thinking (given in advance)
  • General business – wrapping the meeting up and planning for the next meeting

What happened, as a result?

Although staff in the learning communities cover the spectrum of students from Year 1 to 13, they are often amazed at just how many resources and strategies can be applied from one school to another.  For example Manurewa High School has found literacy resources applied in the lower year levels particularly effective in engaging students at junior secondary level.  It is hoped that the transferral of skills will also assist students as they transition from one school to another.  Visits to various classrooms in the three schools are often included in the community meetings, with staff reporting that the visits reinforce learning by observing students in context.

Another positive effect of the programme has been the increased interaction between staff in the three schools.  Staff freely make themselves available to assist in other schools when requested (for example assisting with learning groups within the schools).  The learning communities have led to other ways of collaboration, for example sports events have been held between staff at the various schools, and the high school has assisted the intermediate school with resources (computers), and infrastructure planning.  The increased communication between the three schools promises on-going benefits for all involved.

What have we learned?

  • Professional learning communities strengthen the professional relationship between schools
  • They lead to an increased ICT understanding by school principals and other school leaders
  • This is a great way to share, reflect and co-ordinate positive learning experiences between staff and schools

How do we know if they have been successful?

  • Staff involved in the learning communities have been able to implement many new ideas, strategies and resources into their learning programmes, such as:

* literacy strategies through ICT
* the effective use of Interactive Whiteboards to promote learning
* ways to engage students through blogs and wikis, particularly in the primary and intermediate schools
* effective ways to communicate and engage students through learning management systems

  • Classroom observations and staff reports indicate that students are more engaged in their learning
  • Achievement data indicates greater student engagement, particularly at the secondary school, as indicated by the following graphs:

 

  • asTTle and PAT data, particularly in the intermediate school also indicate a large increase in student achievement

The school Principals’ also feel more confident in being pedagogical leaders in the use of ICT and appreciate being able to share together in a non-threatening environment that encourages personal reflection and growth.

Who are we?

The Manurewa Cluster comprises Manurewa High School (decile 2, 1926 students), Manurewa Intermediate School (decile 1, 753 students) and Manurewa Central School (decile 3, 510 students).

Where: South Auckland

ICT-PD Cohort: 2009

 

Comments

  • Tessa Gray

    This has been a very rewarding summary to read - in terms of pan-sector sharing of knowledge, skills and resources. It must be comforting for the students to know that there a clear links as they move between the schools.

    It has been exciting to read and view how the there have been increased in student engagement and achievement across all three schools. I'm interested to learn more about how teachers have used ICTs to enhanced literacy outcomes as well.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Tess Smile