Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Collaboration - some considerations

I am a convert to collaboration. I am convinced that the way we are changing the way we deliver the curriculum is far better meeting the needs of our children. I have collected evidence from children who believe that the way they learn now provides them with far better outcomes than previously. They are no longer frustrated by over learning material that they either already knew or understood in the first five minutes. They feel that they have far more say than they did and they love working collaboratively on projects. They love the flexibility of the groupings and the working spaces. They love being able to choose where and how they work. Learning styles is finally being acted upon.

From a powerful teaching point of view, collaboration is great. I enjoy the power of putting heads together and coming up with better opportunities for our students than I could do on my own. I love the "sweet" teaching when the coaching (roving) teacher is responsible for the 'target' children and is coaching and challenging the children who are self regulating, while the instructing teachers are taking workshops, unhindered by distractions and interruptions. Shared planning and assessing on google docs have opened up a new world of accessibility to me.

Ideally, everyone is happy. However, it is of critical importance that we protect the quality of what the children are doing in their self- regulated time and how we as teachers impact on that time. Self-regulation is not about a series of  'tasks' designed to keep the children busy while the teacher is either busy doing something else or at best working with a group. It is not a glorified worksheet or a gap filler. A deep learning task is something that allows students to work on projects that involve their ability to access the task at their current thinking level and which challenges them to think harder and with more depth. As Michael Fullan says in "A Rich Seam" deep learning is about what you do with that new learning.
 It is in the design of these tasks that we are challenged  to think about what it is that we want the children to achieve and that encourages new breadth and depth (Lane Clark, Kath Murdoch, Michael Fullan) learning.  The challenge for me as a leader is to ensure that the quality of these deep learning tasks are just that, deep learning.

Friday, 14 August 2015

A timely debate!

This discussion about "to teach handwriting or to not teach handwriting" is a topical one for me. Coming from the Trudy school of "handwriting is important", albeit from nine years ago. I still use the style that Trudy taught me!  A few years ago in the early stages of self - regulation, but before collaboration, I morphed the three times a week after lunch, 'do it like this' approach into a quick, 'don't forget that a links into e like this' on the Monday, before leaving the children to determine their own goal and making the practice handwriting and self assessment, a daily part of self - regulated work. I trialled it to see whether a few pointers and then a changing sample to copy from the whiteboard daily, would make the quality deteriorate. At first it did. At the point that I thought, 'well that was a fail and was about to return to the structure of before, when suddenly everything came right! I continued to use this approach until now.
However, with the ever evolving nature of self- regulation,  collaboration and BYOD, I am re thinking the necessity of even doing handwriting practice as a thing. My job sharing partner and I decided at our planning session yesterday, that, alongside of trialling a new self- regulated approach, we would stop the copying practice and see what happens. We will build in the expectation that some pieces of their work will include a reflection of their presentation.  Having said that, I think that some of our year fours like the fact that handwriting is a good way to 'show that they are focussed' and may miss it! These year fours started linking this year and often ask questions relating to 'what links to what, and what doesn't' Do I hear you asking, "who cares as long as it is legible?" Hmmm.