DEVELOPING LIFE LONG LEARNERS
At College Street Normal School we have been striving to develop life-long learners who have the dispositions to live successfully in our ever changing world for many years.
Our journey towards developing the pedagogy you see and hear in our classes first began in 2002 with teachers developing an understanding of the Habits of Mind. Ross heard Professor Art Costa’s keynote address in Auckland in 2002. Ross was so taken by his message about the future of education that he invited him to College Street. He agreed and spent two days at our school in 2003.
As a school, we embarked on our journey to support children to develop dispositions that would allow them to be successful at school and in daily life. When the new New Zealand Curriculum was released in 2007 the key competencies made so much sense due to our commitment to teaching children the Habits of Mind.
As a school we have developed and refined our own model for curriculum integration over the last 13 years. It is strongly aligned to Kath Murdoch's stages of inquiry. At the heart of this model is children developing deep understandings and competencies which they are then challenged to transfer and apply to solve problems about a range of big ideas. Our model was adapted to a backward design model according to the work by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. This model now allowed us to back plan with our deep understanding at the fore. Staff have had several opportunities to learn from Kath Murdoch over the years, the first time was in Melbourne in 2005. We have recently adapted the stages of our integrated unit to reflect our new vision statement: Engage | Explore | Empower
As part of our integrated curriculum model each syndicate planned a matrix progression showing the development of the deep understanding we were aiming to develop in our learners. This progression focussed on developing the knowledge linked to the curriculum context, the Key Competencies/Habits of Mind and how we were giving children opportunities to use and apply their learning. This was planned with teachers, co-constructed with learners and then children were given opportunities to self assess and set goals.
CONTINUED PROFESSIONAL LEARNING
Between 2006 and 2009, College Street Normal School was part of the Extending High Standards Across Schools Contract. During this time teachers were exposed to professional learning about socio-cultural theory through professional development from Alison Sewell at Massey University. This new learning caused teachers to reflect on the genuine inclusion of student voice and the importance of developing a 'Community of Learners'.
Over the years, several teachers have visited leading schools and attended conferences in relation to e-learning. This has allowed teachers to develop their understanding and challenged them to think about how digital technologies can be authentically embedded into daily teaching and learning.
Teachers had been exposed to all of this professional learning over a number of years and as a result changes in practice were occurring. We were becoming better teachers! Better teachers of reading, writing and maths and better at challenging our children to think deeply. With careful planning, teachers were starting to make connections between reading and writing tasks and the current integrated unit in an attempt to make learning more authentic and purposeful. We were explicitly teaching the Habits of Mind across a range of different contexts. We were beginning to value student voice and we were thinking about how we could use digital technology to support learning.
Our assessment data showed that the majority of our children were achieving at or above the expected levels for their year group. But... was our approach to education truly providing opportunities for children to develop the competencies, skills and knowledge they needed to be successful for learning and living in the 21st century?
DEVELOPING THE KEY COMPETENCIES
Since 2010 teachers have been exploring the key competency 'managing self'. Initially some teachers trialled the idea of a self-managing literacy block instead of highly structured programme.
The ‘Managing Self Literacy Block’ changed this and it was very successful. The children loved having the freedom to choose what task to complete and when. They were highly motivated by this new approach. The children planned their session and tracked the tasks they had completed. The children were continued to be involved in small group instruction for reading and writing throughout the week as they always had been. This was before we knew about 'modern learning environments' and the term 'agency'.
TIME FOR A NEW VISION
In 2017, three Senior Syndicate teachers and 90 children moved into Karaka Block. The development of innovative practice started to be adopted across the school. The Middle Syndicate started their first innovative learning environment and three Junior Syndicate teachers also started to collaborate across three single cell classrooms. Major shifts in practice in 2017 were the trial of impact projects in the Senior Syndicate, passion projects in the Middle Syndicate instead of a big idea based integrated units. The Junior Syndicate started to explore 'Learning through Play'.
At the end of Term One, our whole staff visited schools in Auckland to visit innovative learning environments. As a result of this visit, our staff requested that we review our school vision. Staff were given the opportunity to present new ideas for our vision. As part of our community consultation, 70% voted for a change in vision from 145 responses. 86% voted for a change in vision from 26 staff responses.
By the end of 2017 we had also finalised our plans for the refurbishment of Karaka Block.
A new vision for learning - Engage. Explore. Empower. On the first day of the year we introduced our community to our new vision, learner competencies and values.
This year there are six single cell Junior Syndicate classrooms. The three Junior Syndicate teachers who had been collaborating in 2017 across three single cell classrooms moved into a collaborative space. The Middle Syndicate now have two collaborative spaces with two teachers and 55 children and three single cell classrooms. In the Senior Syndicate now have two collaborative spaces with three teachers and 90 children and a single cell classroom.
In 2018 we have been working with Mark Osborne to support us in bringing our new vision to fruition. Our Junior Syndicate have been exploring 'Learning Through Play' with professional learning from Longworth Education.