Thursday, 29 October 2015

I have improved my time management skills; students share their learning

Student feedback
In my previous post I spoke about a culture of self-belief and optimism underlying success for all learners (our students and ourselves). I shared feedback from our school parents around learning for their students in relation to our schoolwide goal: Engage every student in deep learning for successI emphasized the holistic nature of the education we provide at St Joseph's. 
Our community want our students to connect with their learning, to be able to achieve success in their learning at a deep level. We use the SOLO taxonomy as one of the tools across the school to help students understand and articulate how they can go deeper with their learning. They learn to move beyond simply knowing knowledge, to learning how to use and apply their knowledge. You can see examples in the SOLO diagrams on our Teaching and Learning Site.
This week I spent time in our Year 4-8 hubs and asked our students to share something positive about their learning this yearHere are their responses according to year groups (the numbers represent repeated responses):
Yr 4
I have improved my reading (12) Maths (8) I can understand most of my learning (2) People supporting us helps us to learn (2) We get to learn at a higher level and have harder work. BYOD (devices) are helping me learn. I am learning more than in any other year. All the different strategies. Writing. Learning is fun.
Yr 5
Maths (9) Reading (8)Writing (7) The teachers help me to improve. Religious Education. Art. Devices are great for learning. Workshops.
Yr 6
Using devices for learning (10) Different inquiry topics and heaps of projects each term (5) The hubs (3) All the workshops (3) Working with older kids because I have to step up (3) Our teachers make learning fun (3) Working with three different teachers in different rooms (2) I am more engaged with my learning with more people to work with (2) Working in pairs.  Spelling.  Being able to work where we feel we work well. Confidence building. We have licenses so we can have more freedom to learn. Writing. Maths is fun and cool because you learn so much.
Yr 7
Improving in my maths (2) I am pretty positive with my maths progress. I am getting better at everything especially maths. I have learnt more in my maths and that is helping me in tests. The maths/reading /writing workshops really help (3) I have been reading more books and learning harder words. I have made it to Level 7 for maths (2) My fluency in reading (2) I have gone up a step in my writing. Weekly goals that we work towards - must do's and can do's (3) Licenses have helped to make more more responsible. The workshops have helped me understand more about the topic at hand. We have learnt more strategies. More teachers in the room give me more help with my learning. Everyone is encouraged. The hubs give you an opportunity to learn with more people at your level. I have improved my time management skills. Independence in working with a wide range of people.  The devices make the learning easier for me. I have been finishing my work to a high standard. Opportunities for extended learning and self-management make us work harder and think about what we are doing. Going out into the environment for a trip to places in Oamaru for inquiry. I have learnt so much from having more teachers, science and history. We have more projects to do and it's more fun. We get to work wherever we want to and can discuss things with others better than if the teacher chose for us. I am not falling behind.
Yr 8
Learning on devices - we can share our work with our teachers and for group learning (3) Must do's and can do's (2) The learning hub has brought different people closer. I have really improved with maths and got really great with reading and writing. When I need help the person next to me always helps me to learn new things. I feel less stressed and rushed at this school. I like how we are prepared for high school. I am excited to be a leader and motivated to learn. I was extended in maths. You develop better relationships with other teachers so you can learn from them. Maths workshops and being able to go to two or three of them. I have learnt more about fractions and that has helped me in my maths. The steampunk trip and camp prep learning projects. Maths - it is fun and I love it. Religious Education and learning about the old testament - it is interesting we should do more of it. We do more interactive things which help me engage instead of just being told. The way we are getting challenging work which is improving our learning. Reading. The encouraging learning environment and atmosphere. Receiving the Pasifika award for outstanding leadership and academic learning. Working in groups and learning with friends.

It is worth noting that the feedback from our students reflects a combination of multistructural, relational learning and some extended abstract learning (SOLO taxonomy ). Our students are going deeper with their learning and moving beyond the simple acquisition of knowledge for knowledge's sake. Our students are beginning to articulate and understand the conditions that are supporting them to learn for success. This becomes more evident in the student responses as they progress from Year 4 to Year 8.

Workshops, hubs, several teachers, devices, opportunities to learn alongside friends and weekly goals are some of the key factors introduced in 2015 as part of our Engaging Learning Spaces that our students have shared with us

As we move forward and prepare for 2016, we can reflect further on these positive responses and include them in our planning. We can feel motivated and inspired by all of these responses as we continue to Reach for the Stars as lifelong Learner in the Catholic Faith.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

A genuine culture of optimism, hope and self-belief underlies success for all

Response post
It has been a month since my last post. Clarity around this response to parent feedback after three terms of Engaging Learning Spaces (ELS) became apparent after attending a recent "Catholic Essentials" seminar. Receiving a very positive external Catholic review report reinforced this response. Let me explain. 

At St Joseph's, we provide a holistic education. We focus on developing the whole child - spiritually, physically, academically, socially and emotionally. As a staff, we recently reflected on the specific skills our children develop as a result of our ability to openly express our Catholic faith. We listed them alongside the skills that contribute to developing the emotional intelligence of our children and their ability to "learn to learn". It is our unique ability to provide authentic opportunities for developing the whole child that lay the foundation for their success at high school and beyond. 

As Katrina van de Water articulated during the Catholic Essentials seminar, our Catholic culture is one of optimism and hope. If you have been brought up in a Catholic faith filled environment, you are naturally a positive and optimistic person. You pro actively seek solutions and look for ways to make things work. It is part of our Catholic culture. We are positive people who thrive in an environment that supports us to grow our talents and skills and reach out to others. We thrive in an inclusive community where everyone is treated equally and has something of value to bring to that community.

The positive parent feedback connected to our learning environments expresses the very nature of our Catholic culture. Here are some of those positive comments:

We are reaping the benefits of blogging, communication and planning, which is so much easier with technology.  (I love the weekly blog!) I feel much more confident that she is going to be prepared for going further in an educational world that has seamless blended learning and also the self direction required.  We are thrilled she is learning the responsibilities that go along with technology, (such as balance, tech-free activities, safety etc).

This is the first time in seven years that I have a real insight into my son's learning. We check the Teaching and Learning site on a Sunday night and come prepared for the week. He knows what his learning goals are and we talk about them together. Our whole family and extended family can read his stories and projects online. Most importantly, he wants to learn and is engaged in his learning. He has made so much progress this year.

We have Sunday planning sessions which we use with the Teaching and Learning site and it works really well for us, we feel involved and we have better conversations throughout the week. The communication from the teacher is excellent and feels very natural.

I believe her days are full, robust learning is taking place and we have an engaged, happy learner.  As a parent, picking her up each day, she is getting in the car full of good stories. Any niggles, she knows how she is going to fix them, and that is all part of life, so we reinforce that.

I can't think of what doesn't work for us (and I normally can find something proactive to say, so I do apologise).We are strong advocates for the school and are extremely happy with our experience, thank you.

He has benefited enormously from the skiing programme. Is it the combination of treating the body in its entirety? Body, spirit, mind. He has never been more engaged with his learning, he talks about school work, across most of his subjects in a manner that he has never done before. 

My children have benefitted from the ELS style of learning. All three of them regularly come home and share their learning. This has been especially noticeable with my Year 5 child, who always enjoyed school but never wanted to discuss anything she had learned or encountered through the day.Technology is a big draw card for her.

The common concerns that came through from a small group of parents (8 out of potentially 144 families) were in relation to noise, furniture, screen time, the monitoring of devices and expectations around "learning to learn". It's important to address any concerns. We have met with some parents and are always willing to meet with others. We have already instigated positive change in Term 4: the move from three classes to two in Senior Hub 2, extra furniture and a commitment to a new cybersafety programme. Our staff have also begun to prepare explicit visual charts and diagrams about "learning to learn" expectations across the school. These are complimented by the natural learning and leadership opportunities that begin in the junior school and culminate in Year 7 and 8. The ability to outreach into the community with Early Childhood and Young Vinnie programmes further encapsulate our Catholic culture.

Our children are thriving as learners because parents are making every effort to support learning in a positive manner. It is this positive, optimistic attitude, inherent in our Catholic culture that enables our children to Reach for the Stars as Lifelong Learners in the Catholic faith and shine.
Here are a few snippets from our external Catholic review September 2015:
  • St Joseph’s is an inclusive and welcoming school. The students are happy and responsive. They understand the expectations and embrace them. 
  • The school culture is genuine. It nurtures and promotes self belief and a sense of worth for each individual.
  • There is a sense that the children have contributed to the development of the culture and embrace it willingly.
  • All around the school there are examples of the integration of the curriculum and the fusion of faith and life. 
  • Students understand why they are asked to live the school values. It is quite common to hear and see students leading others and reminding them of what the community values.
  • St Joseph’s Oamaru is a highly successful Catholic school. The Proprietor can be assured that Special Character is at the heart of the success of this school. 
We will continue to integrate our genuine culture of optimism, hope and self-belief into our Engaging Learning Spaces across our Catholic school as we move forward towards 2016 and beyond.