Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Our Engaging Learning Spaces (ELS's) spiral into their second year

When we transformed our teaching and learning environment into ELS's in 2015 in response to our community focus "To engage every learner in deep learning for success", we began to operate within an authentic, living inquiry of practise. We naturally moved away from the individual class "teaching as inquiry" model to a collaborative holistic whole school inquiry. Our adaptations to our ELS's during the first year were based on learner, staff and parent surveys, videos, reflections, observations, discussions and professional readings. We were and still are open to learning and change in order to create an environment conducive to the best outcomes for all learners within our community. We believe our environment is organic and reflects the environment referred to in a video developed for the Learning and Change Strategy in 2014 where "self organising living systems have the capacity to respond to change".

Some recent work with the MOE drew my attention to the "Spiral of inquiry". You can read a succinct account of the paper entitled A Framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry written by Timperley, Kaser & Halbert (2014) on the MOE Educational Leaders site at this link.
Spiral of Inquiry Source: Timperley et al, 2014
Here are my own thoughts around this framework for leading authentic learning in the context of our ELS's.

The new framework involves learners, families and communities and a shift from student voice to learner agency (p5). 
Our ELS model seeks feedback from all involved. We aim for learner agency but need to keep refocusing on this in practice.
 A mindset of curiosity and genuine inquiry into what is going on for learners is vital and leads to hunches (p5,6).
We have to continually remind ourselves to be open to change and be willing to action this.
 It is a collaborative process and involves a highly motivated and energetic team (p6).
In 2015 we moved away from single teachers making decisions around teaching, learning and evaluation to the ownership belonging to energetic, inquiring teams.
 It is grounded in OECD emerging knowledge and reflects the 7 principles of learning (p5).
We incorporate the 7 principles of learning naturally. We need to specifically relate to these.
 It is ongoing inquiry of learning leading to innovative action (p6).
This is how we operate naturally within our school wide ELS’s.
 Any change needs to involve working out what will work in the context of your own environment (p6).
As a Catholic school we are aware of ensuring the context of our environment reflects holistic innovation.
Continually checking what is working and not working well is essential (p6).

We do this across teams and as a whole team and involve all members of our community. Video evidence recorded on blogs grounds our practice.
Box 2 on page 8 of the framework has questions related to each of the 7 principles of learning.

In the different phases of the spiral, trust and engaging learners and their families are a recurring theme. Here is a brief summary about each phase of the spiral:
Scanning (p7- 9): This is about digging deeper, going underneath the data to get an understanding of the experiences of learners to drive change. Teacher observations and surveys of social, intellectual and emotional engagement are valuable. Using the questions in Box 2(p8) of the principles helps to get a bigger picture for the learners.
Focusing (p10-11): This is determining which area to concentrate on to start to make a difference. It's about asking the question - What's going on and how do we know ? It's about talking with the learners too and identifying a common area many people can buy into.
Developing a hunch (p12-14): Intuition and hunches, together with evidence, inform scanning and guide focusing. We all take responsibility for the areas we have influence and control in and have the confidence to share ideas where it is safe to question our own behaviours and beliefs. Checking assumptions for accuracy is important before moving ahead.
New learning (p14-16): Motivated by and connected to changing the learning experiences of learners and understanding why new ways of doing things are better than previous practices. Supporting and sustaining learning over time.
Taking action (p17-19): Informed actions. Learning more deeply about new ways of doing things, informed by a deep understanding of why new practices are more effective than others. Evaluating the impact on learners.
Checking (p19-21): Have we made enough of a difference as a team? Evidence seeking about high expectations. Providing information on the impact of actions and setting the stage for what will come next.
This process is based on a rich understanding of what is going on for learners. Success with small change leads to more radical changes and transformation takes place. Evidence - informed, systematic inquiry becomes a professional way of life as one inquiry leads to another within the spiral. A shared collaborative inquiry approach provides coherence within schools and across schools and is recognised as curiosity- driven change.
Applying the phases of the spiral to our ELS's at St Joseph's in 2016 will provide coherence to our existing living inquiry. We will be able to refocus our school wide inquiry process around a recognised framework for transforming learning and continue to innovate our practise to meet the diverse and challenging needs of all learners.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Unpacking Effective School Evaluation

In 2015, the New Zealand Education Review Office collaborated with the Ministry of Education to produce the trial publication - Effective School Evaluation: How to do and use internal evaluation for improvement. It is a companion to the trial  School Evaluation Indicators and is supported by Internal Evaluation: Good Practice. Under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand licence, I am able to share my brief synopsis with you so you can ascertain at a glance, the content of this valuable resource. I have also included my latest board report template below. It reflects some of the content of these ERO documents. You are welcome to adapt this for your own use or contact me for more information.
The ERO indicators framework highlights six domains that are key influences in improving learner outcomes.
The resource aims to assist with the understanding and practice of effective evaluation and to inform the development of strategies that are successful in raising achievement. It shares the work of case study schools that successfully use inquiry processes and evaluative reasoning.
P 5 Summary of the resource and each of the five sections.
P 6 Context for the resource. It stresses the importance of teachers and leaders inquiring into practice, evaluating the impact and building knowledge about what works. The primary purpose of school evaluation is to achieve equity and excellence in outcomes for all learners.
P 7 Definition of equity with a focus on fairness and inclusion.
The ERO indicators framework is designed for ERO's evaluators but also for school's internal evaluation,
P 8 Further explanation of the framework including the six domains and the four concepts that can transform the learning environment within a cultural context.
P 9 Effective internal evaluation is driven by the motivation to improve to do better for students.
When internal evaluation is done well, processes are coherent and align with schools’ visions and strategic goals. Leaders and teachers work collaboratively across teams, syndicates, departments, faculties and in some cases communities of learning, to ensure that the efforts that go into evaluation lead to improvement. The urgency to improve is shared by all, and can be articulated by all. 
Strategic, business as usual and unforeseen (emergent) are the three types of internal evaluation
P 11-13 Explanations of the three types of evaluation and examples of them.
P 14 -19 Processes and reasoning - The 5 interconnected learner- focussed processes integral to effective evaluation for improvement. Each one is explained in a diagram with a series of questions and statements to support a robust reflection. They align with the spiral of inquiry outlined in my earlier post.
P 22-23 Rubric style statements for developing the organisational conditions, capability and collective capacity to do and use evaluation for improvement.
P 24 Improvement actions emerge out of the evaluation process as the school aims for equity and excellence. It is at this stage, the school decides if they have the internal capability to make the necessary changes or to seek external expertise for professional learning and growth. It's vital for leaders at this point to understand what it takes to bring about significant educational change.
P 25 - 27 Improvement actions lead to shifts in practice with the biggest shifts penetrating to the core of teaching practice. Examples of shifts in practice across the six domains.
P 29 - 38 Examples of a short term and longer term school improvement journey
P 39 How to use the school evaluation indicators to support continuous improvement.
P 40 Table 2 Example of how you can use the indictors in your own school.

How do I support our St Joseph's board to understand the domains and indicators ?
Here is a sample of my latest principal's report. It is a one page report that includes the six domains and a Catholic character domain for our school. Matters reported on are recorded in the best fit domain. I have this with me and read through it while I write the report. It helps me to understand the domains and the indicators. Then I record the page and highlight where it fits within the three types of internal evaluations with a different colour for each one. There are also hyperlinks to blogposts as well. This report is shared on our board blog and board members are expected to read the report and come prepared to ask questions at the meeting. They have their own copies of the indicators to refer to as well as the Catholic review indicators. Using the highlighted colours helps to show at a glance where,for example, our Catholicity crosses over into other domains to show the extent and integration of our Catholic special character. The questions from the learner focussed evaluation process above would be helpful for board members too.

How often do we think deeply about what we are doing? Purposeful actions evolve from a robust visioning process Part 2

Late last year, the New Zealand Catholic Primary Principal's Association (NZCPPA) participated in a
Image attributed to bryantmcgill.com
visioning day led by Mary Wilson. You can read about the day in this post: "How often do we think deeply about what we are doing? A purposeful visioning process Part 1" at this link.

Special thanks to Teresa Edwards,  principal from St James Catholic School in Palmerston North and a member of the NZCPPA, who facilitated the next part of the process with the NZCPPA Executive in Taupo.

Teresa  reminded us that we were on a shared visioning journey and described the process we went through last time. Our initial goal was around clarity as an organisation. She explained we would review the shared vision from the first session and unpack the core values and plan our follow up actions. Teresa also shared the importance of every voice being heard "we all have personal and practical knowledge to contribute". As with the first session, the use of the robust and fair classic brainstorming and 10/4 consensus voting process meant every voice did get heard.

New Zealand Catholic Primary Principals Association Exec  
Shared vision  - Our picture of the future we want to create     

Below is the vision statement, the outcome of the collaborated work from the Part 1 Visioning Day. 
We shared our personal reflections on the vision. Teresa then asked us to apply the traffic light system to our personal reflections.
                                                            Applying the traffic lights 1:36 sec
The purpose of the Association is to assist Principals to advance education for the benefit of the public at Catholic Primary Schools Aotearoa New Zealand.

How we enact our Purpose/Vision
We have an agreed and shared understanding of our Catholic ethos.
We are informed and keep the Catholic ethos in the forefront of our thinking in relation to the current issues and debate.  
We consistently articulate this in all that we do and say.  
We are fully conversant and informed about the principles of Catholic social teaching and justice.
As the NZCPPA executive we ensure our time together throughout the year is used for its maximum impact.
Robust discussions and debates are always first on the agenda.  
We use tools that encourage robust dialogue and help with collaborative decision-making around big issues.  
Agendas are clear and concise.  
Meetings are run efficiently with balance to ensure issues are discussed and resolved in a timely manner.  
To allow the exec to be well informed we continue to invite guest speakers.  Meeting times are structured with regular breaks and visits to Catholic Schools.
We continually review the most effective ways to connect with our principals to ensure we clearly communicate and consult.
We use the online environment when appropriate.
We listen to our members.  
We have a clear structure to be effective in distributing and collecting information.
We have a constitution to clarify what we believe and how we operate as an executive.  
Exec members have regular communication with local principals formally and informally and ask for a set agenda slot at all local principal meetings.  
The NZCPPA website is promoted across NZ and is a one stop, purposeful, ‘go to’ place to provide strength and vision for all.
As the NZCPPA exec we Identify roles and responsibilities needed and gain clarity of responsibility for each member, including their ongoing role between meetings.  
These roles are clearly defined including a clear structure for allocation of tasks.  
Members of the exec have a clear job description of their role and responsibilities to ensure consistency of practice across NZ.  
There is allocated time to work on our areas of responsibility at each meeting.  An annual plan of actions is identified to ensure strategic goals are covered effectively and purposefully.  
This plan is reviewed at each quarterly meeting.  
As an exec we operate effectively as a team being an active and informed voice for the Catholic Primary Principals of New Zealand.

The Executive discussed about including the one sentence statement from the NZCPPA constitution at the top of this Vision. The next step was to unpack the core values. These would then guide our actions and contribute to a strategic plan for going forward.
                                              The what and the how of the visioning process 1:18
                                                  Classic Brainstorming and 10/4 voting 2:38 sec

                                         Moving from vision to actions: Unpacking the core values 4:22 sec
NZCPPA Exec member shard at work following the classic brainstorming process
Group consensus work around the core value :We value decision making that reflects our Catholic ethos.
Teresa reminded us to reflect on this slide as we worked our way through this robust process.
                                                 Know the strengths of the group  0.57 sec
Some Key Reminders from Teresa:

  • It doesn't matter who comes and goes, the vision will still be there. It is the shared vision that was created for the school or the organisation.
  • Trust the process. It's important.
  • The Core values are the things we do to make the vision come alive and happen
Next steps:
  • The group began to work on a shared collaborative document to turn the vision into action. This will become an action plan for future meetings.
  • The Otago Southland Catholic Primary Principal Association (OSCPPA) are going to work through a similar process as a way to strengthen leadership and networking capability for Catholic principals within the Dunedin Diocese. 
Special thanks to Teresa Edwards for allowing me to publish these videos and to the NZCPPA for their transparency around these dynamic visioning days. The NZCPPA are modelling equitable and robust processes and practices for Catholic principals, associations and schools across New Zealand.

Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world.

    Sunday, 13 March 2016

    Principals receive a warm welcome in Taupo

    The newly designed logo for the school.
    The New Zealand Catholic Primary Principal's Association (NZCPPA) Executive members visited St Patrick's school in Taupo during their Term 1 meeting days in March. Thanks to Danny Nichols, the principal of St Patrick's, for opening up his school to us all. 
    Michael Mokai the outgoing president of the NZCPPA Executive gave a heartfelt response to the tamariki after they welcomed the group with a moving waiata and kapahaka performance.
    After celebrating mass with the local parishioners, the principals joined the staff for morning tea and toured the school.
    Here are a some videos of the welcome and photos from the visit.
                                                Part 1 Welcome waiata
                                                Part 2 Welcome kapahaka