A Longer School Day?


With more than 380,000 students aged 5 to 12 attending our of hours school care, and unmet demand for another 80 000 children as estimated by the the Australian ­Bureau of Statistics, the call for schools to offer services ‘above and beyond’ the normal school day continue to grow. For quite some time now, the rise of single parenting and working families has challenged the 1950s’ construct of the 9 to 3 school day. A few months back, Federal Minister for Education, Simon Bermingham, was quoted in The Australian as saying he was “open to longer school day” In that same article, there are references to schools providing services beyond the traditional school day.

Across Australia, there are already a number of ‘services’ both ‘within’ and ‘outside’ the school day. These services are offered in the form of early learning centres, primary schools, secondary schools and  K-12 learning communities.(I am uneasy with the term ‘services’, especially when linked to primary and secondary school; however, I use it for the purposes of this blog). Furthermore, and to complement these educational offerings there are out of school hour care centres. 

As part of recent conversations with my work, I have become aware of the different regulations and requirements for school settings as distinct from early learning centres, as distinct from long day care providers, as distinct from out of school hour care centres. In recent times there has been great effort and noted success in raising the standard of early learning, reflective of its importance, as there has been with out of school hours care. Despite these successes, the various educational offerings act as separate entities and ‘bolt-ons’ rather than integrated services. There is great work being done within each educational entity; however, the reality is they are not integrated. 

The idea of an extended school day responds to the needs of families to have children cared for in a way which supersedes the 1950’s school construct. We can challenge the idea of ‘what the school day looks like’ by providing an experience focused on learning which looks different and better for each student and family. However, how do we do this without providing more work for teachers and staff across all sectors? Another question might be, “How much more is the education sector expected to do?”

The conversation about an extended school day poses many questions. A third question, but with a more positive spin…..”Is there an opportunity to provide quality pre to post school learning with services connected in a way which acknowledges learning as a continuum and transcends the traditional boundaries of time and space?”

If we are to extend the school day, the answer is not more of the same with longer learning blocks as part longer days with more face to face for teachers. We need to be more creative than that! I suppose, my inquiry really is…..

…. In what ways can extending the school day provide integrated services which offer an all inclusive, learning focused approach to the school day?

There may be learning communities already doing this. If so, please let me know.

I look forward to feedback, questions and comments.




New pathways to ‘post school’ required.

I recently  spoke with Colin Klupiec from Learn Fast in my capacity as the newly appointed Principal Leader at St Luke’s, Marsden Park. Colin’s professionalism, deep knowledge of Australian education and strong desire for a ‘new paradigm for learning’, meant that I enjoyed our time discussing the future of education in Australia within the one local context of St Luke’s.

St Luke’s is a (soon to be established) ‘next generation’ learning community. As part of the conversation Colin and I discussed ways to blur the finish line of schooling. Currently, that finish line is when the vast majority of young people conclude their formal education at the end of Year 12, around mid-December each year. In NSW, the checkered flag waves frantically for 24 hours with the release of HSC results followed by the release of the ATAR* the next day.

ATARs have increasingly become less meaningful as expressed in a recent article ‘Not in our national interest’: Universities slammed over ATAR leniency’ by Eryk Bagshaw.  Universities have compromised tertiary entry standards in pursuit of growing enrolments. Increasing ATAR offer rates below 50 has been one of many approaches.

ATARs below 50

Whilst the number of university degrees is increasing, the value of a university degree is in decline. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, of bachelor degree graduates who were available for full-time employment in 2000, 83.6 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees in 1999. Since then, the trend has been….

  • in 2005, 80.9 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.
  • in 2010,  76.2 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.
  • In 2015,  68.8 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.

It may well be that there are now more university degrees for less jobs or it may be that employers are looking further afield than the traditional degrees as evidenced by FYA’s most recent report. Employers in Australia are increasingly advertising for people who exhibit the ‘New Basics’ of Digital Literacy, Critical Thinking, Creativity and Problem Solving.

Enterpise Skills

Reading between the lines of the report, and with reference to Jim Bright’s article below, it appears employers may be unsure of how HSC results or  an ATAR number assists an employer to ascertain a prospective employee’s capability in these areas.

SMH Article

In the interests of best preparing our students for the future which awaits them, it is now time to look at more flexible post school pathways other than just the HSC and ATARs. These pathways would see students:

  • make links with industry by showing their work through their online presence, one which connects with experts across the world; OR,
  • create their own start up business in Year 8, 9 or 10 (possibly after many failed attempts) by asking them the question, “What problem do you want to solve?”; OR,
  • assisted by their wider learning community (not just school) to develop the skills for the surprising jobs of today.

I welcome your thoughts.


* The ATAR is The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia. It was gradually introduced during 2009 and 2010 to replace the Universities Admission Index, Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank and Tertiary Entrance Rank.





A Week Hosting @EduTweetOz

I am honoured to be asked to host @EduTweetOz for the week commencing Sunday 3 April. @EduTweetOz is a social media space on both Twitter and Facebook that sees a different Australian Educator hosting the account each week where they share their views and perspective on education. Hosting the account requires me to be quite active throughout the week with the aim of generating discussion.

The areas of focus for the week may centre around:

  1. Ed. leadership for a digital age.
  2. The best use of time.
  3. Contemporary pedagogies.
  4. Using technology to accelerate learning.

With regards technology and learning, there has been recent debate about the value of otherwise of technology for learning. Some schools have taken the step to ban or reduce days with laptops. I am a little unsure as to why when the devices themselves are not the technology, they are indeed a tool which offers the user to engage with applications which are relevant in this day and age.

It seems we are assessing the value of technology based on test scores from end of school exit examinations or NAPLAN learning growth. I cannot recall any educator making the claim that introducing laptops will result in better NAPLAN or HSC results. Until outcomes such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and global connection are valued as much as test scores, it is unfair to judge the value of devices and technology when addressing its impact for students.

Generally, we are spending too much time focusing on the technology and not enough of the pedagogy. we need to clearly focus on what Fullan calls “Pedagogical Capacity” and the need for it to address the reality which comes with emerging  technologies.

Fullan Quote


While there may be a focus on the areas mentioned above, I will also post ‘just in time’ items of interest as well as post a few posters collected from Twitter over the last twelve months or so. Furthermore, I may tend to ask questions than pretend I have the all the answers.

I look forward to the week ahead!


(Recommendations for) Designing Learning Spaces – Part 2

In this contemporary age, what is the ideal learning space? As part of A New Learning Space in 2014, I referred to this ideal learning space offered by OECD.

Learning Space - The Ideal OECD 2011
The Ideal Learning Space – OECD 2011

More recently, on December 11, 2015 I published, Designing Learning Spaces – Part 1. In that post I highlighted some of the research which strongly argues that learning spaces can accelerate learning initiatives grounded in student-centred pedagogy.

There is little doubt that learning space design has a significant role to play in facilitating and reflecting new pedagogical approaches. The teacher-student relationship is changing, with a shift to student-centred teaching in multi-purpose spaces that allow for individuals and groups, specialist areas, indoor and outdoor learning, and flexible community oriented spaces. With that in mind, I make the following recommendations. They are offered:

  • with the research in mind;
  • literature encountered as part of my recent Master of Education – Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation at Charles Sturt University;
  • recent experience as a principal in a contemporary learning setting; and,
  • engagement with new and refurbishment building processes as part of my current system based role.

So……. , when designing learning spaces:


Involve the users, especially the students.

Real change cannot occur without involvement and input from teachers and students; the main users of space (Sanders and Stappers 2008; Kuuskorpi and Cabellos 2011). The planning and design of school spaces should be adapted to daily practices and school organisation, which means taking users’ views into consideration (Veloso, Marques et al. 2014). Involving students in the design process may result in a more shared sense of purpose (Hunter 2006). Furthermore, involving teachers in the design process may result in them becoming more confident and able to reorganise their classrooms according to their pedagogical intentions (Martin 2006).

Therefore, schools are obligated to engage users in the design process when designing learning spaces.


Introduce key stakeholders to Learning Space dialogue.

If students and teachers are to become co-designers of learning spaces we may need to provide alternative learning experiences and curricular to assist with the development of the creative mindset for those who are designing (Sanders and Stappers 2008). Such learning experiences could be as follows:

Therefore, schools are obligated to engage with research and learning space design thought leaders. 



Remember Pedagogy and Technology.

The emerging area of learning space design integrates the pedagogy of learning with the technology that is used within spaces, both physical and virtual (Wilson and Randall 2012). The convergence of pedagogy, space and technology, provides a framework with which to address a host of issues associated with the design of learning spaces (Oblinger 2005). The commitment to link learning theory with physical space can see it as…. ‘chicken and egg as to what comes first’. However, ongoing and extensive dialogue about both contemporary learning (pedagogy and technology) and building design (space) will bring substance to new buildings and spaces.

Therefore, schools are obligated to demonstrate evidence of how the learning space supports pedagogy and technology use to accelerate learning.


Design for students’ needs.

Communities and cultures are now more connected and more informed than ever before (Friedman 2006; Sanders and Stappers 2008). Therefore, there is a need to design for people’s purpose more so than designing products (Sanders and Stappers 2008). This currently translates to designing and creating learning spaces which:

  • support the development of skills as compared to concentration on content;
  • focus more on formative assessment and the process of learning, rather than just the summative assessment and end product of learning; and,
  • take into account the student-centred approaches as much, if not more than teacher directed delivery.

Therefore, are obligated to demonstrate an understanding of how any new space will support the development of skills and student-centred approaches to learning.


Adopt a ‘prototype mindset’

By adopting a ‘prototype mindset’, the user increases their understanding of the space and its capabilities which can then inform the type of learning activities possible within the space (Wilson and Randall 2012); after all, educational spaces embody the pedagogical philosophies of their designers (Monahan 2002). The communication and collaboration that comes with iterative nature of prototyping is one characteristic that is lacking in most classroom and building design processes.

Therefore, schools re obligated to engage with an extensive process of iteration among and between staff, parents and students which lead to the final building design.

In conclusion, these above five recommendations offer a way forward for schools to better lead and manage the design and building of new and refurbished learning spaces.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Regards and Thanks,




Friedman, T. (2006). The World is Flat: The globalised world in the twenty-first century., Farrer, Straus and Giroux.

Hunter, B. (2006). “The eSpaces Study: Designing, Developing and managing Learning Spaces for Effective Learning.” New Review of Academic Libriananship 12(2): 61-81.

Kelley, D. (2012). “How to build your creative confidence.” Retrieved 4 August, 2014, from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_kelley_how_to_build_your_creative_confidence?language=en.

Kuuskorpi, M. and G. Cabellos (2011). The Future of the Physical Learning Environment: School facilities that support the user. O. Publishing.

Martin, S. H. (2006). “The classroom environment and children’s performance-is there a relationship.” Children and their environments: learning, using and designing spaces: 91-107.

McIntosh, E. (2010). “Seven Spaces of Learning.” Retrieved 24 September, 2014, from http://vimeo.com/15945912.

Monahan, T. (2002). “Flexible space and built pedagogy: Emerging IT embodiments.” Inventio—Creative Thinking about Learning and Teaching 4(1).

Oblinger, D. (2005). “Leading the transition from classrooms to learning spaces.” Educause Quarterly 1(7-12).

Pilloton, E. (2010). “Teaching design for change.” Retrieved 28 July, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiIxdFBA0Sw.

Robinson, K. (2012, 21 May 2014). “Why is Creativity Important in Education? .” Adobe Education Series. Retrieved 8 August, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywIhJ2goiGE&feature=youtu.be.

Sanders, E. B.-N. and P. J. Stappers (2008). “Co-creation and the new landscapes of design.” Co-design 4(1): 5-18.

Thornburg, D. (2007) Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for learning in the 21st century. . Thornburg Center for Professional Development. Retrieved from: http://tcpd.org/Thornburg/Handouts/Campfires.pdf

Veloso, L., J. S. Marques, et al. (2014). “Changing education through learning spaces: impacts of the Portuguese school buildings’ renovation programme.” Cambridge Journal of Education 44(3): 401-423.

Wilson, G. and M. Randall (2012). “The implementation and evaluation of a new learning space: a pilot study.” Research in Learning Technology 20.







Collaboration and Google Docs


At the end of 2015, I completed a Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) at Charles Sturt University. As a participant in the capstone subject, Digital Futures Colloquium, I conducted a Case Study.

This Case Study investigated, “In what ways are students using Google Docs for collaboration?” The use of Case Study methodology was relevant for gathering information through the views and interactions of members of the school community, focusing on their engagement with, and various perceptions of, the use of Google Docs for collaboration.

The Case Study “Collaboration and Google Docs” was completed in October 2015. A summary of Findings are as follows:

  • Students were at ease with sharing their document with other students; however, the regularity of commenting on the work of another student work was far less
  • Student ability and/or confidence to ‘comment’ on the work of another student, is not to the same level as their ability to create, use and share Google Docs.
  • Teachers overestimated how often students edited the work of another student.
  • Real time use of Google Docs in the classroom; that is, multi-user editing in real-time to co-construct a document, appeared to be the most enjoyable, comfortable and useful way students engaged with Google Docs.
  • The practices of correction, modification, commenting and editing all constitute collaboration; however, students were largely unable to articulate the connection between these actions and the skill of collaboration.
  • Students collaborated with others to share feedback in constructive ways in the classroom environment. However, this reality was not matched in the areas of students’ willingness (and possibly) their ability to think critically by individually commenting and editing the work of others, especially outside normal classroom hours.
  • When students accessed Google Docs outside of class time, it was primarily for the purposes of creating and sharing documents with the teacher, not with other students.

The recommendations I forwarded to the leaders and teachers of St Hosea’s (not its real name) were as follows: :

  • develop of a school wide rubric which attempts to measure student collaboration;
  • investigate why students use Google Docs more in class than they do outside of class time; and,
  • establish an online space where students and teachers share reflections and post comments about the use of GAFE to support collaboration.

One learning for me….. As part of the work involved with this Case Study, I developed a ‘collaboration rubric‘ particular to the use of Google Docs.  Whilst I will be the first to admit this probably could do with some improvement, it did provide a starting point for me when engaging with classroom observations. I am of the firm belief that schools are now required to engage in the co-construction of such rubrics with students to deepen their understanding of co-constructing such rubrics with students to deepen their understanding of the vital skills required for future work, collaboration being only one of them. If we can at least to being the process of measuring what we value; e.g. collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving etc.; we may start to ‘value’ these skills as much as we do literacy and numeracy, which are far more easily measured.

Any feedback or comments are very welcome.



Data and Questions

DeCourcy & Data

Dr John DeCourcy has served as a teacher and principal in Catholic education for over forty years. However, he is probably better known for his ground-breaking work in Higher School Certificate (HSC) Data Analysis for the last fifteen years. Through the provision of quality data, John’s work has enhanced the professional knowledge base of educators by deepening our understanding of the relationship between teacher practice and student performance.

Last Friday, I was fortunate to spend a day with a number of colleagues from across New South Wales at the annual DeCorucy seminar. John reminded us that the purpose of data analysis is not to make judgements but to raise questions. He stated,

“Professionalism is characterised by using data to raise questions. Developing questions supports the search for improvement and for teachers in particular to develop their craft.”

It is, of course, a craft that is primarily focused on learning, not just examination results. On the day, there was a lot of discussion about data but rarely did we look at specific data sets. I suspect John’s learning intention was for participants to leave better informed about the purpose of data and how it can inform quality learning.

The informing happens through questioning. Three great questions to get teachers thinking are:

  • What questions does the data raise?
  • How did you use the data within your school setting?
  • What are the patterns emerging at your school?

It is not just the teachers who must immerse themselves in the the data, school and system leaders must do so as well. It is important for leaders to immerse themselves with teachers in the data because no-one knows it all and,  as John said,

“Leaders engaging as learners with their staff is critical to framing questions which respond to data.”

As we moved throughout the day we were asked to consider the leading indicators of HSC success, “because as we all know the results are the lagging indicator!” Great question right there! The HSC sets high standards for students often demanding high levels of resilience, motivation, drive, self-belief and efficacy, in particular the ability to plan and manage time. For example, the time, effort and energy required for a HSC Major Work or Project requires of students those dispositions more than at any other stage of their school life. Are these dispositions the leading indicators of HSC success?

We have all heard the saying, “We measure what we value and we value what we measure.” At the moment, educators are excellent at extensively measuring literacy and numeracy. Literacy and numeracy are important, but so too are skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. If we truly valued these skills, rubrics for them would be mainstream in classrooms, but they are not. (BTW – Here is a recent attempt to align Collaboration with Google Docs – any feedback would be greatly appreciated – apologies for digressing).

Just as important as the critical skills of creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, are the dispositions mentioned above, but which dispositions are the most important? A 2015 OECD Report, Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills list perseverance, conscientiousness, self-esteem, socliability and emotional stability as key dispositions required for young people to maximise learning. According to The Gallup Student Poll the key factors that impact student performance are hope, engagement, and well-being, and they measure it! Insight SRC regard well-being, engagement and relationships as critical factors which support student learning. Based on extensive scientific research, they work with schools in the Parramatta Diocese, Lismore Diocese and in Victoria, to provide data sets in these areas.

There is also the fifteen years of work by Ruth Crick and others which has resulted in the Crick Learning for Resilient Agency Profile (CLARA)

“CLARA identifies Mindful Agency as a key learning power dimension which predicts the set of active dimensions: Creativity, Curiosity, Sense-Making and Hope & Optimism.  Two distinct Relationship dimensions measure Belonging and Collaboration. Finally, an Orientation to Learning indicator measures a person’s degree of Openness to change — in contrast to either fragile dependency or rigid persistence.”

learningemergence.net (accessed 30 January, 2016).

My understanding is that CLARA surveys students and reports back findings in key areas, putting a face on the data and producing a profile.


accessed from learningemergence.net30 January, 2016.

CLARA also aggregates individual profiles for school communities. WOW! Considering that the research says these dispositions are foundational for great learning, can you imagine the questions that could be raised with this data?

What are your thoughts?