A TEDx Talk – What an experience!

Part of being a principal means having many chats, conversations and presentations. Some you plan for, especially for big events, others are on the run in the middle of the playground, some are impromptus with small groups in the staff room, as well as the one to one confidential chats with parents behind closed doors.

And then there is a TEDx Talk!

A few months back I was nudged by an online connection to consider delivering a TED Talk. My immediate response was, ‘That’s not something for me. It is for the Gurus around the world.” But that’s just it, there is a difference between TED and TedX, with the latter relying on local people spreading their ideas that are making a difference in their local community.

Holly Kershaw and Nat Wadwell are the two young ladies who gave up every spare minute of their time for about 4 months after they obtained the license for TEDx Parramatta, Their reasons for doing so…

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Holly and Nat deeply believe in the potential of the rapidly changing region of Western Sydney. As one of 8 speakers in the day, I spoke about the need to shape a ‘new normal’ for preschool to post school education using the emerging story of St Luke’s Catholic College as the reference point. With 900 000 people moving into Western Sydney in the next 15 years we have the opportunity to do this, but do we have the courage?

My reflections about TEDx?

Firstly, it was a privilege to join seven other speakers who are making a real difference in this world. Secondly, upon reflection, the real differences between my every day chats and conversations, and that of a TEDx Talk are numerous. However, the following 3 stand out:

  • The ‘red dot’, cameras and a program pushed out on Social Media is not an everyday, run of the mill occurrence, and it brought on the need to acutely focus like very few times before.
  • Waffle was out, precision was in. Eduspeak, acronyms and contextual language was out, and language which resonated with a discerning mainstream audience from diverse backgrounds was required. Holly and Nat often assisted me to turn 3 or 4 sentences of elongated eduspeak into one concise sentence. An example of ‘simplexity’ perhaps?
  • I was reminded that “stories sell”! “Relate your idea with the stories or people or times when your idea came to life.

So…

There were plenty of hours practise required in the weeks leading up to ‘Grand Final Day’! I need to say “Thank you” to my wife and live at home daughters who heard the talk over and over and over again. As an aside, it was satisfying to hear my wife say that “That’s the best I have heard you say it” – High praise indeed from a hard marker – haha!

My wife and daughters were joined in the audience by my father (thanks to a very thoughtful colleague who gave up her ticket), sister and colleagues – their presence was uplifting. I also appreciated the thoughts from my son and daughter-in-law from the other side of the Blue Mountains, and I was thankful for the many messages of support from colleagues and connections who offered their best wishes either in person or via social media. I am also thankful to the staff of St Luke’s who took time to listen to me twice and provide feedback so I could better my pitch, performance and presentation.

Finally, congratulations to Sara, Jesse, Susan, Jane, Victor, Queenie and James. Thank you for your contribution to the event and helping me learn about inspiring actions and ideas beyond schooling and education. I enjoyed listening to each and every one of your talks. Each one of you are are inspiring those around you and making a real difference in your immediate world. Let’s continue to spread the ideas…

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James, Jane, Susan, Queenie, Sara, Jesse, Victor and Yours Truly. Photo by Erielle Sudario.

Regards

Greg.

P.S. Links to each TEDx Parramatta talk will be uploaded to the TED site within the next few weeks.

Adventure Learning

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Earlier today, the staff of St Luke’s Catholic College introduced ‘Adventure Learning’ to 360 students across Kindergarten to Year 7. Through a clever use of time, Adventure Learning will take place each Wednesday afternoon after lunch for 90 minutes.
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In the foreground, students learning more about “Slime Madness” from our Director of Mission, Mrs Julie Atkins.

‘Adventure Learning’ offers experiential learning through deep inquiry with increased choice for students. Students will engage in ‘courses’ which comprise a ‘passion project’ or ‘deep dive’ into an area of interest. There were courses with “cool” names such as”Bop ’til you drop”, “School Entrepreneurs”, “Design and Make Pokemon”, “Let’s Create a Mess”, “Kitchen Chemistry”, “It’s my Beanstalk, not Jack’s!” You can view all courses here.

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Young people are crowding around Mrs Jackie Koelmeyer as she introduces “Coding Foundations”.

The number one priority of ‘adventure learning’ is to allow students to have the opportunity to pursue learning about an area of interest without traditional curriculum requirements.

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Mrs Elisa Pettenon talking to students about “Mural Madness”.

After input from students about their interests and hobbies during late Term 2, staff designed an expo style presentation of 45 different courses Students have over half an hour to view the course options. Soon after, all students forwarded their preferences to their teachers. Over the next few days, those preferences will determine what courses actually run for the reminder of this term.

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Mrs Rebecca Rainima puts students through their paces as they get a taste of “Muscle Up”.

From next week, each Wednesday afternoon throughout Term 3 there will be learning sessions which combine the interests and knowledge of students with their own strengths, talents, interest and/or hobbies. Adventure Learning will conclude with a Showcase event on Wednesday 26 September. Parents and the wider community will be more than welcome to view displays, presentations and projects delivered by students. We look forward to conveying more information to you throughout this term about Adventure Learning.

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Communications and Marketing Co-ordinator, Miss Nicky Alsemgeest speaking with students about establishing a “Content Creation Team”.

No doubt over the next weeks and months there will be many St Luke’s staff, and maybe even the students, sharing their thoughts and insights about Adventure Learning.

Regards

Greg

6 Pillars of Learning – A time for ‘Review’ (Part 2)

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Recently, I published 6 Pillars of Learning – A time for ‘Review’ (Part 1.) I made the point that Review – the future of assessment can open up possibilities to assess our 6 Pillars of Learning, an adaptation of  Australian General Capabilities, without compromising our rigorous tracking of learning outcomes as required by NESA – and that is very exciting!

A few weeks back, a team of 5 teachers gathered and:

  • Reflected positively about the potential of Review to assist students and teachers with the assessment of the 6 Pillars;
  • Confirmed there are far too many ‘sub categories’;
  • Asked, “Do the pillars represent what we want?”
  • Proposed to ‘split’ “Think Creatively and Critically” to “Think Critically” and then
  • replace “Be Digitally Literate” with “Make and Create”.

We also tabled the following considerations:

  • Relate doesn’t really indicate how we work with each other.
  • Manage doesn’t necessarily talk about how we manage ourselves?
  • Descriptors limit what is given to students. “Explain” or identify rather than actions. Actions are what should be given.
  • We need a clearer indication of the strengths basis throughout.

With this in mind, we then bounced around more relevant titles of the 6 Pillars

  • Witness, Manage, Relate, Communicate and Collaborate, Think Critically, Work Creatively.
  • Witness, Manage, Relate and Collaborate, Communicate, Think Critically, Work Creatively.

We then asked what does “Work Creatively” mean? Well, it means working in the practice of your subject (eg. practice of working as a mathematician, scientist etc. I stress, these were initial reflections.

A few more iterations and the team came up with an update on the 6 Pillars. Namely:

  • Witness
  • Manage
  • Relate and Collaborate
  • Inquire and Communicate
  • Think Critically
  • Work Creatively

Knowing that currently there are far too many sub-elements, we then looked at what we perceived to be current duplication of sub-elements and drafted the following…

WITNESS

  • Appreciate diverse perspectives
  • Explore ethical concepts in context
  • Change stereotypes and prejudices
  • Recognise ethical concepts
  • Identify the impacts on society
  • Explore rights and responsibilities

MANAGE

  • Making Positive Choices of Making Good Decisions (Instead of ‘Make Decisions’)
  • Regulating Emotions (instead of Recognising Emotions)
  • Utilising Strengths (new)
  • Being organised (new)

RELATE AND COLLABORATE

  • Understand relationships
  • Work Collaboratively

INQUIRE AND COMMUNICATE

  • Communicate Effectively
  • (Access, Collect) Organise and Process Information
  • Transfer knowledge into new contexts.

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THINK CRITICALLY

  • (New) Solve Problems
  • Seek Solutions and put ideas into action
  • Thinking about Thinking – Metacognition.

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WORK CREATIVELY

  • Generate solutions to challenges and learning areas tasks.
  • Generate ideas, plans and processes
  • (New) Practice working as (a scientist, mathematician, musician etc.),
  • (New) Make

The working party of 5 know this is far from complete. All teachers will need to be involved quite a few times as part of the next phase in this ‘Review’ process.

Looking at the above, and remembering this is a round 1 Draft suggestions… 

  • I like that there is a reduction in the sub-elements from 56 to 22;
  • I wonder about the place or addition of dispositions such as empathy, perseverance and tenacity;
  • I am unsure about the wording and titles; and,
  • I look forward to the ongoing discussion with teachers before we work closely with the people from UTS and engage with Review.

Comments are welcome.

Greg.

 

6 Pillars of Learning – A time for ‘Review’ (Part 1)

At St Luke’s Catholic College, our 6 Pillars of Learning provide a strong reference point for learning growth and development for each child. These 6 Pillars, framed largely from the Australian General Capabilities, were established in 2017 in response to the school’s commitment to bring social skills and enterprise skills to prominence when considering the development and growth of each child at St Luke’s. So much so, that more substantial feedback is offered on the Pillars than for subject areas. Also, when we have Student-led Conferences, each child speaks with their parents using work samples to explain their self reflected growth using the Pillars as a scaffold for conversation.

However, like all things in this changing world, we have had cause to reflect on the Pillars based on the experience of a number of teachers and students new to the College this year. Just like we have too many learning outcomes to consider, there are too many ‘sub elements’ of 6 Pillars, 56 in total, for teachers and students to address. Many teachers agree with me on that one!

So, it was with interest that late last year I was introduced to Review – the future of assessment. Soon after, early in the new year, I was invited to a meeting with CEDP senior leaders and University of Technology Sydney (UTS) personnel. At that meeting, it was made obvious to me that through self reflection, peer assessment and teacher feedback, Review offers much promise and potential to more closely and seamlessly align KLA outcomes with our 6 Pillars of Learning.

A number of conversations then led to 5 St Luke’s teachers attending a full day workshop with UTS personnel and 2 other CEDP schools on Wednesday 20 June. As part of that meeting we heard how ‘Review’ breaks down graduate attributes into five categories so that students can self-assess their own work against specific criteria and monitor their disciplinary skills as illustrated in the diagram below.

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There were many reflections and conversations stemming from that day with the team of 5 speaking positively about Review with staff. As part of that follow up, UTS personnel offered questions for reflection. As our Pillars only refer to 5 of the 7 General Capabilities, we were asked why we do not include aspects of the Literacy and Numeracy Capabilities. Well, at this stage, literacy and numeracy are not part of 6 Pillars for two reasons:

  1. We already have a sound learning approach to offering feedback to students and parents in these areas due to a whole of system strategy called ‘Focus 160’.
  2. At the ‘back end’ of the school learning journey, around graduation time, literacy and numeracy requirements for post school pathways are obvious and observable based around the evidence of work in the student’s folio of work.

We know we need to become far more ‘precise’ with the 6 Pillars. The “6 Pillars” language is a part of our DNA at St Luke’s. Students and staff can recite the 6 Pillars ‘on the spot’. However, we are not yet across the ‘detail’ of sub-elements, nor are we across a range of evidence across various contexts that can assist a student to quickly identify where their strengths lie and how they can assist them to understand their life purpose. Furthermore, we need to consider an equity question – Is it fair to offer feedback on the 6 Pillars if we do not explicitly teach aspects of those pillars as a part of our learning? For example, if we don’t explicitly teach how to “Manage”, is it fair to offer feedback on that Pillar?

I suppose another way of thinking about alignment, or leading first with Pillars/capabilities and then addressing KLA outcomes is to ask… How can we teach and assess elements of:

  • ‘Witness’ when teaching PDHPE?
  • ‘Manage Self’ when teaching Mathematics?
  • ‘Relate with Others’ when teaching Religious Education?
  • ‘Communicate with Others’ when teaching when teaching English?
  • Think Critically when teaching Creative Arts or TAS?
  • Think Creatively when teaching Science or LOTE?
  • Be Digitally Literate when teaching teaching HSIE?

For any of the above you can interchange Pillars with KLAs.

The challenge for us will be ‘flipping our thinking’ to universally lead with Pillars/Capabilities and have KLA outcomes appear to be ‘secondary’ in the process, just like Liverpool Boys High School. There is no doubt we are well on the way as we have started this process. However, our planning, programming and preparation is led by a learning outcomes focus as required by NESA with the Pillars ‘tacked on’. For me, what ‘Review’ can open up the possibilities for us to lead with the 6 Pillars and Capabilities without compromising our rigorous tracking of learning outcomes as required by NESA – and that is very exciting!

As always, questions, comments and insights are more than welcome.

Greg

Please note: For more information about Review, you are welcome to visit http://academ.com.au/review/

Literacy isn’t the only capability, it’s one of 7.

In March 2018, a report called Through Growth to Achievement Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools was published. This report was authored by Mr David Gonski AC after the Australian Government established the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (the Review) in July 2017.

There were 300 submissions from teachers, principals, professional associations, teachers unions, parents and carers, school systems, state and territory governments, researchers, universities, community organisations, and business and industry. One of those to offer a submission was the South Australian Department of Education who wrote,

“Strengthening the development of the general capabilities is critical to the national innovation and skills agenda. Further work to identify effective teaching strategies must be underpinned by sound measures and assessments of the full range of the skills covered by the curriculum is needed.”

The general capabilities figure prominently in both the report, known as #Gonski2 and ensuring discussion since its release. There has been a call from some to explore how best to interweave the general capabilities among subject areas, or thematic studies which combined learning areas. At St Luke’s Catholic College, a preschool to post school learning environment of sixteen months old, this is already happening.

As part of #Gonski2, there has been much criticism of NAPLAN and the intense concentration on Literacy and Numeracy, often at the exclusion of other important learning areas and general capabilities. NSW State Education Minister, Mr Rob Stokes, has used this as an opportunity to consider new ways of assessment; that is, moving from high stakes testing which compares states and schools, to a raft of diagnostic tools which are easily accessed so teachers and students can make real time decisions about ‘next steps’ for their learning.

#Gonski2 has produced great conversation, discussion and dialogue with meaningful leaders offering differing viewpoints, but all healthy discussion nonetheless. One question that keeps coming up is “How do you assess the general capabilities?” More specifically, I have heard, “How do you assess creative and critical thinking when creativity is so contextual?  For example, creativity in the scientific sense is different to creativity in the visual arts area. Yes it is, but that’s the point! To deepen our understanding of how to develop the general capabilities, we need to wrestle with these questions rather than continue to work where the next silver bullet for literacy and numeracy is.

All in all, I have reflect… We have all heard of the saying, “Winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing”. Replace the word ‘things’ with ‘capabilities’ and, one could say,

“Literacy isn’t the only capability, it’s one of seven general capabilities”.

Regards

Greg

Programming – The Great Game Plan!

Image provided by https://www.pexels.com

As part of its requirements to  our local education authority known as NESA (New South Wales Education Standards Authority), our system of schools CEDP (Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta) facilitates a process called Peer Review. This process looks specifically at the compliance aspects of schooling. Principals are required to produce documentation about:

  • Timetables for each Year/class from Kindergarten to Year 12, showing allocation of time and teaching staff for each KLA/Course, including system directed Focus 160 requirements; 100 minutes of Literacy and 60 minutes of Numeracy for each child from Early Stage to Stage 3 inclusive.  
  • Attendance processes and protocols.
  • Safe and supportive environments including WWCC, reportable conduct and child protection.
  • Teacher accreditation processes.
  • Complaints and Grievances policies and procedures.

These aspects of my work don’t ignite me with great enthusiasm; however, I understand that they are necessary.

Further to the above, as part of the Peer Review process, each school ensures much time, energy and effort are directed towards quality assurance for learning; most specifically, programming and assessment for the delivery of core curriculum. Why? “Because that’s what NESA is looking for.”  Each school is required to send a team made up of the the principal plus four staff to the Peer Review day. Over the course of the day each school presents their documentation and receives valuable feedback from peers.

To me, programming is important. It is like a ‘game plan’ a coach develops throughout a week before their big weekend ‘game day performance’. However, for teachers, ‘game day’ is each weekday. The ‘game plan’ for teachers is updated each day, often after their own critical reflections from what took place during ‘game day’.

Let’s say Peer Review ‘costs’ the system approximately 5 teachers for the day at $400 for each casual replacement that is $2000 per school. $2000 per school x 80 schools = $160 000. WOW! The ‘game plan’ is important! Whilst it is necessary for system and schools to comply with NESA compliance requirements, I wonder how we could spend the equal amount of money, $160 000, on observing teachers’ ‘game day performance’ for just one day.

We know through schools and system data that “Teacher quality” is a known factor which impacts on student enrolment. If that is the case, why does NESA ask schools and systems to put so much time, effort and energy into ‘game plan’ of programming and assessment for core curriculum, and not ask teachers and schools to delve deeper into ‘game day performance’ for the development of the skills and capabilities required for a changing world?

I know that government asks schools and systems to produce data and evidence about literacy and numeracy. And, at least in our system, there has been great improvement gains made in these areas over the last five years. Whilst those foundations are vitally important,

each young person will not only be required to be literate and numerate, they will be required to have in their ‘kit bag’ the ability to manage themselves, relate with others, communicate, collaborate, think critically and be digital literate as part of a rapidly changing world.

As young adults they will also be required to have endless reservoirs of empathy, resilience and persistence to problem solve with various teams of people in order to respond to the needs of the local community and the capitalise on the opportunities of living in an increasingly global world. How are systems and schools assisting teachers with their ‘game day performance’ to nurture students to develop the necessary skills and capabilities beyond core curriculum, literacy an numeracy?

It seems to me that you can have the best ‘game plan’ in the world, but unless teachers know about their ‘game day performance’, the ‘game plan’ may not be worth that much!

As usual, comments are more than welcome.

Greg

 

‘My Learning’

As a part of the five educational services (Early Learning, Primary, Secondary, Out of Hours Care and High Needs Education commencing in 2020), St Luke’s Catholic College in Marsden Park is registered and accredited to teach the mandated curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 12 as directed by NESA, the New South Wales Education Standards Authority. Whilst NESA is the governing body of most things curriculum, the learning of students should not entirely be imposed by a central authority.

The learning of a young person is theirs, not that of a school nor that of a central curriculum authority. As such, education leaders are obligated to explore ways where we can give back ‘my learning time’ to the learner.  As students progress through their secondary learning years at St Luke’s we will continue to explore ways of providing more and more personalised learning time.

With a focus on secondary schooling from Years 7 to 10, NESA requires all schools to deliver courses within the following eight Key Learning Areas (KLAs):

  • Creative Arts – Music & Visual Arts
  • English
  • HSIE – Human Society and its Environment including History and Geography.
  • LOTE – Language Other Than English.
  • Mathematics
  • PDHPE – Physical Development, Health and Physical Exercise.
  • Science
  • TAS – Technological and Applied Studies.

At St Luke’s we will ensure indicative NESA hours for each KLA; however, we will not oversubscribe hours like most other schools. St Luke’s will also provide formal Religious Education which makes a significant contribution to the education of each child. Hours dedicated to Religious Education and the eight KLAs make up the Core Curriculum at St Luke’s. This Core Curriculum is delivered through an experiential inquiry approach to learning through the integration of KLAs which enables students to apply their knowledge to new situations. Furthermore, students focus on developing their social skills and enterprise skills as expressed through our 6 Pillars of learning.

At St Luke’s, the Core Curriculum will be complemented and connected with each student’s Personalised Curriculum. With our first Year 7 cohort in 2018, the Personalised Curriculum  has commenced with an instructional approach towards post-school pathways. This is led by the Pathways Leader, teacher and coaching industry experts as outlined in this videoThey, along with input from parents and other data sources, assist students to more deeply understand their own talents, and how those talents can be used to inform their purpose in a rapidly changing world. 

As students progress through Years 8, 9 & 10 in the coming years, there will increasingly be more and more time for students to self direct their Personalised Curriculum. This may include, but is not limited to:

  1. Acceleration of core curriculum subjects leading to early commencement of HSC in one or two subjects.
  2. If required, intervention strategies for those students who do not meet minimum national benchmark standards for literacy and numeracy.
  3. Early commencement of VET (Vocational and Educational Training) subjects either at school or through TAFE.
  4. Participation in Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), completion of digital badge courses or informal internships with local industry experts and ‘start ups’.
  5. Self directed electives and collaborative projects as a result of students working with teachers with the following provocation: Knowing my Strengths, Motivations and Interests (SIM), how can I use my identified talents and affirmed capabilities to ensure a better world?

This approach to learning will overseen by a mix of teachers and personalised learning coaches who will ensure students engage with ongoing communication with parents. The end result will see students authentically engage with post-school pathways as they progress through their secondary school years at St Luke’s. Conceptually, at this stage it looks like this…

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Hours wise, it may possibly look like this…

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If you have any insights, suggestions or questions, please offer a comment.

Regards

Greg