Monday, December 4, 2017

Let's get together and inquire our hearts out

For this final  blog post, and as a feedforward into my Research assignment I have chosen to focus on two possible topics for my teaching inquiry:

1) Do the digital tools I have used actually improve student outcomes - particularly writing?

2) Does collaboration actually improve educational outcomes - particularly for boys?

These are both important issues to explore within my current practice. They are both particularly relevant to one community of practice that I exist within - the Otahuhu Community of  Learning. The Ministry of Education (2017) produced a set of achievement challenges for our community and one of the fascinating revelations in the data is how poorly boys perform - once they start year 9, 64 % of them are below the national average in writing.
When I consider the first topic, often using digital tools is seen as an 'easy way' to keep students occupied and on task. I have used a variety of tools this year - including edpuzzle , OneNote and google forms in my teaching. I would like to construct an inquiry that explores the effects of these tools and analyses whether they have proven effective.

The second topic is one I discussed with a member of my community of practice who I collaborate with often. We want to explore whether collaboration works to improve educational outcomes for these boys. As part of this I would like to explore some more explicit teaching of the Key Competencies so that students understand the why we teach collaboration instead of seeing it as another mundane task.

How will these topics contribute to learning within the (multiple) communities of practice that I work in?

Wenger et al. (2002), suggest that a community of practice  is a ‘group of individuals participating in communal activity, and experiencing/continuously creating their shared identity through engaging in and contributing to the practices of their communities.' 
 This means that my teaching inquiry will cross over many different communities of practice. The most immediate will be within the classes that I implement the research. I would hope that by dedicating my extra time and effort to these classes - particularly the focus on writing - there will be a beneficial outcome for these students. I know that next year I have a low ability and literacy class, and hope that some of the tools we have explored will help with this.

Secondly, there are a small group of teachers within my school who are also undertaking the mindlab course - one of whom shares one of my teaching as inquiry goals and we will be able to discuss our findings throughout the course of the inquiry. For this group, we will be having what Knox (2009) terms a shared 'domain' - in which we share common issues and an inquiry. I  believe this will become my focus 'community of practice' and that we will build a strong identity as we work through our teaching inquiry.

 Thirdly, as part of the Community of Learning, and as a member of the writing team, my inquiry could have ramifications across multiple schools depending on how successful the inquiry is.

I look forward to the next exciting stage of the mindlab course and am looking forward to strengthening my relationship within my community of practice.


Knox, B.(2009, December 4). Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow.[video file]. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2017).Otahuhu Community of Learning Achievement Challenges. Wellington, New Zealand: Author. Retrieved from

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Becoming an understudy.

"Changing the script"- looking at how students and teachers have changed in the 21st century.

For this week's reading we were asked to consider the future of learning in New Zealand, particularly focusing on the use of technology to bring about change.  The Ministry of Education (2012) has said that "current educational practices... are not sufficient to address and support learning needs for all students" and when I consider some of my students and their reaction to a typical learning model I can certainly agree!This statement is also backed up with data - students are falling behind in many areas, particularly literacy in my school. These students are often averse to reading and writing, and when it comes to 'thinking for themselves' they are often at a loss and will prefer to leave a page sitting blank. Oftentimes, these students are most engaged when they are copying something off the whiteboard or reciting and learning facts.

When considering SRI International's (2015) 21st century skills rubric, it is clear that at least 2 key skills are not being met - Knowledge Construction and self-regulation. In fact, all 6 21st century skills are often not taught in the current classroom environment, one where the teacher is seen as the font of all knowledge and the students mere receptacles for it.
As we all know, knowledge is widely available through the internet and it is not enough for us to be 'experts' in our field - we need to be teaching the important skills that will allow our students to thrive in the 21st century. Working in a low decile school, I think teaching these skills is even more important. Students often do not have access to technology at home and many are often wary of using a computer for anything other than youtube and games. Without learning to use technology as the powerful tool it is they will be at a massive disadvantage in tertiary education and the wider working environment.

I have made some progress into using technology in the classroom, focusing on the use of OneNote and Powerpoint to build collaboration. At this point I have only used it with students for short units of work but plan next year to have an extensive set of lessons on OneNote that use a variety of resources from the internet and (hopefully) build research skills. By doing so I hope to 'flip the script' and serve as more of a 'facilitator' than the usual knowledge distributor. This decision was made thanks to my time at the mindlab which served to inspire me to think 'outside the box' and provided me with a lot of great resources. These resources will (hopefully) help me in my journey away from being the "narrative subject" that Friere describes.

 I am wary that computers can become a massive distraction for students and hope to get support from upper management to install a monitoring tool. I'm excited for the future and hope that others in my department will soon join me in moving towards a technologically vibrant classroom. 

Reference list:

Ministry of Education.(2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching: A New Zealand perspective. Retrieved from

Paulo Freire on Education that Liberates  |  Chapter 2: Life in Schools  |  New Learning  |  New Retrieved 28 November 2017, from

SRI International (2015). 21 CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. [ebook] Microsoft Partners in Learning. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2017].

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Activity 1: My reflective practice

Kia Ora everyone, welcome to my blog for the mindlab.

When asked to reflect on my reflective practice, I initially thought to myself - do I even have a reflective practice? It is easy to get caught up in the constant planning, marking, extracurricular activities and struggle to document everything that it seems like there is no time for reflection. However, I realised after reading Finlay's (2009) article that all of the above form a part of reflective practice - particularly what Zeichner and Liston define "review and repair" - the first two steps of proper reflective practice.

As part of my registration process as a beginning teacher, I often reach into the higher echelons of reflective practice. I am constantly reviewing the work I have done to see where it meets the standards of the teaching profession and wondering how I can improve the results in my classes. 

At this early stage in my teaching career everything is 'new' - and sometimes things I try fail miserably, despite all my best intentions. I have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater and not go back to trying these innovations again. However, some retheorizing and reformulating could prove the key to improving my practice. An example of this is group work with some of my behaviourally challenged classes. Often times group work devolves into a mess of paper being thrown and cacophonous noise, with very little learning going on. 

However, with proper reflection, I have been able to change this outcome - particularly through the use of digital tools - an important part of the SRI international (2015) 21st-century skills. 

Viewing my reflective practice through Gibb's model (cited in Finlay, 2009) I realise I often only got to "evaluation" and didn't continue.

As I evolved and honed my teaching practice, I went back to my initial attempts and analysed what went wrong - and looked at what else I could have done. I realised that students were often failing to understand the instructions given AND not seeing 'the point'. I resolved to have instructions easy to see and understand and to discuss the importance of collaboration as a 21st-century skill. Making this group work a diagnostic 'assessment' added weight to the importance of it and the students took to it with vigour.

The similarities between this model and the Ministry of Education's (2009) teaching as inquiry model are easy to see and helped me realise that an inquiry doesn't have to be driven from above - I can do a mini-inquiry every lesson. Our school has an emphasis on teacher inquiry but this can often be seen as a 'box ticking' exercise, rather than the important, central aspect of being a dynamic teacher it is. I hope to begin sharing my reflective practice with others in my learning community and using it to feed-forward into my teaching.

 I hope to build on my reflective practice throughout the next 16 weeks and look forward to reporting back to you all.

Reference list:
Finlay, L. (2009). Reflecting on reflective practice. PBPL. Retrieved from…
SRI International (2015). 21 CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. [ebook] Microsoft Partners in Learning. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2017].