Do we give students a choice?

Happy school holidays to my colleagues here in South Australia, last day of term today!

So you’ll probably all have copious amounts of time to read my latest post amidst the marking, professional learning and development, marking, lesson planning, marking, curriculum mapping and did I mention marking?

Anyway, I came across an interesting ad the other day made by Dove (the group that do lots of beauty products) and I think it’s worth a look.

It got me thinking about what messages we are sending our students when we perpetuate similar labels in our classrooms – the ‘gifted & talented’ door.

The Australian Curriculum website provides a useful statement for what we define as ‘gifted’. It states:

Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (2008) provides research-based definitions of giftedness and talent that are directly and logically connected to teaching and learning. According to Gagné, gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability:

  • intellectual
  • creative
  • social
  • physical.

It goes on to highlight two other models: Tannenbaum’s Sea Star model and Renzulli’s Three-ring model. So by definition from these models if a student is gifted then they are deemed to be above average; or beautiful as Dove might put it. So what kind of message are we sending students that are in the remedial class, are they below average? Are they the equivalent of ugly? I know there is considerable debate about the educational benefits of streaming students into these classes, and of course a wealth of research saying we shouldn’t (just Google ‘Ability grouping students’ to start reading if you haven’t already).

But perhaps it’s time we start talking about the longer term psychological impact of this type of labelling, not just the suggested academic outcomes. Is it even possible to quantify this? I’m sure there is a PhD in this for someone.

Continue reading “Do we give students a choice?”

An unfortunate infographic on Teacher time

So I received the first edition of Teacher Magazine in my inbox today and dutifully scanned through some of the articles (having featured in an article I figured it’s only fair). It was here that I came across a rather unfortunate infographic…

See Teacher Magazine here…

The “Did you know?” infographic is a summary of the results of a study undertaken by the Grattan Institute on Making time for great teaching (the link to the report on Grattan website is dead but it can be downloaded from here). The unfortunate part is the underpinning messages that I was gleaning from what was represented.

  • Reduce teacher involvement in extra-curricular activities
  • Don’t waste time on subjects with small enrolments or non-core subjects
  • One period a week on pastoral care is ‘too much time’
  • 1 to 2 periods a week on PE is ‘too much time’
  • 1 period a week on research skills is ‘too much time’
  • Just get more money to fund teacher learning time

Of course the full report does go into detail on other elements such as the amount of time wasted supervising students in the schoolyard, detentions and exam supervisions… This isn’t even a complete list! ACER what messages did you think educators were going to extract from this?

On the plus side it suggests a program of professional learning taken from high performing education systems around the world that requires approximately 135 periods (112.5 hours) of professional learning throughout the year blending:

  • Teacher mentoring and coaching
  • Lesson and grade groups
  • Research groups
  • Teacher appraisal and feedback
  • Classroom observation and feedback

Not a bad list of suggestions but if you’re suggesting that being out in the schoolyard building relationships with students, supervising extra-curricular activities to support students engaging in their personal interests, or engaging in pastoral care activities to promote student health and wellbeing aren’t directly linked to quality “teaching and learning” then I must be doing it wrong…

Can someone tell me how to do it right?

What If Classes were Structured like TED Talks?

Welcome back to the start of a new year Aussie educators! I expect most of you have now been at school for at least a day if not the majority of the week. Full of optimism? Full of hope? If you are a graduate, full of fear? Anticipation? Or full of something else…

I thought I’d kick off the year with a little bit of plagiarism, well not exactly. The link below was an interesting post I came across today and it got me thinking. Is this what we would actually want?

What If Classes were Structured like TED Talks?.

Whilst I believe there is some merit to the notion of presenting classrooms like TEDtalks I don’t think this blogger has extended the idea enough to comprehend the possibilities! or the problems. I doubt I will extend it that much further but here are a few things that popped into my mind as I read through:

– TEDtalks are generally well planned, researched, thought through, impactful, timed, inspirational, emotional, delivered with ‘punch’, and genuinely interesting.

– TEDtalks are concise around key points and although many are story-like in structure they usually have some very catchy messages or phrases that stick with you.

– TEDtalks are for the most part professionally done.

– TEDtalks are 18 minutes in length.

So… if every lesson we had with students contained 18 minutes of ‘teacher talk’ that had the same quality of preparation and delivery as Sir Ken Robinson (not that his actual presenting is all that exciting, it’s his key messages to educators that gets us tingling all over) then we would have the rest of the lesson to give students control over their learning! Engage in genuine inquiry, explore their own resources, discuss and collaborate over the key messages and findings of our presentation, actively seek out alternative sources of knowledge, and who knows… maybe create their own TEDtalk in response to a challenge we might set them as a demonstration of learning. So if every lesson was a TEDtalk then we’d be finished with the ‘teaching’ much sooner and then the students could get stuck into the ‘learning’.

Could you do it? Would you do it?

Good luck this year in what ever your learning adventures may bring!

Farewell to a friend

Today a former colleague of mine retired. Somewhere in the vicinity of 40 years in public education working in some of the most challenging schools, supporting some of the most difficult students, and throughout it all insisting that he still had so much to learn about learning and how best to support students.

Now what? I don’t mean what’s he going to do with all that extra free time… we’re teachers so we must be all too familiar with extensive holiday breaks! I’m talking about all of that wisdom, knowledge, passion, integrity, wit, and educational nous that is transitioning out of the profession. This isn’t in isolation either.

The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey reports that the average age of teachers in Australia is 43.4 years and 53.2 years for principals. More alarming is that 37.1% of the workforce was over 50 in 2013 (a 5% increase from 2008 levels).

Now I’ll be the first to say good riddance to a small proportion of that statistic but the overwhelming majority of the group, like my colleague, have considerable insight into the fundamental nature of learning and I worry that we are not capturing that essence… before it’s too late.


(Retire In Peace).

Is blogging at school ok?

Should schools be footing the bill for our online time?

Sure! Why not?!… Heck no! Wasting taxpayers money!Hand on keyboard

Well is it really that simple? If I write a blog post during school hours, which I would say many people do, then who’s paying for my time and who’s benefitting from my blogging?

I suppose this reaches beyond just the blogosphere into most online personal social networking spaces. As technology in the classrooms becomes ubiquitous we are redefining our ‘average day’ to embed more and more creation and consumption of knowledge online. But is it all for work purposes? Should it be? Are online environments replacing the conversational chatter of the staff room, cause they most definitely aren’t all educational.

A couple of years ago the IT manager at my school sent out a usage stats list for Facebook’s website ranked in order of the number of hours it was opened on the end users computer… 3 of the top ten in that list were teaching staff (including number 1!). This may have been legitimate use for educational purposes… or it may not, who’s to know?

Should schools be monitoring this sort of behaviour and getting staff to justify their virtual timetables or should they embrace the collaboration that may stem from our meanderings through cyberspace? Tell me what you think…