Evolving the Curriculum: Focus on Values

There is so much dialogue about the need for education to evolve. From TED talks, to twitter chats, youtube videos to HuffPost articles -it’s literally everywhere; in popular literature, academic literature, on the news, in the media, in politics and of course in schools. But for all we talk about it, the question has to be asked – are we actually evolving education? And if we’re not, why not? If we are, are we doing enough?

 

This year I realised I’d done enough thinking, and I really needed to start doing. So I did (don’t worry it wasn’t thoughtless change – I kept thinking too). And the place I started was with our own New Zealand Curriculum. This document is amazing. It has already laid out a map for our learning evolution, now we just have to be brave enough to follow it.

In the front of the curriculum (page 7 to be exact) is this diagram entitled ‘directions for learning’ (see I told you – map!). What I love about this image is the way it organises learning. At teachers’ college I was taught to always start with the achievement objectives, but if you look here, you’ll see that they form only a very small part of a whole. Through this diagram, the New Zealand Curriculum advocates a a three-way approach – values, key competencies and learning areas. These are guided by the curriculum’s vision and underpinned by the curriculum’s values. All these parts together make up the whole of education.

 

Of course all of these bits are equally important, but I want to focus today on the values.

 

This term the teachers in our syndicate have been working with groups of students on wicked problems, using design thinking to tackle these. As our students work on these they have been noticing and commenting on the learning dispositions (key competencies) they have been using as part of the process. These dispositions will then help them in creating CVs, portfolios and learning paths later in the term as part of our Future Selves topic. But the really interesting bit (today at least), is the way they students are using the values of the curriculum as a focusing lens for their ideation and investigation.

 

The NZC explores seven principles, and has an eighth overarching idea, which are explained like so:

“Students will be encouraged to value:

  • Excellence, by aiming high and by persevering in the face of difficulties;
  • Innovation, inquiry and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively;
  • Diversity, as found in our different cultures, languages, and heritages;
  • Equity, through fairness and social justices;
  • Community and participation for the common good;
  • Ecological Sustainability, which includes care for the environment;
  • Integrity, which involves being honest, responsible, and accountable and acting ethically;

and respect of themselves, others, and human rights.”

(New Zealand Curriculum, 2007, p. 12)

The curriculum further goes on to explain that the values should then be interpreted by the school in consultation with it’s community. Our school values look like this:
“At [our school] we want our students to be constantly
pursuing excellence in everything they do. They will value:
  • Integrity
  • Personal responsibility
  • Diversity
  • Lifelong learning
  • Creative and innovative thinking
  • Positive relationships
  • Collective achievement
This is underpinned by Tūrangawaewae – a sense of one’s place in our changing world”
As you can see, there are many similarities, but also naturally some differences. I particularly love the last line in our school’s values statement about Tūrangawaewae and the sense of place in a changing world.
But stating the values isn’t enough – and talking about them isn’t either. Not if we’re going to evolve education; so lately I’ve been starting to explore and unpack these with students. In the wicked problem context described above, I asked students to choose two key values to explore their wicked problem – human rights and the media. I created a values frame that looked like this:
Untitled 2
After a brief discussion of what the different values meant, it was interesting to see which ones the students chose to focus on, because of course this will change they way they approach things. Unsurprisingly, a lot chose diversity and community (two of the more understandable ideas and most relevant to the context) but I was interested and pleased at the number of students who chose to focus on ethics.
We’re only a little way into this process but already I can see that my students are starting to think critically about values and the actions that stem from them. By giving them the language to use, and the concepts, they are becoming increasingly aware that values give rise to opinions and opinions to perspectives and, often in the case of wicked problems, perspectives to conflict. So as they continue to explore the context and settle on their own particular smaller problem to apply the design process to, I plan to provide my students with lots of opportunities to discuss differing opinions and how values might frame these.
“Ahh, but what does this actually look like in the classroom?” you ask. Well it will start with these discussion questions:
  • How might humanitarian organisations use social media in innovative ways?
  • How could social media be used to develop a culture of excellence in human rights reporting?
  • How might personal ethics be supported through social media?
  • How might improving our ecological sustainability (environmental practices) reduce breaches of human rights?
  • How might it benefit refugees if we apply the principle of equity, rather than equality?
  • How can social media bring communities together to support human rights?
  • How does diversity impact on human rights?

And then we’ll go from there – where exactly we’re still figuring out.

See the thing I realised last term, is that it isn’t ever going to happen if you wait until you the end destination to set out. You actually just have to start and trust that the road will guide you, a sentiment Tolkien captured perfectly.

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.”

Tolkien

So wither I’ll end up? I do not know, but the journey so far, though just begun, has been most marvelous indeed.

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RTC: Professional Learning

My school has just started a new process where each term we focus on a different Registered Teacher Criterion (RTC) as part of our appraisal. In term 3 our focus was on number 4:

Demonstrate commitment to on-going professional learning and development of personal professional practice.

Indicators:

  • Identify professional learning goals in consultation with colleagues
  • Participate responsively in professional learning opportunities within the learning community
  • Initiate learning opportunities to advance personal professional knowledge and skills

As part of our professional practice we need to document how we are doing this and a blog post seemed the natural way for me to reflect.

Indicator One: Identify professional learning goals in consultation with colleagues

At the beginning of the year I identified 3 learning goals, which you can read about here. As the year has progressed I’ve added a couple and changed a few, so now my goals are:

  • Provide creative and integrated learning opportunities for students within mathematics to increase students’ engagement and lift achievement levels of all learners.
  • Provide meaningful audiences for students’ writing by integrating GAFE and blogging into our classroom programme to increase students’ engagement and lift achievement levels of all learners.
  • Explore the role of drama in literacy as a strategy for lifting students’ achievement in reading and developing character empathy.
  • Develop and extend my understanding of Kaupapa Maori theories of education and integrate these within my teaching practice, focusing on whakawhanaungatanga and taonga tuku iho.
  • Explore future focused pedagogies, in particular Universal Design for Learning and Design Thinking, and integrate these into classroom practice.
  • Investigate opportunities for curriculum integration and focus on developing dispositional thinking within the classroom.

These goals ave developed out of a lot personal reflection, a myriad of conversations and of course inquiring into my own teaching practice and seeking feedback from students.

 

Indicator Two: Participate responsively in professional learning opportunities within the learning community

I’m very lucky to be part of two really awesome learning communities, my first and primary community is my school and within that my syndicate. As part of my school learning community we regularly have PL on a range of areas, and regular Te Reo Maori PL with our fabulous DP Lena. I am also part of a professional learning group at school focusing on raising the achievement of priority learners in reading, and this too has brought about some fantastic PL opportunities and plenty of discussion. This year’s opportunities for professional learning to date have included:

  • Leading a regular tech session in term 3
  • being part of a professional learning group
  • taking part in e-learning PL with Alex Perry
  • taking part in data analysis and assessment PL on asTTle writing, STAR and Maths PAT
  • Leading staff meetings on e-learning
  • Presenting our vision of e-learning to the board
  • Taking part in writing moderation as a syndicate
  • Teaching my syndicate about design thinking
  • Implementing new opportunities for students voice in our planning practices
  • Leading school wide implementation of Google Apps for Education
  • Sharing ideas and resources with other staff

 

Indicator Three: Initiate learning opportunities to advance personal professional knowledge and skills

I’m also fortunate to be part of an amazing community of teachers online through twitter, blogs and of course the thing that brought us all together #edchatnz. As part of this community this year I have:

  • had ongoing professional conversations with educators in and around New Zealand via blogs and twitter
  • regularly participated in the twitter chat #edchatnz
  • started the Middle School twitter chat #midedchatnz which I host every fortnight
  • attended the inaugural #edchatnz conference at Hobsonville Point Secondary School
  • blogged my learning
  • presented at the Connected Educators Month Eduignite evening in Wellington
  • started to help with the planning for EducampWelly in 2015

This year I have also been lucky enough to be part of the Teacher Professional Development Languages Programme (TPDL) which is an intensive language teaching and learning course. This has involved taking the University of Auckland paper EDPROFST360 Language Learning in the Classroom, studying German through the Goethe Institut, taking the European Framework for Languages Proficiency Exams (A1) and having in school visits to develop my language teaching pedagogy.

 

Reflective Question: How do I continue to advance my professional learning as a teacher?

Obviously I want to keep doing all the things I am doing, particularly with regards to connecting online with other educators. I’d also like to take more opportunities to visit other teachers and classrooms and see how they are doing things. I’d like to continue to explore Design Thinking and learn more about Universal Design for Learning. I’m also thinking about applying to be a Google Certified Teacher next year and an Apple Distinguished Educator. I’ve got a long list of professional readings too, the start of which is below:

The Falconer – Grant Lichtman

Invent to Learn – Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager

Can Computers Keep Secrets? How a Six-Year-Old’s Curiosity Could Change the World by Tom Barrett.