It is simply unbelievable how many educators think the best (and often the only) way for shifting pedagogical practice from 'here' to 'there', from what we are doing in the class today, to a place where we need to be tomorrow in order engage, inspire and motivate our students, is to 'call in the experts. To send individuals out to a place where someone tells our teachers what they should be doing and where we get a free lunch and a free pen! This crazy practise of education is only seconded by teachers who still think they are the ONLY source knowledge in the class, the type of teacher who likes the sound of their voice because it gives them comfort!
In ANY school, where growth, inspiration, motivation and engagement are considered important precursors to raised academic achievement, we should be looking at growing from within. A couple of years ago I first realised that in order to shift pedagogy I needed to have my teachers, who like all other teachers are professionals, needed to engage in meaningful conversation about teaching. So with the incentive of a heavily discounted iPad, we started our Professional Learning Community. Teachers who volunteered for the programme (to get the discounted iPad) were required to complete several tasks.
Each part of the process was deliberate.
Our eTools meetings last year were very much a 'stand and deliver' what you have done with an app, device, web2.0 tool or similar. The focus I had was really for teachers to see and be inspired by the amazing things the teacher next door is doing. The professional learning community is not about the 'expert' who has not taught in the class for twenty years. It was slab out the teacher next door and growing as a community together, from the inside. Towards the end of last year I noticed that the gap between those who could and those who could not, was growing. We were leaving some of our team behind! This is not the place we want to be in, so our focus for the eTool meetings have changed this year. I have adopted more of an 'un-conferecne' / 'camp fire' mentality. Before our twice trembly meetings we look to what teachers would like to know more about and set up several learning environments and ask some teachers who are a few steps ahead of others in their journey (not just the experts!) if they would facilitate the learning discussion for other teachers in one of the learning environments. Once again, all very deliberate. I am trying to model to teachers what is very possible in their own classes. It is not about me standing up and telling our staff what I think they need to know, it is about a shared approach and being given the opportunity to sit around a camp fire with someone a little further along the journey and to have that professional conversation.
More than anything we have done as a leadership this has been a catalyst for incredible growth in our teachers and as teachers grow, students benefit.
Obviously, it would be remiss to completely rule out the importance of involving external facilitators and 'traditional' forms of professional development, I am simply arguing the importance of growing from the inside first. It is cheaper, your teachers already understand your school culture and the 'go-to' person is now right they on staff!
Over the past six months I have been privileged to have been part of an incredible change process. Elim Christian College in Auckland NZ was granted a Maximum Roll Increase by the Ministry of Education from 500 students to an incredible 1000. God is so Good! With the physical limitation of the school site it was time to build. What an opportunity! The school proprietors (Elim Christian Centre) acquired good land that had already been designated 'Educational' on the town plan and the rest is history…
On July 1, there was a ground breaking ceremony and incredibly on February 7 the school opened with around 350 students! Not a single day was lost to bad weather. Once again God is Good! During this process
Twelve months into the new school and all is going well. We continue to make changes and adapt to the challenges that come our way.
As tools and pedagogical practises evolve and change who do we rely on as Christian Educators to inform us on Best Practise? Do iPods and iPads make a difference to student achievement.
This Professional Learning Group proposes to use the passion and knowledge of people within our collective of schools to commit to meeting together, participate and provide readings and to reflect through the use of blogs about eTools and eLearning practises which we consider noteworthy. ie those which we consider will contribute to student achievement.
The group would meet together once a term, participating in and providing professional reading in eLearning and contributing to an eLearning blog in response to each reading. The objective for the professional group would be to put together a paper/presentation about effective eLearning tools and practises for Christian Schools in New Zealand. People from outside the group would be able to keep abreast of the readings and reflections through the participants blogs.
In order to participate in the group candidates would FIRSTLY, and very importantly be teachers who are recognised by their school leadership as a very good classroom practitioner, and secondly (not to be confused as the most important) someone who is passionate and knowledgeable about ICT. Our meetings will be spread around participant's schools and schools with a strong reputation in this area. The expectation is to see good practise where possible.
Requirements for participating schools would be that the teachers involved will be released for two days per term – one for meeting, discussion and debate, and one for professional reading and reflection. Schools would also need to cover some travel and actual expenses.