Where do we start with the transformation of our schools and our system?
We start changing the parts over which we have some control.
How do I start? Settle on a set of key principles that capture what relevant, effective learning and schooling should be built on and then be guided by them.
I am guided by multiple sets of principles determined by the area of focus but largely, in relation to learning, my key guiding principles are Connections, Co-construction and Collaboration.
Here is a brief example of how each principle could change practice in your classroom/syndicate/department/kura tomorrow.
My experience and all reading in relation to modern learning tells me there must be connections between what is learned.
What to do
Unschedule department meetings (this structure supports siloed and disconnected learning) and schedule meetings of common teachers of the same class to explore connections, effective learning strategies for that particular group, and to efficiently share out the teaching of common skills.
You get to know your learners better, you get a greater understanding of other Learning Areas, you come across some cool teaching strategies used by your colleagues and you help students make sense of their learning. No extra work as it merely replaces an existing, but past its use-by date, structure. As well, meetings are more productive.
None, apart from grumpy HODs.
My experience and all reading in relation to modern learning tells me students need a say, some choice, a feeling of contribution in their learning. This is student agency. It does not mean the abdication of teacher responsibility. In fact, it requires the teacher to be fully aware of the key concepts, skills and content of their learning area and to hold on to them tightly.
What to do
Really question the contexts in which you teach the important concepts, skills and content (most of them have been decided upon by a teacher and can tend to live on in perpetuity). Could the context be different and could there be multiple contexts? I think of the years I taught the same social studies topic on migration (Victorian England Migration to NZ) and am mortified. Those key concepts that fall out of the study of the mass movement of people, over time and throughout the world could be studied through multiple contexts. I could have had students determining their own context (meeting a set of criteria) which may have included Syrian refugees, black American slaves heading north, Dalmatian gum diggers, East Coast Maori to Hutt Valley etc etc and then they could have agreed with me how they would evidence their understanding of my die-in-the-ditch learning objectives (my subjects key concepts, skills and content).
Students engaged in learning that they have co-constructed. Promotion of self-regulation within a rigorous framework. Variety for student and teacher.
Adapting to a different way of working and viewing the role of the teacher - viewing yourself not so much as a teacher but as a learning designer. No more rolling out the same unit of learning!
My experience and all reading in relation to modern learning tells me learning is a social experience (OECD), that students need to develop skills of teamwork and interpersonal skills, and that teachers flourish when their practice in its entirety is privatised and it becomes largely a collaborative, social activity.
What to do
The previous 2 examples above are great examples. Another great thing to do is to get rid of the single desks and chairs in your classroom and create a collaborative environment (think beanbags[cheap], old whiteboards screwed to plastic milk crates [cheap and awesome write on collaborative desks], etc). And in your planning, make your go-to, how could students do this as a group, rather than the setting of individual work. Note don't accept the claim that group work is messy, noisy, hard to do, lowest common denominator - you just need to Google 'Effective classroom group work' and you'll find heaps of user friendly models that any teacher committed to lifelong learning and effective practice can apply to their practice.
Students use and develop those important skills of collaboration their work world requires. Tuakana/trina (learning wise not age wise) allows all learners to flourish.
Adapting to a different way of working and viewing the role of the teacher - viewing yourself not so much as a teacher but as a learning designer. No more rolling out the same unit of learning! That's right same as above.
And none of these create extra workload.
Our school is living ( or trying to) these principles. I hope this brief post might help other teachers realise what they can do to be part of the transformation in the areas they have influence.