Sunday, September 7, 2014

Powerful Partnerships

I am often asked what I think are the most important aspects of our curriculum and pedagogy model at HPSS. I'm sure I've given lots of different answers but for the moment I've settled on the two that support our principle of powerful partnerships: authentic learning and collaborative teaching.

The power of authentic learning was made clearest to me at our first Big Project exhibition when the students presented their banners on our Hobsonville Habits to AV Jennings and the Hobsonville Land Company. The quality of the finished products and the way in which our students were able to talk about their learning was very impressive.

Big Projects this term have once again created an authentic context for our learners. We have partnered up with Auckland Council and half the school are working on creating an original show with original music that portrays Auckland 2025 through the eyes of young people.

Drama improvisation activities to prepare for show
The other half of the school are working on ways to heighten awareness for the local environment as we have discovered a site in our vicinity heavily polluted with nursery plant bags which is also the site of one of NZ's most threatened plants.

Students exploring the affected sites
Our students also experienced another authentic learning situation when they hosted candidates from the local Upper Harbour electorate at school where they questioned them on topics ranging from youth issues to child abuse to Auckland's transport problems.

Questions being posed

Paula Bennett replies while candidates wait their turn

All of these will need to keep their day job!
I spend a lot of my time viewing learning in action. This is because I'm either taking visiting groups, observing staff or just out and about. As a result of doing this I have realised the power of collaborative teaching.

As we move through the year teachers are trying different ways of making the most of collaboration. Sometimes one teacher will be addressing the whole group while other times each of the teachers in the team will be taking different groups and at other times they are all facilitating throughout the class.

I had the privilege of Steve and Danielle last week. While Danielle collected a group around her mobile classroom (a whiteboard) and provided scaffolds for their learning, Steve moved around the other groups of students and kept them focused by asking tem challenging questions.

Danielle in the background in her mobile classroom
while Steve works with a group
Cindy and Megan working together to support learning

Jill including Annette, our Business Manager, as students pitch their projects
However, the most heart warming authentic learning and collaborative teaching I witnessed last week when I came across 2 of our students, Angus and Josh, running a workshop where they had been supporting 6 year olds to create electrical circuits.

I am firmly of the opinion that it is these two things schools need to find ways to incorporate in their curriculum and pedagogy, no matter what context they operate in or what structures either enable or restrict them so that schooling is relevant and engaging for our students.

Try to make learning authentic for the learners and try to enable collaboration in planning and teaching for the teachers.