Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Implications for HPSS - Part 2 - Challenges

My previous post concentrated on the aspects of my sabbatical which provided affirmations for what we are already doing at HPSS. This post attempts to capture what I see as the areas of challenge or further development.

Student Self-Regulation
I have been critical of conventional secondary schools which complain that their students are not independent, self-regulated learners but give them no opportunity to be so. In most schools, up until the age of 18 students are closely regulated by external factors: timetable, bells, rules, teachers. While such factors can make schools more ‘manageable’ and lead to great academic results, they do not promote self-regulation and, quite possibly, contribute to our high university drop-out rate.

I have always wanted our school to be one in which students were given daily opportunities to self-regulate. A simple representation of this is by having no bells. Another layer has been our Floor Time (originally MyTime) programme. It originally allowed students to opt into up to 3 workshops a week to “do whatever I need to do know, where I need  to do it and with whom I need to do it.” It has now become a more regulated time on our timetable with less self-regulation.

My visits have reinforced my view that we need to look for more ways for students to self regulate. I have reflected that too often we may not ‘loosen the leash’ and provide opportunities for self-regulation because not all students will cope so we end up tightening things to accommodate those students. I’d like to flip that and provide more self-regulation opportunities but have arrangements to accommodate those who are unable to manage.

Following are two examples I have been thinking about and want to explore with my staff:

  • Learning Hub time be voluntary for Year 13s (and possibly Year 12s.)
    • I think a large group would still attend and another large group would make excellent use of their time to continue their learning. A small group would waste the opportunity.
    • With the Year 13s (and possibly Year 12s) this would give an opportunity for the senior Hub students (Year 11 or 12) to have a formalised leadership role in the Hub.
    • This has the advantage of providing more time in a senior student’s timetable to determine how to use their time best to progress their learning.
    • It would also give more opportunity for Learning Coaches to concentrate on developing our Foundation students and preparing them for self-regulation.
    • I can’t think of a worst case scenario if this was implemented that would keep me awake at night.
  • Non-staffed class time for Year 13 students.
    • If a student had 3 blocks of time allocated in a week to a subject/module only 2 of these would be staffed. Direct teaching and support would occur in the staffed blocks and students would continue through the programme, independently, in the non-staffed block. Many programmes delivered at NYC iSchool were delivered in this ‘blended’ approach with access to resources and support made available on-line (as we do now).
    • The added advantage would be that students could determine how they would use their 5 non-staffed blocks (assuming they were doing 5 subjects/modules) at any given time. Because of workload demands they might use 2 (or more) unstaffed blocks to work on one subject in one week.
      • This provides further opportunity for self-regulation and moves closer to how they have to manage their time at university.

Students as Partners in Learning Design
There is no doubt that when I saw students engaged as true partners in the design of their learning, engagement levels were at their highest. This was sometimes at the level of choosing project topics but moved through the continuum to include planning a full project inquiry, with teacher support, determining the learning context and the product of or evidence of learning. I saw many examples of deeper than expected learning and all schools had excellent attainment levels in statewide assessment/testing.

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we attempt to involve students in co-designing their learning. Before each semester’s module planning we get students to explore their understanding of the overarching concepts (Identity, Space and Place, Citizenship, Systems and How Things Work, Relationships, Cultural Diversity, Innovations and Transformations) and then to suggest contexts for learning (eg How Did The Universe Begin? How Serious is Climate Exchange? Why Are There Refugees?). Teachers then collaborate to plan modules to offer students. As well, within each module students have a part to play in designing their learning (see blog post comments included in previous post.)

I am finding myself asking how we could both embed and extend this concept further. What does a school look like when students are authentic partners in learning and schooling in general?

At this stage my plans are to:
  • Carry out a stocktake of the current situation of “Students as Partners in Learning Design”.
    • Explore the concept with the Learning Habitat and gather their views of the current situation
    • Gather some staff voice via ‘Kitchen Table With Maurie’
  • Explore further areas of opportunity to have students as authentic partners.
    • Begin with Learning Habitat and then cast to wider student group.

Some opportunities I have been thinking about include:
  • Ambassadors to host touring groups
  • Involvement in staff appointments
  • Formalise student involvement in feedback to staff re their teaching
  • Involvement in restorative practice processes so that impact of behaviours and outcomes on wider student body is taken into account

Parents as Partners
A neat outcome of increasing the strength of partnership with students will be in supporting us to bring parents and the wider community on board. All schools I visited spoke of the challenge of ‘parental push-back’ in relation to their attempts to transform secondary education. This occurred in all schools, despite their vision and models of learning being well-known before families enrolled their children (in fact, most, if not all, of these schools were over-subscribed and had waiting lists).

In discussing this issue at each school the responses were similar. Julie Abraham, at Design Tech, captured the common message with “being unalterably clear on what we are about” and having the courage to stay true to the vision. I have often spoken of the need for a school leader to have a clear moral purpose and the courage to see that carried out. This was a common message from the schools I visited.

I am of the view that the most powerful and effective ambassadors of any school are its students. Because they are immersed in the daily life of a school and continually breathe the air of the culture of the place they know what a school is about and if it is the right place for them. Because I see our students interacting with our many visitors and I hear them talking about the school and their learning I know most of them are fully on board. More than one student has told me that their parents “now understand” and that while earlier on there was a risk that they would be removed by their parents they feel the relief of that increased understanding.

By increasing the opportunities for authentic partnership with our students, I believe they will be even more powerful and effective ambassadors for our school in their own families and the wider community.

Currently we have many practices in place to partner with parents. They include:
  • Start the year with Individual Education Meetings (IEMs) and repeat throughout the year
  • Waitangi Whanau Celebration in collaboration with Hobsonville Point Primary School
  • Fortnightly Newsletter, Facebook updates and School App communications
  • Hub Coach communication home
  • Parent workshops/conference
  • Morning Tea With Maurie

Later this year I plan to focus my collection of parent voice on the effectiveness of the current parent partnership opportunities and ask what else we could do to make it more effective.


Rosamund Britton said...

Interesting stuff Maurie. I can see where it comes from and where you're going with your thinking. Would/could Year 13s still 'belong' to a hub/community? Would Learning Coaches have opportunities to connect with them if they didn't attend Learning Hub time? Could they still be that person who really knows/communicates/advocates for their successes and struggles? The tuakana/teina relationships in vertical advisory models are also so important. I agree that Year 11s/12s could effectively lead but also Year 13s can be such valuable mentors and add a different dynamic, even as advisors themselves. I would love to see them still as part of their hub whanau. Even if that looks more flexible than it currently is.

In terms of student voice in feedback for teachers - I've spoken to colleagues from schools overseas who train students up to be part of a team that does this quite formally as you suggest. Really interesting concept.

Looking forward to nutting some of this stuff out as a staff and student body with you, on your return to the tiller next term.

Have really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Maurie Abraham said...

Thanks for commenting Ros. They would certainly be connected strongly to their Hub and there may be set times they need to attend. I would like it to be as you have described - strongly connected with flexibility

Margaret Thorsborne said...

Maurie, in the RP world, self regulation also involves regulating one's emotions, being mindful, thinking through decisions carefully, thinking about the impact of what I might want to to do on others before I do it etc. All this of course is helping to mature the pre-frontal cortex........ and you are so right. We expect it of kids, but don't provide enough opportunities to develop competence!

One other bit about student feedback to teachers - we give kids feedback all the time - in a democratic space this needs to be two way. It just needs to be safe and constructive for everyone.

Always interesting, Possum!

Pandemic Class Blog said...

Definitely some interesting ideas Maurie. As a Hub coach it would be good to have one block a week with seniors as they play a vital role in setting the tone and leading the younger students. It would also be good to be able to check in with them during this time (Selfishly I'd miss them terribly as I love mine and have built such a strong bond with them!). I would also love to see the Year 13s running some of our Hub sessions - they have a powerful voice and the experience of our 'school way of life' from a student perspective which is invaluable. I agree that older students should also have more opportunities to self-manage, if we want them to behave like young adults, then we need to provide the scenarios in which they can do this.