Group work in science – is it working?

I have always deluded myself thinking that I was giving students plenty of opportunities to work in groups and all the goodness that comes from that because we do experiments. We also do research in groups and look at issues in Science…what a muppet I was!dr-bunsen-honeydew-and-beakerx750 The truth was that opportunities were created through experiments but so many were being squandered in class.

Group work should be a standard way of working in Science. Why? Because that’s what scientists do….it is the Nature of Science, how scientists work, and this was lost for students.

They understand;

  • that it is beneficial to work in a group,
  • they love to work in a group,
  • however, they do not make the link that this is how scientists work in reality.

So we should mirror this in class! I have tried to look at some other ways that I could achieve this, and my second Mindlab assignment looked at some of the ways that I have attempted to bring more group work into my class using technology and the leverage of their cell-phones as a tool. Some things worked well, others need some tweaking, but I am moving in the right direction.

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Legal and Ethical Contexts in my Digital Practice. Week 29. Tracy Simpson

Recently, one of my year 13 students wrote an argument on the merits of anonymity on the web. Initially, I thought it was a naïve idea to think that you could achieve true anonymity when our dealings on the web leave a digital footprint’; however, it was I who was naïve, as it is ‘easy to achieve a high level of anonymity or pseudonymity’, which is indeed difficult to trace (MOE, 2015). This caused me pause for thought. We know that people make hateful and morally reprehensible comments because they feel that anonymity gives them immunity to the consequences. Some don’t even feel the need to hide behind a pseudonym – the lack of face-to face interaction is enough for them to behave with impunity, and they have a variety of digital tools they can use.


Yet my student articulated the merits of anonymity, some of which are echoed by Andrew Lewman, in an article in the Guardian newspaper where he said that being anonymous on the web is ‘increasingly important’ as it gives people ‘control’ allowing them to be ‘creative’ and figure out their ‘identity and explore what they want to do’ without it being ‘tied to their real name for perpetuity’ (Krotoski, 2012). This does seem a compelling argument in the face of the growing trend for employers to search potential employee social media tracks in lieu of references. (I’m sure there’s an ethical dilemma in that too). Conversely, in the same article, Krotoski argues that the new trend is for ‘authentic identity’ as people want to know and trust who they are communicating with. So, if we are to reduce anti-social behaviour and nurture trust, at the same time as creativity, we need to teach our students how to use digital technology responsibly. We need to teach digital citizenship.


The Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers states that ‘families and whanau and the wider community trust us to guide their children and young people on their learning journey and keep them safe’. It also says, ‘upholding the expectations set out in the code is the responsibility of each, and every one of us’. Digital literacy is a component of our curriculum and with it digital citizenship.

What are we to do all things considered? (Hall, 2001). If we want our students to feel empowered and safe, we need to give them the knowledge and tools to help themselves. We can teach them about cyber risk and help build their resiliency by allowing them to ‘merge their prior knowledge with technical skill’ and develop strategies. We also need to actively promote ‘pro-social behaviours’ to break down the ‘school community’s bystander culture’ (MOE, 2015) Each of us has a moral responsibility to do this.

How? Some suggestions include creating, ‘Acceptable Use Agreements & Consent Forms which are revisited throughout the year’, (MOE, 2015). Consent forms are easily forgotten and I would argue that it adds an unnecessary administrative burden if it is to be ‘regularly revisited throughout the year’.  Another suggestion is that we could implement digital citizenship as part of the curriculum and include students, parents and whanau in the discussion. This is a far more engaging idea and one that can be sustained, especially if it is supported by teacher collaboration and good quality Professional Development. We are implementing Digital Literacy as part of our junior curriculum from next year. Having dedicated teachers to deliver this will help the rest of us to do our bit in the classroom; but we must do our bit.

Unlike my student, I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of hiding behind a mask of anonymity, but then, I haven’t been brought up in an environment where it is easy to do that. I see it as a dilemma, he doesn’t. As a teacher, I need to respect his viewpoint and find a way of helping him to be a safe and responsible digital citizen.

By Tracy Simpson

Sources:  Aleks Krotoski, April 2012.

MOE Netsafe 2015

Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from…

Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from

creative common attribution licence

Indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy Week 28, Activity 4 blog by Tracy Simpson

Culture pertains to your wold views, beliefs, values and language. An individual’s cultural background influences the way they think, their behaviour and their assumptions, (Irvine et al, 2010) and cultural well-being has an impact on society (Ministry for Culture & Heritage):


The impact we have on the cultural well-being of our students extends beyond school and underpins the success of our society. The national population trends for New Zealand predict that ‘New Zealand’s overall diversity will be higher in 2038’ resulting in ‘changing characteristics’ for our society. The highest growing ethnic groups are Māori and Asian, with Māori having a ‘younger age structure’ which ‘provides an inbuilt momentum for growth’. (Stats NZ, 2017). When you consider that currently over 50% of our prison population are Māori, coupled with underachievement in education, (Bishop, 2012) it becomes imperative that we affect positive change. As Irvine et al suggested (2010) this is not about ethnicity though, it is, ‘what people identify with or feel they belong to’, (Stats NZ, 2017). It is cultural perspective and we need to teach through a cultural lens if we are to teach effectively and achieve equity for all our students (Bucher, 2008).

Using the Mauri evaluation tool, I would put our school at the state of being of Mauri Oho, in that it is awake to the importance of being culturally responsive; it has begun to participate, engage and interact through our focus on positive student-teacher relationships, (Potahu, 2011). There is a genuine move towards providing a learning environment in which individuals thrive, (Savage et al, 2011). ‘Kia hono’ or being ‘connected’ is at the heart of it.

The threads that weave this connection together include the Runanga Matua parent group; the inclusion of whanau in mentoring, goal-setting and celebrations; reaching beyond to the wider Māori community for a sense of spiritual and personal development through online forums such as the Tūhono organisation; developing leadership through organisations such as Whenua Iti; in-school groups such as Kapa Haka and Tama Tu Tama, and following the correct protocol for pōwhiri and poroporoaki in consultation with our Kaumātua. Our students, both Māori and non-Māori, achieve above the national average. As Anita Gutschlag (2007) argues when reviewing the Te Kotahintanga Model for teacher positioning, the binary arguments of agentic versus non-agentic teaching are only part of the story in education. As a decile 8 school, the relative socio-economic stability associated with our area is probably a contributing factor to success. But I feel that a major factor is our positive cultural values. Our school vision and core values demonstrate a commitment to developing our indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness. However, to achieve the Mauri Ora state of being actively engaged, there is more we can do to improve the ako, that goes on in our classrooms.

It seems incredible that ‘deficit theorising’ still pertains and it reinforces the need for us all to take on growth mindsets within our classrooms and when planning learning, (Dweck, 2006). In doing so, we will develop the ‘mana motuhake’ (high expectations), ‘wānanga’ (learning interactions) and ‘ako’ (range of strategies for teaching and learning) considered to be essential if we are to have effective teacher profiles (Savage et al, 2011). We need to show a greater awareness of our students’ cultural identity through the development of whanaungatanga – our relationships, shared experiences and collaboration – if we are to allow them to build upon their prior knowledge and make sense of new knowledge by processing it through their cultural lens (Irvine et al, 2010). To achieve equity for all our students, we need to care for them as culturally located individuals.

Tracy Simpson


NZ Government Stats:

Ministry for Culture & Heritage:

Cultural Well-Being and Local Government Report 1: Definitions and contexts of cultural well-being

Jackie Jordan Irvine, Geneva Gay, Kris Gutierrez. (June 2010) Teaching Tolerance (Video file)  Retrieved from

Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & Teddy, L. (2009).Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5),734–742.

Bucher, R. (2008). Building Cultural Intelligence (CQ): Nine Megaskills. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

Dweck, C. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

New York: Random House, 2006.

Edtalks.(2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. .Retrieved from

Gutschlag, A. (2007). Some Implications of the Te Kotahitanga Model of Teacher Positioning. New Zealand Journal of Teacher’s Work4(1), 3 – 10.

Potahu, T. W. (2011). Mauri – Rethinking Human Wellbeing. MAI Review, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from…

Savage, C., Hindle, R., Meyer, L. H., Hynds, A., Penetito, W., & Slater, C. E. (2011, August). Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: indigenous student experiences across the curriculum. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education39(3), 183 – 198.








Learning is an involving activity. The delivery of information in the old lecture style format has been shown to be ineffective for most learners. The levels of engagement were poor as were the retention of information because of the passive role of the learner. The teacher is now in a learning partnership with the student to facilitate their educational progress. It is the relationship the teacher has with their clients that can retard or facilitate their progress.

Students need to be empowered by increasing their direct involvement in the learning process. The process of technological acquisition and use in school environments is a medium where this empowerment can be enhanced. The teaching process of “Blended Learning” where individual and small groups can all be on-task engaging with digital learning medium and be guided by a roaming teacher has been shown to be highly effective. This form of collaboration (OECD, 2016) is a skill-set that will be needed in the students’ future. The use of digital technology that reduces the barriers of national and international borders so that information can be easily accessed and utilised could create a sense of global integration, (page 10, OECD, 2016). This consequence of globalisation on Education could have a positive benefit for students.

The Health Education curriculum of New Zealand has four underlying concepts that shape the teaching of this content, (TKI-Health, 2017). The Attitudes and Values conceptual area promotes inclusion, acceptance, respect for others and social justice. It is these bedrock values (Taha wairua) that embrace the diversity of others in the world that can counter the ubiquitous and sometimes negative influence of social media.


(TKI – seniorsecondary, 2017)

The “Ideas and Identities are driving a wave of exclusion” (National Intelligence Council. Page 6, 2017) proposed that the improved access to the global community would instead foster tensions between cultures. This global trend and consequence paints a negative outlook for the future. Factors that threaten inclusivity that were identified in the OECD article (2016) were nationalism, nativism, xenophobia, prejudice, extremism and populism.

However, the rise in women’s status and economic leadership roles may bring about a decrease in the social inequality that women face in many different cultures bringing about more social justice in the future. (Human Rights Commission, 2016).
The 300 level Health Education students engaging in research at Waimea were examining the ethical dilemmas of some topics such as abortion, organ donation & euthanasia in other countries and the determinants of health that influenced the different outcomes to evolve. It is the quick access or connectivity that allows other international approaches to be analysed and the stakeholders for the opposing views to evaluated. Without the internet, BYOD and open questions that can cater to a variety of student interests.

The new 21st century techniques that I have been exposed to as part of the Mindlab professional development using both face to face interaction and on-line contact through a portal. This approach will benefit students. The dual process encourages a community connection and then ease of on-line flexibility when coping with a busy full-time job running a department plus family/school life.



(Human Rights Commission, 2016)


TKI_Health, 2017 –

(TKI – seniorsecondary, 2017)

National Intelligence Council. (2017). Global trends: The Paradox of Progress. National Intelligence Council: US. Retrieved from

OECD. (2016) Trends Shaping Education 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI: publication can be read online by following its DOI’s hyperlink)

Activity 5: Legal & Ethical Contexts in my Digital Practice-Stewart McKean

Working in a Special Education department in a Secondary School can lead to many ethical challenges.  One such challenge is the issue of teenagers with learning difficulties using social media sites and the possible interactions that can take place on these platforms.

The Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (2017) has sent out a code of professional responsibility and standards for the teaching profession.  In this document, it is expressed that teachers will work in the best interests of learners by promoting the wellbeing of learners and protecting them from harm.

We in Special Education can do this is through educating students on how to use social media safely and appropriately.  The best approach to achieve this is through strong school/home communication.  Students with learning difficulties can benefit from social media. For students who do not liked to be touched, or who find it hard to communicate with other individuals, social media platforms are a chance to share pictures and interests, and an opportunity to have a social life.  The internet can also be a dangerous place, especially for students who may struggle with communication.   Peagram (2016) outlines what she believes is the best approach for educating students with learning difficulties on using social media safety.  Peagram gives three clear and concise guidelines for teachers and parents,

  1. Firstly, have a lot of discussions with students on how to use social media.
  2. Secondly, monitor your students’ online accounts.
  3. Educate your students on appropriate behaviour when using social media.

Peagram (2016) recommends that: 

  • Teachers and parents create a clear and concise list of rules for students to follow,
  • Structure the time your students spends online,
  • Monitor accounts and understand the sites your students are using.

Teachers should make a ” social media contract” with students.  This contract should only be five rules or less.  Keeping it simple is important as anything more is overwhelming for students to remember.  One key rule for students to understand is to keep private things private.  It is important that students are often reminded of the social media contract.  Repetition is key.

Teachers and specially parents must monitor accounts and understand the sites students are using.  Some experts recommend limiting students to safer sites with moderators and filters although these sites are often more child-orientated and are not suited for the teenagers (Pinkerton, 2016).  The filters can also limit self-moderation, so students won’t learn what they can and can’t talk about.  If we do not teach them the right skills, they’ll never learn them and may become more vulnerable in the future.

Parents and teachers can monitor a students’ circle of friends for clear warning signs.  Things to look out for include a big age differences in online friends, accounts that seem fake, or people posting inappropriate material in social media links.  Behaviour of students can also be an indication that something is not right.

If a student is displaying more aggressive, or using inappropriate language that they didn’t learn in school, it might have something to do with their social media experience.  Teachers must work within their schools’ professional boundaries.  With respect to social media practices that staff should avoid, the Waimea College (2014) guideline discourages ccommunication with students for social purposes via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and text messaging. It is preferable to use another Facebook page if necessary for any professional communication (Waimea College, 2014).

This guideline is to protect the teacher and clearly delineates the differences between professional and social relationships.  We as Special Education teachers can work within the guidelines and still provide for the wellbeing of learners and protect them from harm.

As teachers, we should model good social media behaviours always.  There are a lot of issues raised here.  This warrants further conversations at both a departmental and school wide level.  Social media is playing a larger role in all our lives and this will only increase in the future.  Hopefully this blogpost lays out some discussion points and pointers for future direction.


Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand. (2017). Our Code, Our Standards.  Retrieved from

Peagram, K. (2016, April 4). What Happens When the Online Bully Is a Child with Special Needs [Web log post]Retrieved from

Pinkerton, B. (2016, April 7). What Special Ed Teachers and Parents Need to Know About Social Media [Web log post].  Retrieved from

Waimea College. (2014). Professional Boundaries Guidelines.  Retrieved from

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Activity 4: Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness in my Practice Stewart McKean

What does a culturally responsive pedagogy looks like in a Modern 21st Classroom?

A culturally responsive teacher will use their students’ cultures as a building block for learning and teaching both in and outside the classroom.  They will understand the importance of culture and how it relates to their student’s sense of connection and well-being (Education Council of New Zealand, n. d.).

An essential element of cultural responsiveness is to facilitate good teacher-student relationships.  Teachers must acknowledge that all students come to the classroom as culturally located individuals.  It is important for teachers to remember that student interactions and learning is defined within the culture the student identifies with.

Therefore, a culturally competent teacher will get to know the culture of their students and work to ensure that the learning environment, learning partnerships and learning discussions acknowledge and respect that student’s culture.

For Māori students’ this will include collaborating and consulting with parents, whānau and iwi to learn and better understand what the Māori community values and wants for their children.   It is important that teachers understand what Māori students need to enjoy education success as Māori.

Māori have identified solutions for addressing student learning that work within a Maori cultural way of knowing (Bishop, Berryman, Cavanagh & Teddy, 2009).  In this video Russell Bishop, who is Professor of Māori Education at the University of Waikato discusses what is good for Maori student learning is good for all students learning.  He also talks about how as teachers improve their pedagogy in relation to Maori achievement evidence shows Maori students achieving at levels equal to other ethnic groups in the classroom.

Russell Bishop challenges teachers to assume agency for addressing disparities in Māori students’ learning.  Agency in this context is defined as a conscious awareness and professional commitment to effect a change in the learning outcomes of Māori students.

This commitment requires the teacher to provide authentic caring.  This goes beyond simple feelings of affection for your students and instead focuses on how teachers can support learning and pedagogy in the classroom (Savage, Hindle, Meyer, Hynds, Penetito, & Sleeter, 2011).

To help teachers achieve changes in Māori students’ educational achievement an effective teacher profile (ETP) was created (Bishop et al., 2009).  The ETP identifies daily teaching practices that can facilitate teacher agency in the classroom.  There are six dimensions to the ETP

  • Manaakitanga (caring for students as culturally located individuals)
  • Mana motuhake (high expectations for learning)
  • Whakapiringatanga (managing the classroom for learning)
  • Wananga (student-student learning interactions)
  • Ako (a wide range of strategies to facilitate learning)
  • Kotahitanga (promote, monitor and reflect on learning outcomes with students).

These Māori words can be interpreted in other ways but the context in this situation comes from the Te Kotahitanga project (Bishop et al., 2009).  Being aware of these six dimensions and implementing them can allow the teacher to have positive relationships with all students in the classroom.  This is beneficial for all, but particularly Māori students.

Using the “Cultural Intelligence Self Review Tool” produced by Te Toi Tupu (n. d.) allowed me to assess my cultural intelligence in relation to my teaching.  My results indicated that my communication methods were done well.  Where I need to focus my pedagogy on is student learning activities.  This is referred to as Ako, one of the six dimensions to the Effective Teacher Profile approach as defined by Te Kotahitanga project.

Some of the key questions I will be exploring in relation to all the students in my class, but particularly Māori students will be


  • What are my individual students’ learning styles?
  • Do they like to learn through touch?
  • Do they like to learn through singing?
  • Do students like to learn through rote learning?
  • Do my students need to learn in an outside setting?
  • Could games outside provide any learning objectives?
  • Am I catering to the students who need to release a lot of energy appropriately?

I found this activity highly rewarding.  My understanding of cultural responsiveness has increased and I have critically reviewed my own teaching and have discovered areas that I will need to improve.


Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T., & Teddy, L. (2009). Te kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education25(5), 734-742.

Cultural Intelligence Self Review Tool. Te Toi Tupu. (n. d.).  Retrieved from


Education Council of New Zealand.  Tātaiako – Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners:  A resource for use with the Graduating Teacher Standards and Practising Teacher Criteria. (n. d.).  Retrieved from


Savage, C., Hindle, R., Meyer, L. H., Hynds, A., Penetito, W., & Sleeter, C. E. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: Indigenous student experiences across the curriculum. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education39(3), 183-198.

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Activity 2: Current issues in my professional practice.

community circle

Waimea College is a fortunate mix of urban and rural environments. This means that the students all 1600 plus (year 9 to 13) are not overly street savvy with heavy school bags of attitude or too grounded with the mass inertia of heavy machines that is resistant to change. The students have a uniform to wear except in physical education classes where they exercise 🙂 their right to choose appropriate attire for movement.

The school environment is an open one. Fences, gates and solid boundaries are not evident. The school prides itself on its gardens, fields and spacious feel. We have only one double story building with no surrounding structures to block the view. A decile 8 school that sits next to a large intermediate and primary school. We share fields and the swimming pool.

The school is organized into departments overseen by individuals in the management team. The traditional organizational structure of a Principal, Deputies, Heads of departments, teachers and support staff is present at Waimea. Our schools intent and culture is highlighted by the following statements.


These are lofty aspirations that propose an intent for our college. It is the theory if you like behind the “Waimea Way” which is our practice or Stoll’s (1998) cultural glue that binds our actions and empowers our students. We have an affluent community here in Nelson.

Our community is made up of a diversity of socioeconomic status (SES) which  have been shown to influence the educational outcomes of students (American Psychological Association, 2016). The lower SES of some family environments highlight the important role of the teacher to lift educational and life expectations of the students and minimize the barriers to achievement where possible. The health enhancing process to do this is to build on positive relationships in the classroom and promote opportunities for growth with high expectations to succeed (Garguiulo, 2014). It is the authoritarian view of the school (Thrupp, 2006) that can be minimized through better communication with lower SES families as is the case at Hope Primary School where I’m on the BoT.The focus of a Learning Partnership instead of a parent-teacher meeting resulted in higher rates of parent participation. The student being present at the meeting also affirmed their role as an active participant in their education. This engagement of all parties minimized the deficits of SES shown on page 5(Gargiulo, 2006).

A third of all our leavers head to tertiary education so the importance of different pathways to suit a range of needs is necessary. The provision of a trades academy like Manurewa High School (Ministry of Education 2013) has added value to our school and created a positive pathway for the less academic students.

The professional environment of our school is one of adaption. We are undergoing a curriculum review where new split senior & junior timetables and enrichment options for next year are being developed. The staff professional development has centered around “Bring your Own Device” (BYOD) plus the new entry into a Community of Learning (CoL).  I was fortunate to present to management on the 9th of September and suggest ways to improve the professional development at Waimea. This opportunity came about as my literature review was proof read by our specialized-teacher who recommended it to the principal. Our professional development climate is one of growth (Dweck, 2006).

APA. (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved from

Dweck, C.  (2006). mindset: the new psychology of success. new york: random house

Gargiulo, S. (2014). Principal sabbatical report. Retrieved from

Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from

Thrupp, M. (2006). Improving the schooling of NZ’s poorest children: policy & community challenges.



Activity 3: Rethinking the Role of Teachers Stewart McKean

The role of teachers is transforming across all levels of education.  Providing knowledge at the front of a class is no longer enough.  We as teachers are now acting as guides and mentors, motivating students to be life-long learners.  An essential element of this is providing opportunities for students to direct their own learning experiences.


Modern schools are becoming learning environments that help students gain 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.  These skills will be essential for students when entering their adult lives.  A critical element in the implementing of these skills is the technology-enabled teacher.


Teachers who have the classroom skills and knowledge to facilitate creative inquiry and digital literacy are becoming important in the classroom as well as mentors and leaders in professional development (NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2016).


This is changing the way that professional development is being delivered to teachers.  For example, the Mindlab course I am currently enrolled in has allowed me to connect and share with teachers all around the country and I have even communicated with teachers in USA around topics that I have been researching.

Social media such as twitter, Facebook groups, Pinterest and blogs are creating communities of interest that can enrich professional development and classroom teaching.  Students in secondary school classroom are often already using these social media platforms in their everyday lives.

The Ministry of Education’s new initiative of Communities of Learning (COL) will bring new challenges for leadership and teachers (Ministry of Education, 2016).  The aim for a COL is to raise both the achievement for all students and especially for identified students in that COL by sharing expertise in teaching and learning (ako) across the community of schools.

By collaborating and sharing expertise within the COL, students’ learning pathways are supported and their transition through the education system improved. One aspect of this approach will require teachers to provide cross-school collaborations in shared expertise and assist in implementing new technology initiatives.

Social media could be a way in which opportunities for parents, families and whānau and communities to be involved with their children and young people’s learning are facilitated.

The challenge for our school will be in creating an agile environment that supports teachers in their continuing development of professional knowledge and skills.  An OECD survey conducted in Australia showed that on average Australian teachers have just nine days of professional development each year and this is often piecemeal and unfocused (The Conversation, 2016).  We will need to move far beyond our current model of professional development and embrace a new approach that transforms our teaching practices.

Linda Hippert (Getting Smart, 2015) has written on the transition that an American city has made away from the “sage on the stage” models of professional development to adopt an approach that uses the expertise and passion of individual teachers and schools to provide PD that is relevant to the school and the wider region or what we would now call our Community of Learning.

This shift did not happen organically.  The change took organising and visionary leadership.  If we are to create an agile learning environment that meets the learning needs of our students in the 21st century we will need to take the same approach.

Our success will come through providing opportunities for collaboration between teachers. Developing professional learning networks where teachers can seek guidance and inspiration from colleagues will help rethink pedagogies and curricula delivery and content.

I argue that while we maintain our traditional responsibilities as teachers we must now rethink our roles as teachers to incorporate technology and 21st century skills into our pedagogical strategies.  We must meet the needs of our students ensuring that they stay connected in their schooling and learn in-demand skills that will enable students to contribute to society in this world of rapid technological change.


Australian teachers get fewer training days than in other countries and turn to online courses for support. (2016) The Conversation

Retrieved from

Horizontal Professional Development: Teachers Teaching Teachers to Develop 21st Century Competencies. (2015) GettingSmart

 Retrieved from

Community of Learning Guide for Schools and Kura. (2016) Ministry of Education, New Zealand

Retrieved from

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12Edition. (2016)

Retrieved from

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Activity 2: Current issues in my professional context Stewart McKean


Waimea College is a decile 8 secondary school in Richmond.  The school has 1,600 students and about 150 staff.  The majority of students are Pakeha.  A small number of students identify as either Maori or Pasifika.  We have welcomed many students from Asia and Europe to our school in recent years.

I teach in the Special Education Department which has 42 students, six other teachers and 15 other staff with essential roles within the department.  Although our school is zoned, the Special Ed department can take students from Richmond, Nelson and the surrounding rural communities.

Our students have significant learning difficulties and therefore receive ORRS funding from the Ministry of Education.  Our students come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.  Some families where parents work full time; some in which economic assistance from the government is the main source of income.  Students come from blended families and others whose parents are separated.  They may have living arrangements where they stay a week with each parent or they may never see their father or mother.

Other students live with grandparents or in supported living accommodation.  These living situations are borne out of necessity and are perhaps not the first choice of the student.  Economic pressure is often a given within one of these family units.  The school, including our department is cognisant of these socioeconomic pressures and is receptive to finding solutions for families under financial and psychological pressure.

The school is aware that improving our commitment to students and early interventions may help reduce pressure on students.  This is clearly defined as a one way that schools can help students and families living in poverty (American Psychological Association, 2016).

The principal of Waimea College, Scott Haines, has set out to define the culture of our school in his Principal’s message on the school website:

“Our school has a culture where we do not rest until every student in our care is engaged and achieving. We believe that every student, every day, in every class deserves our very best effort and we strive to make sure that we live up to this expectation.” (Waimea College, 2017)

This leadership direction from the principal and the senior leadership team has created a professional environment in which staff have high expectations of themselves and colleagues.  These expectations manifest throughout the professional environment through several clear teacher attributes:

  • a genuine sense of caring and empathy for students
  • high expectations of their teaching and of student learning
  • provided with professional development to gain the skills to enable students to achieve
  • a passion for their curriculum area
  • motivated to foster a love of learning in students
  • a strong sense of collegially
  • come from diverse backgrounds and offer different skills, knowledge, and life-experiences for the school community
  • a commitment to developing a strong set of values in students.

These teacher attributes help to make up the culture of Waimea College.  Although it is the teacher culture that perhaps has the great impact on student achievement (Stoll, 1998) a school culture is made up of many cultures such as pupil, leadership, and parental cultures.

An important socio-economic issue that has arisen within my department is the payment for the annual school camp.  The benefits that students obtain from a school camp are numerous although the cost can be a prohibitive factor for students attending.  For many of our students, a school camp is a new and rich learning experience.

A financial solution to this problem has been found.  Students with ORRS funding are entitled to respite care away from their families.  This gives both the parents, who are often the full time carer for their son or daughter, and the child, time apart.  This can be either for a number of hours or even over-night stays.

Making parents are aware of this option has reduced their financial stress considerably and has allowed their child to attend camp.  This is one way we have endeavored to provide opportunities and experiences for all students in the department no matter their family’s socioeconomic status.


American Psychological Association (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved from

Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from

creative common attribution licence

Global trends: the importance of collaboration

I was struck by a sense of gloom about our future when reading about the trend in accelerating technology, which offers both progress and disruption to the world as we know it. How do we prepare our young people for their uncertain future? But listening to my students as they discuss such weighty topics as climate change, terrorism and cyber-crimes, I am heartened by their interest, knowledge and empathy. Where are they getting their information from as it isn’t all from school? According to the BBC (June, 2016) ‘social media has overtaken television as young people’s main source of news’. We know they are more connected to the wider world than ever before, so it makes sense to me to focus on collaboration as a mid-term trend that can help us prepare students for this fast-changing world. Collaboration can lead to ‘civic literacy, community engagement and innovation’. (OECD, 2016). In developing these skills, we should embrace technology to enhance communication, knowledge building and critical thinking. By collaborating, we are working with our peers, working with our students, working with their families and the wider community, including the rest of the world. Collaboration fits neatly with the culturally important concept of whānau. It is important that our small and unique nation embeds this concept into its national psych if it wants to survive the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ posed by disruptive technology.

My focus practice is the new unit on which I’m collaborating for our Junior Enrichment programme. This is taking an Agile approach to learning in that students are at the centre, in an environment that allows them to select a topic of interest to them, interact with their peers and the wider community, design, problem-solve, prototype and adapt through evaluation. Assessment criteria are built upon the Key Competencies outlined in the NZ national curriculum and take a cross curricular approach.

Schools around the world are actioning similar approaches.  Summit Public Schools in California encourage their students to be ‘self-directed learners’ by coaching them in: ‘challenge seeking, persistence, strategy-shifting, response to setbacks and appropriate help seeking’.  They use a mentoring system where students are individually supported in setting goals, making a plan and developing their ‘Habits of Success’.  We are in the early stages of developing our new curriculum, but we have already learned a lot from research during the planning stages and can learn more from the Summit model.

This is all very exciting, but it means a huge shift in thinking for me as a teacher. Our young people expect to be consulted, they are proud of their knowledge and are conscious of the world’s problems. They use social networks to communicate, so we need to ensure that we are using socially constructed ways of teaching, built upon strong relationships and trust. We need to protect them from the millions of bits of misinformation available to them by teaching them to be critical and evaluative. We also need to be mindful that not everyone will be comfortable in this world of collaboration. Some people are shy, introspective individuals who also need to be given the opportunity to work alone. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning is ineffective. We are already dealing with ‘withdrawal disorder’ and ‘fear-of-missing-out syndrome’ (OECD, 2016) posed by technology. Yet, even with these problems, the positives can outweigh the negatives if we are active in our embrace of technology, rather than passively allowing it to run us down like some juggernaut.  I am no technology expert and I don’t use social media websites on a regular basis, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle; not if I collaborate with my students.


National Intelligence Council. (2017). Global trends: The Paradox of Progress. National Intelligence Council: US. Retrieved from

OECD. (2016) Trends Shaping Education 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI: publication can be read online by following its DOI’s hyperlink)

creative common attribution licence

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