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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Sharing my passion

Contribution of teacher inquiry topics to my Communities of Practice.

Fundamentally as a teacher we see our purpose as instructing, guiding and nurturing our students through the relationships we build with them. Yet, through all the ‘noise’ of doing education we get distracted and can lose sight of the complete purpose we have for our students. Students and staff love seeing us being passionate about skills, topics, …, life, it is what allows people to recognise and build stronger connections about us. In this moment is an opportunity to fire up a passion for our students that doesn’t have to be explored in isolation.

Possible inquiry topics

How using the a Design Education tool (IDEO) better use the creative energy of students making games – through inclusiveness, consolidating learning, improving engagement, employing higher levels of thinking, enhancing soft skills and offering alternative assessment approaches. And as a leader how can this be modeled and shared to improve teaching practice across the science department.

Innovative and collaborative teaching practices. How is digital collaboration by students in the classroom addressing inequality. And as a leader how can generated innovations from this practice be diffused using Changeology practices (Robinson, 2012).

How do these topics relate to issues in my professional practice?

As society becomes increasingly mobile I am noticing a significant change in the diversity of students, also their significant numbers. Students appear increasing complex in their backgrounds and needs – financial, culture, economic, family norms, literacy, numeracy, behaviour, attitude, values, gender identity, self-awareness (or lack of), engagement with digital media, learning … I am sure there is much more. I don’t think it is because I am just getting older and notice more of these things, or that our school is bringing some of these issues to our attention e.g. our Priority Learners (Ministry of Education, 2016). So topics I have chosen sit well on this complex background, and raise the importance of a collective approach.

How does Wegner’s model help identify my meaningful Communities of Practice?


Wenger’s (2002) model looks at the development, structures and essential elements a group of people have with a shared common ‘aliveness’ interest, and how this is usefully sustained.

“Seven principles of designing (leading) for this aliveness are:
1. Design for evolution
2. Open dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
3. Invite different levels of participation
4. Develop both public and private community spaces
5. Focus on value
6. Combine familiarity and excitement
7. Create a rhythm for the community.”

The key elements are a Joint enterprise: shared domain which is the “collectively developed understanding of what the community is about”.
Mutual engagement: the members engage through interactions within the community, building mutual trust in the relationships.
Shared repertoire: is “the communal resources” that the community of practice produce.

I belong to a wide range of Communities of Practice, for example, our science department, New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE), New Zealand Institute of Physics, the Nelson Bridge Club, Grace Church. And have loosely formed a social ‘Games group’ – which has no formal name, and can be perceived as not being meaningful, yet generates a loyal enthusiastic following.

How would inquiry into these topics contribute and link to learning within my Community of Practice?

When looking into my two suggested topics, two Communities of practice stand out. First and foremost being the science department I dynamically work with and secondly the national NZASE, of which I tend to have a passive role. [Another opportunity to change].

With the science department I can see a more tangible ‘return on investment’ with possibilities for regular face-to-face support and development. Whereas, I need to investigate what channels for sharing and communicating are available through NZASE. This would potentially reach a much wider audience and provide a wider discussion, for instance around shared experiences.

Whatever the topic, or Community of Learning, it needs to have a heart showing passion and desire to make a difference. This, in turn, will yield a deeper purpose to what I do with my students (and staff).


IDEO. Design thinking for educators. Website

Jakes T.D. Image. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2016). Priority learners. Retrieved from

Robinson, L. (2013). Changeology: How to enable groups, communities, and societies to do things they’ve never done before. Brunswick, Vic.: Scribe Public

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of
Practice. Harvard: Harvard Business School Press.

Wenger, E. Image. Retrieved from

A journey to the future

A change in my practice towards future-orientated learning and teaching.

Theme: A curriculum that uses knowledge to develop learning capacity


Ministry of Education (2012) looks at the future challenges in learning and teaching, one of the themes is around learning capacity. I am currently part of a traditional system where Science as part of the curriculum taught in a way to prepare learners knowledge for their traditional assessments which will enable them to access vocational courses toward their preferred career choice. The challenge I am faced with, is how to incorporate a more active approach to knowledge being creative problem solvers around current or future-focused issues as they arise in the moment. These issues may not strictly be scientific, as they can be considerations that are economic, social, political, environmental and influenced by new technologies. In other words, how is the student connected in the real world and able to make sense of a vast array of knowledge in a collaborative complementary way. There is no exclusion for the need that an individual needs knowledge facts and skills, but to consider the extension of what we do with the knowledge. This makes me uncomfortable as I feel constrained by the continued expectations of success measured by results in traditional national assessments and the community expectations from their personal experience of a ‘good’ traditional education.


is in the now. There is no place of ‘calm’ contendedness to feel smug with a job well done. We now lurch between sweeping waves of innovation at every angle we face and wonder how we can navigate, if at all, through what appears chaos. So having a compass and up to date map to guide us through this is vital,

“the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing” (Covey, 2004).

The MindLab course has been a major lurch for change in my thinking as I floundered my ways through conversations of 21st century learning, and the new innovations of the Science Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2014). The most significant document to challenge me to change is the 21CLD learning activity rubric (ITL Research Microsoft, 2015) to flavour my teaching with digital collaboration, future-focused topical issues and adapt my approach in the classroom to embrace habits that challenge mindsets the students have that hinder their progress. This has become my lens to view the Science Curriculum in a new way and make sense of the ‘big picture’ about where it was guiding me and my staff.



is not that I have finished, or even just finished learning. Quite the contrary, this is now an opportunity to steer in a new direction, the start a new course in my journey into future. Strategic plans need to be set revisiting the Science Curriculum taking stock of what the main things of knowing and doing – learning capacity, using my skills as a leader, in a collaborative way.


Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching — a New Zealand perspective. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education. Retrieved from

Covey, S. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York: Free Press.

ITL research Microsoft (2015). 21st century learning design. Retrieved from

Malcolm X (2014). Malcolm X’s Speech at the founding rally of the Organisation of Afro-American unity. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2014). The New Zealand Curriculum, Science. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching: A New Zealand perspective. Retrieved from

creative common attribution licence

How good is the mirror?

MindLab Activity 1 “Critically evaluate your reflective practice”

Examine my current understanding of reflective practice

I completed a MindLab survey to look at my reflective practice. My initial belief’s were that:

  • critical reflection means criticising your own practice, disagree. A consistent response compared with others doing the same survey.
  • critical reflection means criticising your colleagues practice, disagree. Also a consistent response.
  • critical reflection means challenging the existing assumptions and being informed by reliable sources, agree. Another consistent response.
  • critical reflection does not mean you have to read relevant sources, agree. Weakly inconsistent as others tended to disagree, but not significantly like for the other questions.

The survey questions were derived from the work by Finlay (2008).

My reaction to this part of the survey was to assess myself as being much the same as other teachers.

Examine what my current reflective practice is.

The second part of the survey revealed: How often do you reflect on your practice at the following levels?

  • rapid reflection, frequently. A consistent response compared with others doing the same survey.
  • repair, sometimes. A less consistent response compared with others.
  • review, sometimes. Also a less consistent response.
  • research, never. Definitely inconsistent.
  • retheorising and reformulating, never. Also, definitely inconsistent.

A the time of doing the survey it was not clear to me as to what the different practices actually meant. But, reading on in the course it was made clear in the work done by Zeichner and Liston (1996) and with this understanding I would have answered the survey a bit differently. This put me at ease as I was feeling initially anxious that some of my responses were inconsistent.

Examine the ways I put reflection into action

The final part of the survey asked: How often do you reflect on your practice in the following ways?

  • I reflect on my own, frequently. A consistent response compared with others doing the same survey.
  • I talk with my colleagues, sometimes. Also a consistent response compared with others.
  • I write my reflections in my diary, never. A weakly consistent response as the others have wider range of responses.
  • I write my reflections in a blog and share with others, never. A strong consistent response.
  • I tweet my reflections and ask for others’ opinions, never. A strong consistent response.

I do not maintain a diary, but then I do maintain an appraisal OneNote to keep a record of my student feedback with comments.

My most valued current practice for reflection comes from a four question student survey. I ask:

  • What is your teacher doing that is helping me with my learning?
  • What would you like your teacher to do differently to help your learning?
  • What should I be doing differently to improve my learning?
  • Is there anything I should know about, concerning your learning?

The responses are collated and ranked by frequency of similar response. Then, I write a comment to respond to the comments and challenge myself as to what I would like to change in my teaching in the classroom in the future. This is shared with a colleague to help me have some accountability.

The practice of reflective journaling has been well described in a video by SkillsHullUni. The aspects I am challenged to consider for the future are to include more intentional comments about my thoughts, feelings and be more truly reflective. To include: why (did I do it that way?), how (to change in the future), implications (so what? How does that help me?). In addition, to expand this model of critical reflection to other areas of my teaching practice e.g. leadership. As far as embracing the use of a Blog or Tweeting, this would be a new experience that will need for me to overcome my feelings of insecurity in trying these out. MindLab is certainly extending me into these areas.

There are two models of critical reflection that I would like to investigate, so as to provide a more scaffolded approach. ‘Gibb’s (1988) six basic stages of the cycle of reflection’ applied to behavioural management as promoted by Restorative Schools (2009) which focus on accountability, healing & needs. ‘Teaching as inquiry’ Ministry of Education (2009) is the other model which I would like to apply to a classroom to further enhance 21st century style digital collaboration .

The mirror analogy is pertinent and vain, as we can’t see how to improve ourselves if we don’t spend intentional time to look at ourselves.


Finlay L. (2008). Reflecting on reflective practice.  Retrieved from

Gibbs, G (1988, p48) Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. Oxford: Further Education Unit, Oxford Polytechnic.

Hall and Simeral (2017). The cycle of reflective teaching. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2016) Teaching as inquiry. Retrieved from

Restorative schools (2009). Restorative practice. Retrieved from

SkillsHullUni. (2014). Reflective writing . Retrieved from

Zeichner, K. M. and Liston, D. P. (1996) Reflective Teaching: An Introduction. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Creative Commons Licensecreative common attribution licence


Instagram moments #nofiltersscience


He waka eke noa

A canoe which we are all in with no exception

This weeks whakatauki reminded me of one of challenges of social media in the classroom and the question of…

“what is the predominant social media platform (or canoe) that students are using

When some students do and some don’t you can end up trying to broadcast, receive and manage multiple sources of information and create a voice across different platforms.

You would lose your mind. 

I was talking to my class to see what social media platforms they used and what was the favourite flavour of the moment, I was amazed to find nearly every student was an Instagram subscriber. This matches data from Statista from February this year, that 73% of American youth aged 13-24 used Instagram. A survey from Chicago University in April this year stated their has been a shift of preferred platforms by youth to Instagram and Snapchat.

I am an Instagram user so Instagram was a logical choice and I was then left with the challenge of finding ways to leverage this into my teaching. LSU offers a course for Scientists to learn how to use Instagram to promote their work. Instagram is used to promote science, so what better way to learn about science than to use one of the tools used to promote science.

We were studying light and it’s properties and behaviours, linking this to cameras, shutter speed and how lens work to capture light, and seeing how this makes “light painting”  work. There are some fantastic examples and tutorials online where you can learn how to do all manner of effects and photographic magic. Importantly this topic is broad and is totally student driven where many results are possible.

light painting.jpg

If we can all be in the same canoe – it puts the social into social media. Some ideas that I have used are;

  • photo challenges – e.g. create a light painting and explain how you managed to create it, how did you learn to do it? what help did you need? what problems did you have to overcome to get a good photo? What feedback helped you? A student’s light painting below was liked 65 times and received two comments, a much wider audience for a homework than just one teacher. I aim to increase the feedback among students beyond a ‘like’ and get them to improve their feedback skills.


  • Sharing of day to day science that relates to current teaching (or doesn’t)
  • setting challenges (like below)
  • sharing photos of our experiments in class, as evidence of experiment results, homework.


I can see that in the future I would like a way to be able to search for photos easily so getting some consistency in hashtags among students will go a long way to achieving this.

The greatest benefit has come from creating a chance to talk science through a medium that they enjoyed using. Some of the challenges I have set have got others involved, siblings, parents and demonstrated their interests outside the class, another happy outcome. It created so many conversations and opportunities for teaching inside and outside the classroom. It made me look further online to see how others use this app in Science, all of a sudden my world of science and Instagram in education expanded. I enjoyed Katie McKissick’s article (2015) in Scientific American, Using Instagram for Science Communication and her personal goals and reflective thoughts of her journey so far. I liked the way she explains good health behaviours such as vacinations, and explains doctor’s visits and technology such as x-rays and uses them as everyday scientific interest.

My biggest challenge was finding ways to access images, almost every student operated a closed account. I did not want to follow them but in some instances I wanted them to share their work. We got around this when students taught me how to direct message in Instagram.

So far we are all in the same canoe, (the majority with their private cabins). I am excited by the motivation and the enthusiasm shown by students and look forward to developing the use of  further (until the youthful heard moves off to greener pastures and some other new and shiny app).



McKissick, K. (2017). Using Instagram for Science Communication. [online] Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].

ScienceDaily. (2017). New survey: Snapchat and Instagram are most popular social media platforms among American teens: Black teens are the most active on social media and messaging apps. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].

#SciFund Challenge. (2017). New Class: Using Instagram to Boost Your Science. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].

Statista (2017). U.S. teens: most popular social media apps 2017 | Statista. [online] Statista. Available at: [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].



Changing the map – crossing boundaries.

As part of the New Zealand curriculum the principle of coherence means that we should be aiming to create opportunities that make links for our students across our learning areas and as teachers work together to plan and implement cross curricula units.coherence

Fig 1:

By working in an interdisciplinary fashion we can open students eyes to a wider view, to look through many lenses and to foster innovation in our children (Thomas McDonagh Group, 2011).  Innovation is important for our growth as a society and working together to find solutions helps to achieve this.

Next year as a result of our school’s curriculum review an outcome has been the creation of an enrichment program. This is an opportunity for our junior students (year 9 & 10) to choose interdisciplinary subjects that defy our traditional pigeon holes that have been our subject silos (where I have lived comfortably for the last fourteen years).


When I heard they were looking for volunteers to teach one of the courses I jumped from the launching pad of my comfort zone. It was perfect timing, full of  fresh perspectives from the Mindlab, I was looking for a space where the true expression of these ideas could be given their wings. Within my subject area I was able to apply some of the teaching from the course; but what could be achieved with a blank slate, unhindered, unfettered and free to explore possibilities? One of the exciting chances offered by this enrichment program is delivering it with two colleagues from different departments, bringing to bear their experiences from Health & P.E, and English to add to my Science background.

As we start the planning for the course we bring three opinions, viewpoints and backgrounds together. After reading The logic of interdisciplinary studies (1997) by Mathison and Freeman where interdisciplinary, integrated, and integrative approaches to teaching are compared, I would suggest our approach to the “Drive” topic we are creating is an integrated approach rather than interdisciplinary.


Though both share higher order thinking skills, motivation and cognition, we are taking a guided approach rather than authoritative, and valuing inquiry rather than content coverage. An aspect of the integrative approach that will be a factor in our course is citizenship where we hope to use opportunities to discuss digital citizenship in terms of online feedback to others.

My initial understanding was that all these words meant the same thing and I would have thrown thematic units into the mix as well. However, they are all different and at the core of integrated units are the students, negotiating their learning, with teachers scaffolding and guiding them. By negotiating students gain ownership, are motivated and more enthusiastic about their learning. Some of the challenges highlighted by Fraser, Aitken & Whyte, in their book Connecting Curriculum, Linking Learning (2013) were;

  • the messy process of inquiry.
  • the challenge of trying something new and unknown.
  • a lack of knowledge about integrated learning and how it should be applied.

drive plan

Part of the planing for our Drive unit for 2018, focusing on reflection, feedback and self directed inquiry where students choose a new skill and plan their learning, we have used the metaphor of a journey.

My knowledge and understanding as well as my confidence that our planning will be more successful have increased as a result of the readings for this blog. It was perfect timing and has helped shape our thinking. Having two of us involved in the Mindlab course working on the development of our “Drive” unit has been beneficial because we are both on the same page. We are excited, problems look like opportunities and each challenge is a chance to try something new.

We believe the benefits will outweigh any disadvantages and we look forward to seeing if the positive outcomes of increased motivation, reflection, enhanced collaborative skills and critical thinking (Fraser, Aitken, Whyte, 2013) might be the result of our new course.


One of the student templates we are working on for our Drive unit for 2018.


Fraser, D., Aitken, V. and Whyte, B. (2013)Connecting curriculum, linking learning. Wellington: NZCER.

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from (2017). Coherence / Principles / Kia ora – NZ Curriculum Online. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Nov. 2017].

ThomasMcDonaghGroup. ( 2011, May 13). Interdisciplinarity and Innovation Education.. Retrieved from

Practicing Change. Activity 8 by Marcus Swain


changeThe theme of this last reflective post is Change. The 32 weeks of professional development has created change on many levels. The old adage that states ” you don’t know how much you don’t know” comes to mind.  Teachers are task rich and time poor; they are often faced with a myriad of tasks, professional responsibilities plus the nebulous challenge of inspiring our clients to “Reach Beyond” (which is this year’s Waimea College motto). A progressive example of our school’s culture. Stoll (1998). Adding to these vocational requirements is the question of lifestyle balance, where “burnout” can shorten the career of a teacher.

One of the many benefits from this year’s pedagogical pathway has been the time and guidance to “think big” (not like Robert Muldoon). The Mindlab’s  Tuesday evening sessions have provided the opportunity to be exposed to a wider and more in-depth exploration of the tenets of Education.


The busy lifestyle (described above) does not allow for this quality of cognition. The structure and requirements of this professional development created a prioritization of time and practice that has been challenging and liberating at the same time. Enjoying and embracing the new 21st Century learning approaches has been a personal pathway toward the criterion number 4, which demonstrates commitment to on-going professional learning and the development of professional personal practice (Ministry of Education (nd).)


The liberation has resulted in the examination of “Old School” practices where content focus has been the centre of student learning and assessment. As a digital analogy of this form of education it would be a ‘copy and paste’ type of process. Information is delivered (one way), committed to memory (often only in short-term memory), then replicated to be graded. The correct answer was the one most in keeping with the information being delivered. Somewhat devoid of creativity and collaboration and absence of critical thinking.


It seems almost unreal that teachers who are immersed daily in education are part of a system that relies on knowledge that was attained in an institution (for many of us) a long time ago. The Mindlab course exposed the trend that teachers in New Zealand and most other developed countries were more influenced in their pedagogical practice by the way they were taught, rather than research informed practice. Clearly, the need for a more adaptive and collaborative approach is required, (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993) & (Timperley et al, 2014).


An education paradigm change is needed by both staff and students. The participants on the Mindlab course may be the “Innovators” of change identified by Rogers in 1962. The setting up of the Waimea College wordpress public site (see below) can be a marketing tool described by Roger’s theory to help spread the message of change right down to the “laggards” in our profession. (Rogers, E. 2003). The students challenge is to unshackle themselves from the NCEA influence typified by the catch cry ” Is this worth any credits?”.


My next dream/challenge is to incorporate the new changes that research informed practice has shown to be more effective (Benseman, 2013) in my own practice and share this change with my department as a Head of Department. (Criterion 5: Ministry of Education (nd). I look forward to continuing CHANGE.




Benseman, J. (2013) . Research Inform Teaching of Adults.

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from

Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved on 7th May, 2015 from

Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. (Fifth ed.). New York; Free Press

Stoll , L. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Networks Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London.

The Adoption Curve. College word press public site.


Road to Nowhere…

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads

David Byrne recalls in the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads that Road to Nowhere was written with the purpose of creating “a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom.” If you apply this to teaching, what would happen if we just kept teaching without reflecting, without questioning what we were doing and what we knew about teaching? Would we be on the road to nowhere? Could this be an appropriate anthem for non reflective teaching doom?

If we do not question where we’re going and what the world holds for us in it’s changing future, how can we prepare our students for their next steps? Although the lyrics say that the future is certain (in terms of our death) we live in a world were our future is quite the opposite. Our future is changing so rapidly where we cannot be sure of a single job for life, where the future of our communities is under threat from our actions with regards to water, energy, population growth and climate and we need our children and students to be prepared, adaptable and resilient in the face of this uncertainty.

This course has helped to refocus me on where I need to be in my practice and how I can make it more relevant for my students. Rather than being content with what I knew, I am more hungry for what I don’t know, what I can learn. During this course I have questioned things I had accepted as my norms and contrasting these against new ideas helped to create new viewpoints. Just being a part of this course was demonstrating commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice (criteria 4) of our practising teacher criteria.

But the real trick is to not let professional learning be a moment in time, we need it to take on a life of it’s own. We have hopefully breathed life into a reflective professional learning model by helping to promote and demonstrate examples in terms of this blog that is shared to all staff at Waimea College. We hope that this leadership will contribute to help promote effective teaching and learning and give examples of professional knowledge in practice (criteria 5). This has helped make professional development in our school more transparent, accessible and recorded so that it can be accessed in the future. Before valuable professional learning and knowledge were moments in time that were quickly lost or simply not shared across the school as a whole. Now we have a legacy of professional learning that can be shared within and beyond our school. As we start our COL journey I can see this as being a valuable tool in sharing knowledge. Osterman and Kottkamp (1993) point out that reflective practice is most successful when it is collaborative and I have enjoyed not only the sharing of ideas but the feedback from others through our blog, building it together with multiple authors has also been a rewarding process.  It is one thing to be reflective and have a viewpoint but to share this and build and refine these enters into powerful reflective conversations.

I look forward to taking these ideas from the Mindlab and applying them to a new junior course that I am teaching. It has never been offered before and there is a blank check to create it however we want and assess it in whatever manner we see fit…. I look forward to blogging about it soon.

Perhaps the first two lines of Road to Nowhere could be reinterpreted as,

“We could picture where we’re going, by reflecting on where we’ve been”

Week 32 Changes in Practice – Mindlab

Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved on 7th May, 2015 from

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from

creative common attribution licence




A blend or interdisciplinary collaboration of positive and negative space to achieve real-world success 🙂  (See above picture.)

As the Head of Health Education at Waimea College I am aware that the amount and depth of connections with the community is quite limited when compared to my primary colleagues. I am an active Board of Trustee member for Hope Primary School and thus am in awe of the close relationship that the institution has with the surrounding community.

The connections I have as a secondary teacher are outlined in the diagram below. There is a warm sense of intra-department connection born out of the shared experience of teaching the same levels of Health and Physical Education. Team teaching and sharing facilities when it is wet also increases levels of communication, cooperation and collaboration. This professional environment is one in which members of the department feel supported and valued in an otherwise pressured job.

making connections.png

The professional culture of the school has often been commented on by new teachers, relief teachers and visiting educationalists as one that is characterised by warmth, humor and with a view to the future. It is no accident that Waimea College has hosted Mindlab for this reason. Morning briefings are more of a logistic focus and result in increased awareness and understanding. The staff meetings, professional development meetings and committee meetings involve greater levels of interaction and reflection.

The interdisciplinary area which will be the subject of this post is the new Outdoor Leadership course I am designing as part of our schools new enrichment focus on our junior students. The new modules will be trialed in 2018 for the first time. The basis of these new courses is to enrich the students through a more interdisciplinary approach.

This new focus is more in keeping with the 21st century approach to learning. Next Tuesday will involve a meeting of three people (Hamish, Peter & myself) from 3 different departments to collaborate together to produce an interdisciplinary unit using the medium of Outdoor Leadership to best benefit our year 9 students next year. Each participant is bringing ideas to improve on the basic structure, lesson topics and activities that I have put together to date. It is the blending of our ideas that will produce the best results. The teacher will then have the role (visionary) to guide promoting higher levels of integration, Mathison and Freeman, (1997). We will coordinate elements of the different subjects and use an experiential approach to capture the students curiosity and promote their success.


The use of activities viewed through an “Interdisciplinary lens” can foster outcomes for students which create further relevance to further learning such as creativity, collaboration, deeper learning and critical thinking, (Lacoe Ed, 2014). In this way, elements of the “future ready” (Sharples et al. 2016) responsibility of schools for their students  can be realised.

Waimea College has a mission statement to promote life-long learning. Jones (2009) proposes that interdisciplinary learning, because of its nature, promotes life-long learning skills. Many facets of life entail good collaboration, creativity and deeper thinking which are the 21st century skills that the interdisciplinary models described by Mathison and Freeman (1997) seek to produce. I look forward to this modules success in 2018.


Jones, C. (2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7 (26), 76-81. Retrieved from

 Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24) Interdisciplinary Learning . Retrieved from

 Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from


Activity 6: Social On-line networks in teaching practice by Marcus Swain

The world wide web (Connectivity)

The challenge for Health Educators is to achieve a change in behavior of their students, using behavioral models that guide their choices but do not appear to be over-bearing. Students are almost inseparable from their phones as it is an immediate conduit to their friendships. So it is not a surprise that interaction between individuals (their interconnectivity) is a valued practice and therefore in need of guidance. The social capital that networking brings to learning relationships (Melhuish, 2013) can be used to establish a buy-in or “catch-them” strategy for teachers.

The junior Health Education in Waimea College has a module called “Connected” in the year 9 programme which guides our students use of this digital dimension. The teaching focus is both to empower our students (by extending their curiosity and skill level) and guide their use (by increasing their awareness of their digital citizenship). The lack of control over sites, curiosity and enquiry is a double edged sword. On one hand discovery (hopefully guided) can be a motivating factor for students whereas exposure to social media that draws on experiences from others around the world (Sharples et al. 2016) can also be health damaging.

“Experts say kids are growing up with more anxiety and less self-esteem. Many parents worry about how exposure to technology might affect toddlers developmentally. … In fact, experts worry that the social media and text messages that have become so integral to teenage life are promoting anxiety and lowering self-esteem.”

Related Issues that have been analysed at year 10 include pornography and cyber-bullying. The ethical dilemma of pornography (the relevance of digital exposure -unintended and intended) was also examined at year 13 level for New Zealand society, in Health Education.



The intent of the Connected Unit (see yellow highlight, above) with text shown below is to “upgrade” the user. Introducing the advantages of social connectivity accompanied by the use of critical thinking to guide teenagers use of the internet. In this way, as Melhuish (2013) states the risks of : quality control, unplanned ideas, privacy issues and management of information can be diminished through planned and guided digital learning.


As the role of teachers is to educate their students for their future endeavors the educated use of social media and the digital environment could be seen as a core responsibility. ( The advent of the Communities of Learning (COL) and the new digital technology curriculum are steps in the right direction, (Digital Technologies).



Child Mind:

Communities of Learning:

Core Responsibility

Digital Technologies:

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from…

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from


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