Monday, January 20, 2020

Master the Coaching Cycle

A couple of days ago I posted my first response to the social medial challenges for coaches designed by Eduro Learning. Today I had a look at Resolution #2 which is about the coaching cycle.  In this downloadable resource there is an infographic showing the 4 phases of the coaching cycle. 

Our question was what area of the coaching cycle we would like to develop further.  I decided I'd reflect on Step 2, identifying a goal.

In my experience as a coach I've noticed that often teachers come into a coaching cycle thinking they want to “do something” for their goal. What I have discovered as a coach is that often the “do” part of the goal is just the tip of the iceberg: there is a lot going on under the surface and through careful questioning a deeper goal may emerge. For example, the real goal may be that a teacher wants to feel a valued member of the school community, or they may want to be more creative and reflective in their teaching, or they may want to be more effective, resourceful and successful. Identifying these deeper goals will often be necessary in order to coach effectively in Step 3 which is supporting a teacher’s professional growth.

If you would like to participate in the Eduro coaching resolutions this is available as a free digital download here.

What's New and Different: Leadership in the PYP

This blog post continues with the series about what is new and different in the Enhanced PYP.  For this post I decided to look at leadership which now has a whole section dedicated to it in the learning community section of the digital resource.  The section opens with the statement "School leadership is second only to classroom teaching as an influence on student learning".  For the first time in the PYP documentation the leadership capabilities have been defined.  Leaders provide direction, promote a shared vision and acknowledge the agency of all members of the community.  They work with others to create a shared purpose, rather than imposing goals on the community.  Important too is the idea that leaders need to motivate others to take on formal and informal leadership roles so that responsibilities are shared among the learning community.

Formal leadership in a school comprises of the pedagogical leadership team - this is generally the head of school along with the PYP coordinator and may also include the director and assistants heads.  This team is responsible for ensuring the Programme Standards and Practices are being implemented and is also responsible for the school's Action Plan that ensures the school is making continuous improvement.  Informal leadership refers to the role of teachers leading their classes and inquiring into their own practices.  It also involves student leadership.  Informal leadership is increasingly important because no one person can meet all the responsibilities.  Shared ownership of responsibilities in turn promotes voice, choice and agency throughout the community and stimulates innovation because all members of the community are open to new ideas as they inquire, reflect and learn.

I think one of the most important points made by the new Leadership document is the emphasis on sustainable leadership.  This is done by fostering leadership capabilities and planning for long-term succession through a distributed leadership model.

There are seven leadership capabilities defined by the IB that can be briefly described as follows:
  1. Strategic - forward thinking, big picture thinking, aligning people behind a shared set of goals
  2. Cultural -  creating a culture that celebrates diversity as being essential for intercultural learning
  3. Pedagogical - building individual and institutional knowledge through PD
  4. Entrepreneurial - anticipating change and responding in creative ways
  5. Relational - understanding and supporting all stakeholders to achieve better outcomes for students
  6. Reflective - using thinking strategies and placing critical reflection at the core of the organisation
  7. Heuristic - insight and inference allows quick decisions to be made with the big picture in mind
This section on leadership is new and different and reflects recent research that shows that schools that emphasise continuous improvement are more likely to implement innovative practices.    To do this, all members of the learning community need to be supported in their growth.

Photo Credit: alicecahill Flickr via Compfight cc

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Define (or redefine) your role as a coach

This week I've had a bit of time to look at the social media challenges designed by Eduro Learning.  These challenges are intended to be used as Resolutions for Coaches for the New Year.  Resolution #1 is about redefining your role.  As the downloadable resource explains, a big challenge as a coach is to define your role not only for yourself but for your whole school community.  In many schools the position of a coach is a new one, and many coaches don't even have job descriptions that accurately encompass all that they do.  A video is provided as part of Resolution #1 where Kim Cofino defines the 5 key roles as a coach:
  1. being a listener
  2. being an advocate for teacher needs
  3. being a content area expert
  4. being a partner in learning
  5. being a data collector
I sent my 3 takeaways from this video to Tricia at Eduro Learning and she kindly made these into lovely images which I'm sharing here.

You can get your free copy of the Coach Better Resolutions by following this link.  You can also check out the Coach Better TV that contains a myriad of resources to help you in your coaching journey as well as information about all the great professional development on offer from Eduro Learning.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

What's new and different: Technology in the PYP

This post is the second one about the PYP Enhancements and what is new and different as opposed to a deeper focus.  For today's post I decided to write about technology as this is an area I've been heavily involved in at all of the 4 PYP schools where I've worked.  The previous guidelines in Making the PYP Happen were sketchy to say the least: in the entire 146 page document there were only 14 mentions of technology!

The PYP has always maintained that ICT is not a separate subject, but a tool that facilitates learning.  As a result it is mentioned as a communication skill, where technology can be used for effective presentation and representation, and also as a way of connecting the PYP classroom to the wider world.  It was also recognised that acquiring the skills related to ICT was an important aspect of visual literacy - in particular because images can be very persuasive.  Technology is also mentioned in both the science and social studies scope and sequence documents, basically recognising the impact that advances in technology have had on society and the environment.  There is also about half a page dedicated to the impact of ICT on teaching and learning, with the advice to train all staff to integrate technology to enhance student inquiries and to support the needs of individual learners.  We were advised to use technology to document learning and to provide rapid feedback and reflection.

In PYP: From principles into practice the role of technology is more explicit as students are learning technology, learning about technology and learning through technology.  It is also clear in this document that technology includes both digital (computer, camera, iPad) and non-digital tools and resources (pencil, books, games).   Drawing on the IB Continuum Series Teaching and Learning with Technology, the focus is on integration rather than implementation (please see an earlier blog post I wrote about this in 2014).  Areas where technology is seen as being of vital importance is in developing students' literacy, competence and confidence.   Much of the deepened focus on technology can be found in the following paragraph:
Technology learning and teaching in the PYP is best supported, strengthened and extended within the transdisciplinary programme of inquiry where students can apply technology in purposeful and authentic contexts. Seamless integration of technology enhances student agency, enabling students to learn in any context—formally and informally, through individual and social learning, and in any time and place. Therefore, all members of the learning community are technology teachers responsible for both the learning and teaching of technology, as well as its integration.
 I love how explicit this is:  we are all technology teachers in the same way that we are all language teachers.  Technology should not be confined to a lab that students go to for one or two lessons each week, it should be seamlessly integrated.

Digital citizenship is also mentioned:
Learning communities support students in becoming responsible digital citizens, who make informed, ethical choices while acting with integrity. In a globally connected digital world, students are responsible for their actions, value the rights of others, exercise academic integrity, and practise safe and legal behaviours.  
The last post unpacked the Enhancements for the early learners, in the Technology in the PYP section they are also mentioned.  Young children presented with technology will first of all explore its functionalities before moving onto innovation where they can use the device in a new context.  Early years teachers are encouraged to have plenty of old devices around for students to investigate through touching, seeing and hearing.

Learning technology
Students learn about the functions of technology tools and resources, and they develop the capability to make use of technology to engage with opportunities and challenges in order to find creative solutions.  One subset of this is students using technology for research, for example for gathering and recording data during inquiries and to document and present their learning.

Learning about technology
Students learn about technology in the world, for example coding, robotics, sports equipment and so on.  Technology literacy is an important aspect of learning about technology, and involves using tools such as rulers, protractors and colouring pencils.  Students learn which technologies are most appropriate depending on the task.

Multiliteracies such as digital, media, information, critical and design literacy are all explained, including how technology literacy encourages multimodality - understanding and communicating using different modes of expression such as print, images and sounds.  Computational thinking is also part of technology literacy: even very young children can understand how to follow a series of steps to solve a problem or to write a series of steps to design and build their own solutions.  The document also has a section on design thinking and how moving beyond following directions can lead to creative and innovative solutions that address opportunities and challenges.  The PYP now encourages the incorporation of Makerspaces into the curriculum, providing students will real-world experiences.  Students also learn that a solution to one problem may well create another problem.

Because technology is so powerful in connecting schools, students need to understand how opportunities bring with them the requirement for being responsible digital citizens when using technology and how inappropriate behaviours can impact themselves and others.

Learning through technology
Students use technology to explore and extend their inquiries, therefore technology encourages the development of important elements in the Approaches to Learning.  Technology sub-skills include investigating, organising, deating, communicating through multiliteracies, and collaborating in online spaces.  Technology also facilitates students learning about multiple perspectives.

The main message I'm getting about technology in the Enhanced PYP is that the focus has to be on using technology purposefully to transform the learning.  Technology should not be driving the learning - and it is for this reason that if there is a dedicated technology teacher, he or she should be working with the students in their classrooms (the same is true of the librarian who should also be coming into the learning environment).  Remember too, that technology now needs to be documented in the learning environment field of the planner.

And, as always, here is a video showing how we did this at ASB.

Photo Credit: pennstatenews Flickr via Compfight cc

Monday, December 30, 2019

What's new and different: The Early Years

As a way of getting back into blogging for 2020, I decided I'd write a series of posts about what is new and different in the Enhanced PYP.  I decided that I'd start with the Early Years, since I'm preparing for a workshop in February which focuses on this age group, and also because the PYP has always recognised that the experiences during the early years lay the foundations for all future learning.  This has always been seen as a crucial stage of learning, with rapid development taking place in the physical, social, emotional, intellectual and aesthetic abilities.

In the previous curriculum document, Making the PYP Happen, there was no section that was entirely dedicated to the Early Years.  Teachers had to read through the entire document and pull out the areas that were most relevant.  One important paragraph was this one:
Teachers of students in the early years are encouraged to support students’ interests, build up their self esteem and confidence, and respond to spontaneous events, as well as support the development of skills in all cognitive areas in relevant ways. Children, from birth, are full of curiosity, and the PYP provides a framework that gives crucial support for them to be active inquirers and lifelong learners. 
In the Enhancements, the online resource PYP: From Principles into Practice is much more explicit about the early learner, and the age range has been extended from ages 3 - 6 (previously this was 3 - 5).  There is also a more specific directive that supporting children's growth requires that all members of the learning community value this as being a time where play is the driver for inquiry.  In fact play is so important that teachers must plan uninterrupted time for play as well as creating responsive and interactive learning spaces for play, because play provides opportunities for children to develop in all the key developmental domains.

Just as in the older grades, the programme of inquiry for early years students is organised into transdisciplinary themes.  In the case of the early years, the school may choose a minimum of four units for these age groups, two of which must be Who we are, where students learn about identity, relationships, well-being and being part of a community, and How we express ourselves, where the focus is on discovery, creativity and the expression of ideas and feelings.  The idea here is that the units of inquiry are iterative and flexible and that they centre on concepts of significance in the lives of the students.

The role of the teacher is now much more explicit.  Whereas previously schools and teachers were able to determine the frequency of play, now this is a central and protected part of learning.  Again, previously play may not often have been documented in PYP schools, now the teacher should be actively documenting the inquiry that emerges through play.  As well as this, by listening attentively, teachers can plan learning experiences such as stories, songs and rhymes, that extend students' language capabilities and encourage the development of their communication skills.

An important role for teachers is that of creating stimulating learning environments and experiences where students can develop at their own pace and where individual children can follow different pathways.  The key word here is flexibility as teachers plan, facilitate and co-construct inquiries, scaffold and reflect on both student learning and their own teaching.  Timeframes and routines need to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the students.

Children are natural inquirers, and the PYP teacher recognises them as curious and capable learners with a sense of agency.  The central features of early years are:
  • Play as the primary vehicle for inquiry, with planning for uninterrupted time for play
  • Building strong relationships with students and their families
  • Creating and maintaining responsive/interactive learning spaces for play
  • Offering many opportunities for symbolic exploration and expression.
Let's think about each of these in turn.

As mentioned earlier, play provides benefits for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.  There needs to be a careful balance between student-initiated play and teacher-initiated experiences, in particular because play involves choice based on personal interests and therefore promotes agency.  Through play children construct meaning about themselves, their peers and the world as their ideas develop in the light of new experiences.  They also develop self-regulation through play.  During the time given for play, teachers initiate different learning experiences, both indoors and outdoors, and they interact with the students, responding in ways that will extend the learning, while monitoring and documenting this learning against individual developmental milestones.

The family is now seen as a crucial component of early inquiry, so encouraging positive relationships between home, family and school will provide a strong basis for learning.  Trust, agency and belonging are fundamentally important for child development, and building strong relationships are essential for an effective learning community.

Learning spaces
Effective early years education relies on the creation of safe, stimulating and inviting learning spaces that encourage exploration and learning through play.  Teachers need to pay attention to the structure, purpose and function of learning spaces including the provision of a range of materials as well as areas for various forms of play (role play, block play, the arts).  The learning spaces should be flexible, providing for many different learning experiences.  Students should be involved in the design and construction of these spaces and there should be choices for both group and individual play.  Displays in these spaces are important and should reflect the process of student learning.

Symbolic exploration and expression
Becoming literate and numerate is an important aspect of the early years, and one that evolves over time based on a student's developing abilities.  The development of understandings in language and maths is encouraged through interest- and inquiry-based explorations.

Here's a video of the EY areas in my old school.  What do you notice about the spaces and about teaching and learning that goes on there? 

Photo Credit: VisitLakeland Flickr via Compfight cc

Draw - don't write!

Several months ago, after my mother died, I decided to join a sketchbooking class in my village that was run by a local artist.  The reasons for this were that firstly I needed to do something to fill the "gap" in my life - I had spent so much time every week with mum and I needed to find other things to do in that time.  Secondly, it only really struck me after my mum died that I'd spent a lot of time supporting her, but that I didn't have a support system myself.  I knew that I needed to reach out to other people.  Thirdly, I thought that drawing would be a challenge.  Mum was a very good artist, and my daughter Rachel has obviously inherited that too.  I'd never really tried to learn to draw, so this was a challenge.  I started in July being given one thing to sketch every day - the idea was to spend 6 minutes every day sketching something that was suggested by our teacher.  After that we moved onto drawing things we were drinking and the following month things that were made up of circles.  The group then did Inktober, and finally at the end of the year started meeting in a garden centre where we sketched flowers and then Christmas items.  I'm not the greatest sketcher, but I have improved.

I was interested, therefore, to look at the Edutopia video about how drawing is a better way of learning than writing notes.  This was borne out by a study showing students who drew information remembered nearly twice as much as students who wrote things down.  This is because drawing uses visual, kinesthetic and linguistic areas of the brain all at the same time, which leads to more connections being built in the brain.   The video below gives 4 ideas for educators to incorporate more drawing into their teaching.

Photo credit:  Original artwork from sketchbooking class.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

60 Nice Things

Back in March I decided that I needed to do at least one nice thing for myself every week (this was at a time when I was looking after mum and I needed to "fill up my own cup" so that I could do this well).  I called my project for the year 60 Nice Things and decided I'd post about them so that in the bleak days I would have something to look forward to and nice things to look back on.  This followed on from the previous year's project which I'd called Finding Joy Everyday - and that was also at a time when joy was sometimes elusive - I forced myself to find the good in every day things and to appreciate the things I had.  This year's project was a little different as it would involve be actually choosing to DO something:  it was active rather than passive.  Currently I'm at number 52.

The vast majority of "nice things" I've chosen to do have involved travel - 10 of them in fact.  Many
of these involved pushing myself out of my comfort zone to travel alone, for example to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and to the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa.  Others, such as deciding to go to St Petersburg and Dublin, were done with friends and family.

Almost as many "nice things" were done locally.  These were visits to stately homes, gardens, wildlife refuges and so on in England, and another 7 "nice things" were done in and around my village and included saying yes to things like African drumming, joining a sketchbooking group, taking a photography course, climbing up to the top of the village church, a duck race on the local river, the World Pea Shooting Championship (yes it happens just up the road from me) and a scarecrow hunt.

Museums and art galleries have featured strongly as well - 8 "nice things" were going to exhibitions, some combined with travel such as The Louvre in Abu Dhabi, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.  Another 8 "nice things" involved going to live music, plays and ballet.  I've also been to several live screenings of plays and ballets.

Finally some of the nice things have involved food and drink - for example gin and chocolate pairing in Johannesburg, or pampering such as massage.

This is obviously a bit of a personal post - not a professional one.  I will get back to blogging about

technology and the PYP soon I promise.  But for now, in this hard year, I'm just happy to be nearly at the end of it and to have grown stronger as a person by saying YES.

Oh, and by the way I've also said Yes to a couple of things for next year as well.  I'm going to fly to Uzbekistan and travel along the Silk Road.  I'm also going to walk the South West Coastal Path to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society in honour of my mother.

Watch this space!