Learning Reflection #3

Spring is in the air!  🙂

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for me. I’ve found it quite difficult to get back into the swing of things after the break. After having such an intensive session with the SP4Ed and being on a high from that, then being very assessment focused through the break, I’ve struggled a bit to get back into the routine of ‘regular’ online coursework. Having a wisdom tooth out early this week didn’t help…..ouch!! The initial readings for this section took some time for me to engage with, but doing the school evaluations using the eLPF frameworks really did a great job at grounding my thinking and pulling me back in. I found the framework clearly highlighted the major areas needing attention in each of the schools I evaluated, and as such I can see how this framework will be a very useful tool for schools. It’s a model that I think would also be especially beneficial to be used as part of a systemic education reform, such as is currently happening in Abu Dhabi. The school I evaluated (and many others would be the same) sits pretty well contained within one phase, perhaps making it more straightforward to plan school-wide next steps and to provide structured guidance / support from above.

The evaluation task itself, along with my readings throughout this course, reemphasized for me the idea that truly effective change does not just happen within individual classrooms. While classroom level change is of course positive for both learners and teachers and can have a flow on effect to other staff members, without the support of the school leadership team the overall spread and impact will be minimal. The importance of a shared school vision and strategic plan, which teachers, students and community all have a hand in developing, is essential. Also essential is a fostering of a collaborative and cooperative professional community amongst school staff, whether they be teachers, learning aides, leadership team etc.

I did find it somewhat worrying that the idea of digital citizenship has not featured in discussions at any level within either of the schools I chose to evaluate. This is an essential area and perhaps something that needs to be supported / guided at a national level. I know some schools have excellent Digital Citizenship courses – it would be great to get these examples out to other schools for their use. Sharing is caring! In fact, the principle of openness is perhaps something that could become part of the higher phases of the eLPF.

It was also interesting to note that within each of the framework categories, the NZ school I was looking at sat at different phases for each of the bullet points within a single category. I’m not yet sure what this means or how significant it is but it’s given me food for thought.

 

School evaluations

I’ve chosen to evaluate two schools using the eLPF framework – one local to NZ and one from overseas.

SCHOOL 1:

To begin with, I’m evaluating a local girls’ Cycle 3 (grades 10-12) school from Abu Dhabi. This is not a city school. It is located about 40 minutes drive from the city, in what is a very traditional, conservative desert area. Girls having to attend school is a very new phenomenon and a lot of parents are not yet convinced of the need for it. A large number of girls leave school during the penultimate or final year in order to marry and start a family. However, the number looking to move on to tertiary education is growing steadily.  In order to conduct this assessment I used data gathered through my time working there as an Advisor as well as personal observation and a selection of draft policy documents.

I have rated this school overall as Pre-Emergent.

Leadership:                            pre-emerging

Prof Learning:                       borderline emerging

Beyond Classroom:               pre-emerging

Tech and Infrastructure:     pre-emerging

Teaching & Learning:           emerging but needing to develop an awareness of digital citizenship

Evaluation of Abu Dhabi school using eLPF framework

Evaluation of Abu Dhabi school using eLPF framework

It is interesting to see the areas where the school is working in the emerging phase – these are all categories in which teachers are largely in control. In some departments, there is a high level of collegial support in order to up-skill weaker teacher’s technology skills and there are some examples across all curriculum areas of technology use beginning to be explored. What is missing is a commitment from the leadership team and the development of a school-wide approach. Interestingly, the major drive in technology use is not always coming from the English department, which is what one might reasonably predict given that teachers within this department are all Western expats with varying degrees of training and experience from their home countries.

Looking at the situation in this school, it is clear that commitment and vision from the leadership team is needed. As Owston (2007) found, support from school administration is an essential part of effective innovation. In terms of individual teacher level, departments could look at developing strong communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) within and across departments in order to support early stages of innovation while they wait for senior management to come on board.

  • Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Owston, R. (2007). Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology: an international study. Journal of Educational Change, 8, 61-77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10833-006-9006-6

SCHOOL 2:

The second school I have chosen to look at is a state-integrated boys’ secondary school from the lower north island of NZ. In order to conduct this assessment I used knowledge gained from my long-standing interactions with the school combined with an interview of one of the HODs and available policy / strategic documents.

I have rated this school overall as Emerging.

Leadership:                           emerging, but only just – investigation and raising awareness is just starting to begin this week

Prof Learning:                       emerging – insufficient prof learning activities in order to achieve engaging status

Beyond Classroom:              straddling emerging/engaging

Tech and Infrastructure:     engaging

Teaching & Learning:           straddling emerging/engaging, needing to develop an awareness of digital citizenship

Evaluation of NZ school using eLPF framework

Evaluation of NZ school using eLPF framework

In carrying out this investigation, what became clear is that the school lacks a clear vision related to eLearning / digital technologies and that leadership in this area is severely lacking. In interviewing the HOD it was interesting to hear her comments on the fact that internal conflict was hampering a school wide, holistic approach. This really highlights the importance of a cohesive, supportive team across all levels of schooling – how often do school politics get in the way of building the most effective learning experience for students?

What was also interesting was to see the number of phases where the school is currently straddling the emerging / engaging categories. Usually this is because under one of the bullet points the school was at the emergent phase, while at the other it was at the engagement phase. However, sometimes it was because small pockets of individual teachers were sitting in the engaging category but the majority was clearly still emerging. The HOD informed me that this week there a staff survey on digital technology in schools is being sent out and she believes this is in order to inform a review of the school strategic plan and vision. In our interview, the word ‘haphazard’ was used a lot. This reemphasizes the need for the school to come together and really develop a shared vision in order to be able to move forward as one. It seems that this is beginning to happen which is definitely a positive step forward.

In terms of assessment, the HOD talked about some discussion that has been going on privately amongst teachers as to how the can make changes and utilize technology to suit different learning and assessment styles of students. However, this has all been focused around the junior classes as the senior teachers feel restricted to a paper-based approach as a result of NCEA pressure and requirements.

A short reflection….

What this exercise has highlighted for me, along with my readings throughout this course, is that effective change cannot just happen within individual classrooms. While this is of course positive for both learners and teachers, and can have a flow on effect to other staff members, without the support of the school leadership team the overall spread and impact will be minimal. The importance of a shared school vision and strategic plan, in which teachers, students and community all have a hand in developing, is essential. Also essential is a fostering of a collaborative and cooperative professional community amongst school staff, whether they be teachers, learning aides, leadership team etc.

A final comment – I found it somewhat worrying that the idea of digital citizenship has not featured in discussions at any level within either of the schools. This is an essential area and perhaps something that needs to be supported / guided at a national level. I know some schools have excellent Digital Citizenship courses – it would be great to get these examples out to other schools for their use. Sharing is caring! 🙂 In fact, the principle of openness is perhaps something that could become part of the higher phases of the eLPF.

 

Disclaimer: This assessment was conducted as a personal learning exercise to gain an understanding of the eLPF. My assessment was not data based and was restricted to observation, personal conversation and public documentation, without detailed insight into all organisational processes.

Learning Reflection 2

Reflecting on the Scenario Planning assignment….

I found this assignment very challenging, but at the same time extremely enjoyable. I got a lot out of having to think in a way which was new to me, but within a framework which I could see the benefits of. In terms of life beyond study, I can see how this planning methodology is useful in what I want to set up next year and am very happy to have been introduced to it! I think it has a lot of benefits not only in education, but also in a community setting (as in the North Star South African scenarios). Part of the difficulty I faced initially was in setting uncertainties for my context, as I felt hesitant to trust my own knowledge of the UAE context when faced with using this new methodology, and instead was thinking of uncertainties first and trying to apply them to the context, rather than focusing in on the needs of my chosen context and considering what, in reality, are the key uncertainties applicable to their education system right now. Once I had this realization I found things began to flow a lot more easily.  I really enjoyed writing the actual scenarios and can certainly see both options as equal likelihoods.  I did struggle with the implications initially (you were going to get a bullet point list at one stage) because I was confused on how to interpret the ‘taking account of multiple stakeholders’. So I thought about it long and hard and went back to my initial overview which reminded me that my scenario context was ADEC, and so then considered what implications there were for them with regard to multiple stakeholders. This gave me a slightly different lens to look through and as a result I’ve summarized key implications that ADEC should consider that would affect themselves, teachers, learners, and in one scenario also a business stakeholder. This approach seemed to me to be logical and useful and resulted in my thinking being much more wide-ranging. Overall I think working through this assignment (& the associated SP4ED activities) has provided me with a valuable learning journey and a new tool that I can take away and make use of many times over.    🙂

I think I’ve got it…

Okay, am totally tempted not to tag this with either #edem630 or #sp4ed……surely my ramblings and wanderings as I use this blog to muddle my way through are going to become ho-hum!    (great word :p)

My thinking now, with food in my belly and the remnants of pretty much a whole tree around me, is that I’ve found some clarity.

With my Abu Dhabi hat on….

Issue: what will education in 2030 look like?

Axis ‘thingys’ : one axis on the uncertainty regarding personalisation of learning –  what is learnt, how and why etc. Who will be ‘in control’ of the learning? Student vs govt / central agency. A second axis exploring idea of fragmented, individualistic vs. cohesive, community at the other.

Technology (broad sweeping term here for now) is a trend – it will impact on education regardless of which scenario is to come true. But how it will impact will be different for each. So I’ll explore technology within each quadrant. Then, when writing the conclusion to the scenario I’ll make implications for change, such as relating to assessment practices, rethinking rules on BYOD & establishing culturally-required safetynets etc.

Yep, don’t worry – the actual matrix is still to come. My indecipherable scribble is about to be technologized!    :p

Definitely still open to comments on the earlier post though, and the idea of having ‘assessment’ as a key uncertainty.

Knowing me, my mind will change again…….(yes, small writing for a reason!)

Help needed…

Looking for some advice about the scenario matrix – I’ve been looking at the marking rubric for the overall assignment and it’s made me pull my head out of storyland and get back to the real world a bit….easy to go off on a storywriting tangent!  🙂

Firstly, I’m not sure whether to use as my issue:

–           What will assessment look like in 2030?    OR

–           ‘What will education look like in 2030?’ and to then explore assessment within that.
What would you recommend?

In terms of the axis for my matrix, I’m planning to have one which is to do with centralized control vs learner choice (prosumer)…..very similar to the axis on the Knowledgeworks matrix.

For the other axis I have three ideas and I’m confused about which to go with:

  1. I was thinking of having ‘what is the knowledge worth knowing?’, and having ‘content with an undertone of skills’ vs ‘competencies with an undertone of content.’ But does this give enough scope? Or is it too narrow? I’ve brainstormed each of the quadrants (lots of fun!) but not sure if it fits within ‘plausible’ and has a clear enough interplay with trends.
  2. Another option I’ve been brainstorming is ‘technology high impact….technology low impact’. If I were doing this then obviously my issue would have to be looking at assessment in 2030, as it’s a given that tech will play a big role in education in 2030. But do you also think that it’s a given technology will play a role in assessment?
  3. The final idea in my head is to do with ‘individualistic vs community’ 

Don’t know if this makes sense…definite stream of consciousness! Feedback appreciated  🙂

Hmmm….a few hours later and a few more thoughts later – how much does this assignment have to tie in to our research topic? Ie. do I have to consider assessment here, as that’s what I’m doing my research topic on. Or is this completely stand alone?

m

Trending 1-2-3

 Thinking about trends in education….

What is my context?

Secondary school education, particularly senior secondary and looking at trends with a focus on what is likely to drive change in assessment practices. I have links to both the NZ and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi education systems. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to focus in on one of these or keep a more general perspective. To be determined….!

However, given the international world we live in and the way education is becoming increasingly more global, in the case of these two settings major trends influencing education that have relevance to assessment practices are the same.

It’s interesting to read both the Horizon reports and CORE Education’s top ten trends, as well as conduct a Google search into trends affecting education – it seems (as I guess would be expected or else they wouldn’t be trends!) that everyone is identifying the same key things. Narrowing it down to the two or three that seemed most relevant to the context I’m exploring was quite difficult as there is a lot of interrelatedness and intertwining! But here goes:

  • Personalisation of learning & learning pathways

As teachers become facilitators of learning and students take a more self-directed approach, it seems possible that assessment could / would / should follow suit. The issue of how to engage today’s learners and how to best educate them in today’s Knowledge Economy has been discussed for a long time now, with a more personalised approach to learning coming up as one possible solution. Also, there is an increased awareness in the need to develop certain skills and competencies in our youth, rather than fill them with information (which may have been appropriate in the Industrial Age but does not work in a world where Google instantly tells all). Thus, having a personalised ‘content’ curriculum, while fostering particular skills such as collaboration, networking and self-reflection, is becoming ever more useful. Technology is an aid to this in that it allows students around the world to connect with each other and essentially opens up the whole world within a classroom.

  • Shift in education paradigms to include blended learning and collaborative models + social learning and a blurring of the boundaries between formal and informal learning

Classrooms are no longer the 4-walled space they used to be, with technology being used in lessons in a variety of ways to enhance learning. Teachers are making use of web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis etc to build a community of collaboration within their classrooms and extend outwards to family, community and the world. Students are increasingly engaging in social learning tasks, both face-to-face and virtually, as well as conscious self-reflection. This reflection process may not even always be as a part of formal schooling, but could be informally, such as through a personal blog.  As Vygotsky’s theory of sociocultural learning details, this two part process of social interaction combined with intraflection is a key part of development.  I believe this shift in education paradigms could impact on assessment by influencing a similar shift in assessment paradigms, forcing us to reconsider our reasons for and ways of assessing.

  • Access – Open source software, web 2.0, BYOD, cloud storage, etc enabling ease of use and widespread accessibility

More and more schools are adopting a BYOD policy, working with collaborative online tools and making use of open source software, both within classrooms and for school admin. Large amounts of free ‘in the cloud’ storage is available to schools, as are a wide variety of free web-based tools (eg. Google sites).  This means that having technology as a key feature of any assessment program is much more viable and cost effective. Also, students can have access anytime, anywhere, meaning assessment no longer needs to be tied to a particular time or place.

What else could impact on assessment practices in the future?

  • If there is a continued move towards competencies and skills over content knowledge
  • Assessment for learning continues to grow, whereas assessment of learning is seen as no longer valuable
  • Student expectations of why they are learning, and why they are being assessed
  • Changes to tertiary sector assessment practices, as senior secondary may feel a need to move in a similar direction
  • Virtual & ubiquitous learning

 A final thought….

Given the length of time it takes to make widespread changes to assessment practices, perhaps it needs to be even more visionary and make forward-thinking, innovative change now, rather than following along behind, out of touch and out of date with the realities of those it seeks to assess. 

Through the eyes of a decision maker…

Scenario: A Vibrant Learning Grid (KnowledgeWorks)

I have chosen to review the scenario through the lens of an Advisor to the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) strategic planning senior management team. ADEC are currently in the middle of a staggered roll out of the New School Model (NSM) in all public schools from KG through to Grade 12. Teachers in the public schools are a mix of native Arab teachers (from the UAE as well as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan etc) and Western-trained expatriate teachers (largely from the US but also other Western countries). In addition, ADEC have recently begun to take a more active approach to monitoring private schools in the Emirate.

 

Summary:

In the scenario A Vibrant Learning Grid learners have a great deal of autonomy over their learning and are able to select learning experiences suited to their needs from within a vibrant learning ecosystem. Learning is available on an as/when needed basis and students work with personal education advisors to develop their own individual pathway. Physical school buildings still exist but they have become more a hub for the community, and a place for networking and collaboration. Open access and collaboration amongst learning providers is an essential aspect of this scenario. One potential issue arises in ensuring learning experiences are equally accessible to all, especially with parents taking more control of managing their child’s education. Another is that learners who have not had the opportunity to develop key skills such as networking and coordination may find navigating the learning terrain difficult and so miss out on opportunities.

Key drivers of change:

–       Personalization of education

–       Development of a learning ecosystem within which many providers operate as part of a coherent whole

Decision brainstorming (framed as questions)

  • What strategies can we put in place now to ensure that the education ecosystem available to our learners is compatible with our Islamic values and culture?
  • How can we develop links with other Gulf countries in order to work towards the establishment of a strong geographical learning community within the region? Should we also consider establishing ties with other Muslim countries outside the Gulf? What about international ties?
  • How should we go about setting up a digital resource library so that resources are open access and can be easily accessed by our own learners and those within our geographical learning community?
  • Does the NSM adequately provide for the development of skills such as visual literacy, collaboration, networking and flexibility? If not, what changes do we need to make to ensure learners are challenged and guided to develop in these, and other, skill areas?
  • Should we continue hiring Western-trained native English speaking teachers or should we focus on developing our own localized teacher education programs?
  • What will be our physical ‘school’ space? What will it look like and what will we offer? What about our virtual space?
  • What is our virtual space? What formal and/or informal learning can we offer already?
  • How can we develop the private school sector so that they become a part of our overall learning community and not separate entities, from the public sector and from each other?
  • Related to the above question, what steps can we take to develop a stronger sense of community within education? How can we make better use of resources outside of the regular school setting?
  • Should we continue to be moving towards bilingual English education? Or should we look at returning to having English as a foreign language option and open the door for students to learn other languages, as chosen by them?
  • Is our NSM serving us for the future? Should we review it again in light of a move towards personalized learning pathways?
  • How can we modify our current assessment design to reflect the fact that learners will be choosing their own pathways and there will be less standardized curriculum content?

Two most important strategic decisions:

  1. Develop links within local and regional community to establish a strong geographical learning ecosystem in which a majority of members share the same values and beliefs while at the same time incorporating an outer ring of international connections. This ecosystem should develop in a way that sees it offering learning opportunities that are extensive in depth and breadth and embrace both the homegrown as well as global. It should also embrace the principles of open access. As part of this, ADEC should develop a plan for establishing it’s own virtual identity.
  2. Review the New School Model before it is rolled out in Cycle 3 schools to consider the following issues and make changes as necessary:
    • Curriculum – is it flexible enough to allow students to personalize their own learning pathway?
    • Skills – does it foster the development of key skills, such as visual literacy, collaboration, networking and flexibility?
    • Assessment – does the proposed assessment system support (a) and (b) above?

Why these two decisions? Due to the fact that these two decisions address the key drivers of change behind the Vibrant Learning Grid scenario. Without addressing these two key areas now, it will be difficult for ADEC to be a successful educational organization should this scenario come true. The other decisions that need to be made in part are dependant on the above decisions first having been worked through. For example, without a thorough review of the NSM there would be no point in changing the policy on hiring western trained teachers. Likewise, setting up a digital libray and moving towards open access resources would most effectively be done as part of an overarching plan to establish a virtual identity.

Transferability?

Decision 1: The idea of building close community ties within the UAE (and potentially also the Gulf region) is transferable across all the other scenarios. Close collaboration amongst local entities is important in all cases, but in different ways and for different reasons. For example, in the Providers Control Scarce Resources scenario, community-based groups will have to work in partnership will school to ensure some kind of learning opportunities exist and are shared equitable amongst learners. By contrast, in the Providers Run A Rich National System scenario, there is a local consortium made up of public and private sector members working together to ensure that top-notch education is on offer that catapults learners to the top of the world tables in all subjects.

Decision 2: Partly transferable to the Learners Fend For Themselves scenario, wherein learners are prosumers but learning resources are scarce. Why? Because the same key skills will be important, perhaps even more so if resources are that much harder to come by. As well as this, personalization of learning is still a key part of this scenario. It is also partly transferable to the Providers Run A Rich National System scenario in that the same key skills will also be essential in ensuring ‘top of the table’ success. However, the lack of a highly structured national curriculum does not work with this scenario.

Reference:  http://knowledgeworks.org/learning-in-2025