Thursday, 17 December 2015

Final Reflection for 2015

End of Year Inquiry Reflection 2015

Wow this year has flown by so quickly. So much has happened over the year. So what did I manage to achieve with my inquiry?

  • Overall quality of work produced by most Extension students (projects, rubrics etc) improved throughout the year. Term 4 projects were more superior in comparison to Term 1 projects.
  • Strengths and weaknesses of this year’s Extension programme were identified and will help inform planning for next year.
  • Creative Space site was useful for students to access learning intentions, tasks, rubrics and resources.
  • High expectations were set and students received opportunities to extend their thinking and experiences e.g. video conferencing with people from Hawaii, Australia and South Africa. Trips to Maritime Museum, Tiritiri Matangi Island, 40 Hour Famine etc.

A full list of Extension highlights and experiences can be located in our annual School Charter Review 2015 under Extension Review (although this might not be available for viewing until early next year).

Or you can take a look at our blog: Creative Space Blog

Next year?

I have been selected to be part of the Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher Programme for 2016. This will be an amazing opportunity to extend our Extension students even further. I look forward to working with the Pt England Extension group again next year.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Year 7 & 8 Extension - Being more dialogic in class.

How to scaffold learning to extend higher order thinking?

Reflection with a couple of lessons as examples:

Year 7 & 8 Extension:

Their focus this term has been about Bioengineering, what it is and the ethical issues surrounding it. This can be quite a complicated subject to teach and learn about as Bioengineering is quite a new field. There isn’t really a definitive answer for its definition online. Students had to search for some sort of  definition online and then attempt to provide/explain their understanding of what it is. Some explained that it was about organ transplants e.g. heart, kidney, liver. Very few explained that it was a fusion of different disciplines e.g. Engineering and Biology. Discussion as a whole group was important to clarify understanding about its actual definition as accurately as possible as this varied online.

We also had to break down what is meant by the term ‘ethical’ and ‘unethical’ as students found this quite a hard concept to grasp, especially in terms of its relation to Bioengineering and the medical world. I gave basic examples of what is termed as ethical e.g. an act of doing something that is agreed upon by the majority and that is beneficial to the person or people affected. Basically it was about knowing the difference between right and wrong. Students agreed that it was ethical to give someone an organ transplant because it would save and prolong their life and that it was the right thing to do.

It was interesting to observe that students were quite strong in their opinion that a person who didn’t take care of themselves (e.g. a smoker) didn’t deserve to have a transplant if they weren’t prepared to change their ways. When we talked about ‘designer babies’ and whether parents should be given the right to ‘choose’ their perfect baby (via testing), most students were adamant that this was unethical and that parents should take what they get, even if the family had a history of disease or could prevent having an unhealthy child. Religious beliefs played a part in some of their thinking. Cloning was considered unethical and so was growing body parts in a lab using a person’s DNA. The students were divided about whether artificial organs (e.g. 3D printed) should be used.

When we displayed examples of bioengineering e.g. organ transplants, the use of prosthetics, cloning and designer babies etc on a table, we could then record our thinking under each heading. This made seeing the difference between what we thought were ‘ethical’ and ‘unethical’ uses or issues of Bioengineering a lot clearer. Students were reminded that the differences of opinion in class was similar to the differences of opinion in society. There were also social, political, educational and religious influences to consider. There was also a historical factor e.g. 100 years ago Bioengineering as we know it did not exist. It would have probably have been considered as witchcraft or black magic. Obviously the development of technology has played a huge part over time in the advancement of this new field.


  • Lots of discussion to share and clarify understanding was important
  • Students needed opportunities to share their opinions
  • Enough teacher knowledge was needed to facilitate discussion (Prior background research on this subject required).
  • Staying focused on our learning intentions was important and hopefully achieved
  • Scaffolding of knowledge was aided through prior research of topic (from students), discussion as a whole group, and by sharing and recording discussion/feedback.
  • Students could use any new knowledge gained to add to/change or improve their task/project based on this topic.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Learning Problem Discussion

Today we looked at a learning problem that we have encountered with our students and shared it with our group. Group members contributed to solutions for each problem. My issue was ‘How to help students to become more self-motivated?’

Possible solutions:
  • Have rewards - lunch pass? Free time?
  • Tasks need to be completely engaging - hook kids in, explore passion??
  • More self directed learning?
  • Extension kids are privileged to be there and need to be reminded about this
  • Show/share test and rubric scores and where they stand/ranking
  • Show/share progress charts, check lists with parents

Problem: How to give enough scope to individualise learning, but also how to assess effectively?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Monday, 3 August 2015

Reflection about inquiry

It's now the start of Term 3. So where am I at with my inquiry?

I have found that time or lack of time is an ongoing issue. This is the first year in over a decade of teaching where I don't actually have my own class. This means that I don't have the luxury of shuffling or reorganising my teaching programme so that students can complete lessons or tasks throughout the week at a different time. Side projects or other opportunities (e.g trips and video conferencing with other schools) meant that some planned lessons were put on hold, even though they were rich learning experiences. 

I only have the extension students (who are my focus group for my inquiry) for 2-3 hours each week. As a result, there is often a lack of time to cover what I want to teach which has been really frustrating. I often wonder whether what I am doing is making any difference to my students learning. Developing higher order skills takes time to teach and learn. I sometimes feel that I am rushing my students so that the product/rubric is completed on time, but I know that the process of researching, thinking, reflecting, summarising, sharing etc is important in order to develop higher order thinking skills. 

It has become more apparent that time management skills is a key component of student success. During the marking of student projects and presentations, I could clearly see which students had gone the extra mile and put in the extra effort in their own time. This was reflected in the higher quality of work produced and the depth of knowledge and understanding displayed. 

I believe that students need time to complete projects and finish things off properly (one of our school korero). So where necessary, I have given extra time for all students if needed to complete projects. This was worthwhile as I noticed that some students managed to use the extra time to complete projects to an outstanding level. 

Developing an extra inquiry site for my extension students to compliment my 'Creative Space' site was very useful. Students could access this site to find specific resources e.g. definitions, information, Youtube clips etc to help them with their learning. This reduced precious time spent surfing online which is often a time-waster if students don't know what to search for. 

Next steps:
  1. Design projects/tasks with shorter timeframes e.g. assess learning and understanding more often during the term.
  2. Provide opportunities for students to share their learning and understanding in a way that is less time consuming. 
  3. Minimise disruptions to teaching programme e.g. side projects and extra trips outside school
  4. Develop a space on Creative Space site or Extension Inquiry site with resources to help students with time management, studying skills etc
  5. Send group emails out more frequently to students with reminders about extension projects and tasks etc
  6. Email parents with reminders about projects, tasks, resources, and ways that they can help their child etc
Timeframe: Above steps to be completed or underway within the next couple of weeks. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Inquiry focus - What does success look like?

Today our inquiry group met with Dorothy to refine our thinking around our inquiry focus. We talked about what success might look like regarding our inquiry focus. Then we went about creating a rubric for our inquiry focus. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Teacher Only Day

To start with, all teachers were given the chance to split up into a few groups and share our inquiry learning. There were about 10 of us in our group. It was really interesting to listen to each presentation and learn more about where people were up to in their inquiry journey. Then we went to the staffroom where a few teachers were selected to share their inquiry with the whole staff.

This was my presentation. Basically I have a better understanding of SOLO and how it can be integrated into a classroom programme. PD around SOLO has been helpful, but there are also sites online e.g. which were really useful. The next step for me is to be more specific with my planning and integrate SOLO based activities more purposefully into the classroom programme.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Some thinking...

Here are just some notes recording where I am in my professional inquiry at the moment:

  • Recreated Venn diagram - reworked an old one, hasn’t been tested on kids yet

  • have not tweaked this terms rubric, but will keep SOLO in mind when creating next terms one
  • a lot of time spent on skills based tasks/help for students across Teams 1-4
  • busy with extn kids and time is limited because of other commitments e.g. videoconferencing, MTV creation for ambassadors, trip to Maritime Museum - impacts on time as students need to complete tasks for rubric to be marked on time.
  • important for me to settle into new role as Creative Space/GATE teacher, so have not spent as much time as planned on integrating SOLO into programme.
  • mindful that SOLO will be introduced more specifically as a thinking tool early in Term 2 with extension students.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

SOLO - Now it makes sense!

Just recently as part of our staff PD, we were given an introduction to SOLO from one of our APs Juanita Garden. I gained a deeper understanding of what SOLO was and how it applied in a classroom setting. We were given clear examples of how a students level of thinking could move from simple (Prestructural/Unistructural) to more complex (Relational/Extended Abstract).

Here's a link to the slide show that Juanita shared with us.

Making Sense of SOLO

Some of the ideas that arose from the PD discussions was that scaffolding was essential and that the simpler ideas/levels of thinking (e.g. knowledge of basic facts) was just as important as the deeper/complex levels of thinking. You can't have one without the other, as the simpler ideas are necessary building blocks towards higher cognitive thinking and understanding. Plus our students need more opportunities to articulate their thinking, and richer tasks to extend and challenge them.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Inquiry 2015

My inquiry focus this year is:

How to scaffold learning to extend higher order thinking and ‘quality creating’ in tasks?

Why am I interested in pursuing this line of inquiry?

Earlier this year Rebecca Jesson from the Woolf Fisher Research Centre posed an interesting question at a staff meeting at Tamaki College. She questioned how teachers of Year 7 & 8 students were going to extend their high achieving students even further to better prepare them for college. End of year results indicated that although our students continued to make gains, they were actually falling further behind in terms of keeping up with National Standards at each year level. 

So what am I going to do about this?

I am interested in developing higher cognitive engagement and higher order thinking. In order to do that I am inquiring into my own practice in respect of high cognitive engagement and the integration and effective utilisation of digital learning. My new role in the Creative Space class has provided an opportunity for me to work with our 'gifted and talented' (Extension) students. My goal is to provide specific learning opportunities to help enhance and raise the levels of achievement for our gifted and talented students.

How will I go about doing this?

1) Explore SOLO Taxonomy model.
2) Research how SOLO can be integrated effectively into an extension programme.
3) Make modifications to rubrics for tasks to encourage 'quality creating'.
4) Ensure that learning tasks are visible on the Creative Space site.
5) Ensure that students understanding about specific learning intentions/outcomes are clear.