Innovative Learning Environments: A critique

By Richard McCance

Media attention in New Zealand has recently focused on the current Ministry of Education policy of redesigning schools along the lines of Innovative Learning Environments (also known as Modern Learning Environments or Open Plan Learning Spaces). This attention is important and more people need to be aware of the factors driving this change and the expectations and assumptions that underlie this policy.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under General

The World of Advertising: An assessment plan

By Nathan Woods

This is an assessment plan for The World of Advertising, a course that will be taught at Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery (ATUD), a special character secondary school in Christchurch, New Zealand. The course is designed for students working at levels five and six of the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007); it will run for three hours per week over a five week block. The plan is divided into four sections. Section one provides a brief rationale for the plan, highlighting key aims and guiding principles. Section two describes the plan in action, separating it into four core strategies: (1) identifying key learning outcomes; (2) establishing a climate for learning; (3) involving students in assessment; and (4) collaboration. Section three explains and analyses key features of the plan, showing how the core strategies work together to enhance students’ motivation and self-directed learning. Finally, in section four, I respond critically to some potentially contentious issues. Overall, this plan establishes a credible vision of assessment, one that promotes powerful lifelong learning (Carr, 2004).

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Formative assessment and self-regulated learning

By Nathan Woods

Formative assessment is not something that happens to learners after they have completed a learning activity. Rather, it is an ongoing, collaborative activity that supports students’ attempts to regulate their learning. This review brings together findings from academic literature on formative assessment and self-regulated learning, focusing specifically on how formative assessment strategies can support self-regulated learning during the forethought phase of self-regulation. Theories of self-regulated learning and formative assessment typically place learners ant the center of their learning, viewing them as active participants in setting goals, monitoring their progress, and reflecting on their learning. There is a tradition in the academic literature that emphasizes the synergies between formative assessment and self-regulated learning. Writers in this tradition have demonstrated that teachers can draw on a model of self-regulated learning when they make decisions about how to deploy formative assessment strategies. This review builds on that tradition, showing that the specific purposes and processes underlying the forethought phase of self-regulation can guide teachers’ formative assessment practices during the early stages of learning. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Teachers’ Professional Learning Portfolios: Do they really improve teaching?

By Nathan Woods

teacherfile

Teaching portfolios are used widely in pre-service teacher education programs and amongst faculty in higher learning institutions. The focus of this article, however, is on the role that teaching portfolios can play in enhancing the learning of in-service teachers in the compulsory education sector. Much of the literature on teachers’  professional learning portfolios discusses tensions between the formative and summative application of portfolios; this review avoids this discussion and focuses on the formative potential of teaching portfolios. Drawing on relevant literature, five key questions are addressed:

  1. How are teaching portfolios defined?
  2. Do teaching portfolios capture the complexities of teachers’ learning?
  3. Do teaching portfolios enhance teachers’ critical thinking?
  4. Do teaching portfolios promote collaboration within schools?
  5. What impact do teaching portfolios have on practice?
  6. Is the time required by teachers to construct portfolios reasonable and sustainable?

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under General

Team Teaching

By Nathan Woods

Team-teaching can motivate students and teachers, and help to create an open, democratic learning environment. When working in teams, teachers can take advantage of their differences in knowledge, opinions, ideas, and personality to model collaborative dialogue and behaviour, which can improve learning outcomes for students (Cotton, 1982; Murata, 2002; Slater, 1993; Walker, 2008). So why is teaming so difficult to implement, and what can go wrong? Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Our research

Critical Thinking

By Nathan Woods

Humans are not always good thinkers. We discriminate against ‘others’, conform, blindly obey, exaggerate our own good intentions, and see evil in those who disagree with us. However, we also have the potential to take control of our thinking – to examine it and improve it. By learning to think critically we can use our intelligence to create a better world, and to prevent suffering. .   Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Do Schools Kill Creativity – A Response to Ken Robinson

By BRENT SILBY

Robinson argues that schools are primarily concerned with conformity and that this has a negative impact on creativity. He suggests that by grouping students by age, delivering a standard curriculum, and testing them against standardized criteria, schools are essentially diminishing the individuality and creativity of students. In his Do Schools Kill Creativity TED Talk, Robinson states that:

“…all kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.” He goes on to suggest that “creativity is now as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status”. (Robinson 2006).

Robinson seems to be implying that schools currently place little value on creativity. He is also creating a distinction between literacy and creativity, suggesting that somehow schools value one but not the other. But literacy and creativity go hand-in-hand. A highly literate person can become hugely creative in the production of written works. It is not the case that schools favor literacy over creativity. Schools encourage both. Furthermore, in other areas of creativity, schools excel. During their life in school, students are exposed to an immense array of creative endeavors from music to visual art; from fiction to game design. It is simply false that schools place little value on creativity. Robinson, himself, is a product of what he might call “traditional schooling”, and he is clearly creative. Arguably the most creative people on the planet are the products of traditional schooling. Given the fact that there is so much creativity in society, it seems to be misleading to make the bold claim that “schools educate the creativity out of kids”. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Criticism of theories