Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Planning is Not Set in Concrete

As part of my beginning teacher mentoring programme with Cheryl, we focused on Criteria 9 of the Practicing Teacher Criteria in our last meeting. Criteria 9 suggests fully certified teachers respond effectively to the diverse language and cultural experiences, and the varied strengths, interests and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.

As a group, we broke down the criteria using The Education Council's Self Assessment Tool. This is a great resource to really reflect on the criteria, to identify my strengths and weaknesses! After our PCT meeting I felt criteria 9 was an area of weakness I needed think about further. Although I know I have a lot of evidence for each of the criteria, sometimes I struggle to show, or put into words what evidence I have. One of three parts of Criteria 9 asks;

Am I flexible in my teaching approaches?

I feel I am constantly adapting my plans to suit my learners in front of me, particularly my Year 11 PE class. I wrote an outline of lessons for the first few weeks of term, and I have already changed this multiple times! As this is a Senior class, I want to ensure students have ample time to really understand the topics, so they can effectively explain and apply their knowledge. Sometimes this means spending twice as long covering a topic than I had initially planned for.

Last year I co-taught Years 12 and 13 PE. We realised throughout the year how so many of the students had gaps in their knowledge from their previous years, especially for anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology (which is the most difficult unit for most students). As a department we realised we needed to be increasing student understanding at a deeper level in Year 11, to better prepare them for Year 12. Therefore, although the suggested time to spend on anatomy, biomechanics and exercise physiology is probably about 7-8 weeks, I am planning for about 12 weeks. I would rather the students have a greater understanding this year, in prep for next year, than try to smash out more units. Quality over quantity. This can be quite difficult, because we obviously want our students to achieve their NCEA, but I would prefer they achieve Merits and Excellences and less credits, than more credits at an Achieved (or Not Achieved) level.

To achieve this, I have had to have regular conversations with students about their understanding, to ensure they are ready to move on. My inquiry this year is about blogging in Year 11PE, which I have found to be a great way to formatively assess student learning, and adapt my teaching to suit my students gaps. By reading through their blogposts, I am able to identify the parts they're still struggling with, and revisit this in a different way from before. For example, I am trying a variety of revision activities with this class currently, such as Kahoot, mix and match activities and team challenges (I will be writing a post about these different strategies in a couple of weeks, but see some of my observations here). If something works well for some students whom I struggle to engage, or who are struggling to understand, I try to replicate that in future lessons.

Therefore, to continue to feel I am flexible in my teaching, I need to continue to take risks, continue to read students posts to gauge their understanding and continue to seek student voice. In future, I think it would be useful to have more conversations with students about what they thought about the activities during lessons. I often think about the activities, and how I think they went, but don't as often ask the students what they think. I have started to collate some of their responses from a Google Sheet.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Supporting Māori Students Success

As previously reflected/shared, TC staff have been meeting fortnightly with our PLGs at school to discuss our priority learners. Unfortunately I have had basketball games so have missed the discussions which take place. However, I try to keep in the loop by following the agenda and reflection points.

This week the focus was around Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, particularly exploring Kia Eke Panuku (KEP). My group explained CRP as "a way to promote Maori academic success through students, teachers and whanau working together. Authentic connections and a focus on Māori identity are supported by evidence based pedagogies". As our school's demographic is 33% Māori, this is an important pedagogy for us to explore. Please see our Slides from a KEP PD last year, with key reflective questions and discussions we had related to Māori's achievement as Māori. I attempted to breakdown CRP in an earlier blogpost.

KEP is a professional development initiative to build schools achievement and success for Māori, as Māori. The Ministry of Education have developed Ka Hikitia, strategies to support Māori learners success in school too, which my PLG also explored. This resource breaks down critical factors, focus areas and guiding principles for Māori students' learning journeys to be enjoyable and successful, to prepare them for pathways in their futures.

Although there are a variety of strategies and suggestions throughout Ka Hikitia, the part that stuck with me is the need to support Māori learners to believe in themselves and their potential.

"Students with a strong belief in their capacity to achieve are more likely to set themselves challenging goals and put a high degree of effort into achieving them. Research has shown that the most motivated and resilient students are those who believe their abilities can be developed through their own effort and learning" (p. 25).

I have been reflecting regularly about the lack of motivation and self efficacy some of my students have. Although majority of my students are more than capable of achieving, because they feel they are incapable, or they fear they are going to get something wrong, they would rather just not complete something. This has been evident in my 11PE class especially, and was evident in my senior classes last year. A few students really struggle to express their thoughts and struggle to complete their tasks. This is not a reflection of what they're capable of though, but a reflection of how little self confidence they have in their ability and/or little motivation they have to be successful. 

For this reason, I have selected three learners in my 11PE class who have 11 or less credits currently towards their NCEA Level 1 (expected to have over 40 by now), to be my priority learners for the second half of the year. I hope by continuing to try build students self confidence, giving positive feedback and affirmation when they are on track, and reinforcing ako within my practice and classrooms (the two way process of learning), my students' become more successful.