Sunday, 4 October 2015

Modern pedagogy - a reflection on the VLN discussion.

There has been an interesting debate on the VLN (Virtual Learning Network) in the last few months, about what Modern Learning Pedagogy (MLP) really means.  The conversation was started by Neill Reilly who questioned why is is called modern pedagogy and not just effective pedagogy.  

The New Zealand Curriculum specifies 7 effective pedagogies (pages 34 to 36) but then goes on to say that teachers should be investigating how digital technologies can transform teaching and learning.  The most succinct answer to Neill's question, I think, came from Bernice Swain fairly early in the piece - that modern pedagogy was more than just 21st Century best practice.  She suggested "self-regulated learning, student centred programmes and individualised programmes, collaborative teaching, ubiquitous use of technology and 'anytime, anyplace, anywhere' learning" were the essential elements of a modern pedagogy.  

The debate has raged on, but going back to Bernice's words has echoed for me that she captured the essence of modern learning pedagogies.  Derek Wenmoth stepped into the discussion fairly early on to remind us that the NZC gives us the permissions to pursue modern learning pedagogies.  Yes, we have the permission but now more than ever, some teachers and leaders are actually looking at using the permissions to move forward. The trouble is, time short educators want quick answers and I am not sure that there are any quick answers.

Linda Barran added valid points - that our best practice needs to develop learners who are equipped with the 21st century skills of creativity and critical thinking, learners making use of collaboration and connectivity.  Very reminiscent of the 6 Cs  infographic that I blogged about earlier but are these perhaps more outcomes of the pedagogy rather than the "type of pedagogy" that develops these skills.

The themes of future oriented teaching and learning are extremely well discussed by Gilbert and Bolstad et al and it seems to me that the ideas about MLP's that are discussed in the debate on the VLN could easily be placed under the 6 headings of the themes.

Supporting future.....
  1. Personalised learning (any time, anywhere, incorporating self regulation or learner agency of choice and control)
  2. new views of equity and diversity (capitalising and developing individual strengths for the benefit of all to make a stronger community)
  3. new relationships with community (anywhere, anytime, relevance, use of digital technologies to support)
  4. using knowledge to build learning power (metacognition)
  5. lifelong learning for educators and leaders (working towards what works best for individual learners, reflecting on the learning, adjusting, trying new techniques and technologies
  6. new roles for teachers and learners (collaboration)

Paul Wilkinson asked what headings in a book on collaborative teaching could be.  I wish he would write this book because it seems to me to probably be the least understood concept for many practising teachers. Sarah (sghailes) reinforced this for me by saying that collaborative teaching needs to be facilitated and coached.  It is so much more than team teaching.  It involves shared vision, evidence, goals, defined roles and relational trust.  You must be prepared to be disrupted.

Derek Wenmoth re-entered the dabate in the last few days of September, He rightly questioned some of the assumptions that Neill made in the beginning, and then asserted that we really need to bring the whole pedagogies discussion "out of the closet" and think about the "new pedagogies" in terms of emergent opportunities and affordances of technologies  to "enable the deeper engagement with knowledge, completion of tasks and connections with others as a part of the learning process."  He is working with Fullan on this at the moment. I, for one, look forward to hearing more.


  1. Another thought-provoking post. We live in interesting times. It is said that the Chinese symbol for 'crisis' is made up of two characters: danger and opportunity. This is exactly the situation we find ourselves re education 'reforms'. Couldn't agree more with the point that collaborative teaching 'is so much more than team teaching'. I wonder how many of us are team teaching, thinking we are teaching collaboratively... Being willing to 'disrupt' or question and then reconfigure when things to not seem to be having the effect we'd hoped for, is an extremely important factor. It requires trust, commitment and a shared vision. A Goldilocks situation? As noble as it is, is this a realistic aspiration for most schools? There always seams to be at least one staff member who either: resists innovation in any form; has intractable views - my way or the highway; is burnt out/just picking up their pay check etc. RTCs and appraisals should address this, but it is a slow and difficult process. (Do I sound cynical?) Meanwhile, there seems to be a dearth of quality PD on how to achieve this 'effective pedagogy'. But perhaps I am missing something. I welcome enlightenment on the subject. Thank you again, Leigh. I thoroughly enjoy your ruminations on our education system. Well-written, well researched and always interesting.

    1. Thanks for your post, Leigh, and your comment, Belinda. Together these just helped me 'click' something into place.
      My professional inquiry this year is about how I could apply 21CLD key skills in my work with teachers, and as I reflected a few weeks ago, I'm struggling to get very far with this. One of the key skills in there is Collaboration, and the 21CLD rubric describes the different stages as 'informal collaboration', 'shared responsibility, 'shared substantive decision making' and 'interdependency of work' (with each stage incorporating the previous ones).
      I feel this would be directly applicable to collaborative teaching! What would that look like though in practise? I'm thinking this might be where I am going to redirect my inquiry into now, thanks to both of you sharing your thoughts!
      Many thanks, Monika

    2. Thanks for your comments, Belinda. I certainly agree - it is a journey rather than a quick switch over to MLP and collabortion. It does seem a shame to settle back into the comfortable status quo - disruption, danger and opportunity don't always sit well with many. But place the student at the centre and it becomes ludicrous to do it any other way. I do believe that learning with the aid of digital technologies will solve many of the issues that teachers face, and so I urge all teachers to spend time being the lifelong learners that they want their learners to be. Another chapter in Paul's book on collaborative teaching, perhaps - How digital technologies can support personalised learning in your class?

    3. And, Monika, your comment piqued my interest in 21CLD. Have you a really good resource at hand that I could check out?

    4. Have a look here, Leigh: You'll be at Ulearn? Happy to talk more about it:) I like that the rubrics take the fuzziness and guess work out. There is a version adapted for the AUS Curriculum, and I am thinking about what it looks like in the NZ context.

    5. No, made the decision to stay away from Ulearn this year. Thanks for the link, I will look into it.

  2. This is a really useful reflection on a big debate that we all need to be considering. And Belinda, the points you make about collaboration are worthy of a whole new post too! Thanks for sharing