Monday, 10 April 2017

A Rant But An Important One - Is Your Teaching Future Focused?

The TKI website has some excellent resources on curriculum development and on 21st March launched Spotlights, focusing on specific aspects of the NZC.  I was pleased to see a spotlight on the Principles of the NZC , and TKI has published slides which will support you through a refocus on these important foundations of your local curriculum.

One of the first slides asks us if we can name the 8 principles.  How many can you name of the top of your head?  Well, truthfully, I managed 5 before I had to peek - it has been a while but I think I can name all 8 now if you give me a surprise test.  The 2 that I named first were The Treaty of Waitangi and Future Focus because these often come to the fore in my work.

The slides also provide a link to the summary of an ERO evaluation of the evidence of the 8 principles in NZ schools and classrooms, which was published in 2012.  The ERO evaluation also states that secondary schools have a much lower incidence of evidence of the principles in their curricula, when compared to primary schools.  Imagine my horror to see that Future Focus evidence featured the LOWEST number of times in NZ school curricula, and second to lowest in classroom curricula.

Only one third of schools reported on had evidence of a future focus in their curricula!  Without naming any schools, I can tell you that I had the experience of a deputy principal (of a large secondary school) at the end of last year telling me that his school was preparing their students for examinations.   When I asked him what about the future, he replied, no, we prepare them for exams because that is what the parents expect.  I banged my head on a brick wall in despair.

One would hope that there has been some movement toward educating our parents about future focus in our schools since 2012 but the evidence still points the other way.  Schools are focused on assessment results because that is how they are judged in the "league tables" published in the media and referred to by every parent sending their child to a "superior" school.

Education Review magazine recently published this article, by Dr John Boereboom, from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, University of Canterbury,  emphasizing how there are winners and losers using this way of thinking.  But their alternative is to look at how much value has been added using another (mid year 9) assessment.  They say that this assessment enables them to predict how well the learners will do in the NCEA exams.    It sounds just like another test to me, to find out how well the learners can do in another test.

So what are we preparing our learners for  - the future or for exams?  Perhaps we need to do both. The way that we teach is our best preparation for the future.  Using the 6 themes of future oriented teaching and learning to underpin our pedagogy is the most powerful thing we can do toward this, in a class.  And it would be so heartening to hear schools talking about this, examining ways of working towards redefining their own curricula and implementing the changes that are required for this to happen.

How are you incorporating a future focus into your curriculum?  At the beginning of May there is a Future Focused Day with Barbara Bray, international educationalist, in Taupo.    Disappointingly, the original symposium has been undersubscribed, but Barbara Bray is committed to sharpening the eyes and minds of those canny educators with a future glint in their eyes.  Her keynote and workshops for the attendees are as follows.

Keynote: The Future of School and Learner Agency
  1. Building Learner Agency Using UDL as a Lens to Personalise Learning 
  2. Changing Spaces, Thinking and Mindsets 
  3. PBL, Design Thinking and Authentic Context 

You can still register to hear and work with Barbara Bray in Taupo on 3rd May by filling in this form. Discounts are available for multiple registrations from a school. Check out how future focused your school is.

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