We’re underway! This is the second in a monthly series I’m writing to document my high school’s significant shift in how we approach learning at school. In Part 1, I covered the rationale, groundwork, and first steps we took to start the conversation and to involve people in reshaping the school day. During the last month, the subject and executive leaders have agreed on and finalised the scope for what will be reviewed, indicating strongly to all teachers that nothing yet is decided and that we will involve all community members through multiple channels in shaping any decisions.
STEP 2a: Defining your Revolution’s scope
A team of 10 volunteer teachers from different leadership levels held discussion around the rationale for change being a combination of societal pressures, government policy, and existing school problems. It was clear how the fundamental structures in the school were very interconnected and so any proposal to change one impacted on all the others. After a couple of meetings they agreed to propose the following scope to all leaders in the school for ratification before then presenting it to all staff.
Scope for our “Revolution”
- An integrated curriculum (Encouraged by NZ Education)
- Timetable (Day structure)
- Assessment (What & how)
- Reporting (What & how)
- Teacher Professional Development
STEP 2b: Conversations and gathering voices
Channel One: Professional Learning Groups. In our school, we already have six cross-curricular professional learning groups, each with about 20 teachers. We used these to start initial discussions and I recorded a 5 minute video for the groups to watch so as to create a uniform starting point for the discussions. The video reiterated some of the rationale (outlined in Part 1) for the review and existing examples from around New Zealand of schools already implementing integrated and student-led programmes. We took detailed recordings of comments and thoughts for the review team to look at.
Channel Two: Water cooler chats. We have created two ‘water-cooler’ spaces where teachers can read, share, and pose questions, ideas, and concerns. The first is our already existing 2020 Revolution Google Community, which we released to all staff this month. This already contains many examples, school websites, articles, Government policies etc. The second is a dedicated room (below) with noticeboards and whiteboards where we will cater for staff who prefer a non-digital thinking space. Both are asynchronous and allow staff to ‘pop in’ when they feel they have the time to add to the conversation and planning. Please note the lolly jar to reward those who contribute.
The no.1 issue for teachers
Whether teachers are positive, concerned, or indifferent about the school revolution, in both these two staff channels we’ve already identified our first primary concern: Building teacher awareness of how integrated curriculums operate in practice. We have been sending curriculum leaders on school visits already but it will be crucial to send as many teachers on visits as we can fit inside the next 18 months. Links with these schools and their staff will also be a vital part of constructing our new approach to school.
Channel 3: Surveys and Stats. We have started sending out surveys to students on their feelings about school, learning and the school day in general. It’s early days but the results so far show a strong support for the types of changes being proposed but their awareness of school being anything other than what they already know has confused some.
Channel 4: Student interviews. We have found the usual issues with surveys and how respondents can misinterpret questions or not understand the purpose, so we are ensuring a number of student voice channels are setup including interviews. The interviews will allow a better explanation and questioning to take place. In the ones I’ve done so far, integrated learning seems like common sense to everyone I’ve spoken to.
School community channels: These will be instigated during the next month as we widen the dialogue to the parents, guardians, and community about integrated learning and educate them about national and global education trends and the demands from industries etc.
Tools: We’re also ensuring we use every available tool (there are many in NZ) for helping teachers and communities to push the discussion and understanding forward. Like these Science capabilities Deck of cards game for integrated curriculum planning.