School Reborn 2020: Part 5 – Teachers’ feedback

Our school’s curriculum review and redesign has been underway now for 6 months and we still have over a year to go before launch. Our teachers have had a number of Professional Learning Groups and full staff sessions about the ideas and have been sharing resources and evidence in both our physical and online “Sharing sheds.” On our review schedule this month was both the community survey (see last post) and now the teachers’ survey to gage the perspectives as they’ve developed so far. As with the community feedback, we wanted quantitive and qualitative data to both measure levels of support for change but also report on themes within the thoughts of teachers, both positive excitement and the real concerns.

The Teachers’ voice

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We have already run a full-staff session where feedback was gathered from each subject department and reported back in our Sharing sheds. This month the survey would allow individual teachers to both comment and rate their support and levels of confidence in the type of integrated learning models being discussed. We only asked the individual teachers to identify their department (subject) so we could look at areas of the school exhibiting particular excitement or concern but apart from that, the survey was anonymous.  We asked teachers about the current situation in how much our curriculum was  appropriate for the world today, how engaged the students were and if they handled the workload as presented by the industrial model. We then asked them to consider the integrated models they had seen, read and talked about. We asked if they thought it would better serve students to link subjects, run projects and how much confidence they had as educators to start working in this way. We then allowed for open comments and in the 10 days the survey was open, 107 teachers submitted over 7000 words.

Results and Themes

There were several themes that came from the results:

  1. Positives
    1. The principles of integrated curricular (linked-subjects) and Project-based learning (PBL) are popular. (68% average with most subjects above that).
    2. As a new initiative with most teachers, the simpler idea of linking subjects is more popular than the more ambiguous idea of PBL.
    3. The majority (10/14) of subject departments are at the average of 70% or more in favour of a shift to integrated curricular.
    4. There is a theme within the comments that recognises the relative low level thinking exhibited by most students in the existing subject silo model. An integrated model is seen as an opportunity to make more connections between topics and raise thinking levels.
    5. Teachers given the opportunity to visit existing integrated schools have returned inspired but requesting that more staff are allowed to visit school. Until people see it in action, it can be hard to imagine the benefits, which are often the things schools don’t conventionally measure, like test results.
  2. Querries & concerns
    1. The biggest issue currently is student workload. A target to save time by linking subjects and to eliminate current overlaps is part of the reason for integration.
    2. The ‘why’ seems clear with most staff, but the ‘how’ is still a significant concern. This was expected and the review process identified significant PD as part of the scope.
    3. The difficulty of maintaining regular communication about the review within a existing busy school systems has not been as affective as we might have hoped. People both for an against change are asking for a more clear communication of direction and current status.
    4. There are a few misconceptions that the whole system is converting to full-time PBL but this is not a model being used in any of the New Zealand models we’ve looked at in the sharing sheds or video evidence.  Ensuring staff are fully informed will be crucial to illuminate quickly made assumptions about what we are or aren’t doing.

Next step: Trials

Their are many teachers in the school keen to start developing programmes and learning from the process of running integrated curricular. In the next post I will outline how this team is doing in preparing trial classes next year. This is something that, in principle, 80% of parents surveyed were happy to opt into, albeit with more details outlined.

Extra thought:

Our school is situated in a conservative area of New Zealand. The area has strongly voted conservative/right-wing politically for a long time. It might surprise people that when a community is asked about the development of education away from the conventional industrial model, they are more keen than many assume. The world is clearly changing quickly and both sides of the political spectrum see a need for change. Firstly the liberal/left-wing desire to help more demographics within a system that has generally maintained or even enhanced socio-economic divisions. Secondly the business-friendly/right-wing have an agenda to make school prepare children better for challenges faced by modern industries and business in the ‘real-world’. Either way we have 80% of the community of 70% of teachers asking for this change to happen.