A Learner's Journey

September 6, 2016
by mj0401mary
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The Power of Inquiry

I have been really enjoying reading Kath Murdoch’s latest book, ‘The Power of Inquiry’. It is both affirming and challenging my thinking about Inquiry in its many guises. I have created this visual as a prompt for me to think about the different types and origins of great Inquiry learning for students (and ourselves!) 

Do you have a balance of different types of Inquiry in your classroom?

April 17, 2015
by mj0401mary
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Word for the term … curiosity

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My goal for term 2 in my work as a school advisor is to be curious about what I see, hear and read! To refrain from judgement and instead to ponder and wonder –

why might that be so? what thinking might sit behind this? how might we move forward from here? what might my role be here? why do I think that way? how might I find out more?

My experience as a teacher has taught me that people, communities and teams are complex and there are many reasons for why things are the way they are. There is much to be learnt by stepping off the judgement pedal and taking the time to pause and wonder, think and reflect instead. Will keep you posted on what this process reveals for me …

 

photo credit: What’s the point? via photopin (license)

May 5, 2013
by 34mk2012
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The Evidence Inquiry Cycle

The Evidence Inquiry Cycle guiding our work

As part of our REL Network, each leader has taken on an Inquiry project. Mine is centered around student thinking. I have observed that many of my students are fairly happy to give the ‘stock standard’, expected answers in RE discussions and I would really like to see them pushing their own thinking more deeply and make those connections that will make their faith relevant to them in their lives. Our current unit is about the concept of relationships and whether having a  relationship with God impacts the world.

To stimulate the students to think about how relationships work, I used the following clip:

 


Students were asked to post on our class padlet their thoughts on where God was in this clip. This is what they came up with;

There were some interesting thoughts posted but most were fairly predictable. I wanted them to go further so I grabbed my copy of Visible Thinking and looked for a thinking protocol I could use with this clip. I decided to use I See, I Think, I Wonder to see where that would take my student’s thinking. This routine prompted some really meaty discussion in the class as each student responded to the prompts. The wonderings were the most interesting with students coming up some surprising and challenging statements. We then got into groups and students collated their responses and came up with their top ‘see, think, wonder’ statements. The groups then set about creating posters. One student asked me “What should the title of the poster be?” to which I initially replied not to worry about a title. Then I realised that creating a title would make their thinking even more visible to me and the other students. Some of the titles they came up with were great!

So having stretched the students thinking, what next? I know I want to go further with them, and having had a conversation about this with our RESA, Deirdre, I have been challenged to now put something provocative before the students to challenge them to think about the situations where God is not so readily visible. As we are doing Natural Disasters at present, that should tie in quite nicely. I think I also need to go back to Visible Thinking and find some other thinking routines that will enable students to view the stimulus in a different way. And I also need to check in with the students again. I wonder if I used the initial video clip again, whether their responses may be deeper already having thought about it in a different way??

 

March 15, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Honk if you love life!

Our Inquiry and RE units this term have focussed on the concepts of community and our place within the community. It has been a rich and diverse unit and we are now at the stage of expressing our learnings about what community is and how it can be built. This video was tweeted over January and as soon as I saw it, I knew I would use it.

After watching this video, students unanimously wanted to try something similar in our own community. We had also watched the Kid President video and are reading Wonder so the students’ minds were full of wonderful phrases (or in the language of Wonder, ‘precepts’) that they thought would be valuable to others. And away they went – busily creating posters with slogans to welcome people into our community. There is nothing much more rewarding than students asking if they can PLEEEASE work on something for longer or at home!

The day we planned to share our work with the community dawned and I had most of my students at school by 8.30am to prepare. They were very excited to say the least and the reaction we got from the community was truly awesome. It was wonderful to see the smiles on everyone’s faces as they read the student’s signs and the horns were honking so much, our lovely Julie in the office wondered what on earth was going on.

Students wrote heartfelt reflections on why they had chosen their particular slogan and the impact they felt it had had on our community. We could have talked for days about ways we can build community but actually getting out there and doing it was so much more powerful. Here is a Smilebox of our experiences:

 

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It seems to me this was connected learning in so many ways. Through the inspiration of others who have built community in unique ways, to a class novel that is challenging our perceptions of community, to students taking on a project and making it their own, and then blogging about it on our class blog – so many levels of connectedness. These are the times when it feels great to be a teacher, when some of my learning is truly impacting on my students and we are all walking the walk together.

If you were to make a sign for your community, what would it say? How do you build community in your classroom, your school and your environs?

February 21, 2013
by 34mk2012
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The Power of Collegial Discussion

As part of the planning team for the RE Eastern Network, we spent quite some time last week talking about the place of dialogue in Religious Education. Our first discussion was about what constituted dialogue. We talked about what dialogue IS and what it IS NOT. This is what we came up with:

Dialogue IS: participatory, open, acknowledges difference, respectful, purposeful, seeks understanding and multiple perspectives

Dialogue IS NOT: prescriptive, closed, dominated by one person, casual, incidental conversation

We then participated in a ‘Guiding a Dialogue’ protocol where we considered some possibilities dialogue enables for the participants. There are a variety of ways to contribute to dialogue including:

  • playing with ideas – possibility thinking
  • affirming and building on others’ ideas
  • following the ideas as far as you go – giving in to the ebb and flow of different directions
  • making links with others’ ideas
  • considering multiple perspectives or various viewpoints
  • offering questions and paraphrasing as well as your own thinking

The protocol enabled us to practise our dialogical skills and challenged them also. 

At Holy Spirit Community School, we have worked hard to embed collegial dialogue as an integral part of the planning process in Religious Education. All staff are encouraged to participate in this phase of the planning, not just classroom teachers. This brings diversity and richness to the discussion. We have found that staff enjoy grappling with the ‘big concepts’ central to our RE units at an adult level. The dialogue is often loud, enthusiastic and hard to wind up! Staff value the opportunity to sort out their own thinking and ask their own questions about the key concepts we are going to be working with. This stage of the planning also helps us to resist the urge to jump in with great activities and focus on developing deep understandings ourselves before we try and do that with our students. 

Some of our staff have reflected on the value of collegial discussion in our RE planning. Here are their thoughts:

How is dialogue used in your school to improve student outcomes?

January 23, 2013
by 34mk2012
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Connected to who, or what?

Having participated in two more ETMOOC sessions this week, the conversation has returned often to the notion of  ‘connected learning’. We have talked about Personal Learning Networks, the place of social media, how much sharing is too much and accountability vs responsibility.

There is another essential element in the connected learning framework and that is our own connection to the learning itself. We all know how our students respond when they are working on something they are interested in or love. They are engaged, motivated, eager to learn and intrinsically rewarded by the learning itself. I think it is the same with teachers and experienced this keenly in the last semester of my Masters last year.

I had two subjects to complete during Semester Two last year. One subject, Leadership Spirituality was one I was innately interested in and the other, Culture and Religion was the ‘lesser of two evils’ that I had to select from. Obviously, I was pre-disposed to enjoying the Leadership subject more but I did go into both with an open mind. 

The lecturer for Leadership Spirituality was engaging and very knowledgeable. She was able to get through an amazing amount of content in 4 days, exposing us to many aspects of the subject and coaxing us into wanting to find out more. The classes were very interactive and the cohort was lively and keen to participate and try out ideas. Both assignments allowed us to follow up on particular areas of interest within the subject and for one assignment, the format was completely open to negotiation (a first for the entire course – I did a blog post!)

The Culture and Religion subject was online and part of it involved posting ideas online. This was a task that had to be completed rather than one students seemed to enjoy. There was little interaction and no useful feedback at all from the lecturer (not classifying ‘good’ as useful). The material had the potential to be interesting, particularly in the area of delving into indigenous spirituality and what it contributes to Australia’s religious landscape but the readings were extremely academic and not very accessible. The assignments all revolved around responses to quote from the articles or books read and took the form of three essays and a powerpoint. 

You may be able to guess which subject I did better in? Of course it was Leadership Spirituality and I got a HD! Why … because I felt completely connected to the cohort of students, the lecturer and the subject material.

Connected learning is about PLN’s and twitter and MOOC’s, but is also about finding your interests and loves, and being given the opportunity to learn with and be challenged by others who share them. The beauty of this is that this form of learning can take you to places you never dreamed of …

How do we make space for our students to be connected learners?

Students from my class of 2012 working on their Author Studies – do we have to stop now?

 

October 6, 2012
by 34mk2012
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What I am looking forward to

As fourth term looms closer by the minute, I have been thinking about what it is I am looking forward to in the next few weeks. Here are a few things …

I am looking forward to sharing one of my favourite children’s books, Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman with my class of 3/4’s. I have read this aloud before and it is a real winner with the students. Gleitzman is a master at dealing with a serious situation with humour and emotion and I remember last time I read this to a class, the conversations it lead to were amazing.

I am looking forward to starting our fourth term favourite, Author Study. Although sceptical of this in my first year back to teaching, I now appreciate how much the students absolutely LOVE Author Study. Some came into my class in February asking about when we would be starting it! I enjoy seeing the students pursue an author that they love and I really look forward to seeing some of the creative and interesting ways I know they will come up with to express their learning from reading the author’s texts. 

 I am looking forward to our Inquiry Unit on Energy. This is not the easiest unit for me to lead as it is way out of my comfort zone. But I think that fact actually gives me a wonderful opportunity to be a genuine co-learner as we inquire together. I can’t wait to see what ideas the students have for choosing an aspect of energy to explore and ultimately present to the class. 

I am looking forward to completing my Masters in Religious Education – 2 assignments to go! The last two years of study have been wonderful and have led me to many unexpected places. I have learnt lots but I have also developed a curiosity about many aspects of leadership and spent much time ‘off the topic’ but following up an area of interest. I am actually looking forward to writing my next assignment which is a personal reflection on a spirituality text. I am enjoying the opportunity to express my learning in a form other than an essay and look forward to putting my photo reflection together. I also know that I will actually miss study next year!! In fairness to my family, I need to take a break but I will miss the structure of formal study. The flip side is I will have the opportunity to get stuck into the pile of Professional Reading I have that has been on hold for sometime (not to mention the MANY resources I have saved into my diigo account!)

I am looking forward to completing the Contemporary Teaching and Learning in Mathematics project this term. This PD has been a whole staff, two year commitment and has changed the way we understand and teach Maths. Having the opportunity to work with the Maths Advisors for planning and watching demonstration lessons from some inspiring ACU staff has been a great learning experience and led to many rich collegial discussions. The challenge now will be to maintain the impetus and enthusiasm and to continue to strive for richer, more open-ended Maths teaching and learning.

SO what are YOU looking forward to in the coming term?

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