Friday, March 27, 2020

Power and art

Just three months ago I was hopping across Europe visiting museums and art galleries. It seems unthinkable that so much has changed as a result of covid-19 in such a short space of time. We are now on day three of lockdown in New Zealand. And all of a sudden, I find that I have time to finish a blog post I started in January!

This past holiday I had the pleasure of visiting numerous art galleries, listening to art history podcasts and completing Adobe Illustrator tutorials online. I also had a solid week of super intense practice while I prepared for a group aerial circus performance (that's me on the right!). While I am a science and sometimes maths teacher, I often find that the arts is where much of my inspiration comes from.


I have learned that taking the time to be creative and appreciate the creative arts, makes a huge positive difference to my personal wellbeing. It is also more often than not, a catalyst for deep thinking and reflection in my day to day practice within education. Recently for example, I learned about artist Lisa Brice from listening to a great podcast by art curator Katy Hessel. 

Source: Women in Art - Tate via Khan Academy

As some of you may know, female artists are remarkably absent in art history (go ahead, make a list of all the artists you know about and then see how many are women). Women are primarily present as the subject of paintings, and hence, are always represented through a male filter, or 'male gaze' as Hessel calls it. Lisa Brice, the artist mentioned above, recasts women from art history. This 'recasting' means that historic portraits of women where they are portrayed as weak, vulnerable, where they are in positions of disempowerment and hopelessness, are reinvented to give the women power. 

Take for example the famous "Parting at Morning" by Sir William Rothenstein (see below left). The women featured in the portrait was described in his journal as destitute. She attempted to sell him paintings. He could not afford them however instead, she posed for him to complete various drawings. He describes the women as "not without a certain cadaverous beauty" and included with her portrait a poem modified from Robert Browning:
Round the cliff on a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the Mountain's rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.
In essence, this painting casts this woman in a 'walk of shame'. The painting and the inclusion of the poem immortalised this woman in her state of destitution and shame. What's more, there is a more convoluted message about objectification captured here, about how this woman is still pretty even if she looks like death warmed up.

Photo on the left from Tate, and photo on the right included here without permission from Ennigaldi

On the right, however, Lisa Brice has recast this woman. Instead of the vulnerable, destitute, cadaverous women who Browinging implies is reliant on the men in her world, she is recast to have a certain "I don't give a f*%$# and don't mess with me look about her. Brice essentially attempts to restore some power to this woman.

So why does this matter in education? Well, the redistribution of power in these two artworks paint a stark contrast of how the same person can be represented. If we could hold up Lisa Brice's lense to education, would such a contrast be revealed there too? For example, almost every New Zealander would recognise Marcus King's famous representation of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (below). How might this painting be different if Māori were recast to have more power. Would there by more Māori standing rather than sitting on the ground? What else might be different? 

Image form Archives New Zealand

There are those who would argue that yes, women, indigenous peoples, and other minority groups are represented in ways that diminish their power within education and academic contexts (Ann Milne re. Māori, and  Jane Gilbert re. women in science, being just two names that jump to mind). With this recasting in mind, I am wondering what education might look like if power distribution was fairer. Which aspects of my classroom practice and leadership would look completely different? What knowledge and skills would be prioritised in schools instead? And most important, what can we do to ensure that our own biases don't cloud our view when we consider power distribution in education? 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Using science capabilities for assessment

Recently, a teacher in a Facebook group asked how others set targets and measure progress in the junior science curriculum? I mentioned that at Hobsonville Point Secondary we have developed curriculum level rubrics around the science capabilities. Over the next few days, I was swamped with emails from various teachers at various schools wanting to see what we do. So I have put together a little summary for anyone interested.

First things first... Every term, the whole school designs their junior courses around one of eight whole school concepts. These eight concepts were pulled out from an analysis of the New Zealand Curriculum. Since our year nine and ten courses are combined, these whole school concepts go through a two-year cycle.

Each term, we have matched the whole school concept with a science capability based on the literature in TKI and the work of Ally Bull and Rose Hipkins. Every science course bases their learning and assessment around the selected science capability for the term. From here, we then developed learning objectives to further unpack the science capabilities. Each learning objective has a corresponding rubric which is used for tracking and reporting.

Our science capability informed learning objectives
Gather and Interpret data
  • To explore by investigating to provide evidence for [key concept] in [context].
  • To make sense by analysing and interpreting data to provide evidence for [key concept] in [context].
Using evidence to make meaning
  • To make sense by analysing scientific evidence for [key concept] in [context].
  • To generate by constructing scientific explanations for [key concept] in [context].
  • To evaluate by critiquing scientific explanations for [key concepts] in [context].
Interpret models and representations
  • To generate by constructing a representation or model for [key concept] in [context].
  • To evaluate by critiquing representations or models for [key concepts] in [context].
Combination of skills to support science, technology and society
  • To generate by responding to a socio-scientific issue.
 Finally, we decide on the context of the course. For example, we might decide to focus on astrobiology. Students might learn about current theories about aliens and their locations, and then critique representations of aliens based on their new knowledge. Or, students might learn to design investigations to better understand the organisms in their local environment. We might have a civil engineering context where students might analyse and interpret data about the properties of materials. They might then use these to make recommendations for building a bridge. My personal favourite learning objective is "to generate by responding to a socio-scientific issue." We have redeveloped this learning objective for project-based learning, ensuring that at least once a year, students will immerse themself in a socio-scientific issue, synthesise key science ideas about their chosen issue, and then take appropriate action. 

The video below was made by a group of students that were learning to model and represent forces in a circus context. (Thanks to The Dust Palace in Auckland for teaching us to use the equipment!).

 

Finally, students are assessed against the rubrics we developed to unpack each of the capability-based learning objectives. The rubric below is for "to generate by constructing a representation or model for [key concept] in [context]." Assessment might involve students submitting portfolios, student interviews, videos, etc. The sky is the limit!


CL 4
4 Developing4 Proficient 4 Adaptive
Construct a range of simple representations and models to make meaning. Scientific ideas are communicated by beginning to use a range of scientific symbols, conventions, and vocabulary.
Use scientific vocabulary and conventions

Constructs simple models or representations that make meaning by describing data or scientific ideas

I am able to:
Construct a simple model or representation that describes scientific information

Make meaning by connecting scientific ideas or data to a simple model or representation
Consistently use scientific vocabulary and conventions in a range of contexts.

Constructs simple models or representations that make meaning by explaining data or scientific ideas

I am able to:
Construct a simple model or representation that explains scientific information

Make meaning by relating scientific ideas or data to simple models or representations in a range of contexts.
Consistently use accepted scientific vocabulary and conventions in a range of contexts

Constructs simple models or representations that make meaning by discussing data or scientific ideas

I am able to:
Construct a simple model or representation that discusses scientific information

Make meaning by considering the application of scientific ideas or data to simple models or representations in a range of contexts.
Clarifications/Explanatory Notes/Links:
A model or representation may be physical (e.g., diagrams, flow charts, maps, scale models), mathematical (e.g., equations, graphs) or conceptual (e.g., imagery, metaphor, analogy), and it can be specific to a discipline. There are symbols, notations and terminology that are appropriate for specific types of representations within a discipline.
Accepted scientific vocabulary and conventions appropriate to level 4 of the curriculum.

CL 5
5 Developing5 Proficient5 Adaptive
Construct a range of representations or models to make meaning. Scientific ideas are communicated using a wider range of science vocabulary, symbols, and conventions (including visual and numerical literacy).
Use scientific vocabulary and conventions

Constructs visual and numerical representations or models that describe by:
communicating scientific concepts/ideas
AND/OR
showing patterns in data.


I am able to:
Construct a visual or numerical model or representation that describes scientific information

Make meaning by connecting scientific ideas or data to a visual or numerical model or representation
Consistently use scientific vocabulary and conventions in a range of contexts.

Constructs visual and numerical representations or models that explain by:
communicating scientific concepts/ideas
AND/OR
showing patterns in data.

I am able to:
Construct a visual or numerical model or representation that explains scientific information

Make meaning by relating scientific ideas or data to visual or numerical models or representations in a range of contexts.
Consistently use accepted scientific vocabulary and conventions in a range of contexts

Constructs visual and numerical representations or models that discuss by:
communicating scientific concepts/ideas
AND/OR
showing patterns in data.

I am able to:
Construct a visual or numerical model or representation that discusses scientific information

Make meaning by considering the application of scientific ideas or data to visual or numerical models or representations in a range of contexts.
Clarifications/Explanatory Notes:
A model or representation may be physical (e.g., diagrams, flow charts, maps, scale models), mathematical (e.g., equations, graphs) or conceptual (e.g., imagery, metaphor, analogy), and it can be specific to a discipline. There are symbols, notations and terminology that are appropriate for specific types of representations within a discipline.
Accepted scientific vocabulary and conventions appropriate to level 5 of the curriculum

CL 6
6 Developing6 Proficient6 Adaptive
Construct a range of representations or models to make meaning by beginning to connect scientific theories, models and investigations. Scientific ideas are communicated by beginning to use accepted science knowledge, vocabulary, symbols, and conventions (including visual and numerical literacy).
Use scientific vocabulary and conventions.

Connect simple scientific theories, models and investigations by describing visual and numerical representations or models when:
communicating scientific concepts/ideas
AND/OR
showing patterns in data.


I am able to:
Construct a visual or numerical model or representation that describes scientific information, by using supporting evidence.

Make meaning by connecting scientific ideas or data to simple scientific theories, models or investigations
Consistently use scientific vocabulary and conventions in a range of contexts.

Connect simple scientific theories, models and investigations by explaining visual and numerical representations or models when:
communicating scientific concepts/ideas
AND/OR
showing patterns in data.

I am able to:
Construct a visual or numerical model or representation that explains scientific information, by using supporting evidence.

Make meaning by relating scientific ideas or data to simple scientific theories, models or investigations in a range of contexts.
Consistently use accepted scientific vocabulary and conventions in a range of contexts

Connect simple scientific theories, models and investigations by discussing visual and numerical representations or models when:
communicating scientific concepts/ideas
AND/OR
showing patterns in data.

I am able to:
Construct a visual or numerical model or representation that discusses scientific information, by using supporting evidence.

Make meaning by considering the application of simple scientific theories, models or investigations in a range of contexts.

Choose appropriate and conventional visual or numerical model(s) or representation(s) to support an explanation of a concept, and discuss limitations of chosen models or representations
Clarifications/Explanatory Notes:
A model or representation may be physical (e.g., diagrams, flow charts, maps, scale models), mathematical (e.g., equations, graphs) or conceptual (e.g., imagery, metaphor, analogy), and it can be specific to a discipline. There are symbols, notations and terminology that are appropriate for specific types of representations within a discipline.
Accepted scientific vocabulary and conventions appropriate to level 6 of the curriculum

A few key things to note
  • These rubrics, learning objectives, etc. are not perfect. We are constantly adjusting and refining them to ensure that students gain the necessary skills and knowledge to be informed citizens and capable of success in senior science. Given the pace at which science is advancing, however, I would argue that evolving assessment and learning is the way to go...
  • You will notice that our focus in science is not on students learning about. Instead, there is a much greater focus on students learning to. This is in part as a result of the science capabilities that make some attempt at reconciling the perceived gap between skills and knowledge in the curriculum. 
  • The work of developing learning objectives and progressions is just as important, if not more so, than having a completed rubric. This is a difficult, sticky and usually confronting process. However, this process is a fundamental building block of shifting assessment away from historical modes of end of topic tests. It requires us learning to use the curriculum rather than achievement standards to dictate what and how we teach our students. It requires us to really ask 'what is science?', if it is not a unit on atoms and another on electricity. 
  • Many secondary school teachers know that there is never enough time and that we are in a constant race to 'cover all the content'. The only way of getting out of this content rat race is to let things go. If you just try to fit in more 'stuff', you end up doing more things, but worse. Instead, we are trying to do less, better. We have chosen the science capabilities because we believe they offer both access to the niche-specific knowledge of senior science, as well as providing life worthy, relevant learning for all students living in our modern world of exponential technology. Many science teachers might be alarmed that our school does not provide the stock standard introduction to the periodic table unit, and not all students will have learnt about parallel and series circuits. However, all our students will have had to explore and analyse a socio-scientific issue, and designed and prototyped an action accordingly. All students will have to use scientific evidence in some way, and be able to distinguish between what makes something scientific or not. 
  • The students in our class come from culturally and socially diverse backgrounds. They learn new skills from MOOCs and YouTube, and communicate using augmented reality (think IG filters!). The science capabilities offer enough flexibility that we can design courses around student interest while maintaining the integrity of science as a discipline.
  • We have been using this system/process for about four years now. In 2020, our plan is to extend our rubrics to include senior science courses. 
Any questions? Comment below! 

PS: If you are planning on redoing your science progressions, I highly recommend first reading the following:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Manaakitanga

Post number 3 for my 10 posts in 10 days challenge...

PS: Whatever you do, don't read half of this post. Read the whole thing. 
 

Learning Hubs at Hobsonville Point Secondary School forms an important part of our curriculum. They use an advisory model to take pastoral care to the next level. In term 3, our learning in these advisories centred around the concept of manaakitanga.

I was very aware that building the term's learning around manaakitanga came with some challenges. Firstly, in New Zealand, we are often guilty of pretending to be culturally responsive by slapping a te Reo Māori name on anything. Calling a Community of Learning a Kāhui Ako is not what makes it culturally responsive, the same way that giving the unit, theme or topic that we are studying a te Reo Māori name would not make it culturally responsive either. This lands us in the treacherous territory of tokenism. 

A second risk I identified was around cultural misappropriation. This can be described as when "one culture, most often one that has a historical record of oppressing other cultures, engages in the unauthorised taking of some aspects of another, most often a minority culture" (Metcalfe, 2012). Our schools are saturated in Eurocentric thinking, systems and bias, and as a result, I can't help but wonder if our dominant culture has 'taken' this concept, potentially without authority. 

And finally, my biggest concern, without understanding of the genealogy of the concept we were studying, its cultural meaning, and significance, was I at risk of misrepresenting this culturally significant term to my students? In particular, it seemed to me that by misrepresenting the meaning of manaakitanga through my own Eurocentric bias and unintentional ignorance, I could surreptitiously be erasing the cultural significance and supplanting it with covert Eurocentric cultural ideas instead. 

So what did I do? Well, the only thing that seemed appropriate to do. Don't represent my view of manaakitanga, but instead seek out ways to represent the Māori view of manaakitanga. Inspired by the work of famous writer and psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés, and great NZ educators like Heemi McDonald, I looked to stories for help. 

I stared by reading students a story of Te Pura, the guardian taniwha of Wairoa as told in Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers. I then asked each of my students to look for a story connected to their family, culture, heritage or identity that somehow represented manaakitanga. I encouraged my students to speak to their parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and more to help locate an appropriate story. I hoped that by encouraging students to seek out their own stories, that this might provide an opportunity for students to build their own cultural capital while ensuring that I don't just accidentally teach my own version of manaakitanga.  Finally, we also watched a movie, selected by the students for its portrayal of ideas related to manaakitanga. After examining these three stories, we then discussed what the shared attributes or themes were of the stories that in most cases, spanned multiple shared cultures. 


Student's sketchnotes of manaakitanga stories. 

Of course, it is early days in my journey towards culturally sustaining pedagogy and there is a lot about the approach above that needs improvement. Although the above shows an example of me 'trying', it is simply not enough that we try. If we are to truly restore the harm that has been done by two hundred years of colonisation and its effects, it is essential that we try, and then evaluate, learn more, iterate, seek feedback, repeat. Our efforts towards culturally sustaining pedagogy are like taking a step in the wrong way on a travellator. We need to take enough steps, and take them in fast enough succession if we hope to overcome the direction that history's travellator is sending us in.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Digital Citizenship Cranium

Post number 2 for my 10 posts in 10 days challenge...

How is your school supporting students to become good digital citizens?

We live in a time where successful navigation of digital technologically is a critical part of success. Don't believe me? Did you use any form of digital alarm this morning, including a digital clock or phone? Did you call or text the school when your child was sick and you were keeping them at home? On your lunch break, did you pay for your coffee with EFTPOS, credit card or Apple Wallet? Perhaps you used a GPS to find your next meeting. In the meeting you may have showcased some of your latest work using a presentation or augmented reality. Chances are that you used Spotify to get you in the zone at the gym, while out running, or in that fitness class you've been taking. When you're ready to crash tonight you might watch a show on Netflix before a quick scroll through Facebook to see the birthdays you should have remembered today. Before you go to sleep, you might turn off your phone, and settle in for a little bit of quiet reading on a Kindle before doing it all again tomorrow.

While digital technology is ubiquitous in our life and the lives of our students, it is important to remember that is only increasing. Already self-driving cars are on the increase, as are autonomous drones. An increasing array of wearable tech is also augmenting our lives. Just think Apple watch, Fitbit and bluetooth headphones. All of the above doesn't even begin to address the wide range of digital skills that our students already need (and will need) in the workplace. Additionally, the students who are in front of us today do not remember, a time before the internet, or even a time before YouTube. For some of them at least, there may not be a separation vs. online and real world, instead, it is just the world.

The explosive and exponential pace of change in digital technology means that we are essentially in a new Wild West, characterised by new frontiers, rapid expansion, and some degree of anarchy as law and order struggles to keep pace with the rate of change. It is my belief that any school that intends to prepare and support students in the world in and beyond school, needs to help students navigate the challenges and pitfalls of digital technology, as well as enable students to seize the opportunities and benefits on offer.

In response, I ran a short professional learning activity today with our staff to help promote discussion about the many elements of digital citizenship - it's a lot more than just cyber bullying! I designed the activity to help build our staff's vocabulary and awareness of the scope of digital citizenship.

The activity is quite obviously inspired by Cranium, however I have made a few tweaks to allow you to play it with large groups. 


Digital Citizenship Cranium

You will need:

  • One piece of paper and pencil for each group. 
  • One set of playing cards for each group (see below). 
  • Timer for each group.
To play:
  • The object of the game is to guess as many correct answers answers as possible in the allocated amount of time. (We played for 10 minutes today.)
  • Split into small groups of 3 to 6 people. You can have as many group as you like, however each group will need their own set of cards.
  • Assign one person from each group as the game facilitator. This person will read the instructions on each card to the group and start a 1 minute timer. Groups can take turns to be the facilitator or keep the same one the whole way through.
  • When the timer runs out or when the group guesses correctly, go to the next card.
Click here for the high resolution cards.





Monday, October 14, 2019

Rediscovering student agency

I realised with a shock yesterday how little I've blogged this year! So, I have set a personal challenge for myself, 10 posts in 10 days. It shouldn't be too hard to turn all of my draft posts into complete ones, right? Or post a quick vlog reflecting of my day? Or share a strategy that I have tried? Maybe you're keen to try too?

It seems that not too long ago, everyone was talking about student agency. Many a tweet talked about self managing students, blog posts were written, and there were probably multiple sessions about it at ULean. I know Claire Amos did a great talk about it, and Steve Mouldey did a great presentation. Lately, however, I have found myself looking at these resources in a new light. I have always believed that student agency is a key ingredient for success as it helps students to become self-managing, life-long learners. I still think this a worthy goal for success in a rapidly changing, fast-paced world. However, student agency has taken on a new sense of urgency and importance in my practice of late. Prompted by my Spiral of Inquiry in 2018, I wondered whether student agency might contribute in restoring some of the power to those students and families for whom colonisation and embedded system bias has led to feeling disempowerment?

In schools, command and control models dominate in so many ways. We tell our students where to be, when to be there, and how to act when they get there. We tell our students what to wear, what not to wear, and in some cases, what their hair can and cannot look like. We tell them when they can eat, when they may use the restroom. We tell our students what they should learn, and how they should learn it. Whether inadvertently or not, we decide what our students should value through deciding how they should spend their time, what we assess, and what qualifies as "justified" reasons for missing school. The trouble is, every decision that we make FOR students rather than WITH students is another instance where we are removing agency and power.

Once I began to notice all the ways that I remove agency from my students, I was alarmed to discover that in my own practice, despite priding myself on a student-centred philosophy’ I was constantly enacting my power over the students. I began feeling uncomfortable that 17 and 18-year-old students felt the need to ask permission to go to the toilet. If we cannot even trust young people with going to the toilet, then what kind of messages were we sending about trusting them with their learning? And while we might argue that some students misbehave and cannot be trusted to go and come back in a timely manner, why is it that we feel justified to mistrust the majority because of the actions of a minority?

Building on my learning from 2018, I started this year with a focus on rediscovering, revisiting, refining and kickstarting student agency in my classroom (again). I am hoping to move from the 'false choice' model (where I give students a choice between tasks I designed) to one where the power is truly shared. In framing this thinking, I found Hart's Ladder of Participation really helpful. Below is the description of one of the experiments I tried in my teaching this year in response.

The students and I started the term by unpacking the rubric that would be used to assess their learning in our module called Star Trek. Together, we identified the skills and knowledge we would need to gain by the end of the unit.

Students then split into small groups to design their own lesson (or a small series of lessons) around a learning objective they had written (I had to teach them how to write these first). They researched their chosen area of focus, designed and made activities, made and found resources, as well as identify success criteria, keywords and ideas. Once students had completed their planning, I worked with each group to 'quality assure' their lesson and to allocated badges for each lesson. From here, each lesson was loaded as a mission on our Starfleet Mission Tracker (see image below) aka. kanban board. If you are not familiar with kanban, it's a super simple project management tool that really helps visualise workflow, prioritisation, etc. I 100% recommend using this with team, students and yourself! I created the video below to help my students understand kanban.



Using Trello, we set up a kanban board where each card serves as a mission. A click on each mission reveals the instructions and resources for each lesson. As students completed the various parts of the lesson, they would mark items as done on the To-Do list also included on the mission card.


Expanded view of a mission.

Over the course of the term, students started each class by selecting from the AVAILABLE MISSIONS what they would complete that day and moving it into the TO DO column on their personal mission tracker. As they were completing the lesson, the mission would be in their DOING column, and finally, when they have completed all items on the checklist, they would move the card into the DONE column.


To help students make selections that would support them gaining all the skills towards the rubric, we also created specialisations using the badges that we allocated. Each student thus played an active role in designing the class' lessons, choosing their specialisation and choosing the lessons to help them achieve their specialisation.


So did it work?
It was great to see that students responded well to this teaching strategy. As the teacher of this class, it was remarkable how easy this class became to manage. Every student knew what they were doing and what their next steps were. My stress levels and planning time was significantly reduced! (This was an added bonus, I hadn't planned on this). Students' reported experience of this approach also showed that students really felt that their learning was personalised.

However, what was particularly interesting about this approach was that out of the five Maori and/or Pasifika students in this class who completed the in-class survey, three out of the five students gave themselves the highest possible score for the three indicators in the survey:

  • I feel proud of the work that I did in this class.
  • I feel confident that the work I did in this class is good quality.
  • I did my best in this class.
Interestingly, the other two students still identified in the survey that the learning was new and free (Student A) and that they linked the learning (Student E). 




Forms response chart. Question title: This class was personalised. I was able to make decisions about how I approached it.. Number of responses: 13 responses.


All in all, I think this was a pretty successful experiment and next step for my Spiral of Inquiry. This year I am continuing my focus on "How might we develop assessment that enables success for academically ‘at risk’ students?" I look forward to further experiment with this approach in senior classes next...