Thursday, 7 July 2016

Visible Teaching and Learning

This is my third year Team Teaching (Collaborative Teaching) with my colleague Kate.  We have made many changes over this time to make this work for us, but more importantly for it to work for the children. One of the philosophies that we have held dearly to during this time, is that all teaching and learning is visible.

Why is this important to us?  Firstly we wanted children to have a clear understanding of what they are learning, why they are learning it and their next learning step will be.  Secondly we wanted learning and teaching to not only be visible to the students, but also the parents and whānau.   Essential visible teaching and learning strengthen the home and school connections.

Understandably our understanding and implementation of visible teaching and learning has changed significantly during this process.  The most significant changes that have occurred are due to the integration of devices into learning programme, which gave us better opportunities and a platform to create an environment that promotes visible teaching and learning.

Initially we had limited resources, 6 Ipads (2014).  We then introduced 10 chrome books into our classroom as a pilot to gain a better understanding of working in a digital environment.  In 2015 we we fortunate enough to have enough Chrome books for 1:2.  This gave us more opportunities but we were still limited, as we had one foot in the digital classroom and the other foot in the analogue classroom, which creates twice the work.  Thankfully this year we are 1:1 (chrome books) over half of them student owned.

The most important  part of this process hasn't been the technology, it has been the pedagogy  that now drives our teaching and learning, which is Learn, Create, Share.  We are on our second year of the Manaiakalani Outreach Programme.  Learn, Create, Share is visible teaching and learning. With our assistance and guidance from our Manaiakalani outreach facilitator Mark Maddren, we have been able to develop a better understanding of what this looks like and how we can implement it into our programme.

This year we have built a learning site where the children access their learning.  This alone has made teaching and learning more visible.  Children are able to continue their learning at home and have access to the resources that we have used to enhance the learning. We have also used a class blog over the past two years to share with the parents and whānau what the children are learning.  But the problem with the class blog was it wasn't personalised for the individuals in the class.  Parents could see what the class was doing, but not necessary what the individual child was doing or how they were progressing. This term the children all have their own personal blog.  This has opened up a lot of doors for us as their teachers, there whānau and more importantly them.

We have learnt pretty quickly that you can have a class site, and blogs but that doesn't necessarily make your teaching and learning visible. Especially if the parents and whānau don't know about them, or know how to access them.  Initially we were encouraging the children to go home and share both the site and their blogs with the parents with limited success.  Luckily for us we had learning conferences at the end of term 2.  This was the perfect opportunity to not only expose the parents to the learning site and their individual blogs,  but also to showcase how they are used in our programme but more importantly how they can access them.

We are required to report to parents for National Standards twice a year, but we didn't want the children's leaning conference to be just about that.  We wanted it to be a showcase of what they can do and to celebrate their achievements.   We wanted the parents to have a better understanding of Learn, Create, Share, and what visible teaching and learning is.   We wanted to show them how they can access and connect with what their child is doing in the classroom.  We wanted them to leave those learning conferences with the confidence to connect with their child's learning.

Traditionally we get around  70%-80% of parents turn out to learning conferences if we are lucky, which isn't ideal.  Traditionally Kate and I do the heavy lifting for the children in preparation for these, and a significant amount of the heavy lifting during the conferences.  Traditionally after Learning conferences we feel completely washed out as most teachers can relate to.

Things were significantly different this year.

All of the children created a slideshow, which consisted of 5 slides.  The first 3 slides covered there learning goals for reading, writing and maths.  Children had to find evidence to show whether or not they had achieved their goals or still need to work on them.  The children were able to link blog posts and blog comments they had written as evidence, they were able to link their digital modelling book, and anything else in their drive that could be used as evidence.

The forth slide was a mid year reflection where they had to describe what has helped their learning and also what they are most proud of.

The final slide was an opportunity for the children to teach the parents how to write  blog comments using the formate the children use (positive, thoughtful and helpful).  We gave the children plenty of time to create their presentation and practice presenting it, ensuring that they highlighted their evidence they collected and explain their next learning steps. We felt comfortable allocating as it was easily justified as it essentially covered our schools key characteristics.

Learning goal template

The end result was great.  We had children excited about learning conferences, nagging parents to make sure that they turned up.   We had the best turn out we have ever had 52/54 of the children's family and whānau turned up and we are confident of catching up with the final 2 families. Both of those children have shared their presentation with their families.

As for heavy lifting and feeling feeling wiped out after two days of learning conferences.  Not at all! For the first time our student led conferences were in fact student led. Students were able to justify why they have achieved goals or why they were still working on them.  More importantly the parents and whānau left the conferences knowing how to access the site and their child's blog.  They also had a better understanding of what visible teaching and learning is.



Is it perfect?  Far from it and we have a clear understanding of what our next steps are, such as creating a parent portal on our site.  There are a few families who do not have internet access, so we need to adapt to cater to them.

We can definitely be more visible with teaching and learning, but we have come a long way since our journey began in 2014.  Having had individual blogs for children since the beginning of term 2 has made a huge difference.

Has this created more work for us?
I personally don't think so, we aren't working harder, we are working smarter.  The initial set up  of the blogs was a lot of work but now the children are doing all the heavy lifting.

Resources that we are using to promote visible teaching and learning:

  • Google apps (Docs, slides sheets etc)
  • Classroom site
  • Class blog
  • Individual blogs
  • Screencastify
Other things that we use to also promote visible teaching and learning:
  • Sight, sound and motion
  • Rewindable learning
  • Children creating digital learning object
Presentations for parents about what learning looks like in Ako Ngātahi.

Examples of children's presentations.