Monday, July 22, 2013

Balancing professional development for teachers, with funding, and student achievement

In this podcast (that was shared by Mike Preece), some key points arise about providing learning opportunities across all sociocultural groups in New particular those who are facing socio-economic disadvantages. The link between provision of professional development and shifts in student achievement are discussed, and it was recognised that it is tough to demonstrate this shift using standardised tests. The link between lifts in achievement are not easily measured, and it is problematic drawing a direct causal link...especially as school are inundated by initiatives.

It would be great to hear your reactions - do you feel that use of achievement data to apply for funding "constrains and controls" teaching and teachers? Should we go back to assessing "the performance of individual teachers"? What do you feel the key aspects are that improve the learning experience for students in schools? Should the requirements for entry to teacher training be raised? Can Board of Trustees carry out "trusted" performance appraisal?
How good are our teachers and does it matter? Radio New Zealand's education correspondent, John Gerritsen discusses the quality of school teachers with Angela Roberts, president of the Post Primary Teachers' Association; Dr Judith Aitken, a member of the committee that reviewed the teachers council and a former head of the education review office; and Professor Dugald Scott, a former dean of Education at Victoria University of Wellington (source).
Duration:  27′ 54″
Image: 'Balancing on the Invisible' Found on
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Monday, July 15, 2013

Want to get involved? Connecting Children with Nature on an international scale

“The child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable” Richard Louv 2005 (USA)

Let’s tackle conservation and environmental issues from the ground up – by facilitating children’s interaction and appreciation of nature through practical experience. Conservation and environmental issues become secondary benefits, developed by them.

How can we do this?
Our small town in the south [of New Zealand] already is.

Fiordland Kindergarten is already a trailblazer with its nature discovery program, pioneering and constantly developing an nature inspiring outdoor education programme, with 8 more kindergartens in Southland now on board. Kids restore the Kepler is showing our school aged children how we can make a real difference to conservation within an area. The Fiordland Conservation Trust are working from the ground up to facilitate real relationships between corporations and conservation.

Can we share this information?
Of Course!!!! If we can also add in the wealth of knowledge and practices from other organizations that share similar philosophies, the conference will have relevance to all the education sectors.
The Proposal
With the help of likeminded organizations, Southland Kindergarten Association and friends would like to welcome all levels of educators from around the globe for a weekend of education, ideas and inspiration on how to help integrate nature into their curriculum, whether on a local or government level.

What will we offer?
Internationally recognized key note speakers from around the globe, interactive and practical sessions on how to implement the ideas given in awe inspiring Fiordland.

This is dependent on availability of speakers but April 2014 is proposed at this stage.

Who will we offer it to?
At this stage it is thought that the key marketing would go to all educators from 0 – 18 around New Zealand and Australia, there is no reason why we couldn’t widen the net further if appropriate. All Department of Conservation educators, as well as relevant Government representatives should also be invited to attend.

What we want from your organization?
To discuss the options of working with your organization to enable us to maximize the potential of the conference.

Thank you.
Jo Marsh
Education Coordinator, Kids Restore the Kepler
Fiordland Conservation Trust, 28 Acheron Way, Te Anau, Southland 9600
"This has to be the most inspiring project on the planet", Ruud Kleinpaste - the ‘Bugman’
“I have always had a belief that children who experience “Being” in Nature playing and learning alongside their peers and with the guidance of an interested adult will become “nature literate”. If we want the best possible future for our children and our environment we need to give them the opportunity and time to connect with nature in its wildest forms, a place where they can build emotional and physical resilience - they need to love the Earth before we ask them to want to care and protect it. Then they will become true nga kaitiaki (guardians) of our whenua (land).(Claire Maley-Shaw, Fiordland Kindergarten 2012)

'Discovery, Wonder, and Amazement' Found on

Monday, July 8, 2013

One way to think about learning

I was talking to a delightful lady from Northern Ireland the other day, who is on retreat for 3 months in New Zealand. We got to talking about how important it was to take some time away from all the gadgets and devices, and to take some time out. I mentioned how lucky John and I were to have a bit of land up in Northland, near Kerikeri, and much of time there we used to plant trees.

Since 2008 we have planted about 9,000 trees, shrubs, and flaxes...most of them about 20cm tall. We carefully prepare the soil before planting and then: plant, stake, protect, mulch, feed, water, weed the tree (and yes, I am sometimes seen going around and tickling the odd leaf and have been heard murmuring encouragement)...and then, all we can do is wait. Sometimes, in spite of all we do the tree will die.

It struck me during the conversation with this lady that we can't make the tree grow. As well as the nurturing we can provide, there are genetics, drought, flooding wind, pipe clay, an interesting left over from all the volcanoes called 'pan' (compressed ash deposit in the soil that the trees find it tough to grow in), insects, escapee sheep and so on.

After this realisation I then made the leap to learning (and I'll try not to extend this analogy to the point of tedium! :-p). As with the trees, you can't make it happen! You can provide opportunities that are likely to suit as many learners as possible, you can nurture the learners with conditions that will support their non-cognitive needs as well as their cognitive ones, and, depending on the environment in which you work, you can make sure that everyone is warm, has enough to eat and drink, and are generally as comfortable as possible. In addition, you can encourage your students to be self-advocates and impact their learning environments, you can encourage the parents, whanau, and wider community to get involved and to take more of an active part in supporting the learner(s).

However, there are always factors you won't be able to influence...things over which you have no control. While this isn't a 'get out of jail free' card (i.e. of course you pursue every avenue you can), there will be learners you can't reach...and certainly cannot make learn.

John and I have found it invaluable in our tree-planting is to try different approaches to the planting and nurturing, often informed by talking to our wonderful neighbours about their own tree-planting experiences, and, using social media, reading, listening, watching, and talking to people about what they are doing around the globe. We just keeping planting, and tweaking our approach as we learn what works best in the various environments we have here. As we plant we have noticed many positive things...the older surviving trees(some now twice as tall as I am) create a nursery for the younger trees, we have some self-seeded trees growing now...and the birds are beginning to come back. The soil is improving, and we are delighted to have lots more worms, and greater drought and flood tolerance.

As I said, I am not going to extend the analogy to breaking point, but, for me, it has been a useful way to think about learning...especially the realisation that with both trees and learners, a 'one size fits all' approach never works.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Hazel Owen: