Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ensuring survival and finding balance at work as an educator

It’s spring, and to help pick up on the theme of growth and connectedness Dave Burton (from Potential Development) in this webinar (recording for the session; Padlet of ideas shared during the session) helped extend our thinking about work and life - in particular about how it can help us achieve a ‘life work balance’.

The Map of Meaning model (originally developed by Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, Lani Morris, and Patricia Greenhough) also helps us examine where our focus is, on others or on ourselves. Most importantly it introduces the 4 main components which lead to us having a sense that our work is meaningful and of value to ourselves and to others.

The model helps us understand how we’re investing our time and whether that investment is helping us achieve our real goals; the goals that matter most. Dave started by talking about finding balance, as well as negotiating the path between your own reality and inspiration, and shared an example of his own experiences this year.

The model

The tool was unpacked during the session and stories shared that opened discussion to help us find ways to recognise and value how we balance the demands of life and work - from reality to inspiration. Some of the key areas of behaviour were:
  • Developing the Inner Self – Developing oneself and one’s resources. 
  • Unity with Others – Building and maintaining relationships. Dave suggests that there is less and less time at work to 'chew the fat', to build relationships. 
  • Expressing Full Potential – Promoting or representing oneself, taking oneself to market. One element of this is "exercising one's mark and putting it on the table so that others can hear it and respond to it. For example, a head of department needs to be aware of what you have done". 
  • Service to Others – Delivering the goods. This one has "much more of an action to it. Doing what one says one will do. It's rather more practical and involves doing the things and getting the results".

Experiences and reflections

Vicki shared that she feels as though "I have lost my voice in the school I am feeling more oppressed now". Dave suggested that personal development (developing personal self) comes under threat when things are busy.

"The loneliness of the long-distance runner"...the change agents, needs the support of others who are willing or able to acknowledge that it's tough. It could be a shared experience of facing challenges that draws us together, whether it's "motorcycle gangs or an acapella choir".  It's also important to express what we can offer, and summarise what we've achieved; in a way "sounding your own note in the Universe".


During this webinar Dave encouraged everyone to explore the tension between the inspiration that drives us and the circumstances in which we’re working. The questions he used to help frame up our thinking were:
  1. Where has the focus been for you in your work this year?
  2. What has supported/ensured your survival?
  3. What has been in balance, out of balance?
  4. What have the consequences of that been for you?
  5. How might you adjust your focus: For the remainder of this year? For next year?
Nathaniel shared that "Focus for me in work has probably been focused on service to others (and not just this year either). I think this is almost an easy place to be and stay in. I find I'm not so good in the unity with others, although I think I'm experiencing growth in this area. I probably need to focus on developing my inner self - or perhaps my whole self in terms of keeping healthy physically which will help mentally also".

Wrap up...

This webinar helped us understand that working with this model not only helps ensure that we stay on track with our work, it helps us understand why we may be feeling stressed or even overwhelmed. It helps us adjust how we spend our time to lessen those negative feelings and ensure that we do find meaning, purpose and value in our work.

To use the Map of meaning as a means of survival, is quite an investment. Having a clear sense of what inspires you is one of the steps to leading a meaningful and successful life. However, there is often a gap between the inspiration that motivates us, and the reality in which we find ourselves.

Missed the session?

If you missed the session you can always access the recording, here:

And you can watch a couple of videos about the Map of Meaning here:



  • Spring. CC (BY ND) licensed Flickr image by Moyan Brenn:
  • Balance. cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by James Box:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are meetings taking over?

As you go to yet another meeting, you might perhaps be wondering why. It may help you to know that you are not alone. The findings from a recent survey by LogMeIn, Inc. and Ovum suggests that not only has the number of meetings being called increased, the indication is that the meetings are perceived by participants as providing little or no value.
Some of the findings include:
More than 50% of workers reported an increase in the sheer number of meetings they are expected to attend; 2/3 of these workers indicate that at least 1/2 of their meetings are not of value; and worse, chronic late start times of these meetings are having a very real impact on worker productivity, most notably with executives, who, on average, are losing 3 hours a week – 5 1/2 days per year – in meeting delays alone. (Source)
Virtual meetings are now becoming the norm with 24 % of all meetings being virtual, a trend that skews higher for younger workers (age 26-35) who report that 36% of all of their meetings are held virtually. (Source)
You can get a full copy of the Ovum report, Collaboration 2.0: Death of the Web Conference (As We Know It) here, or get some quick highlights from the infographic below.

Image: Collaboration 2.0. Death of the web conference (as we know it). Source:LogMeIn, contact from: 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where next with Professional Learning and Development in NZ?

The curriculum can be re-interpreted depending on the context. For example, around Auckland and Northland, there are different interpretations compared with Southland for example.

One of the most important things about the PLD review is that everyone on the advisory group panel believes that we are all learners. Community and sharing is key. For some people, the notion of a spiral of inquiry for example, is not easy to conceptualise unless you have done it.

Sandra Cubbitt talked about the background of The Report of the PLD Advisory Group (2014), and the people who were involved in the review. The challenge in the work is translating how what you knows works in your context, to a more general context. How can we create system learning across New Zealand. Sandra mentioned two levers - funding and legislation; other soft levers include the curriculum. A new creation of a PLD system that recognises these levers is challenging.

What does sustainability mean? (Taking the money away because you are all right on your own?) We don’t examine a project or a programme and look at it to see what it is we need to modify to acknowledge the ‘time’...that recognises shifts in ways of learning, for instance. Where there is a lot of evidence, which evidence do you use?

The group started at the bottom to identify what should be happening in every school. Sandra pointed us to the Spiral of inquiry, learning and action on p. 16 of the report. What they have discovered however, as when you get more into it, there is utter confusion around the notion of inquiry. The group is creating case studies around what inquiry ‘looks like’ to help exemplify the practice.

One of the key factors is social dialogue, which includes navigational openings. The spiral of inquiry recognises that it’s necessary for every teacher and every leader has the experience of inquiry...therefore, it’s not ‘teaching as inquiry’. As such, there needs to be a strong focus on building the leadership capability.

How do you know that you are making an impact? What are valued student outcomes? The government ones of literacy and numeracy? The focus on national standards gave us narrow measurement data, and was not positive for the national curriculum. Therefore, this group has taken a way wider view of valued student outcomes. We still have to be able to tell government about the impact on students learning.

On p. 21 in the report, Sandra shared that teachers have fed back that teachers can’t see theselves as visible...where are the teaching practices? What is it that the professional has to learn? It’s about the professional as learner. The group are going to insert another box into the diagram so that the teacher is visible.

Some interesting provocations and ideas, in particular around the fundamental influence of the Principal, and the necessity of them being involved.

It’s definitely worth reading the report. The advisory group are looking for feedback around the approaches they are proposing, so you can also contact them by email at

Image: On white: Who you really are. CC (BY NC) licensed image by James Jordon:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Upskilling and empowering eTeachers

How do we, as educators, upskill in a way that both empowers us to figure out how things might work best for our learners, while having no experiencing of learning in that way ourselves? Stephen Bright in E-teachers collaborating: Process based professional development for e-teaching (a .pdf file) explores this question.

Stephen indicates that "Lecturers (e-teachers) who get involved with e-learning face a number of challenges. Often they are grappling with a way of teaching in which they have no experience as learners, and while feedback processes may be available for monitoring and analysing the face-to-face lecturing environment, few systems are in place in most institutions to give supportive feedback to staff about their teaching effectiveness in the online environment" (Bright, 2008, p. 75).

Conducting a small-scale case study, Stephen worked with six teaching staff who had a range of eLearning experience from beginner to advanced. The purpose was to develop a framework and process for collegial review of teacher presence in online courses. It was framed in terms of Professional Development (PD) rather than Quality Assurance (QA). The study was conducted to increase the quality and quantity of feedback that teachers get about their courses. Most of the QA processes tend to be based on a check list, so re-framing it as PD was a way of making it less imposing, and this was enhanced by the fact that the participants created their own checklist.
In the paper, Stephen recommends the Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) eBook as a primer for eLearning and a model. He also uses the Seven Principles for Good Practice from Chickering and Gamson (1987) around undergraduate education, engagement, and active learning. Stephen Marshall's Maturity Model is also suggested as a benchmark.

Of the seven people involved, each was given one principle each. They then met to brainstorm, and collated their ideas in a wiki. The final step was going through and undertaking a rating process (what are the must haves, and what are the nice to haves?). This resulted in primary indicators (30 - the must haves) , and secondary indicators (60 - the nice to haves). The participants discussed how eTeachers could set high expectations - feedback, timeliness, exemplars, and models, and generic feedback comments in neutral spaces, for example.

The Collegial Appraisal process was based around a range of roles, which took about 8.5 hours of face-to-face time and 3.5 hours contributing to the wiki. They spent an average of 2 hours each on self-appraisal and 4.5 hours for 3 review meetings.

The findings indicated that the staff who participated felt empowered rather than evaluated, and the resulting framework was available for institutional use. In addition, it illustrated the fact that you don't have to have best practice frameworks, and you end up with more ownership when the eTeachers develop the frameworks themselves. The framework often ends up a good match with other benchmark models.

How do you conduct evaluation of blended and online courses at your institution? Is this an approach you might like to, or have already tried? Please leave comments below.

Reference: Bright, S. (2008). E-teachers collaborating: Process based professional development for e-teaching. In Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings ascilite Melbourne 2008.

Image: 'Planning Your Online Coursev2' Found on