Friday, November 3, 2017

Mindlab Applied Practice in Context Week 32

Reflective Practice and Changes in Practice

Our Board of Trustees is very keen to promote substantial professional development opportunities for our teachers and four staff from our school have done the Mindlab course.

For myself, my commitment to the journey has been commitment to the staff.  I felt if, with the full load of principalship, I could complete the study and assignments alongside the staff, it would model the possibility of deep professional learning for all of us.  I have had the opportunity to update with the latest information.  As a school we had taken big leaps forward with collaborative and digital learning but could not sustain our momentum and suffered as a result of it.  We have had a chance to reflect together, and heal from some of the traumas of some of these processes and find our way forward again.  

After doing the course there are two key areas I will approach differently with the staff:

  • Criteria 5: Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning. (Ministry of Education, n.d.)
There is an assumption that when something has been around for a while e.g. the key competencies -nearly 10 years embedded and central to the New Zealand curriculum - that everyone would be doing them well and consistently.  I have found my learning on this course has made me pause and go back.  Ten years down the track something which started with meaning and power, has ended up being catchwords with little substance.  In this area there is no point leading forward until we go back and develop an understanding of key competencies as contextual dispositions.
  • Criteria 7: Promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment.  Combined with: Criteria 12: Use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice (Ministry of Education, n.d.)
It has become clear to me that I have taken for granted that all teachers understand what is meant by research-based practice.   

Our Community of Learning is committed to using the spiral of inquiry (Timperley, Kaser, & Halbert, 2014) to develop practice.  My learning from this course and the interactions it has prompted have led me to appreciate more deeply the change in teacher thinking required to move into evidence-based practice.  That has made me go a lot slower than I otherwise would have with the development of our spirals.

My dream:  These two papers will complete my third Masters degree.   I have come to a saturation point where I feel there is nothing more to be gained from this.  I am inspired by the opportunities offered by our Community of Learning.  I am relieved there is a new government and we can hopefully reclaim a broad and meaningful education.  I want to continue leadership in our COL and find ways of embedding and sustaining good practice so we don’t have to forget and relearn what key competencies mean, for instance.   I want for the learners in my school to be reaching for the stars as lifelong learners in the Catholic faith, engaged and empowered in deep learning for success (same goal as always).  As far as study goes, I think my next step is research.  This will probably mean EdD or Phd studies and it will probably be around collaborative and distributed leadership and holistic, agentic learning.


Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from

Timperley, H., Kaser, L., & Halbert, J. (2014). A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry. Victoria: Centre for Strategic Education.

Mindlab Applied Practice In Context Week 31

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

The goal I have chosen from my interdisciplinary map is in the area of support services.  The present difficulty with support services is they tend lack a shared “empathetic horizon” and shared language (Thomas Mc Donagh Group, 2013).

Most of the reading for week 31 is around integration within educational contexts.  This blogpost is looking at integration between services. “It seems oxymoronic that literature acknowledges the benefit of interdisciplinary scholarship, advocating that “it likely yields more innovative and consequential results for complex problems than traditional, individual research efforts” (Amey & Brown 30), yet institutionalized traditions within academia continue to stymie interdisciplinary efforts (acrlguest, n.d.).  This quote refers to academic fields but equally applies to educational/social service fields.

The ideal would be an integrative model where the distinctions between subject areas disappear and there is a global approach (Mathison & Freeman, 1997).  Again this refers to academia but can be applied to support services.

The following analysis intends no criticism of individual agencies which all work to their brief nor to the dedicated and passionate professionals who work within them.   

When a child is struggling in the whole of their life, within school it presents as learning and/or behaviour difficulties.  Educators know this is the often the tip of the iceberg and we also know that the within school presentation is the only one we can really influence. 

It is hard to get help but the most disappointing thing is once external help is allocated, it is very narrow in its focus.  So each agency only does one thing.  We often find there are combinations of parenting, social need, mental health, nutrition  etc which we have to address through separate agencies.  For RTLB or Learning Support we are coached in providing positive behaviour management systems which is sometimes frustrating as that is our “bread and butter” and we know there's a much bigger picture to deal with.

Sometimes educators have to make a notification to Oranga Tamariki (ex CYFSs).  It could be for a loving family that is struggling and may need parental support for positive behaviour management (for instance).  The result of the notification (which is mandatory) is one of the parents ends up prosecuted, no further help comes to the family and the family leave the school because they don't trust the school any more.  The child may also be on Learning Support or RTLB, or both.  The school may be liaising closely with the public health nurse.  There may be cultural support and connections in place.  Yet there is a lack of integration beyond what the school itself provides.

The Ministry is beginning to address this problem.  There is talk of a new delivery model with six key elements to support ORRs funded students and featuring a key worker who coordinates services and monitors progress (Ministry of Education, 2017b).  The Ministry is also considering how Communities of Learning may prioritise and allocate support services within the COL (Ministry of Education, 2017a).  These would be steps towards a more integrative model.

For my own short term goal I will aim to avoid teacher disappointment by insisting that all support agencies explain their function and limitations to the teacher they will be working with and at the outset there is a clear agreement about the aims and boundaries of the service. 


acrlguest. (n.d.). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration | ACRLog. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from

Mathison, S., & Freeman, M. (1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2017a, August). Extension of Learning Support Trials. Ministry of Education. Retrieved from chrome-extension://oemmndcbldboiebfnladdacbdfmadadm/

Ministry of Education. (2017b, October). Expansion of Learning Support Service Delivery model. Ministry of Education.

Thomas Mc Donagh Group. (2013). Interdisciplinarity and Innovation Education.[video file]. Retrieved from

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mindlab Applied Practice in Context Week 30

In what ways has social media been used to support your engagement in professional development?

Social media is useful for expanding horizons – “the need to raise one’s head over the parapet is vital if teachers are to experience the cognitive dissonance needed to reflect on their practice,” (Melhuish, 2013, p.43). 

I learn things from my personal Facebook account due to the posts I follow, and also through Twitter and Google Plus which I use solely for professional purposes.  I follow people or groups that I rate as innovative and use these to find other like-minded educators.  This helps to broaden the boundaries of my professional knowledge.  I have engaged in formal online learning with forums, webinars and learning conversations in real time and these have been genuinely collaborative.  I have also kept a professional blog for four years and a You Tube channel for about six years.

Melhuish describes intended outcomes of social networking to include, “resource development, enhanced knowledge development in formal studies, professional reflection through peer mentorship and application of learning in face-to-face educational contexts,” (2013, p.39).  I particularly engaged in this type of intentional development when I was researching Google Apps for Education (GAFE) when our school was first moving into this system and it was a really good way of finding out how educators were addressing technical and roll-out issues.

The challenges
I find most of the social network learning is only partially purposeful.  There is purpose in the sense of who you follow, what you search and where you interact but often finding something challenging is just luck.  Also after a while, the same ideas seem to go round and round and it is hard to find genuinely new perspectives, so I am not as engaged as I used to be.

One of the benefits of social networking is being able to communicate asynchronously.  This means it is often done at unsociable hours when one is only partially committed to deep thinking and personal challenge.  Synchronous, more socially acceptable, timings often conflict with other professional commitments and so social networking for learning gets a more superficial engagement.  Melhuish writes, “Rarely did the activities of the educators critique teachers’ theories-in-use, create dissonance or challenge like-minded network members,” (2013, p.39).  I think this sort of practice requires deep trust and commitment and can be misread in a text-only space.

Social media can be am inhibitor of change.  Some collaborative sites may be great resource banks but teachers can pick up fancy-looking resources thinking they’re finding something new and innovative but are actually only rehashing traditional teacher-driven practice.   “Just because one is sharing information in a social network site does not mean that the comments one provides are theory-driven or particularly formative in ways that impact on practice.” (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010, cited in Melhuish, 2013, p.39).  I think there is truth in this and sometimes for me the function of social media has been to reveal new ideas or trends that I want to follow up further but will follow up by finding more academic, trustworthy sources or discussing with colleagues.

How are you going to address the challenges?
Social networking is a sampling of what is “out there” and what you might need to be aware of in order to continue to grow your practice and meet every-changing educational needs.  I think there’s a place for social networking for professional development.  It can be the impetus that leads to deep change, but I don’t believe it’s a medium for deep challenge and change in itself.


Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from