Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tirohia mai - Look at us now

It was a privilege to attend the opening of ‘Tirohia Mai – Look at us now’ exhibition at the National Library in Wellington. This exhibition is part of a wider programme (there is another in Auckland) that is looking at women in Aoteraroa New Zealand in the past, present and the future.
Both Rosslyn Noonan and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku addressed the gathering, both were associate curators of the exhibition,  sharing with us all part of the process that had lead to the exhibition. Clearly it is just a start and they have a vision of women participating over a few months as we all contemplate, remember and revisit our experiences of the past and consider the future. 
Rosslyn Noonan
Ngahuia Te Awekotuku
The exhibition celebrates the rich diversity of women and all the contributions they have made, both commemorating and celebrating 120 years of women’s suffrage. I was surprised to learn that 13 Maori women had signed the Treat of Waitangi and the exhibition shares a very graphic representation of the changes both in land ownership and population devastation of Maori during the early settlement of Pakeha. This was a very poignant beginning to the exhibition. For me the 70’s were important in my growth as a young woman and activist, I felt a sense of excitement as I was again exposed to the memorabilia and representations of that period. This was a period of my life that I shared with Rosslyn Noonan, at this time I was the National President of the Kindergarten Teachers Union and she was the most fabulous General Secretary. Prior to this period Rosslyn was the National Organiser for International Women's Year. She was also a planning member of the Education and the Equality of the Sexes Conference. This 1975 Conference was the first time that women from early childhood, primary, secondary, vocational and continuing education got together and focussed on issues affecting women and girls. Many of your will have stories to tell. Please enter the site and make a contribution!
Wendy and Rosslyn at the Exhibition
Almost 40 years earlier, here I am at the United Women's Convention!
Access the site and learn how you can contribute to the ongoing exhibition via this link  Tirohia Mai – Look at us now
Tirohia Mai invites anyone to contribute this programme by sharing your stories  online, all contributions will be valued. Give it a go! Share a little of your history…

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Literacy Retreat at Tauhara, in Taupo

We have just held a Literacy Retreat at Tauhara. Tauhara has been established in order to create a place for people to come together for community, learning, inspiration and personal growth. This was certainly a perfect place for our retreat. The people of this place have a vision:
" Kotahi tonu te Wairua o nga mea katoa :
There is one Spirit that flows through all "

They are concerned with the wholeness and interdependence of all creation. They see Tauhara as a place for everyone. We certainly experienced this vision at Tauhara. It was founded to create a spiritual and educational centre which would draw together people of differing viewpoints and methods of working, but united in their search for truth and the establishment of goodwill and understanding in the world. People come to Tauhara from all walks of life, all faiths, people who hold many diverse views. I feel we truly represented this vision at our retreat. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I was reminded of Alison Gopnik and her wise words when working with babies and toddlers when I watched this delightful video clip.
Alison's words " There are no perfect toys; there is no magic formula. Parents and other caregivers teach young children by paying attention and interacting with them naturally and, most of all, by just allowing them to play". (Alison Gopnik 2009)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Early Years Research Centre launches this week

A new Early Years Research Centre at the University of Waikato has been established in the Faculty of Education with a focus on education and children aged 0 to 8 years.

The centre will be led by its Director, Professor Margaret Carr, with associate directors Associate Professors Linda Mitchell and Sally Peters.

Professor Carr says the new centre will provide a broad platform of research and focus on three research themes: pedagogy, policy, and community connections.

"It has a social justice agenda and aims to make a difference for young children, families and whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand and to provide cutting edge research of interest to scholars in this country and abroad," she says. 

Projects underway

Recent projects by researchers in the centre include museum education with children under five years, evaluation of early childhood in Timor Leste, polyphonic video analysis of the perspectives of babies, the use of i-Pads in early childhood centres, a study of children after an earthquake, and an exploration of documentation strategies in collaboration with kaiako in a kōhanga reo. 

Professor Carr says the new centre's research has been translated into Danish, Italian and Japanese, and its launch validates an international reputation already developed through the research and teaching by its staff over the past 20 years. 

Establishing Waikato University as a leader

"Through the establishment of this centre we aim to consolidate the reputation of the University of Waikato as one of the most innovative contributors and leaders in the ECCE field," says Professor Carr. 

Among the programmes that will come under the umbrella of the new centre is a new four-year international collaboration called 'Pedagogies of Educational Transitions' (POET), a Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) involving five universities: University of Strathclyde, UK; Mälardalen University, Sweden; University of Iceland; Charles Stuart University, Australia ; and the University of Waikato.

The New Zealand team's participation in that programme is supported by funding from the New Zealand Royal Society. 

The Early Years Research Centre, He Kōhanga Toi Tangata, will be launched at a cocktail function at 5.30pm on Friday 7 June with a celebratory symposium following on Saturday 8 June and featuring speakers from New Zealand and Australia.

Connect with Daniel Goleman - It’s Modes, Not Personality Traits

It’s Modes, Not Personality Traits

Here is a little from his blog that might entice you into his blog on a regular basis...

I know a woman who at work seems emotionally reactive, needy and dependent – everyone says, “That’s just her personality.”

But then when she was part of a group touring the labyrinths of Europe, a friend from her workplace who also went reported – a bit shocked – that the woman was nothing like her usual self. She took initiative and explored strange cities on her own, was emotionally stable, and fun to be with.

All of us are different people in different situations, or with varied groups, or from time to time, and at various stages of our lives. The old personality model, that we have fixed traits that stay with us throughout our lives, doesn’t do justice to how flexible our behavior can be.

Traits have long been used to pigeonhole people in the workplace, for everything from hiring to placing people in the “right” job.

But today brain science tells us our brains are “plastic” – they can change with the right development experience – and they are far more elastic than the trait idea gives credit to.

‘Modes’ are a new concept that lets us understand how and why we actually are diverse people at various times. A mode orchestrates our entire way of being: how we perceive and interpret the world, how we react – our thoughts, feelings, actions and interactions.

For example, there’s the avoidant mode, where we try to distance ourselves from feelings and people; the anxious mode, where we over-worry our relationships – and the secure mode, where we can take in emotions with calm, feel secure in ourselves and are able to take smart risks, and can focus in ways that help us be at our best.

The liberating effect of thinking about modes rather than “personality types” is that modes come and go. We can learn what triggers our modes, what makes some self-defeating ones so sticky, and what can help us loosen their grip and get into the best modes for top performance.

Modes and how they work for or against us is the topic of Tara Bennett-Goleman’s new book, Mind Whispering: A New Map to Freedom from Self-Defeating Emotional Habits. The mode concept builds on a recent proposal by the founder of cognitive therapy, Dr. Aaron Beck, who suggested that what we call depression or anxiety disorders are modes that can change for the better.

Seeing someone else – or ourselves – through the lens of a label like “depressed” or “introvert” can have a subtle negative impact, suggesting a permanence that modes belie. The mode idea builds around what we can do to release the grip of our dysfunctional modes and build a wider set of emotions.

Emotional Intelligence author, Daniel Goleman lectures frequently to business audiences, professional groups and on college campuses. A psychologist who for many years reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times, Dr. Goleman previously was a visiting faculty member at Harvard.

Dr. Goleman’s most recent books are The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights and Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence – Selected Writings. (More Than Sound). Goleman’s latest project, Leadership: A Master Class, is his first-ever comprehensive video series that examines the best practices of top-performing executives.

 If you are hooked now, here is a direct link to another of his blogs!!

The Development of an Ethical Mind
In Howard Gardner’s book, Five Minds for the Future, he talks about the disciplined mind, the synthesizing mind, the creating mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind. Without...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sweet Pototoes

Celebrate good times come on, celebrate good times come on....
I have heard this song many times over the past years as a climax to a wonderful night of celebrations - nights such as Christmas in the Park when they finish with a rousing rendition of this song.

What happens though after a year of working hard as a teaching team reflecting on and refining your practice.  Do you celebrate, do you shout and sing and let the world know what has happened,  probably not because there is a whakatauki, proverb, which says kaore te kumara e whaakii ana tana reka -the kumara does not say how sweet he is.
But within early childhood it is wonderful to hear about the deep thinking that teachers are doing.  So this is why I am writing on behalf of Nicole, Lorraine and Rachel who work in an up to 2’s centre in Whakatane.

During the year this team have researched, reflected and implemented changes within the centre.  After researching key teaching the teachers slowly but steadily refined their practice to incorporate key teaching strategies.  Key teaching strategies often assist teachers to create a slower more responsive pace to the children’s day.  This is obviously the case for Nicole, Lorraine and Rachel.  Key teaching is one of the recommendations to the Government from the Senior Advisory Group for up to 2’s and something that is considered necessary by the Brainwaves Trust who wrote, “The primary work of infancy and toddlerhood is to become securely attached to the significant adults in their life.  And only when they’ve done that work can they be ready for peer relationships.”  Miriam Caleb’s article, Love Connection, recommends key teaching for care and education centres for up to 2‘s. Key teaching is closely aligned to the secure attachment formed by parents which she says are formed by what she calls the “simple stuff we do every day that’s the magic: bathing, feeding, dressing and changing nappies. Our brains are built by repeated experiences”  You can view her article on

Nicole has created a booklet for new families coming into the centre that explains key teaching that I thought was well worth a celebrate good times response. “The Pounamu Room environment creates a feeling like a home environment that is peaceful, calming, loving, nurturing, fun, and joy.....We have a respectful practice approach to learning this involves key teaching, free of movement, and connection with nature.
Key teaching: Your child has a strong bond with a teacher who works in partnership with your child and is responsibility for their care moments. The Key teacher is their to fill up the child’s love tank so the the child is then able to move freely and securely in their environment exploring and building knowledge of the world.....As our classroom is a small environment all teacher build relationships with the children some are stronger than others. All teachers are responsible for your child’s learning. Key teaching is about a respectful relationship with your child that has trust and is guided by the child so they know what to predict will happen next - creating a secure peaceful environment and sense of belonging.”

This group of teachers are certainly not the only ones to have taken this journey recently, for those that are part way along the in their journey - keep going because good things take time. For those who are yet to start - all it takes is one passionate person in your team to start the journey.  For those that have got to the place that key teaching is deeply embedded in their practice let’s hear a rousing rendition of celebrate good times, come on.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

National Children's Director

Wow, here is a very important development and a very influential job, do you know anyone who could fill this position and be a passionate advocate for children? Read the detail below to find out all about the job and how you can apply!
National Children's Director
Ministry of Social Development  
Wellington, Full time
Closing Date: 28/04/2013  5:00pm    

  • Children's Action Plan
  • Working together, sharing the responsibility
  • Significant leadership opportunity

This is your opportunity to lead the most significant advancement in child protection in New Zealand's history. We require a National Children's Director to lead the successful delivery of the Children's Action Plan. The Children's Action Plan is the framework for the programme of change that will shine a light on abuse, neglect and harm by identifying our most vulnerable children and targeting services to them to ensure they get the protection and support they need.
The National Children's Director requires a level of personal influence and leadership to drive this very significant programme of work in a complex and high profile environment.

The National Children's Director will be accountable to the Vulnerable Children's Board, and have responsibility for:
  • leading the provision of advice to the Vulnerable Children's Board in relation to the White Paper reforms and Children's Action Plan
  • providing strategic planning and management expertise to the Board in relation to the implementation of the early service response system
  • providing national senior leadership to Regional Children's Directors and local Children's Teams to deliver a coordinated and consistent approach nationwide
  • fostering and leading a joined up approach to the Children's Action Plan across social sector agencies
  • leading the Children's Action Plan and ensuring delivery across multiple work streams

You will be a passionate leader with substantial senior leadership experience in managing stakeholders, resources and risks at a national level. You will have gained superior political nous through significant experience in a senior management position in the public sector or a community organisation.
To apply, click the Apply Now button and upload your resume, covering letter and complete the online application form.  

Enquiries only can be directed to Matt Brown on 04 916 3436 or email
Applications close Sunday 28 April 2013 at 5:00pm

 If you are unable to view the Job Description in PDF, you can request an alternate version by e-mailing us at Please include the Job Title in your message.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Growth mindset at work!

Its the end of the ‘harvest’ season- or so I thought! We have processed peaches, plums berries vegetables. Made jam and preserves.Wine is festering away in the hallway! Dehydrated boxes of fruit fill the  the pantry which is bulging at the seams.
The freezer is jammed to the top, and I look into it with satisfaction. The memories of hours of washing, cutting, and processing are starting to fade.
It is about this time of year that I start to think the end is in sight and I am quite thankful. I have once again coped with tripping over buckets of fruit, wiping down benches and trying not to get annoyed with the way that honey seems to spread from one end of the house to another. It is nearly over, as the leaves start to turn and most of the trees are empty of fruit, a sense of calm prevails.

Yes we are still processing apples- but now that is an ‘outside’ job. Pressing juice has thankfully progressed from taking over the house to being a reasonably ‘mess free; process outdoors. I say that with a little afterthought- as I drove to the city yesterday my windscreen seemed a bit blurry- I realised that small chunks of apple had obviously fired out of the home made apple 'chopper-upper' and coated my windscreen. A small price to pay for the juice, wine and cider that we will joyfully consume over winter months. Apples are the last of the major processing operations. My house will be tidy, non sticky and I might get some evenings free to do other things!

I should have learnt by now to ‘Never say never!’ I arrived home last night to find all the benches in the kitchen filled! My husband had been checking out the trees and found that all the chestnuts we have planted as small seedlings have fruited. Something has to be done with them- but what? My kitchen now represents a kind of laboratory. There are bowls of things drying, trays of half scraped chest-nuts, bags waiting for something to happen and so on.

My heart sinks and yet why should it- isn’t this about a growth mindset- about taking on a challenge and trying something new! So now we are frantically learning about chestnuts- they are gluten free, high in protein etc etc. The possibilities are endless. As I step up to help with the processing I try to ignore Brian’s remark about the fact that the olives will soon be ready and he quite likes the idea of making his own olive press…… watch this space. I am as we speak shifting my mindset to be encouraging and enthusiastic!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Peter Hughes: Criticisms of maths skills don't add up

I have no doubt that many of you have been following the ‘maths’ stories inside the Herald over the last few weeks. Peter Hughes raises some interesting issues to contemplate. If you are interested in exploring some of these ideas an interesting read is ‘Catching Up or Leading the way: American Education in the Age of Globalisation’ by Professor Yong Zhao. This is a most interesting read. Yong Zhao was born and raised in China and is now a distinguished professor in America. He has a focus on the future and how we might best prepare children to be global citizens…..

While poor in some areas, NZ kids' results rank highly in international report evaluating real-world relevance.
Peter Hughes is a lecturer in maths education at the University of Auckland. He is co-author of 51 maths textbooks published in New Zealand, the US, Australia, and the UK.

Recent debates about learning the basic facts and the ability of our Year 9s in basic subtraction was kicked off in the media by New Zealand's results in Timss (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) that showed we were doing poorly in maths.
In fact very different interpretations are possible if data from Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2009 is used.
The 2010/11 government report on Pirls (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) and Timss show that in reading our Year 5s come 23rd out of 45 countries. In science Timss places our Year 9s at 31st out of 49. For mathematics the media reported that Timss places our Year 9 students 34th out of 53. In fact this is the Year 5 result. The correct figure for Year 9 is 16th out of 42. This misreporting has had an important negative effect on the debate about mathematics learning. It has opened the door to a flood of criticism in the press and talkback radio about learning the tables and doing standard pen and paper calculations. Yet the Timss report for Year 9 does not mention these things: "New Zealand's Year 9 tended to be very strong in data and chance (ie statistics and probability) and to a lesser extent number compared to their overall performance.
Practice, practice, practice is an invitation to extinguish creative and lateral thinking. Photo / Getty Images
 They were very weak in algebra and to a lesser extent geometry." It points to alarming weaknesses in algebra and geometry; we urgently need to work on these areas rather than number.
All these results are very depressing. Yet are they correct? Pisa suggests they may not be: according to Pisa our 15-year-olds are near the top of the world in all three subjects. Out of 65 countries, New Zealand ranks seventh in reading, 13th in maths, and seventh in science.
The countries that are ahead of us in Pisa when reading, maths, and science position are combined are China (Shanghai) first, Hong Kong second, Finland and Singapore third equal, Korea fifth, Japan sixth, and Canada seventh. And we come in at eighth in the world. This data will be used later. So how can Timss and Pisa produce such wildly contradictory results for New Zealand?
The student assessments are constructed from quite different perspectives. In essence, Timss starts with the curriculum and assesses how well the students are achieving, whereas Pisa starts from the opposite end and asks how well students can utilise their mathematics in the real world. While it would be unfair to say which of the two we should prefer - and there is a lot of research on this that highlights the major difficulties in making such judgments - we might well choose Pisa because of its links to real world problems.
George Lim in his opinion piece on March 20 explains why children in the highly ranked Asian countries do so well in school maths - quite simply they do lots of practice. Does this suggest a way forward for New Zealand in the teaching of maths? Evidence from the United States is useful in answering this question.
In both Timss and Pisa the US always rates poorly, and every time a new report comes along their politicians react hysterically. Voucher schemes, merit pay for teachers, and charter schools are among the tired old non-solutions they resurrect to solve the problem. Yet, as an American colleague has repeatedly pointed out, if the US education system is so bad, how do they dominate the world in such things as university rankings and number of Nobel Prizes awarded?
Comparing the US with the five Asian countries above on these two criteria we get some interesting results. Of the top 40 universities in the world 25 are in America, China has none, Japan one, Hong Kong one, Korea none, and Singapore one. Looking at Nobel Prize winners since 2000, the US has 64 (or 84 if the 21 born outside the US are counted), China has four, Japan 11, Hong Kong one, Korea one, and Singapore none. Readers can draw their own conclusions from this data, but I for one cannot infer that New Zealand should imitate the Asian countries' relentless emphasis on practice in learning maths. Until there is any evidence to the contrary the best assumption is that "practice, practice, practice", as George Lim puts it, is an invitation to extinguish creative and lateral thinking in maths, things which our best students currently are rather good at.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Early childhood education campaign begins

This item has just been listed by NZ Newswire. Judith Nowotarski is the new President of the NZEI. She is the first President to have a background in early childhood education!
Judith Nowotarski - National President NZEI Te Riu Roa

One of New Zealand's biggest education unions is launching a five-year campaign aimed at improving early childhood education (ECE) in the country.

Cuts to funding are eroding the quality of ECE services and the union wants the government to commit more money to ECE in the next budget, NZEI national president Judith Nowotarski says.

"It is a great cause for concern that earlier gains such as a goal of having 100 per cent qualified teachers in ECE centres have been dropped and centre sizes have been allowed to balloon out to 150 children," she said.
"Quality ECE is crucial for all children but is particularly important for those children who come from low socio-economic backgrounds."

The government cuts were short-sighted because for every dollar invested in ECE $17 was saved in welfare and justice system costs in later life, she said.

The union believed the increasing cost of ECE on families was responsible for growth in enrolments slowing, Ms Nowotarski said.

NZEI is launching its Every Child Deserves the Best Start campaign a the Carter Observatory in Wellington on Sunday, which is Children's Day, with a free planetarium show, sausage sizzle and activities for kids.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bathing the baby

We were recently at a retreat with all, just about, the facilitator from ELP coming together.  While there Jo shared this amazing youtube video with us.  I think this is something everyone would be interested in seeing.
click to link to the video
The gentleness, the calmness, the amazing intuitiveness of the practitioner are amazing and of course the babies are delightful.  Under 2's care is so specialised and foundation building - the more we as teachers slow down to the pace of the child the more delight and joy for everyone involved.  Imagine if nappy change times were this calm, responsive and caring as depicted in the video.  Those using key teaching strategies will understand the importance of those wonderful care moments that are unhurried.
Enough words from me the video is waiting.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I was fortunate to attend the ICOT13 conference in Wellington recently.  This was a fascinating 5 day conference to expand global thinking around the themes of ‘future survival‘, ‘personal futures‘ and ‘future society‘. During the conference I attended a workshop presented by Ron Ritchhart on 'Enlisting Parents as Allies: Working Together to Develop Powerful Thinkers and Learners.'  As many of the teams I work with find it challenging to engage and enlist parents, this workshop seemed like an excellent choice and I wasn't disappointed.  

Ron spoke of creating  'Culture's of Thinking, creating place where thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted.'  With parents focus often being on their child 'being school ready', how do we as teachers broaden their view so that they think about "what do we want children to be like as adults?"  We need them to know that this is about thinking about all children not their specific child, all children in our community. He said that when he has asked parents this they tend to come up with a huge list of dispositions, not skills and knowledge.  

He also shared how parents often worry that when you focus on dispositions that something is missing out, left behind, but we need to share that we are not leaving anything behind, we are lifting the bar!  We need to find ways for parents to understand that dispositions can't be directly taught, they are learnt over time, children grow into the intellectual life around them, so they need to ask themselves "what life are we surrounding children with?"

How do we talk to parents?  How do you structure the talk to them?  Ron suggested that we make links to a research base, as it gives parents ideas of where these ideas come from enabling them to investigate it further if they want to.  That we need to provide a rational for change from the status quo.  We also need to help connect parents to familiar experiences or context to get parents to see where education is going, share that we are lifting the bar!  Unpack the core practices with rich examples and get parents to engage in conversations, don't talk too long before you engage them in discussion!  Finally he suggested that we need to provide specific things parents can do and actions they can take at home.  Talk with parents about working TOGETHER.  How together, we can develop powerful thinkers and learners.  It's taking it further than just saying “this is what we do here”, it also saying “here is what you too can do at home.”

I'll leave you with four shifts on the way we educate to actively promote thinking that Ron shared...

1, Shifting instruction from the delivery of content to engagement.
2, Shifting the focus of curriculum from skills and knowledge to develop understanding.
3, Shifting the approach to curriculum from superficial coverage to depth of exploration.
4, Shifting the process of learning from memorisation to thinking.
These are the shifts for parents to look out for as a setting is on this journey, when all are happening then their setting as managed the change!

Watch the video clip from the link below about the Race to Nowhere, it's a good clip to share with parents to get THEM thinking!


Monday, February 25, 2013


From left to right: Karen Ramsey, Carol Hartley, Marianne McPherson, Margaret Carr, Fran Paniora, Julie Killick, Wendy Lee & Naomi Dick
Recently we established a new project which consists of  an ELP Leadership Research Group. 
The project aims to develop knowledge and research capacity within the early childhood community. The Research Group will be part of our building more sustainable communities as well as strengthening the research leadership within the early childhood community. Sadly, we have only limited funds for this project so are only able to invite six settings to be a part of this project at this stage.
The key research group will have three full days to work with Professor Margaret Carr and Wendy Lee. The project is affiliated to the University of Waikato Early Years Research Centre. We want to provide and enhance opportunities for teachers to build their research capacity, through not only engaging in research but also having the opportunity to work with other researchers with a variety of levels of experience.  We are of course particularly excited that Margaret is able to fully participate in this project.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

'un-Googleable' questions that open up learning-rich tangents!

Along with more than one thousand other people, I recently attended the International Conference on Thinking. As soon as I heard this title I was excited. It seems to me, brave, vigorous thinking is the beating heart that nurtures wise learning and teaching cultures into resilient, communities of learners, where everyone has opportunities to build their skills, knowledge and dispositions. 

Of the many interesting people I listened to, Ewan McIntosh stood out for me because he connects imagination, problems and learners together. I liked him for the way he made everybody matter. Most of the people attending were school teachers, yet it took only a little twist to see the relevance for our very young children in early childhood. 

I went to his keynote address and two other workshops because I wanted to hear more about the practicalities of creating learning environments where all children could succeed. As an example he talked about children at Rosendale (Brixton, London). The teachers there wanted to explore:  ‘How might we better tell the story of learning for every single child in school?’ Through this process their children have been encouraged to become ‘problem finders’. In a usual project approach, teachers are the ones who come up with a topic to research. In Rosendale, it is the children and the learning that results is exceptional.  I can’t do this justice here and so I would encourage you to check out this web article. You can also see Ewan in action in this video.  

As I thought about all the exciting, innovative ways of engaging children in schools, it sounded a lot like what we do in early childhood when we are driven by Te Whāriki principles. When children have great resources, environments that generate curiosity to fire passion, children see real work in real time and they have the freedom to play around with ideas PLUS detailed feedback opportunities about their progress THEN great learning happens. Often this interest generates more questions than answers and draws children into growing their ideas together. Teachers can be left wondering about their role and a good yard stick to measure how effective we are is to ask ourselves a few questions:
  • Have I hijacked the children’s ideas (even with the best intentions)? 
  • Have I asked questions that I know the answer to? 
  • Are the questions we’re working on ‘googleable’? Ewan talked about ‘un-Googleable’ questions that open up learning-rich tangents. 
  • Am I trying to squeeze all this learning into fragments? 
  • When do I really think the real learning happens? 
Wise teachers working collaboratively with children are more centred on being learners themselves.   Ewan says: “Teaching needs learning, not the other way around”.

  This is the reaction to one young lad at the end of a TED style talk given by the Rosendale children. Real speeches, for a real audience about ‘unGoogleable questions’. Ewan muses: Wouldn't it be wonderful if this kind of reaction to learning happened all the time?”
A favourite quote of Ewan’s from Leonard Bernstein.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cultural Leadership

At the ICOT13 - the Thinking Conference, recently held in Wellington, I was privileged to listen to Deanne Thomas and Wharehoka Wano talk about Cultural Leadership - Ko te kai o the rangatira he kōrero.

The focus of their workshop was for them to reflect on the leaders who had made a difference to them in their lives, whanau members, teachers, people in the community. They discussed  the many aspects of leadership and the most  important factor, of how your leadership relates to the care and wellbeing of people.

We are all rangatira, we gain strength from our roots, where we come from, the place we hold dear and we need to think of others and the important people in our lives.

Believe in your ideals, be staunch, listen to your instincts, be intuitive and be clear in your messages to others.

Be loyal to family and community.

Ko te kai a te rangatira, he kōrero -talk is the food of chiefs but is also about respect for others and consensus.

Ko te tohu o te rangitira, he manaaki - how do we nurture the children in our care, spiritually and in other ways and how do we sustain other people in our daily life?

He aha te mea nui?
He tangata.
He tangata.
He tangata.

What is the most important thing?  It is people, it is people, it is people.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

International Conference on Thinking

Last week six Project Facilitators had an opportunity to attend the International Conference on Thinking in Wellington. We all had papers accepted, so we also had the opportunity to present our work to an international conference.

The conference was advertised as a fascinating 5 day conference to expand global thinking around the themes of  ‘future survival’, ‘personal furtures’ and ‘future society’.  ICOT13 and was a remarkable opportunity to:

  • connect with cross-discipline ‘thinkers’
  • experience world leading speakers
  • excite the senses with insights, discussions and inspiration.

An important aim of the conference was to acknowledge and value the culturally diverse range of concepts about, and approaches to, thinking and learning….

And so the week began… Below I will just share our abstracts and what each of us presented at this conference. Over the next few weeks I am sure those who attended will share a little of what they experienced at this conference.

From the left: Lorraine Sands, Wendy Lee, Margaret Carr, Carol Marks and Gillian Fitzgerald (Robyn Lawrence who also attended is not in this photo)
Life-long teaching and learning: connecting aspirations for children to professional learning for teachers

Margaret Carr and Wendy Lee
This paper will argue that education in the early years can play a role in constructing life-long learner identities. The authors will focus on one dimension of this – children authoring their own learning - and outline the ways in which pedagogy and assessment can combine together to contribute to a strengthening of this capacity. We will call on our own research with young children in school classrooms and early childhood settings. We also refer research by Carol Dweck which provides evidence that even at an early age children have sometimes developed an investment in reputation and in being right, a ‘fixed’ mindset, and their capacity for creative thinking and curiosity is diminished by this. Our research describes some of the ways in which teachers in the early years have encouraged what Dweck calls a ‘growth’ mindset. In particular we provide evidence of the consequences of narrative assessments in doing some of the work of constructing a capacity for children to author their own learning and to develop a ‘growth’ mindset. This teaching and learning includes enabling a recognition of possibilities and opportunities for ongoing learning, inviting the engagement of valued adults outside the educational setting and facilitating meaning-making and communicating in multimodal ways.

In our view there is also a link between children authoring their own learning and teachers’ capacity for agency, dialogue and ‘growth’ mindset. The open-ended nature of the early childhood curriculum in Aotearoa/New Zealand affords teacher agency and dialogue. This paper will outline the ways in which professional learning programmes for teachers can also encourage life-long learning mindset with teachers.

Gaming - Do You Know Me?

Carol Marks
Do we create an environment where the use of ICT’s is controlled in ways that are meaningful to teachers but is limiting for children? This paper provides an opportunity to think more deeply about what we say and do when using ICT’s that can impact on learning, using popular culture and gaming in early childhood.Gaming is still an emotive subject and people have strong views about it, either for or against so it is an opportunity to explore the learning that occurs when young chidden are engaged in gaming. As Beck and Carstens said “Sooner or later, those who grew up without video games will have to understand the gamers”. Children are rewarded for the effort they put into gaming, they are developing dispositions for life long learning so we need to take their efforts seriously.

Growing thinkers from infancy up: learners who are inspirational, innovative, industrious and interconnected.

Lorraine Sands
The Centre of Innovation research at Greerton Early Childhood Centre (2006 -2008) was characterised as a dispositional milieu where working theories were explored through a narrative research methodology.  As the research progressed, the teachers at Greerton strengthened the way we were listening to, and watching out for young children’s questions to enable them to become deeply involved in exploring the world around them.  We had been very clear about involving babies in this question asking and exploring community and over time we began to see evidence of leadership emerging as children were immersed in this culture of learning and teaching.  We became interested in understanding how we might wrap our babies in an environment that would ʻgrow learners, thinkers and leadersʼ (Dweck, 2006); the kind of learners that are inspirational, innovative, industrious and interconnected. The strong ethical foundations built at that time have continued. All teachers, families and children (where possible), have given their permissions for this research to progress. The journey was deeply embedded in the Principles of the New Zealand, national early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki (1996) and responsive, reciprocal relationships were at its heart.

The Centre of Innovation research was the catalyst for continued exploration by the Greerton teaching team. The relevance of our original research questions continued to shape our thinking. The questions reflected our interest in the children’s investigations. The umbrella question was: How does a ‘question-asking’ and a ‘question-exploring’ culture support children to develop working theories to shape and re-shape knowledge for a purpose? This work was essentially concerned with developing a cultural setting where thinking children could thrive.


Lingering Longer in Possible Worlds. Pedagogical companionship: supporting the thinking of others

Robyn Lawrene
This paper presents data - narrative assessment, photographs and video - that documented the investigations and findings of an action research project that investigated the power of companionship as a pedagogical approach that strengthens thinking and learning in the everyday lives of young children.  This action research centrally included teachers and families, all of whom readily gave approval for the documentation to be used and shared.

In 2011, teachers at Lintott Child Care Services (a community based service in Hamilton New Zealand), engaged in action research through Professional Learning with Educational Leadership Project, exploring the role that children and teachers play in developing shared leadership in their learning environment. Their continuing research in 2012 explores the possibilities teachers have as leaderful companions to increase their awareness of children’s thinking as they, through play and social interactions, construct everyday working theories about the world around them. Paying close attention to children’s sustained play and investigations supports the natural context for developing thought and trying out innovative and flexible ideas. As teachers we seek to be persons that encourage and support children to be life-long learners and it is commonly recognised (Gopnik, 2009) that understanding the flexibility of the young and open mind and using that knowledge to guide pedagogical practice opens up the opportunity for paradigm shifts in thinking about learning.

Strengthening learning partnerships with children and parents to advance stakeholders' understanding of dispositional learning

Gillian Fitzgerald
This presentation looks at a kindergarten team who were very much influenced by the work that Professor Margaret Carr, Wendy Lee and Professor Guy Claxton had done around dispositions; Carr defines dispositions as ‘participation repertoires from which a learner recognises, selects, edits, responds to, resists, searches for and constructs learning opportunities’ (2001, p. 21). Dispositions are linked to our attitudes and feelings about ourselves and our views about the different identities or ‘possible selves’ (Carr, 1995, p. 4) that we can be and become; and how they worked together to share with tamariki and whānau, their understanding of the importance of dispositional learning alongside the development of skills and knowledge. 

They recognised the significance that their skills in being able to articulate clearly this new approach, would have on advancing stakeholders understanding of dispositional learning.  Although the journey began with the teaching team incorporating dispositional language within a learning story framework to highlight the learning that was occurring, they recognised that this alone wasn’t enough so began using other methods such as planning stories and presentations to support the process.  The team embraced the work of Professor Carol Dweck developing a growth mindset; a growth mindset is when people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. (Dweck, 2008) by taking a growth mindset approach to the task they stepped outside their comfort zone and into unknown territory, that of research and public speaking.  Not only did this journey highlight the importance of building relationships based on respect and reciprocity, it also meant they walked the same path which they asked their students to walk every day, that of a ‘life long learner’.