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’.

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