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.