Tag Archives: Professional Development

Zone of Proximal Development and The Vygotskian Framework

I can hear my lecturer from the 300 level Human Development paper I took, from over a decade ago, rejoicing at the fact that I am about to write about Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky was well before his time and had, in his day, unique ideas about the way individuals learn.

Vygotsky’s four principles around how individuals learn, known also as the Vygotskian Framework are as follows:

1 Individuals construct their knowledge.

2 Development can not be separated from its social context.

3 Learning can lead development.

4 Language plays a central role in mental development.

How is the Vygotskian Framework applied in classrooms today?

Lev Vygotsky believed 4 basic principles underlie learning. Principles that wouldn’t sound to out of place in a classroom today where educators encourage agency, autonomy, contextualised and authentic learning. Fortunately, Vygotsky taught in a classroom setting. (Wertsch, J.V, 1991). This expereience undoubtably gave Vygotsky an insight into how to connect his theories with practical application in the classroom. To better understand Vygotsky’s theories we must think about principles that underpin many educators philosophy towards teaching toady – agency, autonomy, contextualised and authentic learning.

Student Agency – Students live, learn and play in a media saturated world. Often students are told what to think, how to act by the media. As educators, surely we are wanting students to have the a clear understanding of what they know and how they can construct knowledge for themselves – moving themselves forward as learners (Briceño, E, 2013).

imgresLev Vygotsky (1896-1934)

Briceño, E (2013) Mindsets and Student Agency. Unboxed online. A Journey of Adult Learning in Schools.

Wertsch, J.V. (1991) Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

PD on steroids

photo (1)

 

If any educators have heard of Ewan McIntosh or notosh publishing undoubtably they will automatically think of this book. I have heard great things about this book and am keen to get into this copy that I have recently been gifted! The main idea of the book considers the following question “Can the education world innovate, share and build on new ideas, taking them out of individual classrooms?

Ewan say the following about his book, “This book will help you achieve ambitious visions for learning through swift innovation. We will borrow from the people who invent what we all end up using tomorrow, create much from very little, and refine their ideas with a swiftness few of those in larger corporations, Government or schools have seen.”

As I make my way through the book I aim to add ideas, activities and thinking below.

Principled principals

Today I was thinking about the various principals I have worked with over the years and the diverse range of principles or philosophies that they hold about school leadership. A couple of questions  struck me. Hopefully all the principals I have worked with want their students to achieve and be as successful as possible, but how can the approaches to leadership vary so greatly? Which leadership style is most conducive to student progress?

I guess the principals I have worked with in the past fall roughly in to one of two categories: Transformational Leaders and Instructional Leaders. As I pondered on the different approaches to leadership I received an email from Educational Leadership. See here if you would like to subscribe to the magazine (it is really worthwhile!). The article entitled Impact Leadership makes for very interesting reading. If you are too busy to read the whole article I will give you a brief synopsis of the article which I hope will entice you to read the entire article.

Impact Leadership is written by John Hattie and discusses the findings of a study carried out by Robinson, Lloyd, Rowe (2008). In the research Robinson et al. (2008) define the two types of leadership, Transformational and Instructional. They found transformational leaders set a vision, create common goals for a school, inspire and set direction, buffer staff from external demands, ensure fair and equitable staffing and give teachers a high degree of autonomy.  Basically, these leaders focus more on teachers.

In contrast, instructional leaders focus more on students. They are concerned with the teachers’ and school’s impact on student learning and instructional issues, conducting classroom observations, ensuring professional development that enhances student learning, communicating high academic standards and ensuring that all school environments are conducive to learning.

Interestingly enough, more than 80% of leaders claim to be transformational leaders (Marks, 2013). Here’s the crunch, Robinson et al. (2008) discovered that the overall effect from transformational leaders was .11 compared with the overall effect from instructional leaders being .42. That is a huge difference! The key to the huge difference is leaders who see their key role as evaluating their impact and getting everyone in the school working together to know and evaluate their impact. There are a great deal of other approaches that have been proven to be highly effective. If you want to find out what these approaches are you should check out this page. 

The take away point: “Effective instructional leaders don’t just focus on student learning. They relentlessly search out and interrogate evidence of that learning” John Hattie.

 

Teacher Inquiry

Over the course of the year, the staff at Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School, have been working alongside Anna Stephenson from Massey University to help develop Teacher Inquiry further within the school. The decision was made that the staff would all look at the same aspect of practise to help consolidate understanding of the inquiry method. The aspect that was selected by Senior Management was to focus on raising achievement levels of Māori and Pasifika boys in writing.

After ‘playing’ with several different inquiry models over the course of the year I attended a course on mentoring a PRT and the facilitator showed the following as an example.

Teacher Inquiry Model

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 8.17.08 pm

 

I particularly liked this approach as it incorporated the RTCs and I think that I suitable next step for the model would be to include the relevant aspects on Tātaiako as well. The model clearly outlines the Inquiry model in a clear and concise way.

Managing Change

As I was preparing for a Professional Development session I came across this interesting diagram. I think it sums up brilliantly the processes that need to be considered if changes are to be made.23010261I also think that we need to constantly remind ourselves of the following quote from Frederick Douglass – “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

 

Flipping the Flip

Toward the end of Term One I was leading some Professional Development with the staff around using MyPortfolio, the ePortfolio that PNINS Senior Management had chosen to adopt.

Many members of staff who are late adopters of technology began to grumble that they didn’t see the point of using MyPortfolio as they were too difficult to use compared to what they had always done. And yet other members of staff were disengaged because they found the technology extremely easy to use and didn’t see the point of the Professional Development when they thought they knew it all already. My initial thought was, I guess you can’t keep everyone happy all the time… and as Nelson Mandela once said “It is a grave error for any leader to be oversensitive in the face of criticism.”

As I rode my bike home I began to think, would I have been happy if that were a lesson in my class?

Of course not!

I decided that differentiation was the key. The next time I led a Professional Development session I asked some of the earlier adopters to lead small groups. Staff could then choose which ability group they would attend. This worked extremely well! Staff were much more positive about the session and the progress that individuals made was far greater.

As I thought about this approach some more I wondered if there were other classroom techniques that could be applied to Professional Development and staff training.
As I began to research this train of thought I came across the following fascinating article: Continue reading Flipping the Flip