inquiry & advocacy



trust is key

Trust with blue marker Building trusting, positive relationships is at the heart of any leaders role. To lead you must have the trust and respect of those who you would have follow you. In schools this means that you must be constantly striving to build connections with students, staff, parents and the wider community.

I recently was lucky to be able to spend a whole day with a group of middle leaders unpacking a new “coaching” role within our cluster of schools. At the core of the matter was the ability for team leaders to build a coaching relationship with their team in order to effect ongoing increases in team capacity. It is an exciting development and one which operates with a high-trust model. I am keenly aware that our success as leaders relies on this key trait: our capacity to build positive, professional, trusting relationships with the people around us. As John Maxwell states in his sixth “irrefutable” law of leadership:

Trust is the foundation for all effective leadership. When it comes to leadership, there are no shortcuts. Building trust requires competence, connection and character.

“The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, John Maxwell


The following article is a great quick read which outlines 5 practical ways school leaders might create a more inclusive and positive school climate – something which we should all have in mind as we live our lives and work with our students, parents and staff. I might get a lot of light ribbing from parents who see me at the school gate clutching my ( rapidly cooling ) caffeine fix on cold mornings – but I have to say that I am a convert to the idea of making sure the first school face the kids and parents see each day is a smiling one!

A positive school environment is one that is welcoming; it’s one where staff, students and parents work together. It’s where the school leaders know many of the students’ names, and people smile instead of frown.”


National Standards and the damage done


National-StandardsMany schools around New Zealand still struggle to align the strange dichotomy of a curriculum that embraces our understanding of the developmental growth of children and National Standards which are completely arbitrary. The New Zealand Principal’s Federation have produced a substantial amount of information to try and make our concerns known since 2009 when they were first introduced. Now the results of a major research project have raised considerable concerns over the effect that the initiative have had on teachers and schools. With the current government pursuing the use of data as a way of evaluating schools ( and probably teachers in the future ) there are grave concerns for how this process will further complicate and alienate the education community from the political powers.

“National Standards are having some favourable impacts in areas that include teacher understanding of curriculum levels, motivation of some teachers and children and some improved targeting of interventions. Nevertheless such gains are overshadowed by damage being done through the intensification of staff workloads, curriculum narrowing and the reinforcement of a two-tier curriculum, the positioning and labelling of children and unproductive new tensions amongst school staff.”

A very astute quote from the Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) Project, Waikato University. The paper is aptly titled “National Standards and the damage done…”

For more info you can visit the Wilf Malcom Institue of Educational Research website.


Fostering deep reading on digital devices

ipad_kidThere’s no doubt that the experience of reading online is different than reading in print, and emerging studies have found student comprehension and retention are lower on digital devices. As teachers we have got some time-proven effective pedagogies under our collective belts to develop students’ reading abilities using traditional print media. As we move further and further into an age saturated with digital media, however, how do we foster the same “deep reading” and comprehension that we have been able to achieve with printed text?

“The same plasticity that allows us to form a reading circuit to begin with, and short-circuit the development of deep reading if we allow it, also allows us to learn how to duplicate deep reading in a new environment. We cannot go backwards. As children move more toward an immersion in digital media, we have to figure out ways to read deeply there.” Maria Konnikova, New Yorker.

The following article discusses many reasons why reading digital materials is different to reading traditional print-based texts. What are the challenges these issues raise for teachers trying to grow young readers holistically?


Is your brain fixed or fluid?


In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, 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. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.


Mindset can be evident in some of the subtle differences in self-talk as you approach a challenge. The way you respond to different challenges can indicate what sort of mindset you have. Which of these do you recognise in your own personal/internal responses to different situations?


This is a great short video to help explain the differences in mindset between “fixed” and “growth”. Carol Dweck’s work in this area highlights one of the critical challenges for teachers in their ever-changing professional roles. As the changes come thick and fast adapting a “growth mindset” is an imperative!

Disrupting boundaries: how digital devices became a resource for transformative change in a time of crisis

…the community of Pegasus Bay had experienced ‘great environmental change’, many of the traditional boundaries defining community, school, teaching, and learning had already been disrupted, which provided a context for teachers to think and practice differently; the introduction and use of digital devices intensified this change process.

via Disrupting boundaries: how digital devices became a resource for transformative change in a time of crisis.

Interesting article on how the challenges faced by some schools in Christchurch following the earthquakes resulted in a project that “… not only created new pathways for learning but also new ways to demonstrate care and concern for others.”
Learning communities growing through adversity!

What will students learn in the future?

By Artmax (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Artmax (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Many schools face complex challenges as they work to adjust and adapt to new ways of working and thinking – sometimes hindered by the traditional curriculum frameworks they work within. Many national curricula are developed with a mindset that still focuses on content, although many are moving towards more conceptual frameworks to allow flexibility in locally-shaped school-based curricula which respond directly to the learning needs of any particular learning community ( e.g. New Zealand curriculum, International Baccalaureate’s PYP to name two that spring to mind )

Just as advances in technology enabled the growth of science, the extremely rapid growth of technology we’re experiencing today is impacting our perspectives, tools, and priorities now. But beyond some mild clamor for a focus on “STEM,” there have been only minor changes in how we think of content–this is spite of extraordinary changes in how students connect, access data, and function on a daily basis.


This article on te@chthought te@chthoughtposes some interesting questions and  suggests a new framework for what students will learn in the future:

1. Literacy
Big Idea: Reading and writing in physical & digital spaces

2. Patterns
Big Idea: How and why patterns emerge everywhere under careful study

3. Systems
Big Idea: The universe—and every single thing in it–is made of systems, and systems are made of parts.

4. Design
Big Idea: Marrying creative and analytical thought

5. Citizenship
Big Idea: Responding to interdependence

6. Data
Big Idea: Recognizing & using information in traditional & non-traditional forms

7. Research
Big Idea: Identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing diverse ideas

8. Philosophy
Big Idea: The nuance of thought