Sunday, 7 February 2016

Behaviour expectations in an open learning space - do they differ?

I'm very fortunate to work within a team that put great emphasis on Professional Development and Learning. This means working with some very high calibre people in their fields. 

Prior to induction, I had actually never heard of this particular guy who was going to be leading our day, but now I know him as 'the behaviour guy'. I was really keen to hear his thoughts on managing children within an open learning environment, as that is one of the challenges when making the transitions. 

It didn't start as well as I hoped though. By morning tea time I was a bit gob-smacked to be honest. He admitted himself that he had probably offended a number of people in the room, and I was one of them. 

He started the day giving one reason why he believed NZ results in PISA assessments were going down. (PISA results, in my opinion, reflect a very small 'slice' of education and do not account for the other great things that kiwi kids are getting opportunity to grow and develop in. But that's a different blog post!) He backed up his one reason with six points, most of which go against my beliefs as an educator in an Innovative Learning Environment.

1) Distraction. He's right - there's a lot of distraction. These children are living in the most stimulating era ever. We should be channeling those distractions into pulling information from a variety of sources, not preventing our kids from, well, being kids. I'm sure Sir Ken Robinson would back me up on this one, as he refers to it as the ADHD epidemic in this video (about 4 mins in).

2) Social Shift in Authority. Again - yes! Children are given voice and agency in their learning because research shows it gives the children more ownership and engagement in their learning (and related tasks).

3) Lack of clarity in Practising Teacher Criteria. Here I would ask the question, if we were to tell every single teacher more precisely, how to manage their students, then how do ensure that the teacher is catering for the individual needs of the students and community?

4) Innovative Learning Spaces. Well I'm here and I'm doing it. 

5) Collaboration. What?!?! He did say that collaboration was a good thing but it creates a challenge. Collaboration is a core value at school, and as a necessary skill in an ever-changing world I won't be giving up on this 'challenge'. 

6) PB4L. I would have liked him to expand on his thoughts a little more - I think I would probably agree with him on this one. I have a small amount of experience working in a school that was starting a PB4L journey. There was some great data beginning to emerge that would lead to better monitoring and a more pro-active approach, however, the behaviourist slant was less than desirable for me. 

Fortunately the day got better and I was able to get quite a big take-a-way from it.

He spoke in depth about the importance of gaining full attention when working with students - large or small groups. This has been a focus for our team as we have started the year, and I can really see the benefits of calling a group to full attention before giving an instruction, or reading or speaking to them, or sharing with them. Full attention is the state when the noise level is almost silent and a very high number of students are listening. It has been found that when full attention is at it highest, on task focus is also higher for follow up independent work.

As we move into more small group work, my goal will be to ensure that the group I'm working with CAN be and are in a full attention state. I highlight the word 'can' because it is reliant on so many factors - Can the children see what they need to? Is there anything 'extra' that will limit their distraction for this point in time? Is the outer noise level appropriate? Can the children have my full attention or do I need to attend to other groups too? 

On task focus is really important for our children's learning. The speaker talked about better focus led to doing more work, which resulted in better learning. I'm still pondering this one - I don't know that MORE work is the answer. Perhaps better QUALITY.  

Although I left feeling a little deflated, I'm really pleased I've been challenged and have spent some time thinking more about what I do actually believe leads to good learning.

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