Ilja van Weringh’s blog


Welcome. My name is Ilja van WeringhI am a teacher. I like learning. This blog is where I share the interesting things I find offline and online about Teaching, Technology and Thinking. Putting thoughts, ideas, quotes, resources, images and links together is my way of learning.

You can also find me on Twitter and Diigo.

Tom Sherrington, Barack Rosenshine and ‘CPD’

Tom Sherrington (@teacherhead) is a good ‘education guru’. I like his straight talking and common sense approach, informed by a realistic approach to teaching and education research that really connects with what I think is important in education.

Since 2018, Tom has been focussing on Barack Rosenshine’s seminal “10 principles”. Here is all Tom’s writing on that: https://teacherhead.com//?s=rosenshine

He recently wrote this post about the PD needs of teachers (Teachers’ CPD needs are massive: it needs more time and more flexibility) which contained a great overview of what we are asking teachers to ‘develop’ in. I am copying the list here so that I remember to return to this, because that is the purpose of this blog for me, a personal and professional notebook about teaching and learning. So here is Tom’s list:

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Appreciative Inquiry: Conversations worth having

Our new Head of Campus introduced me to ‘Appreciative Inquiry’. Here is an oft cited definition of what ‘AI’ is:  “At its heart, AI is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. AI is not so much a shift in the methods and models of organizational change, but AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes. ” a

Conversations worth having book cover

I read the book “Conversations Worth Having” b on Scribd. This is a subscription service, you pay $9 AUD a month and get fantastic access to books, documents and podcasts. I like reading non-fiction on Scribd because of the easy highlighting you can do with both Scribd and Diigo. I like Scribd better than Audible and Amazon.

What is ‘Appreciative Inquiry’?

AI can be the catalyst for organisational or behavioural change and can be used in all situations where humans interact. Stavros describes it as follows: “AI consists of the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world  around them and that solving tough problems from that perspective results in creative solutions, which is life-giving for people.c The idea of Appreciative Inquiry resonates with me because I try to always take a strengths based approach in my dealings with people and the world, rather than a deficit approach. I try to see the best in people, situations and organisations. AI is all about looking at strengths, rather than weaknesses and deficits.  

Appreciate inquiry is so called because you ask questions about and investigate what is good. Your inquiry appreciates and builds on the good and the successful, rather than identifying and investigating what is negative and wrong. Continue reading

  1. Excerpt from: Stavros, Jacqueline, Godwin, Lindsey, & Cooperrider, David. (2015). Appreciative Inquiry: Organization Development and the Strengths Revolution. In Practicing Organization Development: A guide to leading change and transformation (4th Edition), William Rothwell, Roland Sullivan, and Jacqueline Stavros (Eds). Wiley, source  (back)
  2. Link to Conversations Worth Having on Scribd: . https://www.scribd.com/book/375406194/Conversations-Worth-Having-Using-Appreciative-Inquiry-to-Fuel-Productive-and-Meaningful-Engagement   (back)
  3. From Conversations Worth Having, Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful, Engagement, Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres. Page unknown because I took notes in Scribd via Diigo, which didn’t include page numbers, further citations will just be “Conversations worth having”  (back)

Changing the “Grammar of Schooling”

I watched a seminar today, by Melbourne Uni MGSE: Professor Yong Zhao on “Education leaders must reconsider the way we teach and learn”. He challenged us to think about different possibilities in education in response to Covid.

Here is the article Zhao wrote on that: https://kami.app/zVi8JPKpWFe7 I made some highlights and comments in Kami, you can add your own if you are so inclined.

It raises some interesting questions about the lessons we have learnt from lockdown, particularly when it comes to flexibility and trust.

Abstract (TL:DR) is below. Abstract: Speak a Different Language: Reimagine the Grammar of Schooling, by Yong Zhao

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Quality Teaching Rounds: Talking about great teaching

Quality Teaching Rounds, developed by Jenny Gore and Julie Bowe, involves teachers working in professional learning communities (PLCs) of four or more to observe and analyse each other’s teaching (Bowe & Gore, 2017) a. The QTR is a protocol using a set of “good teaching practice” criteria with which a lesson is “coded” and then discussed by a group of three or four teachers. The three dimensions and 18 elements are grouped in three domains of good pedagogy: Intellectual Quality, Quality Learning Environment and Significance.

How it works:

A group of four teachers (three could work, but four is optimal) observe a lesson by one of the group. The three observers “code” the lesson using the Quality Teaching criteria. After the lesson, the group of four get together and discuss the lesson. The discussion is not an appraisal of the teacher; it is about discussing the elements of good teaching.

Below are my notes of an excellent two day PD I was lucky enough to attend b, guided by Professor Jenny Gore. She was insightful, interesting and showed us how the QTR model is one of the few ways in which teachers can have safe and constructive discussions based on lesson observations.

I have blogged about Jenny Gore’s QTR before, but at that time, I didn’t fully get how useful and great this protocol actually is. Now I do, and I can’t wait to start working with it at my school. Here is the blog post from June 2016.
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  1. https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1336&context=research_conference  (back)
  2. On the 25th and 26th of February 2020, at Lauriston Girls’ School  (back)

Effective Mentoring, VIT

I attended a VIT refresher course on Thursday the 5th of March 2020, led by Catharine Hydon and Matt Woodley from the VIT. My main take-away was how important it is to have a clearly defined induction and mentorship program with well trained and committed mentors. At my school, we have a lot of good people and great intentions, but we have some way to go towards properly formalising our processes.

What is mentoring?

  • Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be. (Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring)
  • As a process, mentoring may be generally described as a dynamic interpersonal relationship involving two or more people. Mentoring in early childhood is often perceived as “a peer relationship” (Nolan, 2007, xvii), where a more experienced practitioner provides professional guidance to one or more novice practitioners, either on a 1:1 basis or as a group. (Wong and Waniganayake 2013) 
  • Need to have a written down protocol or policy to support VIT teachers.

What mentoring isn’t

  • Performance management
  • Training
  • Peer friendship and support
  • Counselling
  • Rescuing

What good mentors do?

The good mentor is:

  • committed to the role of mentoring.
  • accepting of the beginning teacher.
  • skilled at providing instructional support.
  • effective in different interpersonal contexts.
  • a model of a continuous learner.
  • The good mentor communicates hope and optimism. a
  • My notes here

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  1. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may99/vol56/num08/The-Good-Mentor.aspx  (back)

Evaluating Professional Development

My school is currently trialing and evaluating different forms and modes of professional development. I did some reading to gain perspectives on how to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development.

I read two articles about PD evaluation, both by Thomas Guskey, who seems to have made this his academic niche.

Article 1: What Works in Professional Development?

Abstract of “What works in Professional Development“: a A research synthesis confirms the difficulty of translating professional development into student achievement gains despite the intuitive and logical connection. Those responsible for planning and implementing professional development must learn how to critically assess and evaluate the effectiveness of what they do.” You can read the article with detailed comments by a broad group of educators here: https://kami.app/J15eQMqxFzOk.

While this article is interesting, it is also questionable because its quite considerable conclusions seems to rest from just 9 ‘valid’ studies. All the other studies were dismissed because of problems with the methodology. So; it is too hard to do valid studies into the efficacy of Professional Development and its impact on student outcomes? Can we make any statements about the impact of PD on student outcomes?  Jenny Gore would say she has evidence for the effectiveness of the Quality teaching rounds model. 

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  1. What Works in Professional Development?
    Guskey, Thomas R.; Yoon, Kwang Suk
    Phi Delta Kappan, v90 n7 p495-500 Mar 2009
    https://tguskey.com/wp-content/uploads/Professional-Learning-5-What-Works-in-Professional-Development.pdf Accessed 29/02/20  (back)

Getting students to talk about pages in a textbook

Contents

    I try to get the students to talk through their understanding and ideas as much as possible. Some days I’m more successful than others.  It can be challenging to deal with long text book passages and making the info on those pages ‘stick’. The other day I tried a new activity, I call it Study Group Tabata. Tabata It worked well. It is roughly based on Ron Ritchhart’s MicroLab and allows students to talk through new information from a textbook, and then work towards answering a central question. It can be adapted to any subject.

    • Aim of the task:  To understand a complex issue (in this case Gleichschaltung in N*zi Germany) and then answer a central question (“How successful was Gleichschaltung?”)
    • How: Break down the complex issue into elements. (In my case, political parties, trade unions, regional states: This was based on pages and topics in the textbook)
      • Activity:
          • Groups of three.
          • Student 1 discusses subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
          • Student 2 discusses same subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
          • Student 3 summarises subtopic 1 and highlights the key issues and knowledge. Student 3 could be a note-taker too.

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    Better conversations, Jim Knight

    Contents

      Jim Knight, Better Conversations Book coverI have really enjoyed reading Jim Knight’s “Better Conversations”. It is inspirational in the way it makes you mindful of what we do all day: Talk. We talk at, about, with and to each other. We all know how great it feels to have a truly wonderful, productive and invigorating conversation. What if more of our conversations could be even better? Knight provides some common sense approaches, but to call it ‘common sense’ is unfair because if having great conversations is common sense and easy, then why do we have bad/unproductive conversations, or conversations which could have been better?

      I picked the 5 chapters I found most interesting and relevant, and used the mindmaps Knight provides at the beginning of each chapter as my guide to form my own notes and understanding. For this I used the software package MindJet Mindmanager, which our school provides for our students and created this mindmap overview: Better conversations Jim Knight (also see below)

       

      • Better conversations (Ch1)
      • The Better Conversations Beliefs (Ch 2)
      • Ask better questions to foster inquiry (Ch5)
      • Redirecting toxic words and emotions (Ch8)
      • Building Trust (Ch9)

      My key takeaways: Continue reading

      Pareto Principle; work smarter not harder

      Contents

        I had heard of the 20/80 rule, but had never really looked into it deeply. It’s such a great strategy for teachers in many ways. Basically: “Find out what is vital, ignore what is trivial, and you can maximize results.” a  When making a to do list (which I do often), identify the top 20% and focus on finishing those off first. Here is a distillation of my reading and understanding (all links provided) : Continue reading

        1. https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2015/10/01/the-80-20-rule  (back)

        A week on #edutweetoz, in polls

        Contents

          Twitter continues to be my favourite form of professional development. The networking and ideas I get from it are just invaluable to my teaching practice. I had another go at hosting @edutweetoz for a week (from 24/11/19 till 01/12/19). It was great fun, but it also made me realise how used I am to my own posse of people on Twitter. It felt quite different to interact with a whole new (and much bigger) group of people. One of my themes for the week was to run lots of polls because they are easy to interact with and can start some interesting conversations. Below are the polls I ran. Some interesting data about the working life of teachers:

          • 43% of respondents work through recess
          • 45% of respondents stay at work until after 5pm
          • 47% of respondents eat lunch at their desk
          • 65% of respondents use Sunday to prep for Monday
          • 77% of respondents are a member of a teachers union

          See more polls below, in random order: Continue reading

          PD Bingo

          Contents

            Here is a great way to diversify the professional development offerings at your school. During Term 3, I held a ‘PD Bingo’, based on an idea by @nbgreene, found via @cultofpedagogy (also see bottom of post).
            This Bingo poster contained a mix of 24 teaching ideas, strategies and PD choices. The aim was to inspire staff to try new things, and to get a sense of what they found easy or challenging to implement in their classes or in PD. I got the Bingo sheet printed on A2 size and hung it in the staff room for 3 weeks. Here is what it looked like:

            Many staff members participated and it got some great conversations going. Below is an analysis of the results: Continue reading

            Building an argument tower with thesis, antithesis, synthesis

            Contents

              Today we built an ‘argument tower’ in class. The idea was found by my colleague Sara, on this AP Word History blog, written by Jonathan Henderson. There are also a few Tweets about “argument towers”.

              I used the ‘Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis‘ argument structure to help students construct an effective paragraph or essay. You can also use “Contention – Example – Evaluation” etc. Works for English, Philosophy, Geography or any area where students have to argue something.

              What’s needed: Continue reading