Learning and Teaching at Gilson College

Learning for living, Character for life, Hope for the Future

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Adventist Schools Victoria – Combined Schools Day of Worship 2012: Secondary

Get Connected, Stay Connected!

I asked about a week ago that readers stay tuned for the slideshow from the Adventist Schools Victoria Secondary Combined Schools Worship Day. Here it is! (Thank you to Ormond for the photos, and perhaps another anonymous photographer too!)

The event was held at Nunawading Christian College on Friday August 17 with students from Years 7 to 12 taking part. The theme was GET CONNECTED!

The schools’ chaplains coordinated the program. Once again, a big thank you to them for the time they put in to planning and bringing all the components of the morning together.

Supported by teachers as well as the chaplains, students from each school lead out in aspects of the program, including the welcome to attendees, leading in prayer, singing in worship and providing music, along with presenting inspirational drama and choral items.

A big thank you as well to the teachers and students. You were inspiring!

The speaker Pr Mau Tuaoi, Senior Chaplain at Gilson College, emphasised the importance of getting, and staying connected to God.  As happened in the primary program, at the end each student was also presented with a reminder of the day – a carabiner engraved with the words, GET CONNECTED.

In addition to the worship time, students and staff had the opportunity afterwards to share lunch and a social time together.

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Using Twitter in Education – Reflecting on Professional Learning as it happens

I posted this first on ASV Teachers – Showcasing ICT Use in their Classrooms:

For several schools in our system, weekly staff meetings have in the most part, been replaced with professional learning (PL) sessions where teachers gather together as a whole staff or in smaller professional learning communities (PLC) to develop their practice.

This week in one school, a senior leader with her ICT PLC – an action research group developing their knowledge, understanding and skills in the use ICT with their students – led other small groups of teachers to explore several  Web 2.0 or other ICT tools. Teachers could choose which ICT PLC leader to meet with. 

In addition to experimenting with a tool, during the session the teachers were asked to use a number of questions to reflect on their learning. Reflective questions included: How and when might you use this tool in your classroom with your students? Why might the tool be useful for you and your students? What outcomes might this have for students’ achievement? What additional support might you need to use this tool?

As strange as it may seem to some readers of this post, I have really only recently realised the value of Twitter in assisting me in my own professional learning. Consequently, even though I’ve had an account for three years it had mostly remained unused. Now I have begun following educators around the world who have expertise in a variety of learning areas and pedagogy, accessing learning from them and links from their tweets.

Through a tweet I came across the idea of teachers using Twitter to have their students to reflect on their learning while they were in the middle of it! As I work with teachers, I thought I might be able to try this with them too!

This week I was presented with an ideal opportunity to experiment because teachers were given focus questions to use for reflection. (Another objective for me was to try to model how teachers  might usefully use Twitter with students for reflection on their learning, or indeed other leaders with staff.)

So at the morning gathering of our teachers on the day of the PL I asked those with a twitter account to come ready to use the social media during the afternoons meeting – previously a ‘no, no’.

It was then that I found that not a lot of staff use Twitter anyway, but I went ahead with the idea. (About 6 teachers indicated that they have a Twitter account, and one decided to ahead and create an account.)

I created a school hashtag which of course, when attached to each tweet would allow those participating to access the conversation.

While the small conversation that developed focused more on the fact that we were observing a lot of interaction and collaboration during the session rather that the reflective tweets I had expected, the result was encouraging enough to have me try again.

I also hope that this experience, along with others to follow may develop into professional conversations about how social media like Twitter might be valuable when used responsibly in learning and teaching!

Stay tuned!

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Circle – Phil’s Provocations: Creative Spaces in Schools – Nov. 2011

Circle - Phil's Provocations

By Dr Philip SA Cummins

In light of a conversation with several colleagues recently about engaging students in integrated learning this article is indeed thought provoking. Is the issue of engagement and motivation about our students as learners, or about we as learning facilitators? Or some of both?

‘Creativity is not something that just happens in art and music rooms; students want to be challenged to think creatively, show enterprise and innovate in all aspects of their learning. Our solutions, themselves, need to be grounded in a clear understanding of the conditions under which creativity flourishes. And we need to enable the adults involved in the process as much latitude and support as we give to the children with whom they are working…’

Dr Cummins goes on to write under the headings:

Students’ beliefs about creativity in school, Teachers’ beliefs about creativity in school, Leading and cultivating a creative staff, Defining a creative curriculum, A school culture that nurtures difference, The fear response to creativity amongst teachers, Thus, what is the creative space in our schools?

Read more…

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Adventist Schools Victoria – Combined Schools Day of Worship 2012: Primary


Every year since 2006 Adventist Schools Victoria has held a Combined Schools Worship Day.

This time of worship has become a looked-forward to, very special time because we bring together students and teachers from all of our schools to give praise and worship to our Creator God!

This year the event was held over two mornings at one of our schools Nunawading Christian College. The Primary schools’ worship took place on Thursday August 16 and the Secondary event was held the following day – Friday August 17. Primary students from Years 3 to 6 attended, and secondary students from Years 7 to 12.

The theme this year was GET CONNECTED!

The programs were organised by the schools’ chaplains. We wish to thank them for the time they put in to planning and bringing all the components of the service together. God certainly blessed their planning, as well as the worship time!

Led by teachers and chaplains, students from each school lead an aspect of the program. The components of worship ranged from the welcome to attendees, to leading in prayer, singing and providing music, along with presenting inspiring drama, art and choral presentations. Each school also featured on a short video that showcased the school and highlighted snippets that illustrated their students’ commitment to exploring the character of God, His love in their lives and their service to others – following the example of Jesus Christ.

A big thank you too to all of the teachers and students. You were inspiring!

The speaker Hayden Petersen, Chaplain at Edinburgh Adventist Primary School, emphasised the importance of getting, and staying connected to God. Hayden used a number of personal experiences to illustrate connections, including rock climbing where the climber needs to be, and stay connected to the safety equipment – a metaphor for maintaining connection to our Saviour. Later each student was presented with a take-home reminder of the day – a carabiner engraved with the words, GET CONNECTED.

In addition to the worship time, students and staff had the opportunity afterwards to share lunch and a social time together.

Below is a slide show and video of the interpretive dance presented as an expression of worship. (Thank you to Mike and Israel for the photos and video footage!) I will update the post when I receive more media so stay tuned.

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Teacher Appraisal and Professional Learning go hand-in-hand

56:365 working AITSL

I am following the blog ‘Thinking is Hard Work’. (The title of the blog appealed to me and  I have been interested to read the authors posts!)

The author is Colleen Sharen. She is a Management and Organizational Studies Professor at Brescia University College at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

In the light of ASV’s journey towards implementation of teacher standards-based appraisal, (and for that matter leadership appraisal) measured against the AITSL National Teacher and Principal Professional Standards, Colleen’s  recent post ‘The Above Average Effect’ is an interesting one.

ASV is just beginning to trial its new appraisal process, which will be fully implemented in the coming years. This new direction is moving us away from a sometimes-used, tick-the-box, teacher-self-appraisal system that was usually ratified, or not, after an annual conversation with the principal.

The process being trialled now is a goals-and-evidence-based appraisal system where the principal, sometimes in conjunction with his or her leadership team, will use regular conversations with staff members to monitor and coach them as they progress towards achieving standards relevant to their experience level. Accordingly principals as well as most of our deputies and heads of school have received regular consultant-led professional learning in unpacking the standards and how to appraise using the standards.

Despite the new direction however, and because teachers will set personal goals and gather evidence of their achievement, standards-based appraisal still brings with it a measure of teacher self-assessment of, as well as reflection on, their own progress towards goal attainment.

Consequently, with some level of self-assessment being part of our process it is my opinion that (while Colleen writes about performance self-assessment and appraisal in industry) the principles and information from the studies she references about the ‘Above average effect’ will apply to some extent in our emerging context.

Colleen writes:

‘Performance evaluations and regular feedback are a part of corporate life.  They are designed with the assumption that if people receive feedback, that their performance will improve. But does performance improve? It depends.

‘People tend to evaluate themselves as above average. Consistently researchers have found across professions, tasks, skills, industries, that we rank ourselves as better than average, creating what is sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, where everyone is above average. Of course, this isn’t mathematically possible. But is this tendency to rate oneself more highly than our peers consistent across all people?…

‘…The research shows that people who are least competent, that is those in the bottom 25% in a particular task or skill, are most likely to over-rate their skills…

‘…So how can you improve people’s understanding of their own ability? Paradoxically, you do this by making them more competent…

‘…The good news is that with training, which leads to improved competence, most people can more accurately self-assess their performance.  And of course, you get the benefit of improved competence…The solution isn’t feedback. The solution is developing competence…’  Read full post.

Further, the main implication for ASV education that I took away from my reading of Colleen’s post is that while appraisal (for us, against professional standards) is welcome and very necessary, we must be sure we continue to assist our teachers to develop competence and excellence by providing them with quality professional learning.

How are we doing so far? Those in our schools company realise already that our schools leaders have, over a number of years now, been refining their programs and processes for developing whole-school professional learning that engages their teachers in development around at least one data-identified school goal – often more. The level to which teachers have implemented this professional learning in their classroom practice has been a matter for each individual school to gauge. Most schools have used student achievement data and some, classroom observation.

To assist with this professional learning direction, the appraisal process expects teachers to review relevant teacher standards and include a whole-school goal in their individual teacher appraisal plan along with two personal goals for improvement. As well they are now expected to gather and provide evidence of achievement of their goals and their progress towards meeting the related professional standards. From this data, principals and leadership team members should be able to more easily see whether teachers are developing competence, moving towards excellence, and achieving implementation of initiatives related to their goals. The required regular professional conversations will also reinforce leadership’s understanding of teacher progress.

As well, I’m sure that rolling out a standards-based appraisal process, along with expectation that teachers include personal goals as well as school goals, all assisted by provision of professional learning, will demonstrate that teachers can continue to develop competence, indeed excellence in their ability self-assess their accomplishments and decide where they need to move to next.

Of course ultimately all of this will be of  great benefit to our students and the wider school community! That is our main goal!

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Adventist Schools Australia – Ministry of Teaching video, 2012

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Our ministry to our students and school communities is that of teaching. Let’s continue to encourage young people in our schools to also consider taking up this vital work, so that they also may make a difference for those who come after them!

In a recent letter to State Directors of Education and Adventist Church pastors and ministry teams Dr Daryl Murdoch, National Director Of Education, Adventist Schools Australia wrote:

‘Education Day 2012 

…Sabbath August 11 is a special Sabbath set aside to focus on our Adventist school system. Our schools are a core ministry of the church and it is our continued commitment to ensure that they provide the very best for the children in their care. As such we want to ensure that we are attracting and calling passionate and committed people to teach in our schools.

These videos have been produced with one aim in mind – to call people to the ministry of teaching, to make a difference, and as such influence the next generation for Christ…’

One of these videos was shown on August 11 in many Adventist churches around Australia and I post them on this blog for viewing by those who follow the blog. The shorter is 60 seconds in length and the longer version runs for 4 minutes and 22 seconds. Perhaps these might inspire a young person you know to consider a teaching career…

Long version

Short version

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Textbooks, or No Textbooks? Your thoughts!

picture of an e-learning classroom

21st-Century Students Need Books, Not Textbooks

An Opinion Piece by Colette Marie Bennett,

‘Colette is the English department chair at Regional School District #6 in Connecticut. She has spent 21 years teaching grades 6-12. She blogs about increasing classroom libraries and issues in education at Used Books in Class and tweets at @Teachcmb56.’

In her article Colette refers to new textbooks that are being published aligned to the recently introduced US Common Core State Standards. Considering that the  first four learning areas of the new Australian Curriculum are already being implemented in some states and are imminent in others, should we not also be looking at whether or not textbooks will or should continue to have a prominent place or indeed any place at all in 21st century teaching and learning in our country?

What is your opinion?

Colette writes:

‘My mailbox is stuffed with brochures showing glossy pictures of the brand new literature textbooks available for grades 7-12 in English/language arts. This generation of new anthologies will incorporate the same old materials newly packaged with activities aligned to the ELA Common Core State Standards. Many of the big names in education have contributed to the development of these textbook materials and offer expert advice in implementing objectives. The textbooks are stuffed with literary pieces, discussion questions, suggested topics for essays, and so many supplemental activities that no one teacher could teach all of the material contained in a single school year. However, if these textbooks are waiting for my endorsement, they’ll be waiting forever…

‘The literary pieces in these textbooks have not changed over multiple editions; most of the titles are in the public domain. They came with cartons of supplementary materials; however, at my school we not use these worksheets or canned quizzes. These materials are aligned to outdated educational standards and are not a resource for teachers interested in developing 21st-century skills. These issues highlight a central problem with textbooks: standards change, assessments change, and teaching methods change. The textbooks cannot keep up…

‘The reality today is that the materials in textbooks need only take up digital space. Most stories, poems, essays, plays, and novels currently offered in these textbooks can be found online and linked on teacher websites or class wikis…

‘Today’s new textbook anthologies are already outdated. They do not support a 21st-century classroom, they are expensive, and they stifle teacher development. But the most serious charge against any textbook, new or old, is that it does not foster a student’s love of reading. School districts should let the tradition of the textbook waste away and instead feed a student a book.’ Read the entire Opinion Piece here…