Staff Professional Learning
Our OPS staff are involved in ongoing professional earning every year. Each year the programme is closely linked to our charter targets and our OPS vision of 'A confident, inspired community of learners'.
Early in 2022 we applied to the Ministry of Education for funding for an external facilitator to work with our staff over the next two years. Neill O’Reilly, a facilitator from Learning Architects has been working with our staff this year and will continue in 2023.
Working with someone from outside the school challenges us to really think about both the mahi we have done as a staff in the past and what we need in the future. Our initial work with Neill was to look more deeply into our Vision - ‘A confident, inspired community of learners’, our Values, Principles and the goals we had set in our 2022 charter and develop these into a professional learning plan for 2022 and 2023. Some of our professional learning plan is facilitated by Neill, other parts are led by school leaders.
While our Vision, Values and Principles remain the same (and will until we carry out a significant community consultation focus starting in the second part of 2023), we have refined our key goals into two areas -
OPS Ākonga are empowered by positive collaborative relationships
OPS Ākonga experience coherent pathways
These two goals are broken down into more detail (see image above) and have been refined as the year has progressed.
You can see some examples of staff putting professional learning into action on our 2022 Learning Spotlights page . These have also been shared in newsletters in 2022.
High Impact Practices
A big part of our professional learning focus is 2022 has been to revisit and refine approaches and staff focus areas from previous years. While the last couple of years of covid interruptions and challenges impacted on every aspect of schools and learning, we are fortunate to have a lot of really powerful professional learning, shared understandings and resources we have developed from previous years to continue to build on.
In 2022 we have been conscious not to add a lot of new learning for our staff, instead to build on what was already in place.
OPS High Impact Practices include…
Learning through Inquiry, quality learning practices, culturally responsive practice, a focus on wellbeing, learner agency, teacher inquiry into learning, consistent expectations through learning progressions, sustainability, healthy active learning.
Research tell us that when teachers have high expectations learners rise to the expectations
Teams have been discussing and focusing on specific approaches which have been shown to support and enhance ākonga learning.
“The high expectations principle is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum that provide a foundation for schools' decision making. The high expectations principle calls for schools and teachers to deliver a curriculum that:
has high expectations for all students
offers teaching practices and learning opportunities that enable students to meet those expectations
recognises students' prior knowledge and skills
enables all learners to achieve to their full potential “
You may remember these from previous newsletters this year where we have shared some ‘Learning Spotlights’ celebrating some of the learning in our teams which give examples of these. Newsletter Week 3 Term 3, 2022, Week 5 Term 3, 2022, Newsletter Week 7 Term 3, 2022. We have another later in this newsletter from the Piwakawaka Team and next week we hear from the Kiwi Team.
We have focused on creating ‘EPIC’ environments - learning spaces which are Emotionally, Physically and Intellectually Challenging environments. One of the pieces of research we have utilised in ‘Clever Classrooms’ and the book ‘The Power of Inquiry’ by Kath Murdoch.
Our teachers have been working on their EPIC classroom environments this year and this will continue in future years. The recommendations from the research can be applied to existing learning spaces, and we are really pleased with how the recommendations have been incorporated in our new building’s learning spaces.
“The single most important finding reported here, is that there is clear evidence that the physical characteristics of primary schools do impact on pupils’ learning progress in reading, writing and mathematics” Clever Classrooms
One of the interesting points to come from this research (and others is a bit of a change to what we have traditionally done in classes) is a recognition of not overstimulating ākonga with too much on walls and around the learning space. The Clever Classrooms research suggests 20% of wall space should be free of anything.
While this panorama distorts the space a bit, it gives a great idea of the large amount of ‘bringing the outside in’ our new building gives us. There are strong links to ‘nature’, a lot of natural light and links to nature - two features identified as important in the ‘Clever Classrooms’ research.
You can also start to see some of the smaller specially designed spaces for different learning…better seen in some of the images below which we shared last year on our website.
While our professional development focus has been about High Impact Practices which will maximise ākonga learning, we have also focused on some specific strategies which will support our staff to work more collaboratively and to support the move into our new building in 2023.
You have probably heard the sayings “many hands make light work’ or ‘two heads are better than one’...this is exactly why our OPS staff collaborate!
Later in this newsletter we have given some more detail about how staff are doing this both this year and how they will in future years.
Most of the approaches and techniques our staff are using can be used both in traditional single classrooms and in collaborative spaces. The collaborative spaces such as those in our new building can make some approaches easier to carry out.
You have probably heard the sayings ‘many hands make light work’ or ‘two heads are better than one’...this is exactly why our OPS staff collaborate!
When we first started looking at collaboration in 2019 we identified that our OPS staff are already collaborating in a number of ways. We have worked to increase collaboration with a specific focus on it this year. While there are sometimes challenges to work through as we work in a different way, collaboration maximises teacher use of time, which benefits both teachers and ākonga.
One example we often share relates to teacher preparation time. In a team where teachers are not collaborating, each teacher individually plans for the needs of their class. This means each of the 3 teachers in a team is planning the same or very similar lessons.
When teachers are planning collaboratively, instead of planning for 6 reading groups they will only need to plan for 2, with the others being planned for by the other members of the team.
A second and very important part of this is maximising teacher ‘teaching time’. While teachers will still interact with the same number of ākonga, a teacher who is working with groups at 2 different levels can provide more targeted teaching (teachers call this ‘differentiation’) and ākonga learning than a teacher managing 6 groups at a range of different levels.
Another significant benefit of collaboration for our ākonga is that while they retain their relationship with their whānau teacher, they also benefit from the experience, skills and passions of other teachers.
The start of this short video talks about teachers working collaboratively (about the first 2 minutes). Julia Aitken is an Australian educator who works with schools around the world. Dr. Julia Atkin: Collaborative teaching and learning - Part 2
“Collaborating to improve learner outcomes
Collaboration is the process of working together to achieve a common goal. In teaching, the common goal is always improved learner outcomes.
Teacher collaboration involves:
debating, planning, and problem-solving together
inquiring together, using evidence and research to guide decision-making
capitalising on each other’s strengths and working with each other’s weaknesses
actively contributing to a respectful and supportive learning environment.”
“Active collaboration is particularly important for creating a growth-based learning environment and for increasing student learning progress. Research shows that teachers who work together and learn from each other are more successful in improving student outcomes than those who work alone.”Through growth to achievement: Report of the review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools , (March 2018)
Co-teaching is a part of collaborating. It refers to a range of strategies and approaches teachers and learning assistants can use when there is more than one adult with a group of ākonga. Our staff have been planning and utilising different co-teaching approaches to support learning. Trying different co-teaching approaches means our staff can plan deliberately and choose the approach which will support each learning focus.
You can find out a bit more about co-teaching strategies here -
How to choose a co-teaching model & Image from Thinking Mathematically