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Setting up exciting possibilities for the year

Rob Clarke

Rob is the co-founder and CEO of Learning Architects. He supports leaders and organisations to thrive in the future through coaching, development, technology and learning design. He is a Ministry of Education accredited PLD facilitator. He is also a Dad and volunteers as Special Officer - Education for the United Nations Association of NZ.

For more information please visit: learningarchitects.com/about or get in touch via +64 21 590 572

Setting Up Exciting Possibilities For The Year
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One of the aspects I love about this time in the school calendar, is the level of energy that staff, students and leaders have. There’s always a sense of positivity at the start of Term 1, and with most teacher-only days complete, there’s also excitement for the possibilities for the year ahead.

Being involved in teacher-only days across the country, we get to see talented educators creating innovative programmes to nurture and support educator learning in many different ways. 

For example, I recently spent a day working with a staff of Oaklands School on how to create a thriving workplace in a newly rebuilt school in Christchurch. Their challenges revolve around how to move from a single-cell teaching environment to a beautiful new flexible learning environment; and how to apply their strengths towards the new ways of working together and with their students.  One of the many exercises they underwent during this day was to define what their ‘best day at work’ looks and feels like, and brainstorm how they can use their talents to get more of this. We then took it further to specify how they can support their colleagues to get more of their best day at work, and finished with looking at Gallup’s Q12 engagement matrix; what this means and how to measure engagement so they can build their teams in a way that works for everyone and aligns with the school’s strategic goals.

Up in Wellington, I worked with Crofton Downs Primary school, helping staff explore how to deepen their local curriculum. Staff were involved in a range of exercises, including defining what the concept ‘curriculum’ means for them. This involved using a range of facilitation strategies to help teachers and leaders prioritise which elements of their local curriculum are most important and why.

They then explored a framework for holistic curriculum design, and finally applied this framework to their school-based curriculum for students. Teachers even got time to plan, which was a bonus!

Our facilitators have been working in primary and secondary schools helping teachers and school leaders in areas as diverse as the Digital Technologies Curriculum, inquiry into practice, building leadership capability through coaching, and emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality. 

The feedback that we receive after these sessions really show that while there’s a lot to do in the classroom, PLD is always time well spent. For example, St Albans Primary are seeing staff visibly relax as they understand what the new content of the DTC entails. People are relaxing as they realise that it’s actually already happening, or if not, is easy to translate into their own practice.

At Glenholme School there was excitement and enthusiasm when teachers were learning about new digital tools, with lots of positive discussion and feedback about how they can implement it straight away. 

And as I get back into it after the summer break, each of these sessions make me reflect on our own very first PLD team retreat, which we held in Christchurch in December last year. I founded this business with the intention of ‘walking the talk’, and this was an important milestone for us, and certainly one of my highlights of last year. We had four main design principles for this very first time together:

  1. whakapono – developing the team culture of Learning Architects
  2. ako whakaohooho – exploring how we inspire learning for our clients
  3. hiranga – ways to drive excellence in everything we do
  4. awhingatanga – the care and support we provide to ensure everyone thrives

“The most powerful learning is when professionals share amongst themselves.”

In preparation for this retreat, I put together a range of experiences that were designed to explore the above concepts. For example, we spent time sharing our passions and exploring our strengths as a way to empower our team. This demonstrated our belief that some of the most powerful learning is when professionals share amongst one another. It was also a great way for the team to identify how to apply and utilise their own talents more effectively, and get to know one another better.

We also spent time with some local principals and Ministry of Education officials who met with us as we explored what makes an exceptional PLD experience. And it was fun to have Michael from our new partners at Electric Garden join us for some discussion and some socialising!

Each of these experiences designed for our own professional development, helped guide our thinking about how we design effective PLD for educators to ensure teams get the desired inspiration, knowledge and impact to get the student outcomes they want.

As the PLD landscape continues to evolve with all applications for term 1 and 2 being due in the first or second week of March, knowing how to easily navigate the new PLD system is going to be vital.

“Ko te kai a te rangatira he kōrero –
the food of chiefs is dialogue.”

In preparation for this retreat, I put together a range of experiences that were designed to explore the above concepts. For example, we spent time sharing our passions and exploring our strengths as a way to empower our team. This demonstrated our belief that some of the most powerful learning is when professionals share amongst one another. It was also a great way for the team to identify how to apply and utilise their own talents more effectively, and get to know one another better.

We also spent time with some local principals and Ministry of Education officials who met with us as we explored what makes an exceptional PLD experience. And it was fun to have Michael from our new partners at Electric Garden join us for some discussion and some socialising!

Each of these experiences designed for our own professional development, helped guide our thinking about how we design effective PLD for educators to ensure teams get the desired inspiration, knowledge and impact to get the student outcomes they want.

As the PLD landscape continues to evolve with all applications for term 1 and 2 being due in the first or second week of March, knowing how to easily navigate the new PLD system is going to be vital.

Having spent this time together as a team at the end of last year, getting ourselves ready for the start of this year, we are well-prepared for the new priorities that go live start of Term 3. 

Anyone working as an educator in New Zealand at the moment recognises the challenges that come with trying to identify and prioritise areas for development. And often, getting an application together once school is up and running is the biggest challenge of all. 

However, guiding schools through the application is just one step. Developing engaged teams, building leadership capability and turning theory into practice are important design elements in the approach we bring to PLD. 

This has helped us to design a variety of resources and strategies to help schools and Kāhui ako apply for PLD and then implement it in such a way as to be sustainable and long lasting. 

As I reflect on the teacher-only days I’ve been involved in, plus the amazing retreat we had in December, I’m super excited. These elements of our very own ‘TOD’ have put us in a great position to have our clients covered for a successful 2020.

So I would encourage you, if you’re thinking about how you might use or improve PLD in your own school, to get in touch. The benefits of overcoming those application challenges are well worth it!

Click here if you’d like resources and strategies for accessing the new PLD journal system for 2020.

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