They set out to explore the extent to which schools have shifted the way they manage learning, including professional learning, in the face of increasing exposure to thinking and conversation about ’21st century’ dispositions for learning. We are well down the track of a new curriculum that has this thinking at its heart, but
“… how are the signals it gives being interpreted by teachers, school leaders and other education stakeholders? Is the new curriculum transforming how we “do” schooling? Is it changing the sector’s “ways of thinking”? Or has the old jargon simply been replaced by new jargon, leaving the old ways of thinking intact?” (p. 5)
Is it old wine in those new bottles?
The researchers explore three schools as cases to illustrate ways in which well-led staff can nurture shared conversations in “communities of practice” (Wenger et al.), but they challenge the extent to which “learning communities” (ref. Ki te Aotūroa) are in place. That is, they find plenty of rich examples of ways in which educators gather together to exchange ideas, even deep inquiries, about their practice.
But there were far fewer examples of teachers who are:
- objectifying their practice,
- holding it up to the light, critically examining it for ways to improve and
- acting upon new thinking created by this, potentially uncomfortable, challenge to the way we usually respond to issues.
Key points that were takeaways for me were:
- the importance of leadership in deliberately creating structures that allow these uncomfortable conversations to take place safely, fostering a shared vision.
- the need for “slow, reflective” questioning and reflection that considers practice purposefully.
- the need for professional development to address “cognitive growth”, looking objectively at problems of practice.
- the importance of time dedicated to the slow reflection for each teacher, as well as time to share and connect in communities, both face-to-face and online.
[Image source: ant.photos]