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25 October 2019

posted 24 Oct 2019, 15:52 by Carolyn Brett   [ updated 24 Oct 2019, 15:53 ]
A couple of years ago, Nicola Stevenson was awarded our Annual Study Grant as part of Teacher Professional Learning. Her focus was on raising Maths achievement and she opened our eyes and ears to the work of Stanford Professor, Jo Boaler. Ximena Aitken was already a 'convert' and together they have been presenting our work at a National Conference, other schools, online, and many of you were at the Maths Parent Workshop in 2018..... and, well, they have developed a bit of a fan base, much to their amusement!

Recently, Jo Boaler has provided the education world with a new piece of work 'Limitless Mind' - How Collaboration Unlocks Learning and Lessens Student Isolation. This is something I have in our 2020 Plan to get stuck into in terms of teacher learning. Collaboration, of course, is a central theme in our NZ Curriculum in terms of key competencies and also features strongly in our local curriculum. Let's face it - look at the architecture of our place - it demands collaboration - children and adults! 

I was working in the Ministry of Education when this exciting brand new NZ Curriculum Document was developed. It is the focus on key competencies that really upped the anti at the time and was very much driven by the workplace and what skills were going to be required in the future. Economics drives a lot! More work has been completed on the curriculum since this time but the essence remains. 

The key competencies being: Thinking, Relating, Understanding language, symbols and texts, Managing Self, and Participating and Contributing. 
Our learner attributes being: "I am powerful", "I am a goal setter", " I am a thinker", " I am connected".

I look at where many of our alumni travel onto at Intermediate, Secondary and beyond....... although I can't draw a direct line to the expectations and collaborative opportunities they had here, I have a strong feeling it's been a major factor. Well, that's what many of their parents tell us too. I'd certainly like to think so. I often wish we didn't have so many human variables and worked in pure science - I want to draw that line in bold and throw in a bit of glitter for impact!

Although I haven't read the whole book yet, Jo Boaler draws very heavily on neuroscience. She starts her chapter "Why Collaboration is Important?" with a clear statement..... when we connect with other people's ideas there are multiple benefits for our brains and for our lives. She goes on..... part of the reason students give up on learning is because they find it difficult and think they are alone in their struggle. An important change takes place when students work together and discover that everybody finds some of the work difficult. This is a critical moment... and one that helps them know that for everyone learning is a process and that obstacles are common......" And just a snippet about the neuroscience "Research shows that when people collaborate, the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the frontoparietal network are activated, the latter of which aids in the development of executive functions".  Yes, big words - basically, our social brain!

So, we will be looking forward to getting further inside this work and making our own connections to other key areas in our Strategic Plan - Positive Education, Te Ao Māori and Sustainability.

Hope you find some time to engage your social brain over the Long Weekend as we rev up towards our fabulous School Fair! Roll up, roll up and please sign up to help out, if you haven't already.
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