Monday, 20 August 2018

A chance to be a part of a Masters research project.

For those of you who don't know me, I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Applied Practice at Unitec New Zealand. 

 Are you working with the Knowledge Building model? Do you work in a New Zealand Secondary School? Have you been working with Knowledge Building for at least a year? Are you interested in sharing ideas with other teachers about how Knowledge Building Communities can work in New Zealand?

If so, I am looking for teachers like you, to share your experiences and expertise in developing a Knowledge Building Community. Together we'll explore issues such as: what are the challenges, what goes into making a Knowledge Building Community, and how do teachers go about this in New Zealand?
You don’t need to be working with Knowledge Building currently, simply to have one or more years experience with it.

There will be a  focus group which is a one-off event which will take about 45 minutes. There will also be individual interviews which will typically take about half an hour. These will take place online using an application that works for you, at a time that is most convenient for you.

You are very welcome to contact me or my supervisor directly if you need more information about the project.

Please feel free to share my pānui with teachers you think might be interested.

Ngā mihi nui,
Philippa Mallinson

Project researcher: Philippa Mallinson, phone 027-469-9702 or email

Project supervisor: Prof. Hayo Reinders, phone 021-747926 or email

This study has been approved by the UNITEC Research Ethics Committee from (20 August 2018
) to (20 August 2018)
If you have any complaints or reservations about the ethical conduct of this research, you may
contact the Committee through the UREC Secretary (ph: 09 815-4321 ext 8551). Any issues
you raise will be treated in confidence and investigated fully, and you will be informed of the


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Stakeholder engagement - the challenges to developing a knowledge building culture at secondary level

Some of you may be aware that I am studying towards a Master of Applied Practice (thank goodness for TeachNZ study awards).

 I am interested in how teachers develop a Knowledge Building Community culture in their classes at Secondary level (in the NZ context) and what the challenges and barriers might be.

I am at the point where I need to check my assumptions by talking to stakeholders (teachers using Knowledge Building Community pedagogy).

If you teach at Secondary level and have in any way been working with Knowledge Building Community pedagogy, I am very interested in hearing from you.

I would really appreciate it if you could take the time to answer a quick (2 questions) stakeholder survey for my Master's project. The information I collect will be confidential and will help to inform the direction of my research project.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Looking to the future

As I finally start to close the door on 2017 and look to 2018, I am increasingly excited.

I have some amazing opportunities ahead of me. I am studying for my Masters (and will get paid my salary while I do this). I will be a part of a knowledge building research group, that will regularly review literature and produce resources together.

I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity. Watch this space as I share my learning journey with you.

Kāhore taku toa i te toa takitahi, he toa takitini

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Shifts and jumps - culturally responsive teaching and developing community


When I enrolled in the Mindlab I was pretty confident with digital practice, considered myself to be a connected teacher and felt that I was quite familiar with collaborative pedagogy having explored knowledge building with my online art history class the past 2 years.
 I thought that the Mindlab would be novel, thought-provoking, and a ‘string to my bow, but I didn’t realise what a journey it would be. I have made huge shifts in my thinking in two areas - culturally responsive teaching and what it means to collaborate as a community.

My ambition regarding my professional development will become a reality in 2018.  I have been lucky enough to receive a TeachNZ award. I will complete my Masters I propose to explore how a knowledge building community might enhance student engagement.

A shift in my practice was comprehending what it meant to be a culturally responsive. Though I have a long way to go on this journey I have made huge mental jumps over the year. To begin with, I knew that it was important to be culturally responsive but could not have articulated what this meant or what it might look like in the classroom. Reading about Bishop’s ‘whanau of interest’ model for research was a revelation to me (PTC 12). He emphasises a participatory approach guided by the interests and aspirations of whanau (Bishop, 1998) The implications for my classroom are a more collaborative learner centred program that is informed by my learners' interests and goals. (PTC 2, PTC 8, PTC 9, PTC 10)
Similarly, Milne’s ‘Colouring in the White Spaces’ (2013) opened my eyes to what mainstream education is like for māori learners. Her exploration of how spaces within a school could reflect and value Māori learners struck a particular chord. Milne’s thesis explores spaces reflect the values of the community, classrooms operated according to tikanga, and learning centred around that which was valuable and meaningful to the community. This got me thinking about my own art room and what is communicated through the said and the unsaid. We have a unique opportunity with my multi-level classes to work as a community and share ideas across levels and art fields (PTC 7). Furthermore, I have been reflecting on the rich opportunities and possibilities for more authentic learning experiences that my students will connect with. We are a small rural community with the ocean at our feet, rivers to either side and preceded over by the Southern Alps. Our students have a strong sense of belonging to their local community and the environment. Immersive place-based learning (Greenwood, 2010) could be a powerful way of leveraging engagement with our learners (PTC 2, 3, 8). Our point of difference and our taonga is our local community. This is so possible if we (as a teachers and as a school) are willing to run with it. Our community groups want to connect with our school (PTC 1). For example Hokitika Industrial Heritage Park’s ambition is to pass on their expertise to our young people. This really excites me and I hope that we rise to the challenge,

 Another challenge  in my practice this year was developing a knowledge building community culture within my art history class. Certain students in my class just struggled with the collaborative nature of the course and to even share their ideas with the class. For a variety of reasons (a later start to the school year, a small community with members often absent from the VC for events within their own school community, feeling pressed to cover content in a timely fashion ) we didn’t spend as much time on developing our connections as a community as we have previously. Students largely operated as individuals rather than a team and were very shy of sharing their work with others.I believe that this  lack of connection and trust between learners impacted  on our ability to function as a community of learners. Previously students have really valued the collaborative environment and the creative thinking KBC tends encourage. “My teacher is encouraging and inclusive of all ideas. … our ideas all bounce off each other and we're encouraged to think in more abstract ways, not just gathering 'the right knowledge' ... It's a more creative learning environment.” (art history student, 2016)  (PTC 2) Knowledge Building and community development were a more natural and organic process. I have been guided by my literature review and professional readings (PTC 4, PTC 12) in my reflection on what defines a high functioning knowledge building community and what the roadblocks were in 2017 . Lai (2014) states that a strong sense of trust can be pivotal to a students ability and inclination to build knowledge in the KB community and emphasises the value of developing a collaborative learning culture within a class. Laux, Luse, and Mennecke (2016) also state that for learners to attain success within a collaborative framework, there needs to be a willingness and an ability to do so. Trust and connections within the cohort are essential elements. In 2018 I plan to orientate my students around what is means to be a community and devote our first few weeks to simply building connections and getting to know each other as people.

“Instructor pronouncements in an online discussion are treated as correct and discussion ends” Meyer, K. A. (2014) Students will often happily reply to me, but are reticent about interacting with each other. Lai and Campbell’s case study (2017) also indicated that students needed the space the freedom to ask questions, for epistemic agency to develop. As a teacher I need to position myself as a facilitator rather than expert and final authority. This will involve learning design which creates the space for ‘digital take up time’. To foster a mindset shift from the teacher as expert to teacher as facilitator I need to demonstrate to my students that they are capable of building knowledge “It requires a belief that students can deliberately create knowledge that is useful to their community in further knowledge building ” (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 2006) (PTC 5, 7)
Students also need to see the value in working as a community and understand the guiding principles of KBC. “It seems that when students had a deeper understanding of the knowledge building principles, they became more willing to contribute and improve ideas.” (Lai, 2014). It will be worthwhile to spend time at  beginning of the year orientating students to what knowledge building looks like (PTC 8), what the big ideas are and how we might go about it. This could come in the form of KBC roadmap, impact stories from students about what knowledge building means to them and the difference it made to their learning, or a mixture of the two.

I look forward to developing a more collaborative community focused environment in my classroom (PTC 6, 7).

Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi

Bishop, R. (1998). Freeing ourselves from neo-colonial domination in research: A Māori approach to creating knowledge. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(2), 199–219.
Greenwood, D. A. (2011). Why Place Matters. In Handbook of research in the social foundations of education. New York: Routledge.
Education Council, New Zealand. (n.d.). Practicing teaching criteria and e-learning. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from
Lai, Kwok-Wing (2014). Designing knowledge building communities in secondary schools.
Laux, D., Luse, A., & Mennecke, B. (2016). Collaboration, connectedness, and community: An examination of the factors influencing student persistence in virtual communities. Computers in Human Behavior, 57, 452–464.
Meyer, K. A. (2014a). Learning theories and student engagement. In Student engagement online: what works and why (pp. 15–36). John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Milne, D. A. (2013). Colouring in the white spaces. University of Waikato.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge Building: Theory, Pedagogy, and Technology. In Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 97–118). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Facilitating Interdisciplinarity

My interdisciplinary map

Andrews (1990, as cited in Berg-Weger &. Schneider, 1998) defines interdisciplinary practice this way ”when different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organisational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose”.  I would argue that I am a connected educator who collaborates often rather than truly being interdisciplinary.  

I do work with staff around our common purpose of teaching students, however, the interdisciplinary connection is after the fact.  A recent example of this was an English teacher showing off a student’s visual-verbal text. The student had made an animation, which was quite captivating. I then assessed it against a visual arts standard 2.5 (Produce a resolved work that demonstrates control of skills appropriate to cultural conventions) and was able to reward the student for their innovation and hard work. This was a one-off occurrence and was not a pervasive practice in our school.

There is the potential for interdisciplinary practice though. We meet in learning teams (small groups made up of staff members that represent a variety of departments) and do occasionally share our instances of our teaching with one another. However, the discussion is usually centred around general school business and professional readings. In terms of everyday classroom practice, we operate predominantly within a culture of individualism (Stoll, 1998) with small sprinklings of balkanism (Stoll, 1998). Our classrooms are our empires and we rarely look outwards, this not uncommon in the secondary sector though “ … in practice, with the existing model of tenure, faculty often concentrate on their own stream … ” (McDonagh and Thomas, 2011). This protectionist impulse, when framed around the survival of subjects, staffing and CAPNAs is understandable, however, I believe that it is a fraught position when we consider our common purpose which is our students. 

As stated in a previous blog post I passionately believe we need to shift the way that we do things in NZ education. Our curriculum talks about innovation and creativity and even knowledge creation; however, our teaching and assessment culture is in stark contrast to this. The way the curriculum is taught and structured is designed (in my opinion) around what suits subject and teachers rather than what the learner needs.  When we package the learning into discrete bodies of knowledge and expect students to work through such a volume (At times 20 -30 credits in a subject), this inevitably places enormous amounts of stress and pressure on students. It is no wonder that stress and anxiety are on the rise for secondary students (Radio NZ, 2015). Our students are not units on a production line and their achievements are not simply government-mandated targets to reach. We need to do less and do it better.

We need to look at the whole child in the Deweyian sense. What is it that excites and engages them? What is important in their world? How can we celebrate the learner.  “ … the value of school education is the extent in which it creates a desire for continuous growth and supplies means for making the desire effective” Dewey (1916). If we are simply interested in grades and accumulating assessments then we are badly missing the mark. Bolstad and Gilbert (2008) emphasise a connected, authentic curriculum in their report ‘Rethinking the New Zealand senior secondary curriculum for the future.’. We need to move beyond the industrial model of acquiring bits of information and look to how we can form connections between our subjects to enhance to the learning for our students and expand their empathic horizons (McDonagh and Thomas, 2011)

We are currently looking at how we can build interdisciplinary connections within learning areas at my school. We have been asked to think of one learning opportunity or unit where we could work across departments to enhance the learning for our students. For instance, in the arts, we are looking at how we can plan authentic learning experiences for our students between drama and visual art as we often have common students. We are looking at set design for the common thread as students are required to consider this as a part of senior drama, and visual arts often offers 1.5 and 2.5 which require students to make resolved work which use cultural conventions. Students would explore how their art functions at such a scale, test how it would work within a working set and consult with their stakeholders (drama class) to improve their design. There is also the potential to work with the technology department to provide an authentic context for their design and implement standards. This will require us to step outside of our silos. We will need plan together to create the time and space for this to occur. We will need to plan checkpoints with our classes to ensure that we are on track and regularly meet with each other to review the teaching and learning during the unit.

Interdisciplinary pedagogy is not a new concept. As early as 1916, Dewey talked about education being a social process. The issue remains how to develop a connected and interdisciplinary practice within the classroom.
There are many benefits to interdisciplinary practice, such as an expanded empathic horizon. (Mc Donagh and Thomas, 2011) That is learners are able to see through others eyes and gain insights into how others think. Students are able to make perceptive connections between ideas and have a richer and more informed perspective as a result. This has parallels for me with knowledge building communities and the principle of ‘Diversity of Ideas’ (reference) a community is enriched by the diversity and varying expertise of its’ members. What’s more a tuakana teina framework can be fostered  “We stick together and work together” (Boyer and Bishop, 2004, p.6)

There are many challenges to implementing interdisciplinary practice. Shann (1977, as cited by Mathison and Freeman, 1997) identified a problem around teachers using integrated techniques rather than as a driving force in their programmes. Often when teachers are cynical about an initiative or don’t understand it they will revert to what they know and understand. Another challenge is what Jacobs (1989, as cited by Mathison and Freeman 1997) identify as the Pot-pouri problem, a sampling of learning areas without any particular learning direction. The learning focus should be meaningful and authentic, making “progress towards significant educational goals, not merely because it cuts across subject-matter lines" (Brophy & Alleman 1991) Interdisciplinartity with no purpose or direction does not add value to the learning experience.

Another challenge is resourcing. In the Ross Spiral curriculum (201) teachers learning is framed contextually, however teachers are thought of as learners and are incredibly well supported. The are given up 150 hours of professional development over the year. I can’t even comprehend this kind of support! If we want to develop and sustain interdisciplinary practice within our school we need to develop ‘workplace conditions’ that support collaboration. Our meeting structures need to move away from general school administration  in order to create the time and mental space to genuine collaboration and communication across subject disciplines. Mulligan and Kugan ’s (2015)  model for successful interdisciplinary collaboration emphasises the importance of common goals, conducive workplace conditions and the qualities/attiudes of team members. They assert that sustain collaboration with one of these factors missing, whilst possible, will be very difficult. 
(Mulligan & Kugan, 2015, Conceptual Model for Collaboration)
It is so important for schools to support their staff in this by prioritising collaboration in their structures and procedures. If we want to develop a culture of creativity, as defined by Sir Ken Robinson (2014) “The process of having original ideas that have value” there needs to be a pedagogical shift and ia prioritising of professional development to support teachers to make this shift. “if you want a culture of innovation, you have to give people the skills, the tools, the processes, to actually do what’s required of them” It won’t just happen. Interdisciplinary practice will require time, support and investment.

Berg-Weger, M., &. Schneider, F. D. (1998). Interdisciplinary collaboration in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 34, 97-107.
Bolstad, R., & Gilbert, J. (2008). Disciplining and drafting, or 21st century learning? Rethinking the New Zealand senior secondary curriculum for the future. Retrieved from
Boyer & Bishop, 2004. “Young Adolescent Voices: Students' Perceptions of Interdisciplinary Teaming,”RMLE, v.1.
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg. p62
Brophy, J. & Alleman, J. (1991). A caveat: Curriculum integration isn't always a good idea. Educational Leadership, 49(2), 66.
Mathison, S., & Freeman, M. (1997). THE LOGIC OF INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES. Chicago.
Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association
McDonagh and Thomas, 2011
Mulligan, L. M., & Kuban, A. J. . (2015). A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Retrieved from
Robinson, K. , (2014, August 30). Can Creativity Be Taught?  Retrieved November 19, 2017, from
Is over-assessment to blame for rising anxiety and stress [Julia Davidson and Stephanie Greaney]. (2015, March 20). Retrieved November 9, 2017, from
From Nine To Noon, 9:24 am on 20 March 2015
Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from

Social media - education as social

(CC -

Social media can be seen as contentious, however, if we’re coming at it from the angle  of should or shouldn’t we use this technology, we’re looking at the issue upside down.  Paper or screens, the question is always how should we teach and learn, not what should we learn with. Internationally the pedagogical focus is creative, innovative and resilient learners “‘creating learning environments that challenge students to become actively engaged, independent, lifelong learners inside and outside of formal learning spaces should be the critical aim of change in teaching strategies’.” (Salavuo, 2008) . In NZ we have ‘learning to learn’ and ‘life long learners’ (NZC, 2007, p8). 
My question is how can social media enhance things for my learners and how can the *community* aspects of learning be enhanced. 

I teach art history online. Challenges include : limited time with the class, and student inexperience with online learning. For my online class, social media is transformational. We use Google+ and Knowledge Forum to connected as a community. These platforms take us beyond an individual linear process. My students are able to stay connected as a class, ask questions, share content and connect with other learners. A challenge that we face is students acting as agents of their own learning. While some are quick to share ‘what do you think about xxx’,  many are still shy of sharing  in this way. They don’t see themselves as the expert or that they have the authority to do this. Clearly there is work for me to do in orientating students towards knowledge creation.

Previously students have celebrated it as making the biggest difference in their learning. A highlight in 2015 was excellence students freely building onto each others study notes, sharing insights with each other. This year we just haven’t reached the same depth. Students have been reluctant to share with each other in class and certainly haven’t been a organic community sharing. I’ve been reflecting on how to foster a knowledge building culture a and a sense of community within a class as I strongly believe in the educational value of collaboration. “although students may be reluctant to take part in group activities, they can benefit from the experience of  pooling  knowledge  and  sharing  diverse  views.” (Sharples, et al. 2016) I have discovered this year, that it is essential for learning design to centre around developing connections. If connections are weak and trust is low it is difficult to generate meaningful group communication. Further to the wicked problem (Rittel and Webber, 1973) of engagement, is the reframing of how learners view the act of learning. The community needs to become familiar with the principles of knowledge building in order to implicitly understand learning as a dynamic entity and knowledge as continually improvable. (Lai, 2015)
While students have had instances of sharing and advancing knowledge (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003) together in my class, I would love to enhance their epistemic agency and metacognition through the use of a reflective journal such as a student blog. This has the potential to be incredibly profound as students revisit and build open their learning. “visualizing community knowledge advances … may well lead to more effective assessment as well as more powerful supports for knowledge creation.” (Hong and Scardamalia, 2014, p. 287). 

The most powerful impact thus far though has been blogging. I began blogging with a sense of professional responsibility, to model ’learn, create, share’ as the lead teacher in my school for Toki Pounamu, this has become transformational. Blogging connected me with educators I would not have otherwise crossed paths with, the common factor simply being passionate about pedagogy. “The digital age we live in has made it so much easier to share with our colleagues as we enjoy the same affordances our children experience - anywhere, anytime, any pace and with/from anyone.” (Burt, 2015)  It is so easy to pour all of our energy into our classroom empires and forget about the broader learning community, or even our own learning as teachers. It can be challenging to share professional learning, yes there are barriers (standing out, fearing that we don’t have the expertise, being eloquent enough), however I feel now that I have a professional responsibility to share my learning. We expect our students to take risks, create and share, but how much of this do we model in our practice?  “Seek and respond to feedback from learners, colleagues and other education professionals, and engage in collaborative problem solving and learning focused collegial discussions” (Education Council ,2017) 

Burt, D. (2015, February 07). It Starts with US: LCS Pedagogy [Web blog post]. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from
Lai, Kwok-Wing. (2015, November). What is knowledge building? Presented at the NetNZ workshop 2015, Christchurch.
Hong, H.-Y., & Scardamalia, M. (2014). Community knowledge assessment in a knowledge building environment. Computers & Education, 7, 279–288.
New Zealand, Education Council. (2017, June). Our Code, our standards. Retrieved November 15, 2017, from
New Zealand, Ministry of Education. (2007). New Zealand Curriculum (p. 8). Wellington: Learning Media Limited.
Rittel, Horst, and Melvin Webber; "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,”, pp. 155–169, Policy Sciences, Vol. 4, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Inc., Amsterdam, 1973. [Reprinted in N. Cross (ed.), Developments in Design Methodology, J. Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 1984, pp. 135–144.]
Salavuo, M. (2008). Social media as an opportunity for pedagogical change in music education. Journal of Music, Technology and Education, 1(2 and 3), 121–136. 
Scardamalia, M. (2003). Knowledge building environments: Extending the limits of the possible in education and knowledge work. In A. DiStefano,   K. E. Rudestam, & R. Silverman (Eds.), Encyclopedia of distributed learning (pp. 269- 272). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from