Thursday, 13 June 2019

learning focused relationships & ako

We had an interesting conversation in our staff meeting this morning. There was a small presentation where the focus was on 'learning-focused relationships'. An aspect that was picked up on in discussions was how all interactions needed to center around the learning and the point you don't necessarily need to care about your students on a personal level to have learning focused relationship (source: clarity in the classroom).

A member of staff pointed out that this was in contrast with concepts like ako which look at the whole learner.

While I can see that good teaching and learning isn't necessarily permissive, from my perspective it is totally essential that I know my learners and what makes them tick. For some learners, it has been the key to unlocking any kind of engagement in learning, and in fact, it was the turning point for the student showing positive behavior in my classroom.

Also from a pedagogical point of view, my visual art classes learning operates as a form of inquiry. To be able to support my students' individual lines of inquiry well, it is really important for me to know the students, how they tick and what their passions are.

I wonder if learning-focused-relationships is a eurocentric concept and whether it is the best lens for support diverse akonga?

Learner agency - who drives the learning?

I've been thinking about learner agency and who drives the learning. My online art history class uses a knowledge building approach. For us, this looks like lots of discussion, lots of student led activity, and generally working as a bit of research team. We're always trying to delve deeper into ideas to improve everyone's understanding.

Last week we had a power cut at my school during the scheduled video conference time. I was able to email my students on my cell phone to let them know to work together online without me using the structure on the class blog as a guide. I had a response from a student (I'm paraphrasing here) letting me know that she had tried to elicit a bit of verbal korero, but the others weren't comfortable taking the lead in the VC without my guidance.

This got me to thinking, have I unconsciously made the video conferences too teacher-centric? Or is this just the kind of learners I have this year? I am conscious that I am pushing a lot of their boundaries and expectations of what learning is.

Teachers using a Knowledge Building approach what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Inquiry goals - leveraging engagement

This year I have decided to keep my teaching inquiry relatively simple and streamlined with one goal relating to face to face learners and one goal relating to learners in the online class that I teach.

I have 2 goals

  1. To use 'assessment for learning' to leverage engagement in junior and middle school classes
  2. To use a knowledge building approach to engage online learners

With the first goal, my hunch or motivation relates to many learners coming into art with a 'fixed mindset'. They feel that it is not something they are good at and that it is not for them. I really want to shift the focus from this to a mindset where students are continually reflecting on 'how am I doing' and 'how am I improving'. My theory is that I need to look at ways of making the progress more visible to students and creating opportunities for those reflective conversations to happen.

I am trialing a 'digital visual diary' in the form of a Google Slide. I am trying to keep this as simple and user-friendly as possible. The idea is that students will update their slides at the end of a lesson with their work in progress. In terms of learning design, I am trying to center the classroom talk around progress. This is taking deliberate planning though. I am needing to carve out pockets of time for students to write goals, reflections and recording their work.

My hope is that students will develop more of a growth mindset about their learning in art and through feedback and feedforward from their teacher gradually take more and more ownership of their learning.

With the second goal, my hunch is based on prior experience of using a communal inquiry-based approach. Students who might have struggled with a traditional transactional approach coupled with the potential isolation of being an online student thrived with the knowledge building approach. They reported feeling connected to the class and a part of a community. I still remember one student who identified as not being an exam student. They went on to pass their exams and even get an endorsement! They told me later that being able to collaborate creatively with other students really helped them.

I am looking to get more deliberate and reflective with the knowledge building pedagogy. My experience and instinct tell me that it is powerful, but I want to explore 'how' and 'why' gathering evidence from my class. I want to improve my practice as a teacher and build on what works.

I am quite excited about a newly formed community of practice for knowledge building teachers in NZ, where hopefully we will be able to share our problems of practice and our expertise.

Computational thinking?

I have to admit that I am struggling to figure out how I can connect computational thinking to the Visual Arts and Art History and how I can meaningfully fit this into an already full teaching inquiry.

I had a professional development session that left me cold on computational thinking, and perhaps I started off on the wrong foot, but it didn't seem to me to encourage creativity or the higher level thinking skills that I am working to develop with my classes.

When I compare computational thinking, to a progressive inquiry-based pedagogy like knowledge building, it just seems a bit reductive.

Maybe I've missed something?

Can my colleagues in the creative fields win me over to computational thinking? I just can't currently see how it will fit with my pedagogical philosophy and the kind of thinking I am trying to foster within my classes.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Problems of practice

How can community be developed in the online space and how can authentic learning be captured?

These are the issues that I wrestle with in my teaching practice. I see community as totally pivotal to good online teaching, yet it is challenging to develop real community in a virtual environment where class members might be dispersed across the country. I see knowledge building communities as offering a relevant and innovative approach for online teachers. Knowledge Building, as I see it calls for students to work as a research team to solve authentic and emergent problems. The heart of the issue for me is how to create the space for authentic learning and inquiry, where the tail (assessment) is not wagging the dog (learning). In my view, online teaching has the potential to provide that space to step outside of the bounds of traditional school culture. This is what excites me about teaching. If this resonates with you, check out my video to find out more.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Learning about Gifs

I have recently been the learner in a Manaiakalani toolkit workshop. I chose the 'fun with gifs' workshop thinking that I would have a bit of fun there and maybe come away with something to take back to the classroom.

I soon realized that I could make gifs from google slides and and simply set up the sequence like a stop motion. movie. So super easy.

I then noticed a student of mine talking about how the photos they had been taking of their work showed it evolving.

This sparked an idea that I could use gifs to bring the process to life and even get students to incorporate this into their blogging. 

Happy days

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