Monday, 27 February 2017

Inquiry Focus 2017

Today during our staff meeting we broke off into collaborative groups to introduce and discuss what our inquiry focus was for the year. Many teachers are focusing on an aspect of Maths since that is what our school wide inquiry is based on. It was interesting to see where teachers were at in terms of their inquiry and to listen and share ideas with each other.

Friday, 24 February 2017


What is Paideia?

The Paideia method is a way of providing deep dialogic discussions. Its origin stems back to Socrates, the Greek philosopher. It involves having to have a talk about something that is very topical that requires you to research, think about things in a much deeper way, to struggle with ideas, look at alternatives and different ways of approaching something. It pushes students to look at multiple perspectives, challenge those perspectives, and justify why they took those perspectives.

The year 5 & 6 students got the chance to work with Anne Sinclair this week who is an expert in the field of education. They were introduced to the Paideia method which is a way of learning that can provide opportunities for deep dialogic discussions. This process will hopefully improve the communication and critical thinking skills of the students. A set of mini tasks were provided that enabled students to work in small groups and to think about the issues surrounding a statement or image.

This was one example:

Students were expected to think, talk with others and provide reasons for their thinking. They had to justify their thinking and needed to be able to communicate their ideas with others. They also learnt how to listen and respond effectively, as well as how to disagree agreeably. During this task I noticed that some students were more vocal than others. A few would dominate most of the conversations and the majority seemed to hold back and were reluctant to share their ideas. The next step would be to find ways to encourage the others to participate and share their thoughts. So far the activities have been interesting, but I would like to see other students gaining the confidence to speak their mind.

Monday, 20 February 2017


I have the privilege of being a member of the SPARK MIT group in 2017. My initial proposed inquiry was: How to improve problem solving and critical thinking skills through use of coding and robotics?’

Today we met for the first time as a group at SPARK Headquarters in Auckland City. We also met with Lynne Le Gros (SPARK Foundation) and her team. Our first task was to identify and share what our problem was regarding our inquiries. Then we brainstormed lots of different hypotheses for why the problem was occurring and shared these with the group.

After quite a bit of thinking and discussion around our inquiries I have decided to alter my inquiry proposal to: ‘How to improve critical thinking skills through the use of code and deep dialogic discussions?’

After looking at some of the recent PAT and STAR data from the Year 7 & 8 Extension group, I have found that the majority of our extension students are not achieving above the national norm in literacy. Most are achieving at the national standard (between stanines 4 - 6), but these are our brightest students in their cohort who should be striving to achieve well above the national mean.

The following is a list of hypotheses:

  • The majority of our extension students are not achieving above the norm in literacy (PATs and STAR) because they need to develop critical thinking skills
  • Students need to be encouraged/pushed to grapple with harder concepts to extend their thinking
  • Need to be exposed to a range of texts - multi-modal/wider and deeper
  • Need to learn to question/argue/challenge/build on thinking and expressing of ideas
  • Need to close the gap in knowledge and experience between students who know how to code and those who don’t
  • Must make sure that learning is visible, and that students have access to resources and exemplars
  • Students need to be taught how to use thinking tools more effectively e.g. SOLO
  • Students need to know what next level looks like - expectations
  • Students need more support from home to extend learning at home
  • Students need to have access to their own data - to reflect, set next learning goals
  • More student ownership/empowerment of learning is needed
  • We need to find ways to raise the ceiling in student achievement at school

I am looking forward to another year with the SPARK MIT group.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Year 7 & 8 Coding Survey

Since the focus this year will be about learning how to use code to improve the students critical thinking skills, they were giving a survey to complete which was about coding. Although there are 18 students in the group, there were only 14 responses as some students were away. Here were some of the results from the survey.

  • For the question: What is coding? - Most of the students responded by ticking the box that said coding is about writing a set of instructions for a computer to follow. 
  • 100% of the students agreed that students should be taught how to code. 
  • Most had used coding programmes such as, code combat and Scratch before. Not many had used Khan Academy or other sites. 
  • I'm not sure if the students understand what the types of coding languages there are e.g. html, Javascript, Python etc.
  • Most were unsure if they had the skills to teach others how to code. 
  • Most have used a coding programme for 2 years or less. 
  • Most agreed that was a good coding programme to use for students because it is a good site for beginners. 
  • Most agreed that learning how to code would help to improve their thinking skills. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Deep Dialogic Discussions - Paideia Practice Task

This movie shares some highlights from one of the Paideia practice tasks that the students had to work on. Anne Sinclair (teacher mentor) facilitates the discussion and guides the students through the process of learning how to have deep dialogic discussions (Paideia method). Students take turns to talk about a subject and explain why they think the way they do. The other students practice listening and responding to what is being said. Prior to the discussion taking place, students were presented with a list of issues. They had to decide on which issue was the most important for them to focus on immediately. Many students were hesitant to share their ideas and it was clear that a few students tended to dominate the discussion.

Paideia 14 Feb 17 from SchoolTV on Vimeo.