Finding common threads in collaborative PLD

Issue: Volume 99, Number 20

Posted: 3 December 2020
Reference #: 1HAFD9

A Motueka Kāhui Ako finds common goals spark new connections and ways to collaborate on a PLD journey framed on relationship-based learning.

Finding common threads

The Motueka Kāhui Ako began its PLD journey in 2018 to work with Cognition Education on what effective relationship-based learning looks like.

It’s been a journey with “a few forks” in it as the PLD has shifted from a broad start to more specific areas of focus, says Motueka High School principal John Prestidge, who took over as Kāhui Ako lead at the start of 2020.

The initial group of 13 primary schools and one secondary school were significantly spread out geographically and differentiated by differences in their specific priorities. However, all the schools could see benefits in working together on effective teaching strategies where teaching relationships could help drive better outcomes for their learners.

Promoting learning for all

The PLD drew on Dr Russell Bishop’s work ‘Teaching to the North East Corner’ and how schools and teachers can respond to diverse groups of students and develop teaching practices that promote learning for everyone.

“We started with a holistic and more general approach,” says John. “I initially thought it was a broad brush but in retrospect it was a good move.

“It gave us a clear, common framework for what effective teaching and learning looks like. We have the vocabulary and descriptors – all the teachers know what the north east corner means and looks like in their classrooms,” he says.

Around the time John picked up leadership of the Kāhui Ako, teachers were starting to look for more differentiation and specificity so they could strengthen the connections of the Kāhui Ako’s activities and PLD to particular priorities of their own schools.

“So, thinking about what came next and how to make our approach a sustainable one, we…asked the questions: what is the place of the Kāhui Ako? How does it support the schools’ strategic plans? What are the common things in the strategic plans?”

Looking at commonalities

The Kāhui Ako looked at the commonalities across its schools by going to their strategic plans to find where they could collaborate to the greatest effect, says John.

“We found three very connected key themes: Effective Teaching, Kāhui Ako Ki Motueka Kaupapa (Local Curriculum) and Coherent Pathways.”

These themes have since generated about 16 specific professional learning groups (PLGs) each, covering development areas such as ‘Developing a collection of local stories across the Kāhui Ako’ to ‘Using digital technology to enhance classroom practice’ to ‘Maths PD across the Kāhui Ako and progressions Y1–13’.

The working model has seen good buy-in with the link to schools’ strategic plans, says John. “However, although we have seen progress there is still some way to go until we can say these actions have measurable effects or outcomes in the classroom. We are tracking forward.

“What staff like and enjoy is talking to other professionals in an area where they have some connection, whether that is through students’ shared needs or teachers sharing what is working (or not) for them. They’ve enjoyed working on common objectives.”

Challenges and benefits

There are some challenges – different schools can have different starting points – but there have been practical benefits.

“Because of our Kāhui Ako PLD, our maths department reached out and connected with teachers of maths in primary schools. The English department has sat with leaders in primary schools and collaborated on the use of the e-asTTle writing and reading assessment tool,” says John.

With about 14 early learning services now joined up with the Kāhui Ako, the potential for links to grow is even greater.

“The goal of a Kāhui Ako is made real when you can identify some shared goals – the connections come to the forefront and grow in ways you may not have imagined.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:25 AM, 3 December 2020

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