We are a small cluster of 3 Catholic schools in Taranaki. We came together with a shared need to unpack and align the NZC with the Religious Education curriculum we already deliver. All our learning must be provided in the Catholic context. We brought together a wide range of experience, knowledge and understandings of the NZC and needed to find a common starting point for our inquiry into our practice around the different sections of the document, and find links to what we already do! Who Are We?
The initial approach was simply we 3 principals getting to know each other, talking through our own knowledge, educational philosophies and stages of implementation. We soon discovered that we had a problem - we had divergent and often contradictory understandings of best practice in the delivery of the new curriculum. In The Beginning
We decided to start with the document. Together we undertook each section of the front part, with each of us focussing on an area each and sharing back. We studied the key social and cultural features of the NZC and aligned them with our Catholic values. We came to the realisation that there were many cross-overs and indeed all 3 schools were successfully implementing the front part NZC very well-we just needed to re-package the way we documented them and begin to use the new terminology. What to do?
While the reading writing maths and religion were being very well taught, in all schools we had very little evidence that the other areas of the curriculum were either well understood or being delivered in line with the new achievement objectives. What to do? Cont/...
Inter-school visits were the next step. Teachers visited classrooms in both other schools and the brief was to observe and inquire into the delivery of the learning areas. Teachers shared ideas, methodology and school requirements. Deep comparisons were made between what each school considered priority teaching and learning in relation to the learning areas. Learning Areas.
Each school had very different and inconsistent way of planning and delivering the learning areas to enable the knowledge required to be taught and assessed. We decided that it was our own personalities as leaders and our under-lying philosophies that actually created this divergence of practice. WE OURSELVES HAD TO CHANGE AND DO SOME NEW LEARNING!!! We had a problem
School A had a very prescriptive scheme-the new document very clearly written up for the teacher to follow. School B encouraged and allowed for individual or team flair to drive the content delivery. School C had a shallow knowledge of NZC’s intention and classroom practice showed that. Leadership/Learning
Gap 1- lack of modern pedagogy in most rooms. Gap 2- no consistency in planning across schools. Gap 3- poor and in some cases no evidence of linkage between the delivery of classroom programmes to the deep features and wider intent of the NZC. The main issue was that the gaps were showing!!!!
A management group set up across schools reflected on the findings of our school visits. We collated evidence of best practice in teaching the learning area-looking specifically for clear tracking back to the achievement objectives in the areas of science, The Arts and Language. Each school took an area and in their school worked on getting to grips their essence statement. What did we do?
This proved to be a valuable experience as in many instances teachers did not either know about or fully understand what the essence of the learning area really was. We thoroughly unpacked each schools statement and by looking closely at the intent of the document, we together made a new essence statement that reflected our new beliefs and more current teaching practice (e.g. inquiry learning, pupil-driven planning etc.) ESSENCE STATEMENT
Back in the schools we reflected on classroom planning and teaching in relation to our new essence statements. We found more links than we expected and realised that we are going to build on current practice but looking through a more focussed lens. Teachers were involved in the feedback sessions and were willing to do some new learning about the intent of the NZC. The essence statements now came the driving document. Reflection
As a teacher can really only work with is what knowledge is ‘in their heads’ our challenge was to hold the essence of 'what is science’ in front of the teacher and pupils in a way that enabled science knowledge to be specifically taught while at the same time making links to all other dimensions of the curriculum. As a group of teachers we decided that each classroom need to display a Whole School Goal statement in the teaching area for constant and quick and easy reference. All schools made slightly different statements and they are easily found in each classroom. Local Learning Area Statements
In planning now for that area for the next year each school will have a WHOLE SCHOOL FOCUS GOAL - in whatever Learning Areas they are focussing on. Relevant achievement targets (objectives) will be chosen for each team, class etc based on the gaps in the children's prior knowledge and gaps. Whole School Focus Goals
Whole School Focus Goals Cont/.. These L.A. will be assessed by reflecting them back to the whole school goal for that year. Implementation of this route way has only begin but already we can clearly see evidence of more focussed planning and more teacher knowledge of the NZC.
From beginning with very diverse understandings in the how to deliver this document, we have developed a very clear understanding of what we need to do in order to fully meet the requirements. This was achieved through many meetings, lots of observations and a great deal of rich discussion around the new document. Principals and teachers learned from each other and we now have a strong base on which to build a learning community. Outcome for our Cluster