How can we get schools and teachers to share?

I have been reading ‘Vital Connections’ – why we need more than self managing schools as part of my professional reading for NAPP. As a relative NOOB to teaching (my first year teaching was in 2010, and my last year of secondary school was 1999) it has given me a much better understanding of why somethings I just didn’t understand have happened. It would seem to me the ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ have a lot to answer for.

The most inflammatory section to read so far was ‘Science Stagnates’. Yip, call me out for subject speciality bias, as English and Maths got a raw deal too, but this really broke my heart. And you know what really grates me….. the issues were first identified in the early 1990s…..

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And then there was the report from Sir Peter Gluckman in 2011….2016-03-20 15.13.09.jpg



I don’t understand why?

As a Science specialist, I was finding it really difficult as there was a lack of Science PD. I asked the principal at my last school if I could go to SciCon and she didn’t feel it was valuable enough to fund me to go (I did get other PD opportunities, including ChemED after I also received some money from my local subject association, after this, but Science specific opportunities other than NCEA/NZQA days are few and far between).

So I joined and contributed to my local subject association (shout out to anyone from OSTA reading this, love your ways) and then when I had started at my new school and was really feeling I needed some help with a new department and curriculum, started #scichatNZ along with Matt and Chhaya to try and make some new connections. I should also mention how useful I know find the facebook groups that have sprung up as a way for teachers of Science to communicate with each other and ask for help.

So I really value connections, connectedness and collaboration. I understand why others might value it less (although I might do an internal sigh) or some others are just happy with the status quo. But our current status quo is failing so many students and teachers, so how can we help them? I am sure that there is more recent info than this, but if more than a 3rd of students coming to high school already dislike Science, then something isn’t right?

I am also becoming aware that maybe Secondary teachers reaching out are seen as intimidating, or critical of primary school teachers. In my case, nothing could be further from the truth, especially after reading this book. If you are under resources, lack training, lack funding and didn’t value Science yourself, it is criminal of anyone to expect you to be able to present it well.

Increasingly teachers are taking this into their own hands. Facebook and twitter groups are strongly used. The Pond is a good place to look if your school allows you to share resources, as are shared document libraries and blogs from amazing teachers. Sites like No Brain too small are a life saver for me at times when I am looking for a resource to help a student who isn’t quite getting it. But these spaces aren’t reaching everyone….

So how can we help each other out and get our students to be liking Science? Or maths?Or whatever!! How can we break down barriers of competition between schools, lack of resources (or time), demands of national standards? How can we empower all teachers to seek support and upskill themselves and there students and communities? How can we encourage new teachers with Science degrees into teaching? I have seen alarming articles about the lack of applications for ‘HoD’ and middle management jobs or Science and maths jobs – how can we lead departments into the future when these positions are so unattractive. There are a lot of ‘old timers’ in Science classrooms and when they retire they will take a tremendous amount of knowledge & wisdom with them.

Because we have made it so hard to share.

I am pretty sure that the community of schools and IES was designed with this idea in mind. Sadly for me, my school isn’t one. I couldn’t find out how to find out without trawling through the individual pdfs, but I am pretty sure there are no communities of learning in Dunedin.

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So we now have about 1/3 of schools forming communities according to the web page

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Is this enough? Will they share with schools outside their communities? Or have we now created even more of an us vs them mentality where sets of schools have specific relationships and the extra funding that goes with them? Will this cost schools who have not entered into this program? And then who will be to blame?

My nest read (might be a holiday task) is Bill Haques book. His comments on how his schools success was at the detriment of another school  (you need to scroll down the first patrt of the articles slightly unfairly ripping into teachers to find it) in his area are a sad reflection on what is still occurring

So I don’t have any answers, just a mounting frustration that there are so many barriers to being able to share more of what I do and for me to also learn from what others are doing.

How can we make it easier to share for those that want too and for those that need support?

3 thoughts on “How can we get schools and teachers to share?

  1. This is an Awesome blog and post – you have identified a large and critical need in the NZ education sector, some schools contributing to my secondary school have done little if ny identifiable science – my students tells me so and tart way behind the eightball – others have at least two years worth of excellent teaching (often at intermediate) many have “done” science but in eco environmental or social science topics and do not know they have “done” science.

    Regarding PD and i know I have done a lot (95 courses last year, 85 the year before 75 in 2013 and 24 in the first term in 2016) I learn from lots of these PLD opportunities a great deal – if only in how NOT to teach, learn or present info to help students. Much of my PD is moving online with my resources, moocs, webinars, hangouts edchatz, tweet fests, wikis, ponds, pinterest boards, youtube channels, scichatnz. But I still love the personal contact., the seen face, kanohi te kanohi, though the travel, flights and conference costs are horrendous and borne my long suffering wife and family.

    For SciCon or BEANZ or ChemEd there were and are handsome scholarships for helping participating and asking, ULearn which isn’t specifically science is AWESOME – I personally recommend it (yeah we know big mouth seen the posters, flyers et al.) as much for the networking as for the excellent presentations and multiple break out sessions and streams. For Digital and collaborative learning i think Mind Lab is the best – esp the face to face hands on sessions. LOcally we have WellyEd LoopeEd and CoreEd all excellent in their areas but for science it has to be teh capital city science educators (organizing SciCon) and teh awesome BEANZ teams.

    “Science in Primary Schools Years 1-8 Te Tapuae o Rehua (TToR), a consortium of UC Education Plus, University of Otago and Ngāi Tahu, has been awarded the contract for PLD in Science Education in Years 1-8 by the Ministry of Education for English-medium schools across the South Island for 2015. Education Support Services is the provider in Otago/Southland region.”

    Open Polyech seems to have a fe free offer for its online Graduate Certificate in Primary Science Teaching (Curriculum) (Level 7)
    Qualification code OP7611

    “Science in primary schools: developing teacher confidence and capability the Te Toi Tupu science PLD programme is successfully engaging teachers and schools in science education. Schools are finding that teacher knowledge and confidence can be improved to enable powerful teaching not only in science, but in other areas of the curriculum as well. A focus on the nature of science has led to much more hands-on and minds-on science happening in our schools. Teacher and student engagement is improving and everyone is enjoying engaging in science”.

    Ally Bulls courses and research and reports/reviews/resources for Primary teachers to learn science is the best most targeted opportunity but though I am actually a primary teacher (and have taught theirin and in Intmd and even tertiary organizing Continuing education courses on science, heritage, environments, chemistry conservation etc ) I think it would be a bit rich to do the course having spent the last decade teaching science and biology in secondary – though i would love to do it too. Best Book i think is Bull et al. 2014 below.

    see also on NZCER site

    In conclusion cause i have to make dinner – science and sharing should be synonymous – that they are not is a reflection more on the nature of competitive, schools, careers and lives rather than teh nature or purpose of both

    Constructing your primary school’s science curriculum $49.95

    Ally Bull, Chris Joyce, and Rose Hipkins

    What might a future-oriented school science curriculum look like in Years 1–8?

    This handbook shares ideas to help you design a coherent, school-based science curriculum that will meet the needs of your students and community.

    The authors were all teachers before becoming researchers and resource developers in science education, and they’ve thought hard about how science can help all children become “confident, connected and lifelong learners”. This resource is their way of supporting the important work that teachers do in classrooms throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. You will be familiar with some of the ideas (you probably already do them). Others will be more challenging. Wherever your school is on its curriculum journey, this book will provide inspiring ideas and practical decisions.

    Science education
    Ally Bull
    Chris Joyce
    Rosemary Hipkins
    NZCER Press
    Year published:
    Publication type:

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