The MEd pilgrimage – Developing a line of inquiry and conceptual framework

 

As part of the #MEdpilgrimage (Master of Education), last semester I took the paper Concepts in Educational Research. This was the beginning of defining a research topic and exploring a conceptual framework. I am now transitioning to the course paper Educational Research in Context where I begin to explore research design.

As prep work for this new paper, I have been asked to present my previous learning, and because a few people have asked me what it is I am studying, I either give the short answer involving place based education or ramble a ‘non-answer’ answer. I thought by blogging my reflections I might be able to define and align my thoughts into more comprehensible ideas to talk about.

Developing a Research Question
As a beginner researcher, developing research questions is hard, and the continuous feedback I have received has been ‘narrow your question’ and ‘narrow your questions and sub-questions even more’. I imagine I will get asked to narrow this question even further, but, at this point, I want to find out:

How do educators incorporate place-based education ideas into their teaching practice to influence individuals’ ideas of identity, belonging, and sense of place?

This question is based on my topic of interest, which would involve following a school’s heuristic exploration into re-examining relationships with place. Engaging in place-based education, which is an interdisciplinary approach, focuses on understanding local history, cultures and the ecology of a geographical location. Learning about and unpacking ideas relating to place could be a way to instil a deeper sense of personal identity and belonging for learners, encouraging prevailing assumptions to be challenged and new perspectives to be explored.

Currently, a dominant metanarrative which drives society’s way of thinking and knowing in Aotearoa New Zealand is European colonisation, which marginalises the potential for other ways of thinking and knowing. By localising this issue and exploring/ re-examining different cultural and ecological narratives surrounding the school, this research could go towards informing ways to address social, cultural and environmental injustices.

The collection of information gathered through the investigation could inform the school of ways that their teaching has affected individuals. This information could then support a possible transition to a more localised curriculum in the school. The information could have the potential to support wider academic conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion. These academic conversations could inform education policy goals at a national and international level with potential to shift dominant paradigms in this space.

In a different space, exploring these same issues could improve educator practice. The experiential and heuristic aspects, as well as the flow of the inquiry could encourage educators to collaborate and strengthen relationships while extending their network of contributors. This could deepen their critical consciousness and improve their teaching and pedagogical practice for the betterment of all individuals in the school.

Scoping the field to establish the main lines of published opinion, debate and research
When scoping the field, I looked into place-based education with reference to cultural responsiveness, and through discussion with fellow academics, was referred to articles as well.

While reading, various themes and patterns emerged relating to theoretical and philosophical positions, methodologies and case studies that I would be interested in exploring further. These theories and explanations have been grouped into three main lines for ease of communication, but with the acknowledgement that there were many ideas, which interrelate and overlap.

Ecofeminism and an ethic of care
Two articles specifically refer to ecofeminism and an ethic of care regarding the perspective as a “place-based, relationship and care-focused, critically engaged lens” (Goralink, Dobson, & Nelson, 2014, p.18). Ecofeminism has a diverse body of knowledge that filters into various strands. Its overarching focus addresses the issues of culturally held beliefs that oppress women and nature through hierarchical relationships (Goralink et al., 2014). Essentialism impacts this area creating dualistic thinking. Reestablishing this thinking using an intersectional perspective supports the ability to see how various oppressions connect and strengthen each other. This intersectional perspective questions this thinking and its destructive relationship (Piersol & Timmerman, 2017). An ethic of care draws on many forms of philosophy rooted in emotional awareness and ethical relationships. Applying this lens to experiential learning in place supports the reflection of values and wisdom of that place and a potential shift in thinking (Goralink et al., 2014).

Interpretive phenomenology and hermeneutics
A section of literature I read argues the idea of humans rethinking their relationship with the non-human and natural world. The philosophical underpinning regarding this thinking is a connection between knowledge of the world and the world itself. They are not separate (Scotland, 2012). The literature addresses the current ecological crisis and how a modern way of thinking continues to perpetuate the problems, which involves a hyper-separation originating from rationalist philosophy (Irwin, 2015). Each article suggests a different way of rethinking this relationship offering constructive suggestions for experimentation in practice. The similarities between these suggestions relate to the idea of being creatively open (Irwin, 2015) and actively listening to alternative voices (Blenkinsop, Affifi, Piersol, & De Danann Sitka-Sage, 2017) and modes, which enhances a dependency with the natural world.

Critical theory
Most of the reviewed literature relates to the critical paradigm which “seeks not just to explain but also to change” (Newby, 2014, p.43) and shows the research is influenced by a concern with humans’ relationship with each other, the non-human and the natural world. The literature involves an array of studies which looks at how to use interdisciplinary and experiential learning approaches and critical theoretic methods to address issues around equity, equality, diversity and inclusion by localising these issues to place. Postmodernist and poststructuralist theory are prevalent throughout the literature addressing the metanarrative associated with decolonisation and hegemonic ways of thinking.

FASCINATING stuff, but only the beginning in relation to this reading!

Teasing out my current theoretical and philosophical position
I went on a journey of self discovery while reading, which helped me to become conscious of my views and values and what informs my beliefs and actions. This is the beginning to developing the ethical dimensions that underpin my decisions as a researcher and how I conduct my research. 

The ideas and beliefs that inform my ontology and epistemology come in the form of relationships. I have found the relationship with myself is important and it is okay to be continually curious, exploring and finding out what empowers me. I acknowledge my childhood playing in nature and how this foundation knowledge through experiential play continues to inform my actions today. Being consciously aware of my continual self evolution helps to support relationships with other human beings and being part of communities that nurture this thinking.

It is important for me to be with others who see the interrelatedness of humans with the non-human and natural world, and want to sustain these systems. When looking further into the aspects of these relationships, it is the diversity and reciprocal nature of them that I care about. We learn from each other and each being comes with its own perspectives, values and wisdom. It is important to have a sensitivity, kindness and awareness of this and show respect through inclusion.

Through my experience I have come to acknowledge and respect indigenous cultures’ ways of knowing. I connect to aspects of this knowing involving a relationship with the natural world and wisdom about it, but have an awareness of growing up in a Western European way of thinking. This thinking has been a dominant hierarchical narrative for me. Even now I continue to uncover the impact and develop a consciousness of how this way has conditioned my thinking to the present day, regarding gender, race, sexuality and privilege.

The relationship with self, human and the natural world is continually evolving and it is important to acknowledge the holistic and organic process of this relationship. It is the process that brings opportunities that I can continue to uncover, challenge and evolve my thinking further through. At the same time, acknowledge the ways I communicate and the different forms of language that can be used to convey this understanding.

Through the combination of what I have read and my own thoughts and experiences two theoretical perspectives have emerged: critical ecofeminism and an ethic of care, and interpretive phenomenology and hermeneutics.

Critical ecofeminism and an ethic of care
The ontology of the critical paradigm shows its origins in historical realism. The epistemology is transactional and subjectivist, meaning such researchers are not neutral, acknowledging that they have a set of values which they bring and are intertwined in the research (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). The critical paradigm is considered an umbrella term and incorporates a range of ideologies. One of these ideologies is feminism (Guba & Lincoln, 1994), of which ecofeminism is a strand. Like feminism which acknowledges the historical subordination of women in social and cultural status, ecofeminism relates this same set of constructs to nature. It extends this understanding to other forms of marginalisation as well (Stephens, 2017).

The rationalist hyper-separation dualisms, which play out in society also impact research with regard to objectivist methods and participatory research methods (Stephens, 2017) emphasising continued destructive relationships. To create more emotional awareness and enhance ethical practice, a motivation is to embed an ethic of care as an approach. An ethic of care is a set of principles or feminist-systems thinking that originated from critical systems thinking and cultural ecofeminism (Stephens, 2017). These five principles are: “be gender sensitive; value voices from the margins; centre nature; select appropriate methods/methodologies; and undertake research towards social change” (Stephens, 2017, p.564).

Interpretative phenomenology and hermeneutics
According to Scotland (2012) the ontology of an interpretivist approach is that reality is subjective, which is based on actual existing phenomena, and differs between individuals. These individuals construct meaning of the world through their experiences and with their senses. When an individual is situated in this reality, language then shapes and moulds this reality. An individual may have an experience and hold this understanding and feeling internally, but once given access to a language which can articulate and communicate this understanding to express it openly, it creates different and multiple ways to access it (Brenner, 2012).

To study these interpretations uses a hermeneutical approach, which is considered a method for “taking into account the phenomenon of meaning-making and its resultant impact on individual and group identity formation” (Boerboom, 2018, p.649). The intention of interpretative phenomenology is dialogue and understanding (Brenner, 2012). The researcher has to have an ethic of respect and be true to communicating the phenomenon on its own grounds. This requires researchers to acknowledge and reflect on their own assumptions and deeply analyse their lines of inquiry, which can go towards broadening their understanding, as they move between the practical reality of their participants (Brenner, 2012). It is important that interpretation of research takes place in teams or with the participants to ensure the interpretations are consensual and authentic (Brenner, 2012).

The conceptual framework outlined above provides a good foundation for the topic of interest and research into place-based education as it is steeped in the idea of relationships. These relationships are interconnected with self, humans, non-human and the natural world. Surrounding these relationships is language/meaning construction, which is a continually evolving and organic process. Indigenous perspectives influence this thinking and I have a great respect for their knowledge and wisdom of the natural world and the consciousness they practice in being in balance with place. In order to shift my thinking so it is more in line with indigenous perspectives, I acknowledge that I have grown up in a Western European way of thinking, which I am continuing to develop a critical consciousness of and how this has conditioned my way of thinking to this day.

The theoretical frameworks which supports this thinking is a combination of critical ecofeminism and interpretative phenomenology. When looking at ways to implement this theoretical framework in research, I am interested in engaging with two approaches. These include an ethic of care and hermeneutics.

From this theoretical and philosophical foundation, I move forward into research design through the Educational Research in Context course paper and refine this learning further to eventually conduct research.

References
Benner, P. (2012). Interpretive phenomenology. In L. Given (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 462-464). Thousand Oaks CA: SAGE Publications. doi:10.4135/9781412963909.n234

Blenkinsop, S., Affifi, R., Piersol, L., & De Danann Sitka-Sage, M. (2017). Shut-up and listen: Implications and possibilities of Albert Memmi’s characteristics of colonisation upon the “natural world”. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 36(3), 349-369. doi:10.1007/s11217-016-9557-9

Boerboom, S. (2018). Hermeneutics. In M. Allen (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of communication research methods (pp. 649-652). Thousand Oaks CA: SAGE Publications. doi:10.4135/9781483381411.n228

Goralink, L., Dobson, T., & Nelson, M, P. (2014). Place-based care ethics: A field philosophy pedagogy. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 19, 180-196. 

Irwin, R. (2015). Environmental education, Heidegger and the significance of poetics. Policy Futures in Education, 13(1), 57-69. doi:10.1177/1478210315580221

Newby, P. (2014). Research methods for education, second edition. New York: Routledge. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Piersol, L., & Timmerman, N. (2017). Reimagining environmental education within academia: Storytelling and dialogue as lived ecofeminist politics. Journal of Environmental Education, 48(1), 10-17. doi:10.1080/00958964.2016.1249329 

Scotland, J. (2012). Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of research: Relating ontology and epistemology to the methodology and methods of the scientific, interpretive, and critical research paradigms. English Language Teaching, 5(9), 9-16. doi:10.5539/elt.v5n9p9

Stephens, A. (2017). Ecofeminism and systems thinking: shared ethics of care for action research. In H. Bradbury (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of action research (pp. 564-572). 55 City Road: SAGE Publications. doi:10.4135/9781473921290.n58

Holding tensions between Place Based Education and Digital Technologies

There is an internal battle I have in my head between Place Based Education and Digital Technologies. I liken it to that of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, and his inner conflict with The Force, questioning the lure of ‘the Dark Side’.

Place Based Education can allow learners to explore the stories, histories, and experiences of different cultures that have influenced the shaping of their geographical location. Such learning might instil a deeper sense of personal identity and belonging for the learner and allow for assumptions to be challenged and new perspectives to be explored (Ministry of Education, 2018).
It is this learning that excites me as a teacher. I see it as developing critical consciousness within a school and surrounding community. However, I also have a passion for Digital Technologies and the enhanced opportunities these provide regarding Learning Design Skills like innovation/problem-solving, collaboration and learner agency.

The two areas can appear to be in opposition to one another. There is a general acceptance that environmental education is best supported through direct sensory experience with the outside environment. Whereas, Digital Technologies are the perceived enemy with screen-based media exerting power and control over body and mind, and causing environmental destruction through their means of production.

Recently, I read a paper that got me wondering about my ‘internal head battle’ in a different way. Rather than viewing these two tensions in opposition, I am thinking about holding the tensions together in the development of a critical and pragmatic stance towards digital technology in place conscious environmental education. Part of Greenwood & Hougham’s (2015) paper takes an ‘adaptation and mitigation’ approach to technology in environmental learning and offers critical conceptual guidelines for policy and practice.

When analysing the concepts of adaptation and mitigation, both are intertwined with one another, as adaptation looks to develop strategies to deal with present moment changes, while mitigation looks to prevent or delay catastrophic effects in the future.

Adaptation strategies
Greenwood & Hougham (2015) state that it is common sense for educators to take an adaptation stance towards the use of new devices, especially when making the most of the inevitable relationship with digital technologies. They acknowledge learner-centred pedagogy and digital trails as part of this process and the potential of using digital technologies to enhance this process further.

Learner Agency
Putting Place Based Education and Digital Technologies aside, there is the acknowledgement that contemporary education has to overcome the separation between students’ personal experiences, subjectivities and interests, and that of school environments rooted in traditional learning methods. As Dewey informed us, ‘learners need to be met where they are’ (Greenwood & Hougham, 2015). It means as educators we embrace an online and digitally mediated world, our learners’ world. We need to assess what students already understand about digital technologies and adapt by integrating this knowledge into curriculum and pedagogy to empower students further in their learning.

Digital Trails
Greenwood and Hougham (2015) go on to discuss how digital technologies can influence the stories, movements, and legacies of plants, animals and our shared environment. They acknowledge the decades of scientific inquiry and data collection through the use of digital tools like monitoring equipment, mapping technologies and electronic surveys that have created digital trails of information about our changing environment. They do not discredit the importance of the sensory experience of the environment or the place-conscious environmental education that comes from these explorations, but instead they look at the various other forms of digital technologies and media tools which can influence pedagogical potential to support today’s digitally literate learners.

The digital technologies and media tools currently influencing Place Based Education which can be considered when looking to adapt place-conscious pedagogy are:

  • Geographic Information Systems creating citizen science opportunities
  • Environmental Monitoring Projects providing uploading of information e.g. plants, and access to a network of information creating problem-based learning and student-driven inquiry
  • Digital Storytelling – film-making and blogging to communicate
  • Virtual Worlds/ Game-Based Learning to recreate place-based learning and support knowledge acquisition
  • Internet/Virtual and Augmented Reality – bridging distant places and forming relationships between them
  • Mobile Technology/Social Media to influence direct action and movements like climate change rallies or community beach clean-ups.

Greenwood and Hougham (2015) do not shy away from a critical analysis of how digital technologies impact people, place and planet negatively and discuss the importance for educators to approach contexts with humility and critical efforts to discover who does and does not get to speak: “An environmental education that seeks multiple perspectives and purposefully looks for competing stories of places could also be a powerful way to nurture understanding of the inherent contestation in all places, near and far” (p.111). While digital technologies can enhance place-conscious environmental learning, these same innovations can have severe consequences depending on the human condition and which direction a person’s moral compass points in. It is vital as educators that we incorporate this consciousness into our pedagogy and practice, and explicitly teach it.

Mitigation strategies
In Greenwood and Hougham (2015) work on mitigation strategies they discuss two approaches which can be used to reduce the reliance on tools and technologies to open opportunities for unmediated (undigitized) experience, which can create new relationships with technology: technofasting and slow pedagogy.

Technofasting
Any addiction develops a patterned way of experiencing the world. Unlike trying to beat an addiction, technofasting isn’t ridding oneself of the addiction, but instead developing periods of abstinence in order to achieve a benefit. By abstaining from technology we can limit its negative effects and become open to other ways of sensing, being, knowing and communicating. “Like fasting from food, the point of fasting from technology is not never to eat (or use technology) again, but to develop a new relationship to food (technology) and to one’s body” (p.104). By cultivating this relationship we create an opportunity to step back and assess the ways we interact with technology, and what these impacts are and could be on people, place and the planet.

Slow pedagogy
Greenwood and Hougham (2015) acknowledge Gruenewald’s (2005) work on strengthening a professionalized culture of accountability. There is a current pattern that educators are in regarding a fast paced process to meet predetermined outcomes prescribed by this professional culture. Gruenewald (2005) discusses a shift from individual achievement as a sole focus of assessment to a broader view of the institution of school and wider community. Instead of focusing and judging student and teacher performance, teachers take into account and focus on the larger contexts of where learning takes place, creating a shift in responsibility where relevant and meaningful learning encompasses the community.

Greenwood and Hougham conclude their discussion on mitigation strategies with a powerful quote from Chet Bowers: “We cannot totally eliminate our reliance upon technology once it has become part of the society’s infrastructure, just as we cannot totally eliminate our reliance on the industrial approach to production and consumption. The challenge is in reducing our reliance in those areas where the technology undermine the self-sufficiency of individuals and communities, and where it has a destructive impact on the environment” (2015, p.105). By being critically conscious of how we are engaging with technology we are able to open ourselves to other ways of being, knowing and communicating in the world.

Unlike Anakin Skywalker who ultimately succumbs to the Dark Side in the Star Wars movies, allowing his two forces to stay in competition with one another, because of what I’ve discovered from my reading, I’ve learned to accept the tensions between Place Based Education and Digital Technologies. I remain critically aware of these tensions as I utilise this reading and continue to find ways to unify them further to complement and enhance student learning though my teaching practice.

References

Greenwood, D., & Hougham, J. (2015). Mitigation and adaptation: Critical perspectives toward digital technologies in place-conscious environmental education. Policy Futures in Education, 13(1), 97-116.

Gruenewald, D. (2005). Accountability and Collaboration: Institutional Barriers and Strategic Pathways for Place-based Education. Ethics, Place and Environment, 8(3), 261-283.

Ministry of Education. (2018). Māori History. Retrieved from http://maorihistory.tki.org.nz/en/programme-design/place-based-education/

Circular Education – Can it be done?

Recently, I listened to a talk by 5 Gyres – an organisation focused on pursuing science to solutions for a planet free of plastic pollution (5 Gyres, 2018). I went along to the talk with a skeptical mindset as I’ve heard the ocean dweller cum ocean activist story many times. I worked for one… I am one!
The talk by 5 Gyres founders, Cummins and Eriksen, began with an emotive self realisation narrative of our planet’s peril, with photos/specimens of destruction as evidence, followed by discussion around taking individual action through consumer choice and beach clean-ups. This organisation’s street-cred became apparent when they spoke about the importance of research, studies, and peer-reviewed publications. The two spoke about how they were collaborating with scientists globally and collecting citizen science data to find solutions to effect change. Then Eriksen mentioned the buzzwords Circular Economy and Design Thinking as part of the solution.
He went on to talk about the Linear Economy and how few corporations are taking responsibility for their production of plastic consumables. He spoke about a system change approach and how citizens could lobby local and national governments around waste management using alternative approaches. He used Xtreme Zero Waste in Whāingaroa/Raglan as an example.

Eriksen sparked a wondering for me. Education can be perceived in a similar ‘linear economy’. Students essentially go ‘through’ a system. Could we look at education in a more circulatory way to effect change?

Circular Economy vs Circular Education 2 (4)

After exploring the comparisons between a circular economy and potential for a circular education, I’ve alluded to the fact that my mind cannot disassociate education from the human/societal life cycle and acknowledge the experiential element of the lifelong learning process.
Within the schooling/manufacturing process I struggled to create a circulatory model and recognise that I’m trying to simplify a future ‘best practice’ into the Simple Domain of the Cynefin Framework when I should accept the organic complexity of education. However, I don’t want to ignore the discomfort I have for the way we are progressing in this system. The reason for this discomfort is that through this exploration I’ve come to understand the schooling system and life are in opposition.

So, how do we achieve more balance between the system and life regarding the concept of ‘school’ involving the future focused principle?

I know from my own experiences, that to survive the workload and to maintain working relationships it is easier to continue to fall back into the dated system we are in than to continuously challenge it. It has lead to burnout, but this isn’t how I want to teach!
This is not the mindset to have when we look at the statistics. The 2010/2011 TIMSS New Zealand Year 5 results indicate a relatively low achievement compared with other countries and has steadily decreased back to 1994/1995 levels (see 2015 results here). Along with New Zealand’s average PISA scores in mathematics, reading and science declining since 2009. Although we can say the range of achievement in TIMSS within NZ was wider than nearly all the high performing countries tested in English, and NZ’s average achievement in mathematics, science, and reading remains above the OECD. The concern is something happens around Year 4 when students report a positive attitude towards science and this aligns with the expected levels described in NZC. Whereas in Year 8 this attitude shifts and the year level results do not meet the expected levels of the NZC. These findings are consistent with TIMSS and persistent NEMP findings since 1995 (Bull, 2017).
When looking at the research it shows that teachers and students do not typically possess adequate conceptions of the Nature of Science. At best, conceptions around NoS are learned through explicitly reflective instruction as opposed to implicitly through ‘doing’ science. Although I agree with this statement mostly, I challenge it in regards to dialogic pedagogy and the balance with ‘in the moment’ unplanned class discussion that can come from ‘doing’. It goes on to say teachers understanding of NoS are not necessarily translated into classroom practice or valued as highly as content outcomes (Lederman, Lederman & Antink, 2007).
The reason I target science when addressing my concern is the evidence which aligns with what Sir Ken Robinson states as the school system
killing creativity, curiosity and building a misconception for students around the importance of being ‘right/correct’ through exam/content style assessments.

There are fantastic schools implementing future focused changes, but these are pockets of innovation. It can be better! When exploring the idea of ‘circular education’, I revisited past learning and experiences to imagine what alternative approaches could look like.
The linear school system isn’t completely dated, it does have some positives. It provides a scaffolding for students to learn, understand and work in institutional systems. At the same time the linear system caters for socialisation etc and for students to internalise these norms and ideologies to then operate in society. However, this learning should be secondary to the learning that is challenging their self awareness, and the forming of their own world beliefs.

Circular Education - Apprenticing with a Problem (1)

Looking at the figure above, a student can gain a strong beginning in self awareness and to navigate institutionalism and socialisation through the first three forms of schooling (ECE, Primary and Middle). This is providing individual schools are addressing an empathic/inclusive community focused culture, incorporating learning approaches to enhance curiosity and innovation like inquiry, play, game and place based learning etc with questioning as the base for all approaches, and acknowledging the current trends that are happening in education as a learning foundation.
But, we can start to look at high school/upper secondary differently. Perhaps as the beginning of a ‘learning/transition village’ approach to lifelong learning. This village can lend itself to supporting a diverse range of local solutions to emerge, collaborate and interconnect with each other to create a diverse ecology towards learning.
One example being the ‘apprenticing with a problem’ approach (Papi-Thornton, 2016). This focus is on finding a career with social impact which is a balancing act between improving self and working to understand the problems facing our world. It would require trained facilitators to support students to recognise their core skills and strengths, and identify how they could use or build these skills to fuel social progress through participating and contributing towards existing organisations, start-ups, governments, or labs, farms, investment firms to banks etc.

Going back to what Eriksen said about the Linear Economy and how few corporations are taking responsibility for their production of plastic consumables. We, as educators, schools and learning communities, need to adhere to what he is saying and take responsibility for the education of our students. We should look at alternative approaches that decentralise this school institution into smaller, diverse and manageable forms to create balance between systems and life.
With the advancement in technology and the increased automatisation of human labour, this is the time to look at the heart of our practice and ourselves, so that we are not only engaging in the art of teaching and learning but that we are fulfilling the role not obstructing it. These thoughts are timely with the Education Minister’s announcement of a three-year review to reform education in line with changing societal needs and I hope consideration it taken to achieve this balance.

Referencing
5 Gyres Institute (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.5gyres.org/

Bull, A. (2017). Research synopsis of STEM education. In The National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust (2017). Proceedings from the workshop Sir Paul Callaghan Science Academy. (pp.19-22). Wellington, New Zealand: The National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust.

Lederman, N.G., Lederman, J.S., & Antink, A. (2013). Nature of science and scientific inquiry as contexts for the learning of science and achievement of scientific literacy. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 1(3), 138-147.

Papi-Thornton. (2016). Tackling Heropreneurship. Clore Social Leadership Programme. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Ftacklingheropreneurship.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F07%2Ftackling-heropreneurship-daniela-papi-June2016.pdf

Identifying the growth points in a failed piece of writing

Recently I posted a piece of writing that wasn’t good. I had various mentors/peers critique it and all of them said I could do better. It was an Austin’s Butterfly moment. When looking at the experience through a metacognitive lens, a few ideas emerge.

  1. Caring about a problem
  2. Lifelong learning and the visible learning process
  3. Dunning-Kruger effect

Caring about a problem
Through the years three areas have impacted my time and thoughts; education, environment, and social movements. These areas have woven together, but mostly have been separate entities vying for attention with one being particularly dominant at a certain time. Long term this has caused imbalance and for a while I lost motivation around all three. While searching for a common thread among them, it appears to be Systems Thinking. This has rekindled a flame and is a topic I want to explore deeper. I want to understand the problems and see if the challenges are what I think they are and find a way I can add value. By being conscious of this process I can feed this back into my teaching as inquiry.

Lifelong learning and the visible learning process
I wrote a post on learning through failure and how we develop strong values around what challenge us. This was in relation to experiential and authentic learning. One object I have battled with throughout my teaching career is the dreaded eraser. For me it symbolises fear and perpetual perfectionism. The amount of times I have said to students ‘Please do not rub out your work. It is evidence of your thinking and I like seeing your process and how your brain works to support you better.’ usually falls on deaf ears. I now have to contend with the delete button as we shift our focus to digital technology. So, I can not delete my previous work as I will go against my kaupapa and the visible learning process, but rather acknowledge it for producing this current thought and consolidating my values. Going through this reflective process, I’ve been thinking how I can better support students to unpack their learning through reflection and will consider exploring single point-rubrics in future writing/posts during my inquiry.

Dunning-Kruger effect
I was fortunate to read Plato’s work in secondary school. What stuck with me most was The Apology which is an account of Socrates speech while on trial for not recognising the gods recognised by the state. He defends himself when being accused of thinking he is wiser than others by saying he is aware of his own ignorance and understands that he knows nothing. This could make him wiser than most because while plenty of people are knowledgeable in specific matters, they claim to be knowledgeable in other matters when clearly they are not which displays ignorance. This is essentially the Dunning-Kruger effect. I consider it all the time. I ask myself if I’m being ignorant/arrogant in my perspective or is it a case of Imposter Syndrome. Whatever the case my inquiry comes from a place of learning and wanting to better my practice to support others in their learning. Hence why I titled this writing ‘Judgey McJudgeface and the perils around systems thinking’, drawing attention to the fact that I’m aware I was being judgemental and do I have a right when like Socrates ‘I know enough to know I know nothing’. However, having over a decade of teaching experience behind me could say I have knowledge on education.

So, reflecting on the original piece of writing I see three threads to explore:

  • Definition of Systems Thinking
  • Systems Thinking for social impact in education
  • Changing models in education for greater social impact

With more research I will share learning in future posts. However, this is subject to change due to the nature of inquiry.

 

Mapping Aotearoa’s future through an education lens

Recently, I was at a science hui and I had the fortune of watching a dated video clip of Sir Paul Callaghan, one of our great thinkers, talking about mapping Aotearoa’s future. The video clip is still relevant today because not much has changed in more than seven years. You can even say it has got worse. Some of these issues include:

  • Environmental degradation
  • Social inequality/inequity
  • Health and wellbeing

(McGuinness Institute, 2011)

Our world is becoming increasing complex and what is required is a shift in mindset. Sir Paul quotes Lao Tzu ‘the words of truth are always paradoxical’ and what he means is truth lies in the opposite of what we might think (McGuinness Institute, 2011).
He relates this to changing the way we live to stop exploiting our natural resources, and this could be said of our rangatahi. We need to shift our mindsets to provide the best opportunities for all our taonga to succeed, whatever that word may mean for them.

To shift from a traditional mindset is hard when you don’t know what you don’t know and phrases like ‘we are not meeting the needs of today let alone tomorrow’ and ‘we need our children to be equipped for what is coming their way, not knowing what this might be’ are being said (MCAET Talks, 2017). Hence the importance of deeper learning competencies to apply skills and understanding to job and civic life.

We are fortunate in Aotearoa to have a curriculum framework this is values-based and lends itself well to change due to its flexibility. However, I question how well we have been guided to weave the front end of the curriculum into our individual school’s kaupapa to extend to the learning of our community and stakeholders.
What opened my eyes and got me thinking about the possibilities was the NZ Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World – an illustrative draft vision. I was shown this about a year ago in a Postgrad course. My initial thoughts were ‘WTFudge?’ but it turned the abstract into a pathway for me and I commend the forward thinking shown in the visual document from MoE. It formed the ‘why’ basis for my research/inquiry into ‘how’ and is now what my kaupapa and tikanga are heading towards. Along with other ideas that I have picked up along the way.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 8.43.11 AM
Ministry of Education, 2015.

Eden (MCAET Talks, 2017) articulates these ideas in a concise way addressing the assumptions that prevent systematic change. These include:

  • Students are accountable to teachers
  • Education is about learning information
  • Teacher as expert
  • School is separate from the rest of the world

 

By no means am I saying the ‘aha’ moment equates to ‘easy’ now. In fact, it’s harder and more complex. Definite open/growth mind-setting and problem solving have occurred so far and will continue, but the outcomes will be much better for our rangatahi and the future of Aotearoa.
Now having an idea of where I want to steer my waka and seeing what is possible, I’m experimenting with the different ways to put this kaupapa into practice where I can and share this with others. Hopefully we can chip away at this almighty ‘system’ together. The results being to produce the talent that appreciates what Aotearoa has, and who want to live here to be part of regenerating a prosperous nation.

References:

MCAET Talks. (2017, July 17). Aaron Eden, Education Transformation Catalyst. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/225904235

McGuinness Institute. (2011, April 17). Sir Paul Callaghan StrategyNZ: Mapping our Future – March 11. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCAyIllnXY

Ministry of Education. (2015). New Zealand Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World. Retrieved from https://education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Ministry/Initiatives/Lifelonglearners.pdf

 

Changes in Practice – Where to next?

Critically discuss the changes in practice.

Phwoar!
Recalling the last 32 weeks (a little longer in my case) and reflecting on these moments is quite the task to explain in 600 words.

I’ve been fortunate throughout my profession to meet people and set up various reflective practice networks in and out of the school setting, which challenges my professional thinking, provides opportunity for my performance to be critiqued, and betters me as a person. “… reflective practice is viewed as a means by which practitioners can develop a greater level of self-awareness about the nature and impact of their performance…” (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993, p. 2).

The Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning) was a continuation of this, especially as I had recently returned from overseas and wasn’t receiving the digital and collaborative learning development I was while over there. Being on the course helped to consolidate the learning I had received overseas. As well as provide the opportunity to schedule time to think about concepts I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to think about due to a busy school schedule. It gave me reason to continue to interact with my overseas networks to seek advice and perspective online that could have otherwise ceased due to geographical distance.

One of the key changes that impacted my professional knowledge in practice was the literature review. At the time, I was questioning the behaviour of some students in the school and wondered if they saw themselves as lifelong learners. It lead into an inquiry around how school and community stakeholders work together to create inclusive and socially equitable learning environments in relation to the NZ Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World (Ministry of Education, 2015). This relates to Criterion 7: Fully certified teachers promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment (Ministry of Education, n.d.). When reviewing the Practising Teacher Criteria  in relation to e-learning, my objective was to find ways to bring about inclusion for collaboration. With the understanding that education is changing towards “a highly connected, independent education system that equips students with skills for the future, fosters students’ identity, language and culture, and prepares students to participate as successful citizens in the 21st Century” (Ministry of Education, 2015).


Another key change that impacted my professional knowledge in practise was the second assessment in Digital & Collaborative Learning in Context paper and the second assessment in the Research & Community Informed Practice. I was able to work with a group of students who explored learner agency with me in the Digital & Collaborative assessment and, later provided constructive feedback for me in the Research and Community teacher inquiry on the School’s culture. When looking at the Practising Teacher Criteria, this relates to Criterion 12: Fully certified teachers use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively  in their professional practice (Ministry of Education, n.d.). I was reflecting using the experiential learning cycle (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993), ‘systematically and critically engaged with evidence and professional literature to reflect on and refine my practice” (Ministry of Education, n.d.). As well, “responding to feedback from members of their learning community” i.e the students (Ministry of Education, n.d.). This experience was insightful, especially in regards to my teacher inquiry. The students had thoughtful suggestions which were of benefit to improving the school culture, and this will continue to be an ongoing inquiry for me.

For years I have been toying with the  idea of doing a Masters in Education. However, I have questions still about this idea and am dubious as to how I will approach it.
My interests are in Education for Sustainability and I want to explore concepts of ecological literacy/ Place Based Learning in relation to Disruptive Design and Systems Thinking. The way the education system is in New Zealand, to attempt a MEd in addition to the workload requirements is hard, if not bordering on impossible. My next step is looking at returning overseas for employment.

by 2This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

References

Ministry of Education. (n.d.). Enabling e-learning. Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/Practising-Teacher-Criteria-and-e-learning

Ministry of Education. (2015). New Zealand Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World. Retrieved from https://education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Ministry/Initiatives/Lifelonglearners.pdf

Osterman, K., & Kottkamp, R. (1993). Reflective Practice for Educators. California: Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/RefPract/Osterman_Kottkamp_extract.pdf

Future goal mapping through interdisciplinary connections

Critically discuss the interdisciplinary connections in practice.

Within interdisciplinary instruction, students can become more involved in their learning and teachers can work towards eliminating discipline lines. Students can become independent confident individuals who learn how to learn and develop lifelong learning skills” (Duerr, 2008, p.177). These lifelong learning skills are necessary to teach and develop mindsets equipped to addressing complex, or, even, wicked problems, especially in a society that is rapidly changing due to technology. It makes sense to transcend disciplines so various ways of thinking and perspectives can be acknowledged and applied to different concepts, contexts or situations.

Interdisciplinary_Professional_ConnectionsEmma_McFadyenuploaded_image (2)

Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

Interdisciplinary_Professional_Connections Image 1

Throughout my professional career I have made interdisciplinary connections which have occurred organically by the way of a learning journey.
Currently, through my learning journey, I have shifted back into the role of a learner more than a teacher. So, when addressing a future goal, I want to reconnect with an area of interest – Education for Sustainability, furthering my understanding of Place Based Learning, with relation to Disruptive Design and Systems Thinking.

Future_Goal_Education_for_Sustainability_with_focus_on_Place_Based_Learning_in_relation_to_Disruptive_Design_and_Systems_Thinking_ (1)

Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

My journey into EfS began when I became concerned with how ecological literacy was being taught in school. I began implementing an EfS programme into the school I was working in at the time, incorporating an integrative approach through an inquiry model. I met a variety of people from different sectors of the community who supported and challenged by thinking and helped the school in this implementation process.

The benefits of having these different sectors involved meant a sense of community was created and a diversity of expertise was being shared in the school environment. “In our interconnected world we need the power of shared insight and working together to effect long-term and significant change” (The Enviroschools Foundation, 2008, p. 11).
However, collaborating with and coordinating the different community sectors was time consuming. Frustrations were shared around workload pressures and the ongoing commitment to the programme. “Interdisciplinary curricula is time consuming and takes collaborative team work to create, which can seem like a hard and exhausting disadvantage” (Jones, 2009, p.5).

Future_Goal_Education_for_Sustainability_with_focus_on_Place_Based_Learning_in_relation_to_Disruptive_Design_and_Systems_Thinking_ (2)

Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

Future_Goal_Image 2

Later, while overseas, I was teaching the International Baccalaureate curriculum at an international school. I gained experience developing units of inquiry involving transdisciplinary themes, working within a grade level team and collaborating with specialist teachers. Again, the same benefits and challenges as before rose in this process.

During that time, I was fortunate to attend the Green School Bali Educators Course. I met a man there, who has a background in transformational design and enterprise. He questioned the effectiveness of inquiry and interdisciplinary approaches to learning in relation to learner agency. He thought these were teachercentric approaches to learning without much consultation with students during the planning stages. “Currently, students are accountable to teachers (and parents). In the healthy model, students are accountable to themselves for meeting goals they set, with assistance from teachers and other mentors” (Eden, 2016).

I agree, even with an integrative approach, I’ve found there is an imbalance with the concept of “teachers and students as partners in curriculum design” (Mathison & Freeman, 1997, p.15). I’m interested to learn how a teacher effectively incorporates learner agency with obligations such as national standards and curriculum objectives into interdisciplinary units. As well as navigate issues like time, resourcing, up-skilling and collaboration. Do we need to look at a paradigm shift to achieve this?

Future_Goal_Education_for_Sustainability_with_focus_on_Place_Based_Learning_in_relation_to_Disruptive_Design_and_Systems_Thinking_ (3)

Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

Future_Goal_Image 3

Taking this thinking into consideration, I’d like to connect with the educators at Green School Bali, educators and designers working in similar fields of expertise and past interdisciplinary connections to explore my goal (previously stated) further.
I can see the potential of such learning being of benefit to community based education programmes, where, possibly, the education system has failed certain students. This could, then, put teachers in the role of facilitators around concepts of interdisciplinary, integrated, integrative instruction.

by 2This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

References

Duerr, L. (2008). Interdisciplinary Instruction. Educational Horizons, 86(3), 173-180. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.eric.ed.gov%2Ffulltext%2FEJ798522.pdf

Eden, A. (2016). Assisted Accountability – The True Flipped Classroom. Retrieved from https://edunautics.com/2016/08/18/assisted-accountability-the-true-flipped-classroom/

The Enviroschools Foundation. (2008). Enviroschools Handbook. Hamilton, New Zealand: Fusion Print Group Ltd.

Jones, C. (2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7, 7(26), 76-81. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Fdc.cod.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1121%26context%3Dessai

Mathison,S., & Freeman, M. (1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.eric.ed.gov%2Ffulltext%2FED418434.pdf