Sunday, 23 October 2016

Day23 -Subject Communities, not Silos...

During the week, two of our tasks at Rolleston College/ Horoeka Haemata involved the unpacking of two Learning Areas from the New Zealand Curriculum: one given to us (not one we strongly identified with – unfamiliar text, you might say…); and the one we most strongly identified with. For me, this meant the first task was to try and unpack Health and Physical Education and to present what I thought to others, one of whom was actually an HPE specialist! For the second task, I worked with another Science specialist to unpack this Learning Area, and present the key elements (and “non-negotiables”) to all other staff.

One of our Senior Leaders talked about how we needed to be respectful when unpacking Learning Areas that were not our own. He addressed the term “Silos” that keeps being bandied around. He explained that he preferred to think of these more as Communities. This resonated with me. These Communities are populated by people. These people have adapted to be successful in these Communities. These people know what the key elements are for being successful in their respective Community. These strengths and predispositions need to be respected when we try to communicate which elements we see as being important in our new Community of Learning…

If we think of Silos instead, it is very easy to forget the human side of the Learning Areas. I know that I immediately think of each Silo being a different part of a machine, doing its own unique and important role, that contributes to the functioning of the machine we call Student Learning. To get those Silos (machine parts) to work together successfully takes a fair bit of coordination. It often takes students a long time to see the connections between the parts. I guess this analogy works for me as well, but it lacks the human element of Communities. I like the human element.

What about those tasks?

Unfamiliar Learning Area

He oranga ngākau, he pikinga waiora.
We were given a period of time to try and break the Learning Area down into 20 (or so) words/key points. From this, we had to break it down into only five!! When discussing multi-disciplinary learning with peers in the past, the common concern has been about the potential for “dilution” of content and key skills. This thought struck me again – only five words/key points?!

Once I started, it was surprising how easily this Learning Area unpacked. A couple of different ways to arrange the Learning Area quickly evolved for me:

Four Strands/Contexts
  • Personal Health and Physical Development
  • Movement Concepts and Motor Skill
  • Relationships with Other People
  • Healthy Communities and Environments

 Four Concepts
  • Hauora
  • Attitudes and values
  • The socio-ecological perspective
  • Health promotion

Ultimately, though, I felt that everything emanated from Hauora. Therefore, I felt I had my five words, so long as I showed their interdependence with arrows:

Then came the tough part. Share this with someone from the HPE Community. When I fleshed out my simple little diagram with some thoughts about context and content, this was received much better than I thought!!

Familiar Learning Area

Mā te whakaaro nui e hanga te whare;
mā te mātauranga e whakaū
The task for this seemed much easier. It was the same task but within “my” Community – Science. I worked with another member of the same Community. This should be easy, surely! Not so. Within our Community, each member seems to put different value on different elements of the Community. That is natural.

However, what prevented this becoming a barrier was how easily these could be fleshed out. We were speaking the same language. We were able to group, classify and categorise our own ideas into bigger pictures under the “Nature of Science” umbrella. Finding five words/key concepts was, ultimately, not too tough (being familiar with TKI helped a lot with this, too!!):
  • Evidence-based
  • Knowledge is Provisional
  • Uses Models and Theories
  • Influenced by Society

We then unpacked each strand (Material World, Physical World, Living World, and Planet Earth and Beyond) into a couple of key “non-negotiable” points. These were the elements we felt were non-negotiable and may not be “diluted” by involvement in multi-disciplinary learning. Student learning must include the key elements (content and/or skills) of Science we identified. Boiled down, we did really get it down to:
  • Matter
  • Energy
  • Forces
  • Ecosystems
  • Inheritance
  • Cycles

Throw in some critical thinking, and I think the key words and non-negotiables cover the nature of the Nature of Science. The excitement came from hearing how other Learning Areas were unpacked, and seeing how Science could complement each of those “Communities” without diluting either. 

In fact, I can imagine how each Community (Learning Area) will be enhanced, along with the overall learning of each student, by having natives from each Community involved in each multi-disciplinary module. The NZ Police may build “Safer Communities Together”, but we will build “Stronger [Learning] Communities Together”.

Matt Nicoll is one of the foundation teachers at Rolleston College/Horoeaka Haemata. His blog can be found here

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