Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Distractibility : Keeping Students Minds Wandering (with purpose)

#28daysofwriting  Day 4

This morning, I sat down at my desk with a task list that included a few admin jobs I've been putting off.  Someone once told me, I think it was my mother, to prioritise the boring and save the exciting for last.  So, today I took mum's advice and attempted to make a start on the more mundane.  It involved excel.  Say no more. By 11am I was 4 coffees down, filing trays organised (that wasn't on the list), re-ordered my priority list, delivered 6 potato peelers to Hobsonville Point Secondary School (an unexpected priority and long story) and pretty much mindfully avoided the task.  

During this mindful avoidance, I read a fantastic paper shared with me by Daniel (principal at H.P.P.S), called 'Understanding John Hattie's Visible Learning Research in the Context of Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset' by Gerry Miler (Educational Trainer and Consultant).  link to the download.  It was a fantastic and timely read as we head into a new year of learning.

So, if as adults we can be mindfully aware of our distractibility and despite our best efforts still get pulled off course (for better or worse) then how are our kids going in typical classrooms?

John Hattie's 15 years of research into what works in schools combined with Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset work is a powerful combination for helping to remind us of what is effective.  Gerry Miller, writes a conclusion within the article that has strong messages and is an easy read.

These are a few take-aways I took from the section on 'teachers':

  • having high expectations of students is critical - ensure that there is challenge in the learning
  • moderate across the school so teachers have common understanding of benchmarks and can act responsively to them to ensure learning is challenging
  • teacher-student relationships are critical to learning - relationships come first
  • relationships take time to build - (begs the questions why do primary schools tend to year group children and tag from one teach to another year after year)
  • teachers need a common perception of progress - skills, understandings, knowledge, dispositional growth, curriculum levels etc
  • believe in the child in where they are at and where you can help take them to - have an open mindset
The institutionalised teacher in me sometimes worries about giving children too much freedom and room to explore but this reinforced the need for strong relationships in knowing the learner well and therefore setting them up with challenges that will engage and inspire them in their learning.  If learning is negotiated & co-constructed between the teacher and child within a personalised context then surely it is a win-win?

I went for a walk through Hobsonville Point Primary this afternoon, at 2.30pm to be exact.  All of the children I saw were engaged and happy in whatever it was they were doing.  I saw lots of personalisation taking place through self directed learning, teacher practice and kids exploring interests.  Some of these were deliberately scaffolded by teachers and others were not.

Of course there were a couple of kids who had deviated off 'task' but they were happily engaged in a fantastic game of count the wall tiles.  I suppose that was developing numeracy skills...like the research states, children will still learn in-spite of you (the teacher) so who was I to judge.


  1. Great stuff. About to read the link you mentioned.

  2. Great blog post, Lisa. who has a mind that doesn't wander? If there is anything that I can say about the learners at your school, it is that they when I have visited they are always engaged. They are empowered individuals. 28 days of writing eh? Sounds like something that I should get into.