What do you know, its the age of knowledge

I think I have chosen the best two courses to study together this semester for my Masters degree, Advanced Pedagogy and Leadership for Learning.  When I think about the foundations of teaching and learning, I think about pedagogy, but how often do we actually discuss, intentionally, pedagogy within our school contexts?  For most schools, I would hazard to guess that it is very little.  We get caught up in organisational structure, politics and curriculum requirements.  Well in my readings this week, in both courses, the same concept came up, and that is knowledge management.  This is not simply about information management, it is about a lot more than that.  Kalantzis and Cope (2012) write in their article, ‘New learning: a charter for a change in education’, that we are now a “new ‘knowledge society’ […] marked by a decline in the relative need for unskilled labour and the increasing economic significance of knowledge management systems” (p. 83).  They say that we need to be teaching “knowledgeability” (p. 84).

I discovered in my readings, that knowledge management is considered as highly important and significant in 21st leadership contexts.  There are both pedagogical and organisational implications to a quality knowledge management system, which has implications for expectations of educational leadership.  Dubrin, Dalglish and Miller (2006) define knowledge management “as the systematic sharing of information to achieve such goals as innovation, non-duplication of effort and competitive advantage” (p. 152).  They also quote Garvin (1993), who says that “managing knowledge well helps an organisation to learn.  A learning organisation is one that is skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying behaviour to reflect new knowledge and insights” (p. 152).

These points made, emphasise the need for a leader to cultivate a sharing community and encourage both discussion and dialogue to begin the transfer of knowledge and modification of behaviour.  There are many different models of knowledge management (I have pinned some on Pinterest) that offer suggestions for processes that generate a learning organisation that shares knowledge, creates knowledge together and uses knowledge for the good of those around them.  In order to cultivate further, the ‘knowledgeability’ of teachers and leaders, Kalantzis and Cope (2012) share these five things we need to do:

  • “be participant-researchers or action researchers”
  • “become transformative leaders of change”
  • “become good citizens” (autonomous and collaborative)
  • “contribute to a productive diversity”, and
  • “build a capacity for innovation”.  (p.84)

However, the question then is, what skills do our students need to be quality knowledge managers?  What is knowledge management for students?  Labbo (2006) begins answering the question by outlining the position that Osborne and Wittrock take in their Generative Learning Model (1985), which states that “the process by which learners acquire knowledge and then use that knowledge to keep learning” help students to learn how to generate new knowledge.  Therefore, teaching students about the processes by which they acquire knowledge and use knowledge will help them move towards quality knowledge management.

This is a topic area I have only just started to consider in light of pedagogy and leadership, but which has been on my radar under alternate terms, however, much more reading is needed for me to fully grasp this and apply it into my own context further.



DuBrin, A., Dalglish, C., & Miller, P. J. (2006). leadership: 2nd Asia-Pacific Edition.

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2012). New learning: a charter for change in education. Critical Studies in Education, 53(1), 83-94.

Labbo, L. D. (2006). Literacy pedagogy and computer technologies: Toward solving the puzzle of current and future classroom practices. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, The, 29(3), 199.


What is pedagogy? Toolbox or playground?

I remember when I was in my early years of university, studying my undergraduate degrees to become a teacher and learning for the first time about this word pedagogy.  I loved the word straight away, but did I know what it meant?  It was explained to me that it meant the ‘art and science of teaching’ or the ‘teachers toolbox of tricks (strategies)’.  However, now that I’ve been teaching (or working in other education projects) for almost 8 years, I have come to see that pedagogy is more of a playground.






What once was characterised by some basic wooden features that allowed a child to slide and swing, is now site to a stimulating experience, limited only by the imagination.  Wooden playgrounds, like the one pictured above,  were simple but fun.  There were swings and slides, a way to climb and a platform or two to stand on and pretend you were at the helm of a private ship.  But nowadays, a child may have to sit back and observe/take in a background some before they interact with it, making sense of the myriad of colourful and creative constructions in it before they take off and journey into exciting new adventure worlds.  This is very much like pedagogy to me.

Karin Brodie, in an article entitled ‘Pedagogy is a three-ring circus’, defines pedagogy when she says: “A good education rests on the relationship between knowledge, teaching and learning.”  Her article in the Mail & Guardian on August 8th, juxtaposes the perspectives and theories of Chris Waldburger and Meshach Ogunniyi, who both had articles in the Mail & Guardian on July 25th.  Authors Waldburger and Ogunniyi, look at the nature of the progressive or ‘child-centred’ curriculum that is taking shape in the 21st century.

“For Waldburger, academic, classical knowledge must be the core of the curriculum, and for good reason: this knowledge has stood the test of time and has been found to be powerful and empowering for many.

Ogunniyi questions the notion that classical Western knowledge is empowering for all learners, and indeed research has shown that many learners find disciplinary knowledge, as taught in schools, disempowering rather than empowering.” (Brodie, 2014)

However, what Waldburger fails to do is take into consideration learning and the notion that we can only develop new knowledge when linked to background knowledge, whereas Ogunniyi does recognise this, even though he fails to recognise the full scop of children’s knowledge.  Both authors fail to demonstrate and outline the role the teacher plays in all of it as well.  Students can embrace and be empowered by new subject matter and experiences if their background knowledge is accessed.  If they enter a new playground, one with 21st century design ideas, they will observe and access their background knowledge to make assessments about what each section may require them to do to have fun and ‘play’.  How do they have these skills?  How are they taught to play? If we liken this to learning some more, yes students can do rote ‘learning’ tasks such as close passages and comprehension, but can they face a new problem and access their background knowledge and skills, observe and then develop new knowledge and skills to solve it and thereby create a new foundation for future learning?

The concept of pedagogy and what it is opens up all sorts of conversations amongst educators but as this article highlights, the relationship is between knowledge, teaching and learning.  Dictionary.com defines pedagogy in these words:

1.  the function or work of a teacher; teaching.
2.  the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.
But it is so much more than this.  More questions arise from this in my mind that I will be contemplating as I study further in this area.  What is the core work of teachers?  What is the difference between the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of teaching?  What is the scope of instructional methods that a 21st century teacher has to play with?


Brodie, K. (2014). Pedagogy is a three-ring circus. Mail & Guardian. [online] Available at: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-08-08-pedagogy-is-a-three-ring-circus [Accessed 15 Aug. 2014].


The Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition – Going hybrid

I bought a Toyota Prius last year and I love it!  Its a hybrid, and as such it runs on two a combination of electricity and petrol, powered by two different batteries.  The common misconception is that I must have to do something to charge the hybrid battery, however, it charges itself just like the other battery.  Whenever my car is running under 20km/h it runs on the hybrid battery and when it is not revving very high it runs on the hybrid battery, meaning it does not use any petrol.  I do not have to do anything, it knows what to and makes the switch as needed.  Overall, the fuel efficiency of my car is incredible and I will get at least 800 km out of a tank of petrol, averaging 4.5L/100km 🙂  So why the big spiel about my car (well I do love it)?  Hybrid learning designs were identified by the Horizon report as a mid-range trend in K-12 education and this involves utilising a range of teaching and learning modes to facilitate experiences for students that produce quality learning outcomes.

“Schools that are making use of hybrid learning models are finding that using both the physical and the virtual learning environments to their highest potentials allows teachers to further personalise the learning experience, engage students in a broader variety of ways, and even extend the learning day.  Hybrid models, when designed and implemented effectively, enable students to use the school day for group work and project-based activities, while using the network to access readings, videos, and other learning materials on their own time, leveraging the best of both environments.” (p. 12)

My school does use a learning management system (LMS) and of course a lot of face-to-face learning.  However, utilising a LMS does not mean that online learning models are being implemented.  They have tried the flipped classroom learning model but I am not sure to what extent.  The effectiveness of a hybrid learning model is based on the balance between web-delivery and face-to-face time collaboration.  Hybrid learning can be achieved effectively through the flipped classroom model, which has students engage with some sort of online learning activities, often times a video, before class allowing more time in class to apply the newly acquired knowledge and skills in a collaborative activity.  Homework is given to students in most schools, following many lessons, however, what I have found is that homework is given to followup the lesson just completed and further cement in the knowledge and skills acquired into students’ long-term working memory.  With that said, to adopt a hybrid learning model more, homework could be set that not only follows up the lesson but prepares students for the subsequent lesson, adopting a flipped classroom model.  If the homework also makes use of the LMS (not just for the sake of it), engaging students in online learning activities, then hybrid learning is achieved.

My perceived issues with hybrid learning and why there is not a great take-up of it within primary and secondary contexts is:

  • Takes ‘too much’ preparation time
  • Requires more professional development for teachers to achieve
  • Not enough knowledge of hybrid learning designs
  • More instructional time online and outside of classroom time means relinquishing control
  • Collaboration is harder to assess and monitor
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIb8t2PQBvQ]

Just like my hybrid car, who when it starts runs on the electric battery and when it slows down to under 20km/h, a hybrid learning design will often start and end with an online learning activity.  The best of two, or more, worlds are combined to create a new design and that is what we see in good hybrid learning designs, the combination of and complementary use of both online and face-to-face learning activities.  Universities have been engaging with hybrid learning for some time, but how can K-12 learn from them and bring it into their contexts.

Horizon Report 2014 K-12 Edition – Going deeper with technology

Another area of learning technologies that I am very passionate about and would like to see more prevalent and competently integrated in all educational contexts is the second fast trend identified in the K-12 Edition of the Horizon Report 2014, which examines the growing emphasis on deeper approaches to learning.  These approaches can include, but are not limited to: project-based learning; problem-based learning; inquiry-based learning; challenge-based learning; and, other active learning experiences.  I have observed that most educational institutes will utilise one of these methods, but will be of the mindset that one approach is enough, or it is all that is possible.  However, I believe elements of each approach can and should inform planning and preparation for teaching and learning experiences.  Many of the approaches overlap in their elements and overall intent, however, there may be some differences in the practical aspects of implementation.  The report says that deeper learning approaches can be defined as:

“… the delivery of of rich core content in innovative ways that allow them to learn and then apply what they have learned.” (p. 8)*

This is not only the definition of deeper learning approaches, but in my opinion, this is how all teaching and learning experiences should be.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjuM88N28DY]

Deeper learning approaches appear to be fundamentally about facilitating learning experiences that lead to practical application and real-world relevance.  However, the problem is that much of the syllabus and curriculum requirements dictate large volumes of content that teachers need to cover and they feel that it is not feasible to cover it any other way than through traditional methods more often than not.  The time needed to plan and implement deeper learning approaches is most likely the biggest deterrent to its increased uptake but there may also be the issue of lack in professional development and the clear understanding of what it is and how to implement it within the classroom context.

Whilst it is encouraging to read in the report that policies are being developed that will embed these deeper learning approaches into education more, what will it take to have it more universally implemented in national curriculum?  Another aspect of deep learning that was also raised in the report was that of competency-based learning.  Universities often outline graduate capabilities that students should be able to demonstrate at the completion of their degree, and syllabus documents outline learning outcomes that students should be able to demonstrate in primary and secondary education.  However, the report raises the question of students receiving credit for each competency achieved.  I am of the mindset that students should be rewarded/recognised for all new knowledge and skills and sometimes assessments only assess knowledge.  Of course skills are tested in different ways but if it is a skills that is developed in a cross-curricula context, should there be some way for students to receive credit and/or recognition for their achievement that goes above the other curriculum outcomes?  I will be interested to find out if there are schools that implement models that achieve such for their students.


So how is this achieved and facilitated by technology?  Well, if we go back to that definition of rich core content, that is presented in innovative ways and facilitates learning and application, technology plays a very important role.  In the 21st century, technology provides both students and educators have access to rich core content in the form of video, infographics, and other digital media.  These options are providing multiple ways for each learner to access core content in ways that not only suit their individual learning styles, but also in a way that is creative and often very innovative.  Teachers need to be curators of rich core content and creators as well, that is an essential role for a 21st century educator.

Designing professional learning using the 4MAT Cycle

I’m always trying to refine the format of professional development workshops I run, continuing to strengthen the opportunities it provides for colleagues to produce great ‘take-aways’ for their own professional practice, at the same time offering the time and scope to ‘play’ and collaborate with colleagues as well.  I heard of the 4MAT Cycle very early on in my career and was directed to it when I was really struggling to teach my classes at the first school I taught at but it wasn’t until recently that I revisited it with the view of it refreshing my mindset on professional learning.  Instructional design is a very big interest and passion of mine and I am always keen to explore better ways of designing lessons and professional activities.

The 4MAT Cycle also closely relates to the work of Kolb and his work on experiential learning.  From diagrams such as the one above and other similar representations of the 4MAT Cycle I have come up with a 10-step cycle I will utilise for professional learning workshops in the next term when engaging colleagues in learning about the SAMR Model. The ten steps I have identified are:

  1. Icebreaker – This is intended to both engage and motivate everyone, creating enthusiasm for learning.
  2. Outcomes – To focus the learning activities and provide an idea of where the workshop will head and where it will finish.  Indicates the knowledge and skills participants should acquire.
  3. Knows and need to knows – Accessing participants background knowledge and engages them in thinking about what questions they have and want answered.
  4. Stimulus/thought-provoker – Introduce the content and topic more, provoke participants to start thinking about the content.
  5. Information/content – Present quick, factual, straight-to-the-point information that will help participants acquire the desired knowledge need for the workshop activities.
  6. Reflection – Individual reflection on a given stimulus/lesson/resource.
  7. Group collaboration – Sharing and reflection within small group about the reflection above.  Preparation of something to share, could be simply verbally sharing.
  8. Present back/share – Groups share what they discussed/created/came up with during group collaboration.  Large group discussion.
  9. Group Reflection – Small groups reflect together on what other groups produced and shared with everyone.
  10. Need to knows – review of need to knows and new knowledge and skills acquired, and any that still need to be addressed.

So this is the structure I am going to go with for about 4 workshop sessions and see how it helps my colleagues to learn the SAMR Model.  I want professional learning to be fun, engaging, collaborative and valuable in that participants have the opportunity to develop something they can take away and work on as well as this will often be the focus of individual and group activities.  More to come once implemented…


Benefits of critical reflection – what are the outcomes produced by CR?

There has been much debate, critique of research and discussion about the value and benefits of critical reflection (CR) in education and there are not very many solid ideas.  I have a very strong opinion on CR that I shared in one of the online forums today, which said:

I was stopped in my thoughts [whilst reading another entry made] to ponder your entry more when you wrote that critical reflection as a conceptual framework, cannot be tested.  I really want to try and understand more of the angle everyone (including all the researchers we have been looking at) is coming from when they say this.  How can something of such clear and explicit value and worth not be able to be tested?  I believe that there is physical and empirical evidence that supports the validity of critical reflection in educational institutes. What does that look like?  That seems to be the question, along with the valid methodology with which to test.  I may be blindly naive in my conclusion, however, critical reflection has so many strong resulting products and other things it generates, that it is perhaps just a lack of research that has yet to demonstrate what is already obvious to those who have had substantial experience with it.  I would love to do a lot more research on this and demonstrate to educators what I so passionately believe is the foundational practice for producing growth in lifelong learners.

From my research these are the benefits I believe each individual, and group, that utilises CR will receive in one way or another:

  • An indication of what assumptions govern the organisation, a clearer idea of how the organisational culture is shaped.  CR will also help inform future organisational cgange as well.  Savaya and Gardner (2012) say “critical reflection (CR) is a process by which one may identify the assumptions governing one’s actions, question them, and develop alternative behaviours” (p. 145).
  • “It generates learning (articulating questions, confronting bias, examining causality, contrasting theory with practice, pointing to systemic issues), deepens learning (challenging simplistic conclusions, inviting alternative perspectives, asking “why” iteratively), and documents learning (producing tangible expressions of new understandings for evaluation)” (Ash & Clayton, 2009, p. 27). Therefore, it makes the learning process and its outputs/outcomes more explicit doesn’t it?
  • CR makes sense of experiences.  “To make meaning means to make sense of an experience; we make an interpretation of it. When we subsequently use this interpretation to guide decision making or action, then making meaning becomes learning […] Critical reflection involves a critique of the presuppositions on which our beliefs have been built” (Mezirow, 1990, p. 1).
  • Provides are vehicle for problem solving and inquiry, addressing the changing needs of challenges that learning organisation face. “Critical reflection provides both theory and processes to make this making and remaking of knowledge to happen. Participants acknowledge that critical reflection provides a framework that enables them to manage these issues more effectively” (Fook and Gardner, 2007, p. 10).
  • CR informs behavioural intervention and “can be a more useful tool for addressing social and emotional issues, namely those pertaining to race and culture” (Howard, 2003, p. 197). Therefore, CR is a great tool for objectively handling potentially sensitive issues within organisations.

I really think there are so many fantastic benefits and organisational value to the implementation of critical reflection and its often a case that there has not yet been enough research into certain contexts as to what the benefits look like and what the full weight of them is.  I am excited to explore this issue more in coming months.



Ash, S. L., & Clayton, P. H. (2009). Generating, deepening, and documenting learning: The power of critical reflection in applied learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education1(1), 25-48.

Fook, J., & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising Critical Reflection: A Resource Handbook: A Handbook. McGraw-Hill International.

Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory into practice42(3), 195-202.

Mezirow, J. (1990). How critical reflection triggers transformative learning.Fostering critical reflection in adulthood, 1-20.

Savaya, R., & Gardner, F. (2012). Critical reflection to identify gaps between espoused theory and theory-in-use. Social work57(2), 145-154.

Metacognitive prompts = Metacognitive Awareness = Improved Student Goal Setting

I have been focusing my research efforts on structures for developing students’ metacognitive knowledge and skills but when I began it, and when I wrote my annotated bibliography, I wrote it addressing the proposal that my project would look at the role of critical reflection in developing students’ ability to effectively set goals and be aware of their own metacognition.  I was thinking of incorporating metacognitive prompts into students’ learning experiences to help them develop their metacognitive knowledge and be able to critically reflect on their goals and lessons learned.

What are metacognitive prompts?

From my research, I have deduced that a metacognitive prompt is similar to a scaffold.  It is a question most of the time, but prompts the student to ask themselves about what it is they are thinking and doing during the task they are completing.  For students familiar with metacognition, a metacognitive prompt could simply be an icon to which they identify a specific question, action or thought to which they cognitively turn to reflect on their metacognition.

Metacognitive awareness

When students are metacognitively aware, they are able to identify how they are learning and the connections they are making cognitively, that bring about that learning.  Once students are able to identify the cognitive processes they utilise in their own learning,  they can then learn to regulate them, making use of their own optimum cognitive strategies (Rayne et al., 2004). This is what it looks like when a student has metacognitive awareness.

Effective goal setting

It is my belief that effective goal settings involves students:

  • being aware of where they currently stand with their knowledge and understanding of topics and concepts they are experiencing in learning opportunities;
  • recognising and identifying the gaps in their knowledge and skills;
  • being able to identify where their knowledge and skills should be;
  • determining the pathway they need to take in order to acquire new knowledge and skills; and,
  • critically reflecting at regular intervals until such time as they can identify successful attainment of identified new knowledge and skills.

This will be my focus now but I would very much like to continue pursuing other ideas and strategies to help my students attain metacognitive confidence and skills.  I would love to develop a whole range of resources for this topic, however, I will focus on this topic as a way of seeing if the metacognitive knowledge they have now is sufficient for successful goal setting or if they require explicit instruction in metacognitive knowledge.  I will perhaps implement my project with an older year group or with a senior and a junior year group.


Rayne A. Sperling , Bruce C. Howard , Richard Staley & Nelson DuBois (2004.) Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Constructs. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, 10(2), p. 117-139.