John Hattie – Rebooting the system

John Hattie’s Jack Keating Memorial lecture at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education is worth listening to. John Hattie is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

John Hattie’s theme throughout his speech is around ‘rebooting’ the Australian education system. The speech is fifty one minutes long and covers a range of Hattie’s views about how schools and Governments can change in order to improve student performance.

Some of Hattie’s ideas presented in the lecture include the following.

  • To shift the parent and Government focus of debating and pushing ideas that have minimal impact in education to a focus on what does have an impact.
  • To focus on the kids and not appeasing parents.
  • To stop blaming post codes and/or SES ratings for why schools struggle to get students to learn.
  • To focus on expertise and to value expertise.
  • To increase the number of Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers.
  • To have a common understanding of what ‘growth’ in relation to a child’s learning means. What does a years growth look like?
  • To change the narrative from schools believing excellence at the top end is the measure of success to seeing the growth of all students as the measure of a school success.
  • To develop collaboration and open classrooms – including student voice.
  • To focus on getting students into maths and science pathways who thrive on the struggle not just the ‘best’ students.
  • To abolish the exam system.

I think Hattie’s speech challenges us to think about what we do in schools and its impact on students. If you have an opinion about Hattie’s lecture I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section.

How is your professional learning going?

I don’t think that anyone disputes that to become better teachers we must engage in professional learning. How we go about engaging in that learning will have a significant impact on how effective that learning is. Some professional learning provides little support after the learning is completed while other professional learning allows for ongoing support. Below are some examples of types of professional learning. This list is not exhaustive but does provide a variety of types of professional learning:

  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Professional learning communities (face to face)
  • Professional learning communities (online including Twitter, Edmodo and Facebook)
  • Professional reading (education publications)
  • Professional reading (online including blogs, Twitter, education publications)
  • Classroom observations (peer to peer)
  • Student feedback
  • Visit another school

All of these forms of professional learning can be effective (assuming they are quality opportunities in the first place). Some provide more ongoing support than others which can impact on our ability to follow through with implementing real change in our teaching. However if we have a strong desire to change and develop our teaching then we will find a way regardless of the type of professional learning we have undertaken.

If, as I said at the start of the post, professional learning is so important it should not be seen as “the extra thing we need to do” or “the 60 hours we need to keep our registration”. It should be seen as a part of our job that is central to our role as educators.

So what is it that we could be doing over the remainder of this year to improve our teaching?

1. A lot of us have attend workshops and conferences this year i.e. Anne Baker and Dylan Wiliam. Trying to implement our learning from these events is ongoing and important. Can we use the next two things to help us determine how well this is going?

2. Classroom observations. As a teaching staff we agreed to have trusted peers come in and observe our teaching to provide feedback. How is this going? Personally I have not got there yet but have decided to stop procrastinating and get organised. Below is my information to Denise who will be observing 2 lessons over the next three weeks for me. Pick a time/class, a peer and a reason for your observation and jump in. 

  • Friday 22 August (week 5) – Lesson 2 9/10 Pastoral Care. Focus of observation is: Do I engage all students and levels of ability or are there students getting left behind?
  • Friday 5 September (week 7) – Lesson 3 R/1 PE. Focus for observation is: Do I provide feedback to students in relation to skills being developed and behaviour?

3. Student feedback. As a teaching staff we have discussed the use of student feedback and from year 5/6 up have had the opportunity to learn how to use the Compass TfEL survey tool. Have we implemented this with our students? My goal is to implement surveys for Domains 2,3 and 4 at the end of terms 1, 2 and 3. I will complete Domain 4 at the end of term 3 which will provide me with a range of feedback from my Year 9/10 class about my teaching.

The above three forms of professional learning should not be overwhelming. Don’t try to do to much with each of them.

1. Dylan Wiliam formative assessment – we all came away from this excited. Have we tried to implemented too much? Have we let it drop away? Have we embedded strategies or just tried a range of things without genuine persistence? Focus on one thing and do it well was Dyaln Wiliam’s advice to us.

My focus – develop feedback processes

2. Classroom observations – select one simple aspect of your teaching. Don’t be too broad. This will assist your observer and you in making real change in your classroom.

My focus – providing feedback and catering for all students

3. Student surveys – read your students surveys and highlight one or two items that are more common across the surveys. Again don’t try to take on everything, select one thing to focus on.

My focus (from feedback so far) providing students with some choice.

Remember that change takes time and commitment. Our professional learning should be continually evolving, not quickly but gradually over time.

Minecraft Edu

I have always been fascinated by Minecraft. It is simple and easy to use, kids love it and it is an open ended creative virtual environment that has a wide range of applications for learning. I must admit that I do not have a Minecraft account but two of my children share an account and they are hooked. They spend time creating dwellings mostly, designing living environments and watching videos of what others are doing in Minecraft.

What motivated me to write this post was an article (passed to me by Wardy) in the Kadina Memorial School newsletter. Teacher Luke Atkinson wrote about how his 5/6 LA class had used Minecraft to learn about Sustainability. I have copied and pasted the article directly from the KMS newsletter below.

As part of our ‘Sustainability’ focus within Design and Technology the 5/6LA (TR2) class used Minecraft. This wasn’t just any random level, but a specifically designed map with 2 islands. Each island had limited resources. The aim for students was to create a sustainable environment. I had my own underlying focus on sociology and wanting to watch how the students interacted with each other. The students formed 2 groups, each of which had an island to themselves. My role was to watch and not influence what the students chose to do. This type of learning is dependent on reflection and what outcomes the students see as important.

By the end of the lesson many students had much to say about what they had achieved. Island 1 was decimated, with barely anything left. There was no food (apart from a pig stuck in a tree) and limited trees were remaining. The group was so focused on building a huge and amazing house for everyone… they ran out of resources. Island 1 commented that if they had to do it again they would build a smaller house and focus on re-growing trees, rather than cutting them down without future planning.

Island 2 built many small houses on their island, some into the hillside, others made of wood. The students commented that if they were to do it again they would maximise the land for food (animals and crops) and not build houses out of wood but stone, as wood is flammable.

Oddly enough there was also an Island 3. Two students didn’t agree with what Island 1 was doing so they dug out some sand and dirt and started to build their own island. They discussed the importance of working with others and planning when using limited resources. The students had countless stories to tell and wrote up what happened. There were discussions on how to improve for the future and how this reflected upon their own lives. They had created a system of law enforcement (a prison I was to run for them), discussed resource management, the correct use of resources and even built a separate nation for those who didn’t agree. Only in minecraft could this open and deep version of learning be possible.

Luke Atkinson, Kadina Memorial School

This is a great example of how Minecraft can be used in the classroom and thought it was worth sharing with everyone.

Not having much experience (none) with Minecraft in schools my understanding is that schools can use the original version created by Mojang or MinecraftEdu a version designed by Teacher Gaming with full endorsement from Mojang. The total cost to purchase MinecraftEdu across 28 computers would be a one off cost of $433.

Below are some videos helping to explain Minecraft as an educational tool.

Click here to visit the Educrew YouTube Channel.They have 12 instructional videos to help you get started with MinecraftEdu.

Teacher Personal Action Plans: Formative Assessment

After seeing Dylan Wiliam in term 1 and making a commitment to develop formative assessment as a site it is great that we can now share our formative assessment goals (via Personal Action Plans) on the blog. This gives us the opportunity to see what others are doing in their classrooms. The benefits of sharing our formative assessment goals include:

  1. We have publicly displayed our goals and therefore much more likely to go through with them.
  2. We can see what others are doing, hopefully generating more professional conversations away from staff meetings.
  3. We can select teachers who are using a particular technique and ask to sit in and observe their use of the technique broadening our understanding of its application.
  4. Teachers can use the Personal Action Plan as a basis for their observation lesson(s) with a peer. Have someone observe and give feedback on your formative assessment strategies.

Below are the Personal Action Plans of teachers at PBAS which outline how they have used and will continue to use formative assessment strategies based on Dylan Wiliam’s book Embedded Formative Assessment.


IMG_3483 IMG_3482 IMG_3486 IMG_3484 IMG_3487 IMG_3481 IMG_3485 IMG_3480




How has technology changed the way we learn?

Here are the Power Point and videos from our student free day session between recess and lunch. I hope that the staff who were unable to be there on Monday will have a look.

If you are really interested in finding out more about what Will Richardson has to say click here to visit his blog. His book Why School? which is available to download is also an excellent read.

What do you think about rewards in the classroom?

Thank you to Chris Wejr (@chriswejr) who posted a link to his blog post 14 Videos for Starting Dialogue on Rethinking Rewards, Awards on Twitter which gave me the idea of posting a couple of those videos here to challenge thinking about rewards in the classroom.

I certainly have used rewards in the past but rarely if ever do I use them now. This is not so much because of a deep seated philosophy that I have about using rewards in the classroom but more about my indifference to the whole issue itself, having never had a strong opinion either way. Obviously I use grades to report student achievement which can be considered a form of reward. Students rarely see a grade as a useful piece of feedback designed to help them improve, rather it is viewed more as an end result (a reward) than a stepping stone to improvement.

Someone who does have a strong opinion about rewards, including the use of grades is Alfie Kohn. Below is a grab from Alfie Kohn’s blog which can be visited by clicking here.

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of twelve books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.
Kohn’s criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps this country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.”

The first video is a excerpt of Alfie Kohn  speaking about the impact of rewards (including grades). The second video is a clip from The Office (American version) which highlights what happens when an employee is not interested in the external rewards being offered by the employer (very funny). Is this what happens in our classrooms when students disengage because they have no interest in the external rewards in our classrooms (including grades)? If students do not engage because of the traditional rewards offered to them the question is how do we engage them? What motivates these students to want to achieve?


I would be really interested in hearing about what philosophies teachers had regarding rewards and the importance (or not) of grades towards learning.

Ken Robinson: How to escape educations death valley

Ken Robinson’s talks are always entertaining and thought provoking. Watch this TED Talk in which Ken Robinson discusses the following topics:

  • Disengagement
  • Children are diverse
  • Education focuses on a narrow spectrum
  • ADHD
  • Broad curriculum
  • Curiosity
  • A creative profession
  • Standardised testing
  • Creativity is important
  • Individualise teaching and learning
  • Engage students
  • Teachers need discretion and autonomy

PBAS 14 Day Twitter Challenge

Twitter app

Before starting this post I must thank Jarrod Robinson (@mrrobbo) who posted a PE teacher 14 Day Twitter Challenge on his website A perfect example of how Twitter directed me to something that then resulted in an idea that could be used to encourage staff at PBAS to learn a new skill that potentially could change the way they view professional development and teaching.

Thanks to all the staff willing to have a go a the 14 Day Twitter Challenge. I hope that everyone finds it worth while. Below are copies of the 14 Day Challenge graphic. I have also added a follow up video to the first session where we created our Twitter accounts in case anyone wanted to get a refresher on some of the things we talked about on Day 1 of the challenge.


Links to TfEL and The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

TfEL 1.3 Participate in professional learning communities and networks.

TfEL 1.5 Discuss educational purpose and policy.

Australian Teacher Standards 6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice.

Australian Teacher Standards 6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice.


The 14 Day Twitter Challenge instructions

14 Day Twitter Challenge









PBAS Twitter Basics

Just Google it!


It is now one of the most common things that we get our students to do, a Google search. It is certainly not uncommon to hear the phrase “Just Google it” as part of our everyday language. It is the most common search engine that our students use (although there are many others) and for something that is so commonly used in schools you would expect that teachers and students would be fluent in its use. Do we know how to access the full power of the Google search engine? For me the answer is no.

As part of my own professional development I have started listening to pod casts from The EdTechCrew. Listening to my first pod cast by these guys I heard them talking about free online courses around how to use Google search which, considering how often I use this tool, sounded really interesting. So after a quick search on You Tube I was able to find a range of videos made for one of these courses. I have put a selection of these videos on the blog, see the page titled ‘Google Search Lessons for Teachers’ at the top of the blog.

The videos range from 5-10 minutes and do not necessarily have to be viewed in order (although recommend videos 7, 8 & 9 are). If you don’t want or think you will get to all of these videos then I recommend videos 1, 4, 10, 11, 12. Learn how to filter images by colour & why this might be useful. Learn how to find specific text on a web page full of writing (without reading it). Learn how to use an image instead of text to find information – drag an image from your desk top into Google search and find out where it originated. This is one that really surprised me, you can even take a photo of an object and use that to create a search! Learn how to narrow a search by time and date or view the web at a point in time by filtering out anything prior or after a specific time. Finally video 12 will show you how to translate web pages written in other languages into English. Great for students wanting to get perspectives from non English speaking countries.


Interested in pod casts?


Pod casts (audio/video) – Get the podcast app on your iPhone/iPad/iPod and then through the app you can access pod casts to download onto your device to listen to at a later time.