Gavin Burn and Cathie Zelas explain the process they used for a successful move from a traditional learning environment to an innovative learning environment at Halswell School. Key to their success was comprehensive and ongoing staff professional development. This included:
Gavin Burn: I think what we have at Halswell School is a vision that meets the needs of our learners and very early on we developed a graduate profile, which sits alongside our active learning framework and those two guiding documents will ensure that we have a clear vision of what learning and learners look like at Halswell School. For us, our focus is on increasing the student agency and the first statement of our graduate profile is about our students being an enthusiastic and self directed learner. So it’s about our learners having the skills to engage and be a life-long learner and take those into their lives.
Cathie Zelas: So, our professional development did involve a lot of unpacking that graduate profile with teachers so that they knew what it was going to look like in the classroom. What did teachers need to be doing? What were the students going to be doing so that they were meeting that graduate profile by the time they finished with us? We’d also done a lot of work on our curriculum just before the earthquakes happened and we were really happy with that and it was really strong, our active curriculum through the school. So, we didn’t want to throw all of that out. We looked at that and found that a lot of that actually was going to contribute to our graduate profile. So we built on our existing strong curriculum to make a pedagogy that’s going forward.
Gavin Burn: So, the process from moving from a traditional learning environment to an innovative learning environment was absolutely massive. Our professional learning journey, and it’s still ongoing, of course, was really demanding of teachers but something that we all really enjoyed.
Cathie Zelas: One of the first things that we did in that was to address staff concerns around the upcoming changes using the CBAM model, the concerns based adoption model, and that allowed staff to bring out those little worries and concerns that they had and a lot of those to start with were things like, where do I put my bag? Will I have a desk? Where will my resources go? That allowed us to bring those to the fore so that they weren’t barriers that stopped staff moving on to consider some of those bigger picture things around pedagogy and teaching and learning.
Gavin Burn: One of the reasons why our professional learning journey was so huge is that we were asking our teachers to transform their practice. Completely change the ways that they traditionally have done things.
Cathie Zelas: With our professional development, I suppose we tried to model that concept of agency and give staff as much agency as we hope they will students. So we had a mixture of face-to-face workshops, whole-day, half-day workshops, and staff meetings, learning team meetings, and we also offered a Moodle site so that teachers had an online forum if they wanted to contribute their ideas that way, and that also had a whole lot of readings and other resources that could support their professional learning as well.
Gavin Burn: It was really important for us as a leadership team to ensure that we were meeting the needs of our staff and one of the ways we were able to do that was from the questions, and wonderings, and concerns from the CBAM model. We were able to tailor our professional learning to where our teachers were at at that point in time.
Cathie Zelas: Now we’re probably at the stage where staff are in there and they’re actually working in modern learning environments. So this year there’s been a lot of trialling of systems, a lot of collaboration and discussion as they try things, adjust and they talk about that collaboratively in their learning teams. We then talk about how things are going in our lead team meetings, which we have every week, so that we’re trying to get that consistency across the school as well and all moving in that same direction towards our graduate profile