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Family ties: Doing it together (archived)

Introduction to the NLC

The sector leader for this NLC described the group as a family in that they argue a bit but always apologise afterwards. S/he felt they were growing together. For this reason this case study is called Family Ties: Doing it together.

Illustrated in this case study is the value of external expertise and knowledge and of ensuring that the focus of the NLC reinforces that of the individual participant schools. It also highlights how different initiatives can work together, providing a greater level of resourcing for the schools involved, when aligned through a clear vision.

The Family Ties NLC is comprised of ten primary schools whose deciles range from two to ten. They are a mix of rural and urban schools and their school sizes range from U3 to U6. They are all from the same geographical location, around and within a provincial city. The NLC was formed in 2008. Of the ten schools, seven are also part of an ICTPD (information, communication technologies professional development) cluster. This was formed in 2010. A conscious effort has been made to link the two initiatives, to ensure they work together.

When the NLC first formed in 2008 the focus was on understanding the New Zealand Curriculum. In 2010 the focus was much more specific, concerned with “making learning visible” for the students in the participant schools. The schools have worked on making sure their students understand the New Zealand Curriculum, that they are able to write success criteria and understand the purpose of school and lessons.

Activities and processes

The NLC focuses heavily on using external expertise to provide access to best and next practice ideas, both as individual schools and collectively. Individually, all the schools have been involved with the Visible Learning work out of Auckland University. This focus on the use of data to inform practice was driven by the introduction of National Standards. In addition, both the NLC and ICTPD clusters have worked with Pam Hook on utilising the SOLO taxonomy in planning and assessment across their schools.

In 2010 the NLC held three teacher only days involving the staff from across the participant schools; 109 teachers in total. They also held two half day sessions. The same programme was repeated at each session, making it easier for schools to send staff. There is a blurring between the activities of the NLC and those of the ICTPD cluster. The three schools that are in the NLC alone are involved only when it is a specific NLC meeting.

Two trips were also made to other schools, outside their NLC, with similar goals and intentions. The first visit involved principals only. The second was open to all staff in the NLC schools and a total of 50 teachers travelled, on a Saturday, to meet with senior staff at a school the principals felt was setting the benchmark for them to work towards. During this visit they discussed the practicalities related to the implementation of both Visible Learning and the Solo taxonomy.

Beyond these formal professional development activities, the principals communicate regularly utilising audio conferencing and email. Often this communication is daily. Much of this is for planning. The principals also meet three times a term.

The benefits and highlights for those involved

The Visible Learning workshop was a highlight in 2010 for this NLC. The sector leader described how it had been a turning point for his/her work. S/he intended to do a lot more work with effect sizes and one of the intentions for the group moving forward was to share achievement data across the schools.

As a result of the professional development opportunities the NLC had provided, in conjunction with the ICTPD cluster work, the sector leader had seem huge changes in her own school. They had mapped their school curriculum across all levels for the year, highlighting the links between the different areas of an integrated curriculum. While not complete the competencies, principles and values from the New Zealand Curriculum were clearly threaded into the teaching and learning across the four terms.

Ingredients for success

The ingredients for success for this NLC include the relationship between the principals; that these principals are always open for learning and that they communicate regularly. Also important has been ensuring that all participants have ownership of the NLC. This has been achieved through regular contact between the principals ensuring that it is not just an add on, that it is part of their daily school lives. It has also been achieved through honesty and clear expectations. Early in 2010 three schools were asked whether they wished to remain in the NLC as they did not appear to be sufficiently focussed. They chose not to and were replaced by three other schools.The ICTPD cluster resourcing has been critical in enabling much of the work they have done.


Published on: 17 May 2011