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Teachers working together at Logan Park High School

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Kristan Mowat, Head of Media Studies at Logan Park High School, discusses how conversations are happening across disciplines and across departments as teachers support each other.


I guess in our junior school we’ve got quite a strong focus on core teachers coming together. And there’s a lot of research that suggests when core teachers work together - and there’s a kind of thematic approach - so your social studies and your English and science and your music are focusing on one particular theme or it’s relevant. Then I guess in the senior school now with courses where it’s possible for a particular course to have achievement standards from other disciplines - so it’s possible in an English course to have a media studies level one standard, it’s possible in a history course to offer a history achievement standard but also to use a media studies achievement standard - so we’re having some of those conversations across disciplines, across departments. So we’re looking at, ‘Is it possible for my media studies student who is doing history with you, to come up with a relevant meaningful documentary that assesses the things you need to asses in history and also assess - I can assess - the skills and the things that I’m looking for in media studies?’

So currently in my team I’ve got a media studies teacher who is also a photography specialist, an art teacher as well, so we’re looking at whether we could offer a year 12 media studies course that also maybe has some visual culture or maybe has some photography achievement standards. Those are some of the discussions and conversations that we’re having as a school which is quite exciting because of the flexibility of the current curriculum.
So the benefits for students are they’re being offered courses that are engaging and relevant interesting and exciting and hopefully they’re not having to duplicate work. That’s the brave new vision in terms of the future.

I mean there’s been a huge shift in the English curriculum. It’s no longer so focused on reading and writing only. It’s possible for students to read and then for you to assess their reading through an oral report which is great because you should be assessing the reading rather than the writing. And it’s the same sort of thing if they’ve done a lot of research it should be possible for them to do an oral report, or to do a PowerPoint, or to design a website or whatever - so there’s lots of exciting opportunities for assessing and for capturing evidence of that.

So I think it’s really important to make sure that there’s time for your team to come together and to work collaboratively on looking at assessments and on looking at the standards because there is a really high level of accountability in terms of NCEA and assessment.

I definitely see myself as a leader of a team and I’ve tried to surround myself with people. So staff appointments are key. You want staff who are really passionate and committed and enthusiastic about teaching and learning and love kids and want to get the best out of kids. Then it’s about playing to the strengths within the department and it’s about, I think, consulting and including so that we’re all on this journey together and ‘Yes this is the aim, this is where we want to get to.’ At the moment we’ve got a million things to do we’ve got an IT project, we’ve got He Kākano, we’ve got the standards alignment - So what can we do this year as a team that won’t kill us to start moving in this direction?

I also think being exposed to best practice is really important. So I think it’s really important to be trying to go to best practice moderation workshops. I think it’s really important to be moderating and marking as a team so that we’re sharing that professional development within the team. And making time for that and prioritising that - because otherwise it’s really scary if you’ve got this as the aim and you know you’re well short because all of us are well short, it’s a scary new journey. So as long as you’re making sure that it’s possible for teachers to upskill and be exposed to best practice, be exposed to learning communities like the TKI English online community. 

Published on: 27 Oct 2011