Friday, 9 April 2021

The Doctoral Journey

I recently read an article that instigated a call to my Scottish friend who works in Hong Kong. A long time Twitter buddy, I finally met Paul at an ICSEI conference in Marrakesh. While virtual conferences are the norm during COVID times, the face to face conferences provide the opportunity to really connect with edufriends. Paul is Primary School Leader and like me, a Doctoral Candidate. He is at the University of Glasgow,  and I’m at University of New South Wales and while he is edging towards the finish line, I’m meandering through the messy middle. 

Generating this chat was this AARE article, ‘I found my PhD journey extremely stressful and mentally exhausting’, by Pretorius and Macaulay. Those who have trekked this path share how isolating and grinding it is, yet numerous emphasise it as a rewarding learning experience. Often curious questions arise at the most inopportune time. Fortunately, friends like Paul, provide space for dialogue. I shared some findings from the research and expressed my wonderings. Paul provided reassurance when he told me he had asked himself the exact same question. Others validating your curiosity builds your confidence.

Gordon Training International 
(employee Burch, N., 1970s) 
In the article, the notion that you don’t know what you don’t know was highlighted. This creates a feeling of unease and at times, you wonder what you’re missing. I positioned this statement within the Conscious Competence stages. As a learner, I often reflect on my current level, which depends mainly on my previous experience of the topic and the availability of support or scaffolds.

In unconscious incompetence, the learner isn’t aware that a skill or knowledge gap exists. When you commenced your doctorate, did you really know what was involved? In conscious incompetence, the learner is aware of a skill or knowledge gap and understands the importance of acquiring the new skill. I often find myself here and spend hours searching for knowledge and reading. Learning begins in this stage. 

In conscious competence, the learner knows how to use the skill or perform the task, but doing so requires conscious thought, practise, and hard work. It is at this point that I chat with my supervisor, who provides a good balance of autonomy with structure and support. As a learner in the research context, I venture from being self-determined to self-directed, depending on the need and circumstance. 

In unconscious competence, the individual has enough experience with the skill that performing is easy and completed unconsciously. However, at this level, you may falsely assume that it is ‘easy’ for all to achieve. This level of unconscious competence reminds me of the video clip Peer instruction and why assessment is a killer of learning. Eric Mazur, a Harvard professor, shares what his colleague, Steven Pinker calls, The Curse of Knowledge. The false idea that “the more of an expert you are, the better positioned you are to teach it’. Mazur claims that the better you know something, the more likely it is that you’ve forgotten what the struggles are of a beginner learner.

Pretorius and Macaulay believe that by listening to stories of doctoral students, we can better understand their journeys and consequently, ‘improved educational experiences’ can be designed. Similar to a painting, your dissertation is distinctive. While the basic components of a painting are colour, tone, line, shape, space, and texture, each artwork is personally created by a solo artist. Comparable to the artist, a researcher is influenced by others, but it is your journey. How can this doctoral process be so frustrating and liberating at the same time?

“There are so many different aspects to learn about and it’s difficult to know what you don’t know. This leaves you always wondering whether you are missing something. There are also many different perspectives offered by others – everyone’s experience is so different that it’s hard to work out what advice applies to you and what does not.”

Reflecting on Mazur’s peer instruction, Pretorius and Macaulay's article and the Stages of Competence, I wonder how to further support candidates during the doctoral journey? Could doctoral candidates support each other as peers, along with their supervisors? I intend to reach out to those who influence me and hopefully influence others on their research journey. I'll keep you posted...


@stringer_andrea

Saturday, 20 March 2021

"The Power of Voice"

I recently listened to a conversation between Jim Knight and Russ Quaglia. I have known Jim for quite a few years, as he was a guest on a Twitter chat I moderated (#SatChatOC). It was 2015 and Jim had become part of my Community of Collaborative Coaches. When I organised a CoachMeet in Sydney, in 2016, Jim shared information on a book that he was writing at the time, The Impact Cycle. It is interesting to know that Jim sought feedback from us. He is still as open today and continues to support me.

One of the benefits of being on Twitter and being connected is that your connections and friends advise you of others you can learn from. Years ago, I attended the ACEL national conferences. I sat in the front row, knowing that I had to make an early exit to introduce the next workshop. Russ Quaglia walked in and sat beside me. I introduced myself and mentioned by friend, Peter DeWitt. After a selfie and a brief chat, he signed my copy of his book. After reading his book, Teacher Voice: Amplifying success, I recommended the school purchase copies for our professional learning library. As a teacher and coach, Teacher Voice resonated, and I often recommend Russ's books to other coaches, teachers and leaders. I've blogged before maintaining that without teacher wellbeing, how can there be student wellbeing? Again, without teacher voice, how can there be student voice? All go hand in hand.
  

Listening to Russ and Jim converse, I am reminded of various strategies I implemented in my classroom that link to student voice. I am passionate about promoting student voice and choice, so years ago, I  researched Socratic Seminar/Method/Circle. Initially, I adapted and introduced Socratic Circle to my Year 3 class, but knew it would require some adjusting to provide more voice and choice to my Year 5 students. This strategy integrated reading, writing and critical thinking. As I found it to be an effective strategy, I elected to have the members of my teaching triad observe my lesson on Socratic Circles.

In this 'improvement process', I was placed in a triad with two other teachers. They observed your lesson and provided feedback. As I reflect back on this time, I think of how much I have learnt about lesson observations, providing feedback and the importance of teacher and student choice and voice. It was interesting to see how one teacher saw merit in the process, while another shared that I appeared to do little 'teaching'. Being seen as someone who sat on the side, simply 'watching' was an interesting observation. The other teacher was curious about how the students learnt to piggy-back on their peers' comments, how they argued their point using facts or quotes from the text, and how they were so respectful to the speaker at any point in time. What these teachers were witnessing had taken six weeks to achieve. I had prepared the students to own the process. As a class, we had selected the texts. I sought their vocabulary, as we modified the observer's rubric to become a checklist. They found the rubric was no longer needed, and a simplified checklist was adequate. The observer monitors the words and actions of their peers, while sitting on the outer circle. Observers are unobtrusive and silent, which is difficult for some students.
As a class, we decided that after students read the text independently, they could then read to their partner. From this, they decided they could provide feedback that focuses on their fluency, accuracy and expression when reading aloud. Comprehension of the text was written and shared orally within the circle. This assisted students to develop their oral skills. To support this entire process, I structured mini-lessons on strategies such as, using post-it notes to capture thinking, supporting your argument with evidence, asking open questions, demonstrating respect for others' opinions, providing specific feedback, and acknowledging others' contributions.

As I wanted to share Socratic Circles with others, I decided to present at the next TeachMeet. While I could share my resources and the process with other teachers, my students needed their voices shared too. I asked them to contribute by answering two questions.

  1. How would you describe Socratic Circle (written responses were later collated for the presentation)
  2. What are the benefits of this strategy? (orally shared and capture on an anchor chart)

I had differentiated the activity by using Jacob's Ladder. I had learnt about this resource while studying a postgraduate certificate in Gifted Education. The first group answered the first section of the comprehension tasks, and those more able also answered the more complex questions. However, these groups were fluid. Jacob's Ladder includes fables and myths, and poetry by students and well-known poets. Science, Mathematics and History are included in the nonfiction section. Students could stay in the centre circle if they had attempted the more complex questions. This enabled all students to listen to the questions and hear the responses. Some call Socratic Method/Circle/Seminar the Fishbowl activity, This strategy affords others who are unable to answer, to listen to those who are able. Broadened perspectives emerge from listening to others.

I introduced the staff to Socratic Circle, when I facilitated a workshop using a palindrome poem. This provided an opportunity for the teaching staff to experience the activity. The library staff were particularly interested in this strategy. I've included some resources at the end of this blog. As I listened to Russ talk about giving students a voice in the professional learning of teachers, I believe I had achieved this. In his research, Jim ascertained seven Partnership Principles in coaching: Equality, Choice, Voice, Dialogue, Reflection, Praxis, and Reciprocity. Through dialogue, we empower voice.

"Voice is sharing thoughts and ideas in an environment underpinned by trust and respect, offering realistic suggestions for the good of the whole, and accepting responsibility for not only what is said but also what needs to be done." ~ Quaglia

To lead change in our schools, we need to be having conversations where everyone has a voice and actively listens - the students, teachers and leaders. How well are we listening and who currently has the most influential voice?

Staying curious, always learning...

Andrea


Resources:

What is Socratic Circle: A collaborative intellectual dialogue facilitated with open-ended questions about a text.
Socratic Method: Students sit in circles with an inside and an outside. Inside share their responses to questions and the outside students monitor using a checklist.
Checklist: Questioning: How well did they ask questions? Speaking: How well did they articulate? Listening: How well did they listen to responses? Respect: Did they respect each speaker? Feedback: Did they provide positive and critical feedback? Participation: How well did they participate? 












Examples of socratic questions for palindrome poem:


Opening the discussion 

What word or phrase is most important? 

What is the most surprising statement in the text? 

What is the most striking image or metaphor? 

What would be another good title for this piece? 

Continuing the discussion 

What do the authors mean when they say ________________________? 

How would the original audience have interpreted this statement? 

What is the relationship between __________ and ______________ ? 

Concluding the discussion 

What additional points should be included in this text? 

How would our daily lives be different without this concept or idea? 

In your opinion, is it morally right to take the action described in this text? 

Based on this story, do you think people’s actions are determined by fate or by choice? 

Which character are you most like? When have you behaved like the other character? 


Palindrome Poems:

Apathy 

Lost Generation 


Socratic Seminar Handout

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

A Work In Progress

In 2013, I began posting my blogs and initially, two close friends reviewed the first few before I hit publish. While not concerned with number of views, I simply wrote to unload my thoughts. Recently I was asked to reflect upon a prior event and provide a response to suggested questions. Memories were triggered and I found myself reviewing previous blogposts. The benefits of having this collection of my thoughts was highlighted. Like diaries or journals, these posts captured moments in time that reflected my professional direction, portrayed my headspace and documented my current thinking. Events, thoughts, experiences all detailed with words, diagrams, gifs, and photographs. While appreciative of any comments, I simply wrote for me. It was at this recent review of my blogposts that I noticed I haven’t posted in 12 months. I was astounded to learn that I have written 92 blogposts that have been viewed 141,115 times. 

Capturing my momentary thoughts, each entry evolved from an article, a book, an event, or even a simple tweet. Sometimes, I write to get things off my chest, in the hope of letting go. Recently, I read Phosphorescence (Julia Baird) and Emotional Agility (Susan David), which has generated many wonderings. I wonder how to work on self-care without becoming self-obsessed; becoming confident while staying humble; staying curious while having an opinion. Should we focus more on others than ourselves? Do we become paralysed when we overanalyse? If action is a reaction to the thought, how do we alter our thoughts to change our actions? Are we thinking too much or not enough? This entry selects and reflects on 4 quotes from each book that generated deeper thought. 

Part of validating your own story is finding your voice and claiming your authority, especially for the women & introverts. And a crucial part of all of this is the need to accept your imperfections ... (p.86).     
                                                                                                           
Finding your voice is important, as Russ Quaglia states in his book, Teacher voice: amplifying success (2017), when teachers have a voice, they are three times more likely to value setting and reaching goals through hard work. As a research student, I’m in the process of finding my voice in a new context. Your voice may waiver or even quiver at times depending on the context. When it comes to voice, strong does not equate to loud; less is sometimes more; being pretentious does not denote confidence. Baird includes claiming authority, which is often defined as a person or organisation having political or administrative power and control. As an educator, I struggle with the term authority. To me, authority aligns more with a power from outside, in which I have no control. From my teaching perspective, I prefer agency and autonomy, which are viewed as power from within, facilitated in a supportive environment. However, since writing this piece, I learnt about Palmer's definition. Rather than following a scripted role, authority is afforded to those who are perceived as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives (1998, p.33). Evidently, the meaning of a word is influenced by contexts and lived experiences but can be broadened with new learning.  

Sharing your lived experiences and the importance of telling your own story isn’t lost on me. Preferring to organise public events and presentations than to be a public presenter, a few years ago, Briony Scott enlightened me. "No one knows your story better than you. It’s a safe space and a great place to start and build your confidence." I accepted my imperfections, stepped out of the shadows and became braver by telling my story. I realise not everyone gets a stage, but everyone has a story. I remember one person who had known me for a few years, expressed that she never knew anything about me. It’s essential to accept that if you want to build a genuine relationship, investing in knowing someone’s story is essential. As a coach, questioning helps reveal coachee’s story. As a primary teacher, writing uncovers a student’s story. As an educator/coach, I tell my story through blogging. As a friend, do we make the time and effort to listen and learn, so others can tell their story? 

 “I meet people and they become chapters in my stories.” ― Avijeet Das

Meeting wonderful people is luck; keeping them in your life takes thought, care, forgiveness & devotion. Friendship is an art & a gift, and some people are brilliant at it (p. 154).

So true! One element I would add is effort. The year of 2020 has provided the opportunity to strengthen wonderful friendships, ignite those just forming, and develop new ones. Whether through a brief text, a phone call, a Bitmoji message, or a parcel sent overseas, friendship requires effort. Baird suggests to be purposeful regarding friendships. Acquaintances becomes friends with consistent effort and care. Value your friendships, irrespective of the effort being reciprocated. Meeting, conversing and connecting with people, simply fills my bucket. An introvert, I am not.

Beauty is warmth, conversation, intelligence and a certain grace or magnetism too. Our social media imprints have narrowed the definition of beauty to what can be photographed, filtered & posted (p.117).  

Regarding social media, I never warmed to Instagram. I don’t use filters but admit to selecting and posting my most flattering photos. Beauty, according to Baird, is a mixture of personal traits, not simply intelligence or charisma. I have heard and viewed polished presenters and read well written journal articles or books, only to be somewhat disappointed when I met in person. To extend the concept of magnetism, I searched for a word/s that refers to when one makes others feel positive in their presence. When they actively listen to you and you leave the conversation feeling better and brighter. Do you have people in your circle who make you feel good just by being in their presence? Positive affective presence appears to embody this quality. Recently, I told Ellie Drago-Severson that every time we chat, or I receive an email from her, my mood is uplifted. Drawing on Maya Angelou's famous quote, "People don't forget how you made them feel". For me, beauty includes having a positive affective presence.

So much of what is broadly called wellness now involves an expensive kind of burrowing into our selves, wobbling on the plank between self-care and self-obsession (p. 276).

I remember going to a presentation where I was advised to focus on me and put myself first. Wonderful in theory but waking 2 hours earlier or going to the gym before work as suggested was not practical nor possible. If we aren’t careful, sometimes self-care can create more anxiety or stress. Currently, teacher wellbeing isn't a focus, although Karen Edge and I recently made it the focus of our #CuriousConvos chat. I worry how teacher wellbeing will be implemented to ‘help’ teachers. I’m reminded of the concept of a growth mindset and mindfulness, which became the new shiny thing to implement into your classroom. Another top-down initiative that became a buzzword and lost its power and effectiveness. Unfortunately, this happens a lot in education. David explains that mindfulness became ‘overdone’ and that… 

…mindfulness is about more than knowing “I’m hearing something,” or being aware “I’m seeing something,” or even noticing “I’m having a feeling.” It’s about doing all this with balance and equanimity, openness and curiosity, and without judgment. It also allows us to create new, fluid categories. As a result, the mental state of mindfulness lets us see the world through multiple perspectives and go forward with higher levels of self-acceptance, tolerance, and self-kindness (p. 100). 

One outcome of coaching is developing awareness and through coaching, one may develop a broader perspective. The intercept between coaching and mindfulness is apparent. The concept of noticing resonates with me (see van Nieuwerburgh, 2020). As a coach, I work hard at noticing what I’m thinking, doing, saying, feeling and projecting, both verbally and non-verbally. I am cognisant that words need to be chosen thoughtfully and carefully. Noticing my coachee’s response through words and nonverbal cues is essential. Tone, expression and even silence speaks volumes. While in other contexts, silence may represent a lack of interest, in coaching it often reflects deep thinking. Coaching requires effort and skills like noticing, while staying curious and without judgement.

When we make quick judgments, we often overvalue the information that is readily available and undervalue subtleties that might take a while to dig out (p. 31). In general, experts—or people who are highly regarded in any field—are often hooked on their own self-importance (p. 34). 

Noticing and valuing subtleties can reflect and unlock one’s thoughts. Spending time building a trusting relationship’s by digging into one’s story or thinking is the foundation of coaching and strong friendships. However, when your expertise or your advice is drawn upon too early, you diminish their potential, instead of unlocking it (Bungay-Stanier, 2020). Generally, teachers around the world are not highly regarded as professionals. They have to continually prove and defend themselves as education professionals. Teachers are required to demonstrate their expertise and make decisions based on their judgment. Often leaders and coaches are selected due to their expertise. Teachers can also be members of the feel-good rescue team. After judging the situation, the rescuer appears, often because the situation is viewed as needing control or time is limited. Have you heard yourself say, it's just quicker if I do it! Please don't interpret this to mean that you must withhold your expertise, not at all. But withhold judgement and stay curious longer. Identifying when and actually ‘letting go’ of your expertise, the judgy advice monster or the feel-good rescuer is the quandary.

Letting go is difficult. I have reflected on situations where my emotions and thoughts took over. I’m sure most have experienced situations such as, receiving feedback that landed harshly or the offhanded comment that shattered you. Trying to stay present while being curious about my emotions, I continue to work on avoiding the bottling or brooding of my emotions. David states it succinctly, “Thoughts and emotions contain information, not directions" (p. 105).  One chooses how to react to the information and the direction you take depends on your emotional agility. Developing my emotional agility is yet another work in progress.

So I wondered about the balance of self-care with self-obsession, confidence with humility, curiosity with opinion, amongst other personal traits. These nuanced concepts that are contextually influenced, are simply more than antonyms. It is not one over the other; it is not black or white. It is grey, balanced and ever-changing and as a consequence, a continuous work in progress. Through blogging, I create meaning of author’s words and stories by connecting the text with my life experiences. Intending to write more in 2021, these women inspired me to write this, so thank you Julia and Susan.   

The learning continues...

@stringer_andrea 


References

Baird, J. (2020). Phosphorescence: on awe, wonder and things that sustain you. HarperCollinsPublisher

Bungay Stanier, M. (2020). The advice trap: Be humble, stay curious & change the way you lead forever, Box of Crayons Press.

David, S. (2017). Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change and thrive in work and life, Penguin.

Palmer, P. (2007). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life (10th ed.). Jossey Bass.

Quaglia, R. & Lande, L. (2017). Teacher voice: Amplifying success. Corwin.

van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2020). An introduction to coaching Skills: A practical guide (3rd ed), Sage Publications Ltd.



Saturday, 18 January 2020

Solo Adventures


2015
My Harvard Team
I attended Harvard’s The Art of School Leadership course that fuelled my passion for teaching, education and coaching. I blogged throughout my travels that included ISTE in Philadelphia, visits to schools and universities, and a podcast at University of Pennsylvania created with Joe Mazza about professional learning. This experience sparked conversation, connections and convictions about coaching and provided the opportunity to listen and converse with others. I heard how coaching had been hijacked by policy makers and administrators and used for teacher accountability and performance management. This US learning journey was a life-altering experience, both professionally and personally and started me on my doctoral journey.

By applying for the Harvard course, the Wenona Fellowship and planning my 5-week trip, I learnt to how to make a case for my own professional learning, and how to plan, budget and be flexible. What I gained from the process and travelling solo was immeasurable. Every day was an adventure. I made mistakes, took calculated risks and lived in the moment. Walking in the wrong direction for an hour, booking the incorrect date for train trip and even getting lost, created the opportunity to learn. My independence, confidence and self-efficacy soared.

1st ICSEI in Singapore
2018
I attended ICSEI in Singapore and added a few days either side to explore Singapore solo. While I loved my time with colleagues and new friends at the ICSEI conference, I really enjoyed being independent and adventurous. When I travel on my own, I feel a sense of excitement, peppered with little apprehension. However, I see the benefit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and when I travel on my own, it’s just me. Being responsible for and relying on myself, in this place of independence, I flourish.


2020
Dubai camel riding
I’m currently in Marrakech ready for the ICSEI conference to start in a few days. I broke up the long-haul flight to Morocco with 4 days in Dubai. There, I walked the streets, took the metro, booked tours, met people and kept myself company. With only hotel wifi (unsecured) and Dubai barriers with voice messages, I felt cut-off from my regular routine and missed speaking with my husband and children. When I arrived in Casablanca, I found challenges and this experience has highlighted how accustomed I am to my comforts. The comfort of predictability, being connected and effortless communication.

What I struggled with traveling solo
  • Language barriers
  • Connectivity (voice, data, etc)
  • Knowing the customs and trying to be respectful
  • Identification and denominations of money
  • Bartering for items, taxi fare, etc.
  • Tipping - how much, who?
  • Feeling uncomfortable-  constantly being asked, ‘you’re traveling on your own, or where's your husband?'
  • Being Uneasy - when walking in streets unknown (without GPS)
  • Stressed about time - On some tours, after venturing into unknown territory, you’re expected to be back at meeting point at a particular time. And yes, the tour left people to find their own way home after not arriving at the meeting point on time.
  • At times, I felt invisible and yet other times, I felt many eyes were on me. 

Circumstances did create other challenges but I've learnt to say, "It is what it is". You can't control everything and should never try. I assume being in a less familiar context, compared to my previous travel destinations, heightened my sense of awareness…constantly.

Trista, me & Maria
Days later…
It wasn’t until my friends, Trista and Maria joined me that I realise how taxing it is to be constantly in that heightened state of awareness. Being together, we were collectively responsible. This enabled me to be less guarded, resulting in more energy. And this was just what I needed to really enjoy the ICSEI Marrakech conference.



Thanks ICSEI Marrakech...see you at ICSEI New Zealand
Learning locally and globally,
@stringer_andrea