Reflect Growth Meet Up 2 – Saturday 30th May


In this session we went over what we had already discovered and tried to refocus our mindset on the “Big Picture” Of what we were aiming to achieve.  We watched a video I had put together  which included photographs from the day and some snippets of the audio I had recorded from each group.

Reconnecting with April 20 from Selena Woodward on Vimeo.

selsfailHaving had the chance to listen to these recordings, I shared with the group how it had been a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on my own practice. I picked up on several ‘bad habits’ that I seem to have gotten back into.  It was so valuable to hear myself and how others responded to that information, the tasks set. I could reflect on how clear everyone was about the tasks I’d set, the questions / barriers they had that, with a little more organisation, I could have removed for them.  In essence, I began by reminding myself and the group that this is a safe place to grow and with each other.

I then shared my findings on the way in which we had been working on one particular element of the framework.  “The Big Picture”.  I had discovered some interesting patterns in the ways they had organised information which signalled that there was an error in the language I had used.  I also shared with them how it was becoming increasingly clear that we were not able to have a conversation about one strand, domain, standard (which ever terms you’d like to use).  That, as I had listened I had heard aspects from 5 different elements from the framework.  That this posed questions about how we went about evaluating our practice.    I also took the opportunity to expand upon the pedagogical practices that had gone into influencing “The Big Picture” framework.

Based mostly on Alistair Smiths’ Accelerated learning cycle and all the research that went into that, that part of the framework tried to deal with two things.

  1. Connecting learners to their learning
  2. Connecting learning to the real world

Screenshotpd2I shared an example lesson with the group (a Science lesson) and we explored how “The Big Picture” of learning was being set.  We looked at ways we could connect our learners to what they already knew, what they needed to find out and how they might go about that.  We explored how the Australian Curriculum might fit into that in relation to curriculum planning and then we had a go at creating a ‘fake’ start to a lesson in which we reminded or established a Big Picture.  Of course, the Big Picture, is NOT something that you only refer to at the start of a unit.  We were working on a lesson that might fit into an element from a larger idea from the curriculum.  Every lesson needs to have opportunities for students to refocus and to link their learning with what they already know and what they want to know by the end of the lesson.  They can then think about whether they managed to achieve the outcome they wanted “by the end of this lesson” and of course there are some handy opportunities for differentiation there too.

The learning conversation that came out of this exercise was rich to say the least.  We began to pull apart our practice and how we went about this in our day to day teaching world.   We explored the notion of “The Big Picture” in relation to the International Baccalaureate and the inquiry process.  We ripped it apart.  Here are the key things that I think came out of the conversation:

  1. We still need to be “Backwards by Design” in this kind of thing.  Many of us struggled to get started until we knew what the assessment task might be.  We weren’t asked for one but we were disabled and unable to move forward without imagining one in our head.
  2. Interestingly, a strand from the Australian Curriculum didn’t’ seem enough to focus us. We needed to almost write the assessment task first.  That’s really interesting for me as someone who trained in the UK. I’ve always worked the other way around.  Here’s the curriculum… here’s what that might look like…. here’s what we’ll assess.   I know that the end (the bit I plan backwards from) is an assessment of the Curriculum strand – if you see what I mean.
  3. Inquiry vs this notion of the Big Picture made things a little muddled.  We weren’t necessarily looking for a “Big Question” to answer.  Not without creating the chunks (or learning pathways) we might need first.  There was some discussion over that.

What else would you add to that list co-creators?

After our discussion we looked at the new and amended version of The Big Picture document.  I had added all of their suggestions from the last session and moved some of the statements around in response to their feedback.  The document now represented far more voices and far more world views of teaching and things were getting pretty interesting, pretty quickly. Exciting 😉

One thing that keeps popping up as I work with teacher is whether or not the feel they can achieve the high levels on the framework if they work in a tough school.  My argument (and my personal experience) has always been that it is, in some ways, easier to become an expert, advanced, (what ever label you feel you might need – I hate them!) teacher when you have the think much harder about how you’re going to help your students to achieve their goals.  The more tricky, messy and difficult the circumstances… perhaps.. the more opportunity there is?  We looked at the wording in the top end of the rubric where students are given opportunities to make connections of their own between current, past and future learning, where they are in charge of their personal learning goals and are striving to meet them.  Where they are able to see connections between what they are doing in the classroom and what they may be experiencing outside of it.  I completely believe that every student, no matter what their circumstance should be able to experience learning like this.  This blog post has some interesting points in to make on that very subject.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  Did we challenge each other on this one? Do we need to look into this more?

The best bit for me was when we started to look at the continuation between our ideas.  The five different groups and me…  We spotted that we were starting to focus on pedagogy too much.  That we were becoming prescriptive.  We admitted that in some of our classrooms there are directives to use particular tools like working walls but that they might only be referred to our used as a teaching aid once in a unit.  Perhaps what we needed was a way to explore how well we were implementing the strategies against the grey scales of our framework.  We began working with the document in reverse… That’s where the prototype has come from.

“The continuum should not list strategies, because they can be implemented either well or badly.  The “eyes” should reflect what levels of thinking the students are meant to be engaging with” – @phuebl

I’d say they should also be reflecting the level of thinking and planning the teacher has done too.  If we have the “Big Picture” in mind then that should involve taking into account all of the messy, fabulous issues we need to consider – That’s exactly why we can’t just evaluate against one particular domain / standard / focus (labels again!)

Do you agree?


Image attributed to @markeetarp via twitter

We then moved onto the fabulous mess that is our Pedagogy.  I say “mess” because it is messy, it’s tricky.  We all have our theories and practices that we like to use and we all have our biases about what we consider to be the most successful. I guess that goes back to the idea of comfort zones a bit really! We completed a timed gather on the IWB and listed all the pedagogical frameworks we’d been implementing.   We started talking about “buzzwords” and how they become empty if teachers start to feel that they should be talking “differentiation”  “engagement” etc. without having had the time to explore what that really looks like in the classroom or what impact their pedagogical techniques are having.  We then moved on to explore the statutory pedagogical framework that department schools work with called Teaching for Effective Learning.   I had attempted to map some of it’s content into the “eyes” of the framework.  That has resulted in some interesting discoveries about the levels of skill required.  Discoveries that I’ll save for another day 🙂  Needless to say, the teachers in the room I was working in wanted something challenging, something that they could really get their teeth into.  Something that they could measure themselves against, as learners with help from those around them and in an environment that they felt safe in.

We talked about the current frameworks, protocols and practices in place for lesson observations and the stories were not all framed in a positive light.  There is clearly some room here for us to work together to define something that helps create a safe, secure process that allows teachers to feel that they are in control of their learning.

Whether or not you were there to explore these ideas with us on the day, you could take some time to have a look  at the prototype @Matt has shared.  You could also have a look at The Big Picture in the quizzes and see what you think is going on there.  It’s the one quiz that had no responses….  What does that mean do you think? Also, take a look at @kyla_casey ‘s blog post.  A great post and some fantastic comments in there too.

Please feel free to answer questions, ask questions or make other comments below.  I’m always keen to hear all view points 🙂 I am also aware that I have had to shrink this post a lot and that I have written about the things that interested me most.  If you think I missed something important comment and tell me 🙂

What was your biggest “Take-Away” from the day?

Have our conversations influenced your practice since?

 Except where stated, all photographs remain the property of Selena Woodward.  All rights reserved 2015

Suggested Reading on this Subject:
  • Aitsl, Learning Frontiers, and Innovation Unit, (2014) Learning Frontiers Professional practices to increase student engagement in l. 1st ed [online]. Available from: [Accessed 17 June 2015]
  • Hattie, John. Visible Learning For Teachers. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.
  • Smith, Alistair, Mark Lovatt, and Derek Wise. Accelerated Learning. Norwalk, CT: Crown House Pub., 2005. Print.



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