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Taking Charge in 2024: Finding your way like Alice

by Rebecca Thomas

Feeling lost? Feeling a bit like Alice?

While the ground continually shifts beneath your feet, you make the final touches to your upcoming teacher only day. You try to anticipate what you might encounter from future policy changes hoping that they won’t morph and twist until they no longer make sense. Together we search for something solid, something that does make sense, as we all know, whatever happens, the usual pressure of accountability to show progress and continue to improve standards will pervade.

How do we find stability in this landscape? How do we take charge in 2024?

Like Alice's adventures, sometimes the solution comes from within. We must shape our experience, rather than let experience shape us.

This stability may come from leaning heavily on our professional learning groups, where we can have a shared processing of new systems and ideas. We can focus on the constants, the things that don’t change in our Wonderland: our students; our effective pedagogies; our values. We can celebrate small wins and remember that change is a process.

There are numerous resources and tools, such as the Te Kākano framework, waypoints, and instructional maps, that can help guide you through the complex educational landscape and offer valuable direction. These resources, like the 'eat me/drink me' items in Wonderland, have the potential to transform and facilitate your growth, often originating from unexpected and unconventional sources, much like the role of the White Rabbit in Alice's journey.

What is the significance of the White Rabbit in Alice's story, and how does this relate to the theme of change?

White animals, especially rabbits, carry diverse cultural nuances worldwide. Some view a white animal as a spiritual omen or a messenger signifying caution, opportunity, and change. For others, it represents the cyclical nature of life, marking changing seasons. Alternatively, a White Rabbit might symbolise something elusive and swift. Regardless of the interpretation, the appearance of the rabbit in Alice's story embodies both adventure and escapism, as well as order and chaos. Undoubtedly, the White Rabbit plays a pivotal role in the narrative. The underlying message here is that seeking support to navigate through what might seem like chaos, caution, or a shifting season is essential, even if it requires exploring unexpected sources.

Following the White Rabbit gave Alice confidence and a sense of purpose, she trusted him to lead her through the unknown.

If the rabbit hadn’t presented itself, Alice may have been at risk from drifting aimlessly around, stalling along her journey allowing her excitement to turn to frustration, or worse - cynicism. This may have led to her being in crisis management, being overwhelmed and ‘stuck’ - ultimately preventing her progress.

Just like the White Rabbit who initiated Alice’s journey for change, we (ELV) want to be your light in the dark to guide your curiosity and help you to make sense of your reality. Just like the unconventional methods and landscape the rabbit led Alice on, we challenge you to think unconventionally, we challenge you to push boundaries and most importantly reflect to enable growth.

Setting aside whimsical references, it's crucial to acknowledge that adult learners have distinct learning needs compared to students. They benefit from andragogical principles, as opposed to pedagogy. When preparing activities for adults during in-house professional development or teacher-only days, it's vital to consider these unique needs. Planning for adults differs significantly from planning traditional lessons for students.

Engagement Factors in Educators' Professional Learning with Andragogic Principles

Aspect of Professional Learning

Engagement Factors for Educators

Andragogic Principles in Action

Autonomy in Learning

Giving educators the freedom to choose topics and methods of professional development.

Self-Directed Learning: Encouraging educators to take an active role in their learning by allowing them to determine what, when, and how they learn.

Relevance to Practice

Providing opportunities for educators to learn content and skills that are directly applicable to their teaching and work.

Practical Application: Focusing on knowledge and skills that can be immediately used in their roles, aligning with their real-world needs.

Collaborative Learning

Encouraging educators to work together, share experiences, and learn from one another.

Collaboration: Promoting collaboration and peer learning to leverage the diverse experiences and perspectives of adult learners.

Experiential Learning

Offering hands-on experiences, workshops, and practical activities as part of professional development.

Active Learning: Emphasising active and experiential learning approaches, allowing educators to engage directly with the content.

Problem-Solving Focus

Structuring professional learning around real-world challenges, allowing educators to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Critical Thinking: Encouraging educators to think critically and solve practical problems, leveraging their existing knowledge.

Feedback and Reflection

Providing opportunities for self-assessment, self-reflection, and feedback to help educators track their progress.

Self-Assessment: Incorporating self-assessment and reflection to enable educators to evaluate their own learning.

Application of Prior Knowledge

Recognising and leveraging the educators' prior experiences and expertise in the learning process.

Connecting to Prior Experience: Acknowledging and building upon educators' existing knowledge and life experiences.

How do we weave these aspects into the support we offer?

#1 Self-directed: All of our resources encourage learners to pursue a pathway that matters for them in their context; nothing is predetermined and each allows the learner to bring their prior knowledge to the table. You can explore your Wonderland at your own pace.

#2 Relevant: We provide real world applicability through story (narrative pedagogy) reflecting/amplifying the real voices and dilemmas we hear first hand on the street.

# 3 Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: Just as Wonderland presents Alice with the opportunity to engage with complex scenarios, we challenge adults to do the same.

#4 Active Participation: Adults learn best when they are engaged. Be it weaving, cutting, drawing, sorting, recording; everything we design involves engagement. If Alice hadn’t engaged with any of the characters how far would she have got?

#5 Respect for Individual difference: Andragogy recognises the diversity of learners, so do we. Learning styles, positioning, prior learning are taken into consideration and we consult regularly with highly attuned experts when necessary.

#6 Practical Application: Immediately applicable knowledge drives us, and if it’s not applicable we don’t indulge.

This approach ensures that our products are adaptable, unbiased, and, most importantly, specifically tailored to the educational landscape of New Zealand, aligning with the aspirations of educators who confront the daily challenges.

We are committed to standing by your side throughout your journey, providing an impartial voice and serving as your guide, shedding light on the path and sharing our experiences. Occasionally, we'll take you on a journey that bridges the realms of fiction and reality through storytelling.

The stories at the beginning of each resource serve to alleviate your concerns, providing solace and a sense of connection. They offer fresh viewpoints, helping you detach emotions from personal contexts and find relief from any lingering tensions.

As we look forward to 2024, we remain committed to being the 'White Rabbit' guiding your journey through the educational Wonderland, lighting up the path of curiosity and sense-making, just as Alice followed her guide. Together, we'll continue to weave the principles of andragogy into our support for educators, helping you shape your own experiences and find stability in this ever-shifting landscape.

(part 2 coming soon, where we unpack the design process and purpose behind our approach….)

If you haven't already downloaded these free supports to guide you on your teacher only day you can get them here:

Te Kākano Model
Download PDF • 610KB

Te Mātaiaho Whakapapa Card Matching Activity (2)
Download PDF • 396KB

Or maybe get ready for 2024, buy the leader in your school a gift for Christmas now at a festive price.

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