Every year CORE Education offers a fellowship to kaiako from all sectors in education and throughout Aotearoa to follow their passions and push the boundaries of educational possibility.
There are some big words in there – “passions”, “pushing boundaries”, “possibility”. The whole concept of the eFellowship is to make a difference by disrupting current ways of doing things. It is premised on a collective, collaborative approach to education, in its broadest sense, and, by being part of a community of learning, transforming into a community of practice that then becomes a genuine community of inquiry.
Supporting learner agency
The Office of the Children’s Commission regularly talks with children and young people throughout Aotearoa to find out their ideas. When granted agency to express their points of view, they were very clear about what mattered to them:
- Understand me in my whole world
- People at school are racist towards me
- Relationships mean everything to me
- Teach me the way I learn best
- I need to be comfortable before I can learn
- It’s my life – let me have a say
(Office of the Children’s Commission, 2018)
We know from experience, and research, that to achieve equitable learning experiences for all learners and to enable systems level change, takes courage. We know that the organisational climate, the culture of an early years service, kura or school, impacts hugely on learners and on how they feel about themselves. We often hear from kaiako about the challenges of change, of transforming what is, into what could be. The purpose of the eFellowship is to create a space to think about these possibilities with and alongside others.
“As children’s inspirations/ projects evolve, I see my role as the teacher is to give wings to their imagination, to collaborate and create new horizons for new learning. Witnessing how children’s learning evolves as part of the world around them is magnificent!” (eFellow, 2020)
Figuring out that question/niggle.
One of the current approaches used in research is the notion of a puzzle of practice. Some of us at CORE talk about this as a niggle, as a wondering – a ‘why?’ or ‘why not?’. Following through from a niggle to a puzzle to a question about teaching and learning is a process and one of the benefits of the eFellowship takes to heart the mantra “Slow down to speed up” – and dig deep into an issue they are curious about.
We all understand that being in learning environments very often requires quick-fire, responsive solutions to situations as they arise. We also know that we can revert to a default position and rely on responses that work, partially, but don’t actually get to the nub of the issue. So an important starting point is to try something new, and to take time to understand ‘the what’, the why and the how ‘about an aspect of learning and teaching and how it impacts and influences all concerned.
The idea is to transform thinking and the experience of learning. This might be at a personal/professional level, or in a learning space. It may be an idea that needs more substance and fleshing out. This is the opportunity the eFellowship offers kaiako – a chance to explore multiple levels of transformation – a ripple effect that enables all learners (and kaiako are learners too) to succeed.
“Working with ākonga to share and create knowledge, and then to involve them as co researchers in identifying themes and connections has broadened all of our understandings of the forces, assumptions and biases that contribute to why and what we do as teachers and learners. It is powerful for ākonga to be involved in unpacking this for themselves, to move from participating in teacher led surveys and research to analysing their own stories and how they intersect with those of others around them.” (eFellow 2020)
Transform, reimagine, redesign
When we start thinking about curriculum design and education systems, we need to consider future-focused thinking. What will learners need to know? Do our curriculum documents enable us to prepare learners for 21st century living? Think about learning environments at the moment and who they tend to benefit. Who is left out? Which groups are consistently under-achieving?
“As an eFellow, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on how we, teachers, tend to focus on the final results and how easily this distracts us from observing and enjoying the journey.” (eFellow 2020)
Aotearoa leads the world with its educational ideas which embed te ao Māori and are internationally recognised for using dispositional frameworks in curriculum design and assessment that put the learner at the centre.
“Whānau type relationships that demonstrate we care for our learners and have high expectations for their learning – [things like] understanding whakapapa and knowing who our learners are; their cultural experiences and prior knowledge are foundational to their identity as learners. It’s important to promote a common vision or kaupapa that is focused on the potential of ‘all’ learners to thrive in the education system without compromising who they are.” (eFellow 2020)
The UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 raise questions to inform curriculum design and implementation by asking:
- What is possible?
- What is probable?
- What is desirable?
When we consider these goals and questions in light of our future, we need to think about the type of education provided and the type of education needed. They are not necessarily the same thing. To close, or bridge that gap means thinking about how children and young people learn and how teachers teach: At the heart of this is finding out what learning matters – to the learner, the kaiako, to whānau and to local communities. What brings us together as a society and what supports our identities, languages and cultures?
It starts with a question …
It all starts with a question or a puzzle about learners and/or teaching. There is a short application form and after a selection process, this is followed up with an interview. We look for innovative, courageous ideas – ideas that will make a real difference to learners. Over the years these have been big and small but what they have in common is something new, something fresh, something that makes us look at a familiar process or experience in new ways.
“Why not invest in an assessment process which recognises ‘success’ as the learning process itself? Observing, analysing and responding to children’s interests has transformed the meaning of assessment in my classroom and it is now a constant part of our routine.” (eFellow, 2020)
The idea (or niggle or puzzle) is the most important thing to bring to your application. Our research team works closely with the successful applicants through the design process and ethics application. Once approved, CORE whānau throughout the motu (country) support our eFellows to bring their projects to fruition by wrapping our networks and expertise around them. We do this internally and also using our external, community networks.
“When reflecting on our eFellow hui, the moments I found most valuable were those where I was able to bounce ideas off other people. Where I was heard, where I was able to joke, where I didn’t feel afraid to share my potentially half-baked ideas. What became clear is what works for teachers, works for students. We are a reflection of one another and so are our best learning experiences.” (eFellow, 2020)
The eFellowship is about creating and using knowledge by bringing people together and collaborating to solve problems. That’s how we want to push the boundaries of possibility. We want learning that matters to people and to places, where exciting ideas are made visible and brought to life.
“To the CORE eFellows team – What a year! I am thankful for all of you. Our passionate conversations have reignited my desire to keep going – our rangatahi deserve so much more! To the ākonga who agreed to work alongside me in this process. You have taught me so much. You have been open, giving, vulnerable, honest, hilarious and crazy. This is your work. You have given me a gift of your voices – your stories. I will endeavour to honour that gift.”
Becoming an eFellow
If you are interested in becoming an eFellow you can apply here. The due date for applications has been extended until Sunday 31 January.
This year we’re thrilled to be offering a kaupapa Māori strand of the Dr Vince Ham eFellowship! Educators from Māori medium settings are given the opportunity to explore an aspect of their own localised curriculum through a supported process of rangahau (action research). Apply now >
Office of the Children’s Commissioner. (2018). Education matters to me: Key insights [PDF]. Office of the Children’s Commissioner. Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://www.occ.org.nz/assets/Uploads/OCC-STA-Education-Matters-to-Me-Key-Insights-24Jan2018.pdf
United Nations. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Disability | United Nations Enable. Un.org. Retrieved 18 January 2021, from https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/about-us/sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-and-disability.html