When Max Woods distilled the core of his presentation about ALARM (A Learning and Response Matrix) for the 200 teachers at the Chifley hotel this week to – this is all about ‘learning how to learn’ and sharing – he certainly won my respect.
Ostensibly the two days of professional development were about improving HSC results, using a matrix that addresses both ‘learning’ and ‘responding’ needs, by scaffolding the teacher’s approach to teaching content, skills and concepts. Perhaps, in some respects, the more important message is to do with how much can be achieved when we focus on collaboration and learning, led and well-supported at a regional level; and by principals. Our Regional Director, when she addressed the conference, was clearly excited and enthusiastic about the potential of ALARM (and I will blog in more detail about the matrix in a later post).
The conference had a Twitter hashtag and an Edmodo group for sharing. I noted School Education Directors supporting these initiatives and ongoing collaboration via video conferencing has been arranged. Loreta Kocovska and her colleagues are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm and excellent organisation. I note that Karran Williamson is also having good success with encouraging colleagues to develop PLNs, something that I have been trying to have colleagues on the South Coast do for some time too.
It is clear that ALARM is a process that will work for learning per se, not just in a HSC or exam based world. It draws upon the best of our pedagogies and has the advantage of not just scaffolding writing but allowing teachers to explore a process that is pedagogically sound and encourages learning how to learn. I particularly enjoyed chatting with James Gordon, an English teacher who presented on ALARM in his classroom. His presentation was very useful (more on that later). Gail Perry’s passion for teaching English was also very evident and appreciated. I hope both will consider presenting at the next NSW English Teachers Association conference.
The principal of Freshwater Campus, Frank Pikardt, certainly appreciated (and spoke highly) of Max ,the work and passion of the other teachers implementing the changed pedagogy and his team at the conference, including Kathleen Fulcher and Hasan Shanal.
What was truly intellectually interesting to reflect on is the construction of the process (matrix) by Max, a very experienced teacher, working with countless students over many years trying to work out how they would finally ’get it’. What would motivate and assist them to learn? What is it that would make the penny drop? His inspiration has clearly motivated colleagues to explore the nature of learning in their classrooms in a much deeper and holistic manner. ALARM will prove very useful but the model of a classroom teacher reflectively so deeply, idealistically and practically is the real model that should be spread far and wide.
In coming weeks I will try to articulate more about ALARM, as my understanding deepens, in an attempt to share what our school endeavours to do to improve learning.
Anyone who attended the conference or has other experiences of ALARM like to comment?