Thursday, April 9, 2015

MLE and MLP- a returning fad, or something that could be truly transformative?

I have some real concerns about some of the things I have been reading from teachers struggling in new MLE’s this year.

If nothing else changes except collaborative spaces and collaborative teaching then the end result will not change. You are just repeating the open plan experiments of the 70s and 80s and it will fall over sooner or later.

If you are still taking reading groups and writing groups and math groups in the same way, just on a bigger scale with more teachers and with several classes, then you are just streaming and making more work for everyone, because of the communication and organisation required. You are teaching traditionally in a shared space. You are using a MLE, but not practising MLP.  There is a huge difference. 

If you have not spent time seriously exploring pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy then you are going to fall into the trap of teaching the same way, just on a bigger scale.
Truly interrogating what you currently do requires some serious consideration of what is currently seen and accepted as best practice. Why is it best practice? Who decided? Is it best practice for all groups of learners? Is the numeracy project really meeting your identified student needs? Who says it is best practice? How well does it marry our curriculum? How well does it marry with BES? Is it moving your kids? Is there stages that they just roadblock at and need something different? Same for writing and reading? Where are the authentic links? Are they authentic for the actual kids in front of you? Or are they authentic in an adults head and world? According to what is what we are doing best practice? 

Is what you value being assessed with the same degree of importance attached to it? 
Or is it what you say you value but not what you really value? If we say we value confidence, then are we finding ways to evaluate, assess and report this just as vigorously as we do reading achievements or do we just measure what is easy to measure therefore giving strong messages to our learners about what we really value?

What is your graduate profile, and how are your day to day interactions and practices helping this? What do you do every day with your learners to explicitly move them towards this? Do your kids have true ownership of their learning? Can they evidence learning against your graduate profile? Or do they just know about their reading, writing and maths levels and next learning steps?

I believe one of the keys to MLP is self regulation. Kids practicing self direction are practicing for directing their own lives. Developing self directed learners requires us to design learning in some very different ways. If we are trying to get them to do the same old reading, writing and maths group follow up tasks and just putting them on a “must do, can do” list has our practice really changed that much, and is it going to affect any great different outcome? 

Self direction, coupled with infusing reading, writing and maths into chunks of deep learning- preferably driven by engaging learners in big problems and helping them develop real passions in learning that can take many paths over time is an important key.

This won’t fit into neatly packaged 10 week term overviews, and some of these archaic requirements from schools and leaders need to change from the top to give our teachers license to innovate. 

To truly personalise programmes means being responsive to individuals needs in an ongoing way. And you cant personalise programmes when learners are stuck in set, inflexible groupings. And you cant personalise learning if you are trying to fit it into neat 10 week packaged sets of learning intentions. 

MLE and MLP should not be just the return of another fad of teaching. But it runs the risk of being if there is not serious exploration and interrogation of pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy. And it will be unless schools change what it is they value assessing.

And this requires courage. Because the system will always be slower to change. So those that change first run the risk of failing the system. But isn't the risk of this better than failing our students? Many of them (even the ones showing so called success) have been failed by the system for a long time. 

Join schools like HPSS in having that courage. Their approach to NCEA needs to be lauded. Ive pondered the purpose of NCEA Level 1 ever since I began working with secondary learners. HPSS have  identified what is important for their learners and put a plan in place to meet that even though this will ruffle feathers and affect their short term “statistics.” Whats more their learners will be truly engaged in learning, rather than counting credits. 

We are doing the same by basing our foundation years on play. This will affect our national standard statistics for the first 2-3 years of school, but every indication we have been able to see tells us we will maintain learners engagement and as they are ready to begin more formal instruction their ‘statistics” will then truly accelerate. But its a long term fix not a short-term one. It’s about building on the natural enthusiasm and engagement in learning our kids come to school with. Not about assessing what kids cant do and then making them do more and more of the same thing in an attempt to improve them. And at the same time often unintentionally completely disengaging them from the learning process.

Isn't truly engaging kids in real learning what we all should be truly passionate about?

If you are not managing to find time to connect with learners in conversations focused on their learning individually on a very regular basis then you are not leveraging the opportunities MLE and MLP can provide. 
It could be you are trying to do everything you used to do in a single cell classroom on a big basis and that is not MLP or the purpose of working in a MLE. 

Start some conversations with your colleagues as to why you are using your current practices? And dig deep. Keep asking why


  1. "Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." Steve Jobs.

  2. Your last sentence is the crux of it all. Why are we using MLEs and MLPs? Once you have the answer to that it is easy to make the changes required.
    Nice blog!

  3. This certainly makes me question nearly everything we are currently doing in our MLE. A great read for people on a MLE/MLP journey.

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  5. Well done Karyn - I agree with you whole heartedly. First we saw the online questions about devices: "We 've just bought so many blahs; what is the best way to use them?" This has been overtaken with the MLE (sic) questions about how best to use their big space. It is saddening!

    1. Jumping on the 'band wagon' without a truly defined vision is such a real danger that could possibly stall development in schools across the country. Interesting times indeed! Keeping with the 'wagon' theme, we can't afford to put the cart before the horse!! Keep the dialogue going.