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Hawke's Bay Tairāwhiti

Part 2 of 5: A series on collaboration

Collaboration in Hawke’s Bay Tairāwhiti

In this first spotlight, two curriculum leads from Hawke’s Bay Tairāwhiti share how weekly sessions to support hybrid learning have led to collaboration through an adaptable and flexible approach designed to promote collaboration.

As you read this spotlight, please notice the importance of providing lots of space for educators to share their experiences. Notice how this can lead to individuals and groups discovering shared needs and then working together to meet them. Collaboration begins with sharing experiences with each other.

Why did you make this change? A little background to the change

Towards the end of last year, the team of Curriculum Leads started planning a response to the COVID-19 Protection Framework to support our schools. The concept of hybrid learning was just beginning to appear on our radar here in New Zealand – it had already been a back-to-school strategy in many countries around the world. We realised that the word hybrid would not be naturally used by whānau or kaiako because it would have some different connotations and connections for them. We looked at the term Ako Momorua and started thinking about what it would be like for schools to have learning happening in multiple spaces.

We also began talking with learning support people at the office about how to support those students and whānau that would need additional support or have high and complex needs. They may end up in a situation where they are in and out of school or don’t have access to the people that support them or the technology or the assistive tech that they may usually have access to. How would you keep them engaged and how would you make sure that the learning is accessible to them? So, it started with some problem solving around those sorts of issues.

Once Omicron began to kick in at the beginning of 2022, we recognized that we were going to need to put some things in place quite soon to provide schools with opportunities to be able to share with each other and learn from each other in this very disrupted time. Our regional director was proactive around seeing the hybrid approach as an opportunity for our schools rather than just a reaction to the current health implications. There was an opportunity to strengthen those practices that worked to engage learners and to see that learners could participate in learning in multiple ways. 

So that was really good for us. That was the kickstart we needed to get going.

What did you do?

We set up a series of weekly Teams’ sessions to explore Ako momorua/hybrid learning. Each week we explored different aspects of hybrid learning. Sometimes, we had 100 people attend and once we only had only two.

We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to get involved. So we:

  • Made it available to the whole region
  • Communicated that involvement was completely voluntary and that they could come to one session and not come to the next
  • We made a decision really early on not to record sessions because we felt that people might be more hesitant to speak up and ask their questions or share if they felt that somebody else might be listening to it or looking at it later without the full background context

Sharing and collaborating: This was a really important focus for the sessions. We made use of breakout rooms which gave people the opportunity to share with each other what they were doing in smaller groups. To start with, people were doing a lot of thinking about the organisation of learning. Which year levels would be at school on which days? It was all very practical. How are we going to run the timetable? At this point it wasn’t so much about the pedagogy that sits behind hybrid learning. 

We advertised a schedule of weekly meetings with links which people just had to click to join the session. Easy! 

As you can see from the slide in the following page, we started off with Derek Wenmoth’s work because he’s been at the forefront of hybrid learning in New Zealand. We ran his session twice and we had over 160 participants. I think we have about 170 schools in our region. So that gives you an idea of the percentage of schools that turned out. One area school had their whole staff come along to it. 

At these sessions, people had an opportunity to learn a bit more about hybrid learning, take it away with them, think about it in relation to their own school contexts and then mould it to fit what was needed within their own schools. So from Derek, we went to Chrissie Butler because we wanted a focus on inclusion. From there we’ve moved into weekly sessions that have been supported by different people to target the needs and interests identified by the group.

Collaboration evolved: One of the most interesting things was that a group of Learning Support Coordinators (LSC) quite spontaneously formed into a group from a Thursday session. This happened because they were interested in having a platform and opportunity to work together. We set up sessions for the remainder of the term to provide this space. It has been amazing to hear them talking and sharing their ideas together. It was something that happened spontaneously, and we certainly hadn’t planned for it to happen. But we will definitely look at taking it forward because the sharing and collaboration has been so powerful.

Supporting collaboration has been intentional. The whole reason we wanted to host the workshops was to provide support but also you know there’s no better way than learning from each other - those who are actually on the ground doing it - and it’s a bit of social and emotional connection for our people.

One of the things about online sessions is that collaboration can spread across geographical boundaries. We had an RTLB from another region attend a session and then take similar ideas around collaborating back to their region.

The power of sharing: Even though we’ve had speakers and people facilitating sessions for us, or we have facilitated them, we’ve always wanted to ensure that space is available for schools to share with each other what they’re doing. Learning Support Co-ordinators, for example, don’t necessarily have the opportunity to collaborate together like the principals might do or like DPs, APs might. They are often the sole LSC in their school. As a result of this opportunity to share, the LSCs have begun to develop resources for whānau to support them in this hybrid space. This group will meet next week to decide what their collaboration is going to look like moving into the future. They are the ones who work directly with whānau a lot and they’ve had the most experience of going out and having those conversations or following up with students who are disengaging. They had experience of that from the first two lockdowns as well. Their sharing together during this time of hybrid learning started with talking about their experiences and learnings from the last two lockdowns.

Capturing the kōrero: A tool that has been really helpful for us to capture the rich kōrero has been Jamboard. Because there’s two of us, one of us gets to facilitate and the other person is madly taking notes about what people are saying on the Jamboard and then we share that back with participants and it provides them with a record of the session. During the session, people can see their ideas coming through and they can refer back to it and they can remind themselves of something that they wanted to mention or build on someone else’s idea, and they know that they can have access to it afterward. So, although we’re not recording, there’s still a record of the ideas that are talked about. Often if you ask people to write on a Jamboard, it never happens, but when someone else records the conversation, it can be really helpful. 

Providing links to resources: Teachers really like resources, so that when people mentioned resources or apps or anything that they were using for hybrid learning, we would find the link and make it available. It might have ended up being in a Google slide pack that we’d share, or we’d put it into the chat so that when they left the session, they had a resource with the links, and then we also emailed them out as well. So they went home with something relevant and useful that would directly support their hybrid learning practice.

What have you learned?

Planning for collaboration in online environments: As well as presenting some opportunities, the online environment presents quite a lot of challenges and we’ve needed to adapt our approaches from face-to-face to online where the interaction is quite different. I think what we’ve learned is that we need to really think about the pedagogy behind having learners in an online space, whether they be adult learners or students. We are by no means near being pros, but we reflect on it each week and think about how we can adapt our sessions to get more conversation and collaboration in an online space. It doesn’t just naturally happen; you have to plan for it to happen. 

Being adaptable and responsive: We have learned that though you might start with a concept and an idea of what the initiative might look like, you have to allow it to evolve by being responsive to what emerges from ongoing sessions. You have to see the opportunities to develop it further and be adaptable. If no one turns up, then it’s a pretty clear signal to you that that may not have hit the mark, and you need to adapt the approach to make sure the support you are offering provides what is needed. We’re also trying to learn from those ones that are attending as well by continuously collecting feedback and reflecting upon each session. So as much as they might be learning something from us about hybrid learning, we are using it as a professional development opportunity by taking the feedback we are gathering and developing what we do going forward – improving our own practice.

Collaboration grows collaboration: We have learned that collaboration grows collaboration. When you provide space for sharing and collaborating and learning from each other, it develops a life of its own, and can spread into other areas. We saw more collaboration between primary and secondary schools, as well as the Learning Support Co-ordinator collaboration mentioned above which even stretched into Auckland. For this to happen, it requires facilitators to hold their vision for the collaboration very lightly, so that it can grow into unexpected areas.

Where to next?

We have several things we are thinking about in terms of hybrid learning:

  • What might whānau support materials look like?
  • How can we work with middle leaders to support them in their role of working with teachers to implement the practice of hybrid learning?
  • Growing the capacity for collaboration to support hybrid learning within Kāhui Ako.