“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created”Albert Einstein
Education is a wide and diverse area with multiple purposes that often seem to compete with one other for attention. I have worked in Education for over 20 years across 5 continents in roles including classroom teacher, faculty head, postgraduate lecturer and education consultant. I was also the first Education Director and member of the foundation team that established The Mind Lab by Unitec.
Today my work mostly relates to the areas of collaborative knowledge building, curriculum design and school leadership and strategy. In 2016 I set up Education Unleashed as a consultancy that would specialise in these areas. At Education Unleashed we provide advisory services, support innovation and change initiatives, develop educational resources and provide professional development facilitation. I am also a regular keynote speaker at conferences in NZ and internationally. I am an accredited Ministry of Education facilitator which means that government funding can be used to access my services.
My clients include non-profits, government departments, tertiary institutions, schools and the commercial sector.
Collaborative Knowledge Building
In 2014 David Weinberger’s book “Too big to know” was published. The subtitle of this book goes some way in describing the focus of my work in terms of collaboration.
In an age of disinformation and at a time when we are surrounded by challenges that we can only overcome collectively (think climate change and now Covid-19), our educators need new ways to practice. As my friend Ally Bull says, we need our teachers and students to become better at “thinking for themselves whilst thinking with others”.
My work helps teachers develop approaches that allow them to foster the creation of classroom knowledge building communities that focus on enhancing student-student interactions. This involves helping teachers create experiences that invite and value individual ways of thinking, whilst also providing opportunities where students engage deeply and make use of alternative and conflicting perspectives. It is through this interplay between independence and interdependence that classroom communities build a collective understanding of a situation that is always far more comprehensive than that of any individual or small group.
I have worked in this area since 2007 with both online and face-to-face communities. My work in this area has been featured in books, been used to help connect isolated students following a natural disaster, and been recognised with a prestigious education international award. Whilst this work was originally focussed on supporting science and technology education, these same ideas are now applied to learning across many disciplines as diverse as the arts, social sciences, mathematics and literacy.
I have a great deal of experience in developing courses of study suitable for elementary through to postgraduate students. Much of my recent work has been focussed on helping schools develop their own local curriculum, whilst also ensuring that they foster the development of disciplinary thinking in their students. This is a complex task with trade-offs that need to be carefully considered with respect for unintended consequences.
As well as working with interdisciplinary initiatives, I also have deep expertise in the areas of Science, Technology, Digital Technology and student led/ inquiry learning.
School Leadership and Strategy
School leadership is highly complex with a vast array of competing interests such as staff wellbeing, curriculum and pedagogy, qualification and/or assessment and parental & whanau expectations. Despite this complexity, the language of school leadership continues to revolve around gaining “buy-in”, “leading people on a journey” and “creating a shared vision”. Whilst many of these ideas do have value, these approaches are generally at least to a degree, top-down in their nature.
At Education Unleashed we support leadership teams by helping them identify opportunities to augment the environment in which teaching and learning happens. This allows leaders to introduce manageable levels of cognitive dissonance that promotes new thinking and practice. When we talk about environments, we are rarely talking about physical spaces, but instead we refer to the systems around which teaching and learning takes place. This includes processes, structures and events such as timetables, incentives, organisational norms (which are often hidden incentives), celebrations and awards, and a vast amount of other features usually out of mind.
With this work in mind, we help school leaders work smarter by focussing their actions on cultivating local grassroots innovation and change, rather than controlling the implementation of over-generalised approaches developed by other people, for other people.