The Google dictionary tells us that education is “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction”. The Google dictionary, it would seem, has a knack for making things that should be fun (adj. amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable), rather boring (adj. not interesting; tedious).
Thankfully, none of the Change Makers at the Whanganui Learning Centre who are part of the Connecting Education and Communities project looked up the definition of education online, preferring instead to redefine education as support, awhi, a space to share, a goal to achieve or a dream to make real. The Change Makers meet regularly every week to look at what’s happening within their own whānau and community and come up with ideas how to change things and make them better.
In September, the Change Makers are connecting their whānau and communities with education through the Whanganui Festival of Learning, which is themed around identity and journeying, and will be headlined with a waka exhibition. The exhibition looks at waka as the vehicles, such as canoes, sailing ships, cars, boats or planes, that have brought families/whānau to Whanganui or to Aotearoa/New Zealand. The goal of the exhibition is to have each whanau share their journeys and in doing so to connect with education, and each other.
Change Makers Bree (second from left) and Emeline (middle, seated) along with (seated from left) Lucas, Mareca and Ulamila. Standing are Gail Imhoff, Jen McDonald and Margie Beautrais. [Photo: Wanganui Midweek]
UPDATE SEPT 2018 700 children and whānau groups contributed their waka to the Festival of Learning. The response to the festival was so great that the waka couldn’t fit into the Whanganui Regional Museum’s temporary premises and a second display had to be created in another venue. Whilst the Festival of Learning has now finished, the museum will continue to offer a programme about waka hourua and emphasising whakapapa to participants.
You can read more about the waka and the Festival of Learning here, and here, or see the Māori television coverage here.
Having the ability and the aptitude to react quickly to changes in community circumstances and demands around education is critical to our CEC projects. For Te Hā o Mātauranga | Learning in Kaikōura, navigating the educational and employment changes after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Kaikoura in November 2016 was essential in ensuring their community had the capacity and capabilities to become part of the rebuild.
For Kaikoura whānau, the earthquake not only destroyed road and rail links, demolished houses, ripped up roads and railways and sent acres of land hurtling into the sea from massive landslides, it also displaced many community members out of work as the fishing, tourism and hospitality industries became temporarily redundant.
In its infancy at the time, CEC project Te Hā o Mātauranga saw the need to quickly support and upskill community members who were struggling to gain employment. They partnered with Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu to provide the He Toki Step Up programme, a short course aimed at helping participants achieve the minimum credentials to access employment opportunities after the quake. Together, the partners recruited 17 participants, who received training in civil construction alongside ‘soft skills’ of career planning, CV writing and interview skills. All participants were able to access driver licensing training and tests. This in itself was a huge task which required significant forward planning, not least of all because the lack of traffic lights made it impossible to sit a test in Kaikoura, and access to towns in which a drivers licence test could be taken was severely restricted by road damage.
Altogether, of the 14 participants who completed the programme, 8 found full time. employment after the short programme, 5 of these in jobs created after the earthquake. A further three participants continued with part time work, and two returned to school.
In the two years since the earthquakes, Te Hā o Mātauranga has continued to offer the community of Kaikoura the mix of practical skills, soft skills and competencies required by the future working environment, alongside the community planning and goal setting needed for communities to flourish, and in doing so play an important role in helping to connect their community with education and learning for the 21st century.
Future jobs will look very different to what they do now. There is expected to be a reduction in the needs for workers to complete routine, manual tasks which will be offset by an increase in the time workers need to spend focusing on people, solving strategic problems and thinking creatively. There will be a lot less management and organisation coordination, and self-employment or portfolio working will become the norm.
By 2030, it is estimated that workers will spend:
30% more time learning on the job
100% more time solving problems
41% more time on critical thinking and judgement
77% more time using science and maths
17% more time using verbal, communication, and interpersonal skills
Teaching and learning will need to change dramatically to respond to this changing environment. The types of teaching and learning that respond to the needs of our future workforce will need to be highly personalised and highly collaborative. It will need to respond to the needs of the learner, not the convenience of the learning institution. It must recognise that learning occurs in a multitude of contexts outside of the school walls and, most importantly, it will need to make the learner a partner in the learning process.
The current focus on learning areas will need to give way to a greater emphasis on competencies such as: participating and contributing, thinking, relating to others, using language, symbols and text, and managing self.
So what’s going to be needed for support our students, whānau and communities to navigate this changing system?
Self management will become a critical skill as students begin to manage their own learning. Whānau and community planning and goal setting will become more important and all whānau will need access to technology as a teaching and learning tool. Guidance and support will need to be strengthened.
Over the next few months we're going to use our blog to look at our CEC initiatives in each of our communities to understand what steps they are taking to support students, whānau and communities to adapt and succeed to this changing environment. Check back to read our case studies and examples of innovative and disruptive community-driven initiatives that connect our communities in Aotearoa with education and learning for the 21st century.
I have written previously about the significant disparity in New Zealand between the achievement of Māori and Pasifika students, who roughly fall 10 to 20 percentage points behind other ethnic groups within the New Zealand education system in reading, writing and mathematics. Despite much effort in recent years, these young people remain seriously disadvantaged in terms of how the school system is preparing them for future success and wellbeing.
Clearly, the education system is currently not working for students who are Māori and/or from low income communities.
The following data gives us an insight into how well the education system works (or doesn’t work) for Maori and for students from low income communities using NCEA level 2 and school retention at age 17 as indicators.
So, what these data tell us is that young people from low income, Maori or Pasifika families are:
less likely to stay at school
less likely to leave with qualifications
more likely to be doing vocational programmes
more likely to have very low levels of achievement in science
There has been little change in the achievement gap between Maori and Pasifika students and students from the rest of the population over the last 30 years despite some overall lift in achievement. For some of our communities this may mean at least two generations of poor education provision. We also know that Māori whānau are less likely to participate in governance.
Under current settings these communities cannot rely on the institutions to meet their educational aspirations. When we look at data like this it's hard not to see where Taika Waititi is coming from when he says New Zealand is "racist as".
The J R McKenzie Trust CEC team were pleased to have the opportunity to attend and facilitate the inaugural Philanthropy New Zealand Network Education Funders Network which took place in Auckland on April 11.
The day provided a great opportunity for conversations around what the future of education could look like in Aotearoa New Zealand. There was a clear willingness from all in the room to identify common interests that may lead to sharing knowledge and resources, which may even lead to collaboration on future projects.
We were delighted to hear from Rob McIntosh on the subject “Future Directions in New Zealand Schooling: The Case for Transformation.” Rob looked at the challenge for our current education system in how best to equip young people to develop the capabilities that allow them to thrive in a transforming world. He argued that the dominant model of teaching and learning which primarily involves the transmission of knowledge is no longer enough to meet either the needs of learners, or of our changing world.
Instead, learning should:
Be highly personalised and highly collaborative.
Respond to the needs of the learner.
Recognise that learning doesn’t just occur at school, it also occurs outside of school in a range of contexts.
Integrate knowledge and competency development to tackle authentic real-world problems that are meaningful to the learner.
Involve project-based learning which focusses on the production of a tangible output.
Recognise the critical role of technology.
How well is this done in our schools at the moment? Perhaps the easiest way to find out is ask a 15 to 17-year-old to tick off the items on that list that currently occur at their school (and if they tick off even one of these please leave a comment as we would love to hear about it!).
There are pockets of innovative learning in New Zealand where some of these things do occur. But the wholesale change that is needed to equip our children and young people for the new work order and the future challenges we face is not happening widely or fast enough. Click here to download a copy of Rob’s presentation.
It’s hard to plan a journey unless you have some idea of where you are going and what route you’re going to take to get there. When your journey involves creating some kind of social change or transformation then a map is imperative (if only to stop you paddling in circles).
Theory of Change is an excellent mapping tool. We use it to help our groups articulate their vision and to plan the pathway of change that’s going to get them there. It’s particularly helpful for us to use the theories of change to build a picture of how each of the funded activities link to our own CEC theory of change.
On the internet are a range of resources that will help you create a theory of change. We’ve also learned a few things whilst developing our theories of change that we thought would be worth sharing:
1.There isn’t a one size fits all model. Early on, we imagined that we would create one template, and fit the different theories of change into that. If only it were that easy. What we found along the way is that as each group is different, so are their theories of change – not only in what they look like but in how different people approach them and the different things they want to pay attention to.
2. If it looks good, chances are it will make it to the wall. The best place for a Theory of Change is the wall – preferably one that lots of people walk past or look at. Being on the wall gives everyone a constant reminder of where it is they’re supposed to be heading and helps keep a tight focus on the vision and outcomes.
3.Sometimes it’s easier to have no process. There are a lot of resources out there to help create a theory of change, but we found the easiest process was to simply ask two questions*, and then to write furiously while they were answered. Once that was done, together we organised the outcomes into time frames and then agreed on what it might look like.
4.Our projects are developmental, and their theories of change might adapt in response to learning and priorities. And we’re OK with that.
Introducing our theories of change
Each of our groups has their own theory of change. Whilst they look different, what they all have in common is a pathway of change from the beginning or initial stages of the project to a 20 year vision.
Overall CEC theory of change Vision: To disrupt disadvantage, leading to a more just and equitable society
The focus of the CEC theory of change is on how our activities and behaviours impact systems-level outcomes by using a series of statements that outline behaviours (“if we”), activities (“by”) and outcomes (“then”). Statements are arranged around six areas of focus that the committee believes make the greatest contribution to the provision of relevant, positive and quality education in communities.
Overall CEC theory of change
Te Hā o Mātauranga, Learning in Kaikōura Vision: Our community having the skills and choices to live the life they want
This theory of change presents the short, medium and long term outcomes as a series of interconnected stepping stones, which are supported by ways of working (‘we will do this by’, ‘this will lead to’) and “how” statements. All this is guided by the vision.
Te Hā o Mātauranga, Learning in Kaikōura theory of change
Ranui Action Project Vision: Reduce disadvantage leading to a more just and equitable society
The Ranui theory of change is separated into four pathways: Cultural identity; relationships and connections; skills and knowledge and contribution. Outcomes for each pathway are organised into time frames (short – medium – long term), and the arrows are used to show how these are interconnected. Incidentally, Ranui chose to adopt the vision of the JR McKenzie Trust as their own vision.
Ranui theory of change
Muaūpoko Tribal Authority Vision: Tamariki and Rangatahi who are well supported and strong in their Muaūpoko identity
This simple theory of change uses an “if, then” series of outcomes to show how each outcome builds on the next. A logic model sits in behind the theory of change which details the inputs, activities, and outputs.
Whanganui Learning Centre Vision is at the centre. A emphasis on ground-up and developmental ways of working is echoed by the flow of the changes (from the outside in). Considers how the project influences outcomes at the individual, local and national levels. Note that this theory of change is still under development as the Learning Centre have taken it back to their community for feedback.
*The two basic questions we use are: 1. Let's imagine that in 20 years time you are sitting on a chair on your front porch looking out over your community, feeling very happy and proud about what you are looking at. What does that look like? What are your the people doing? How are they feeling? 2. What needed to change between now and then to make that happen?
The CEC project is led by a governing committee, who oversee funding and strategic decisions. Recently, the committee has moved from managing risk, to engaging risk. They are not afraid of engaging with ideas and projects that are new, untested and unproven. But their decisions are not made in an information vacuum.
The more time we spend working with CEC, the more we learn, which leads to new ideas about what might work to make change. This evidence is shared with the committee and our groups, to help support and plan for long term activity to support educational success.
In the interests of supporting other communities groups to disrupt disadvantage by strengthening the connections between communities and education, we have compiled some evidence around different ways of working, what is involved, the pros and cons, and likelihood of achieving CEC goals with these activities:
Creating a School Curriculum
Community participation in schools
Fostering social connections for Pasifika
Community revitalisation/community building/community development
Information and communication technology hubs
Computers and devices in homes
A basic table of the evidence we have collected so far is presented below, or you can download a copy of our evidence document (with sources and additional resources) here.
Time and Resource Requirements
Strengths of the approach (evidence)
Challenges of the approach (evidence)
Desired impact for CEC
Creating a school curriculum
Time intensive in development phase (less intensive once complete but on-going improvement and evaluation needed). Need skilled and knowledgeable community members.
Community supports education and learnings reinforced in community settings (Uemura, 1999).
Identifying people within the school system willing to support this approach. Time and resourcing for community knowledge holders to participate.
High, if learning supported in community settings also.
Time intensive Short-term
Useful to build momentum behind an initiative in the initial stages.
Little evidence of effectiveness.
Low, without a broader strategy
Long-term. Intensity ebbs and flows with activity
Increases the visibility of projects within communities, making learning spaces outside traditional school settings more inclusive
Complex and long-term strategy
Promising but little education- specific evidence
Community participation in schools
Long-term. Intensity ebbs and flows with activity.
Schools, families, and communities partnerships can improve school programs and school climate; provide family services and support; increase parents’ skills and leadership; connect families with others in the school and in the community; help teachers with their work.
Resistance amongst teachers, families and communities not willing to get involved, and power imbalances.
Medium but school focused rather than community focussed.
Whānau Ora –Māori
Long-term. Intensity ebbs and flows with activity. Connections to whānau, marae, hapu and iwi. Resources to support local groups.
Social networks provide important opportunities for children’s learning –developing a sense of cultural identity and belonging, feelings of wellbeing.
Fostering social connections for Pasifika
Long-term. Intensity ebbs and flows with activity. Connections to Pasifika community groups and leaders. Resources to support local groups.
When communities work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.
Community revitalisation/ community building/ community development
Need to build coalitions and engage skilled people.
Children need stable lives to learn, schools need to understand children’s living environments.
Complex problems to address e.g. housing; power imbalances between school, families and community; low SES areas often lack resources.
Information and communication technology hubs
High investment in set up Ongoing resourcing to run and maintain the hub (e.g. coordinators salary)
Highly attractive resource especially in low SES communities Fosters a community of learners
Public access facilities are important but their value can be limited to those willing or able to use them and this model should not be an exclusive solution.
Computers and devices in homes
Medium if in partnership with IT companies Coordination, skilled trainers
Access to ICTs in the home appears to provide significant benefits and these benefits increase for children when usage is successfully and overtly linked to school curriculum.
Project sustainability and scalability can be at risk where the only funding options are project based and temporal.
Three dumb questions to ask a 15 year old: 1. Can you please put your phone down for just five minutes? 2. Do you really need to see your friends this weekend? 3. What do you want to do when you leave school?
Of all these questions, the last one is the most problematic. Unlike the first two questions, the third question - what do you want to do when you leave school - is almost impossible for our teens to answer. This is because artificial intelligence (AI) and globalisation are impacting so significantly on jobs that it's almost impossible to predict what the future workforce might look like.
What we do know, thanks mostly to innovative research being conducted by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), is that young people graduating now are likely to work in 17 different jobs – many yet unknown and unknowable - across 5 careers, through a working life of 60 to 70 years.
In May the JR McKenzie Trust and the Ministry of Youth Development partnered to offer a presentation on The New Work Order by Jan Owen from the FYA. Their research shows that a new work order is arriving – fast. The world of work is in a massive transition to an ever more global, technology driven, flexible economy in which whole professions are being altered, new professions are coming into existence, and traditional jobs are being swallowed by automation.
The role of education in preparing our young people to meet the unknowable future is huge. Yet we are, as Ken Robinson says, using an outmoded industrial educational system to prepare our young people for a rapidly changing future.
Projects such as those funded by Connecting Education and Communities have a crucial role in helping communities and their education providers to become more responsive to the educational needs of young people and their whānau. To do this, we support each CEC project to ensure active and authentic participation from the target groups so that activities are responsive to the aspirations of whānau, hapu, iwi. We believe that by doing this communities will be increasingly recognised as important partners in improving education.
What we want to see, ideally, (and with reference again to Ken Robinson) is communities and education providers taking a highly personalised, organic approach that draws on technological and professional resources to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to face the real challenges of the twenty-first century.
There is this inspirational quote that says “be like a duck. Calm on the surface but paddling like the dickens underneath”. I don’t know who first said this – but clearly they didn’t spend much time paddling. It’s tiring. And boring. And it doesn’t matter how calm you look if you’re just paddling in circles.
Projects that focus too tightly on their activities are duck projects. There is a lot of busy paddling happening, but the outcomes and the vision often get forgotten about in the busyness of doing. Very little learning or reflection happens; these too are lost in the busyness of having to keep yourself above water.
It’s very easy to fall into duck mode when you’re trying to create innovative social change. A far more effective model is the one used by the surfing Gentoo penguins. These surfing birds keep their eye on the horizon so they can see the swell and anticipate the wave set. They look to the shore to know how far they can ride the wave before hitting the sand or the reef below. And then when a wave comes that looks promising, then and only then, do they paddle like heck.
These penguins use what we like to call a tight-loose-tight approach. A ‘tight loose tight’ project is one where there is a tight focus on the project vision, a loose focus on the way the goals might be achieved (the activities), and a tight focus on outcomes. This approach is visualised below:
Surfing - more fun than paddling
This approach uses a learning culture in which insights and feedback are discussed and there is an openness to adjusting the prototype, trying new ways of working and failing fast. Innovation is held lightly and these important questions are asked constantly:
Check: In what ways have the activities we have undertaken helped us towards achieving our vision? What differences have we made? And for whom? How do we know?
Reflect: What’s working? What looks promising? What’s not working?
Adapt: To achieve our outcomes, what do we need to do more of? Less of? Differently?
Activities that aren’t working towards the vision or to support intended outcomes are therefore changed, adapted or let go entirely as there is no point spending time and energy on paddling just for the sake of paddling. Take a bit of time to think about your social innovation project and activities. Are you paddling crazily like a duck, or surfing like a penguin? If you find yourself quacking under the pressure, it might be time to think about doing things a bit differently.
CEC is sometimes a bit tricky to describe. It has a name (Connecting Education and Communities), so that’s helpful. It has several agreed aims, principles and values. That's helpful too. But if we are ever actually asked the question “so what does CEC actually look like,” we hesitate.
Because it looks so different in each community. And as each community is developing and changing their project all the time, it makes it hard to pin down a description of what’s happening that lasts for longer than a couple of months.
As a project team, we’ve learned to be comfortable with this diverse and ever-changing reality. But we also have a committee that we report to, who need good information to help make decisions. We have a theory of change and an evaluation framework, which needs good information to help us understand what difference we are making. We have other stakeholders, including our groups, who like to know what’s going on.
The thing is - we don't want to overburden our groups with reporting. We fund them to create connections, to innovate, to collaborate, to reflect, to make a difference and understand what differences they are making, and for whom. We'd really rather they didn't spend their time writing reports for us on how they are doing this. However we also need to make sure that our groups are on track and that things are going OK for them.
So we started looking for a solution. We needed to find a way for our groups to 'report', without reporting. We wanted it to be visual, to allow creativity and allow multiple people to view, and use. We needed different levels of access permission so that our groups could confidently share what's working, as well as what isn't. It also needed to be super easy to use. Most importantly it needed to be free.
After some time spent looking, and testing, we settled on Trello.
One of our Trello boards
Trello is a collaboration tool that gives us a visual overview of what’s happening across all our projects. Each of our funded projects has a series of boards that they can update regularly. These boards not only enable us, and our committee, to see what’s happening, they also offer each group a way to tell their stories of change and track their projects over time.
Purists use Trello to project manage, but we find it equally useful as as an evaluation and reflection tool. We don’t have lists of things to do. Instead, we use it to share what we’re learning, to celebrate our successes, and show others what we are up to.
Most importantly, it's allowed us to track and visualise multiple projects. If you are looking for a tracking, reflection and evaluation tool for multiple projects then we would recommend considering Trello as an option.