Day 6: A day for reflection

Although we only spent a small amount of time in hubs, today has still been another excellent day.  We have discussed our experiences and learning with Sarah, and have been able to chat to Shaun from Cognition about the Visible Learning journey.

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The key learning from today has been unpicking the interaction between what works and why it works.  My current conceptualisation of Stonefields is that they have a culture, and a way of working, which enables them to ‘think big’ and ‘be brave’.  It seems that the success of Stonefields is no accident, and reflecting on this with Sarah, it was really interesting to hear that every practice, down to whether bells should be rung, was considered using the lens of does this fit with our vision.  Connecting this with what Shaun discussed with us about having systems in place to enact change, it really did emphasise the importance of creating and nurturing the conditions which enable success.

This led on to discussion about team effectiveness, and Sarah showed us her thinking about what effective team practice constitutes.  Linked very much to self-awareness and understanding the place of ‘I’ within the ‘we’, her thinking demonstrates the importance of collaboration to the Stonefields model.  Perhaps more fundamentally, it relates back to Hattie’s teacher mindframes and the Stonefields mindsets and values.

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Stonefields is a hugely positive learning environment.  Its culture permeates through the school – the openness/transparency of the leadership hub, watching the synergy of teams in hubs, and children in the staffroom.  Sarah explicitly mentioned how from the start they have wanted to avoid an ‘us and them’ sentiment/culture developing between staff and the leadership team. This, and other elements of the culture, is not left to chance.  There are certain practices and ways of thinking, which Stonefields embeds, that create and strengthen it.  Every morning, all staff come together between 11:00 and 11:20 for Morning Tea.  This is an obligation, and Sarah uses this time to pass on messages and motivation.  Having this daily interaction means that staff can catch up with each other, and any small issues can be addressed before they become bigger (and enculturate as Sarah puts it). It is the only point in the day when all staff see each other, and the feeling of team when sitting in there is absolutely great. (I will be posting shortly on some more contextual, structural elements of Stonefields’ practice.)

Reflecting on this with Shaun, he spoke about how the structural elements for success are so important to the Visible Learning cause.  Sarah has also mentioned several times, Julia Atkin‘s model of practice and how it is a lens through which to review practice against the school’s vision (see picture below).

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It seems that the school vision is the why, the Visible Learning principles are the how and then school practices are the what.  The principles are considered with the vision in mind, and the practices are considered with both the principles and vision in mind.  I’m not sure if my mental model is entirely accurate here, but it represents the different frameworks operating throughout the school, which have made it quite challenging to really gain an understanding of exactly how and why Stonefields operates as it does.

It is, however, clear that the time taken to think, develop and reflect on practices is so valued at Stonefields.  They are always evaluating practice, but also at a meta level of how the evaluation impacts the practice of the school.  For example, Sarah questioned whether the constituent parts of their entity might become too much, or how often values or frameworks should be updated without having a negative impact (too much change etc).  Looking through the ‘thinking books’, one can see how Stonefields concepts have developed from many ideas being synergised, developed, reflected upon and adapted.  It does make thinking a long process, but because of the quality of thought, the effect of the frameworks is able to be rapid and boost the school towards its strategic goals.


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