About Pisa

I attended theEdTech4E (Education Technology for Export) conference in Wellinton on the 12th April. At this conference mention was made of the Pisa study which I had not heard of.
Although this is more to do with secondary school education none the less it sparked my interest and I found this talk by Andreas Schleicher very interesting. One of the points he makes about class size not necessarily being important sparked my interest as this was proposed recently in NZ and squarely rejected by the population. I have to say I was one of those opposed. Our government should have done a better job of explaining what it was they wanted to achieve through this and where these ideas had originated. had they done this they may have experienced less resistance to the idea. I can now see the rationale for this but still wonder if there is some cultural component to class size. Although larger classes work in some parts of the world does that mean they would work here? I agree that a great teacher who is aware of good teaching practice and is able to use up to date and relevant tools to support learning should be able to overcome many of these issues.

Anyway here is a link to the TED talk from Andreas. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this in the comments below
Use of Data to Build Better Schools


It is a connected world: Implications for flexible learning in tertiary education.

I am very much enjoying thinking, learning and reflecting on learning as I progress through the Graduate certificate in tertiary learning and teaching through Otago Polytechnic, Particularly the design for flexible learning practice course. I am investigating so many new ideas, theories and knowledge about how we learn and how the process of learning is being influenced and changed by communication technology.

Yesterday I attended a meeting at Otago Polytechnic hosted by the art and design department. This brought people who have an interest in digital literacy together from around the institution with an aim of a coordinated approach to developing support for digital literacy. The design school have developed a program which they are using with their students to assist students to develop confidence in the use of communication technology to support their learning. We discussed the importance of blogging as an additional learning tool for students. Most seemed to feel that blogging should not replace other aspects of course work but should provide an opportunity for students to reflect and learn from their own and others reflections. A couple of the participants in this meeting commented that students who were reluctant to write and did not demonstrate a high level of written work seemed motivated and produced high levels of work on blogs.

Today I have been watching and listening to a presentation given by George Siemens last year at the 2007 Online connectivism conference in Manitoba. This is an hour long presentation which presents the case for life long learning and the use of blogs and tools to connect, share and grow knowledge. George talks about the new age of communication and explosion of networks and opportunities this presents for learning and developing new knowldege. The slide share is accompanied by and MP3 sound file which needs to be downloaded from the conference page here

Another interesting related post by Steve Hardigan discusses the changes that are occuring in education and the need for us to adapt and change the way we organise teaching and learning. The world is not the same place it was 10 years ago or even two years ago. Change is inevitable and we need to embrace this. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to consider these ideas as we will shortly be starting to look at how we can support students in the new midwifery curriculum. I am convinced Blogs must have a place in this new program to support our students learning and connectedness. I believe that digital literacy is also and issue for midwifery students who would benefit form a program such as the one which has been developed by the design school. To be able to make the most of these technologies students need guidance and support to gain skill in their use.

I also found John Seely Brown’s web site and this video. (Unfortunately there is no wordpress link so you will need to go to youtube to view.) Again this is about an hour long and I have to say I skipped some pieces of this. None the less it is interesting particularly in relation to open source learning.

Learning contract

One way to support and facilitate flexible learning is for the student and the lecturer to develop a learning contract. As stated in my previous post, adult learners are self motivated, learning best when course structure is individualised to the needs of the learner. Knowles described this type of learning as androgogical learning, where the learner takes responsibility for their own learning and the teacher is a facilitator, providing resources, guidance and support. Knowles developed the idea of learning contracts to support this self directed individualised process (Jarvis, Holford & Griffin, 2003).

where is our contract

When forming a learning contract Knowles recommended the following steps

  • diagnose your learning needs
  • specify your learning objectives
  • specify learning resources and strategies
  • specify evidence of accomplishments
  • specify how the evidence will be validated
  • review your contract with consultants
  • carry out the contract
  • evaluate your learning

(Jarvis et al., 2003, pg 107)

Learning contracts can be developed in partnership between the lecturer and the student. Learning contracts also call on Kolb’s four stage learning cycle. (See also my previous post) . In this instance the student can be provided with a learning objective, they can then observe and reflect on this within the learning contract. The student can then enter stage three of the learning cycle with abstract conceptualisation when they identify applicability to their learning and professional requirements. Stage four would occur when the learning that has occurred to this point is carried forward into practice, and the cycle continues once more.

When considering a flexible option for midwifery education this would seem to form a good basis for learning for students. The partnership that is required between the student and lecturer models the midwife woman partnership that is the basis of the midwifery profession in New Zealand (Stewart, 2004).


Jarvis, P., Holford, J., Griffin, C. (2003). The theory and practice of learning. New York: Routledge.

Stewart, M. (2004). Pregnancy, birth and maternity care. Feminist perspectives. London: Elsevier.

Image: New York Daily, where is our contract. Anthony Topper’s photos at flickr.com