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A few weeks ago I gave a talk at a Human Resources social circle hosted by NZLEAD. When I was first asked me to present at the event I said, "but I don't know anything about HR."

"Exactly," the director replied, "what I want you to do is talk about your experiences in education and let HR professionals make connections in their own context."

So along I went to the event and nervously chit-chatted to people as they filed in the door. My anticipation grew as I started to realise that many of these people were HR managers at major NZ companies - I was feeling a bit stressed as I was the only speaker - I didn't want to disappoint. Soon the time came for me to talk and I discussed the difference between modernisation and transformation and what it looks like in an educational context. Check out my notes here!

Then came the best part - the feedback. There were lots of heads nodding as I discussed how modernisation is often confused for transformation and how 'new' doesn't necessarily mean 'improved.' After my talk the group, of about 20, spent the next 20 minutes asking me questions - and lots of them! The event then broke up into informal conversation amongst smaller groups with conversations about how my experiences in education related to their HR context. It was interesting to listen in and the following are a few of my take-aways:

  • As I was describing the collaborative, creative and self-directed students we are developing for the workforce, many of the HR professionals were saying that, in many cases, companies aren't ready for that - that they are stuck in the 20th Century factory model of doing business - where there are not the resources to support the 'new' employee.
  • HR is using the same ineffective whole-company or one-off professional development model that we as teachers find so ineffective. 
  • Many businesses are way behind the education sector in terms of applying technology to support learning, networking and communication.

I left the event reflecting that it's not just HR professionals who can learn from trends in educational change - but actually we, as teachers and schools, can build much stronger communities and better support our students if we inquire into what's happening in other industries. As an educator I feel blessed to be exploring variety and scope within the profession, however I still feel the insular tone of my learning and think I could benefit from knowing more about the challenges, innovations and opportunities occurring in other sectors .... perhaps we all could.

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Comment by Paul Keown on April 9, 2014 at 11:09
Hi Heather - thanks for this challenging post. Great to see how you and your school are progressing transformation not just modernisation! I thing that as you say things are now happening in education and that business is way behind. I have done some work with NZ businesses, only a few, and I agree with you analysis. I have been inspired over the years by what has happened with overseas business that have adopted the "community of practice model" to they way they operate. However, in looking for examples of genuine transformative COP approaches in major NZ businesses I have come up empty! I certainly think this is a big area of need and as you suggest educators may be the best people to help with this. Maybe we need an educational think and action tank to look at this and to begin a process for getting this underway?
Comment by Diana Ayling on April 1, 2014 at 11:17

Over the last year, I have been working with NZQA and a very talented team of business educators to develop new business qualifications for New Zealand organisations. One of my observations is that there is little real understanding in business of the concepts of performance. Quite often, managers and leaders have a singular focus on financial performance. 

As educators, we know that performance is personal, team based, and organisational. It can involve a range of different factors (key performance indicators), and the data to support the evaluation of these factors can be obtained from a range of sources. In order, for an organisation to succeed, teams and individuals must succeed. People need the training, support and resources to perform at their best. These understandings have been part of the tertiary educator sector for as long as I can remember. I wonder, why is it taking business so long to adopt Senge's (1990) Learning Organisation model? Is is that our managers, and leaders in business need some education around performance and productivity? Is it all too hard? 

Comment by Moana Timoko on March 31, 2014 at 21:05

Kia ora
I've really enjoyed reading through your notes (via the 'notes' link). You've provided some really good explanations and examples of what Personalised Learning is all about. For me this is Whakawhanaungatanga - a process of getting to know your learners, and then knowing your learners. I agree that it is about supporting the holistic development of the learner - taking the time to nurture their holistic being.

This post made me think about the impact you have on students when you actually take the time to show you care. I receive meaningful facebook messages from ex-students, or see some of them on the street now and again - What they tend to mention most is the manaakitanga (hospitality or kindness - the caring) and the hari hari days (happy, happy days) - They don't mention much about what they learnt, the content stuff...but more about the time I took to get to know them - They remember the little extra things like handing over a spare dollar or two whilst ordering my own lunch from the tuckshop, bringing in the odd treats (food) to class, cracking dry jokes now and again, outrageously breaking into song to cheer everyone up...or to at least gain some laughs, reading the signs - knowing when things just aren't right, knowing when a child may just need a little time out, or a little supportive pep talk, speaking up in support of a student - on their behalf if needed...the little things which are probably the REAL BIG things. Knowing when a child is ready to move on, or when they're needing more support. Personalised Learning- getting to know your learners and knowing how they roll. Thanks again for sharing
Ngā mihi ki a koe Heather 

Comment by Hazel Owen on March 12, 2014 at 10:51

A really thought-provoking post, Heather...and thank you sooo much for posting here (appreciated).

What a great experience. Much of what you says resonated with some recent thinking and experiences I've been getting my head around. It is interesting that one of the key things that became apparent was that we are working with students to develop skills...that many companies are not ready for...but that, if we are to survive as a species (planet?) we need to have.

Over the last three years I have working with a group of doctors, who have been supporting the development of a particular professional qualification into a blended approach (it was previously face-to-face/paper-based). Gradually we are seeing more uptake from the learners. Momentum is building, and a champion has emerged from last year's graduates who is now going to lead the way with the further development of the online community of practice (which is awesome on many levels). One thing that struck me during the session a couple of weeks back was that the learners, when asked about the benefits of collaborative, personalised learning, responded enthusiastically...but, when it came down to actually participating in collaborative peer work several barriers were put in place by the learners. I wonder if it's an example of a mismatch between conscious understanding of effective practice, versus a more subconscious 'this is what I am comfortable with, know, and have been successful through the current examination system with'?

The other thing that is heartening and chimes in with your recommendation that education and the commercial sector need to work more closely together, is the following. I am currently working with a tertiary institution, that is developing a blended, flipped model of learning (there are no 'lectures' :-p There are 'eventorials' once a month...big face-to-face events with a pick and mix approach around specific points, skills and topics...as well as face-to-face tutorials - i.e. the learners rock up with specific things that they want to focus on). These approaches are complemented by online, interactive spaces and learning communities, and an ePortfolio that will stay with the student throughout their 3 years of study (same ePortfolio no matter what the topic / specialistation / course they undertake, and which they can export to take with them at the end of the programme.) And - perhaps even more exciting - and very much informed by industry requirements (representatives from across the health sector have been involved from the very beginning) to promote cross-discipline communication four blended courses have been developed as a common semester. The students will move on to study areas as diverse as early childhood education, medical imaging, vet nursing, sport, osteopathy, and nursing!

We're just rolling out at the moment with our first students...and the feedback has been amazing. Lots of concern from students who haven't studied like this before...but also, students are talking to each other across disciplines who wouldn't normally communicate! :-p It will be interesting in 3 years' time, given that the health sector has requested this shift, how ready they are for the new graduates who have worked through this process, and if the learners will not only be aware of the benefits of collaboration, but be ready to lead the way in the organisations in which they work.

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