Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


The Routines

Well, I have finally made filming my lessons a routine that students accept and expect. I have class blogs that students expect to either have to update or expect to see updated by others, especially if they are absent. I have one homework task set on Moodle each week which students know they have to complete, and they expect some quality feedback if they meet the deadline.

Senior students know they are expected to do work/research outside the classroom and come to class with a plan of which learning experiences and what content/skills they will be focusing on after I teach a new concept/skill at the start of the lesson.

My Year 9 class do not have the same routines for independent learning...yet. I tried this and it was an overwhelming failure. This class do still have my teaching filmed and I do a blog post during the lesson while they do their work.

If I am "off my game", we don't film my teaching and we embed something from Khan Academy, for example. Or I might film me teaching the concept/skill at a later date, then upload this to the blog.

The Outcomes

I have noticed a negligible change in my workload. If anything, I can manage my marking and student feedback better. The quality of students' homework responses tend to show gradual improvement. Students are reviewing the videos and blog posts and able to ask for more targeted help/guidance in class or via email. 

Students are actually managing the pace of their own learning more independently and seem to be more confident of the course content and skills than what I had noticed in the past when i just set the pace and they had to do the tasks I set them in one lesson.

Time management in the classroom has become less of an issue...apart from those students who are so absorbed in their own work that they are mid-task when the bell rings. Time management outside the classroom is good but I do need to check up on and check in with students regularly to make sure they are not falling behind.

Added to this, I am able to run tuition for Olympiad Chemistry every week, while only having a face-to-face tutorial or laboratory once every three weeks. Students can opt in or opt out of the online work depending on their respective workloads. They are actually looking forward to 7:15am tutorials/labs!!

Where Next?

My Year 9 class have just done independent research work, and it looks like this could be the first stage in moving them from teacher-directed lessons to student-directed learning. I need to grab this opportunity and plan some meaningful inquiries/projects which I could align with the remaining units of work.

I need to find more variety in my student-based tasks for all of my classes. Too many students resort to working through the book in class and wait for me to provide the experiments, rather than seeking out learning experiences they want to do. This is my responsibility, not theirs.

Basically, I am happy with the routines I have established as they allow students to work at their own pace, doing the types of tasks they feel most comfortable with. Students are using class time to collaborate and use me as a mentor which was one of my primary goals. What I have set up does not impact on my workload dramatically, and it will have even less impact once I have all of my classes set up properly on Moodle - they will just need refining year-to-year rather than starting afresh like this year. I just need to build on this good foundation to get some really amazing things happening with my students, both inside and outside the classroom.

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