No items found.

Project Disruption

January 12, 2022
By
Daniel Kujawski
Kellie Gibson
Naomi West
Trudi Bennett

Project Disruption

Creatives Practitioner Names: Trudi Bennett, Naomi West

Creative Practices: Nature Connection; Writer/Journalist

School: Campbell Primary School

Teachers’ Names: Daniel Kujawski, Kellie Gibson

Year Group: 6

Main Curriculum Focus:  

Digital Technologies / Digital Implementation

Focus on collaboration

Context

Campbell Primary is a high achieving school. 55% of the student population come from non-English speaking backgrounds.

During the first term of the Creative Schools Project at Campbell Primary School, the Year 6 teachers had a revelation. Teachers Daniel and Kellie had thought that their class were good at collaborating as they could sit in groups and complete set work together. However, it came to light that when asked to give and receive feedback within a group the students took things personally, found it hard to let go of ideas, struggled to make their voice heard and even logistically did not know how to sit and listen to each other. We decided that this was a critical part of being a creative and critical thinker and should be one focus of our second term’s project.

When collaboration happens effectively, ideas can grow, jobs can be shared, and depth can be added to a project. This was demonstrated in our Creative Practitioner and Teacher collaboration. At Campbell Primary School, there is a culture of collaboration between teaching teams particularly within a year level, where planning and team teaching through the joining of two or more classes happen on a regular basis. For this Creative Schools year, two teachers and two creatives worked together on the one project with a combined class of students.

We used this to our advantage in the creation of this Term 3 project - we were able to grow and enhance an idea together. The teachers suggested that they would like to cover the Digital Technologies part of the curriculum and integrate it with Speaking and Listening - they presented the idea of recording a documentary through iMovie.

Our role as Creative Practitioners was to come in with a different angle to integrate the 5 Habits of Learning and High Functioning Classroom elements. We heard from the students that they enjoyed playing the warm-up games and building things the most the previous terms. In our small group of 4 adults we made connections and played with the possibilities: the idea emerged of creating games and then recording instructional videos using iMovie in order to link with the students’ interests. We also came up with the possibility of teaching Digital Technologies to a deeper level through teaching the coding logic of branching. Rather than using technology to teach branching and the language, we decided to do this in an unplugged way, through the games. Combining ideas from multiple people created an excitement within the team for the project.

In the initial stages of the project, we presented the warm-up games to the students through branching diagrams and ‘if’ and ‘then’ language. The students were also challenged to represent games they knew or that we played into branching diagrams. We created choose-your-own-adventure story stimuli for students to randomly pick and create different layers and directions for their story. The students were then challenged to brainstorm different stimuli and invent their own unique game, all recorded in the branching diagram format.

The warm-up games were also used to highlight different Creative Habits of Learning. We particularly focused on collaboration and using communication to work together to achieve a task or to keep minds focused and engaged - games included Look Up, Look Down, Clap Slap Stomp and Blanket Ball. Students were then readied for the main session and able to re-engage with collaborative action.

Working together was singled out by students as one of their favourite aspects of Creative Schools sessions: “It gives us a chance to socialise and cooperate with others,” wrote one student. “We learn to… do stuff together in groups, working together, getting through difficulties,” another student noted.

The students’ journey as collaborators needed to begin with some simple logistics. In the group work tackled in Term 2, we found ourselves often prompting groups to change how they were seated so that all students could contribute and hear one another. With the desks set up in rows, too often students would sit side by side and inevitably one or more individuals would be peripheral to the group. During the Term 3 project, we asked students to think more carefully about how they set up physically as a group. Soon students were able to suggest arranging themselves in a circle to give their group the best chance of working effectively, and they began to set themselves up well for discussions/work. We observed all students being more involved in the tasks as a result.

Getting into groups was testing for students - and often for the adults in the room too, having to broker solutions. We experimented with several different ways of forming groups: totally random, teacher-led, teacher-led with some engineering of groups, student-led, student-led with scaffolding. The student-led methods often

resulted in groups made up of friends, but over time a number of students remarked how they appreciated the chance to work with students they knew less well or didn’t usually work with. One written reflection read: “[Creative Schools] makes me talk to other people more that I don’t usually talk to.”

We noticed how getting into groups, especially for short tasks or games, became easier for the students over the weeks of Creative Schools.

In Term 3 we set out to use the spaces available to us more flexibly - we were lucky enough to have access to a third classroom, the “wet area”, outdoor tables and outdoor grassed space all in or near the block. We allowed groups to select the space they wanted to work in, and some groups moved between spaces (playing with possibilities outside, planning inside). Having this spread-out workshop set-up supported positive collaborations which may not have emerged within more formally arranged and packed classrooms. Students could naturally shape how they worked, rather than responding to the constraints of furniture arrangement in the classrooms. We noticed this independence grew over the term: groups were able to engage with tasks more quickly, asked fewer questions of their teachers and Creative Practitioners. They were able to find the answers among themselves.

We saw this strength when it came to using iMovie software to create their videos. We as teachers and Creative Practitioners provided no specific guidance on how to use it - among the students they had some experience and effectively shared it with one another. They had the autonomy to develop their own approach. Those groups who shot and edited footage as they worked rather than in two stages proved very efficient in how they used their time.

Working collaboratively always presents challenges - for example, the personalities in one group made it difficult for the others to keep everyone on task. It was interesting watching a quieter member of that group become increasingly assertive to ensure they could continue making progress. The persistence, positive-thinking, and diplomacy of two members of that group helped them produce an engaging video to share which was well received by the other Year 6 students. It was great that those students were able to experience this outcome. It was important for adults to notice and encourage this persistence along the way, to recognise achievements which may not be obvious in their product.

During the game design process, we asked students to give and receive feedback to other groups, so they could use this to craft and improve their ideas. This had been identified as an area for development: at first we just prompted them to give feedback to one another, but we observed that the comments and the way they were received were not constructive (e.g. “You should change your theme. I don’t like

Manga.”) In the following session, we modelled giving and receiving feedback constructively, and then gave a clear scaffolded format with each member of the group noting down and then offering their comments in turn. This was much more helpful, and we overheard specific and thoughtful comments being expressed.

It would be great to get students to practice using this format on a number of occasions, so this habit becomes their approach to feedback.

With more sessions, we would have practised even more ways of cooperating effectively. We allowed the students to organise themselves and divide up tasks however they saw fit, but it would be powerful to ask the students to look at their different strengths in how they worked together, to see if they could take on different roles. We could look at Belbin’s team roles and appreciate the usefulness of a range of personalities and talents. It could also be powerful to examine how conflict can arise, and role play situations to help handle it.

The experience of a large collaboration like this was not always an easy road. For the Creative Practitioners it was a lot harder to get to know the students in a group double the size, and they struggled to learn and remember names of all the students and to build relationships that could give specific support to individual students. The sessions often felt like they were working with one big ecosystem of a classroom rather than with a group of individuals.

The planning sessions between teachers and creatives were also more intense and required efficient and focused conversation to allow everyone’s feedback and ideas to be heard in the same small amount of time. The benefit of planning in a larger group was that the Creative/Teacher relationship was not limited to the personal connection between two people but felt like being part of a larger team where the teachers could support each other, and the creatives could support each other within that group and also inside conversations outside of the formal reflection meetings.

The teachers reflected that having two of them on the same team meant that they could feel more confident in venturing into the uncertainty of the program, especially at the beginning. The two teachers were able to check-in with each other regarding suggestions from the creatives, checking that it would be appropriate for their classes and the school and if they felt like it could work. It meant they could be more creatively brave in accepting and trying new ideas.

Overall, the collaboration as a larger teaching/creative team has been beneficial in being able to combine more ideas and grow a project to be a point of difference within a very structured school. The team had a great dynamic, was open, adaptable, and open to taking risks. To make this work, the team needed to be incredibly efficient, honouring each other’s time and sticking to the 30 minutes the teachers were given as DOTT time immediately after the session.

All the team was familiar with the Google Drive system and used it to upload photos, keep track of the plan for the week and contribute to joint documentation. The Creative Schools coordinator also was invited to the Google Drive folder as used it to assist with editing and approvals. The way that the projects were set up also meant that the team could work together without too much planning time and sharing the workload.

The creatives supported the teachers through this project at the beginning, through outlining the steps of the session and equipment required, but this support was needed less and less along the way as the team got used to working together. The teachers also took on more of the facilitating and reflecting within the sessions throughout the projects.

Being part of this collaboration as Creative Practitioners and seeing the students to develop this powerful habit themselves has been a brilliant experience. Learning together is hard fun.

“Creative Schools is about helping us to develop the five habits of learning that help you in life. For example, it's not just about working side by side, but it's also about learning how to give and receive feedback. That is real collaboration.” - Student
“We have a very short attention span and Creative Schools helps us, because it is never boring. You can learn more this way. When you are learning in creative ways, you are more engaged and then you want to learn more. There is no right or wrong answer. It's more about developing our own ideas and our own thoughts. Sometimes you don't even realise that you are learning.” - Student
“Creative Schools is about your own way of thinking, and not just the teacher’s way of thinking. We are learning to be independent instead of just relying on the teacher’s ideas.” - Student

“It has been really good. From the beginning, it has given us so many ideas. I've learned that giving students a stimulus really works. They've been really getting better at being creative. When they now go away to write, we don't have kids saying: “I don't have anything or any ideas anymore.” I'm using these techniques in writing too. We are even doing writing outside, using something from nature as a stimulus for writing. It doesn't have to be a big project. We can include little creative techniques in everyday teaching. I now realize it is easy to embed little creative and critical thinking moments in my planning. It is now part of my pedagogical toolkit.

The creative habits chart has been really good. Just using the language of creative learning has been really good for the students. Their resiliency in developing their own ideas has developed and opportunities for students to demonstrate their ideas confidently has increased.  I have sometimes been surprised to find the quiet students step up. Sometimes the very able students have found that challenging. That has been good for them.

"We do a lot of collaboration. We looked at the creativity wheel, and we realised they weren’t really collaborating, they were just working side by side. Developing these habits of working, learning, and thinking are very important, particularly for some of the very academic students. The creative habits wheel has really helped them reflect on that.” - Kellie Gibson – Teacher
“It has been hard to step back and let go. The school is very structured. It's been hard to not give them the answer, but the children are now more willing to go for different options. The fear of failure has definitely reduced for the students. Even with every day's explicit teaching, they are now more willing to put up their hands and contribute.” - Daniel Kujawski – Teacher
“The school is really committed to keep creative learning going. They have invited the creative practitioners to join the school board; Naomi will be joining. Both pairs of teachers and creatives ran after school professional development sessions for other teachers. There will also be a whole school professional development session on creative teaching and learning in January. One of the biggest learning curves for us has been how to be super-efficient with time. We have been focusing on developing self-management and self-organisation skills. This has been a big focus for this class. There is still room for growth, but they are definitely getting better at turn taking and contributing and managing themselves." - Creative Schools Co-ordinator
"My challenge this year is balancing the intentional teaching of creativity with authentic opportunities for students to take agency.” - Trudi Bennett – Creative Practitioner