Defining my Community of Practise

My composite/rural area school is situated in North Canterbury and has approximately 300 students and roughly 22 teachers plus administration staff/teacher aides. It caters for students from Years 1 to 13 from the township and surrounding rural areas. Teachers make good use of the school’s location to provide students with many varied outdoor education experiences. Eighty percent of students travel by bus.

The school plays a central role in the community as it provides facilities such as the library and a skate park for out-of-school use as well as offering educational opportunities for adult students to further their qualifications alongside senior students. The student roll is affected each year by the movement in and out of the area of families working in the dairy industry which contributes to increasing numbers of students with different cultural backgrounds attending the school.

The statistics behind my school are:

School type: Composite Year 1 to 15

Decile rating: 8 (*1)

School roll: 300

Gender composition: Boys 55%; Girls 45%

Ethnic composition:          New Zealand European/Pākehā 79%;

Māori and Pacific: 12%;

Asian: 3%;

Other: 6%

As a city secondary teacher of 25 years this is my first experience of both an area school and a rural school (an area school is one that combines both primary and secondary students). Unsurprisingly 90% of the roll bus to school so events like earthquakes like the recent 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake or heavy rain or snow tend to effect it more than most.

Teaching staff are divided into two syndicates, Primary and Secondary, and these are overseen by an Assistant Principal and Deputy Principal respectively with overall governance across both accorded by the Principal.

There are regular year-level pastoral or syndicate meetings scheduled almost every Tuesday and Wednesday after school where academic or other needs are addressed. HELA’S (or Head of Learning Area) also meet regularly and have the responsibility of providing support and guidance to the primary as well as secondary area in their subject. This is a new challenge for me in that I have never had the opportunity to introduce Digital Technology pedagogy to the Primary area in my 25-year career to date. I have started off this process by introducing a Virtual Reality (Samsung) headset (that is kept in the AP’s office) and also by gifting a mini-robot each to three primary classes to engage with during the term. This is a new journey for me and I am very interested in how the incoming generation students will be changed by new technologies like this that are available to them.

It worth noting here that the school runs a ‘vertical’ form system where all students from year 7 upwards are mixed together with students from other levels. In my opinion, this makes any pastoral work so much more equitable across the school and also provides more opportunities for regular contact between student leaders and the other students compared to a horizontal system.

There has been an increasingly digital focus across the school and One Drive/Office 365 was introduced as teaching delivery system across the teaching staff and the student’s above year 9.

It is worth noting that ‘SOLO’ is the teaching taxonomy has been introduced across the school (the acronym means Structure of Learning Outcomes).

In SOLO, learning outcomes are classified into five levels of increasing structural complexity – from pre-structural (no idea) to uni-structural (one idea), multi-structural (many loose ideas), relational (related ideas) and extended abstract (extended ideas). The levels represent both an increase in understanding (knowing more, moving from uni-structural to multi-structural outcomes) and a deepening of understanding (moving from multi-structural to relational to extended abstract outcomes) (Biggs 1999, Hook, 2016)

See video: SOLO taxonomy explained using Lego (4 mins)

Beyond that, there is a more general focus on reflective practise across all levels within the school as outlined by Philip Dawson of Monash University  in the following clip:

“Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” (*2)

I would be grateful for any comment regarding any of the above particularly other teacher’s experiences of:

  • Use of Reflective Practise in present or past schools
  • SOLO in present or past schools
  • Vertical forms levels in present or past schools
  • Collaborative learning with a Technology context in present or past schools
  • Any current use of Virtual Reality headsets in present or past schools
  • Any current use of mini-robots in present or past schools


(*1) (for an explanation of decile meaning see: )

(*2) Schön, Donald A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 046506874X. OCLC 8709452.


One thought on “Defining my Community of Practise

  1. Hi Robert
    I think it’s great that the year levels from Year 7 upwards at your school are mixed together. It reflects life – we mix with people of all ages and we learn from others of all ages too.
    With regards to SOLO taxonomy, I have dabbled with it. Currently our school does not use SOLO but I have personally used SOLO with my class at different times. I have used the SOLO rubric, particularly with inquiry learning and with self regulation in the classroom setting. I have found it takes time to unpack the terms with learners and to get them into the habit of using the taxonomy as it should be. Ideally it would be used right across the curriculum. The physical hand signals help kids to remember the technical terms as well. I often use Pam Hook’s hexagons as ways for students to tune into one another’s thinking and find connections amongst themselves or in whatever the learning is about.
    If you want to visit a school who lives and breathes SOLO and is one of the best examples of a school using SOLO that I’ve seen, go and visit Waimari School in Christchurch. They do tours on a Wednesday morning. Very worthwhile.
    Thanks for sharing your blog post.


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