NZ and the new world of education

JANUARY 17, 2017 / Articles


Gordon Poad is an education innovator whose work as a consultant has helped schools including Westmount to evolve.

Gordon has recently joined our global OneSchool network, as Regional Principal for Europe. We are delighted to welcome him onto our team.

Education benchmarkers invariably cite Scandinavia for examples of best practice. Yet New Zealanders like John Hattie, Vivienne Robinson, and Helen Timperley are some of the biggest influencers on the Scandinavian education system.

Is it only a matter of time before the benchmarkers discover New Zealand?

Gordon is well placed to respond to the question. UK-born, he has lived in Denmark in recent years and shared Hattie’s wisdom, along with his own, throughout the Scandinavian school system. As a consultant with Challenging Learning, he has also been immersed in the New Zealand system where he has facilitated workshops on collaborative learning. He is enthusiastic about New Zealand’s place in “the new world” of education.

“In Scandinavia, the sense is we have done it now. I think there is far more of an inclination to root down that expertise. Our challenge there is to move to a more adaptive expertise.

“The new world has an open mindset. Anything is possible. It’s a much more creative mindset and down here in particular, I think teachers are more open to ideas. That is a noticeable difference between here and Europe.”

But a note of caution. He says some ideas pass like a basketball through a drainpipe. Prof Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset is one that needs much more impetus to deliver its potential. “There is so much more thinking to be done around this research, and ensuring that we do have that growth mindset in ourselves and our students.”

Collective teacher efficacy is another area of research that has risen to be the new biggest influence on student achievement. Gordon says it is important for teachers to have a community that can help them.

“It is a global trend in life to believe that we are not good enough, and that we cannot be vulnerable. I think it is important that teachers have a sense of community so if they don’t have a solution, there is somebody else who can help them and if they have knowledge students need, they pass it on.

“When you have a global team like we do in One School, you have a very rich resource to draw on to develop collective teacher efficacy. It can be incredibly impactful.”

The OneSchool ethos is that we are all learning to learn - teachers, students and parents. With this mindset, relational trust develops. With trust, barriers to learning come down, and creativity rises.

Gordon’s previous experience has included the application of theatrical processes to the successful education of disengaged youth in Northern England in the economically desperate 1980s. He has proven how theatre can develop not only soft competencies, but the hard stuff like literacy and numeracy.

It seems to have cemented a flexible position where he sees a need for both structure and spontaneity in the modern classroom. While leaning towards the creative model, he says that without structures including standardised measurement, the result is chaos. He will measure himself, however, by a student’s ability to tell their story of progression, and to understand where they are increasing their curiosity.

Gordon retains a keen interest in the application of theatrical processes to 21st Century learning and to organisational life. In one word, those processes are collaborative. “Talking is one process, but there others like the SWOT analysis, and the brainstorm. We need to understand when is the best time to use these different tools.

“When our learners learn these processes, I think we will have the creatively literate workforce that we need.”

Last here in February to facilitate workshops for Westmount, Gordon will be back in March to speak at the Leading Remarkable Learning conference along with Sugata Mitra, Sir John Jones, Frances Valintine and Mark Osborne.

Go to conference website