Hexagonal Curriculum Mapping: It Works!

In schools today there are many conflicting agendas that add pressure to the planning and delivery of a quality curriculum that directly meets required syllabus Outcomes. Consciously and competently developing contemporary learning skills is also at the forefront as educators desire to not only use ‘best’, but also ‘next’ practice strategies to build and enhance these skills in both themselves as learners as well as their students.

Our goal is to use a rigorous strategy that builds capacity and empowers staff the freedom and creativity to develop quality teaching and learning programs, whilst ensuring that learning experiences link directly to mandated syllabus Outcomes. We are also mindful that learning needs to be relevant, organic and purposeful for all learners.

img_1022Through dabbling with the hexagonal thinking tool used previously in our Design Thinking journey, a process has been ideated and prototyped that saw every Stage Syllabus Outcome printed on a hexagon. Teachers come together and collaboratively make natural connections, called ‘Outcome Clusters’. These links are across all Key Learning Areas with literacy underpinning all clusters. The Outcome Clusters are then teased out by our innovative teachers who create inquiry-based units of work that inspire both them as teachers and their children to grow as learners.

The scope of works for each year is mapped on a wall so Outcome Clusters are highly visible and tangible from Early Stage 1 to Stage 3. This visual learning space is called our Bunker Room, where there is a shared language and ownership amongst all staff. There is ongoing critique and a culture of making great learning even better. We are on our third iteration of learning cycles (third year) and there is a one hundred percent buy in from all staff and ongoing conversations highlight that they prefer this model to existing methods of curriculum planning. Ongoing data collection will assist us in further refining our ‘next practice’ prototype.

img_0918You never reach the horizon:

When Creating and Innovating, it is essential to test and critique, refine and reiterate. The concept of Hexagonal Curriculum Mapping is no different. We continually test and refine our prototype by working alongside our teachers who are on the front line to cooperatively understand at a deeper level which elements work really well and those that require further refinement or reiterating.

String Links:

Using string to make physical connections between Outcome Clusters is a viable tool to make physical links. It enables all teachers to see at a glance how Outcome Clusters link with overarching English and Mathematics Outcomes. String links also show how Outcome Clusters feed into new Outcome Clusters for new steps in learning, using prior knowledge and learning. Also enabling the string link to be tangible allows links and outcomes to be fluid and a snapshot in time.

Time Constraints are Good:

Hexagonal Curriculum Mapping is a collaborative process. As creative ideas proliferate, it is easy for Outcome Clusters to grow and the original intent and line of sight become a little hazy. Using constraints are important in order to stay afloat and on track. Encouraging teachers to reorganise their thinking and synthesising into a chronological order ensure that timelines and deadlines are increasingly met. Using weeks as time blocks assist teachers to both plan and facilitate learning accordingly. As there are various lengths to generative topics, teachers have choice in how much time needs to be spent on certain elements of the inquiry process.

 

 

A Brief Introduction…

The Organic Learning Blog will showcase some of the school-based research we are undertaking at St Mel’s Campsie. Whilst our research began in 2015, we have not captured any of our progress until now.

Organic Learning is the synthesis of ideas, practices, risks, innovations and reflections borne out of our inquiry learning journey shared with our critical friends at NoTosh Consultancy. As our students began to engage in Design Thinking, seeds of tension were gradually being uncovered in our perception of learning, in particular the principles of learning.

As our competence in using Design Thinking with students increased, we began to experiment with the same processes for our own learning as teachers. We established a Bunker Room for collaborative planning and critiquing and applied the use of Hexagons to create a visible, tangible year-long curriculum map for each stage of learning (more to come on Hexagonal Curriculum Mapping in a later post).

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The idea of aligning how we work as teachers to how we engage students in learning, made IMG_4863complete sense and encouraged us to explore how we might replicate this for our Leadership Team. With limited resources we created a 3.6m wide learning wall made from black magnet glass that we named The Provocation Space. It is used to capture our thinking, planning, observed tensions and crazy ideas. It is visible and open to critique.

We are aware that these are mere tools and it is what you actually do in the Bunker Room and what you do with the Provocation Space that demonstrate the quality and depth of learning, but for our community it highlights the start of a self-determined learning journey.

The WHY…

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At the heart of a school-wide vision for learning should be the belief that every learner has the capacity to change or influence the world. We reject the view that entry into university, getting a good job or achievement in external exams should be fundamental drivers for learning.

Learning must be driven by need, interest and curiosity, as well as loads of teacher inspiration. As learners gain in proficiency, we believe a concurrent increase in responsibility and capacity for self-determined learning should become the main goal of educators. Not only should this be a goal for student learning, it should be the same for teacher and leadership team learning also.

Schools need to look beyond content, skills and behaviours, which are undeniably critical components, and promote a greater focus on aligning the principles of learning for all learners, regardless of age and experience. The impact on learning across a school is increased significantly, particularly for young learners when they can observe an unambiguous cycle of learning in action for themselves, their teachers and the school’s leaders.

This will challenge schools to redesign structures, processes and learning spaces and create learning experiences that enhance agency, metacognition, emotional intelligence and capacity for self-regulation.