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Collegial Reflective Practice. Unfurling the Koru Within…. Fay Greenslade October 2005. About the Researcher?

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Collegial Reflective Practice

Unfurling the Koru Within…

Fay Greenslade

October 2005

About the Researcher?

Fay Greenslade is a practicing Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB). She is married, is the mother of two and step mother of two. This research is part of her study towards a Masters of Education degree through the University of Auckland. The summaries included in this presentation are not final and represent findings to date. If you are interested in the final analysis of this research (due Dec 2006), please e-mail Fay at: [email protected]

What is this Research About?

The aim of this research is to understand the lived experience of teachers who are using Virtues Project strategies as a collegial reflective practice tool.

The research question is:

What do teachers think and say about their experience?

What is the Virtues Project?

The THE VIRTUES PROJECT™ was founded in 1991 by Linda Kavelin-Popov, Dr. Dan Popov and John Kavelin.

Through researching the diverse sacred traditions of the world, Linda (psychotherapist), Dan (pediatric psychologist) and John (Disney designer) discovered over three hundred and sixty commonly held virtues at the core of these traditions. Irrespective of tradition, the virtues gave the 'how` to achieve meaning and purpose in life. The Family Virtues Guide was originally self-published in 1991. It has subsequently been translated into many languages and is now published by Penguin. The Virtues Project Educator`s Guide was published in 2000 and is the foundation guide for many schools' social skills programmes.

Since its inception, THE VIRTUES PROJECT™ has become a global grass-roots network in over eighty five countries. It functions within a range of communities including churches, indigenous groups, schools, penitentiaries, hospices, corporate businesses, addiction recovery centers and others. During the International Year of the Family (1993), THE VIRTUES PROJECT™ was honoured by the United Nations Secretariat and World Conference of Cities and Corporations as a model programme for families of all cultures.

In New Zealand, THE VIRTUES PROJECT™ was incorporated into the Living Values School Development Project (Lawley, 2003) and is currently used by a number of schools in New Zealand to build healthy cultures of character.

For more information go to:

Virtues are the human qualities in potential from birth…








… are just a few of them!

Personally Meaningful to Researcher

*Desire to contribute…

(Before I kick the bucket!)

*Believe that understanding is the key to unity,

and unity the key to



‘It is behind closed doors of the classroom that

‘… national ideas are shaped, moral traditions are imparted and social relationships set down’

Snook, 2003: 60.

Teachers make THE difference!

(Baker, 2002; Fogherty, 2002; Hattie, 2002; Tuuta et al., 2004)

Because the teacher is pre-eminent in facilitating learning within a school environment, it is the individual teacher’s ability to model and encourage student development of the desired attributes that needs targeting. Because individual teacher behaviour in the classroom either directly encourages or discourages student learning it is the thinking and beliefs underpinning that behaviour that warrants consideration; by the teachers themselves. This is called reflective practice.

Although teacher reflective practice is considered crucial to both teacher professional development and ethical practice, literature indicates teacher reflection time is rarely planned for nor considered worthy of professional development funding.

This is contrary to research which finds when time to reflect is not valued, particularly opportunities for collegial reflection and development of a collaborative culture, teacher capacity is minimized, motivation is eroded and teaching becomes very stressful. In this state teachers risk poor mental health and student learning is significantly compromised.

Why Else…?

Compassion for Teachers’

Journey So Far…


Term 2:Individual interviews: Wk 10 ~

July Holidays: 2 Day Intensive

Term 3 & 4: 9 x fortnightly Virtues reflection meetings ~ 3.30 – 5.30.

Term 3: Individual interviews: Wk 9

Still To Come…

Term 4: Individual interviews: Wk 8

Focus group consultation Wk 10


Term 1: Focus group consultation Wk 4.


What did the teachers’ think about being teachers before we started the reflective practice group using Virtues?

What Participants have thought about Being a Professional

All people acknowledged teaching was considered a profession, though some felt its real status was semi-professional due to the lack ofprofessional autonomy, opportunities for professional development and reducedrespect for teachers as advisors or learned persons within the wider community.

People related professional status to a number of factors: The length of training required and having a degree, the need to abide by a code of ethics, having a high level of influence on and therefore responsibility for the wellbeing of others, the requirement for ongoing learning/ professional development.

When investigating the most beneficial things people had done or were doing for their development as a (professional) teacher, the answers fell into two categories:

Learning from life experiencesand learning from educational mentors, colleagues and students. Both forms of learning were experiential, happened within the participant’s learning environment (contextual), happened in relationship to others over an extended period of time and were personally significant.

When investigating the most important aspect of being a teacher all responded that it was about havingtrustworthy, respectful and caring relationships with their students as a means of encouraging student engagement in positive learning/the curriculum.

Most participants make little distinction between their personal and professional domains. In most cases, professional and personal lives and learning are intertwined. Pedagogical theory is often expressed as personal belief and intuition based on life and school experiences. Most participants have experienced (at some stage) emotional and mental exhaustion from the high relationship demands and constant decision making required in their roles as teachers. Some participants feel teaching detracts from family relationships and vice-versa, family circumstances and accompanying emotions impact on teacher’s ability to generate/maintain virtuous relationships within the classroom.
What Participants Thought about Collaboration and Collegiality

All participants had a shared vision of what a collaborative staff culturecould look like. Over the course of our reflective practice meetings it become apparent that the most common cause for teacher stress within school is collegial/peer relationships that are not collaborative. Concerns about teacher/student relationship or the ‘paper-war’ did not cause undue stress. These problematic peer-relationships seemed characterized by a lack of respectand trust and a feeling that one’s contribution is not listened to or valued. People feel particularly vulnerable when they are tired (end of term, portfolios, reports etc) and during the first two years of teaching.

Perceptions of Efficacy

All participants felt they had the capacity to greatly affect the learning outcomes of the students in their classroom, irrespective of student socio-economic or cultural background and that giving students the tools of clear learning intentions greatly contributed to this. They also considered their relationship with each individual student as the key encouraging factor in that student’s engagement with learning (either positive or negative). In addition, all participants said they were concerned with the holistic development and wellbeing of the child ie: the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental capacities (hauora).


What have we found out so far about the lived experience of teachers who are using Virtues Project strategies as a collegial reflective practice tool?

On a Personal LevelCollegial Reflective Practice using Virtues…
  • Is personally meaningful and beneficial to all aspects of life
  • Creates closer bonds with and understanding of colleagues
  • Strengthens personal resilience and sense of wellbeing
  • Provides a positive language to use in any relationship
  • Provides a safe environment to release work-based hurts
  • & frustrations (cathartic)
  • Challenges old paradigms, habits and thinking in respectful ways
  • Develops new, more positive self-talk patterns
Impact on Professional Practice…..
  • Calls one ‘to account’ through internal agency (integrity)
  • Able to handle stressful situations much better
  • More peaceful and calm internally
  • Greater self-efficacy regarding ‘tricky’ situations
  • Enabled to be part of a shared vision
  • Confident of peer support
  • More compassionate towards others
  • Skills and learning directly transferable to classroom


How Valuable are those Impacts?

This is very cool, guys!

  • Very valuable because:
  • Reconnects teacher to purpose
  • Supports personal theories about teacher role
  • Diminishes threat of ‘burnout’
  • Gives hope and vision
How Useful is Collegial Reflective Practice using Virtues as In-service Professional Development?
  • Because it meets the need for ‘personal meaning’
  • Provides a practical process for professional collaboration and reflective practice
  • Provides a supportive environment to identify ‘gaps’ in own pedagogy and response to students/peers
  • Provides language and understanding to support student/peer/self resilience (good mental health)
  • Utilizes most effective teacher learning contexts
  • Is critical ie: Helps identify and address injustice/inequity and organizational problems within systems

Huge, mate! huge…

Example Format for a Collegial Reflective Practice Session
  • Wisdom reading/karakia to open
  • Check-in round: Achievement of last sessions goals (Non- interrupted. No cross-talking or comparing)
  • Do a Virtues Pick
  • Identify ‘Gut Response’ to word/concept: What emotions & thoughts immediately feel/come to mind?
  • Sharing of that response (If group is larger than 8 make this a paired share)
  • Read definition of Virtue from Virtues Guide
  • Circle share any particular thoughts, questions, understandings or connections to prior knowledge that the definition generates
  • Personal Reflection Time: What ‘comes up’ for me around this virtue in terms of a personal ‘teachable opportunity’
  • Pairs: Companioning about ‘what’s on top’: Follow the guide sheet (the one with the stairway down and then up!!) & offer partner an opportunity to record any goal s/he may set themselves re: the virtue/s they choose to focus on to develop their learning. Record it on their Virtues Card.
  • Don’t forget to honour your partner!
  • Group sharing regarding process
  • Wisdom reading/karakia to close