Marshall’s inspirEDnz
Teaching and Learning Philosophy:

It encompasses seven components:


Inquiry based learning,

Next step learning (formative assessment),

Self-directed learners,

Personalised learning approaches,

Inclusive learning environments,

Re-defining the role of the teacher, &



Inquiry learning is a large part of our school culture, much like the majority of other New Zealand primary schools. In an inspirED environment inquiry learning allows students to personalise their learning and understand the importance of curiosity and taking responsibility for learning things that they need to learn. It is

essential for today’s learners to be equipped with tomorrow’s skills, so they don’t just google and recite information but become builders

and creators of new knowledge. As part of the inquiry process, learners are given the opportunity to drive their own inquiries, based

on their individual interests. Children collaborate and work cooperatively on authentic problem-based inquiries focused on issues of the future, such as sustainability and globalisation.

Learning areas are connected, and where possible, related to the ‘big idea’ we are inquiring into.

These concepts often involve relating to others, partnership with parents and people in the community, and groups travelling off-site to

gain experiences, insights and new learnings to aid their inquiries.


Learners in an inspirED environment can articulate their learning clearly, using formal and informal data to provide formative assessment. Assessment focuses on the process not the product, and students know and map their own next steps.

Students can accurately self-report their grades and three-way conferencing becomes a by-product of the children knowing:

Where they are going.

How they are going.

Where to next?

Learning conversations - feeding up, feeding back and feeding forward is a huge part of an inspired learning environment and it

occurs continuously. Learners instigate conference opportunities with the teacher, learn from their peers, seek feedback and ask to be

assessed when they require it. In an inspirED environment, personal reflection and goal setting is a large component and an ongoing process.


In an inspirED environment, the learning is personalised to the needs, abilities and interests of the learners. For instance, if we have a writing group meeting, there might be two or three follow-up activities. One child might need to revise the learning intention, one might need to talk through things with a learning partner through a shared game to practise, and another might be ready to move onto something different altogether. This is all within ability-grouped learners. In addition, there is a balance of just in time and just in case teaching.

Teachers are confident enough to include retrospective planning in some cases, to allow enough elasticity for authentic and personalised learning to occur.


Learners and e-learning are now nearly inseparable. E-learning is about giving children access to digital tools to communicate,

collaborate and create new learning. Adaptive learning is a key component in an inspirED environment, effectively personalising e-

learning. Children just learn using digital technologies as a natural way of doing things. Such ICTs also assist in providing collaborative

and connective opportunities for our increasing global citizens and aid in developing responsible digitally literate citizenship. For  example: Room 1’s twitter, webpage and blogs create a learning


With a culture of high expectation and engaged learners, the focus is less on the device and more on the learning. In an inspirED environment, technology is a natural and authentic tool used in conjunction with a

pedagogy that, I believe, truly enhances learning.


An inspirED environment is a flexible, learning rich environment (space, tool, furniture and materials). Learners have access to adaptive learning anywhere, anytime via google docs, class blogs, and web based activities, creating an inclusive learning environment with much less boundaries to that of traditional classrooms. The environment itself is very organised and doesn’t

placard its walls with finished products, but encourages work-in-progress and displays of the learning processes.

An inspirED environment has minimal distributions to learning and seldom is the whole class interrupted or disturbed by ‘notices’,

which are accessed digitally via our online noticeboard. An inspirED environment is culturally responsive and values the histories and traditions of all its people; upholding the Treaty of Waitangi. Internal doors are removed and we have an inclusive open door policy, figuratively and literally. Children have continuous community engagement that includes whanau, local  stake-holders, community enterprises, local iwi and those of Maori world views.


Self-direction is probably the most defining characteristic of an inspirED environment, as it strikes you when you walk into its environment.

It motivates and encourages curiosity. It also encourages learner agency and self-management skills. I have seen children recapture a love for learning and an internal motivation towards achievement. Children self-

directing their learning helps to support a positive class culture as children concentrate in meaningful contexts and a self-perpetuating culture of high expectations is created. Self-directed learning, without all the other

inspirED components mentioned above, would just be a throw-back to the 80’s, with florescent clothing and must-do can-do ‘learning

contracts’. InspirED Children have a weekly diary and we co-construct the learning activities for the following week. Differentiated group meetings run for Mathematics, Reading and Writing groups just like in most classes. We

also have opt-in meeting, which learners can attend.

The task list consists of a wide variety of activities personalised to the learner’s needs. We complete all planning as a class on a Thursday

afternoon for the following week, and children contribute and participate throughout the process. Since the learners are acutely aware of what makes learning meaningful and what they need to learn, this is a genuine and collaborative process and enables children to reflect on how

they learn. We talk about what we need to practise and these things become tasks. A meeting is discussed in terms of content, who needs to be present and who would make the best teacher. Needless to say, I am definitely not always the teacher.


In an inspirED environment, learning is founded on partnerships (I am a 51% shareholder in decision making). We co-construct lessons and

modules in partnership. The teacher’s role includes providing differentiated and explicit instruction, particularly in core curricula areas, ongoing formative assessment and links across learning areas in meaningful and authentic ways.

One key characteristic in an inspired environment is the teacher is no longer the reservoir of knowledge who would stand at the front of the class. Rather, in an inspirED class, teachers are ‘on-hand’ during the learning process and I am sensitive to children’s signals (prompts) when students require scaffolding or support to recreate connections and equilibriums.

As a teacher, I create opportunities and allow students to reciprocally teach each other

and utilise their learning buddies to seek meaning, redirection or clarification.

Marshall was recently acknowledged, for the success which the inspirED teaching and learning philosophy is having, by Distinction Furniture, New Zealand’s leading flexible learning furniture manufacture. Marshall, along with several Year 5-6 students and staff were taken on a tour around North Island schools, as well as, through the Distinction Furniture factory in East Tamaki, before they were given the opportunity to design and select furniture to go into their innovative learning environment, thanks to the generosity of a $10 000 Distinction Flexible Furniture Grant.


Marshall is passionate, as he reflects on his international teaching experiences from the slums of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to within Juvenile Correction centres in Thailand to here in the beautiful Bay of Plenty. He explains that excellent teaching and learning can occur in any environment “I firmly believe that in the wash up we will see that these ‘other things’ only add to (not replace) those practitioners who have a pedagogy that focusses on equipping and inspiring learners with skills for today, tomorrow and beyond #inspirEDnz”.


#Forward thinking educator, leader, principal and professional growth coach.