Response to a recent Facebook poll

On Friday we posted a poll on our Facebook page that asked the question of support for the Modern Learning Environment. The response was immense and provided the Council with insight not only on that subject.  

Some people questioned the Council’s place to ask such a question; others wondered why we would choose Facebook as a channel to engage with the profession. Some even wanted the Council to shut the conversation down. We want to respond to those comments and concerns and clarify some things.

In 2015 the Education Council came into being when the Teachers Council was disestablished under the Education Amendment Act. The Teachers Council had mainly regulatory and disciplinary functions, whereas the Education Council has a much broader statutory mandate with greatly increased professional functions, and, as a result, the scope has been substantially widened. Our mandate clearly states that our purpose includes leading public debate on education issues. We are the only professional organisation that represents the whole profession across the sector, which includes Māori-medium and ECE. 

The broader mandate includes commissioning research, sharing best practice and developing programmes to strengthen leadership across the whole sector. To do that well we must have our ‘finger on the pulse’ and not only understand the issues and debates going on in the sector but lead the discussions with the profession so that there is an opportunity to share expertise and build the profession’s collective practice. 

The decision made to ask such a question on Facebook, in hindsight, lacked judgement. And while the number of people who responded was greater than any other poll we have created – nearly 2k – it’s clear we got the method wrong.  The question was never intended as a ‘survey’ to gain a deeper understanding, polls don’t have that ability; the way we consult with the profession is carried out with far more rigour than suggested by the poll. But without doubt, this is a subject that is clearly important to the profession, and we would be doing a disservice to end it here. 

Sometimes getting a sense of the areas where more support or research would be useful can quickly be assessed by snap polls. The tools we are moving towards to better initiate research are coming to the Council with the move to an online platform that will create a safe, robust and professional environment, and even with those tools in place, we will, from time-to-time, continue to use polls when we think it is right. 

We want to know what’s important to the teaching profession, even the controversial subjects because if we don’t ask the questions, we can’t provide the right resources to teachers and leaders. 

Facebook is an effective platform to engage in a somewhat non-formal way, and the question of privacy was raised. Concern for teachers’ privacy and data collection is considered by us, and in no way are we collecting the information gained via social media as a form of storing evidence to use against individuals. All future polls will include a disclaimer to make that obvious. 

Shying away from controversial subjects will not be our space. Our recent Teaching Today podcast episode brought together a panel of experts to discuss the issue of physical restraint in an education setting, which resulted in lots of feedback from teachers and parents with differing views. Modern Learning Environments is also a critical subject that requires more input from the sector, and to keep that going our next podcast episode of Teaching Today will focus on this topic. 

By all means, email us your comments and questions that you would like discussed on the podcast to letstalk@educationcouncil.org.nz and, if you think you would like to contribute in person, volunteer to take part on the podcast panel. 

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