Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A conversation on motivation between educators


There is great book on motivation, "Drive" written by Daniel Pink that everyone should read.  ----- nailed it with, 
"those of you in --------- this summer will remember talking about motivating staff members. I believe the group came to the conclusion that you cannot motivate someone to do something."  
After reading, "Drive" and being in the educational profession for almost ten years I believe we cannot motivate all people.  People are either extrinsically motivated or intrinsically motivated.  You may be able to inspire to motivate some staff.  Other staff will see right through the smoke and mirrors and go back to doing what they have always done.  Pink, writes further about motivation, for people to be motivated they must be given autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy: How often do we actually give people the freedom to do their job?  In education autonomy is rarely given from policy makers let alone individual schools.  Here is an example from “Drive.”
“You must paint this sort of picture. You must begin precisely at eight-thirty A.M. You must paint with the people we select to work with you. Andy you must paint this way.”
Mastery: How do we change compliance to engagement? --------, talks about how he has some teachers that “clock in and clock out” and do very little extra.  They are compliant.  “Mastery is an asymptote.” I am preaching to the choir here, but we are all here to reach mastery.  We are an asymptote, we are always seeking to reach that line, but we can never get close enough.  Mastery is pain, Mastery is a mindset.  How do we instill this into our staff?

Purpose: We all have purpose as to why we went into education.  What is yours?  How do we grow that purpose into our staff?  This is the challenge!   Without purpose we are nothing, we come every day and collect a check. 

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose motivates people, not individuals. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rethinking Homework and Grading

I am going to take a risk and offer a class to our teachers at my school.  The University of North Dakota allows qualified individuals to offer continuing education credits.  The district  will purchase the books and pay for the credit cost as well.  It is my sneaky way to get a small pocket of people to begin challenging their homework and grading practices.  Hopefully it will spread from there.  Below is an example of what the course will look like.  I hope to embed blogging and Twitter chats for opportunities for reflection.  It is a win win in my opinion.

My objective:

This learning event will provide focused professional development for individuals in our school.  This will be by volunteer only.  We will read “RethinkingHomework,” by Cathy Vatterrott and “Elements of Grading” by Doug Reeves.  The participants will blog and reflect on what they have read and how it challenges their thinking as well as how this will this change what they do.  This will be offered over the course of a school year with the intent of completing all required hours during that time.  The two books that we will read, discuss and write about are fairly radical and will really challenge each participant’s philosophy in terms of grading and homework.   

Example Session #1

Start Time

Rethinking Homework - Discussion

Mike McNeff

7:00AM – 8:00AM

Discussion of Chapters 1-2

Masters – EDL
Ed.D Cohort

1 Hour

1 hour

Twitter discussion related to topic

Masters – EDL
Ed.D Cohort

1 Hour

1 hour

Blogging: reflection on Chapter 1-2

Masters – EDL
Ed.D Cohort

1 Hour

I plan to write about the process when approved by UND.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Less is more

In the majority of schools in the United States the amount of time a student spends in a seat is the single most important item when receiving credit.  For over 100 years the Carnegie Unit continues to drive our nations schools.  As I was reading, Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?  I came across an interesting segment on seat time comparisons to other countries.  The United States leads the way in the amount of instructional hours we require of students.  Here are some actual numbers from the book.
"Finland teaches about 600 hours annually compared to the United States' 1,080 hours." - Pasi Sahlberg
US policy makers have typically increased the hours of instruction as their fix to the problems that exist.  It begs the question, does seat time really matter?  Based on this study and comparisons to high performing countries like Finland seat time does not matter.  Finland greatly outperforms the United States with half of the amount of instructional hours.  
"There appears to be very little correlation between intended instruction hours in public education and resulting students performance, as assessed by the PISA study." - Pasi Sahlberg 
I have been thinking a lot about how we can embed more collaborative time within the school day K-12.  It makes it very difficult to embed school improvement processes when it is all about seat time and the length of the day.  When will policy makers realize that it is not about the amount of hours or minutes that make up the day? It is the quality of the instruction given to students.  This in my opinion cannot be accomplished without flexible scheduling by schools.  
"Lower teaching hours provide teachers more opportunities to engage in school improvement, curriculum planning, and personal professional development during their working hours." - Pasi Sahlberg 

It's about QUALITY not QUANTITY.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Video doesn't lie

As a former coach we used video as a tool to improve the talent of our players.  During my playing days in college we used video to evaluate our footwork and blocking schemes.  I remember these sessions were very important to my personal development as a football player.  Video evaluation was even more important to our team.  I am currently reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner.  Wagner makes his point that video could be the best way to improve teacher instruction.
"We never actually look at and talk about teaching together.  And if we want to improve instruction, the first thing we need to do is make the classroom walls transparent."
How often do we actually look at and talk about teaching together?  
"We have to videotape ourselves and one another - not just in the classrooms but in our coaching sessions with teachers and even in our meetings."
Think about the great feedback we could give teachers if we videotaped lessons and critiqued the lesson together between the principal and teacher or between teacher and a group of peers.  It is no different than what athletic coaches do with their players.  This type of development is risky for people, it is hard to speak the truth and video does not lie.  Richard Elmore said it best, "education is the 'Land of Nice."
"To really take a critical look at what's going on in classrooms would be to violate the unspoken contract, whereby teacher and principal autonomy remains the preeminent value of the profession."
Coaching and school leadership are very similar.  They should be developing talent and encouraging continuous improvement. Video could be a powerful development tool.  However, it is something that could be very scary for teachers.  I don't see it as something that would go into an evaluation.  To me using video is a means of sparking great conversations about instruction between teachers and administration.  

What are your thoughts on using video to improve instruction?