Monday, April 29, 2013

Which comes first teaching or learning?

We put a lot of emphasis on the importance of good teaching and I think forget about the learning at times.  Let's not forget about the ultimate goal of learning for all students.  If we are working harder than our students, then something is wrong.
"If your students are going home at the end of the day less tired than your are, the division of labor in your classroom requires some attention." - Dylan William
How do you check for evidence of learning?

Formative assessment is a natural way to put more emphasis on the learning.  Wiliam describes formative assessment as, "the process used by teachers and students to recognize and respond to student learning in order to enhance that learning, during the learning.

Here is a good example of the use of exit cards to provide immediate feedback for your teaching and allow for adjustments in future instruction.

Traditionally, the only feedback that we have used to change instruction has been based off of summative assessments (NWEA, NDSA, ACT, and etc.).  This type of feedback is too late, the students have moved to the next grade or you have moved to the next unit by the time results are ready.  Doug Reeves, mentions how formative assessment is like a physical, and summative assessment is more like an autopsy.  Don't get me wrong both play a role, but we really want intervene much earlier if students are not learning from the teaching.

How do you know the effectiveness of your lesson?

Formative assessment will go no where if we don't first establish the essential learnings for our students. This begins with developing Powerstandards for your curriculum.  Once we know what is most important and what we expect ALL kids to know we can then develop formative assessments to check our teaching.

"We cannot predict what students will learn as a result of any particular sequence of instruction.  Formative assessment involves getting the best possible evidence about what students have learned and then using this information to decide what to do next." Dylan William

Source: Embedded Formative Assessment - Dylan William 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Is perception reality?

"School isn't about learning, it's about learning to get by." - anonymous student
The comment above was shared with me at a meeting yesterday while discussing the future of professional development.  It is one of those comments that heightens awareness and causes one to question our focus and direction.

How often do we listen to kids?  Do we allow them to play a role in decision making?  

Are we too focused on compliance? Do we only teach kids to be good at school and don't worry about whether they learned something?  Are we more concerned with turning in assignments and treating everything as a checklist? In the busy world of an educator how often do we truly inquire about the learning of our students?

Shouldn't it be about the learning?  This may be a rogue comment or it could be very true, regardless, we need to listen to comments such as these and begin to question ourselves.  Persevering and getting by have their place, but it should be about the learning.  School should be a place where we foster curiosity, and not a place of hoop jumping.

I ask you to think about this students statement, and to question your classroom.  Is it a rogue comment or does the student make a valid point?

Seth Godin wrote a manifesto about schooling and I think it applies very well to this discussion.  #Stopstealingdreams

Friday, April 12, 2013

The power of listening.

"Our conversations at home, at work, and in the community are often more about jockeying for airtime than really communicating." 

I will be the first to admit that I am working on my listening skills.  My wife would probably be the first to say that I need an intervention.  The art of listening is so important in effectively communicating with each other.  I find it difficult at times in my position to keep my mouth shut and just listen to the conversations that are occurring.  Just because I am a leader doesn't mean that I should dominate the discussion and stifle the other ideas from people.  Innovation and creativity are more than likely to occur in a group setting, if we don't allow others to speak we may be missing something.  I am wrapping up Unmistakable Impact by Jim Knight. He has a short segment on listening that just makes sense.  Here are some ideas that may be helpful to you as well.

1. We need to take in at least as much as we put out.

2. We should paraphrase back what we hear.

3. Make a decision to really listen. Commit to really hearing what others are saying.

4. Be the listener not the speaker. If both are the speaker than nobody is listening.

5. Make sure your partner is the speaker.

6. Pause and think before you respond.  "Will what I'm about to say open up or close down the conversation?"

I think we can all say that we have had conversations where you can clearly tell the other person is not listening and could careless about what you have to say.  We can all recall situations where people dominate the discussion, and jump in immediately when you finish your point.  Putting effort in something so simple as listening will go along way in developing effective communication at school and at home.  Make eye contact, ask open ended questions and be curious. 

"A great conversationalist is one who lets the other person have the conversation." - Susan Scott

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Make the Jump!

The other day as I was preparing a presentation for our district staff I ran across this link from @millerg6.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  The title of the Youtube clip is "Girls First Ski Jump." The clip is about a young girl about to go down a much longer ski ramp.  You can feel the hesitation in her voice and it was amazing to hear it play out over video.  She took a risk, and committed to trying something new.  Many educators are familiar and have been bombarded throughout their career with the next initiative. New ideas, and new changes are coming our way.  These changes challenge tradition and the status quo.  I get a sense that many staff share similar feelings as the little girl in the video.

Taking the risks, and doing something you have never tried is stressful – but we need to have the inner confidence much like this little girl to make “the jump." Today that jump represents working together as a learning community. Understand that there are many more jumps in the way.  By working together and trusting the process we will make great strides in our school!