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Over the past nine years I have had the pleasure of hiring (and the displeasure of firing) new hires into their teaching careers. In watching teachers come into the profession some just "have it." Some seem to be innately programmed to be teachers. For others, it is a much more difficult road to travel. Additionally, there has been much awareness brought up about "teacher burn-out" and teachers not being able to survive this profession.
We know that teaching is a demanding, busy, spontaneous profession. Thriving in it is possible when we understand that those who thrive are reflective and coachable.
Lori also blogs at www.attheprincipalsoffice.com Click on the link for more great information.
Dear Mrs. Cullen,
Thank you for taking care of our school and helping this school to be an awesome place. I think you run this school really good. Thank you for helping me when I am angry and supporting me and encouraging me to do awesome. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
As the school year began, I ordered two books with the intent of learning and implementing practices designed to Enhance Professional Practice. Charlotte Danielson has written a couple of editions of The Handbook for Enhancing Professional Practice and these were the books I would guide my learning with.
For the past several years, springtime has brought about the opportunity to interview teachers for the upcoming school year. Interviewing is a skill and an art that I was never taught, In fact, my only experience with it before I became a principal, was the experiences I had myself when I was interviewed for a job, This in no way made me an expert, or even slightly qualified for that matter.
How can a teacher demonstrate their teaching skills, during an interview?
Over the years I have come to understand that pure school “discipline” does nothing to support a student in changing undesirable behaviours. Discipline takes a tedious amount of time, energy and unpleasantness and in many cases does nothing to support the student. Additionally, discipline is reactionary. Wait until something goes wrong and everyone is in an uproar, then do something about it. After my first couple of years as an Assistant Principal dealing with the discipline end of things, I wondered if there was a different way, a better way.
Rules, rules, rules, everyone knows the key to success in school is to follow the rules.
Unfortunately, this belief persists in many of todays classrooms and schools. Next time you are in a classroom take a look at the posted rules. Are they rules such as “no talking while the teacher is talking, stay in your desk during work time, raise your hand if you need help?” If so, I think these rules say a lot about the teacher, the work environment and the level of meaningful engaging tasks. They imply that the teacher is the only one who holds the knowledge, the teacher will give you great wisdom and knowledge if only you will listen and the work you undertake will be solitary and designed to measure how well you listen.
Why is it that some classrooms need these types of rules and some do not? For the teachers that do not post these types of rules what is the difference? How can they manage without them?
One answer to these questions is to take a look at the type of tasks the student is being asked to undertake. To analyze the planning and preparation the teacher has given to design tasks which result in high levels of student engagement.
Think of it this way, if a teacher designs tasks that engage the student in meaningful learning will the student be wandering around the classroom disrupting others, off task, doing any of the other million things teachers often complain about?
But just what goes into meaningful learning and task design that results in high levels of student engagement?
I would like to give credit to the amazing staff at Erin Wood School in Calgary AB who worked together yesterday to answer this question. When analyzing student engagement, and tasks that result in high levels of student engagement we were able to effectively answer the question, “What are the attributes of tasks that result in meaningful learning and high(er) levels of student engagement?”
Tasks resulting in higher levels of student engagement consist of these attributes:
Tasks resulting in lower levels of student engagement consists of these attributes:
When considering student engagement and the types of tasks students are asked to complete, I wonder if students who are given tasks designed to be highly meaningful and engaging do teachers really need to post rules such as “stay in your desk during work time?” Do these such rules imply that you have just entered a classroom of low-engaging task design? In my opinion, teachers who strive to design meaningful tasks that engage students are more likely to post “Work hard and do your best, or Respect yourself and others.” on the walls of their classroom.
Read more at my personal blog https://attheprincipalsoffice.com
One has to ponder the question “why,” on many occasions. A recent “why” has come to me this month as January is the mid-term point of the school year and most high schools are in the midst of exams that mark the end of term one. “Finals” as they are called run for three weeks. Three weeks of no classes, and no learning. When we know better, why do we do this? Why do we persist in this practice?
The ironic part is we know better. We know that high stakes, final exams that provide no opportunity for feedback or further learning are not representative of a student’s knowledge or understanding, and do nothing to further a student’s knowledge or understanding which is arguably the point of school.
An argument that is often launched for those who believe in and rely on final exams often goes something like this… “How will I know what they have learned, if I don’t give them an exam? How will they prove that they have learned anything at all?” To those, I offer up the following response:
When assuming the reason for a final exam is to find out what students know or best case what students have learned, my question back to a teacher would be “Why don’t you already know?” I believe that if effective teaching and learning practices such as formative evaluation, self-reported grades and feedback are consistently and appropriately utilized by teachers, a final exam would simply provide them with a weak, irrelevant example of what they already know.
Hattie, John, Visible Learning A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Routledge, 2009.
As I continue to understand the work of J. DOUGLAS WILLMS, SHARON FRIESEN, AND PENNY MILTON in their 2009 report What Did You Do in School Today? I am understanding more specifically the notion of Social Engagement. For quite some time now, when we talked about engagement, we were all referring to academic or intellectual engagement. Social Engagement; defined as “meaningful participation in the life of the school” in a lot of ways is the first requirement needed to influence the success of academic and intellectual engagement.
The outcomes of social engagement defined as having: “Friendships, social networks, sense of belonging, self-confidence, and often enjoyment of school’” I believe are the key factors, the initial purposes and our first point of school. It’s always interesting that we mostly know “what” to do in schools. The trick is to know how! How do we support students in developing friendships, building social networks, developing a sense of belonging, developing self-confidence and enjoying school? Great questions!
I think we have been working quite specifically and purposefully on the outcomes of Social engagement. We participate in the Alberta Government Accountability Pillar to measure our growth and success. I will probably forget a few things here, but here are some of the things we do:
Perhaps if I think longer, I could add to the list. But, more importantly, what can you add to the list?
For more on the complete What Did You Do In School Today report by the Canadian Education Association click here http://www.cea-ace.ca/programs-initiatives/wdydist
As with most fall meetings, this fall started off with direction setting meetings, visions, missions and re-establishing what we are about. It was during these meetings that the notion of Visible Learning, as described by John Hattie came across my radar. What was this Visible Learning?
So, I ordered the book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement and cracked it open when it came. Wow, the book is not what I was expecting and not like I have ever seen before. I find it is not a book you can read cover to cover, it is more like a reference book. I gleamed information out of it and let it set until today when I participated in the Visible Learning webinar through The Leadership and Learning Center, facilitated by Douglas Reeves.
Visible Learning is now beginning to take shape in my mind, I am beginning to understand new information and think about applying it in my own context.
Lightbulb moment: Changes in teacher practice effect changes in student learning (Douglas Reeves). Okay, maybe not a lightbulb moment but a critical thought none-the-less. Even today, as we were working through some behaviour issues with elementary aged students, could it be that if the teacher changes the approach and the practice, perhaps the students behaviour would change as well? Let’s focus on the teaching (and I mean teaching, not teacher), rather than on the behaviours.
As stated by Douglas Reeves: Linking specific teaching strategies with specific student results is Visible Learning. As mentioned in the example above, would there be a way to incorporate specific teaching strategies and measure specific results? I think so. The key at our school is that I think we are very good at identifying what is wrong and what we need to be different. I think we know what the preferred state would be. I think we have many resources and teaching strategies (perhaps too many) but I DON’T think we know how to measure the effectiveness of specific strategies.
In regards to the teaching strategies, our goal has been to focus on those high impact strategies. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new John Hattie book Visible Learning for Teachers to ensure our understanding and implementation of high impact strategies. As a side note, feedback (d=.72 effect size) is a high impact strategy I previously blogged about (see Feedback or Feedforward).
As mentioned in The Walk-About we have our observations in place – in other words, teachers are observing teachers each day. We now need to make those observations systematic, objective, and precise (Douglas Reeves). We need to observe for high impact strategies and the effect they are having on student achievement. We need to gather specific data about specific practices.
Our goals with Visible Learning are:
1. To raise awareness. ex:”This is what feedback and engagement look like in our school and in your classroom.”
2. To set targets. ex:”Now that we have this information, what are we going to do with it?”
3. Practice. ex: “Last month my feedback to students consisted primarily of ______ and this month it consists of_____”
4. Measure the effects of our practice. “This teaching practice, resulted in this improvement (or not)!
5. Keep what works, get rid of the rest!
Perhaps through Visible Learning, our understanding of what quality teaching really is will become more specific, objective and precise resulting in a greater understanding of knowing why we are doing what we are doing in the art form called teaching.