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I found this checklist offered as the next "best strategy" on Pinterest the other day. And while I do love easy to use, clear checklists, I pondered what the teacher was actually assessing.
Out of all of the items on this checklist for a "thoughtful" log entry, only one (no. 8) actually entails any assessment of thinking. Everything else is...mechanics.
Of course, you might say that mechanics was the goal of the assignment. However, the title "Thoughtful Log" seems to belie that possibility. While we're wringing our hands at kids not being able to think critically, we need to stop and make sure that the assessments and evaluations we have designed actually promote that thinking.
From a student's perspective, as long as I have complied with most every item, I will feel satisfied that I have done a good job. And you can bet I'm going to do the easy stuff, first.
For example, the ability to integrate evidence from the text with context is certainly a skill that students need. However, checking off that they've "got" the evidence doesn't push their thinking. Rather, the item should offer something along the lines of:
I've integrated evidence from the text (avoided a "dropped quote").
I've clearly and purposefully contextualized that evidence.
These two quick revisions ask more of the student. They can still use Yes/No on the list, but they carry far more of a punch, cognitively speaking.
Not to be outdone, I also came across this gem:
To be fair, this chart is identified as an elementary anchor chart for standard one in K-8 classrooms. Further, the use of the overarching question "How do [I] know?" is relevant and helpful.
Nonetheless, I have to wonder if it is absolutely necessary to have students use "said/says" when referring to text. Why can't we teach them a little bit earlier that text doesn't "talk"? Further, how difficult would it be to avoid having them write in past tense? Especially since the moment they hit high school, they have to use literary present?Consider the student who uses phrasing such as:
1. On page ___, the author writes..
2. The author argues/asserts/states/discusses...
3. The graphic shows/reflects/conveys...
4. An example of ___is...
5. I know that ____because...
One thing that's going to happen is the student will most likely be compelled to write more in-depth; literary present does that. Further, the student will be much more aware of the author's role, which is crucial in helping them make the step "up" in analysis.
Or maybe I'm just grumpy, today. What do you think?
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Unmuted: Using Student Feedback to Create an Effective Secondary Learning Environment
I had no idea how important it was to my high school students that I asked them for their feedback on our courses. The impact was far more profound than I ever imagined.
In light of the recent Duncanville issue, where student Jeff Bliss offers criticism to his teacher, the time to discuss listening to student feedback, particularly on how they're learning, is now. Had his teacher taken the time to establish a learning environment where criticism was not considered a form of disrespect, but rather, a constructive dialogue, things might have turned out differently for both of them.
In this video, some of my former students offered their perspective on just how much they appreciated being asked for their feedback. We're also offering a webinar on the topic!
Unmuted: Using Student Feedback to Create an Effective Secondary Learning Environment
Hosted by Kappa Delta Pi, June 25, 8pm
Register at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/580671226
Sometimes, it's paved with unintention, this test culture road.
I recently came across this strategy on Pinterest, and at first glance, I really liked it. I liked the template wording, particularly for the age group targeted (3rd-8th graders). I also liked the visual appeal. The strategy is great! However, check out what the teacher wrote under the purpose for learning and the metacognitive indicator. I’m also dubious about the lesson itself.
The metacognitive indicator-- indicated by “I’ll know I’ve got it when”-- is the score she receives on this practice exercise.
Finally, while practicing a strategy is certainly laudable, should it be the objective of the lesson? DRP strategies, by the way, are pretty awesome reading strategies. But that’s just it. They are strategies for doing the learning…not the learning itself.
This is no way to integrate creativity and curiosity, nor is it a way to instill a love for learning. Nor is it the ONLY way to help students acquire these skills.
One of the biggest arguments I get into with teachers is how to design curriculum that addresses what the students need to know how to do, but does it in a way that instills a greater purpose for the learning.
The teacher, who created this objective, would probably tell me, “Students need to know how to use these strategies on the reading passages of the test.” Absolutely they need to know these strategies! However, does the use of the strategies have to be the emphasized objective of the lesson for the student? Why? Why can’t it be the means of obtaining a more creative objective? Why can’t the use of strategies be an objective that the teacher has under her belt, but is NOT the focus for the student?
Most likely, given the reference to an answer sheet, the students are reading a series of passages, probably from a workbook of some sort. The passages will have no rhyme or reason other than to exist for the student to use DRP strategies on. Why not locate and provide several short articles that are based on the current unit of study, whether that’s Sarah, Plain and Tall or Mammals of the Sea? Students can decide which ones they want to read and use the strategies to read them.
The misuse of metacognitive activities, here, is particularly painful. These students begin to perpetuate themselves as data or scores, and they have no idea how they know what they know. Why not find a more simple, authentic way to incorporate metacognition?
I humbly suggest that teachers can instill a love of learning, while still teaching crucial skills. We need to do everything we can to stop paving the test-culture road.
Today, I am: reading and deciding on two articles that will help me with my final project on [whales, the turn of the century lifestyle].
So that I can: understand more about why [whales, dolphins, the Pioneers] do what they do and figure out why we don’t do the same thing.
I'll know I've got it when: I can explain what the article is about to my friend, who has read a different article.
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Mindy and some of her former students recently published Transparent Teaching of Adolescents, a discussion of effective teaching strategies for high school. Join the conversation!
In his blog post on The Qualities of an Effective Teacher: No. 4—An Effective Teacher is Tireless, Jake Hollingsworth argues that “good” teachers understand that they will work long hours and have no care for the fact that students neither realize or appreciate the number of those hours.
I respectfully disagree.
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My classmate, Sean, and I grew up within one block of each other. We went to high school and college together, and because we both loved theatre, we performed together many times. Eventually, we both wound up as high school English teachers at the same high school.
Test preparation was in high gear at this point, and administration decided that all teachers, no matter their individual discipline, were going to teach math and English for the state assessment test. Further, we were "paired" up with a fellow colleague for twenty minutes at the start of the day to complete a daily test prep exercise.
Quite fortuitously, Sean and I got thrown together.
But "math"? Seriously?
Now, Sean was okay with it. I was a mess. Math really isn't my thing. So, he took over the Math stuff on Math days, and I did the English stuff on English days, and so it went. For a while. But creative people just can't leave things so...orderly.
Having worked together onstage, we knew how to "pick up" on each other's cues. And one day, Sean spontaneously began to portray a student. He was all like, "Dude, why does the poet say that?" It was hysterically funny. He asked crazy questions about the exercise, and the students loved it.
And they were learning. He was coming across as "dumb", but they were learning the strategies because he was asking those questions.
We switched it up on Math days. I became the student, and the dumb questions (in my case) weren't so far off the mark. I really had a tough time with math! I really didn't understand. However, forcing him to explain why and how he was doing things obviously helped the other students, who would often chime in and share why and how the teacher was doing what he was doing.
It was so cool. Further, it made--what most of our peers considered to be-- the most boring part of the day enjoyable for everyone.
I remembered our creative approach while watching this training video on Teaching Critical Thinking, wherein college instructors and college students are sitting together in a class. Side by side, these two groups struggled through the same concepts and ideas. No doubt, the college students felt a bit awkward at first, but later, the groups became a learning community. Isn't this what we want to do?
Why don't we do this more often? Why don't we ask teachers to "sit in" on a colleague's class to learn something new? For example, have a PE teacher sit in on an Art Class, English teachers in Algebra, History teachers in Music. Maybe just for one week out of the school year. Maybe just for one day?
What students would see would be a powerful model for learning, if not an incentive to do better than the teacher. More to the point, they would see how to learn. They could watch what the teachers do as far as note-taking, participation, and asking questions. All the stuff that we want them to do well but never have time to teach explicitly.
Just a thought.
We wouldn't want to do anything too crazy...
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There's a lot of nots in me.
I know I'm not the smartest kid in class.
I'm not your favorite student, especially when I say, "I don't know" and "Miss, what eez thees?" really loud with that funny accent so my friends laugh.
I'm not good-looking, not skinny, and not careful when I walk.
There's a lot of a lots in me.
I break the rules a lot.
I speak too loud a lot.
I forget to raise my hand a lot.
I don't bring my books a lot.
So when you say my name, you know, that way you say it...mad. My mom and dad do it, too, so, I'm kind of used to it.
Some bigger words I looked up are angrily, with exasperation, annoyance, sarcasm, disgust, hatred, repulsion, venom, vitriol, and self-righteousness.
Maybe those big teacher words help you understand better.
You say my name a lot.
Today, you said it 18 times in class.
But I have 6 periods to go to. I have 6 teachers.
Today, all of my teachers said my name about a hundred times.
but no one said it nice.
There's a lot of maybes in me.
Maybe if you only said my name when I did something good, even something small, I don't know.
Maybe I'd pay more attention to when you said it.
Maybe if you only said my name when you smiled hello at me, I'd feel better.
Maybe if every teacher only ever said my name in a nice way, I'd do better.
I mean, you can still tell me to stop doing my stupid stuff that I do for attention, just maybe don't say my name?
You can kind of look at me and then say whatever, like "Raise your hand." I'll know you mean me.
I guess that's dumb, never mind.
I'm just a kid, what do I know? I'm still trying to figure stuff out.
but, my name is me.
You say me when you say my name.
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This is a picture of an old colonial home built in 1853. It is the home in which I grew up. It serves for me as a reminder of what my life is about. I'm a teacher but more than a teacher, I am blessed with the opportunity to be a builder and molder... a builder and molder of minds, of lives, and dreams. It's not really all about me but rather the end product... the thing of beauty and wonder that each child becomes through the process of spending a year in my classroom. Children are my joy and my pride. Each child is my motivation for me to do my best for him/her. I want to give my best to each one of them according to what they need... and often according to want they want. Their wants are so often in line with what they need, and it gives me hope for our future generations.
I wanted to share one of the replies to my blog post on "Why I Teach". Elizabeth brings up some powerful points. I was surprised that this reasoning is STILL pervading the College of Education. What might WE do to help offset this issue?
Guest Blogger Elizabeth Anderson is an education major at the University of Toledo, specializing in English-Language Arts and Sciences. She writes the newsletter for the UT Writer’s Guild; she also runs their blog. Her own blog, Inkwell, can be found here, or you can follow her on Twitter here.
Dear fellow education majors,
I just thought you should know that you should change majors if you chose education because:
1. You hate kids but want to teach college someday.
You don’t need teacher certification to teach college; you need a Ph.D. in your area (at least to be full time). If you hate kids, you should not be a teacher.
2. You want summers and weekends off and the other benefits that teachers get.
It’s not bad to want these things—I’m looking forward to them myself. But if benefits are the only reason you want to be a teacher, you should not be a teacher.
3. You want to be paid to sit at a desk and do nothing.
YOU, you more than any of the aforementioned people who should not be teachers, are exactly the reason why the public has such a poor opinion of teachers. Teachers are not supposed to sit at a desk and do nothing. Teachers are supposed to teach. If you don’t want to teach, you should not be a teacher.
Look. It’s not that I begrudge you benefits or any easy job. But I do begrudge you a job that I actually want, for what I flatter myself are the right reasons, when you don’t actually want said job. Every time I tell people that I’m going into education, they say, “WHY? You won’t make any MONEY.” As if money is the only important thing.
I’ll tell you why.
I’m majoring in education because I like kids. While I admit that kids are much worldlier now than they were when I was a kid (much worldlier than I am now, frankly), they’re still not as jaded as adults—not as disbelieving. I’ve had kids at camp who say, “Fairies don’t exist,” but they’re not quite sure, and when I point out the glitter on the ground, their disbelief vanishes, and they run ahead to find fairies.
I love kids. You can still do fun stuff with kids.
And I chose education because I love English and biology, and I wanted to share my passion with people. I can’t think of a better way to do it. What better way to get people excited about biology than taking them out in nature and scooping up pond water to examine under a microscope? Who better to build people’s confidence as writers than someone who loves reading, writing, and editing?
But most of all, I want to become a teacher because I want to teach. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.
And if you’re becoming a teacher for a different reason—if you don’t want to teach, or you don’t like kids, or you aren’t passionate about your subject—then you should not be a teacher.
Because YOU are the reason the public turns teachers into the enemy—part of the reason—and I and people like me are going to have to fight against that opinion, and you, every step of the way.
a proud future teacher
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Always Prepped, (@alwaysprepped), an awesome ed tech site, recently tweeted this question to followers “Why do you teach?” This is my response.
I can tell you that I did not become a high school English teacher because I love children. I do love children, but that’s not the reason why I do it. Nonetheless, it’s a solid reason, and I’m very glad some teachers have it—children, particularly teens, need to feel that love. Nor did I become a teacher because I love my subject. I do love reading and writing, but that’s not it either.
Maybe the question is too poignant in light of the tragedy in Newtown because I keep returning to thoughts of responsibilities and rights.
I teach because I feel that it is my duty to help people, particularly young people, become aware of unrealized potential, to share a perhaps previously unconsidered perspective with them, and to let them know that they are accepted (tattoos, piercings, zits, silliness, weirdness, and all).
Sometimes, it seems like a one-way street, though, this teaching gig.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m shouting into an abyss (not unlike blogging, really). That’s why I try to make sure that whatever I’m shouting is worthy because it might just “stick”.
For example, Einstein reminds us that “We must realize that we cannot simultaneously plan for war and peace.”
That’s a discussion worth having with the next generation of leaders. It’s also an analogy worth dissecting.
Planning for war seems to be something our country does well. Can we even plan for peace? How? Why? What does it look like? What do our rights have to do with peace and war? Are our rights inherent or bestowed? Who decides? Why? Where do they end and begin? We have the right to go to war, but what is our responsibility for doing so? What is the criteria? Why? If it is our right to have peace, then what is our responsibility for doing so?
Where does a 'right' end and a 'responsibility' begin?
It was Mrs. Lanza’s right to own a gun and her responsibility to use it wisely and teach her son how to use it wisely. In that, it can be said that she met her legal and ethical responsibilities, her end of the deal. She taught well. Adam, her student, tragically, did not do the same.
But what was she planning for?
I teach because I want to hear my students' answers and thoughts.
Reference: Albert Einstein in an interview with Michael Amrine. Published in Decision magazine and The New York Times Magazine in 1946
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As I sit here, waiting on my essay to be returned from the online writing lab before submitting my final project, I'm struck by the unfairness of my grade in my higher-ed course. Oh, I've got an A coming, but that grade is solely due to the fact that I have a great deal of a precious resource at my disposal: time.
It's why I decided to return to grad school, actually--because I have the time. Thus, my papers and discussion posts and comments and replies are all spiffy nifty sharp and on-topic. I have fun with my assignments. I relish the reading. And, as I discovered of an online course, time = A. Time = better work, better learning, more creativity, stronger connections to the material.
My classmates, who are desperately submitting things at all hours of the night, do what they have to do simply to get it done. They meet the goals, sometimes barely under the wire, sometimes late. I can imagine they have to skim the multiple chapters from the multiple texts we've had to read each week. I came to the conclusion that my A isn't fair.
Is it fair that we will all be assessed with the same criteria, when we don't have the same amount of time at our disposal?
For that matter, is it fair that we assess our students on the same criteria, given that they are coming at any given assignment with a host of individual needs? Now, I'm not talking about the kid who doesn't have a job (although I don't know too many high schoolers without one) or the kid who has all the latest gizmo gadgets.
I'm talking about that one kid, who, if he didn't have to go to school all day and work part-time so as not to be a financial drain on his family, would be submitting creative, powerful work. Or those who lack other resources, such as family support or access to a computer. This student is submitting the bare minimum to get by. What about him?
Is it fair to assess him by the same criteria, if he doesn't have the same resources?
We could argue of my classmates that they should know what they're getting into. These classmates are full-time teachers, and how they'll ever get the time to complete our huge final project, I'll never know. It has taken me upwards of thirty hours or so, on top of the regular classwork.
Putting myself in their shoes, I see my work as ostentatious overkill and hyper-organized. I color-coded a fifteen page template, not because I was required to, but because it looked more visually pleasing to me. (I went right-brained nuts with it is what I did.) It's feverishly detailed, but compared to those individuals who are straining simply to input the required information, I'm either setting a bar or I'm showing off. Either way, it's got to be frustrating and annoying to look at.
How does that student feel who knows that if he had the time and/or resources, he'd be doing higher-level work?
"They just need time-management," some may say. "We give them enough time to complete their work."
Do you have thirty some-odd hours free over the course of two weeks, plus your eight-ten hour days at school, plus your regular reading and outside work to do the project you've assigned to your students?
I know we want students to be creative. I know we want them to experience success. So, how can we allot them the resources they need to level the playing field? Or, how can we better address the inequity of resources with the assignment criteria?
I admire those who put forth effort in the midst of their maelstrom.
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Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) found that student achievement can increase when teachers show the relationship between an increase in effort to an increase in success. However, at the adolescent stage, the explicit illustration or discussion of this topic would most likely disengage at-risk learners who deem themselves (or have been deemed as) low-achievers. The condescension of the topic is off-putting, particularly for upperclassmen. In order to avoid coming across as “preachy”—which is very unproductive with teens—the secondary educator has to think more peripherally.
In order to support an upper-level learning environment, high-school teachers must consider the foundation of what drives effort or creates it in the first place: intrinsic motivation . Without intrinsic motivation, effort is merely compliance; thus, motivation must come first. Easier said than done with a group of adolescents who’d really rather be playing video games. How does one build intrinsic motivation in teenagers, particularly in a project that spans weeks of preparation and looks suspiciously like a research paper?
One way to implement the strategy may be found in ourselves as “Teachers with high self-efficacy create mastery experiences for their students. Those beset by self-doubts construct classroom environments that are likely to undermine students’ judgments of their abilities and their cognitive development” (Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Woolfolk, Rosoff, & Hoy, 1990 as cited in Pajares & Urdan, 2006, p. 11). How's your self-efficacy level these days?
In a Research Paper Unit, then, it stands to reason that I should parallel the students’ efforts, working alongside them from start to finish. I.e. Completing my own research project, warts and all. Schunk (1991) echoes this thinking: “Classroom models—teacher and peer—are important sources of vicarious efficacy information; observing others succeed can convey to observers that they too are capable” (p. 216). Determining a problem that I really want to solve and working through my analysis of what causes the problem will help them see that not all ideas work right away nor will I necessarily be successful at all I attempt. Further, watching the messiness of research and problem-solving will help undercut the strange notion that some students have that everything should be “perfect” right away. Rather, it’s the thinking that matters, first, followed by a polishing later.
Another approach to consider in a research unit is the integration of a reflection component of the project. To understand their self-efficacy, teens have to figure out where they are, where they're going, and where they want to be. Collins (1982) found that “self efficacy predicts motivation and achievement across levels of student ability” (as cited in Schunk 220). Thus, how the student judges his or her ability directly correlates to the success of the outcome and the depth of learning.
Additionally, tapping into the students’ perceptions of self-efficacy as it pertains to their projects would help them see that they are, indeed, making progress as Schunk (1991) advocates: “Motivation is enhanced when students perceive they are making progress in learning (p. 209). Identifying the more difficult performance tasks and providing a booster shot of motivation/self-efficacy right before those tasks may help offset potential issues with laziness, apathy, or dwindling self-efficacy.
Addressing failure, what I call the “elephant in the room”, connects to all of these topics of effort, motivation, and self-efficacy. Failure has a bad reputation in the classroom, and dispelling it as such may actually contribute to effort. Kapur and Bielaczyc (2012) found that under different conditions a teaching method that involves invention and productive failure is more effective than direct instruction. The method requires students to struggle to figure out how to solve novel problems before they are given the solution. In their abstract, they note:
Despite seemingly failing in their problem-solving efforts, [productive failure] students significantly outperformed [direct instruction] students on the well-structured and complex problems on the posttest. They also demonstrated greater representation flexibility in solving average speed problems involving graphical representations, a representation that was not targeted during instruction. (Kapur & Bielaczyc, 2012)
How to deal with failure or the usefulness of failure, as a discussion, as opposed to the value of effort, may engage adolescent learners more authentically. It is a life skill and, most likely, would work best right after a student reflection on initial self-efficacy and before moving into research.
Although reward for effort and recognition of effort are effective strategies, in general, I do find that with teenagers, the act of doing so is not unlike walking on a tightrope. Things may go well at first, then, the wobbling starts. What then? The weakness to the strategy is found in what it doesn’t do: help students embrace intrinsic motivation. In his powerful TED talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, Dan Pink links motivation for performance to an economic model, but his findings can easily relate to students and speak to the weakness of the strategy.
Depending on the task, Pink (2009) asserts, the incentive may not work and may cause harm. For 21st Century tasks, which require less narrow and more abstract, right brain, conceptual, creative thinking, incentive slows workers down. If/then rewards work well for simple tasks and easy rules because “rewards narrow focus and concentrate the mind” (Pink, 2009). If the person can see the goal—incentive works. For a more complex, multi-step problem, rewards as motivation narrow possibilities. Given that a research project is not a simple or narrow task, providing concrete symbols for recognition may not work and may negate the effort.
Schunk (1991) also found that performance-contingent rewards for solving a math problem resulted in enhanced motivation. However, task-contingent rewards, such as participation, didn’t (p. 219). Again, the narrowness of the task seems to make a difference in the choice to include any sort of incentive as a motivator. My goal is for students to find or arrive at a sense of self-motivation and self-recognition as well as an enhanced self-efficacy. I don’t want them to think with blinders on or to “get” the trinket (whether symbolic or tangible). I want them to recognize their own effort.
All in all, I know the strategy of recognizing effort is worthwhile. However, its application for today’s adolescents requires a bit more tact and precision than presented in Marzano et al. (2001).
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Glucksberg, Sam. (1962). The influence of strength of drive on functional fixedness and perceptual recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63 (1), 36-41. doi: 10.1037/h0044683
Kapur, M. & Bielaczyc, K. (2012). Designing for Productive Failure. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21 (1), 45-83. doi: 10.1080/10508406.2011.591717
Marzano, R., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J. (2001) Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Pajares, F. & Urdan, T. (2006). Self-efficacy beliefs of adolescents. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Pink, D. (July 2009) The puzzle of motivation. [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html
Schunk, D. H. (1991). Self-efficacy and academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26 (3& 4), 207-231.