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Each Sunday afternoon there are five Topic questions posted on a poll to determine which will be selected as that week’s #Edchat Topic. There are two #Edchat discussions each Tuesday on Twitter, so the top two topics selected by the poll become the topics of the chats. The number two choice goes at noon, Eastern Time, and the number one selection goes at 7 PM, Eastern Time. The larger audience is the 7 PM Chat. If you did not know it before, I am the person responsible for making up the #Edchat Topic questions that are voted on each week. I admit that I do have favorites each week, but, more often than not, they are not the favorites of the voting public. This week it was a little different. I actually had two favorites, and fortunately for me, they were the chosen topics for the chats. I found both yesterday’s #Edchat discussions thought-provoking, and very much in need of public discussion. The topics were very much connected as well.
#Edchat is very much an open, public discussion by educators from around the world. Ideas on each topic are presented from various points of view as we discuss the varied topics in education each week. As in any public discussion, a person may pick and choose those ideas that suit his/her needs and in this case, educational philosophy. Sometimes it is a new idea, and other times it is validation of what is already being done. Since it is a discussion using Twitter as the platform, most of the participants are educators who are somewhat familiar with technology and social media. As a generalization they tend to be a collaborative group, more progressive in their approach to education, and open to the use of technology as a tool for learning.
The other day I engaged an educator who described himself as a 20th century traditionalist educator (my words). He said that he participated in #Edchat so that he could know his “Enemy”. When I called him on this, he informed me that “Enemy” was in quotes in his tweet. I guess that was to make it humorous, but there is much truth in humor. The point here is that most of the participants are striving to move from the methods and pedagogy of 20th century education to a place that we have not yet found. It is also a great help when authors and experts on these various topics join in on the Chats giving clarity and direction in their areas of expertise. Many of these thought leaders are connected educators.
Usually the #Edchat question is a singular interrogative. The Topics this week had more than one part in the hope of generating more discussion. The noon Chat Topic: What is the BIG Shift in education that everyone is looking for? Is there one big idea that can positively affect education? If not why? Of course there is no single idea because education is too complex for an easy fix. A point lost to most politicians and business people. The question, I thought, would prompt the chatters to present and promote their best and biggest idea.
From the folks I engaged in conversation on this topic the overwhelming objective was support of student-centric as opposed to teacher-centric lessons. The shift being from Direct instruction, and lecture to problem-based, or project-based learning. The teacher would no longer be the content-delivery expert filling the empty vessels of students, but rather a mentor, guiding their learning direction rather than mandating it.
The 7 PM Question: Children are anxious learners in the early grades of education. What are the factors that turn kids off to learning, as they get older? This #Edchat started slowly. I hate when that happens. My biggest fear in doing these chats is that there may come a time when nobody responds to the question. Going into moderator mode, I broke the topic down, and peppered the chatters with a series of smaller questions to loosen them up. That worked which immediately calmed me down. It was like the priming of an old well. It took a minute to get it going, but it came on strong.
Words that popped up with those who I engaged were curiosity, authenticity, and ownership. What I took from it was that students at a young age are curious about learning because it is all new and exciting. It is also relevant ant authentic since what kids are learning enables them to participate in more stuff as well as society. However, some reach a point where they think they have as much as they need and the curiosity is gone. The direction however continues providing to them things that they no longer want to engage in. They do not own their learning and cannot direct its direction to things they would like to learn. If this occurs in a student, it comes at different times for each student. Some teachers saw it on the elementary level others in Middle school where hormones play an even bigger role. The point here is that it happens to many students.
Engagement in learning is the goal of education and the ability for students to own that learning and for it to be authentic, and relevant was a theme for this #Edchat. Again it came down to the teacher being the guide or mentor and not a content delivery person directing content to kids who don’t see it as relevant or authentic. They prefer to create content instead of memorizing it. They prefer to use content instead of regurgitating it on a test.
Both of these #Edchats led me to the same place. For kids to be engaged in learning it will be more effective if they own it and direct it. Teachers can always guide the direction and, as content experts, they have the capacity to do so. Teaching kids how to learn, and how to continue to learn, is more important than whatever content the curriculum tells us the students should know for a test. If we can use their interest to promote our content, fine. If our content doesn’t interest students at all, then what do we do?
#Edchat is not the best method to introduce people to online chats for the first time without preparation. It requires some knowledge and a little strategy. If you are interested, this may help: #Edchat Revisited. If you are interested in viewing the past #Edchat discussions, we have archived the last several years here: #Edchat Archives. If you do not have time to read, you can download a podcast analysis of several of the #Edchats from Bam Radio Network, and The #Edchat Radio Show. #Edchat is one of many education chats. It was started 4 years ago be Shelly Terrell,@shellterrell, Steve Anderson, @web20classroom, and me,@tomwhitby. It was not the first chat, but it is the most enduring, and it has spawned many, many others.
Over this last year I have been fortunate to have been sent to many education conferences on behalf of SmartBrief in pursuit of content and guest bloggers forSmartBlog on Education. It is a dream job for a retired educator and an education blogger. The intent is to always keep the educator’s voice on SmartBlog authentic and relevant. In that capacity, I have attended and conducted a multitude of workshops on various education topics. Since I am no longer in the classroom, and have no need to apply what I learn about current teaching methods in a classroom setting, I often attend these workshops as an observer, or even a critical observer in some cases.
In conference after conference, and workshop after workshop I have observed successes and failures in the methods employed by presenters to get their material across to their audiences. Of course my biggest criticism is that too many presenters view the people in the room as audiences, and themselves as some sort of entertainer. Of course a successful presenter is part entertainer, as is any teacher, but more importantly, he or she is there at a conference workshop to educate educators and that is a primary goal. For that goal to be met presenters might be better served thinking of the people in the room as learners, and employ their best skills as an educator. In fairness to most presenters, the best do just that.
Much can be learned as an educator by watching what works with a bunch of teacher/learners. Of course there are some who would argue that these are adult learners and shouldn’t be compared to kids. I used to think that as well, but I am not as sure, after all that I have observed.
I found one of the best explanations of adult learning in this article: “Adult Learning Theory and Principles” from The Clinical Educator’s Resource Kit.
According to the article Malcolm Knowles an American practitioner and theorist of adult education, defined andragogy as “the art and science of helping adults learn”.
Knowles identified the six principles of adult learning as:
After considering these principles and observing many of them first hand at these professional conferences, I started to wonder if the reason why these same principles do not apply to kids, at least on the secondary level, is because we prohibit them from happening in our education system. Do we limit our students learning by blocking access to the very things that motivate us as adults to learn?
Can Students be self-motivated and self-directed? As adults some might say we are “pursuing our bliss” therefore, we are self-motivated and self-directed. Are our students bereft of bliss, or are we blocking out their bliss?
At the more successful conferences providing adult learning environments I have observed many things that aided the learning of adults. The best conferences provided Internet access for all. This enabled adults to use varied and sundry laptops and mobile devices. I still revel at the memory of a room full of learners listening to Chris Lehmann at the Educon Conference as he placed notes on a white board. When he was finished with his illustrated point in the conversation, 40 adults stood up and took a picture of the whiteboard with their mobile devices (mostly cellphones) for later reference. Student classrooms might have over 40 students in them but how many are allowed to take pictures of the teachers’ notes?
Of course the resounding positive comments from any of these learning environments is that there is a love of the conversation, as opposed to the lecture. That is common at Educon and it is the mainstay of the most successful Edcamps. Of course that conversation method is not the focus of teaching kids. Most educators focus on direct instruction and lecture as the mainstay for their lessons.
Then there is the cry from a multitude of adult conference learners that they hold teacher-presenters in the highest regard, because they are authentic. They have been in the classroom, and have paid their dues, so to speak. When real classroom teachers talk about education, it is relevant and real. This is a common sentiment among adult conference learners. I guess that relevance is important to the adult learner. When it comes to the kid learners are they even given a smattering of relevance or are we steeped in curriculum some of which may have been around since the mid 1900’s?
Of course the biggest outcry from adult learners at conferences comes when they are subjected to PowerPoint presentations that are text-ladened and read to the learners word for word by the presenter. This is the most egregious of mistakes and often the initiator of an exodus by the adult learners from the room. What alternative do kid learners have given the same set of circumstances?
Maybe as adult learners we need to take a look in the mirror before we resume our role as teachers for kids. In the final analysis, I do not think that there are differences in the way we learn as adults, or kids, but rather the differences lie in the opportunities afforded to learn. If we respected kids more as learners, they might be more self-directed and motivated in their learning. If they are allowed to participate in their learning, they might take more ownership. What learner wants to own something that is not in his, or her interest to own? If we can understand better how we learn best, maybe we can alter how we teach to be the best.
Recently a colleague asked me a question that made me pause and reflect. “How successful is PBL, really?” He’s an advocate for PBL, like I am, so the question wasn’t designed to nitpick or argue against PBL. He was reflecting on his own experience, and asking if mine had been similar.
I began to look back on the nearly 175 workshops I’ve presented and the large number of schools I’ve coached that have taken on PBL in hopes of changing the culture of teaching and learning. All of them wanted to move toward more depth and inquiry, and away from direct instruction, pacing guides, coverage, and the general lethargy that pervades schools as they labor under outmoded rules of engagement. Most of all, they hoped to sustain PBL year over year to power their school into 21st century learning.
How successful have they been? There are two answers to the question. For schools designed from the ground up to support integrated instruction, an inquiry-based culture, and a relentless focus on 21st century skills, the answer is clear: Extraordinarily successful. When the organizational philosophy supports student-driven inquiry, the natural outcome is great projects. These schools are the lights across the land—the Envision Schools, High Tech High, or the New Technology High Schools—that have become well known , as well a growing number of similar schools in every state. The students at these schools perform at world class levels, in some cases leading the world.
I’ve worked with many teachers, principals and superintendents who have toured leading-edge schools. They return to their own campus, wanting the same results. So they plunge into PBL. How successful are they? The answer, unfortunately: Not very.
Mostly, the schools start well. A core number of teachers implement projects that begin to show results. Students get excited; teachers feel satisfied; principals report a turning point. But that’s the first year. By the second year, typically after a strong start in the fall, PBL fades. The effort is not sustained. Why? It’s the well known rubber band effect. The industrial system can stretch to accommodate new viewpoints, but over time the constraints—mainly in-the-box thinking about tests scores and the lack of a collaborative culture committed to change—take their toll. Everyone settles back down into the routine.
This same dynamic, by the way, now drives the debate over the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Will they transform schools or become a new and improved laundry list? Here, the lessons of PBL are instructive. More than anything, it tells me that grafting an inquiry-based culture onto an industrial framework is an impossible dream, unless the effort is accompanied by a innovative focus on organizational change and high performance. This is a holistic endeavor, requiring a crucial brew of synergistic elements that work together to create a seamless system for sustainable change.
What are the key ingredients? For those schools that did transition successfully to PBL, I can think of six essentials that enabled them to power through tough barriers and emerge at the other end of the tunnel. I suspect the list for the CCSS will be the same:
Thom Markham is a psychologist and author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for Inquiry and Innovation for K-12 educators and the forthcoming book, Redefining Smart: Make your mind bigger than your brain. Download tools for project based learning on his website, www.thommarkham.com, or contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.
This weekend I was again very fortunate to attend what many consider the premiere education Conference held each year in Philadelphia, EDUCON. It is the sixth year of this conference and it seems to just keep getting better with each year. It is not at a huge venue. It has no Exhibitors, so there is no Exhibitor Hall. There are no massive dining rooms. There are no planned Gala events. There is no schedule of Keynote speakers. Participation is limited to about 500 people. Students, rather than adults are the support staff at the conference. Without all, or even any of the usual components of a national education conference, how is this a premiere Education Conference?
EDUCON takes place in Philadelphia each year on the weekend between the last weekend of the NFL playoff games and the weekend of the Superbowl.
The venue is a school, The Science Leadership Academy. Compared to many American high schools it is relatively small. For that reason participation numbers are comparatively small when considering other education conferences. The result is a dimension to this conference lacking in others.
The close proximity of participants in a small area with chairs and tables strategically placed in hallways all provide an intimacy not experienced elsewhere. This is important because the very people who are presenters at EDUCON are also participants at the presentations of others. They are also the very people one sits next to at lunch and in the hallways and at other sessions. Engagement is constant and meaningful with educators and thought leaders. It is also happening at all levels: student, teacher, administrator, parent, author, and consultant.
Here is the other difference; every presentation is not a presentation, but rather a conversation. A team of people moderates most of these conversations. Each conversation usually has a group participation component. Group work is very common at this conference. The follow up discussions from the group work are the driving force to what many refer to as the deep thinking provided at this conference.
I think my greatest take away from this conference had nothing to do with the ideas of Entrepreneurship or innovation, which seemed to be a threaded theme of this conference. It was the focus of two panel discussions. I am having a difficult time defining those terms in the context of education. However since it is an up and coming and ongoing theme among some thought leaders, I am sure we will all spend more time determining these definitions as well as how they pertain to education.
What I came away with was to me a more relevant idea as an educator. I saw a focus on teaching learning as a skill and not a consequence of content delivery. The ideas of thoughtful, and deep questioning of a subject, before tackling it, as a problem to solve was a striking revelation. The idea of teaching the use of the process to acquire the content knowledge as opposed to just providing the content made so much more sense to me. All of this emphasized the “How” to learn as opposed to “What’ to learn. I saw this as a much more meaningful goal for educators. Teaching the skill of learning as the focus of the lessons is a shift from what many do. Learning too often is a consequence of content being poured into the heads of students. Some students get it some students don’t. Throw enough wet spaghetti at the wall and some will stick. That seems to be a hit or miss method for success. More often than not, there is less success.
Teaching Learning as a skill certainly increases the chance for successful learning. That is what I took away. Inquiry based learning, and problem based learning are much more in line with teaching learning as a skill than lectures. Lecture and direct instruction will always have a place in education but they should never be the focus for method of delivery. The question is what percentage of our educators continue to do so, often because that is the way it has always been?
EDUCON challenges the status quo of education. EDUCON promotes deeper thinking leading to more meaningful questioning. If we are ever to find the best answers to our difficult problems, we will need to be asking the right questions. EDUCON promotes that. I believe I am a better educator for attending this conference. The shift in education, that we all strive for, will begin with the type of thinking promoted at EDUCON.
Originally posted on the Middle Web website: http://www.middleweb.com/5545/digital-tools-for-the-common-core/
In the next few weeks, Janet Hale and I will have our new book out through ASCD, Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students. We will very soon be launching a new ASCD Edge Group and Discussion Board around the book to discuss improvements in instructional practice and design as well as collect the awesome ideas of all the educators that would like to engage in a dynamic multi-media conversation!
In the book, we discuss different lenses and considerations through which you can view your current curriculum for a particular upgrade. This blog post is honing in on two, technology integration and Common Core alignment. The Common Core alignment is in relation to two reading anchor standards, number one that asks students to read closely, and number ten, that asks that students read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts. For the technology lens, I’ve been playing with a few new web tools and wanted to share some ideas for task-focused instruction.
Additionally, when I refer to “upgrades,” I’m speaking of a two-pronged approach, looking both for learning AND engagement. Effective instruction comes from a balance of these two considerations and while I know they can be somewhat subjective, I am, in general, looking for more student-centered opportunities than teacher-led “to-do” lists.
Just a reminder, it’s the task that matters, not the tool. However, I think it’s important to build a repertoire of tools so that you and your students can choose the right one for the task.
So, in light of adding tools to your toolboxes and doing so with specific Common Core ideas, I’d like to share three new tools that I’ve come across recently as well as some ideas for engaging these tools for curriculum upgrades.
Smore allows a user to create flyers with embedded color schemes, fonts, and templates. I used it initially to create handouts for a workshop I was doing and quickly figured out that I needed to prioritize my information so that the message I was sending would fit on one printed page. I created a Smore flyer for this blog post around Text Complexity, specifically considering Reader and Task, from the Common Core document.
Here’s the example.
I liked this tool for several reasons and see several opportunities for specific tasks/upgrades using this tool. For one, if students are visualizing their learning using something like this, it promotes eye-catching design. Brain based instructional strategies work because they are different, creating “mental glue” to help the brain retain information. Visuals stick better than text and using a tool like Smore will help students own their learning. Also, if students are writing about text, specifically after “close reading,” this might be a good tool to use for emphasizing important comprehension points or prioritizing the information they may potentially share. In fact, how awesome would it be for students, perhaps in pairs, to prioritize different pieces of the puzzle, with some focusing on text structure, some on vocabulary, some on connections to other texts, some on text based conclusions, etc. This could help establish new audiences, purposes, and tasks as students make their own choices and ultimately help teach each other! (With sideline coaching from the teacher, rather than direct instruction.)
Like Smore, Piktochart is a visualization tool. However, it’s specific purpose is to help the user create an infographic. Infographics are visualizations of information or data. There’s a really cool Flickr Group that collects educational infographics that you should check out! Piktochart lets your students create these awesome visualizations. I think infographics are where it’s at right now in education. Being able to think critically about data and draw conclusions from learning moments students participate in is vital. It’s also an opportunity to explore integrating subjects such as math into other content areas. The Piktochart I created is about Close Reading and Text Dependent Questions, both of which are represented in the instructional shifts related to the Common Core in ELA. I will say that the one I created is text heavy, as I was just trying out the tool, but it excites me to think what kids could do with this. I found the interface and dashboard easy to use and navigate and I went from complete novice to finished product in about 45 minutes. Ease of use is high up on my list when it comes to web tools, and this one is as easy as they come! Here’s the example I created:
The last tool I want to add to your toolboxes today is Yapp. I’ve been using Yapp for several months now and it became the basis for one of the technology upgrades that Janet and I advocate for in the new book. Yapp is a tool that let’s you easily create your own App for a digital device. I’ve used it to create Apps for events such as conferences, to collect information for a local library, and most recently, I created an App that lets me share all of my resources for Text Complexity based on a LiveBinder I created back in November. You can access the App by navigating, through your internet browser, to the following address on your digital device:
Note that you may need to install YappBox onto your device if you have any trouble with the link itself.
In the book, Janet and I talk about Learning and Engagement around students creating apps. There are certainly a number of ways to go about this, but Yapp is a good starting point. Right now in classrooms, teachers are clamoring to find apps for the devices they use. This translates, a lot of times, into teacher-selected, tool-based learning scenarios rather than student-centered, task-based scenarios. Now that we’ve had some “play time” and are past the first decade of the 21st Century, it’s time we shift the focus, the thinking, and the work back to the students. If students are CREATING, and making authentic choices about what to include in an app and how to share and amplify it, then they are working at the highest levels of Bloom’s and absolutely owning the learning.
So, to recap, adding tools to your toolbox is important, even though the goal is to work toward task-based opportunities. Learning and engagement are important and must be considered together for effective learning. Also, there are several lenses through which we can explore potential upgrades to the work we are currently doing.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring more of these lenses with blog posts as we lead up to the launch of the book in early March. If any readers would like to join Janet and I in Chicago at the ASCD conference, we’ll be exploring what it means to Upgrade Your Curriculum in person! You can also use the Twitter Hashtag #UpgradeYC to interact online right now!
Cure for the Common Core - eBook available now from Amazon
Mike on Twitter:@fisher1000
Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students - coming in Feb. 2013 from ASCD
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).
Mirror Site: Joyful Collapse.
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.
Hello All :)
Today I was able to see the general session, Deborah Burns' Comon Core Standards and High Level Thinking Workshop, and Maya Sadder's The Principal as Formative Coach.
I loved the opening address and the ideas Jeff Howard presented on proficiency (Adults must reach proficiency before we can expect children to). I loved the idea of changing mindsets and getting faculty buy in (even if there will be resistance).
Also, I loved the intelegence model he presented:
Confidence -> Effective Effort -> Development (Circular also regressive)
This really is a great reinforcement to enstilling strong relationships with our students and get to know them so they can be built up. I plan to use this in my own research about Amotivation!
In Deborah Burns' workshop we learned how higher order thinking (HOT) was planned and is imbedded into common core. We were able to see how each standard necessitates the use of HOT and how Blooms and Webb's DOK will need to be understood. I loved the share time she had embedded into the workshop and I walked away with a lot to share with my fellow faculty back at my school.
In Maya Sadder's presentation, she informed us about using formative data (not just summative) to help direct teaching. There must be a formal structure (she uses the Danielson model http://www.danielsongroup.org/article.aspx?page=frameworkforteaching) to guide the conversation. We use a similar practice at my home school which is called the college ready promise (http://www.thecollegereadypromise.org), but I loved the the idea of collecting school wide formative assessments to probe instruction and direct vertical planning. As a future administrator, I liked the ideas and want to take them with me!
Check back tomorrow and Ill post about then too!
If you are in Atlanta,
Check out the Varsity (great fast food joint), Dante's Down the Hatch (Unreal good), and Mary Mac's Tea Room :)
Each summer, the Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies create a spectacle of light, so much so that people come from miles around to view the show in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While other fireflies in other parts of the world sparkle individually, for some reason Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies are in sync with each other. This creates flashes of light as the fireflies work in unison. Oohs and Ahs follow, of course.
How does this apply to the classroom? Well, think about what can happen if all of the students experience a “flash of light” together as they move through the lessons. Rather than blinking separately, one at a time, they work together for that brilliant flash of light to shine. For the classroom student, of course, the brilliant flash is the idea being taught.
How can this happen? Consider how the instructor can set up the classroom experience so that the students are pulling together. Before moving along any further, I am indebted to Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like A Champion, for his many basic approaches worth applying to the classroom.
One of Lemov’s ideas is to tell students the teacher has a 100 percent rule. That is, everyone in the class is included in the learning process, 100 percent. Everyone is expected to learn, 100 percent, and we learn together, 100 percent. Thus, in any classroom everyone is expected to participate, no exceptions. We are all in this together. If someone fails to learn, then we as a class have not succeeded in our goal.
With my 100 percent rule expectation established, I then move on to two important elements in making the rule a reality. First, if teaching an online class, I establish an agenda for the unit. If am in the classroom, an agenda is written on the board. Second, I also prepare my worksheets and have them ready when students enter the classroom. They are on a desk at the front of the room, and students are expected to pick them up the moment they arrive. I do not hand the worksheets to the students. This is a little more difficult with the online student. I can easily supply the worksheets. Working with the Softchalk design tool, I place the worksheets in the sidebars, but it is more difficult to know for sure that the students are reviewing them.
Since I put the 100 percent rule in place, I also have found that I had to be better organized. For the classroom student, this means that I arrive ten minutes ahead of the class starting time to not only write my agenda on the board but also place the day’s worksheet on a table in the front of the room.
What then happens is wonderful. Students also arrive early for the class and complete the worksheets early, as I had directed. Thus, when class was actually to start, students were ready. I also see fewer students straggle into the room late. I now am able to start the class right on the dot. In fact, I tell students that I will start on time and they are not to be late. If they are late, I ask them why, privately, and remind them of the 100 percent rule.
Interestingly, should an instructor ahead of me go long, and it happens, my students become annoyed, because they want my worksheets in their hands. Quite often the moment the previous class ends I see my students hustle into the room and grab for their worksheets. This is one reason the earliest morning classes recently became more successful as I did not have to wait upon another instructor to relinquish the room. Even more the reason, though, is that students know what I expect, and they know I am serious about applying the 100 percent rule. They know they will be called upon in the classroom, and they know that they are expected to contribute.
The worksheets include concepts to be reviewed as well as new ones to be discussed. When discussions are on the agenda, the questions I want answered are included on the worksheets. This means students who come early then have more time to reflect upon their answers. With that said, students who had before been quiet, now have time to think through the questions and are able to contribute when called upon to do so. And call upon them I do. If nothing else, I can ask the student to read what he or she had written to answer the worksheet question. By the way, I walk the room to be sure students answer the worksheet questions, and I also collect the worksheets at the end of the hour.
To set up the discussions, I also provide weekly progress reports to the students, which, by the way, are also easy to do for an online classroom. The successes and challenges are noted. I always give students the major concerns of the moment to address, both individually and as a group. For the online students, I also provide tips on how to address discussion questions within the lecture. These tips direct them to areas of the course where the ideas to be discussed previously have been presented.
Thus, all the students are “blinking” together and in this way they learn, review, discuss, apply the concepts, and solve problems. I believe focusing upon one or two ideas at a time helps us all to see the brilliant flashes of light – together.
By Judie Haynes
Here are five key strategies for teaching beginning English language learners:
1. Provide information that the beginning ELL can understand. Language is not “soaked up.” A beginning level English learner must understand the message that is conveyed. In schools where there are no bilingual programs, ELLs are assigned to a general education classroom and spend most of their day in this environment. It is especially critical for them to receive comprehensible input from their teachers and classmates. If possible bilingual aides should be employed to help translate key concepts and vocabulary. Materials should be available in native language. Teachers need to speak more slowly, use gestures and body language to get across the meaning to English language learners. Use visual representations of new vocabulary and concepts for beginners include graphs, maps, photographs, drawings, charts, and videos. Tell a story about information in the textbook using visuals.
Content area information can be used to teach language. However, educators need differentiate the language used for instruction. All teachers need to become language teachers.
Let’s look at Mr. Hurley’s 6th grade science class where students are studying volcanoes. Mr. Hurley uses graphic organizers on Webspiration. to help students organize information. He provides websites from Thinkfinity to provide simple drawings for his beginners. The English language learners in his class can study diagrams of the parts of the volcanoes and the different types of volcanoes through online resources. The ELL beginners can read information on three different types of volcanoes online at Windows to the Universe. Mr. Hurley has set the site at the “beginner level” in English and his Spanish speaking students read the material on the website in native language first. Some of his Chinese and Indian students are reading material in native language on Wikipedia. As they read, they label the different types of volcanoes. They watch the eruption of a volcano on Teacher Tube. Mr. Hurley’s beginning ELs are responsible for 6 concrete vocabulary words.
2. Link new information to prior knowledge. Teachers need to consider what schema English language learners bring to the classroom and to link instruction to the students’ personal, cultural, and world experiences. They must understand how culture impacts learning in their classroom. Mr. Hurley asks bilingual aides to write messages to the parent of beginners so that students can talk to them about volcanoes in their country and stories about people they know that might have had experience with a volcano. Same language buddies explain the assignment to beginners.
3. Modify vocabulary instruction for ELs. English language learners require direct instruction of new vocabulary. Content area teachers need to go beyond the concrete nouns that are needed for the lesson. Functiion words, adjectives, adverbs and conjunctions also need to be taught. Beginners should also have multiple opportunities to practice the pronunciation and learn the meaning of new words. Beginning ELs need much more exposure to new words and phrases than do English fluent peers. Teachers need to tie new vocabulary to prior learning and use visual to reinforce meaning. Beginners need to learn concrete nouns and simple verbs first.
4. Use cooperative learning strategies. Lecture style teaching excludes beginning ELLs from the learning in a content area classroom. We don’t want to relegate English language learners to the fringes of the classroom doing a separate lesson with a classroom aide or ESL teacher. Working in small groups is especially beneficial to beginning ELLs who have an authentic reason to learn key concepts and use academic vocabulary. Beginning ELLs should be grouped with same language peers when possible. Jobs in a cooperative learning group can be modified for them. Beginning ELLs can gather supplies, draw pictures, and look for illustrations online. In Mr. Hurley’s class cooperative groups concluded the unit on Volcanoes by designing a poster using Glogster.
5. Modify testing and homework for ELs. Content area homework and assessments needs to be differentiated for Beginning ELLs. Teachers should allow alternative types of assessment: oral, drawings, physical response (e.g., act-it-out), and manipulatives as well as modification to the test. Homework and assessment should be directly linked to classroom instruction and students should be provided with study guides so that they know what to study. Remember that the ELLs in your class may not be able to take notes.
From Debbie Zacarian and Judie Haynes, (2012) The Essential Guide to Educating Beginning English Learners
Howard Gardner challenged that prevailing definition of intelligence with one concise description of what it means to be smart: “the ability to find and solve problems and create products of value in one's own culture.” It’s so simple it’s profound! There is no single measurement for intelligence in this definition. There is no “quotient” that can quantify ability or predict potential. Gardner’s theory attempts to provide for the complex processes of human cognition without setting limits on its potential. If the human mind has an operating system, Gardner’s model is the manual that attempts to explain how it runs.
Consider these observable actions for each intelligence:
Read, write, speak, tell, ask, explain, inform, convey, report, articulate, address, confer, request, recount, lecture, present, announce, narrate, debate, discuss, converse, recite, quote, describe, clarify
Solve, resolve, question, hypothesize, theorize, scrutinize, investigate, experiment, analyze, deduce, prove, verify, decipher, determine, predict, estimate, measure, calculate, quantify, simplify
Observe, symbolize, draw, sketch, draft, illustrate, paint, color, contour, outline, rearrange, design, redesign, invent, create, conceive, originate, innovate, imagine, picture, envision, visualize, pretend
Build, construct, erect, assemble, make, manufacture, structure, craft, imitate, play, perform, walk, run, jump, dance, collect, gather, compile, fashion, shape, duplicate, dissect, exercise, move, transport
Listen, hear, infer, audiate, note, pattern, sing, clap, chant, model, repeat, replicate, reproduce, copy, echo, imitate, impersonate, mimic, compose, harmonize, dub, rap, orchestrate, resonate
Express, imply, support, sponsor, promote, advise, advocate, encourage, champion, justify, rationalize, characterize, defend, validate, vindicate, assess, evaluate, judge, challenge, survey, poll
Share, lead, guide, direct, help, mediate, manage, conduct, collaborate, cooperate, interview, influence, persuade, campaign, convince, compromise, role play, improvise, ad-lib, referee, reconcile
Sort, organize, categorize, compare, contrast, differentiate, separate, classify, detail, align, order, arrange, sequence, inventory, catalogue, group, file, index, chronicle, log, map, chart, graph
Reflect, contemplate, deliberate, ponder, summarize, synthesize, associate, relate, recap, encapsulate, elaborate, appreciate, appraise, critique, evaluate, assess, speculate, explore, dream, wonder
Our goal should be to provide instructional opportunities that promote all nine intelligences. MI Theory was not developed to label or exclude individuals, but to allow all learners to be successful through the different paths to learning that Gardner has identified.
Technology can provide us with the tools we need to redefine how and what we teach. As the old saying goes, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything around you looks like a nail.” There is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution for providing instruction. With this in mind, let’s consider how different technologies map to each of the intelligences. While this is by no means exhaustive, it offers examples of technologies and the intelligences they stimulate.
Textbook, pencil, worksheet, newspaper, magazine, word processing, electronic mail, desk top publishing, web-based publishing, keyboard, text bridges, speech recognition software
Cuisenaire rods, unifix cubes, tangrams, measuring cups, measuring scales, graphing calculators, spreadsheets, search engines, problem solving tasks, programming languages
Videos, picture books, art supplies, chalkboard, Smart board, slide shows, charting and graphing, digital camera/camcorders, graphics editors, digital animation/movies, WYSIWYG editors
Manipulative materials, screw, lever, wheel and axle, inclined plane, pulley, wedge, assistive technologies, digital probes, simulations that require eye-hand coordination, video games
Puzzles, virtual pattern games, musical instruments, digital sounds, digital recotding, digital sampling, multimedia presentations, multimedia editing software, MP3 players
Journals, diaries, voting machines, learning centers, children’s literature, student-centered projects, online surveys, online forms, digital portfolios, digital self-assessments, blogs
Laboratory, board games, walkie-talkie, cell phone, chat, message boards, instant messenger, collaborative projects, online projects, virtual interactive games, Twitter, LinkedIn
Magnifying glass, microscope, telescope, bug box, scrap book, sandwich bag, plastic container database, semantic mapping tools, social bookmarking sites, online file storage
Theater, virtual communities, virtual art exhibits, virtual field trips, wikis, Facebook, Google+, multiple user virtual environments, virtual reality
By keeping in mind the affordances of each technology, teachers can successfully select those applications that will match learning objectives to the intelligences that thrive in every classroom.
But how do schools adopt a new model of thinking and learning that adequately parallels the demands of the Information Age workplace? And if we tend to teach in the same ways that we ourselves were taught, how then do we as teachers break away from the standardized, homogeneous approach to schooling that we knew as students? And for those innovators in the classroom who have already recognized the changing needs of society, in what sound theory can they base their evolving instructional practices?
Gardner’s definition of intelligence resounds clearly: the ability to create products and solve problems that are of value in one’s own culture…to be able to demonstrate understanding in rich, real world, performance-based tasks. For example, any standardized test can ask a student to identify the major organs in the digestive system of a fetal pig, but the student who is able to take that working knowledge and identify similar organs while manually dissecting the feline digestive system demonstrates that s/he has truly mastered the skill. Which student would you rather have working in your laboratory? Good test takers aren’t necessarily so because they master content easily. They’re good test takers because they can infer and deduce information and make correct choices a high percentage of the time. This may suffice for the needs of a multiple choice test, but any master teacher will tell you a student really hasn’t mastered a skill or concept until s/he can apply it in a completely novel context. When all students can demonstrate these kinds of abilities with regards to math, science, history, language and the arts then we will have truly revolutionized public education.
Mirror site: http://surfaquarium.blogspot.com/
Walter’s blog archive: http://surfaquarium.com/blog.htm
5 Top Resources for Aligning Your Social Studies Curricula to the Common Core
Social studies supervisors and teachers across the country are revising their unit plans to meet their state’s content standards, as well as, the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History and Social Studies. Simultaneously, many states are implementing new evaluation and observation frameworks. The performance ratings employed by the most popular evaluation models encourage a shift away from teacher-led direct instruction to more student-centered activities incorporating inquiry and synthesis. In social studies, primary source document analysis goes hand in hand with the 9-12 Common Core reading and writing standards. Here are five top resources to align your curricula to the Common Core with student driven lessons.
1) The Choices Program - http://www.choices.edu/
The Choices Program curriculum was developed at Brown University and has been the subject of studies by the University of Wisconsin Center for Educational Research. The curriculum units draw upon multiple primary source documents and culminate in a rigorous student-centered role-playing activity. The Choices activities require students to apply their authentic knowledge to a public policy decision. The complete Choices Program can be purchased in PDF on a CD for $885. The Choices units are applicable to United States and global history classes.
2) DBQ Project - http://www.dbqproject.com/
The DBQ project is a series of long (DBQs) and short (Mini-Qs) primary source document activities that focus on close reading and evidence-based writing. Many of the DBQ Project’s activities require students to compare differing historical accounts and share their analysis via jigsaw activities. The DBQ Project’s “buckets” system is useful for preparing students to answer DBQs on AP exams. The DBQ Project comes in United States and global history editions.
3) Read Like a Historian - http://sheg.stanford.edu/?q=node/45
Developed by Stanford University’s History Education Group, the Read Like a Historian program (RLH) consists of 75 primary source-based lessons that encompass the traditional United States history curriculum. New teachers and departments undergoing curriculum overhauls will feel like kids in a candy shop when exploring RLH’s units that are complete with plans, PowerPoints, and graphic organizers. RLH’s lessons are easy to access and are free!
4) Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - http://www.gilderlehrman.org/
The Gilder Lehrman Institute (GLI) of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education. The Institute has developed an array of programs for schools that focus on teaching with primary source documents. The GLI site provides access to the GLI Collection (featuring more than 60,000 unique historical documents), teacher resources, and lesson plans. The History Now newsletter is organized by period and links lessons by grade level. The multimedia section includes lectures by eminent historians, online exhibits, and podcasts. New additions include a set of Common Core aligned lesson plans and a list of UBD-compatible essential questions. GLI materials are free. Some of the site’s resources are limited to registered users. Schools that apply and are accepted to be GLI Affiliates gain access to all of GLI’s resources. GLI Affiliate school teachers have the opportunity to participate in GLI summer professional development seminars.
5) SPICE - http://spice.stanford.edu/
The Stanford Program on International and Cross Cultural Education is a non-profit educational program and receives funding from the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. SPICE consists of over 100 global studies units that explore contemporary issues via historical and cultural analysis. SPICE lessons are attentive to spatial analysis and economic decision making. SPICE activities engage students with an array of multiple perspectives to engender critical thinking skills. The SPICE units vary in price and can be purchased in bundles.
Although trends in education are moving away from lecture-based instruction and embracing a more interactive, student-centered form of education, many classrooms—for better or worse—still operate under the traditional paradigm: lectures, notes, quizzes, papers/projects, cumulative assessments, and then The Grade.
For many students this system may “work,” but according to Robert Talbot, an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Grand Valley State University, the traditional system doesn’t emulate real-life learning that demands we take charge and learn on our own.
Talbot argues that most of us have to find our way with very little instruction from outsiders. We use trial and error to figure out how things work or how to improve ourselves and/or our performance. This is the idea behind flipped teaching, or inverted classrooms. It’s also, according to Talbot, what we must do in our everyday lives.
Flipped Teaching Offers a More Integrated Learning Process
In Talbot's inverted classroom, the students have Learning Objectives they are responsible for before they come to class. Talbot, who teaches a high-level math class at Grand Valley State University, has students watch 3-5 minute YouTube video lectures and provides printed lists of additional resources they might find helpful. Students read a short section from the text book and usually have a few practice problems to work on. They share their experiences, and their work, prior to class via a Piazza discussion board. This gives Talbot a last-minute chance to adjust his lesson plans based on students' needs.
Once students enter the classroom, they are given a very short quiz on the work they covered beforehand. It is done using a clicker so Talbot has instant access to their progress. Then he opens the floor for approximately 10 minutes of question/answer time to clarify fuzzy concepts or to respond to applicable comments that were submitted to the piazza discussion board prior to class. In this way, the learning process is integrated using a variety of resources, instruction methods, teacher guidance, and student collaboration.
By having students independently, or collaboratively, prepare for lessons prior to class, Talbot is able to use approximately 30-35 minutes (of a 1 hour class period) to engage directly with students as they work out problems on their own, or with help from their peers. Anyone in the teaching profession knows this is a significantly larger percentage of time than is ever available in the traditional lecture/note taking format. Just think of all the times teachers are scrambling to get last bits of information out of their mouths as students hurriedly prepare to exit the classroom. Forget the idea of classroom one-on-one instruction time.
Flipped Teaching Offers Another Method for Empowering Students
Flipped teaching allows students to direct their own learning process, by digesting materials at their own pace, while a teacher stands by ready to assist when necessary. In fact, one of the major advantages of flipped teaching methods is that videos and short lectures to be seen before class time allows students the opportunity to revisit lectures, rewind them, pause for breaks, or to check back when they are taking a class and need a foundational refresher later on.
In the words of Talbot, "...most of the real work here is concentrated inside, not outside, the classroom," which is truly an inversion from traditional education models, especially those at the collegiate level.
We would love to hear your thoughts about the inverted classroom idea.
Imagine how flipped teaching would look for you as a teacher. Does it inspire you? How would the preparation be different from your current methods? Or, how do you feel about flipped teaching as a student? What do you think are its strengths and weaknesses? Are there classes you feel are more suited to an inverted classroom than others? Leave your comments and let us know.
More than ever, educational leadership is expected to successfully manage the institution and also improve teaching and learning. The modern administrator or principal also needs to be a visionary! Marygrove College offers a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, a program that will give you the tools, advanced knowledge and skills necessary to lead the modern school.
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASCD Launches Free Online Needs Assessment and School Improvement Tool
All educators want to improve the work they do for students. Whether it’s instruction, school climate, leadership, family engagement, or any of the other issues we face on a daily basis, we all need tools to help us improve in our context with our students. The ASCD School Improvement Tool is the newest and best way to get a snapshot of how well your school or district is doing and then identify what steps to take to get to the next level.
Designed for use in schools and districts around the world, this free tool offers educators a comprehensive and completely online needs assessment. It includes a survey based on the indicators(PDF) of a sustainable whole child approach to education which span school climate and culture, instruction and curriculum, leadership, family and community engagement, professional development and staff capacity, and assessment.
Based on your unique results, the tool points you to professional development resources that can help immediately address schoolwide challenges. Go to http://sitool.ascd.orgto get started.
To post an ASCD School Improvement Tool badge on your website:
Go to http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/images/siteASCD/ProfessionalDevelopment/school-improvement-tool-150x150.png. Download the image to your computer (for PC users: right-click your mouse and select “save image as”). Hyperlink the image to http://sitool.ascd.org, preferably to open in a new window/tab.
Use the following html code to embed the image, already linked, on your website: <a href="http://sitool.ascd.org/Default.aspx" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/images/siteASCD/ProfessionalDevelopment/school-improvement-tool-150x150.png" alt="ASCD School Improvement Tool" width="150" height="150" /></a>
Contact Klea Scharberg at email@example.com with questions or specific size, format, or language requests.
Please Welcome the Whole Child Network of Schools to the ASCD Community
The 10 schools—nine from across the continental United States and one from Guam —chosen to participate in ASCD’s Whole Child Network kicked off their efforts with a two and a half day Whole Child Network Summer Institute in Alexandria, Va., on July 15–17, 2012.
These chosen schools have committed to a comprehensive school improvement process using the tenets of the Whole Child Initiative—healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged—and their indicators (PDF) as a sustainable whole child approach to education.
The July institute will be followed by a one-day, on-site professional development at each school. Facilitated in partnership with ASCD’s Whole Child Programs staff, the training will introduce the whole child approach to education within each participating school’s community. ASCD staff will work with each school to support a comprehensive implementation based on the school’s results fromthe new ASCD School Improvement Tool and in correlation with their school improvement plans.
Contact Donna Snyder, Manager Whole Child Programs, for more information at 703-575-5448 or firstname.lastname@example.org
2012 Whole Child Network of Schools:
· Albert Harris Elementary School, Martinsville, Va., K–5.
· Drew-Freeman Middle School, Suitland, Md., 7–8.
· Finegayan Elementary School, Hagatna, Guam, Head Start and K–5.
· Fredstrom Elementary School, Lincoln, Neb., K–5.
· Holly Glen Elementary School, Williamstown, N.J., preK–4.
· Le Sueur-Henderson High School, Le Sueur, Minn., l 6–12.
· Martinsville High School, Martinsville, Va., 9–12.
· Odyssey Community School of the Santa Clara County School District in San Martin, Calif., 9–12.
· P.S. 9, the Teunis G. Bergen Elementary School Brooklyn, N.Y., preK–5.
· Urban Community School in Cleveland, Ohio, preK–8.
ASCD Emerging Leaders Sound Off on ASCD EDge
Check out these great posts from ASCD leaders on ASCD EDge. Feel free to comment and share!
· Ready, Set, Goals! By Fred Ende, 2012 Emerging Leader
· On the Edge of Insanity: Developing My First PLN! By Craig Martin, 2012 Emerging Leader
· Practice Makes Permanent by Fred Ende, 2012 Emerging Leader
· How Will You Be a Connected Educator? By Steven Anderson, 2012 Emerging Leader
· If It Ain’t Broke… by Fred Ende, 2012 Emerging Leader
· Reform in Mathematics Teaching by Patricia Dickenson, 2011 Emerging Leader
· The Power of the Lurker by Steven Anderson, 2012 Emerging Leader
· Does the Student Create the Teacher? By Jason Ellingson, 2012 Emerging Leader
· Learn to Lead, Lead to Learn by Fred Ende, 2012 Emerging Leader
· If We Are Going to Lead, We Have to Be Connected by Steven Anderson, 2012 Emerging Leader
Over 200 Leaders Gather for the 2012 Leader to Leader Conference
Last month, ASCD leaders met at the Hyatt Dulles hotel for the 2012 Leader to Leader Conference. ASCD staff would like to thank attendees for a great conference and for their dedication and renewed commitment to revolutionizing the way we learn by ensuring that each child, in each community, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Attendees have already provided extremely helpful feedback in the conference evaluation that will help inform future improvements to the conference.
Past OYEA Cadre Members Share Their Thoughts on ASCD Inservice
· From School Leader to Community Leader “You can no longer just worry about the issues that are happening within your school.”—Luis Torres, 2011 OYEA Winner
· How Leaders in Singapore Stay Relevant to the Classroom “It’s this constant rotation in leadership so that educational leaders still have that fresh classroom experience to really think as a teacher.”—Deirdra Grode, 2008 OYEA Winner
· Educational Leadership is My Just-in-Time Resource —Dallas Dance, OYEA Honoree
· Using Mobile Devices to Improve Feedback Between Teachers and Principals “As principals, the quickest way to help students is to give teachers really good feedback.” — Brian Nichols, 2010 OYEA Winner
· Is Learning Being Redefined as Project-Based?—Bijal Damani, 2009 OYEA Winner
Help Stop Sequestration!
Sequestration will take effect in January 2013 unless Congress repeals it, making it crucial for education leaders like you to act now to prevent education spending from being cut by 8.4 percent, or about $4.1 billion.
If you haven’t yet e-mailed your federal legislators about sequestration, we strongly encourage you to take five minutes to contact them today.
Save the Date for ASCD’s Annual Legislative Conference
Don’t let Congress make decisions about student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and school reform without the expert information you can provide. Let your voice be heard at ASCD's Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA), which will be held January 27–29, 2013. LILA is your opportunity to learn about and advocate for the education policies that have a direct effect on your work in the district, school, and classroom. Whether you are just becoming interested in advocacy or are a long-time activist, LILA can enhance your influence and effectiveness with policymakers at all levels. Look for more information, including registration details, in the coming weeks.
Something to Talk About
· Prince George's County Public Schools and ASCD Partner to Achieve Title I Professional Development Goals—Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS) Title I Office has chosen ASCD as its newest professional development partner. As the second largest school system in Maryland and the 18th largest in the nation, PGCPS's 9,000 educators serve 125,000 students in 205 schools. Read the full press release.
· School Renewal Experts Publish ASCD Guidebook for Fearlessly Leading School Transformation—ASCD is pleased to announce the release of Aim High, Achieve More: How to Transform Urban Schools Through Fearless Leadership, a practical and inspiring new book by school renewal experts Yvette Jackson and Veronica McDermott. Read the full press release.
· ASCD Leader Receives Award for 20 Years of Service—ASCD CEO and Executive Director Dr. Gene R. Carter was honored by the association’s Board of Directors for his 20 years of service to the organization. The award was presented to Dr. Carter by ASCD President Debra Hill at the close of the association’s summer Board of Directors’ meeting in Alexandria, Va. Read the full press release.
Meeting Common Core Standards requires more emphasis on inquiry and project based learning (PBL.) Increasingly, in the 2012 -2013 school year, teachers will be asked to design and implement high quality, student-focused projects that help students go deeper into subjects, think harder, and perform better.
Teachers with experience in ‘doing projects’ often feel that they know how to do this, but delivering high quality PBL that yields ‘visible greatness,’ in the words of a teacher I talked with recently, is not easy work. Effective PBL begins with mastering a design methodology that combines discovery with accountability. After that, the power of PBL is harnessed when teachers employ a set of tools and principles aimed at engaging students in a powerful learning experience—the kind that directs them toward deeper thinking, and that often permanently shifts their behaviors and attitudes in a positive direction. That’s the standard we now seek in our schools.
That standard can be met through PBL, but not without overcoming certain pitfalls and gaps in PBL by letting go of ingrained practices in education that actually retard deeper thinking. What should you look for, either to use or avoid?
First, I’ve found that high quality projects begin well before students ever see them. This is the stage in which you are conceptualizing a project and working on a design idea that will engage students in solving an important, relevant, open ended problem. What do those problems look like, and how do you get there? Here are ten tips:
Thom Markham is the author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for inquiry and innovation for K-12 educators, and the principal author of the Handbook for Project Based Learning, published by the Buck Institute for Education. Download the rubrics and protocols mentioned above, and other Tools for PBL, on his website, www.thommarkham.com or contact him at email@example.com.
There was a time when children went off to school expecting to read in every class, whether it was mathematics, science, or history. It simply was a given that reading in all the content areas had an impact on learning. This truth has resurfaced in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and teachers are realizing these new standards set much higher expectations for student learning than we have held in the recent past.
The CCSS aim to move students toward reading more nonfiction by engaging them in increasingly complex texts as they move through school, while at the same time, helping them develop discipline-specific literacy skills. In Teaching Reading in the Content Areas, 3rd edition, there are five recommendations from research that, if implemented thoughtfully and systematically, will help improve students’ reading comprehension. With each recommendation that follows, I’ve made a suggestion for getting started.
1. Provide explicit instruction in effective comprehension strategies
Even though science, mathematics, and social studies all demand distinctive reading and writing skills, one instructional practice that is important for all readers, and particularly adolescents, is teacher modeling. When teachers model strategies, they give students a kind of “sensory template.” The “Think-Aloud,” for example, is a strategy where teachers model the type of thinking a specific task requires. As students watch and listen to their teacher’s actions and words, they are able to visualize using the strategy.
2. Increase open, sustained discussion of reading content
When teachers encourage students to brainstorm ideas together and ask each other questions, students grow more aware of their cognitive processes, which strengthens their ability to select and use appropriate comprehension strategies. As important, when they engage in large-group discussion, they mine the shared knowledge of the class. The Socratic Seminar is a strategy that promotes debate, uses evidence from the text, and builds on another’s thinking. In a Socratic Seminar, each student has an active role: half the class sits in an inner circle and engages in a discussion while the other half sits in an outer circle and assesses their peers’ discussion skills.
3. Set and maintain high standards for text, conversation, questions, and vocabulary
Traditional vocabulary activities asked students to look up definitions of words in the dictionary and use the words in sentences; while this approach may be better than skipping vocabulary altogether, it is not an evidenced-based approach. This six-step approach for direct instruction of vocabulary is better:
4. Increase students’ motivation and engagement with reading
Although research does not identify specific motivational techniques for particular types of students, it does support choice, social interactions, and important and interesting learning goals. Teachers in any content area can give students choices of research topics and then assign debates. Because most students enjoy argument, they become motivated and engaged readers, but they need coaching from teachers on how to have meaningful debates. Teaching students to use frameworks, such as Proposition Support Outlines, helps them organize their research and arguments. While outlining, they analyze the different types of evidence an author presents and learn to be critical readers who can recognize different viewpoints, theories, hypotheses, facts, opinions, and debatable assertions.
5. Teach essential content knowledge so that all students master critical concepts
As students improve their knowledge in a specific area, their ability to understand the associated reading material also improves. As a content-area teacher, you are much more likely to improve students’ ability to independently comprehend the reading material when you use instructional routines that support students’ understanding of content-area vocabulary, concepts, and facts. After students read about a topic, ask them to perform or construct something by following a multistep process or procedure.
Teachers can prepare students to succeed in college or build solid careers by sharing a variety of strategies, explaining their value, and repeatedly modeling and having students practice them. By learning to read effectively, students not only learn the content they need to master, they also come to value reading and learning.
Free resource: Remove Limits to Learning with Systematic Vocabulary Instruction (Stone & Urquhart, 2008),
Order Teaching Reading in The Content Areas: If Not Me Then Who, 3rd edition from ASCD.
I welcomed Laura into my office and offered her a seat at the small conference table across from my desk. I sat down next to her and opened my observation notes. Smiling, I thanked her for coming in and handed her a written summary of the main points I wanted to discuss. One-by-one, I reviewed those points, providing my assessment of what worked and did not work during her lesson, giving examples from her classroom to bolster my assessment, and offering suggestions for how she could improve her practice.
When I finished, I asked her if she had any questions. Laura looked thoughtfully at my bulleted list for a moment and then asked my advice on how she might implement some of my suggestions. I reached to the shelf behind me and pulled out a book I had recently read and turned to the page I had dog-eared earlier. I summarized the key points of the chapter and then showed her a few exercises she could try. I handed her the book and promised to get a full write up of my observation to her by the end of the day. Laura thanked me profusely and said that she looked forward to reading it. As we stood and shook hands, she told me how much she learned from our meeting and how she couldn’t wait to try the strategies I suggested.“Oh my,” I smiled, slightly embarrassed at her heart-felt declaration.“I’m just doing my job.”
At least that is how it went in my head.
So, I wasn’t nervous when I ushered Laura into my office the next morning for her post-observation conference. I had already rehearsed what I was going to say, the notes were all prepared, the resources organized and within arms’ reach, ready for her whenever she asked for them. How was I, a brand new administrator, to know that the conversation wouldn’t be quite that easy? I had been trained on how to do observations, trained on how to conduct post-observation conferences, female and I had done my research. Besides, I was a likable person who, when I was teaching, other teachers sought for advice. Why wouldn’t the conversation go exactly as I had planned?
But three minutes into the conversation, I knew something had gone terribly wrong. Laura wasn’t eagerly accepting my assessment of her classroom. She wasn’t asking for my advice on how she could improve. She wasn’t nodding her head in agreement to my prescription for her teaching. She sat across from me arms crossed, lips tight, turning redder by the second. When I finished talking, she didn’t ask any questions. Instead, she launched into a defense of what had happened in her classroom and told me that it was really hard for me to get an accurate assessment of her teaching after having only been in her classroom once. I was too shocked to say much after that so I thanked her for her input, mumbled something about having her observation to her by the end of the day, and stood. She grabbed her papers and stormed out.
Like I said, that went differently in my head.
After that early experience, I learned to dread having post-observation conferences with teachers. I would wake up the morning of one of these conferences sick to my stomach. I compensated for my nervousness by over-preparing and by structuring the conferences so much that the teacher had little opportunity to contribute. They sat across from me nodding while pretending to understand what I was talking about or smiling indulgently and gamely playing along or tersely answering my questions with thinly veiled hostility counting the minutes until they could get out of my office. I plowed on sharing my comments and suggestions and providing resources that were neither asked for nor used. Each of us played our parts in the dance between teachers and administrators that goes on in schools all over this country every day and very little changed in the classroom.
Perhaps you too are frustrated with the way your post-observation conferences typically go. Maybe you too dread meeting with teachers because these meetings are usually fraught with tension and yield little results in the classroom. Maybe you are looking for a way to provide better feedback to teachers.
As instructional leaders, our jobs rely on conversations. It is our main tool. We discipline students through conversations. We work with parents through conversations. We respond to district mandates through conversations. We learn through conversations. And, we provide leadership to teachers through conversations. If we don’t get the conversations right, we seriously handicap our ability to lead effectively. If, however, we understand how to harness the power of conversations, we can dramatically improve teaching and learning in our building.
Typically, the feedback we give teachers is supervisory, designed to convey information rather than exchange ideas. These conversations are one-sided – you tell teachers your goals, ideas, and assessment of their teaching. The only reply available to a teacher in this type of conversation is a reaction to your assessment rather than a genuine response to the information.
Strategic conversations are different. While supervisory feedback seems more designed to provide a single and final evaluation of a teacher’s performance and cookie cutter prescriptions for improvement, strategic conversations provide teachers with ongoing direct and honest assessments of their current performance and help them develop the skills and the disposition they need to improve and meet or exceed the standards. The feedback is not a one shot deal. It is part of a continuous dialogue about effective instruction and student achievement. And, because this feedback is tailored to teachers’ individual needs, it is more likely to make a real difference in their practice.
In strategic conversations you are not the problem solver; you facilitates problem solving among teachers. It is the teacher’s responsibility to manage their own professional growth and solve their own instructional challenges. Strategic conversations are based on the assumption that teachers are trying to do the best they can. The role of the instructional leader is to help teachers discover the root cause of their instructional challenges and to guide teachers to resolve these challenges themselves.
At the heart of strategic conversations is a relationship. Strategic conversations help you establish trust and maintain it — even when you are sharing really difficult feedback. When teachers feel safe, they are more likely to take the steps they need to improve.
To learn more about strategic conversations, check out my book The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers. It includes step-by-step advice for how to have difficult conversations with teachers, how to share feedback that actually helps teachers improve their performance, and how to choose the right conversational approach given your goals and teachers’ needs. You can also check out resources from the book by visiting here.
Even while we’re creating new neural pathways, the old ones are still there in our brains. Until the new ones become completely second nature, then stress or fear can make us fall back on the old ones.
Perhaps like me, you have discovered two fundamental truths about professional development. First, follow-up is critical to effective PD. And, second, without continuing encouragement, support, and follow-up, the average teacher has a remarkable capacity for returning to his/her “default settings” or age-old practices. With that in mind, let me propose another truth -- we already know a great deal about how to provide PD that supports teachers' implementation of research-based best practices. After all, we know that when long-term support is provided for teachers, deepened levels of implementation are more likely to occur. However, the process of implementing PD is complex and difficult. We face several factors that either augment or thwart teachers' continued use of the practices. We potentially strike at the inner core of deeply embedded and learned skills, beliefs and ideas about education even creating doubts about purpose, competency, and self-identity. It inevitably involves unease, ambiguity and struggle as people grapple with the new concept.
Because PD ultimately seeks to bring about change in teacher practice, as school leaders, we need to consider job-embedded PD as a way to better ensure deepened levels of implementation. The thinking behind job-embedded PD is that a focus on teacher learning that is removed from the classroom is destined to miss the mark because it does not take into account the setting in which the teacher learning will unfold. Joyce & Showers (1980) use the term transfer. Their notable procedural PD model suggests the use of coaching (one form of job-embedded PD) to follow-up and support teachers’ efforts to transfer their learning into the classroom. Coaching “provides ongoing consistent follow-up by way of demonstrations, observations, and conversations with teachers as they implement new strategies and knowledge” (Croft, etal, 2010). The coach in this model of job-embedded PD can come in the form of a teacher-leader, a veteran teacher, or an outside consultant.
As a district, several years ago, we embarked upon a PD journey that brought onboard a handful of professional consultants working in tandem with classroom teachers across the district. Carefully matched, these dynamic duos (teacher and coach) work alongside one another in the classroom setting. Two teachers on one campus I recently visited shared their stories of how their coach helped them in the implementation process. One shared that her journey began when she observed a group of students who were consistently engaged in other off-task activities as she guided a lesson, yet they performed well academically in her class. Her coach guided her towards pre-assessment as a means for discovering up-front where students were in their learning so that she could better tailor her lessons to meet each learner where he was at, and in turn, increase student engagement. She noted that overall the group excelled. Another teacher shared that her shift to “tiered quizzes” began when her coach helped her understand the importance of assessing students at all levels of learning. Her “straight ahead,” “uphill,” and “mountainous” quizzes allow students to determine the level at which they are prepared to be assessed. Surprisingly, she discovered that the majority of students selected the most appropriate quiz. For those who needed to consider a more difficult quiz, she found that a simple, yet direct, conversation helped students more appropriately select the level of quiz.
The glaring reality is that many PD experiences continue to be short-term and disconnected from the reality of teachers' work. Skillfully implemented job-embedded PD can serve as a powerful catalyst for affecting student learning. Most studies show that coaching leads to improvements in instructional capacity. In contrast to his counterparts working in isolation, the teacher who is coached is allowed greater opportunity to more deeply apply his learning. And, yet, it is important to point out that coaching is not a panacea – a magic cure-all. (Wouldn’t that be nice if it was!) However, it can act as a bridge between learning and application, in turn lessening the gap between the two. These newly developed neural pathways lead the teacher learner to make adjustments in her default settings, thus lessening the chance that she will slip back into ineffective, age-old practices, and in turn, helping her better meet the needs of students.
Croft, A., etal. (2010). Job-embedded professional development: What it is, who is responsible, and how to get it done well. Issue brief. Retrieved March 25, 2012 from http://www.tqsource.org/publications/JEPD%20Issue%20Brief.pdf
Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (1980). Improving inservice training: The messages of research. Educational Leadership, 37(5).
Dr. Glenda Horner is the Coordinator for Staff Development in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, Texas. She has participated in ASCD’s On-Site Capacity Building services. Go to www.ascd.org/oscb to learn more.
My wife and I had been saving up our rewards points from airlines, hotels, and credit cards in order to celebrate a 24th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas. We finally did it this past week. As a lifelong “Rat Pack” fan I looked forward to the Landmarks, the Legends, the Lights, and the Luxuries of the Las Vegas Strip. Ironically, however, our most enjoyable venture was a helicopter tour and landing in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
One of the most impressive feats of Las Vegas Casinos, to me at least as an educator, was their ability to engage people in the casinos without regard to time. There were no clocks. There were no windows. There were no skylights. The only bells going off were on the slot machines. There seemed to be a total engagement in the moment. Time was not a limitation. The goal was to get a person’s complete and total involvement. In that environment, it seemed to work. Time is a major component of any form of competition, with the obvious exception to games of chance. The main goal in casinos is to get one’s complete engagement for the longest time possible. Time is on the side of the Casinos.
Of course education is another area where each participant’s total engagement would greatly improve the ability to achieve the stated purpose. We educators however, do not attack our purpose with the same ferocity as Casino owners. We force students to limit their engagement based on time. Clocks and schedules are the central theme of a school day. The clock determines when engagement will begin and when it will end. The school calendar is mapped out a year in advance. Considering a student’s age as a unit of time, it has an enormous impact on where a student will be placed to learn.
In general terms in New York for example, a secondary teacher has four, ten week quarters. Each week has 5 periods of approximately 43 minutes. Depending on the school the periods could be longer or shorter, and depending on the vacations within a quarter the ten weeks could be shorter. That is the time frame around which most educators plan the year.
Back in the day, giving a lecture and using direct instruction for a 43 minute period was doable. That was the way that many students were educated for years. Anyone over 60 certainly identifies with this model. That was the time when the teacher had to deliver the entire structured curriculum in the time allotted. Each year there seemed to be more and more added to the curriculum without adding time to do it. I remember referring to that as the “Spandex curriculum”.
As teaching became more creative, and project based learning began to expand, as well as group work and collaborative learning, and simulations, little could be done with time to accommodate those activities. Some schools tried flexible scheduling, but that never seemed to have caught on as mainstream concept in education. To make things worse today, we now have to add in all of the required high stakes testing schedules. In addition to the tests themselves, many schools require test preparation time. In some cases as much as a whole month of test preparation is required in each subject. Even spandex can’t accommodate these additions.
Classroom teachers are not alone in these time accommodations, administrators have had to make adjustments for their time as well. In order to run a school there are many administrative duties required, all of which take time. The more these administrators have to address dealing with their school community, as well as their community at large, the further they are taken away from education. There is no time to be a mentor, a lead educator, or an educational leader. Many admins, not all, survive by serving the bureaucracy. Even now this is being further complicated with a call for more frequent assessments of teachers. The most dedicated administrators will be hard pressed to find the time to adequately address all of the tasks which will be required.
If we are ever to address reform in education, there are a many changes to consider. There are many readjustments to make. There are many myths to be left behind. In order to change the system, we have to consider changing the culture. Addressing time as an issue in education should definitely be a goal for reform. We should never however, just add time in order to continue to do the same stuff for longer periods of time.
Time has always been a hindrance to innovation in education. We cannot expect to fit innovative 21st Century programs for education into an old model time schedule based on the 19th Century. There is nothing more disturbing than to watch a class full of students looking at the clock, so they can get their books ready to leave at five minutes before the bell. If we approach time differently to give educators a better allotment to engage students with better models of instruction, we may be on our way to positive change.
If we recognize the fact that the administrative hierarchy based on a 19th Century model cannot work within the time constraints given to a 21st Century administrator, then let’s change that model as well. Time in education is an issue to be dealt with aggressively, not passively. We need to control time and not let it control us. Casinos have it right! Controlling time for education is a goal worth pursuing, and on that, I am willing to bet.
You can’t be a two-headed dreamer. You can’t have it both ways. Two-headed dreamers don’t just talk out of both sides of their mouth….they talk from two completely different minds. Consider those passionate idealists who both want to make meaningful change in life, and at the same time are insistent that there is a menacing conspiracy keeping them from making change happen. It’s a contradiction in thinking…two different heads trying to direct the same body.
My working definition of a passionate idealist is someone who dreams dreams and lives their waking hours to realize them. They have a zeal for life and a belief that they have a moral obligation to make a difference through the life they live. I fancy myself to be a passionate idealist. I believe I make a difference every day by my attitude, choices and actions. Anything that I allow to shake that belief reduces my chances to be successful.
Having this orientation to the world is a sum of all my experiences from early on. Speaking up and asking questions, engaging others and building my own understanding from the discourse. Standing up for what I believe in and withstanding the push back of pessimism and conflicting agendas. Responding to others’ ideals and dreams and working together to make them that much closer to reality. Lending a helping hand when peers are struggling to accomplish their goals, and appreciating the satisfaction of watching them succeed.
But it’s more than that. Believing you can make the world a better place is a response to so many expressions of hope and faith in humanity. It’s laughing out loud to Forrest Gump and cheering during Braveheart. It’s singing along to One Tin Soldier at the top of your lungs and melting into memories when you hear the opening notes of What a Wonderful World. It’s being able to recite your favorite lines from your favorite movie without a second’s hesitation. It’s recalling everything in exact detail about the moment you met someone who dramatically changed you…both verbally and visually...believing everything happens for a reason...that love conquers all….
So how can people with such pure passion for leaving a lasting legacy reconcile that idealism with an unquestioned acceptance that some imposing evil holds our collective will captive and prevents us from making a difference?
Consider the prohibition movement of the early 1900s. Wayne Wheeler was a major player in the movement to pass the Eighteenth Amendment. A central piece of his argument for outlawing alcohol was a claim that business leaders wanted to keep their workforce dependent on alcohol so that workers were unable to organize and insist on better working conditions. On the ground in the heat of the progressive era, would this have looked like a truly plausible conspiracy? Apparently so, because everyone from religious leaders to union leaders to politicians came together to pass a constitutional amendment against the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol in 1920. But what does it tell us that the Twenty-first Amendment repealed this law only thirteen years later? The well-intended movement to address alcohol abuse was hijacked by unfounded fears and conspiracies that spawned an entire new set of societal problems. It’s striking that a social issue this pervasive was relegated to a simplistic solution that didn’t address the true problem at all.
If we allow our idealistic selves to be two-headed, to embrace not only everything we celebrate about our life and times, but also react out of frustration to unfounded fears, then we undermine our potential to be both dreamers and doers. We surrender our ability to make a difference by conceding that some unseen overpowering force is pulling the strings and calling the tune. In short…it’s a cop-out.
If you really want to make a difference, be a single-minded dreamer and a tough-minded doer. Don’t concede that anything is blocking your ability to make a difference but your own thinking and attitude. The only thing that has ever made a difference in this life is unflappable determination and a willingness to do the hard work that needs to be done. Now…let’s get to it.
Walter’s blog archive: http://surfaquarium.com/blog.htm
Mirror site: http://surfaquarium.blogspot.com/
A softly lit room welcomed me inside. My eyes caught the words: dare, create, live, fabulous, indulge lining one of the classroom walls. I quietly found my way to a seat near the back of the room just behind a student. In a soft, yet audible voice, the teacher guided the day’s instruction leading up to an opportunity for students to practice their newly acquired mathematics skill cast against a backdrop of tunes by Adele. Every student remained still, quiet, and engaged. I whispered to the young lady in front of me: “So, what do you like best about this class?” Her face literally lit up as she said: “Honestly, this is my favorite class, and I haven’t always liked math.” I asked: “So, what’s different?” Softly, she said without hesitation: “The teacher; what you see today is what we get every day.”
In an atmosphere of high-stakes accountability, schools strive to improve teaching and learning for all students. They make every effort to create classrooms like the one I was privileged to visit. As a result, effective professional development approaches for teachers are a high priority. However, the glaring verity is that attendance at a quality professional development does not make for improvement in the classroom. So, what (or who) makes the difference? Who is responsible for assuring that change toward student-focused instruction happens in the classroom?
Although a myriad of persons are responsible, no one is as vital as the teacher. In particular, schools that succeed best in implementing professional development often employ a group of strong teacher leaders who model strategies for ther teachers in a non-threatening way. With relative frequency, these individuals are able to informally influence the overt behavior or attitudes of others. These informal leaders are able to earn their leadership through practical competency and approachability. So, how do you build a successful cadre of teacher leaders?
Consider starting with your plums. The campus I mentioned earlier is in its third year of implementing a PD initiative. They began their journey with ten open and optimistic teachers and have now expanded their cadre to twenty teacher leaders.
Allow the cadre of teachers time to learn and experiment with new concepts in the classroom. A job-embedded approach to professional development weaves teacher learning into day-to-day teaching practices. By affording the time, space, structures, and supports to engage in job-embedded PD, we build capacity across our campuses.
Realize that learning trajectories differ. Doing so has an element of generativity to it, does not result in alienation, and in fact may build stronger learning relationships and lead to better results. This is how we would want teachers to work with students, as well; the same principles apply.
Foster collaboration. Someone once said: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision; the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Social interaction often deepens learning and the interpersonal support and synergy necessary for sustaining a PD initiative.
In time, through the actions of this carefully selected cadre of teachers, the initiative spreads and spills out down hallways and into the classrooms of other teachers. For this reason, teachers should have some ownership of the direction of professional development and the institution’s shared vision for the future. Teachers must be at the center of the change.
As Tomlinson and Imbeau say in their most recent book: “The job of creating classrooms where learning thrives is “vastly easier when everyone works as a team toward a shared goal, and it is unacceptable for anyone in the chain to abdicate his or her responsibility to make school work for each student who enters the door…If every other educator fails to assume the responsibility of leadership for student-focused change, the classroom teacher still has the power to reenvision and reinvent teaching and learning,” (2010, p. 9).
We know it in our hearts that teachers, not programs make a difference – it feels so good to see this put into practice!
“What lies behind and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tomlinson, C. and Imbeau, M. (2010). Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom, Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Dr. Glenda Horner is the Coordinator for Staff Development in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, Texas. She has participated in ASCD’s On-Site Capacity Building services. Go to www.ascd.org/oscb to learn more.