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341 Search Results for ""effective teaching""

  • 7 Tips for Re-doing the Studen 7 Tips for Re-doing the Student Re-do Process

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      In grading a recent test, I noticed that the scores were lower than usual.  I questioned if we had spent enough time on the material.  I wondered if I had failed to address the challenging content appropriately.  Was I to blame for the below average scores? Was it time for the dreaded “It’s not you, it’s me” speech.  After wallowing in this short self-blaming, “I stink as a teacher” mode, I decided to do something about it.  I decided to offer my students a re-do.  I love a good old re-do because they are wrapped in hope, second chances, and all things warm and fuzzy.   I think we all could benefit from a do-over every now and then (or every day).  Like the infamous episode where Oprah gave away cars, teachers should give away do-overs in their classrooms.  Every once in a while teachers should say, “here’s a free do-over for you, one for you, one for you…”  The only problem is that there are some drawbacks to the revision process.  Students may take advantage, the revision opportunity may limit the effort put forth on the initial work, and of course the practicality issue (in the real world we do not always get to correct our mistakes).  Lastly, sometimes students don’t follow through and do not participate in the revision process at all.  In the spirit of revision, I have developed a list of 7 strategies to facilitate the process and in turn encourage student participation:



      1.  Assess student interest in revision.

       

      When thinking about assessing interest, an online ad (it has over 20 million views) about gender stereotypes came to mind.  You can watch the entire ad here.  In the ad, there are adolescents that role play physical activities "like a girl" and then they act out the same activities "like a boy".  Unsurprisingly, within the role plays, the girls are portrayed less flatterinly than boys (for example they run less powerfully, swim less aggressively, etc.).  The best part, however is after a discussion of gender stereotypes, the adolescents are asked if they wish for a second chance to do their role plays "differently".  Instead of forcing a do-over, the children are invited to revisit their stereotypically laden gender beliefs.  And you know what-each child participates in the do-over. The big take-away here is that a simple participation request allows for instant participant buy-in and thus increases participation in the revision process.  

       

      2.  Include students as peer reviewers in the process.

       

      Even though teachers are more knowledgeable than students (we are the experts in the classroom), we can learn a great deal from our students.  The “curse of the expert” theory outlines how experts may sabotage learning (they often underestimate the level of task difficulty and overestimate potential performance of novices).  In order to get around this, try to incorporate the help of your students in the revision process.  Students share the same language or jargon, and provide a variety of feedback to help one another improve their work (Cho & MacArthur, 2010).

       

      3.  Consider how to manage time in the revision process.


      If you are not careful, all of your teaching time will turn into revision time.  To avoid this, one educator in an article titled “The utility of a student organized revision day" describes the benefits of designating one class day for student revision (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2012).  Another idea that I tend to use-would be to include detailed rubrics so that the students have what they need to get the assignment right the very first time.  A final suggestion would be the use of video to record assignment instructions or tips (Whatley & Ahmad, 2007). The video method is effective because conversational style is often more user-friendly than written/formal style (personalization learning principle).

       

       
      4.  Consider how your feedback influences student revision.

       

      An article titled "What does it take to make a change?" shows the that the type of teacher feedback impacts the likelihood that a student will participate in the revision process (Silver & Lee, 2007).  Specifically, when teachers offer advice about how to improve work quality, this facilitates more revision than other feedback methods (such as praise or criticism).  So, if you tell your student, “I wonder if you can provide more details”,  instead of saying “I like how you use detail in this one part”, the student may be more inclined to revise the work. 

       

      5.  Examine how students view the revision process.

       

      Do you remember Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs?  In general, Maslow described our needs in terms of layers- basic needs had to be met before we could pursue higher order needs.  A Maslow-like theory may explain how students perceive the revision process (Thompson, 1994).  In a paper from the College Composition and Communication conference,  an educator described that in revision,  students attend to basic needs (what is required to pass or not fail the assignment) and then they move on to higher order revising skills (creativity, synthesis, etc.).

       

      6.  Adjust classroom perception of revision.

       

      Students view revision as a reflection of themselves.  One study from the English Teaching Practice and Critique Journal showed that students believed that teacher revision comments indicated they were "careless" (Silver & Lee, 2007). Also, students reported that the teacher feedback lowered their confidence and made them feel angry. My take away from this study is that teachers must work to improve the way students perceive the re-do process. Perhaps reminding students that change is not bad.  Additionally, identifying real-life examples of revision (such as remaking movies or remixing songs) to help students see that revising is a normal part of life.  

       

      7.  Measure the revision process.


      If you decide to offer students a re-do, measuring how well the process works (or not) is useful.  Think about asking the students to provide feedback about their experience with revision.  Typically, students report that revision allows for an increase in knowledge and confidence (Gill, Ong, & Cleland, 2013).  Also, reviewing the grade changes (before and after the revisionn) will offer insight into the usefulness of allowing students to re-do future assignments.  
       





      

    • Blog post
    • 4 days ago
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  • Exercise and the Brain Exercise and the Brain

    • From: Jonathan_Jefferson
    • Description:

      Exercise and the Brain

      By Jonathan Jefferson


      “SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, MD is the one book that all educators must read to fully understand the inseparable connection between exercise and the brain’s ability to acquire knowledge.  Long before this well structured, research-based book was released in 2008, I had admonished my colleagues that it was a misnomer to equate academic learning and exercise as two separate spheres if for no other reason than that the brain can only receive nourishment through movement.  Movement increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain priming it for the development of new neuron-passage ways.  Recent studies have also shown that coordinated movement (e.g. dance, martial arts, & yoga) are the most effective “steroids” for the brain.


      Why is this topic important?  Far too often we find well-intentioned educators unwittingly act on assumptions which are too detached from prevailing research to be anything but ineffectual.  Having students engage in physical activity before classes and exams is much more beneficial than having them sit quietly and read.  However, the “control freaks” contingency of educators are disinclined to relinquish their illusion of control, which ultimately contributes to the detriment of student performance.  Let us truly put kids first and embrace the maxim of doing what is best for them; not what is most convenient for the adults.


      Dr. Ratey thoroughly shared the success of Naperville Illinois’ school district in his book.  This district is lead by their physical education and wellness program.  On the 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Naperville’s eighth graders placed sixth in the world in math and first in science.  He also reported that in Naperville students are deliberately scheduled for their most difficult classes following physical education class.  This is done to take advantage of their brain’s readiness to learn at that time.  Imagine that; a striving school district actually applying proven research to a successful end.


      I am not surprised that “SPARK” is a best seller.  The research shared explains the benefits of exercise on stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, addiction, hormonal changes, aging, and learning.  There is something for everyone, and acting on the research shared can improve the quality of life for many.

       

      In addition to this fine work, another great read specific to movement and the brain is Math and Movement by Suzy Koontz.

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Time-Capsule Teaching Time-Capsule Teaching

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      Have you ever been witness to a time capsule being opened?  If you are not familiar with such events it is very simple. People select items that represent their culture or personal lives, and place them in a container to be sealed up for a long period of time. After a few decades the container is opened up at some sort of ceremony and people look at what was the height of technology, and life, decades ago. I guess we older folks get to appreciate those types of events more than the younger people, because the items in the time capsule usually do not need to be explained to us, as they need to be to the younger generations. I guess the fascination with time capsules is dependent on the apparent and dramatic effect technology has had on the culture represented by the encapsulated items which were selected.

      It is one thing to study and talk about how technology and learning has made great strides in the field of medicine, but it is another conversation entirely when one experiences finding blood-letting tools in a time capsule. It prompts a great conversation that is lost in a textbook version of such events. It usually elicits from the youth questions like “What the hell were they thinking?” Of course the field of Medicine has probably developed faster and in more directions than any other field. I used to do a presentation where I would show a slide of a 19th Century operating room, followed by a picture of an operating room of today. The contrast was inimitable. Since this was a presentation for educators I showed a picture of a 19th Century classroom, followed by a class of today. It was the laughter of the audience that was inimitable at that point. There was little change. The upsetting point here is that if I were to do that presentation again, it would probably still hold true for the slow change in too many American classrooms.

      As I engaged some of my connected colleagues in Edchat last week, we were discussing how the education system pays lip service to asking for innovation in education and for teachers to be innovative, while at the same time putting in place policies and mandates to stifle any such notion a teacher might have.

      I pointed out how we are supposed to be teaching our kids how to be effective, competitive, and educated in the world in which they will live, while using tools for communication, collaboration, and creation that will exist in their world.

      One Connected colleague pointed out that there is one school, or it might even be considered an education franchise school, that prides itself in the fact that it teaches its students without the use of any technology whatsoever. I guess that school franchise really holds 19th and 20th century methodology in very high esteem. Many of us are products of that methodology, so I guess there is a comfort level for some. I do often wonder why an educator’s comfort level should supersede the real world needs of his or her students.

      Looking to the past in education and creating my own mental time capsule, I remember when calculators were not allowed in schools. The slide rule was okay. I remember the blue spirits ditto machine with a hand crank. I remember real Blackboards. I remember fountain pens, the Osmiroid Pen in particular. I remember desks with inkwell holes in the upper right corner. Again I am an old guy and this was my past.

      What would go into an education time capsule today? Maybe a “Cellphones Banned” sign. Possibly, Oregon Trail would go in. Certainly those four computers, covered with dust at the back of the room. Definitely we would include the overhead projector that is now 75 year-old technology. Maybe we should also consider putting “sit and get” methodology in the time capsule. Let’s include the idea of teaching in silos as a concept. What about adding the concept of desks in rows. Why not add the idea of a content expert at the front of the room filling the empty vessels of student minds? This might also be the right place for standardized tests.

      If we were to put all of these things into a capsule to be opened two decades from now, would we ever want to bring any of them back into the class? Maybe, Oregon Trail.

      We need to reach out to those who are still teaching kids from the 20th Century perspective. We need them to commit to being learners again. Learning is ongoing and it must be a way of life for an educator. A relevant educator must continually learn to stay relevant. We can’t have time-capsule teaching in an ever-developing culture. At what point will we stop and look at what we are doing and say, “what the hell were we thinking”?

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 466
  • 14 ways to think about good te 14 ways to think about good teaching: A useful PD exercise

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      Much of my educational career has been spent in teaching or observing teachers. I also had the incredible opportunity of attending many wonderful professional development sessions with outstanding presenters, and working with some amazing educators over many years.

       

      As a result, I have compiled a synthesis of some of the most important things that I have learned about effective teaching along the way. Here are fourteen ways of thinking about teaching that, when part of true self-reflection, can change much of what is being done in the classroom for the better.

       

      These fourteen ways of thinking can be explored with individuals or groups of teachers to raise issues about teaching and learning, focus professional development around some important issues and challenges, and help provide a framework for professional growth over time. They may also be useful as a framework for thinking about teacher evaluation.

       

      Read the descriptions below of my fourteen “ways of thinking” about teaching and learning. Get familiar with them. When you are done, consider doing the exercises at the end of this commentary, or sharing them in PD sessions, in order to better apply them to teaching and learning.

       

      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

      Teaching is about relationships. Getting to know students helps with planning, motivation, interest, discipline, and effective communication. It is about knowing how students learn, how they think, what blocks their learning, what’s on their minds.

       

      As much as possible, get to know students as individuals, with all their variety of thoughts, passions, ideas, backgrounds, humor, unique qualities. This is especially hard for middle and high school teachers, who have so many students to teach. But it is important that all teachers, whatever their level of teaching, whatever their situation,  take some time during the school year to do activities that build relationships and help to learn about students. There are many ways to both formally and informally do this, such as get-to know-me activities, written self-reflections, observing how students go about solving problems, observing groupwork discussions, making sure students know to ask for help when they are having problems, meeting with students informally after school, or talking with other teachers about specific students (not always problem students).

       

      2.     Plan goals for both the long term and the short term.

      Long term planning should be the force behind short term planning. In other words, plan for what you want your students to accomplish in the long run, and then plan each day so that your students can get closer to your goal. For example, a long-term goal might be to help students become better writers, while the short-term goal is to improve their grammar and vocabulary. A long- term goal might be a unit goal, and each daily lesson plan contributes to the goals of the unit. A long-term goal might be a yearly understanding-based goal, and a unit goal might contribute to the year-long goal.

       

      As most teachers know, this is not easy. There are many obstacles, changes, and detours along the way, depending on what happens each day. The variables are tremendous. But it is always important to consider what you want your students to accomplish over a long period of time (the big goals), and figure out how each day helps them get there.

       

      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

      With the emphasis today on standardized test score success, learning academic content and skills become the most important focus for achievement and success. But much recent research suggests that “social-emotional” learning qualities are critical for long term success. Students who don’t see a connection between their effort and learning, are unable to be persistent, lack curiosity and resilience in the face of challenges, cannot work well with others, lack self-responsibility, are unorganized or unable to plan their time well, or lack the ability and willingness to ask for help and support when needed will have a great deal of trouble both in learning and in life. So it is important for teachers to assess these “soft” skills as well as academic and cognitive learning to help students achieve long-term success.

       

      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.

      According to several sources, Richard Feynman, a world-renowned physicist, was “heavily influenced by his father, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking”… “[His father] never taught facts so much as questions. He encouraged young Richard to identify not what he knew, but rather what he did not know… What's most important for knowledge is the well asked question”.

       

      Today, in my view, too many teachers have lost the art of helping students focus their learning around meaningful questions. My observations indicate that teachers still most often focus learning around imparting specific subject matter or stating goals in terms of “behavioral” objectives. But what if we thought about our teaching in terms of exploring open-ended questions that are interesting and meaningful to our students? What if we put “essential” questions on the board at the beginning of units and lessons, discussed with our students why they are important and meaningful, and then referred to them throughout the unit? Designed core questions that extended throughout the year? Created meaningful open-ended challenges as starting points for learning? Asked our students to develop essential questions?

       

      One of my favorite questions, used by Kathy Davis, a first grade teacher, is the following:

      What writing is worth reading? Imagine studying different kinds of writing over a long period of time with that question in mind? Another set of questions, worth studying in an American History course, is the following: “What is the American Dream? Where did it come from? Does it still exist?

       

      So here’s something to think about: How can you translate your learning goals and objectives into important, interesting, meaningful questions? How can you use these questions as starting points for learning? For skill development? For making content relevant? How can these questions repeat and recur over time? Become the focus for many learning activities over time?

       

      Much, if not most, important learning and growth starts with curiosity around questions, or perplexities around challenges. Teachers need to reinforce that type of learning, and begin student learning with questions and challenges that stimulate curiosity and interest, and motivate students to learn.

       

      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.

      Textbook activities often are treated solely as reading assignments (e.g. Read chapter seven and answer the questions at the end of the chapter). But what if teachers thought of textbooks and other reading materials, especially non-fiction reading, as sources of information designed to help answer questions, build understanding, explore interesting topics, and help find answers to challenges. What if the reading of literature was built around some interesting, significant questions, conflicts and issues? What if students had a chance to choose some of the literature they are asked to read based on their own curiosity? Treating textbooks, literature and other reading resources as a form of inquiry, exploration, curiosity, or research to answer questions helps put reading in an important context, not as a chore.

       

      One simple textbook-non-fiction reading strategy that helps support this approach is the simple SQ3R strategy and its variations. First, students survey the material to be read, looking at headings, key words, difficult passages, pictures and other ancillary materials, and the like.  Next, students turn headings into questions or bring into play previously developed questions to begin to find answers in the materials. Finally, they read and highlight key points, recite learning from the text that answers key questions, and then review and summarize the information that relates to the answers to each question.

       

      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.

      Asking students of all ages to continually write in many formats helps them formulate their ideas, organize their thoughts, think clearly and cogently, draw conclusions, self-reflect, and learn how to write position papers, among other things.

       

      Most teachers don’t provide students with enough opportunities to write and reflect on their learning. Opportunities include writing at the beginning of a unit to determine what students know and how they think, daily short written reflections summarizing what they have learned at the end of a class, position papers around an issue discussed in class, research and project reports, analyses and interpretations from reading, frequent self-reflections, and end of unit essays in place of or complementary to traditional tests. Not all writing has to be graded, but carefully choosing writing to provide feedback provides students with significant opportunities for improvement.

       

      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.

      I have always felt that many teachers try to teach much too much content and therefore do not have enough time for getting deeper into subject matter and skill development. Teachers need to think about priorities so that content is most likely to be limited and remembered. For example, the period of history in which the Constitution was developed is a very good time to concentrate on a few key points about the Constitution: the Bill of Rights, the Organization of Government, and the Constitutional “compromise” on slavery. While there are many other issues and facts that might be learned, these are key.

       

      “Deeper learning” also results from analysis, interpretation, or doing something with (applying) the information learned. What if students ended this American history unit by developing their own Constitution for their classroom or school? Or created a new and better Constitution for America? Or simulated the Constitutional Convention and developed a Constitution based on the interests of each of the thirteen states?

       

      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.

      It is surprising how often teachers, especially in middle and secondary teachers, spend little time thinking about how to engage and involve every student on a daily basis. All too frequently, I have observed teachers who ask questions and involve very few students in giving answers; allow students to put their heads down on their desks during a lesson; stand in front of the class instead of walking around to engage students. Many students learn that it is OK to “tune out” of the lesson, and that they will be rewarded just for coming to school that day. Beginning teachers are especially likely to make the mistake of letting students “tune out” of their lessons. Here are some ways to avoid student passivity:

       

      Don’t just stand in front of a group of students. Walk around the room. Catch the eye of students. Watch what they are doing. Gently shake a student who has his or her head on the desk. Call on students who you think are not paying attention.

       

      Begin each class or new learning experience with an engaging “To Do” Activity that students must respond to as they enter your classroom. For example, a “To Do” Activity might begin with writing a short summary of what they were asked to read the night before or finding the answer to a math problem based on the work they did the previous day.

       

      Use “think-pair-share” strategies to involve everyone in exploring significant questions. Here’s how it works. Ask an open-ended question. Then ask each student to write down an answer. Then students pair up with another student to discuss their answer. Finally, teachers call on individual students to share their answer and hopefully begin a discussion.

       

      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.

      Here’s how I think about schools and the surrounding world: The school world is for learning - the outside world is for living. People don’t live in a school. They go to school to learn. They live in their homes, in their offices, in the environment around them, in the world outside of school. Too often, school becomes an isolated entity unto itself, with little or no connection to the way people live in the outside world. As teachers, we need to remember this and, as often as we can, bring the outside world into the school and the school into the outside world.

       

      How do we do this?

       

      I remember watching Ms Tolliver, an excellent elementary math teacher who made some wonderful professional development tapes, take her fifth grade urban students on a walk through the school neighborhood looking for mathematics concepts and creating mathematics problems (Math Trail). They developed problems and found mathematics around park benches, playgrounds, subway trains, parking meters, building blocks and shapes, maps of the neighborhood, and seven step staircases in Central Park. The math that they were learning in school became real and relevant. Another example: in a local comprehensive urban high school I recently visited, a counselor organized talks in the school by local community members to help students see the variety of careers and lives led by those with similar ethnic backgrounds. Finally, new technologies provide new tools for bring the outside community into the school and the school to the outside community. There are currently many examples on the Internet and on websites of how teachers use Skype and other Internet options to bring in the outside community and world into the school and classroom.

       

      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.

      Good teachers know when to provide students with significant learning structure and when to give students greater freedom and self-direction. For example, when students are first learning how to do research, they need more structure – a step-by-step process, good explanations of how to conduct research and use research skills, models of good research products, and guided practice opportunities. Once they have learned and practiced the basic components of research, then they can be given more freedom to work on their own independently. In other words, sometimes students need strong structures, especially when they are first learning how to do something. But, eventually, we need to “let go” and give them freedom to work on their own and make their own mistakes in order to keep getting better at what they are doing. One of the most difficult decisions about teaching is knowing when students need significant structure and when to let go and give them more self-direction.

       

      “Letting go” may also mean giving students greater choice and more options. Giving students the right to select their own books to read should be an important part of a good comprehensive reading program. Allowing students to select their own research question, sometimes within the parameters of a subject area, also gives students greater interest in and responsibility for their research.

       

      11.  Help students to improve, make progress, and get better.

      What does it mean for students to get better at doing something? Understand in a deeper way? What are the most critical changes you would like to see in your students over time? What does it look like when they improve? How will you know when your students have a better understanding of core content? How can you build a student culture of “craftsmanship and understanding” that supports and encourages gradual improvement over time?

       

      Unfortunately, traditional tests and quizzes don’t easily lend themselves to demonstrating improvement and progress in understanding and skill development. Seeking gradual progress and improvement is more likely to occur when students frequently do tasks related to what needs improvement, such as writing, making presentations, conducting research, performing experiments, and organizing learning for understanding. Specific feedback that provides students with specific guidance on what they need to do better is important. Showing models of good work to strive for is very helpful. An approach to teaching and learning that savors and supports gradual progress and improvement can lead to the development of a culture and way of thinking that promotes craftsmanship, deeper understanding, and improvement over time.

       

      12.  Check for understanding - often.

      When I taught many years ago, I was unaware that I needed to frequently check for understanding. This was not good for student learning. This way of thinking has been getting much more play lately, and rightly so. Teachers need to check in frequently with students to see if they are “getting it” – really understanding what they are learning. Many strategies are available for this purpose, such as application oriented math problems, end of lesson summary strategies, such as 3-2-1 (three things I learned from this lesson, two things that were the most interesting, one question I still have); and 10-2 lectures (10 minutes of lecture, 2 minutes of reflection and questions).

       

      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.

      Unfortunately, end of unit culminating experiences are often multiple choice-short answer tests. What could be less interesting for a student? What could be less relevant? Should the traditional test be the culminating experience of student work and learning?

       

      Consider developing alternatives to traditional tests, even for just some units. How about a field trip to an art museum at the end of a unit so that students can analyze and write about a specific artistic period in greater depth? Perhaps students should write a position paper about a controversial topic in American History or design an experiment as the culmination of a science unit? How about giving students two or three (or more) essay questions several days in advance of a test time to give students time to prepare outlines of answers, from which one or two are selected to be written during a two hour class period? How about giving students interesting open-book (or even open-research) essay questions? Or what about completing an authentic performance task that demonstrates the ability of students to apply their learning to a new situation? These are much more interesting, relevant, and meaningful culminating assessments.

       

      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.

      There is a tendency to talk about using technology today as if it were something to be automatically incorporated into the learning process. The reality is that technology is often hard to use or apply easily to teaching situations. Technology usage often requires a good deal of staff development, and is costly to implement and maintain.

       

      However, technology, when used appropriately, can be an extremely valuable tool that enables teachers and students to learn more efficiently and effectively. For example, simple technologies, such as Microsoft word and powerpoint are useful for encouraging and editing writing and making presentations. The Internet is a wonderful tool to support research, but students have to learn how to use it carefully, skillfully, and wisely for this purpose. Some of the more complex technologies are useful to promote “gaming” and simulations. “Flipping” uses technology to help students learn basic information outside of school so that teachers can focus on “deeper learning” when students are in class. Some technologies that promote individualized learning through highly structured, engaging learning situations are very helpful to students.

       

      Any of these technology tools, and others, should be used when appropriate to the teacher’s goals and to the learning situation. Technology tools should be used for specific goals when they make learning more efficient, but not when they might deter students from using their minds, thinking through a problem, or reading texts carefully.

       

      Teaching is very complex, much more complex than it is made out to be in the press, in government initiatives, and even in State Departments of Educational directives.  Good teaching is a moving target – goals, children, cultures, teachers,  and conditions vary from state to state, school to school, and even classroom to classroom.

       

      These fourteen ways of thinking about teaching suggest both the complexity of good teaching and the potential common core components that measure good teaching and help teachers improve on what they do. Learning about students, creating a positive learning environment, focusing on both academic and social-emotional goals, building curiosity by focusing on questions, focusing on less content and deeper learning, figuring out ways to engage and involve students, planning both long and short term goals – all of these and more are important elements of an effective teaching-learning process. I hope that an exploration of these components will help teachers and school leaders understand what they must do to improve schools and suggest a way to build a framework for evaluating teaching and improving teaching and learning in the classroom.

       

      An Exercise to Share and Learn from These Fourteen Ways of Thinking

       

      Now that you have read and learned about the fourteen ways of thinking, here is an exercise you can do to help you examine these in greater detail and apply them to your own teaching situation.

       

      Here are the fourteen ways of thinking listed without commentary:

       

      1.     Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

       

      2.     Plan goals for both the long-term and the short term.

       

      3.     Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

       

      4.     Translate learning goals into meaningful, interesting questions and challenges.

       

      5.     Teach reading (and other forms of literacy) as inquiry, exploration, and research.

       

      6.     Frequently use writing as a key instructional tool.

       

      7.     Develop “deeper learning”.

       

      8.     Involve and engage ALL students in learning.

       

      9.     Bring the outside world into the school and classroom, and the school and classroom into the outside world, and help students apply learning.

       

      10.  Know when to maintain a strong structure for students and when to “let go”.

       

      11.  Help students to improve, make progress and get better.

       

      12.  Check for understanding - often.

       

      13.  Create strong culminating experiences and assessments.

       

      14.  Appropriately use technology as a learning tool.

       

      Some questions to consider: 

      • Do these all make sense to you? What would you add or subtract and why? How would you change the wording to increase clarity and meaning? 
      • Which to you are most important for effective teaching? Least important? 
      • Consider how you apply these to your own teaching situation? Which areas are your strengths? Which are challenges?  
      • If you could pick one or two areas that you currently do really well, what would they be? Which one or two do you need to work on the most? 
      • Can you share what you do well? What do you specifically do that makes one or more of these “ways of thinking” work well for you? 
      • Can you take some time to think about which areas do you most need to work on? Find out what other teachers do who are strong in those areas? Do some research on effectiveness in these areas? Consider one or two changes to your routines that might improve them?

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 5986
  • The First Letter: A Simple and The First Letter: A Simple and Effective Parent Engagement Strategy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      parent_engagementImagine being a parent and opening your mailbox sometime in early August and finding a letter from your son or daughter’s new teacher. In the letter, the teacher tells you all about herself, who she is, what she likes to do, how long she has been teaching, what she wants for your child and how you can contact her if you have any questions. You’d feel pretty good about this new teacher, wouldn’t you?

      Parents want to believe that their child is being left in capable and compassionate hands. Students want to believe that their teachers care about them and are happy to have them in class. A brief (and thoroughly unexpected) letter to each student is one of the easiest ways to welcome and reassure parents and students. Below you’ll find a quick guide to help you draft your own letter to parents and students:

      Format for the first letter to parents and students before school starts
      Greeting

      • Personalize the greeting
        Mention the student’s name within the body of the letter

      Content

      • Introduce yourself as the student’s grade level teacher
      • Share a little about your background and education
      • Include the essence of your philosophy of teaching
      • Ask parents to complete an attached questionnaire about their child

      Contact information

      • School email address
      • School phone and extension
      • Best times to contact you
      • If you have a classroom blog or Twitter account, share this with parents
      • Invite parents to visit you in the classroom before school starts

      Letter closing

      • Sign the letter with first and last name


      Example of a before-school-starts letter to parents

      August 1, 2014
      Acme Elementary School
      2220 Yellow Brick Road
      Detroit, MI 48221

      Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

      As Jerry’s teacher for the upcoming school year, I am looking forward to getting to know you and working with you.

      I started teaching at Acme Elementary in 2006 and have been here ever since! Prior to this, I studied at University of Michigan where I earned my degree in Elementary Education. After completing my B.A. in 2004, I moved to Tokyo, Japan where I taught English Language Learners, while at the same time pursing my Master in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College’s online program. Living and working abroad was an invaluable experience—not only did it allow me to work with students and hone my craft, it also gave me the opportunity to travel, learn about different cultures, and pursue two of my biggest passions: Japanese art and English Language Learners.

      Just to give you a sense of what both you and Jerry can expect from me this year, I’d like to tell you a bit about our classroom and, very briefly, explain my philosophy of teaching.

      During the first few weeks of school, I plan on setting aside a significant amount of time so that I can get to know Jerry and his classmates better. Every student is unique and has different interests and learning styles. I want to ensure that I spend an adequate amount of time learning about all of my students and having them learn about me. My goal is for our classroom to be a community of learners based on mutual respect for all individual differences. I want both you and Jerry to know that our (not my) classroom is a safe environment where students are encouraged to share, learn from one another, and learn from me—just as I will learn from them.

      If you would, please share information with me about Jerry by completing the enclosed questionnaire so that I may begin to plan to meet his needs and expectations.

      I also want to let you know that you are both welcome to visit our classroom before school begins or at any time during the year. To arrange a meeting, all you have to do is contact me and we’ll set something up!

      Lastly, please subscribe to our classroom blog and Twitter feed. There you will find information about volunteer opportunities, and different ways you can support our classroom. Even if you do not wish to volunteer in the classroom, I would encourage you to follow our class online. I like to post photos and updates about students and all of our classroom activities!

      Enjoy the last few weeks of summer. If you have questions, please contact me in one of the following ways:

      Sincerely,

      Ryan Thomas

      Below you’ll find a series of questions to include in your student questionnaire:

      • What are your child’s interests?
      • What would you like me to know about your child?
      • What are your concerns, if any?
      • What is your child’s attitude towards school?
      • What has been helpful for your child in the past?
      • Think of your child’s favorite teacher. What distinguished him or her from some of your child’s other teachers?
      • How does your child learn best?
      • What additional help might your child need this year? How might I best offer this additional support?
      • What is your child passionate about?
      • What are some of his/her favorite things to do outside of school?
      • Would you like to schedule an informal conference to meet and/or discuss your child? If so, please indicate times that are best for you.

      Photo credit: gbaku / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
    • Views: 9547
  • Caring Connects Kids Caring Connects Kids

    • From: Carol_Hunter
    • Description:

      Caring connects kids to their school, their teachers, their learning, their families, their communities, to one another and to themselves. Therefore, creating and maintaining a culture of caring in our schools and communities is paramount to effecting real change.  

      As with any impactful change, creating a culture of caring requires a delicate combination of programs, processes and people. It is simply not good enough to create or purchase a program and implement it.  Over the years, packaged programs have proliferated while bullying and mental illness have increased. Schools have developed processes to create safer environments, yet more students are being hurt physically, socially and emotionally. Little attention has been paid to empowering the people in our schools and communities to make a difference.

      As principal of a large, inner city school we implemented a very effective balance of programs, processes and empowerment of people that resulted in a very effective school culture in which our students thrived. Bullying was almost non-existent, kids who needed help got it and test scores went up. All of this occurred in a budget model which allowed us to spend funds where needed. We were empowered.

      In order to move you to action, here is a selection of our most effective strategies that allowed us to create an award-winning school in which everyone was proud to work and to learn.

      1. Student Empowerment

      1.     Early Intervention Program- Intermediate students self-selected to be part of a weekly mental health support group that addressed at-risk behaviors and was run in partnership with a local mental health hospital.

      2.     Yoga – Students self-selected to be part of a weekly lunchtime yoga group. One at-risk girl commented that it saved her life.

      3.     Mental Karate – The entire school was involved in Mental Karate, a program that took them through setting goals and taking action in the areas of Initiative, Discipline, Contribution, Courage and Awareness.

      4.     United Mentors for Peace  - Intermediate students planned activities to create a peaceful school, reaching out to the community and beyond. They created annual peace assemblies, managed charitable fundraising activities, and took responsibility for supporting a safe and caring culture in the school. 

      5.     Peacekeepers – Junior students were trained in conflict resolution strategies and helped resolve disputes in the Primary and Junior yards.

      6.     Fun Bunch – Junior students were trained to teach and supervise schoolyard games for Primary students.

      7.     Social Skills group – Identified students were directly taught social/ emotional skills in partnership with a local community center support program. 

      8.     Leadership development – Students of all ages were engaged as lunch monitors, peer tutors, teacher helpers, reading buddies, coaches and referees. They were also engaged in a multitude of service learning projects.

      9.     Option Program – Intermediate students had one period a week in which they could choose an activity of interest from such things as cooking, chess, hip-hop dance, drama, visual arts, guitar, board games etc.

      2. Teacher Empowerment

      1.SSafe and caring teaching and leading– All classrooms were safe and caring, free of ridicule, harassment and sarcasm. Teachers understood the importance of creating an atmosphere in which the brain is at the optimal level of arousal.

      2.     Bi-weekly professional development staff meetings – Staff were trained to differentiate teaching strategies through honoring multiple intelligences, learning styles and current brain research. 

      3.     Shared leadership – Division leaders were empowered to implement programs and process to support their students academically, socially and emotionally.

      3. Parent Empowerment 

      1.     Parent Council was guided to develop a Mission and Goals that supported the school’s Mission.

      2.     Parental responsibility was embedded in the school’s Mission Statement, “To maximize student learning through students, staff, parents and community working together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared responsibility.”

      3.     Parent education workshops were provided.

      In addition to the previous empowerment examples we maximized the adult:child ratio of support; ensured that each student had a significant connection with a teacher; focused on connections and relationships; worked within a shared, vision, values and beliefs; maintained stability on our staff and leadership team; became a recognized leader as a Professional Learning Community and ensured that being at our school was fun and rewarding. 

      I hope this provides you with some useful ideas to move forward in creating a safe and caring culture in your classrooms and in your schools.

       

       

       

       

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
    • Views: 111
  • On the Road to Recovery: Writi On the Road to Recovery: Writing Instruction at Chauncey Davis Elementary School

    • From: Suzanne_Klein1
    • Description:

      By Kresta Byington, Principal of Chauncey Davis Elementary School

      It’s a rainy, breezy day as I walk through the quiet halls of Chauncey Davis Elementary, nestled in a sleepy town along the Willapa River in Washington. I hear the sound of the rain pattering on the building, and the mossy trees are glistening outside, leaning heavily from the rain, as I begin my walkthroughs for the day. I step inside one of my fourth grade classrooms and witness an encouraging sight. The students are deep in concentration.  The only sound is the collective hum of their pencils scribbling and scratching as they write their words on the paper.

      Is this something you experience in your walkthroughs? Or, has writing been a struggle in your school? I know it used to be a real challenge in my building, where I’ve been the principal for the past ten years. Prior to being a building leader, I was a teacher in the district for nine years. As principal, I noticed less writing displayed in classrooms, and as a parent of two students in my school, I saw less writing coming home.  Last spring, my concerns were confirmed when only 40% of my fourth grade students met standard on the state writing test. This was unacceptable to me and something needed to change. We just weren’t getting the quality and quantity we knew we could from having an effective writing community.  I had to first discover the problems my teachers were facing when it came to writing instruction.

      Why do teachers struggle with teaching writing?

      When I asked my teachers what their greatest challenges were, they always told me time. Elementary teachers are generalists, not specialists. They are teaching all the subjects in a six hour day. When you take out recess, lunch, and any other specials students have, time was always an issue. I also learned in many instances, when they told me, “I don’t have time,” I believe it actually translated into, “I really don’t know how to teach writing.”

      The second issue was knowledge. I asked 18 of my teachers (two of them are recent college graduates) if they had a college class specifically devoted to the teaching of writing.  Not one out of the 18 reported having any college preparation to teach this core subject. When you don’t know how to do something, you tend to avoid it.

      The last reason my teachers weren’t teaching writing was due to a lack of quality writing materials available.  For several years at Chauncey Davis Elementary, writing instruction was tied in with the basal reading program.  Although it was a quality reading program, writing always came last in the lesson and a terrible pattern had begun; my teachers were running out of time. As a first grade teacher myself, I personally experienced this. I would run out of time in the morning and would set my writing lesson aside in hopes to get back to the writing in the afternoon. Writing lessons would pile up in the corner and a week would go by, and no writing had been taught.

      What I did to improve writing instruction at my school

      There’s a resource called Crunch the Numbers, which shows three different teachers’ lesson plans for the week.  Teachers calculate up how much time each teacher is spending teaching the different subject areas. Teachers then judge the lesson plans according to ASCD’s recommended minutes of instruction in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.

       It was a great start for my teachers who were apprehensive to look at their own use of instruction time. They were less defensive looking at someone else’s schedule and got an idea of how they could rearrange their own based on ASCD’s recommendations.

       If your teachers aren’t sure how to improve their writing instruction, I suggest using a document called Questions Teachers Have When Teaching Writing.This is a really powerful tool I used during a staff meeting and everyone raved about how helpful it was. Teachers loved learning from each other, and it’s a great professional development tool.

      Using Crunch the Numbers helped with time awareness, and Questions Teachers Have When Teaching Writing helped with knowledge awareness.  But, I knew I still needed to tackle the lack of materials. This led me to start looking into some writing programs that could assist my teachers with their writing instruction while teaching them the craft of writing. We piloted WriteSteps last year, and this year we are in full implementation.  With WriteSteps, teachers finally realize that writing deserves its own block of instructional time, not combined with reading instruction. I'm so proud to visit classrooms and observe effective writing instruction happening. Second, they love how everything they need is at their finger tips. With WriteSteps, they don't have to do any extra planning or resource gathering. As we wrap up our first year with WriteSteps, teachers are amazed at the progress their students have made and love sharing their stories with other staff. It's nice to see student writing on display again.

      Do you want to learn more about how you can support your teachers with their writing instruction? You can attend my session at the Quality Educator Convention on June 19 at 2:50 p.m. called Ready, Test, Score! Essential Tools for Common Core Writing Success from Chauncey Davis Elementary.  We will evaluate examples of how Common Core writing skills are used in cross-curriculum test questions and then discuss 17 critical elements to consider in your school’s writing curriculum. With the implementation of a solid Common Core writing plan, students will not only be prepared to achieve testing goals, they will also gain the skills they need for a lifetime of confident writing. I look forward to seeing you there!

      This article was first published on June 11, 2014 in the Update Bulletin.

       

      

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
    • Views: 205
  • 5 Simple and Effective Time-Sa 5 Simple and Effective Time-Savers for Teachers

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      time_savers_for_teachers

      Always start on time
      Some of us have a habit of starting late because we’re busy putting final touches on the lesson, writing on the board, or simply waiting around for the rest of the students to show up after the bell rings.

      Always start class on time and do not wait for tardy students. Those who show up on time shouldn’t have to wait for those that don’t. As an incentive to get your students to class on time, begin your lessons with something they won’t want to miss.

      Be more efficient about taking attendance
      There are a couple ways to streamline your attendance-taking procedures.

      One way is to have a sign-in sheet ready every day. Instead of taking attendance yourself, have students sign themselves in. Another idea: Stand outside the door and check off names as students trickle into the room. We like doing this not only because it saves us time, but also because it gives us the opportunity to greet each student as s/he enters the room.

      Use technology to get organized
      There are lots of useful apps for teachers out there, but Teacher Kit has, by far, saved us the most time. This app helps us create seating charts, take attendance, track student behavior, record grades, and import all of our data to our computer.

      Set up a system for makeup work
      With increasing class sizes, chances are that one or two students will be absent every week. Unless you have some sort of system in place, you’re probably spending valuable class time explaining what these students missed once they return. There are a couple reasons you should stop doing this! First, it’s unfair to those students who came to class. Second, it keeps students from taking responsibility for their own learning experience.

      Instead of spending class time explaining what these students missed, have them email or call you on the day they are absent to receive updates. While you won’t be able to recreate the classroom experience over the phone or computer, you can ensure that they have all of the materials to successfully complete the work.

      Make the most of classroom interruptions
      Although we have yet to find a way to eliminate interruptions (special deliveries of forgotten lunches, notes from the office, or incoming calls on the classroom phone), we do make the most of them.

      Some interruptions take ten seconds, others may take ten minutes, but one thing is for sure: If you add those seconds and minutes up over the course of the week, you get a lot of wasted time.

      One way to take advantage of these interruptions is by teaching your students to get out their books as soon as an interruption occurs. Teach your students that a knock on the door or a ring from the classroom telephone isn’t a signal for them to chat; it’s a signal for them to reach into their desks, grab their book and start reading. If you start this procedure right away, your students will quickly internalize it.

      Photo credit: H is for Home / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

       

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    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 3113
  • Professional Development and C Professional Development and Common Core Writing: What Works?

    • From: Suzanne_Klein1
    • Description:

      We know that standards cannot impact student learning if they’re just sitting on the shelf. We need teachers who can teach them. Standards accomplish nothing alone. But many teachers have told us they still feel unprepared when it comes to the Common Core. Are you one of them?

      As the clock ticks toward the transition from practice testing to the actual Common Core testing in 2015-2016, there are three things to think about:

      1. The SIT & LISTEN model is not an effective way to train. Thanks to studies by The Consortium for Policy Research in Education, we have known this for a long time. Although districts continue to favor this passive, large-group model, it's clear that it doesn’t improve student learning.

      2. The COACHING model works best.

      • Coaches take teachers to their growing edge by helping them to analyze their students’ work and devise plans to keep improving it.
      • Coaches respond to specific teacher questions with tips and feedback on instruction.
      • Coaches typically work with small teacher groups over a period of time.
      • Coaching taps into the collective wisdom of teachers and encourages sharing of successful practices within grade-level teams.


      3. The biggest challenge in teaching the K-5 Common Core ELA Standards is WRITING. Even more than making the leap to reading complex texts, teachers are hard-pressed to meet the new writing standards without help.

      • Writing was not part of No Child Left Behind, so it hasn't been given priority in many schools. Many teachers will be playing "catch up."
      • Writing is one of the most difficult subjects to teach because it requires higher order thinking and offers no "right" answers.
      • The Common Core restores writing to its fundamental place as one of the 3 “R”s. Make no mistake about it: the Common Core expectations for writing are high.

      Free Reflection Guide: Improve Your Writing Instruction


      Teachers: Use the reflection guide as a personal professional development evaluation. It will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses in your writing instruction.

      Administrators: Use the reflection guide when planning a professional development day. Follow the directions below.

      1. Print “Questions Teachers Have When Teaching Writing”, and pass the reflection guide out to your teachers.  

      2. Ask your teachers to follow the directions in the reflection guide. They will fill out their glows (strengths) and grows (weaknesses) for writing.

      3. Design your professional development day into sessions where each teacher will have 10 or 15 minutes to share a teaching idea or tool they have used successfully.

      4. Teachers can consider their “grows” and choose to sit in on sessions that will be most helpful to them.

       

      What was your most memorable professional development experience? Tell us in the comments section below.

      

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 324
  • A Skewed View of EDU A Skewed View of EDU

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      As I was picking up my Hawaiian shirts from my local dry cleaners last week, I was approached by a former student of 30 years ago, who managed to recognize me all these years and extra pounds later. He mentioned a few of the memories that he had of our student/teacher time together and then offered his view of education today. It was soon apparent that he felt that at least half of the entire student population in America was graduating school with a total inability to read anything. He stated and restated his very firm belief several times during our brief conversation. It was apparent to me that changing his mind would not take place at that moment in that parking lot, so I headed off with a simple disagreement, but not really challenging his view of education.

      This encounter caused me to start thinking about other perspectives people might have on education today. I travel extensively in education circles and engage people in conversation about education on a regular basis. I am starting to believe that when it comes to what people believe, or don’t believe about education has little to do with facts. It seems to be more about who has the ear of the public in order to say things loud enough and often enough regardless of facts. Sound bites seem to be framing the education discussion in terms of taxpayer perceptions. Politicians and Tax Reformers seem to be the loudest and most persistent voices in the discussion.

      I then attended the Education Industry Summit held by the Software and Information Industry Association (www.siia.net/education). It is the premiere conference for leaders in the education technology industry. This organization sponsors, encourages, and mentors companies that are education technology innovators. It is by all means an excellent organization.

      My personal takeaway from this conference however, was a glimpse of how the perspective on education is viewed by the people in this industry. They are constantly surrounded by tech, so they view all education in terms of technology. They are rich with facts to support their beliefs. They talk about the impact their products will have on a technology-rich environment in education. They have charts and diagrams in PowerPoint presentations, as well as professionally produced videos to support their product’s entry and impact into the world of education.

      What vexed me about this perspective was that I did not recognize the education system that they described in a majority of their presentations.

      There are many schools with a culture that supports technology and innovation, but I question whether it is a majority of schools. Technology in education has been introduced in bits and pieces as it developed. Few schools had systematic plans for integration. Many were required to have what were called five-year plans, but five years in technology is a lifetime. Dog years don’t even come close. Many schools are playing catch up in this age of technology. Integrating new tech-driven methodology into a system steeped in 19th and 20th century methodology is not going to be accomplished overnight, or in some cases over a decade. We have many schools trying to teach their kids for the future while relying on methods and technologies of the past. Too many schools do not have the mindset or culture to support systematic conversions to the latest and greatest innovations of technology. These points are not being made in power point presentations, or professional videos of the industry people. They discuss the impact of their technology on students, but ignore the impact on teachers.

      One would think that educators would have the best perspective on a view of education and many do. Their view however is determined by their teaching experience. There is a vast difference in perspective when talking to an urban teacher as opposed to a suburban teacher. Rural teachers have a completely different view. There is a big difference between schools of poverty and schools of affluence. How can we ever address the solutions to the problems in a standardized way when the problems are so diverse? How can we have a national discussion on education when the problems for the most part exist on a local level? How do we listen to politicians, profiteers, tax reformers, education reformers parents, students, teachers, administrators, and concerned citizens while each has a different motivation and view of education? Should each of their views carry the same weight? Will it ever be possible to find common ground between the likes of Diane Ravitch and the likes of Michelle Rhee?

      Before we decide on the changes maybe we should reconsider the needs. Before we went to standardized testing, maybe we should have determined some basic standardized professional development. Maybe in reflecting on how we approach teaching on a national level, we could be less concerned with what we teach. The emphasis might go from what kids learn to how kids learn. If the national focus was on creating learners instead of test takers, we might make a more effective difference. If our educators rededicated themselves to learning as models and mentors, we might see significant change in a system long in need of updating. It would take a commitment to professional development. It would seem more likely to affect a significant change in our students, if we could first affect a needed change in their educators. Committing to educating educators to the needed changes in methodology and pedagogy as a priority in modern education.

      The next time my Hawaiian shirts need to be picked up from the dry cleaners, I should ask my wife if she would please help me out and pick them up.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 947
  • Language, Cognition and Motor Language, Cognition and Motor Development Through Video Game Play: What Are The Implications For Children With Disabilities?

    • From: Robin_Shobe
    • Description:

      The following is less like a blog, and more of a paper, or game review to be more specific!

      Once Upon A Monster: A Game Review

       

            Transmedia play lends itself to constructivist approaches to learning (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013) that favor exploration, experimentation and the child as an active participant in creating knowledge (Piaget, 1985; Vygotsky, 1978).  Jenkins (Herr-Stephenson, Alper, Reilly & Jenkins, 2013) suggests that Sesame Street is an example of transmedia done right. The term transmedia means “across media” and encompasses the various types of media and their relationships to one another. Sesame Street uses transmedia to engage children through its television shows, full-length movies, plush toys, board games, live performances, books and interactive video games as well its rich history of research based pedagogy that provides both entertaining and effective learning experiences for children. This game review seeks to demonstrate how the use of transmedia and other learning strategies come together in Warner Bros. and Sesame Street Workshops’ Once Upon A Monster to provide young children educational video game play that also has promising implications for children with disabilities.

      Background on Once Upon A Monster

      Image: Once Upon A Monster/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

             Once Upon A Monster is a single player video game developed by Tim Schaefer of Double Fine Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and the Sesame Street Workshop, in October of 2011.  

      The Sesame Street Workshop was founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and LLoyd Morrisett in the early 1970’s when these pioneers in technology and learning set out to create a television series that would both entertain and educate children. Sesame Street, revolutionary at the time of its inception, incorporated research related to how children learn as the foundation of its content.  Many decades later this television program remains a preferred choice among young children and their parents as well as on the many platforms its content inspires: full-length movies, DVDs, books, video games and more. Jenkins suggests that the,  “… multi-modal, multi-sites nature of many transmedia productions challenge children to use varied textual, visual, and media literacy skills to decode and remix media elements (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013 p. 1).”

      Once Upon A Monster utilizes the Kinect controller created by Microsoft for the Xbox360 video game console.  It is a motion sensing input device that allows the player to control the digital content through a “natural user interface” with the use of gestures and spoken commands.  The Kinect makes use of an infrared projector and camera as well as a special microchip to track the movement of objects and individuals in three dimensions. The player is then allowed hands free control or interaction with the digital content.

      This review provides observations of the video game and its affordances for children with special needs through my lens as a parent of a child with special needs as well as my experience as a speech-language pathologist.

      Game Play

      The Player

      Once Upon a Monster was designed for children ages 3-6 years. My daughter, Anna (not her real name) was eight years old at the time of this review. She presents with a severe language disorder, a coordination disorder, and difficulty sustaining attention.  Although she was slightly older than the targeted audience, video game play in Once Upon A Monster was appropriate for her current language, cognitive and motor skills.

      Set Up

            The Kinect controller recognizes the whole body movements of the player. Using these whole body functional movements such as running in place or jumping, gestures such as pointing and waving and speech, the player enters a simulated world that is animated and includes Sesame Street’s beloved friends- Elmo and Cookie Monster. The Kinect controller, along with other features of this game, allows the player to use their senses: visual, auditory and kinesthetic to immerse themselves in a virtual world. This experience leads to a sense of embodiment for the player; the player then feels and acts as if they are actually in this Sesame Street world and interacting with the characters themselves. Anna demonstrated evidence of this feeling of embodiment when she talked directly to the television, and the characters saying, “This is fun guys!” or “Wait for me!”

      The absence of a hand held game controller, and the use of the players body in its place, made it easy for Anna to quickly learn how to operate the game.  If the task required the character to jump, Anna jumped.  If a task was completed and the digital storybook needed the page turned to begin a new task, Anna used the same gesture of the turning a page in a physical book.

      Anna initially struggled with maintaining the appropriate distance away from the Kinect sensor.  A square on the floor was created with masking tape that then helped her identify the optimal position for game play in front of the Kinect sensor and reduced her initial frustration with the game.   

      Game Play

             Once Upon A Monster, uses digital a storybook format to provide a narrative that imbeds video game play in the form of “mini games”.  A new character named Marco needs help getting to his own birthday party.  Cookie Monster, Elmo and Anna, luckily, were there to help him get there.

             Each chapter of the game offers the player a task to complete that moves the characters closer and closer to the end goal, the birthday party. These tasks have educational underpinnings that engage the player to use their language, cognitive and motor skills.

      The Learning

      Due to Sesame Street’s rich history of using researched based methods for providing content that is both entertaining and educational for young children, Once Upon a Monster is chalk full of sound pedagogical strategies that indeed accomplish this task.  This video game is unique in its use of both transmedia and the Kinect sensor. Does it then lend additional support or considerations for children with disabilities?

      Implications of Video Game play in Once Upon A Monster For Children With Disabilities

      An estimated 49 million children grades K-12 attend the U.S. public schools. Approximately 13% of this population, present with disabilities.  Students with disabilities represent a heterogeneous population in terms of the disabilities they present with as well as the pedagogy used to address their individual needs and provide them with a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Teachers face many challenges educating America’s children both with and without disabilities: shrinking budgets, reduced school calendars, changing standards, increasingly diverse populations and more.  As globalization increases both the demand for and innovation of technology (Freedman, 2005), discussions and research on these technologies and their potential role in adding educational value for our children is increasing.

      One way to consider the affordances that technology offers children with disabilities in the K-12 school setting, is the Universal Design for Learning framework (Rose & Meyer, 2000).  This framework offers three principles for teacher instruction and student learning: multiple means of representation (of content), multiple means of expression (expressing knowledge) and multiple means of engagement.  Looking at the video game Once Upon a Monster through this framework sheds light on its potential to provide a valuable educational experience for children with disabilities.

      Multiple Means of Representation

      Transmedia done well, as Jenkins suggests (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013) offers children multiple points of entry.  Once Upon a Monster offers children the opportunity to play with Elmo and Cookie Monster in a virtual world.  But, children likely have significant experience with these characters long before they play this game through Sesame Street television viewing, its many published books, DVDs, full length movies and even toys or stuffed animals.  It provides children multiple opportunities to learn both from and more importantly with its content.   Children are not blank slates or empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge; instead they are active participants in creating knowledge and learning (Vygotsky, 1985). Anna immediately related to the characters and the virtual Sesame Street world because she entered the game play with existing background knowledge.  She was also familiar with the script of a birthday party from her past experience both having parties of her own as well as attending the parties’ of others.

      Multiple Means of Expression

      Westendorp, et al. (2002) conducted a study that compared 104 children with Learning Disabilities with 104 typically developing children to examine if there were specific relationships between two subsets of gross motor skills (locomotor skills and object-control skills) and different domains of academic performance. Results revealed a statistically significant relationship between gross motor skills (locomotor specifically) and reading; the poorer the reading scores the poorer the gross motor skills. This study and those like it lend support to the idea that the mind and the body have a reciprocal relationship and influence each other thus, embodied learning. Therefore, the embodied learning that is inherent in Once Upon A Monster provides students with disabilities multiple opportunities to work on the motor skills, language and cognitive skills, necessary for later academic success.

       Embodied learning suggests that the physical aspects of our body shape or influences our cognition (Wilson, 2002). Another way to think of it; our motor system influences our cognition in much the same ways that our mind influences our actions (Wilson, 2002).   “All experiences are in some way grounded in the body…” and that, “…embodied experiences can lead to more effective learning (Smallab, 2012 para 1).”

      Once Upon a Monster, with its use of the Kinect sensor, requires players to act out the specific action necessary to complete tasks in the game.  If Marco needs to jump to get over the log, the player needs to jump.  This offers the player an opportunity to imitate or initiate an action while also seeing and and hearing the results of that action, offering the redundancy necessary for accommodating new skills (Piaget, 1959).

      Multiple Means of Engagement

      Anna played the game for three hours, a testament to its ability to engage her.  But, more important, was its ability to motivate her to engage in language, cognitive and learning tasks that were not initially easy for to complete.  She was asked to follow novel complex directions such as, “Dress the monster in the outfit that matches the color of the flag it is holding”. She was asked to engage in complex motor tasks that required her to cross midline, use both of her hands simultaneously or engage in two actions simultaneously such as running in place while reaching to the left and the right to pick flowers for points. She was asked to do cognitive tasks such as sortingt items such as trash for the recycling bin or the landfill.

      In my role as a therapist, I provide the scaffolding or support necessary for children to improve their existing skills or gain new ones.  Vygotsky (1985) refers to this as the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  Providing enough support so that the task is not so hard that it causes frustration or shut down, while also being cautious of providing too much support, so the task becomes too easy and merely practice. This requires a delicate balance to get it “just right” and ensure that the child is indeed learning from the experience.  My observations of Anna suggested that this video game was just right, if not slightly too difficult.  A rule of thumb I commonly use to assess “just right” is often eighty percent accuracy on a task.  Anna was somewhere closer to seventy, and she frequently expressed her frustration to the characters, “I am doing what you say!” or “Wait for me, I need to do it again”. But, the scaffolding and her engagement, unique to this video game play, kept her working on difficult tasks despite her frustration.   Gee (2005) might suggest that Anna’s learning behavior in this game was characteristic of the learning that occurs in well-designed learning environments that share features of video games such as: the ability to customize the experience for the player (learner), the player’s ability to identity with the task, “pleasantly frustrating” experiences, and information that is presented ‘on demand” and “just in time”, among others. It could be argued that Once Upon a Monster was providing her with learning tasks within her ZPD.

      Conclusion

             Jenkins suggests that, “In a hunting society, children learn to play with bows and arrows.  In an information society, they learn to play with information (Herr-Stephenson, et al., 2013 p. 7).” In a therapeutic or educational setting, I argue that Once Upon A Monster offers children with disabilities a quality educational environment built on Sesame Street’s use of transmedia play, its rich history of educational content and use of sound pedagogical strategies for teaching children and its, perhaps accidental, but effective, use of the principles of UDL.

       

      Anna” playing Once Upon A Monster



      Reference List

       

      Birchfield, D., & Johnson-Glenberg, M. (2010). A next gen interface for embodied learning: SMALLab and the geological layer cake. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 2(1), 49-58.

      Bushnell, E. W., & Boudreau, J. P. (1993). Motor development and the mind: The potential role of motor abilities as a determinant of aspects of perceptual development. Child development, 64(4), 1005-1021

      Freidman, T. (2005). The world is flat. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

      Gee, J., P. (2005). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-Learning and Digital Media, 2(1), 5-16.

      Gee, J., P. (2013).  The Anti-Education Era.  New York: Macmillan.

      Herr-Stephenson, B., Alper, M., Reilly, E. and Jenkins, H. (2013). T is for transmedia: Learning through trans- media play. Los Angeles and New York: USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Available: http://www.annenber- glab.com/viewresearch/46

      Piaget, L. (1985). Equilibrium of cognitive structures: The central problem with intellectual development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

      Piaget, J. (1959). The language and thought of the child (Vol. 5). Psychology.

      Gallese, V., & Sinigaglia, C. (2011).  What is so special about embodied simulation?  Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Retrieved July 18, 2013 from:http://www.unipr.it/arpa/mirror/pubs/pdffiles/Gallese/2011/tics_20111007.pdf.

      Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2000). Universal Design for Learning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 15(1), 67-70.

      Smallab. (2012). Smallab Learning.  Retrieved July 18, 2013 from:http://smallablearning.com/embodied_learning.

      Vygotsky, L. S.(1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

      Westendorp, M., Hartman, E., Houwen, S., Smith, J., & Visscher, C. (2011). The relationship between gross motor skills and academic achievement in children with learning disabilities. Research in developmental disabilities, 32(6), 2773-2779.

      Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition.  Psychometric Bulletin & Review (9) 4.

    • Blog post
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  • Assessment and Processes to De Assessment and Processes to Develop Active Learning: Part II

    • From: Adrian_Bertolini
    • Description:

      In Part I I argued that we can’t actually measure learning, the best we can do is infer learning from behaviour demonstrated over time. I pointed out that most of the measurement approaches I have seen used by teachers and schools are poor quality or are based on anecdotal observation that does not allow students to be CLEAR about what is being measured and thus not be responsible for their learning (they become passive rather than active learners).

      active-learning-makes-for-future-success.png

      If we are to develop students to be active learners then our systems and processes should be designed to encourage and empower a learner centred or learner driven approach. As pointed out at personalizelearning.com learning looks different at different stages from teacher centred to learner centred to learner driven. Active learners take responsibility for their own learners and are able to become highly skilled in what is now known as 21st century skills.

      In this newsletter / blog I want to focus on using rubrics as one tool to assist in formative assessment and developing learner centred learning.

      If we are to move students to a learner centred mindset then a rubric becomes a formative tool first and foremost (and can be used as a summative tool by the teacher). The purpose of the rubric is to distinguish a skill / concept or product so that it becomes distinct for the learner.

      Distinct (adj): “recognizably different in nature from something else of a similar type”

      So what makes something recognizably different from something else?

      You need to be able to articulate what it looks like as well what it is NOT like.

      Human beings do this all the time unconsciously as we grow up. It is part of how we come to understand language. This is a chair. This is not a chair but a couch. This is the colour blue. This is not the colour blue – we call that red.

      What something looks like or NOT like also grows in depth as you develop your capacity and gain mastery to make something distinct.  This colour is not blue but sky blue, or aqua or royal blue. This is foot stool that can be used as a chair.

      Finally, to be able to make something distinct for someone you need to be able to communicate the nature of the distinction in language they would understand and is appropriate to their level of knowledge and understanding. You wouldn’t start talking about colours as master artists would to children with little or no background knowledge of colour. So the language one would use is always appropriate to the people you are communicating with.

       

      What this means in designing rubrics and formative assessment

      Given the above discussion let’s make formative rubrics and formative assessment distinct.

      1.       A strong formative rubric progressively unpacks and makes distinct what the skill, concept or product looks like to the learner

      I have found that teachers know anecdotally and from personal experience of interacting with learners what the different levels of a skill, concept or product look like – it is in many respects how they come up with a marking schema. In the rubric on questioning below I worked with teachers from Foundation through to year 3 to come up with a rubric that would capture – as concretely as possible – what they identify as the progressive stages of development in their learners ability to ask questions. This rubric is by no means complete but you can quickly see that the statements are all concrete aspects that one can hear or see happening as learning is occurring.

       

      Aspects of Questioning

      Beginning

      1

      2

      3

      4

      5

      Relevancy

      Question or not

      Open or Closed

      Fat or Thin

      Ability to respond to questions

      Vocabulary

       

      Can make comments with teacher prompting

      Is able to form a question but sometimes may not be relevant

       

      Makes relevant comments with teacher prompting

       

      Asks relevant questions

       

      Uses questions to get more information

       

      Makes relevant comments and concrete suggestions

      Asks open-ended questions

       

      Uses prior knowledge in asking a new question

       

      Uses vocabulary of topic

       

      Uses questions to clarify understanding

       

       

       

      Asks fat questions

       

      Asks questions that expand the conversation

       

       

       

      2.       A rubric by itself is insufficient – it must be supported by discussions and examples which model the different levels

      A strong rubric is supported by examples which model the different levels and continue to make the skill, concept or product distinction. In the above rubric a teacher would need to define what an open (and closed) question is, what makes a comment or question relevant,  what is a fat or thin question, how to ask questions that clarify understanding, etc. If the learners are producing a magazine then you would need to have a range of different magazines available and shown to the learners to discuss how the rubric relates to different aspects of the magazine. .

      In the process of identifying what, in reality, the skill – concept – product would look like or NOT look like the teachers would be articulating the possible approaches and strategies they would be using to progressively develop the learners.

      For example, some of the ways identified by the teachers I worked with on the above rubric were:

                          Encourage learner questions that begin with – who, what, when, where, why?

                          Highlight different and interesting questions asked by learners

                          Prompt questions – what do you want to know?

                          The learners only get to ask 2 questions in a session (so need to think about them)

                          5 Whys

                          Use a Wonder-wall

                          Saying the information you have heard as forming next question

                          Explicit teaching of open ended questions

                          Reference the rubric in class as learners ask questions

       

      3.       A rubric is a tool to enable students to drive their learning and develop their capacity and mindsets such that they see learning as a progression towards mastery

      Notice how the rubric above is written in positive language applicable to the age group. Rubrics develop the mindset that learners think from. I am interested in developing learners to be meta-cognitive and intrinsically motivated not extrinsically motivated by marks. We want to develop a personal best culture, or in other words, a learning culture that encourages students to put in effort and “compete against themselves” to develop and grow.

      As Jim Knight pointed out:

      “The trouble with deep learning is that it messes with our identity. In their book, Difficult Conversations (Penguin, 1999), Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen define identity as “the story we tell ourselves about who we are and what the future holds for us” (p. 112). It’s a lot to ask to change the story we tell ourselves about who we are. That kind of learning is often painful, and frankly, we’d usually rather avoid it.”

      The more we take away the conversations of good vs bad, better vs worse, and right vs wrong and focus on learners demonstrating their progress in a skill, concept or understanding the more we will build the growth mindsets that Carol Dweck and others identify as critical to developing life-long learners and performers.

       

      The next two steps along the path of mastery are to co-construct rubrics with the learners and finally have the learners construct the rubrics themselves. These are demonstrations of the learners reflecting on what constitutes progression of skills and how they could demonstrate evidence of progression.

       

      With regard to progressive formative assessment, the rubric can become a tool which the learners use to see how they are progressing and they can now self-assess and reflect more effectively. Teachers can use the rubric as part of learner observations. If the teachers have a class list with the specific skill statements across the page they can tick off each time they see a student demonstrate the skill. This approach stems from – we can only get an indication that learning has occurred if the behaviours are demonstrated over time.

       

      For other interesting reading:

                          3 Statements That Describe Rigorous Assessment

                          Assessing Our Way to Creative Thinking

                          How Assessment Can Lead to Deeper Learning

                          Frictionless Formative Assessment with Social Media

                          The Right Questions, The Right Way

                          How do you know if effective teaching is occurring in your school?

                          Formative assessment strategies for success

                          5 Out-Of-The Box Assessment Strategies Every Teacher Should Know

       

       

    • Blog post
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  • Decoding the Text Types, Part Decoding the Text Types, Part 1: One of These Things is Not Like the Others

    • From: Scott_Miller1
    • Description:

       

      The Common Core Writing Standards are shifting the landscape of writing instruction, articulating rigorous new expectations and emphasizing newly redefined text types. Amidst this sweeping change, educators, publishers, and providers of professional development are scrambling to understand the types of writing that students have to master for college and career readiness: narrative, informative/explanatory, opinion, and argument. 

       

      Perhaps the biggest change for most writing teachers is the shift toward opinion and argument writing. Despite what you may have heard from some “experts,” page 24 of CCSS Appendix A makes it crystal clear: “Opinion” and “argument” are not simply new words that mean “persuasive.” These three words identify separate, distinct writing concepts.

       

      Let’s begin with a basic definition for each. According to the Common Core, “persuasive” is not a text type; that is to say it is not a “design” or a “build” for composition. Rather, persuasion is a goal or a purpose for writing. Authors attempting to persuade an audience rely primarily upon credibility and emotion, often leveraging the reader’s sense of self-interest. In a nutshell, persuasion is generally accomplished by changing the way someone feels.

       

      Argumentation is different. While the assertion of a specific argument can certainly be a purpose for writing, and while an argument can certainly change how a reader feels about a topic, an effective written argument also has distinct characteristics that set it apart from other writing forms. These characteristics define the text type, and, according to the Common Core, they can be observed and directly instructed. An argument begins with a claim. A claim is an assertion that the writer intends to prove is valid. A claim is a specific type of thesis: an opinion that is to some extent objectively defensible (This is the best type of computer for people who travel). A well-constructed argument advances the claim using reasons (It is durable), examples (I have dropped it many times, and it still works), and evidence (Consumer reports gives this model a top score for durability). Notice a key difference between examples and evidence: Evidence tends to be factual information gleaned from sources more informed than the writer himself. 

       

      According to the Common Core, argument writing instruction is supposed to begin at about 6th grade. Notwithstanding the recommendations of the Common Core, it is highly advisable to begin argument writing instruction when students demonstrate that they are cognitively ready to think a bit more abstractly (to think more “outside” their own experience). With many students, this will occur long before 6th grade. So in accordance with best instructional practices, teachers must observe and assess carefully, determine the developmentally appropriate moment to begin argument writing, and differentiate to meet the needs of students working at different levels of readiness and proficiency. 

       

      So what are we supposed to be teaching before argument instruction begins? According to the Common Core, opinion writing. This is simply a less sophisticated form of argument writing. It begins with an opinion statement and then supports it with reasons and examples. Opinion writing is often characterized by the lack of an objectively defensible claim and/or a lack of evidence to support the reasons and examples. But opinion writing and argument writing are not entirely separate from one another. These two text types exist on a developmental continuum, so it is possible for writing to exhibit characteristics of both simultaneously. From an instructional perspective, it is less important to identify the type of writing than it is to move students incrementally along the continuum from opinion toward argumentation. As writers develop, their compositions will gradually become less opinion-oriented and more characteristic of a true argument. For example, a first grader might render the opinion, “I like ice cream.” A seventh grader might argue about the same topic beginning with the claim, “Ice cream is unhealthy.” In both cases, the writer takes a position on the topic, but the first grader’s assertion (opinion) is far more subjective. The second example is more typical of a claim that might anchor a written argument, and it is more defensible from an evidentiary perspective.

       

      Now that we have discussed the essential differences between persuasion, opinion, and argument, we must recognize their interplay in authentic “real world” writing. Think analogously of any car commercial you’ve watched recently. The tag line is probably an opinion, but in some cases, it might be a claim. Reasons to buy the car are provided, and visual examples are likely demonstrated by actors on the screen. Many car companies also cite evidence (J.D. Power and Associates award, Car and Driver’s 10 best list, etc.). But the advertiser also spent a lot of money in an attempt to establish their credibility, appeal to your emotions, and influence you to act in your own self-interest. So the commercial you’re thinking of probably had characteristics of both persuasion and argumentation…like many other “real world” forms of communication. 

       

      This begs a simple question: If persuasion, opinion, and argument often blend in the real world, why teach them separately? There are two simple answers. First, in order to effectively blend these concepts, students have to master each of them first. To do so requires explicit strategy-based instruction, and many of the proprietary strategies for each form are distinct. Second, the Common Core Standards emphasize the opinion and argument text types for success in college and career. Why? College and career require written expression that is ideationally compelling—writing that argues based upon reasonableness and proof. And because it’s easier to persuade than to argue, students often are better at the former than the latter. From an academic perspective, argument is more challenging. It requires a deeper level of understanding that comes from analysis, research, perspective-taking, and anticipation of counterclaims.

       

      To summarize, persuasion, opinion, and argument are distinct from one another. For this reason, they require strategy-based direct instruction for student mastery. But this does not mean they exist in mutually exclusive silos. Talented writers develop a commanding mastery of each and then blend them expertly to address specific purposes and audiences. 

       

      This post originally ran May 7 on SmartBlog on Education and, here on the Zaner-Bloser Blog, is the first in a series of blog posts about the writing text types and how they have been redefined by the Common Core State Standards. Subsequent posts in this Decoding the Text Types series will explain the new narrative and informative/explanatory writing text types and tackle many more of the misconceptions that are out there.

       

      —James Scott Miller, M.Ed., Zaner-Bloser Senior Instructional Consultant and Consulting Author, Strategies for Writers

      

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
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  • Leader to Leader (L2L) News: M Leader to Leader (L2L) News: May 2014

  • The Heart of Teaching and Lear The Heart of Teaching and Learning

    • From: Sandra_Trach
    • Description:

       

      As the Estabrook School Principal in Lexington, Massachusetts (United States), I am honored and humbled to lead eighty expert faculty and staff, who teach me everyday about their wise and wonderful gifts for students.  I am profoundly inspired by their exemplary content knowledge, and in awe of their sophisticated pedagogical skills.  At the heart of our strong school culture, sustained high achievement and progressive instructional practice, are three core teaching practices that continually inspire extraordinary levels of student learning.

       

      A rising tide lifts all boats

       

      Collaboration is the heart of our practice.  Since we share students within and across classrooms, teachers are mutually invested in each other’s success.  We know that supporting a colleague is supporting a student.  Just as we see our students from a strengths-based perspective, we see our teacher colleagues in the same light.

       

      Teachers flexibly group students in a myriad of ways, and teach students from their professional strengths and expertise.  Our teachers debrief daily on how lessons succeed or need to be changed, in order to respond to student learning.  Mid-course adjustments are made to carefully calibrate student learning for optimal success. 

       

      Throughout this process, our teachers know that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’  They place trust, expertise, inquiry and support in each other’s hands, believing that ‘my students are your students, and your students are my students.’  Our teachers live what it means to be a collaborative learning community, that collectively shares practice and improves student learning.

       

       

      Everybody gets what everybody needs, and what everybody needs is different

       

      Our teachers believe that students learn in different ways and at different rates.  To support this, our teachers collaborate in professional learning communities to analyze, design, implement, measure and reflect on student learning.  They employ flexible models of instruction, and repeat this planning cycle daily, in order to inform next step instruction.

       

      Every six weeks, our teachers collaborate in multidisciplinary data teams to discuss quantitative and qualitative performance data of all students in the school to inform progress.  For each student, our teachers factor in high standards, rigorous curriculum, formative assessment, resesarch-based strategies, and the strengths and needs of the student to create a truly personalized learning plan.  These individualized learning plans are collectively developed, implemented and monitored by our teachers.  In any given classroom, twenty-four students have twenty-four different instructional plans, customized to their individual strengths, interests and needs.  Our teachers possess great agility in lifting these plans and ensuring their success.

       

      Our teachers believe that ‘everybody gets what everybody needs, and what everybody needs is different.’  To ensure this mission is tangibly met, our teachers use the personalized student learning plans as a springboard to help students meet and exceed the standards.  I am always impressed with how our teachers creatively design the optimal learning conditions to spark and support each student’s journey.  With 99% of our students achieving the state standards, this model has proven to be successful.  Our teachers believe that all students can learn to high levels, and personalized learning is at the heart of making measurable progress.

       

       

      Everything starts and stops with learning

       

      Every interaction among our teachers is a learning conversation.  Our teachers are always reflecting, sharing and supporting one another to improve learning.  Teachers often consult with one another to gain and lend expertise.  It has been often said, there is an expert on our teaching staff in most any area in education.  All you have to do is ask. Before you know it, you are being supported by many staff who are invested in your success. 

       

      Collaboration among our teachers is an artform, as much as it is a science.  Every classroom and office door is open.  Teams are dialoguing, data is public and there is a passionate, shared accountability to help every student achieve to a high level. 

       

      Our teachers will tell you ‘everything starts and stops with learning.’  They are crystal clear on what students should know and be able to do and how students learn best.  They are also clear on what to do if students are struggling and what to do if students have learned it already.  Learning is our shared non-negotiable, and more importantly, it is our shared purpose at the heart of our work with students.

       

       

      Shared leadership

       

      As the Estabrook School Principal, I am passionate about shared leadership.  I believe that every teacher is a leader of learning.  One of my major goals in the principalship is to support teachers in their pursuit of high levels of learning for all students.  Stephen Covey said, “Effective leadership is about putting first things first.  Effective management is discipline - carrying it out.”  The Estabrook School teachers are leaders who put these core practices first in their practice, and manage the learning conditions to carry out their success.  The Estabrook teachers are extraordinary models that exemplify that all students can succeed when the core practices of collaboration, personalization and shared accountability are at the heart of learnng.

       

      Sandra A. Trach

      Estabrook Elementary School Principal

      @SandraTrach

      #Estabrook School

      http://lps.lexingtonma.org/estabrookes

       

      Cross-posted to:

      sandratrach@blogspot.com

      Microsoft Educator Network http://www.pil-network.com/HotTopics/leadershipandinnovation/TheHeartofTeachingandLearning

       

       

      

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
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  • Quiz Tank 2: Are you a Subjec Quiz Tank 2: Are you a Subjective or Objective Grader?

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      As educators, much of our time is spent assessing student needs. Before we can truly help our students, an understanding of our own learning is key. Thus, near the end of each month, I will offer one short educator quiz to help shed light on where we are and where we wish to go...

       

      If you have topics or research that you would like to include for a future quiz, please email davisj5@mail.uc.edu.  If your material is selected, I will include your name and appropriate information with the quiz. If you are interested in taking last months quiz, you can find it here!

       

      Are you ready to see if you are a subjective or objective grader? You may take the brief quiz below by answering yes or no to the 5 questions listed.

       

      1. Do you boost students grades if they work hard and behave well in class?

      2. Do students prefer that teachers use individual (circumstantial information) when 
          grading?

      3. Do teachers replicate grading practices they experienced when they were students?


      4. Can teachers strike a balance between subjective and objective grading?


      5. There are many debates surrounding effective grading and grading approaches. Can
          grading issues impact more than just students?

       

      Spoiler Alert: Exploring Your Results

      This quiz was developed in response to 3 articles (listed below in the references). If you answered "yes" to most of the questions, your grading style is closely related to the material reported in the articles. If you answered more questions with "no", take a look at the answer explanations below.

       

      Answer Explanations

      1. Research shows that in addition to achievement, teachers consider effort and behavior 
          when grading. Grey areas (these may include attitude, improvement and participation) 
          are reported to impact a student's grade.

      2. High ability students prefer grades based on merit, whereas less able students prefer grades based on individual           characteristics and situations. 

      3. When training and practice of effective grade procedure implementation does not 
          occur, teachers utilize strategies that they experienced when they were students.

       
      4. It is useful to employ steps such as determining the percentage that subjectivity will 
          count towards the final grade, defining subjective categories (such as the number of 
          times the student is expected to participate, the number of times the student brings 
          needed materials for class work etc.) and tracking student progress with subjective 
          grading measures.

       
      5. Grading issues impact teachers as well as students. The overall impact is known 
         as the "grading divide". Teachers need to defend their grading choices and justify 
         subjective grading due to standards-driven system. 

       


      References
      Gordon, E.M., & Fay, C.H. (2010). The effects of grading and teaching practices on 
      student's perceptions of grading fairness. College Teaching, 58, 93-98.


      Randall, J., & Engelhard, G. (2010). Examining the grading practices of teachers. 
      Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 1372-1380.


      Stitt, J.L., & Pula, J.J. (2014). Voting fir subjectivity: Adding some gray areas to black-and-white, objective grading practices. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 24-27.

    • Blog post
    • 3 months ago
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  • Leaders Who Love... Leaders Who Love...

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

      

      If anyone of you has not read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, then you are really missing out on some effective communication strategies to use with your students and staff.  Chapman describes 5 different ways to communicate effectively to the ones we hold dear to us.  Now, you may be freaking out a little because that kind of language sounds too intimate for the workplace, right?  Wrong!!  Actually, he did write this book for more intimate relationships, such as spouses or close family and friends.  However, after reading this book for about the fifth time, I had a revelation!  Why didn’t I see it before?  I think it was because, like you are thinking, the words “love language” sounded too mushy for a working environment.   Nevertheless, Gary Chapman has inspired me to be a leader who loves.  When I use the word leader, I do not mean just an administrator but any person who leads others.  A leader could be a classroom teacher, an interventionist, coach, nurse, secretary, content specialist, bus driver, etc. 

      Chapman discusses five languages desired by human hearts.  His languages are recipes for healthy, happy relationships.   According to the author, most of us have a preferred way to be treated by others in order to feel worthy. Reciprocally, we also have a favored style we use to show others we care about them.  For many of us, we will demonstrate to others we care in the same way that we choose to be loved. 

      Below are the five languages discussed in the book along with examples, which I’ve added:

         Words of Affirmation- saying nice or kind words to the person

         Quality Time- Having a meaningful, quality conversation; listening

         Receiving Gifts- a coffee, favorite snack, an inexpensive token of appreciation

         Acts of Service- teaching a class for someone or doing their duty

         Physical Touch- a hug, a pat on the back, or a touch on the shoulder that says you care

       

       As a leader, you also yearn to be esteemed by one of these languages; you may even have two. In fact, you may desire all of these to some degree, but you probably have at least one or two dominant languages that feed your soul.   More often than not, you show others you care by reciprocating with your dominant language(s).

       For instance, I am “words of affirmation” and “quality time”.  In order to have my emotional tank filled, I need to hear kind, positive words about something I am doing or who I am.  I also love spending time with others.  As a wife, mom, and assistant principal, I tend to show others I care by participating in the same actions; that’s just human nature.  I do have to be aware that others may not share my same dominant language.  Their heart could thrive on one of the other three.   So, even though my tank is getting the fuel it needs, the person I am with may not.  I have to pay careful attention to signs that will help me identify their dominant language.  It may take experimenting and time, especially with students. 

      As a school leader, it is important to realize our students and staff have emotional needs.  These language identifiers really help!  Just think about how you could get children to do what they are supposed to do by simply speaking their language!  On the flip side, you must be careful and sensitive whenever critiquing or disciplining them.  If you use a lot of words that may be considered “put-downs” to a person who attains some of their self-worth from words of affirmation, you can actually degrade the individual. It does not mean the student or staff member cannot take constructive criticism; we just need to be mindful as to how we deliver our words.  Many times, our well-behaved students and staff might feel neglected, especially if their language is quality time.  Really, think about this…. Who gains most of our attention?   Yes, those who require more of our time and attention for learning or behaving. 

      Building relationships is key to sustaining a great educational environment for our students and staff.  You really have everything to gain in just trying.  It can’t hurt to affirm or care for someone a little too much as long as it is genuine.  In my opinion, it is a win-win situation.

    • Blog post
    • 3 months ago
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  • Feeny! Feeny!

    • From: Eric_Bernstein
    • Description:

          Next month I will travel to Los Angeles to join many of my students, almost all of whom I have only know through our Adobe Connect online classroom, for commencement from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.  As a full-time faculty member at USC, I have the privilege to work with students from across the country and world in our face-to-face, synchronous online Masters of Arts in Teaching program.  I prepare teachers for certification or to advance their practice. 

       

          One of my students was able to “score” tickets for us to go see a taping of the new Disney series “Girl Meets World” on May 14.  To say I am excited, well, that would be an understatement!  Maybe “totally stoked” would be more apt a description.  When I was a middle school social studies teacher and later a middle and high school principal, the original series “Boy Meets World” was at the peak of its popularity.  One of the greatest memories (and greatest honors) I have of my middle school students was when they would liken me to Feeny.  Since I am overdue for a blog post, I decided to consider some of the many lessons that Feeny could teach all of us as educators.  Here are my top ten (each scene is quoted first and then it is followed by what I have deemed “the Feeny Lesson” from that quote):

       

      Season 1, Episode 1 (1993): 

      Cory Matthews: Mr. Feeny, who cares about a guy who killed himself for some dumb girl?

      Mr. George Feeny: The tragedy here, Mr. Matthews, is not about a dumb girl, or the boy who kills himself because of her. It's about the all-consuming power of love. And the inevitability of its influence on each of our lives.

      Cory Matthews: [pauses] Are you aware that I'm only eleven years old?

      Lesson:  Don’t talk down to your students, believe that they can understand and learn by being spoken to like adults—even if they don’t realize it!

       

      Season 4, Episode 17 (1997):

      Mr. George Feeny: Even though this isn't a classroom at the moment, would you mind if I taught you a lesson anyway?

      Topanga Lawrence: Please.

      Mr. George Feeny: Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I cared for someone as deeply as you two care for each other now.

      Cory Matthews: You believe we love each other?

      Mr. George Feeny: And for no reason I understood, my wife was taken from me, and I haven't been so deeply in love since.

      Cory Matthews: [to Topanga] Feeny believes we love each other!

      Mr. George Feeny: I believe that when you find love, you hold on to it, and cherish it! Because there is nothing finer, and may never come again. And that, my dears, is the most important thing I could teach you.

      Lesson:  Our work as educators is not and should not be bound by the walls of the classroom—there are important life lessons that we can teach our students that extend far beyond the formal curriculum.

       

      Season 2, Episode 9 (1994):

      Katherine 'Kat' Tompkins: This Jonathan Turner guy, what's the deal with him?

      George Feeny: It's really not my place to comment, from one teacher to another.

      Katherine 'Kat' Tompkins: Oh, come on. He asked me out! I just wanna know if he's an axe murderer.

      George Feeny: It wasn't on his resumé.

      Lesson:  How to handle gossip in the teacher’s lounge—enough said!

       

      Season 7, Episode 23 (2000):

      Mr. George Feeny: Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good

      Topanga: Don't you mean "do well"?

      Mr. George Feeny: No, I mean "do good".

      Lesson:  Doing “well” and doing “good” are not the same thing—and as teachers, it is not that we must work to merely do our jobs well, but we must strive to “do good” for our communities, our schools, and, most importantly, our students.

       

      Season 1, Episode 8 (1993):

      Cory Matthews: Shawn, what was your mother's maiden name?

      Shawn Hunter: Cordini.

      Cory Matthews: Cordini, so that would make you a WOP, right?

      Shawn Hunter: What did you call me?

      Cory Matthews: You heard what I called you.

      Shawn Hunter: [to Feeny] Did you hear what he called me?

      George Feeny: I heard what he called you.

      Shawn Hunter: What're you going to do about it?

      George Feeny: He's the teacher, what're YOU going to do about it?

      Shawn Hunter: I'm gonna knock his head off!

      Cory Matthews: What if you couldn't? What if you couldn't do anything about it?

      Shawn Hunter: What?

      Cory Matthews: What if you lived in a country where I could KILL you just because of your mom's last name.

      Shawn Hunter: Cory, what're you talking about?

      Cory Matthews: A 15 year old girl is DEAD! Doesn't anybody care? She was really smart and totally cool. Her name was Anne Frank, she wrote this book. They say she died of typhus but they killed her, BECAUSE her name was Anne Frank.

      Lesson:  Sometimes our students can be the best teachers of each other—and our job should include giving them opportunities to do so.

       

      Season 4, Episode 11 (1996):

      George Feeny: Eric, in the play of your life all your great scenes lie ahead of you.

      Eric Matthews: So you're saying in thirty or forty years I could write a play that you would wanna come and see?

      George Feeny: No, tonight pretty much killed any interest I had in the theater.

      Eric Matthews: Mr. Feeny you know everything. Where does my life go from here?

      George Feeny: Well, now, you have passion. You have drive. You certainly have guts. I frankly can't wait to see what happens to you.

      Eric Matthews: So you're not gonna tell me to give up my life as an actor and go get a college education?

      George Feeny: Eric I told you to get a college education ten-thousand times. I don't have to tell you anymore.

      Eric Matthews: What about my life as an actor?

      George Feeny: Get a college education.

      Lesson:  Encourage students and support them in even their wildest dreams—but tether them to reality as well, and guide them toward choices that will open doors rather than close them.

       

      Season 6, Episode 1 (1998):

      Mr. George Feeny: You can't tell Cory and Topanga what to do. I've been trying to do that since the first grade. I remember when I tried to separate their desks. She kicked me. He bit me. And some little punk kept saying "Leave 'em alone. They should get married."

      Shawn Hunter: I was cute then, huh?

      Mr. George Feeny: Precious.

      Lesson:  Looping works—when we stay with students year after year, we develop a better understanding of who they are as people and what their unique needs are.  Even if we don’t loop, it is important for us and to them that we maintain continued relationships with our students even after they move on to another teacher.

       

      Season 4, Episode 15 (1997):

      Mr. George Feeny: [passing by] Good morning, Miss Lawrence, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Hunter.

      [stops, then turns to Shawn, who is dressed as a girl]

      Mr. George Feeny: If there's anything you need to talk about, my door is always open.

      Shawn Hunter:  It’s for an article we’re writing, Mr. Feeny!

      Mr. George Feeny: I'm not here to judge.

      Lesson:  Notice when our students may need someone to talk to—then remind them that we are there to listen and that we will listen without judgment, that we will support them no matter what.

       

      Season 4, Episode 19 (1997):

      Cory Matthews: Mr. Feeny, look, the show's proving that we're absorbing the right kind of knowledge, I mean that's why we're the champions.

      [the class applauds]

      George Feeny: Hold it, hold it, wait a minute. Champions of what, Mr. Matthews? Of a generation whose verbal and mathematical skills have sunk SO low, when you have the highest technology at your fingertips? Gutenburg's generation thirsted for a new book every six months. Your generation gets a new web page every six seconds. And how do you use this technology? To beat King Koopa, and save the princess. Shame on you. You deserve what you get.

      Lesson:  Technology is only as effective as the users—and just because we use technology for something does not make the thing we are using technology for somehow inherently valuable or worthwhile.

       

      Season 7, Episode 23 (2000):

      [Eric hugs Mr. Feeny and follows Topanga and Shawn out the door]

      George Feeny: So Mr. Matthews

      Cory Matthews: You think we've known each other long enough for you to call me Cory?

      George Feeny: I think I've known you long enough to call you Cornielius

      Cory Matthews: Ssh! Mr. Feeny! Not even Topanga knows that.

      George Feeny: Your secret is safe with me.

      Cory Matthews: Well. I got Topanga to go to New York.

      George Feeny: Good for you.

      Cory Matthews: She's not even scared anymore.

      George Feeny: Nor should she be.

      Cory Matthews: I am.

      George Feeny: Well, you have a right to be.

      [Cory finally breaks down and hugs Mr. Feeny]

      Cory Matthews: You coming with us Mr. Feeny? You gonna sneak up on us in Central Park or something?

      George Feeny: No, I shall remain here.

      Cory Matthews: No. You'll always be with us. As long as we live okay?

      [Cory walks out the door. Mr. Feeny looks around the room]

      George Feeny [the last line of the series “Boy Meets World”]: I love you all... Class dismissed

      Lesson:  Know your students well, even better than they want their friends to know them—and love them, even if you wait until they all leave the room to tell them, because you will always be with them (whether you’ve done them right or done them wrong).

       

      The inimitable William Daniels, who played Feeny in “Boy Meets World,” had two other roles in his career that hold special places in my heart:  As John Adams in the 1969(?) musical AND 1972 film “1776,” he was with me every year that I taught middle school social studies and taught that very play and as the voice of K.I.T.T. in the TV series “Knight Rider,” he was a significant part of my own childhood television watching!  I would feel remiss if I did not include two bonus lessons from Feeny, but in each of those other two significant roles:

       

      Act I, Scene 3 – (1972—“1776”)

      John Adams: Now you'll write it, Mr. J.

      Thomas Jefferson: Who will make me, Mr. A?

      John Adams: I.

      Thomas Jefferson: You?

      John Adams: Yes!

      [Jefferson—6 feet 4—steps up, towering over Adams—5 feet 8—and looks down at him]

      Thomas Jefferson: How?

      [tapping his chest with the quill pen]

      John Adams: By physical force, if necessary.

      Lesson:  There are times when we must make a stand—even when the odds are stacked against us—so that the job will get done.  Teachers are often the little guys and we must stand up to the big guys, for what we know is right, even when (like Jefferson with Adams) they are actually on our side (although, history tells us of the extraordinary love-hate relationship those two Founding Fathers really had).

       

      Season 2, Episode 5 (1983—“Knight Rider”)

      K.I.T.T.:  Michael, I've been thinking about David Dudley's sportscar. I'm afraid it may have met with a dreadful end.

      Michael Knight:  I don't follow.

      K.I.T.T.:  It's occurred to me that in so far as the car is essentially evidence in a shooting, those hoodlums may have disposed of it in that crusher at the wrecking yard.

      Michael Knight:  Oh, well that would make a compact out of it, wouldn't it?

      K.I.T.T.:  I fail to see the humor in that. It's a most humiliating way to go, transformed into a tin can..

      Michael Knight:  Well, I'll remember that the next time I have sardines.

      K.I.T.T.:  Really, Michael. Sometimes you're so insensitive.

      Lesson:  Have empathy and realize that the lived experiences of our students may not be the same as our own—the things that may seem inconsequential or fodder for a joke to us may actually be genuinely and deeply personal for them.

       

      It is worth the side note for me to explain why “Girl Meets World” is really the full circle for me.  Like Feeny, I was a classroom teacher turned principal.  And like Cory Matthews (who grew up to become a teacher like his own mentor/second father “Mr. Feeny”), I grew up to become a teacher in (I can only hope) the likeness of my own mentors/second fathers, Mr. D and Mr. E and, of course, my own father who was also a teacher and then school administrator. 

       

      As I understand it, William Daniels has reprised (or will reprise) the role of Feeny in some capacity for the new series and I can only hope that he will appear on the episode taping on May 14—but in any event, I can’t wait!  And so concludes this blog post and my tribute to “Feeny” a.k.a. William Daniels a.k.a. K.I.T.T. a.k.a. John Adams.  Class dismissed!

    • Blog post
    • 3 months ago
    • Views: 831
  • Service Learning Service Learning

    • From: Mike_Hennessy
    • Description:

      Many school districts in America have a Service Learning requirement. An idea well-intentioned but poorly implemented in most schools. Teachers and Administrators who have never even done volunteer work now demand that their students do what they have never done. Needless to say these administrators offer nothing but lip service to the cause. We set the requirement but then we back off, we want nothing to do with these service learning requirements. "That's your problem kiddo" go get it done. And by the way stop whining about it, just go do it. The teenager is now left to fend for themselves with little help from the adults in their world. Oh, sure we offer the opportunity for the students to meet after school with their counselor or the service learning coordinator to discuss upcoming opportunities but what about the adults who stand in front of them every day? Where are they? They are nowhere to be found.

       Let's be honest we forced this requirement upon our students because we believed it's so damned important but the truth is we do not walk the walk and talk the talk. If teachers and administrators truly believe that service learning is so damned important (and even if they do not) it is about time educators began to support the service learning agenda. It is about time educators stopped hiding behind empty rhetoric and began including service learning into the curriculum.

       Every single requirement for students is supported at school except service learning. Driver’s education is supported with classes and books, so is physical education, the constitution exam, health, sex education and the arts. But when it comes to service learning we kick the kids to the curb and wish them luck. Then we blame them when the appropriate number of hours is not met in the given time frame. If schools are going to make service learning mandatory then it's about time these educators began supporting this requirement with more than slogans and suggestions.

      The solution is simple. Every teacher at school must include two service learning projects into their unit plans every year. If the subject you are teaching is relevant then there must be some practical way to integrate this into your instruction. If you cannot do this then your subject is not worth teaching.

      Schools exist to prepare our young to be productive members of society. How is this possible if we do not demonstrate how the topic presented in class each day applies to a real world situation? Service Learning is the only graduation requirement we throw at students with little or no support. If we really believe in the value of service learning then let's start supporting that requirement in deeds not just with words. Let’s bring service learning into the curriculum front and center. Let’s give everybody a stake in the responsibility to complete and implement the service learning requirement

       

    • Blog post
    • 3 months ago
    • Views: 272
  • Alternatives to Standardized T Alternatives to Standardized Tests: Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      As a high school teacher, I used an array of diverse assessments to measure and evaluate student achievement and success. Many varied components would go into each student’s grades and narratives – test and quiz results, the quality of projects, writings and self-reflections, observations of students, and judgments regarding effort, growth, and class participation. Given the multiple student cognitive abilities, attitudes, character traits, and strengths and problems, it would have been foolish of me to use only one type of measure to determine a students’ success in my class.

       

      Given that multiple types of assessments such as the ones I used above are used by most teachers, one would expect that appropriate, multiple assessment approaches would be also used to assess school and district success. Thus, it is surprising that “one size fits all” standardized tests, with their major emphasis on multiple choice-short answer questions, are touted as the major, and often the only way to judge school success, student achievement, and even teacher effectiveness.

       

      Unfortunately, the sole use of these traditional tests pose many problems for assessing actual student knowledge, skills, abilities, talents and interests. First, many educators and lay people suggest that standardized tests often do not do a good job of measuring the purported skills associated with them. For example, as recently pointed out by a New York State teacher in a NY Times op-ed piece, the New York English Language Arts test questions do “a poor job of testing reading comprehension”. A student’s answers to the questions on this test have “little bearing on [his or her] reading ability and yet [have] huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools”[i]. Some students also might be good readers but do poorly on the reading test because of their poor test-taking skills.

       

      Second, standardized tests have limited use in evaluating whether students have learned many of the most important skills required for college work or for living in a 21st century world, such as interest in learning, motivation to learn, research and study skills, coherent writing abilities, effective oral communication skills, project and problem-based development skills, problem finding and question asking, the ability to apply learning to authentic situations, scientific investigation skills, “deep” thinking, student “grit”, and the development of each individual student’s talents and abilities.

       

      In addition, the tests usually provide schools and teachers with limited, if any, feedback to help them figure out how to improve teaching and learning. And, unfortunately, they also have a number of negative side effects, such as increasing sterile test-prep activities, narrowing the curriculum, increasing student anxiety and frustrations, and reducing student interest in learning. Many of our best teachers write about how the emphasis on testing plays havoc with their curriculum, the interest and motivation of their students, and their joy of teaching. Some have even left the teaching profession altogether because of their school or district emphasis on preparing for standardized tests.

       

      As opposition to the use of these tests increases, and a greater understanding of their limitations and negative consequences develops, it is imperative that opponents to standardized testing suggest alternatives. In fact, there should be many varied assessments used to determine school and district success, just as there are many and varied types of educational goals, results, and students. This is a very different paradigm from the “one size fits all” standardized testing results model of measuring success. So, described briefly below are some examples of types of measures that might be combined into an assessment plan useful for judging district and school success, student achievement, and the school or district conditions that limit or reinforce success. The first number of measures are designed to measure output – achievement and successes of students, their involvement and participation in multiple types of activities, perceptions of stakeholders in how the school is meeting their needs, and so on. The second set of measures focus on input: characteristics of student population, conditions under which students learn, amount of resources available, the quality of curriculum and teaching, and others.

       

      Assessing Output:

      Achievement, Successes, Activity Involvement, and Perceptions

       

      Student graduation data

      What do students do when they graduate, where do they go and how successful are they both during their time with us and after they leave us?

      In analyzing school success, data should be regularly collected on the % of students who graduate and what they do after graduation (types and names of colleges and universities attended, financial aid obtained, military enlistees, technical school attendees, etc.); what % of those who attend college graduate and why do they drop out; college majors. Student data also should include surveys and interviews with graduates to find out their levels of satisfaction with their K-12 school programs;

       

      Mission-related achievement data

      How well do our students meet the mission of our school or district?

      Student data should be collected and analyzed that demonstrate achievement and success based on mission-related goals. For example, a school specializing in the visual arts might collect data on the type of artwork students complete and a sampling of student portfolios; a school with an emphasis on music may focus assessments around the types of student performances given by students and the skill level of its music students. Vo-Tech schools might collect data on the types of training received by each student, their post high school plans and career goals, their job placements and acceptance levels into advanced programs.

       

      Report card results

      How successful are our students, based on the results of their daily and yearly work?

      We know that the best predictors of student achievement and success lie with how well students do in their classes and in the recommendations of teachers and others in the school. We therefore need to make sure that each school or district develop specific, “standards-based” report cards, built around measures of 21st century goals, that reflect how well students succeed and grow in their classes and courses. Report cards should be broken down into specific cognitive and social expectations, with ratings that use levels of achievement as well as grades. Narrative comments convey specific information to parents-guardians about the strengths of individual children and areas that need improvement.

       

      Report card data can be summarized to provide a picture of how well the school or district is doing to meet the needs of its students. Randomly selected report cards, along with narrative comments, can also be collected and shared.

       

      Cornerstone-graduation project(s) results

      How well do our students complete “cornerstone” projects that both develop and assess core 21st century skills?

      Cornerstone projects consist of research projects and “authentic” performance tasks that culminate in presentations and exhibitions and demonstrate in-depth understanding of ideas, the ability to use 21st century skills, and the ability to transfer and apply learning. Students who are able to develop questions around their interests or suggested topics, conduct research, read and comprehend, write essays and research papers, and make presentations to others demonstrate an understanding of content and competence in using significant skills.

       

      Cornerstone project results at different school levels demonstrate progress towards the development of these skills as well as final mastery of them.

       

      Student plans for the future

      What are student plans for the future?

      Every student should be required to develop a plan for his or her future, indicating their next steps after graduating from high school and their more visionary goals for the future. Part of the development of a plan should include research about future educational goals, career options and choices. A summary of these plans is an important indicator of school and district success.

       

      Student portfolios

      What is the comprehensive nature of individual student work?

      Portfolios - collections of student work - help us to assess actual student work and incorporate “real learning” into the assessment process, not the artificial, “out of context” kind of learning assessed through standardized tests. Portfolios are also individualized and customized to demonstrate an individual’s nuanced and varied skill levels, talents, abilities, and interests. Today, with Internet capability, an individual student’s best writing and/or artwork, project results, tests, self-reflections, plans for the future, and other student work can be scanned and placed electronically into portfolios.

       

      Students should be asked to develop portfolios of their work throughout their K-12 experience. Sample portfolios, or parts of portfolios, can be used to illustrate the types of work students are doing within the school or district, and how well a school or district is helping students master key 21st century knowledge and skills.

       

      Survey-focus group data

      What do parents, students and teachers think about us?

      In this day and age of the Internet, it is relatively easy to develop, post, and summarize survey data. Every school and district should collect data from parents, students and teachers at least once a year, and then use the data to review its programs, applaud its strengths, and figure out ways to improve what it does[ii].

       

      What do graduates and dropouts think about us?

      Once students leave school and move on to colleges and other post high-school experiences, they have greater perspective on their experiences and can often provide valuable insights into the strengths of a school program and “needs improvement” areas. Data from graduates should be sought after, even if it is often difficult to collect.

       

      Attempts should be made to collect and analyze data from dropouts, even if this data might be difficult to collect, in order to indicate why they dropped out of school and therefore suggest ways to help other students stay in school.

       

      Student reflections

      How do students view our school? What do they see as our positive and negative features?

      Students who will be leaving one school to go to another school within the district (e.g. from elementary to middle school) or leaving a school to transfer to a school outside the district, or graduating from high school should be the focus of special attention when it comes to surveys and data collection. These students should be asked to reflect on their school experiences and focus on what they perceive as the strengths of the school they are leaving, the major learnings resulting from their school experiences, and suggestions for improving their learning experience. This data should be collected, analyzed and shared.

       

      Community service and field-based activities

      What are our students’ opportunities to connect with and apply their learning to the outside world?

      How do students provide service to the community? How do students connect with the outside world via field trips, career days, and so on? How do outside individuals and groups provide services to and work with students within a school? These and other similar questions should be part of data collection that is shared and used to provide feedback on connections to real world, outside resources.

       

      Extra-curricular, support, or enrichment activities

      What opportunities are there for students to participate in extra-curricular, support and enrichment activities? How much do our students take advantage of extra-curricula, support and enrichment activities?

      “Extra curricular” activities provide opportunities for students to explore and learn about a variety of options that are beyond academics. What extra-curricular activities are available? Data should be available that indicates which students are partake of which extra-curricular activities, and how often they do so.

       

      In a similar vein, are their support and enrichment activities available for students? Data should indicate which students participate in these and why.

       

      Assessing Input:

      Conditions, Culture, Teaching, Curriculum, Resources,

       

      School and district student population, resource availability and conditions

      What are the characteristics of our student population? What resources do we have available to support our teachers and students? What school or district conditions help or hinder us in meeting achievement goals?

      This data helps us to understand the characteristics of the school, district and student population, and resource adequacy, needs problems and challenges. The data include information about student populations, such as ELL, special education, identified gifted populations; the number of students on free or reduced lunch. Other data includes the % of students who drop out of a school or district before graduation and the reasons why they leave; % who are “lifers” within the same school or district, % of students who are absent 10 or more days a year, % of students given suspensions and other discipline data, and mobility rates.

       

      District and school information include, among other things, resources available for technology, supplies, materials and other needs; class sizes; adequacy of library-media centers, art-music, and extra curricular programs; and support personnel available (NTA’s, nurses, counselors, community laiasons).

       

      Curricular programs and instructional activities

      What are the common types of curricular programs and instructional activities used in classrooms?

      One part of a school or district assessment plan might include examples of the kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning experiences that are incorporated into classrooms and other activities. Suppose, for example, that the school or district promotes inquiry learning. Do teachers in the district use an inquiry learning model in their classrooms? If yes, what does learning look like? What are the essential features of the mathematical curriculum? The reading-language arts curriculum? Are there any special programs in place (e.g. leveled books, writing process, deep learning, competitions) that provide the opportunity for a different type of learning experience for students?

       

      School and program reviews

      How can we increase the amount of “objective” assessment data in order to determine our successes and improve our programs?

      When I was on the staff of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, an educational service agency in Bucks County, PA, we conducted a number of program reviews for our constituent districts each year. We would enlist a number of teachers, administrators, and experts from across the county and the area to spend three days in a district examining and analyzing all or part of the district’s program. Our final report would list the strengths and needs of the program, and also make suggested recommendations for improving the program.

       

      These types of reviews are extremely valuable for a school or district, especially since an outside agency is conducting the review. It provide a wealth of objective information and data, along with suggestions for improvement, that help to assess a program and provide the impetus for making changes.

       

      Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP)

       

      Just as we should expect teachers to build a comprehensive assessment plan to measure student success and achievement in their classes, so should we expect schools and districts to build a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP) that measures both output and input: a broad array of types of achievement, successes, involvement, perceptions, conditions, culture, and resources. The plan should both assess student achievement, growth, and development, and also be useful in improving school conditions and success in the future.

       

      The selection of a set of a core set of assessments, built into a Comprehensive Assessment Plan, may be best determined by each school or district, depending on its resources, options, and viewpoints. My own view is that a combination of student population and school and district conditions-resource data, strong report card and student portfolio data, cornerstone project results, and surveys of and reflections from current students and graduates will provide significant and important data on how well a school or district is doing as well as the conditions under which schools, districts and teachers operate.

       

      In today’s world of e-mails, Internet surveys, smartphones, computers, tablets, much of this data would be relatively easy to collect. Many of these measures, taken together, can become part of a holistic school-district annual report card, presented by a principal or superintendent to school boards and available to the general public. They can be used to identify problems that need to be addressed. They present a much more nuanced picture of how well a school is doing, the qualities of student graduates, what issues a school or district are facing, and what steps need to be taken to improve the results.

       

      Unfortunately, a broad, varied array of assessment data just doesn’t get collected and developed by itself. A school or district needs to assign someone who is responsible for the development, collection, and analysis of this complex data. The person responsible might even be part of a collaborative, regional effort. The development of this more comprehensive approach will also take time to develop, and a long-term goal should be to enable every school and district to develop a significant assessment process for judging success with students and the conditions and resources necessary for success.

       

      How Federal and State Officials Can Help This Assessment Process

       

      Here are some ways that state and federal officials can provide support for a the use of a much more comprehensive assessment process:

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to collect and synthesize a wide variety of data, provide funding, resources and examples to help them;

       

      • Provide examples and models of report cards, surveys, cornerstone assessments, portfolios, and the like. Provide the technical means for collecting and analyzing data from these examples and models.

       

      • Provide support for school, district, or regionally-based individuals to be hired to build assessment systems, organize data collection, and prepare summary reports around data.

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop their own mix of data alone or collaboratively with others, develop new measures, and share their methodology with others;

       

      • Forbid the use of a single number to describe a school or district’s success;

       

      • Encourage the development of data summaries that are easy to understand and posted for the community to see;

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop a wide variety of ways to use data as feedback and to experiment and find solutions to problems that arise from the data, including curriculum adaptations, community liaisons, ways to motivate students to stay in school, and so on.

       

      • Encourage high performing schools and districts to share what they do that makes them high performing, especially when they have a significant number of students that need special help and attention.

       

      • Provide support for professional development that enables staff to review and draw conclusions from data; encourage professional development to develop potential solutions to problems discovered through data collection.

       

      • Encourage school and district experimentation with potential solutions, even if they lead to failure (that’s how we learn).  

       

       

      Ultimately, a trust in a decentralized assessment process, a belief in the value of multiple, diverse assessments to measure school and district success, along with a combination of strong leadership at all levels, will provide the necessary impetus to move us away from the primary reliance on standardized tests to assess student, school and teacher success. We should be moving towards the use of varied sets of data that provide nuanced, helpful pictures of success and student achievement and help to improve the conditions of learning. Let us hope that we move in the right direction soon, because the current direction is leading us away from the kinds of education that our students need to prepare for living in a 21st century world.

       

      -------------------------

       

      Elliott Seif, Ph.D. is a long time educator, author, consultant, educational advocate, and trainer. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, read more his blogs on ASCD Edge and go to:  www.era3learning.org

       

       

       



      [i] Elizabeth Phillips, We Need to Talk About the Test: The Problem With the Common Core, The New York Times op-ed page, April 9, 2014.

      [ii] A High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) is available free of charge from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. Go to:

      http://ceep.indiana.edu/hssse/index.html

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