Authentic Learning

14 Sep

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Authentic learning is a measure of connectedness based on pertinence, interest, and immediacy of a given context. Relevance is critical. Teachers will have a difficult time increasing rigor for learners who do not find the tasks at hand very relevant.

There are degrees of relevance. Something is less relevant if it is an isolated experience and far more relevant if it offers knowledge and skills to support life-long endeavours. Relevance is also contextual. Studying the setting of a story will seem less relevant to a student who hates reading literature than it will to a student who aspires to be a novelist. Fortunately, teachers can increase the relevance for everyone by helping learners find personal value in the studied content or skills. For example, disinterested readers can understand that their entire lives are defined by their personal settings. They can then begin to explore the variables within their own control to alter their settings for the better, making setting a relevant concept to explore beyond literary options. When content (e.g. literature) is used as a medium (not the end goal) to explore critical, real world skills, then relevance is maximized.

When considering if learning is relevant, as a teacher I explore the following questions:

  • Are the questions, prompts, or tasks interesting for the learners? Consider age, region, and modern trends as variables.
  • Might the questions, prompts, or tasks unintentionally exclude some learners (e.g. those who aren’t interested in sports, those who don’t have access to gardens, those who don’t wish to become historians, etc.)?
  • Do the questions, prompts, or tasks replicate processes that are authentic to ‘real world’ applications?
  • Will the questions, prompts, or tasks be fun or engaging? Will they be explained in the context of life-long application?

Few learners will accept robust challenges if they 1) don’t believe someone is there to support their efforts, and 2) can’t find a worthy reason to engage in something that will not be easy.

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Whakawhanaunga

13 Sep

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Last week a note I wrote about expectations. As we raise the bar on our expectations that all learners can be successful, we must also raise the bar on rigor for all learners.

When trying to meet the demands of supporting all learners, it is impossible to increase rigor without also attending to whakawhanaunga (relationships). My daughter recently met Helen Clark ONZ. Nobody could fined a better role model as wahine toa.

Personally I have an interest in the tuakanateina relationship, an integral part of traditional Māori society, provides a model for buddy systems. An older or more expert tuakana (brother, sister or cousin) helps and guides a younger or less expert teina (originally a younger sibling or cousin of the same gender). In a learning environment that recognises the value of ako, the tuakana–teina roles may be reversed at any time. For example, the student who yesterday was the expert on te wā and explained the lunar calendar may need to learn from her classmate today about how manaakitanga is practised by the local hapū.Relationships matter greatly. The concept of the tuakanateina relationship, is one that interests me. An older or more expert tuakana (brother, sister or cousin) helps and guides a younger or less expert teina (originally a younger sibling or cousin of the same gender). In a learning environment that recognises the value of ako, the tuakana–teina roles may be reversed at any time. For example, the student who yesterday was the expert on te wā and explained the lunar calendar may need to learn from her classmate today about how manaakitanga is practised by the local people.’

Marzano (2011) notes: “Positive relationships between teachers and students are among the most commonly cited variables associated with effective instruction” (p.82). Simply having positive relationships with tamariki and colleagues will not increase achievement. Quality teacher to student relationships impact student achievement in 4 significant ways:

When teachers build trust and rapport with tamariki, tamariki are more likely to take the necessary risks required to learn at deep levels. As mistake making is an inherent part of the learning journey, tamariki need to feel safe along the way.

When tamariki feel safe, they are more likely to offer teachers the necessary insights and feedback that can support the teacher’s ability to respond appropriately.

When teachers strive to understand each learner’s desires, needs, and assets, they have the necessary ability to connect the learning in targeted and specific way that ensures the learner can be successful.

When teachers know their tamariki well, they can better interpret the meaning behind a student’s unconscious nonverbal responses to the learning at hand. Raised eye-brows, tapped pencils, and deep sighs represent different emotional responses based on the learner exhibiting the behavior.

Unless a teacher knows the tamariki well, it is challenging to make learning relevant or rigorous.

Growth (Acceleration)

10 Sep

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Growth or Acceleration is on my mind as I design pathways for students for 2019. Growth is a personal endeavour, and it happens differently for every person.  Some people start physically growing before others do, while others don’t grow at all and then overnight.  There is one inevitable truth about growth, and it is this. It will occur.

That is why it is important that we remind our students and staff that it is not always best to compare ourselves to others through the lens of standardization especially when it comes to their current state or proficiency in learning.  It is, however, very healthy for students to analyse their unique progress over time and determine if they are making the necessary growth that pushes them toward mastery in learning.

One thought that we must always remember about growth is that it’s not a race.  It is, however, a journey.  Some will grow faster while others will grow slower.  Furthermore, we must convince our students to believe that growth shouldn’t be based on speed, but on their commitment to owning their growth and personal development, for that is how we ensure that we convince kids to set their sights on making lasting growth instead of growth that is fast and more likely unnecessary or even unsustainable.

Expectations

9 Sep

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Being a Restorative School and being a PB4L school has taught me a number of things. Threats of consequences without follow-through result in deafened ears the next time the threat is made. Failure to affirm expectations met leads to a “Doing Well Doesn’t Matter” mindset.

Expectations mean little to nothing at all until they are coupled with accountability. 

Accountability solidifies expectations when words don’t. Accountability keeps the standard high because threats won’t. Accountability adds value to a job well done.

Talk is cheap. Actions matter. Leaders of excellence set the same high expectations as everyone else, but the expectations that mean the most to them are the expectations they set on themselves to hold everyone accountable for meeting the goal.

Do your expectations matter to those you lead?  The answer is not in their adherence. It’s in your leadership skill of accountability and your support to guarantee that expectations are actually met by all.

 

Our Collaborative Trial

6 Sep

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And if the students develop interdisciplinary pathways which leads to “independent confident individuals who learn how to learn” we would’ve made a start at crossing boundaries and making connections (Duerr 2008)

This week I have done some work towards our collaboration project in Term 4. I got to thinking if the interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning has been around for decades, why have we not embraced it? And what’s the goal? Mathison and Freeman (1997) said that the goal is to help students synthesise discrete information and connect knowledge to everyday needs, applying learning methods to real life situations. To help facilitate these sorts of discussions we have set up Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) which are interdisciplinary in the past but the beauty of our Term 4 project is that the work is authentic.

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from http://www.albany.edu/cela/reports/mathisonlogic12004.pdf

I really enjoyed this clip which got me thinking.

 

 

Trust

2 Sep

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Bryk and Schneider (2002) described trust as the basis for developing social capital, and identify three types:

Organic Trust is based on the moral character and designated authority of leadership and is given unconditionally. This kind of trust has often been seen in faith-based environments, clergy and lay-leaders, had almost unquestioned trust. Yet, this basis has been somewhat eroded today, as we frequently see tragic cases of abuse of such trust.

Contractual Trust is transactional. Basic actions and outcomes are agreed upon, in accordance with stated terms. In this era of high-stakes testing and parent expectations and government agendas, it is a fear that education could be translated to these terms.

Relational Trust, John Dewey observed that a good school is more like a [functional]  family than a factory (Bryk and Schneider, 2002). Relational trust forms the basis of the ‘family’ interactions. Despite personality differences and clashes, there is a bedrock of connection that enables relationships to be maintained.

Relational trust is the foundation of the effective professional learning community, and essential for effective and lasting change.

Review

31 Aug

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This week I have been writing a Faculty Review and looking at developing units of study and the matching assessments while talking about the learning skills necessary for students to experience success. In the review I’ve deliberately not used the label “21st Century” I note that we are well in the 21st century. I know that the learning skills essential for students today are certainly divergent and the teaching practices to support those skills also need to be different. How we use the data gathered from high-quality assessment is a key component to furthering and deepening the work.

We need to deepen the critical thinking skills of our students. To do this I would like to see more student “talk” time. With the advances in technology, it’s been suggested that students today communicate more. While that may be true, I think it’s equally true to claim they talk less. They can spend an hour with a peer the previous night on their devices, but hardly muster a morena at school when they pass each other in the hallway. Teachers will need to provide the time to have students explain not only their answers but also their thinking as they developed those answers. I am seeing in many classes students knowing answers but unable to explain how they got there. Asking students to explain their solutions (not just the why but also the how) is foreign to some. I love the why question. It creates deeper thinking and responses.

This will mean less teacher talk timeand more collaboration between students. This will require a shift from what I call the right/wrong dichotomy that many of us experienced in our school careers. There was one answer—the right answer- and everything else was, therefore, wrong.

Using the evidence gathered from assessments and using the assessments as formative will result in a shift in the dialogue occurring in classrooms today. It will mean more of the “beautiful noise” that is evidenced in classrooms where students are highly engaged and deeply involved in their learning, and their teachers are interested in hearing about that learning. It will mean a shift to what was once valued and haled as the most productive classroom. Teachers know the difference between disruptive and non-productive noise. Do you here that sound in your school?

Reflections of a Classroom Teacher

30 Aug

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Some kinds of assessment raise achievement, and some are time fillers. This week I am getting back to business and working my craft in the classroom. Recently I have been distracted by the many other projects that complete my day.

The assessments that researchers have found most effective at raising achievement are those that teachers make minute by minute and day by day in the classroom and then use almost immediately to adjust their lessons. For example, teachers who walk the aisles to check on what the class needs to work on next are gathering more helpful data than they would if they used the same time to help two or three individuals with specific problems.

I have been working on asking good questions. Open ended ones. Asking questions is another way to find out what students do and don’t know. A simple technique like an exit question (a question every student answers before leaving class) can help me know how many students have grasped a basic concept or skill and whether to reteach the concept the next day.

Asking every student to choose one of several answers is another way to make sure students are engaged throughout the lesson. Research shows that the more students think and talk in class, the more they learn. But questioning should not be scary, nor should the approach. I have had great success with online discussion groups. It has met the needs of all the learners.  If the student answers “I don’t know,” a good reply might be, “I know, but if you did know, what would you think?” The point is that no student should be able to “choose not to think.”

Classroom instruction matters most in boosting achievement, and improving questioning and feedback techniques will improve the effectiveness of teachers.

Professional Development for all

26 Aug

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When I lead PLD I often begin with the question describe your most memorable learning experience. How many of us, as educators, have been asked to ponder this? After a group discussion about memorable learning experiences I then ask staff to consider the implications for our own classrooms. What elements can be replicated in our classroom? What makes lifelong learning? Why do we remember one learning experience over others? And why are so many other learning opportunities forgotten?

Often the best experience has nothing to do with school. Why is that the most memorable learning experience has nothing to do with a teacher or a classroom, a textbook, or an assessment? And, why should we pay attention to what the answer to that question means for our classrooms? What is it about informal learning that leaves such a lasting impression? How can we integrate informal learning into our curriculum while still meeting benchmarks?

By taking staff/students out of the physical confines of the classroom with just a few tweaks to your curriculum through integrated learning and can inspire your students through informal learning.

Reading paintings, objects, and photographs can engage staff/students with new content or deepen understanding across disciplines. Paintings, objects, and photographs tell stories and getting to those stories takes a lot of critical thinking. It encourages students to build connections, examine perspectives, and build empathy. Museums are making it easier than ever to access collections online and even sort and curate your own collections for use in the classroom later.

When I use paintings, objects, and photographs I start with observation. Ask learner to point out what they notice. It’s pretty challenging to only focus on observation. They want to jump immediately to inference. We move to inference only after deep observation and then on to questioning and reflection.

I love visiting Puke Ariki our local museum with my daughter. Museums excel at interactivity. Make your classroom interactive. I am not talking about using collaboration or technology tools. Find areas in your classroom for students to open a drawer and learn, lift a flap to find out more, or slide and see. It doesn’t have to be high tech to be effective.

Few people know that museums will let teachers forego the typical school tour and use their space as a classroom outside of school. Museums are not stuffy. They are dynamic learning environments. You know best what your students need and how you want a museum visit to connect to your content so why not use museum collections to your advantage and teach in the museum space? It takes a bit of planning and a visit ahead of time, but it is well worth the effort.

By the way what was your most memorable learning experience?

Growing a Positive Mindset in Assessment

23 Aug

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This week I have been doing a great deal of planning around the 2019 academic year. Looking at student courses and special conditions. Confidence is the thing that will help students see possibility and hope It’s this intrinsic state of being that will ensure interventions lead to high achievement. It is important to establishing a positive mindset to develop confidence for students.

Framing intervention in terms of learning is vital. Verbally frame every intervention in terms of what students need to learn more about. Ensure learning targets and essential standards are written and posted on assessments. Convey to students in words and actions that the work they are doing is about learning, not just compliance or completing work. Every student should know what they are learning more about. Intervention should not be about just completing work; it needs to be about gaining skills.

The following has been a successful method for me to establish this.

1. Accurately interpret assessment evidence

Ensure that the assessment evidence that led to the intervention is thoroughly analyzed so that those facilitating or conducting the intervention with students understand the misconceptions leading to students needing this intervention. In the absence of interpreting the assessment evidence, students may get the wrong type of instructional intervention.

2.Teach and facilitate self-assessment

Ensure students are reflecting on their assessment evidence and are seeing that the intervention is helping them learn what they are strong in and also reveals what they get more time to work on. For students in the beginning stages of achieving this essential standard, they may need more support in making the connections between the assessment evidence and their learning. This must be built into the intervention process to ensure that students’ perceptions are framed around learning.

3.Use assessment evidence to check the intervention effect

Ensure that the assessment evidence used to determine the effectiveness of the intervention accurately gathers information on achievement (the essential standard) and student confidence (student perceptions). Check to see if students learned more during the intervention and also check to see if their confidence grew.

 

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