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Appraisal and Our Body of Work

2 Aug

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How might a teacher’s performance be appraised? How can the whole, as well as the parts be considered? Of what use is the performance of teaching for observations by management, versus relaxed one-on-one discussions with students or an experimental lesson tried for the first time? And of what use are the ‘individual works’ such as unit plans, student work examples, lesson data and external test results? Data can provide a tangible, depersonalized third point for professional conversations, just as a particular work of art can be representative of an artist’s work. An exhibition from a particular period of an artist’s work can give a broader picture of their work during that time. A posthumous exhibition of their life’s work can provide the broad narrative of how their work has evolved. These are all different but meaningful lenses for appreciation and critique; each is a useful way of viewing the work and worth of the artist or teacher.

On the one hand, teaching does become a body of work over time. A life’s work for some. This gestalt includes ever-expanding subject knowledge, evolving pedagogies, relational skills and behaviour management tools. Many of the things teachers do become internalised, less-deliberate moves, part of a way of being. Perhaps a teacher should not be judged by a lesson that they teach or one set of student results, but there is value in each piece of work being reflected upon and closely considered for the understandings it might surface about that teacher’s practice; the details it might reveal; or the points of celebration, critique or change it might incite.

Encourage the Critical Element

20 Jul

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As I lead my team this year I must consider this idea more. As educators, we want our students to be critical thinkers—to question and show skepticism. We teach them to cite data to support their opinions and to test theories and hypotheses for evidence that supports a claim. But when it’s time to implement school change, we often don’t appreciate these same qualities in our colleagues. Wouldn’t it be better if all teachers just followed suit, never offered any criticism, and made the job of the leaders easier?

Actually, if our fellow teachers are questioning our ideas and making change efforts difficult, someone along the way has done an excellent job of promoting critical thinking and skepticism in those teachers. But how do we both value constructive critique and move an initiative forward at a pace that leads to implementation in less than a decade? The key may lie in what Intel calls “disagree and commit.”

Being Relational and Empathy

16 Jul

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Empathy is so important and it something we all need to work on. Empathy is now considered one of the most important skills in the 21st Century. Teaching empathy. Learning empathy. It is something I reflect on often in my role. When interview students and staff I think about these things. I found at a recent workshop on the Law and Education that being good at these things solved so many problems.

When interviewing I practice the following:

  • Ask why. Even when you think you know the answer, ask people why they do or say things. The answers will sometimes surprise you. A conversation started from one question should go on as long as it needs.
  • Never say “usually” when asking a question. Instead, ask about a specific instance or occurrence, such as “tell me about the last time you ______.”
  • Encourage stories. Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the world. Ask questions that get people telling stories.
  • Look for inconsistencies. Sometimes what people say and what they do are different. These inconsistencies often hide interesting insights.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be aware of body language and emotions. Have tissues handy.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Interviewers often feel the need to ask another question when there is a pause. If you allow for silence, a person can reflect on what they’ve just said and may reveal something deeper.
  • Don’t suggest answers to your questions. This can unintentionally get people to say things that agree with your expectations.
  • Ask questions neutrally. “What do you think about buying gifts for your spouse?” is a better question than “Don’t you think shopping is great?” because the first question doesn’t imply that there is a right answer.
  • Don’t ask binary questions. Binary questions can be answered in a word; you want to host a conversation built upon stories.

“Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

2 May

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This was well worth noting this week. “Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

Our Code, Our Standards articulates the expectations and aspirations of our profession, and has been crafted by teachers, leaders and teaching experts. It reflects what it is to be a teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand. This video invites learners to discuss and provide feedback on the draft. Read the document and have your say at educationcouncil.org.nz/OurCodeOurStandards Please view the video here: 

Growth Mindset

2 May

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I have been doing reading by Carol Dweck. I assume that you know what Dweck’s Growth Mindset is all about. If you don’t, have a peek at this video of her explaining its essence.

Dweck’s research falls into the category of most of the best of our research into education, in that it merely ends up confirming the eternal truths of the classroom: turn up, work hard, study, do well; work harder, do better; believe you can improve and you probably will, believe that you can’t and see what happens.

Being SLT in Term One

11 Apr

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“Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”

 In March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:

The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.

The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.

On my ongoing development there are some key areas that I have been working on in my leadership in SLT in 2017.

  1. Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.
  2. Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students
  3. Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.
  4. Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:
    • jointly teaching the same class
    • observing and providing feedback on other teachers
    • engaging in different classes and age groups
    • professional learning

“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”

  1. Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement. Learner agency has been a common term for me this year. 

Networks of Schools

7 Apr

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“The future of schools lies in networks rather than hierarchies, in lateral rather than vertical organisations. Networks cannot be managed the same way that hierarchies are managed. Social networking is a different way of organising.”

This week I have been thinking about the concept of Communities of Learning. George Siemens has been writing about moving from hierarchies to networks for a long time, and when Matt Esterman and I wrote about Teacher-Led Conferences for Learning Forward, we reported,

Brafman & Beckstrom (2007) contrast traditional “spider” organizations which have a rigid hierarchy and top-down leadership, and revolutionary “starfish” organizations which depend on the power of peer to peer relationships. Their metaphor is that if you chop off a spider’s leg, it will be permanently crippled. However, if you chop off a starfish’s leg it will grow another one and the old leg can grow into a completely new starfish.”

I have recently come across this article on Hierarchy and Network which asserts that a hierarchy opposes change and that,

“The successful organization of the future will have two organizational structures: a Hierarchy, and a more teaming, egalitarian, and adaptive Network….My idea of the Network is a system of teams with representatives from all divisions and all levels, who leave formal titles at the door to participate in a decidedly  anti-hierarchical forum….With this Network, potential opportunities and changes are identified, urgency around tomorrow’s possibilities is fostered and maintained, strategies for organization-wide changes are formed, barriers identified and addressed, and change is achieved.”

I am fascinated by the concept of network leadership in schools and would like to explore this further.

Trend Six: Change Leadership

25 Mar

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Education faces a challenge to keep pace with all of these changes, particularly given that many of our traditional leadership practices were designed for a slow-moving world with a small group of people (or even one person) making most of the decisions. The traditional ‘pyramid-style’ hierarchy that existed in most 20th century organisations still holds considerable influence over organisations in the 21st century, however newer and more agile arrangements are required if we are to successfully navigate the future.

Some excellent resources

How empowered are they to be represented in the conversation and decision-making?

Community engagement is a two-way street where the school, families, and the community actively work together, creating networks of shared responsibility for student success. It is a tool that promotes civic well-being and that strengthens the capacity of schools, families, and communities to support young peoples’ full development.

I have been thinking about some Idea ways community be involved in change leadership.

These four ideas were Idea for me:

Idea 1: Know Where You’re Going and Tell a Story around it.

Start by creating a vision – in partnership with school staff, families, partners and students, what the school could look like and develop a plan for how to get there. Ensure that diverse viewpoints are included in this process.

Idea 2: Distributed Leadership

Actively involve staff, parents and community partners in sharing leadership functions, and work closely with them in working towards your shared vision.

Idea 3: Reach Out

Be proactive in learning about the community surround the school and become actively outside the school.

Idea 4: Don’t Ignore the Elephant in the Room

Recognise, and embrace, diversity within the school and the broader community. Recognise things that have not worked and share.

These are key to leading changing consulting with the community.

I love this Ted Talk around this idea.

Trend Five: Design Thinking

23 Mar

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Design Thinking is a process that can support us to shift from improvement and reform approaches towards ways that encourage transformation and a “learning revolution” (Robinson, K, 2010). It can help us to respond to and prepare our learners for the demands of business sector and the rapidly shifting job market as technology replaces many process-driven tasks. It can also help us to empower our learners to be proactive when working with real-world complex problems. This is because Design Thinking processes help to build the skills and capabilities needed for learners to navigate multiple perspectives, to find common ground and to create “messy” solutions that haven’t been thought of before.

Design thinking encourages a bias toward action and, because of its reliance on rapid prototyping, frees practitioners to embrace the notion of failing forward because it’s OK to make mistakes — that’s where breakthrough ideas are born

There are five main stages of the design thinking process,

1. Empathize

Empathy is the foundation and the heart of the design thinking process. Everything else is built upon it. Empathy is a powerful tool to develop an understanding of others’ needs, requiring us to look beyond ourselves and see the world from someone else’s point of view. Every day, we create experiences in our schools, whether in classrooms, on athletic fields, or even in the cafeteria. Yet how often do we stop to think how our users (our students, parents, teachers, and anyone else who comes in contact with our campus) are receiving those experiences?

2. Define

When problems arise in our schools, it’s easy for many of us to give our two cents about how it should be handled. After all, we’re highly-educated, intelligent people with frequent opinions about how things should be done. How often, though, do we ask the opinion of those who are actually having the problem?

  1. Ideation.

Once a DESIGN THINKING participant is able to identify a real-world problem worth solving, the next step is to explore ways to respond. The goal is not to find a perfect solution at this point. Instead, DESIGN THINKING participants seek novel perspectives with a bias toward innovation. DESIGN THINKING values the creativity and insights of all participants, regardless of specific expertise or a need to be “right” at first blush. It encourages outside-the-box thinking, which leads to unexpected creative solutions. DESIGN THINKING relies on a creative process based on “building up” ideas (rather than the typical analytical process that looks to “break down” ideas). Key to this is the belief that there is no place for value judgments early on. The DESIGN THINKING process rewards “and, and” responses from participants, as opposed to the “yeah, but” reactions that are typical of traditional academic experiences.

4. Prototyping.

To DESIGN THINKING advocates, the idea is to help make an idea real, tangible, and accessible. Ultimately, DESIGN THINKING has a natural bias toward action. The best way to approach this—as many designers will tell you—is to use a rapid prototyping process fueled by an attitude of “fail and fail fast,” something ideally suited for learning in a complex and often messy 21st century world.

Testing.

Creativity and open minds aside, DESIGN THINKING deeply values testing all assumptions. Solutions need to work. And better yet, solutions need to work in the real world and have an observable positive impact on the human experience. Because problems are found in the real world, answers need to be agile enough to adapt over time. Such a pedagogical framework naturally provides learners with the thinking tools to respond to an unpredictable future while remaining focused on the human experience.

 

 

 

 

Review and Reflection

26 Feb

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ERO asked us in 2016 how do we know students are learning and how do we know acceleration is taking place?

As we enter 2017, we continue to ask this important question. While standardized tests provide data on student understanding, the data comes at the end of the year. Teachers need actionable data and strategies for supporting all students during the school year. How will your school staff measure if students are learning?

The idea of using leading and lagging indicators to measure the health of an organization was introduced by Robert Kaplan and David Norton (1993). The premise behind their theory is that lagging indicators will tell you nothing about how the outcomes were achieved, in the absence of leading indicators. Leading indicators provide early warnings about being on track to achieve your strategic goals. Lagging indicators measure what has already taken place. In the absence of clear indicators, teachers and administrators will be unable to measure student learning in a timely manner.

The danger in focusing on outcome measures is that most teachers feel powerless to impact change. Indicators should be “actionable at the school level, meaning that school leaders, teachers, and staff can use them to make changes that will have a demonstrable impact on student outcomes” (Pinkus, 2009, p. 5). As you establish New Year’s resolutions and professional goals, ask the following questions. When teacher teams have clear indicators, it will support all students.

 10 Ways To Measure Student Understanding

  1. Does our team/course have SMART goals? (DuFour, 2014)
  2. Do you administer common formative assessments?
  3. Does each teacher understand the Priority Learners Document?”
  4. Do you have a plan for when students don’t learn?
  5. Do you have a plan for students who need acceleration?
  6. Have you identified data points that we will measure throughout the semester?
  7. Do we have rubrics and exemplar work so teachers, students and families can identify opportunities for growth?
  8. Do you have a clear Response to Intervention (RtI) program or is RtI left to each teacher?
  9. Do you have scheduled meetings when data is discussed or do we hope the conversation will take place during passing period?
  10. Have you considered our Maori student achievement and acceleration in our work?

 

 

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