Tag Archives: Feedback

Asking Good Questions

18 Jul

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As reflect on my classroom practice during the break I remind myself I must do better at asking question. I am reminded by Simon Sinek about talking last. This is no one of my strengths.

In class here are some techniques I am working on.

What are you thinking? When I want to elicit responses from my students, I give them time to clarify their thoughts through writing. This time to reflect prepares them for class discussion. As hands go up, I say each student’s name and ask, “What are you thinking?” After I listen to the response, I follow up with questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What led you to that conclusion?”

Sometimes I will add my own thoughts, but often it’s enough just to hear theirs. I sometimes share too much and this can shut the conversation down.

My students know that I care about what they think because their insights lead us all to deeper understanding. Fostering real conversations ensures that our classrooms become places of academic inquiry and collaboration founded on a sense of fairness and mutual respect.

Feedback. I love using Microsoft forms as student voice. I have also adapted student voice panels to use a form of twitter or elevator pitch.

Do you remember when? I often circle back to students’ contributions to show them that their thoughts and efforts matter to me. I’ll remind Jess how I loved her frequent and enthusiastic understanding of Catholic Social Teaching this year, and I can always get a rise out of Charlotte if I question the role of women in the Catholic Church.!”

Sometimes, I’ll repeat memorable lines from student presentations: “Hannah, that reminds me of when you said..”  Students follow my lead in recounting favourite moments from the year, which builds community and strengthens relationships.

 

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Be the best you can be

9 Jul

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I want to be the very best school leader I can be. Why, because for me being a principal (or a teacher for that matter) is more than a job, it’s a vocation. I don’t go to work to produce something, to sell something, or to manage something. I go to work to make a difference. And that difference is measured in people’s lives.

What I do, the decisions I make, the school culture I create, the way I lead will make a difference in countless people’s lives. It can make a difference to the earning capacity of a young person; it can make a difference to a person’s sense of self-worth, to their well-being, the lives of their families. The sense of responsibility is huge.

I often compare myself with other leaders, listen to what they do, learn from their wisdom and experience. However, one thing I really need as a leader is feedback. Without feedback I cannot truly understand the real impact I am having and how I can improve.

To promote growth feedback is vital. But to be of real value a recipient really needs to want it, be willing to listen to it and ultimately, have the desire to be the very best they can be for the responsibly they carry as an educator is enormous.

The same can be said about teaching. I don’t understand why all teachers aren’t driven by the enormous responsibility they have to very best they can be. Our children, and their children deserve outstanding teaching and outstanding schools.

Do you value and welcome feedback? What motivates you as an educator? Is teaching and school leadership more than just a job? If you are a leader, where do you get your feedback from?

IKE

16 Jun

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It was validating to learn that one of Dwight Eisenhower’s key character traits was his perceived humility. Michael Korda, in his biography IKE: An American Hero points out:

It was part of Dwight Eisenhower’s genius that he never wanted to appear ‘to know more than the other fellow,’ or embarrass anyone if it could be avoided.

Sometimes I do talk too much about myself. In the restorative contract I have reflected a great deal about listening to others. A work on…

Mentoring is Crucial

7 Jun

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Spending time with staff pays off—not just for them, but for me and the entire school. The question of how much time can be explored in a Fast Company post, “Why Managers Should Spend Exactly 6 Hours A Week With Each Employee.”

By spending time mentoring it makes staff feel valued, calm and helps make the school more efficient and innovative.

 

What good is all of this great mentoring and coaching if it’s never applied? Advocating for employees implies action. Advocating is time not spent with employees, but for them. Effective leaders hear and discuss employees’ new ideas with them, and afterward, work to put them into action. When employees receive new training or knowledge and are eager to apply it to their jobs, advocates make that happen. Advocates inspire their employees to keep learning and contributing, as they feel like their contributions are valued and applied. Without this final investment of time, employees feel undervalued and underutilized.

A small investment of time and following up with action creates a positive, supportive school culture. Our goals this year has been to grow middle leaders. T train leaders to invest time in their team with mentoring, coaching and advocating create a healthy working environment beneficial to the employees and the success of the students.

Flipped Learning

12 Feb

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As educators we should ask ourselves “what would we lose if we put all of our lecture notes online, or made them available for students online?” Would we lose interaction? Collaboration? Contribution? If education is more than the transfer of information, what is it? I have been doing a great deal of thinking at present about the change we need to make in teaching.

This week I have been doing some work on Microsoft Teams. This is a great tool and it had lead me to think about the work of Eric Mazur who I was fortunate to listen to last year. Eric Mazur claims we’d lose very little dialogue, very little interaction if we shared our notes with students. I agree with this looking at my evidence this week. I saw an interactivity in learning.

I really enjoyed Mazur’s approach to this in his writings. Mazur’s clever use of the physics problem of what happens to the hole in the middle of a metal plate when it is heated demonstrated very powerfully the way we can increase learning power when we turn on the innate learning curiosity of our learners. The exercise moved from a focus on the fact, to the reasoning – he ignited the fire of the audience curiosity! His point was powerfully made with regards to how we need work with students in our classrooms. Mazur’s use of this approach has been researched to demonstrate the impact of this on student retention – the significance here being the difference between simply transferring information (focus on facts) to the engagement in creating knowledge (emergence of reasoning).

The Flipped Learning environment offers such richness for a learning point of view.  There is more student accountability and agency for gathering information so we can better help them assimilate it.

There is a change the idea of delivering and transferring information for the learner. It puts the learner in charge. There is a transmission of knowledge vs construction of knowledge. We need to allow time for the brain to process the information – not simply ‘remember’ it. Moreover, but involving students in sharing among themselves, the learning is no longer an isolated experience. Education, deep down, is a social experience – not an isolated one (reference here to Vygotsky’s theories here)

 

Things to Think About?

20 Dec

Contemporary business people working in team in the office

Great schools all have one thing in common: great organizational culture. I have reflected on this many times this year. Here some things, which I think, are important:

  1. Don’t Micro-Manage Teachers/Middle Managers

Teachers and principals need to be focused on one thing: their students. Too often, their focused is shifted from maximizing student achievement to compliance issues, paperwork, or other aspects that are not important or urgent. However, they will get email after email, memo after memo, reminding them to complete the tasks that will have no bearing on student achievement. Let them keep their focus on students. Trust in them that they know what their students need. After all, they are with them all day long.

  1. Give The Staff a Voice

No one likes to have decisions dictated from the top down. Teachers and principals must be trusted to make decisions for the students they work with. These decisions need to come from within.

  1. Share Success with Your Community

The use of Social Media here is really useful here.

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.

Friday Thought: Be Reflective

2 Jun

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I was told this week Andrew you must reflect more on your practice. It was a timely reminder. I have heard a few times recently when discussing the importance or reflection as part of the school improvement process. When digging deeper into what is meant by this, I have found that in some cases there is a lack of understanding as to what it really means to be a reflective teacher. Too often, when we think about being a reflective practitioner, the reflection process is limited to evaluation; what went well and what did not. In some instances, reflection may include what might I do differently next time. A peer tells me often it is about process.

Being reflective is much more than that. Reflection must involve action. True reflection in education cannot happen without the the thoughts of what might be done differently next time actually translating into planning for action and taking action. There is no point saying that all teachers are reflective if there are lots of thoughts but no action. How does that really improve student learning?

Collaboration is an important part of being a reflective teacher. Reflecting on your own can have its limitations in terms of having other people to bounce ideas of, having other people to challenge each others viewpoints, having other people to give us the necessary feedback to critically reflect and, most importantly, other people to share our journey with. I recognize my own PLN here.

A Reflection: June 1

31 May

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If you have not spent time seriously exploring pedagogy, then you are going to fall into the trap of teaching the same way, just on a bigger scale.

Truly interrogating what you currently do requires some serious consideration of what is currently seen and accepted as best practice. Why is it best practice? Who decided? Is it best practice for all groups of learners? Is the numeracy project really meeting your identified student needs? Who says it is best practice? How well does it marry our curriculum? How well does it marry with BES? Is it moving your kids? Is there stages that they just roadblock at and need something different? Same for writing and reading? Where are the authentic links? Are they authentic for the actual kids in front of you? Or are they authentic in an adult’s head and world?

Growth Mind-Set in My Class

3 Apr

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I have been thinking and reading about this this year in my class. There has been a great deal developed regarding this in our mentoring system in school. The following is a summary.

Consistent classroom discussion and modelling from mistakes.

This has concerned me for sometime. Students fear failure. They also fail to try because they make mistakes. I began this semester with a discussion about what growth mindset meant, and how we (our classroom) could use it. Each week, we talked about how “mistakes are when learning happens.” I want students that are hitting The Wall to know that failing isn’t the end and the not understanding a concept is merely the first step on the road to getting it. Creating a growth mind-set, involved lots of frank discussion about learning from mistakes.

Set-aside class time to review mistakes on assessments. 

After our discussion, I returned their first assessment of the semester and told themn(my students)  that they would have the next fifteen minutes dedicated to reviewing mistakes. I posted common errors that I saw on screen and wandered the room giving advice and help. We do this each week now and it gives students a dedicated time for reflection, a chance to access my help, and a non-stigmatized time to review errors. This is key, students will not naturally do this on their own, and I still need to prod some of mine.

Student visualization and ownership of growth.

As students wrapped up their self-assessments, I passed out a log that I had created for them to track their achievement on each of our classroom standards. They get three chances in class, and can then re-assess outside of class. Therefore, I gave them space to see how they were doing. I realized that students were not keeping track of how they were doing over time; I wanted them to see how much they had improved and have quick access to know that they needed to work on. I used to keep track of this, but found that when students have ownership of their scores, they are more apt to do something about the low ones.

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