Tag Archives: Students

Assessment and Agency and all that Jazz…

5 Mar

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We can be committed to learner agency and different forms of assessment but often still over assess. I came across the great article from NZCER.

Teachers making decisions about their students’ achievements based on a range of sources of evidence is the cornerstone of an effective cycle of inquiry in any school. The evidence-based cycle of inquiry is the engine that drives improvement to teaching and learning in classrooms and in school-wide initiatives (Timperley et al, 2010).  Research says this is how you make a difference.

The expectation is that it is the professional responsibility of teachers to decide what the students can and can’t do, using multiple sources of evidence. That evidence will inform the decisions schools make to meet the needs of their students. Isn’t that what we’ve always done and continue to do?

Learner agency is about moving students from passively responding to acting with purpose to reach a desired goal or outcome. When students have an authentic purpose and audience beyond their teacher to share what they are learning, they are more motivated to learn and often go above and beyond.  I am excited to see more schools moving toward structures that empower learners to share and drive their learning process through portfolios and student-led conferences. Opportunities for learners to share their work beyond the teacher in student-led exhibitions can be powerful to ensure students have an authentic audience and are doing work that has value.

We can teach necessary skills while creating experiences that allow learners to take ownership of the process. Learners have access to an abundance of resources and experts that enable us all to learn in ways that extend beyond the expertise of one teacher or classroom. By tapping into those resources, we can create more experiences that can allow students to apply their newly learned skill in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them and others.

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Solutions Orientated

5 Sep

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I like to think I am solutions orientated so on the back of my last piece here are some ideas around how we can be better at catching students up.

Make Catch-Ups Purposeful

Ensuring catch up sessions aren’t just an opportunity to recover what was taught in lessons. Because this may convey the message that if they don’t listen first time in class, they can listen to it again in our time after school.

Enrich

Instead of catch up classes, can sessions after school actually go beyond the curriculum?   Can we link with specialist providers in our field to show how our subjects are used in industry?  Can we bring in experts to share their knowledge and push learning beyond its existing level?

Set Boundaries

There are students who genuinely need this additional support and I don’t know any teachers who would want to not provide this.  But do we ensure that those who need it get it rather than those who can’t be bothered getting a second chance

Phase them out

Could the way we design lessons, curriculums and schemes be reviewed?  Could we analyse our teaching and learning?  Asking the question why additional sessions are actually needed could lead to some real improvements to the department.  Why do we not have the time to deliver the course in lessons?  Why isn’t the content sticking? How could we use technology to complement this?

In conclusion though and why would you remove them if hardworking students are seeking to improve their grades further?  But then again, would removing them and addressing why we might need them solve the problem itself?

Supporting Your Students

3 Sep

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When students struggle, many of us see the vastness of their struggle and try to solve it all at once. We end up throwing the kitchen sink at them, trying to fill in every gap and meet every challenge they face. But when students struggle in class, they are struggling for a specific reason. Sure, they may have several learning gaps and challenges, but at that moment, their struggle can usually be tied to a very specific learning gap or challenge. Rather than try to fill EVERY need a struggling learner faces, we need to target what they need right now. The better we are at pinpointing their specific source of struggle, the better we will be at solving it. Acceleration helps us target the source of students’ struggle today and quickly get students back on track so that they can be successful immediately. We should always remember that our students are not problems waiting to be solved but gifts and should be treated with dignity.

Planning

8 Nov

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How do you know if you are driving the right way when you are traveling somewhere new? You use the road signs and a map (although nowadays it might be SIRI ). In the world of education, your objectives for your students act as road signs to your destination. Your plan is the map. Making a plan does not suggest a lack of creativity in your curriculum but rather, gives creativity a framework in which to flourish.

We can’t all be blessed with “epic” workdays all the time. Sometimes, life is just mundane and tedious. Teachers with a sense of purpose that are able to see the big picture can ride above the hard and boring days because their eye is on something further down the road. However by planning and making outcomes clear to our students we can clarify things for students and ourselves.

Differentiation

17 Sep

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As we think as a school about acceleration, tracking students with various abilities and needs of students in your lessons mean that we need to tailor how we teach each one.  It doesn’t mean that differentiation needs to add to workload or contribute to an over-complicated lesson.  Differentiation should also be for the students we are providing it for, not for a tick box ERO review or Faculty Review inspection.

Differentiation need not be observable

Differentiation is for your students.  It shouldn’t be about ticking off boxes. Differentiation is subtle, personal and ingrained in what we do.  It isn’t a short term fix but a longer process.

Differentiation is key to good teaching

It’s the conversations we have, the bespoke feedback we give, the way we differ questions between groups of students.  Differentiation is a response to what is going on in class. Key word is response not a reaction. It should be thoughtful by the teacher.

Differentiation is not about making tasks easier but clarifying thinking

Show students what they should be aiming for and help scaffold students up towards that outcome.

Note I still have a great deal of thinking to do on this.

Great Leaders and Parents

8 Sep

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It is Fathers Day’s and I am reflecting on how my has changed in the last 8 years as a Dad. The other week I posted a photo of my daughter completing her first Weetbix Triathlon. She suggested I post the above of me finished my first and only (so far) half iron-man.

I have been contemplating a leadership metaphor used by Simon Sinek on a Ted Talk.

The quote that sticks out to me is “great leaders are like parents wanting to give their children (employees) opportunities to try and fail in safe ways and to discipline when necessary”.

I’m struck by the use of the term “discipline” in the metaphor when applied to leadership in a school.

Discipline is commonly defined as getting someone to follow the rules and there is some implication of punishment if you don’t.

Perhaps if people don’t follow the team decision that provides for consistency then discipline is applied – usually a one on one conversation between leader and in this case teacher. But is it then about natural consequences of not following the decision.

 

 

EQ

3 Sep

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Goleman (2002) brought the idea of emotional intelligence to the public consciousness, but researchers have long known that how well a person manages his or her emotions and those of others influences leadership effectiveness. For example, recognizing anger in yourself and others, and being able to empathize with people, can help you be more effective at exerting influence. Influence is at the heart of leadership. Emotional intelligence is an individual difference that is important for both leaders and followers. It is an individual difference that like many leadership skills is not fixed for life and can be improved by training and development. Emotional intelligence refers to qualities like: understanding one’s feelings, empathy for others, and the regulation of emotions to enhance living.

This type of intelligence has to do with the ability to connect with people and understand their emotions. These are not skills that form part of most formal curricula in schools or universities. Nor do they often get mentioned as something that needs to be developed in order to be effective in leadership or in life. Most good leaders are alike in one essential way – they all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. The five key factors in emotional intelligence are:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. Space not does permit an explanation of these factors here. However, an internet search will uncover many emotional intelligence tests that you can undertake. Just type ‘emotional intelligence test’ into Google. Try however, to find a test that is underpinned by good research and has been found to be statistically valid and reliable.

Goleman, D. 2002, The New Leaders, Time Warner, London.

The Peace Table

17 Jun

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This week our staff took part in an amazing PD Day around restorative practices. It made me understand Restorative was about relationships and about having the entire community on board. This is an effective alternative to punitive responses to wrong doing. Inspired by indigenous traditions, it brings together persons harmed with persons responsible for harm in a safe and respectful space, promoting dialogue, accountability, and a stronger sense of community. Restorative justice is a philosophical framework that can be applied in a variety of contexts — the justice system, schools, families, communities, and others. As a teacher, I have used restorative questions with my students and find them to be a powerful tool.

However, I frequently catch myself putting more focus on the person who created the conflict, and having them use the restorative questions to reflect on the situation. With those who have been impacted, I tend to talk with them about the event, rather than give them the restorative questions to answer. While my reasoning was mainly about time management (and a bit of laziness), not allowing my students the time to reflect on those questions robs them of an opportunity to develop self-identification of their emotions and needs. Due to a recent situation, I have experienced first-hand the benefits of reflection using restorative questions, and truly recognize their importance to all parties involved in an act of harm.

I realize now how valuable restorative questions are, not only those who have committed an act of wrongdoing but also those who were affected by the act. The time spent processing what had happened to me was time well spent. It was a strong reminder for me that short-changing the process for my students can affect some of what restorative practices attempts to achieve: involvement of all parties; self-awareness; and the potential connections that can occur through recognition and acknowledgment of others’ feelings and needs.

Observation in the Classroom

10 Jun

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To me the key component to effective teacher observation is that it be student-focused. The emphasis needs to be on how things can be done differently in the classroom to ensure that students succeed academically. It must also be authentic. Conversations need to take place before and after the visit.

I think my teaching environment is a setting where a teachers-observing-teachers strategy thrives. A culture exists where people report with pride that they push’ one another professionally. I notice all teachers’ value collegial relationships as a means to professional development. This has been a journey and because of this that is why it is so successful.

Research tells me that the whole school community benefit from this being a success. What tools are you using in your environment?

Pedagogy and Student Achievement

29 May

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

More and more teachers are giving students projects to do, whether at school or at home. They often have complete freedom of how to present the final outcome. Common examples include a PowerPoint presentation, report, poster or physical model. A few, may go for a more creative option such as a video. However, digital technology, when used, is often limited to presenting passive information without any interactivity. The type that doesn’t encourage any engagement. We must remember the tool should not drive the presentation just like with teaching.

It must be said that some teachers do encourage students to take advantage of digital technologies. Examples include blogging or other forms of presenting content, e.g. social media, or wikis. Even then though, for those who engage with the content, it‘s still mostly passive (reading/watching). Sometimes it increases a bit to up/down-voting or commenting as the ultimate engagement. Tools like spellasaurus or Mathletics are fine but it is the pedagogy behind it which is key.

Years ago, in an effort to understand the students we served and the role of teachers in creating spaces where learning can happen, we created a list of what we believed these conditions were:

  • Knowing our learners
  • Creating a safe community of learners
  • Having something meaningful for students to learn about
  • As teachers we have to have a deep understanding of the content, the learner and instructional practices
  • The notion of teacher as learner and actually doing the risk taking, being open to make mistakes

We spent some time discussing as a staff what resonated with us most and what caused us the most dissonance. It was an incredible insight into the thinking of our staff in our collective and individual impact on the learners in our care.

I believe that supporting learning at the classroom level is no different than supporting innovation and learning at a staff level.

We need to be able to do what we are asking our teachers to do. We have to create spaces where creativity, innovation, risk-taking in learning, and experimentation are welcome.

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