Archive for April, 2015
I am currently reading the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. It’s a great read if you are looking for a leadership book. This book is all about what you should stop doing to become a more successful leader. It got me thinking about our education system and the current transformation that is happening to a Personalized Learning Environment. There are a lot of things that we currently do that are going to keep us from making the jump to a true Personalized Learning Environment. In this blog I am going to outline several of these. After reading them please comment and let me know if you disagree with any of them or if there are some that I missed. Be sure to elaborate and tell me why you feel the way you do.
Stop using a textbook as our main resource in the classroom.
Textbooks are outdated the moment they are placed in a learner’s hands and most textbooks are used for 6-10 years in our classrooms. Imagine how outdated they are by then. Textbooks are also limited in the information they can provide. There is something we have called the internet that is constantly being updated and provides a wealth of knowledge within seconds of activating a search. It is more important for our learners to learn how to conduct a quality search and be able to spot a strong resource from a weak one. It is also more important that our learners learn how to analyze what they are reading and be able to summarize and use what they learned from that reading.
Stop grading behaviors, skills, and knowledge together
How many of us have given points to students because their work is nice and neat? How many of us have given points to students for bringing in a box of Kleenex? How many of us have taken points away or even given a 0 for late work? None of these things indicate what a learner knows and is able to do. They should not be grouped in the same grade/score as a students knowledge. Neat, organized, and on time work is important in the work place. Good behavior/conduct is also very important in the work place. In fact, they are so important I feel these behaviors should have their own score. Separate this score and call it a Citizenship and Employ-ability grade. By having a score that represents a students mastery of the standards and a seperate score that represents their behaviors and work ethic everyone will have a much clearer picture of the learners abilities and work ethic.
Stop the grading periods and hard deadlines for learning targets
By having grading periods we are supporting the philosophy that when a learner knows something is more important than that they learn something. Isn’t it more important that a learner learns? If we get rid of grading periods and set soft dates for our learners to give them a guide for pacing, learners will never feel as though they are being left behind. It is up to us as the educators to find a method that best supports the learner.
Stop grade levels – Start levels of learning
We need to stop grade levels and start levels of learning. If learners are not all moving at the same pace, grade levels would no longer be needed. They should be replaced with levels of learning. Learners would still be working with other learners close to their age and learners close to their ability. Learners may also be working with peers that have similar interests and passions as they collaborate and work together to solve real world problems.
Teachers should stop being the Keepers of all Knowledge AKA Sage on the Stage
Don’t get me wrong, there is still a place for lectures when a student or group of students would learn best from this. However in most cases this can be obtained with the use of videos so that students can access the lectures at any given time, from anywhere, and have the ability to pause and rewind them. It is also my opinion that students need to learn the skill of how to find information on their own and interpret, summarize, analyze, evaluate it, and eventually create from it. This is not done by educators giving the students all the information through lecture and having students memorize it for a test.
Stop assigning practice homework to students who already know it.
Some people would say stop assigning practice homework completely because even if the student does not know it they will probably need the teacher’s support to help them. I believe today’s technology fixes this issue and therefore would support students working from home if they would like. I am instead advocating that we stop assigning practice homework to students who have already demonstrated mastery of a learning. My daughter comes home every night from school with a math assignment that she rarely gets even one problem wrong on. This homework takes her 20-30 minutes and rarely, if ever, stretches her thinking to higher levels or supports her in learning something new or deeper. In my opinion we are doing all of our students an injustice if the homework is only assigned for repetition of something they already know how to do.
Stop believing that everything assessed must be learned in the 4 walls of our classroom.
There is an entire world outside the 4 walls of our classrooms. What would happen if we had a student who was interested in computer programming and he/she was partnered with a mentor who currently worked in this field. The mentor allowed them to come to work with them and work along their side to learn on the job. I’m guessing they could learn some math standards while on the job and even learn some Language Arts standards as they wrote a report about what they learned and did. The same could be said about someone who was passionate about becoming a botanist, healthcare worker, engineer, mechanic, lawyer, performing artist etc… If our students are passionate about these and would like to learn about them in the real world, couldn’t we find them mentors to work with and then come back to present out what they learned in the field to demonstrate their mastery of the Common Core and how it all applies.
Stop spoon feeding students. The learning is in the struggle.
We must create an environment that is built on a growth mindset and teach students how to be resilient in order to work through things that are more difficult for them. It is ok to try and fail. The key is for our students to stop viewing them as failures and instead view them as opportunities for growth. If we want our students to become life long learners they must also learn how to use the resources at their disposal to teach themselves. We as educators should be there to support, lift them up, and guide them to be the best they can be. We should become Facilitators of Learning instead of teachers or keepers of knowledge.
Stop segregating classes and standards.
In the real world there is not a job that exists where the subjects live in isolation. You can not become successful in any job unless you are well rounded in all of the core areas and have the ability to use your knowledge of them together at the same time. We have to be creative and collaborative to create projects that are cross curricular and show students how each of the subjects supports the other. I’m not saying that we should stop having teachers (Facilitators of Knowledge or FOL’s) that are experts in a specific field. I’m advocating for our FOL’s to collaborate together and with learners to create projects that are interdisciplinary and aligned to student interests and passions.
What else should we stop doing as educators? What other walls do we need to tear down in order for us to unleash the full potential of every child?
I was sitting in a classroom the other day observing a teacher for her evaluation. I have the 8 Iowa Teaching Standards sitting right in front of me as I observe her and I am completely focused on what she is doing to meet the students’ needs in her classroom. That’s right, my entire focus is on what she, the teacher, is doing. While I am doing this, I have a huge epiphany.
She was doing a fantastic job of setting up activities for students to collaborate and think critically. Her transitions were fantastic when having students move from one activity to another. Students knew her expectations and followed them at all times. She was constantly assessing students learning and adjusting her instruction to meet as many of their needs as she could with her current structure. She is a great teacher who is meeting all 8 Iowa Teaching Standards at a high level. Why am I not satisfied with the evaluation I am writing?
Then I realized what the disconnect was for me. I have a passion for flipping the focus from what the teacher is doing, to the students and their learning. My entire evaluation is focused on what SHE is doing to support the students. If we want to get away from the Sage on the Stage and Keeper of All Knowledge platform and move to a more Personalized Learning environment where the students’ learning is the focus then I feel we have to change our evaluation tool.
A few years ago a new set of teaching standards were released called the InTASC standards which were created to articulate the standards teachers need to meet to create a more personalized learning environment to meet the needs of each and every one of their students which they call, and I like to call, “learners”. The InTASC standards are a great step to better support this movement. They are still very much focused on what the teacher is doing, but have a stronger influence on what the teacher is asking students to do, how much voice the teacher is giving the students, how the teacher is personalizing each learner’s path, and how the teacher is making the learning relevant and real world applicable. I love just about everything in the InTASC standards but struggle to get past the fact that there are 10 different standards instead of 8 and most of the standards have 15-20 criteria under them. This gives them a feel of being much more complicated than the previous standards. They are also missing, just like the Iowa Teaching Standards, a growth mindset. Teachers are either meeting the criteria or not meeting. If we want our learners to have a growth mindset, we must also create an evaluation tool that supports our teachers in a growth mindset with a scoring rubric that pushes them to meet each criteria at higher levels as they improve.
It is my opinion that we need to find a way to simplify these a great deal, add a piece that focuses on what the students are actually doing while keeping the majority of it still focused on the teacher, and create a rubric that supports a growth mindset for all teachers. I feel by adding the student piece we will get a more clear picture of exactly what is happening in the classroom. And, by adding a 4 point scoring rubric we will be able to provide better support for our teachers to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Has anyone created anything similar to what I am asking? Is there anything else you would want in the evaluation that would help support this movement? Please share so we can create something that we can all get behind and find useful.
If you would like to view the InTASC Standards you can find them by clicking on the following link.