Blog Archives

What I can do in three minutes…

I’ve finally wrapped up a few bigger tasks in the last few weeks (except for that whole Innovate 2013 conference planning, support for the HS 1:1 roll out,  and putting together an accreditation plan) so I’ve been able to make it to classrooms more often. This isn’t about evaluating your work, it’s about evaluating mine. We’re devoting more time to professional learning structures and they are only as successful as the impact that they have on student learning. 

You’ve set goals with your administrators that serve to anchor their observations so I’m using a short, informal structure of a three-minute walk-though  focusing only on the learning environment as it aligns to our Professional Growth and Supervision Plan principles. I’m also tracking the integrity of our documentation of the student learning in Rubicon Atlas.

In three minutes, I’m building a school-wide body of evidence based on the following questions implicit in our teacher evaluation rubric:

  • Do students know what they will (should) learn from engaging in the task?
    • Why I look for this? How can we empower kids to advocate for their learning if they don’t know the opportunities or the criteria for success?
  • Is there accountability to high expectations of  behavior and engagement in learning?
    • Why I look for this? The one doing the talking, the writing, the modeling, the problem-solving, the lab (etc) is the one doing the learning.  How can kids construct meaning unless they dig into the work and grapple with ideas?
  • What is the level of cognitive demand?
    • Why I look for this? How are we treating kids as thinkers? Are they engaging in tasks that require critical thought and “higher levels” of Bloom’s taxonomy or do we expect only lower order thinking skills, such as simply collecting or recalling information?
  • Is what is happening in the classroom aligned to what we say is happening in the classroom?
    • Why I look for this? Can we track the story of a cohort’s learning? Without the story, we cannot access where (and why)  there are strengths and challenges with understanding, determine where to replicate or replace, and hold ourselves and students accountable so we can continue to build a cohesive learning experience.
 
How do I use this data? Data never provides an answer. Its strength resides in our ability  to ask better questions. I think this can inform our work in many ways. First and foremost, it helps me target who needs support and it supports principals in deepening dialogue with all teachers in their division. Most importantly, I hope it pushes our reflection as a community. For example, how do we support kids in building skills of collaboration when our most prevalent classroom configuration is whole class instruction?  How do we celebrate the strides we’ve made in documenting the learning we put before students?
I recognize three minutes may not capture the power that happens within a block of  learning. This is about patterns and follow-up.  This is about how I can serve Graded better. 

A two-week snapshot of 22 classrooms

(Click on graphs for a larger version)

Level of Cognitive Demand

Alignment to Rubicon Atlas

Classroom configuration

Evidence of clear learning targets

Lifting the Lid on Graded’s PLCs

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I spent a good chunk of this morning planning a workshop I’ll be facilitating at ASB-Unplugged. Entitled Re-imaging PD… Again?, the workshop has acted as a catalyst for reflection on the success and challenges of our PLCs at Graded. In a brief 18 months, our structure has grown from a fairly traditional implementation that is organized by subject area and grade level teams touted by the DuFour’s to one that is designed to accelerate a shift in our collaborative culture — to break down silos of practice to honor the expertise that exists across our campus and to honor the learning needs of teachers (McLaughlin and Talbert, 2006).

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Graded’s PLC Survey – January 2012

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Graded’s PLC Survey – January 2012

The part of our PLC’s that I haven’t been completely transparent about is the design and integration of digital tools. As educators, we are being asked to re-imagine schooling that is a far cry from our own learning history that often emphasized rote memorization, compartmentalized knowledge, and surface understanding of content. Our PLC structure is based on an assumption that for teachers to actively engage students in new technologies, they must have the opportunity to engage in ongoing professional development that mirrors such experiences. Before we can teach, I deeply believe we need to don the student hat first. In an analysis of your PLC pages and a review of presentation videos I discovered a rich array of tools that teachers chose to serve their learning needs first. Not only do they reflect a clear purpose, but they have the potential to impact  our learning culture  in ways that deepen our collaborative practices.

Hats off (student OR teacher) to Graded faculty.  I hope to continue to build a structure that serves the learning needs (student OR teacher) of Graded well.

Bad acronym, good work

Bad acronym, good work

Taking action planning to the teachers – Professional Learning Advisory Council (PLAC) tackles supporting learning needs aligned to core initiatives at Graded. MAP, Backwards Design, Rubicon Atlas and Integrating Technology begin to get a plan for more consistent clarity.

Will standards get ‘er done?

… standards, by themselves, do not improve education. Standards can do a great deal: they can set clear goals for learning for students and teachers, and establish guidelines for instruction and performance.

But to have an effect on the day-to-day interaction between students and teachers, and thus improve learning,  you have to implement the standards. That will require changes in curricula and assessments to align with the standards, professional development to ensure that teachers know what they are expected to teach, and ultimately, changes in teacher education so that all teachers have the capability to teach all students to the standards. The standards are only the first step on the road to higher levels of learning…

From: Five Myths About the Common Core State Standards

Robert Rothman