Author: Heather Staker

Help Students Hold Themselves Accountable

August 9, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on August 3, 2017.

The new report “How to create higher performing, happier classrooms in seven moves: A playbook for teachers” tells stories of teachers who improved student engagement and academic results by introducing seven specific, practical moves into their classrooms that replicate the successes of top managers in cutting-edge workplaces. For the next three months, I’ll be doing deep dives into each of these important moves.

The sixth move for creating a dynamic classroom is to help students hold themselves accountable.

Cutting-edge organizations that give employees ownership—as well as hire for and nurture the skill of agency—balance that trust with a thoughtful accountability system. Ownership and accountability, out of necessity, go hand in hand. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Medallia rely on Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to help their employees cycle through a system of setting transparent goals, learning, tracking their progress, taking stock of where they are, and pausing to reflect on how to improve before beginning the cycle anew.

The term accountability can stir negative associations in the education sector, as it conjures images of top-down oversight. That’s not the type of accountability that we have in mind. Rather, Move #6 is talking about any structures and systems that teachers can put in place to help their students learn to set goals, track their progress, and follow through.

Kelly Kosuga, a 9th-grade Algebra I teacher at Cindy Avitia High School, part of the Alpha Public Schools network in the San Francisco Bay Area, knew that her students would make better choices if they felt informed and accountable. She decided to make this move in two ways: (1) making the grading system and student progress transparent and (2) using tools to help students stay organized.

Making the grading system and student progress transparent

First, Kelly needed to make sure that her students clearly understood what they needed to do to succeed in her class and where they currently stood academically. She didn’t have a tool that allowed her to do this easily, so she created one. (more…)

Why Teachers Should Free Up Their Time

April 10, 2017 by

Kelly helps a student with an online lesson.

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on February 8, 2017.

I am concerned when I see a classroom that is locked in teacher-led instruction. Of course, some good can come from an interesting lecture, demonstration, or lesson. If it is part of a Station Rotation blended-learning model, then teacher-led instruction can be a good opportunity for teachers to enhance the content their students learn online. So, the problem is not that teacher-led instruction is necessarily bad. The problem is that delivering instruction limits teachers from having time to do something even better.

Kelly Kosuga felt this limitation firsthand. Kelly teaches 9th-grade Algebra I at Cindy Avitia High School, part of the Alpha Public Schools network in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the start of the 2015–16 school year, Kelly implemented a Station Rotation that consisted of three stations: Solo Station (independent work), Peer-to-Peer (pair work), and Guided Group (teacher-led instruction). Each student spent 25 minutes in each station before rotating—a classic Station Rotation model.

Kelly gave most of her attention to whichever students were in Guided Group at the time. As the semester progressed, however, she became increasingly frustrated that she could not clone herself so that there could be someone to monitor and help students at the other two stations. Plus, she didn’t like that the structure made it hard for her to differentiate instruction to a smaller size than three groups. She wanted to be able to meet with one or two students at a time. She felt stuck. (more…)

How to Create Higher Performing, Happier Classrooms in 7 Moves: A Playbook for Teachers

April 8, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on January 24, 2017.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This playbook shares the findings of three researchers who set off to discover what K–12 schools can learn from the best-run organizations in America. Why are companies such as Zappos, Geico, and Google continually ranked among the best places to work if you want to be happy and successful? Could classroom teachers use similar strategies to improve their students’ happiness and performance, not to mention their graduates’ readiness to work in America’s top organizations someday?

The researchers—all of whom are former K–12 teachers—began by searching for strategies that successful managers in today’s well-regarded organizations have in common. They found that the best managers in leading organizations do at least three things extraordinarily well: they empower their teams and do not micromanage, they are great coaches, and they emphasize accountability.

Of course, classrooms are inherently different from companies, and students are not teachers’ employees. But in both settings, the person in charge is seeking to create a happy climate that encourages and maximizes positive results. If empowering teams, serving as good coaches, and emphasizing accountability are top principles for successful managers in “best places to work” environments, then similar principles could work for teachers tasked with motivating and guiding students. Furthermore, many students will one day look for jobs in workplaces that embrace these management principles. Classrooms would do well to prepare students by resembling future workplaces more intentionally.

That said, sometimes the hardest part is turning high-level principles into concrete action steps. Through a series of classroom pilots, the researchers found that teachers can replicate the successes of top managers in cutting-edge workplaces by making seven specific, practical moves to introduce a similar culture into their classroom routine.

(more…)

WGU Paves the Way with Competency-Oriented System Architecture

May 31, 2012 by

A decade ago states might have struggled to imagine the data system they would need to support the transition from a seat-time to competency-based education structure for K-12 students. But over the past several years, an unconventional post-secondary institution has invented just such a system from scratch. Its pioneering work offers a powerful design template for K-12 technology leaders at the state level to follow.

Western Governors University (WGU) enrolled its first 30 students in 1999. Today it has over 30,000 students and an annual growth rate of roughly 30 percent for the past 5 years. Its model is unique; students learn completely online and graduate as soon as they have mastered the required competencies in their degree plans. No lecture halls, no attendance records, no homework—just a series of assessments to verify specific competencies.

A few years after its launch, WGU began implementing a complex information system to manage the enormous amount of data required to test and track competencies among thousands of students. (more…)

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