Tag: teachers and teaching

10 Questions for Educators to Reflect on Their Expectations for Students

February 9, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education on March 6, 2017.

What do you believe about kids? What do you believe about learning? Do you always act how you believe?

This list of questions is a tool for reflection and discussion. A fundamental belief at CCE is that all kids are capable of learning to high levels. All kids are capable of deeper learning. This shouldn’t be controversial, but in our work facilitating professional learning, we know from experience that we need to foster our ability to effectively engage people about words and behaviors that run counter to our commitment to high expectations for all.

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Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Dodging the Digital Poster

February 2, 2018 by

This week’s tip comes from Seth Mitchell, a technology integration coach in the Monmouth schools in RSU 2. This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on January 16, 2018.

Because I completed much of my K-12 student career before school computers were used for much besides word processors, my digital options for sharing learning were quite limited. When I had the opportunity to select my own project product, I often found myself relying on the old school standby: the poster.

As a reasonably successful student, I could complete a poster project without too much effort, and I knew I could get an A+ by relying on presentation: using pictures, penciling everything neatly before outlining in marker, aligning everything with a ruler, and so on. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the content of the posters I made, largely because I don’t think that was my focus. I do recall the process of closely paraphrasing from encyclopedias and library books to grab the necessary facts I was supposed to include, but that required more of my thesaurus than my brain. (more…)

Student-Led Conferences Drive Deeper Learning—And Are Less Time-Consuming Than You Might Guess

January 26, 2018 by

Joy Nolan

Done decently well, student-led conferences (SLCs, for those who love a good education acronym) transform the oddly brief parent-teacher conference (where’s the student in the traditional PTC? Often not even in the room where it happens) into a showcase starring the learners and their learning.

With an audience as small as one to two teachers and a parent or guardian or two, students show and describe work products from several classes, reflect on their progress, and set learning goals for the near-term future. Seems straightforward enough, but what a powerful driver of learning, student agency, metacognition—and that’s besides their ostensible main goal of communicating to families what each learner is up to, and how that learner is doing. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency-Based Education?

January 22, 2018 by

What's new! star graphicA Must Read: Check out this article by Beth Rabbitt on Personalized Learning called Analysis: Teaching, Technology, Transformation — 5 Ways to Talk (and Think) About Personalized Learning

New Resources

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The Single-Point Mastery Rubric

January 19, 2018 by

Behold the single-point rubric, my favorite tool discovery of 2017. The resource below is my adaptation of a resource posted at www.cultofpedagogy.com—tweaked for competency-based/mastery-based use.

This streamlined, elegant rubric serves many useful functions. Check out its simplicity and its easy adaptability to one or more outcomes in a single tool. Use it for focused grading, coaching, self-reflection, peer feedback, student-led conferences—the list could go on. And one of its main values is how it solves for several common pitfalls of rubrics along the way. (more…)

Creating a Peer Coaching Program to Grow Student-Centered Learning (Part 2)

January 16, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center on January 2, 2018. Read Part 1 here.

Mary Bellavance

In part I of this three-part series, I wrote about how Maine’s Biddeford School District created a peer coaching program to support our teachers as they spread a student-centered learning model across the district. Part II shares three of the most important lessons from the experience.

Develop a plan that is closely aligned to your district’s goals

  • Does your district have a strategic plan (or even just a set of well-defined goals) to help implement student-centered learning over a five-to seven-year timeframe? If so, it will help all stakeholders stay focused on the peer coaching steps necessary to help reach this goal. If not, Douglas Reeves offers recommendations in his book Leading Change in Your School: How to Conquer Myths, Build Commitment, and Get Results. Reeves addresses how to create the conditions for change, then plan, implement and sustain it.
  • Also, make sure you are clear about your goals for a peer coaching initiative and how those goals connect with the district’s ambitions for student-centered learning.

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Creating a Peer Coaching Program to Grow Student-Centered Learning (Part 1)

January 9, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center on December 15, 2017.

Mary Bellavance

In southern Maine, the little corner of the world where I teach, coach and learn, we are in the midst of transitioning to a student-centered learning (SCL) model. The Biddeford School Department is a public, K-12 system serving 2,425 students. I am an instructional coach at the middle school and am in my second year serving as the coordinator of the K-12 peer coaching program, a program that we created as a way to support our staff in building and sustaining a student-centered learning system.

Since our journey began, district leadership has encouraged collaboration among all stakeholders. School leaders engaged staff, students and parents in conversations about what our students need to be college- and career-ready in the 21st century. With the support of our school board, Superintendent Jeremy Ray made sure the message was clear: we were engaging in this transformative work because it’s what is best for children.

Part of our student-centered approach is that it is proficiency-based (also called competency-based). Maine passed a law in 2012 requiring that every school district determine standards for proficiency in eight areas and award diplomas, beginning in 2021, based on those standards being met.

Our SCL Road Map

The state has left it up to educators in each district to collaborate, plan and implement their version of proficiency-based education. The district must provide students with timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. It became apparent that supports would be as necessary for the educators —who are also new to student-centered, proficiency-based learning—  as they are for the students. For help conceptualizing an SCL implementation plan, we reached out to Reinventing Schools, and they provided training and coaching. Reinventing Schools is a division of Marzano Research — one of the most well-known proponents of proficiency-based education.

The Launch Training

Teachers were invited—not mandated—to participate in a training session with an educational consultant from Reinventing Schools. The first group of enthusiastic staff members, about 25 in all, learned how to transform their classrooms to more learner-centered environments, including how to use the Affinity Diagram process with students to create a shared vision and code of cooperation—critical to the infrastructure of the new approach. They also spent time considering how they would build collegiality in their schools to pave the way for the acquisition of new skills among colleagues who did not attend the training session. These early activities were necessary to lay the foundation for our continued work with essential standards and to build a transparent, rigorous curriculum for our learners.

Using the skills acquired at the training, teachers worked with their students to develop shared visionscodes of cooperation and standard operating procedures for their classrooms.  These exercises provided the opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning, one of the four research-based tenets of Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) Student-Centered Learning Model. (more…)

Personalized Learning…Is It All a Matter of Time?

December 12, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on October 12, 2017.

Sometimes I worry that the call to personalize learning is actually code for asking leaders and teachers to do more than they’ve ever been asked to do—but without additional resources to do it.

And by resources, I mostly mean time.

This is especially true for traditional systems that may be aiming to adopt new approaches to teaching and learning but less willing to do away with legacy structures. Innovation theory shows us that in industry after industry, existing organizations often default to hybrid innovations that combine new technologies or approaches with old ways of doing business. Put differently, rather than actually making any real tradeoffs, organizations may start doing new things without stopping doing old things.

Noble as these efforts may be, school systems risk layering on more and more responsibilities and processes in the name of personalization, without new resources or more efficient processes to support those additional duties. And although dedicated teachers and staff may be able to carry that load part of the way, the “just do more” approach hardly bodes well for scaling such efforts in the future.

Although schools may manage to add more time on the margins, personalized learning at scale will likely require a massive rethinking of how schools use time, alongside pursuing new efficiencies that can save time. I was reminded of this while reading Silicon Schools’ recent reporton its past five years supporting new and redesigned schools in the California Bay Area. In it, the fund’s leaders share actionable insights about the promise and pitfalls of personalized approaches. Among these takeaways, the word “time” appears a total of 39 times in the report’s 27 pages.

Specifically, the report highlights a vital reality on the ground: how schools use time is a balancing act. The report enumerates tradeoffs schools personalizing learning have had to weigh: how much time students should spend working on their own versus in groups; how much time students should be in front of screens versus offline; how much time students should work on content that is at versus above their current instructional level.

Looking beyond just Silicon Schools’ portfolio, thinking through such tradeoffs extends to the structures of entire school systems aiming to personalize instruction. It’s in making—or failing to make—these tradeoffs, however, that efforts to build a coherent personalized system risk getting stuck.

How can systems tackle time tradeoffs? In some cases this means looking for new instructional approaches that slice and dice time differently; in others this means seeking out automation and efficiencies; and in other this means wholly rethinking the structure of the school day. Here’s three levers schools could leverage to fundamentally rethink time: (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Four Tips for Crafting Driving Questions

December 8, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on October 21, 2017. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

A high quality driving question provides motivation for learning. Often when we first start working with driving questions, or essential question, to frame learning the questions we come up with can feel a little, well, off. Just like with any skill, crafting good driving questions takes practice. The four tips below can help you make some gains. For each tip there is an example of a driving question using the following learning target:

Understands the structures and functions of the major body systems

1. Focus on the enduring understanding of the learning target. Many standards, competencies, and targets come with a lot of foundational skills and understandings attached. When we only think about all the pieces, we miss the big picture. Pulling back and focusing instead on the big picture can help us see what the essence of a target is. Here is an example using our test target:

How do body systems work together to keep our bodies running?

2. Place the target in a larger context. Sometimes a learning target is interesting enough in itself to motivate learning for most learners, others are not. If a particular targets feels dry when you think it, or try to make a question of it, then try thinking about where the target fits in the real world. The target itself should rarely be its own context for learning, and putting targets in a larger context makes them feel more relatable and interesting to many learners. Think about this example for our test target: (more…)

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