Controversial Ideas in Education

Here’s a question that I love asking fellow educators:

What is something that you believe to be true about teaching and learning that you don’t think anyone else at the table will agree with?

The responses that I’ve heard have been captivating. Sometimes what is shared ends up saying us more about the person’s perceptions of their peers’ opinions, and we all end up learning that we are less alone than we suspected. Hearing a colleague share a controversial belief in a safe and trusting environment tells so much more than hearing beliefs or experiences that you have in common – it breaks the echo chamber of our own thinking. Try asking this question at lunch, in a PLC, or wherever you head to on a Friday afternoon. You might learn something fascinating.

Since this is my blog post, I’ll share one of my own potentially controversial beliefs about teaching and learning:

Our students are under-assessed.

This might seem self-interested coming from someone who works in a district assessment department, but the idea has more to do with time in classrooms than numbers on spreadsheets. Between SBA, the new WCAS, i-Ready, and Panorama, we’ve never had more digital tools for measuring student learning to layer onto our existing techniques. With so many stakeholders in education with very specific purposes, we need a broad range of assessments to meet the needs of students, teachers, families, school leaders, and state officials.

To the extent that we treat assessments as a have-to rather than a get-to, it’s easy to focus on evaluation and labeling of kids, rather than opportunities to better match our teaching to their learning. We need assessments “to inform decisions that both support and verify learning” (Chappuis, Commodore, and Stiggins, 2010). We leave students under-assessed but over-evaluated when we don’t act on the information we collect. Every assessment is an opportunity to allow students to guide our own professional learning. We just need to take them up on it.

 

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Panorama: Measuring and Supporting SEL

We have a number of assessments in place to measure and help support students’ academic learning, but that’s only one component of student growth. What about social and emotional learning (SEL)? How will we measure and support student growth in non-academic areas that are so crucial to both academic learning and life in general? How do we increase student voice in the work we do in schools?

 

Panorama Education | Supporting Student Success

Introducing Panorama – a suite of new surveys and supports for promoting SEL within Evergreen Public Schools. Continue reading “Panorama: Measuring and Supporting SEL”

What’s the Work During Modeling?

Having looked at conceptual modeling in science last spring, this might be a good time to consider some questions about instructional modeling in any content.

Instructional modeling of strong and weak work is a key practice for helping our students meet their learning targets. Sam Bennett emphasizes modeling during mini-lessons and catches in That Workshop Book as a way for students to develop as readers and writers.

So what are students expected to do during the time that teachers are modeling? Do students know what they are expected to do? How can we help them get the most out of these minutes? Perhaps we need to engage students in some meta-modeling: demonstrating the thinking and reflective practices that we want students using as they observe us modeling. Metacognition is critical to all phases of learning, including instructional modeling.

Modeling strong and weak work is included as the second strategy of Jan Chappuis’ Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning. While it is a common practice to show students positive examples of work that is proficient or exemplary, sometimes we forget the value of modeling weak work. Not wanting to point fingers at struggling students, we might avoid sharing examples of student work that needs improvement. But in order to help students notice and be able to articulate the differences between strong and weak work, we need them to observe, discuss, and make comparisons for themselves. The act of comparing and identifying areas to improve becomes the student work during modeling. Two ideas for making modeling weak work a safer activity for students:

  1. Using the teacher’s “work” as a weak example. This provides a safer opportunity for students to examine work critically as they provide feedback to the teacher instead of one another.
  2. Looking at weak work or incorrect responses and asking “Why might an intelligent person have thought ____?” This creates an opportunity for students to be critical and identify misconceptions, while still honoring the thinking of students who might hold those same ideas.

What strategies do you use to help students get the most out of instructional modeling? Please share in the comments below!

 

Modeling is More Than Replicating

Students often examine and interact with models as they learn content. But is it really modeling when students create a 3-dimensional representation of a cell?

cell model

We’ll use the word “modeling” here to refer to the practice of developing and using models in science. Teacher modeling of behaviors, skills, and cognitive routines is incredibly important in classrooms, but this post will focus on students’ interactions with conceptual models.

From the page 50 of the Framework for K-12 Science Education:

Science often involves the construction and use of a wide variety of models and simulations to help develop explanations about natural phenomena. Models make it possible to go beyond observables and imagine a world not yet seen. Models enable predictions of the form “if … then … therefore” to be made in order to test hypothetical explanations.

Creating the cell representation pictured above might demonstrate a student’s ability to design to criteria or to recall the shape of organelles, but it isn’t really an explanation or prediction. Continue reading “Modeling is More Than Replicating”

EPS Integrated Scope and Sequence Site

It’s here! We’ve been working on the new integrated scope and sequence for elementary writing, reading, social studies, and science for over a year now. Thank you to the teachers, coaches, and principals who have provided feedback throughout the process.

You can access the site through the links provided here, using the Evergreen Bookmarks folder in Chrome, or through ClassLink.

At the site, you’ll find information specific to the content areas of  ELA, social studies, and science with images and links to resources. On the grade level pages, all 36 units for grades K through 5 are included, with unit themes, standards, resource suggestions, and integrated literacy task ideas.

We’ll continue to improve the format, add more details, and link more resources to make this resource as valuable and accessible as we can, but we continue to need your help. If there’s something that we can do to make the site better, please let us know! Your ideas and feedback will help us prioritize the ongoing work.

The End of Average, part 3

This is the final post on the The End of Average by Todd Rose. Check out part 1 and part 2 to see the whole series.

This post will focus on two ideas that come out of the second half of the book that have great relevance to our work as K-12 educators: if-then signatures and competency-based learning.

If-then signatures for personal learning profiles

Rose shares his experience receiving guidance from his academic adviser at Weber State that sounded personalized, but turned out to be identical to the advice given to a student with a very different academic background. How often do we give advice or feedback to students that is meaningfully different from the advice that we provide to others? If everything is pretty much the same, is it really personalizedContinue reading “The End of Average, part 3”

Engineering in Unexpected Places

We all engineer parts of our lives every day. Children (and adults!) engineer structures with blocks, Legos, and Minecraft. Cooks engineer recipes. Teachers engineer learning experiences.

Engineering K-2There are many different graphics of the engineering design process. The image above comes from Appendix I of the Next Generation Science Standards. At its core, engineering consists of three key processes: identifying a problem, developing solutions, and optimizing those solutions. Sounds a lot like a teaching and learning cycle, right?

TL CycleIt sounds a lot like almost any artistic process, too. A “problem” is identified (a piece of music to perform), solutions are developed (rehearsed) and optimized (director feedback).

choir

What about mathematicians? Don’t they identify problems, develop solutions, and optimize? And how about writers? How are the processes of drafting and revising similar to designing and testing?

Engineering, design, and art are not always distinct activities; the lines between them are often fuzzy. Our students should know about and appreciate this “fuzziness”. It brings them closer to understanding the outside world and eliminates some of the potential barriers to STEM careers that students encounter. Students benefit from seeing engineering as something that everyone engages in because it makes the field more approachable and provides a set of useful problem-solving skills that students can apply in many different ways.

Interested in some additional reading? Check out this research brief:  Learning STEM Through Design: Students Benefit from Expanding What Counts as “Engineering” or this blog post on the connections between engineering and social emotional learning.