Challenging the Status Quo

After looking at student results this year, I noticed some changes in my strengths and weaknesses that made me wonder about the validity of looking at one section of kids to determine goals. 

I originally started this year intending to focus on Challenge, primarily due to many of the training opportunities I had last year. At this moment, I still feel that this is where I would like to devote my time, as I think the most significant benefit for students will be found in helping them to push their limits and achieve greater understanding through more lofty goals.

I already utilize an inquiry model in my classroom, but I believe there is room for more student inclusion and ownership of ideas. As they become more capable of articulating and owning their thoughts, their confidence in their abilities and their work should allow them to reach beyond their current expectations. I want to challenge their ability to reflect and synthesize new and old information.  

Going forward, I will try to bring more Creating Cultures of Thinking tools into the classroom, such as “peeling the fruit.” I would also like to partake in more Project Zero facilitated trainings that can help me to internalize the ideal of the thinking classroom.

Evaluating And Selecting Goals (2019-20)

Last spring I attended a professional development opportunity on Creating Cultures of Thinking; as well as, a summer session on Reader Notebooks at the New Hampshire Literacy Institute.  Both of these intriguing experiences prompted me to encourage and stimulate opportunities for critical thinking and reflection.  It is with these ideas in mind that I filter my re-evaluation of the Tripod 7C framework standards and find myself gravitating toward Challenge as a focus for this year’s goal.

The exact nature of this year’s goal is still a bit vague, but Ideally, I want to empower the students to evaluate what they know and why they know, so that they can create individually suited plans for growth and deeper understanding.  So that they can interact with their peers in an informed manner.  So that they can recognize when they need outside assistance or clarity and when they need to persevere.  Over the next few weeks, a more concrete and coherent goal should take shape, along with a rough plan of attack on how to implement and evaluate this goal.

What has this process fostered?

Since establishing and solidifying my goals last November I have had the opportunity to attend several professional development sessions, which helped to reframe my viewpoints on the classroom.  In early February I spent some time in Adaptive Schools training and pulled a few nuggets from the experience; mainly, that it is imperative to build a community of trust.

 

Without a healthy sense of trust in each other, in students, in the teacher, in the process, in the purpose, in general, many of the expectations of my goals would be impossible to achieve.  Student’s need to feel that they can approach me in and outside of class to seek for clarification and understanding.  I need to trust that students will let me know when they are confused, need help, or find materials helpful.  The process needs to be clear and reliable so that it can be trusted on a daily basis.  Trust is what binds the classroom as a unit, as a community, as a family.

 

The other nugget was a system of growth from small to large.  Mainly, students come in many different shapes, sizes, and mindsets and not all will flourish in a whole class setting even if the class itself is relatively small (for example 10 kids).  By building in different varieties of groups and small groups interactions, student will become more comfortable with their peers, and their ideas, which should lead to healthier community discussions and greater overall learner and feedback within the class.  Sometimes the best feedback is given by a peer.

 

Just a few weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend Cultures of Thinking which helped me to further process how groups can benefit the learning environment and improve feedback, but more importantly it provided a series of routines and tools that promote more individual thinking within the classroom and hence foster greater and more diverse analytical thought.  When I think about it, this facilitation of deeper thinking on the students’ part, helps to improve their understanding which leads to deeper questions and better feedback, whether it takes written or verbal form.

 

Ultimately, my journeys during these PDs helped me to further emphasize the importance of building authentic relationships with my kids in the hopes that trust can be truly fostered, and independent thinking can take hold.  I have started to apply some thinking routines, such as peeling the fruit in conjunction with inclusive language and open-ended questions and thus far it has been fairly successful.  I don’t feel I have gotten the chance to implement much of this during this academic year but have some good ideas to put into practice going forward.

 

On a separate note, I don’t feel I was able to spend as much time during this pilot process on developing and digging into my goals or ideas, as the day to day of school took over after the winter break.  The big challenge is how to find balance in an environment that pulls at you from every direction.

Revised Goals (Student Surveys Considered)

When I set my initial goals, they were based upon personal interest and reflection.  When my initial goals were compared with student feedback (One of my 12th grade classes) it became clear that my ability to confer with students in more of a strength while my ability to clarify is a point for improvement.  Most notably student find that my comments on their assignments are not as helpful as they would like and don’t indicate a clear path for improvement.  Part of this may be due to my shift toward more regular and substantial one on one conferencing.

 

When I compare my initial goals to the survey and what the results imply, I realize that the goals themselves are sound, but the direction behind them will need to shift a little.  In order for me to provide more effective and instructive written feedback I need to consider the limitations of feedback allowed by IB on official assessments and in what areas I can provide more substantive suggestions and critique which will facilitate a greater sense of clarity in student’s minds and provide them the tools they feel necessary to personally improve.  In line with this reasoning, the ability to create more effective lines of communication beyond conferencing and verbal interaction will help to build this sense of support and constructive feedback.

 

Moving forward, some possible strategies/solutions may include:

  • Exit slips
  • Anonymous suggestion boxes
  • More finite and clear goals on individual assessments that make feedback more direct and actionable
  • Incorporation of individualized communication in OneNote/DX/Emails
  • Moderated forums on Blogs or DX that focus on pertinent topics current in the class allowing better understanding of what is causing the most confusion or distress.
  • Monthly forum discussions to highlight areas of expertise and areas in need of growth or improvement.
  • Others to be determined…?

 

 

At this time the Goals remain as stated:

Confer: (Area of Strength)

  • Work to establish authentic lines of communication with students beyond verbal interactions.

Clarify: (Area of Weakness)

  • To provide increasingly more effective feedback, based upon individual student needs.

These two goals will work symbiotically to improve both areas and hopefully build student confidence and academic growth.

Initial Goals

After ample personal reflection and prioritization of feedback and interests I am have come up with two goals to start the process.  After the upcoming student surveys I will reexamine these goals and adjust accordingly.  It is my hope that I can start setting pathways to improvement towards the end of the month.  If you have any questions or feedback, please comment below.

Confer:

Work to establish authentic lines of communication with students beyond verbal interactions.

Clarify:

To provide increasingly more effective feedback, based upon individual student needs.