Spring 2019 Reflection

I had predicted that the survey results would go down in the spring compared to the fall (not documented here in my blog, but personally and to some colleagues when talking about this project), so I shouldn’t have been surprised when that did happen. What I will simply have to do is to take the information I have, reflect on why this might be, and make plans for moving forward.

Every single category of the 7 C’s dropped in value from the Fall to the Spring of this school year, such that the total accumulated points went from 324 to 302. While not a drastic drop, and not low overall, the specific ranges of adjustment also fits in to what my prediction was, and I’ll explain why I think I knew this would happen, overall and in some specific areas. In the Fall when I gave the first survey, I had barely instructed in the class, the students who weren’t in my EAL group barely knew me (some even thought I was a TA for quite awhile this year), and I got the feeling that the results I initially got (in the medium to overall high range, almost nothing low) were probably an optimistic and good natured assessment of how the class was going in general, and whatever small part I may have had in that. I  essentially doubt they could really say how they felt about me as a teacher at that point because I did so little instructing, planning, or grading. Now they’ve had much more experience in the class (but still not much more with my instruction or teaching style), and I think students are able to verbalize their persuasions about these different areas better now, and so- the numbers have all dropped into an actually more realistic range.

The second immediate reflection on the data is that I see a picture of what is expressly worded in the questions that go a long the lines of, “In this class…”. This wording seemed interesting to me because the students are in a co-taught classroom, but their experience is still unified in their minds- they look at their grades for instance, and they have a general feeling of their experience in the class despite the survey being specifically intended to get their feedback on my teaching in that class. At this point of the year, I still haven’t done very much instruction in this class, we’ve primarily used the ‘one teach/lead’ co-teaching model and I support EAL students when they are working on tasks, and at most we’ve occasionally switched that model to where I’ve lead an activity in isolation about once per month on average this year. So not a whole lot changed in the way I interacted with this class of students from the beginning of the year to now, other than the EAL students who I worked with outside of the class as a lead teacher in EAL pull-out who have had more experience learning with my direct instruction in a small group environment.

This also leads me to reflect that some of the metrics that students rated lower may have had less to do with my teaching or my priorities as a teacher and more to do with that general experience they have in the class, which I haven’t had much to do with. For example, for the area of Clarify, responses were low for “In this class we learn to correct out mistakes,” and “We get helpful comments to let us know what we did wrong on assignments,” and I immediately thought back about the frustrations I’ve seen EAL students experience when getting assignments back continually at the Approaching level all year long in Humanities and wondering somewhat hopelessly how they can take steps to get better when they feel like they’re up against a wall. My assistance and attempts at scaffolding are sometimes errant if I’m not sure exactly what the final product of their assessments should look like in the small details, or what the criteria for meeting the standard should look like. This is an area for improvement I’ve been trying to work on all year, and will just have to continue on in the future. At one point this year I was made aware of a file folder in the classroom that apparently had all the old graded assessments in it, and I rifled through some of them and saw the same vague five word comment repeated on several different papers and started to see why they might feel that way in areas concerning feedback and how to correct mistakes as well. There were a few opportunities this year where I was able to meet with students to give them formative feedback on writing, or on a few Socratic Seminars (because we physically had to split the class to be able to get them all done and graded in the time we had) where I gave grades and comments on a rubric and I was sure to give as much extensive individual feedback in those situations as I could, but I don’t think that was a consistent experience for students.

This situation has made clear, based on the results of my survey, that this is an opportunity for me to try to improve this specific dynamic of feedback in the class for next year. One of the methods I used to use when I was a regular classroom English teacher before this was to return graded and marked assessments and give students time in class to read over them and then require each student to ask at least one question that I would circulate through the room to answer individually. No matter if their question was to clarify the feedback, how to correct mistakes conceptually or practically, or at the very least, banal grammar corrections- every student had to take time to review their individualized feedback, and to furthermore be formatively assessed on that review in the form of a question they generated on their understanding of mistakes and how to improve. Having this data to back up what students in the class are concerned with should support changes to things I’ve found frustrating all year long, and hopefully can be an area that I can get involved in to be of benefit to the students.

To move on to the specifics of the data gleaned from this survey, the top level areas that were lowest by number value were: Consolidate at 268
Challenge at 290
Care and Clarify at 294 each.
The specific answers that were rated low were:
“In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes,”
“My teacher asks questions to be sure we are following along when s/he is teaching,”
“In this class, we learn a lot almost every day,”
“In this class, my teacher accepts nothing less than our full effort,” *(repeat from the first survey, unchanged- as described in a former post, the students clarified for me about this when I asked, that they openly admit they don’t give their best effort because they ‘are lazy’, and choose in all situations to hold back. This is problematic in its own way because it leads me to think that engagement isn’t meeting in the intersection of motivation/challenge in the Zone of Proximal Development, but there are also issues in a mixed ability EAL group, where the needs are quite wide apart and it’s a known challenge to be able to differentiate for all students at their respective levels but one to nonetheless work on…).

As I started to look at the further broken down information of question response percentages, I’m actually starting to be confused about what qualifies as low, medium, and high, since for example in Consolidate the “My teacher takes time to summarize what we learn each day,” (which was one of the single items I worked on doing in class this year, since it was simple and easily executable) was rated as Medium, where the other two in that Consolidate area were Low, even though that one had more Low and Neutral responses than the other two questions, so I’m actually a little confused on how those general rankings and maybe weightings are made now after looking more closely, but I will still use the responses as they are to try to make adjustments for next year.

In summary, the results dropped across the board pretty much as I expected, giving me a more realistic look at students’ experience in the class but also giving me more more clear objectives to work on in the future than what I did throughout this year after the first survey and goal setting. My goal now is to see how I can spend my time and effort in the class to make adjustments that will benefit the students in the areas that they have felt unsupported in the end, and to try to bring these to my co-teacher to get their thoughts, input, and ultimately support, to figure out how this might look next year in the same class. So moving forward, my areas for improvement will be feedback and differentiating for the purpose of engagement and best effort…

Showcase

The main area that I wanted to work on in my teaching was ‘summarizing at the end of lessons’ and at intermittent times I have done that but here is a record of one in particular. Today, I’m sharing a small showcase example that should connect to an activity I’ll be leading on tomorrow.
I simply summarized at the end of the lesson that students had a) reviewed the first five chapters of events in the novel we are reading, Animal Farm, by making scene tableaus and b) that they had started their independent research on the events of the Russian Revolution from 1917-1924. The emphasis that I left them with though, was that they need to be reading that information through the lens of ‘what happens to your character though this time period’.
Earlier projects in this unit involved their writing of a historical fiction style journal with a character they created living through the events leading up to the Russian Revolution. The final assessment in this unit will be using their character in a talkshow style spoken assessment, which I will be leading an introduction and guide to with videos guiding how this kind of discussion should look and sound.
By summarizing at the end of the lesson I was able to give them advice on framing their homework reading that will help support them in the next activity. In this way, a summary at the end of the lesson is not only valuable for reflecting on the work that they did, but also in framing what is going to be coming next and setting them up for success in that.

Survey Results

The initial Fall survey results are interesting and really heartening. I generally expected lower ratings based on my small presence as a co-teacher only intermittently delivering instruction to most of the students in the class that aren’t in my EAL group. However, the results put me at a average to high rating for all individual fields except two, and this was really interesting and encouraging to see.

The positives include a high point in the categories of “Class Management” and “Confer”. Within class management was a prevailing indication that the behavior in the class is excellent in the opinion of most of the students, so this must mean that they feel they can learn effectively in their environment. The confer category indicates that students feel that they have a lot of opportunity to express and explain their ideas in class, which is a wonderful metric to indicate to me the balance of student centeredness.

The areas for growth fell under the two categories of “Consolidate” and “Challenge” with the specific line items of “My teacher takes the time to summarize what we learn each day” (from Consolidate) and “In this class, my teacher accepts nothing less than our full effort” (from Challenge). In the Consolidate section there were medium scores in all other categories and in Challenge,  medium and high for emphasis of thinking skills over memorization.

This is really appreciable feedback for a few reasons. When I look at the low point in Consolidate, it very easily and simply tells me that lesson structure just needs to conclude with reflection and summary more often. This reminds me of a concept I learned in SIOP of the bell curve lesson design, where the difficulty ramps up to the middle and then slackens to the end of the class with some relaxed reflection and summary. This is an easily actionable item and I also like that it gives me a potential role in the co-taught classroom. I will suggest to my co-teacher that I occasionally lead an end of class reflection and summarize the content and skills covered in the class for the day.

For the Challenge aspect (accepting best effort) this is really interesting and denotes a few possibilities. It could be at face value, that my level of acceptance of student work could be raised to a higher standard in general- to simply demand higher quality output from all students. It could also possibly be an indication that they are volunteering the information that they don’t give their best effort on assignments, to or unto my knowledge. A potential problem with this item (it lacks the simplicity of the other confer item) is that the range of student capability is wide, especially within my EAL group of students compared to native speakers in the English classroom, so the practical ability is actually different and wide ranging for the students in this group. Another issue is how to engage them if they are just admitting that they don’t voluntarily give their best effort. Either way, I can see a few courses of action to improve on this area.

I need to get more familiar with, and gather evidence for, student ‘best-effort’ capability. From the Dilt’s model, we know that capacity comes before performance/behavior, so this is a solid reason to pursue that. Next, raise standards and challenge students to put their individual best effort into every task. Another errant thought I have about this is that the idea of ‘effort’ might tie into behavior and focus. I do spend time every class, as we all do, redirecting students to get themselves on task and use their time effectively. If that is another possible indicator for this item, it’s yet a little more complex…
Maybe the thing to do will be to put it back onto the students and hear from them on this item?

So! The results are good food for thought and I have some clear next steps. If you’re still reading, thanks for stopping by! Drop a comment below if you know of any good tips for any of these areas of growth that I’m going to be looking at soon or any other thoughts in general.

New Goals

In better alignment with the 7C’s framework that this module is dedicated to, I’m revising my initial goals to where they fit into this system, and it won’t be an extreme stretch to fit them there so it’s not a reductive adjustment.
The area that I see the core of my goal fitting in to is the “Clarify” area. My goal of tracking student work and giving meaningful feedback might be the best way to achieve measurable and data driven progress. Towards this goal I will begin to do a bi-weekly reading fluency according to the AIMS testing procedure and be able to consistently track progress on specific standards of their reading fluency. I will also introduce the 7C framework to my class so that they are familiar with the goals that I will be working towards. The results of the reading fluency tracking and general tracking will be informally shared here in reflections.

First goals

I’m eager to embark on this pilot professional growth program. I think it will be a good way to keep track of my goals and not let them become a useless ancillary sort of thing, as they can become sometimes. I might add another post later to refine these goals after talking with colleagues or fleshing out this program more, but as it is, here are the things that are on my mind for this year.

  • More direct student focus and progress. In the past I had something like 65 kids in all of my classes and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t able to execute long term goals with all of them; sometimes kids fell through the cracks, as they say. Now I expect to have a case-load of about 20 or less kids in my EAL group, and I think this is the time and place where I can really crank down on my ability to reach kids one-on-one. This might be through SIOP practice for my EAL stuff, or just in the general sense, that I want to have better follow through, data support, and generally see tangible progress with the students I teach.
  • Norms of Collaboration. There have been a few times here at the beginning of the year where we have looked at this set of norms and reflected on a personal goal and the one that jumped out at me was the Awareness of Self and Others item. I have gathered that I might not be the most self-aware, coming off as self-centered, so my goal will be to be more aware of myself and others. UPDATE (Sept 25th) I have completed Adaptive Schools training so I have a wealth of tactics to use in this area.

So that’s it! Maybe these will get revised as I meet with people but these are the things on my mind today.

Welcome!

Welcome to your Professional Learning Blog! This is a place for you to post your goals, and reflect on them throughout the year.

  • Decide on your goal, perhaps in consultation with your colleagues or principal, and create a post to share with this online professional learning community that you are now a part of! Categorise this post in Goal Setting. Set your goal by considering:
    • Self assessment and reflection based on new teacher standards  (Tripod 7C’s)
    • Previous or new observation data from peers and principals
    • Student surveys (online surveys developed and aligned with 7C’s)
  • Identify colleagues, coaches, principals etc. that will play a supporting role in achieving your goal, and invite them to view and comment on your post. Encourage them to bookmark your blog and visit regularly.
  • Throughout the year, collect and share evidence to support your progress. Categorise these posts in Reflection.
  • Encourage your colleagues to share your learning journey by engaging with your blog. In return, engage with their blog (and others across the School)
  • You may also like to share work that your students have created or your own professional achievements that may not be directly related to your goal setting. This is encouraged! Categorise these posts as Showcase.

If you need support using this platform, please don’t hesitate to contact Ed Tech, we are always happy to be of assistance!

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