Despite an overall great student survey at the beginning of this year indicating “Captivate” would be a good focus area in the classroom, I decided to turn my attention to “Care” instead. In the midst of online learning, I thought this would be the most important of the 7C’s for continuing to feel connected with students and create a classroom culture that would allow us to smoothly transition to joyful learning when we returned to campus.
I took some structured steps outlined in my original goal setting post to achieve the goal, “From mid-January until the end of the school year, I will demonstrate better care for students by having 10 minute check-ins with them every month, emails to the parents every month, and weekly SEL activities led by students.” Unfortunately, 10 minute check-ins every month could not happen due to scheduling conflicts, but I did meet with every student individually for 10-15 minutes to talk about life. They had my permanent booking link for appointments and remarked they wished more teachers did meetings like that.
One part of the plan was to model and then empower students to do their own check-ins during class. We set up a rotating schedule where all students got to lead a check-in. This continued even after we returned to campus.
Screenshot of SEL check-in led by a student via Zoom on Feb 5, 2021
Overall, my Care score from the student survey was strong at a 350, but there are still students who are not feeling the love. As I always do with my students, I plan to present this survey data to them and then offer an anonymous route to offering suggestions. I believe that if a few students are feeling I don’t know if something is bothering them, they might have something to say about how I can do better, or even if they want their teacher to know if something is bothering them. I think this was a really tough focus during online learning, but one thing I would like to improve regardless of physical status during learning is to ask students for suggestions. A lot of my focus on care was based on my assumption of what I thought students needed, without much feedback or action based on what they declared their needs to be. I want to hear more voice about what makes students feel cared for to enhance my teaching.
My Spring 2021 Tripod survey results showing the Care category ratings.
I’m sure this reflective post is starting off just the way any true professional hopes it would- with a meme referencing the least reflective boss in the modern American television era. My official goal is connected with the Tripod 7C domain of CARE. Here’s the catch with this year’s goal setting: I do well at showing care and I also try really hard to do so, but due to online learning, I knew its importance would be amplified.
My 2021 Tripod Fall student survey results.
Because the goal setting process was backwards and teachers had to envision a goal before the student survey data arrived to inform them, I honed my focus on Care. This turned out not to matter as much as I thought it would at the onset since it was only one piece of the goal-setting puzzle. Despite considering the domain of Care a personal strength, I thought the move to online learning was imminent and in a learning environment trapped behind our screens, nothing would matter more than Care anyway (even in a regular face-to-face environment, does anything really matter as much as Care?).
I make extra efforts in lesson planning to Captivate. I enjoying trying doing what David Perkins, co-director of Harvard’s Project Zero describes as “wilding the tame.” Another way to say this would be taking something boring or so-so and adding that Emeril level “BAM” to make it come to life! Neuroscience is hard, and sodium-potassium pumps aren’t what most teenagers would consider riveting material, but I try to “channel” (Neuroscience joke) a lot of my energy into making learning joyful and engaging. I was happy to see my class of 20 thinks I’m doing a good job at that.
Wilding the tame like I’m a circus entertainer.
The green bars are exciting, but my students did let me know about areas of growth. Because I like a mixed-methods approach to research, I also employed qualitative interviews to ask the class about the details of their experiences when I presented the data to them. The front page of the survey report compares data to the entire HS teacher population, so the sign of “Medium” below means there are teachers who are doing better than I am at encouraging kids to use their thinking skills. I asked students who they think is doing really well so I could learn from them. We then debriefed about the balance in the course between IB Psych requirements, and Psych for Life. It seems I need to put more work into supporting critical thinking and real-world application of concepts.
Before CASEL (2020) split into 5 domains of SEL, “care for others” was one of four highlighted skills for SEL (Elias, 2006). Now that care is divided up and embedded amongst all the SEL competencies, it seems the core of SEL itself which needs an energy boost during online learning. Schonert-Reichl (2017) argued “teachers are the engines that drive social-emotional learning programs and practices in schools” (p. 137), which should now be the rallying call for anyone in charge of classroom to take the lead in making sure SEL is at the forefront of everything they do.
One of the most frequent things students say in response to surveys, reflections, and check-ins is that they are lonely during online learning (Noonoo, 2020). Even without restrictive lock-down measures in place, my students right now tell me they miss chatting with each other in the shared space of school. The disconnection that is inherent in limiting human interaction through practices of social distancing has an impact on one’s social-emotional well-being which risks negatively influencing all of the SEL competencies.
The need to focus on SEL currently can be further explained by the research which found a correlation between emotional intelligence and readiness for online learning (Buzdar et al., 2016), an essential outcome that SEL programs target (Massari, 2011). Shockingly, Nolan (2016) noted a lack of SEL education in online curricula, which now becomes an even bigger issue when online curriculum is the primary curriculum. I want to show care, I want to model care, I want to encourage my students to show care. Everything is hard enough right now, but perhaps a caring is the vital ingredient to ease the stress of transitioning back to an uncomfortably familiar paradigm of teaching.
In the online world, I wanted to layer on the Care immediately and often. The official goal I wrote was “From mid-January until the end of the school year, I will demonstrate better care for students by having 10 minute check-ins with them every month, emails to the parents every month, and weekly SEL activities led by students.” Here’s what this looks like digitally:
I set up a Calendly booking page and sent it to my students to schedule 10 minute digital meetings.
I emailed parents a detailed breakdown of the curriculum completed to this point and an overview of what is coming up and how they can best support their children at home.
I modeled SEL inclusion and closing activities and signed up volunteers to lead that task each class.
Set up class triads where students are paired in a group just for SEL check-ins and non-academic support
Survey kids on the course and these additions to let their opinions direct changes
Practice my own self-care which includes publishing this post and going to sleep right now.
Buzdar, M. A., Ali, A., & Tariq, R. U. H. (2016). Emotional Intelligence as a Determinant of Readiness for Online Learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(1), 148–158. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v17i1.2149
CASEL. (2020). Guide to Schoolwide SEL Essentials. https://schoolguide.casel.org/resource/the-casel-guide-to-schoolwide-sel-essentials/
Elias, M. J. (2006). The connection between academic and social- emotional learning. The Educator’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement, 11.
Massari, L. (2011). Teaching Emotional Intelligence. Leadership, 40(5), 8–12.
Nolan, A. (2016). The social and emotional learning and character education of K-12 online students: Teacher perspectives – ProQuest. https://search.proquest.com/openview/637e9e51a27d7b56934cdfa79ffb8498/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Noonoo, S. (2020, March 2). ‘Students Are Lonely:’ What Happens When Coronavirus Forces Schools Online—EdSurge News. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-03-02-students-are-lonely-what-happens-when-coronavirus-forces-schools-online
Schonert-Reichl, K. (2017). Social and Emotional Learning and Teachers. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44219025
The interruptions and adaptations in learning as a result of a global pandemic will continue to impact classrooms around the world. Having to shift gears immediately into a purely online learning atmosphere was jarring because it was not something we had intentionally planned for. I hate the following phrase because of overuse in my first school district but we were “building the plane with we fly.” Given the current situation of schools switching to online learning en mass while teachers and students often struggling to adapt (Adams, 2020), there are several areas where growth is needed. In my observation, major topics to focus on would include how to plan for synchronous vs. asynchronous learning, how to get students collaborating virtually and authentically, how to provide equity in accessing content, and how to embed social emotional learning into online course design. This latter topic is perhaps the most important as schools around the world have reported increased loneliness and disconnection amongst student populations (Noonoo, 2020). Just like in a face-to-face classroom, students who do not feel connected, are not going to perform well (Blum, 2005).
While I have tried to reflect and adjust as we moved through the second semester, I feel I just did all of those things to a barely adequate level. Taking time to deliberately plan, I hope to focus on all of those areas of growth personally. My strengths were planning engaging asynchronous content and using tech tools to support learning. In my experience with GOA, I had already tried and failed in these areas before, so I felt refined and prepared in these aspects when ISB made the shift online. Looking at the 5C’s of online learning (Clarify, Care, Consolidate, Classroom Management, Collaborate) I know I need to focus on Clarify. In the classroom, it’s much easier to see when a concept doesn’t click for a student: they sit without completing the work, they ask a question, they talk to their neighbor. All of these cues are harder to see in an online world and I think I need to seriously rethink how to best address this issue moving forward. Purposeful and timely feedback, and checks for understanding are always embedded into my courses, but I’m not sure if it’s enough. To address this, I might need to pursue some additional training as well as seek feedback from my students.
Teacher training needs to focus on so many things of high importance as a way to re-tool the way we prepare for the delivery of the curriculum. Horn (2020) noted that the integrity of the system relies on this versatile and forward thinking training to ensure any future disasters or unknowns can be weathered. I believe the best way to do this is to have people on staff who are qualified and will lead the charge, rather than outsourcing professional development or having people just take a third-party online course (ironically enough). Training initiated by teachers on staff will have ongoing support and is more likely to get implemented with high efficacy and success (Chalfant et al., 1979). This approach supports and really necessitates the formation of collaborative teams, which offers teachers an interactive role in the process. Freire (2018) wrote about a transactional model of education we need to move away from, and this coaching/peer leadership model of professional development for online learning moves away from a transactional model. Hopefully this would make it more likely that teachers would follow the same process in their own classrooms. Ideally, I would like to see small teams of people who excel in each C of the 5Cs who we can connect with synchronously for support. OOL pulling and sharing solid exemplars to share out with teachers has been an awesome start.
ISB Online Learning Planner for an IB Psychology cycle in the larger unit on the brain and behavior.
Chalfant, J. C., VanDusen Pysh, M., & Moultrie, R. (1979). Teacher Assistance Teams: A Model for Within-Building Problem Solving. Learning Disability Quarterly, 2(3), 85–96. https://doi.org/10.2307/1511031
Freire, P. (2018). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
In the unexpected move to e-learning sixteen weeks ago, we armed ourselves with resources and protocols to create the best online experience for our students. I spent some time tracing the origins of distance learning this morning in an effort to understand its history and the most interesting spot I landed was on The Society to Encourage Studies at Home. Formed in 1873 by a Boston elite from an academic family, Anna Eliot Ticknor set to building a network of female correspondents who would help educate other women across the country (and later world) through mailed letter exchanges and library loans. A few main points we can learn from this early approach are the need to focus on:
Flexibility in pacing
Building an authentic connection between educator and student
Understanding that teachers are learners too
I cannot recommend the piece by Bergmann (2001) referenced below enough; it is one of the best things I have read this year. Here is a video where I summarize the major focus points of The Society to Encourage Studies at Home:
Bergmann, H. F. (2001). “The Silent University”: The Society to Encourage Studies at Home, 1873-1897. The New England Quarterly, 74(3), 447.https://doi.org/10.2307/3185427
In early November, I shared the results of my student evaluation survey with my class because I wanted them to see the data. We actually turned it into a mini lesson where we talked about data visualization since some of the display options had quite a unique design. I followed up the quantitative feedback with some qualitative probing to target the areas for growth, specifically wanting to learn more about how I could best improve consolidation. My students identified the specific strand about taking time to summarize what we do each day as a point they were unsure about. The general opinion was that in a double block class, so much time goes by and then it’s hard to think back to what we started off doing. While we were still in Beijing, I made immediate changes end class with a summary of what we had achieved, making sure to link directly to the objectives we highlighted hours before to start the class. Additionally, plans were made to use evidence-based strategies such as 3-2-1 Bridge to focus on consolidation.
As Mike Tyson once quipped, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” No sooner had plans been set for second semester implementation than did COVID-19 closures hit. Obviously, the 7C’s don’t become any less important during e-learning, so I set to adapt them in an online setting (special thanks to Stacy Stevens and her email updates which reminded me about this). In addition to including reviews of our learning in regular content Loom videos, I started making a series of class feedback videos (sample below) which focus on correcting common errors while summarizing key details of skills and content that we had learned so far. This in effect, is a form of consolidation for online learning, allow it’s more difficult to connect with the strand as it’s delivered asynchronously.
To make sure I was hitting other strands of consolidation online, I incorporated a lot more discussion posting, where students would reply to the task posted and comment on the work of their classmates. DX is sometimes glitchy, but a great feature that other LMS’s lack is the option to only let students see their classmate’s posts after they post their own response. Using this tool, I was better able to replicate the authenticity of solo reflection on learning similar to a true classroom environment, where a student would not first be influenced by the response of a peer. In psychology class, we had writing reflections on major assessments where students were asked to use rubrics to guide them in identifying “what went well” and the essay would be “even better if.” I believe these two structures allow for reflection on learning with the student at the center of the process.
Unfortunately, there is no second survey coming to see how I did, but I made my own shortly after elearning started; this was one way to ask questions to make sure students are following along in the process. While it didn’t focus specifically on my own points of consolidation, I believe it was using another platform to engage kids to ask them not about WHAT they were learning but about HOW they were learning it. In this manner, I believe I was still focused on the process of consolidation.
Screenshot of Polleverywhere survey made to gauge the student e-learning process.
One point of growth that I struggled with was how to engage students with questions throughout a live Zoom lesson to be sure they are following along and understand. Because of tech issues, poor internet, their microphones not working, and a half-dozen other things, I found this quite difficult to do. Luckily, today I just attended a PD on assessment with Jennifer Wathall who demoed a couple tools I would like to try. Mentimeter is an app for online presentation engagement which can poll students in realtime or even create wordles to analyze clusters and frequencies of responses. While EdPuzzle can be used to do this asynchronously, Mentimeter seems to be a great tool to consolidate learning in a synchronous online environment. So as the year winds down, I will be using it in trial runs so I can use it seamlessly next year to help my continued growth as an educator and enhance learning in an online environment.
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) is way to approach teaching to connect with the classroom learners through their cultures. The theory first took shape under Ladson-Billings (1995) who was quick to note that the ideas represented in the overarching concept of CRP had existed and been written about for years prior. Research intensified and consolidated under a unified concept due to consistent and overwhelming evidence of achievement gaps in US schools (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status were among the demographic markers linked to a disparity in standardized test scores used to compare districts, schools, and individuals. Whether one believes these tests to be actual measures of learning and growth or metrics used to compete for funding, they should still be shocked to see a gap along the lines of cultural identities.
CRP seeks to close that gap using a structural framework which helps teachers focus on five core areas of identity and achievement, equity and excellence, developmental appropriateness, whole child education, and student-teacher relationships (Brown-Jeffy & Cooper, 2011). One of the first steps in working towards a model of CRP is for teachers to reflect on and recognize their own biases which influence their approach to education and impact their students (Young, 2010). Ladson-Billing (1995) did this by assuming the label of “naïve anthropologist” and approaching observations of predominantly African-American classrooms knowing that the cultural backgrounds of students were not ones experienced first-hand by the researcher. Since this naivety is framed as the necessary blank slate starting point, the need for connection dictates that “We can’t teach what we don’t know” (Howard, 2006). One of my favorite teachers in grad school would start off every class going around the room and having students share out quick connections to a topical question and she always book-ended the activity by saying “In order to teach you, I must first know you.” Such a mantra is the essential mindset with CRP, where one must understand the cultural background of learners to best craft an individualized educational experience for each of them.
Challenges of Implementation
If you find yourself reading that line about learning the culture of students to craft an individual culturally relevant curriculum for them and thinking that is overwhelming, you are not alone. With the lack of homogeneity in increasingly diverse classrooms filled with high numbers of students, this is quite a challenge to approach with integrity (Royal & Gibson, 2017). Currently teaching several sections of high schoolers at an international school who identify at third-culture kids in a Chinese context, they flip between culture identities and often feel like they do not belong in any defined category of culture (Cockburn, 2002). I, as the “naïve anthropologist” who lived in white suburban Connecticut for the first twenty-six years of my life, don’t have the background to immediately connect with this struggle. This is diffused cultural identity is also particularly difficult when studying sociocultural psychology where students are asked to examine the influence of culture on their behavior.
Because the International Baccalaureate (2020) defines culture as a relatively large group of people with shared customs, values and beliefs, our point of connection is in our school culture. A beautiful example of this was seen two years ago when a new student was paired up with an upperclassmen to follow around as an onboarding process. The new student suggested they skip an assembly to which the mentor student responded “we don’t do that here.” While this is something that brings a smile to teachers face, it can also be an interaction that ostracizes the new student as they are attempting acculturation. Brown-Jeffy and Cooper (2011) state that culture is what directs of focus of importance in people. If one is to believe Social Identity Theory proposed by Tajfel (1974) who says we categorize groups, identify with ones similar to us, and then look down upon the out groups to improve our self esteem, there is by nature a marginalization that comes from a multicultural dynamic if one is not deliberate in revealing the strengths of the specific groups and cultures.
In review of the literature, it seems to me that some of the most notable benefits of CRP are outcomes of student empowerment and connection. Ladson-Billings (1995) found that African-American students whose teachers followed CRP were engaged in authentic learning experiences and more likely to be independent learners who leveraged their strengths for the benefit of academic and social achievement. This process comes from an educational paradigm that allows students to celebrate their differences. Ladson-Billings (1995) observed this happening in classrooms where students were all expected to be the experts in something. This is a sense of empowerment related to Vygotsky’s (1978) theory of social cognitive learning which relies on scaffolding directed by a more-knowledgeable other. When students realize they can be the more-knowledgeable other, it is empowering. In class, I have tried to use this approach with two examples that can be seen below:
With this, students can say “I’m really good at this thing, and I can show others how to be good at it as well!” Such a sentiment is directly related to the whole child and identity tenets of CRP laid out earlier in this post.
Right now, equity is more on my radar of concerns than usual because of the COVID-19 closures of schools. Besides the equity in access to curriculum and learning that might be varied based on the biases of program not being congruent with the cultural norms and expectations of a student, teaching has totally shifted because of required distance learning making internet access an issue of equity. In the US high rates of absenteeism in online learning is at least partially tied to unequal internet access, with poorer urban areas most likely to have access issues (Goldstein, 2020). This is less of a concern in a relatively well-to-do international community, but the problem still exists in tandem with many other issues of equity.
The effects of family life on learning that happens at home remains unknown. Do some families have the expectations that they eat all meals together and thus a student can’t tend to their work with the same timeliness as another student? Is dad always playing the piano during Zoom calls so the student always turns their audio and video off despite the teacher requiring it?. Does their wifi package have enough bandwidth to support a whole family e-learning? These are just a few examples of CRP questions that I try to ponder in the times of online learning.
Cockburn, L. (2002). Children and Young People Living in Changing Worlds: The Process of Assessing and Understanding the “Third Culture Kid.” School Psychology International, 23(4), 475–485. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034302234008
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Young, E. (2010). Challenges to Conceptualizing and Actualizing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: How Viable Is the Theory in Classroom Practice? Journal of Teacher Education, 61(3), 248–260. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487109359775
After a little bit of searching and seeing that “consolidation” is not used to mean the same thing in education by everyone, I found a couple materials to help me for strategies for consolidation. In brain science, as the picture shows below, this is the process whereby new knowledge becomes deeply engrained, or that short-term memory is transferred into long-term memory. With that concept in mind, it would be inexcusable to not consolidate in a lesson!
Beyond a simple summary at the end of a lesson, or an exit ticket, Tripod has some good links to resources and strategies to work on consolidation which can be found here. One thing that I tried once, but that I and students both liked (I think) was 3-2-1 Bridge. From Project Zero, this Visible Thinking Routine allows students to form connections by activating prior knowledge and then taking a new concept to a new level. Plus, the metaphors are just fun to do! This is something simple I can make sure I do a few times this month and after debriefing with my kids, I will try something new from the list next time.
In looking at 7C student survey data, and comparing to my initial thoughts in Blog Post #1, it turns out I do in fact have a different opinion of my teaching than my students. I had identified “clarity” as my target area for growth, while my survey results tell me that my student have identified “consolidate” as an area for improvement. While the weight of each category is not clear (eg: if students think one more vital than the other), this was my lowest ranked category.
I’m a big fan of the Russian-Reagan proverb, “Trust, but verify.” In research this is known as triangulation and having collected quantitative survey data from a group at large, I would love to have focus group interviews to ask about specific points to better understand perspectives to inform the teaching strategies I can employ so I don’t miss the mark on my student’s needs. This is not because I am upset. On the contrary, I want to be well-informed in designing valid improvements. This holds true even with criteria that I got very positive feedback on as well.
It appears that “confer” and “captivate” are my strengths as an educator, but the extent to which this is true has to be questioned. This data came from a survey that many students finished in just a couple minutes, was responded to in my presence (demand characteristics), and was a small convenience sample (which I got to choose) of my overall student population. This likewise means that I am not jumped for joy at the above graphs which are overwhelmingly green.
For now, I will check in with students to share the data in an un-biased way, and ask some questions that probe deeper to inform my next steps. Assuming the data checks out, I will be prepared to focus my energy and attention fully on “consolidate” and find evidence-based practices to help me best summarize the learning at the end of lessons, asking questions to ensure students are following along, and focusing on the visualization and process of learning.
At this time, I certainly do think I can do better on summarizing learning at the end of lessons. Sometimes an exit ticket is not enough, especially after a 3 hour class such as that from which the above data was drawn. I would like to have my initial focus simply be on recapping the activities and learning before the exit ticket is presented at the end of the class.
I was drawn to a reading a blog post yesterday because the title had the words “blind-spot” in it and I had just done a personality survey where I spent time pondering the weight of blind-spots. The Johari Window is a personality trait reflection the helps one see may aspects of the self they think they are vs. the person others view him as. Designed in the 1950s by two psychologists who cleverly combined their first names (Joseph and Harrington) instead of taking the regular scientific discovery route of hyphenating last names, this assessment asks an individual to choose adjectives that describe them from a set list.
The kicker, however is that you must then ask other people to click through the same adjective list with you in mind. Words then get classified in a box/grid that looks like a window. The Arena is the category of traits everyone can see, they are recognized by the self and another. The Facade is the category of traits only recognized by the individual; no one else corroborated. The Blind-spot is the category of adjectives others identified, but not clicked on by the individual. The Unknown box houses the words no one selected.
I tried to model the process for my class by asking four students to anonymously click through for me. Much to my surprise, I had NOTHING in the arena! This translates to me thinking I’m a totally different person than they think I am. Some teachers might say that makes sense, as they don a different personality at school than outside of school, but I guess I fell into thinking that didn’t apply to me. I then got to thinking if this was a different form of the Dunning-Kruger effect which I reflected on recently.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect illustrated. From procrastination.com
Wondering if I was a phony or if I was just perceived differently by my students than the person I thought I was, I set forth to collect more data! I contacted two colleagues to complete my window; one that knew me well and one that I just met to balance out peer perceptions of my personality. The results gave me another round of self-reflection, which I ultimately believe to be the purpose of this very un-scientific tool. First came the relief that other people see me as reflective and organized and I didn’t have to spiral into an existential crises pondering how those corner-stone traits about myself had been unrecognized by others (but shouldn’t students have recognized them too?). Second came the wondering if I truly was independent or logical if no one else thinks I am. Perhaps in my own mind I’m logical, but not to others. Is logic the sort of thing that only matters when judged externally? More Dunning-Kruger, perhaps.
As part of the process for setting 2019-2020 professional growth goals, teachers were asked to fill out a self-reflection survey. In seven sections that align with the strands of the C7: care, confer, captivate, clarify, consolidate, challenge, classroom management, we were able to note our strengths and areas of growth. Here’s what the form looks like:
Screenshot of reflection survey questions focused on the first strand of the C7: Care
While I question if my self-reflective responses will be the same as my student perceptions, I tentatively identified “clarify” as my focused strand for growth. Ultimately, if students rate that the strongest for me, this might lead me to rethink my goal setting as other strands might demand more immediate focus. Perhaps clarity is something I am just insecure about in my skills, and not an actual shortcoming as assessed by my talented learners. I suppose I will have to wait on further data to find out, but scientific thinking requires slowly narrowing a focus and gathering evidence from multiple perspectives, so here I am at stage one.
For now, I would like to use more visual representations and diagrams to bring tough psychological concepts to life and plan this in advance, which will require me to think on and anticipate student questions and concerns before experiencing new content. Maybe I can work on run-on sentences too…