2020-21 Goals

Hello,

I have recently spent some time looking over my Tripod survey results, and based on student feedback, I need to work on the area of consolidation. In this area, I received a score of 270, which is generally low. I scored a low response for “I learn a lot every day” and “my teacher takes time to summarize what we learn each day” (I received medium for “my teacher asks questions to be sure we are following along”).  It’s not a nice feeling to see this because it really strikes to the heart of what teaching is all about! I spoke with other HS design teachers about this and some of us felt that their responses could be partly explained by the nature of HS design courses – typically students are working on projects, and it isn’t unusual to go a full lesson (or even a sequence of lessons) without having discrete “lessons” once student projects have been established. So where a student might have a lot of new learning at the beginning of a project, they may then feel that they are not acquiring new skills and knowledge as readily once they are working more independently.

So how can teachers of project-based courses such as mine ensure students feel like they are learning all the time and that their learning is summarized each day? I think the answer to this is for me to use COLOs. This is good news because last weekend I finally began my C6 (SIOP) training! 🙂 I have attempted to use COLOs before but it felt inauthentic without having the training. The breakthrough I had while doing the training was that even though people see COLOs as a tool for language learning, they are actually just a great tool for learning. By establishing clear content and language objectives at the beginning of each lesson, I’m not only setting the objectives for the lesson, I’m also creating a point of reflection (aka summary) for the end of the lesson.

Long story short, I’m going to use COLOs from now on.

Below is a summary of the rest of my remaining “Cs”.

Thanks for reading,

Sam

Care: 324 (Medium)
I’m satisfied with this score, but of course, I would like students to think I care about them to a higher level. I wonder if some of this response is due to me still being relatively new to the HS – it will be interesting to see how this score might change next year.

Confer: 348 (High)
I’m happy with this score because for a long time I have tried to encourage students to share their ideas and feedback, in class, DX discussions and blogs.

Captivate: 336 (Medium)
Positive feedback with some room for growth.  Students seem to enjoy the way they learn in my class but I want to do better here!

Clarify: 348 (Medium-High)
I’m happy with this score because I am conscious of how I explain and clarify concepts in class, especially with ESL students. This year I have been more intentional about how I use DX for lessons and assessments, so I wonder how this has affected students’ understanding.

Challenge: 324 (High)
It’s is good to see that students recognize that I want them to try their hardest and they are accountable for their learning.

Class Management: 368 (High)
I’m happy with this score but I also wonder about whether luck and subject area play a role here. Students in my classes are typically selecting the courses because they enjoy design and making. So there is often a level of intrinsic interest they bring with them.

Online Learning Planner

Hi everyone, here is my Online Learning Planner for the first unit of my HS Graphic Design elective. This isn’t a new assessment for this subject, but I have been able to reflect on some of the ways it can be made better. For example by beginning the task with a more in-depth survey or by offering students a broader range of illustration styles/techniques to choose from.

By the end of the 2019-20 academic year, I was satisfied with what my students were able to achieve in my design electives. If you take a look at this post, you’ll see plenty of impressive, creative design work on display.

We are all too aware of the many challenges of teaching & learning remotely – or on campus – under quarantine. It’s been a struggle for everyone to say the least. Some of the main struggles I had last semester are outlined below, along with some of the changes I’ve made.

Student engagement:
Were my lessons clearly presented & inspiring/interesting? Were students given enough opportunity to personalize their responses? How to manage attendance expectations realistically? How to ensure students participated in Zooms? We all know the feeling of planning an online lesson or unit only to be completely underwhelmed by the quality and quantity of student responses. It’s not a good feeling and over time, it really got me down! Yet, as the semester progressed, I was able to connect with other teachers and students going through the same thing and adjust my expectations on myself and my students. I found that by taking an empathetic position and working with counselors and parents, most students were able to lift their efforts where required. Thankfully, most of our students will soon be back on campus, and synchronous lessons should address the concerns around attendance. We have also had an opportunity and support to plan for this semester with quarantine in mind from the beginning.

Captivating content:
In the early stages of last semester, none of us knew how long we would be in lockdown for, and so the expectations on teachers and students were unclear, to begin with. The content I was developing and sharing with my classes was inconsistent and not very well organized. By the later stages of the semester, I was much more organized in DX and intentional about my choice of media. I am also able to offer students a wider scope of design projects to suit their interests, goals, and skills. I still need to work on my video presentation skills!

SEL:
The opportunities for personalization in my design electives are advantageous from an SEL perspective, however, I would like to make a stronger impact at the very beginning of the courses. One way I can do this is to survey students in more detail about their interests, goals, and skills. This will work neatly with my first assessment task – personal portrait and poster.

Anyway, thanks for checking out my post and have a great start to the year!

Sam

End of year reflection

It’s been a strange period working online for the last few months. In some ways, it seems like my previous goals were totally derailed, but in other ways, it has probably been one of the more powerful learning experiences about my own practice and pedagogy altogether.

Care
One of the areas of my performance that I am relatively happy with has been care. I have been mindful to monitor the tone of all of my communications with students (and others) to ensure that care for the person is placed above all else. I have been as flexible and responsive as possible with deadlines, project topics, and all of the creative elements of design learning. In fact, I have tried to position my subjects as a place for self-care by promoting creativity, personalization, and expression.

Captivate/Classroom management
These two cs I am placing together as for me there has been a link. When adapting my courses for eLearning, I was mindful of making the learning engagements as captivating as possible. In the early stages of eLearning, I was extremely aware of the students’ engagement levels, monitoring their views and comments. When engagement seemed low, I would take it on board, try something different, and seek feedback from the students. I became self-conscious about my perception of what engagement should look like and started to feel insecure about what I was doing. Over time, I spoke with more teachers who were experiencing similar levels of engagement, and it became apparent that a lot of us were struggling to captivate and/or be captivated in eLearning – not really a surprise! So, in this area of my teaching, I give myself a “pass”. I have learned a lot about ways to possibly improve this, eg: using dynamic media, showing my face (as much as I can bear it), adding more student voice, to name a few options.

Which brings us to classroom management. Something that became apparent to me early in eLearning was that students were heavily motivated by attendance and grades. If neither attendance nor grades were implicated, it was difficult to elicit a response from more than the most diligent students. As attendance was extremely easy to achieve in the asynchronous model, that factor was removed and from there, the only times I would see strong engagement across the entire class were right before a deadline. There were times in the middle of large projects when I might go several days without a response from students – in spite of me posting daily tasks and prompts (and sometimes pleas). My response to this has been to break down each of my projects into smaller assessments. This has worked well, as the smaller assessments are a great opportunity for formative assessment while keeping the students on track, and the final project deadline/reflection is where the summative assessment occurs.

I have had a little bit to do with some of the school’s eLearning refinement/decision making thus far and am always willing to help in any way I can.

I know the school is looking closely at all of the potential scenarios for the beginning of the year, and I feel extremely supported. It’s great to work at a school with such a strong culture of continual improvement.

Sam

Student Survey Feedback

Having just received data from my first round of student surveys, I am pleased with the students’ perceptions of my teaching. The most interesting aspect has been that my initial concerns about Care have proven unfounded. I was finding it challenging to learn students’ names and was worried they would think I didn’t know them well enough. I am glad that this isn’t the case, and that they do feel cared for as individuals.

One area that I now need to work on is Consolidate. The fascinating thing is, that in my design subjects, students have so many opportunities for personalisation, creativity, and exploration in medium-long term projects that I assumed “consolidation” would occur fairly naturally. As it happens, the assessments I have developed are possibly too open – meaning that with students each working on a unique, individual project, there are not enough common “lessons” for skill-building, theory, etc.  Instead, I have been operating more as a director/coach – conferring with each student/team and guiding them as individuals rather than whole-class teaching. Possibly, this student response could also be because they are conditioned to more traditional styles of teaching, but it is something I will be taking a look at. Some ideas I have to improve this are:

  • Embedding more common assessment tasks into each course
  • Developing a series of “masterclasses” (flipped or in-person)
  • Offering students “out-of-the-box” design projects in case they would prefer more structured projects

From here, I’m going to share my reflections with my class, share my ideas and see what they think.

 

Care & Classroom Management

Although I established some goals during last years’ trial, I have since moved from the ES into the High School and already feel like my priorities have shifted and that I should look at a different set of goals.

After the pre-survey reflection and given the school’s focus on Care, this seems like an appropriate focus. I have always been conscious of creating an environment where students feel safe and supported, but often this is framed through an academic lens. For example, I constantly emphasize the importance of respectful peer feedback and critique in design projects and support students in developing their communication skills. But I think I should make more of an effort to know my students holistically and support them in ways outside of my subject expertise.

Some early ideasI have around this theme are:

  • Inviting students to routinely share their interests, motivations and goals within my subjects and beyond
  • Allowing flexibility for students to explore personalized design projects
  • Developing routines and protocols to check in with students one-to-one

In addition to Care, I also want to make Classroom Management an explicit focus. I think my classroom expectations for respectfulness and productivity are always clear, however, due to the nature of design and creativity, at times it can be difficult to ensure table conversations aren’t hindering student output. Basically, students should be able to work productively and have a quiet conversation simultaneously. To this end, I am going to use various strategies such as dynamic grouping and formative assessment routines to hopefully build a sense shared accountability among my students.

Looking forward to sharing surveys with students and checking in next time.

Sam

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