powerful moments in education
Or should I say “favourites”?
The first enjoyable element to notice in November Learning’s Building Learning Communities event is the global sound of accents. Why shouldn’t it be? A community is no longer limited to square miles or zip codes, but rather extended globally- so why shouldn’t our teaching and learning communities be so?
I attended 2 separate sessions today by creative change agents Ewan McIntosh and Tom Barrett of NoTosh, a “global creativity and learning consultancy firm”. Their passion, energy, and creativity shone in each session as engaging individuals- I can only imagine what happens in the collaborative sessions they surely have.
Tom’s session showcased the idea of students owning their own schedules, or “timetables”, planned, reassessed and evaluated each week within the classroom. After plugging in “set in stone” elements of the week, students plugged in their learning goals to areas in their schedules. This all of course comes with very careful planning and coaching, as well as management, but the time this takes surely outweighs the alternate- a 100% schedule set by the teacher/school only. I mean, when are you more motivated? When you can choose a goal, know when you have the time to complete it, and know how to find the resources to reach the finish line. You can read more about this at Ewan’s blog here and here.
“Where have I been?”
I experimented with this a bit this year, and I really do feel I was successful. I began with Literacy, starting with the model of the Daily 5, a model that focuses on student choice of literacy tasks through rounds of mini-lessons, 1:1 conferring, small group work, and independent choice. Later in the year, I extended this to math and started to see how this would shake up my instructional model. My biggest barrier in the day? Legally, Special Education students have certain support units and the first question I get during scheduling every year is, “When are you teaching _______?” This year I am going to find a way to say, “At some point in the day, it will happen. Tell me when you can be here and you can be included!”
As my classroom became more of an open place, the days became full of choice and people frequently commented about how focused and independent each student was. I agreed, and gave all the credit to my brilliant 4th graders, but I also knew that as a teacher, I wasn’t even scratching the surface. How do I accurately guide and assess these students?
This brings me to the second NoTosh fellow and CEO, Ewan. What I loved about this was the use of METAPHOR! I love metaphors. For me, and many learners, they just create a grasp-able picture for a concept. The name of the session was something like, Formative Assessment Rules, Ok? And just like that, I realized that assessment had become the theme of my day.
“Where am I now?”
Ewan McIntosh helped me to realize that yes, I understand formative assessment and am CONSTANTLY altering my teaching for my students! Yay me! BUT- don’t get too excited, Jaclyn, what you are NOT doing is making the reasons for the alterations of your teaching clear to the learner. For instance, I may quickly realize that a student really doesn’t understand how to do an effective search for public domain images. I alter my teaching by teaching this skill on the spot, but what I truly need to do is make it a learning goal for the student. It isn’t about me teaching them JUST in that moment. They will need to create their “own new rules of thumb” to carry on to their next goals. If we hit too many of those walls, then we haven’t carefully mapped out the path to the goal. Lightbulb!
“Where do I want to be?”
I still have a lot of questions to consider and time for experimentation in the year to come, but I know my students will benefit and I need THEM to help me maneuver this path better. Tomorrow I hope to begin to pull together my perceptions of formative assessment, how it leads to summative assessment, and where this fits in the larger picture of a community of learners with unique goals, skill sets, and interests. As stated today at the start of the presentation, teachers have a lot to pay attention to at any given moment. A lot.
This job is hard. And the more best practices I know, the harder it gets! I can see learning goals in the big-picture sense. Now it is time to challenge myself to clearly see the steps along the way to help my students achieve goals as stepping stones to the final product. This is formative assessment.
Looking forward to tomorrow. I mean, who doesn’t love getting up at 5 am for a 2 hour trek on mass transit to arrive at…more learning communities.
*all photos licensed by Creative Commons