Encouraging reflective practice…

What’s your current reality? Where would you place yourself on a scale of 1-10? What’s already going well? What might take you up a notch or two? So what?

This is a coaching tool that works from the perspective of appreciative inquiry and encourages a strength based focus. The emphasis is on recognising positives and then deciding on the next step, rather than seeking perfection and feeling inadequate because it’s not achievable. The ‘so that…’ means that the purpose and outcome of the goal have been considered and identified.

How might you utilise this approach as a teacher to encourage self assessment and goal setting in students, perhaps alongside success criteria in the form of ‘I can’ statements?

How might you utilise the approach as a leader, to encourage reflective practice in teachers, perhaps supported by your articulated beliefs about learning?

How might you use the approach as a workshop leader or presenter to encourage participants to reflect and consider action they will take as a result of their learning from your session?

Below are some goals shared during my workshop at the Toddle planning meetup yesterday:

  • ‘I will start with the child before considering last year’s planner, so that we can create more responsive and authentically differentiated units’
  • ‘I will change my plans as students respond so that they can see more of their curiosity represented in learning engagements.’
  • ‘I will use the two questions- What has been revealed? How might we respond? to support greater responsiveness to our students as we plan for our teaching and learning’
  • I will find times in our PLCs for revisiting the unit planner so that reflection is more organic.

It’s an effective model to use with others, but also for personal reflection. What are my strengths? What am I proud of? What is one thing that I might do next? So what?

CONTEMPLATIONS ON COACHING #2

Contemplations on coaching #1

Coaching provides a quiet space to think aloud, without the peripheral noise usually going on in one’s head.

In my up-skilling session with Di, I notice the familiar elements of coaching practice as well as the style and skills of the coach, intertwined with my own reflections about who I am as a person, an educator and a coach. What are my strengths? What am I comfortable with? Where do I want to go? How might I move forward? What might my next steps be?

The parallels in good teaching practice are apparent! A responsive, ‘assessment capable,‘ teacher is essentially a growth coach. They notice, without judgement, what’s been revealed and consider how best to respond in order to support the learner to progress.

A self-determined, ‘assessment capable‘ learner is both a coachee, guided by the thoughtful, intentional questions of the coach/teacher and a self-coach, making agentic decisions that drive their learning forward. What are their strengths? What are they comfortable with? Where do they want to go? How might they move forward? What might their next steps be?

A reflective teacher, ever seeking to develop their practice, might well ask themselves the same questions.

Self study as an appreciative inquiry…

Over coffee with @shazbailey1, we chat about strategies for making the self study process worthwhile. She shares an approach she took with her teachers and, when I ask if I can steal it, she tells me to adapt and improve on it and then blog about it so that she can steal it back. The biography of an idea ūüôā

The enhanced version of the IB Primary Years Program has detailed, well researched articles on all areas of the program, divided into sections: The Learner, Learning and Teaching and The Learning Community. I like the title ‘Principles into Practice’ which fits with our approach to the self study we are currently (perpetually, actually) undertaking. ‘How will we bring the beliefs of the PYP to life?’ rather than ‘How will we ensure we comply with the standards and practices?’

In last night’s session, teachers considered the headings of the sections and talked about which topics they are most familiar with and which they know least about…

Next, they each chose a section to inquire into and spent some time reading the articles and reflecting, individually, in pairs or groups, using a thinking routine adapted from Project Zero.

Connect: What connections can you make to current practice in our school?

Extend: How was your thinking extended? What’s new for you here?

Explore: What might we explore further? (individually and as a school)

The outcome:

  • Productive discussion in mixed groups, across grade levels and specialist areas.
  • Collaborative reflection around big ideas.
  • Collegial sharing and support.
  • A deeper understanding of the principles of the program
  • Documentation of current practice in how we live the PYP.
  • An opportunity to question the way things are.
  • Further ideas for exploration as a school community.
  • Individual goals that teachers will work on.
  • An organic approach to appreciative inquiry.

So simple. So much data for moving forward…

What do you notice about yourself as a teacher?

It’s exciting to see teachers adopting the idea of thoughtfully considered reflective questions for themselves, as well as for the learners, in continued pursuit of the goal of developing the whole child –¬†and the whole teacher! – rather than simply focusing on curriculum content.

If I want the children in my class to be creative, how might I encourage creative experimentation? How will I foster creative thinking and problem solving?

If I want to develop writers who consider audience and purpose in their writing, how will I help them find opportunities to write for an authentic audience?

If I think feedback is an important part of learning, how will I promote the giving and receiving of effective peer feedback?

If I want learners to be empathetic and understand different perspectives, how will I ensure that all points of view are considered to help them develop empathy?

If I want the next generation to make sustainable choices, how will I help them to understand the impact of their choices and to become thoughtful, principled global citizens?

If I want them to care about their environment, how will I foster a genuine sense of shared responsibility?

If I don’t want them to see mistakes as failure, how might I help learners use their struggles to develop resilience?

If I want my students to be positive, active digital citizens, how can I provide authentic contexts to practise digital citizenship? And how will I help them understand that positive active citizenship applies online or off?

In a recent collaborative planning session, while developing the notion of iTime (or Genius Hour) into an opportunity for self reflection and personal growth, the Year 6 team took this type of reflective questioning to another level!

What do I notice about myself as a teacher?

What skills and dispositions do I need to develop as a teacher…?

 

Doing school vs (real) learning…

I love chatting with my colleague¬†about approaches to pedagogy and how to encourage¬†teachers to¬†reflect and grow. This week’s¬†conversation gets us thinking about a shift in focus¬†required for (some) beginning teachers… and some who’re not beginning.

We attempt to define it. Is it a shift in focus from:

  • Teaching to learning?
  • Teacher centred to student centred?
  • Work to learning?
  • Short term to long terms goals?
  • Content to process?
  • All of the above?

How often do you say these sorts of things in your classroom?

  • This is how you need to¬†do the task.
  • Don’t publish till you show¬†me what you have written.
  • Your answer is ok but it’s not the one I’m looking for. (not necessarily¬†in those words)
  • This is how you can improve your work.
  • Don’t move to the next step till I say so.
  • Stop (in the middle of what you’re doing/thinking/learning) and listen to my instructions.
  • I want you to…

Are you depriving your students of opportunities to make decisions and reflect on them, learn from mistakes, become independent learners, think for themselves and… really LEARN?

What are the effects when teachers say things like this? (Observed in class visits this week)

  • What do you think is the best way to go about this? Why do you think so?
  • Create your own experiment, if you think it will be more effective.
  • How would you teach this to students of any age of your choice?
  • It doesn’t matter what I think,¬†what do you think?
  • How and why would you go about developing new vocabulary?¬†(second language)
  • You know more about this than me, what do you suggest?
  • What did you learn about yourself as a learner?

Consider your practice….

Are you providing opportunities for meaningful learning?

Or are you and your students ‘doing school’?

Lauri, Year 3
“Can you go and find some good microscopes for around $100? You know more about these things than me…”

Year 6 PYP exhibition information night
Sharing with parents what we’ve been learning and what we’re interested in exploring.

Year 4 - Adventure Time
Creating emotion balls as part of an ‘Adventure Time‘ exploration of mindfulness

Year 4 Adventure Time
Getting feedback from peers before pitching to the class, rather than just asking the teacher

What kind of teacher would you rather have? (Or be)

A is new to Melbourne, T is new to teaching and they are both new to my school. Neither is new to thinking about learning, which is what makes my introductory session with these passionate young educators so exciting. They both have deep beliefs about how children learn and they seek the best ways to build learning experiences on those foundations. They question existing systems and challenge the status quo of schooling in their quest for the best for all learners.

A visitor from another school, participating in our conversation for a while, told us about a group of willing new teachers at a school where she worked, who always accepted and agreed with everything. She didn’t talk about their practice and perhaps they ‘run lovely classrooms’, but I wonder how great a teacher you can be if you don’t constantly strive to understand how your learners learn, if you never challenge the way things are done, if you fail to question others and the system… and yourself.

In a recent conversation, a friend from another school expressed concern about a new teacher she has been mentoring. This teacher demonstrates passion for teaching and learning. She is a deep thinker, with strong beliefs about learning, who is reluctant to go through the motions of delivering prescribed programs and assessments that she does not believe are purposeful. On the other hand, she has yet to develop skills in classroom management. Her mentor is frustrated by her lack of organisation and attention to classroom behaviours.

I think you can learn classroom management. Can you learn to be passionate about learning if you’re not? Can you learn to care deeply if you don’t? Can you learn to base your practice on beliefs about learning, if you don’t really think about how learning takes place?

What kind of teachers are being trained in our systems? What kind of teacher would you rather have? What kind of teacher would you rather be?

Teacher coaching…

I could write a formal post using fancy language, quoting research about coaching if I wanted to, but I choose not to! (There are plenty of those around, just google.)

After much research, including reading, viewing and valuable conversations with experienced coaches, Joc and I have begun to coach teachers.¬†¬†It’s part of an ever evolving approach to professional learning at our school, which includes teacher choice, a focus on growth rather than judgement and a desire to constantly refine and improve our practice.

The content of coaching sessions is confidential, but we regularly reflect on the process and refine it as we go. Most of the teachers being coached are less concerned than we are about confidentiality. One shares her reflections in a meeting, another talks animatedly in the staffroom and a third is blogging about the experience!

I’ve already learned..

  • to talk less
  • to listen more
  • to craft purposeful questions
  • the value of collaborative¬†reflection
  • to see things through the eyes of the teacher being coached
  • that teachers’ goals shift and grow as they see evidence of change in themselves and their learners
  • the value¬†of protected time for teachers to reflect and talk about their practice
  • that positive relationships contribute to effective coaching
  • that effective coaching builds positive relationships
  • that teachers’ observations of their own practice are even more powerful than observations by others
  • that some teachers are happy to share the process of their growth, not just with other teachers, but with their students too
  • that, even in the early stages, coaching can¬†make a dramatic difference to teaching and learning
  • that instigating change requires trying something¬†different
  • that self-directed learning is the most powerful kind there is
  • the power of using data (about yourself as well as your learners) to inform teaching and learning…

Next steps…

Can we replace the old, evaluative model of teacher appraisal with a growth model, based on the coaching process?

Watch this space…

10 20 ways to think about your class blog…

One of the ways I like to encourage learning based on my school’s¬†learning principles is to promote the use of class blogs. In the lower primary years, the blogs are often used to communicate with parents and to share the learning that takes place at school. As we move higher up in the school though, the class blog has the potential to be so much more than that.

I’ve written about class blogs several times in the past, but my thinking ¬†has changed as I have watched the blogging experience unfold at my school. I have seen even the most motivated teachers become disappointed by the lack of student interest, poor response from parents and the absence of the anticipated authentic audience.

A great post this week by Andrea Hernandez, entitled Where is the Authentic Audience? got me (re) thinking. And another thought-provoking post by Kath Murdoch exploring what inquiry learning is NOT, as a way to understand what it IS, inspired me to consider class blogs in the same way.

I think that a class blog is¬†not (just)…

  • A ¬†place to post questions, worksheet style, with an expectation that all students will respond.
  • A space for teachers ¬†to assess and comment publicly on students’ writing.
  • A sort of online vacuum, into which students’ writing is sucked, never to be seen by anyone.
  • A compulsory homework assignment.
  • Something managed entirely by the teacher, who makes all the decisions as to what will be posted and when.
  • An occasionally used alternative to writing on paper.

(With apologies if you use your blog successfully in some or all of these ways!)

Some questions to consider…

1. Do you teach students how to write meaningful comments that promote conversation?

2. Do you set aside time every day to check  for new comments and  discuss the comments that come in?

3. Do you encourage your students to respond to each other and whoever else comments?

4. Does your blogroll include other class blogs within your own school and are your students actively engaging with these?

5. Do you encourage your students to comment on class blogs at schools in your own and other parts of the world?

6. Have you and your students considered ways to involve their grandparents and retired people they know as a potential audience?

7. Do your students have ownership of the layout and theme of your class blog?

8. Do you frequently discuss the potential  audience and purpose of blog posts?

9. Do you model good writing for your students by blogging yourself? ( A collective in-school blog doesn’t require a great time commitment).

10. Do you regularly read and comment on other teachers’ blogs and discuss your learning with your students?

11. Do you encourage students to take photographs of great learning experiences and share their reflections with the world?

12. Do you have a visitors map or a flag counter and check them every day with your class to see who has visited and where they are in the world?

13. Have you considered a class Twitter account to share learning and tweet your posts to other classes?

14. Have you thought about blogging as authentic writing, rather than another separate thing you have to fit in?

15. Do your students choose where to post their writing and thinking, with the blog as just one option?

16. Have you exposed your students to great blogs (not just class ones) so that they can discover what makes a blog appealing and interesting?

17. Have you helped your students see how blogging is different from other writing? Can they drill down to the essence of something, add images and use  hyperlinks?

18. Do your students see the blog as an additional place to share and provoke thinking, and to make thinking visible?

19. Is your blog a place to continue the learning conversation from school to home and back?

20. Are you working on building a learning community which includes yourself, students, parents and other learners in your school and the world?

Conversations to improve practice…

Guest post by Jocelyn, a Year 6 teacher who¬†invites¬†conversation and listens to her students. She is wondering where she has gone wrong with class blogging…

I am a teacher who thrives on the adrenaline I get from learning so that I can pass this on to my students. I understand the power of collaborative learning and it excites me. I work hard at creating a collaborative learning culture in my room and in the last few years have been passionate about using technology to help me create this culture.

I see our class blog as a collection of our learning and sharing. I also see it as a tool to enable students to gain the understanding of building a digital footprint. It is for this reason that today I got the shock of my life when I initiated a conversation about our blog with my students. We are very active on our blog and it has been puzzling me why it is that the students have not taken more ownership of commenting on each other’s posts. Today I decided to ask them why this is the case and the responses disturbed me to my core. I felt that everything I thought that I was building up in my classroom was not valued by some of the class members at all.

They said things to me like:

I would prefer to write on paper!
When I asked the child how her learning could be shared she just looked at me. I suggested that maybe she could pass her paper to others in the class for commenting and she looked at me in horror.

Comments should only be written by the teacher.
I asked if he thought I knew everything. ‚ÄėNo‚Äô, was the reply. I asked if he felt that his classmates had nothing to offer him‚Ķ

Why can’t people present their learning in front of the class and everyone can comment orally?
‚ÄėWouldn‚Äôt it be boring to listen to and comment on one presentation at a time?‚Äô No reply.

Uploading to the blog makes me feel pressured in terms of time.
This is my fault. I need to allow more time for this.

It took so long to get one of my presentations onto Slide Boom so I could embed it, I had to get help from the ICT teacher.’
I asked if he had learned learn anything from the process. ‚ÄėYes, you are right, I did. Point taken.‚Äô

‘If not for the blog I would not have been able to make connections in the world.
Thank God for her….

Why don’t we just save all our learning to our own accounts only?
‚ÄėIs that the same as saving it on the blog? Who would your audience be?‚Äô ‚ÄėNo, it‚Äôs not really the same‚Ķ‚Äô.

I ended by asking them to write or come and have a conversation with me if they had anything more to add… I have not heard from them.

While trying to recover from this frank discussion I began asking myself where have I gone wrong…

I realise that before these kids came to my class, most of their collaborative experiences on a blog had been limited. I took it for granted that my philosophy would rub off onto them. I might not have been explicit enough at the start of the year. Maybe I needed to build up more ‚Äėculture of learning‚Äô skills.

I was away on leave for a term and while I was away they did not go onto the blog at all.

Last year I had more of a global audience, thanks to the help of a colleague. I have just started on Twitter so I need to get my blog out there myself.

I need help…..