As schools in Victoria resume face to face teaching over the next 2 weeks there might be a temptation for a period of testing to see where students are up to, what gaps may have occurred and know what to teach next. While some of this is entirely appropriate I would hasten slowly for a few reasons.
relationships – relationships – relationships. Dare I say it a fourth time. We do not know the effects of remote learning some of which may be positive and we may want to capture those. This is a time for both reflection and reunion.
Connected to the temptation to test or I would suggest over test is the upcoming student mid year reports. I believe parents will be relieved that students are back at school and that a new school normal has been established. Perhaps even a new normal student report?
I would suggest that we need to value the time of remote learning and record some of these achievements in 1/2 year reports. This can be done in simply ways like students learning to remotely connect – using passwords (seesaw, zoom, mathletics etc..), some sites like Mathletics or reading eggs have data on tasks completed and possible outcomes achieved – you may want to continue to use these sites in the classroom as well or for homework.
Finally there may be a need to test for what to teach next – accept that there may be “gaps” in student learning but these may be backfilled by tasks that move students forward. In relation to gaps just how important are these for example: are they connected to the big ideas in Maths or have future skills required. Is the content that critical? Just a question.
My wondering is more connected to the learning pits each child / student experienced and capturing and recording that data.
During this Covid 19 isolation period I have been catching up on my reading and I came across an article in the ASCD Education Update (Oct 2019) titled “Teaching Comes in Seasons”.
The author Chase Mielke talked about the careers of teachers coming in 4 seasons:
Season 1 Culture Shock: the first 3 years of a teachers career filled with idealism yet confronted with pragmatism and amateurism mixed with ambition.
Season 2 Development: now knowing administration trying to figure out not only what to teach but who you are as a teacher – 4th and 5th years
Season 3 Pathfinding: in your sixth+ year and trying to be great at everything and the realisation that you can’t therefore giving yourself permission to find the few things that you want to do well and thereby cultivating your passion.
Season 4 Pace yourself (now in your 10th + year) and now not being immune to burnout having mastered certain elements of teaching conserve energy without sacrificing quality.
Now I like the image of 4 seasons and love the four violin concertos by Vivaldi called the 4 seasons I’m not sure that his seasons matched my career. P.S. You might enjoy listening to Vivaldi as you read on:
Season 1 Culture Shock (as described by Chase) was similar to mine however in the 70’s and 80’s we were encouraged to apply for differing schools which I did (6 schools over 15 years). Every time you went to a different school it was another culture shock for at least 6 – 12 months.
Season 2 for me was was a combination of Chase’s Development and Pathfinding as I decided I needed more professional learning and went back to University. You see, as I discovered my passion, (teaching English well) I embarked on changing my teaching practice, which was a challenge for some colleagues, particularly as I was promoted during this 10 year period to a type of Master Teacher who in-serviced other teachers. Eventually I ended up in a resource centre (a place that held all the “best or most knowledgeable” teachers of English, Maths etc..)
Season 3 didn’t revolve around pacing myself it was the season of school leadership for I first became an Assistant Principal and then over the next 28 years a Principal in 3 different communities. It was a constant series of culture shocks – development and pathfinding – as I sought to find and redefine my leadership with others. Yes I went back to University again and again both here in Australia and overseas in Boston. I never quite got to pacing myself , well perhaps in my last 18 months, which then lead onto
Season 4 transitioning to other work as I retired from the teaching service and took up other leadership and teaching both in Universities (Deakin – teaching training, Harvard – coach accreditation in Data Wise for schools around the world) and in individual schools and networks. This was more my reflective period – listening to others, asking questions and making suggestions based on their data and culture.
My wondering on this analogue of careers over 4 seasons is that do we have more than 4 seasons and are they overlapping. Still it’s an interesting exercise to do. If you feel inclined I’d be interested in hearing about your “seasons”.
I’ve posted these two images from the work of Cass a reading specialist after recent discussions about the growing effects of NAPLAN particularly on writing. It seems the genre we teach is narrowing to narrative (what sort of narrative I ask), persuasive and an occasional non fiction text.
In the interests of perspective here I have included a colleagues of Hattie’s, Peter DeWitt’s column on effect size and several criticisms of Hattie’s work.
In short he suggests using effect size to calculate the effect of your current work before launching off into simply adopting some of his high leverage strategies.
I would add you also need to determine the level of fidelity (implementation level) there is to your current work as well. What everyone seeks, of course is high fidelity / high effect but if you get low effect be sure to check your implementation level first before taking something else on.
In my “using data wisely” work with Principals and teachers I’m sometimes sometimes how to look at a data set and calculate zones of proximal development. This clip featuring Patrick Griffin from Melbourne University I think answers that question.
During May I visited a number of schools and invariably teachers spoke to me about starting their student reports which were due in 4-5 weeks time to parents. It seemed a long time in the prepare phase but then as a retired Principal I knew better.
Lots of questions come to mind when talking about student reports but the one I’m posing is:
Are they worth the cost in their current form?
A brief history for some perspective.
Teachers have produced student reports for over 150 years in Australia. Reports came in many guises, some with just marks expressed as letters (A,B,C,D) or percentages (95%), some with tick the box type comments others with extensive commentary. Reports formats and content varied depending on school type (independent or public schools), from school to school and from teacher to teacher within the same school.
In 2005 the Federal Government mandated a set format for student reports as part of a funding package to schools. There was some evidence that parents in general were dissatisfied with student reports. Some 14 years later are they any better?
A recent article in Teacher Magazine looked at teacher comments and their effects on parent understanding of student progress. While the authors concluded that teacher comments were valuable to parents they left the final opinion to an ACER report due out soon.
My question came after I recent rereading of ‘Meeting Wise‘ a Harvard Press publication. In ‘Meeting Wise’ the authors posed the question about the cost and value of meetings in schools.
Mine is a similar question but on student reports – what’s the cost and are we getting value?
Teachers can be fearful of making a “wrong” judgement in case its questioned by school administration or worse still parents:
One result is that teachers administer additional summative tests near the end of a semester.
The cost of these standardised tests can range from $1 to $9 per test depending upon the school purchasing arrangements and computer network facility (pen/paper costs more than computer generated test). Some State Governments provide free online assessments. Then there’s the teacher time to mark and grade the tests.
So let’s be conservative and say 2 tests per student at $4 a test total $8, teacher grading time at 10 minutes per test times is $18. The summary pre report cost so far is $26 per student report.
Now the teacher time to compile all the data from tests, graded student work samples and notes on learning conversations, time to aggregate and record judgement against curriculum outcomes, and then write comments on performance. For a primary school teacher they generally spent 90 minutes per report which costs about $72.
In lots of primary and secondary schools the principal class officers review and edit student reports for appropriate teacher style and consistency. This on average is about 15 minutes per report which costs about $25 per report.
So the total cost per report about $123. This might not seem unreasonable if we could measure their value in the school and home contexts .
It’s here the waters get muddy.
Before moving away from cost from an industry perspective, schools with 600+ ,as was my last school, the cost per year for student reports would often exceed $145,000. This is a significant sum and similar amounts in school budgets are usually required to be substantiated, evaluated and reported on to school boards.
Teacher Unions for years have been pushing for additional administration time for teachers to amongst other things produce these reports. For a primary teacher with 22.5 hrs contact hours plus non negotiable duties like yard supervision it meant finding an additional 12.5 hrs per week for 4 weeks. As a retired Principal I know we tried to provide some time by having meeting free weeks and provided additional some administrative release time however it was still insufficient. Consequently teachers took the work home to do at night and on weekends.
This is not news for teachers.
Please note that I have not added the additional cost associated with preparing for and attending parent teacher interviews which often follow student reports.
Yet the parent report card on the usefulness of student reports is still out.
If you argue that parents and teachers form a partnership in the education of their children what actions might a parent expect of themselves as a result of reading their child’s report? You might conjecture that the information provided in student reports enables the parent to feel better connected to the school and teacher and that connectedness is an enabler for improved student learning. If so, we could measure that through parent surveys and focus groups. Is this the value we are seeking?
I’m going to suggest there might be an invisible cost to all this time and money going on the current format of student reports, that of student learning.
When teachers are spending all their time over the ‘reporting season’ producing these reports what is happening to their normal duties that include:
attending team meetings to plan a differentiated curriculum
teacher time to prepare lessons that engage and motivate student to learn, inclusive of stated learning intentions and success criteria
time to restore one’s energy so that teachers can calmly support un settled students or resolve behavioural disputes.
My intent is not to castigate teachers but simple to say that something has to give and it’s often the latter generally invisible costs to parents.
What if teachers said out aloud:
I want to inform you of progress and next steps but gradings with all their unintended consequences can so often get in the way of that conversation.
I want to inform you of progress and next steps but writing lengthy slabs of text about 6 months of learning costs me time away form teaching.
I want to inform you of progress and achievement but I want to assess to know what the next steps of learning for your child are, not as summative confirmation to justify a grade.
I want to inform you of progress but not be judged as a person or an failed educator when I let you know your child hits a few road bumps in the journey of learning
I want to inform you of progress on the few key improvement goals we set, not on all the activities involved in learning.
Then perhaps we can have a sensible dialogue, one that doesn’t take away time from the valuable teaching and caring, one that then provides the basis for a short summary of our conversation and not this standardised grade based and I would add consumer orientated view of schooling.
This post is to follow-up our network day on the first 2 steps of Data Wise.
We spoke about answering the WHY question when change is being advocated – as we are about to advocate for change in collaboration in schools and the use of data in a more formative sense to shape our curriculum and instruction. Simon Sinek spoke about the WHY and school leaders indicated a need to view and use his work, hence the clip below:
The second request from the network was to see a Victorian school data inventory and initiative inventory. This is a work in progress so please return to this site in about a week for that artefact.
It’s nearly 5 months into the Australian academic year for our Foundation to Year 2 students and teachers have built Reading Workshops where students build sufficient reading stamina for guided groups to run, where learning intentions are clear and understandable, where schema particularly text to self, text to text connections have been a focus, where predictive skills have been a focus alongside rhyme, letter identification and phonics (initial consonant sounds). So in summary the team has covered a great deal in Reading and now alongside consolidation of current work and continued work now in phonics (complete the 44 sounds, blending and segmenting) it was time to consider what other comprehension skills the data suggested our students needed and inferencing was next.
Narrative stories are the focus of our genre studies and inferring characters’ intentions and feelings seems a natural progression. Fountas and Pinnell in the Year 1 and 2 (p 133) suggest talking about pictures to show an interpretation of a problem can be effective before we talk about characters’ feelings. As students’ progress, they start to discuss evidence to support their inference. Eventually students might be able to infer and talk about characters’ feelings, motives and attribute and the causes for these, perhaps even cause and effect.
I observed a teacher in training recently use this photo to promote student inferencing talk. She scaffolds the students with some sentences starters and got the following:
I can infer that it’s a hot day because the photo shows ice cream has melted.
We may then be ready to use these skills as we model inferencing on picture fiction texts. Two good texts are – but I’m sure my readers can find many others (including fables for years 2-6 which are perfect for inferring the morale of stories).
About 9 months ago I started working as a casual academic for Deakin University, Faculty of Education, in Victoria. Students are placed in schools for at least 80 days, depending upon their course. They work along students and experienced teachers and my role is one of professional support to both student and teacher.
It’s within this role that I began to appreciate that my role is often like a bridge where I connect the University’s course based on answering the why questions of education with the practical how questions in teaching. Of course this is a simple dichotomy that masks the many aspects of learning at university but useful I feel in this context.
So why this post?
Well in the past 9 months similar questions are being raised by “teachers in training” and I thought some useful bridge type links might be useful.
In planning lessons or episodes, as some call them, teachers in training often don’t recognise that it’s when students move from one phase of the lesson to the next (transitions) that learning is affected.
I’ve focused on transitions before primary (mini-lessons) and recency (summaries or reflections) blocks as transitions when not intentionally planned might lead to:
I’ve seen whole groups of students move at once (pictured above) and others in managed groups. I’ve seen some transitions between the mini lesson and the practice task take 15 minutes (is it any wonder why some students forget the instructions) and others take 1 minute.
There is no one way for students to transition – there are many and the reasons vary. But some general tips might be useful.
As an educator, and now consultant, it’s hard not to get excited when you are asked to support a newish school develop its curriculum and pedagogy.
In many ways, it’s like a starting a painting with a blank canvas, or is it?
I was asked by the Principal to support a new independent school, 18 months into its journey, after what has been described by those present as a very rocky start. The staff was “turned over” after the first 12 months with the existing teachers, all graduates, employed in the last 8-12 months. The contracted educational consultant/s to support the teachers have similarly come and gone and the pressure on a new Principal to prove to the community a vibrant and successful school growing.
At this point my painting was rather messy:
What might you do?
For me, flying over to Vietnam on our preplanned holiday, provided the perfect opportunity for some reflection and how I might tackle this opportunity. It didn’t hurt that this reflection occurred whilst soaking up the sun by the pool. I was eager of course to just dive in and not just the pool. Having the time to ponder, now that I’m writing about it, seemed critical. I recall closing my eyes, through my sunglasses, trying to picture the faces of “experts” or key words that I had heard that had meant sense to me. I wrote down some thoughts at odd times (and I do mean odd) during the holiday on serviettes, on menus, on brochures of tours we did. Just before I started at the school I used the world’s favourite research tool to connect the phrases from the menus and brochures and BINGO Michael Fullan’s work appeared.
It wasn’t a total surprise that I remembered some of his messages as I took my leadership team to a 2-day workshop with him and still had some of his notes in my library.
The “Fullan sense” was about conditions you build at times of change. In my own words
1.Love your employees is about focusing on the students, teachers, principal and volunteers in the organization which is what I did by consulting with the teachers on their strengths as the first focus for collective improvement, “Reading”.
I recall some surprise being expressed at the time that we weren’t focusing on what needs to be done (implied our gaps). I suppose teachers seem apprehensive about improvement work when its continuously based, usually by outsiders or experts (read consultants here I suppose), on judgements of weaknesses.
2.Connect Peers with Purpose is about building a team approach. We met as a team to use a common English planning proforma. The proforma, initially developed my myself as the consultant, contained key strategies teachers had discussed (learning intentions), was accomplishable as we only planned 8/10 lessons in a fortnight. We built a sense of camaraderie by sharing the work, having a sense of continuous learning in classrooms as I committed to modelling some lessons or releasing teachers to share a strategy in another’s room. (planning)
3.Capacity building prevails for us initially centered around learning to use a common assessment tool (in Reading) and then plan instructional practices to achieve improved student learning outcomes. We chose what the school had already purchased the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking tool. I started the assessments of students in classroom, where possible, and then under the gradual release model had the teachers complete the assessments.
Now we are at the end of term 3 having committed to further team planning next term for Reading using the dataand some common instructional strategies: guided reading and reciprocal teaching and there is a real sense of shared purpose about our work.
Of course, we have started building the other 3 conditions and there’s learning to share from our planning and use of assessments but that’s another post or two. AND I wonder what the paintings may turn out to be.
How might other consultants start and what change planning would they have used? That’s a question I’d really like some feedback on?
In the talk Dan uses Heifetz, Glashow and Linsky’s need for adaptive change which is about facing the unknown and having to learn new skills to solve, as yet, unanswered questions. He liken’s these inquiries to Dante’s Inferno (pictured below) for it will take courageous curiosity, leaders like Virgil (who helped Dante enter these gates of hell), a little balcony viewing, compassion for our human side and our capacity for error, and generative conversations to see the journey through. Its quite a vivid image – one that might put inquiries off.
When Dante entered the gates of hell he had to survive nine concentric circles of torment. The last circle was treachery or betrayal which unfortunately might be apt for leaders of adaptive change. The constant courageous yet compassionate challenging of often unsubstantiated opinion or deafening silence that define the fight or flight walls built by many mean leaders cannot always see those who conspire against the question or inquiry. So perhaps Dan’s vivid image wasn’t so far off – I wonder?
So as leaders of these adaptive challenges we need to a strong moral purpose to stay the course (a little of Virgil helps). In Dan’s case it was his grandson, who if he posed the question why didn’t you try Dan to change …. that for me he might answer … I tried and these were some of the effects.
To my colleagues in practice who have just completed the Data Wise course at Harvard I have loved your tweets and wish you all hope in your journeys as you take that adaptive change to your communities. To my colleagues here in Australia as you wind up term 2 (and the reporting season) recharge your batteries for the journey is not yet complete.
This is a follow up post number 2 on effective lesson planning. Now that we understand lessons should go differing lengths of time 20 – 40 minutes, what would that look like in one of the timetable blocks of 90-120 minutes.
If we were to focus on one discipline e.g. English within a primary classroom, this is generally taught in the morning blocks in this case either 120 min (block 1) or 90 minutes (block 2).
Hold on I’m presuming that trainee teachers have recognized the many classroom learning environment systems and their expectations and consequences that teachers establish in the first 20 days or so of the school year.
First, it’s important that class teachers have systems in place to start the day. Each teacher organizes this in this own way but what’s important is that it’s done efficiently (within the first 5 minutes at the start of a session – tops). Some teachers have tubs out for students to place their lunch orders, money collection (e.g. for excursions), return their home reading book and note their attendance (some as they enter the classroom).
What I have seen unfortunately is the teacher take 15 minutes or more to call the roll – some chanting or singing rhymes. This is very valuable instruction time and to take 15 minutes or so seems a waste of prime time. Sousa would say that student remember who is present in classroom more than your first learning intention. Anyway, teachers at the end of the session can complete marking the roll (if required manually), entering money into a cash book etc… I know there are special days where rolls have to be taken to the office but surely, we have technology solutions here.
Some teachers have the daily organization written on the whiteboard and have trained students again in the first 20 days of school what’s expected when they see a subject or task on the whiteboard. It’s really important that these routines are practiced early in the school year. It might be they see reading, spelling and writing lessons (their length e.g. 20 minutes or so) and what’s expected to be on the student’s table ready when the instruction period is finished.
I once heard a Math’s educator talk about bird’s eye view of what the table should look like (see drawing below) and had student set their tables up at the start of the lesson or the end of the previous lesson (just before recess). I have used this and thought the mental image a perfect way to communicate to visually dominated young people.
Anyway, allowing for 5 minutes means students are now settled onto the group instructional area with their tables set up. This table set up will really aid transition time during lessons and teachers repeating instructions (a question often raised by trainee teachers).
Of course, there are many more systems in classrooms including: going to the toilet, eating fruit during lessons, classroom monitors who usually take down chairs from tables or switch on computers etc… but the point I’m making is that trainee teachers need to reflect on these for efficiency and what they might replicate or strengthen.
Anyway, to the main point of the post sequencing lessons of differing lengths in the morning period in English.
Here one has to consider that there may be parent helpers in classrooms in the morning and what might they do whilst lessons proceed. Often parents like to help out with hearing students read in which case you might start the day with Reading which may last for 40 minutes. Again, I’ve assumed the parents have completed some school training program that explains school processes and learning organization – if not then its left to the individual teacher to do this in the first 20 days or so of the school year. So, the rostered parents (another system) come in and might for the first 10 – 15 minutes return all the home reading books to the correct tubs, organized the student home reading folders ready to hear student read (a few pages) during the first down time period (where the students are completing a task to reinforce or practice a learning intention). There lots to say about parent helpers here but I’ll leave that to another post. If there are no parent helpers then the teacher has a greater choice in lesson sequencing.
So, the lesson might proceed for the 30-40 minutes (I’ll speak about the lesson in a 3rd post) followed by some transition period usually 3 or so minutes where students might stretch, music is played, a chant is recited etc… and the student then set up for the following lesson (it’s an advantage here to have a system or birds eye view of the table set up so students are then ready for the next lesson). I usually prefer a shorter 20-minute lesson which could be on spelling or vocabulary development followed by another transition. Finally, you might then have a writing lesson for the last 30-40 minutes of the block. In this sequence (Reading, Spelling, Writing) you have covered 3 basic components of the English curriculum in a 90 or 120-minute period you have had 2 transitions (6 minutes) and you have prepared for the next lesson before recess or lunch.
There are several tips here to support the sequencing:
have a class novel or book to read (great if the students are eating before recess or lunch break)
have sent of spelling or vocabulary flash cards (many different games you can play here which counts for a repetition of a previous lesson)
I hope that helps paint a picture of sequencing lessons and transitions in-between. If there are any questions or even issues please respond. The next post is on a specific lesson structure keeping in mind student retention.