Building a vibrant and authentic "Learning Culture" in schools for students and teachers is a complex task. The book: Learning Centered Innovation by Katie Martin, was recommended by my colleague Tina Zita, an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher at the Peel District School Board, to learn about our school board's "Empowering Modern Learner" vision and system initiative. In addition to providing many practical strategies for teachers to "empower" students in our individual classes, the author includes a system-wide and "learning organization" analysis approach to develop recommendations that also highlight the necessity to “empower" teachers if we want an authentic "culture of learning and innovation”.
To support the argument for a more student-led and inquiry-focused model of learning to motivate students to be lifelong learners ready for the challenges of the 21st century, the author references many popular educational and business thinkers currently influencing Ontario educators and our school boards. Educators include George Couros, Will Richardson, John Spencer, A.J. Juliani, John Hattie, Carol Dweck, Dr. Yong Zhao, Dylan Wiliam, Jennifer Gonzales, and Michael Fullan. Business thinkers include Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Steven Covey, Peter Drucker, Dan Pink, and Peter Senge. Although some readers might take issue with the frequent reference to business writers and private U.S. Charter Schools, such as High Tech High, the author’s organizational systems analysis approach highlights many system wide contradictions and the "knowing-doing gap" (P.7) related to empowering teachers, creating a collaborative school culture, and providing meaningful professional development.
The key instructional and assessment strategies and philosophy encouraged throughout the book include project and inquiry-based learning, knowing the learner, 21st century competencies, personalized learning, feedback, and creating a shared understanding of learning goals. Some practical ideas that might benefit or appeal to classroom teachers include: 1) Co-creation of class rules and norms. 2) Evaluation of information from on-line resources. 3) Developing Student Interests and Strengths Inventories (See P. 188, 216, and 313). 4) Explicitly teaching communication and feedback (giving and receiving) skills. 5) Re-framing problems or approaches to solving problems.
Most interestingly, the author provides a clear critique and recommendations related to the larger school system challenges to empowering teachers, as well as students, and to improve overall school cultures. In chapter 4, there is a discussion related to disconnects, or the contradicting reality, related to school boards messaging and vision and teacher buy-in or development of a shared understanding. Students and teachers want to be empowered, but opportunities for autonomy, such as choice and voice, are sometimes limited. In Chapter 8, there is a discussion about the importance of coaching and relationships for staff development and a recommendation to "move beyond one-size-fits-all" training and development. There is a need to change from a culture of compliance to innovation, which applies as much to teachers as students. The author suggests administrators have to go beyond an "open door policy" and actively seek out and connect with staff. In Chapter 9, which is aptly titled "Teachers create what they experience", there is a critique on traditional professional development, which is often designed by someone outside of the school, delivered as an "isolated event", and expected to be implemented even without sufficient understanding or buy-in. The author reminds us that choice and voice and providing authentic experiences to engage are equally important for staff and student learning. Teachers may benefit from personalized learning similar to what is proposed for students. Finally, in Chapter 10, there is a discussion on creating professional learning communities and a culture of psychological safety and structure to promote collaborative learning for teachers.
The key "takeaway" from the book: Learning Centered Innovation is that creating an authentic school culture or “Learning Organization”, as described by the author and Peter Senge, requires a school culture of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." and authentic collaboration among students and teachers.
In the fall of 2016, the OSSTF provincial executive asked members for input for the 2016/17 Annual Action Plan of the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly (AMPA). A proposal that highlighted the issue of members feeling overwhelmed by new and changing Ministry of Education and school board initiatives, who at the same time feel as though they have less say in professional development, followed. While members are encouraged to allow students to lead and personalize their learning, teachers often feel forced to listen to presentations on generic topics that are not of their own choosing and do not meet their unique professional development needs. At AMPA 2016/17, the Annual Action Plan included the sponsoring of the first ResearchEd Conference in Mississauga this past April.
ResearchEd’s motto is “Working Out What Works” and is a grass-roots, teacher-led organization focused on raising educators research literacy. At the ResearchEd Ontario conference, OSSTF members from across the province networked and participated in workshops that explored the research behind ‘what works’ in education. In the conference introduction by ResearchEd co-founder Tom Bennett, members were encouraged to think critically and ask “What is the research?” behind any new educational initiatives and reminded us of the caveat from Dylan Williams, “Everything works somewhere, nothing works everywhere.”. Although there was a healthy skepticism and general debunking of many “good sounding” educational fads or “urban legends”, the focus of the Conference and workshops was to share what has been proven to work in classrooms according to evidence-based research and cognitive science.
Some of the overarching educational “myths” that were challenged included the following assumptions: 1) that the new generation of learners are “digital natives” who are intuitively experts in technology, able to learn independently, and multitask; 2) that students are able to self-manage their learning, based on individual Learning Styles versus strategies related to cognitive abilities, prior knowledge, and subjects; 3) that content knowledge is not as important in the Internet age, where information is easily acquired; 4) that student-led learning replaces teacher-led learning.
In the keynote speech on the first day of the conference, Tom Bennett discussed the increasing challenges related to student behaviour and classroom management. There are often high levels of disturbances (noise and disorder) reported in classrooms around the world, especially when reported by classroom teachers. The result is that many students lose important instructional time because of disturbances or bad behaviour. According to the research summarized by Bennett, effective school cultures require decreased negative behaviour and increased positive behavior. To improve behavior, you have to get in front of the behavior by “building the environment”, or creating a positive class culture (beliefs and values) where students can “flourish”. You have also to be good at responding to the specific misbehaviour. Bennett reminds us that what children see is often more powerful than what you tell them. Do we accept students answering by just calling out? Do you walk by students who are misbehaving in the hall? The most effective classroom management strategies include creating standard class routines, positive social norms, constant behavioural feedback, and positive habits and character. Children must be clear about what is expected of them, and teachers need to help and scaffold that behaviour with them at all times.
There was also push-back from a number of speakers regarding the promotion of generic 21st Century Skills or Global Competencies and self-discovery learning as opposed to the direct instruction of subject content knowledge. Michael 17 Zwaagstra, a high school teacher from Manitoba and author, argues that teaching content and learning subject background knowledge is necessary for students to learn deeply and practice the Global Competencies such as Critical Thinking. He provided research to support his claims that teaching subject content knowledge is essential for reading comprehension, makes critical thinking possible, and empowers students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. He concludes that creative and critical thinking skills are not possible without background knowledge of the subject at hand and that these skills are not easily transferred between disciplines.
Dr Eva Hartell, a STEM classroom teacher from Sweden with a PhD in classroom assessment, shared her research on formative assessment using comparative judgment as a methodology to develop language to describe and understand what is “good work”. Comparative judgment is the process of repeatedly making judgments between pieces of work until a rank order has been established. The process includes teachers or students sharing and articulating the reason behind their ranking. Her research suggested that teachers often have difficulty explaining and student have difficulty understanding the learning criteria and expectations described in rubrics. Therefore, she recommends teachers provide students with examples of work to compare and judge to develop the self-efficacy to create good work.
Many conference speakers warned of over-corrections related to new educational paradigms and were skeptical when teachers are encouraged suddenly to reverse direction. Remembering the caveat from Dylan Wiliam, “Everything works somewhere, nothing works everywhere”, educators were encouraged to embrace an evidence-based research approach when adopting new instructional and assessment strategies and to collaborate, particularly on Twitter (@ researchED1), with other classroom teachers and educational researchers.
Here are some additional books and articles that were recommended by the various conference speakers:
Here are my ten takeaways from the ResearchEd 2018 Toronto Conference based on attending the Friday Keynote by ResearchEd founder Tom Bennett, the Saturday Keynote by Professor Daniel Willingham, five workshops (Paul Bennett, Eva Hartell, Michael Zwaagstra, Eric Kalenze, and Tom Sherrington) and the closing Panel on the Future of Evidence Informed Education.
Why am I posting on my blog after more than a two year break?
This is a two part answer:
Back to my summer PD and preparing for my Workshop Monday. Here is the Differentiated Assessment & Learning Via Blogging Workshop Flyer.
Perhaps you can see it live at a conference some day such as the ASET 2018 Spring Conference , where am am 0/2 two in my recent workshop submissions. Keep trying!
The following are some principles to think about based on my learning at the @BIT2014 Conference.
Here is a copy of the PowerPoint Slides for my BIT2014 Conference presentation on Integrating Technology with Project Based Learning. The session is scheduled for Thursday, November 6 in room 101!
The following are some of the educational and business thinkers mentioned in my presentation on "Leveraging Technology to Enhance Experiential Learning" at the BringIT, Together2 (BIT14) Confrence. The "Lanyrd" Presentation Summary is http://lanyrd.com/2014/ecoo14/sddxxt/
"Anyone in an environment that is not preparing him or her for a tougher future should move out fast” John P. Kotter
Using Twitter to enhance student learning is full of pitfalls, excitement, and learning opportunities.
My first major school project where students used Twitter was with my Grade 12 Management class to organize and promote a Leadership and Technology Conference. The project was an experiential learning project to learn the art, science, and practice of management. Many of the ideas on how to use Twitter for the conference were learned in collaboration with fellow business teacher, @LadyFitzee.
To begin, the class had to create a conference Twitter account (@stltconference) and a conference hashtag (#pcstlt). Students were then encouraged (explicit criteria on instructional rubric) to tweet promotional and educational information prior to and at the conference. During the conference, we had a separate computer and screen display the Twitter conversation using Tweetdeck. In conclusion, the Conference "story" was created using Storify.
Like any class project, many things went awry, some things were great, and I would do many things differently the next time! Here are eight ideas and tips that might be considered to improve the learning experience.
I am a Business and Learning Strategies teacher at Port Credit Secondary School. Member of OSSTF Branch Executive and Communications and Education Services Committees. I also coach Basketball and Badminton and support the Chess and Grade 9 Boys Club.