Jan Peterson's 2nd grade class says it best with:
As we know, the teacher is one of the most influential factors on student's education. Students learn when the class and school culture is a peaceful and harmonious place. John Hattie calls this the inspirational and passionate teacher pillar (Hattie, 2009).
While we are focusing on high levels of learning, the positive school and class culture is an ever-present necessary and crucial factor. In talking with students, students mostly know they can count on their teacher as that consistent kind human being in their daily lives. Students know they can make a mistake in the process of learning. Students know they are cared for on an emotional and physical level. Students are becoming more clear in their learning. One student said, "I do good in my learning because I have a good teacher".
With the foundation laid (and still nurtured), ensuring one year's academic growth through some high-leverage strategies such as teacher clarity, checks for understanding, and providing effective feedback can take root.
I have had the pleasure to visit all the schools (and many classrooms) this past month and a half.
First let me set the stage by restating our district strategic plan:
The goal: to ensure 1+ year's growth
1.) Teacher clarity = the learning intentions and success criteria with checks for understanding and feedback that deepen the students' clarity and that deepen their learning.
2.) Know thy impact = through the regular monitoring (formally and informally) of student growth and achievement
Why is teacher clarity and knowing one's impact so important? Let's first explore teacher clarity is a high leverage strategy that can double the rate of learning with a .72 effect size. Furthermore, teacher clarity is the springboard for all other high-leverage strategies to work well. Let's take a closer look:
Questioning and discussions is a strategy that can yield a .62 effect size. (.4 ES is the hinge point representing 1 year's growth for one year of school). This strategy greatly impacts learning but only when the discussions and questions are tied to the intended learning and the criterion for success.
Formative assessment: Another high leverage strategy. It greatly impacts learning but only after staff and students can appropriately assess progress with comes in knowing the intended learning and knowing the expected learning outcomes (success criteria).
Effective feedback: Another high leverage strategy. It greatly impacts learning but only after staff and students learned give specific feedback/comments in relation to the intended learning and in relation to the expected learning (success criteria).
Now let's examine "know thy impact". We cannot only adopt current research regarding what works best in education and hope then for the best during the school year. Even with a viable strategic plan built around the most current literature, we must also regularly and routinely gather our own evidence/data to really know the effects of instructional practices and instructional programs.
Based on our effect/impact, that is seen through the progress of student learning and thinking, we can respond to the evidence, and take the necessary action. I will further explain how we can respond and plan for action through collaboration after I stop here to highlight the learning and the instruction witnessed this past month as I visited various schools and classrooms.
Many classroom walls screamed the intended learning and the success criteria for success as seen on the left.
In addition, I spoke with students about their clarity and about the depth of their learning
Here is a high school sample conversation:
What are you learning? "I am learning to solve and graph linear equations".
How are you going/doing?" I am doing good".
How do you know? "I can check the accuracy of my line graph using the calculator".
Where to next? He was mot sure as most students are not sure just yet.
I further pursued the student's depth of understanding around linear equations. He was able to identify the slope and the y-intercept. He was able to convert the equation into the y = mx+b standard. He was able to find coordinates to graph in the line in more than one way. He was able to self-assess his progress using the math tools provided.
Here is an elementary conversation:
What are you learning? "I am leaning the letter O and the short sound O makes".
Can you read these words with the letter O and the short sound? She proceeded to read a row of words, and read them accurately.
How are you doing? " I am doing good".
How do you know? "I was able to write the words correctly and I was able to read the words correctly".
Where to next? "We will read a story and find more words with the letter O and the short sound O".
In pursing the student's depth of learning, I continued to watch her and a few other students point to words in the story with this letter and sound. I continued to listen to the students accurately read these words in their story - "the fox and the dog".
The student and I also used her list of words with the letter O and the short sound O to create a story.
Bob found a dog. The day was hot. Then came a fox. The dog chased the fox.
And a few highlights around the growth of our language learners:
1. Cristo Almonte spoke no English 2 years ago and he just got 100% on his spelling assessment that includes blends, digraphs, and long vowel patterns!
2. Gerardo Cardenas spoke no English 2 years ago and he just said the very complete and funny sentence, "My favorite animal is a dolphin because sometimes they give you free rides."
Above are just a few examples of the clarity around student learning; the depth in their learning; and the emphasis on math literacy and literacy. I understand there are many more celebrations of visible learning and visible instruction daily! Continue to recognize the student successes caused by your knowledge, your attitude, your instruction.
Here is some culminating information regarding class visits:
Number and percent of classrooms in which students knew what they were learning
Number and percent of classrooms in which students knew how they were doing in their learning?
Number and percent of classrooms in which students knew what or where next?
Number and percent of classrooms in which the instructional time was literacy based = reading, writing, talking at grade level
Number and percent of classrooms in which clarity, checks for understanding and feedback/comments was adding depth to the learning
15/21 or 71%
13/21 or 62%
5/21 or 22%
15/21 or 71%
5/21 or 22%
As Michael Fullan explains, the attainment of an organization's goal requires growth and improvement from everybody in the whole system (Fullan, 2010).
"Instead of focus on: what students cant do, what teacher won't do, and what administrators didn't do, let's focus on what we can accomplish together" (@lisa_westman, 2017).
Let me transition to the administrators and our high leverage focus area to ensure one year's growth for students, staff, and for ourselves. Some leadership practices that can cause substantial student learning (that are over the .4-hinge point) are:
* Visible with class observations and feedback
* Set clear, high academic/learning goals and expectations
* Know thy impact- interpret data with staff/monitor progress regularly – formally and informally – short intervals and longer more cumulative intervals
* Participate and lead professional development which includes collaboration
* Focus on learning – focus on students
While you will recognize your administrator entrenched in many of this high impact practices, we also collectively chose to focus on being visible in the classroom, purposefully observing classrooms looking for teacher clarity, and then giving effective feedback and appropriate support. Each month we bring evidence to the table and collaborate around the impact of teacher clarity on student learning, as well as discover/deepen our own understanding around teacher clarity and the depth of student learning. In analyzing the data, we then look to respond accordingly. Usually the next steps involve a way to support the growth of us as instructional leaders and a way to support the growth of the staff. For example, in developing staff, a next step was to provide a workshop during site collaboration around writing learning intentions and success criteria. In developing ourselves as observers and as instructional leaders, a next step was to read more on teacher clarity.
I said I would return to collaboration as a way to analyze our impact and plan for action in response to the data. First let me start by saying, collaboration is a high-leverage strategy that can have a substantial impact on student learning. Collaboration is also a vehicle of support in further developing our craft as professionals. High impact collaboration means people are focused on student learning and quality instruction, using one's own action research and current research as the center of analyzing impact and planning viable next steps.
On 9-28-2017 from 1:30 - 3:00, Konocti staff, K -12 talked student learning and high leverage instructional strategies with our own action research (and knowledge of current research) as the center. Staff identified strategies that were causing learning and well-being. For example, students responded to the error analysis strategy in both their desire to want to and their skill to be able to solve future math problems. Students responded to the modeled example for success in knowing what to do and how to complete the task. As a result, students wrote the a quality short answer response that was rich in content and understanding. Students set their own goals around reading. In this goal setting, self -monitoring, students showed over one year's growth in reading. What a great feeling for everyone.
In conjunction with these academic successes, staff realized they also faced many of the same dilemmas around ways to best support some of struggling students. During collaboration, staff could take advantage of the collective expertise in brainstorming a list of high-leverage strategies as possible next steps. The rich conversation allowed staff to stop and recognize their visible instruction based on the visible learning by students. The rich collaborative conversation also allowed staff to remember or gain new ideas that might just work to reach some of the struggling students.
DuFour compares a well-led school or district with a first-rate symphony orchestra. The conductor wants each violinist to improve, but developing those skills will not result in a great orchestra. The conductor also has to get each section of the orchestra working together as a section – and help each musician and each section to hear the music in the same way and have a shared sense of what they are trying to accomplish with each piece of music they play (DuFour).
Konocti sees each student growing 1+ in their academics, particularly in their reading. Konocti works together regularly to analyze data, and make next steps in supporting the growth of our own craft as well as in supporting the academic success in all students.