Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What is a reading list without Hattie?

How could I forget John Hattie?  While reading his tome, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, I uncovered many lines worth highlighting, but since I borrowed the book, I refrained! 
"The greater the challenge, the higher the probability that one seeks and needs feedback, but the more important it is that there is a teacher to provide feedback and to ensure that the learner is on the right path to successfully meeting the challenges."
But I could not skip that one above from page 24 discussing learners and teachers.
During classroom walk-thoughs this year, I noticed many situations warranting and receiving feedback!  (Great job teachers of WMS)  According to Hattie, appropriate feedback is a major contributor to student growth! (0.73)  It also builds esteem, confidence and tents to recalibrate the locus of control back to within the students.  Students begin to take ownership and responsibility for their learning.

After getting preliminary MAP data, everything is viewed through the successes and challenges faced during last year’s efforts and reporting.  Working through Hattie's first 3 chapters has both confirmed a few things but energized me for the upcoming year. 

Pushing and prodding, extolling and encouraging while listening and observing to grow and progress in student terms of success in achievement.
Whats next? What is going to change?  What will be different?  I have some ideas but together, we work to build effectively, efficiently and around students needs using research based activities!
 John Hattie
Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What is on your reading list this summer?

Get to Know You Questions:

What is your favorite meal?
What is your favorite movie and why?
So what is your sign?
So, how about those (insert the name of the local team here)?
What is the last book you read?
How about the weather?
What do you like to do in your free time?

Questions: These are all questions people ask each other as they get to know each other.  The questions lead to other conversations and topics of interest.  The direction either endorses the continuing of a relationship or the determination that this might not be a relationship heading in a common direction or along an compatible journey.

Social fluency: One of those questions people often ask as they get to know each other addresses reading habits: How much, What genre?, Favorite authors? or style? and latest? or current read?  The answers to these questions help each party identify common interests, beliefs or strongly held opinions about the other.

For instance, in an effort to introduce myself, and in case others were interested, I began to compile a list of my summer reading.  It began as a short list but evolved into a few other books that have made an impact on my philosophy of education.  Interestingly, this selection even includes a couple of ebooks!

Drive, Daniel Pink
Leaders of Learning, Rick Dufour
Engaging Teachers in Classroom Walkthroughs,  Kachur, Stout, Edwards
Never Work Harder Than Your Students,   Robyn Jackson
Outliers, Malcom Gladwell
The Taming of the Crew,  Brian Mendler
Shopclass as Soulcraft,  Matthew Crawford
Oh, The Places You'll Go,  Dr Suess
Understanding a Framework of Poverty,  Ruby Payne
Lessons from the Classroom,  Hal Urban
What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most,  Todd Whitaker
Conative Connection

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pop Quiz: Rank these according to Hattie Research?

Below, the morning sun is trying to shine its light through the distractions of the trees and branches.  Sort of like our best practices try and rise to the surface to displace less effective teaching actions.  The light overcomes the darkness.
Sunrise, July 16th, 2013
For instance, lets take a look at this Pop Quiz:   Rank these following terms from greatest impact on student learning to least:

a.       Summer School

b.      Peer influences

c.       Classroom Behavior

d.      Socio-Economic Status
A. Here we have an instance where we can probably eliminate the lowest one.  Summer School is scored with 0.23.  This implies the effect is slight.  Those activities scoring below a 0.2 have little effect and too low (below 0.0) actually have negative effect.
The typical or regular classroom, if there is such a thing, scores at about a 0.4.  This implies activities above that score are better than average.  The other three choices in our Pop Quiz all fair better than the 0.4 cutoff.
B. Peer influence submits a score of 0.53, implying a pretty good positive effect on students achievement levels.

There were 138 parameters in this 15 year long study.  Over 200 million students were assessed in over 50,000 different studies regarding impact and effect of these various parameters.  Our Pop Quiz only address four.
D. Closely scored at 0.57 is Socio-economic status.  Yes poverty does have an impact on students success, but with proper PD, faculties are able to adjust and compensate for these challenges.

With all these variables addressed, we would be poor stewards indeed if we failed to examine the implications on teaching, classrooms and true "best-practices."
C.  Finally,  of these four characteristic and parameters, the one with the greatest impact on student learning is actually classroom behavior.  It seems a secure environment where there are boundaries, limits and a sense of connection actually encourages students to take educational risks and try.  This seems especially true when considering the converse:  In a chaotic environment, students may not want to risk failure.
The ranking according to Hattie, from most impact to least,   C, D, B and A.  Well done to those who figured it out!

What does this mean for us?  Maybe we should invest more time in working at effective practices and less time in easy or practices that have less impact!

Credit to:
John Hattie:   http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/
Summer School, Peer Influence, Classroom Behavior, Socio-Economic Status

Monday, July 15, 2013

Q: What are the most important things to do in a classroom?

This sunset pic was taken at Tan-Tara, Lake Ozark Missouri.

 A:  Ask John Hattie
What were we doing at Lake Ozark?  Training, of course!
All these meetings and training?  Do they really impact student learning?*  Do our efforts as educators actually impact student learning?  If so, can we determine how effective or measure the impact of what we do?  What about the effect of teaching activities on the students in our classes?  What about home life, poverty or even summer vacation?  Do these impact learning? (It sure seems like a lot of questions but hopefully, they are worth asking.)
Can we isolate the most effective things to do in the classroom as well as the least effective things?  John Hattie says we can!  He measures and quantifies many school functions, rating and assigning a score to each. This 15 year study was completed a published in 2009
For instance, how does cooperative learning compare to inquiry based teaching?  He scores cooperative learning a 0.41 yet inquiry based teaching at 0.31.  Many parameters (138 total) of our favorites are scored and sorted and the results are surprising!  Especially the summary impact to describe what and how we should make adjustments.
Ranking above a 0.4  Better than average
Ranking below a 0.4  Mediocre at best
Rankings below a 0.2  Little to negative effect on students achievement
Consider what this means.  A few minor adjustments and a teacher's influence can climb from a mediocre 0.17 to an influential 0.60.  Jump to here for a good review an application for teachers.  Don't take their word for it and run a google search and see all the results.
Any thoughts or feedback?  Does it align?  Does it make sense?  How close are we to being effective or just coasting or getting by?  What adjustments can we make directly?  How do these things effect our students?  Is it worth the investment to consider the data?
*Professional Development for Teachers  (Hattie Score: PD = 0.62, putting it in the top 20 of 138)
Visible Learning Laboratories
University of Auckland 
Visible Learning  on Twitter @VisibleLearning

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dark Sarcasm? Is there any other kind?

Who wrote, "No dark sarcasm in the classroom..."

This morning, the field was full of the round bales.  I went back to get some additional photographs and they were all gone the next day!  Timing is everything.
At school there is nothing like the first day of school.  New notebooks, new classes, new procedures and the hope* for success.  With all these important variables to cover the first few days of school, what is most important?  Is there a single component?  Curriculum, rules, expectations, procedures, content, establishing norms?  How about getting to know each other?
In the middle school, where social connections are so important, why would it be so valuable to address the relationship side of academics?
Let's consider the middle school student, so different from day to day, hour by hour and even within an hour.  We see them up and down as they learn to manage their thoughts, emotions and feelings.  We also see them with best friends and sworn enemies yet even those change and evolve over time.  It seems like the connections students form are dynamic and ever changing.  This fluid ebb and flow of relational energy is often the basis for other issues, such as bullying, abuse and even assaults.  Students ganging up on others, picking on some and using relationships as weapons of power.
Hint, suggestion, idea:
What if we spent time building these connections deliberately?  What if we established connections in our classrooms that would tear down those walls and allow students to get to know more about each other?  What if in our job as teachers, we built an environment where students were nice to each other, used manners, proper language and no sarcasm?   That would be our role as leader!  Often times, students come to us lacking many social graces.  Just as we may not always know what fork to use, they may not know what tone or expression to use!  Therefore part of our responsibility may be to teach those social graces or manners. 
Definition:  Manners - Making others comfortable!
As teachers, it is our job and privilege to help prepare the future by helping students establish a set of ground rules for professionalism.  We must teach them content, but often we must prepare the setting for the content.  We must help them learn to learn.    If we help them get to know each other, we help them combat bullying.  Hal Urban even suggests we invest time during our school year to help them get to know each other.  He speaks of his assignment that requires every student to get 5 facts from every other student in his class!  Wonderful.  What a great way to break down walls, build connecdtions and reduce the motivation behind bullying.
To address bullying:
establish connections, front load relationships and help students get to know each other, cooperate and find the commonalilty at the very beginning.  Will this eliminate all bullying?  Probably not but it will create a safe environment where students feel valued, worthwhile and esteemed by both the teacher and classmates.
*Good discipline does not diminish hope.

Who wrote, "No dark sarcasm in the classroom... teacher, leave those kids alone."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

After vacation???

Great place to visit but who would want to live here?

Live in the city, vacation in the country.
Live in the country, vacation in the city?

The thing about vacation destinations everywhere is the solitude, beauty and removal of all the distractions of "work" life.  Of course, everyone else is there as a seasonal visitor as well.  There is plenty of traffic during rush hours.  But it is still seasonal. It is not permanent.  The mountains.  Lakes. Beaches. Tourist "Traps" all have attractive features, great photo and adventure opportunities but atypical full time employment opportunities.  Typical business is tourist centered, therefore cyclical and often temporary.  After pondering a life style at a vacation destination, take extra time to self-reflect, help advance yourself and make yourself a better person...  then prepare to take care of others.  Consider annual goals.  Consider adjustments with the students in mind.  Consider adjustments personally. 
Annual Goals
For instance, every year, a few of us consider our annual goals.  We break them into categories and how they fit in our current settings.  We quantify them, attach rubrics and use data to establish desired outcomes.  At the end of the period, we examine, adjust and celebrate the successes.  Is it scientific or just helping steer our vision and direction?
Professional Goals
Some of our professional goals are established for us.  We must continue with training or education.  To ensure development and high standards, ongoing exposure to current thought and trends as a profession evolves.  Yet our own goals often are the ones we address.  When these goals overlap, our own and the ones mandated, the students will benefit.
Personal Goals
Goals that have little do do with our profession but often motivate us in our profession are often the first sacrificed.  Shifting priorities to balance both a personal and professional life is often the solution to career burn-out on one hand and relationship issues on the other. "all work and no play..."
Student/Classroom Goals
Finally, classroom norms, student behaviors, and how students engage in class is always at the front of every teachers mind.  Even during vacation, a teacher considers using everything as a learning lesson.  One of my favorite stories was about a teacher that went to the beach and brought back a small rock for each student.  Upon her return, she made a big deal and gave a rock to each student while affirming that student in front of the entire class.  Nothing too big but a paragraph about each person!  Amazingly, the students all listened to hear what she would say about even "Johnie."  But she found and spoke positive truth into his life, in front of everyone.  This solidified the impact and influence she had on all her students!  They really believed she liked them!  She believed it too!
Write some goals.  Some personal, professional and student centered goals.  Make them as detailed as necessary for personal peace.  Share them with another and post them.  Even ask for feedback.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What to do at the beginning of school year?

They say "rules are meant to be broken..."

When riding a bike we learn a few things. First, we learn how to ride. Then, we learn where to ride!
Education is to "make men both smart and good." Aristotle 
    It is far too dangerous to learn to ride a bike on a busy street.  Many of us learned to ride on an empty parking lot, up at a school parking lot or a quiet cul-de-sac.  After we had the basics down, we were ready to learn the "rules of the road."  It was the procedure of riding a bike that we learned first. Then we learned how to ride on the street.  Watch out for cars was something we did normally but riding in traffic took attention to detail.  We learned both the procedures and rules together.

     Similarly at school, there are things in class that we must do to successfully operate like procedures and routines in classroom.  There are also expectations and rules that we choose to abide by to ensure success and civility. Foundational to success are clearly establishing these components together as a group or class.  Stories that illustrate their applications are effective at instilling these characteristics for each class.  Addressing these very early in the school year establishes working relationships, connections of trust and a high standards.

     Let me illustrate with a story about us loading up a bunch of high school students, traveling 4 hours on a school day to attend Six Flags over St Louis.  We had to leave at 5am to arrive at the park when it opened at 9am.  This trip was the culmination of a year of struggle and stress through the At-Risk math classes I was teaching. All my students were invited and about half paid the admission fee to attend.  Other colleagues mentioned my trip roster looked like I was taking "ISS on the road!" since most of those students had spent at least a day in In School Suspension. On the big day, I'd show up at 4:50am, asked for a volunteer to help load a few items onto the bus and everyone wanted to participate in loading.  Anyone of those students would do anything in their power to accommodate my request.  Not because I had power over their grade but because I had a relationship with them.  They did not care how much I knew but could see how much I cared and wanted to help.  Interestingly, only my current students were allowed to attend.  Friends of students were not allowed simply because they did not have the connection or trust necessary to work in this type environment where procedures were established and freedoms were imparted with appropriate responsibility.  In class, we had procedures for everything from passing in and passing out papers to speaking.  Of course the students expected procedures from traveling 250 miles across the state!  These trips were always incident free!  These trips were fun but these trips were front loaded and preparations made ahead of time.

Idea/Hint/Optional Suggestion:
     This year consider spending a bit more time on procedures early in the year.  Even if it seems artificial and contrived, students appreciate the attention to the detail.  Work with students to determine the best way to do things in the classroom.  Discuss how you might attend to daily events such as attendance, seating charts, addressing each other and other vital details that establish a safe environment where students feel comfortable taking those educational risks necessary to learn.  Don't forgo content but don't expect to accomplish too much.  A pretest or student data sheet, survey or something to send home and bring back along withe the syllabus may be sufficient the first day.

     The curriculum and rules will always be there.  Scores will always need to go higher!   Expectations will always look about the same.   They will have components of treating self, others and things but often times, the memorable teachers have good procedures.  Everyone knows it is important to talk nice to others, but not everyone knows how to request to use the restroom.  Take a bit more time early and make up plans on how to address the details. Then watch to climate of the classroom shift to tasks, goals and accomplishments.  Students may even surprise us!

Rules are made to be broken...

...but procedures are to be followed!

Special credit and thanks to many professionals like Harry Wong and Hal Urban for articulating similar ideas in their works.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A student sitting quietly is???

...Complacent, compliant, engaged, quiet, bored, afraid, thinking or learning?
this thistle is the Scottish flower...
From a distance, the flower has great color, shape and form.  Up close, we see thorns and tangles.
Our students sitting quietly at their desks may not really be the best way for them to learn, although it looks good from a distance!
Last week we asked the best three things about teaching.  Here are a couple of responses:
The best three things about teaching are?
1.  Something new each day
2.  The challenge of reaching "those" kids
3.  Taught me how to be a parent.
Sent from my iPhone
The best three things about teaching are?
1. Building relationships w/ kids
2. Watching kids exceed their expectations
3. #1

And another thought: If you want something you've never had, you'll have to do something you've done...