Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘student learning’

To LESSON PLAN or NOT to LESSON PLAN…that is the question! (the RE-boot)

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 02/07/2013 at 5:51 am

big bad İSTANBUL

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Continuing with my series of 500K bloggery RE-boots here!

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This one was one of my very earliest posts…from all the way back in March 2011. This probably accounts for it being one of the top posts I have ever done…despite the fact that it used very few images and I was still LEARNing how to “highlight” on WordPress.

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Now, I’m not sure…but I think the element of this post that people seem to like is the “personal touch” in the two stories that the post uses.

You decide!

The VERY best TEACHers

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An old friend of mine caught up with me on Facebook the other day. He was a great “natural” when we worked together in Dubai…a few years back – he was a bit of a “maverick”, an architect who taught maths and computing, and enjoyed taking risks.

My kinda teacher…

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In his Facebook message he made a “confession” – in all the time we worked together – he had never prepared a “lesson plan”.

He explained that it was “against his religion” and noted:

I always hated the idea of lesson plans…because lesson plans are about what the teacher wants, not what the students need. Education should always start with students’ learning, not teachers’ teaching.

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I pointed out that lesson plans were actually quite a good idea – if they were LEARNer-centred.

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TEACHing is not LEARNing

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His reply:

Sorry! I assume lesson plans to be TEACHer creatures that often have very little to do with students. I should have been more specific! Yes, ones that focus on students – good!

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3 Lessons (of a TEACHer) Ver 03

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It’s often said that every TEACHer teaches 3 lessons (in every lesson they do);

the lesson you plan to teach (Lesson #1),

the lesson you actually teach (Lesson #2) and

the lesson you wish you had taught (Lesson #3).

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It always made total sense to me that if I wanted to see the difference between these 3 Lessons, I had to have some form of “lesson plan” for the first of these – so I would get better at the second type by reflecting on the third type.

Reflective Savvy (3 slides) Ver 02

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Does that make sense – to YOU, too?

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The problem was, as my friend noted, when I was TRAINed (as a TEACHer) I was asked to jump through all sorts of silly hoops and prepare 3 or 4 page lesson plans for every single “dreaded” observation.

Now, I know this was probably not the intention of my teacher trainers (we wrote on slates in those days and the LEARNing rEvolution hadn’t quite “kicked off) because we spoke about this – a lot!.

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A typical conversation went something like this:

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Tony: Come on, this is just a waste of time – you can’t seriously believe this is going to help me be a better teacher.

Trainer: Look, I know it and you know – but this is what {INSERT name of exam board} want. If you don’t do, they’ll fail you.

Tony: You mean YOU will fail me!

Trainer: YES!…just get through the observation…you can do what you want when you get the bit of paper!

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I actually liked the trainer!

And, did everything she saidespecially the last bit!

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When I started teaching full-time, I quickly realised that it was not what I wanted to do (as a teacher) that was important – it was what I wanted the students to do that really “mattered”!

It also dawned on me (some time after the fact) that everything my trainer had LEARNed me was not that stupid – the one thing on the lesson planning form I had to repeatedly complete in my training emphasised “objectives”.

The problem was that {INSERT name of exam board} defined these as TEACHing objectives”  – notLEARNing outcomes” (I think they may have evolved since then…but then again).

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3 FQs (purpose)

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OK – I had “translated” that to mean purposeand brought it together with the idea of “what will the students be able to do with what they LEARN”.

This focus on “purpose” led me to another discovery – that in every “lesson”, I should have a “big idea” that students would “get” and take away with them.

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It was these three things that always formed the basis of Lesson #1 – the written version.

Rather than writing down every single “step” I was going to do (with “specific timings” and “classroom interaction patterns”), my lesson plans were about the steps the students would take (the “stuff” they would “do”) – and how I would know if the steps students were taking actually helped create LEARNing.

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Engagement Ver 02 (credit)

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This actually meant that Lesson #2 started to get better – I was more relaxed, I didn’t have to keep looking at my notes (written on a slate, of course) and I could focus on “BEing with” my students much more (rather than “TEACHing at” them).

The beauty of this approach meant that I was more willing to focus on Lesson #3 – and got better much faster.

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And, you know what else? 

Observations stopped being so “dreaded”!

LEARNers and non LEARNers (Barber quote) Ver 02

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So, to sum up:

YES, lesson planning is important and useful (when you focus on “purpose”)

YES, lesson plans should be about what the students will do (and what they will be able to do with what they LEARN “with” you)

YES, lesson planning can help you become a better TEACHer

NO, format does not matter – and size certainly doesn’t…

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For those of interested in getting better at planning (and reflecting on) your lessons, why don’t you take a look at one of my libraries:

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Tony’s LESSON PLANNING Library

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To LESSON PLAN or NOT to LESSON PLAN…that is the question! (via allthingslearning)

In Classroom Teaching on 04/09/2011 at 2:20 pm

I was just on Dave Dodgson’s great site – reading about the “hoops” that some schools still make teachers jump through – all in the name of lesson-planning!

It reminded me of a post I did a few months back – so (being the environmentally-friendly guy I have grown to become) I decided to “recycle” it…

When will people learn…it is not the lesson-planning, it is what the kids do that matters!

T..

 

To LESSON PLAN or NOT to LESSON PLAN…that is the question! An old friend of mine caught up with me on Facebook the other day. He was a great “natural” when we worked together in Dubai a few years back – he was a bit of a “maverick”, an architect who taught maths and computing, and enjoyed taking risks. My kinda teacher… In his Facebook message he made a “confession” – in all the time we worked together – he had never prepared a “lesson plan”. He explained that it was “against his religion” and noted: I a … Read More

via allthingslearning

To LESSON PLAN or NOT to LESSON PLAN…that is the question!

In Classroom Teaching on 13/03/2011 at 3:58 pm

3 Lessons (of a TEACHer) Ver 02

8

An old friend of mine caught up with me on Facebook the other day. He was a great “natural” when we worked together in Dubai a few years back – he was a bit of a “maverick”, an architect who taught maths and computing, and enjoyed taking risks.

My kinda teacher…

In his Facebook message he made a “confession” – in all the time we worked together – he had never prepared a “lesson plan”.

He explained that it was “against his religion” and noted:

I always hated the idea of lesson plans…because lesson plans are about what the teacher wants, not what the students need. Education should always start with students’ learning, not teachers’ teaching.

I pointed out that lesson plans were actually quite a good idea – if they were “learner-centred”.

His reply:

Sorry! I assume lesson plans to be teacher creatures that often have very little to do with students. I should have been more specific! Yes, ones that focus on students – good!

It’s often said that every teacher teaches 3 lessons; the lesson you plan to teach (Lesson #1), the lesson you actually teach (Lesson #2) and the lesson you wish you had taught (Lesson #3).

It always made sense to me that if I wanted to “see” the difference between these 3 Lessons, I had to have some form of “lesson plan” for the first of these – so I would get better at the second type by reflecting on the third type.

Does that make sense?

The problem was, as my friend noted, when I was “trained” as a teacher I was asked to jump through all sorts of silly hoops and prepare 3 or 4 page lesson plans for every single “dreaded” observation.

Now, I know this was probably not the intention of my teacher trainers (we wrote on “slates” in those days and the “Learning rEvolution” hadn’t quite “kicked off”) because we spoke about this – a lot!.

A typical conversation went something like this:

Tony: Come on, this is just a waste of time – you can’t seriously believe this is going to help me be a better teacher.

Trainer: Look, I know it and you know – but this is what {INSERT name of exam board} want. If you don’t do, they’ll fail you.

Tony: You mean YOU will fail me!

Trainer: YES!…just get through the observation…you can do what you want when you get the bit of paper!

I actually liked the trainer! And, did everything she said…especially the last bit!

When I started teaching full-time, I quickly realised that it was not what I wanted to do (as a teacher) that was important – it was what I wanted the students to do that really “mattered”!

It also dawned on me (some time after the fact) that everything my trainer had “learned” me was not stupid – the one thing on the lesson planning form I had to repeatedly complete in my training emphasised “objectives”. The problem was that {INSERT name of exam board} defined these as “teaching objectives”  – not “learning outcomes” (I think they may have evolved since then).

OK – I had “translated” that to mean “purpose” and brought it together with the idea of “what will the students be able to do with what they learn”. This focus on “purpose” led me to another discovery – that in every “lesson”, I should have a “big idea” that students would “get” and take away with them.

It was these three things that always formed the basis of Lesson #1 the written version. Rather than writing down every single “step” I was going to do (with “specific timings” and “classroom interaction patterns”), my lesson plans were about the steps the students would do – and how I would know if the steps students were taking actually helped “create learning”.

Engagement Ver 02 (credit)

This actually meant that Lesson #2 started to get better – I was more relaxed, I didn’t have to keep looking at my notes (written on a slate, of course) and I could focus on “being with” my students much more (rather than “teaching at” them).

The beauty of this approach meant that I was more willing to focus on Lesson #3 – and got better much faster.

And, you know what else? Observations stopped being so “dreaded”!

So, to sum up:

YES, lesson planning is important and useful (when you focus on “purpose”)

YES, lesson plans should be about what the students will do (and what they will be able to do with what they learn “with” you)

YES, lesson planning can help you become a better teacher

NO, format does not matter – and size certainly doesn’t…

For those of interested in getting better at planning (and reflecting on) your lessons, why don’t you take a look at one of my “libraries”: Tony’s LESSON PLANNING Library

ASSESSING How We ASSESS Learners (Part One)

In Assessment, Our Schools, Our Universities on 10/03/2011 at 8:25 am


“…we have to see that learning – deep learning, learning that matters, learning that lasts – is not something that teachers do to students or even that students do for themselves. Rather it is the product of action in a context shaped by goals, performance, feedback, time horizon, and community – of all of the principles that define the cognitive economy, acting to create an environment that empowers and engages students.

Tagg, 2003

One of the things I am often asked on my travels around Turkey is:

  • What can we do to improve the way we assess student learning?

I love this question – it shows an “improvement-orientated ethos” and a recognition of just how important assessment is to “learning”. After all, and as Lauren Resnik so powerfully put it, “What you assess is what you get; if you don’t test it you won’t get it.

BUT, I usually answer the question with a question (yes, my “big little girl” always hated this habit of her daddy):

  • What principles are your assessment systems and tools built on?

 

I often get a lot of “blank” looks.

Many respond by talking about reliability, validity or “professional levels of quality”.

To be sure, these are important notions – but my question is digging a little deeper.

As teachers, educators and assessment experts we all discuss “quality issues” in assessment but we forget one thing:

The REAL assessment “experts” are STUDENTS!

All good educators know that assessment is a critical component of any successful learning and teaching experience. They also recognise that assessment is one of the main parts of the “job” of teaching or supporting learning.

Students know MORE!

Students know that it is assessment that mediates all teaching and learning relationships. They know there is nothing more central to the learning experience than assessment.

They know assessment can affect their whole future careers and…lives!

For students, the type of assessment they know is “around the corner” determines:

  • what they define as important;
  • when they tune in and tune out during formal learning opportunities;
  • what they study in their own time and how much they engage with their subject matter;

and,

  • how they come to see themselves as students, graduates and people in later life

In a nutshell, and to borrow the words of John Cowen, “assessment is the engine which drives student learning” – and it determines not only what students learn but how they go about learning it.

If assessment is so important, why are we more interested in issues of reliability and validity than say the guiding principles that help us imagineer the type of assessment systems, protocols and tools that can really make a difference to the way our students learn?

 

The fundamental challenge for our schools, colleges and universities is to stimulate the “right kind of learning” – this challenge brings together our beliefs and assumptions, our purposes and missions, the way we plan – and also highlights the importance of “walking one’s talk”.

Educators have little difficulty in appreciating the power principles in education – guiding and informing practice across the wide spectrum of learning and teaching activities we carry out on a day-to-day basis.

However, as we scan the websites and documentation of our institutions we discover that many schools, colleges and universities do not explicitly state their values and principles on learning – let alone assessment.

Of those that do, sadly, many fail to live in alignment with their espoused principles.

But, there is hope!

Nichols tells us that for principles to be effective, they should capture a “guiding light” (preferably linking explicit assumptions and beliefs to research evidence) and they should be “doable” (so as to guide practitioners towards effective implementation).

So, what are some of the principles that could perhaps act as an effective guiding light?

 

As far back as 1991 (that’s 20 years ago), Chickering & Gamson summarised the “secrets” of good practice in education:

  1. Encourages contacts between students and faculty,
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3. Uses active learning techniques
  4. Gives prompt feedback,
  5. Emphasizes time on task,
  6. Communicates high expectations
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

 

In 1992, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) also developed a set of Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning.

This was heavily influenced by the ideas developed by Alverno College in the 1970s.

The principles developed by AAHE made deeper and more explicit connections between values, the type of learning envisioned and guidance to practitioners as to how to make this happen. The set of nine principles started at the level of values and sought to link the choices higher education institutions make about assessment to the values that these institutions should subscribe to – they are relevant to primary and secondary education as much as they are to tertiary level learning and…

They are classic bedtime (or snowtime) reading:

1)    The assessment of student learning begins with educational values. Assessment is not an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. Its effective practice, then, begins with and enacts a vision of the kinds of learning we most value for students and strive to help them achieve. Educational values should drive not only what we choose to assess but also how we do so. Where questions about educational mission and values are skipped over, assessment threatens to be an exercise in measuring what’s easy, rather than a process of improving what we really care about.

2)    Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time. Learning is a complex process. It entails not only what students know but what they can do with what they know; it involves not only knowledge and abilities but values, attitudes, and habits of mind that affect both academic success and performance beyond the classroom. Assessment should reflect these understandings by employing a diverse array of methods, including those that call for actual performance, using them over time so as to reveal change, growth, and increasing degrees of integration. Such an approach aims for a more complete and accurate picture of learning, and therefore firmer bases for improving our students’ educational experience.

3)    Assessment works best when the programs it seeks to improve have clear, explicitly stated purposes. Assessment is a goal-oriented process. It entails comparing educational performance with educational purposes and expectations – those derived from the institution’s mission, from faculty intentions in program and course design, and from knowledge of students’ own goals. Where program purposes lack specificity or agreement, assessment as a process pushes a campus toward clarity about where to aim and what standards to apply; assessment also prompts attention to where and how program goals will be taught and learned. Clear, shared, implementable goals are the cornerstone for assessment that is focused and useful.

4)    Assessment requires attention to outcomes but also and equally to the experiences that lead to those outcomes. Information about outcomes is of high importance; where students “end up” matters greatly. But to improve outcomes, we need to know about student experience along the way — about the curricula, teaching, and kind of student effort that lead to particular outcomes. Assessment can help us understand which students learn best under what conditions; with such knowledge comes the capacity to improve the whole of their learning.

5)    Assessment works best when it is ongoing not episodic. Assessment is a process whose power is cumulative. Though isolated, “one-shot” assessment can be better than none, improvement is best fostered when assessment entails a linked series of activities undertaken over time. This may mean tracking the process of individual students, or of cohorts of students; it may mean collecting the same examples of student performance or using the same instrument semester after semester. The point is to monitor progress toward intended goals in a spirit of continuous improvement. Along the way, the assessment process itself should be evaluated and refined in light of emerging insights.

6)    Assessment fosters wider improvement when representatives from across the educational community are involved. Student learning is a campus-wide responsibility, and assessment is a way of enacting that responsibility. Thus, while assessment efforts may start small, the aim over time is to involve people from across the educational community. Faculty play an especially important role, but assessment’s questions can’t be fully addressed without participation by student-affairs educators, librarians, administrators, and students. Assessment may also involve individuals from beyond the campus (alumni/ae, trustees, employers) whose experience can enrich the sense of appropriate aims and standards for learning. Thus understood, assessment is not a task for small groups of experts but a collaborative activity; its aim is wider, better informed attention to student learning by all parties with a stake in its improvement.

7)    Assessment makes a difference when it begins with issues of use and illuminates questions that people really care about. Assessment recognizes the value of information in the process of improvement. But to be useful, information must be connected to issues or questions that people really care about. This implies assessment approaches that produce evidence that relevant parties will find credible, suggestive, and applicable to decisions that need to be made. It means thinking in advance about how the information will be used, and by whom. The point of assessment is not to gather data and return “results”; it is a process that starts with the questions of decision-makers, that involves them in the gathering and interpreting of data, and that informs and helps guide continuous improvement.

8)    Assessment is most likely to lead to improvement when it is part of a larger set of conditions that promote change. Assessment alone changes little. Its greatest contribution comes on campuses where the quality of teaching and learning is visibly valued and worked at. On such campuses, the push to improve educational performance is a visible and primary goal of leadership; improving the quality of undergraduate education is central to the institution’s planning, budgeting, and personnel decisions. On such campuses, information about learning outcomes is seen as an integral part of decision making, and avidly sought.

9)    Through assessment, educators meet responsibilities to students and to the public. There is a compelling public stake in education. As educators, we have a responsibility to the publics that support or depend on us to provide information about the ways in which our students meet goals and expectations. But that responsibility goes beyond the reporting of such information; our deeper obligation – to ourselves, our students, and society – is to improve. Those to whom educators are accountable have a corresponding obligation to support such attempts at improvement.

 

Gibbs and Simpson highlighted the practical implications of these principles when they emphasised the conditions that best support student learning:

  • Assessed tasks capture sufficient student time and effort
  • These tasks distribute student effort evenly across topics and weeks
  • These tasks engage students in productive learning activity
  • Assessment communicates clear and high expectations to students

Central to all these principles and recommendations for implementation is the notion of “feedback” – both its quantity and quality. And, the remaining conditions are:

  • Sufficient feedback is provided, frequently enough & in enough detail
  • The feedback is provided quickly enough to be useful to students

And that this feedback is:

  • Focused on learning rather than on marks or the students
  • Linked to the purpose of the assignment and to stated criteria
  • Understandable to students, given their sophistication
  • Received by students and attended to
  • Acted upon by students to improve their work or their learning

 

More recently, the discussions on this line of thinking have been taken to new levels by the REAP Project in Scotland.

The project run by the University of Strathclyde and other REAP Project partners is firmly grounded on more recent research evidence into assessment, best practice in the quality management of assessment systems and the practices that are associated with high levels of student success.

The principles developed by the REAP team renew and expand many of the principles noted above – and do this by asking questions to both teachers and institutions):

1. Help clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, standards).

To what extent do students in your course have opportunities to engage actively with goals, criteria and standards, before, during and after an assessment task?

2. Encourage ‘time and effort’ on challenging learning tasks.

To what extent do your assessment tasks encourage regular study in and out of class and deep rather than surface learning?

3. Deliver high quality feedback information that helps learners self-correct.

What kind of teacher feedback do you provide – in what ways does it help students self-assess and self-correct?

4. Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem.

To what extent do your assessments and feedback processes activate your students’ motivation to learn and be successful?

5. Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning (peer and teacher-student).

What opportunities are there for feedback dialogue (peer and/or tutor-student) around assessment tasks in your course?

6. Facilitate the development of self-assessment and reflection in learning.

To what extent are there formal opportunities for reflection, self-assessment or peer assessment in your course?

7. Give learners choice in assessment – content and processes.

To what extent do students have choice in the topics, methods, criteria, weighting and/or timing of learning and assessment tasks in your course?

8. Involve students in decision-making about assessment policy and practice.

To what extent are your students in your course kept informed or engaged in consultations regarding assessment decisions?

9. Support the development of learning communities.

To what extent do your assessments and feedback processes help support the development of learning communities?

10. Help teachers adapt teaching to student needs.

To what extent do your assessment and feedback processes help inform and shape your teaching?

BUT, the “real elegance” of the REAP model is in the way specific principles have been engineered to “use” assessment as a tool to foster learner independence or learner self-regulation (“empowerment”) or to promote time on task and productive learning (“engagement”) – and draw on technology to make this a reality.

 

The root of the word assessment is from the Latin “assidere”, which means “to sit beside.” As teachers and learners sit and work together, communication about the ongoing learning and teaching naturally occurs.

If we, as educators, want to enhance the learning of our students and capture the full educational benefits of well-designed assessment, we have to reconsider the conventional assumptions about assessment in education – we have to look to the principles that guide us.

Perhaps, it’s time we took some time to look at the principles our institutions “sit beside” – those principles, if chosen well and “lived” will help us “see” what the real assessment experts have known for years.

 

Then, a bit later, we can move onto another question:

What does a [school or] college career made up of high exam scores really tell us about a student’s readiness to put knowledge into practice in creative ways?” (Race and Brown)