This year’s goals are a bit different to last year’s – and I like it. The word from above was that we are to have four goals for the year, all essentially linked to the school’s strategic plan and mission. They are to be SMART goals and should form the basis of professional development and reflection in the year. Crucially they are to be formative – a chance to identify areas for improvement and take action, without worrying about being formally evaluated on them.
Goal 1: Student Learning Goal
This goal is intended to be data-driven and preferably team-based. For many teachers this represents a first step on the path to using the school a context for action-research and forming professional learning communities, and I think it will facilitate some discussions and actions that might not have happened before.
As a Science department, we have chosen to work together on MYP Science Criterion E: Data Processing, which can present significant challenges for some students, yet which will remain mostly intact in the move to the Next Chapter.
Our first thoughts were to analyse last year’s data (which we did), then set a target level to improve by the end of the year. As scientists, though, we quickly got over the idea as being a bit arbitrary and realised that we need to set a really accurate set of expectations and a baseline for data to build on the following year. We need to control the variables!
So: by the end of this year, we aim to build a transparent set of student outcome descriptors (task-specific clarifications), exemplars and resources for the criterion at each level (MYP1, 3 and 5), and to improve our standards of internal moderation.
This is going to be a fun project, with a solid, useful outcome that should help align skills, expectations and standards through 6-10. Bring it on!
Goal 2: Professional Growth Goal
This goal is supposed to be based on student feedback from 2011-12 and the school’s Inspired Employee rubric. I was pretty happy with the feedback from students last year, and although there are areas to grow, I felt that most could be achieved with simple steps (instantly actionable, rather than year-long goals). The one that stands out to me is the statement “My teacher inspires me“. The results were divided – I was a new teacher with ways of doing things that many students were not used to.
Exactly how do you measure inspiration, anyway?
This will be a challenge – something worth spending the academic year thinking about.
I will use this opportunity to explore the idea of measuring the abstract and to sniff out other teachers who have chosen ‘inspiration’ as their goal. I would love to form an inspiration team: ‘inspires’ is the first verb of our mission statement, so how are we going to measure it? How are we going to improve it? What do we really mean by inspiration in our context?
Goal 3: Differentiation Goal
After some great sessions with Sandra Page (blogged here), we have each set personalised differentiation goals for the year. As a minimum teachers are expected to implement one differentiated lesson per unit taught, but I have found these ideas becoming more purposeful and central to my teaching in most classes.
My personal goal is to use differentiation as a readiness filter and take my differentiation practices a step further. Connected to my inspiration goal, I want to better cater to the extension students, to give them opportunities to inquire and be inspired. Key to this is using the rich pre-assessment and ongoing assessment data generated with Quia quizzes and other means in our classes to inform my decision-making regarding planning, grouping and target-setting.
Although not directly related to this in the classroom context, I’ve been involved in discussions with our neighbouring Japanese high school – a ‘Super Science School’ – about getting students working together on authentic science research. Let’s hope this works out and brings some stronger connections between our schools.
Goal 4: Curriculum Goal
This one’s easy – I need to get high-quality Stage1 and 2 planners ready for all units by the end of the year. Recently the curriculum coordinator and I have been working through recent IB documents on the Next Chapter, Approaches to Teaching and Learning in the IBDP (a great idea!), and more to develop a school-based Stage 2 evaluation rubric. Curriculum documents can only take us so far, though. It all has to translate into action, and I am fortunate to be able to get feedback from students that is fair and constructive on a regular basis.
Supporting the school-wide goals
In my role as MYPCo, the last couple of months have been hectic: balancing teaching with curriculum and trying to prepare materials and support for teachers in meeting these new goals. Although I was not part of the development of the goals last year, I find myself putting a lot of effort into developing support for them this year. It is important that we front-load resources and support systems if we want others to achieve – and then we need to honour the efforts with time to work (and time to think).
Although it can feel like a bullet-train of information early in the year, teachers are at very different stages in practice for each of these goals and all need to be supported. By putting in the hours now (and I’ve spent many hours putting resources together for unit planning, differentiation and student learning goals), we can set up systems that will allow teachers and teams to make the best use of their time. We will meet more often as departments and will protect PD time (Wednesday afternoons) for collaborative work and PD towards the school-driven goals on differentiation, student learning and curriculum development.
I see this as being analogous to a differentiated classroom in a subject like science: with resources and goals ready to rock early on, time can be devoted to mastery. Already we’re seeing high-quality conversations taking place regarding goals and professional practice. I’m excited to see how this develops over the year.
Aside from school-wide goals, here are some of the things I’ll be working on:
- Improved fitness (I now swim 10-12km a week, gave up beer and feel all the better for it)
- Better-quality time with the family – protecting part of the weekend to really enjoy what Japan has to offer!
- More effective financial planning (I have a copy of ‘Millionaire Teacher‘ ordered!)
- Developing as a leader as MYPCo, using personal power over positional power. It is really important to me to be able to support teachers through change and not be seen as an evaluative entity. Although this means significant time and effort, I feel we should be able to achieve more and quicken the pace of change through smiles and collegiality.
- Starting to look ahead to the 2014 curriculum changes in MYP and IB Biology, and think about how i-Biology will be developed to meet the changes (in a way in which I can cope).
- Encourage more donations to Biology4Good.
- Become a part of the IBEN, as either a workshop leader or school visitor.
It’s shaping up to be another busy year!