Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Make It Easier To Do Better Things

A simple mantra, but one I hold onto as a learning/tech coach, leaned on as PK-12 Director of Learning and will cling to next year as MYP Coordinator. It was the “key concept” of my #HackTheMYP IBAP Conference session in 2017 and over the two years since I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

When I think about past and current successes in the supporting role of a coordinator or learning coach, I think about the naming, noticing and nudging that helps teachers take the necessary small steps towards our goals. When I think about the flops, it’s the “too much, too big, too soon” effects of a loss of teacher agency. It’s a delicate balance between being directive and being supportive. And it so often comes down to making it easier to do better things, so I’ll unpack with some guiding questions I keep in my head.

Is there anything making it harder to do basic things?

With so much that we just have to get done in teaching and learning, are we aware of the systems, practices or ambiguities that make it harder just to get to the starting line? Are our teachers worn out by low-level decision-making or inefficiencies? How can we help and what’s under our control to cover foundations from which we can launch? Does this necessitate ‘managing up’ as we advocate for the teachers in the classroom to those who make the decisions?

Can we define & justify the better things?

We don’t know what we don’t know. Some teachers might be excellent at what they do – is it in alignment with what we need? How do we honour their expertise whilst nudging towards the better thing? Can we articulate clearly what the alternatives are and why they will be better for student learning? If we can’t do this for that teacher at this time, can we do it for someone else, to build a model of what could be?

Are we making it harder to do the better things?

What are the barriers to success in implementing something new or nudging someone along? Are we aware of any mixed messages we are sending in terms of thoughts, words and actions? Are we aware of the pragmatic realities that stand between a teacher’s current state and the goal? Are we asking teachers to make the right decisions – or too many decisions? How do we know? Do our systems and resources support the goal of the new learning? What do we do if they don’t?

How can we make it easier to do better things?

Once we’re clear on where we’re going, are we ready to take action? Do we have our resources ready and the right people in the room? Can we show models of what it looks like or share experiences of successes and failures? Can we clearly connect current practice to the next step? Are we clear?

Over the last few years of working in coordination and coaching, learning through creating cultures of thinking and cognitive coaching, I’ve become more attuned to working with intentionality and purpose. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m thankful always for the experiences of working in inspiring places and reflecting on experience. I wish the same for you.

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A few things that work for me…

Keep everything a click away. This MYP-at-a-glance took a couple of weeks to build but it is an example of “investing time to make time” and I have it open all the time and can spring across the MYP in a moment. Similarly, for school documents, useful tools and resources, organise your bookmarks toolbar to become your dashboard for your role.

Organise things clearly and standardise where you can. Present information clearly. Pay attention to design. Link, link, link. It saves so many questions and saves teachers’ time as they don’t need to keep recreating things. 

Go visual. Anyone who knows or follows me knows I love to go graphic, especially with the IB’s proliferation of documentation. Flowcharts and cycles really help me work through a process with kids and adults.

Actually listen. “Listen first to understand, then to be understood.” Try to tune into the true message in the conversation, even if it seems aggressive or rambling. It can be hard but what’s the true issue? If you get a chance, learn and practice cognitive coaching or similar.

Avoid pseudo-consultation. There’s nothing worse than having time eaten away by loose “what do you think?” when there is already a pre-determined outcome. Let people know what decisions are made, what need to be made and where the input is needed.

Have examples. How quickly can you move from the hypothetical to the concrete? Teachers are busy, get past the fluff. Test things to see if they work and predict the realistic implications. Have you heard of dogfooding?

What works for you?


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This year in #MYPChat

This was a fun year in the #MYPChat PLN (professional learning community)! 

We started the journey way back in 2013 with some seasons of weekly hour-long twitter chats based, going through the Next Chapter phase of MYP. Over the years, a warm and supportive PLN has developed and I’ve found the community a great help over the years in various roles. 

This year has been the most fun since we started. Taking a cue from EduTweetOZ, we got the discussion going about how to keep the community alive and get perspectives from around the MYP world. 

The @MYPChat Roaming Handle Is Born!

And so, with some willing volunteers (open-minded risk-takers, some might say), we set to work. I created the @MYPChat account and a sign-up list on a GoogleDoc, we set a schedule and Season 1 got going Season 1 with the hosts coming from regular #MYPChat contributors: @LennyDutton @reidau1 @alohalavina @alisonkis @DaunYorke @JRafaelAngelM @KetiBrook @vanweringh. 

In this slow-chat format, the host holds the account for a week, passing the baton (the login details) sometime on Sunday. Each week, the host sets the questions and away we go. This first season included topics on ATL, service as action, feedback, transitions and much more. It is really great to hear about what others are working on and to see our common framework in action in different contexts. 

In season 2, the web was spun wider, with topics including getting going, (over)assessment, interdisciplinary learning, global contexts, standards, inquiry in languages, gaming and a many more topics. This seasons hosts were @ggreen7 @JeremyOtto_ @darrylsjharding @IBMYP_Educator @InquiringOn @LauraEngland @JeffersonLars @babilgre @halcyongareth @TeacherlyIssues @MypClassroom @LancettJohn @MWroundtheworld.

Looking forward to 2019

As we break for the new year, I’m looking forward to supporting the community as it develops further. We’re always looking for keen hosts, and if you’d like to give it a go (it is low-stress), please send me a direct message on Twitter (@sjtylr). We’re looking forward to having hosts from different educational contexts and some weeks hopefully hosted in languages other than English. Watch this space! 

After the unfortunate demise of both Wikispaces and Storify this year, we are missing a reliable way to archive the #MYPChat contributions, so that will need to be overcome. However, having the @MYPChat account means the tweets can easily been seen and analysed. A new challenge! 

A TweepsMap outline of @MYPChat followers from around the world, values are a percentage of the (currently) 968 total (Dec 16 2018)


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Creating Cultures of Thinking: Summary Cards

COTCards-WABdangloid
Keeping it handy…

I love Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart of Project Zero at HGSE so much, and refer to it so often, that I made these aide-mémoire cards and chapter summaries, and I carry them with me for planning, coaching and collaboration meetings. The front side has a visual and chapter line, and the reverse summarises the key subheadings of the chapter.

Of course this doesn’t replace a deep reading of the book. I find them a useful reminder and a tool for use in conversations. If you haven’t read the book (or taken part in a COT workshop or course), don’t rely on these for understanding. 

In my current role as learning & ICT coach, I use the cultural forces as a filter for thinking and development. They can be used to notice and name forces in a situation. Which forces are being influenced with this? Which force(s) might be in high or low resource? How can we make sure the influence is positive? How can we help make it easier to do better things?

Click here to download them as a pdf.

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Other COT resources I keep to hand

Most of these are hosted on Ron’s website.

“Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” 

(Vygotsky)

Our role as teachers and parents is to provide an intellectual apprenticeship for learners. As Ron mentions in the video below, via Howard Gardner, their time with us should be “time well spent”. This interview outlines some key ideas from the Cultures of Thinking project, and is well worth listening to.

More Resources

Since moving to WAB I have fallen in love with Libguides for curation and presentation of information and resources for colleagues and students. On this Pathfinder, I’ve compiled everything I can find for CCOT, MTV and other PZ resources.


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Making Feedback Visible: Four Levels in Action

Five years ago I was starting to become concerned with the difference between marking and feedback. What was making a difference to my students’ learning and was the effort I was putting into detailed marking worth it in terms of their improvement? In reading Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, Wiliam’s Embedded Formative Assessment and the pdf of The Power of Feedback (Hattie & Timperley), I developed a four-levels feedback template for use on student work.

This post is to share an updated version – I still really like this method of giving timely, actionable, goal-focused and student-owned feedback. It definitely saves me time, but puts the focus of feedback on what’s most important for the student to take the next step. I’ll keep updating, editing and adding to this post.

When giving feedback on a piece of work, I paste this at the top of the student’s assignment, give some comments in the work and check their self-assessed rubric. Before we open individual feedback, I summarise whole-class feedback.

A copyable GoogleDoc version of the grid (and teacher explanation) is here, and to export it as pdf, click here.

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Why present feedback this way?

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Hattie & Timperley, Four Levels of Feedback. Click for the pdf of ‘The Power of Feedback.’

Feedback addresses three questions:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going?
  • Where to next?

Feedback is timely, actionable and needs to be more work for the learner than the teacher.

  • Clarity of achievement so far: goal-referenced, tangible & transparent.
  • Understanding “the gap” between where the learner is and where they need to go next (not necessarily the top bands)
  • Timely. Using a system like this saves time   in grading/giving feedback, makes it more  accessible to digest (is user-friendly) and can be easily reviewed for the next time the student works towards similar goals.
  • Feedback first, then grades. Not presented together, to enforce student reflection & action.

 

Making The Four Levels Work

  1. Goals and outcomes need to be clear – do students & teachers have a shared understanding of what success looks like at different levels of achievement?
  2. Feedback needs to be ongoing. Students are taught to self-assess in the drafting stages and feedback (not grading) given on the drafts with plenty of time to take action before submission.
  3. Students self-assess before submission. Even better – they can peer-assess and give feedback. If tasks are differentiated, this does not present a collusion challenge.
  4. Teacher gives feedback in the grid, on the front page of the work (or in an accessible place):
    1. Check the student’s self-assessment against descriptors
    2. Check the assignment, making comments only on actionable next steps – not an overwhelming number, as this can increase the perceived “gap” for students. Students who want and will take action on very detailed marking can request this in follow-up.
    3. Summarize feedback in the grid: task-level, process level and self-regulation level.
    4. Link to support resources where appropriate
    5. Record grades out of sight of student.
  5. Teacher places value on interaction with feedback by giving class time to digest & reflect
    1. Give “whole class” feedback on common issues and note needs for later workshops
    2. Students read their feedback: table and comments.
    3. Students synthesise this into a “feed-forwards” note to self. Showing this to the teacher and a shared agreement on the next steps releases the grade, not before.
  6. Next time the task type is attempted, the first thing students do is open the feedback and set achievable, specific goals to “level up” based on the feedback & feed forwards.

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Reflections in Practice

I worried initially that the pushback from students would be that I wasn’t grading enough. This didn’t happen for a couple of reasons:

  1. We made explicit the reason for doing this and I keep no secrets about the “magic” of learning from students. I explain and demonstrate what works in learning and why we do things this way.
  2. Most students like seeing the next steps really clearly. We’re not all aiming for top levels right away – we’re aiming for progress upwards.
  3. We talk about “the gap” a lot, and our quest to close the gap in prep.
  4. I already know what the grades are likely to be, as we invest time in class for drafting, feedback and conferencing. I expect students to show their work and take action on feedback.
  5. I will happily take a piece of work back and sit with a student, giving really detailed marking and justification if they request it. This rarely happens and it is usually one or two who are working at the very top of the rubric. This is far more efficient and effective doing acres of marking for large classes, the bulk of which won’t have an impact.

References

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007) The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research. Vol. 77 no 1 (pp 81-112). https://www.jstor.org/stable/4624888 (includes diagram above)

Wiggins, G. (2012) Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership Magazine. Vol. 70 no. 1. (pp 10-16). www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx   (and related: EL Takeaways Poster http://inservice.ascd.org/seven-things-to-remember-about-feedback )

Dylan Wiliam Centre: Ten Feedback Techniques That Make Students Think (poster). https://www.dylanwiliamcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/10-Feedback-Techniques.pdf

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More Resources on Feedback & Grading

 


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Making Learning Visible in Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences

“Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” 

(Vygotsky, quoted by Ron Ritchhart)

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 2.05.10 PMI really enjoy parent-student-teacher conferences. (I’d rather do more of these and less report writing, but that’s a different post.) Even with a limited time-slot (my last couple of schools have been 10mins), we have an opportunity to strengthen a home-school connection, build a relationship with families and really put the learner and learning front and centre.

I love being a science teacher, and parent-student-teacher conferences are a prime opportunity to share that. Just because it’s high school, doesn’t mean it needs to be too serious.

Over the last five years or so of teaching, I’ve set up recent investigations or phenomena for students to demonstrate, explain or solve for their parents. 

The conference begins with a warm introduction, a check on languages used and then the student demonstrates the phenomenon to their parents. I keep some prompts and visuals around the table, to be used as the conversation develops. I don’t prep students – I want to see how they go, and how much of their learning they can make visible to the parents.

In this part of the conference, the students and parents can communicate in their most comfortable language.

It’s important to me that this is a positive experience and gives me a couple of minutes to see how they interact. If a (rare) difficult conversation needs to follow, I know better how to judge my message. In most cases, we build on the observations, and follow our own little lines of inquiry. Occasionally I pick up some new science vocab in my students’ home languages. With multilingual students we always talk about how language development is supported in the class.

Of course, parents to come to conferences to hear how their child is doing. 

That’s great, and we work on the basis that if something was wrong, they’d already know; there should be no surprises in a report card or parent-teacher conference.

This means that we have the chance to have a growth-focused conversation about the learning:

  • How can they use our resources and rubrics for moving up?
  • Do they understand the best-fit approach and use of command terms?
  • How do our “feed-back feed-forwards tables” work for focusing on what’s important and what “note to self” is there for next time?
  • What are they struggling with and how can I help?
  • Where to next?

 

As parents we want to know our child is cared for and is learning. We want to know how we can support them, and we want to trust you as their teacher. 

This is how I feel as a parent-educator, and it is echoed in many interactions. Taking this opportunity to celebrate their child and their learning is more than just a little fun – it’s who we are. Occasionally I’ll provide parents with some online resources, or mention some of Ron Ritchhart’s “9 Apps for Parents” or “10 (+1) things to say to students every day” for “at home” discussions.

Next time I’ll put out some of the recent multilingual understanding map resources he shared as we reflect on the year in learning.


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Connecting ISTE NETS & IB ATL Skills

Back in 2016-17, I worked with a group on a project to connect the IB ATL Skills to the ISTE Standards for Students and AASL Standards, to generate our own school’s Instructional Technology & Information Literacy (ITIL) Standards. CA is a three-programme IB school (PYP-MYP-DP). The goal was to create an alignment of the ISTE and ATL skills that would allow us to put the language of ATL first in conversation and collaborative planning with teachers, but to build on the excellent work and resources of ISTE in our co-planning and tech integration.

At the same time, it brought together a range of people responsible for working with teachers on their units of inquiry, and built a stronger connection through the library. This group included tech integrators, librarians and Liz Durkin (@lizdk), who along with being Associate Secondary Principal is now Ed Tech Director. I was in the role of MYP Coordinator and PK-12 Director of Learning. Planning took place in the library, and by the end of the 2016-17 year we had a framework to get started on, with some spaces for further development.

This post outlines some of the processes, decisions and next-steps for the project. This was a big project, starting almost two years ago, and I’m sure there will be parts I’ve forgotten, but now it’s the summer, there is some time to reflect and capture thoughts.

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A section of the resulting spreadsheet, showing the outcomes.

Decision 1: Keep the ISTE Standards but put ATL first with teachers

This fits in with a longer-term school-wide goal of better embedding the IB ATL skills framework in the school, and we were wary that adding another new set of language for teachers to use could create a block to implementation. We have kept the ISTE Standards and Strands as published, but unpacked each strand into a cluster of ATL skills that we saw as contributing to the realisation of the skill/strand.

Later on, ITIL co-planners as ‘gatekeepers’ of the ISTE standards would be able to articulate the connections. Also, as the IB MYP ATL skills framework was being developed in 2013-14(ish), it was clear that some skills were directly derived from 2007 ISTE NETS. With the 2016 ISTE for Students update, and seeing future directions of ATL in PYP and DP, we saw a timely opportunity to get to work.

Decision 2: Add a “Lifelong Reader” Standard

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 08.15.13This allowed for the stronger connection of the libraries as a research/ATL centre, but also made explicit the reading role of the library, referring to the AASL framework. The structure is the same, with standard, strands and ATL skills. We included, but are yet to develop (it’s in next year’s goals) a “mother tongue” strand to work out how the library can support ATL development through mother tongue and language acquisition support.

Decision 3: Adapt for context

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 08.12.20As we went through the collaborative process of unpacking the ATL skills against the strands (first on paper, then on the spreadsheet), we spotted some opportunities to adapt to better suit our own context, or to generate custom ATL skill descriptors to better represent the meaning of the ISTE strand. We coloured these differently (blue in the example to the right), as a reminder that as specialist skills these are very unlikely to be covered in other classes and so will need to be found a ‘home’ in the curriculum.

Decision 4: Determine Descriptors

This was an attempt to align the four levels fo mastery of the ATL skills with the ISTE standards, to show our expectations of learners over time. We started with the third column (practitioner/demonstrating) as “meets expectations” and determined a statement of a competent student. Very quickly we realised the ISTE standards statements, with minor modification, fit the bill. We then developed band 2 (learner/developing) and band 1 descriptors (novice/beginning) as steps towards competence. Finally we decided to leave the fourth column blank and ‘aspirational’ as an opportunity for inventive and diverse high-level implementations to be opened up. After all, tech moves fast and we don’t want to cap creativity with artificial descriptors. See Cult of Pedagogy’s Single Point Rubric post for more discussion of this.

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 08.16.58

Four levels of description. Aim for green, work towards it, aspire beyond. 

Decision 5: What skills do we need to know?

Although this project developed a strong connection between ISTE and ATL for the purposes of EdTech integration, we still needed to know what skills teachers and students need to know to be successful in our high-tech school. A supplementary process identified a “CA Tech Skills” inventory for orientation/support to help people get up and running successfully.

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Next steps & future development

This was a really enjoyable curriculum project and it worked well as a tool to bring co-planners and integrators from different sections of the school together. Next steps, of course, are to further implement the ISTE standards through embedding ATL into units and instruction via the library-tech and co-planners. Over the 2017-18 school year work began on this, and Liz Durkin expertly led the TALT & Tech Reps group in adopting the RAT model (replace, amplify, transform) of tech integration, identifying lots of amazing uses of tech in the school and spreading them through celebrating and sharing success. Over the next year, things will really click into place, including the work being done on digital wellbeing.

As I move on to a new role as learning/tech coach at another school, I look forward to continuing these discussions and collaborations.


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Getting Going in MYP: Student Orientation

Here are some general resources for helping students get oriented in the MYP. Click here to open full-size in GoogleSlides, with instructions in the speaker notes. The goal here is to provide some ideas and printables that can be used to help initiate students into MYP, in an enjoyable but informative way (and not launching right into “here’s how you’ll be assessed”).

Big thanks to Alison Yang for her ideas, discussion and posts (see here and here), and to Lenny Dutton for her creativity. If you have an idea to add, please let me know.

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I’ve also posted this to i-Biology with some ideas for MYP Science.