Wayfinder Learning Lab

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


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The Buoyant Force: L2 Talk & FOEN Workshop

This was a great challenge during the Learning2 Conference last week in Nanjing. It was my first time at the conference and I was looking for an experience that would push me and provide something to think about. I presented this short talk, and an extended session on Global Ignorance, Factfulness and Data-Informed Inquiry. You can see more action from the conference on #Learning2 on Twitter.

The “buoyant force” talk is based on an idea I started writing about in 2017 but had been thinking about as a coordinator for a while. The essence of it is that in our rush to “get ready for” the next stage, do we risk forgetting the forces that are acting on our curriculum on the way up the school? The images are a blend of my own photos and some from Unsplash.

Future of Education NOW at WAB

Here are the slides for the workshop version of The Buoyant Force, presented at WAB’s Future of Education Now “Festival of Learning” Conference. The format was a series of provocations and discussion for participants (a mix of WAB and visiting educators) to engage in reflection on the forces acting on learners through transitions.

The Big Ideas Of The Buoyant Force

There is more depth on the original post, but here are some key ideas:

  • Transitions are hard, are we making them harder by disregarding the skills, knowledge, concepts, identities and motivations of learners as they push up towards us?
  • How are we capitalising on the buoyant force of learner agency in our transitions? When a fired-up PYPx student transitions into MYP, what do we do with that experience? Those skills? Do we give them the opportunity to show us what they can do as continuum learners?
  • Do we use this to raise the bar for inquiry and understanding?
  • By misinterpreting backwards mapping as “we’ve got to get them ready for [high stakes terminal task] by practicing [high stakes terminal task]” at every stage of the continuum, are we reducing our planning to a backwash of demands?

The Buoyant Force and School Innovation

As many of our schools are in the process of change and reinvention, do we consider the buoyant force in our planning? For example, schools offering the MYP for the first time might have their older learners “test out” the Personal Project. How does that go with learners who have been enculturated to a different way of doing things? What would we expect to see with the following cohorts, who are more used to the programme?

Similarly, if we are going through dramatic change in a school, where are we investing the efforts? We can harness the buoyant force to drive the change by creating the change earlier in the continuum – and then planning for those learners pushing upwards.

Did they do something fab in Grade 8? Great, then how do we make the most of it in Grade 9? Is everyone on board? How do we expect to see this cohort raise our game?

An L2 Reflection

This was my first Learning2 Conference. Despite following it for years, there was always a clash with school commitments, prioritising others on the budget or transition. I’m so glad I finally went I’m over conferences in the regular format and the opportunity and challenge of being an L2 Leader was well worth the time and effort. The people were amazing and it felt like a productive, supportive, calm and inspiring community.

When I agreed to do the talk I had the kernel of the idea, based on the blog post. In a day, with some coaching and feedback, I was pretty happy with the product. I’m very used to leading workshops and active conference breakout sessions, so “doing a talk” was a new experience. Watching it back, there is plenty I’d change. It’s a bit TED-y. The lights were bright. But the response was positive and we had some great conversations afterwards. I am expanding this into a workshop for our school’s “Future of Education Now” Conference, where we will unpack the big ideas.

Thank-you L2 & FOEN Teams!


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Reductive Rubrics, Authenticity & Opportunities for Learning

A quick post to share an animated gif, made in the new Keynote 9 update. It is a rebuild of a lower-quality animation I made years ago and use often, inspired by a cartoon I saw but cannot track down again (and I’d love to find it). I have used it in the context of critiquing my own MA dissertation and more frequently in conversations about not over-describing the 7-8 level of MYP assessment criteria.

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“Zooming In” to MYP Assessment

A growing concern for me in MYP is the power this line from MYP subject guides can have on the opportunities and expectations for and the language of learning in the classroom:

Subject groups must assess all strands of all four assessment criteria at least twice in each year of the MYP.

MYP Subject Guides

There is a danger that we ignore the heart of the discipline in anxiety for “getting it right” in terms of assessment; that reporting drives practice. Don’t boil teaching and learning down into a checklist. We can do better, we can enjoy it more and we can collect acceptable evidences of understanding in a range of forms.

Connecting to this, here are a couple of really powerful posts from Grant Wiggins: On Intelligent vs thoughtless use of rubrics (and part 2 here). It’s not the first thing generated and should not be over-described in the first round of a project, or we risk shutting down the avenues for true inquiry. For another MYP parallel, here is an older post connected to my “all in one” project, focusing on “zooming in” to the third band. Jennifer Gonzalez’s single point rubric is well worth reading

Authenticity & Opportunity

A post that really influenced my thinking on authenticity in assessment and learning opportunities was this, from Grant Wiggins. It defines authenticity as:

Authentic tests are representative challenges within a given discipline. They are designed to emphasize realistic (but fair) complexity; they stress depth more than breadth. In doing so, they must necessarily involve somewhat ambiguous, ill structured tasks or problems.

Grant Wiggins

He outlined 27 characteristics that can be used to develop assessment tasks and learning opportunities, which I summarised in this table:

https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/authenticity-in-assessment-re-defined-and-explained/

An important takeaway from this, is not that “real world” is better than (or less than) anything else. It is more that when everyday usage of the content diverges from authenticity true to the discipline, we should aim for sophisticated authenticity rather than shoehorning-in some “pseudocontext” and pretending it is “real world”. It is better to think as a mathematician in a sophisticated inquiry than to not think at all…

Creating Cultures of Thinking

Similarly, the following on the force of Opportunities, from Ron Ritchhart’s Creating Cultures of Thinking (graphic by me) can be considered. Note the call to “authentic intellectual engagement”.


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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?

Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 9.22.37 PM

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.