Integrate Disciplines

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Why Should Schools Embrace Integrated Studies?: It Fosters a Way of Learning that Mimics Real Life, Edutopia

“Integrated studies, sometimes called interdisciplinary studies, brings together diverse disciplines in a comprehensive manner, enabling students to develop a meaningful understanding of the complex associations and influences within a topic. A happy by-product of this approach, which is often coupled with project-based learning, is that it makes school more interesting and productive for students and teachers.”

“Creativity, adaptability, critical reasoning, and collaboration are highly valued skills. When it comes to fostering those skills in the classroom, integrated study is an extremely effective approach, helping students develop multifaceted expertise and grasp the important role interrelationships can play in the real world.”

Photo credit: Flickr 

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Make Your Classroom Come Alive

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Who do you know in your community who is inspiring and engaging? Take note of how they do it and use it in your classroom.

Build Positive Relationships 

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So excited that my latest Amazon purchase was delivered this week! Can’t wait to read it. Below I’ve included a few tidbits about the power of the teacher-student relationship which has a high effect size of 0.72. 


In 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning, Hattie and Zierer outline “powerful mindframes, which should underpin every action in schools.”

“… teachers are evaluators, change agents, learning experts, and seekers of feedback who are constantly engaged with dialogue and challenge.”


In order to make the greatest impact, teachers need to create “a sense of fairness, predictability, and thus safety to be engaged in learning, with all the related notions of making errors, seeking help, and working positively with others.”

Collaborate to Solve Problems

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Photo Credit: student in my public speaking class

What a great week! Co-teaching, co-planning, co-learning and collaborating with a great teacher and awesome group of students in Public Speaking. Below is an overview of collaborative learning, taken from CTI at Cornell University, which will help you better understand some of the key ideas and elements that our class will engage in through project-based learning this semester. This is the beginning of the semester and we are just getting started so stay tuned for more about our progress this semester.

Purpose of PBL in Public Speaking Spring 2018: To engage students in critical thinking about authentic problems and prepare them to communicate effectively about their proposed solutions to those problems.

What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and “doing” are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning.

Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University

I love bullet number 1 – “The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.” I spent a great deal of time yesterday researching each student’s background so I can begin to see them as individuals instead of a sea of humanity. Teacher’s cannot successfully plan for a class of students they do not know. At the secondary level where you can have upwards of 200 students, this can be a challenge. A challenge, but not impossible… We teach students, not subjects.


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In the slideshow, you can see our human graph in which kids self-rated themselves on their current speaking skills. We will measure again in the middle and the end of the semester to gauge for improvement. Using the scale of distinguished, proficient, apprentice and novice, most students rated themselves as apprentice in the area of public speaking with the next highest rating being novice.

Measuring the Impact of PBL in Public Speaking Spring 2018: We know we are having an impact when every student is engaged so that growth mindsetself-efficacy and academic outcomes improve.

What is the impact of collaborative learning or group work?

Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.
  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.
  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.

-Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University


PSGoogleClass

We are also using Google Classroom this semester and it’s working well so far for posting bell ringers, assignments, video of model speeches, and assessments. We are also using a Google site that I built as a hub for the project work.


I’m so excited to be a part of this class of students who are engaged in learning how to be effective and polished public speakers. Thank you to Mr. Goodlett for welcoming me into his classroom and for sharing his students with me this semester. The students, Mr. Goodlett and I are all going to learn so much and do so much to improve our community and ourselves.

Now off to plan for next week! More co-teaching, co-planning, co-learning and collaborating. 🙂

 

Slow Down

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Are traditional school schedules and teacher classrooms too rushed and hurried to foster creativity and innovative thinking? Is the pressure to perform in a standards-based culture too high to promote deep and reflective thought? Do factory-model schools cultivate trust and relationships that drive honest feedback, teamwork and the co-creation of solutions?

And the implication is that the real or perceived societal pressure we feel to get more and more things done, and process more and more information, can be an enemy to real love and true learning.” – Four Reasons to Slow Down by Jon Bloom

Learning takes time and patience and this conflicts with how our society and our public education system often operate.

“In an ideal world, the school day would reflect kids’ changing needs and rhythms. There would be time for free play; school would start later to allow time for students’ much-needed rest; the transition time between classes would be longer, allowing time for kids to walk down the hall and say hi to their friends and plan their next moves; kids would have the opportunity to step away from school “work” in order to regroup and process what they’ve absorbed. “The actual encoding of information doesn’t take place when you’re hunched over a desk,” she said.” – Why Kids Need Schools to Change by Tina Barseghian

Deep and thoughtful learning that generates creative and innovative ideas and solutions requires the time and patience to:

  • think
  • reflect
  • dream
  • hope
  • discuss ideas
  • ask questions
  • seek answers
  • encourage others
  • build relationships
  • generate new ideas
  • test theories
  • create solutions

“The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future.” – The Creativity Crisis by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman


This leaves me wondering about the learning and creativity within my school…

    • Do students know how to be creative? Can creativity be taught?

Creativity can be taught,” says James C. Kaufman, professor at California State University, San Bernardino.” – The Creativity Crisis

  • Are teachers designing learning experiences that promote deep learning and creative output?

“What’s common about successful programs is they alternate maximum divergent thinking with bouts of intense convergent thinking, through several stages. Real improvement doesn’t happen in a weekend workshop. But when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves.” – The Creativity Crisis

“When students display creativity and innovation in PBL, they are able to generate and refine solutions to complex problems or tasks.” – How Can We Teach and Assess Creativity and Innovation in PBL? by John Larmer

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Encourage Reflection & Action


As the instructional coach, I wonder what I can do to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school. Maybe I should procrastinate and be unhurried! 🙂

“We’re always asked to be faster and more precise. But what can we learn from slowing down — even procrastinating? This hour, TED speakers explore why taking it slow is crucial…for all of us.” – Slowing Down from the TED Radio Hour

This radio program and Grant’s article, Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate, illuminate the idea of slowing down in order to come up with creative and innovative ideas. By slowing down and taking time to reflect on a problem, we give ourselves time to come up with different solutions. Sometimes, our initial solution or answer is not as good as those ideas we come up with after taking in and wrestling with and testing lots of ideas.

“But while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.” –  Grant

“It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.” – Grant

““You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.” – Aaron Sorkin

I had never heard of the Unhurried movement until I started researching for this blog post, but the principles definitely align to being patient and engaging in discussions in which you truly listen (skills which I’m practicing). I love the philosophy of this approach which challenges us to relax and focus on listening instead of talking in a frenetic volley that is laden with interruptions.

The Unhurried Approach “applies to any process that requires the participation of human beings. We use Unhurried as a guiding principle in our work with people.”

I hope to apply the principles for being unhurried at work and plan some opportunities for Unhurried Conversations for teachers and students. In order to support deeper thinking and creativity within every classroom and online learning environment in my school, I will…

Photo Credit: flickr

Co-Teaching in Math Class

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Co-teach & Learn Together – which co-teaching models are best for instructional coaches and teachers? I agree with @markchubb3 in this post. Also like his thoughts on which co-teaching models work best for special education teachers and interventionists who co-teach.

Thinking Mathematically

For the past few years I have had the privilege of being an instructional coach working with amazing teachers in amazing schools.  It is hard to explain just how much I’ve learned from all of the experiences I’ve had throughout this time.  The position, while still relatively new, has evolved quite a bit into what it is today, but one thing that has remained a focus is the importance of Co-Planning, Co-Teaching and Co-Debriefing.  This is because at the heart of coaching is the belief that teachers are the most important resource we have – far more important than programs or classroom materials – and that developing and empowering teachers is what is best for students.

While the roles of Co-Planning, Co-Teaching and Co-Debriefing are essential parts of coaching, I’m not sure that everyone would agree on what they actually look like in practice?

Take for example co-teaching, what does…

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