Evaluation Systems Need Fixing

From a recent Edweek article:

“It’s clear to most educators that the current crop of teacher-evaluation systems is flawed, overwrought, and sometimes just plain broken …”

Consider IDEO’s findings about traditional annual reviews:

“No one likes annual reviews: They’re structured, overly formal, and they make it difficult to get real feedback that you can act upon.”

And a recent Rand study in which:

“Only 31 percent of teachers reported that they have sufficient time to collaborate with other teachers.”

Rethink evaluation by finding out about new approaches that work by building collective efficacy. Come to my pre-conference session on Opening Classroom Doors at the IB Global Conference in October. Or attend my session on Observers as Learners at Learning Forward this December. Or better yet, contact me at Tigris Solutions. There are better ways to enhance professional practice!

ECET2 – Saturday Sept 24!

ECET2 = Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. It was born out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession. The convening experience is designed to inform and inspire colleagues, develop attendees’ leadership potential, and hone their craft.

The ECET2NJPA 2016 theme is: The Strength is in the Room. The focus is on using the combined power of each invitee to collectively strengthen individual pedagogy, knowledge, relationships, and trust. Every person in each classroom working together makes the entire population better. When educators share openly, vulnerably, in a trusting environment, where the focus is on supporting the profession as a whole, students and their families prosper.

On Being a Learner (Again)

On a recent #FITTeaching trip to upstate Michigan, I was invited to go kayaking on the Rifle River. While I have been a passenger, I’ve never kayaked solo before. I was a little intimidated, but also intrigued, and my hosts reassured me that it would be a piece of cake. I was told there was one important thing to remember: don’t grab onto a branch because that will tip you over.

Ready to set out.

We began paddling down the river and it was truly spectacular. The sun was shimmering on the water and shining through the trees.

The beautiful Rifle River in Michigan.

I relaxed into the journey, chatted with my hosts, and craned my neck to view the scenery. I became overconfident and failed to anticipate a branch leaning well into the river and the next thing I knew, it was coming up fast. In my panic, I did the one thing I wasn’t supposed to do: I grabbed the branch, tipped the kayak, and dumped myself into the river.

No injuries (except my pride) — and my hosts kindly retrieved my kayak (now well down the river) and helped me back in. As we continued, they gave me some pointers on how to properly hold the paddle, how to use it as a rudder, how to control my speed. I focused more on my job and managed to stay afloat, despite the occasional obstacle.

Here’s the thing: at a certain point in life we become comfortable with our skills and enjoy our expertise. We tend to concentrate on doing the things we’re good at. It can be easy to forget that there’s great value in trying something new.

For those of us who teach, it’s critical to remember that our students are novices. We ask them over and over again to experience discomfort and try new things. That’s really hard — and we need to be there to support them when they take the occasional fall into the river.

Will I try kayaking again? Absolutely. My hosts gave me an opportunity to experience successful failure. I dumped myself in the river and learned from my mistake. I look forward to another outing where I can try out what I’ve learned and develop a new set of skills.

The Importance of Student Thinking

In an NPR interview with Philip Sadler of Harvard:

“Students are not empty vessels,” he says. “Students are full of all kinds of knowledge, and they have explanations for everything.” From birth, human beings are working hard to figure out the world around us … cognitive science tells us that if you don’t understand the flaws in students’ reasoning, you’re not going to be able to dislodge their misconceptions and replace them with the correct concepts …

Teachers who find their kids’ ideas fascinating are just better teachers than teachers who find the subject matter fascinating.”

Read the interview here.

 

Thank You Seymour Papert

childrensmachineWhen I was a fledgling doctoral student, my mentor Ralph Ginsberg introduced me to the work of Seymour Papert. Reading The Children’s Machine profoundly changed my thinking about teaching and learning … his books continue to influence all of my work — whether I’m teaching children or adults, whether my focus is on teaching specific content, or coaching, or supporting groups to strategize. Constructionism always informs my purpose.

As I prepared my dissertation proposal defense years ago, I struggled with my literature review. My committee chair suggested I get in touch with Papert, since I relied so heavily on his work. I felt as though I was reaching out to an ancient greek philosopher and couldn’t believe he’d have time for a lowly Penn student. But Seymour replied quickly to my email, patiently answered my questions, and shared several articles (some of them unpublished) to assist me. He didn’t just accommodate my requests — he also encouraged me to push my thinking and consider aspects of instructional design that I hadn’t previously considered. As impressed as I am with his theories and passion about education, I will never forget that he took the time to support me (a complete stranger) in learning.

The world lost a great mind and a superb teacher yesterday. Let’s continue his work.