Posts Tagged collaboration

TEDxAAS – My first one…

The students in charge of this did a fabulous job!!

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Granularity

While deeply involved in Marzanno and Waters (2009), I had the opportunity recently to attend a recent high school orchestra concert. It is, thus, logical to reflect on instructional leadership as similar to the experience of developing a musical harmony that mingles concepts from Marzanno and others such that we have a cohesive, but responsive approach to student achievement. While many would assume that a musical composition is static in nature, it is in fact a highly dynamic endeavor that yields different results when factors of acoustics, instruments, expertise, and the emotions behind the score spread and mix upon the stage. In this most recent concert, graduating seniors and year-end farewells set the stage for an once-in-a-lifetime version of a particularly complicated flute solo that was masterfully presented as a farewell tribute to the conductor and teacher.  Much like an orchestral piece of music, the notes and staff only told a very course version of the story behind the music. The instrumental process that yields note dynamics, breath control, posture, precision (or lack thereof), and a weaving of expertise results in a performance – an experience.

In much the same way, our current approach to achievement is more about looking at the music rather than reflecting on the elements of the performance. This emerges from an issue of granularity. When we look at a large boulder, we see the surface and get general information regarding the face of the boulder and maybe some insight into the color, texture, and weight of the object. Summative testing is akin to this global view where we derive scores and assess program by examining the accomplishment of large groups of students. What we don’t see, and teachers often reflect on this, is the material just below the surface. If we begin by breaking the boulder into smaller and smaller pieces, we reveal the details of the musical composition – the subtleties, the nuances, the complexity.  Ultimately, when we arrive at grains of sand, we have a very complete picture of the boulder – even though it is a boulder no longer.

Formative testing is largely about breaking the boulder of education into grains of accomplishment and by looking with this level of scrutiny, we greatly improve our chance of impacting performance in a positive way. The key is achieving a high degree of granularity while not distracting from our primary task of achieving broad spectrum learning goals. Formative assessment meets this criterion and provides an instructional strategy that not only focuses teachers on viable instructional objectives, but also informs both students and teachers about their progress toward accomplishing the same.  The musical score transcends the subtleties of the dynamic factors of performance by forming the foundation of the presentation. In this way, we have a metaphor for the core structures that Marzano and Waters (2009) propose in the form of nonnegotiable goals. Their reflections on the inadequacy of NCLB and other summative high stakes measures gives way to a formative system of measures aimed at developing a “value added” approach. This is consistent with multiple recent research endeavors including Hatie’s (2009), where formative feedback to teachers regarding their efforts with students yielded the 3rd highest effect rating on overall achievement – approximately d=0.90.

The challenge is not about curriculum, while it is valuable to continue curricular development processes as we currently do. The issue is the creation of common formative assessments that match the curriculum and provide for close scrutiny of granular accomplishment. With Marzano and Waters (2009), we find a proposal for a “value added” approach to education that calls for both horizontal and vertical alignment with a common scale of measurement for formative assessment tools used along the way. Arranged according to topic areas and grade levels, this proposal leads to a comprehensive look at how a curriculum should emerge in the classroom, the way in which we test pre-operationally for its introduction, and the way in which we report developmental progress along a scale toward achievement of that curriculum.

But they may not be going quite far enough in addressing the thousands of small bits that constitute a comprehensive child-centered approach to personal development that also addresses the development of character and emotional intelligence.  Education continues to stare at the boulder and misses this aspect under the surface.  A value added approach may also miss many of the grains of sand by sifting and looking only for the specs of interest.

If we really want to form sand castles, we need to address how all of the sand can be cemented together into the complex structure that is a whole “person.”  While I value assessment as important, it does little to address the complex nature of a child and the nuances of how the the score becomes a performance.


References

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Marzano, R. J., & Waters, T. (2009). District leadership that works: Striking the right balance. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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Learning 2.010 has launched!!

Jeff Utecht is being a bit pessimistic with his description of the recently launched third iteration of the Learning 2.0  conference series. Despite his apprehension, there is every reason to believe that this conference will again inspire and direct individuals along the path of creating the next generation of learning practices. Inspired by a collaboration of like-minded individuals in 2008, this conference continues to elicit strong gains in applying technology based practices in real learning environments. We have changed practices through our efforts, and yet we are still struggling with the degree to which that change continues to be hampered by politics and outdated pedagogy.

Thus, we offer the latest iteration of 21st-century thinking and give you the new and improved Learning 2.x. The focus this time will be on research-based practices in providing for sustainability through development of long-term relationships in cohorts of like-minded individuals. Of particular excitement to me is the opportunity to coordinate the leadership strand. Applying theory and leading-edge concepts on school change with a cohort of individuals responsible for implementing that change is an exciting and energizing venture. If everything comes together as planned,  there will be opportunity prior to the conference to build an essential common framework upon which our conversations will emerge. These personal learning networks (PLN) will continue through and beyond the conference and provide a significant foundation for future collaboration and support.

How can you not get excited about something like this?!

Take a look at the website and consider joining us in what ever cohort strikes your fancy. Personally, I hope you will consider the leadership strand. 😉

http://www.learning2.asia/

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Motivation & Daniel Pink

It seems fortuitous that I wrote last night on Mike Rowe and then found Daniel Pink shortly after to reflect on the nature of motivation.  These are two very nice videos back-to-back and tell us much about the new age of work and accomplishment.  Similar to the theories (dare I say facts) presented by Pink, I’m writing this instead of the paper that is due in my doctoral class – my incentive, “grade” based class where I do work for the carrot of a piece of paper that somehow distinguishes me from everyone else – hogwash!

In reality, much of what Pink describes is true for me – I select projects where I can be creative and add to the base of knowledge rather than looking for the position with the greatest pay potential.  Performance has always been a motivator and I read about Google’s 20% only to say “Yeah!” and “Right On!!” and “That Makes Sense!!!”

The fact that we have had it wrong for so long is what amazes me.  In schools especially, we seem all too caught up in a Pavlovian reality and stretching to a different kind of conceptual framework seems unreachable.  Could it be that our most difficult students are trying to tell us something that has nothing to do with their “condition?”  Maybe we have so tightly closed the lid on our children that they have no choice but to move constantly amongst realities – one after another in quick succession – to the point that we no longer understand them because of their divergence from our norms.

Pink may have the new age of motivation in his pocket, and his dialog on the topic has inspired some divergent thinking at the very least.

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Motivation 101

A thought on why broad education reform is lingering despite selective successes…

In looking at organizational behavior, there is one theory of motivation that may apply to the current scenario in regards to the willingness of teachers to embrace necessary change. Equity Theory provides a basis for thinking about motivation that goes something like this:

The equity theory of work motivation was developed in the 1960s by J. Stacy Adams (equity means “fairness”). Equity theory is based on the premise that an employee perceives the  relationship between the outcomes — what the employee gets from a job and organization — and his or her inputs—what the employee contributes to the job and organization…. According to equity theory, however, it is not the objective level of outcomes and inputs that is important in determining work motivation. What is important to motivation is the way an employee perceives his or her outcome/input ratio compared to the outcome/input ratio of another person. (George & Jones, 2008)

What’s interesting about this is the “referent” or other person that is used as the comparison.  In the last decade, there has been a movement to compare teachers at a professional level to other white collar careers, and rightfully so.  Education is clearly a highly valued profession in the truest sense and many aspire to the profession out of desire to service and more intrinsic motivation.

But, when I talk to teachers, there is a terrible disconnect between the two factors described above.  There is a huge demand for excellent inputs with little potential for commensurate outcomes that would ever be considered consistent with doctors or lawyers.

So, does that mean we have to raise pay exponentially and provide incentive based rewards? Nope – not necessarily!  In fact, additional pay may not be a motivator if all other factors of work conditions remain the same.  If children have increasing needs and if demands associated with the job continue to escalate, pay and other extrinsic incentives will have little impact on overcoming the significant disparity between needed work (and there’s lots of it) and the slim possibility of rewards in a system that never seems to be “fixed.”

At the core of expectancy theory is a need for people to believe that they can achieve the expected performance level.  Have we given teachers any degree of belief that they can achieve the targeted performance?  Many reports have been published on the problems with the American education system.  Have many been published on the quality of the system?  Do teachers feel like their goals can be achieved if they go from one evaluation to the next thinking they are doing the right thing only to find that their evaluations and performance demands change in any given year without additional possibility of remuneration?

In 1993, the Washington State Legislature enacted HB 1209 school reform.  There were three steps:

  1. establish high standards and assessments
  2. provide districts with additional flexibility and resources
  3. hold districts and schools accountable for student achievement

Steps 1 and 3 have been accomplished, although accountability still seems a wavering target.  But step 2 has not been fully addressed at either constitutional nor budget level.  Thus, it is clear that a disconnect still exists between desired program change and a willingness to address the associated costs for resources and staff motivation towards these changes.

It’s easy to understand why changes in the profession of teaching are hard-fought in an era of increasing complacency.  With nothing but criticism often greeting them at the doors of their classrooms, teachers are the most difficult group to address when considering motivational strategies.  Setting standards is only one part of the puzzle.  Giving teachers a sense that a new order is not only achievable, but desirable, is the real challenge of leaders and policy makers.

References

George, J., & Jones, G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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Update to Microsoft Surface…

I stand corrected. It looks like Smart Tech (www.smarttech.com) has got one in the works. Would love to know how implementation is going. Anyone?

Click here – The SMART Table

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Microsoft Surface – When?

So, it’s been out for a year or so and the educational implications are just starting to take shape.

surface

Here’s one in a UK Primary School

http://www.microsoft.com/surface/Pages/Experience/Videos.aspx?video=193f800f-5268-491f-9bc7-d2857080ef21

Here’s the link on educational development of this device:

http://www.rm.com/generic.asp?cref=GP1365987&SrcURL=/surface/

Microsoft Surface details:  http://www.microsoft.com/surface

Tech-savvy educational leaders will be watching this development with interest because it constitutes the first viable initiative that can effectively address the dynamic early learning environment.  If we can put these in ECE classrooms with all of the collaborative tools that are demonstrated here, we are on the road to a true revolution of the educational pathway.

Pay close attention to the details here.  Students login by placing a nametag on the table.  Content is tailored to their needs and level – even within the context of collaborative play.  In general, this resolves our discomfort with having young students in front of computers.  Let’s take it one step further and imagine walls that literally open to a child’s fingertips and allows them to interact with inexhaustible content.  Consider the live collaboration and then think of the virtual collaboration that is also possible.  This whole concept just screams for creativity and innovation.

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Students reflecting on learning…

This is a piece from Dr. Marilyn Simpson’s work on learning targets and students articulating their learning.

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Grand Champions


Grand Champions

Originally uploaded by chinazurfluh

Shared leadership is tremendously enjoyable when you have people so focused on making it a special event for others. This year’s Pinewood Derby was an example of like minded people coming together to serve the enjoyment and fulfillment needs of their sons. It was a day for the family as almost 100 boys competed in a racing competition with their personally crafted wooden cars. It’s impressive to watch this unfold and with 4 years under my belt, it was especially powerful to see how it has developed over the years to what now exists.

My thanks and appreciation to my com padres on the Derby Committee. It was a powerful team led by Mr. Russ Porter. He is settling into his new leadership role quite nicely and we can feel confident as our boys transition to Boy Scouts, that we are leaving the pack in good hands.

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