Monthly Archives: February 2015

Transforming education – educate our parents about the power of feedback

We keep talking about transforming education but what do we really mean?  Quite a lot of people I know that mention these words seem to be talking about technology.  Using technology to enhance learning.  We also talk about transforming education by giving students more voice and choice in the activities that are happening in our rooms.  I try to do this in my classroom as much as I can.  But we seem to stop short when we talk about transforming learning when it comes to grades.  Yes, we have to use them for reporting but do we have to use them all the time.  We all quote what they say about feedback.  According to John Hattie & Helen Timperley, if used correctly, “feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement.”  Research also suggests that if grades are given along with feedback, the value of the feedback is diminished by the grades.  Knowing all this why do we focus so much on grades on tests, on essays on presentations?  Once again, yes I know we have to use them for reporting but we control the mark book until that point.  Don’t get me wrong, most students can tell what level they are based on the feedback given to them but he/she is not reduced to a number or a letter.  If we control the mark book, do the students need to see the marks until the end of the unit?  I don’t wait until the report card period, I tend to share the marks at the end of each math unit.  Who knows, maybe I too am sharing marks too early.  What do you do?  Should students see their marks after each assignment?  We keep saying the parents don’t understand.  Parents want to see marks.  Have we thought about trying to educate our parents about the power of ‘good’ feedback?  Let’s start the journey.  It might take a while, but it is worth it.

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What we should do before we say no to challenges.

2 weeks ago our vp @kkeerybi  issued us a challenge.  No worksheet week.  Wow!! How do you teach without using worksheets or photocopying?  For some people this was quite a challenge.  Note she didn’t say we couldn’t photocopy she just said think carefully about what we were copying.  I took this as ‘before we hit that button think carefully about whether we really need it; how is it going to further the learning of our students?’ This was not the first time I had heard this.  10 years ago when our school opened, our then Principal Kathy Clarke had said the same thing to us.  10 years later we are hearing the same thing.  Since this time, we have spent a ton of budget on photocopying, and lots on technology.  We have bought smartboards for most of our classrooms, overhead projectors; laptops carts; i-pads.  Students use their own phones, iPods, iPads; laptops to help enhance their own learning.

Fast forward to this month.  We finished up writing our report cards.  One of the learning skills areas that we evaluate our students on is Initiative.  The criteria for this category is:

  • acts upon new ideas and opportunities for learning;
  • demonstrates a willingness to take risks;
  • demonstrates curiosity and interest in learning;
  • approaches new tasks with a positive attitude;
  • recognizes and advocates appropriately for the rights of self and others

I am sure that many of us put a ‘N’ (needs improvement) or a ‘S’ (satisfactory) on some of our students report cards.  ‘So and so is encouraged to try harder when he has difficult challenges instead of giving up easily.’  Or ‘name is encouraged to try new ways to share his learning instead of using ways that he has become comfortable with.’  As teachers, do we ever think of using this same criteria to see where we ourselves stand in the learning process?

Then Kristi put out the challenge. How many of us shut it down right away.  Did we think about approaching this new task with a positive attitude or did we immediately get annoyed?    Did we decide to willingly embrace the risk and look for strategies to see how we could make it work?  Did we see that this could be a new opportunity for learning – learn how to use the smartboard better; embrace Google docs and learn how to use it to the best of our advantage?  Did any of us become curious about this opportunity for learning and research ways we could make it work?

My take on this is that we keep saying that we are coaches; we are co-learners; we are learning along with our kids.  We ask our kids to self-evaluate their learning BUT do we as ‘learners’ ever take the time to evaluate ourselves.  Maybe if we did, the next time we are issued a challenge such as this, instead of shutting it down, we will review the criteria for INITIATIVE before making a decision.

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