Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chapter 4: What Really Matters In Planning for Student Success?

As a note, each chapter poses several questions. Please do not feel obligated to answer each question by number; rather, use them as a guide for you to respond to the reading and share your thinking about the ideas in the book.

1. This chapter proposes nine attitudes and skills that are likely reflected in the practice of teachers who help a broad range of learners succeed academically. Examine the nine one by one and discuss what role each of them plays in supporting student growth and success. (Look at how each indicator would affect specific “categories” of learners—for example: students for whom English is not a first language, students who have difficulty attending in class, students who need to move when they learn, students who are academically advanced, students who struggle cognitively, etc.)

2. Quickly re-read the classroom scenarios in Chapter 4. Jot down general characteristics the scenario classrooms have in common. Discuss how they are like and different from classrooms in which differentiated or responsive teaching is not a priority for the teacher.

3. Chapter 4 poses three final questions. Do we have the will and skill to accept responsibility for the diverse individuals we teach? Do we have a vision of the power of high-quality learning to help young people build lives? Are we willing to do the work of building bridges of possibility between what we teach and the diverse individuals we teach? How would you answer those questions? Use the bullet points accompanying each question to help you elaborate on your answers.


Chelsea said...

In reviewing the nine attitudes and skills effective teachers have, I felt that all students would benefit from each of the practices. However, many reluctant learners would benefit more from these best practices more so than students who have a greater value for an education and content within the classroom. A clear goal is established by the teacher when she understands what the curricular essentials are, where students stand in relation to these, and how she will deliver them. It is our duty to become teammates with students in their learning. Once they have built the self-concept to become more independent in their learning, then we are able to gradually step back, but not away, from their path, always ready to support their strengths and challenges along the way. This attitude, of a teammate, will develop a reluctant learner's view of his abilities in the positive light. Of the nine perspectives discussed in chapter four, I believe that developing communities of respect is critical, and can only be accomplished if we model what we expect. This perspective benefits all students and fosters positive, productive social interactions for students' futures in education, relationships, and careers. Having an awareness of what works for each student makes them feel valued. We need to constantly be aware of the classroom as its own culture and each individual as a whole, not just as a learner. In order for us to develop classroom management routines that contribute to success, we need to allow each student to play a part in the class's learning environment and success, including their own. As stated in the book, "students benefit from responsibility." Students feel valued when they contribute to the learning atmosphere. Personal responsibility is a major part of student success, and we need to become effective partners in supporting them to attain this success. We need to understand what success looks like to them and help them define it. Developing flexible classroom teaching routines ensures that all learning styles, modalities, and intelligences are developed and practiced regularly. By varying our delivery and groupings of students we can attend to all students’ needs and interests. Through the flexible teaching routines we expand our repertoire of instructional strategies. I like the analogy the authors use. We wouldn’t dine on only one or two entrees all year long. This would not only be boring, but not nourish our bodies. Varying the learning styles, modalities, and the multiple intelligences we are creating that variety that allows for a dynamic learning experience for all students. Reflecting on what works, why it works, and what it reveals to students about their learning allows students to learn about new styles and areas of interest. The most important piece in setting goals and working to attain them is regular reflection. Growth is not attained if we do not reflect on the growth of our students, as well as our own, and how we are moving toward our goals.

Chelsea said...

The scenarios had three main practices or attitudes in common: teach in a variety of ways to meet individual learning needs, and draw background knowledge and previous experiences; responsibility falls on both the teacher and the student; and value and respect diversity and all perspectives which will foster community in the learning environment.
Depending on the day, time of year, and administration expectations and support I may answer the first question with more positive conviction or with uncertainty in my drive to accomplish. However, my main goal will always be to develop and maintain relationship of mutual respect with my students. To have the vision and of the power of high-quality learning, I need to be able to sift through materials, including state standards and local curriculum to know what is relevant. More importantly, working with different grade-level teachers to understand their perspectives, will help me know what students experienced the year before and where they are headed. This will also support me in understanding what my students need in order to be successful and determine a well-rounded picture of content. Taking time to get to know students as whole persons will allow me to build the bridge between students and content. I will make connections for my students to own the essentials, and coach them for personal success, through goal-setting, reflections, planning, and celebrations.

BigSal said...

The "Magic 9" attitudes and skills of a teacher who helps all learners are present in Powell classrooms much of the time. The role each of the nine plays in supporting student growth and success is clear. As I reread the first one, establishing clarity about curricular essentials, I remembered a huge sign hanging in Arapahoe High School's gymnasium: "Not for school, but for life we learn." A compelling sentence in this section really drives the rest of the nine: "When a teacher is clear about the enduring understandings of a lesson or unit, that teacher is more likely to be at ease in offering students options . . . it is the outcome that matters." In the next section about accepting responsibility, I liked the succinct idea that if a student has not yet learned a thing of importance, [perhaps] the teacher has not yet taught it well enough. Granted, there are plenty of factors that go into a particular student not grasping a concept or skill, but if we teachers just give a low grade and give up on further instruction, what good are we??!! I need to work on this more diligently, actually. The third section about communities of respect gave terrific suggestions about how to develop them, and I took away that each student feels safe and also challenged in an atmosphere of unequivocal respect. The pages devoted to an awareness of what works for each student certainly speak to responsive teaching; yet it's a matter of finding time and efficient methods for collecting and utilizing this type of data. The eye-opener for me in the next section about classroom management routines was the statement "...there is not even the expectation that everyone will complete the same task, using the same materials, and under the same time constraints." This requires a huge shift in philosophy and style for me, as far as doing this all the time instead of occasionally. But how dynamic! Then, the students' new awareness of metacognition anymore is at the core of the pages about students becoming partners in their own success. Strengths, weaknesses, differences, reflection, goal-setting, and conferencing are all valuable aspects. The information pertaining to flexible classroom routines will benefit all types of learners, as well. Even the physical layout of the room should switch, depending on the day's lessons. Teaching the students about learning styles and multiple intelligences has always fascinated me. As the next area mentions, changing up our daily delivery opens the door to creativity -- students as teachers, for example. And of course that will appeal to the range of learners in the room. Finally, the ongoing casual and formal assessments we use will truly help ensure that all students stretch and grow through the year.

BigSal said...

To continue, the scenarios presented with the Magic Nine have a lot in common. The teacher is both proactive and interactive. ACTIVE in general! Within these cases, best practices are everywhere: asking for student input on room management, one-on-one time, varied activities to show learning, giving a hand-up to IEP kids for more equal footing, drawing on the work of peers, personal goals and conferences, rubrics, big picture before the details, tallying contributions, keeping notes on every kid, etc. The differences between these effective teachers and those who don't see responsive teaching as a priority are disappointing. The "unresponsive" teachers teach to the "middle" and perhaps would like to do more but don't know how to adjust.

As for the 3 final questions, two words from the conclusion should guide educators: persistent pursuit. It really all comes down to that.
So, do we have the will? YES
Do we have the skills? They're developing and we're capable of attaining them to a higher degree.
Do we have vision? YES, and it's getting clearer.
Are we willing to work? It's up to individual staff mambers, but overall, Powell says YES.
Are we willing to build bridges between content and students? It's been happening for such a long time that we aren't even aware we're doing it. I'm proud of this, but I could do better. I can speak only for myself when I allude to Michael Jackson's song "Man in the Mirror."

K Blake said...

As I read over the nine attitudes again, I (like Sally) was struck by the first attitude (They establish clarity about curricular essentials.), but also by the sixth attitude (They help students become effective partners in their own success.).

I feel very lucky to have been a part of the grading pilot in LPS, not only because it caused me to review my grading policies and determine what it was I was trying to accomplish through my grading practices, but also because it forced me to examine all of my teaching practices and determine what was truly important about the content I was teaching and the skills I was hoping to build in my students. It allowed me time to focus on the backwards design principles. I focused on the idea from this book that “learning has much more to do with one’s ability to organize and use ideas and skills to address problems than with retention of data.” I find this especially true in today’s world. Our students can easily, and quickly, access any factoid they need. However, the ability to use that knowledge will be what separates them from the rest and opens up their future.

I was also taken back to the quote found on page 40. “curriculum should focus on the knowledge, understanding, and skill that enables students to develop solid frameworks of meaning in a topic or discipline.” The book continues by saying as teachers we progress toward expertise in our profession as we continually refine our own understanding of what in a topic is genuinely significant, we can’t teach it all, nor can the students learn it all. In my opinion, the book and its authors give us permission to stop trying to do it all. Rather, it says we are to provide scaffolding for our students to use as they gain new knowledge in “the real world”. WOW! While this can also be seen as an overwhelming task, to me it is incredibly empowering! This is how I can establish clarity about essentials and help my students become partners in their success.

This chapter also allowed me to again do some personal reflection. In the last couple of years, as I became more comfortable with my content and the essentials, I got away from pre-assessments. I must get back to this practice. It provides me with the “scaffolding” I need to effectively facilitate learning in all of my students.

As to the last three questions in the chapter, I think the answer is, “We must!” We, as teachers, cannot afford not to have the will and skill to accept responsibility for the diverse individuals we teach, have a vision of the power of high-quality learning to help young people build lives, be willing to do the work of building bridges of possibility between what we teach and the diverse individuals we teach.