Friday, July 27, 2018

Feeding Your Feedback Strategies

This week was day one of the annual Leadership Academy for secondary schools in my district. It's a chance for anyone who sees themselves as a leader or just wants to get more involved in their school to participate in the annual data dig as we sort through ACT and ACT Aspire numbers and student engagement data. As a department head, I feel an obligation to go but I also really like to know what's going on. These Academy days are also when we plan PD for the staff.

Recently I wrote how my school really shifted our early release Thursday focus last year to be more teacher centered and used this time for PLCs to meet. That isn't changing for this year but it does appear that our day just got 15 minutes longer. Hopefully those minutes can be used for those, "must dos" like epi-pen training and quick nuts and bolts. Plus, there is something to be said for a staff to connect for just a few minutes each week for celebrations. We're a big school and there are some people I only see throughout the week when we have staff meetings.

This week when we broke into smaller committees, I found myself focusing on the 4 C's, the 4 C's rubrics and how those skills can be integrated into classrooms. This built on the work we did last school year looking at the rubrics and writing, "I Can" statements and a descriptor for each of the 4C's. Our why behind this work is still a little foggy to me and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that since I've been a part of every single step so far. Ultimately, we defined skills that students need to be successful after high school not just in an academic setting but also in a career or just life. We want teachers and students to be mindful of these skills in the classroom.
Communication:  I can respectfully ask questions and provide comments to create clarity or prompt further discussion. 
Critical Thinking:  I can use reasoning to create logical solutions to problems. 
Collaboration:  I can use feedback to prioritize and monitor individual and team progress toward producing high quality work.
Creativity:  I can generate insight and develop original solutions, persevering through setbacks. 
What I'm afraid is that it will be perceived as the staff as, one more thing. My goal, since I'm now on this committee, is to make the PD surrounding the message meaningful. I enjoy designing PD and presenting to my co-workers strategies that they can implement in their classrooms. I see this as an opportunity to have an honest discussion about feedback in the classroom.

This summer I had the opportunity to hear Garnet Hillman speak about giving effective feedback. I think if you spend 20 seconds in any conversation about how to move students forward the idea of feedback is going to come up. This is not a new idea but do teachers know how to give meaningful and effective feedback? From my work as a Destination Imagination team manager, I know all too well that it's easy to guide a student to the solution and that it's difficult to guide them through the process of having them discover the solution on their own. I see this in classrooms all the time. Teachers spend so much time writing comments on what needs to be fixed, what the next steps are and I ask who's doing the learning when this happens? Or, items are just marked wrong on an assessment with no feedback. Does that promote learning?

What I hope to provide my staff is an understanding of the why behind meaningful feedback. We need to move beyond punitive, recognize when corrective feedback is appropriate and provide  actionable feedback. This is when the student takes action to correct their own errors. During Garnet Hillman's presentation, I wrote down a dozen or so apps or websites to help teachers provide feedback. However, the strategies that I am most interested in sharing out are Mark Barnes' SE2R strategy and TAG,

S:  Summarize, include a positive or strength here
E:  Explain, include or reference the standard
R:  Redirect, direct students to reflect on prior learning or seek help from a teacher or peer
R:  Resubmit,  once the work has be revised, ask the student to re-submit

Going back to the 4C's "I Can" statements, students will need to also learn how to give quality and meaningful feedback to each other in order to develop communication and collaboration skills. I like the TAG strategy for this one.

T:  Tell What You Like
A:  Ask a question about the work
G:  Give an actionable suggestion

On the back of a scrap piece of paper, I currently have sketched out a plan on what a PD session, that's also going to double as the PLC kick-off, could look like. It's partly inspired by a Destination Imagination activity that I do with my team at every practice (and will be fun and promote laughter...I think they'll be more likely to remember with that emotion attached to it), introduces the work that has been done with these "I Can" statements and provides teachers with two, if not more, feedback strategies that they can start using right away. I'm a little nervous but in the end, I think it will be well received.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Word About YouTube

I love YouTube.  There's my public proclamation of this huge repository of information. 

I am a knitter. I find it relaxing to create something pretty, reset my brain with repetitive movement and since I have close friends who also knit so it's a social opportunity (we're doing a yarn crawl this weekend...I'm so excited!). I usually have 3-4 projects on my needles; one is "social" knitting project or one that doesn't require a great deal of thought that I can do while talking; one that is a potential gift and a few that require a great deal of thinking and concentrating. Those are the ones you can find me working on in the early hours of a Saturday morning before anyone gets up at my house. It's just me, my yarn, a cup of coffee and my dog. Every now and then I come across a direction for a stitch that I don't know. There may be written directions, sometimes there isn't. Even if there is, I have a really hard time understanding what I'm supposed to do with the yarn and needles. I'm not sure what it is about my brain but that kind of learning doesn't work for me. I prefer to see and do it. Depending on the time of the day, my first impulse is to text my friend Erin. She's like my Siri for knitting. Most of the time, I'm just commenting that I don't know something because I do know how to solve my own problem; YouTube! I can't recall the last time I didn't know how to do something and couldn't find the answer on YouTube. There are plenty of knitters out there with YouTube channels that have taught me how to do what I'm looking to learn. My husband has fixed our dishwasher, central air unit and even some car repairs by watching YouTube videos.

It's no secret that YouTube has changed the way my 13 year old twins watch tv. This is where they have learned about new video games and one of my sons even taught himself how to play the mandolin a few years ago (yes, I have a child who plays the mandolin and now he plays in his school's fiddle club). I have a somewhat structured technology rule for the summer. They are not to play video games between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. They CAN use technology if they are making or creating something. Some days, they've had a hard time filling that 8-11:00 chunk of time. So, they started cooking. We've had more cookies baked this summer than I think I've ever made in their 13 years of existence. One child made a complicated ice cream pop dessert for the 4th of July. They have since expanded their skills to include Asian inspired appetizer type dishes or DimSum that they have seen made on YouTube. Some of the dishes have turned into more of Pinterest fails in appearance but everything has been very tasty. They are starting to use words like, mince, to describe exactly how they would like something chopped. I'm finding that I need to go grocery shopping multiple times a week to keep them stocked with whatever they need.

YouTube provides our students a wealth of knowledge to learn whatever they need to do. YouTube can be an outlet for an authentic audience and be a place to share as well as learn. Learners need to feel empowered and have the skills to be self-directed to pursue their passions. This is where the teacher comes in. As teachers, I believe we need to encourage this curiosity and teach responsible use of this resource.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Personalizing Professional Development

My district has a one hour early release every Thursday. Once the students leave the staff follows whatever is planned for them. Sometimes it's a staff meeting, sometimes it's a department meeting, sometimes the district administrative team comes and speaks to us, select groups of teacher are pulled out to work with counterparts from around the district and it's also a time when all those "must dos" take place like epi pen training. Last year, our building administration tried to give as many of those minutes to PLC teams so teachers could work on what is important to them. A team of teachers and one building assistant principal outlined what that time could look like and what the expectations would be. Looking back, I think it was as successful as it could be. There turned out to be more of those "must dos" than I think anyone was prepared for and the teams didn't get as much time as we would have liked.

The first Thursday started with me doing a launch event with BreakoutEDU on effective PLCs with the entire staff. I had 16 boxes set up and it was amazing. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. About a third of the way into the school year it was suggested that we do some sort of sharing out so we learn what all the PLCs were working on. We tossed around some ideas for sharing out without giving teachers, "one more thing to do." I suggested that we utilize Flipgrid and just have people share what work has been done. Easy-peasy and it put Flipgrid on the radar of teachers in the building and hopefully gave them ideas on how to use it in their classroom. I created a video using Adobe Spark and another co-worker did one directly on Flipgrid as models.

There was a lot of grumbling and it was viewed as, "one more thing to do." I kept my positive attitude and forged on with my vision.

My co-workers were amazing. This a perfect example of the importance of authentic audiences and  personalized PD. The videos that were produced were astounding. Teachers dove into video creation applications that they had always wanted to explore but never had time to. Every submission put the simple models to shame. The bar got raised every time another video was submitted.

If you have time, I suggest you check out some of the videos. The password is, "Espinosa." The creativity of my co-workers is amazing.

This was probably the most powerful example of why it's important to personalize education, have our students create and have authentic audiences. The teachers were working together, in like minded groups on a topic that were important to them and therefore engagement was increased. They created in a way that interested them and knew their audience.

I don't know what's in store for us during the 18-19SY. I hope that we are given time to work in our PLC teams again and anything that can be sent in an email is saved from a staff meeting to free up more time. I love the idea of teachers being able to learn in ways and from people that work for them. As George Couros wrote in his book, The Innovators Mindset, "What is essential for the success of any professional learning opportunity is to recognize that people need to more from their point A to their point B. Learning doesn't happen by simply distributing information."