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Education Learning Teaching

Learn More about Standards in 11 Minutes, 15 Seconds

During this module, we will investigate standards in more detail.  Specifically, we will review:

  • How standards are organized (subject area, strand / standard area, standard)
  • The difference between learning objectives and standards
  • The process used to unpack standards and create learning targets that students, parents, and the community can understand
  • Just a little bit about rubrics
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If you cannot retrieve the samples I put in the presentation, you can download the sample rubrics from this page.

Constructive feedback is welcomed and encouraged.

Lesson learned: Adobe Presenter is probably not for me.
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Education Essays Teaching

We Owe Our Children Everything

Our children do not come to us in a dream and ask to be born.  Instead, we make a choice to bring our children into the world.  They owe us nothing.  We owe them everything.

That does not mean that they are allowed to walk all over us and demand every wish be fulfilled.  Rather, we owe them every opportunity to practice becoming honorable, loving, conscience-bearing human beings.  We owe them our patience and kindness as they struggle through the learning process that every human must go through to truly understand their purpose and place in the world.  We owe them our willingness to be their role models, and to practice ourselves, every day, what we expect them to adopt for themselves as they journey toward adulthood.

We owe them their education in things such as the six “selves” philosophy that our martial arts dojo espouses: self-awareness, self-confidence, self-control, self-defense, self-discipline, and self-respect.  When they violate our right to one or more of those, we owe it to them to help them understand those actions are not acceptable.  When they violate their own right to one or more of them, we owe it to them to help them understand that those actions, too, are unacceptable.

We owe them the opportunity to learn deeply, think critically, and to take risks.  We owe them the chance to fail, but to fail productively.  We owe them the chance to feel unconditional love, not only from their parents, but from everyone around them.  We owe them the chance to love unconditionally, to forgive, and to express frustration.  We owe them the right to have their own voice.  We owe them the right to make an argument, to win it if they have done their part effectively, and to lose it if they have not.  We owe them the right to experience disappointment, to express disappointment, and to find the joy in overcoming it.  We owe them the opportunity to learn to accept disappointment from others, too, but we owe them the right to protection from needless heartache.

We owe them the right to expect us to respect them, and to learn to respect us and others, who also have the right to expect respect from them.

Children do not ask to be born.  We parents make a choice.  From then on, till death do us part, we are forever in their debt.  Someday, they will be in debt to their own children.  If we have done our job right, their children will feel as loved, cared for, respected, challenged, and important as we tried to help our children feel.  If we have taught them well, and they have learned well, we can all truly be the positive change we want to see in the world*, working with one precious child at a time.

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*Although Gandhi didn’t actually say “be the change you want to see in the world,” what he did say that inspired that sentiment is so profound that I included it as the featured image for this post.

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Education Learning Teaching

Thoughts on Standards-Based Grading

In the interest of full disclosure, I work for a company that develops, markets, and sells software to K-12 institutions, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and the company is not responsible for them.

The software includes an SIS (Student Information System), a performance management system, a special education system, and finance software. In the SIS, we have a standards-based grade book. When our product manager presented it, and the educational theories behind its development, to us recently, my first reaction was that of a parent, rather that a teacher. I thought,

4426.cstarinterrobangYou mean to tell me that students will not be penalized for missed assignments or for incomplete assignments? What?! That’s insane. You’re just inviting students to decide that the assignments aren’t important, and they won’t do them.

The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

That was how a lot of parents, teachers, and administrators reacted, too, when they decided to move to standards-based grading in St. Louis. The point of SBG, however, is to get an accurate “picture” of a student’s progress that does not include, for example, points awarded for doing homework. Instead, the grade produced indicates mastery of a standard, minus all the “fluff” that inflates grades and does not demonstrate true learning.

In addition, under SBG, students are able to actually master a standard. That means that they will be able to try, fail, and try again.

Another variation of the SBG theme is competency-based education. In my company’s world, they are basically the same thing, which might be a problem in some educators’ eyes, but it really isn’t. Basically, the grade book looks at the standards loaded by the district first, allowing a teacher to load assignments and assessments into the grade book under each standard measured. It allows teachers to answer the question, “How will we assess that this student has reached proficiency on this standard?” A student has to master the concept, skill, and / or standard and demonstrate mastery in order to ‘pass.’ From my understanding, that is how CBE works – it’s based on students demonstrating proficiency in some manner of a concept, skill, or knowledge. It does allow for more individualization than SBG (read the article below for a great overview), but our grade book would accommodate that level of individualization, I believe.

The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

When I was in grad school, I learned about a Middle School that was trying a different method of educating that refused anyone to earn less than a B. If you did poorly on a test or a project, you did it again until you earned the grade they considered acceptable. That presumes you did some remedial work in the meantime as well. In theory, that’s awesome. We would have a lot of kids, then, who would not be well-rehearsed in the ways of “doing school.” It would be a boon for differentiated instruction and personalized learning, too. Kids would be able to go at their own pace and master a concept or skill in true fashion, rather than trying to keep up with the middle. Imagine this: Kids would be allowed to make mistakes! Those who are “quick learners” (I am not among them, by the way) would be able to move on to more challenging concepts and skills and master higher standards. From what I understand, a number of online schools use standards-based (or competency-based) methods with their students. I love that idea – in theory.

In practice, it’s probably a logistical nightmare, especially for the teachers who have to keep track of each student’s progress, which could be all over the grade book map. I’m not sure that means we should abandon the idea; in fact, I think it means we should reconsider the following.

  • Doesn’t the design of SBG and CBE actually mirror what happens in life?
  • Do the traditional grade levels still apply in our century?
  • What is more important – being on track with others, or truly learning something?
  • What are we telling our kids when we espouse the ideas behind traditional academic success?

For now, I want to address the first question. In the article I referenced above, one of those who are not keen on the concept indicated that what happens in SBE and CBE does not reflect the ways of the real world. I disagree.

“That’s not how the real world works.”

Interesting. The first thing you learn when you engage in any project is this: deadlines are soft. Miss a deadline and you’ll need to explain yourself, but it’s not like it’s unexpected. Additionally, “getting something right” is more important than a deadline, and often “getting something right” means going off the rails and trying something other than what management expected. Staff takes ownership of a part of a project, and almost everything at work today is part of a project. Today, managers expect staff to be independent, knowledgeable, and flexible. Staff does not just do what it is told. Staff members start out with the goals they are given, but those goals can often shift. So, yes, this type of education does reflect the real world.

More later… It’s time to open presents!

07.20

At least | that’s what | he said | later | on shore
While I | washed my | feet of | gritty | wet sand.
My thoughts | swimming | back to | moments | before
When I | panicked,| not see | ing him | from land.

Yes, that will do nicely!

10.30

I watched | a buo| y with | gray hair | floating
In the | ocean,| no wor|ry in | his mind.
To God,| he di|rected | his face | gloating,
“A more | perfect | life you’ll | struggle | to find.”

I like that rewrite!

At least | that’s what | he said | later | that day

While I | washed my | feet of | gritty | wet sand.

My…

08.38

First, I have to say that this is really hard.  🙂

In the ocean, on his back he floated,
No worry in his mind, nor in his heart.
To God, he lifted his face and gloated,
“My life is perfect. We’ll never part.”

I like the first quatrain. Well, I should say that I like it enough to not change it yet.

On the beach, his children played in sand,
Castles they made, and buried mother’s feet.
She let them, scrunched her toes, feeling safe on land,
Comfortable in her beach seat.

Oh, that’s terrible. I just really like the bit about burying mother’s toes.

Mother heard a frightened, “Where is he?”
Her eyes opened wide.  Was he lost?
Kids laughed as he came from the sea,

As I sit here, with my pen, I wonder
Will I write well?  Will these words drag me under?

08.00

In the ocean, on his back he floated,
No worry in his mind, nor in his heart.
To God, he lifted his face and gloated,
“My life is perfect. We’ll never part.”

On the beach, his family played with sand,
Castles they made, and buried mother’s feet
She laughed, wiggled her toes, …
 

Then she saw her husband had disappeared…

As I sit here, with my pen, I wonder
Will I write well?  Will these words drag me under?

16.16

Great Feedback
What a wonderful gift I received today when I checked in on my professional development courses.

03.21

More on Consideration Number One

I simply found it fascinating that an educator would say that SBG and CBE do not reflect the real world.  I understand why the person said it.  If you don’t meet the goals set in the workplace, there are consequences.  If you don’t do the work you’re supposed to do, there are consequences.  As I said above, however, adults set these deadlines while collaborating on a project or task, and the goals are continuously revisited for validity.  The manager does not set a goal in a grade book and give you a zero if you don’t meet the goal.  Yes, you have to explain yourself if you don’t meet the goal, but if you can explain yourself well, the penalties are often slight or not imposed at all.

Which brings me to my next point: Communication feeds the heart and soul of any human organization, project-based or not.  [pullquote]Communication feeds the heart and soul of any human organization, project-based or not.[/pullquote]In this reformed version of grading, students and teachers work on communication and collaboration skills, two very important skills to have as one enters the workforce.  If done right, I believe the students will learn to acknowledge that goals and deadlines are important, but more importantly, they will learn to communicate with their teacher when they are struggling to meet them or believe the assignments are not going to help them achieve their goals.  I think that educators are misunderstanding a fundamental part of this learning process when they allow students to miss deadlines or not complete assignments at all.  That’s a misconception about the process that absolutely must be addressed.  Students are missing vital learning opportunities when they do not attempt an assignment simply because they know they will not be penalized.  When students and educators agree that the assignments are learning opportunities and that they should communicate about its effectiveness and collaborate to make changes if necessary, that is when true learning takes place.  That reflects what happens in the real world. 

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03.21

More on Consideration Number One

I simply found it fascinating that an educator would say that SBG and CBE do not reflect the real world.  I understand why the person said it.  If you don’t meet the goals set in the workplace, there are consequences.  If you don’t do the work you’re supposed to do, there are consequences.  As I said above, however, adults set these deadlines while collaborating on a project or task, and the goals are continuously revisited for validity.  The manager does not set a goal in a grade book and give you a zero if you don’t meet the goal.  Yes, you have to explain yourself if you don’t meet the goal, but if you can explain yourself well, the penalties are often slight or not imposed at all.

Which brings me to my next point: Communication feeds the heart and soul of any human organization, project-based or not.  [pullquote]Communication feeds the heart and soul of any human organization, project-based or not.[/pullquote]In this reformed version of grading, students and teachers work on communication and collaboration skills, two very important skills to have as one enters the workforce.  If done right, I believe the students will learn to acknowledge that goals and deadlines are important, but more importantly, they will learn to communicate with their teacher when they are struggling to meet them or believe the assignments are not going to help them achieve their goals.  I think that educators are misunderstanding a fundamental part of this learning process when they allow students to miss deadlines or not complete assignments at all.  That’s a misconception about the process that absolutely must be addressed.  Students are missing vital learning opportunities when they do not attempt an assignment simply because they know they will not be penalized.  When students and educators agree that the assignments are learning opportunities and that they should communicate about its effectiveness and collaborate to make changes if necessary, that is when true learning takes place.  That reflects what happens in the real world. 

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The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
Categories
Education Learning Teaching

Teach Them How to Fish

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Chinese Proverb

The other day, during an internal training session, the question arose, “How can we ensure that students are learning all they are supposed to know when there is not enough time in the school year to teach them everything?”  Then, someone asked, “Should school be year-round?”  My response to that is one you might hear from many teachers: “No.” In this post, I will share why I think that it is not necessary to lengthen the school year.

In high school, we had the mandatory Social Studies classes that included American and World history.  Invariably, we would never cover more than three-quarters of the content.  Somehow, our country’s history ended with World War I or II.  I do not recall learning about the Korean conflict, Vietnam, the 60s, etc.  World history would end way before that.  We spent so much time on Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc., that it was hard for the teacher to get to contemporary world history.  We memorized dates, facts, and figures for a test and then we forgot them.  We did not talk about how to “do history.”

What I mean is that we never learned how to view events through a historian’s lens.  How do historians find all this information?  How do they uncover the secrets people didn’t set out to keep, but buried anyway?  How do anthropologists, sociologists, and historians work together to interpret their findings?  How do they learn how to fish?

Yes, fish. If I were a history teacher (which had been my dream from the age of 14 till the age of 21), I think I would start with the historian’s perspective.  I would make learning the content the context in which the students learned those skills.  I would flip the classroom, something that is easy to do today, to ask students to learn content at home and interrogate the content in class.  I would spend more time teaching kids how to find information than lecturing kids about information.  I would spend more time teaching kids how to construct knowledge independently and in groups.

If the focus is off of content coverage and onto skill development, it is my opinion that the school year can stay the length it is.  Perhaps more kids would become interested in history with this method and study history on their own.  Who knows?

The same is true with English, which is the subject in which I am certified.  Instead of spending weeks on a novel, perhaps it is better to start by examining a writer’s process and a critic’s process.   How do critics arrive at their conclusion about the novel’s content, theme, structure, character development, etc.?  What are the criteria by which they judge a written work?  Put that within the context of a great piece of literature.  Let the students choose from a short list of novels and teach them to interrogate the text.  Truly, what are they going to remember more: the content of the novel or the skills they practiced to understand the work, the author’s intent, and the theme?  Why passively read the novel aloud when you could spend class time learning those skills in context?  Which will get them further in life: the content or the skills?  I say the skills.  And if we focus on the skills, wrap them in content, and work on those in class, every day, I believe we do not have to lengthen the school year.

Waiting for class to begin, Lucas tried putting another lure on based on what Douglas taught him the night before. He did it all by himself.
Waiting for class to begin, Lucas tried putting another lure on based on what Douglas taught him the night before. He did it all by himself.

Kids can go fishing instead.

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