Source: Is DI Really As Easy As What I Have Been Lead to Believe?

A new follower, Teaching and Learning Notebook, asks a great question. Then she answers it. Spoiler Alert… Differentiated Instruction is not easy!
But here is the good news. Collaboration can make it easier.

Learning from each other makes us better Teachers and that leads to better outcomes for our students and (just like the Hokey Pokey), that’s what it’s all about!

Performance Development Framework Goals and Success Criteria

The Goals I chose for my Performance Development Plan were partly devised from the results of my AITSL self assessment tool.  I also reflected on my plans and success from previous years to formulate goals and create action steps.

It’s important to look back on previous plans and  work out why some goals were not met.  Acknowledging the success is great and identifying the action steps as well as criteria that led to your success also helps you to construct appropriate SMART goals in the future.

Click image to go to Source

Click image to go to Source

Focus Area One: Embedding Indigenous Perspectives

Goal: By the end of term 1 I will have implemented and evaluated the current unit plan regarding Indigenous perspectives.

Action Steps: Workshop ideas with Indigenous Support Teacher and other support staff.  Write  Indigenous Perspectives to new units as they are developed.

Indicators of Success:

  • Unit plan documentation will include a section regarding Indigenous Perspectives and how they will be included/ discussed during learning experiences.
  • A number of learning resources developed (3 level guide comprehension activities).

Reflection: I achieved this goal before the end of term 1 so I was really pleased with myself.  The resources I created have been used twice and discussions with students in the classroom were fruitful.  Discussing my resources and ways of including Indigenous knowledge in my classroom was really helpful and I have ideas that I would like to implement next year as well.

Focus Area Two: ICT Integration in the Classroom

Goal: By the end of Semester 1, I will have trialled some ICT tools in the classroom and be in a position to implement the most effective strategies in my Semester 2 classes.

Action Steps: Workshop ideas with the digital coaches to trial some classroom ICT tools.

Indicators of Success:

  • Weekly ICT activity in classes.
  • Students able to work independently with ICT.
  • Enhance classroom engagement.
  • Enhanced differentiation possible for individual students.

Reflection: I trialled a small number of ICT resources in my year 7 class in Semester 1 and I was implementing the use of some of them by the end of Semester 1.  I have found some of the students in my Semester 2 classes are less independent in general so they need some assistance with use of ICT.  I am happy with the various online tools that I have found and I’m excited about working more on this goal next year as we have some more ICT resources in our school to use.  We will have 8 ipads, 8 desktop computers and several laptops available for use, as well as ear phone/ microphone headsets so students can use text to speech functions more easily.  There will also be a BYO Device policy in our school next year, although I’m a bit nervous about the impact this will have on student behaviour and access in my classroom.  We will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.  Fortunately, I am feeling much more confident with various ICT tools so I’m using them more readily in my classroom.  Some of the students in my classes this year have been more engaged because of the differentiation that I have been able to offer them with computer/ online tasks.  I am pleased with my progress on this goal!

Focus Area Three: Feedback to Students

Goal: Trial using Student Learning Goal Tracking sheets to provide succinct feedback in term 1. Implement more extensively in term 2 (Can you tell that my mentor and I were sick of writing SMART goals?)

Action Steps: Schedule formalised feedback sessions with students throughout the year to ensure they are aware of their current progress.  Give explicit suggestions as to how students can improve incrementally.

Indicators for Success: Students will be able to identify areas of strength and be able to articulate strategies to enhance other learning areas.

Reflection: I still have a long way to go on this goal.  I started using goal tracking sheets but found that they weren’t working as well as I would have liked.  These were also limited by the fact that the trackers only deal with one goal for each unit and my students really needed to deal with at least two goals – one for literacy and one for numeracy.  There were also times when the feedback I needed to give wasn’t relevant to the goal tracker.  I created a book work checklist to help with this and it  had space for at least 4 scheduled feedback occasions per semester.  Seeing that the feedback I was giving to students in this format was not of a high quality (at least I didn’t think so) I decided to explore  more ways of providing feedback to my students.  While doing this research I focused on the quality of feedback as well as the time it took to do this.  I will tell you more about my journey toward reaching this goal, because there is too much involved in it to include here.

There you have it. My Performance Development Plan and some reflections on the progress I have made towards my goals.

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Reflecting on Grand Plans

I am about to enter into the final term of the 2015 school year and I can see quite a lot of work ahead of me.  Everything I can do (from home) to prepare for the coming week is already done so I’m feeling really pleased with myself.  I decided this was a good opportunity to take a look at my goals for this year (which I shared with you in this post).  Here is the excerpt that we really need to focus on.

3 habits I’m going to try and develop as a teacher in 2015.

  • Use the word “AND” instead of “BUT”… I know this will require some thought which might be difficult AND I will get used to it eventually.
  • Talk LESS in my classroom.  I will need to think about this too (when I plan, give instructions and reflect on my lessons).
  • Allow the people around me (and myself) time to breathe- to connect, process, think – AND relax.

How’s That Working For Me?

I would say that I have made some progress towards reaching all of the goals above, however I think it would be a good idea to go a little further into it and work out how I’m going to further develop these by the end of the year (which is approaching faster than a two year old child on a sugar high).

Using the word AND instead of BUT

I am getting better at this one but I need to work on it more.  Does that give you an idea of how it’s really going.  On the bright side, many of my colleagues have been attempting to replace BUT with AND so at least I have had support on this one.  The question here is if there is a better way (an action perhaps) that would help me do this better.  Some sort of gadget that buzzes or lights up every time I use the word “but” would certainly draw my attention to it more consistently.  Does that exist?

Talk LESS

I am doing better at this in the classroom.  I have used more planning tools and visual aids in my lessons this year so I am naturally speaking less.  I am also tapping into non-verbal forms of feedback with my students e.g. thumbs up/ down, smile/ frown, a hand on the desk rather than a verbal reminder.  I noticed that the best of my colleagues use non-verbal communication almost without thinking.  I am simply becoming more conscious of the non-verbal communication I am using.

This has proven challenging at times because my students often feign ignorance and I have found that after repeating myself once, I have had to use different words (more words) to try and get the message across.  This is more of an issue when I am working with other teachers in their classrooms than when I am in my own classroom.

I am also finding that on occasion I get a case of verbal explosion when I have to just talk about everything and I can’t stop.  Fortunately, these little outbursts have happened in the staffroom or even at home.  While it might annoy some of my colleagues and my family, this outpouring of my surplus words is not interfering with my succinct teaching.  That’s Good.

Allow Time to Breathe

Allowing myself and my team members time to breathe has worked wonders.  Not only has the process of doing this has been easier than I thought, it has had an almost magical impact on my performance as a leader, as a team member and a teacher.  I’m a better teacher because I am well rested and have a balanced life.  Good for me!  My team is working brilliantly together too.  The members of my team are prepared to go above and beyond because I make it clear that I value their time and their energy.  I value them as people.  I know the people in my team have partners, families, community groups and lives outside of school and they know I have those things too.  We are human together which makes us better professionals together too.

A Final Thought and Questions for you!

It is good to have goals.  We set goals for our students all the time then we help them find their way.  Just as important as setting goals is having actions for working towards them and reflecting on the journey along the way and when you finally get there.  It feels good to see progress.  If you are just starting out in a new school year, what goals do you have for your teaching?  If, like me, the end is in sight, did you have goals for the year and how are you progressing?

Next time – no promises about when it will be-

I will share the performance development process that we have at our school.  Then: a series about my performance development goals and how I have worked towards them this year.

School this week will be great!  Believe it!

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Pictures Speak Louder than Words

Yesterday I received an excellent post from SHIFT E-Learning.  The illustration really stood out to me.  Perhaps I’m a little bit biased – it backs up my previous post perfectly.

Click the image to check out the article for yourself.

The idea

We can give students random points of information or knowledge, but until they make connections between these points they will not be able to apply them efficiently.  The post on SHIFT suggests that teachers need to provide experiences for their students that will help them to make these connections.

Applying this idea in your classroom

You may be teaching an online course or be in another educational setting but this concept applies to all of them.  I showed in my most recent post how I support my students to activate their prior knowledge.  This is one step towards helping my students connect old and new knowledge.  There are other strategies for achieving this and often getting your students to move between the first image (random seemingly unrelated and completely unorganised points) to the second (various facts and information linked to experience).  Here are a few strategies that help students to make these connections and you will probably find you are already using some of these.

  • Use Google Your Brain at the beginning of the lesson to see what students already know about a topic and revisit the “Google” questions to help students to use the new knowledge to fill in any gaps they had at the beginning of the lesson.
  • Provide some information to solve a problem and then ask the students to have a go at solving the problem.  Once students have had a chance to apply this information, debrief and help students to reflect on the experience.
  • Create a game/ activity that involves matching different ways of presenting the same information OR matching real world examples/ situations to the new knowledge they have.
  • Present a problem first and ask students to solve it using their current knowledge and skills.  After a short time – whether the problem is solved or not – provide students with the new knowledge/ skills that could be applied to the problem and then give them another chance to tackle the problem using what they have just learned.
  • Use role plays at the beginning and end of a learning activity which allows students to tune in to a new concept and then reflect on what they have learned.
  • Ask students to create something using the new knowledge or skill and explain the process they used.
  • Outline two very different situations and ask the students to apply their new knowledge of skill to both situations.  Alternatively, you could ask students to compare these situations using attributes that are relevant to the new concept.

See, I told you that you were already doing some of these things.

Bottom Line

Experience (learning through doing) is better than Lectures (learning through listening or even reading) when you want students to both remember and apply your topic.  Reading and Listening are important tools for learning but whatever is read or listened to needs to have an application or experience linked to it for it to be easily accessed later.

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