Thursday, October 31, 2013

Degrees based on what you know!

"CERTIFYING learning, rather than time, is not an entirely new concept. For decades there have been other ways to earn college credits besides sitting in the classroom. You can “test out” of certain courses through A.P., CLEP or D.S.S.T. exams. At many colleges, you can do an independent study and submit a research paper for course credit. Since the 1970s, Excelsior, Thomas Edison and Empire State have allowed students to earn credits through performance-based assessment, like a simulation with patients in a clinical setting, or by submitting a portfolio with evidence of previous learning, whether through workplace experience, military training or even a hobby.
But not until Western Governors University was founded by a consortium of 19 states in 1997 was an entire degree program structured around assessments of learning. The online institution introduced many ideas that have been copied by new competency programs. They charge fees per term, not per credit, with an “all you can eat” policy — take and retake as many assessments as you can fit into a six-month term."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dear all,

Thought that I would start this week’s Food for Thought with something to think about when we are giving instructions. This idea arose from a moment I observed at the 3 v 3 Basketball on Saturday when the organizer lined up 9 players for a sudden death shoot out for 8 prizes…he said the first to miss is out. The first boy in the queue shot and missed the other 8 got the prizes, was this fair and what did it teach the others?

 This then reminded me of this homework and its instructions. This was how an autistic 2nd Grader answered this worksheet. Are the answers right or wrong?


Now that I have you thinking we can move on to this week’s Food for Thought, which has been approximately a month in the writing. It is an aspect of student development that has recently received  a large amount of attention and research and is one that I believe we need to be cognizant of and think about in our relationships with students. To some extent it is reflected in the basketball prize example I referred to at the start of this post. The question is why were 8 runners up being rewarded anyway, and what does this do for those individuals who are always being told or rewarded for being smart or good? Does this help them achieve more or better next time? This concept is very important for our Culture of Achievement that we are working towards. Developing the right “Mindset” the phrase used by Carol Dweck to encourage resilience and the ability to learn from our mistakes.

In a recent blog post be Selena Gallagher entitled Learning to Fail, I that, “The self-esteem movement, which began in the 1980s, was based on the premise that raising children’s self-esteem would benefit society, and a culture of praise and reward was established that continues today. In the United States and Canada, the trophy industry is now worth an estimated $3 billion a year. Much of that comes from junior sports leagues where it is now common practice for all participants to receive a trophy. In fact, the American Youth Soccer Organization spends 12% of its yearly budget on trophies.”

In this post she also included these two illustrations which sum up this situation beautifully. The first by Michael Jordon one of the greatest basketball players ever.



What the research is saying and what we have to be careful about is how we use positive praise to enhance achievement, “grit” and resilience. Hence I would like to share the following links/ articles with you that talk about this work and will help us adopt the right balanced approach in our classrooms. So here are 4 readings that you can take a look at that discuss this topic

·        Wisdom from a MacArthur Genius: Psychologist Angela Duckworth on Why Grit, Not IQ, Predicts Success

"Character is at least as important as intellect."

Creative history brims with embodied examples of why the secret of genius is doggedness rather than "god"-given talent, from the case of young Mozart's upbringing to E. B. White's wisdom on writing to Chuck Close's assertion about art to Tchaikovsky's conviction about composition to Neil Gaiman's advice to aspiring writers. But it takes a brilliant scholar of the psychology of achievement to empirically prove these creative intuitions: Math-teacher-turned-psychologist Angela Duckworth, who began her graduate studies under positive psychology godfather Martin Seligman at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, has done more than anyone for advancing our understanding of how self-control and grit – the relentless work ethic of sustaining your commitments toward a long-term goal – impact success. So how heartening to hear that Duckworth is the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur "genius" grant for her extraordinary endeavors, the implications of which span from education to employment to human happiness.

In this short video from the MacArthur Foundation, Duckworth traces her journey and explores the essence of her work:

"We need more than the intuitions of educators to work on this problem. For sure we need the educators, but in partnership I think we need scientists to study this from different vantage points, and that actually inspired me to move out of the classroom as a teacher and into the lab as a research psychologist."

·        Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results

”I had a teacher once who called his students "idiots" when they screwed up. He was our orchestra conductor, a fierce Ukrainian immigrant named Jerry Kupchynsky, and when someone played out of tune, he would stop the entire group to yell, "Who eez deaf in first violins!?" He made us rehearse until our fingers almost bled. He corrected our wayward hands and arms by poking at us with a pencil.

Today, he'd be fired. But when he died a few years ago, he was celebrated: Forty years' worth of former students and colleagues flew back to my New Jersey hometown from every corner of the country, old instruments in tow, to play a concert in his memory. I was among them, toting my long-neglected viola. When the curtain rose on our concert that day, we had formed a symphony orchestra the size of the New York Philharmonic.”

·        Presence not Praise: How to Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement

“In The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves (public library), psychoanalyst and University College London professor Stephen Grosz builds on more than 50,000 hours of conversation from his quarter-century experience as a practicing psychoanalyst to explore the machinery of our inner life, with insights that are invariably profound and often provocative — for instance, a section titled “How praise can cause a loss of confidence,” in which Grosz writes:

Nowadays, we lavish praise on our children. Praise, self-confidence and academic performance, it is commonly believed, rise and fall together. But current research suggests otherwise — over the past decade, a number of studies on self-esteem have come to the conclusion that praising a child as ‘clever’ may not help her at school. In fact, it might cause her to under-perform. Often a child will react to praise by quitting — why make a new drawing if you have already made ‘the best’? Or a child may simply repeat the same work — why draw something new, or in a new way, if the old way always gets applause?”

·        Carol Dweck

Last, but certainly not least, one of the leaders in this movement for adjusting the way and manner in which we praise students and hence encourage them to be successful and achieve, Carol Dweck the author of Mindset. This is a short video of Carol Dweck explaining Mindset.

Carol Dweck has a website that focuses on the growth mindset, Brainology®

I hope you enjoy the reading and thinking,

Have a good Sunday,



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Beyond Learning Styles

Hi all,
Hope you are feeling refreshed and relaxed after your vacation. This is a very short food for thought for this week. I have selected two articles on different topics, the first is short and from my weekly Annie Murphy Paul blog update about learning styles and the second is an article on how we maintain focus in our classrooms when we introduce increased amounts of technology.

Here is the survey that I sent out at the end of last week, if you have time and are able and the inclination to complete this survey please follow the link below:

Hope you enjoy the articles and you weekend,


 Beyond learning styles

Whenever I speak to audiences about the science of learning, as I’ve been doing a lot this fall, one topic always comes up in the Q&A sessions that follow my talk: learning styles. Learning styles—the notion that each student has a particular mode by which he or she learns best, whether it’s visual, auditory or some other sense—is enormously popular. It’s also been thoroughly debunked.”

The scientific research on learning styles is “so weak and unconvincing,” concluded a group of distinguished psychologists in a 2008 review, that it is not possible “to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.” A 2010 article was even more blunt: “There is no credible evidence that learning styles exist,” wrote University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham and co-author Cedar Riener. While students do have preferences about how they learn, the evidence shows they absorb information just as well whether or not they encounter it in their preferred mode.

This doesn’t mean, however, that teachers and parents should present material to be learned in just one fashion. All learners benefit when information is put forth in diverse ways that engage a multitude of the senses. Take, for example, a program that teaches math using music. At Hoover Elementary School in Northern California, a group of third-graders learned to connect the numerical representation of fractions with the value of musical notes, such as half-notes and eighth notes. Fractions are notoriously difficult for young students to grasp, and a failure to catch on early can hobble their performance in math into middle and high school. Clapping, drumming and chanting gave these pupils another avenue through which to understand the concept.

Called “Academic Music,” the program was designed by San Francisco State education professor Susan Courey and three colleagues. Courey recently
reported on the results of Academic Music in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics. After six weeks of music-based teaching, students scored 50 percent higher on a fractions test than students in the same school who attended conventional math classes. Children who started out with less fraction knowledge responded well to the musical instruction, Courey writes, “and produced post-test scores similar to their higher achieving peers.”

The lesson here: The “learning style” that teachers and parents should focus on is the universal learning style of the human mind, and two characteristics of it in particular.

First, students benefit from encountering information in multiple forms. They learn more, for example, from flashcards that incorporate both text and images—charts, graphs, etc.—than from cards that display text alone.

Second, students’ interest is kept alive by novelty and variety, so regularly turning away from textbooks and blackboards is key. As long as the new activity genuinely informs the students about the academic subject at hand, clapping a math lesson—or sketching in science class, or acting during story time—can help every student to learn better.

One more thought about learning styles: instead of dividing learners into categories such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, a classification I find much more useful is the one proposed by historian and educator Ken Bain, author of the
book What the Best College Students Do. In Bain's scheme, there are three types of learners:

• surface learners, who do as little as possible to get by;
• strategic learners, who aim for top grades rather than true understanding; and
deep learners, who leave college with a real, rich education.

Bain then introduces us to a host of real-life deep learners: young and old, scientific and artistic, famous or still getting there. Although they each have their own insights, Bain identifies common patterns in their stories. You can read more about these deep learners (they include astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and comedian Stephen Colbert) on the Brilliant Blog,
here. And right now, take a moment to appraise your own "learning style": is it surface, strategic, or deep?”

antonio.scardinale via Compfight cc
This article about technology in the classroom reiterates many of the ideas and strategies that can already be seen in classrooms at ISHCMC. However they are not always consistent across all classrooms and perhaps as we move forward should be built into our technology policies and procedures so they remain clear in our thinking about tech and our 1-1 programmes.
For Teachers, Wired Classrooms Pose New Management Concerns
“In a growing number of K-12 schools, the use of 1-to-1 computing devices—including iPads, laptops, and Chromebooks—is becoming a central part of instruction. For teachers making the digital leap, one of the greatest hurdles can be figuring out how to manage the tech-infused classroom. How do you keep kids, who suddenly have the Internet at their fingertips, on task? How do you ensure the devices are safe and well-maintained? And how do you compete with your most tech-savvy students?”

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dear all,
Thank you for yesterday it really made me feel up and energized ahead of a week without students. I hope it had the same uplifting effect upon you.
I wasn’t sure whether to write a Food for Thought this week or not, but decided to do so because you should have less school emails and might have a chance to read it and catch up on previous ones. I was also feeling so positive about your visions that I thought I could add some more information for you to read and think about.
So here goes:
Firstly, attached is Helen’s ppt which was linked to Hattie’s work on Visible Learning.  Here is a link to a similar ppt that I had seen before by Hattie and posted through the NZ government:
 Both are similar in content and do ask good questions about our mindset as teachers. I believe that this approach links very nicely with the “Culture of Achievement” that we are creating and naturally with the work we have done on Walk through templates and ideas of Dylan Wiliam, Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink and many other authors not mentioned yesterday.
 A vision that was also mentioned yesterday that is certainly worth exploring is  that of “Visible thinking” from Project Zero. Here is a link to their site for you to explore:
 The strategies that are suggested here are certainly worth discussing at department and Grade level. In addition if you are thinking about potential PD and feel it would be beneficial to undertake this collaboratively as a Department or Grade level, Project Zero provides some excellent and affordable ($399 as a group) on line courses that encourage collaboration both for your team at ISHCMC and as part of a global network of educators:
 Finally there were several presentations and visions about facilities, the school environment and health. All very important issues and ones that need taking seriously. Hence this final set of food for thought comes from some readings  that I have collected with the intention of sharing. The first is attached, Teaching for a Better World. This quote starts this document:
 One of the tasks of the progressive educator [...] is to unveil opportunities for hope, no matter what the obstacles may be.” Paulo Freire (1994) A Pedagogy of Hope
I like this quote because it provides us with a filter for our thinking. So often we are pessimistic, passing on our own fears to our students, about the issues of our world and look at them as a “fait accomplis”  rather than problems that can be solved with creative thinking. I believe it is our role to develop students who recognize the world’s issues, but are not scared by them, rather seeing them as challenges that can be solved and hence creating a better world. This approach would certainly benefit students long term health, as being optimistic is known to lower stress, release positive hormones and encourage a longer and happier life.
Finally I wanted to share this very recent article that is related to the environment but also encouraging others to take action through our own example and leadership.

Meet the College Professor Who Teaches His Classes in a Dumpster
Professor Jeffrey Wilson has taken green living to a whole new level.
The Dumpster ProjectProfessor Dumpster, a.k.a. Environmental Science Professor, Dr. Jeffrey Wilson (Photo: Courtesy The Dumpster Project)

Professor Dumpster, a.k.a. Environmental Science Professor, Dr. Jeffrey Wilson (Photo: Courtesy The Dumpster Project)
Just how far are you willing to go in the name of sustainable living? Recycling, driving less, and reducing your red meat consumption might already be part of your daily routine. And perhaps you’re just waiting for a three-day weekend to check off the next item on your green to-do list: Installing a compost bin in your backyard. But would you ever give up your apartment, sell off your possessions—and move into a garbage dumpster?
Probably not, but then again we can’t all be eco-purists like Jeffrey Wilson, a.k.a. “Professor Dumpster.”
An environmental scientist at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, Wilson plans to live in what amounts to an oversized metal box for the next twelve months, reports FastCoExist.
And his employer is buying in: Wilson’s bare-bones residence will serve as a classroom, with the professor and his students converting it into a livable, eco-viable dwelling. At first, he will survive in just the empty shell, curled up in a sleeping bag on the metal floor—or “dumpster camping,” as he’s calling it. “I'm essentially becoming part of the one percent,” he joked. “This dumpster is 33 square feet, which is one percent the size of the new American home in 2011.” Over time, he and the students will add a slew of green improvements to the trash bin: Energy-efficient light bulbs, nano-insulation, and even an energy-producing toilet.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Adding to Tuesday's meeting

Dear all,

Firstly a big thank you for your constructive comments in helping us build a Walk Through template that will provide data for us to become better teachers. I believe this has been a very productive process in establishing indicators for learning in the 21st century and consequently the organization of and practice in our classrooms. I will be sharing another draft template with you next week, that we will trial after the half term break before placing on Mcrel.
Below are some of the key points that Dylan Wiliam talks about as strategies to improve student learning that he touched on in the video that I showed in our meeting and a short 3 minute vdo that looks at the 5 strategies.
I tried to access the Webinar's below and could only access the 3rd one. Each does have a ppt presentation that is downloadable and certainly worth taking a look though. You need to register to do this, but that only takes a minute.

Dylan Wiliam & The 5 Formative Assessment Strategies to Improve Student Learning

·         By Kelly Goodrich

·         August 16, 2012

Dylan Wiliam’s new book, Embedded Formative Assessment, is filled with a number of insights culled from his 35 years of experience in education. The foundation of the book highlights the importance of formative assessment as a tool to improve teacher practice and ultimately improve student learning.

In the book, he provides the 5 strategies that he has come to believe are core to successful formative assessment practice in the classroom:

1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success – getting the students to really understand what their classroom experience will be and how their success will be measured.

2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning – developing effective classroom instructional strategies that allow for the measurement of success.

3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward – working with students to provide them the information they need to better understand problems and solutions.

4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another – getting students involved with each other in discussions and working groups can help improve student learning.

5. Activating learners as owners of their own learning – We wrote a recent blog on this topic: self-regulation of learning leads to student performance improvement.

These 5 strategies are also part of our Keeping Learning on Track (KLT) professional development solution that puts these strategies into action with a formal process for teacher professional development. But before formative assessment strategies can be effectively implemented, there needs to be an understanding as to what formative assessment is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not by school leaders and teachers.

Dylan recently gave a webinar that emphasized his understanding of formative assessment, and gave some practical techniques for implementing some of his strategies. You can access the webinar at no cost here. We’d also love to read your thoughts or experiences implementing formative assessment strategies, so drop a comment below.

See you at Monday briefing as I need to explain arrangements for Thursday's Celebration of Cultures.

Have a great weekend,