Teacher Clarity is a right of all students

According to John Hattie, it is a right for students to know what they will be assessed and taught. Honestly, I never thought about it from that perspective but I would have to agree. He further mentions that our marks and evaluations can affect the progress, choice paths and dreams of our students.

This got me thinking about why going gradeless is such an important endeavour to pursue. Hattie mentions that teacher clarity has a .75 effect size (anything over .4 is considered great). That is huge! But it makes sense. If students understand what the teacher is evaluating and what they will be learning then they can and will be successful.

How many times have we said to ourselves or colleagues, “but I taught it! Why don’t they get it?” I know I have done this so many times that I can’t even begin to count. It is one of the reasons that I moved to a feedback based assessing the program and eventually to a gradeless classroom.

Now I know we also have the curriculum and I guess we can say these communicate the learning but 1) these standards are not written for students and 2) these standards aren’t even clear sometimes for teachers. Hattie talks about learning intentions. Here are some key ideas to think about:

1) learning intentions should be shared with students so that students understand then and what success looks like

2) learning does not happen in a neat, linear sequence; therefore, the cascade from the curriculum aim through the achievement objective to the learning intention is something complex

3) learning intentions and activities can be grounded it one activity can contribute to more than one learning intention or one learning intention may need several activities for students to understand it fully

4) learning intentions are what we intend students to learn other things not planned for, so teachers need to be aware of unintended consequences

Again, when we make these intentions clear and inviting it will have a bigger impact on learning than not doing it. Margaret Smith and Mary Kay Stein write:

The key is to specify a goal that clearly identifies what the students are to know and understand about (insert subject) as a result ot their engagement in a particular lesson (Smith and Stein, 2011)

Now, this may all sound familiar to many of us in Ontario as we have had it in Growing Success but when reading Hattie’s comments it was just another aha moment to keep in mind, as well as, serve to validate and affirm that feedback based assessments, clear learning goals and success criteria are needed. We as educators have a huge impact on the world. We are the difference that makes the difference.

You may also find this graphic and interesting conversation starter.

For more info on gradeless classrooms view my posts or follow Starr Sackstein and #TTOG for more information.

Is understanding deep learning, surfacing learning and transferring knowledge the answer?

I know its a long title but I have been reading Hattie’s work on Visible Learning in Mathematics and it struck me that maybe our conversations around rote or conceptual is all wrong.

Now to behonest, I think that the conversations about this are all wrong, to begin with as this false dichotomy pits teachers against each other and that it really has never been about rote and conceptual but Hattie’s work gave me a new aha moment to consider.

I guess before we can get any further what is surface learning, deep learning and transferring knowledge. Since I am reading Hattie’s work I will use his definitions.

Surface learning has two parts. 1) it is the initial learning of concepts and skills and 2) it goes beyond just an introductory point. It is also important to note that surface learning is not shallow learning, it still takes time and needs consolidation. This was a key point in my learning. I often saw surface learning as just that surface. Like going through the curriculum as fast as I possibly can but not really going deep with the learning. Surface learning is the beginning of a students development of learning. It is where they are exploring, listening and creating files to find the information again.

Deep learning provides students with opportunities to consolidate their understanding of concepts and procedures and make deeper connections to the ideas. In Hattie’s book, he makes reference to a familiar student aha moment about multiplication arrays and area. He mentions a student telling his teacher, “hey this is just like arrays miss!” I have seen that spark so often but I also question have I given my students enough lessons or time to have those deep learning moments.

Transferring knowledge is the hope of all teachers. Yet it is also an area I know we all comment on. Why can’t they take this information and apply it? In fact, our problem with test scores is often with questions that involve transferring knowledge.

Hattie mentions when students are able to transfer knowledge this is where real learning happens. It got me thinking of my favourite Fosnot quote:

To teach is to learn but without learning there is no teaching

This got me thinking does this mean that if teaching is about students learning and learning is about being able to transfer knowledge then teaching is the art it helping students transfer knowledge?

It was this aha moment that got me thinking that maybe our discussions should be about how much time are we spending on these three types of learning?

Now I know that being in the classroom has its unique personality and there are many, many things to consider when planning lessons but how often are we thinking about areas where our lessons are surface or deep or give opportunities for transferring to happen? It doesnt matter what your teaching style is, if you are more dialogic, direct or inquiry this question applies to all of us.

If you are like me I thought I was doing deep learning but maybe I was just extending surface learning. It is why this got me thinking do we need to put more emphasis on our purposeful planning and thinking about where in our plans and curriculum maps we are giving students the opportunities to have surface learning, deep learning and places where they can transfer knowledge.

What do you think?

Soft Eyes

This morning I was reminded of a term Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins use all the time, “soft eyes”.  The basic idea is to see the child and the associating behaviour through a softer lens. Now, this is not easy and this week has been one in where I have often struggled to show my own children those soft eyes. My kids have been sick one after another this week and just when they all got better my son was up all night screaming and crying. This, of course, is an automatic area where you as a parent are unregulated and like many, I lost my cool. However, last night I was reminded why having soft eyes are so important. So for the second night in a row my son woke up on the hour screaming. My first reaction was to scream in my head and instantly want to cry but instead, I went into my son’s room and held him. He instantly melted in my arms and quieted down. My wife asked me what I did and to be honest I am not too sure. However, at that moment I was reminded to always try and reframe behaviour and what having those soft eyes do to the child and myself.

Often I would have (and did the night before) lose my temper, which didn’t help the matter. In fact, my son got even worse. However, the moment I was nonthreatening and calmly approached him he quieted right down.

Now I know in the school system we have some big problems where we have to show a tougher side but to be honest most situations we don’t. “Soft eyes” helps us show that compassionate side of us as teachers. It helps you stay regulated and most importantly it has a bigger effect on students behaviour than taking that tougher line. When I remember “soft eyes”, I am also reminded that all children want to be good. I don’t think you will ever find a child who purposely goes out of their way to be evil or mean. Their behaviour is often rooted in reasons and yes I know as teachers we have so many things to juggle but you will continue to build better relationships with children when you remember those soft eyes. Just something I was pondering this morning. Love to hear your thoughts.

 

If you are interested in reading more here is some great resource for all teachers to look at:

https://self-reg.ca/2018/08/30/self-reg-schools-the-6-x-6-series/