Monday, October 24, 2011

27 teachers

There are now 27 teachers in our district involved in this project. I met with a primary team today... grades 1,2, and 3. Oh what fun it is going to be to see how this all applies at such an early age! Even comparing the survey for grade 1 to the one at secondary is pretty cool.

What is going to be so interesting for me is the focus on the kids at risk... and what that looks like in grade 1 compared to grade 10 or 12. Who are these kids, what is working, what is not?

We are adapting and changing things at each grade level in this project, but the main premise is the same - are we teaching so that kids can learn, and are we getting a good picture of what they really know? Do our kids that we are worried about even know that they have strengths?

Monday, October 3, 2011


October 3, 2011
I have been reading the Maggie blogs regularly and have been so interested reading about the things the teachers are trying, things they are thinking, and observations they are making about their four case studies. I have opened up my blog to write at least 4 times and then I sit there wondering which part of this study I should be reflecting on in the blog. What I am noticing in all the schools? What I am figuring out in terms of data collection? What my conversations are with Jeff and Naryn and teachers involved in the project?

So tonight I am going to write about a few things I have been reading to help inform me in the whole data collection area, and in the project itself. There is a website called “What did you do in school today?” and it is written by the Canadian Education Association (CEA) – and some of the writers are people that I have heard of, or heard speak at different times. It is a very interesting site. This group of people have been doing research on education using students’ feedback for awhile now. I was particularly interested in the area of engagement. Through a questionnaire they have used over the past few years with thousands of Canadian students from grades 6-12 – they have determined a few things about engagement. They are breaking engagement into 3 areas:
1. Social engagement – belonging / participation / acceptance
2. Academic engagement – attendance
3. Intellectual engagement – investment in learning, higher order thinking…

What they found is that about 69% of kids responding are both socially and academically engaged… but only 37% are intellectually engaged… lower than that at secondary (30%) compared with elementary and middle. They go on to explain a whole lot of things to do with instructional challenge (keeping things challenging for the students) vs skills (within the students skill levels) and how you have to have the right balance so as not to cause anxiety, or apathy or boredom. What you want is “flow”… engagement in something worthwhile.

But what it has made me do is think about this project more. We are looking at engagement as one of our factors. In that factor we are looking for “deeper learning”. How do we engage students to make important connections between what they are learning and their life? How do we help them delve deeper into questions and become interested in the learning? How do we get them to do thoughtful, authentic work that captures their interest? There is a very interesting rubric on their website called “Effective Teaching Practices” and it is divided into 5 principles: 1. Teachers are designers of learning; 2. Work students undertake is worthwhile; 3. Assessment practices improve student learning and guide teaching; 4. Strong relationships exist;
5. Teachers improve their practice in the company of their peers.
The rubric has some really interesting descriptors – some of them we may want to use in discussions throughout the project.
And that concludes... my first blog.