This guest post is written by Shannon Finnegan, a social studies teacher at Hopkins High School in Minnesota.
Throughout my teaching career, I have taught in three vastly different schools: a suburban high school, an inner city 6–12 school, and an alternative high school. In these different settings, I have found that there are certain educational buzzwords and catchphrases that will provoke groans and eye rolls on teacher professional development days regardless of where you work. Words such as differentiation, backwards planning, and standards-based grading are just a few of the phrases that will make teachers cringe on inservice days. When I began teaching at a small school in Brooklyn, New York, I came to loathe one phrase in particular: learning targets. Read more
As schools struggle to identify what to do to improve student learning, many of us look to researchers for answers—or at least guidance—about which path to take. The work of John Hattie has transformed educational conversations around the globe and caused us to think about not just what works but what truly makes a significant difference. When you look at Hattie’s publications, it is hard to ignore the power of collective teacher efficacy and Hattie’s charge to teachers to “know thy impact.” Read more
Lately I have had cause to review a variety of grading policies from various districts. Clearly, I realize that the focus of a grading policy is obviously grading, but I can’t help but think that they unintentionally take the focus off of learning. Read more
Currently, one of my favorite television shows is A Million Little Things on ABC. It’s a show about a group of adult friends who, under unexpected circumstances, come together to support each other through an incredibly difficult time; the range of experiences is intense and the solutions often layered and complicated by their own personal stories. That said, the premise of the show (for this conversation) is not as relevant as the show’s tagline. Read more
A number of years ago, I had the good fortune to teach a cohort of practicing educators in a Masters in Curriculum program. As a part of this program, teachers were required to complete a culminating project which included action research in their classroom. At the time, action research was a pretty novel concept and many of the teachers were a little intimidated by the thought of doing this kind of research with their students.
As the instructor, I wanted to make sure that the research they conducted was both well done and that the conclusions drawn were meaningful. Read more
My son began his high school career this fall and has had what I would consider a successful transition. He didn’t get used to his new surroundings, teachers, or student population overnight, but with time, he has grown comfortable and really enjoys the new setting. Not everything has gone perfectly, but he has responded when obstacles have arisen. Before school started we talked about what he would need to do this year to find the success he desired; we discussed what would be similar and different between his junior high and high school experiences. He wanted to get it right. But we also had to talk about the unknown, the things that he just wouldn’t know about until he got there, what he wouldn’t understand until he lived it. As uncomfortable as that may have been, this is transition and learning. For teachers, a change in grading practices can run parallel to this experience. Read more
A few months ago, a young teacher, Maggie, asked me what I thought of the use of rubrics. I thought it a curious question, so I asked her why she was asking. Maggie told me that she was taking some college post-graduate courses, and although a few of her teachers used them, one professor was very opposed to them and said they were counterproductive, limiting, and should not be used. Read more
Let us talk about shopping for shoes. I am not one of those people who meanders through shoe stores, struggling to narrow down my choices (no judgment for those who do—that is just not me). Rather, I am a very pragmatic shoe purchaser. I have specific kinds of shoes I favor, and I am clear about my shoes size. So when I head into a store, I get what I need and get out. Read more
When it comes to measurement, four is a popular number; rather, a range of 1 to 4 is a common scheme. Two different powerful measurement systems use a range of 1 through 4 scores to clarify levels of quality. The Depth of Knowledge [DOK] framework by Webb, 2005, uses a 1 through 4 scale to rank the cognitive complexity of an assessment task. The Proficiency Scale framework by Marzano and Kendall (2008) uses a 1 through 4 scale to rank students’ performance levels on individual standards. Read more
When we consider all of the ways to ensure successful learning outcomes, knowing the criteria for success definitely tops the list. When we know where we are going, our chances of reaching that destination increase dramatically. But what about those times when we are trying to invite open-ended experiences: creativity, play, and imagination? How does criteria-setting fit within that paradigm? Can assessment practices, such as criteria-setting and self-assessment, live in harmony with these open-ended or emergent outcomes? Read more