vendredi 15 avril 2011

Leyton Schnellert - Part 1: The Big Ideas

Leyton Schnellert
Leyton Schnellert was one of the most dynamic presenters I have had the opportunity to hear. His session was one of my choices, but I had not decided until I heard a colleague rave about what he'd heard from others who'd seen him present. (And yes, he's as visual as he is vocal.) Convinced, I stayed and am very glad I did.

Summarizing his ideas and methods would rob some of them of the attention they deserve. I want to refer back to these ideas and will therefore break them into separate articles to make it easier to revisit them later.

I want to start with what he referred to as The Big Ideas. When dealing with courses such as Science and Social Studies, it is so easy to slip back into the textbook and let it guide me in what I choose to teach. I mean, most of these textbooks are designed with the provincial curriculum guides as the blueprint so why reinvent the wheel? As I listened to him talk about meeting our students where they are at and identifying their strengths and needs as learners, I can decide which skills to target in a purposefully methodical way. This will be discussed in a later article.

Getting back to the Big Ideas, this is where the light went on for me. I could easily picture the process he suggests.
  1. Working in collaboration with a colleague, take a look at all the general and specific outcomes for a specific unit of study. This is perfect for school who already engage in PLC (professional learning communities) groups.
  2. Separately, then together, decide which 3 or 4 BIG ideas need to be addressed. These should relate to both the learning outcomes identified in the curriculum AND the social issues or topics of interest that apply to the students.
  3. With the Big Ideas in mind, identify the skills that need to be built into the unit.
  4. Now that you know where you want to go, plan the road map you will follow in order to get there.
  5. Formative assessment will be a part of each of the pit stops along the way.
In my afternoon session, Karen Hume made reference to this same idea. She said that when you start with the actions instead of the desired result, you are not focusing on the skill that you wish to develop but in the final product. When I start with the end in mind, everything I plan will be for a reason.

The Big Ideas become the questions we ask of the students. If I tell them what they will learn, there is no intention to learn. Inquiry questions help students think about the unit in a general way and develop the curiosity to want to know more. When they ask questions, they become engaged and take ownership of their learning. The student can take the wheel - and I become his or her navigator.

vendredi 1 avril 2011

Multiple Methods of Assessment - Volante

It is one thing to give a test to measure the learning that has occurred, but if the test is not representative of what and how the student is learning, it is inefficient and invalid. Traditionally, we have used what we were exposed to as students, but if we continue to rely on what we know without upgrading our methods with our research, then our research is pointless. Why do research if not to improve our results by applying it?

I believe rummaging through the curriculum guides would be a worthwhile experience for most teachers regardless of years of experience. It is easy to get into a routine by repeating the sheets and tests of yesteryear. The challenge is to continually search for other ways of reaching our students. We need to know them. What works for one group, may be ineffective with another. During my student teaching experience, I was a bit shocked that my cooperating teacher was using a very old program with her students. I thought surely there was something more modern she could be using. She explained to me that she had all the modern stuff and that this program was the one her students best responded to. Lesson learned. I have always remembered that the method I use is based as much on who my students are and what they need as it is on what my style and knowledge tell me to use.

The curriculum guides provide a multitude of assessment tools to be selected by the classroom teacher. If we go back from time to time and become familiar with them, we are expanding our own repertoire as well as providing more opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning.

When designing an assessment tool, we need to be aware of the skills we are measuring - not only the content. As a new teacher, a colleague once told me, "Remember, you are teaching the child - not the curriculum." It has always stuck with me and the content becomes secondary to the person when you realize that it doesn"t really matter what year a historical event occurred, but it does matter that a student has the necessary skills to find the year.

In summary, we need to be sure that what and how we are assessing reflects what the student needs to grow.