December 8, 2011

What's Different - What's the Same?

This post has a very specific purpose - to examine what has become different and what has stayed the same in my teaching. This will of course lead me to another purpose - to make a manageable/understandable/explainable listing for others to see.

What's Different? Student centered learning - students become the experts, finding the answers, and learning how to ask the questions Student created content - we learn the same skills, but students base it on their interests and backgrounds Student created assignments - Students create the assignments and figure out how to accomplish them Project based learning - everything is a project where we learn content in context Students self reflect and assign their own grades - they take the time to look back over their successes AND failures, their effort AND their laziness and give themselves a grade based on their individual performance Student created learning goals - who knows what students need to learn better than themselves? Who knows what level of work is realistic for them to accomplish better than them? No late penalties - due dates cause anxiety and don't demonstrated skills Practically paperless - I did this because the resources were provided and it saves money My students are allowed to adapt and redesign the learning space to support their needs and comfort I spend much more time getting students to authentically assess and reflect I spend more time learning about students I spend less time judging them

What's the same?

I treat students as people - as opposed to problems, data, numbers, or grades I live in a classroom of organized and productive chaos I integrate technology to give my students voice I integrate technology to give my students options I integrate technology because it's 2011 and I think that means something I don't give traditional tests I don't have all the answers Sometimes I'm right Other times I'm wrong I keep trying new things hoping that I'm doing the best I can for my students I work really hard and I love it I won't do what other teachers are doing just because they are doing it

Based on my observable evidence, these things are working well for me and for my students. This does not mean that it will work for everyone. But, here is my caution, to avoid a trap that I have fallen into - doing what is easier for me as opposed to what is right and works best for my students.

Take one, some, all, or none of these. They have worked for me, so I thought I would share.


Tracy Brady said...

Thanks for tweeting me the link to your blog! So far this post comes closest to answering my question, but (as all great posts do) has left me with more questions :) How do you go about having students self-reflect? How often? What is your process for having students set their own goals? I love your philosophy, and it's something I've more fully embraced this year. My novice classes are mostly self-paced (I can't get away with it totally in my accelerated class, unfortunately), I am as paperless as possible, and I did away with late penalties several years ago (if they learn the material, isn't that the point? Should we punish them for not learning on our time schedule?) I love the "students as people" philosophy -- critical when dealing with middle level students from such varied backgrounds as I see in my district. The trap of doing what is easier is a sticky and dangerous one, and the opposite end of the spectrum can lead to quick burnout if one is not careful. You seem to be a phenomenal teacher, and I am very interested in learning more about what you do in your classroom. Thank you for blogging your experiences!


Jeff Russell said...

How do students self reflect? There are a lot of ways. I have formal reflections that they fill out for each of the 6 week grading periods. Included in that is the grade that they will be giving themselves. I have oversight, of course, but most of the time they are right on. Their work is good, some better than others, but my students, for the most part, try really hard to do their best.
In addition to those, I have informal conversations with them, one on one. They formulate their own personal goals for our units, which they are able to reevaluate and change. Also, they each have their own blogs and do a lot of reflection there. Sometimes they reflect because of a required post I assign, or they reflect because it is something that they just do now. It's really exciting! If you would like to see them, they are at: AND

Self reflection happens formally before each 6 week grading period. Other than that, it happens when the need arises in my classes. Usually we will do it when we move into new territories, or if we clear some sort of hurdle in our learning. It's really more of a natural, self evolving process than a mandatory do it at these precise times kind of thing.

Setting goals - I'll give students guidance about different types of goals that we can set. If we're writing it can be # of pages, stories, etc. But, they can also be about specific skills - spelling, grammar, punctuation, asking others for feedback, suggestions, etc. Students typically will set some sort of amount goal, but then a more personalized goal of something they struggle with. One of my students had a huge problem with letting ANYONE see their work. Something she needed to get past if she wanted to improve as a writer. It helped having that in front of her as something she accepts is an issue that needed to be overcome. Goals do need to be oriented toward the work. I'll review the student goals, and if there are any "issues" I'll have the students clarify and redirect them. The first time was REALLY difficult, but after that it was easy.

I hope these things help. Keep the questions coming :-)