i was fortunate to be interviewed by WABI about the journey we at AOS #94 are taking in developing and transitioning to a Proficiency-based and personalized system of learning. You can watch the pieces by clicking the links below.
Proficiency-Based Education (Part 1)
Proficiency-Based Education (Part 2)
Let me know what you think!
If you follow me here or on Twitter, you know I am a passionate advocate of design thinking in education. I've seen the power of empathy-fueled, people-centered problem-solving in action, and as a district-wide leader in a realm and community that is built on people and is 100% dependent upon people, I am finding that authentic and meaningful changes and improvements happen when those people are included meaningfully. It shouldn't surprise me, because it all makes sense.
If you follow me here or on Twitter, you know I am a passionate advocate of proficiency-based and personalized learning in education. I've seen the power of learner-centered and personalized instruction, curriculum, and assessment in action, and as a district-wide leader in the world of proficiency-based diplomas and competency-based learning, I am finding that authentic and meaningful learning happens when the learners themselves are included in meaningful ways. It shouldn't surprise me, because it all makes sense.
There's a distinct and obvious connection between design thinking in education and proficiency-based learning. And that connection is in the fourth word.
To bring you up to speed, the first three words are, "How Might We."
"How might we" is language that challenges the old hierarchical and boss-based paradigm of "do it because I told you." It changes that approach from a "hands off" to a "all hands on" approach. It changes the leadership perspective from one of management and delegation to shared ownership and collaboration. The "How Might We" is a necessary connection to make in authentic and relevant problem solving, because it takes the power away from one person and puts it onto a collective. It's democratic in nature. It's communal in nature. It's the beginnings of a social contract. And we are naturally social creatures. That's why it works so well.
The "How Might We" may begin the connection, but it's the fourth word in this statement that really drives the connection between design thinking and proficiency-based and personalized learning.
The fourth word is an action verb. Plain and simple. And action verbs come in varied levels of depth of knowledge and complexity. Proficiency-based learning is about understanding not only the content of what it to be learned, but also the level of complexity to which the learned content is to be applied. Words like "predict", "empower", "adapt", "symbolize", "connect", "solve," "engage," and more are the cornerstones of effective design thinking processes AND personalized and proficiency-based learning environments. Whereas the first three words in the "How Might We" statement may create the culture, it's the fourth word that dictates the depths of the problem that is to be solved.
How deep are the fourth words in your classroom? school? district?
Modeling the Behaviors and Belonging We Want to See in Classroom
I wrote a blog post on another site about how professional learning systems should model the behaviors that are being taught/learned. This is not just at a pedagogical level, but at a systemic level. I'd appreciate you taking a look and reading it. Thanks!
This week's #EdChatME (Oct 3, 2016) tackled an issue that every educator (either teacher or administrator) has faced many times, and will face again: Resistance to Change.
Change is hard. We know this. But change is also a constant in life. And this constant can either be fought against, or accepted.
Right? Or is that too simplistic of an ideology?
This week's chat was based on the model of Resistance to Change developed by Rick Maurer. Rick is a consultant who has worked with organizations "including Lockheed Martin, Sandia Labs, Deloitte & Touche, National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency, Rohm & Haas (Dow Chemical), Verizon, Syngenta, Charles Schwab, National Education Association, The Washington Post,. NASA, Urban Libraries Council, Tulane University Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, and many government agencies." (http://www.energybartools.com/about-us). He also is a former educator (yay!). Rick helps these organizations solve problems, tackle difficult situations, and get deep with why people resist change. He has authored Beyond the Wall of Resistance and Why Don't You Want What I Want?, all about resistance to change.
Rick's model is simple in its design; yet that should not be interpreted that the work of change and resistance to it is easy... far from it. Resisitance to Change is highly complex, individualized, personal, and emotional. So with that, I give you a very very very loose interpretation of Rick's model for Resistance to Change:
So, keeping in mind our #NEXTSTEPS work in bringing the chat to life and beyond 140 characters, what can we do about this? How might we identify when we are dealing with resistance, and appropriately/effectively design opportunities and environments to improve that resistance?
Step One: Watch the opening video on The Energy Bar
Step Two: Think about the environment you are meeting resistance to change in, and complete the survey immediately following the video in Step One.
Step Three: Check out the awesome resources and tools that are available.
I also had the extreme pleasure of spending about 45 minutes talking with Rick about his model, his ideas, and diving deeper into Resistance to Change. See the conversation here:
During this week's #EdChatME discussion on "Building A Culture of Empathy," I mentioned that I am currently working on designing a day of professional development happening Friday, October 7.
So here's what we've done:
First of all, going back to last June, me and a group of nine other AOS #94 teachers and administrators attended the Learning Sciences International conference on Building Expertise in Orlando, Florida. It sparked several conversations and "A-Ha's" related to student achievement, student-centered learning, and rigorous instruction. This led to a collaborative design of some learning targets for our professional learning environments this year, which are defined as:
Looking at these topics creatively and strategically, we were able create eight session topics:
Each session will have designated facilitators to help guide the work being done. That's an important distinction about this day: facilitators. We will be using a coaching model, not a lecture model, for this professional learning day. Each session will be ninety minutes long, and there will be three of each session over the course of the day (see full schedule here). There is no mandated trajectory or path teachers must take. There are options on all of the major initiatives and goals for the district. To help teachers determine their paths, here are the Norms and Expectations for the day:
The Norms are very much based on the EdCamp-style of norms. If a teacher is in a session for forty-five minutes and is satisfied with her work, she can get up and move to another session. This time for learning belongs to the teachers, and this time is precious. Teachers should not feel "locked in" to a session at any point. If it's not working: go somewhere else. Learn and work with intention and purpose is a major theme of the day.
Another major part of this day is ensuring that there is limited "Workshop Learning Loss." We've all experienced this, and because this learning time is so precious and valuable, teachers should be thinking about which sessions they will attend that will intentionally and purposefully support their work, their needs, and provide them with the clarifications they need in supporting the goals of the district. Teachers will be required to submit an "Implementation Plan" after each session to explain how they will use what they have learned purposefully and intentionally, and this information will be added into their professional growth and effectiveness plans (aka teacher evaluations). They will be an important factor in aligning to our "Overall Professional Practice" standard that is a combination of all four domains in the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Framework.
The core users for our professional learning environment are our teachers. By using an empathy-fueled model of designing the learning environments, we can make our environments more personalized, more relevant, more purposeful and more intentional.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your feedback and/or ideas.
During this week's #EdChatME, I brought up a "What if:"
This is not just an idea, though. It gets to the entire point of a personalized learning environment. Real world learning is rarely isolated or "siloed" (as we like to say in education). Real-world learning is often a jumble of everything together, and the trick is knowing how and when to use which content and skills. Isn't that the point of education? To get our kids ready for "real life," however that is defined? And since we cannot define it beyond an individualized scope, maybe we shouldn't try. Maybe, instead, we focus on the environments. We focus on the spaces between the silos as the real magic to where real learning and achievement occurs.
So, how might we (HMW) design curriculum and instruction in a way that is relevant, but still meeting state & local expectations?
Historically, we've focused on ELA/Math, because of the impact and "importance" of standardized testing. A personalized learning and proficiency-based learning environment, though, doesn't care about testing as much; it cares about learning. And the systems we use should be built around principles of effective learning, and the individualized needs of our core users (students). Since ELA/Math are easily embedded and connected with every other content area, #whatif we focused our core requirements on the areas of Social Studies, Science, Art, Engineering, Health, and Physical Education? #Whatif we made ELA/Math more authentically integrated to those other content areas? What kind of learning and achievement impact would we have?
I am thrilled to be working on this with a dedicated team of amazing educators at AOS #94. We started off looking at the standards and learning targets for Science and Social Studies, and made connections between the two, developing driving challenges to focus our students on inquiry (versus content). Some examples of the challenges our students will be facing:
Each of these challenges are deeply and explicitly connected to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Maine Social Studies standards, as well as the Common Core standards for Mathematics and English/Language Arts. We have allotted approximately 8-10 weeks per challenge, and have scaffolded our assessments and instruction based on the levels of cognitive complexity/demand embedded in the standards and learning targets.
Oh, and we've also designed similar plans for second and third grade as well.
Have I mentioned that the educators at AOS #94 are truly #awesomesauce? I can't say it enough.
How are you intentionally and explicitly integrating and connecting the content to make more authentic and relevant learning experiences? Share your story with us on #edchatme!
I was recently interviewed by Maine Public Broadcasting on my work with AOS #94 and proficiency-based diplomas. I believe they did their best job in explaining our highly complex, ground-breaking, and innovative approach to communicating learning and achievement of all students, but some core components were lost in translation, and some areas were highlighted inaccurately. I am not using this post to respond to each of the errors, misconceptions, or problems throughout the story as I feel that is counterproductive. However, here is what everyone/anyone should know about the certification and learning system we are developing:
“Professional Practice” is a term that’s being thrown around a lot in many educational circles these days. It goes along with “Educator Effectiveness,” “Teacher Evaluation,” etc. I consider myself a professional. I’ve been working in public education since 2001, and have been working with and teaching kids since 1994. It’s my life’s profession, so, as such, I’m a professional.
I mean, I’m certified as an educator. I have degrees and certificates from accredited and acclaimed Universities acknowledging my competencies and abilities. I continually have my contract renewed, perform (reasonably) well in my job, and continue to love, promote, and grow as an educator. That makes me a professional.
Standards-based learning, as a system of learning for students, has completely flipped the edu-paradigm. It’s making us (educators) look more closely at the learning targets themselves, not at an overall aggregate that blends in whether or not Susie stayed in from recess to earn bonus points by cleaning the chalk board. But it’s more than just a system for students. It’s more than just an edu-paradigm shift for them. It’s changing the entire paradigm, and that means us as educators, and with that change, comes a redefinition and/or restructuring of what “professional” actually means.
My district (AOS #94; www.aos94.org; @AOS94ME) has adopted the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model, which brings into the fold four domains of professional practice for teachers:
So you’re a Marzano guy… yup… going corporate. Lame.
Hang on. Not corporate. Research. Good research highly vetted, and the research out of Learning Sciences, International is top notch. It’s not opinion, belief, or hope. It’s all based on evidence. Objective evidence that has been tested, and tested, and retested. Repeat. Ignoring scientifically-based research based on “what I’ve always done” is exactly the same as ignoring scientific fact based on personal beliefs (not getting religious/political here). If the scientific research tells us that providing clear and rigorous learning goals and expectations has a major effect on improving student achievement, that’s a warning we should heed. That’s information we should use. If a doctor is presented with research that a certain medication will cure a specific disease, then it is the responsibility of that doctor to use that medication when a patient has that disease (I know it’s more complicated than that and I’m oversimplifying this… but go with the point, not the specifics). Doctors, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, electricians, and just about all professions have standards of professional practice. Education is no different, and we’ve had them for years. Standards keep us grounded, on task, and pointed. They can be high concept, or incredibly granular. Either way, they give us a performance-based roadmap. There are a few different models out there, but there’s one constant across each: research.
Standards are our roadmap of professional practice. Standards-based learning isn’t just about student achievement and learning; it’s also about improving “Professional Practice.”
Our systems for teacher evaluation, educator effectiveness, and professional practice need to mirror the systems of standards-based learning for students. The focus should be on development/growth/learning; not an aggregate grade. It should be holistic in it’s approach; customizable and personalized at the individual level, and be consistently applied for all. Monitoring growth is crucial, and the data from that monitoring should be used to develop instructional/professional practice plans, not as a means of judgment.
In our edu-paradigm shift, it’s impossible to change one system while maintaining the other. Both systems of learning for teachers AND students are inter-dependent and related. The core principles should be the same: research-based practices that lead to a focus on growth and development.
So what does it mean to be a professional?
In our system, it’s how educators provide evidence as they relate to the standards of “Professional Practice.” The answers are in the standards, and it’s up to us to prove it. Not to the admin. Not to the state.
But to ourselves, and each other.
And most importantly, our students.
That’s what it means to be a professional.