Monday, January 30, 2023

#EDvice: Interest Powers Learning and Outcomes

Humans crave a deep connection when it comes to learning something new, especially if they initially don't see any value in what's being taught or facilitated. We expect this as adult learners, so it goes without saying that our students both want and need this as well. In the absence of authentic meaning there is a tendency to disconnect or go off task, putting the learning experience at hand in jeopardy of not being successful. No one wants this, especially teachers who have spent a great deal of time planning lessons. 

In the classroom making connections to content and concepts embedded within standards is of utmost importance, but these have to be captivating as some kids naturally won't be jazzed up about certain content. The key is to elicit attending behavior. Interest is a powerful element that acts as a motivator and is a key component that drives learning. NEVER underestimate the importance of a "hook" during the opening movements of a lesson to empower ALL learners. In this piece of #EDvice I unpack some tips on how utilize simple strategies as well as share some practical examples. 

Whether you refer to the strategy as a hook or anticipatory set, they key is to infuse relevance that piques the interest of diverse learners.  Below are some of the startefgies I shared in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms:

  • Picture prompt
  • Real-world problem of the day
  • Current event or personal story
  • Open-ended writing prompt that sparks inquiry and creativity
  • Riddle
  • Short, engaging video followed by a turn and talk
  • Sensory exploration 
If we want to improve outcomes, in the classrooms or during professional learning, we must make efforts to impart interest. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Imparting Value When It Comes to Change

I remember vividly as a young principal when I started to drink the “edtech” Kool-Aid many years ago. It represented a true turning point in how I thought about change in education. Up until this point, my thinking was relatively traditional and as such, so was the culture of my school. However, I was motivated like never before to move beyond the nearly impenetrable walls I had mentally constructed that had inhibited me from moving beyond my comfort zone until this point. It was now time to become a true leader and that required being honest about where not only I was but also the culture of my school.

When I first attempted to channel this excitement into a call to action, I failed miserably. Basically, all I did was talk about what “I” wanted to accomplish and what “I” thought was important when it came to the purposeful use of technology in the classroom as a catalyst to improve outcomes. After some deep internal and external reflection, I soon realized that I failed to help my staff see the value for themselves when it came to shifting their practice in new and innovative ways. Herein lies the reason that most change initiatives fail. If people don’t see the value in what they are being asked to do, the chances increase that they won’t get on board.

I learned an important lesson that still sticks with me today. Change for the sake of change is often a recipe for disaster. My role as a leader was to alleviate fear, mitigate risk, and create the conditions where my staff wanted to change for their own sake as well as that of their students. While research and data certainly play a pivotal role in showcasing the value of change efforts, the real key is to make everyone part of the solution. Leaders who do this strive to:

  • Create a shared vision
  • Empower people
  • Build capacity
  • Improve outcomes

All of the above elements play a part in achieving collective efficacy, which is the belief that a group can work together effectively to achieve common goals. Some positive outcomes include improved group performance, increased motivation, greater resilience, and better problem-solving.   Collective efficacy is hard to achieve without an initial sense of value in doing things differently.

Leaders need to be attuned to the fact that the world is rapidly evolving, something I discuss in detail in Digital Leadership. Abiding by the status quo doesn’t cut it, no matter where performance indicators reside.  Herein lies a significant challenge when it comes to venturing down an innovative path. Organizations can become more efficient and effective by continuously looking for ways to improve processes and systems, but people need to understand the value from the beginning. Valuing change is critical because it helps to create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within an organization. When people value change, they are more open to new ideas and approaches and more willing to embrace and adapt to change when necessary.

Monday, January 16, 2023

#EDvice: Closing Learning Gaps with Rotational Models

Education is still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19. The rapid shift to virtual learning was a necessity and, like always, educators rose to the occasion like they always do even though training in this area didn’t really exist at scale.  A few years later, we are beginning to get an idea of the most pressing issue at hand, which is learning recovery. During coaching visits across the country, educators share the difficulty of having classrooms of students where the majority are at different grade levels. So how do we begin to address this issue? 

Knowing where kids are and then developing strategies to meet their respective needs is one of the most effective ways to close learning gaps post-pandemic. While the challenge is real, rotational models can stem the tide. In this piece of #EDvice I unpack this strategy and how it can be easily implemented in K-12 classrooms.

Success using rotational models relies on maximizing available class time, understanding sound pedagogy, and leveraging actionable data.  Below are some resources I created to help educators with effective implementation.  

At the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), we have developed research and evidence-based professional learning solutions to scale personalized strategies that are integral for learner success in a post-pandemic world. If you are interested in learning more, drop your email in the comments section. 

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Self-Regulation in the Personalized Classroom

One of the best and most gratifying aspects of my job is getting into classrooms and providing feedback to leaders, who, in turn, help their teachers grow. Most of my blog ideas materialize during these times of bliss. Without this practical lens, I don’t think I would be able to write anything of value. Over the years, the state of Utah has provided me with a plethora of opportunities to work with schools on Personalized Competency-Based Learning (PCBL). Not only is this area of focus dear to my heart, but there are always various nuances that can be explored in greater detail. 

I am always fascinated by how high-agency strategies can unlock the potential of learners. In particular, I see a clear connection to how path and pace can promote self-regulation, a competency that is important for students in school and all of us in our professional lives. Research provides a sound rationale for its importance and impact on learners. An article by Y. B. Chung and Mantak Yuen (2011) in the Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice states the following:

In the context of schools, self-regulation is evident not only when students control their own behavior in and out of the classroom (self-discipline or self-control) but also when, during lessons, they are able to set their own goals, plan appropriate strategies for achieving these goals, monitor, evaluate and adapt their own actions, and control their effective use of available learning time and resources (Ormrod, 2010). A large body of empirical evidence suggests that self-regulated learners are more effective, confident, resourceful, and persistent in learning (Pintrich, 1995; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; Winne & Hadwin, 1998; Zimmerman & Campillo, 2003). 

With the right conditions in place, learners who effectively self-regulate can:

  • Establish goals and applicable strategies to accomplish them
  • Effectively monitor progress
  • Reflect on performance to self-evaluate

A recent coaching cycle at Quest Academy Junior High School unearthed numerous instances where teachers had integrated personalized strategies to promote self-regulation. In Shawn Berry’s 8th-grade math class, I observed students writing down individual learning goals for the lesson based on unpacked standards in the form of learning targets. Once done, they added each of these to a whiteboard. After reflecting on this, I reached out to principal Nicki Slaugh and asked if she could get some more details from Shawn. Here is what she provided:

In a self-paced classroom, it's essential to help students manage their time. I noticed my eighth graders were struggling to stay focused and on target in our self-paced math program. I got the idea for them to create a specific to-do list for the 57 minutes they are in the classroom. The first 5 minutes are for a spiral review or math talk question and we need 1 minute at the end for closure. That left 51 minutes to organize, so I decided to divide that into 17-minute sections. 

Each student creates a to-do list based on three sets of 17 minutes. I use a timer on the TV that visually counts down and has an alarm. In the beginning, we discussed how to make sure the tasks they chose for their lists were reasonable to finish in 17 minutes. Some students were choosing tasks that were too short or too long. At the end of class, the students add their post-it to our chart on the class whiteboard to show how many of their tasks they finished. 

Since starting this, more students have felt success during class and are able to stay on task. Some students have realized future tasks are dependent on the outcome of their first task, so they either make a plan A and plan B list or complete their to-do list after completing their first task. I love seeing 13- and 14-year-olds learn how to manage their time using short-term deadlines. The academic deadlines for their course are sometimes hard to conceptualize because they take weeks to accomplish. This is a skill they will definitely need in their future!

Self-regulation is a hallmark of personalized learning. Students are more prone to own their learning as they are taking proactive steps to identify where they are, where they want to be, and what is needed to succeed. In life, this might be the most critical competency that educators can cultivate in the classroom. 

Ormrod, J. E. (2010). Educational psychology: developing learners (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson-Prentice Hall. 

Pintrich, P. R. (1995). Understanding self-regulated learning. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (1994). Self-regulation of learning and performance: Issues and educational applications. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 

Winne, P. H., & Hadwin, A. F. (1998). Studying as self-regulated learning. In D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.) Metacognition in educational theory and practice (pp. 279-306). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 

Zimmerman, B. J., & Campillo, M. (2003). Motivating self-regulated problem solvers. In J. E. Davidson & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.) The nature of problem solving (pp. 239), New York: Cambridge University Press.