Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#Educoach Chat 7/25 Prep: Chapter 4

Visible Learning for Teaching by John Hattie supports the role of the teacher as a professional educator.  Too often, in my opinion, teachers have been treated as "robots" or "vehicles of information" rather than educated professionals who have a responsibility to teach each child well utilizing a wide spectrum of professional research, planning, targeted response, analysis and collegial collaboration.

Hattie's book lifts teachers into the professional realm and also prompts educational systems to think about how they treat teachers and what their expectations are for the teachers' roles and responsibility.  If teachers are going to be able to do the job that Hattie describes, then school systems will need to create the time and scheduling to make this possible.  Systems are also going to have to review the roles and responsibilities of all educators, curriculum leaders and leadership so that the primary focus of the school system is optimal learning for every student.

Visible Learning for Teachers supports collaborative teaching/learning efforts such as the structures of PLCs (professional learning communities) and RTI (response to intervention), two structures in place at my school.  Hattie lends greater structure, focus and purpose to PLCs and RTI by offering focus questions and actions.

Chapter four lends an outline to the collaborative efforts of a PLC when it comes to learning design by offering these points:

  • "work together to develop plans"
    • Determine teaching goals/essential learning: "What is it that we want our student to know and be able to do as a result of this unit", lesson, project, learning endeavor. . .?
    • prior achievement?
      • understand students' thinking strategies, ways of thinking.
      • know what students' know.
      • understand the attitudes and attributes students bring to a lesson.
    • desired levels of achievement-targets?
      • "focus on accelerating growth of those who start behind"
      • "What does it mean to be good at _________?"
      • accountability lies in the tasks students are asked to do."How will we demonstrate that they have acquired the essential knowledge and skills"--what consistent criteria will we use?
      • we learn to do the work, by doing the work i.e time on task with students.
      • common area of focus.
    • rate of progress/progresssion?
    • critique/assessment?
      • common assessments, scoring guide, shared discussion about outcomes.
      • prioritize, set, review, revise goals regularly.
      • discuss, question and analyze instructional strategies and impact.
      • "How will we intervene for students who struggle and enrich the learning for students who are proficient?"
      • when needed improve content, teacher skill and student engagement.
      • "develop common understanding of what is worth teaching"
      • "collaborate to understand their beliefs of challenge and progress"
      • "work together to evaluate the impact of their planning on student outcomes"
      • "description before analysis; analysis before prediction; prediction before evaluation."
      • "How can we use the evidence of student learning to improve our individual and collective professional practice?"
We can infer from this list, that PLCs have to focus on what learning goals they will collaborate on, as it will be impossible to collaborate on every little detail of classroom work.  Focused collaboration though will lead to bountiful learning and better teaching.  This year our PLCs will focus on the successful establishment of the 90-minute literacy studio including RTI efforts, and the implementation of RTI in math instruction. Hence I imagine our collaborative focus will be based on learning goals embedded in those efforts.

Hattie's research suggests specific lesson design strategies including the following:
  • "Interventions must provide some cognitive conflict: the mind grows as we learn to become conscious of, and so take control of, its own processes; and the cognitive development is a social process promoted by high-quality dialogue among peers supported by teachers."(p39)
  • Create interventions that "increase the proportion of children attaining a higher thinking level, such that the students can use and practice these thinking skills during the course of a typical lesson."
  • "Teachers need to listen as well as to talk" and give every child a voice in the classroom.  This can be done in a multitude of ways including class discussion, small group, peer tutoring, teacher-student work, blogging, comment threads, letter writing and other online shares such as email. Teachers can monitor this with the question, Who is doing the talking?
Hattie encourages teachers to help students develop an optimal disposition for learning by helping students to gain "motivation to learn, strategies to learn, and confidence to learn." He offers many strategies for this including the following:
  • Teachers need to know how students process self information so that they can develop/enhance students' confidence in tackling challenging tasks, resilience in response to error/failure, openness and willingness to share with peers, and pride in investing energy into endeavors that will lead to successful outcomes. Creating mind maps at the start of the year can assist this process.
  • Students are "choosers" who will protect, present, preserve and promote their sense of self--teachers need to guide students' individual and collective choices towards what the learning team (students, teachers, families) consider worth knowing. 
  • We need to make schools inviting places, and help students to co-create the environment so that all consider the environment and learning valuable and "worth knowing."
  • Identify students who exhibit "hopelessness," and work to understand why the learner is hopeless and how you can turn that learner into a hopeful, confident learner.
  • "The more transparent the teacher makes the learning goals, the more likely the student is to engage in the work needed to meet the goal." (p.46)  "Students confidence grows as they make progress in skill acquisition. . ."
  • Establish visible ways of knowing that the desired learning is achieved.  These transparent learning intentions build trust between teacher and student as well as knowing whether the student has gained the concepts and understanding relative to the intention of the learning endeavor i.e. lesson, unit, project. . .
  • We need to provide students with transparent road maps for their learning that helps them know when and where to invest energies, strategies, and thinking. These paths will be complex, not linear as we do not learn in linear ways. Cluster and differentiate activities, expect unintended consequence and keep children aware of where they are on the learning path.
  • Educators have to teach students how to set mastery goals and what successful attainment of those goals look like which results in greater motivation and important consequences. Teachers with a mastery approach that encourages questioning, learning from failure, new learning, and progress better effected student learning and performance.
  • Often teachers will end a class with a comment about behavior rather than a comment about learning--our focus should be on learning first because schools are for learning, not obedience.
  • Adapt plans to individual student's needs. 
  • Success criteria needs to be explicit, easy to understand and easy to judge at the end of a task by both student and teacher. (see checklist for planning p. 51)
  • Creating just-right challenges for students is imperative and leads to optimal learning and valuable feedback which inspires further learning. We have to be careful that we are not creating "busy work" rather than work that is learning and challenging. "The teacher's aim , therefore, is to help students gain a reputation among their peers as good learners" since a "major source of commitment to school learning comes from peers.
  • Teaching children to self monitor appropriately by predicting achievement, understanding success criteria and developing resilience is essential. 

Hattie dismays at teachers' self-creation of learning materials, "creating more seems among the successful wastes of time in which teachers love to engage."  This is a comment I'll have to think more about since the creation of materials by teachers for students is often a process of responding to specific students in specific contexts--a valuable process for a student-centered approach.  Hattie offers an Internet resource of materials for teachers to access--often accessing and interpreting those materials takes more time than simply creating your own and learning during the creation process. (p.57).  I believe there is a good balance to the use of well established, researched materials and hand created materials that respond to specific contexts.

Progression is an important aspect of visible learning. Hattie offers the following suggestions:
  • "It is more critical to analyse closely how students progress."  Different students will demonstrate different progressions in learning.
  • "Progress is among the most critical factors for judging the success of schools."
Chapter four clearly demonstrates the professional and collaborative responsibilities of the educator when it comes to guiding students toward success by promoting an optimal disposition for learning and structure for implementing successful learning tasks and units.  I look forward to trying out all that Hattie suggests during PLC, RTI and classroom instruction.