Saturday, April 06, 2013

Work That Matters?

We all spin our wheels at times with work that doesn't matter.  We spend time crafting, planning, implementing and perseverating on efforts of little to no effect.  Or worse, we repeatedly try solving a problem with the same ineffective solution over and over again with no gain. The authors of Intentional Interruption refer to this action as "activity traps," action without adequate problem analysis

This morning's #satchat focused on rigor.  We discussed what rigor looks like and how it is considered from the view point of leadership, teachers and students. As a side conversation, we found ourselves debating about what matters with regard to rigor and classroom efforts.

As an afterthought, I find myself thinking about efforts that matter and efforts that don't.  What efforts in the schoolhouse lead to little or no effect when it comes to student learning and engagement?  What efforts lead to significant progression, growth and effect?  What activities do you foster with students and staff that are simply "activity traps," and what activities do you foster that truly result in increased student learning?  How do you evaluate the work you do in this regard?

Personally, I can evaluate my work and efforts in this regard with the following questions and actions.
  • Identify the rationale and success criteria for every task. Share that information with students leaving room for student voice and choice.  Revise as necessary. Then reflect on the task's merit upon completion noting next steps for that task.
  • Analyzing efforts around me with the lens of how will this effort benefit student engagement and growth? At times efforts in my midst represent outdated information, action and impact rather than new brain-friendly, student-centered, tech-integrated endeavor. 
  • Be open to critique and debate with regard to the question, "Is this action, effort in the best interests of students? Why or why not?" This is a central question that should be voiced regularly as we collaborate with regard to student learning. 
  • Utilize formative assessments often to evaluate actions with respect to success criteria.
  • Don't spend time on repeated activity, voice and effort that does not positively impact student learning and growth. Use a broad lens in this regard. 
  • At PLCs, start our collaborative efforts with the question, "How will this impact our direct efforts with respect to student learning and engagement?" 
  • Engage in conversations with colleagues that center on this question, 'What efforts do you engage in that really matter with respect to student learning and engagement?"  I wonder how teachers would react to that question (this would be a good #edchat discussion).
As much as possible, I believe that all efforts in a school community should be tied to direct impact on student engagement and learning.  When actions distance teachers and others from problem analysis or direct impact, then it's possible that the action is an "activity trap"--an action requiring considerable time and effort with little to no effect.  

What effects do we desire for each student, classroom and school?  How do we lay paths to the desired effects with respect to our collaborative efforts, learning design and daily activity?  How do we regularly evaluate our efforts and make room for revision, growth and innovation?  What do we decide is no longer effective (or never effective), and how do we engage in that conversation in respectful, student-focused ways?

Work that matters brings a sense of pride, investment and meaning to all. Work that matters has solid rationale with a focus on student engagement and learning. Work that matters will evolve over time.  Work that matters should be a focal point of all efforts in a learning community.