Category: reflection

The Educator’s Companion to Professional Development

The Educator’s Companion to Professional Development

Anyone who knows me realizes that I am ridiculously committed to my craft and am always looking at how I can improve teaching and learning. For the last year, I’ve been hemming and hawing about doing a podcast, partly as a challenge since it gets me to step out of my comfort zone and partly for a fun exploration experience so  I can bring this media format into classroom learning. It took me ages to come up with a topic, learn the basic skills, record and launch it. I didn’t want it to be some meaningless content that was clogging up the internet. I wanted it to be useful for fellow educators. As someone who easily spends $200 USD a month on professional development, I began looking for free and inexpensive ways to increase my professional learning. The resources and insights I have gained in my quest to uplevel my practice is the basis of the podcast.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the Educator’s Companion to PD podcast! Its whole purpose is to provide ideas for personalizing your professional development so that you can master the concepts and skills that can make the impact that you want to make in your school communities.  The resources are free and my commentary is my own. I have 5 episodes recorded and ready for your ears with much more on the way.

To help facilitate personalized professional development, I made an infographic to help people through the process. I am hoping that this will get people to consider how they might structure and begin a learning journey in pursuit of updating and expanding their skills.  I have nearly completed the ebook that expands upon personalizing your professional development but for now, consider this little cheat sheet a taste of what to come.

 

 

Your Cheat Sheet to Personalized Professional Learning. (2)

Also, I have created a guestbook for you to share your favorite professional learning resources. It’s incredibly helpful for fellow educators to learn more about these fantastic opportunities and it lifts up the whole profession when you do so. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience!

Share a tip: What's one free professional learning resource that has impacted your teaching and learning?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Do You Ask These 3 Questions to Improve Students’ Self-Reflection?

Do You Ask These 3 Questions to Improve Students’ Self-Reflection?

Many educators recognize the value of increasing students’ motivation in order to improve student engagement and decrease behavioral issues in the classroom. Earlier in the year, I introduced staff to the ideas in Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by watching his Ted Talk. His seminal work on motivation explains that the “carrot and stick” method of extrinsic motivation creates compliance, but not creativity nor engagement. He shares his “secret sauce” from his research which includes 3 main areas that develop intrinsic motivation and the individual’s internal desire to put in their best effort: purpose, mastery, and autonomy.

Drive_Motivation3.0

If we want students to shift into higher gears of learning, then we have to create a classroom culture that develops agency, competence and a love of learning.  Lev Vygotsky reminds us that “children grow into the intellectual life around us. ” It’s the day to day mundane stuff that shapes our learning environment like our routines and strategies, but most importantly it’s the language we use in our interactions.  Developing a culture of self-reflection is a quintessential aspect of today’s classroom. In a world of immediate gratification and distraction, we have to provide tools to students to help them cultivate their focus and develop their independence. Reflection is a habit that every classroom should have because it enhances the meaning of the learning.  It teases out key ideas and insights, and complexities of the process of learning.  We foster students’ growth when we give them tools to control their own learning, and a reflective question does just that.

The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery. – Mark Van Doren

So today I want to share with you 3 questions that Daniel Pink suggests in order to get a resistant person to start the process of introspection and develop the motivation to start regulating their own behavior. When I heard these 3 questions, I knew it could extend beyond the boardroom (he spoke about management teams) and could easily fit into our classrooms. The order of asking the questions are really important because it frames how one might move beyond mediocre.

Opening question: On a scale from 1-10, 1 being the least and 10 the best, how would you rate fill in the blank? 

Second Question: Why didn’t you rate it lower?

Follow-Up Question (or go to question if they rate themselves as a 1) What would make it a next rating number up on the scale? 

Example:

Teacher: On a scale from 1-10, 1 being the least and 10 the best, how would you rate your collaboration in the group. 

Student: I think I am a 3.

Teacher: Why didn’t you rate it a 2?

Student: Because I did draw a picture on the poster.

Teacher: What could you do next time to make it a 4?

Student: I could also share what I know about polar bears for the project.

(What if my student rates themselves as a 1?  Then you skip question 3: What could you do to make it a 2?)

Do not underestimate the power of this questioning strategy. It has can be impactful, especially over time–practice makes perfect, right?!  And, for younger students, you could easily do a smaller scale of numbers, like 1-5. I know my little 4-year-olds might like to exaggerate their efforts so I would need to start with something very concrete and tangible to redirect them towards, something with specific steps or actions that they would know very well. As I write this, I am thinking that I would use a well-known routine, like our morning routine, to demonstrate how to use a rating scale.

No matter what the age range, listening to their answers with empathy, flexibility, and curiosity will help elucidate deeper responses. We can’t judge their ratings–how they rate themselves is data for us, but it’s not necessarily a time to correct them or give advice. If the objective of this strategy is to develop metacognition and motivation then we have to trust the process and not micro-manage it with what we feel the student should have rated themselves. We have to listen openly to their answers because we know that change comes from within–we cannot impose our opinions on them.

In Learning and Leading with Habits of the Mind by Arthur DeCosta talks about the “voices” we hear in our classroom: internal and external voices of reflection. The internal voice of reflection is self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is a mixture of both what and how we are thinking. Self-knowledge includes ways of thinking that may not be visible to us consciously. Using a simple tool like this rating scale by Daniel Pink gives students a window into their own mind and the motivations behind the choices they have made and the choice they can make in the future.  If we give them the space to create this self-knowledge, then the tool becomes the catalyst for change and self-improvement.

How do you develop self-awareness in your students?  What stimulus do you give them to cultivate the impulsion to make greater efforts on their own?

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Reflect and the “How” will Come

Reflect and the “How” will Come

It’s the final stretch of our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC) and I thought about how much of these ideas I have put into personal practice. George Couros reminds us that ” without reflection time and having the opportunity to connect your own ideas and personal learning, it is harder to go deep into the ideas or retain and share them.”

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“I reflect, therefore I learn”.  George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset

 

I’ve been trying to implement D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect), with some days better than others, so it’s a practice that will require practicing. I’ve decided to use my Way of Life App to make me more conscientious by tracking this habit. But outside of formally tracking it, it has begun an inner mantra within me when it comes to my classroom: Next steps……

If we only teach students the curriculum, we have failed them. #InnovatorsMindset

As I read that passage, it got lodged in my mind and made me wonder how I could move out of my comfort zone–not just for the sake of doing so, but because it was important for my students. My students are my WHY, even if I have a limited compacity of figuring out how to empower them. And in the case of the Early Years, it’s very easy to discredit little children because they are small, egocentric, with limited skills and life experience. But they are voracious learners who genuinely enjoy challenges in the quest to be “big”. Shouldn’t I capitalize on that?  I wanted them to experience the feeling of engaging and impacting others through sharing. As soon as I made that intention, the HOW organically began to emerge.


It is commonplace in a Primary Years Programme (PYP)  IB school that classroom teachers hold an end of unit activity with parents in order to showcase the learning and create connections with our families. However, it is not a mandate at our school, because some units lend themselves nicely to sharing while others do not.  In my own classroom, I always find some way for parents to come and engage, but not always as an end of the unit celebration. Yet, I rarely invite other classrooms into my classroom. When I taught upper grades, sharing the learning was more easily done because students do more projects. But when you teach younger kids, these events are more teacher contrived and directed. I wondered if I could actually do this with 4-5-year-olds–could these students actually lead others in presenting their learning?  I know the answer to this question is YES, even if I didn’t know the HOW to empower them.

During this unit, one of our key concepts was Reflection, so I often would do a powerpoint of pictures of the ways we’ve been learning about our central idea, which in this case was: We appreciate the patterns in the natural world and the ones that we create. (It was under the How We Express Ourselves Transdisciplinary Theme). These provide “check points” in their understanding, and allows me to see their reactions and engage them in a discussion. During our final reflection (last week), it occurred to me that this was a unit that naturally lent itself to an end of a unit parent presentation. However, I wanted to try an end of the unit presentation that involved a larger community and invited classrooms as well. I felt in this way, my students could start seeing themselves as leaders in learning, even if they are “little kids”.  I knew they needed to have the experience of leading others, and I believed that it was possible for them to do so.

People never learn anything by being told; they have to find out for themselves.

-Paulo Coelho-

So, I had to get this out of my brain and into their hands. During morning meetings, I asked the students, and they all agreed–let’s invite our friends from other classrooms. Game on! So we listed all the different ways we learned using a modified version of this Visible Thinking Routine. In these discussions, they generated the ways they “liked learning about patterns” and then I guided them in the sorting process into subject areas, which we have been referring to perspectives (another one of the Key Concepts during this unit). This was the Connection part of the routine. (I didn’t draw lines, I circled them in different colors and then reorganized them based upon these perspectives). Then from these groupings, students voted on what they liked best in that category and why they liked it–the Elaboration part. This took a couple of meetings before we determined the “winners” in these categories. Once we had streamlined the activities, I offered some ways that we might share these activities with them and they had to give me agree/disagree with thumbs up/thumbs down, which then became the activities for our end of the unit presentation.  Some students added their thoughts as well, which made us choose to use boxes for organizing the activities. This was the final “guide” that was created for the event and was given to parents and other teachers:

 

guide
If I had more time, I would have made this more student-friendly with pictures and less text.

 

We had 2 group sessions: the first was with parents and 1st graders and the second one was with the 3-4-year-old class and KG class. The groups saw a very brief powerpoint about the overview of the unit of inquiry. Then my students grabbed 2 visitors (ex: a parent and a buddy) and showed them one of the activities listed. I didn’t demand that they do rotations, nor did I give them time limits as our visitors explored the different activities with them. I really wanted to keep this event open-ended so that I could observe and consider how my class was interacting and engaging with others. For example, were they genuinely sharing their learning or were they just doing the activities with these adults and peers shadowing them?–In other words, how active or passive were they in their presentations?

Here are some photos of the event.

Obviously, this is version 1.0 of creating a student-led end of unit presentation but overall it was very successful. Although I set up the activities, they choose them and my EY4s led the visitors around without prompting. I was actually quite proud of their level of independence, especially since I did not prepare them for their roles with any instructions. So I was surprised that most of the visitors got to explore a multitude of activities and could accurately rate their favorite on our graph–I really thought that my students would just stick to their favorite of favorites and not move them along into the other activities.  The visitors seemed genuinely interested in the activities and my kiddos felt a sense of pride in their selections. On our graph, the “art prints” were the least favorite activity and when I asked them why they thought it was rated so low, they all agreed it was because it was “too messy”.  This really made me chuckle out loud, as well as ponder how much aversion there is to “messy” play. Something I am going to think about more deeply as we entered into our next unit.

I don’t think that this event would have been as successful if I hadn’t spent the time reflecting on my students’ learning, thinking of their “next steps” and giving them the opportunity to develop the mindset of being leaders in their learning. I wonder what impact this will have on my students, as well as the classes who were invited. However, I think small steps, made often enough can make a big impact in the learning within a classroom. I wonder what will be the overall result of this event–will my students began to see themselves differently? Has this helped them to demonstrate another level of maturity as they develop agency in their learning? As I pose these questions, I will observe and continue to reflect on the impact student-led events like this have on my learners.

 

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 Attention Deficient

 Attention Deficient

It’s no secret. I have an earnest desire to see my students become happy and capable people who make a difference in this world, so I feel it is my duty to find their “Awesome” and cultivate it. In Week 4 of our Innovator’s Mindset MOOC  (#IMMOOC), George Couros encourages us to stop operating on a “deficit model that focuses on a learner’s weaknesses and start operating on a strengths-based model that build on the learning’s strengths.” Amen to that, but how exactly can you do that? hmm…

The other day my daughter invited me into her “world” in Minecraft. Let me tell you, I did NOT want to play Minecraft with her. Really, I didn’t. As a busy adult, I have plenty of stuff to do. But she was really proud of what she created and she wanted me to see it virtually. So I downloaded the app on my iPhone, created a character and added her as a friend. Suddenly I was in her “Love World”. She had made me my own house and she taught me how to fly, tame a horse, feed the pigs and drink invisibility potion. It was a strange sort of tender moment between us. Learner-Centred

But this was a lesson for me, and  I thought about my students–what are they trying to show me that is important to them?  What are they eager to talk about with me? What is it that I am too busy doing as an adult and teacher to notice about my students? I know we make a big deal about students having attention deficient disorders, but I think that could also be true about us teachers. Are we really focused on the learner?

I know that if I pay more attention to my students’ tangents I can probably locate some treasure in there if I just go digging around. Most of the time, it’s probably right there in front of me, in broad daylight. If students are interested in something, there’s a strong possibility that there is a strength waiting to be unearthed and shared with our learning community. And I think finding the time to show students that their ideas matter and are valued will probably be the best time spent this year anyhow.

 

Equal is Not Fair

Equal is Not Fair

In some ways, I am lucky to be a small school. We don’t have grade level teams that demand that we all do the “same” thing in our classrooms. However, homework and communication are areas that are fraught with disagreement, as teachers feel compelled to do what is the “norm” and may not strive to be creative. Conformity kills innovation. I’ve been in many a staff meeting in which we have to reach a consensus, and decisions may not be what’s best for their student’s needs but may be the whims of parents or what is easiest for teachers. We end up settling on “good enough” so that we can strike a “middle ground”.  As a teacher who feels that I got one shot with the kids I got this year, I cringe when we create a status quo school culture and, ultimately, I feel that makes teachers less than who they want to be.

George Couros points out why administrators impose these constraints in the Innovator’s Mindset:

The fear that drives leaders is not always about failure. Sometimes, the real fear is of success. If something works, other educators in the building would be expected to do it, thus creating more work for everyone…innovative intiatives ..might create superiour learning opportunities–opportunities  that aren’t offered in another learning environment. If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest levels, not the lowest.

I hope that in the future, school leaders choose to raise the bar and not lower it, in an effort to be democratic.  Because what may be equal is not fair, especially when one wants to inspire teachers and students

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Reflect)

Have you ever read the book, Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferris?  In the foreword, Arnold Schwarzenegger reminds us that  “The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” And I think that this idea is the basis of so much of the book that I am currently reading now: Innovator’s Mindset by George Curous.

Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), a concept that encourages students to read and consume information. But few schools focus on encouraging students or educators to “Drop Everything and Reflect. How might we all be impacted if we took time out of each day to think about what we have learned and how it impacts our next steps?

George Curous, Innovator’s Mindset

I’m in the midst of Week 2 of #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset MOOC) and when I read that idea, I took pause. I teachcharacteristics-im and lead an IB program in which reflection is a concept and skill that is developed in our curriculum. But when I read that sentence, I wondered, how often am I REALLY getting the kids to reflect on a daily basis? And, furthermore, how often am I really taking stock of the learning? I think I may take this for granted and I want to assess how and in what ways is reflection happening at our school.

I totally agree with George Curous: “As leaders, we cannot tell others they should be innovative while we continue to do the same thing. The characteristics we look for in our teachers and our students-empathizing, problem finding and solving, risk-taking, networking, observing, creating bouncing back and reflecting-should be embodied in our work as well.”  One has to walk the talk to talk the walk. So I’ll focus on being more observant and reflective, which I know will lead me to problem-finding/problem-solving, another key characteristic of the innovator’s mindset.

In particular, this week I am seriously looking at how frequently we reflect on learning and the quality of that reflection. Things that I am going to be reviewing this week include:

  1. The language I use–my teacher talk. What types of questions and responses am I giving students? How are they responding to me?
  2. The dialogue between students. What types of conversations are they having? Do they talk about their learning outside of the classroom?
  3. The discussions amongst teachers? What do those conversations reveal?

I have a little notebook that I keep to write down planning ideas and I will use this notebook to make these observations. In particular, I’ve set a timer on my phone for my DEAR time, in which I will Drop Everything and Reflect in this notebook regarding the learning for the day. Although I do find myself to be a reflective person, I do not have a daily habit like this so I’m curious to how this might change my practice. As I look over at my notebook now, I’m thinking that I might need a new one after this week–not a lot of pages left. lol

Perhaps you might want to explore this idea as well. What if you had a set time in which you reflected? What impact do you think this might make for your teaching, let alone your life?

 

 

 

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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