In previous years, we have focused much of our professional energies around what teachers do in the classroom (how we plan, build projects, use technology, etc). However, this year we wanted to look at the work actually being produced by students and examine it for deep understanding of core concepts. While the two are intimately connected (teaching and learning) we believe that the most useful data to inform practice comes from carefully examining the work our students produce.
About a month ago, teachers worked through Part 1 of the framework which involved facilitated discussions with partner teachers. Overall, the discussions were very rich, and a number of common themes emerged from teachers:
• Assessment – our teachers saw a need for greater integration of feedback loops and checkpoints throughout a project. This included a need for more clear learning outcomes, stronger alignment between learning outcomes and assessment rubrics, and more chunking of projects into smaller, more assessable elements
• Exemplars – teachers are wondering hjow best to align CSS student work with provincial/grade level standards. How do we know if our students learning lines up with students in the rest of the province?
• Direct teaching versus student-driven research – narrowing the focus of large, complex studies so that students don't become overwhelmed with the amount of data available on a topic. How do we manage the tensions between "teacher-centered" and "student-centered" projects?
• Content knowledge building versus Performance/Presentation of knowledge – teachers are wondering how to limit the amount of time on presenting knowledge (iMovies, podcasts, etc) versus the development of core, subject-based understanding. While the ability to communicate clearly with a variety of multi-media tools is important for our students, we don't want to over-emphasize this at the loss of core understanding. Teachers are also wondering about the development of a scope and sequence of technology skills across grade levels.
This week we had Part II of the discussions. The goal of this second part is to share the outcomes of the first discussions across grades using "vertical sharing teams." We have arranged groups of teachers from grades 4-9 in one group, and they have a half day release time to work through short sharing sessions.
There are a few goals for these sharing sessions:
1) to celebrate projects across grade levels
2) to share reflections from part I
3) to get feedback, suggestions and support on how teachers can move practice forward
4) to look for common themes across grades
Our first sessions with teachers will be starting this afternoon. We're looking forward to the outcomes!
Below is the documentation created for both Part I and Part II: