Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Thoughts On Effective Teaching

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This month’s Education Leadership magazine is devoted to the topic of Effective Teaching. Therefore I thought I would throw my hat into the rink and share with you my two cents.

I think for the most part if we had to give a definition of an effective teacher we would all come up with similar ideas:

An Effective Teacher is :
• A teacher that cares and connects with his/her students both inside and outside the classroom
• A teacher exhibits a love and joy for teaching and is enthusiastic about learning
• A teacher that instills in his/her students a love and joy for learning and the desire to be a lifelong learner
• A teacher that gives his/her students the skills needed to survive in today’s ever changing world
• A teacher that measures success in terms of a student’s growth in learning
• A teacher that creates an environment where students are pushed out of their comfort zone when it comes to learning
• A teacher that himself/herself is constantly wanting to grow and improve

How do we measure some of these qualities. I think we would all agree that standardized testing can’t be the only measure. A teacher who has a student who is two grades below grade level and brings that student up a grade level and has made a connection with that student wouldn't you say that,the teacher is an effective teacher?

I would like to quote to you what Thomas R. Hoerr wrote in this month’s Educational Leadership:
“Too often educators get sidetracked by focusing only on grades, grade- level equivalents, and percentiles. Those are all valid measures, but they are not the only ways to gauge growth. Part of the reason that our society gives so much attention to test scores is that we are so bad at measuring other, more amorphous qualities. That’s our fault. If enthusiasm for learning is important – and we know it is-we ought to be able to measure it. How might we do that? Certainly not with a multiple –choice enthusiasm test! Instead, we might examine student reflections in logs or journals or use rubrics to capture evidence of joyful learning.”

To me it is clear that we need ways to measure a teacher’s growth in all areas not only in the academic area but perhaps more importantly in the area of teacher effectiveness, and not necessarily to be evaluative but to truly be an effective teacher you want to be growing and we need to be able to measure that. As Thomas Hoerr says,"I want to know how good we are today so that in the future I can look back and see how we have improved.”

The challenge I know that I have is how do we effectively evaluate and measure what Hoerr calls the more amorphous qualities. Is that purely subjective or are there tools that we can use that can give us a more objective answer.
I am not sure what the answer is but it is certainly an area that we need to develop so that we can measure our effectiveness and "Look back and see how we have improved."


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Assessment Do’s and Don’ts

I had the chance on the day before Thanksgiving to Skype with two colleagues on the topic of assessment. Books have been written on this topic and I maybe one day I will write one about assessment and grading. However for the purpose of this blog I would just like to mention some Assessment Do’s and Don’ts. By no means is this a complete list and I encourage you to comment and add to the list.

Assessment Do’s

*Assessments need to incorporate Critical thinking skills and other higher order skills
*Assessments needs to demonstrate understanding and how to apply it - I often have my students right a guidebook about something as a way of demonstrating understanding
*Assessments should be tools that inform Student learning
*Assessments need to assess the lifelong skills we want our students to learn

Assessment Don’ts

*Assessments should be more than just fill in the blanks which test memory and not skills
*The purpose of Assessments should not be for the purpose of “Got You”
*Assessments need to match what skills were taught in class not the other way around (We should not teach to the test)

Again there is a lot more and the issue of assessments is very much related to the issue of grades which I as well as others have written about.

Bottom line the assessments need to be a tool to measure learning and growth and not as a way that set students up for failure. Assessments need to be used by the teacher as well as the student to guide student learning. Assessments are a tool not an end to themselves

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Different Type of Grading Scale

I have yet to understand what an “A” means or a 99 if you give a number. Does that mean that you don’t need to learn anymore? Or as I tweeted earlier this week “we grade our meat but we should teach our students.”

Therefore I would like to propose a different type of grading scale.

Editors Note: I know it may not be realistic given parent perception and the way colleges work but we need to stop defining our students based on grades.

There are two scales and each student gets a letter and a number

E- Excels and exceeds grade level benchmarks
G- Meets grade level benchmarks
A- Approaches grade level benchmarks
B- Is working below grade level

1- Is an enthusiastic learner and works out of his comfort zone
2- Has shown academic growth
3- Is willing to try and has started to make progress
4- Hasn’t shown any growth and only does what he needs to do

When using this system a student who is naturally smart but doesn’t do anything more could get a G-4 or an E-4 but a student who is not doing well academically but shows growth will receive a grade that reflects that.

I applaud schools that have a similar system. I would love for you to share what you are doing.

Note: We do grade based on grade level benchmarks until grade 3 in my current school.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Leaders Need To Start Doing

I recently read Art Petty's post about 20 Things Leaders should stop doing (

Hers is my list of what Leaders should start doing in no particular order

1. Start collaborating with others and sharing ideas
2. Start active listening skills
3. Start to treat all people with respect
4. Start to be open and honest with people
5. Start to be willing to learn and accept ideas from everyone
6. Start to be humble
7. Start to show others that it is OK to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes
8. Start to admit that you are wrong
9. Start to believe in others
10. Be willing to give up some control
11. Start to recognize the potential inherit in each person.

Please comment and share your list