Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cultivating Thinking in the Classroom

Reflecting upon the first few weeks of school has helped me purposely and precisely decide what is important in my classroom. It has allowed me to shed the burden of teacher guilt about not doing enough content, not grading enough papers, not being successful in the application of new teaching strategies. I'm letting that go as I work on modelling patience, perseverance, using mistakes to revisit tasks.

I'm spending more time thinking about what I am doing and how this will be visible in the learning of my students. And because I want to see the learning, I'll need to track some of the details from day to day.

I've used two tools to help me with this and both tools require complete transparency with the students. I want them to own their learning and to value assessment as a tool for improvement.

One tool is my Observation Template:
I'm using this tool for looking at the process of learning that is visible in the classroom.

The other tool is Feedback:
I'm using this tool for looking at specific skills. One of the most useful articles that I've ever read about feedback is here. If I'm honest with myself, I've been doing this feedback thing all wrong.

Once a mark goes on the work, the learning is over. Feedback, on the other hand, gives students information that the task needs changes before the learning is evaluated.

I am going to let my students know that the comments will be about the work and not the person. I still value praise and encouragement, but I won't give this on papers. I will give it in person so conferencing will become a regular part of my class routine. For each assignment, I'm going to check in with the student and give them targeted praise and encouragement.

Cultivating thinking in my classroom will take time. It will take more than observations and feedback. But for now, I'm shedding the guilt and focusing on making positive changes which visibly promote learning and deepen understanding in myself and my students.