Tag Archives: reflection

Failure equals Success

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Ok, so the School Holidays are over again for another Term. I always start the term bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, keen as to get into my classroom.
And then…

BAM

School hits me in the face.

Really??

Really??

We started with this great workshop and discussion at Staff Development Day on middle schooling pedagogy. Middle School is those awkward years from Year 6 to Year 9, when a lot is happening developmentally and socially, but learning and engagement is not first always first on their agenda?! We were discussing some effective strategies to support our students to achieve success and learn to love learning. Some great ideas were popping up: more community involvement, more acknowledgement of achievement, more PBL. I was excited to be having this discussion with my colleagues.

Great ideas happening

Great ideas happening

So, I then added to the discussion, and suggested that one problem is the pressure with assessments… Especially at this time of year. Reporting. Because when all a students teachers are writing reports, they need results. These results are collated from assessment tasks… So for Year 7, at the beginning of Term 2, they will probably have at least 10 assessment tasks due to align with all their subjects. This was clearly not a popular statement, and was told I should organise myself better and that reporting was our obligation as a teacher.
So wait…. I never said I didn’t want to report- I love giving kids feedback…. But the question I had was the why are we pressuring kids with so many assessments (often due at the same time) just for the sake of a mark on the report?


 

Then something wonderful happens in my own classroom…

I have my GATS students finishing a project where they were divided into 4 groups. They were randomly chosen groups and allocated 4 real world projects to achieve by the end of Term 1. Now, some groups finished…. and some didn’t. One group organised a very successful popcorn stall where they raised awareness and money for the Black Dog Institute. Throughout the project (especially at the beginning), I explained how hard it was to work collaboratively, and that you really need to identify your ‘leader’ at the beginning. I said you would always have a ‘slack ass’ that you would need to constantly tell what to do, and I also told them not everyone was equal and jobs needed to be allocated if you hoped to be successful. I saod you needed a goal and a plan as to what to achieve in every lesson. I gave students some great goal setting and project management sheets that I adapted from BIE.

As the project progressed, I watched as some groups fumbled and as the term ended, some had even lost their direction completely.

At the beginning of this project, I told them that many groups would failThis is the GATS class, so they looked at me horrified – these are high achieving kids who would rarely ‘fail’! As predicted, some groups just couldn’t get it together to finish the project.

I smiled at them.

This is what I wanted. I wanted them to learn from their mistakes.

At the end of this project, the only thing I really care about, is the self-reflection that the students submit to Edmodo. I asked a few questions of them and told them their group members weren’t reading it, so you should be honest.

These are the questions:

1. What was the criteria to achieve success? 
2. What have you learnt from this task? Describe the purpose of the organization/theme that your project was based upon.
3. Do you think that you have made other people aware of the ideas and issues that are explored by your organization/theme? Explain why/why not.
4. We always learn from mistakes and failures. Show how failure, mistakes and accidents have led to the discovery of worthwhile things. 
5. If you were to do it again, how would you do it differently? Evaluate solutions and answers in terms of their consequences and implications
6. Describe your role in the group. Were you a team player? Did you achieve the learning goals you set for yourself?

So how does this link to my frustration at the beginning of this post… and the title of FAILURE equal SUCCESS?

I think sometimes we are so consumed by a system that grades and assesses students for numerical outcomes that we forget that learning can be about making mistakes. It is not always about getting 100% everytime. I get frustrated that I can see the benefit of less grading and classifying and wonder why it can’t always be this way. But I also know realistically, that is how the school system works – that is what the HSC is after all. It is much easier to control this model of examination equalling success. So many people have become accustomed to associating a number with the amount of knowledge a student has about a subject. I don’t think 76/100 tells me anything about the students I teach. I love talking to my students about their successes and failures and asking what they enjoyed or hated about a unit of work.

So, I leave you with some of my students insightful self reflection statements. Because these made me smile, gave me goosebumps and a little tear in my eye… Cause I realised what I believe in does work, and it DOES make a difference. 

* I liked when everyone just got the job done and we worked as a team. When we did, we had great out comes. The task was definitely challenging, but I really learnt how to try and communicate with others and how important planning is to working as a team. I actually think that by not getting a complete finished product, we all learnt that teamwork is really important and makes a big change to how things turn out.Overall I thought this project was fun and interesting, but it certainly had its up and downs!

* Yes I did enjoy it. I found it challenging working in a group and I learnt a lot of group skills and a lot about filming. It was also good at the start of last term when I was new and we were all new, I got to know some of the other people in my class because it was grouped randomly.

* Not everyone was motivated the same amount. If each person in the group was motivated to the same level, we wouldn’t have been distracted as easily and we might have better achieved our goals. The different level of motivation of the group members contributed to what I considered as disappointing outcome.

* What did you learn? I learnt a lot trying to achieve a project as part of a group. I learned that planning in this situation is very important. I used to think that planning was not needed all the time, but now I think you should always plan, although sometimes you need more planning than others. The most important things I learn were:
1. Planning is one of the biggest building blocks of group work and you will fail without it. 
2. Everybody needs to be motivated so they don’t get distracted.
3. You have to listen to everybody and be prepared to compromise your ideas to make everybody happy and to get the best ideas.
4. Sometimes despite your best efforts you will be disappointed.
 
Was there a time that you have made a mistake or failed but learnt so much from it?

 

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Noob, Master or Wizard

Differentiation is a focus this year, not only at my school, but also in the region. This has meant that there is a massive push to make a range of strategies more explicit in our programs and units of work.

So, what is Differentiation?

It involves the use of teaching, learning and assessment strategies that are fair and flexible, provide an appropriate level of challenge, and engage students in learning in meaningful ways. Differentiated programming recognises an interrelationship between teaching, learning and assessment that informs future teaching and learning.

http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/support-materials/differentiated-programming/

Being unique and different isn't all that bad

Being unique and different isn’t all that bad


The concept began as a strategy to enable Gifted and Talented learners to be challenged in mainstream classrooms. The realisation is all students learn in different ways and when provided with a range of ways to problem solve, a choice of product outcomes and the opportunity to work at a pace that suits them, students will achieve better and more to their potential. No longer is the “one size fits all” solution adequate in the 21st Century classroom.

There are a few suggested strategies that can be used. These include:

  • Differentiating the process or activities
  • Differentiating the product outcome or assessment
  • Differentiating the content and materials
  • Differentiate the environment

All the above can be further explained when you examine the following models:

How does this translate in the classroom?

I feel confident from teaching the GATS class that I am able to accomplish these ideas when programming and implementing a unit of work. But when we sat down to discuss it as a faculty, there was a need to have it more explicit and each concept defined and used clearly by each teacher. (Now there is irony – teach in a differentiated way, but don’t program like it! HAHA!) There was also a push from above for each faculty to focus on one strategy to become experts at it – the Art department scored Extended Brainstorming. The more that I thought about it and read about differentiation, the more clear it was to me, that in Art we are really lucky. While we teach students a skill in using materials, the concept development and inevitable outcome, is always differentiated. Students are always working at their own pace and some extend their artmaking when they feel confident, while others are more complacent.

For me, reflecting upon my classes, I thought perhaps I had let my Visual Design class down. Because I teach in such an open-ended manner, I feared that maybe they weren’t developing good enough Graphic Design skills, and some were not all confident with using Photoshop. I don’t like to set down in stone HOW to use the software, I figure that as they problem solve and decide on a visual concept, they are going to have to learn how to use the software, to make it do what they want.

In saying this, I decided to PRE-TEST their skills. I gave them a task that was open-ended, but the end product was like a test of their developing skills.

Here are some of their products.

There is such a range. But it really challenged them and gave them the chance to really showcase what they could or couldn’t do.

So, are you a NOOB, MASTER or WIZARD?

Once complete, I assigned the students the next design brief. However, I based it upon these previous submissions. I was going to tell them what to do, but let them choose. I let them choose from 3 possible project – each increasing in difficulty.

The NOOB task is for students that are developing their Photoshop skills.

The MASTER task is for students that are able to use Photoshop, but not always confident.

The WIZARD task is for the super dooper students who want a challenge and know what they are doing.

The feedback discussions we had about where they were placed in their ability was great, and now the are all doing something that they are enjoying and with enough challenge to learn new and develop their skills.

What are some things you have tried to differentiate in your classroom?


How is BYOD going?

It has been a few weeks now and we still have the one class enjoying having their own devices in the classroom. We are looking at expanding this by the end of the Year to include all of Year 7 and 8.

However, this will have it’s set backs. There are still teachers who don’t really use technology in an integrated way in their classrooms, and the network at school may need a little oomph! But these are things can be worked through.

Sometimes I think that it would be better to have no choice of device, and support teachers better with one system that can then be managed and monitored and have professional development modelled around it. I don’t have a preference for a device I guess, but do like the workflow of iPads. This however, is not a device that would last the students through the whole of high school… as by the time they are in senior school, they would definitely need a laptop instead. And really, my philosophy of education is not about the technology, but about the teaching pedagogy.

As part of the implementation of BYOD, I had the GATS class do an assignment on what they thought it would look like in our school, and how lessons can be transformed with technology. They presented to a panel of myself, the principal, and two kind parents who are a part of the P&C technology committee.

Check out some examples:

Student ONE

Student TWO

Student THREE

My reflections

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While their presentations were great (albeit some had WAY too much text on their slides that they proceeded to read), I was saddened. Saddened that they still believe learning to look like the teacher is at the front of the room, and they have to take notes and do tests. It is so embedded in them to think this, that even when told they could make the changed lessons anything they wanted, they didn’t know what that could look like.

I watched Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on TED on the weekend again, and hope that I can at least change the landscape of education in my context.

How do you think you will bring the LEARNING REVOLUTION to your context?