Adventure Specialists' Advice

September 15, 2016

Collaborative Expertise

This week, I've been thinking a lot about collaboration. In reviewing the last few years, I feel like we have really increased and improved in this area. Teachers are more comfortable talking to one another, there is mutual respect, and we have high trust. Some of you are working together on course maps and planning classes collaboratively. The number of conversations about learning has definitely increased. I want to encourage us to build upon that as we move forward.

I've been doing a little reading and research on this, and I want to share some of John Hattie's latest research with you. He basically says that our collaborative expertise is the best tool we have to improve student learning. We need each of our strengths pulled together to make the biggest difference in the lives of students.

After I read this, it reminded me of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12. We are the body of Christ, and each of us have different gifts and therefor roles and responsibilities. We are called to work together.

Please take the time to read one of the following articles.

This is a short summary of Hattie's research. Read it if you are pressed for time.

This is the full version. I've only skimmed it, but it's on my reading list for this weekend.

Thanks for all of the hard work you have done in moving from isolated classroom teaching to a feeling that we are all responsible for all of the kids in middle school.

Important Dates

September 16: No School (Malaysia Day)

Sept. 20: Divisional Meeting, 4:00, Rm. 23

Sept. 23-24: JV Volleyball and Soccer to ISKL

Sept. 27: PD Meeting, 4:00

October 1: End of Q1

October 10: Grades verified by 8 AM

October 12: Parent-Teacher conferences; Students dismissed at 12:30

Active Thinking Tasks Part 1

A few weeks ago I shared about how true learning results when students spend time thinking and practicing the things they need to be learning. Even though this seems like an obvious fact, it’s easy to get off course and give busy work or tasks that promote creativity but do not get students engaged in thinking tasks that support learning. I gave the example of the diorama from my elementary school years; it was something I enjoyed doing but did not really engage me in literary analysis.

To bring some balance to what I’m saying, I must acknowledge that it’s also equally possible to have strong thinking tasks but to always use the same kinds of strategies for asking these questions. This can be boring for students and can also result in thinking ruts. How do we find a way to challenge our students with rigorous thinking tasks and at the same time keep it creative, interesting, and stimulating for them? I think this is where active learning is helpful; it provides ideas for how to craft creative thinking tasks for students. Here’s a step-by-step approach to how to do this.

First, it’s important to be clear on what it is that’s most important for students to be learning. We’re in the process of writing objectives, and though it is slow work, it’s very fruitful for helping to clarify what’s most important. Within those objectives, we’re using various levels of thinking from Bloom’s taxonomy, and this is also essential because these will guide us in how we assess these objectives. These objectives should be shaping all of our thinking tasks!

Second, we take that objective and consider ways to create thinking tasks using active learning. For example, let’s say that the objective states that students will compare and contrast the Buddhist and Christian worldviews. Taking this objective, I consider different active learning strategies that would work well for this objective. I might put up poster paper around the room labeled “compare” and “contrast” and ask students to write two comparisons and two contrasts on posters. I could get card partners together and ask them to create a diagram comparing and contrasting the worldviews and then share with the class.

As you can see, there are many ways to make this thinking task interesting. I challenge you to try this out with one of your objectives this week!

Susan Allen

HS Teacher, Instructional Coach

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