December 14-December 20, 2015
“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
Julius Saves Mr. Sommers Life
Classroom Practices that Boost and Dampen Student Agency
In this paper from Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative, Ronald Ferguson, Sarah Phillips, Jacob Rowley, and Jocelyn Friedlander report on their study of the ways in which grade 6-9 teachers in 490 schools influenced their students’ non-cognitive skills. The central variable that Ferguson and his colleagues measured was students’ agency. This, they write, “is the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative – the opposite of helplessness. Young people with high levels of agency do not respond passively to their circumstances; they tend to seek meaning and act with purpose to achieve the conditions they desire in their own and others’ lives. The development of agency may be as important an outcome of schooling as the skills we measure with standardized testing.”
The researchers used data from Tripod surveys of students’ perceptions of their teachers [see Marshall Memo 461] to examine how Ferguson’s “Seven C” components of instruction (caring, conferring, captivating, clarifying, consolidating, challenging, and managing the classroom) influenced agency, which manifested itself in the following ways:
- Punctuality – The student tries hard to arrive to class on time.
- Good conduct – The student is cooperative, respectful, and on task.
- Effort – The student pushes him- or herself to do the best quality work.
- Help-seeking – The student is not shy about asking for help when needed.
- Conscientiousness – The student is developing a commitment to produce quality work.
- Happiness – The student regards the classroom as a happy place to be.
- Anger – The student experiences this in class, which may boost or dampen agency.
- Mastery orientation – The student is committed to mastering lessons in the class.
- Sense of efficacy – The student believes he or she can be successful in the class.
- Satisfaction – The student is satisfied with what he or she has achieved in the class
- Growth mindset – The student is learning to believe that he or she can get smarter.
- Future orientation – The student is becoming more focused on future aspirations (e.g., college).
The researchers also identified a number of disengagement behaviors – the opposite of agency: faking effort, generally not trying, giving up if the work is too hard, and avoiding help.
What did the data reveal? Ferguson and his colleagues found that some teaching behaviors were agency boosters and others were agency dampers, indicating the delicate balance teachers must maintain between what they ask of students (academic and behavioral press) and what they give students (social and academic support). The details:
- Agency boosters – Requiring rigor came through strongly in the study – asking students to think more rigorously by striving to understand concepts, not simply memorize facts, or to explain their reasoning. This boosts mastery orientation, increases effort, growth mindset, conscientiousness, and future aspirations – but sometimes diminishes students’ happiness in class, feelings of efficacy, and satisfaction with what they’ve achieved. “These slightly dampened emotions in the short term,” say the researchers, “seem small prices to pay for the motivational, mindset, and behavioral payoffs we predict to result from requiring rigorous thinking. Combinations of teaching practices – for example, appropriately differentiated assignments, lucid explanations of new material, and curricular supports to accompany demands for rigor – seem quite relevant in this context.”
- Agency dampers – Caring may sometimes entail coddling: “in an effort to be emotionally supportive,” say the authors, “some teachers may be especially accommodating and this may depress student conduct as well as academic persistence.” Conferring can sometimes lack a clear purpose, which can undermine student effort and reduce time on task. Clearing up confusion can occur too automatically, with teachers doing the work for students and denying them the incentive and opportunity to diagnose and correct their own misunderstandings, which diminishes effort and conscientiousness.
- Future-orientation boosters – Caring and captivating are the teaching components most closely associated with college aspirations, the researchers found.
- Achievement boosters – Challenge and classroom management are the components correlated with students doing well on standardized tests, as the Measures of Effective Teaching study found.
“The point is not that there is a trade-off between annual learning gains and higher aspirations,” say Ferguson and colleagues. “Instead, the point is that the most important agency boosters for each are different. A balanced approach to instructional improvement will prioritize care and captivate to bolster aspirations, and challenge and classroom management to strengthen the skills that standardized tests measure. Certainly, without the skills that tests measure, college aspirations might be futile. But in turn, without college aspirations, the payoffs to those skills may be limited.”
Here is their distillation of ten classroom practices that develop agency:
- Care – Be attentive and sensitive, but avoid coddling students in ways that hold them to lower standards of effort and performance.
- Confer – Encourage and respect students’ perspectives and honor student voice, but do so while remaining focused on instructional goals – and don’t waste class time with idle chatter.
- Captivate – Make lessons stimulating and relevant while knowing that some students may hide their interest.
- Clarify with lucid explanations – Strive to develop clearer explanations, including how the skills and knowledge you teach are useful in the exercise of effective agency in real life – especially for the material students find most difficult.
- Clarify by clearing up confusion – Take regular steps to detect and respond to confusion in class, but do so in ways that share responsibility with students.
- Clarify with instructive feedback – Give instructive feedback in ways that provide scaffolding for students to solve their own problems.
- Consolidate – Regularly summarize lessons to help consolidate learning.
- Challenge by requiring rigor – Press students to think deeply instead of superficially about what they are learning. Anticipate some resistance from students who might prefer a less-stressful approach – but be tenacious.
- Challenge by requiring persistence – Consistently require students to keep trying and searching for ways to succeed even when work is difficult.
- Classroom management – Achieve respectful, orderly, and on-task student behavior by using clarity, captivation, and challenge instead of coercion.
“The Influence of Teaching: Beyond Standardized Test Scores: Engagement, Mindsets, and Agency – A Study of 16,000 Sixth Through Ninth-Grade Classrooms” by Ronald Ferguson with Sarah Phillips, Jacob Rowley, and Jocelyn Friedlander, a paper from The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, Oct. 2015, http://www.agi.harvard.edu/publications.php
Around the Campus
PALS Leads Potential DISD Teachers on Tours
Our campus was selected to host potential D.I.S.D teachers in hopes of selling them on the idea of joining us here in D.I.S.D.
Teachers Compete in Door Decorating Contest
The campus was filled with holiday excitement as students and teachers showed creativity.
ROTC Particpates in Festival of Lights
ROTC supports our community by participating in the Vickery Meadows Festival of Lights
PALS Leads Potential DISD Teachers on Tours
Teachers Compete in Door Decorating Contest
Conrad Feeder Pattern Foci
Listed below are items that our entire feeder works to make norms for every class in the Conrad Feeder Pattern.
- Progress Monitoring: Teacher-managed Profiling & Student-managed Profiling
- Differentiated Individualized Professional Development
- Data Driven Decisions and Instruction
- Graphic Organizer Utilization
- Justification of student responses (i.e. How do you know? Why? What does that mean? Explain, etc.)
- Scaffolding Instruction
- Differentiate Instruction, inclusive of Small Group Instruction/Instructional Stations
- No Opt Out, Think-Pair-Share, Cold Call
- Content Specific Writing
- Content Specific Reading
Seniors Celebrate at the Galleria Mall
Monday, December 14
6/7:30pm-Varsity Basketball(Girls) vs Pinkston High School @ Conrad High School
Wednesday, December 16
Thursday, December 17
Friday, December 18
6/7:30pm-Varsity Basketball(Girls) vs Bryan Adams@ Bryan Adams High School
2/3:30pm-Varsity Basketball(Boys) vs N. Richland Hills@ Conrad High School
Saturday, December 19
Announcements & Action Items
- Please post lesson plans in a visible place for visitors to access. (Remember lesson plans should reflect pacing by the minute for components within the lesson plan)
- Please be sure and review Mrs. Esparza's monthly calendar. If you have any events you would like added, see her in the front office.
December 18-January 3-Christmas Break
January 4th-Teacher Workday
January 5th-Professional Development