Student Motivation

Teaching Channel Video – Kathleen Cushman
(Unfortunately, the code for embedding the video here doesn’t seem to be working. So, right click on the link above and open the page in a new tab or window. Then, you can watch the 6 minute video there)

I came across a very useful resource for educators today – www.teachingchannel.org

On this video, the speaker, Kathleen Cushman, has some really interesting insights in to methods and ideas that lead to the development of real Twenty First Century skills for students, in a high motivation environment. I was particularly interested by her idea that when students see their teachers collaborating, they are more likely to adapt to collaborating positively as well.

I liked what I was hearing about student choice, doing something that matters in the adult world and student agency. Also, the eight conditions of being a learner are a useful starting point for assessing the value of many student learning experiences.

In the video, she makes reference to a number of things happening at a school called High Tech High. Some of these are referenced in the other videos accessible through the links at the bottom of the video screen that all relate to the ‘Deeper Learning’ series. The one on ‘Tiny House’ is particularly worth watching.

4 Qualities of a Great Leader

Another takeaway from the World Government Summit, taking place in Dubai right now. These reflections on the qualities of great leaders were shared in the context of government, but are relevant for anyone who is required to lead others at any time in their lives.

Professor Klaus Schwab was the founder and is the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum:

World Government Summit – Prof Klaus Schwab

Professor Schwab talked of the fourth industrial revolution and the pace of change. His 4 broad qualities for leaders related to brains, soul, heart and nerve.

Real World Problems as Classroom Projects

Right now, UAE is hosting the World Government Summit, with a formidable group of speakers and presenters.

I was interested to see this summary of a presentation by Paul Anderson, a teacher of Advanced Placement courses in a Montana, USA school:

World Government Summit 2016 – Paul Anderson

He talks of the ways in which reflecting on his own teaching and the experiences of students in his classroom lead him to change his views on what was needed, now and in the future.

Measuring Educational Impacts

BBC Radio 4 – The Educators – John Hattie
(Click on the link above to listen to the discussion)

Here’s a very interesting audio recording of an interview done for the BBC Radio 4 series – ‘The Educators’. The interviewee was Dr John Hattie of Melbourne University, Australia. He’s particularly talking about the large meta-analysis he’d carried out in to educational impacts of various things. In other words – research that pulls together the results of a large body of research studies from across the world.

Whilst it’s interesting, especially from an academic perspective, to hear him talk about the relative impacts of different things, such as homework, class sizes, streaming or parental choice of schools the burning question that came in to my mind was – “what are we measuring to define IMPACT/ EFFECT and are they the things we should be measuring?”

It is inevitable that during the discussion the PISA tests came up for discussion. To many educators, and especially those who want to believe that data and statistics are all that’s needed to enable them to drive change/ improvement in the whole education system it is a very simple piece of logic to say that PISA tests what children need to be learning in school and that, therefore, comparisons of relative performance on PISA are the right way to assess the quality of an education system.

How comfortably does this sit with ideas related to the need, in the Twenty First Century to develop lifelong learners, to develop high levels of EQ, empathy, communication skills and other softer attributes when its very clear that these aren’t figuring at all in the analysis of PISA or any other effects/ impact/ outcomes?

A school, District or even an individual teacher can decide to do certain things that will have a higher chance of producing higher PISA scores or scores on other standardised testing systems. However, does that mean that we must say that that automatically represents good education, the ideal? Well, arguably, when Shanghai scored top on PISA it was acknowledged by education authorities in China that their methods were very good at drilling the children in what they needed to know to do well in the exams, BUT were probably very bad at inculcating and developing the skills those young people would need to be effective in the 21st century. As a result, the Chinese have been looking outside their own education systems for ways to change so as to have an education system that prepares young people for the reality of the future they will face.

Here’s the problem – the future of children and their contribution to society doesn’t lend itself to being tested, picked apart for analytical debate half as easily as standardised test results. And this is why we can so easily fall in to the trap of being so comfortable with the kinds of debates here in this interview. All through, the discussion is about the relative merits of different actions that can take place in education, all based on a criteria of judgement about worthwhile outcomes that may not stand up to scrutiny.

Being able to climb a ladder better or faster is meaningless if we’re leaning the ladder against the wrong wall.

Should I Be Here?

“This is your office, Mr Parkinson. Can I bring you anything? Tea or coffee?”

She walked out of the room, leaving me to check out my reflection in the giant shiny desk the size of a ping pong table. I tentatively perched myself on the edge of the big black leather chair with its high back.

“What am I doing here? Am I a fraud? How long before everyone realises?”

…………… cast forward 6 months. It’s Monday morning. I step in to that same office at 8.00am in the morning. I cast a look around. The same desk. The same chair behind it. Some new chairs in front of it (I’m tall enough as it is, without having a higher chair that towers over the visitor chairs! A few pieces of my own possessions on the desk, but in almost all respects, still the same room. In shock, I realise that whilst I may have initiated many changes outside this room in those 6 months, I’ve changed hardly anything in it. “I know why. It’s not really mine. I’m really not sure i belong here. I’m just waiting for everyone to realise and then I’ll probably be on my way!”

This was a real scenario and I would say, at some time or other, I’ve probably felt it in every job or role I’ve ever had. In fact, I’ve had it in unpaid roles as well when I’ve been given leadership responsibilities. It’s something I never really talked about with anyone. In fact, the stronger I felt it the less inclined I was to talk about it.

So, what a weight off to discover that I was far from alone. What I’ve experienced on all those occasions was ‘Imposter Syndrome’;

Quartz – Is Imposter Syndrome a Sign of Greatness?

I’m guessing there are a few people out there who are going to breath a bit easier after reading this article. However, while I’m not going to name them, I can also think of a few people I’ve known in leadership roles who will scoff and laugh at this, mystified by the fuss and ridiculing any idea that they might ever benefit from a little humility about their own talents, worthiness and right to hold the role and responsibilities they have!
(I’ve always known there was a reason to find them the most dangerous of people!)

Personally, one of the ways this manifests is that if you were to ask me to do a self-analysis and produce a list of things I don’t know but should, or skills that i ought to have at a higher level – I could give you a list as long as your arm in no time. However, if you asked me to list honestly all those things where I am at 100% in skills or knowledge, just can’t go any further – it would be a very short list. BUT, I wouldn’t give you that list, would I?

And, of course, this is where most employee appraisal systems in organisations are such a farce, as are many of the questions people are asked in interviews. Because, the reality is we all know we’re in a game on those occasions and the secret is to answer the questions in accordance with the game – not honestly! Heaven forbid. How long would you last when asked, “What are your strengths for this job?” if you answered, “Well, I’m not really there on anything yet, but i’m working really hard at it.”

We’re a long way from open, transparent, honest workplaces!

Get Students Engaged

It’s a while since I’ve renewed my recommendations for the Curriki website. It’s been around a few years now, and has become a phenomenal community for teachers to share, exchange and trade lesson plans.

Especially if a teacher is finding that his or her students need something ‘different’ and are not all responding well to some lessons, it can be a great source of ideas for alternatives the teacher can take, adapt and try.

At the following link, Curriki have shared a free eBook of 20 teacher resources to get students engaged:

Curriki – Free eBook

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