Friday, September 26, 2014

Efficacy and goal setting

Earlier this week I was in a coaching session with a parent volunteer and we were talking about efficacy and how sometimes you can be in a situation that appears to be overwhelming because you feel that events or people outside of yourself are in control and that you can have very little power to make changes.  I started to think about a situation in the past when this had been true for me, and realized that at the time the problem was that I was completely focused on this weakness, and that I was trying to do something about combatting this weakness, when in fact I should probably have focused instead on my strengths and building those up.

Then I started to think about this in relation to a blog post I wrote last month about the difference between competency and capability - and how as a coach I want to help teachers to develop their capability, because capable people are those who can "operate in unknown contexts and with new problems".  This is particularly important when coaching for tech integration because you are working in a situation of rapid change, with new tools appearing all the time.

Phelps and Graham in their book Whole School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence write extensively about capability and point out that if a teacher is simply trying to develop his/her competency (usually around a tool or skill) then they will need a very different approach from a teacher who is trying to develop capability.  Teachers who want to become competent are wanting an expert to novice flow with PD that is highly structured and planned. Interestingly, these teachers are more likely to feel overwhelmed by the range of skills they need to learn.

On the other hand a teacher who is aiming for capability is more likely to want just-in-time or an "un-conference" type of professional learning experience.  These teachers see technology knowledge as something that is more flexible and that they can discover the answers themselves and often solve their own problems.

This week I have started goal setting with our teaching assistants.  Over and over again I have heard that 2 years ago these TAs were lacking in confidence and could only do the very basics with technology (such as print out something that was sent to them by the teachers).  Now they are brimming with confidence and enthusiasm, and are motivated to take charge of their own learning.
Here are some more differences:
Competency-based learning can lead to quick progress - but has limited outcomes.
Capability-based learning takes longer but has greater outcomes.

Competency-based learning requires training by another person.
Capability-based learning relies on a two-way interaction between people - a dialogue or conversation - which is why coaching is so important.

In order to build capacity, then, efficacy needs also to be high.  You have to believe that you have the knowledge and skills to do or learn something.  If teachers lack confidence and think they cannot use technology, that it is too complicated, then they will not be motivated to try something new.  It's important, therefore, for coaches to build efficacy and this can often be done by setting small, achievable goals and for the coach to recognize and celebrate their successes as they move towards building technological capability.

During my goal setting meetings with teachers and TAs, I have started out by pointing out what I noticed about their learning last year and asking them to reflect on their growth and previous achievements and the things that they do well with technology now.  The thing that I'm hearing most is the huge growth in confidence in using technology.  From that it is an easy step to talk about the things they want to get better at or learn more about.  We can talk about the strategies that they have used before that were effective and some of their choices this year for professional learning.  We always get back to talking about how this will enhance student learning.

Efficacy therefore relies on teachers and TAs taking responsibility for their own learning.  It means they have choices about what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and how they want to learn it.  It means that they are going to become problem solvers and that, most important of all, knowing that we are supporting them, they are going to be motivated to take action.

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Deep -v- Shallow Learning

In the book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement there is a chapter by Carolyn Durley that contains a very interesting table about deep and shallow learning.  I'm going to reproduce the items that I think are most important in the PYP schools where I have worked, where students use inquiry to go deep into the concepts and where there is an emphasis on transdisciplinary skills and approaches to learning:

Shallow:  students are highly dependent on the teacher for specific instructions.
Deep:  Students are interdependent and work peer-to-peer as well as with the teacher.

Shallow:  Students dislike trying new activities, as lack of success may negatively impact their grades.
Deep:  Students see value in taking risks in their learning, are able to learn from their mistakes, and reflect and take appropriate action.

Shallow:  Students focus on strategies to acquire grades.
Deep:  Students focus on strategies and habits to improve their learing.

Shallow:  Students are passive and compliant.
Deep:  Students are active and engaged.

Shallow:  Students find it difficult to explain or find connections between topics or units.
Deep:  Students can explain connections between units and explain how topics relate to the big picture of the course.

Shallow:  Students view evidence for learning as a grade or mark.
Deep:  Students view learning as an ongoing process.

Shallow:  Students see topics as lists of facts to be memorized and quickly forgotten.
Deep:  Students can relate topics to the bigger picture of the topic and explain why and how it relates.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Last year I read a book by Gary Marx about 16 Trends that will have a profound impact on our future.  Marx now has a new book out called 21 Trends for the 21st Century and we are reading this on R&D and focusing on 6 trends:
  • International/Global - Trend: International learning, including relationships, cultural understanding, languages, and diplomatic skills will become basic.  Isolationist Independence ⇄ Interdependence
  • Technology Trend: Ubiquitous, interactive technology will shape how we live, how we learn, how we see ourselves and how we relate to the world. Macro → Micro → Nano → Subatomic
  • Jobs and Careers Trend: Pressure will grow for society to prepare people for jobs and careers that may not currently exist. Career Preparation ⇄ Employability and Career Adaptability
  • Personalization Trend: In a world of diverse talents and aspirations, we will increasingly discover and accept that one size does not fit all. Standardization → Personalization
  • Ingenuity Trend: Releasing ingenuity and stimulating creativity will become primary responsibilities of education and society. Information Acquisition → Knowledge Creation
  • Education Trend: The breadth, depth, and purposes of education will constantly be clarified to meet the needs of a fast changing world Narrowness → Breadth and Depth
I have written about a number of these trends before, but my group is going to focus on the first one which is away from isolationism and towards interdependence.   This trend is definitely impacted by technology because technology makes it possible for people to work together even though they are physically separated around the world.  One things that really struck me about this trend was the importance NOT on the STEM subjects, which you hear so much about these days, but about how language acquisition and "global competency" will be increasingly important - and the subjects Marx mentions in particular are history and geography as well as languages (being a history and geography graduate and with both my children studying these subjects at university, you can imagine how delighted I was to read this!)

Educating children from a global perspective is essential for them to be able to be productive in a global economy, and interestingly it is not really up to schools to provide this instruction.  Language learning in particular is mentioned as something that is happening outside of formal education through computer software and specific language and cultural training by companies whose employees will be living and working abroad.

Marx writes about population trends and how these people are becoming more connected using social media.  He points out that demonstrations that at one time would have remained fairly localized, haev now led to revolutions, stirred up and directed using social media.   Population itself will increase to over 9 billion by 2050, though this growth is not evenly distributed.  Huge population growth in Africa and Asia will be matched by a decrease of population in other areas such as Europe.  Economic growth rates vary too:  less developed countries will grow by 60%, the more developed countries by less than 5%.

Marx writes about 4 emerging globalization trends:
  • economic integration - mostly trade and foreign investment
  • technological connectivity - through the internet
  • personal contact - as people travel more
  • political engagement - memberships in international organizations, treaties and so on
International relations can also be broken down into different areas:
  • relationships among governments - either because of war/peace or because of environmental concerns
  • business relationships - mostly trade
  • educational and scientific relationships - sharing of information and research
  • personal relationships - stimulated by travel and social media
Marx writes this these trends will lead to the following issues:
  • balancing of international competition with international collaboration - education may make some countries "more competitive" but this needs to be balanced with collaboration to tackle the needs of the planet such as developing renewable sources of energy and protecting the environment
  • the brain drain and the brain gain
  • global challenges and opportunities - energy, environment, water, poverty, terrorism, pandemics, war and peace
Along with the growth of world population will be the growth of mega-cities.  By 2030 the world's urban population will be 5 billion and 60% of these will be under the age of 18 (so consider the effect this will have on education!).  Mega-cities of over 10 million people will probably reach almost 40 by 2025, with 21 of these mega-cities in Asia.  This has led to what Marx describes as the "urbanization of poverty" with marginalization, violence and sub-standard housing along with opportunities for growth and advancement.

On R&D we are focused on how these trends will impact education.  To start with Marx writes that the urgent of international/global learning will grow exponentially and that schools and colleges will be expected to strengthen their international/global education programmes.  Students will need to understand that both common threats and common opportunities can bring us together for a common purpose.  The curriculum should include the building blocks for international/global education - as mentioned earlier these include languages, geography and history, but also a knowledge of international relations, diplomatic skills and cultural understanding, communication skills, civic education, conflict resolution, thinking, reasoning and problem solving skills, the appropriate use of technology and so on.  I was interested to read that attracting and keeping multinational businesses with require an lot of support, including excellent schools and colleges and an interesting and high quality of life.  For an international teacher that is certainly a good thing to read.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Professional Development -v- Professional Learning

Before I start this post I first want to explain a little about R&D and about how important R&D is to ASB.  I have written before about how there are two "operating systems" at ASB:  T&L (teaching and learning) and R&D (research and development).  T&L is what executes and delivers our mission every day, whereas R&D focuses on rapid and sustained innovation for learning.  R&D studies, prototypes, researches and scales new teaching and learning approaches, practices and systems that advance learning in an accelerating change environment.

R&D is made up of task forces that come together once a month to share our learning.  For the whole of last year I was on the R&D PD 3.0 task force.  Our aim was to redesign PD for the future of schools, being very aware that we need to constantly reexamine and change what we do in order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.  Staying current or ahead of the curve is one of the things that ASB does best, and our task force was charged with coming up with a proposal to make ASB a professional learning center that would attract world-class faculty through increasing PD opportunities, re-examining roles and establishing teacher-choice in their own professional growth.

The task force began the year by reading about PD and collecting data on what was the current situation with PD at ASB.  We did surveys and interviews of our own teachers and leaders, as well as those working in schools around the world, about successful and effective PD practices.  During the year we also prototyped the PlayDate model.  On the basis of our findings, we constructed a vision for the future of PD.

One of the things that was central to our proposal was a change of wording: from professional development to professional learning. We also strongly believe that professional learning needs to be personalized.The Professional Learning 3.0 model is a flipped model in which the individual “owns” his or her learning. Learners will keep their own records of personal professional learning throughout the year in the form of blogs, journals, portfolios, videos or other forums where teachers can record and reflect upon their professional growth. We also feel it is important that each learner develops and maintains a flexible professional learning network. This may include colleagues at their school and others outside the school. These flexible PLNs would naturally change over time along with the learners professional learning needs and pursuits.

Read the report about PD 3.0 proposals
Read about other things we are doing in R&D in our Findings blog

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Coaching and mentoring -v- "expert" PD

Readers of my blog will notice that over the past few months I've written many (over 60!) blog posts about coaching.  It's been a real focus of mine this year as we have moved towards a model of tech integration coaches.  I've been reading a lot and thinking a lot about the advantages of being coached by someone who is not seen as an "expert".  Our coaches are:
  • working with teachers to set their goals and prompting them to be ambitious
  • encouraging them to document, share and celebrate their achievements using technology
  • offering side-by-side support, in particular in the area of motivation
  • discussing learning strategies that are targeted to a particular grade or subject
I've also been considering the personal qualities that these coaches need, for example a positive attitude, patience and calmness, the ability to support without doing everything for teachers and a willingness to be self-reflective and to critique their own performance as a coach.  While I've been thinking about this, I've also been thinking about some of the qualities I've noticed previously in the IT "experts" I've worked with in other schools.  Often these people were not very patient or understanding with those who lacked confidence when using technology and often they drew on their own previous "techie" knowledge without thinking that this did not come easily to others.  Most of all they were themselves comfortable with technology and often had trouble understanding the anxieties or frustrations of others.  Reflecting on this I realized that one reason why I was a good math teacher when I taught maths in upper elementary and middle school, was because I was not a good math student myself when I was at school, and I had actually experienced and so understood most of the problems that my students were having.

In the book Technology Together:  Whole-School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence Renata Phelps and Anne Graham make the following points:
  • Coaching is not always best done by the most ICT-experienced people in the school
  • Coaches should not be perceived as primarily for teaching technology skills but to support, motivate and encourage ideas
  • Coaching may occur in informal ways as well as at structured times
  • Coaching might happen through team teaching in the classroom
When I take the above 4 points into account, I think we have made a good start to our tech integration coaching programme in the first month of the new school year.

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Flipping Grade 4 and Flipping Bloom's Taxonomy Triangle

Last year our Grade 4s studied different biomes.  They started looking at a threatened ecosystem in Mumbai - mangroves - and then did their own investigations on a different world biome of their choice.  This year they decided to flip it around.  The central idea of this unit is "Ecosystems are complex systems that can be impacted by a variety of factors".  We discussed not starting with the ecosystems, but starting with the factors (for example climate change) and then looking at how this could impact ecosystems.  I like this change:  I think it focuses much more on the "so what" of learning.   Of course this also means a broader focus to the unit and we talked about how some of the work on the biomes and ecosystems could be "flipped" to home, so that at school the teachers could focus on discussing and having students understand the big ideas.

As mentioned in one of yesterday's posts, content, curiosity and relationships can all be enhanced with a flipped learning model:

  • Content - learning can be taken deeper
  • Curiosity - students can take their learning further
  • Relationships - teachers can focus on making connections with their students
As Bergmann and Sams write: "Flipped learning is a bridge from traditional teaching methods which are heavily dependent on content, to more engaging learning methods that focus primarily on the acts of thinking and learning."  It seems that with these changes the Grade 4s are definitely moving in this direction.

Reflecting on this meeting I was thinking about how teaching can change over time.  Bergmann and Sams write about a 4 year shift towards flipped learning that many teachers go through, focusing in the first year on creating or maybe curating an archive of videos.  In the second year they can provide opportunities for students to access these videos at their own pace as they work on teacher-created projects.  Finally many teachers then become happy to encourage their students to generate their own questions and projects, and they can direct students to the archived video content when they need it. At this point teachers have moved from teacher-guided to student-led inquiries and projects, and as Bergmann and Sams write, students are spending the majority of their time in the Creating and Evaluating levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, and they go down into the lower levels to acquire the information they need when they need it.  Interestingly this approach "does not require content mastery prior to embarking on the creative or evaluative process, but allows access to content whenever it becomes necessary during the process."

The image of the inverted triangle of Bloom's Taxonomy comes from a post in the Me and My Laptop blog by Jessica Pilgreen.  The image is free to copy, print and distribute.  Clicking on the image will bring you to a larger version.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cognitive targets

I found a book on my desk today called Teacher as Architect, and have been dipping into it this evening.  The first couple of chapters are a great review of the changes from Agricultural to Industrial to Information to Conceptual Age and of the various learning theories about thinking and acquiring knowledge.  There are many frameworks and models of thinking (Bloom's, Marzano's Gardner's etc) and this new one is an attempt to classify the cognitive skills students need in the 21st century.  It's an interesting one, and while the graphic in the book is that of a bullseye target, I've decided to try to represent it in a different way as the goal is not to hit the centre every time.

Retrieving:  the simplest form of cognition which involves retention and recalling knowledge from memory.  This used to be an important skill, but with new technologies it isn't as necessary or important as it once was.
Comprehending:  transferring knowledge, our ability to understand something.
Analyzing:  a more complex form of thinking that breaks down knowledge into components to determine relationships, structure and/or purpose.
Reasoning:  drawing conclusions and making judgements based on evidence, facts or criteria.
Creating:  making, inventing or producing something new - at one time considered the highest form of mental functioning.  
Metacognition:  being aware of and monitoring one's own thinking and learning.  Today's students must be metacognitive thinkers and need to be given opportunities to reflect on key concepts and big ideas.
Self-actualization:  the process of understanding oneself.  

I'm enjoying reading this book and certainly looking forward to learning more about this approach to the development of 21st century skills in today's Conceptual Age.

PD for Coaches

Over the first few weeks of this school year I've touched base with our new tech integration coaches a number of times.  We have had 2 meetings with all the coaches across all divisions of the school together, I've had several individual meetings with coaches and today we had a meeting just with the coaches in the elementary school.  I'm aware that at these meetings as well as sharing what we have been doing, that these are times when our coaches need to be developing and refining their coaching skills - that these meetings are professional development opportunities for our coaches.

So far this year I have focused on 3 main areas:  planning conversations, paraphrasing and asking mediative questions.  I've been thinking of what learning activities we can do to develop these skills.  For myself I have lots of opportunities to practice the skills as I'm coaching teachers in 2 grades and all the specialist teachers and assistants.  In addition, I'm really fortunate in that one of our parents is interested in developing herself as a cognitive coach trainer, and she has offered to give me half an hour a week where we practice our coaching skills together.  At today's meeting one of the coaches questioned another coach about something, and it was an ideal time for them to practice this coaching scenario as a role play.  This got me thinking about what are the best ways for our coaches to professionally develop themselves, especially when none of our coaches has received any formal coaching training - and as teachers of primary school children none of them is experienced in adult learning theory.
  • Role Play:  this can be a great way of running through a past coaching conversation that didn't go particularly well, or getting ready for a future one that you anticipate may be tough.  Today our coaches did this with me acting as an observer.  We could also do this as a fishbowl activity and get everyone to reflect on it.
  • Consultancy:  we talked about the difference between being a coach and being a consultant, and when I got home I decided to read more about this.  Being in a Critical Friends Group in my first year made me aware of various protocols for sharing dilemmas and getting different perspectives on a situation.
  • Relationship building skills:  coaches need to develop these - in particular empathy.  This calls for building listening skills such as being able to listen with an open heart and mind and being non-judgmental.
  • Planning for conversations:  the more we practice the more effective our conversations will be.  We can plan how to ask questions and listen to our own listening skills.  For me this is one of the hardest things to do - so the one I need to practice the most.  Oftentimes I'm listening but with a busy mind.  Instead of really listening to what the other person is saying, I'm already trying to slot what they are saying into a connection with an experience that is already in my own mind.  I'm listening and at the same time thinking about whether or not I agree with this.  I'm getting ready with my answer or thinking of some way of debating their point.  In my own coaching conversation with a parent last week I explored several ways of dealing with this. Maybe I could record (audio or video) the conversation to play back afterwards to really observe how much I talked as opposed to the teacher being coached (I should be talking for less than 1/4 of the time), whether I allowed appropriate wait times, the kinds of questions I asked and so on.  One suggestion regarding videoing was to look back at the video with the sound off so that you are only looking at the non-verbal communication.  It's the non-verbals that the teacher being coached is also picking up on.
I think audio or video recordings is a good thing to suggest to our tech integration coaches as a way of reflecting on their own skills as a coach.  Although I am happy to attend their coaching sessions as an observer, I also don't want to come across as the "tech expert" in the room, which might get in the way of the relationships that the coaches are building with their teachers.  I think I'm going to suggest audio and video recordings to them at a future meeting - and then we can watch or listen together afterwards and hopefully we can all learn from this and improve our skills and practices.

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Content -v- Curiosity

Yesterday in a collaborative planning meeting we were discussing how giving students choices of what to research and how they present their findings, isn't necessarily the same as inquiry.  This reminded me of a chapter I was reading recently in Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sam's book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement where they write that the opportunity for students to follow their interests may be missing in many schools today:  "Teachers simply have too much content to cover.  Because of this they are reluctant to allow students choice in what to learn or how to learn."

One phrase that really stood out to me as I was reading was that education is about the intersection of content, curiosity and relationship - and that so many educational systems place the emphasis on content at the expense of the other two.  Recently I was co-leading an IB Continuum workshop on Flipping Classrooms in Singapore and this was certainly the feeling of many of the teachers there - that there is way too much content to cover and way too little flexibility.  One of the things that appealed to these teachers was that they could have the students cover the content at home, and then use the in-class time to have students extend their knowledge by following their curiosities and teachers could use this time to build relationships with their students.

It's Teachers' Day in India today.  Teachers at my school received many tokens of appreciation from the parents and students they taught (and those they had taught in previous years).  These relationships are so important.  Jon and Aaron write:
Teaching is fundamentally a human interaction in which the passions and interests of the students are fanned to a flame.  Students realize that they need more from their teachers than mere content.  They need passionate, caring professionals who encourage them to pursue excellence.
Well said!  And Happy Teachers' Day everyone!

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Can creativity be taught?

Bob Greenberg has added a new video to his Brainwaves series.  Sir Ken Robinson asks can creativity be taught?

Thanks for continuing your quest to interview and video the brightest minds in education Bob!