"In This Issue:
1. “Noise” in decision-making
2. Are classroom observations accurate measures of teachers’ work?
3. A different way of thinking about differentiation
4. A professor changes his mind about cold-calling
5. Close reading of challenging texts in middle school
6. Good news about the rich-poor gap in kindergarten entry skills
7. On-the-spot assessment tools
8. Short items: The Kappan poll"
professionals often make decisions that deviate significantly from those of their peers, from their own prior decisions, and from rules that they themselves claim to follow… Where there is judgment, there is noise – and usually more of it than you think.”
In a school, if a principal consistently gives harsher punishments to boys than girls for the same infractions, that is bias, but if she often gives harsher punishments to students just before lunchtime, that’s noise.]
A noise audit works best when respected team members create a scenario that is realistic, the people involved buy into the process, and everyone is willing to accept unpleasant results and act on them.
The challenge, say the authors, is designing classroom observations that provide valid data on what’s happening day to day in classrooms, make meaningful distinctions among teachers, provide teachers with useful feedback, and support helpful, high-quality professional development.
To accomplish these important goals, several challenges need to be addressed:
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->Quality assurance of supervisors’ observation and coaching skills;
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->Achieving a reasonable degree of inter-rater reliability among supervisors;
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->A rubric with research-based criteria for classroom instruction;
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->The conceptual difficulty of capturing complex classroom dynamics in a rating instrument;
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->Getting an accurate sampling of each teacher’s work;
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->Giving fair evaluations to teachers working with different types of students
Addressing the tendency of principals to “go easy” on some teachers to keep the peace and/or avoid the hard work of following up on critical evaluations (are outside observers and/or multiple observers necessary to get truly objective data on teachers?).
I would suggest two more questions: First, are classroom visits announced or unannounced? If researchers don’t gather data on this, they are missing an important variable in the reliability of teacher assessment – teachers are likely to put on an especially good lesson when they know they’re being observed. Second, are teacher-evaluation rubrics used to score individual classroom visits, which is conceptually very difficult, or as end-of-year summations of multiple classroom visits with feedback conversations through the year?
Tomlinson and other proponents suggest that teachers differentiate by content (what is taught), process (how it’s taught), and product (how students are asked to demonstrate their learning).
students learn better, they said, when the work is at the right level of difficulty, personally relevant, and appropriately engaging.
trying to assess a teacher’s work asking, Is it differentiated? runs the risk of missing the forest for the trees. Better, says Marshall, to ask two broader questions (tip of the hat to Rick DuFour):
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->What are students supposed to be learning?
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->Are all students mastering it?
Good lesson plans build in multiple entry points, using the principles of Universal Design for Learning to make learning accessible to as many students as possible, and have clear goals; thoughtful task analysis; chunked learning; teaching methods appropriate to the content; links to students’ interests and experiences; checks for understanding; and accommodations for students with special needs.
a major factor in student success is a set of in-the-moment moves that effective teachers have always used, among them effective classroom management; knowing students well; being culturally sensitive; making the subject matter exciting; making it relevant; making it clear; taking advantage of visuals and props; involving students and getting them involved with each other; having a sense of humor; and nimbly using teachable moments.” But equally important is checking for understanding – dry-erase boards, clickers, probing questions, looking over students’ shoulders – and using students’ responses to continuously fine-tune teaching.
Timely follow-up with these students is crucial – pullout, small-group after-school help, tutoring, Saturday school, and other venues to help them catch up.
Among the most important life skills that students should take away from their K-12 years,” says Marshall, “is the ability to self-assess, know their strengths and weaknesses, deal with difficulty and failure, and build a growth mindset. Student self-efficacy and independence should be prime considerations in planning, lesson execution, and follow-up so that students move through the grades becoming increasingly motivated, confident, and autonomous learners prepared to succeed in the wider world.”
cold-calling actually increases students’ voluntary participation. “Cold-calling encourages students to prepare more and to participate more frequently,” said one researcher. “The more they prepare, and the more frequently they participate, the more comfortable they become when participating.”
If we don’t encourage students to come out of their shells for fear of putting them on the spot, we may be doing them a disservice… You’re curious about their views and their understanding of the issues being discussed. What they think is important – both to their own learning and to that of their peers.”
Drawing on two decades of data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, the authors found that between 1998 and 2010, the reading readiness gap closed by 16 percent and the math gap by 10 percent. The black-white and the Hispanic-white gaps also narrowed by about 15 percent.
the gaps closed because of rapid progress by low-income children, not declines in the readiness of high-income children, and the gains persisted at least through fourth grade.
What brought about the early reading and math gains? The authors believe several factors contributed:
• The availability of high-quality, publicly funded preschool programs – the percent of U.S. 4-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschools has increased from 14 to 29 percent from 2000.
• The fact that more families are investing in books and other reading matter for children, as well as Internet access and computer games focused on reading and math skills.
• More parents are spending quality time with children, taking them to local libraries, and engaging in learning activities at home.
when students collaborate on class assignments, they learn the material better (we provide examples below). Ideally, small group work can yield both better abilities to cooperate and better learning of the content.
listening and sharing as cooperative techniques can alleviate frustration and, more importantly, allow group learning to surpass what would be possible by a single student (Slavin, 1995).
Visual attention provides an index of what people are thinking about.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.