To help encourage conversations about the role failure plays in one's learning and development, our topic/question of the week is: Every time we fail, it marks the beginning of new understanding; plus a little more loss of innocence. But we should never consider the idea of completely trying to lose innocence. The complete loss of innocence is when we really stop asking why any more.
It is hard to believe that we are now officially in spring! I hope that everyone was able to find some time to relax and take a break this weekend while the snow fell on Saturday morning. Although I would have much rather been outside, thinking about gardening and warmer weather, I have to admit the 'forced inside' time was nice. After a fun night at the Hockey East semi-finals Friday evening with Owen and Katie's dad, our weekend was pretty low-key - as a I said to a few people on Friday, I think this was our last 'low scheduled' weekend for a long time - trying to enjoy it!
Trying to make the most of this down time, I am once again trying (emphasis on 'trying') to keep the update brief and simply share a few posts that relate to feedback and how we can make strides towards making sure that it is effective, useful, and pertinent. Term 2 report cards went home this past Friday and it is important that we take time in classes and advisory to emphasize the process of learning through reflection with our students. Our structures allow for these conversations and I am pleased with the 'greater' conversations we have been having as a staff and community regarding ways that we can enhance and improve our formal methods of assessing, conveying, and reporting growth and learning. A few quick thoughts before the posts...
- We were fortunate to have Medfield alum and author of the memoir It Was Me All Along, Andie Mitchell (@andiemmitchell), as the keynote speaker for our 8th grade students on Career Day. Andie shared her personal and professional story, emphasizing the importance of the 'risks' she took and 'putting herself out there'. She referenced mistakes and how trial and error, and more specifically failure, helped her to be successful. She also made connections to our theme of 'Acceptance' - the importance of allowing one's progression to take place and appreciating 'what makes us who we are'.
- EdTech Teacher's Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) was with one of our cohorts of staff this week for professional development. In sharing the vision for learning we have in our classrooms, Greg asked each teacher to brainstorm our hopes for experiences we want our students to have. After hearing a few he inquired if anyone wants his/her students to 'experience failure' in the classroom. This resonated with me on many levels - if we really want our students to experience mistakes, resiliency, and understand how to respond to failure, it does beg the question as to how or whether we are providing enough opportunities for this to take place? He then shared the notion of sharing one's 'epic fails' to reflect learning. I like the idea.
- Our professional afternoon on 3/17 regarding the curation of student work, learning, and growth will help ground our thinking as we look ahead. I do believe that the portfolio process for students provides opportunities for internal and external feedback and reflection.
How Should Learning Be Assessed?
by Luba Vangelova in MindShift
This post reflets a conversation with Yong Zhao, encouraging parents, educators, and policymakers to re-examine the role of testing and accountability. It offers an interesting perspective on the 'assessment of learning' and is an important one to consider when we think broadly about the conversations we are having as an educational community.
"Tests are just one form of assessment, he points out, and limited in what they can accurately measure. Important qualities such as creativity, persistence and collaboration, for example, are tricky to measure, because they are individualized and situation- or task-specific (someone may collaborate well in one group setting but not in another). And no test can measure whether children are receiving “a quality learning experience that meets the needs of individual students.”"
"...feedback that avoids needless comparisons among students can be very useful, and doesn’t require much time or money. When it’s clear which skills and content need to be mastered (such as the ability to conjugate verbs in order to become proficient in a foreign language), low-stakes tests can help learners direct their attention to filling in the gaps in their knowledge. More helpful still are explicit written assessments that describe an individual’s progress. The key to good assessment, says Zhao, is to ask: “Whose purpose does this serve? Is the learner trying to get better using assessment, … rather than just using it to judge?”"
The Difference Between Praise That Promotes Narcissism vs. Healthy Self-Esteem
by Poncie Rutsch, NPR in MindShift
As we look at our methods - both formal and informal - of feedback we give to students and one another, this post is interesting as it has a specific focus on the language we employ. In sharing this with teachers and parents, there is no judgment intended - it certainly made me take a step back and reflect upon the words I have used with students, staff, my own children, family, and myself. The ultimate intent is to winnow the gap between and 'intent' and 'impact' of words and striving to convey what it is that we really mean (often a question that is worth exploring again and again).
"When a kid does something amazing, you want to tell her so. You might tell her that she’s very smart. You might tell her that she’s a very special kid. Or you might say that she must have worked really hard. On the surface, they all sound like the same compliments. But according to Brad Bushman, a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University, the first two increase the child’s chances of becoming a narcissist. Only the last one raises the child’s self-esteem and keeps her ego in check."
The Importance of Failure
by Robyn R. Jackson in Scholastic
This very brief post emphasizes the importance of failure, encouraging adults to take time to recast mistakes, reward 'good mistakes', and model the process.
"As educators, we often treat failure as a dirty word. We avoid it—and we teach our students to avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, so much of school is about being right. Our students can become so caught up in getting the right answer that they overlook the learning process itself. As a result, they learn how to be right, but they never learn how to be wrong. What’s more, they come to see failure as personal, pervasive, and permanent. They stop trying."
"We know that failure is a natural and important part of learning, but if we are not careful, our students will leave the classroom unable to recover from failure because we never teach them how. If we believe that failure is an inevitable part of learning, then it is important to show students how to learn from failure. Otherwise, they spend their academic careers and, indeed, their lives trying to avoid failing rather than capitalizing on the unique learning opportunities failure can offer."
"Your reaction to a mistake will in large part determine how students see their own mistakes. If you treat a mistake as fatal, students will follow suit. But if you can persuade students to see their mistakes as learning opportunities, you can help them make corrections to their process and get better at learning."
At the heart of this work is to be sure we are clear with students, parents, and one another about our values and beliefs we hold for learning. What is it that we want our students to walk away with when they leave Blake in regards to learning? Can our students appreciate failure and respond in a positive fashion? And, do our structures allow for this to take place? Through our work we have explored the blending of 'intrinsic' and 'extrinsic' motivation and wanting to foster critical thinking and the desire to seek challenges. If this is true, we must present opportunities for challenge and mistakes - and, in turn, making sure that our feedback emphasizes the progression of one's growth and articulates the trajectory that each student is on. In the next few weeks we will be engaging students and parents in the conversations about our systems of recognition and the ideas of tradition and relevance, specifically the honor roll. It is a 'hot topic' with various viewpoints, but it is a discussion that is worthy of our time. I look forward to it and to others - as always, my door is open to discuss, reflect, and push back. Please do so - it is through these conversations that we can try and marry ideology with practice and better understand, hopefully bridging, our varying thoughts and viewpoints.
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