Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Ripples & Reflections

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Email: stephen[at]i-biology.net   Twitter: @sjtylr   LinkedIN: sjtylr  Insta: @sjtylr

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Tankyuu (探 究): A Quest for Teacher Professional Inquiry

One of our big projects over the last few years has been to shift the focus of professional learning and goal setting from competence in the programmes and practices into genuine teacher inquiry. As a lot of foundational work had been done in curriculum, assessment and differentiation practices; it was time build on this and create opportunities for teachers to focus their own professional growth through inquiry. We’re now in our third year of the process, and this post is a summary so far. A lot has gone into this process, and there is bound to be something forgotten in the post. 

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Context

We’re an international school in Kobe, Japan. With 600+ kids from ages 3-18 and around 80 faculty. We have IB PYP, MYP & DP, as well as our own Pathways programme in high school. Although the school had been running IBDP for many years, PYP and MYP were much younger, and so a lot of teacher effort had gone into getting the programmes up and running (including shifts in curriculum, assessment and differentiation).

We’re pretty well funded for professional learning with consultants visiting each year for workshops, teachers heading out on workshops and conferences and a personal PD application fund for continued study. We are also very fortunate to have two-hour PD sessions every Wednesday (early dismissal), so that a lot of development and PD work can be accomplished in protected time.

There’s a pretty robust teacher evaluation system, though it can always be improved (and is an operational action item for this year). While the school was in the implementation phase, teacher goals were very structured, focusing on curriculum, differentiation, etc. As the programmes and practices became more embedded, it became clear that we could do better by tapping into teachers’ own interests, expertise and passions in professional learning. One year we gifted teachers Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, and encouraged groups to form around issues it rose, or topics worthy of investigation (not as a handbook, but a signpost). The next we encouraged Teacher Learning Communities (TLC’s) to form around other books or ideas. This started to generate more questions, more inspiring projects.

In 2014-15 we had the Strategic Planning process for the school, setting the Vision and goals for the school until 2020. We needed a professional learning strategy to complement our mission of inquiry, reflection and compassionate action and that would meet the vision of becoming a vibrant international learning community that fosters creativity, personal fulfilment and local and global collaboration in a compassionate, adaptive environment.

Education Victoria’s (Australia) Seven Principals for Effective Professional Learning (pdf here) were critical in developing the projects further: a teacher-empowering, research-based, student-centred, practical (useful), collaborative and supported expedition into teacher inquiry.

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Google Certified Educator

Today I took the Google Certified Educator (Level 1) test for a few reasons:

  1. GCE_Badges_01To check my own competence in Google Apps for Education basics.
  2. To see how long it would take, with an eye on how we might support colleagues in taking the test themselves (e.g. PD time, cover or an event).
  3. To see how it might support our colleagues in getting up to speed at school in connection with our use of EdTech and integration in classes.

I can’t write too much as participants need to sign an NDA before beginning, but here are some basics. 

To register, sign up here and pay USD $10. It might take a day or two to get your web-assessor account, then you have seven days to complete the test (in a single sitting).

Participants are allowed three hours for the test, during the entirety of which your webcam is on. It starts with some multi-choice questions and then leads into a series of scenarios were you have to work in Google Apps to complete a range of tasks (they create a model environment for you for the test, it does not use your own account). From mail, calendars and docs, to classroom, forms, sites and more, it is a pretty thorough assessment for getting going.

It took me almost 1 1/2 hours to complete, but I already know my way around Google Apps. There is a lot of reading and flicking between tabs – and EAL participants or new users might need the full amount of time. Fortunately there is a progress bar and each of the eleven tasks are similar in their time demand. I have not taken Level 2 yet, as I predict it will take longer, but plan to do so soon.

Applications as a tech leader/ co-planner

A small team of us have been working on connecting ISTE standards to IB ATL skills and from that starting to outline a ‘tech drivers’ license’ for teachers and students. I think this test would be a useful validation for teachers getting started in GAFE at our school, and maybe something they work towards over the year. We would need to structure PD time or support with this.

I can see the value in even advanced users taking this test, as it will give some empathy or insight into starting over again and will help support colleagues. A reminder of the basics for efficient and effective use of Google Apps should help us help our colleagues do the best things, with less stress. I did learn some efficiencies.

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Footnote 

There are quite a few companies out there offering (pretty pricey) training towards this test. If you have enough techy types in your own school, it’s be hard to justify that investment. The test is only $10 per person. I imagine that once you get beyond the basic competence, some more ‘transformative’ PD would be a better return on investment for teachers.

Resources

Eric Curts (@ericcurts) has a couple of useful skills audits online:

 

Update: Sept 2017

We have these tools available in our school, and I want to make the best use of them, but am wary of advertising/branding teachers or schools as X-product. There is a very thought-provoking piece in the New York Times here.

 


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Capturing the Criteria & “Zooming In”

 

Shortlink to this resource: is.gd/mypassess

Update Sept. 5 2017 based on edits summarized in this update from the IB.

After some parent-teacher conferences recently, I was asked to show all of the MYP assessment criteria together and realised I couldn’t find something that met our needs for a single-reference, quick overview of the MYP assessment objectives and criteria.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 17.52.59Here is an attempt to put the big ideas and rubrics together in one place, so that colleagues can quickly see vertical and horizontal articulation and connections, and so that parents have a resource to hand to help understand assessment.

You might find it useful.

To make your own copy, click “File –> Make a copy”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Disclaimers:

  • This involved a lot of clicking and is bound to have some errors. Big thanks to Mitsuyo-san, our data secretary, who helped with this. 
  • Descriptors in bold did not make it across from text to spreadsheet. Use original descriptors in student assignments.
  • This is intended only as an overview of the programme. Teachers must exercise caution with this, and default to the published guides on the OCC for assessment rubrics, clarifications, rules and guidance.

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Edit: added 3 May 2017

Why the green bands? 

In each of the subject-area bands, you’ll find the Level 5-6 row accented with green. This is part of something I’m trying to work on with colleagues and students in terms of zooming into the objectives-level of assessment, and was something I used in #HackTheMYP.

The basic idea is this: 

  1. As a model of a 4-band rubric, we typically see the third band as ‘meets objectives‘. This means that the rows below are approaching and above are exceeding.
    • Try it: add up the scores for all 5, all 6 or a combination thereof. What does it come to when you apply the total to the 1-7 conversion chart? This is the kid that meets the outcomes of our core curriculum. 
  2. When we focus only on the top-band descriptors we may inadvertently end up doing one of two things:
    • Causing students to get stressed by default as they’re aiming for the ‘exceptional’ descriptors first. “The gap” between where they are and want to be is too big; or,
    • Falsely making our core expectations for all students fit the 7-8 band, thus leaving nowhere to go from there – creating a “low ceiling” and no room for extension into genuinely meeting those top descriptors.
  3. If we zoom into the 5-6 band first – in task design and as a student – we are able to set an appropriate expectation for all learners, see how and where to scaffold and support those who need it, and provide a “high ceiling” for innovation, application, analysis, synthesis, etc.
  4. It should then become easier to create the task-specific clarifications. If we can clearly describe the 5-6 “core” band first, we should then make sure that the levels above and below can be really clearly distinguished. In my experience, this is easier than starting at the top and working back.

If you’ve tried this idea (or similar), how did it go?

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For a similar discussion and great resources, but in an SBG context, check out Jennifer Gonzalez’s (@cultofpedagogy) posts on the “single point rubric”:


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Standardization: Cycling away from the moderation “event”

A quick post to share a resource, based on some of our work at CA. I love cycle diagrams and was thinking about the process of moderation, planning and the challenges of effective collaboration when there are grades (and a big pile of ‘done’ grading) at stake. 

If you’ve ever tried to ‘moderate’ work that’s based on two or more teachers’ hours of effort in grading, you’ll recognise the challenge. The proposal here is to reframe stadardization as a cycle – various points of entry to working together on a common understanding of assessment – so that teachers align their assessment standards more closely. Post-hoc moderation events may tend towards defense of our own grading work; who wants to go back and change all that work?

Do you think you could put the cycle to work in your own context? 


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Don’t feel hopeless, despite the world right now.

Students and adults alike are confused and worried about the state of the world right now, including me. Here is an attempt to use the Learner Profile to buoy IB students and to boost the Biology4Good project with donations to organizations helping the refugee crisis.

i-Biology

learner-profile-sticker-englishoptmized IB Learner Profile 

With the world at fever-pitch for humanitarian crises, discrimination, a swing to the political right and environmental problems becoming compounded, it can seem like we are powerless to make a change.

This might be even more true if you are underage, personally affected (directly or indirectly), a holder of a sensitive passport, living in a delicate location or even shielded from the reality of the situation by the privileged bubble of international schooling. But it does not need to be hopeless.

Our missions as IB schools and international schools around the world should be in clear focus right now. Our education, through the disciplines, service, TOK, approaches to learning and international mindedness is our toolbox as a global citizens.

You can help and give without putting yourself (or those around you) at risk. Here are some suggestions, framed through the Learner Profile.

Be Caring

Above all…

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