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Academic Conferences - Simple, Elegant, Powerful PDF E-mail
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 11:19

When talking about effective instructional strategies, I often hear myself describing them by saying “the power of this strategy is in its simplicity.”

And I think that is so apt, as the best instructional strategies aren’t about complicated, convoluted teacher moves, but rather simplicity and elegance.

The same can be said of a structure we use call Academic Conferences. I was reminded of this last week when I facilitated two days of conferences with a Sacramento high school.

Academic Conferences are teams of teachers coming together quarterly to reflect on their learning from the past nine weeks and articulate instructional goals for the next nine. They write to these prompts prior to the conference, come to the conference with copies of their written reflections and goals for distribution to their team (usually four teachers), and then speak for 15 or so minutes using their writing as a platform.

In addition we collect baseline data at the start, middle and end of year to further inform this conversation, but not commandeer it.

Simple, powerful, good ole’ professional dialogue. Real dialogue, not gimmicked and gizmoed up, not driven by agendas other than those of the teachers, with a focus on their classroom practice and student growth.

It is a structure that disciplines teacher practices we have long known are good, but seldom make time for. With each Academic Conference teachers bring more honesty and open dialogue to the table.

It’s striking how such a simple structure can create such inspiring and searching dialogue and conversation.

Below are some excerpts from teacher writing:

 
Tape and Analysis to Produce Growth, not a Score PDF E-mail
Tuesday, 25 January 2011 09:06

In an earlier post I shared an article teacher and blogger Larry Ferlazzo wrote about a taping experience we conducted together.

That article has since been published in Teacher Magazine and the Washington Post.

I don’t know that any educational piece can go “viral”, but it certainly has enjoyed a great deal of attention. Many educational journalists have commented on it as the “right way” to use video tape versus the “Gates way.”

They are referring to the Gates Foundation funding programs that use videotaping for evaluating teachers via external analysts.

This particular post is not to comment on the Gates way, but I would like to share the attributes I feel make our taping experience so beneficial for teachers.

 
When the Average Score is the Top Possible Score-- Articulating Skills that ALL our Students Learn PDF E-mail
Thursday, 20 January 2011 11:26

The other day I was leading a training with one of our Sacramento high schools and came upon a really interesting discussion and question.

The group was 9th grade English teachers, a very thoughtful team of good learners.

I opened with this quote from Bruce Joyce and the following writing/discussion prompt.

“Our study groups also begin to realize that sometimes the objective is to virtually eliminate dispersion in a distribution. For example, instructors of pilots wish to teach so effectively that no one crashes during training and, even better, that everyone learns to fly. Driver education has parallel objectives. Some instructional objectives need to focus on certain objectives for all students, such as ensuring that all students learn to read and can write serviceable prose, are knowledgeable about citizenship and how to participate effectively in the society, and so on. Educators who think from this point of view can generate intensive instructional initiatives and conduct informal studies that determine if they are able to achieve “total” effects like these.”

Prompt: How might this apply to our intentions with Grade Nine? What might be some skills/knowledge/processes/attitudes we want ALL students to possess? Do you believe this is possible?

The discussion was fascinating.

 
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