Friday, November 15, 2013

Remembering Why We Do This

For the past few weeks, I have been collecting data from my post-test for my SLO. I wrote about this test earlier this year when we implemented it for the first time. At my school, this test is 23 multiple-choice questions offered through a website outside of our LMS. Students take this test during the first 3 weeks of school and the first 3 weeks after quarter 1 of Art 1. I started this journey feeling very upbeat and excited to see what my students came into my classroom knowing and how they would grow throughout the quarter. What I have found is some unsettling data.

At the moment (several hours before the closing of my post-test), I am sitting at 58.9% of my students hitting their growth targets. That puts me in the "Least Effective" category as a teacher. Throughout my young career as a teacher over these past 3 years, I have been told nothing but good things about my teaching methods by administrators. My students have given me positive feedback about what they are learning when I speak to them and I have generally felt fulfilled and proud of where I am as a teacher. These results threw a wrench into my teacher ego!

As it is, I am still not sure what is causing my students to do so poorly. I know of the barriers we have that might affect their performance; students not engaging with the content, test anxiety, students tired of taking all of these assessments (one per class, 2 times in 10 weeks), the weakness of multiple-choice questions to assess project-based learning, home environment, test questions with confusing wording, and a lack of effort to name a few. I have gone through many days of discouragement this week, feeling like everything I have learned about education is wrong and all the compliments about my teaching methods have been lies.

But then, I started to look at the data more closely. I began to see students growing by leaps and bounds! Some of my weakest performers have grown by the highest percentage. I even have students who have scored 100% on my post-test. When I was inputting the data of one of my students with special needs and saw that he not only hit his growth target but surpassed it, I jumped for joy! I was reminded why I am a teacher. It is not about crunching the numbers and hitting this arbitrary goal. It is about teaching each individual student and helping each of them grow. Maybe the data isn't showing it, but the students who have actively engaged in learning in my classroom have a wealth of new knowledge. I know this from talking to them, and from watching their work improve every single week.

I will continue to troubleshoot my assessments for my SLO and how I can overcome these barriers so the data starts to really reflect more of what is going on in my classroom. But, there are just some things that you can't quantify.

Am I a least-effective teacher? I certainly don't feel like one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

FIPing the Classroom

As a team leader this year I have attended a training to learn about Formalized Instructional Practices as a new-ish more formal way of teaching with a focus on student growth and evidence of learning. I am still learning and have more trainings and online courses to attend but I wanted to try something new in my classroom last week just to see how this teaching philosophy might play out in my online classroom.

"Formative instructional practices (FIP) are the formal and informal ways that teachers and students gather and respond to evidence of learning. It helps to think about learning as a journey, and formative instructional practices can guide teachers and students along the way, just like a GPS. These practices include four core components:
  • Creating and using clear learning targets
  • Collecting and documenting evidence of student learning
  • Analyzing evidence and providing effective feedback
  • Preparing students to take ownership of their learning" -from the Battelle for Kids Ohio Student Progress Portal

    The week focused on Feldman's Method of Art Criticism. Generally students go through this lesson by first reading the content in the classroom (like a text book) and then writing a paper using the 4 steps. We practice using Feldman's Method in a live lesson as well.
    New setup for FIP
    To try out "FIP"ing my classroom I incorporated a different structure this week in my classroom. First, students were to read all of the content they would normally read for the lesson. Secondly, they check their understanding in 2 different ways.

    First, they take a non-graded quiz that gives them clear feedback about why they are correct or incorrect.
    Secondly, they complete a self-assessment on the learning targets for the week. They include their biggest weakness and what steps they will take to earn a 3 on all of the learning targets. This allows students to take ownership of their learning.
    From there, students have options. They may use the additional resources available in the "Expand" folder such as a structuring guide, more in depth instructions for art criticism, and the live lesson where we practice. If confident about all of the learning targets, they may go straight on to complete the summative paper assessment for the week in the "Project" folder.

    I was pleased with the results of this so far and am excited to learn more about FIP and new ways to help my students succeed in reaching and exceeding learning targets in my classroom.