Goals, Growth and Getting Going in 2015

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It is that time of year again when we all the talk turns to the new year. With this comes talk of new resolutions. Like last year, I am using this opportunity to set new goals. Last year, I set myself three goals:

  1. Utilise data in a more structured manner within the classroom in order to better personalise learning

  2. Provide clearer instructions and more time for student lead learning

  3. Lead by providing clearer reasons for change and supporting others in becoming better leaders

Looking back at these, I think that I have come some way with creating more opportunity for student lead learning and improved on how I introduced change and innovation. However, I still feel that I can improve the way I use data to inform my choices in the classroom. So moving forward, here are my new goals for 2015:

1. Think more about the impact of space to support learning

Last year my focus was placing the learner at the centre. However, what I came to realise was that the key was not necessarily about who was at the ‘centre’, but what conditions are created for learning. Teaching electives, I too often left spaces as I inherited them. Subsequently, by adopting someone else’s environment, I therefore placed undue restrictions on the learning possibilities and potentials. Whether it be moving desks or finding space to create displays, I am going to place more emphasis on how the space is structured and why.

In addition to this, I used Edmodo as a digital space to support learning. However, the problem I found is that although it was fantastic, and much more user friendly than the Ultranet, it did not provide appropriate means for students to work collaboratively and provide each other with ongoing feedback. I was always in control. I think that the answer maybe to better use Google Drive and create a richer culture of sharing and collaboration. Although at present I am not exactly sure how to best organise this.

2. Use assessment to better foster more personalised growth and development

A part of the problem that I faced in my focus on data is that what actually constitutes ‘data’ and for what purpose I am collecting it. Too often we look for measurements that are easy to calculate and quantify. However, learning is not always so neat and tidy. In hindsight, I think that I was asking the wrong question, I was focusing too much on summative assessment, instead I should have been giving more attention to assessment for learning.

I really like a comment that Dave Cormier made in a recent post, “we need to replace the measurable ‘content’ for the non-counting noun ‘caring’”. I feel that a key element in all of this is fostering an environment where students own their own learning or as Cormier puts it, “they care”. This includes involving students in the development of their own learning. I was really inspired by an article in the Guardian from Tom Sherrington reflecting on his experience of students co-constructing their learning. Although Sherrington’s example maybe an extreme, how can we expect students to own their own learning if they do not have any control or ownership over it?

3. Better engage with the community to make relationships and connections the focus of learning

One of the really interesting things to arise out of my participation with a group investigating (Marzano’s) instructional model was that other than semester reports there is no formal process in place in regards to informing parents about the curriculum and learning. Instead, the majority of communication home is focused on discipline and behaviour. Although it is often argued that this starts with making more positive calls home, I feel that a bigger shift is needed than a few more calls home. My goal this year then is to use technology to pro-actively engage with the wider community in what is happening in the classroom. This is something that arose out of my work last year with the Google Teacher Academy. I hope that more time in the classroom and less time in administration will provide more opportunity for this. Maybe this will be through Compass and the act of confirmations, but I feel that something is lost in putting information and ideas behind walls. This was one of the issues with the Ultranet. I will therefore begin by using a Global2 blog to communicate the curriculum and celebrate student learning in a more open manner as I started doing at the end of last year.

One Word: Growth

Lisa Meade recently posed the question: “If you had to pick one word for yourself, what would your word be?” I think that my one word would be ‘growth’. It is easy to lock students into standards of above, at and below. However, such a mindset is both fixed and reductive about what constitutes ‘success’. The question that I would like to think that each action should come back to is how is this supporting learning growth?

So, what about you? What are your goals this year? What is your one word? Do you have any thoughts and suggestions that might help support my growth as a learner? I would love to know.

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Aaron Davis

I am an Australian educator supporting schools with the integration of technology and pedagogical innovation. I have an interest in how together we can work to make a better world.

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3 thoughts on “Goals, Growth and Getting Going in 2015

  1. Hi Aaron

    I enjoy your reflective posts! Our whole primary school goal for the coming year is the use of data to inform teaching and improve learning. People often see ‘data’ as meaning test results. For me the key has been realising that EVERYTHING is data. Every bit of information and evidence counts. eg
    1. You have decided to think more about the impact of the space on learning because of your observations (data you have gathered informally) of how the space affected learning last year. As you try new things, be it moving the desks or collaborating via google docs, by thoughtfully observing the learning and reflecting on what to try next, you will be using data to inform teaching and learning.
    2. Everything is an assessment. Everything the students say (and don’t say), write or do… every question, thought, response or misconception that they express tells us something about where their learning is at. Our role is to watch, listen and observe the learning (more data!) so that we know where to go next to support each learner. (By the time you get to a summative assessment, it’s too late to do anything about it.)
    3. I’m sure your third goal incorporates using data too 🙂
    You might be interested in Data Wise from Harvard. The book http://hepg.org/hep-home/books/data-wise,-revised-and-expanded-edition The website http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=datawise

    1. Thanks for the comment Ed. I really like Cameron’s post, has me really thinking, especially about whose data it is. Will look into the book.

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