Monday, May 2, 2016

Re-Energized by Getting Back to Basics- Transferability

My day today keeps circling around to "transfer".

First, it was continuing to work on various aspects of our school's newly adopted school wide learning expectations--the Deeper Learning competencies. Seeing so many amazing things that our students and educators do and are able to create, we have been working on figuring out the best way to honor this work. Before getting started today, I reread "Deeper Learning Defined" to refocus my attention to the work that needs to be done. In this document, which defines the six Deeper Learning Competencies, one finds the call for transferability:
"Master core academic content. Students develop and draw from a baseline understanding of knowledge in an academic discipline and are able to transfer knowledge to other situations."
It goes on to say:
"Deeper learning activities require learners to draw information from knowledge they have acquired and then do something meaningful with it. Because the brain must develop the internal wiring necessary to process information efficiently in non-routine ways, deeper learning activities should be structured to give students multiple opportunities, over time, to apply knowledge in a range of challenging tasks. In essence, the learner moves from the novice to the expert level within the sphere of knowledge and expertise in question. This requires a range of strategies for processing information in sophisticated ways."
Later on this morning I came across TeachThought's repost of Grant Wiggins' "The Point Of School Isn’t To Get Good At School". In it Wiggins reminds us:
"Arguably transfer is the aim of any education.
Given that there is too much for anyone to learn; given that unpredictability is inevitable; given that being flexible and adaptive with one’s repertoire is key to any future success, it stands to reason that we should focus our ‘backward-design’ efforts on the goal of transfer, regardless of what and who we teach..."
Today's reoccurrences of "transfer" has served as a timely reminder to me that sometimes simply getting back to the basic tenants of learning can refocus and re-energize us so we can then effectively promote and support the critical aspects of a meaningful education.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Venting on Bogus Assessment/Grading Practices: The Pop Quiz

Can we stop pretending that we are preparing students for "the real world" with some of our assessment/grading practices? In this, the 1st edition of Bogus Assessment/Grading Practices...

The "Pop Quiz"
Image courtesy of:

What is the closest thing to a pop quiz you are ever faced with in "the real world"? I've never had a boss surprise me with a pop quiz. "Here take this quiz right here, right now. I don't care that you are prepared or unprepared. And oh, by the way, how well you do determines if you stay employed, get a raise, or are moved to a new position." This has never happened.

The closest thing I can think of is being approached with a question like "Mike, do you know ____ (insert topic/skill/information here)?" When faced with this "in the real world", if I know the answer to the question-- I provide to the best of my ability, what I believe to be the best answer.
If I don't know the answer I give the response "I don't know the answer to that, but give me a moment and I'll find out." This has always served me well in what makes up my "real world". What has never served anyone well, is to lie or make up an answer for the sake of just having an answer. I would never encourage someone, especially a student, to provide an answer that they know is wrong or that they have little to no confidence in its validity. But, isn't this exactly what is what pop-quizzes force students to do? And if they guess/lie and happen to get it "correct" what is this really teaching and reinforcing?

But Wait...It Gets Worse

The only thing worse than the "pop quiz" is the attempted justification of them. "Well... if there is no pop quiz (i.e. threat) than the kids wouldn't study." Wow! What a way to instill a love of learning and demonstrate the true relevance of what you are teaching. If you need to have students motivated by a possibility of a pop quiz, chances are students will never do the topic/skill outside of your threat. Which is to say, they will never do it outside of the unreal world you have just created/fabricated in your classroom. Worse yet, students will never develop an intrinsic passion for what you are trying to teach them. Teaching by avoidance of punishment (i.e. loss of points) does not produce lifelong learners. Then again, chances are what you are trying to teach them through fear, intimidation and points, no one needs in "the real world" anyway.