Thursday, February 2, 2012

Focused on our learning goal . . .

Today we had another opportunity to work with elementary teacher leaders.  As with previous meetings this year, our focus was on our Classroom 10 key content goal.  These meetings are always energizing for me.  I have the opportunity to support teachers, clarify expectations, and work with committed people.  Nancy, Dawn, Annette, Kristin, and Connie prepared a lesson design that provided opportunities for us to deepen our understanding of learning goals and differentiate between activities and goals.  We also revisited the importance of providing feedback as a necessary component of growth.  Nancy and Dawn once again did an excellent job of facilitating our learning.

Another component of the work was introducing a planning tool to assist the principals and teacher leaders in planning for support at the building level.  The tool places a focus on the gap between current reality and the building's learning goal for the year and the need for intentional support structures and learning opportunities to close the gap for all staff.  I believe that the teachers and principals left with increased knowledge and understanding of the need for focus and planning as they seek new and adaptive strategies to support deeper understanding and capacity to use these research-based instructional practices that increase student achievement.

In my learning walks in all district buildings I am observing changing practices with visual learning goals and increased use of checks for understanding.  It is rewarding to see the willingness of teachers to embrace these practices and the response by students when the practices are in place.  The brief story below comes from an elementary teacher responding to a question from me on why she believes the work this year on our learning goal has been so powerful for her.

For me the focus on Learning Goals at staff meetings and inservice days throughout this year is what has been powerful. The two main reasons it has been powerful is because my teaching is so much more focused. I know for that block of time my objective is to get my learners to meet that goal. The other, and I think most powerful, reason is that my goals now include my students. During our conversation at the beginning of every lesson I ask them what they should know by the end of the lesson. They have become very skilled at identifying what their target is by the end of the lesson. I don't have the data but my observation shows me they feel more confident about their learning and I feel like they are more clearly able to communicate if they have met the goal or not. Just today I had a student come right up to me after a lesson and tell me that she didn't understand what we had worked on today. My students are reflecting on their learning and communicating when they don't understand.

I would welcome additional feedback about your experiences with crafting well-constructed learning goals and the impact of that on your work and the response by students.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Our grade level at RC is working to develop our skills in creating learning goals and checking for understanding. Currently we are participating in 'ghostwaslks' (where we visit each other's rooms and discuss what we notice in the learning goals) and we have scheduled off-site observations. We are working closely with our site supervisor and this has helped answer many questions as well. In the near future, we plan on sharing our experiences with the whole staff.

The impact on my planning and the evidence of student learning is powerful. I have shifted my planning, which was, at times, really activities, to more often having true goals. What's really helped my transition is the response of my students. They respond with more active participation throughout the lesson, knowing they are accountable for knowing what is expected of them. I believe they are also more involved because my lessons are more pointed and this clarity supports their learning.

Would you be able to record your teacher leader discussions/meetings and post those for us to watch? I believe that would help further my understanding.