“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” By Helen Keller
If you are in education you have heard the term PLC which stands for Professional Learning Communities. Every school should have them as it’s a great way to help improvement teachers practices and increase student learning. Strong PLCs ensure equity of resources for students and redesign learning to accommodate the students needs.
PLC involves much more than a group of teachers getting together to discuss their lesson plans or data. Instead, a PLC should represent a focus on continuous improvement in staff performance as well as student outcomes. If teachers are working together in PLCs answering these questions then they are working towards a more Personalized Learning environment for their classrooms. According to Rick DuFour, the guru of PLCs, the four critical questions of a PLC include:
- What do we want all students to know and be able to do?
- How will we know if they learn it?
- How will we respond when some students do not learn?
- How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient/shown mastery?
I would tweak these questions to provide support to help educators change their practices in the classroom and to promote more of a personalized instruction by bringing in the students responses along with a few more I added in green below:
For students during a PLC:
- What do I want to know and be able to do?
- What dispositions/soft skills will help me accomplish my goal?
- How will I know if I learned it?
- How will I demonstrated that I have mastered the skill/concept?
- How will I respond when I do not understand the concept or am not learning it? What resources can I turn to?
- How will I extend my learning?
Adding student responses into the PLC process starts transforming the agency and shifting practices from a PLC that is student centered to a PLC that is student driven. When PLCs come together to analyze their current reality and make changes to improve upon their practices with students voices at the table; they will not only increase student outcomes but also classroom culture and student motivation.
- Talking Sticks: Allowing students to answer questions by using “sticks” with their name on it does not allow for more student voice. It’s a great strategy to randomize calling on students to see how they will respond or for understanding. Instead….
- For every ten minutes of content you deliver students need TIME to process and synthesize their learning. Have students turn and talk about what they learned.
- Question Stems: Having questions stems is a great tool for supporting more in-depth conversations in the classrooms but that is not adding student voice. Instead…
- Have students write reflections. This allows for students to work through their thoughts and emotions before sharing and allows their authentic voice.
- Surveys: Giving students surveys is great. If you are only gathering student feedback that it is not allowing for student voice. Instead…
- Use the survey data to take action and make changes. This will show students you are listening and value their voice and ideas.
Other ways to add student voice in the classroom is by having students:
- goal set and reflect
- led their conferences
- debate on topics
- Genius Hour
- choice on how to show mastery
Please share ways you have allowed more student voice in the classroom.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” By Coco Chanel
We know that effectively using student data to drive instruction for student learning is a best practice. We also know giving students ownership through empowering them to use their data is another best practice. So why are those same best practices not being applied to our adult learners?
Personalized Professional Learning is becoming a popular educational term but just like personalization for students it is a philosophy, it should be the way professional learning should be for todays educators. We need to be providing educators the autonomy to personalize their goals and use data that support their needs.
Over the past several years, I have modeled personalized professional learning for educators multiple ways to allows them to see what learning should look like in their classrooms as the same best practices apply.
Here are a few ways that educators can be empowered to use their data to drive their own learning:
- Pre-assessment: Create a pre-assessment for educators to take so that you can meet them where they are in their learning journey based on their skill level. For example if I am providing a professional learning experience on “How to Implement Morning Meeting” the professional learning session should look different for those that have never heard what morning meeting is verse those that have been implementing it.
- Self-Assessment: This is different then pre-assessment because this helps to gauge the learner of where they feel they are based on their comfort level verse skill level. For example I may provide a self-assessment that has multiple skills/topics on it and based on the data they can chose an area they would like to further explore.
- Action Research: Allow learners to chose what they need to work on based on their interest. Provide them an action research template to help guide them and provide check points for feedback and support.
Interested in more of my thoughts on professional learning? Check out some of my previous blog posts.
Professional Learning Through Micro-credentialing
Creating a Face to Face, Self-paced Professional Learning Experience
Reframing a Paradigm for Professional Learning: Part 1
Reframing a Paradigm for Professional Learning: Part 2
I would love to hear how you empower educators to use data to drive their own learning.; please comment below.
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” By Jim Rohn
One of my goals on my professional bucket list was to be published; I am excited to say I have accomplished this goal! I would love for you to download, How to Leverage Personalized Learning in the Classroom, my new FREE book co-written with Allison Zmuda. We dig into what personalized learning is and isn’t and how you can implement this philosophy into the classroom, school and district level.
I would love to here your comments, thoughts, questions and feedback! Please message me or add them into the comment section below.
“When I talk to students, I don’t ask them what they want to be when they grow up, I ask them what problem do they want to solve?” Jamie Casap
We know that engagement is an essential part of learning but often times educators have mixed understanding of what engagement is and how to identify it. To me, student engagement is when the student is motivated to learn because they have curiosity, interest and/or passion about what they are learning. Often times educators think that student participation is engagement but that is not necessarily true as that is active compliance. For example, a teacher asks a question, a student answers. Technically the student is participating but they are not necessarily engaged. It is important to note there are different levels of student engagement along with different types of engagement.
Different Types of Engagement:
- Emotional: Student attitude ranges from liking what they’re doing in class to deeply valuing learning and skills they are gaining.
- Cognitive: Students use strategies such as metacognition for deep learning.
Different Levels of Engagement:
- Engagement: Students take ownership through active and authentic learning strategies based on their needs and goals along with having voice and choice in their tasks.
- Active Compliance: Students participate in learning and complete performance tasks.
- Compliance: Students complete work that is given to them. The tasks are routine and/or rote.
As a teacher it is important to reflect on your craft to see if you can identify the different types and levels of engagement happening in your classroom. Once you can identify them it is important to take action to strive to always have true engagement in your classroom.
Here are some other resources on student engagement:
National Survey of Student Engagement
Edutopia: Student Engagement
12 Myths About Student Engagement
“Curriculum tells you what to teach, but doesn’t tell you HOW you have to, make the shift to the 21st century learning environment.” by Stacy Behmer
Digital learning is when instructional practices is coupled with technology. It can work in any grade and subject as it is a way of learning, not a type of learning. Digital learning encompasses digital tools and content, along with practices such as eLearning and blended learning. Digital learning has the potential to increase opportunities to personalize the learning for the diverse needs of our classrooms.
In order to create a successful digital learning classroom environment there are a few strategies that will help you:
- Start with one digital learning tool, content or practice then master it before moving on. For example, using digital assessment offers students and teachers real time data allowing teachers to use data to drive instruction.
- Choose digital tools that allow students to be active, engaged and use higher order thinking skills such as iMovie, Toontastic or podcasts.
- Identify student digital leaders so students have someone to go to when they need help besides the teacher. You can create digital student leaders daily, weekly or monthly but allowing students to also be digital experts in the room builds stronger classroom culture.
“What are you doing in your classroom now that you could turn over to students to do for themselves?” By Alan November
Close you eyes and imagine what a typical day looks like in your classroom and ask yourself these questions:
- What percentage of time are you talking verse your students?
- How often do you let students create verse consume knowledge?
- How often do you ask for students ideas or feedback?
Student Agency is one of the most important skills we can give to our students. When we “rescue” students when they struggle or give the students answers because there is not enough time to get through the curriculum, we are doing a disservice and enabling them.
The below ideas will help you to build student agency in your classroom but the most important thing to remember is we (educators) need to get out of the students way and facilitate learning opportunities.
- Growth Mindset: Teaching students about having a growth mindset and that they can always learn new things or get better through practice. (See previous blog posts on growth mindsets to learn how.)
- Voice: Have students included in the conversations. Ask students how they want to learn in your classroom? Give them surveys about your projects and lessons so they can offer feedback. Another way to allow student voice is through goal setting and refection during class.
- Choice: No one wants to be told what to do all the time! Allowing students to choose what they want to work on builds agency and motivation. Often times teachers think that giving them choice means giving them ten things to chose from but that is not the case. Allow students to chose between two things such as which book they want to read, what product do they want to create or which task they want to do.
- Thinking and Questioning: Allowing students to have time to think and process is important. Asking them questions to see what they truely know and have mastered also allows students to not only process things differently but self-regulate. There are different types of questioning strategies you can use in the classroom to also allow more student voice and thinking. (More coming on this in next weeks blog post)
- Opportunities to be a Creator: We need to change the way we see students, no longer as consumers, but as creators of their learning. Providing opportunities for students to create allows students to self-evaluate, self-regulate and self-motivate whiling showing mastery of content. Having students create podcasts, PSA announcements, iMovies etc allows students to go deeper with their learning too.
Authentic engagement occurs when students have agency and feel like they are apart of the school experience verse it being done to them. What changes will you make to add more student agency in your classroom?