Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity
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Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity
Complexity, chaos, and ambiguity are aspects of leadership and learning. Without those we cannot innovate and create.
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How Integrating Arts Into Other Subjects Makes Learning Come Alive

How Integrating Arts Into Other Subjects Makes Learning Come Alive | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Several schools, including ones in high-poverty areas, are making art critical to the learning of more academic subjects. They're seeing remarkable student improvement as a result of arts integration.

Via Alfredo Calderón
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Students love art.

 

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O Captain! My Captain! Where Has Teaching Gone?

O Captain! My Captain! Where Has Teaching Gone? | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
To understand the changing nature of 21st-century teaching, consider how these elements define your school culture: scheduling, budget, programming, and student POV.

Via Peter Mellow
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

One of my favourite movies. Classroom relationships combining teacher and student voices is incredibly important.

 

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Longer school days, school years: Somewhat helpful to boosting student learning, but amped-up teaching does more, study finds

Longer school days, school years: Somewhat helpful to boosting student learning, but amped-up teaching does more, study finds | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Portland's Madison High and Woodburn's Washington Elementary are featured in a national report that downplays the value of adding time to the school day or school year, given the expense of that strategy and the importance of quality vs. quantity in teaching time

Via Bob Farrace, Mel Riddile, Dean J. Fusto
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Teaching is what it is all about. It is about thoughtful, mindful, caring adults who help guide children forward and help students take responsibility for what is their learning.

 

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Bob Farrace's curator insight, January 15, 2015 9:55 AM

This is a pretty frustrating read, largely because it reminds us how policymakers willfully persist in their ignorance of the research. The TALIS study of teaching conducted by OECD regularly reminds us that teachers in higher performing nations spend far less time in actual instruction and far more time in lesson study and collaboration than teachers in the US. http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/talis.htm We had every reason to expect that all the trouble and expense of adding more of the same instructional minutes would produce little improvement.

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On the difference between ‘ought’ and ‘is’ (and getting from one to the other) | Doug Belshaw's blog

On the difference between ‘ought’ and ‘is’ (and getting from one to the other) | Doug Belshaw's blog | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
500 words about something tediously simple.
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Ought is a moralistic stance which can be acted upon theoretically; whereas is is an ethical stance that is acted upon practically.

 

Kwame Appiah has a wonderful line. We can turn wine into water. That is what ought can do for us.

 

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One Of The Most Common Theories Of Effective Education May Be A Myth

One Of The Most Common Theories Of Effective Education May Be A Myth | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Most people believe they have a “best” way of learning, whether that’s through pictures, text, hearing, or something else.

Via Monica S Mcfeeters
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

How we learn is paradoxically concrete and fluid. It is situational and practical.

 

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8 ways teachers can talk less and get kids talking more

8 ways teachers can talk less and get kids talking more | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it

On Twitter, I recently shared an excellent article by Justin Tarte called 5 Questions Every Teacher Should Ask Him/Herself. The first reflection question Justin recommends is: Who is doing a majority of the talking in your classroom?


Via Cindy Riley Klages
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Questions are incredibly important in teaching and learning.

 

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leading and learning: The school holidays - time for some real learning ( or is the virtual world winning over the real? )

leading and learning: The school holidays - time for some real learning ( or is the virtual world winning over the real? ) | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Nature is easy to find. It is in the river valley in the large city one lives in. Taking small steps helps get us use to the idea that nature is where we live as well.

 

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Regular naps are 'key to learning'

Regular naps are 'key to learning' | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it

Trials with 216 babies up to 12 months old indicated they were unable to remember new tasks if they did not have a lengthy sleep soon afterwards.

 

The University of Sheffield team suggested the best time to learn may be just before sleep and emphasised the importance of reading at bedtime.

 

Experts said sleep may be much more important in early years than at other ages.


Via Peter Mellow, Dean J. Fusto
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

I found it was helpful when I was teaching.

 

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18 Extraordinary Questions Education Faces In 2015

18 Extraordinary Questions Education Faces In 2015 | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
New Thinking: 18 Extraordinary Questions Education Faces In 2015

Via Paz Gonzalo, Peita Rocard
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

The first question is one that subsumes many and should be the space within which teaching and learning happens.

 

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Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, January 7, 2015 7:41 PM

The more we ask phenomenological questions i.e. how we experience something (a phenomenon) the more we will find space opens up but not with just answers. More questions will appear. As the poet Rilke suggested, "we will live into the questions."

 

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for the love of learning: A teacher who quit is used to show that teachers stay

for the love of learning: A teacher who quit is used to show that teachers stay | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Some interesting links to articles about teachers staying and quitting. One challenge is that most of the decision making related to what goes on inside the classroom comes from outside.

 

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Suspensions and expulsions in preschool

Suspensions and expulsions in preschool | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
OPINION | It may be surprising to know that preschool expulsion rates are more than three times the expulsion rate of students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Via Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Suspensions and expulsions should alarm all of us. They do not solve the problems only making them worse.

 

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Looking Ahead to a Brighter Future

Looking Ahead to a Brighter Future | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
At Women for Women International, we are inspired by the hopes and dreams of the women we serve. Their strength and resilience in the face of incredible adversity shows us that anything is possible.

Below, some of the women in our programs around the globe share their hopes and dreams for the future. We hope that they will inspire you, as they have us.

Via Graeme & Jennifer Bowman
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Some of Margaret Wheatley's work has focused on the transformational power of grassroots work. Rather than having change and solutions prescribed, the community digs into its wealth of practical wisdom.

 

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Graeme & Jennifer Bowman's curator insight, January 9, 2015 5:53 PM

Sharing stories about positive grassroots transformation will nurture deep empathic connections between women worldwide.

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Preschool lessons: New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

Preschool lessons: New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire. | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they're reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law—the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly...

Via Maree Whiteley
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Play is what centres children in their world. It is too bad adults who decide what School will be don't engage in play more often.

 

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Maree Whiteley's curator insight, January 9, 2015 7:59 PM

Very thought-provoking article that reaffirms what I truly believe..."direct instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information...does it also make children less likely to draw conclusions...or make them less creative?

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Teaching Students to Think:Thinking Is Literacy, Literacy Thinking

February 2008 | Volume 65 | Number 5
Teaching Students to Think Pages 32-36

Thinking Is Literacy, Literacy Thinking

Terry Roberts and Laura Billings

In literacy cycles built around Paideia seminars, students practice thinking as a function of reading, speaking, listening, and writing.

Several years ago, we were leading a daylong professional development session in a large school district. As the morning progressed, we noticed that one of the teachers was pointedly not participating. She sat at a table in the media center with her training materials shoved to one side, and it soon became clear that she was using the day to grade student tests and record the marks in her grade book. When we took a break, one of the session leaders walked over to her table and, in as friendly a manner as possible, asked how her students were doing.

She glanced up and without apology replied,

Terrible! I teach algebra, and this is a simple chapter test. I worked and worked to teach them a few simple concepts. Early in the week it seemed like they got it, and their homework papers were improving. Then yesterday I gave them the test, and they bombed it. They not only couldn't transfer what they had learned from one problem to another, but a lot of them couldn't even recall what they had understood two or three days before. I don't know if it's them or me, but something has got to change because this is just an exercise in frustration.

 

She stood up and grabbed her empty coffee cup, apparently intending to refill it while there were a few minutes left in the break. "If you can tell me how to make my students understand and remember just a few simple formulas, then maybe I'll start paying attention to you people!"

"Understand and remember"—those were her words. What she didn't say was that perhaps her students hadn't really been asked to understand the few "simple" concepts she was trying to teach them. Apparently, they had memorized some formulas and practiced applying them to a series of numbingly similar homework problems, but because they hadn't thought deeply about how and why the formulas worked, even their memory of them was fragile.

Thinking as Literacy

At the National Paideia Center,1  we have struggled with how to teach thinking consistently and effectively. We have come to define thinking as the ability to successfully explain and manipulate complex systems. By system, we mean a set of interrelated ideas, often represented in a human artifact. As students learn to think, they are able to explain and manipulate increasingly complex systems containing many discrete elements and complex relationships. We can find systems in content across the curriculum, from kindergarten through high school. A folktale by the Brothers Grimm, the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, and a word problem in algebra are all systems. The periodic table of the elements is a complex system.

Our experience with teaching thinking has taught us that learning to think requires frequent, deliberate practice. To become clear, flexible, and coherent thinkers, students need to work with both the process and the product. The only way we have found to teach the process and product of thinking is to recognize the profound relationship between thought and language.

This is not a new idea; as far back as the 18th century, the chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier quoted the Abbé de Condillac in arguing that "we think only through the medium of words. … The art of reasoning is nothing more than a language well arranged" (Lavoisier, 1799/1984). To teach thinking consistently, therefore, we should treat it as a fundamental literacy skill, whether the language in question is algebra or English. There is no question that reading, writing, speaking, and listening are interconnected skills that develop synergistically. They are also the key to teaching thinking. The more fluent students become as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners, the clearer, more coherent, and more flexible their thinking will become.

To this end, we have developed the traditional Paideia seminar into a literacy cycle of instruction (Roberts & Billings, 1999). In preparing for a seminar, a teacher uses a wide variety of content reading strategies to help students build their comprehension of the system they are studying. The teacher also coaches individual students in speaking and listening skills in a preseminar process session. During the seminar itself, students collaboratively use their reading, speaking, and listening skills. Immediately following the discussion, the teacher leads the students through a postseminar self-assessment. Finally, the students write in response to the system. In each of these five stages, the teacher coaches students in thinking. The whole process is greater than the sum of its parts.

Skilled teachers build a series of seminar-based literacy cycles into their curriculum—ideally, at least two seminars every month. Each cycle in turn asks more from the students as they gain fluency in thinking about ideas.

Thinking About Dickinson

To illustrate how a literacy cycle works, we'd like to invite you into a middle school classroom. In spring 2005, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction videotaped a seminar cycle in a heterogeneous 6th grade classroom at Guy B. Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Crissman, 2005). The seminar, part of a language arts unit focused on poetry, was on an eight-line poem by Emily Dickinson that some scholars believe contains Dickinson's definition of poetry:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

 

When we first discussed this text with the two teachers who were leading the project, Nealie Bourdon and Becky Campbell, they questioned our choice because they felt that the poem was too difficult for their students. We argued that we wanted to challenge the students with a poem that would require them to stretch intellectually. We reassured Nealie and Becky that, given the right kind of coaching, the students would rise to the occasion.

The eight lines in Dickinson's poem were the "system" we were asking the 6th graders to "explain and manipulate." There were profound questions inherent to the poem that made this system increasingly complex as the students studied it: What is poetry? What is the nature of truth? How does poetry function in relation to truth? The questions involving poetry were tied directly to the standardized curriculum that Nealie and Becky were responsible for teaching their students, and the even deeper questions involving truth made the whole cycle relevant for the students.

While studying the poem, the students themselves realized that Dickinson's second line ("Success in Circuit lies") reflects the thinking process; successful thought often involves circling a problem multiple times, gaining understanding with each circuit.

Thinking as Reading

Teaching students how to think about a system requires that they first "read" the system by applying a variety of strategies. If the seminar text (or system) had been a math problem, we might have asked students to identify key terms, work in groups to define them, and show their relationships on a graphic organizer. If the seminar text had been an essay on the environment by Rachel Carson, we might have asked students to summarize the text by identifying the topic sentence in each paragraph, listing those topic sentences on a T-chart, and paraphrasing each in turn. If the seminar text had been a map of South America, we might have asked students to work in teams to analyze the information portrayed by the various symbols in the map legend. In each instance, we would have emphasized that reading comprehension is a form of thinking.

In the case of Dickinson's "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant," Becky and Nealie asked the students to work in collaborative groups to analyze the poem in a variety of ways. One group worked with a copy of the poem that gave only the capitalized words—Truth, Circuit, Delight, Truth's, Lightning, Children, Truth—asking themselves what a poem built out of those key words might mean. Another group counted the syllables in each line and identified the rhyme scheme. A third group divided the poem into smaller units, like sentences, and paraphrased each of the units. A fourth made one long list of the words in the poem starting with tell and ending with blind, alphabetized the list and then asked themselves what a poem made out of just these words (and no more) might mean. The groups then shared their insights with the whole class while students took notes on their own copy of the poem in anticipation of the discussion to come.

Thinking as Speaking and Listening

The next stage in the literacy cycle involves the teacher coaching the students, both individually and as a group, in the speaking and listening skills they will need. After a brief self-assessment, students choose both a group process goal and a personal process goal. The facilitator makes it clear that the goal of the seminar is to think collaboratively about the ideas in the text and that these process skills are what make collaborative thought possible. Both speaking and listening are forms of thinking because they allow a nascent thought to be refined through conversation. The better a student's verbal communication skills, the more quickly his or her thoughts about a complex topic gain clarity and coherence.

In the case of the "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant" seminar, students chose staying focused as their group goal because they knew that as a class they tended to stray far from the stated objective. Nealie, who was facilitating the seminar, then asked them to choose one of several individual process goals to guide their personal participation in the discussion: I will speak at least three times, I will refer directly to the text, I will ask at least two questions, or I will think before I speak. Students wrote their personal process goals directly on their individual copies of the text so that they would be reminded of them each time they glanced down. After the seminar, Nealie asked the students to self-assess their personal process in writing so that they could set even more appropriate and ambitious process goals in the next seminar.

Thinking as Collaboration

The actual discussion began with students responding to Nealie's opening question: Emily Dickinson did not give her poems titles. If you were her editor, what title would you give this poem? This question allowed all students to offer an opening statement or rough draft of their initial thoughts about the poem. Very quickly, the students began to talk to one another rather than to Nealie: asking questions, building on other students' comments, and agreeing and disagreeing politely, as they'd been coached to do all year. Teacher Becky Campbell sat in the seminar circle as a participant, and the students challenged her assumptions and asked her questions just as if she were another 6th grader.

At several key junctures, students disagreed with one another and worked to reconcile their different perspectives by further analyzing the text. In response to Nealie's questions about Dickinson's use of capitalization, for example, one student said that he believed every word beginning with a capital letter (except the first word in each line) was a synonym for Truth. Another student challenged him about whether Children was synonymous with Truth, and the discussion picked up momentum. As the seminar unfolded, students' comments became longer and more sophisticated as they took into consideration previous comments and incorporated multiple points of view.

Students were clearly "explaining and manipulating a complex system" with increasing fluency as the discussion went on. When asked after the seminar whether they understood the poem better than before the discussion, every participant said yes, including the teacher-participant.

Thinking as Writing

Having practiced reading, speaking, and listening in relation to a complex system, students are now fully prepared to write in response to a prompt based on the text and discussion. The goal is for students to produce clear, accurate writing that reflects the maturity of their thought. We ask students to write simply about complex topics, a task that demands that they synthesize their thoughts specifically and precisely into concise sentences. This challenge is a necessary culmination of the thinking process.

Nealie gave her students two options: (1) write an eight-line poem about truth using the same structure and techniques that Dickinson did, or (2) write a personal definition of poetry and its relationship to truth. In both cases, they were dealing with the core concepts in the Dickinson poem and using writing to refine their thoughts even further. Those students who chose to mimic Dickinson's style and techniques had to demonstrate a mastery of the structure of this particular system—meter, rhyme, capitalization—a challenge that many relished. The work that emerged surprised even the students with its complexity and sophistication.

Examples from Math and History

You might wonder whether this literacy cycle could be replicated with other age groups and in other subject areas. Let's consider a common elementary math seminar in which we challenge students to explain and manipulate the system represented by M. C. Escher's artwork Mobius Strip II. More specifically, we challenge the students to come to grips with the concept of infinity.

The Mobius strip is a continuous, one-sided surface formed by twisting one end of a rectangular strip 180 degrees and attaching this end to the other. Partway through the seminar, the facilitator typically explains that when turned on its side, Escher's image is the same as the symbol for infinity. Starting with simple definitions of infinity, the students offer examples of things that are infinite and eventually discuss why it is necessary to have a symbol to represent an idea like infinity. This is a striking example of how the literacy cycle can teach vocabulary in a math or science setting—vocabulary that in turn enables more complex thought. After the seminar, students construct Mobius strips of their own using construction paper and tape. They write on the continuous surfaces of their Mobius strips a string of words or images that they think should be rendered infinitely. Their writing is obviously the result of highly personal, highly relevant thinking.

At the other end of the age spectrum, let's consider a literacy cycle in a high school U.S. history class. Embedded in a unit on the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is a literacy cycle centered on the First Amendment, which guarantees five personal freedoms to individual Americans: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. In the preseminar content sessions, students break into five teams, and each team investigates why one of the five freedoms was included in the First Amendment.

After each team presents its background information, all the students discuss how they will actually be practicing their freedom of speech during the seminar and the importance of speaking and listening skills in a democracy. During the discussion itself, the focus slowly shifts from the five freedoms and their interrelationships to the dynamic tension in a democracy between individual rights and social cohesion. Students offer increasingly sophisticated comments about the importance of both. By the end of the seminar, they begin to articulate how each depends on the other.

After the discussion, the students work on a Student Bill of Rights, which they hope to take to the school governance council for approval. Later in the school year, students will be asked to address complicated First Amendment Supreme Court rulings in the same way, thereby "explaining and manipulating increasingly complex systems."

Growing Lifelong Thinkers

As Francis Bacon wrote more than 400 years ago, "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." Each stage in the literacy cycle involves thinking about a system in a different way, and all the stages are joined in synergy; it's not enough just to read about an interesting idea, or to discuss it informally, or to write about it without preparation. Rather, to teach students to think in a consistent and deliberate way, we have to practice thinking in concert with the full range of literacy skills—probably in the order that Bacon himself prescribed.

There remains, of course, the challenge of assessing student thought so that we can measure it as it matures. In teaching thinking as a function of literacy, we assess the process as well as the product, collaborating with students to identify their strengths and weaknesses as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners so that we can continue coaching those skills through successive cycles. In addition, we assess the product of thought in a way that teaches thinking, meaning that we evaluate student writing at the end of the cycle through rubrics that define what clarity, flexibility, and coherence look like in written form. Finally, we take into account the increasing complexity of the systems that students are asked to think about, so that we can show them how to address larger and more intellectually demanding concepts over time.

Our experience has convinced us that thinking can be defined, taught, and assessed. More important, creative and coherent thought is an attribute of a life-long learner. By teaching students to think, we prepare them not only for employment and citizenship, but also for leading abundant lives.

References

Crissman, C. (Producer). (2005). Experience odyssey series: Paideia seminar (Part of the Literacy to Learn: Professional Development for 21st Century Educators program produced by the United Star Distance Learning Consortium) [Videotape]. Raleigh: North Carolina Public Schools. Available: www.ncpublicschools.org/distancelearning/professional/experience_odyssey.html

Lavoisier, A. (1799/1984). Elements of chemistry. Mineola, NY: Dover. (Original version published 1799)

Roberts, T., & Billings, L. (1999). The Paideia classroom: Teaching for understanding. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.


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Conversations are important to making thinking visible. This includes teacher and student thinking.

 

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Episode 31: Talking Reinventing Public Schools with Dr. Charles Reigeluth

Episode 31: Talking Reinventing Public Schools with Dr. Charles Reigeluth | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
January 15, 2015 In this episode, I interview Dr. Charles Reigeluth who is Professor Emeritus of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University.   The interview focuses on a recent book Dr....

Via Alfredo Calderón
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

I agree we need to re-imagine School, but instructional systems technology and external experts is not the way to go about it. It might be wise to listen to their words, but it is the local community which has the largest to gain and lose in this work.

 

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The Deeper Ethics of Education and Open: Generosity, Care, and Relationships

The Deeper Ethics of Education and Open: Generosity, Care, and Relationships | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Humans are fundamentally social. There are a number of ways we might attempt to prove this claim. We might argue that the highest compliment someone can be paid is to be called a "true friend." We ...
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

Ethics is practical and we feel them in the daily praxis we live. It is a caring stance teachers and professors take when not shut off by a bureaucratic and technocratic cocoon.

 

 

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Take a Deeper Look at Assessment for Understanding

Take a Deeper Look at Assessment for Understanding | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
VIDEO: Assessment Overview: Beyond Standardized Testing
Running Time: 9 min.


Every spring, millions of school-age children throughout the United States sharpen their No. 2 pencils and prepar

to take a battery of standardized tests. It's a ritual that has come to represent the nation's commitment to high academic standards and school accountability.

Parents use test scores to gauge their children's academic strengths and weaknesses, communities rely on these scores to judge the quality of their teachers and administrators, and state and federal lawmakers use these scores to hold public schools accountable for providing the high-quality education every child deserves.

For many, these standardized tests -- and the countless other smaller tests that are commonplace in today's classrooms -- are what come to mind when they hear the term assessment. We look to the end-of-week spelling test, the end-of-quarter biology exam, even the high school exit exam, to tell us whether our children are developing the skills and learning the material they'll need to succeed both in and out of school.

But tests aren't the only way to gauge a student's knowledge and abilities, just as reciting formulas and memorizing the periodic table is not the only way to learn chemistry. Throughout the country, many educators are going beyond traditional tests and using performance assessments in their K-12 classrooms to gauge what students know and can do.

They're designing projects that require students to apply what they're learning to real-world tasks, like designing a school building or improving the water quality in a nearby pond. And they're giving students the experience, as assessment expert Grant Wiggins says, "of being tested the way historians, mathematicians, museum curators, scientists, and journalists are actually tested in the workplace."

In a classroom setting, performance assessment is an essential companion to project learning. By developing comprehensive rubrics by which to evaluate student performances, teachers ensure that projects are more than just fun and engaging activities. They're true tests of a student's abilities and knowledge, linked to standards, and documented so that everyone -- students, parents, and educators -- understands what is being assessed.

The "performance" can include a wide range of activities and assignments: from research papers that demonstrate how well students can evaluate sources and articulate an opinion to experiments or problems that enable a teacher to gauge a student's ability to apply specific math or science knowledge and skills. Some performance assessments consist of individual projects; others require groups of students to work together toward a common goal.

But whatever the project or problem, well-crafted performance assessments share a common purpose: to give students the chance to show what they know and can do and to provide teachers with the tools to assess these abilities.

Assessment in Action

Assessment is a way of life for the 120 students at New York City's Urban Academy(2): Every day, in every class, students are encouraged and expected to demonstrate what they're learning. In Constitutional Law, they're required to argue a case before a mock Supreme Court. In geometry, they must apply mathematical concepts to measuring the height and volume of buildings or the distance between South Ferry and Staten Island using the Statue of Liberty as a reference point.

And before they receive their high school diploma, students must complete separate performance assessments (known at the Urban Academy as academic proficiencies) that demonstrate their skills and knowledge in six academic areas: mathematics, social studies, science, creative arts, criticism, and literature.

At New York City's Urban Academy, students show what they know through a series of performance assessments, such as this mock trial in Constitutional Law class.

Credit: Edutopia

"It's a system of assessment, not a single instrument," says Ann Cook, the Urban Academy's codirector. "It's a system based on a number of components, it goes on all year long, and it culminates in certain kinds of tasks that demonstrate what students can do."

These tasks might include writing a play and having it performed in front of the entire school, reading and studying a piece of literature and then being able to engage in a thoughtful conversation about it, or designing and conducting an original science experiment. With each proficiency, students must be prepared to share their work with classmates, teachers, and outside experts, who routinely lend their real-world expertise to the Urban Academy's assessment process.

The Urban Academy and more than 30 other alternative high schools that are part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium(3) have adopted these rigorous performance assessments as an alternative to the Regents Exams, which high school students throughout New York State are required to pass in English, math, history, and science in order to earn a diploma.

Although their procedures may vary, all consortium schools have adopted a system of assessment aligned to state standards and based on a series of well-defined rubrics, so both the student and the teacher clearly understand the criteria on which work is evaluated. The Performance Assessment Review Board(4), an external group of educators, test experts, researchers, and members of the business and legal communities, monitors the performance-assessment system and evaluates samples of student work.

The consortium, says Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Education at Stanford University(5), represents an attempt "to develop high-quality performance assessments that can be evaluated in a reliable way." Darling-Hammond, who has worked with the consortium for more than a decade, points to member schools' high college acceptance rate compared with that of all New York City schools (91 percent versus 62 percent) as a testament to their rigorous curriculum and assessment.

Applied Learning

Across the country, at Mountlake Terrace High School, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, geometry teacher Eeva Reeder began implementing performance-based assessments when she recognized a disturbing pattern among her students: They could pass a test with flying colors but had considerable difficulty transferring knowledge and skills from one unit to the next.

Students in Eeva Reeder's geometry class at Mountlake Terrace High School, near Seattle, spend six weeks applying their geometry skills to the challenge of designing a school for the year 2050.

Credit: Edutopia

Her response to this dilemma was to incorporate projects into her geometry class -- small-scale projects at the end of each unit of study, as well as a longer-term culminating project -- that require students to apply the abstract skills and formulas to real-world settings.

Completing a project, says Reeder, "is the true test of what you know. You can watch a show where Julia Child makes a soufflé, and you can read about soufflé making," she adds, but the real test is "making one yourself."

In Reeder's class, the true test of her students' geometry skills is an architectural challenge. In six weeks, students must design a high school that will meet the needs of students in 2050. Working in small teams, students are required to develop a site plan, create a scale model, prepare cost estimates, and write a formal proposal. They must also present their plan to their classmates and a group of architects who serve as mentors and judges throughout the project.

Assessment of the design projects occurs in several ways. At the beginning of the project, students are given the scoring rubric by which their work will be measured. Each part of the project is evaluated based on quality and accuracy, clarity and presentation, and concept. Reeder also evaluates teamwork (participation, level of involvement, quality of work as a team member) during the course of the project and at the end.

"There are two reasons for assessment," says Reeder. "One is to provide students feedback on the quality of their work and specifically on how they might improve that quality. The other is to assign a score or grade." Scoring is the easy part, she adds, and can be accomplished with the help of what she calls a "reasonably prepared" test.

"But you can't assess a student's deep understanding of a subject and their ability to apply a concept through a traditional paper-and-pencil, crank-out-the-formulas kind of assessment," says Reeder. "It has to be done with a performance assessment."

Assessing Student Growth

One common form of performance assessment is the development of a student portfolio -- a cumulative record of a student's work over time. It's a practice that's been used at the Key Learning Community(6), a K-12 school in Indianapolis, since the school first opened its doors in the fall of 1987.

Project learning and student presentation of work is an integral part of the Key Learning assessment program. Every semester, students select and research a project that corresponds to a schoolwide theme. These presentations are documented on videotape, and by the time a student completes eighth grade, he or she has a portfolio documenting as many as 25 projects.

In 1999, Key Learning opened its high school (beginning first with a single class of ninth graders), and with the older students came a move toward improved use of new technologies to capture student work. Now, students begin creating Apple iMovies in middle school and continue using the program throughout high school to document and present their work.

Student progress reports (there are no traditional report cards) are based on Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences(7) and Ernest Boyer's theory of human commonalities(8).

Before earning their high school diploma, Key Learning seniors must document and demonstrate their applied knowledge in what Boyer identified as eight human commonalities. Among these are the shared use of symbols (through the creation of a major multimedia presentation), shared production and consumption (through a project on marketing and economics), and the shared sense of time and space (through a project on the history of Indianapolis or the contributions of an ethnic group to the development of the city).

As the school's eleventh graders gear up for the college application process, Key Learning is investigating ways to create smaller but representative portfolios of student work on CD-ROMs, which will be made available to college admissions departments.

Time Well Spent

Despite their many differences, these three schools share a common commitment to developing a project-rich curriculum supported and influenced by a thoughtful system of assessment. Teachers, students, and parents all understand that the most effective assessment doesn't happen at the end of a unit. It's woven throughout lessons and projects, often so seamlessly as to be indistinguishable from everyday teaching and learning.

Research papers at the Urban Academy go through multiple revisions before students and teachers alike consider them complete.

Credit: Edutopia

Without question, these high-quality performance assessments take time. The typical research paper at the Urban Academy, for example, will go through multiple revisions before the student and his or her teacher consider it complete. With each revision comes a discussion about key issues to be addressed, questions yet to be answered, and concepts that require further development.

A single proficiency might take a semester or even an entire year for a student to complete and might involve hours and hours of discussions with Urban Academy teachers and an outside evaluator. At Mountlake Terrace, Eeva Reeder spends many hours on just the logistics of her six-week-long architecture project, such as organizing field trips to local architects' office and coordinating classroom activities with the mentors' busy work schedules.

"Performance assessments do engage people in work and time. Students have to develop the performances. The teachers have to evaluate them," acknowledges Stanford's Linda Darling-Hammond. But, she emphasizes, "the time is not lost to teaching and learning. The time is teaching and learning, because the actual conduct of the assessment is a learning experience for students as well as teachers. It informs teaching. It gives teachers immediate feedback about what they need to do to meet a student's needs."

And with that immediate feedback comes the ability to intervene, to change course when assessments show that a particular lesson or strategy isn't working for a student, or to offer new challenges for students who've mastered a concept or skill. In this context, says performance-assessment researcher Karen Sheingold, assessment and learning become "two sides of the same coin" rather than separate and distinct activities.

Assessment Versus Accountability

In many U.S. classrooms and schools, assessment practices aren't just about improving teaching and learning for individual students. They're inextricably bound to the public's demand for greater accountability. All 50 states administer annual assessments to their students, the results of which can determine whether a student is promoted or retained and whether teachers get bonuses or a school gets reconstituted.

Although multiple choice and short-answer tests are still the norm, states are gradually incorporating performance-based assessments into their standardized tests.

Credit: Edutopia

These tests, because of their high stakes, have an incredible influence on classroom practices. For example, nearly 70 percent of the teachers responding to a 2000 Education Week survey on standards and accountability said that state assessments were "forcing them to concentrate too much on what's tested, to the detriment of other important areas of learning." The teachers reported dropping longer units with rich assessment components in favor of more traditional lessons that reflected the type of material and format common in most state assessments.

Few would argue with the need, as Hugh Price, president of the National Urban League(9), says, to "know whether or not children are learning, and whether they're performing on grade level or better or way below." But when the stakes are too high, this laudable goal gets distorted. Teachers begin teaching to the test to raise scores, often at the expense of more meaningful learning activities. And when the tests are too narrow a measure or aren't properly aligned to standards, they provide little concrete information teachers and schools can use to improve teaching and learning for individual students.

Although most states continue to use multiple-choice and short-answer items on their standardized tests, a handful of states have incorporated additional measures into their annual assessments. The Maryland School Performance Assessment Program(10) for example, is frequently commended for the thoughtful way in which it calls on students to demonstrate multiple abilities in answering a single question or problem. (See Bruce Alberts's Edutopia.org article "Appropriate Assessments for Reinvigorating Science Education(11).")

In addition, Kentucky and Vermont have incorporated portfolios into their statewide assessments of student achievement -- another effort to offer a broader picture of student achievement, and the now-defunct Massachusetts Reform Review Commission convened representatives from various stakeholder groups to devise a strategy for expanding the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System(12) to make it fairer and more comprehensive.

These additions are important and necessary, says Chris Dede, a professor of education at Harvard University(13), in order to really understand what students know and can do. "The current reform movement is based on first-generation standards and first-generation assessments for accountability," says Dede. "And while standards and accountability are good," he adds, "the first generation is flawed. Instead of multiple indicators of what students know, we end up with a single test score that somehow is supposed to capture everything that's inside of a student's head."

Dede (who is also a member of The George Lucas Educational Foundation's National Advisory Council(14)) likens state assessments to an annual visit to the doctor and suggests that we need more, not less, information to gauge a student's knowledge and abilities.

"When I go to a doctor for a physical, it's an indicator of overall wellness," he says. "I don't just want to know about my blood pressure. I want to know about my cholesterol level and a variety of other indicators. Somebody's educational well-being is more complicated than their physical health."In our second generation's standards, we need deeper focus on fewer skills that are central to the 21st century," he adds. "And in our second-generation assessments, we need broader measures, multiple measures that look at the different kinds of things that students have learned and have mastered."


Via Lynnette Van Dyke, Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

What do we mean by understanding and can learning really be mastered? Is it even meant to be mastered?

 

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Arizona State University, Claire McLaughlin's curator insight, January 22, 2015 5:54 PM

Performance assessment, application and problem based learning are part of this article on thinking more about assessment methods.

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Who Needs Rebels at Work?

Who Needs Rebels at Work? | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
By Carmen Medina "I promise to read the book and make sure to keep it from all the people in my group. Last thing I need are rebels." The above is a genuine reaction we received from a longstanding friend about our new book "Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change [...]

Via Dr. Susan Bainbridge, Kevin Watson, donhornsby
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

But rebelling is not just about rebelling. It is about changing the way things are done and the paradigm within which it is done. Retaining neo-colonial and patriarchal ways does not change anything.

 

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donhornsby's curator insight, January 14, 2015 2:51 PM

Rehabilitating your Troublemakers. Corporate leaders may worry that Rebels at Work will create gangs of rebellious employees (cue Les Miserables). But the reality is rebels are already inside your corporate gates and increasingly unhappy. Many of them have the potential to become positive forces for your organization — to become good rebels. For that to happen, however, employees need different skills and managers need more effective ways of managing individuals who think differently.

Joe Boutte's curator insight, January 16, 2015 8:12 AM

Rebels who still understand the vision of the organization and find new ways to stir the pot and innovative approaches to achieving the objectives are needed in every organization.

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Arts Integration in Education Infographic

Arts Integration in Education Infographic
Arts integration is an approach to teaching and learning through which content standards are taught and assessed equitably in and through the arts.

Via Yashy Tohsaku
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There is wonderful literature on the use of arts and the value of aesthetics. Dewey and Gadamer are places to begin.

 

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How to Move from Teaching Content to Teaching Learning

How to Move from Teaching Content to Teaching Learning | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
By Kelly Morgan Dempewolf, PhD Lifelong learners. It’s a phrase that appears in mission statements of schools, districts, and state agencies across the country. It’s a worthy goal—to produce people that continue to learn and value learning throughout their adult lives. Despite being a fairly universal goal of educators and education systems, producing lifelong learners is not a process that has a set of concrete steps. Despite being a part of systems that included the phrase in their mission, I’ve never been shown how to actually make it happen. One way to encourage lifelong learning is to show students that there are things to learn that are relevant to their interests and their lives—things they are interested in learning for the sake of learning, rather than for grades or tests. Allowing students to seek out specific aspects of an overall topic that interest them or ask their own questions to guide their learning goes a long way in cultivating the intrinsic motivation that’s necessary if we want them to continue to learn later in life when it’s not required for a test or a grade. Second, we need to let them learn how to learn. Students spend years in classrooms taking part in lectures, discussions, assignments, projects, group work, activities, labs, and many other learning activities. However, the vast majority of those students are told when to learn something, how to learn it, when to be done learning it, and if they’ve learned it or not. When in this process have we ever shown them how to learn something on their own, without a teacher creating a schedule, telling them which things they need to do to learn it, and letting them know when they know something? We instead need to create an environment that promotes student-paced mastery learning and give students the ability to learn how to learn. Student-paced mastery learning allows students to learn to select between various learning opportunities to decide how they best learn different types of content. For a math lesson, they may want to watch a narrated lecture, with examples, that they can pause and rewind as necessary. Then, they may want to attempt to solve practice problems and have access to an answer key so they can check their understanding as they go, rather than waiting until the end. Practice makes permanent, not perfect, so why make the wrong way permanent by requiring completion of all practice before assessing and making corrections? For learning about the differences between physical and chemical changes, students may choose to read a passage in their textbook and discuss it with other students. Lifelong learners need to master the ability to seek out appropriate ways of learning when there’s no teacher there to tell them which things to read, watch, do, or experience. Student-paced mastery learning allows students to learn how to assess their own understanding. They determine when they are ready to show mastery on a concept. In the beginning, they often get this wrong and prematurely decide they are ready. This results in many retakes early in the year. However, by the end of the year, students in my high school chemistry class rarely need to retake a mastery quiz because they are much better at the meta-cognitive skill of assessing whether they understand a concept or not. Lifelong learners need to know how to evaluate whether to seek out more information, help, or experiences in order to understand something or whether they’ve got it and can move to the next thing. Student-paced mastery learning also allows students to develop perhaps the most necessary skill for independent lifelong learning: the ability to try again. Traditional classrooms teach students that they have one opportunity to learn something and demonstrate their understanding. They are not taught to pick themselves up, think about what they could do differently, and attack the problem from a new angle. Time and time again, we hear very successful people talking about how, without the ability to be resilient in the face of failure, they would not be the successful people they are today. Yet we’re not modeling that and teaching students how to develop that in our traditional classrooms. In order to truly be successful, lifelong learners need the ability to try again after something didn’t work quite right the first time.

Via David Mackzum, Ed.D., Dean J. Fusto
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What is life-long learning if students and teachers do not know how to learn and reflect on what they are learning critically?

 

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Fostering Motivation and Love for Reading: Looking Beyond Levels

Fostering Motivation and Love for Reading: Looking Beyond Levels | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
That little moment when a child realizes he can read is pure magic. He feels empowered, accomplished, and ready to tackle any book. This realization normally happens when a child is in first grade,...

Via Cindy Riley Klages
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Reading opens the doors to the world through our imaginations. Extending Gadamer a bit, reading provides "images for the imagination."

 

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How To Get In Touch With Your Inner Self

How To Get In Touch With Your Inner Self | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
Have you ever wondered who you really are? What are the things that make you an individual? We all have our social identities; you may be a loving partner in a relationship, a caring parent to your kids or a hard working employee, but these are only part of you as a person. They don’t…

Via Bobby Dillard
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Mindfulness and subjectivity are important in becoming who we are in living our lives.

 

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Schools as Prisons, a Weekend Reader

Schools as Prisons, a Weekend Reader | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
While many have highlighted the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon, we are less likely to confront the schools-as-prisons reality many high-poverty and minority children suffer; and thus, a reade...
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:

There are some interesting titles here.

 

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The truth about free will: Does it actually exist?

The truth about free will: Does it actually exist? | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it

Acclaimed philosopher Daniel Dennett explains why free will is much more complicated than many people believe.

 


Via Kenneth Mikkelsen
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Free will is complex. It does exist, but it does not mean that humans operate solely on the basis of it. Much of what happens in daily life is a taken-for-granted and socially necessitated.

 

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Steven Scott's curator insight, January 11, 2015 1:20 PM

 

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Jaro Berce's comment, January 12, 2015 7:03 AM
To me it looks that we are not “alone” and all in our Universe is somehow connected and entangle, therefore whenever I decided something I do, I decided with all I am connected to.
MORE @: http://leadershipbyvirtue.blogspot.com/2014/07/free-will-and-entanglement.html
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It’s a wicked problem, stupid!

It’s a wicked problem, stupid! | Leadership, Innovation, and Creativity | Scoop.it
What’s the link between wicked problems and systems thinking?

Via Jürgen Kanz, george_reed
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David Bohm, a physicist, suggested what we treat as problems should be treated as paradoxes and placed at the heart of rich conversations.

 

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george_reed's curator insight, January 9, 2015 6:47 PM

Wicked problems are not solved, but are managed for better or worse. Complex human social systems tend to have problems of the wicked variety.