It’s becoming more and more apparent just how important innovation is becoming. Our students will set the next course for the future, but are they being properly prepared for it? While we are creating an environment that is safe, creative, and allows for imagination… are we getting the job done.
There has to be a way of justifying the means. David Burgess talked about using an assortment of assessments to track the learning in class. Assessment always has to drive the classroom, because it’s the gauge as to what is working and what is not. However, as educators we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as it were. We may have a good idea, but sometimes it just flops. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we ditch it and never look back. Sometimes a plan just needs some tweaking. It was brought up in discussion this week that for some lessons, you almost need a student focus group just to gauge if it’s going to work as intended. Unfortunately, we are not usually given that luxury… unless perhaps you teach the same content class multiple times… which then you can rework the lesson throughout the day, but your first class may need a revisit.
Which brings me to my next musing: I appreciated Burgess’s passion and creativity when it came to teaching, but I found myself overwhelmed at the immensity of the pace. I had asked how you keep that passion across the board when you teach multiple grades (I generally teach elementary and intermediate grades). It was a bit of a confusing question, and he did address one aspect of it. We generally have a passion for teaching, not for the content. Go with that. I like simple. It’s good. But my real question was in regards to stunning lessons like the speakeasy, for example. A great experience in the classroom–full of suspense and imagination! Great!… now what about the other subjects that I teach? I know if I tried to do that for all the subjects I taught, I would be flat out exhausted and broke. Do you rotate which subject gets the stunning experience that day? And hopefully this doesn’t come across as judgmental or sarcastic (the downside of not having social cues when online). I am genuinely curious as to what other educators think. When it comes to ingenuity as a teacher, I’m a bit broken. I am anxious to get that back, and I appreciate the help.
When encouraging the innovation in the classroom, I’ve been at a loss as far as how to assess without dampening the learning. Taking pop quizzes is such a downer! I’ve heard of exit slips and such. Again, if you teach more than one content area and your students don’t really leave your room except for lunch and going home, how do you work that? I was thankful to come across the Eberly Center’s (2014) suggestion for assessment ideas or classroom assessment techniques (CAT’s). They emphasize asking questions that draw out deep answers from students. They suggest 1 minute write-ups, where the students tell you what they learned. I really like this idea, as there’s not really a punishment of a “bad grade” if they don’t get the answer you’re looking for. This makes it a true gauge, because if the student isn’t getting you, the teacher should reflect on what she’s doing, and evaluate what might help the student. What was the muddiest point helps the teacher to know specifically which concepts are the most confusing. And my personal favorite, paraphrasing! Paraphrasing forces you to know the in’s and out’s of a concept so that you can explain the same thing in another way. That brings ownage, and I love it!
So again, with matters of teaching in a multi-content area classroom, I am looking forward to suggestions about how to create experiences across the board. This is why I love my PNL!
David Burgess. (2014). Google Hangout accessed on Feb. 14, 2014.
Eberly Center. (2014). Using classroom assessment techniques. Accessed at http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/assesslearning/CATs.html