Thursday, 25 February 2016

Single Point Rubric?

Let's talk about single point rubrics. Maybe I've been hiding under a rock for the past three and a half years but last night was the first time I'd ever heard those words uttered! I was at a Teacher Solutions PD session about the Digital Technologies learning area of the Australian Curriculum and single point rubrics were presented in with a slew of other information; I'm pretty sure the words "my head hurts" escaped my lips on more than one occasion more than once.  So, you guessed it: I had to do a little research on my own.  (I'm nothing if not predictable reliable.)

Long story short: it's a single set of criteria with room to record notes/evidence for performance above and below standard. Am I showing my age when I say "and here's one I prepared earlier"?

There are about as many formats as there are users.
I chose this one because it's familiar.
I struggled to get my head around the idea during the PD session for a couple of reasons. The first being that as a concept it's pretty simple, and glaringly familiar. I was confused by this. The example we were shown had about 30 criteria though (the entire Digital Technologies learning area) so I was puzzled: how was that remotely practical? Once the penny dropped that - in practice - these rubrics need only have the same criteria as any other rubric, aside from feeling a little foolish, I was intrigued by the potential.  Next I wondered how these were significantly different from the success criteria that I already use. (I post our success criteria on the wall (as you can see here) or task sheets.) In a nutshell: they're not! Well, sort of. They are in a different format with an assessment focus but using the same ideas and words.  Single point rubrics use these success criteria as the basis for identifying and recording evidence and feedback.

It was from this point that my inquiry began. The most interesting article I found was from the University of Nebraska that discusses the power of these rubrics as formative assessment and as a tool for responsible self-assessment. This resonated deeply with me because of my views on the importance of the role of 'self' in assessment and development.   It also reminded me of the anecdote shared doing the PD session: one teacher uses a red pen to write on these rubrics, the student uses a blue pen and their peers use a black pen. I'd been impressed by this story at the time but on reflection saw the potential as even more exciting: this opens the potential for a documented learning discussion. (I do wonder though whether there might be a digital option that works better? Perhaps a Google doc?)

Ultimately this is another tool to add to my repertoire. I can see how easily it could enhance my current practice: after building student capacity to identify success criteria - based on the curriculum achievement standards or whatever else we're working toward - these are publicly posted and used to create a single point rubric. Over time student capacity is built to use the rubric as a form of formative self assessment and peer assessment. In some ways it feels like a formalisation of what already happens.

Do you use single point rubrics? Any tips for success?

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 6 Engage in professional learning

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Lean Change

Yesterday, at the Reflect Growth meet up, we heard about the synergy between good teaching practice and a particular business model called Lean Change Management. The speaker (Selena Woodward) related that as she read about this model she couldn't help but see the similarities with what we, as teachers, do all day everyday.

My interest was piqued and so I've done a little digging.

Lean Change Management Cycle from
This image uses slightly different language to Selena's presentation (build, measure, learn) but demonstrates the similarities beautifully.

Our 'meta' process, or the green cycle involves planning (options), then teaching (experiment) and then reflecting (insights) before the cycle continues.

The part that REALLY appeals to me is the yellow cycle. That, right there, is the everyday, moment by moment reality of teaching. We have a lesson plan, meticulously researched, considered and prepared (prepare) in hand and ready to go. The lesson is moving smoothly (introduce) until we notice that there is an undercurrent of social tension and we instantly decide that a different path needs to be taken (review). Within seconds a  new plan emerges in our mind (prepare) and we move into that stream (introduce) and so on. It is this ability to fluidly review and re-start the cycle that characterises quality teaching.  It is making snap decisions between staying 'on plan' or being responsive that creates successful teaching and learning relationships.
It is understanding that teaching follows this cycle widely and intimately that frees us to innovate our practices and meet the actual needs of our students.  In the end, that's what it's all about.

This business model comes from a field that relies on innovation. And for me, therein is the power of identifying this cycle in a field outside of education. It reminds me that what we do is not separate, or different, from the 'real world'. Our success as educators relies on being responsive and innovating.

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 6 Engage in professional learning

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Sharing in Isolation?

For all that teaching is a high social role, it is not without its fair share of isolation. Perhaps more than its fair share? We spend most of our working hours surrounded by the young people who inspire us to become teachers, which is as it should be. For many teachers these hours are bookended by solitary periods of planning and marking, and punctuated by mad dashes to the bathroom or photocopier; not much by way of meaningful adult interaction; not much time to share our practice and encourage each other's growth.

It's the lack of sharing and encouragement that, I think, is particularly troublesome.  I know a lot of teachers who shrug their shoulders and say 'it is what it is' at this point but, as you know by now, I'm not that kinda teacher.

This morning I spent a number of hours at a Reflect Growth meet up where one of the the goals is always to try to address this very issue.  Under the wise guidance of Selena Woodward (she'll laugh at that description) we talked quite broadly about our teaching practices and then had the pleasure of listening to Chantelle Morrison talk about the innovative and student-lead process she used to set up her classroom this year. Following this we spent some time individually reflecting on big picture goals we want to strive for this term and perhaps more importantly sharing those goals. I was quite humbled to sit next to Chantelle who shared with me that she wants to work on her use and understanding of anchor charts. She asked me about them because she remembered hearing me talk about them. It was reaffirming that my experience could be used to encourage someone else. (I'm not 100% convinced she was encouraged but let's just leave it there shall we?)
I wondered, at the time, if everyone else found the act of sharing our goals confronting? And why did I find it so? Last year I shared my goal of developing my understanding and skills using working walls, and with the sure knowledge that I was going to share my growth in a public presentation. The act of sharing meant that I felt compelled encouraged to work towards my goal and gave me a sense of accountability. And you know what? I loved it. What was different this morning? I don't know.
We eventually used a (new to me) web based tool called canvaniser to build a plan around our goals using some of the language of 'lean change'. And again, we had the option to share this plan as we made it or within our virtual Reflect Growth forum. The idea of sharing our goals is to garner support, share ideas and encourage each other.
Created using
Notice the common themes here? You got it: sharing and encouraging.  Whilst I've been really blessed to have worked with some amazing people with whom I've shared and offered/received a lot of encouragement there is nothing quite like the coming together of teachers with the explicit goal of doing it.  The ways of achieving this sort of network are endless and I encourage all teachers to seek out a group, a friend or even online network that works well for them.

I feel renewed - and considerably less isolated - after spending the morning sharing with other teachers.  (I wonder if I'd feel even more renewed if I'd taken advantage of the free massages from KindaKneady that were on offer this morning?)

(Incidentally: my goals are around sharing learning goals and working with students to develop success criteria and learning more about the pedagogies that make stations/carousels successful in a rigorous classroom. If you would be willing to talk with me about these things I'd LOVE to hear from you. If you live locally, I know a really great coffee shop...)

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 6 Engage in professional learning
Standard 7 Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community