A Wild Pitch

January 30, 2012

I seldom follow what’s going on with the State Board of Education or the Department of Public Instruction. I leave that to my friend Preston Bowers at Ayden Grifton, who filters the glut of stuff they produce. Preston recently discovered this presentation for Designing Measures of Student Learning (MSL), which appears to have been delivered to the BOE on January 5. It doesn’t answer many questions, but it does suggest DPI’s frame of mind in terms of measuring teacher effectiveness and student learning. Check it out.

Designing NC’s Measures of Student Learning

For fear of misinterpreting some of the information, I won’t analyze or fully summarize the presentation; I will share a couple basic points and encourage you to read the presentation yourself.

  • The proposed MSLs appear to be DPI’s answer to that elusive sixth teaching standard about teachers demonstrating growth in student performance.
  • MSLs are not EOCs. The presentation uses the term “performance based” to describe the assessments.
  • MSLs would apply to all content areas, presumably in non-tested (EOC/VOCAT) courses.

I can’t say what shape these Measures of Student Learning will ultimately take. I do know this. As teachers, if we focus some of our attention on analyzing standards, particularly the Common Core and Essential Standards, and creating common, performance-based assessments for those standards, and if we work in professional learning communities to pursue success together, then we can build a bat big enough to hit whatever DPI throws at us next.

Wednesday Walk and Talk: Problem Based Learning

January 26, 2012

We had a great turnout for the first Wednesday Walk and Talk. A big thanks to all the dedicated teachers who were able to participate.

What We Walked About
About a mile. No great feat, but better than sitting still for sixty minutes.

What We Talked About
After watching Dan Meyer’s TED talk (check it out at www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html) we discussed how teachers might devise compelling problems that prompt deeper, more meaningful learning in our classrooms. The speaker focuses on math problems, but they idea reaches beyond the math classroom. Meyer suggests that if we start instruction with a problem that is relevant and tangible, we might motivate learners to develop both “patient problem solving” skills and the content knowledge essential to the courses we teach.

One example that arose from a walk and talk conversation regards infectious diseases. Students in the health sciences learn about an abundance of diseases, but if they were to be given a stripped-down case study and perhaps a few graphic images with the simple instruction to diagnose the disease, then their learning, whether through research or lecture will have added meaning. That is to say, instead of gathering facts about diseases for the purpose of passing a test–hardly a compelling motivator during instruction–students become motivated learners discovering diseases to determine which one solves the case. They become Dr. House.

This approach to learning requires teachers to understand the relevance of their curriculum in the real world. It asks them to give students time to think, to use their intuition to solve problems, even to figure out what problems they are solving and what information they require to reach a solution. But above all, it gives students an opportunity to develop as critical thinkers while they learn course content, and that’s a solution worth seeking.

Feel free to share your ideas using the comments link above. Thanks for reading. See you at the next walk and talk on Feb. 15.