Sunday, November 16, 2014

Failure is an Option

It drives me crazy when I hear the term "Failure is not an Option."  While I can visualize why the term was phrased, it is counter productive in regards to our educational system.  As humans, we often fail.  I would know.  I've been failing my whole life.  One of the great things about failure is that provides us with valuable feedback.

I recently read Applying Science of Learning in Education by John Hattie and Gregory Yates.  One of the best portions of this writing is the section on "Using Feedback to Promote Learning."  After reading this, I came away with 5 reasons why as educators we need to utilize feedback to allow growth from failures:

1. Use praise in the classroom.  Just don't use it for effective feedback.
We need to praise students for their efforts, not for great scores and/or grades.  Convey effective feedback to students so they will grow.  Praise isn't effective feedback.  It is important to establish a culture that focuses on effort and growth.  Feedback needs to be specific towards a failure.

2. Feedback can influence the effort students make.
When students receive valuable feedback, they can see what their teacher thinks is important in their class.  Whether it is the way to write a formula or how to correctly site an reference, students know the importance of an area when the teachers provide feedback for that area. 

3. Create a pathway for the vision
Goals are important for all aspects of learning.  Students need to know their goals.  Give students effective feedback and many times students will work towards their goal.  Without goals, students don't know what they are working towards.

4. Formative feedback is vital.
Think in the terms of practice for a game.  Coaches just don't tell players, "You did it wrong!  OK, on to the next drill."  We correct mistakes and then model the correct method to ensure our players succeed.  Same goes in the classroom.  Look at formative assessments in the classroom, fix the errors by providing feedback to each student, and demonstrate to the students what is needed for success.

5. Be the GPS for your students
Show students where they are going next.  Program the destination and provide the path students need to take.   Remember, sometimes students take alternate routes.  As long as we get to the same place, growth can still occur.  Also remember to explain to students WHY they are following that path to their destination.

Failure is a part of our lives.  We need to help our students accept failure, gather feedback from it, and grow from it.  Create a learning environment where failure is encouraged so each student can gather feedback and use the feedback to grow.  I have always been a big fan of the Ken Blanchard quote, "Failure is feedback and feedback is the breakfast of champions."  Allow failure in your organization so your culture can grow and get stronger.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

4 Steps to Increasing Student Engagement

I recently participated in an educational chat on Twitter where the topic for the hour was student engagement.  It was a good time to reflect on some of the things I see each day in classrooms regarding engagement.  How engagement is defined depends on who you are talking to.  Some common things I see teachers do for student engagement are:

1. Create Student Voice and Choice
  • Try to personalize learning for students.  Allow students to have a say in your classes when it comes to classroom rules and procedures, the way instruction is delivered, and how they are assessed.  Let students know they have a voice and a choice, they will take more ownership of the class they are in.
2. Collaboration
  • Students learn from each other and want to hear what other students think.  Allow students to work together; research states that peer-to-peer instruction is one of the most effective ways for students to learn and comprehend content.
3. Utilize Tools
  • Some believe in order to engage students you need technology.  While it may help at times and in certain classes, it is not completely necessary to engage students.  Utilize resources (whatever they are) to engage students in your classes.  Whether it is with iPads or with chalk, find a way to use tools/resources to engage students.  The learning dictates the tool/resource to use.
4. Focus on Facilitating
  • Teaching isn't what it used to be.  The days of the 45 minute lecture for 4 days a week with an assessment on Friday are behind us.  Create lessons and content that is student-centered.  Allow students the opportunity to lead their own learning.  Don't feel the need to dictate and control the class.  Create student-led learners and student ownership will create the engagement you are looking for.
Always remember that the foundation to engagement is building relationships with students.  When students are comfortable in their learning environment, they are more likely to succeed.  Maintain relationships that grow students and develop a consistency of utilizing the areas mentioned above to maintain engagement in your classes and schools.